TBR News January 7, 2018

Jan 07 2018

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. January 7, 2018: “James Jesus Angleton was the gray eminence at the CIA. A Yale graduate and well known at that institution as a poet, Angleton went into the OSS and operated in Italy during the war. His father had a business there before the war.

Angleton spied on everyone, including the CIA, bugged everyone’s offices and telephones and made recordings of all kinds of highly compromising conversations that he gleefully played for the voyeuristic enjoyment of Allen Dulles.

When Angleton became head of counterintelligence for the CIA, he continued his unsavory activities, to which he added assassinations. Anyone whom Angleton felt to be a danger to him or his agency was subject to being terminated “with extreme prejudice,” a term invented for CIA murders.

It was a term used extensively during his reign

In 1961, Angleton and several of his associates developed a dislike of Dag Hammarskjöld, Secretary General of the United Nations. Angleton felt that Hammarskjöld, who was attempting to interfere in the CIA-instigated upheaval in the mineral-rich Belgian Congo, was not properly oriented to the CIA’s goals and the former Swedish foreign minister’s aircraft was sabotaged near Ndola in Zambia. The Secretary General died in the crash.

In 1963, furious that President Kennedy was secretly planning to establish a rapprochement with Fidel Castro and also because of his firing of Allen Dulles as head of the CIA, Angleton became involved in a successful plot to assassinate the president.

A considerable body of documentation exists, one is told, on these subjects and as distant felonies become nothing more than interesting history, perhaps much of this will surface in one forum or another. Dean Swift’s description of the proceedings of the Academy of Laputa, while bitter satire, are very close to the mark indeed.”

Table of Contents

  • Trump is now dangerous – that makes his mental health a matter of public interest
  • Students Await Judgment in Suit Over Fordham University Banning of Pro-Palestine Club
  • Syrian army breaks siege of army base near Damascus
  • Hardcast Exclusive: Dirty deal traced to three Ukrainian tycoons
  • FBI agent describes grisly warehouse in start of body broker’s trial
  • Why Jeff Sessions is going to lose his war against cannabis
  • Booked! Trump, staffers who cried Wolff and a week of fire and fury
  • In Clash Between California and Trump, It’s One America Versus Another
  • Bitcoin crashing & housing bubbles popping – Deutsche Bank’s biggest risks in 2018
  • 10 words and phrases we rarely used before Trump


Trump is now dangerous – that makes his mental health a matter of public interest

This world authority in psychiatry, consulted by US politicians, argues that the president’s mental fitness deserves scrutinyTrump is now dangerous – that makes his mental health a matter of public interest

January 6, 2018

by Bandy Lee

The Guardian

Eight months ago, a group of us put our concerns into a book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President. It became an instant bestseller, depleting bookstores within days. We thus discovered that our endeavours resonated with the public.

While we keep within the letter of the Goldwater rule – which prohibits psychiatrists from diagnosing public figures without a personal examination and without consent – there is still a lot that mental health professionals can tell before the public reaches awareness. These come from observations of a person’s patterns of responses, of media appearances over time, and from reports of those close to him. Indeed, we know far more about Trump in this regard than many, if not most, of our patients. Nevertheless, the personal health of a public figure is her private affair – until, that is, it becomes a threat to public health.

To make a diagnosis one needs all the relevant information – including, I believe, a personal interview. But to assess dangerousness, one only needs enough information to raise alarms. It is about the situation rather than the person. The same person may not be a danger in a different situation, while a diagnosis stays with the person.

It is Trump in the office of the presidency that poses a danger. Why? Past violence is the best predictor of future violence, and he has shown: verbal aggressiveness, boasting about sexual assaults, inciting violence in others, an attraction to violence and powerful weapons and the continual taunting of a hostile nation with nuclear power. Specific traits that are highly associated with violence include: impulsivity, recklessness, paranoia, a loose grip on reality with a poor understanding of consequences, rage reactions, a lack of empathy, belligerence towards others and a constant need to demonstrate power.

There is another pattern by which he is dangerous. His cognitive function, or his ability to process knowledge and thoughts, has begun to be widely questioned. Many have noted a distinct decline in his outward ability to form complete sentences, to stay with a thought, to use complex words and not to make loose associations. This is dangerous because of the critical importance of decision-making capacity in the office that he holds. Cognitive decline can result from any number of causes – psychiatric, neurological, medical, or medication-induced – and therefore needs to be investigated. Likewise, we do not know whether psychiatric symptoms are due to a mental disorder, medication, or a physical condition, which only a thorough examination can reveal.

A diagnosis in itself, as much as it helps define the course, prognosis, and treatment, is Trump’s private business, but what is our affair is whether the president and commander-in-chief has the capacity to function in his office. Mental illness, or even physical disability, does not necessarily impair a president from performing his function. Rather, questions about this capacity mobilised us to speak out about our concerns, with the intent to warn and to educate the public, so that we can help protect its own safety and wellbeing.

Indeed, at no other time in US history has a group of mental health professionals been so collectively concerned about a sitting president’s dangerousness. This is not because he is an unusual person – many of his symptoms are very common – but it is highly unusual to find a person with such signs of danger in the office of presidency. For the US, it may be unprecedented; for parts of the world where this has happened before, the outcome has been uniformly devastating.

Pathology does not feel right to the healthy. It repels, but it also exhausts and confuses. There is a reason why staying in close quarters with a person suffering from mental illness usually induces what is called a “shared psychosis”. Vulnerable or weakened individuals are more likely to succumb, and when their own mental health is compromised, they may develop an irresistible attraction to pathology. No matter the attraction, unlike healthy decisions that are life-affirming, choices that arise out of pathology lead to damage, destruction, and death. This is the definition of disease, and how we tell it apart from health.

Politics require that we allow everyone an equal chance; medicine requires that we treat everyone equally in protecting them from disease. That is why a liberal health professional would not ignore signs of appendicitis in a patient just because he is a Republican. Similarly, health professionals would not call pancreatic cancer something else because it is afflicting the president. When signs of illness become apparent, it is natural for the physician to recommend an examination. But when the disorder goes so far as to affect an individual’s ability to perform her function, and in some cases risks harm to the public as a result, then the health professional has a duty to sound the alarm.

The progress of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigations was worrisome to us for the effects it would have on the president’s stability. We predicted that Trump, who has shown marked signs of psychological fragility under ordinary circumstances, barely able to cope with basic criticism or unflattering news, would begin to unravel with the encroaching indictments. And if his mental stability suffered, then so would public safety and international security.

Indeed, that is what began to unfold: Trump became more paranoid, espousing once again conspiracy theories that he had let go of for a while. He seemed further to lose his grip on reality by denying his own voice on the Access Hollywood tapes. Also, the sheer frequency of his tweets seemed to reflect an agitated state of mind, and his retweeting some violent anti-Muslim videos showed his tendency to resort to violence when under pressure.

Trump views violence as a solution when he is stressed and desires to re-establish his power. Paranoia and overwhelming feelings of weakness and inadequacy make violence very attractive, and powerful weapons very tempting to use – all the more so for their power. His contest with the North Korean leader about the size of their nuclear buttons is an example of that and points to the possibility of great danger by virtue of the power of his position.

It does not take a mental health professional to see that a person of Trump’s impairments, in the office of the presidency, is a danger to us all. What mental health experts can offer is affirmation that these signs are real, that they may be worse than the untrained person suspects, and that there are more productive ways of handling them than deflection or denial.

Screening for risk of harm is a routine part of mental health practice, and there are steps that we follow when someone poses a risk of danger: containment, removal from access to weapons and an urgent evaluation. When danger is involved, it is an emergency, where an established patient-provider relationship is not necessary, nor is consent; our ethical code mandates that we treat the person as our patient.

In medicine, mental impairment is considered as serious as physical impairment: it is just as debilitating, just as objectively observable and established just as reliably through standardised assessments. Mental health experts routinely perform capacity or fitness for duty examinations for courts and other legal bodies, and offer their recommendations. This is what we are calling for, urgently, in doing our part as medical professionals. The rest of the decision is up to the courts or, in this case, up to the body politic.


Students Await Judgment in Suit Over Fordham University Banning of Pro-Palestine Club

January 7, 2018

by Dina Sayedahmed

The Intercept

On Wednesday afternoon, a court convened to hear the case of students at Fordham University who are suing the school for denying them the ability to form an official student club in December 2016. The petitioning students, Ahmad Awad, Sofia Dadap, Sapphira Lurie, and Julie Norris, who are represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Palestine Legal, had tried to form a club on one of the most contentious political issues on campus: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The fight over forming a Students for Justice in Palestine club had dragged on for more than two years. Students had applied to establish a Students for Justice in Palestine chapter at the Lincoln center campus in November 2015, but administrators had resisted from the beginning. The students were asking the court to uphold Fordham University’s own policies and mission and to reinstate the United Student Government’s vote in support of establishing the chapter.

Awad, a Palestinian-American, believes that the school’s rejection of SJP establishes a dangerous precedent.

“SJP was going to allow a different perspective on campus,” said Awad, now a law student at Rutgers University. “Allowing SJP [would] allow Fordham to continue a standard of free speech and uphold its mission statement” — alluding to a passage in the school’s mission about “the alleviation of poverty, the promotion of justice, the protection of human rights.”

Much of the debate around admitting the club has turned around SJP’s support for the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel, a nonviolent global campaign to pressure Israel to end its abuses of Palestinians’ rights that has been met with controversy by Israeli political leaders and pro-Israel figures in the U.S. The fight over BDS has become a national one; state-level legislative bodies, Congress, civil rights groups, and, of course, pro-Israel advocacy groups are all heavily involved. But no place does the fight seem to be as heated as on college campuses.

On Wednesday, the court broke without rendering a judgement, and it’s unclear when one will come. The case continues to loom as another data point in the campaign to suppress Palestine activism on campus — a campaign whose successes dispirit and confound observers who favor open debates and Palestinian rights.

“College campuses are where people are supposed to be exposed to new ideas,” said Rashid Khalidi, a Palestinian-American professor and co-director of the Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University. “There is absolutely no reason why the policies of a country that is engaged in the longest occupation in modern history, which is entirely dependent on the support of the United States, should not be discussed openly and critically in the United States.”

The SJP students’ journey has been filled with strange lines of inquiry from the administration, as well as requirements that were not made of other applicants trying to form student clubs.

In the 13 months between the application and the denial issued by the Dean of Students, students had been called to several meetings and corresponded with Fordham University administrators regarding various matters, including the content of their constitution, whether the National Students for Justice in Palestine organization required anything from them, and proposed programming, according to Palestine Legal. (I was involved with SJP’s Rutgers University chapter while attending school there.)

During one of those meetings, the students were asked about their thoughts on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel and if it called for the dissolution of Israel. They were queried about why they use the term “apartheid.” And administrators prodded them on whether they were supportive of or open to working with Jewish groups. In a move that dangerously and falsely conflates criticisms of Israel with anti-Semitism, Fordham University administrators called on the Jewish Student Organization to weigh in on granting SJP club status. Students were also asked to seek a vote of approval from the United Student Government, even though the requirement was not university policy at the time. The student government nonetheless voted that the club should be admitted.

Yet the school rejected the application. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict “is a topic that often leads to polarization rather than dialogue. The purpose of the organization as stated in the proposed club constitution points toward that polarization,” wrote Keith Eldredge, the dean of students at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus, in a letter to the students in December 2016. “Specifically, the call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions of Israel presents a barrier to open dialogue and mutual understanding and learning.” It was the first time that Fordham denied a student club application that had been approved by the student government, according to Palestine Legal, and no recourse was given to appeal the decision.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Fordham’s lawyers stated that, because the university is a private entity, the First Amendment doesn’t apply and students’ free speech can be arbitrarily restricted.

“The question is who defines whether certain speech has crossed the line of racist incitement or not,” said Omar Barghouti, a Palestine-based activist who co-founded the BDS movement, in an interview. “This is not about feeling ‘uncomfortable’ about speech that you despise or viscerally disagree with.” Barghouti went on to say that the opposition to the club “devalues the lives of oppressed and marginalized groups that already suffer institutional racism and discrimination in the current hegemonic culture, thus exposing them to palpable physical harm and further intimidation.”

Khalidi, the Columbia professor, said that Fordham’s actions are an “egregious violation of free speech and academic freedom.”

“This constitutes an unwarranted interference by the university in student life,” Khalidi said. “There’s an overwhelming political and media consensus in support of Israel in the United States. People who would like to put forward a critical point of view on college campuses should be allowed to do so.”

The flaps over campus advocacy for Palestinian rights frequently stem from the BDS movement, which was modeled on grassroots opposition to the South African apartheid. Despite its nonviolent foundation, BDS has been met with a torrent of activism that has led 23 states to enact anti-BDS legislation, including New York. Many of the state-level laws, critics say, risk chilling dissent even if they don’t criminalize it. In some cases, however, civil liberties groups have raised stronger objections. Last summer, the ACLU opposed a bill introduced in both houses of Congress for potentially criminalizing a boycott activity against Israel. Later in 2017, the group filed a lawsuit against Kansas over an anti-BDS law it said also violated the Constitution.

Those same fights have played out on college campuses large and small, public and private alike. The controversies often emerge around chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine, a national group founded in 2010 that has grown to roughly 200 school chapters.

Students at the University of Michigan have lobbied their student government 11 times since 2002 to divest from companies that enable Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands. Last November, the student government finally accepted a motion pushing divestment after an approximately seven-hour hearing. Following the vote, however, the school released a statement that it was unlikely to heed the student government and would continue investing as normal.

Last semester at Brooklyn College, professors and students, some of whom had already graduated, found their names listed as “terrorist supporters” on posters  around campus. The posters were sponsored by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a far-right group known for its anti-Muslim animus. Of the two professors and nine current and former students who were listed on the posters, many had been active members or supportive of Brooklyn College’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter, which has advocated for BDS, among other social justice movements.

“It is quite transparently an attempt to intimidate faculty and produce a certain kind of chilling effect,” said Samir Chopra, a professor of philosophy at Brooklyn College whose name was also listed on the posters. Chopra, who does not entirely support the BDS movement but believes advocacy for it falls within students’ right to free speech, cited the other forms of intimidation used against students, such as blacklists generated by pro-Israel groups. “Many of these things can be professional death,” Chopra said. “I quite honestly think that if I were to go out looking for a job, I would not find a job right now.”

Although Brooklyn College’s president condemned the poster campaign, some students recalled that the administration was less than fully supportive. “Every single time we had an event, every time we tried to do anything, there was so much backlash,” said Thomas DeAngelis, a former Brooklyn College student who was listed on the posters despite moving on to the University of Minnesota for graduate school.

DeAngelis said that administrators regularly required metal detectors and security guards for SJP events. With the exception of certain events held by the Caribbean student clubs, this wasn’t the experience of other student clubs, according to DeAngelis. SJP students at other universities, including DePaul University and the University of New Mexico, echoed DeAngelis’s testimony, saying that administrators often required their SJP chapter to post security guards at events. Brooklyn College doesn’t outright prevent students from organizing, DeAngelis said, but by constantly throwing hurdles at organizers and not protecting them from harassment, Brooklyn College creates an added anxiety for activists, making it impossible for SJP to fully function.

“They never canceled our events, but they would make us go through crazy loopholes and come up with new rules based on something SJP did — like what type of things are appropriate at events and what material could be distributed,” DeAngelis said. “People got fed up and it pushed a lot of people to do work outside of SJP.”


Syrian army breaks siege of army base near Damascus

January 7, 2018


BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syria’s army has broken the siege of an army base encircled by opposition forces on the eastern outskirts of Damascus, state-run al-Ikhbariya TV and a war monitor reported on Sunday.

Last Sunday, rebels, mainly belonging to the Islamist Ahrar al Sham faction, widened their control of parts of the Military Vehicles Administration base in the Eastern Ghouta town of Harasta.[nL8N1OX3Q3]

Army elite forces, backed by Russian jets, launched an offensive to break the siege and liberate at least 200 troops who were believed to be trapped within its sprawling, heavily defended grounds.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the Syrian forces have “opened a loophole” that led them into the base.

Rebel fighters had stormed the base last November in a drive to relieve pressure on Eastern Ghouta’s towns and villages.

The base has long been used to strike at the densely populated Eastern Ghouta in an attempt to force the rebel enclave into submission. More than 300,000 people there have lived under siege by army troops since 2013.

Reporting by Kinda Makieh and Dahlia Nehme; Editing by Alison Williams and Elaine


Hardcast Exclusive: Dirty deal traced to three Ukrainian tycoons

January 7, 2018


Three Ukrainian oligarchs traded part of around $1.5bn in illicit assets traced to cronies of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, an exclusive investigation by Al Jazeera revealed on Sunday. They did so as the war-torn country struggled to return suspected misappropriated funds to its coffers.

An unsigned contract obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit identifies Alexander Onyschenko – the gas tycoon, former member of parliament and currently one of Ukraine’s most-wanted men – and Pavel Fuchs, a real estate tycoon who made his fortune in Moscow, as the buyers in the illegal deal.

Other documents suggest the seller was Serhiy Kurchenko – a fugitive Ukrainian gas tycoon based in Moscow who was known as Yanukovich’s “family wallet”.

The contract obtained by Al Jazeera, revealed in The Oligarchs investigation, said Onyschenko and Fuchs paid $30m, including cash and a private jet, for the Cyprus-based company, Quickpace Limited.

That company held $160m-worth of bonds and cash, which was frozen by a Ukrainian judge as they were suspected of being proceeds of crime.

The findings were “unbelievable”, said Daria Kaleniuk, executive director of the Anti-Corruption Action Centre (ANTAC).

“It sounds like an agreement between criminal bosses, you know? You can sign it with your blood.”

It is illegal in Ukraine and abroad to trade with frozen assets.

“The whole idea is I’ve frozen the asset because I think it’s the proceeds of crime,” said Jon Benton, former director of the International Corruption Unit at Britain’s National Crime Agency.

“It’s like trading in stolen goods that have been taken by the police. You’re putting the cash in the getaway car,” he told Al Jazeera.

The buyers aim to make a $130m profit by persuading a judge to unfreeze the assets.

Article 4.4 of the contract said that the buyers would cooperate in “taking action to remove the arrest from the accounts” held by Quickpace Limited.

Looted state

Ukrainian authorities froze the assets in June 2014 across numerous companies in Cyprus, the UK, Panama, Belize and the British Virgin Islands totalling $1.5bn. It is estimated that that Yanukovich and his cronies stole far more.

Evidence found on Yanukovich’s abandoned property hidden outside Kiev showed one of his clan’s corporate networks. Documents obtained by Al Jazeera expose another.

They reveal how Yanukovich’s clan pumped stolen money into companies in Ukraine with bank accounts in Latvia and gradually passed it through dozens of offshore shell companies in Cyprus, Belize, British Virgin Islands and other money-laundering hotspots including the UK.

“The philosophy of money launderers is just to create a situation where the money has moved through so many different companies and so many different countries, in so many different accounts that it would be almost impossible to recreate the trail,” said Bill Browder, chief executive of Hermitage Capital.

Yanukovich’s name never appeared on any of the paperwork.

The companies bear the names of nominee directors – cut-out characters who appear to be the owner of a company, but simply act on instruction by the real owner.

Ukraine’s new authorities started to look into the corrupt schemes after Yanukovich’s removal from office in 2014.

It began a series of reforms that included the establishment of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU).

But nothing important has been achieved in terms of the prosecution of the corrupt individuals or the recovery of the stolen assets.

“Resistance is very strong from the elites who are in power now and the more we investigate, the more we face this resistance,” Artem Sytnyk, NABU director, told Al Jazeera.

“Parliament is taking steps to sideline the management of the Anti-Corruption Agency and take control.”

Nazar Holodnitsky, Ukraine’s special anti-corruption prosecutor, refused Al Jazeera’s requests for information, saying: “Until this investigation is complete, any comments, assertions regarding the existence or absence of certain documents is premature.”

Onyschenko took the position that there was nothing wrong with buying a company holding frozen assets.

“You can buy cheap and try to fix the problem to make money,” he told Al Jazeera.

Onyschenko confirmed Fuchs’ and Kurchneko’s role in the deal, but denied the deal went ahead.

“It was like normal business, but this has not happened. We didn’t buy.”

However, a Cypriot lawyer and the NABU, who worked on the deal, confirmed the sale of Quickpace went through and company documents record a transfer of ownership to one of Mr Fuchs’s companies.

Al Jazeera obtained a record of an initial payment of $2m from an account at Barclays Bank to another at a Russian-owned Latvian bank, Norvic Banka.

Currently, Quickpace is owned by Evermore Property Holdings Limited, a Cyprus company, which, in turn, is owned by Dorchester International Incorporated. Fuchs is its owner.


FBI agent describes grisly warehouse in start of body broker’s trial

January 5, 2018

by Steve Friess and John Shiffman


DETROIT (Reuters) – The warehouse of a Michigan man who sold donated body parts to researchers was littered with dead flies, dog bowls and human remains “frozen together in flesh-on-flesh chunks,” a federal agent testified Friday.

The grisly description came during the opening day in the federal trial of businessman Arthur Rathburn, who sold or leased donated body parts, including human heads, to medical researchers for two decades.

The buying and selling of body parts for research and education is legal under U.S. law, which does not govern the industry. Current regulations only cover body parts intended for transplant, such as hearts and livers.

Rathburn, however, is charged with defrauding customers by selling them body parts infected with hepatitis and HIV, and with lying to federal agents about shipments.

During opening statements, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Neal told jurors that human remains were stored so haphazardly that Rathburn needed a crowbar to separate frozen parts. Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Leslie Larson testified that during the 2013 search of Rathburn’s warehouse, officials found a filthy scene, with no running water or heat.

“Body parts were out in the open, in coolers,” Larson testified. “Some of the freezers had heads and torsos, some had arms and legs. Many were frozen together in flesh-on-flesh chunks.”

Rathburn’s lawyer, James Howarth, urged the jury to focus on the documents in the case, not gruesome photographs. He said that Rathburn’s ex-wife, Elizabeth, is “most responsible” for any wrongdoing. She has pleaded guilty to one count of fraud and is expected to testify for the government.

“This case is so sensitive because the nature of the evidence is going to make us all cringe, make us all uneasy,” Howarth told the jury. “There’s nothing particularly pretty about a deceased body that has been separated into parts, but I would hope no one would have bad feelings toward Mr. Rathburn because of that.”

The government’s failure to stop Rathburn sooner, despite a decade of warning signs, was one in a series of stories Reuters reported last year about the largely unregulated body broker industry.

As part of the news agency’s examination of the industry, a Reuters reporter was able to purchase two human heads and a cervical spine from a body broker in Tennessee. The deals were struck after just a few emails, at a cost of $900 plus shipping.

The series also profiled two Phoenix brokers – one who earned at least $12 million from the sale or use of donated body parts and another who regularly supplied Rathburn. The broker who sold Rathburn body parts, Steve Gore, pleaded guilty to defrauding customers and is expected to testify against Rathburn.

Last month, Reuters reported that federal agents discovered four preserved fetuses during the search of Rathburn’s warehouse. According to government photographs obtained by the news agency, the fetuses appear to have been in their second trimester.

The fetus photographs are not cited in any court filings and it is unclear if they will be presented at trial.

Friess reported from Detroit and Shiffman reported from Washington. Edited by Blake Morrison


Why Jeff Sessions is going to lose his war against cannabis

The attorney general is outmatched.

August 1, 2017

by Ashley C. Bradford and W. David Bradford

Washington Post

Attorney General Jeff Sessions will soon receive a report he has been waiting for. The document, from the President’s Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, is expected to clarify the federal government’s position on marijuana — and the conflicts that exist between state and federal laws. It clear what Sessions wants to do: Over the past month, he has asked Congress for permission to prosecute medical cannabis suppliers who are acting in accordance with their state’s laws, reauthorized civil asset forfeiture (a highly controversial practice used in drug cases), and announced his desire to start a new “war on drugs.”

On at least one front, however, Sessions’s new war on drugs is likely to fail. In taking on cannabis — particularly the medical uses of cannabis — he is staking out a position that is at odds with powerful interests and an overwhelming majority of Americans from nearly all walks of life. This tide is too strong to swim against.

The first obstacle is that the medical community has largely resolved the question of whether cannabis is clinically useful. In January, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NAS) reported that there is “conclusive evidence” that cannabis (both whole plant and extracts) is clinically effective at treating some diseases, including chronic pain. Cannabis may prove to be a pain management strategy that could substitute for opioids for many desperate patients, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) acknowledges that cannabis may be an effective tool to combat the opioid crisis. Researchers studying the relationship between medical cannabis laws and opioid use have found that states with such laws have nearly a 25 percent reduction in opioid-related deaths. The contrast between opioids — which killed more than 33,000 Americans in 2015 — and cannabis could not be more striking. As NIDA states on its DrugFacts — Marijuana Web page: “There are no reports of teens or adults fatally overdosing (dying) on marijuana alone.”

[Pot is increasingly legal. Employers need to stop screening for it.]

Further, medical cannabis may also save lives in unexpected ways. Data published in the American Journal of Public Health in February suggests that laws allowing it were associated with fewer traffic fatalities. While we always have to be careful about making claims that a policy caused an outcome, evidence from multiple studies, with careful statistical analyses, is building a case that medical cannabis has real, beneficial, spillover effects.

State governments are a second major hurdle for Sessions. States are sharply opposed to his moves to crack down on their cannabis policies. Eight states (with nearly one-fifth of the U.S. population) have legalized recreational cannabis use by adults. Even more striking, 29 states and the District of Columbia have approved the medical use of botanical cannabis, with 17 more having cannabis extract laws in place. This doesn’t just save lives; it also saves money.

In two studies, we find substantial reductions in a broad array of prescription spending for both Medicare and Medicaid in states that have medical cannabis laws in effect. Medicare and Medicaid don’t cover cannabis, but it nevertheless appears to substitute for many prescription drugs that the programs do cover. Nationally, the savings could be in the billions of dollars across the two programs if all states would adopt medical cannabis laws.

States benefit directly. Our work on Medicaid spending shows that they saved money — as much as $98 million in the case of California in 2014 — when they implemented medical cannabis laws in an environment in which the federal government took a hands-off attitude.

[Yes, pot should be legal. But it shouldn’t be sold for a profit.]

And it’s not just about savings: Cannabis generates substantial economic benefits as well. In 2016, Colorado saw the cannabis industry grow to about $1.3 billion in sales. Colorado levies substantial taxes on cannabis; as a consequence, it generated almost $200 million in tax revenue. Recent estimates suggest that states will collect nearly $655 million in tax revenue from cannabis sales nationwide. Not only are those direct contributions to stressed state budgets, but those taxes represent tens of thousands of jobs and the associated economic activity. At least four state governors recently wrote Sessions to ask him to let states pursue their own policies without federal interference.

Because state budgets would suffer if Sessions reversed the current federal position, state attorneys general would have standing to sue the Justice Department to force Sessions to actually implement the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, which insists that a drug can be listed as Schedule I only if there is “no currently accepted medical use.” The January NAS report, recent revisions to the NIDA position, and literally hundreds of peer-reviewed clinical research articles make clear that cannabis has many medical uses. This, finally, could end conflicts between state medical cannabis laws and federal law: Physicians could legally prescribe cannabis and patients could get medical supervision for their care. (Of course, states would still be free to restrict access to medical cannabis if they chose to do so.)

If Sessions does target cannabis as part of his new war on drugs, there is one final reason to believe the states would win and he would lose. The American people want access to medical cannabis. The most recent Quinnipiac Poll found that 94 percent of Americans support medical access when directed by a physician (including 96 percent of Democrats and 90 percent of Republicans). That poll found 73 percent of respondents oppose enforcing federal cannabis laws against state laws.

Nearly three-quarters of the U.S. population lives in states that have legalized medical cannabis, and states have powerful incentives to preserve their laws. There is almost universal popular opinion in favor of the availability of medical cannabis. The tide has already turned.


Booked! Trump, staffers who cried Wolff and a week of fire and fury

When the Guardian published extracts of Fire and Fury, Washington was rocked. Now many are questioning the president’s chances of staying in the job

Janaury 7, 2018

by David Smith and Lauren Gambino in Washington

The Guardian

Portraits of Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt loomed watchfully. Five US senators with decades of collective experience stood in deference at their chairs. Donald Trump was about to enter the room, a prospect that assures a frisson of unpredictability.

The president strode in, shook hands with Chuck Grassley and patted Lindsey Graham on the back. Graham playfully punched the air.

“Lindsey used to be a great enemy of mine,” Trump told the gathering when all were seated a few minutes later, “and now he’s a great friend of mine.”

The senator for South Carolina shifted awkwardly in his chair and grinned: “I like me too, so we have something in common.” There was a ripple of laughter.

Later, when 71-year-old Trump turned to Senator James Lankford and called him “Tom”, everyone pretended to ignore it.

Here in the elegantly appointed Roosevelt Room, cocooned in the West Wing as if in a wartime bunker, Trump and the loyalists who lavished praise on his leadership could maintain the pretence of business as usual. But outside, political fires were burning. The White House had been hit by a bombshell book that portrayed it as a hive of discord, dysfunction and farce, and the president himself as ignorant, capricious and clinically unfit for the office once occupied by the Roosevelts.

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, by Michael Wolff, a devastating fly-on-the-wall account of life at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, has stirred speculation over the mental health of the man who began the week boasting to the world of the size of his nuclear button. “His stability,” Carl Bernstein, a veteran Washington Post reporter best known for his work on the Watergate scandal, told CNN. “That’s really what this book is about.”

Wolff, who parked himself for long hours on a West Wing sofa, says he interviewed more than 200 people in Trump’s inner and outer orbit and they reached a joint conclusion. “They all say, ‘He is like a child,’ and what they mean by that is he has a need for immediate gratification,” the author told NBC on Friday. “It’s all about him.”

On Saturday, he spoke to the BBC. “I think one of the interesting effects of the book so far is a very clear ‘emperor has no clothes’ effect,” Wolff said.

“The story that I have told seems to present this presidency in such a way that it says he can’t do his job.”

‘Treasonous’ and ‘unpatriotic’

The New Year had barely rubbed the sleep from its eyes when, on Wednesday morning, the Guardian published excerpts of Wolff’s book a week ahead of its scheduled publication. It vividly depicted chaos and conflict as a default setting in the administration, even worse than many already suspected. At the centre of the palace intrigue was Steve Bannon, the hardline nationalist who helped put Trump in the White House.

Bannon, former chief strategist, had spilled the beans to Wolff with stunning candour. He described the decision by Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr, to meet a group of Russians at Trump Tower during the 2016 election campaign as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic”. He predicted that the continuing investigation into alleged collusion with Moscow would run and run: “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.” And he called Trump’s daughter Ivanka “as dumb as brick”.

Bannon was not alone in his unflattering verdict. The book also reported that Rupert Murdoch once mocked Trump as “a fucking idiot” over his incoherent views on immigration policy, while Thomas Barrack Jr, a billionaire who is one of the president’s oldest associates, allegedly told a friend: “He’s not only crazy, he’s stupid.” (Barrack has since denied this.)

Other claims by Wolff include Melania Trump’s reaction to an election win that her husband and his team thought impossible – she was “in tears – and not of joy”; the couple’s preference for separate bedrooms; and Trump’s habit of going to bed with a cheeseburger at 6.30pm, watching three TV screens and making phone calls. The president reprimands housekeeping staff “for picking up his shirt from the floor” and “imposed a set of new rules: Nobody touch anything, especially not his toothbrush”. His paranoia about being poisoned leads him to turn up without warning at McDonald’s, according to the book, which Trump has branded “boring and untruthful”.

The barrage of damning revelations caught the White House off guard. The Washington Post reported: “Trump spent much of the day raging about the book to top aides, officials and advisers said … As he fumed, some aides were still frantically searching for a copy of the book, and even senior aides like [Hope] Hicks had not seen it by the afternoon, officials said.”

Said by officials to be “disgusted” and “furious”, Trump launched an abortive legal attempt to block the book, which doubtless boosted sales, and wasted little time in brutally disavowing Bannon. Usually he is content to hammer foes with a vituperative tweet – not this time. The White House released a bilious 266-word statement that played down Bannon’s role in Trump’s electoral success and declared: “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”

It was an ugly, very public political divorce, the end of a relationship that had transfixed the political world. In August 2015, Bannon, a former naval officer, investment banker and film-maker, boasted that he had turned the rightwing website Breitbart News into “Trump Central” and joked that he was the candidate’s hidden “campaign manager”, the New York Times reported. He hosted Trump for friendly radio interviews and, in August 2016, took over as chief executive of his long-shot presidential campaign.

The scruffy, unshaven Bannon came to personify Trump’s darkest, nativist impulses on immigration, building a border wall and threatening a trade war; he fanned the flames of “America first”, white nationalism and a blow-everything-up philosophy. In a November 2016 interview with Wolff for the Hollywood Reporter, the liberal bete noire boasted of his influence, declaring with relish: “I am Thomas Cromwell in the court of the Tudors.” It was grimly prophetic – Cromwell was eventually executed on the king’s orders.

‘Sloppy Steve’Bannon made two fatal mistakes. One was overreach: he featured on the cover of Time magazine, was portrayed as more powerful than Trump on Saturday Night Live and was dubbed “President Bannon”, all bound to infuriate the Trump ego. He also displayed visceral hatred for Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, chronicled by Wolff in lurid detail. After seven months, he was ousted as chief strategist and returned to his perch as executive chairman of Breitbart.

He reportedly continued to speak to Trump by phone; officials say the last such conversation happened in early December. Around the same time, the Bannon-endorsed Roy Moore – accused of sexual misconduct involving teenage girls – lost a US Senate special election in the Republican stronghold of Alabama, casting doubt on Bannon’s so-called strategic genius.

Now, Bannon has not only lost Trump. Soon after, he lost his patron Rebekah Mercer, the billionaire Republican donor, who turned off the financial tap. If, as is speculated, he loses Breitbart too, he could be banished to the political wilderness. Reader comments on Breitbart’s site seemed overwhelmingly supportive of the president. The alt-right, of which Bannon was once the rock star, appeared to be uniting around Trump.

In a tweet on Friday night, Trump said Bannon “cried when he got fired and begged for his job. Now Sloppy Steve has been dumped like a dog by almost everyone. Too bad!”

But Kurt Bardella, a political commentator and former Breitbart spokesman, predicted that Bannon may prove difficult to oust from the organisation, and may yet use it as a platform to get back into the president’s good graces. “If there’s one thing we know about Donald Trump it’s that he’s susceptible to being sucked up to,” Bardella said. “The ego of Trump would love nothing more than a humbled Steve Bannon coming grovelling for his forgiveness. He may have imagined just that scenario.”

On Thursday, Bannon called Trump a “great man”, but reconciliation still seems a long way off. His demise has been embraced by the Republican establishment, which had feared an insurgent movement by Bannon-backed candidates with an “America first” agenda ahead of November’s midterm elections. Recently, Bannon warned the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell: “You’re like a deer that’s been shot, you’re just going to bleed out, brother.” After the White House released Trump’s statement denouncing Bannon as a self-aggrandising hanger-on who had “lost his mind”, McConnell’s campaign account tweeted a gif of the senator with a victorious smirk forming on his lips.

Bardella said: “Steve Bannon’s crusade for 2018 is over. Instead of Republican versus Republican, the general election between Republicans and Democrats starts now.”

He warned McConnell of a mixed blessing, however: “You may have sidelined Steve Bannon but you still have to deal with Donald Trump. Republicans are going to be responsible for whatever’s going to happen going forward. They’re not going to be able to say that there were no signs of diminished capacity. They’re not going to be looked on kindly by history.”

‘The danger has become imminent’

Wolff’s book has revived swirling speculation about the state of Trump’s mental health and the 25th amendment, which allows a majority of the cabinet and vice-president to remove the president by deeming him “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”.

The Trump who emerges from Wolff’s account is chronically incurious, contemptuous of experts and beholden to his gut instincts. “Trump didn’t read,” he writes. “He didn’t really even skim … He could read headlines and articles about himself, or at least headlines on articles about himself, and the gossip squibs on the New York Post’s Page Six.” Some allies tried to explain this way as an attribute of his populism. “He was postliterate – total television.”

In another passage, Wolff recounts how Trump is repeating himself with greater frequency. Whereas he used to repeat, “word-for-word and expression-for-expression”, the same three stories every 30 minutes, now it is within 10 minutes. And in another anecdote, he wrote in a column for the Hollywood Reporter: “At Mar-a-Lago, just before the new year, a heavily made-up Trump failed to recognise a succession of old friends.”

Bandy Lee, an assistant clinical professor at the Yale School of Medicine, briefed a dozen members of Congress last month on the potential risks associated with the president’s behavior. Lee said this week she and other psychiatrists were speaking out because they feel “the danger has become imminent”.

Democratic congressman Jamie Raskin, who attended Lee’s presentation and has proposed legislation to create a commission that would determine whether the president is mentally fit for office, said Trump’s behaviour was “increasingly delusional”. He told CNN: “It’s a very dangerous and unstable situation as a number of Republican senators have themselves observed”. No Republican in Congress has yet called publicly for an evaluation of Trump’s mental state.

Chris Ruddy, a longtime friend of Trump, believes the president has attention deficit disorder. “He’s easily bored,” he told the Observer. “He likes moving around a lot of topics and asking a lot of questions. He’s so smart, he’s easily bored. It’s a big leap to say he’s psychologically unfit for office.”

Ruddy said he saw Trump several times over the Christmas holidays. “I think he’s mentally fit. I didn’t see anything untoward. His conversation was consistent with any time I’ve known him. He seemed to recognise everyone around us. I brought a New York Times journalist, Michael Schmidt, to meet him and at first he didn’t recognise him but, when he did double take, he realised who it was.”

He added: “I would say Donald Trump’s mental acuity in remembering faces and information is much higher than average.”

Ruddy, chief executive of the conservative Newsmax Media, accused liberals of trying to use the issue to overturn the 2016 presidential election result. “It’s a highly politicised time and they’re trying to weaponise psychology and psychiatry. It makes no sense.”

Trump made a similar argument in extraordinary tweets from 7.19am on Saturday, accusing Democrats and the mainstream media of “taking out the old Ronald Reagan playbook”. Reagan, whose record Trump broke as the oldest person to be elected president, came under scrutiny from opponents for forgetfulness and contradicting himself. Five years after leaving office, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

In comments unlikely to have the desired effect of quelling speculation over his own health of mind, Trump continued: “Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart… I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star…. to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius….and a very stable genius at that!”

Debate over a president’s erratic behaviour often invites comparisons with Britain’s King George III. But Wolff’s portrayal of a man prone to wild mood swings, liable to call someone a friend one moment, an enemy the next, is also redolent of actor Forest Whitaker’s portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the film The Last King of Scotland.

“You’re a child,” his despairing doctor tells him. “You have the mind and ego of an angry, spoiled, uneducated child. And that’s what makes you so fucking scary.”


In Clash Between California and Trump, It’s One America Versus Another

January 7, 2018

by Tim Arango

The New York Times

LOS ANGELES — When drivers entered California recently from the borders with Arizona and Nevada, they were greeted with  signs welcoming them to an “official sanctuary state” that is home to “felons” and “illegals.” It was a prank, but the message was clear: By entering California, they might as well have been entering foreign territory.

And in many ways it feels like that these days, as the growing divide between California and the Trump administration erupted this past week over a dizzying range of flash points, from immigration to taxes to recreational marijuana use.

What had been a rhetorical battle between a liberal state and a conservative administration is now a full-fledged fight.

Just as Californians were enjoying their first days of legal pot smoking, the Trump administration moved to enforce federal laws against the drug. On the same day, the federal government said it would expand offshore oil drilling, which California’s Senate leader called an assault on “our pristine coastline.”

When President Trump signed a law that would raise the tax bills of many Californians by restricting deductions, lawmakers in this state proposed a creative end-around — essentially making state taxes charitable contributions, and fully deductible. And California’s refusal to help federal agents deport undocumented immigrants prompted one administration official to suggest that state politicians should be arrested.

The clash between California and Mr. Trump and his supporters — between one America and another — began the morning after he won the presidency, when Kevin de León, the State Senate leader, and his counterpart in the Assembly, Anthony Rendon, said they “woke up feeling like strangers in a foreign land.”

Since then the fight has metastasized into what could be the greatest contest over values between a White House and a state since the 1950s and 1960s, when the federal government moved to end segregation and expand civil rights.

Back then, of course, the ideologies and values at issue were reversed, as conservative Southerners, under the banner of states’ rights, fought violently to uphold white supremacy. In these times it is liberal California making the case for states’ rights, traditionally a Republican position.

“It seems like every day brings a new point of contention between two very different types of leadership,” said Jim Newton, a lecturer at the University of California, Los Angeles.

And it does not end there: New laws that went into effect on Jan. 1 in California raised the minimum wage, allowed parents to withhold gender on birth certificates and strengthened what were already some of the toughest gun laws in the country by restricting ammunition sales and assault weapons, and barring school officials from carrying concealed weapons at work. Taken together, the measures are the surest signs yet of how California is setting itself apart from Washington — and many parts of America, too.

Mr. de León, along with almost the entire leadership of California, has been a bulwark against the Trump administration. Mr. de León introduced the so-called sanctuary state legislation — the California Values Act — that restricts state authorities from cooperating with federal immigration agents, and places limits on agents entering schools, churches, hospitals or courthouses to detain undocumented immigrants. The law went into effect Jan. 1, provoking a prankster — presumably a Trump supporter — to put up those highway signs, and setting off a war of words between California and the administration.

The state should “hold on tight,” said Thomas Homan, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in an interview on Fox News last week.

“They are about to see a lot more special agents, a lot more deportation officers,” he said. “If the politicians in California don’t want to protect their communities, then ICE will.”

Mr. Homan went on to assail politicians who support the sanctuary policy, suggesting they should be arrested.

Darrell Steinberg, the mayor of Sacramento, California’s capital, reacted angrily on Wednesday, saying on Twitter that “they certainly know where to find me.”

Also this week, Mr. de León introduced legislation to limit the impact of the new tax bill on Californians by essentially allowing residents to pay their state taxes in the form of a charitable contribution, which could then be deducted when filing federal income tax.

Mr. de León also said he was working with Eric H. Holder Jr., an attorney general under President Barack Obama, to push back against attempts to enforce federal marijuana law, which Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Thursday he would allow federal prosecutors to do.

“Whether Jeff Sessions likes cannabis is not the question,” Mr. de León said. “The people of California voted overwhelmingly to legalize marijuana for recreational use.”

For his part, Mr. Trump is the first president since Dwight D. Eisenhower to not take a trip to California in his first calendar year in office, not even to visit his golf course in Rancho Palos Verdes, south of Los Angeles, or a mansion he owns in Beverly Hills, or to tour the vast damage left in the wake of a series of wildfires. By contrast, he has made multiple trips to other states hit by natural disasters, including Texas and Florida after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

In California, every state leader is a Democrat, including the governor and the leaders of the State Senate and Assembly. Of the state’s 53 members in Congress, only 14 are Republicans, and analysts believe several of them are in jeopardy of losing their seats to Democrats in next year’s midterm elections because of opposition in California to Mr. Trump.

Still, not every Californian is lining up to join the opposition. Representative Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House majority leader, has stood firm with the president, was a strong supporter of the tax bill, and has said he believes there is still an opportunity for Democrats and the administration to come together, particularly on immigration. In an interview with Fox News on Friday, he said, “I think there is a plan for securing the border, for dealing with chain migration.” He added, “I think there is a common ground that both sides can get to.”

But California’s diversity — 40 percent Latino, and with an estimated 2.3 million undocumented workers, according to a Pew Research Center survey — is regarded by many people here as a powerful counternarrative to the Trump administration’s anti-immigration policies and the ugly racial incidents and outbursts of white supremacy that have surfaced during his presidency in places like Charlottesville, Va.

Beyond demographics and politics, charting its own course is part of the identity of California. “We are the frontier,” said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political scientist at the University of Southern California. “Beyond us, there’s nothing but ocean.”

California is not the only liberal state standing up to the Trump administration. But as the most populous state, with close to 40 million people — if it were a country it would be the world’s sixth largest economy, sandwiched between Britain and France — California has been energized in the age of Trump to take the lead in opposing what many here believe is a depressing reversal of American progress.

“California has distinguished itself from the federal government for a long time,” said Elizabeth Ashford, a political consultant who has worked for Gov. Jerry Brown, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Senator Kamala Harris. “Certainly Arnold spent a lot of time talking about California as almost a nation-state. And many Californians feel that way.”

She continued, “For Californians and California there’s always this concept of a Golden State, a model of what a state can be and achieve.” These days, with the country roiled by a resurgence in white supremacy and nasty fights over immigration and diversity, essentially a battle over American identity, she said, “there are sharp distinctions that many Californians are drawing between us and them.”

Those distinctions may become sharper, as a generational shift in California Democratic politics, driven by leaders like Mr. de León, could tilt the state further to the left. Mr. de León, 51, is mounting a primary challenge to Senator Dianne Feinstein, 84, by positioning himself more to the left — and more stridently opposed to the president — than his rival.

Ordinary Californians have found other ways to push back.

One of them is Andrew Sturm, a graduate student in visual arts at the University of California, San Diego. Last year, Mr. Sturm was with a friend in Tijuana, Mexico, at a spot near the border where prototypes of Mr. Trump’s planned wall had been positioned.

“We were thinking, man, these things look like drive-in movie screens,” he said. “We were thinking about how we could do something with them.”

The result was a display of political art, in the form of light. One evening this fall at dusk, Mr. Sturm and other activists, working from the Mexican side of the border, erected theater lights and used stencils to project images onto the prototypes — of a ladder, of the Statue of Liberty.

“I felt kind of sick as a U.S. citizen,” he said, referring to Mr. Trump’s immigration policies. “I didn’t want folks in Mexico to think this is how we all feel.”

Jennifer Medina contributed reporting.


Bitcoin crashing & housing bubbles popping – Deutsche Bank’s biggest risks in 2018

January 7, 2018


Investors should get ready for potential risks this year, warns Deutsche Bank. They include stock market corrections, the collapse of cryptocurrencies and housing bubbles.

With national central banks pursuing active policies pegged to the whole range of internal and external drivers, the geopolitical environment is continually changing with one concern being replaced by others.

Domestic policies carried out by governments across the world commonly have a significant impact on the whole planet, and new phenomena such as a crash in the crypto-market might bring down real companies.

That’s why the number of risks worth worrying about is growing, even when the Volatility Index VIX is steadily falling. Deutsche Bank’s chief international economist Torsten Slok has circulated a list of 30 risks for markets in 2018.

“They are in random order and are both upside risks and downside risks,” the analyst writes in a note. “Think of them not only as potential VIX-boosters but also as potential sources of faster or slower growth than what we have in our baseline forecast.”

In the list there’s something for everyone: a bitcoin crash, North Korea test launches ICBMs, the Robert Mueller investigation and an ongoing growth of inequality in the US.



10 words and phrases we rarely used before Trump

January 7, 2018

by Devan Cole

BBC News

President Donald Trump has brought an unusual rhetorical style to his first 12 months in office, just as he did on the campaign trail. Has he also in a small way influenced our vocabulary?

It is too early to say what his legacy will be on language, says Ben Zimmer, a lexicographer who writes a column for The Wall Street Journal.

But the president is already changing how politicians communicate.

“Particularly fiery rhetoric will be seen as more accessible because Trump has normalised that,” he says.

Some words and phrases invented or popularised by him and his aides are now firmly embedded in common usage.

  1. MAGA

The president’s campaign slogan became seemingly ubiquitous after he started selling red trucker hats emblazoned with it.

Often abbreviated to “MAGA”, it was first uttered by him at a summit in April 2014, according to Corey Lewandowski, his former campaign chairman.

Trump was so confident in the efficacy of the slogan that in the days preceding his inauguration, he ordered lawyers to trademark “Keep America Great!” for his 2020 re-election campaign.

MAGA has become an “emblematic representation of Trump’s populism,” says Zimmer.

  1. Sad!

The president has used his Twitter savvy to popularise a particular type of tweet, berating someone and then ending with “sad”, followed by an exclamation mark.

It is sometimes given extra emphasis with capital letters.

This trademark sign-off has become something of a joke among political commentators and late-night comedy hosts.

Zimmer believes Trump revels in such attention to his tweets.

Trump’s Twitter style was shaped by the 140-character limit, he notes, which means the president has tailored his political rhetoric accordingly.

“[Sad!] provided a final punctuation mark.”


  1. Bigly – or is it big-league?

Trump left millions of Americans wondering what he meant when discussing tax during his first debate with Hillary Clinton in 2016.

“I’m going to cut taxes bigly [big league] and you’re going to raise taxes bigly [big league].”

Trump’s team never confirmed which, but many commentators assumed it was “big-league” because he had used it several times before.

  • Did Donald Trump use the word ‘bigly’?
  1. Braggadocious

Trump’s word choices confused viewers more than once during that debate.

When discussing his wealth and business dealings, Trump said he did not want to sound “braggadocious”.

In a statement, Merriam-Webster said that while Trump has used the word before, it “is not common enough to merit an entry in our dictionary”.

They went on to say the word is thought to have come from “braggadocio” which is an older term defined as “the annoying or exaggerated talk of someone who is trying to sound very proud or brave”.

  1. Covfefe

Americans were both puzzled and amused in May 2017 after seeing a tweet just after midnight by President Trump that contained the bizarre and never-before-heard word.

“Despite the constant negative press covfefe,” the tweet said.

It even left Merriam-Webster – which did not confirm the authenticity of the word – scratching their head.

By 6am, Trump had deleted the tweet and replaced it with an equally amusing one: “Who can figure out the true meaning of ‘covfefe’ ??? Enjoy!”

Spokesman Sean Spicer added to the mystery when he said: “The president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant.”

It is now widely thought he meant to tweet the word coverage.

  1. Alternative facts

Kellyanne Conway, the president’s former campaign manager and current White House counsellor, coined this term during an on-camera interview with NBC.

Conway was defending false statements made by Sean Spicer about inauguration crowd sizes.

But she received a wave of criticism for attempting to rationalise what her critics saw as blatant lies.

However, her catchy phrase soon caught on and gained popularity as a hashtag on Twitter where users routinely used it to describe statements made by Trump and his team that they saw as falsehoods.

  • Why the row about ‘alternative facts’?
  1. Front-stabber

Trump’s former communications director Anthony Scaramucci liked to talk about his straight-talking New York upbringing.

“Where I grew up, we’re front stabbers,” he told the BBC, in an attempt to differentiate himself from the Washington types who “take a shiv or a machete and stab you in the back”.

The term was picked up by comedian Stephen Colbert in a sketch that mocked Scaramucci after he was fired.

Zimmer says that such language mirrors that of Trump himself.

“People in the Trump orbit are in some ways looking to parrot the way he presents things,” he said.

  1. Lock her up

This became a favourite chant among Trump supporters at his rallies.

It was a reference to their belief that Hillary Clinton should be jailed for her use of a private email server while secretary of state.But it came back to haunt the president’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

He led such chants at the Republican convention but then had to endure them himself as he walked into court shortly before pleading guilty to lying to the FBI.

  1. Fake news

President Trump has tweeted “fake news” 103 times.

The term first made its way into the spotlight during the 2016 election, when fabricated news stories were spread on social media with the intention of swaying voters and fuelling racial tension.

Trump started using it after that, to describe news organisations and stories that paint him in a negative light.

His most notable use of the term came during a tetchy exchange with CNN at a press conference.

“I’m not going to give you a question. You’re fake news,” Trump said to their White House correspondent.

Zimmer says it’s a term that has been so successful it has even been picked up by other world leaders.

“Very often, it comes down to these very punchy labels that he applies to things which is often caricaturing people or organisations.”

  1. Drain the swamp

Late in the election campaign, Mr Trump used the expression as a way of saying that he planned to replace career politicians in Washington with fresh faces who would provide much-needed reform to federal government.

The phrase was chanted at rallies by his supporters as a way to contrast their candidate, a man who had never been elected to office, with opponent Hillary Clinton, a long-time politician.

He was not the first to use it, but he has popularised it.

Draining swamps used to be a way of ridding them of mosquitoes but it was reportedly first used as a political metaphor early in the 20th Century.

More recently, President Ronald Reagan – a hero of Mr Trump’s – invoked it to illuminate his promise to shrink government bureaucracy.

Some of the current president’s critics accuse him of “filling the swamp” because he appointed Wall Street titans to posts in his administration.





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