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TB News August 9, 2018

Aug 09 2018

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8 

Washington, D.C. August 9, 2018:” Trump puts all kinds of economic sanctions on other countries who do not obey his irrational orders.

What would happen if some, or all, of these targets retaliated? For instance, what would happen if somehow the NYSE collapsed, causing a selling panic and doing to American finance what Trump was doing to theirs?

What if a US fleet sailed arrogantly into the Persian Gulf to protect America’s oil supplies and the Strait of Hormuz suddenly was blocked?

Not only would no oil get out into the market but ships, including the US fleet, would be trapped and sitting targets for nearby Iranian rocket and artillery attacks.

What would Trump do then?

Oddly enough, Iran has long distance rockets and in spite of US statements to the contrary, they do have a limited number of atomic weaponry.

Ask Israel who is increasingly frantic for the US to bomb Tehran flat (saving them the trouble and possible atomic retaliation)

We are seeing a reprise of 1914 with international tensions, old grudges and dreams of global glory soaring and all without the realization that genuine diplomacy, not bellowing threats of force, are desperately needed.

The only true diplomat on the international scene is Russia’s Putin but one must not tell that to the blustering bully, Trump.

He is laboring under the serious delusion that he is an important person and, even more delusional, a great natonal leader.

And Trump never tells the truth when a lie would suffice.

Putin has brought his country out of social and economic depression into the light and this by itself has made him an object of hatred to the American business community who eyed Russia’s immense natural resources as objects of possession and plunder.

Their piratical ventures collapsed because Putin saw through their sly games and put a stop to them.

In Charlottesville, Virginia, the government has secretly been constructing underground bunker systems to house Important People like greedy Congressmen, top business leaders and other worthless garbage in the event some of them instigate an atomic war.

Pity the poor people of Charlottesville who had to contend with left-wing and far right dirt bags in screaming street scenes.

Turning oligarchs and professional politicials loose on a refined university town is an act of social sadism.”

 

The Table of Contents

  • America the Unexceptional
  • Notorious Ferguson Prosecutor Ousted in a Night of Victories and Disappointments for Insurgent Candidates
  • The key election takeaways: a Democratic surge and big wins for women
  • Manafort had $16.5 million in unreported income, court told
  • Willow Creek: Church leaders quit over sexual misconduct scandal
  • How did Alex Jones become possible? Because we tolerated “lesser” lies for too long
  • It’s True: Trump Is Lying More, and He’s Doing It on Purpose
  • What Are We to Do About Trump’s Escalating Lies? Other than vote November 6?

 America the Unexceptional

Believing we’re exempt from the moral law because we stand for “democracy” is the worst mistake we’ve ever made.

August 8, 2018

by William S. Smith

The American Conservative

In the wake of President Trump’s Helsinki press conference, National Review declared itself “Against Moral Equivalence.” The magazine claimed that there could be no equating American meddling in foreign elections with Russian interference in our election because the goal of the U.S. is to “promote democracy and political liberty and human rights.” Though while America’s actions might be noble and have the sanction of heaven, National Review did concede that its efforts to promote democracy have often been “messy”—an adjective that the people of Iraq might find understated.

Like many of Trump’s critics, National Review’s embrace of American exceptionalism, of exempting the United States from the moral laws of the universe because of its commitment to democracy, is of a type the West has seen before. Swept up in their revolutionary enthusiasm, the French Jacobins made similar claims. In late 1791, a member of the Assembly, while agitating for war with Austria, declared that France “had become the foremost people of the universe, so their conduct must now correspond to their new destiny. As slaves they were bold and great; are they to be timid and feeble now that they are free?”

Robespierre himself was taken aback by the turn of a domestic revolution into a call for military adventurism. Of plans to invade Austria and to overthrow “enemies” of liberty in other nations, he famously remarked, “No one loves armed missionaries.” (Robespierre’s advice might have also benefited the American occupiers of Iraq.) The Jacobins’ moral preening led France to declare war on Austria in 1792 and set in motion years of French military adventurism that devastated much of central Europe. Military imperialism abroad and guillotines at home became the legacy of self-declared French exceptionalism.

Hubristic nations that claim a unique place for themselves high atop the moral universe tend to be imperialistic. This is because claims of national exceptionalism, whether of the French or American variety, are antinomian, even nihilistic. The “exceptional” ones carve out for themselves an exemption from the moral law. And prideful claims of moral purity are the inevitable predicate to imposing one’s will upon another. Once leaders assert that their national soul is of a special kind—indispensable and not subject to the same rules—the road to hell has been paved.

While supporters of American exceptionalism are careful to claim the mantle of Western civilization, their philosophical orientation in fact amounts to a repudiation of the central principles of the West and the Constitution.

Arguably, the tradition of the Judeo-Christian West has been special because it has asserted that human nature is not particularly special. And the Constitution has been exceptional because it’s warned Americans that we are not particularly exceptional.

For example, the legacy of Pauline Christianity, Irving Babbitt tells us, is “the haunting sense of sin and the stress it lays upon the struggle between the higher and lower self, between the law of the flesh and the law of the spirit.” No person or nation is above this moral challenge. The uniquely American repudiation of exceptionalism shines brightly in The Federalist, where no angels can be found among men, and, because no one’s behavior enjoys the sanction of heaven, extensive checks are placed upon people’s ability to impose their wills upon others. The foreign policy that flowed out of the worldview of the Framers was that of George Washington, a strong recommendation against hubris and foreign meddling.

These historical and cultural warnings about human nature have since been swept away by acolytes of American exceptionalism. Our moral superiority, they claim, makes us Masters of the Universe, not careful and mindful custodians of our own fallen nature. We have been put on earth to judge other nations, not to be judged. Tossing the legacy of the Framers onto the ash heap of history, George W. Bush declared in his Second Inaugural Address that our exceptionalism creates an obligation to promote democracy “in every nation and culture.” In this endeavor, Bush pronounced, the United States enjoys the sanction of heaven, as “history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the author of liberty.” Bush’s Second Inaugural was probably better in the original French.

Now, the puffed-up American establishment, many of whom supported the bloody Iraq war, drip with moral condescension as they brand Vladimir Putin an existential outlaw and the enemy of democracy, foreclosing the possibility of common ground with Russia on nuclear weapons, China, terrorism, and other issues that matter to the national security of the United States. That Washington has meddled in countless nations’ affairs from Iraq to Russia—and caused untold damage—is of no account to the establishment. Rules do not apply to democracy promoters.

After the Iraq war, we should have reconsidered our hubristic American exceptionalism. One can take pride in the American tradition without laying claim to a uniquely beautiful national soul that is exempt from the laws of nature and of nature’s God. The hysterical reaction to Trump’s truthful admission that the United States too has made mistakes in its relationship with Russia is a sign that American exceptionalism is still in full flower among elites. Without the return of a certain humility, there will be more military adventures abroad and political strife at home.

 

Notorious Ferguson Prosecutor Ousted in a Night of Victories and Disappointments for Insurgent Candidates

August 8 2018

by Ryan Grim, David Dayen and Zaid Jilani

The Intercept

Progressive Democrats heading into Tuesday’s primary were hoping for a repeat of Bernie Sanders’s 2016 shock victory in Michigan — only this time, the vehicle for those hopes was Abdul El-Sayed. It didn’t happen, as he was beaten by Gretchen Whitmer, a former Democratic leader in the Michigan state Senate. But progressive activists still came away from Tuesday with a slew of wins, including one deeply satisfying victory: Criminal justice reformer Wesley Bell ousted St. Louis prosecutor Bob McCulloch, notorious for his callous indifference to the prosecution of Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who shot and killed Mike Brown.

In the first wave of major primaries since an upset by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez energized the grassroots wing of the party, Democrats turned out on Tuesday night in surging numbers. In Michigan, well over 100,000 more people voted in the Democratic gubernatorial primary than in the Republican contest, and in Missouri, Democratic turnout was up 85 percent since 2010.

The enthusiasm among Democrats meant that Republicans needed everything they had in an Ohio special election in a district that Donald Trump carried by more than 10 points. Republicans struggled to pull ahead by even 1 percentage point, despite a rally by Trump, a visit by Mike Pence, $3.5 million from Paul Ryan’s Super PAC, and two Republican National Committee field offices. With provisional ballots still to be counted, the race is too close to call.

For all of the money spent, the winner, whether it’s Republican Troy Balderson or Democrat Danny O’Connor, will serve just 19 legislative days between now and the November election.

Rashida Tlaib, a progressive community organizer and former state legislator endorsed by Ocasio-Cortez, led in the race to replace John Conyers in Congress. She would be the first Muslim woman and Palestinian-American elected to Congress. With 94 percent of the votes counted, she led comfortably by more than 6,500.

In Kansas, the democratic socialist duo campaigned for Brent Welder in Kansas City and James Thompson in Wichita. A poll released on the eve of the election showed Welder holding a double-digit lead, with Sharice Davids in second, Tom Niermann in third, and the other candidates far behind. With a third of the votes in, the poll was bearing out, with Welder at 39 percent, Davids at 33 percent, and Niermann at 15 percent. A computer glitch set the rest of the vote-counting back into the early hours of Wednesday, and Davids, down by fewer than 2,000 votes, was still well within striking distance of Welder. By the morning, that number had reversed, with Davids on top at 37 percent to Welder’s 34.

Thompson, meanwhile, beat his more conservative opponent, Laura Lombard, by roughly 2-to-1.

In St. Louis County, Bell’s race for prosecutor was part of a national movement to bring about criminal justice reform by winning district attorney races. With the support of the Working Families Party, the Real Justice PAC (which is affiliated with The Intercept columnist Shaun King), and a slew of local and national groups, Bell knocked off McCulloch, who had been in office more than 20 years.

Elsewhere in St. Louis, Ocasio-Cortez campaigned hard for Cori Bush, a pastor, single mom, and nurse who challenged Lacy Clay Jr. The 1st Congressional District was previously represented by Clay’s father, and all together, the family has represented the district for more than 50 years. The race was a test of whether Clay had let his turnout operation atrophy over the years, or whether he was still able to turn out votes in a primary. The race was closely watched by skittish House Democrats who worry about their own coming primary challenges. Incumbents were pleased to see Bush dispatched by Clay 57 to 36 percent.

The progressive organizing still paid dividends. It’s likely that the organizing Bush and Ocasio-Cortez did contributed heavily to Bell’s win, and helped defeat an anti-union measure. The GOP gambled that moving a ballot referendum on right-to-work laws from November to August would lower turnout and give them the victory. The referendum would prohibit agreements that require employees in a unionized workplace to contribute to the costs of union operations. It was an attempt to sock it to already-reeling unions, who just took a huge loss in Janus v. AFSCME, a Supreme Court decision that serves as a kind of  right-to-work for public-sector unions. Moving up the vote was one of the final acts of disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens. But Proposition A proved wildly unsuccessful. It was called around 10 p.m. CDT, losing by 65 percent to 35 percent with two-thirds of the precincts counted.

Unions worked hard to defeat the measure, reversing a trend that saw five other states adopt right-to-work laws this decade. But those states all advanced right-to-work by statute, not the ballot. Missouri is the first state in history to defeat a right-to-work measure by public referendum.

The gains made Tuesday night follow what was a monumental step forward during the last major round of primaries in June. Ocasio-Cortez’s upset primary win over 10-term New York Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley made global headlines, but it overshadowed a string of wins that marked the height of the 2018 insurgency. From Kentucky to Colorado, grassroots candidates defeated entrenched politicians.

In Oklahoma, on the same day as Ocasio-Cortez’s win, supporters of public education employed the tactic used successfully in West Virginia earlier this year, grabbing GOP ballots to vote in primary elections against Republican lawmakers who voted against a tax package to finance a teacher pay raise. Two incumbent Republicans who voted against the teacher priority were outright defeated, and seven others will have to face an August 28 runoff.

In Kentucky, House Republican Leader Jonathan Shell lost his primary to R. Travis Brenda, a math teacher who opposed establishment GOP plans to cut teacher pensions. Brenda campaigned as socially conservative, touting his pro-life and pro-Second Amendment views, but also showed commitment to working-class issues like defending public education. He earned the endorsement of the United Auto Workers, and pulled off a narrow victory — with Brenda at 4,235 votes to Shell’s 4,112.

Former NAACP President Ben Jealous emerged victorious in his Democratic gubernatorial primary campaign in Maryland — winning 39.8 percent of the vote, trouncing the runner-up Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, who got 29.3 percent. Backed by the progressive organizations Our Revolution and Justice Democrats, the former Sanders surrogate’s win represented a significant victory for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

In Colorado, progressives did well in state Democratic primaries. Social worker Emily Sirota defeated former Planned Parenthood political director Ashley Wheeland by six points; she ran on tuition-free college and single-payer health care, and received an endorsement from Sanders. In Senate District 32, Robert Rodriguez, whose day job is working at a community-based corrections program, defeated tech entrepreneur Zach Neumann in his Democratic primary. Rodriguez stressed criminal justice reform, universal health care, and the adoption of full-day universal pre-K and kindergarten.

In a sense, the primary victories were the easy part. The true test for populists and progressives like Thompson, Kara Eastman in Nebraska, Katie Porter in California, and other candidates in tough races will come when their message is up for scrutiny in up-for-grabs seats in a general election.

Kansas

In Tuesday’s primary in Kansas’s 3rd District, with all the precincts reporting, Davids had beaten Welder by some 2,000 votes. Welder had amassed the most cash on hand heading into the final weeks of the race, when Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez came to Kansas City to stump with him. The Welder campaign raised $110,000 in the seven days after that visit, and inspired 254 new volunteers.

Davids, raised by a single mom, has a compelling life story — a lesbian and a Native American MMA fighter, she went from community college to the Ivy League. She picked up a late endorsement from the Kansas City Star and New Mexico congressional candidate Deb Haaland, whom she would join as the first Native American woman in Congress. Niermann, meanwhile, ran on the argument that Democrats should nominate a centrist to be able to compete in the general election. Niermann is a teacher at a private school, from which many parents contributed to his campaign, but despite his significant fundraising prowess, he was lagging in third, without the significant volunteer support enjoyed by both Welder and Davids.

Welder, Thompson, Sanders, and Ocasio-Cortez were hoping to prove that unapologetic progressivism can win even in Kansas. The district is just one of five in which Sanders won the primary and Hillary Clinton won the general election, but where a Republican holds the House seat.

Welder’s platform was to the left of Davids’s, but Davids herself told The Intercept that if presented with a vote on single-payer health care, she would support it. The difference, then, came down to intensity: Championing an issue and organizing around it is of a different sort than being willing to support it if it lands on your desk.

Campaign finance plays perhaps an even more important role. Big money has itself become an increasingly salient issue, as many Democratic candidates find little daylight between their platforms. Candidates backed by major donors are considered by a rising share of the Democratic electorate to have less independence to pursue a progressive agenda. (The political imperative of demonstrating a small-donor base even led New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s campaign to get the roommate of a staffer to make 69 separate small contributions.)

Welder was financed overwhelmingly by small dollars, while Davids benefited from a $400,000 independent boost from the Super PAC linked to EMILY’s List, which supports pro-choice women Democrats. Davids defended the EMILY’s List support, telling ThinkProgress, “I’m exactly the kind of candidate that would need a support system because of all the structural barriers that exist for people to run for office.”

Meanwhile, a late ad from the conservative Ending Spending political action committee condemned Welder as “too progressive for Kansas.” But that condemnation came at the end of the ad, following happy-sounding music and and a description of Welder as “a community organizer, friend of Barack Obama, and ally of Bernie Sanders” who would “raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, wipe out tax breaks for big corporations, make college completely free, and he supports single-payer ‘Medicare for All.’” Incumbent Republican Kevin Yoder also put out Facebook ads highlighting Welder’s progressive policies, suggesting that conservatives are not yet believers in the notion that unapologetic progressivism can win in the district.

Davids and Niermann put out a joint statement criticizing Ending Spending for “undemocratic meddling” in the primary. It does appear that the ad gave a megaphone to Welder’s views, perhaps because they see him as a pied-piper candidate in the general.

“Sharice is a fighter through and through, and with her primary victory, she’s prepared to take on Congressman Kevin Yoder and show 3rd District voters that she’s the best choice to represent them in Congress,” said EMILY’s List in a statement. “Unlike Yoder, Sharice will work to protect access to affordable health care and make decisions based on what’s best for people in the district — not as a pawn of Donald Trump. She’s also on track to make history as one of the first Native American women in Congress, the first openly gay member of the Kansas congressional delegation, and the first Democratic woman to represent this district. EMILY’s List is proud to congratulate Sharice on her hard-earned victory and we look forward to helping her flip this seat in November.”

Thompson faced a rematch against Lombard in the Democratic primary in Wichita. He beat her in the primary for a 2017 special election, though because of the truncated nature of the race, only a convention was used to select the candidate last year. Lombard had moved back to the district after eight years in Washington, D.C., where she worked as a consultant for firms that export manufactured equipment to the Middle East. She ran as a moderate to Thompson’s more progressive approach.

Thompson is a veteran and a civil rights attorney who spent time homeless as a teenager, and stunned the political establishment last year by losing his general election contest to Ron Estes by a mere six points — one of the first indications that Democratic enthusiasm could generate a blue wave in 2018. Thompson refused to run the typical Democratic Party playbook for heavily Republican districts, and instead ran as a proud, unapologetic progressive, wrapping himself in the movement that had boosted Sanders’s presidential bid.

Michigan

The three-way race between Whitmer, El-Sayed, and Shri Thanedar served as a test of progressive mettle in the Midwest.

The progressive favorite in the race, former Detroit public health director El-Sayed, climbed from single digits in the polls to finish second with 32 percent of the vote, disappointing his enthusiastic backers. Whitmer, who ran what would have been considered a solidly progressive campaign just two years ago, finished on top, with 51.5 percent of the vote. Thanedar, a political fraud who concocted his ideology ahead of the campaign, spent $11 million of his own money to siphon off 17 percent of votes — accomplishing little beyond eating into what is presumed to be El-Sayed’s vote share. (El-Sayed and Thanedar both ran on state single payer, and voters repeatedly were observed to have confused the two brown candidates for each other).

Whitmer will face the Trump-endorsed Bill Schuette in the general election, and the Democratic Party has a chance to flip the governor’s mansion and state legislature. Both Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez campaigned hard for the long-shot El-Sayed, laying down political capital in a way that is unusual for establishment politicians, of which the two democratic socialists are not. Despite the disappointing loss, however, El-Sayed’s ability to capture a respectable vote share sets him up for a future political career that wouldn’t exist with a single-digit finish. It also laid the groundwork for a get-out-the-vote operation that will be useful for Democrats in the coming election, as well as in 2020, when the Midwest could determine control of the White House.

Whitmer campaigned as an establishment pragmatist, somebody with a record to run on and the most credible chance to win the general election in the fall. She called El-Sayed’s state single-payer proposal unrealistic for Michigan, and her signature policy proposal was summarized by a simple slogan, “Fix the Damn Roads,” which she featured in campaign videos and literature.

While Whitmer was focused on Michigan’s notoriously poor streets, El-Sayed released one of the most detailed policy suites of any gubernatorial candidate in the country, including fleshed out plans to establish the aforementioned single-payer system, a tuition-free college plan for most middle-class families, and an aggressive criminal justice reform proposal.

El-Sayed relied largely on grassroots support to build his campaign. He rejected corporate PAC money and built a large volunteer network. Early on in the campaign, he brought on veterans from Sanders’s presidential campaign to build the infrastructure for what’s called “distributed organizing,” which allowed volunteers across the state and in other parts of the country to organize themselves to call and text voters and knock on doors.

Whitmer, on the other hand, relied heavily on the support of both the state’s influential labor unions and some corporate interests. She is the daughter of former Blue Cross Blue Shield CEO Richard Whitmer, and the company’s lobbyists threw a fundraiser for her earlier in the year that netted her $144,000. Two front organizations pumped $550,000 of dark money into the race on her behalf. Observers speculated that the funds originated from Blue Cross Blue Shield, which the company wouldn’t confirm or deny.

The third candidate in the race, Thanedar, largely self-funded his foray into Michigan politics.

Earlier this year, several prominent Michigan consultants told The Intercept that Thanedar had approached them about running for governor and had mused about running as a Republican with conservative policy positions instead. We later uncovered C-SPAN footage of Thanedar clapping along with Marco Rubio at a presidential rally in Iowa in 2016.

As late as May of this year, Thanedar was leading the polls, likely the result of a massive televised ad blitz he funded throughout the state. But The Intercept’s reporting on his background, as well as reporting from HuffPost about Thanedar abandoning lab animals at a company he formerly owned, helped sour many voters on his bid. The Grosse Pointe Democratic Club took the unprecedented step of issuing an “anti-endorsement” of Thanedar, urging voters to steer clear of his campaign. When he attempted to speak at the Progressive Caucus of the Michigan Democratic Party, he was booed off the stage.

Update: August 8, 2018, 9:18 a.m.

This story was updated to include final results in the Welder-Davids race.

 

The key election takeaways: a Democratic surge and big wins for women

The collapse in the Republican vote in suburban areas in the Trump era continued but candidates backed by the insurgent left fell short

August 8, 2018

by Ben Jacobs in Columbus, Ohio

The Guardian

The ‘blue wave’ is not a tsunami, yet

A Democratic win in Tuesday’s special election in Ohio’s traditionally Republican 12th congressional district would have provided yet another ill omen for GOP prospects of holding on to their House majority in the November midterms. Instead, Republicans appeared to have clung on to a once safe seat by less than one percentage point. A loss would have been devastating for Republicans, who had been forced to invest heavily to keep their candidate, Troy Balderson, afloat.

Balderson saw visits from both Donald Trump and Mike Pence in the final days of his campaign, and benefited from an investment of over $3m from the Paul Ryan-affiliated Super Pac the Congressional Leadership Fund. However, Republicans hold roughly 70 seats that are more Democratic-leaning and they will not be able to put in the same resources for every race in November.

The suburbs are a political ground zero in 2018

Strategists in both parties have long viewed prosperous suburbs as the major battleground for control of the House, and Tuesday’s results in Ohio reinforced that. Danny O’Connor’s narrow loss against Balderson was based on a dramatic surge in Democratic performance in Delaware county in traditionally conservative suburban Columbus; O’Connor got nearly 46% of the vote in a jurisdiction that has not supported a Democrat in a presidential election since 1916.

It continues the dramatic collapse in the Republican vote in suburban areas in the Trump era. In 2017, a Democratic surge in northern Virginia’s suburbs helped to hand Ralph Northam the governorship, and both Conor Lamb and Doug Jones were boosted by major swings among suburban voters in their special election wins in Pennsylvania and Alabama respectively. If these suburban voters continue to vote Democratic in November, a number of Republican members in districts from Minnesota to Texas are in jeopardy.

The insurgent left strikes out

In key primaries on Tuesday, candidates backed by progressive groups and endorsed by national figures such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders fell short.

In Kansas, the lawyer Brent Welder, who had campaigned as the candidate of the Sanders wing of the party, was defeated by Sharice Davids, who could be the first Native American woman in Congress if elected, in a six-way race in a swing suburban congressional district.

In Michigan, Abdul El-Sayed, a doctor backed by both Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez and benefiting from national media hype, lost by over 20 points to the former state senate leader Gretchen Whitmer.

Ocasio-Cortez aggressively campaigned for Cori Bush in Missouri, who was running against William Lacy Clay, a longtime African American incumbent in a St Louis district. Bush lost by 20 points as well.

Female candidates are making history

Two more Democratic women earned gubernatorial nominations in Tuesday, with Whitmer winning in Michigan and the state senator Laura Kelly earning her party’s nomination in Kansas. The wins by those two meant that a new record was set for female major party gubernatorial nominees in a single year. Eleven women will be on the ballot for governor in November.

This was paired with women winning contested nominations in key House races, including Davids in Kansas and the former Obama aide Haley Stevens in a suburban swing district in Michigan. It continued an impressive year for Democratic women. According to Dan Wasserman of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, women won nine of 11 Democratic primaries last night in open seats.

Trump’s endorsement is not always a gift

After a spree of endorsements via Twitter in which he instantly changed the trajectory of Republican primaries, Trump did not seem to maintain his Midas touch on Tuesday.

Although all of the candidates he endorsed or campaigned for were ahead, his support didn’t have the same impact as it did in other recent races, such as Brian Kemp’s successful bid for the Republican nomination for governor in Georgia, which ended in a landslide victory.

In Michigan, the businessman and veteran John James won the Republican nomination for Senate by 10 percentage points after several tweeted endorsements. Bill Schuette, the Trump-endorsed state attorney general, won far more handily against Brian Calley, the lieutenant governor, in the gubernatorial primary.

However, in Kansas, the gubernatorial race between Jeff Colyer and the firebrand secretary of state Kris Kobach was too close to call. Kobach, who received a last-minute endorsement from Trump on Monday, is a longtime Trump ally who played a key role in the administration’s voter fraud commission.

Also, while Trump took a victory lap over his last-minute appearance for Balderson in Ohio, it was unclear precisely the impact his trip made on the final result. While Democrats credited Trump’s campaign appearance for the Republican Rick Saccone in March’s special election in Pennsylvania for keeping the race close and juicing up rural turnout in that district, they had not seen the same impact in initial returns in Ohio, where the result hinged on O’Connor falling just short with prosperous suburban voters.

 

Manafort had $16.5 million in unreported income, court told

August 8, 2018

by Sarah N. Lynch, Nathan Layne and Karen Freifeld

Reuters

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is on trial on tax and bank fraud charges, had $16.5 million in unreported taxable business income between 2010 and 2014, a U.S. Internal Revenue Service agent testified on Wednesday.

IRS agent Michael Welch told a jury that Manafort’s unreported income includes foreign wire transfers to U.S. vendors like landscapers and clothiers, wire transfers to buy property, and income improperly reclassified as loans.

Welch’s testimony came as prosecutors sought to refocus the courtroom’s attention on Manafort’s alleged financial crimes after his defense attorneys spent hours trying to undermine the credibility of their star witness, former Manafort business partner Rick Gates.

Welch said he arrived at the $16.5 million figure based on an accounting method used by Manafort.

During his review, he said, he discovered that many of the foreign wire transfers did not appear on general ledgers for Manafort’s political consultancy and therefore, “I was not able to trace it into the tax return.”

Gates ended three days of testimony earlier on Wednesday, the trial’s seventh day, after admitting he lied, stole money and cheated on his wife, as lawyers for Manafort attacked his character.

Manafort lawyer Kevin Downing got in a final shot in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, raising the possibility Gates had not one, but four extramarital affairs. Prosecutors objected and Gates never answered the question.

In cross-examination on Tuesday and Wednesday, Downing fired questions at Gates for several hours as he sought to portray him as an inveterate liar and thief to undermine his credibility with the jury.

Meanwhile, Downing on Wednesday afternoon tried to draw the jury’s attention back to admissions by Gates that he had embezzled funds from Manafort, asking Welch if his client could claim a business embezzlement deduction.

While businesses can deduct losses from theft, Welch said on redirect by one of the prosecutors: “If money is stolen from money that is untaxed, there is no deduction.”

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to 18 counts of bank fraud, tax fraud and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts. According to trial testimony, he used the accounts to receive millions of dollars in payments from Ukrainian oligarchs.

Manafort, a longtime Republican political consultant, is the first person to be tried on charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Manafort made millions of dollars working for pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians before he took an unpaid position with the Trump campaign that lasted five months.

FOLLOWING THE MONEY

After Gates left the stand on Wednesday, the jury heard from Morgan Magionos, a forensic accountant with the FBI.

She said she had identified 31 accounts located in Cyprus, the Grenadines and the United Kingdom belonging to Manafort. She explained how she traced payments for luxury items back to those hidden bank accounts, describing documents from banks and corporations and how the corporate entities and offshore accounts were linked to Manafort.

Prosecutors also introduced emails from Manafort to vendors of luxury items he bought in which he promises payment via wire transfers from “my” account, citing some of the offshore entities he is accused of using to hide his wealth.

A conviction of Manafort would undermine efforts by Trump and some Republican lawmakers to paint Mueller’s inquiry as a political witch hunt, while an acquittal would be a setback for the special counsel.

Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for Trump, on Wednesday again called for Mueller to end his inquiry “without further delay.”

Prosecutors have said they hope to finish presenting their case by the end of the week. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis has repeatedly prodded them to move swiftly while seemingly giving the defense more latitude. He also has repeatedly made comments that some legal experts say may prejudice the jury against the prosecution.

The judge has belittled and yelled at prosecutors in front of the jury and made comments that could undercut the prosecutor’s case and help the defense.

Washington attorney Gene Rossi, a former federal prosecutor in Virginia who has appeared before Ellis hundreds of times, said the comment was “classic Judge Ellis injecting his views into the courtroom.”

If he is too tough, Rossi said, the jury might “start to feel sorry for the prosecution.”

Although questions tied to the Trump campaign have been severely limited at trial, Manafort remains a central figure in the broader inquiry into the Trump campaign’s dealings with Russia, including a 2016 Trump Tower meeting at which Russians promised “dirt” on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and his role in watering down the 2016 Republican Party platform position on Ukraine.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch, Nathan Layne and Karen Freifeld; Writing by Doina Chiacu and Warren Strobel; Editing by Grant McCool and Lisa Shumaker

 

Willow Creek: Church leaders quit over sexual misconduct scandal

August 9, 2018

BBC News

The leaders at one of the biggest megachurches in the US have quit over a sexual misconduct scandal that has already claimed its founder.

A statement from elders at the Willow Creek church said a “new start” was needed, and that they should have handled the allegations better.

Bill Hybels stepped down earlier this year after accusations of inappropriate conduct emerged.

He has denied the allegations but said he had become a distraction.

With more than 25,000 members and locations in Chicago, Willow Creek is thought to be the fifth largest megachurch in the US. Megachurches are defined as congregations with regular weekly attendance of at least 2,000 persons.

What’s Hybels accused of?

Several women have come forward with accusations against Mr Hybels dating back to the 1990s.

Earlier this year, the Chicago Tribune and Christianity Today both detailed allegations that he had made unwanted advances and suggestive comments to church members.

Church leaders were reportedly told four years ago that Mr Hybels was having an affair with one woman and was accused of harassment by others.

An internal investigation cleared him of wrongdoing.

What has #MeToo actually changed?

But in April, after the allegations went public, Mr Hybels said he would step down, months ahead of his planned retirement date in October this year. His announcement brought gasps from his congregation.

New allegations emerged over the weekend, with a former assistant alleging he groped her repeatedly.

The latest claims prompted the resignation of one of Mr Hybels’ successors Steve Carter, who quit over the church’s handling of the misconduct allegations. It appears the rest of the church leaders also felt compelled to act.

What do the leaders say?

In their statement, church elders said investigations had been “flawed” and that their trust in Willow Creek’s founder had “clouded our judgement”.

“We, as a board, know Willow needs and deserves a fresh start, and the entire board will step down to create room for a new board,” it said.

The church’s lead pastor, Heather Larson. who also stepped down, said trust had been broken and there was an urgency to “move in a better direction”.

Where does this leave Willow Creek?

The announcement comes as it is due to host a summit of hundreds of churches, but scores have dropped out.

Willow Creek has appointed Steve Gillen as a new lead pastor and has promised an independent review of its governance.

Leaving the church after learning the news, churchgoer Lisa Dudley told the New York Times: “I never had a personal relationship with any of those pastors, but I have a personal relationship with God.”

 

How did Alex Jones become possible? Because we tolerated “lesser” lies for too long

Right-wingers have gotten away with ridiculous lies for years. No wonder they’re going all in for Alex Jones

August 9, 2018

by Amanda Marcotte

Salon

This week, in a sudden bout of atypical decency and common sense, a cavalcade of social media companies and content platforms — including YouTube, Spotify, Apple and Facebook — finally banned Alex Jones and his media empire Infowars.

The move was long overdue, as Jones has spent his whole career peddling not just right-wing disinformation, but the worst kinds of conspiracy theories, demonizing innocent people and running cover for legitimate villains.

Jones has used his platform to terrorize the families of shooting victims, even parents of the Sandy Hook children, by suggesting they are “crisis actors” participating in a massive hoax. On the flipside, he’s denied violence committed by actual murderers, claiming that Timothy McVeigh was a “patsy” and that arguing that David Koresh, who impregnated 12-and-13-year-olds and almost certainly ordered a mass suicide that killed multiple children, was an innocent victim.

It’s a sign of how trollish and amoral conservatives have become that their instinct was to rush forward and claim that it was an assault on free speech for online platforms to refuse to distribute the steady stream of lies and defamation that pours out of Infowars. Most of these folks didn’t even pause for breath between trying to get writer Sarah Jeong fired from the New York Times for jokes mocking racists to declaring that “free speech” requires private companies to signal-boost an amoral monster like Jones. Such bad faith isn’t merely a tool of the right. It’s the central organizing feature of the troll lifestyle that they’ve created for themselves.

What’s going on here is not a mystery. American conservatives long ago decided that nothing mattered more than winning. They won’t hesitate to support harassment, defamation, disinformation or, as we’re now learning, possible treason, if they feel the end result will be a few more votes for the Republican party.

But the whole Jones debacle highlights a very real problem that social media and other content platforms have to contend with: Where do you draw the line? Jones may be on the fringe, but his show was linked to the Republican mainstream in the sense that most of the American conservative movement functions by peddling disinformation and, in many cases, conspiracy theories. Banning all disinformation from these sites would mean wiping out the vast majority of right-wing content, which would no doubt result in even more squalling that we’re hearing now. But the current situation, where some lies cross the line but others don’t, is a muddled mess that allows for all the bad-faith posturing about “free speech” that’s going on now.

Facebook and other organizations have elided the problem by reaching for words like “hate speech” and “harassment” and ignoring the issue of Jones constantly saying stuff that is flat-out false. That’s happening despite all the attention paid to “fake news” distributed on Facebook and other outlets and the half-hearted attempts, always fiercely resisted by the right, to make it harder to use Facebook to spread disinformation.

One would think that the difference between true and false statements would be an easier line for Facebook to draw than the more ambiguous “hate speech” standard, which carries an inescapable element of subjectivity. But Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly expressed discomfort with wading into the realm of fact-checking and policing false information.

In a recent interview with Recode, Zuckerberg said that while he finds Holocaust denialism “deeply offensive,” he doesn’t “believe that our platform should take that down” because he doesn’t believe Holocaust deniers are “intentionally getting it wrong” and because it’s “hard to impugn intent and to understand the intent.”

Here’s what is so frustrating about this discussion: You don’t need to impugn intent in order to characterize false information as false, especially if the person distributing it, like Jones, is releasing an endless stream of flatly false claims, rather than an occasional misstatement that any person could make. Sure, the person who says untrue things all the time could be delusional rather than a shameless liar, but ultimately, should that even matter? The problem is that they keep injecting misinformation into the public bloodstream, and regardless of intent that needs to stop.

It’s not quite fair to blame Mark Zuckerberg personally for this particular problem, because misinformation isn’t just about “fake news” or the blatant fictions of Infowars. It goes straight to the heart of Republican politics, even before the party nominated a conspiracy theorist and con man to be their presidential candidate. Making false claims, intentionally or otherwise, has been a central Republican tactic for decades, and it’s just getting worse.

Here are a few other notable examples of conspiracy theories promoted by Jones:

  • That nobody died at Sandy Hook Elementary.
  • That the U.S. government plotted the Pulse shooting in Orlando in order to pass more restrictive gun laws.
  • That the FBI engineered the Boston Marathon bombing.
  • That former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was murdered.
  • That mysterious black helicopters, the “strike force of the New World Order,” once flew around Austin for the sole purpose of following motorists, landing unannounced in schoolyards and dropping cedar ash all over the city.
  • That 9/11 was an “inside job” planned and carried out by the U.S. government.
  • That Lady Gaga’s Superbowl halftime performance was satanic.
  • That Bill Gates is a eugenicist and IBM is a front.
  • That the U.S. government controls the weather and uses it as a weapon. He also asserted that the “weather weapon” was behind a devastating tornado that hit Oklahoma in 2013.
  • That Glenn Beck is with the CIA

 

It’s True: Trump Is Lying More, and He’s Doing It on Purpose

August 3, 2018

by Susan B. Glasser

The New Yorker

On Thursday, the Washington Post published a remarkable story on its front page revealing a recent spike in the number of “false and misleading claims” made by President Trump. In his first year as President, Trump made 2,140 false claims, according to the Post. In just the last six months, he has nearly doubled that total to 4,229. In June and July, he averaged sixteen false claims a day. On July 5th, the Post found what appears to be Trump’s most untruthful day yet: seventy-six per cent of the ninety-eight factual assertions he made in a campaign-style rally in Great Falls, Montana, were “false, misleading or unsupported by evidence.” Trump’s rallies have become the signature events of his Presidency, and it is there that the President most often plays fast and loose with the facts, in service to his political priorities and to telling his fervent supporters what they want and expect to hear from him. At another rally this week, in Tampa, Trump made thirty-five false and misleading claims, on subjects ranging from trade with China to the size of his tax cut.

These astonishing statistics were compiled by a small team overseen by Glenn Kessler, the editor and chief writer of the Post’s Fact Checker column, who for much of the last decade has been truth-squadding politicians and doling out Pinocchios for their exaggerations, misrepresentations, distortions, and otherwise false claims. At this point, Kessler practically has a Ph.D. in the anthropology of the Washington lie, a long and storied art form which has always had skilled practitioners of both parties. But Trump has challenged the Fact Checker, Kessler told me over coffee this week, in ways that have tested the very premise of the column. The President, for example, has a habit of repeating the same falsehoods over and over again, especially as they concern his core political causes, such as trade or immigration or getting European allies to contribute more to NATO. What should Kessler do, he often asks himself, when Trump repeats a four-Pinocchio whopper? Since taking office, the Post fact-checking team found, Trump has repeated close to a hundred and fifty untruths at least three times. Kessler has instated a Trump-specific database in response. Initially, the Post planned to compile the database of Trump’s misrepresentations as part of a project for his first hundred days in office. But the numbers kept piling up; now, Kessler told me, he is committed to keeping it up for Trump’s full term, documenting every “untruth” (per Post policy, he does not use the label “lies” even for the most egregious Presidential whoppers). “We’re kind of doing it for history,” he said.

History books will likely declare the last few months a turning point in the Trump Presidency, and Kessler’s laborious work gives us metrics that confirm what is becoming more and more apparent: the recent wave of misstatements is both a reflection of Trump’s increasingly unbound Presidency and a signal attribute of it. The upsurge provides empirical evidence that Trump, in recent months, has felt more confident running his White House as he pleases, keeping his own counsel, and saying and doing what he wants when he wants to. The fact that Trump, while historically unpopular with the American public as a whole, has retained the loyalty of more than eighty per cent of Republicans—the group at which his lies seem to be aimed—means we are in for much more, as a midterm election approaches that may determine whether Trump is impeached by a newly Democratic Congress. At this point, the falsehoods are as much a part of his political identity as his floppy orange hair and the “Make America Great Again” slogan. The untruths, Kessler told me, are Trump’s political “secret sauce.”

That appears to be the case for others on Trump’s team as well. As Kessler and I talked, the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, presided at one of her increasingly rare press briefings. (Another metric to consider: Sanders gave three briefings in all of July, while previous Administrations conducted them daily.) In the briefing, Sanders repeated a number of false claims, including one that Kessler had previously debunked, that reporters put out “leaked” information that caused Osama bin Laden to stop using his satellite phone and slowed the hunt for the Al Qaeda leader before the 9/11 attacks. Kessler heard about Sanders’s false claim as we were leaving and retweeted his old article. “Kind of amazed but not surprised,” he wrote on Twitter, that the White House press secretary “would cite uninformed reporting that appeared BEFORE I debunked this fable in 2005.”

To me, the striking thing was that Sanders’s false claim was part of her prepared remarks; she read them from a piece of paper in the midst of a press-bashing jeremiad about the evils of what Trump calls “fake news.” A day later, she made her personal view of the press clear. Asked repeatedly Thursday whether she endorses Trump’s oft-stated line that the media are the “enemies of the people,” Sanders refused to reject Trump’s characterization. “I’m here to speak on behalf of the President,” she said. “He’s made his comments clear.” The White House assault on the truth is not an accident—it is intentional.

Other metrics make clear the significant changes in Trump’s approach to the Presidency in recent months, as he has become more confident, less willing to tolerate advisers who challenge him, and increasingly obsessed with the threats to his Presidency posed by the ongoing special-counsel investigation. One is the epic turnover rate of Trump’s White House staff, which as of June already stood at the unprecedented level of sixty-one per cent among the President’s top advisers.

All the departures from Trump’s troubled West Wing have created a new set of dilemmas for the political world, which normally welcomes even the most controversial White House advisers into a comfortable post-power life of high-paid lobbying or consulting jobs, speaking tours, and cushy think-tank or academic gigs. Will those smooth transitions continue? Should they?

At Harvard, an uproar greeted the decision of the Kennedy School of Government to name Trump’s first press secretary, Sean Spicer, a visiting fellow, although, at Stanford, the recent decision by the Hoover Institution to name H. R. McMaster, Trump’s fired national-security adviser, a senior fellow prompted little protest. After Marc Short quit the Trump White House last month, he headed toward such a life as well. Short, a veteran conservative political operative, worked to oppose Trump’s nomination in the 2016 Republican primaries while on the payroll of the big G.O.P. donors the Koch brothers. Nonetheless, he went on to serve as Trump’s chief legislative liaison and congressional vote-counter. Short also often defended Trump on television. After leaving the White House, he landed a paid gig as a CNN commentator (the network where I am also a contributor), a partnership at a Washington consulting firm, and a fellowship at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center.

Short’s hiring at U.V.A. has set off a major controversy in Charlottesville, which will soon mark the one-year anniversary of the violence-scarred white supremacist march that prompted one of Trump’s most controversial statements as President, his declaration that there were bad people and violence “on both sides.” Unlike others in the Administration, Short never publicly objected to Trump’s Charlottesville remarks (though he told me the White House had not handled it “the way we should have.”) In the two weeks since Short’s hiring, thousands of U.V.A. students and professors have signed a petition opposing it, although the Miller Center and U.V.A.’s new president are sticking by him. William Antholis, the Miller Center’s director, told me he believed Short’s appointment was about “understanding the Trump Presidency and engaging in civil dialogue about it, including with somebody who knows it and understands it well, but in my view is still within the legitimate bands of political disagreement.” But Antholis acknowledged that, for many opponents of Trump, this is not a Presidency to be treated like those that preceded it. “The challenge we face is similar to the one all media organizations face: the Trump Presidency and the Congress represent forty per cent of the American people and eighty to ninety per cent of the Republican Party, so can you just completely say that is an illegitimate viewpoint and that anybody complicit in it is by association guilty? Where do you draw the bands of complicity?”

On Monday, two well-regarded history professors quit the Miller Center in protest of Short’s hiring. William Hitchcock, the author of an admiring new biography of President Dwight Eisenhower (“He is the anti-Trump,” Hitchcock said of Eisenhower, when we met at a Miller Center breakfast that I co-hosted this summer—“He is the un-Trumpian in every way”), told me this week that he is fine with universities hiring other former officials with controversial backgrounds, such as the current Miller Center fellow Eric Edelman, who was Vice-President Dick Cheney’s close adviser during the invasion of Iraq, or McMaster at Stanford University, each of whom has an academic background. It is Short’s role as a public propagator of Trump’s untruths that most bothers Hitchcock, and, as a historian, he said that this makes the Trump Administration unique among American Presidencies.

“What is the appropriate position for universities to adopt not just to former Trump officials but to the Trump era?” he asked. “Universities have got to speak up for the basic principles of inquiry, of open-mindeness, and facts that have been cast into doubt . . . . If you invite the slickest, most skillful bender of the truth from the Trump Administration and say, ‘What can you tell us about the Trump Administration?’ Well, what are you going to get out of him?”

On Thursday, I reached Short by telephone and asked him to respond to this criticism. Short said he thought a lot of the backlash around his hiring had to do with Trump’s “unique Presidency ” and the “raw emotions” in Charlottesville and that he hoped he could contribute to “an honest conversation about how this Presidency came to be.” Short suggested that those who objected to him were doing so because they were uncomfortable with a “disruptive President” or because of their “dismissal of Trump voters—and that is a wide swath of America.” When I pointed out that many of the objections, like Hitchcock’s, had to do with a more basic question, of Short’s accountability—and that of other Trump officials—for the President’s unprecedented record of untruths, Short said he did feel “a responsibility to be truthful. All of us have a responsibility to be truthful, and that’s essential.” So, I asked, would he be open to correcting the record of the President’s misstatements? “Tell me specifically where you think there have been things stated that are not true,” he said. “Let’s have that conversation, as opposed to saying, ‘I’m going to resign.’ We’re all better off if we have that conversation in a civil way.”

The previous gold standard in Presidential lying was, of course, Richard Nixon. Barry Goldwater, the Republican Presidential nominee four years before Nixon won the White House in 1968, famously called Nixon “the most dishonest individual I ever met in my life.” Writing in his memoirs, Goldwater observed that Nixon “lied to his wife, his family, his friends, longtime colleagues in the U.S. Congress, lifetime members of his own political party, the American people, and the world.”

There have been comparisons between Nixon and Trump since Trump first entered office, but these, too, have escalated in recent months as the President has been shadowed by the threat of the ongoing special-counsel investigation into the electronic break-in of the Democratic National Committee (another eerie Watergate echo) and whether Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia. Trump’s obsession with the special counsel, Robert Mueller, also comes with metrics: he has called the Mueller probe a “witch hunt” on Twitter more than twenty-one times a month on average this spring and summer, compared with an average of just three times a month in the previous nine months.

Another commonality between Nixon and Trump is their obsession with the press as an enemy or, in Trump’s phrase “enemies of the people.” Nixon went so far as to order his White House staff to create an actual “enemies list,” a document with twenty names on it, which was released as part of the Watergate hearings. Reporters like CBS’s Daniel Schorr featured prominently on it. When Sanders announced at her press briefing last week that Trump was considering stripping the security clearances of six former senior U.S. officials who have emerged as scathing Trump critics, many made immediate comparisons to Nixon’s list. “An enemies list is ugly, undemocratic, and un-American,” Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, responded.

Only three members of Nixon’s enemies list are still alive. (Ron Dellums, a former member of Congress particularly loathed by Nixon for his anti-war protests and militant civil-rights activism, died on Monday.) I called one of them, Morton Halperin, to ask what he thought of the proliferating Trump-Nixon comparisons. Halperin, who oversaw the writing of the Pentagon Papers and then served on Nixon’s National Security Council staff before breaking with him over the invasion of Cambodia, sued when he found out that Nixon had secretly taped him and others in the White House. Over the years, he has been one of Nixon’s proudest and most persistent enemies. So I was surprised when Halperin insisted, strongly, that Nixon wasn’t nearly as damaging to the institution of the Presidency as Trump has been. “He’s far worse than Nixon,” Halperin told me, “certainly as a threat to the country.”

 

What Are We to Do About Trump’s Escalating Lies? Other than vote November 6?

July 17, 2018

by Robert Reich

The Prospect

As the political season heats up, Trump is ramping up his lies through his three amplifiers: Fox News, rallies, and Twitter.

According to The Fact Checker’s database, the average daily rate of Trump’s false or misleading claims is climbing.

The problem isn’t just the number or flagrancy of the lies—for example, that Putin and the Russians didn’t intervene in the 2016 election on behalf of Trump, or that the Mueller investigation is part of a Democratic plot to remove him.

And it’s not just that the lies are about big, important public issues—for example, that immigrants commit more crimes than native-born Americans, or trade wars are harmless.

The biggest problem is his lies aren’t subject to the filters traditionally applied to presidential statements—a skeptical press, experts who debunk falsehoods, and respected politicians who publicly disagree.

The word “media” comes from the term “intermediate”—that is, to come between someone who makes the news and the public who receives it.

But Trump doesn’t hold press conferences. He doesn’t meet in public with anyone who disagrees with him. He denigrates the mainstream press. And he shuns experts.

Instead, his lies go out to tens of millions of Americans every day unmediated.

TV and radio networks simply rebroadcast his rallies, or portions of them.

At his most recent rally in Great Falls, Montana, Trump made 98 factual statements. According to The Washington Post’s fact checkers, 76 percent of them were false, misleading or unsupported by evidence.

For example, Trump claimed that “winning the Electoral College is very tough for a Republican, much tougher than the so-called ‘popular vote,’ where people vote four times, you know.”

The claim ricocheted across the country even though countless studies have shown that Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud and abuse are simply not borne out by the facts.

Meanwhile, over 50 million Americans receive his daily tweets, which are also brimming with lies.

Recently, for example, Trump tweeted that Democrats were responsible for his administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the border (they weren’t), and that “crime in Germany is way up” because of migration (in fact, it’s down).

Around 6 million Americans watch Fox News each day and relate what they see and hear to their friends and relations.

Fox News is no longer intermediating between the public and Trump. Fox News is Trump. Many of his lies originate with Fox News; Fox News amplifies the ones that originate with Trump.

Fox News’s Sean Hannity is one of Trump’s de facto top advisers. Trump has just appointed Bill Shine, the former number two at Fox News, as his deputy chief of staff for communications.

No democracy can function under a continuous bombardment of unmediated lies.

So what are we to do, other than vote November 6 to constrain Trump?

First, boycott Fox News’s major sponsors, listed here. Vote with your wallet and starve the beast. Get others to join you.

Second, attend Trump’s rallies, as distasteful as this may be. You’re entitled to attend. He is, after all, the president of the entire country.

Organize and mobilize large groups to attend with you. Once there, let your views about his lies be heard and seen by the press. You can find out when and where his rallies will occur here or here.

Third, sign up for his tweets, and respond to his lies with the simple: “b.s.” You can sign up here.

Fourth, write to Twitter and tell its executives to stop enabling Trump’s lies. Its contact information is here.

In addition, as the Times’ Farhad Manjoo suggested recently, Twitter’s employees should be encouraged to make a ruckus – as did Amazon workers who pushed the firm to stop selling facial recognition services to law enforcement agencies, and Google employees who pressured Google not to renew a Pentagon contract for artificial intelligence.

Twitter defines its mission as providing a “healthy public conversation.” Let them know that demagoguery isn’t healthy.

Your vote on November 6 is the key, of course.

But as the political season heats up, Trump’s lies are heating up, too. And they will sway unwary voters.

So you need to be active now, before Election Day—on behalf of the truth.

 

 

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