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Trump’s Exclusion and Demonization of Democrats Push U.S. to One-Party Authoritarianism, Scholars Say

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Donald Trump speaks to a crowd of supporters in Louisville, KY, in March of 2016; image courtesy of DONALD TRUMP SPEECHES AND PRESS CONFERENCES YouTube Channel

WASHINGTON, June 28, 2018 – The combination of President Trump’s increasingly frequent exclusion of Democrats from decision-making, and his tendency to nominate judges who support Republican party priorities, could portend a slide toward a one-party state found in most autocracies, said two of the country’s most two prominent political scholars.

Over the past 18 months, Trump has grown increasingly comfortable excluding Democratic legislators and their constituents from White House events, has rarely visited states which he did not win in 2016, and has largely limited his public appearances to ones where he knows he will be surrounded by supporters.

Indeed, at his campaign-style rallies, his campaign’s private security can remove any person who offers the first hint of protest.

In an interview with BeltwayBreakfast, American Enterprise Institute scholar Norman J. Ornstein said Trump’s exclusion of Democrats from his political calculations marks a troubling departure from the way presidents of both parties have governed since the dawn of the republic.

A different kind of presidency tailored to one political party: Republicans

“Clearly this is a different kind of presidency,” said Ornstein, who, along with the Brookings Institution’s Thomas Mann, has also authored a definitive trio of books chronicling the partisan division that has led to Trump’s rise — “The Broken Branch,” “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks” and “One Nation Under Trump.”

“Every other president that I’ve known, including some who were very, very partisan, was at least more broadly portraying and seeing themselves as presidents of everybody, including those who opposed them.”

Ornstein explained that even the most partisan of chief executives — including Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush —  “recognized that at least when it comes to significant policy proposals, you’re better off building a consensus.”

But Trump has been enabled by Congressional leaders like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, Ornstein said, both of whom have kept Democrats — and even some moderate Republicans — from having any input into most important legislative packages.

Even George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan were willing to work with Democrats

By contrast, George W. Bush worked with Democrats on No Child Left Behind, as did Reagan on most tax and budget packages.

Under Trump, Ornstein explained that the trend has been towards a de facto one-party legislature where the opposition has no impact.

“This is a different kind of behavior. Combined with the way Ryan and McConnell have been acting, is a very worrisome thing,” he said, noting that Trump’s constant attacks on Democrats’ legitimacy are “not a healthy thing” when it comes to the health of a functioning democracy.

‘The most excessively partisan president we’ve seen in modern American history’

A presidential scholar who predicted Trump’s electoral upset in 2016 warned that Trump’s exclusion of Democrats could herald a slide towards authoritarian, one-party rule.

That scholar, American University’s Allan J. Lichtman, said in a separate interview with BeltwayBreakfast that Trump “probably the most excessively partisan president we’ve seen in modern American history.”

Not only does Trump exclude Democrats, Lichtman said, but he demonizes them, “just like he demonizes anyone who he thinks is in opposition to him or who he thinks he can demonize to fire up his base.”

That tendency to demonize, Lichtman explained, “is just one indication of the authoritarian streak within Donald Trump,” who he said has made his intentions and desires quite clear.

“I think Donald Trump would love to not deal with a contentious free press, a bulky congress, and a judiciary who is not willing to go along with him,” he said. “Trump would very much prefer to be an authoritarian, and it even comes out directly sometimes.”

Trump admires brutal dictators, not democratically-elected leaders

Lichtman said that Trump has made clear that the world leaders he admires are the brutal dictators, not the democratically-elected leaders who run most of America’s closest allies.

There’s “no question,” he said, that Trump’s constant attacks on the legitimacy of Democrats in Congress reveal a desire for a legislative branch that is not a meaningful check on his power.

“In a dictatorship, you don’t have a robust, competitive two-party system. What dictatorships do is what Donald Trump is trying to do but has not been able to do — snuff out the free press, override checks and balances, create scapegoats within the country, and demonize and exclude the opposition. No dictator wants an opposition party,” he said.

While safe gerrymandered district and the general climate of fear Trump inspires among Republicans can explain some of GOP leaders’ failure to stand up to him, the rest, Lichtman said, comes from Republicans’ desire to use the courts to override the will of the voters.

Republicans in Congress remain loyal, he said, because “they’ve also seen Donald Trump appointing judges and Supreme Court justices who will help keep Republicans in power.”

Putting a second Supreme Court justice on the court stacks the body politic for Trump

Trump will see the opportunity to put a second justice on the highest court in the land as nothing but an opportunity to stack the deck in his favor, Lichtman predicted.

“I think the president is likely to put someone on the court who will prove of his own view of presidential power. Trump understands everything in partisan terms or in Trump terms, has shown no respect for American institutions and has shown no respect for the constitution,” Lichtman said.

“He is, and has been for fifty plus years, concerned only with himself and what’s to his advantage.”

Lichtman explained that as Trump’s Republican party has become more and more about social issues, its conservative principles have been allowed to fall by the wayside in favor of the “old-fashioned nationalistic, xenophobic, nationalism…that gave us the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War.”

In a party that is constantly “talking about immigrants ‘infesting’ the country and the killing of babies, there’s not a lot of room for rational discussion and compromise,” he said. “Under Donald Trump, traditional conservative principles have been destroyed. Donald Trump is not a conservative. Donald Trump is a reactionary, he wants to return us to the era of walls around the country” to keep out the so-called “undesirable” immigrants and in the form of tariff barriers.

Is there any grounds for hope over the state of politics in the country? Yes, in impeachment.

But there may be hope yet for those in despair over the state of the country. Lichtman, who has correctly predicted presidential elections since the Reagan years, has also predicted that Trump will be impeached.

Despite everything, it’s a prediction Lichtman says he “absolutely stands by.”

He said:“42 percent of the American people are already advocating the impeachment of Donald Trump, that’s higher than his approval rating in the same poll, something like a dozen points higher than the call for impeachment of Bill Clinton, and about equal to calls for the impeachment of Richard Nixon.” Lichtman also noted that those numbers come from polls taken long before any report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

“My prediction really depends — and I’m pretty confident about this — in some really devastating findings from the special counsel. I don’t think Robert Mueller has been wasting his time for 13 months, there will be some blockbusters that even Republicans won’t be able to ignore.”

 

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White House

Conway Denies Trump Used ‘N-Word’ Despite Recording Of Staffer Admitting ‘He Said It’

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WASHINGTON, August 14, 2018 — Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway on Tuesday said she knows nothing about a tape on which President Donald Trump is alleged to have used a racial slur referring to African-Americans.

“I know nothing about it, actually,” Conway said while speaking to reporters outside the West Wing of the White House.

Conway, who managed Trump’s 2016 campaign during the last months before the election, contradicted herself shortly after by admitting that she’d discussed the alleged recording with then-candidate Trump.

She explained that “it was [her] job to tell the president every rumor, innuendo, fact, fiction.”

But she maintained that during her tenure with Trump, she’d never heard him use language along those lines.

“I’ve worked alongside Donald Trump for two straight years, I’ve never heard him say anything about that,” she said.

Rumors of the so-called “N-word tape” had dogged Trump since his days as a candidate and reached a fever pitch after the release of a tape depicting an appearance by Trump on “Access Hollywood,” in which he boasted of grabbing women by the genitals. 

The days after the October 7 release of the “Access Hollywood” tape became a crucible for Trump’s long-shot campaign, and he has since divided Republicans into two groups — those who stuck with him after the tape’s release, and those who called for him to drop out of the race.

That tape gave rise to yet more talk of more tapes, with much of that talk coming from Actor Tom Arnold, a former contestant on “The Celebrity Apprentice.” Arnold has repeatedly suggested, during the campaign and afterward, that reality show producer Mark Burnett, who controls the master tapes of “The Apprentice” and its related shows, is in possession numerous recordings which document Trump’s routine use of insensitive and/or offensive language on the set of his show.

But Burnett has refused to release any such tapes, citing intellectual property concerns, and Arnold’s credibility was called into question after he falsely claimed to be working with ex-Trump attorney Michael Cohen during a live TV interview.

But the same rumors began to look more credible Tuesday morning, after ex-Trump aide Omarosa Manigault Newman released a recording of several Trump campaign aides, including current campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson, discussing the tape.

On the recording, Pierson told fellow aide Lynne Patton: “He said it [the N-word]. No, he said it. He’s embarrassed.”

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"Game On"

Defense Secretary Mattis Weighing 2020 Bid, Predicts He’d ‘Kick Trump’s Ass’

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President Donald J. Trump departs from the Pentagon alongside Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Jan. 27, 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Defense Department Photo / U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)

WASHINGTON, August 7, 2018 — Secretary of Defense James Mattis believes he would easily defeat President Donald Trump in a 2020 primary matchup and has been actively considering mounting a White House run for some time, according to sources close to the secretary.

Mattis, 67, has been weighing a run for the presidency since May of this year, when he began bankrolling the efforts of a presidential exploratory committee.

That effort has thus far stayed under the radar through the use of non-disclosure agreements with vendors, solidarity among the Mattis loyalists involved and because exploratory committees are not required to file any paperwork with the Federal Election Commission.

Still, rumors of his possible ambitions have been whispered in high-level Republican circles.

Speaking more openly about a challenge to President Trump

The retired four-star Marine Corps general has recently begun speaking more openly about the possibility of challenging the president who convinced him to return to public service after six years in retirement.

Mattis, one of his senior aides said, raised the issue of his electoral potential last week during a high-level Pentagon meeting, in which he, along with 10-15 of the country’s top civilian and military defense officials, discussed ways to maintain continuity of Defense Department operations in the event that Mattis abruptly resigns or is fired from the cabinet.

“I’d kick Trump’s ass in 2020, and I just might have to!” Mattis said, according to a source.

A Mattis candidacy might make the 2020 election as unprecedented as the 2016 contest

A Mattis primary run might make the 2020 GOP primary as unprecedented as its 2016 predecessor, pitting a complete newcomer to electoral politics against a president who, with only one primary and one general election victory under his belt, is almost as inexperienced.

Trump rode to his 2016 victory over a massive slate of GOP hopefuls on the strength of widespread name recognition from years of hosting a hit television show, and further took advantage of natural divisions in the electorate with at least 17 candidates.

He was also able to successfully define and diminish the few candidates who might have stood out by perfecting his use of base insults and nicknames like “Liddle Marco [Rubio] and “Lyin’ Ted [Cruz]” before deploying the same tactic against “Crooked Hillary” Clinton.

Would a divide and conquer strategy work against Trump’s military chief?

However, the same divide-and-conquer strategy might not work against a single challenger. Further, Trump may have trouble finding traction for schoolyard taunts when confronted with an opponent like Mattis, someone on whom Trump has frequently lavished praise.

Mattis came out of retirement to become the 26th defense secretary, after having risen through the ranks of the Marine Corps to become a four-star general.

A Mattis confidante who holds a major role in his exploratory committee told BeltwayBreakfast that even at this early stage, there are plenty of reasons for optimism when it comes to his chances.

Despite the low public profile Mattis has kept as Secretary of Defense, the committee’s internal polling shows that he would start a campaign with significant support from a wide swath of the electorate, said the longtime Mattis aide.

The aide said their polling shows that even before any sort of campaign announcement or publicity, Mattis would begin with support from 50 to 60 percent of white men (depending on the state), a key GOP constituency and one of the demographic groups that normally make up the backbone of President Trump’s loyal base.

Mattis also polls at 45 to 50 percent support among urban and educated women, and has what the aide called “decent electability numbers” among minority groups, coming in at 35 to 40 percent.

Because both of the latter two groups make up a significant portion of the Democratic Party base, if that support is translated into votes, Mattis could garner enough significant crossover to give him a boost in states that hold open primaries.

Veterans are among Mattis’ most enthusiastic supporters, the aide noted, adding 80 percent of veterans on record as supportive of his candidacy.

Mattis could begin with a level of support among Republicans in Congress, too

Mattis could also start out with a level of support from Republicans in Congress that would be unheard of for a Republican challenger to an incumbent Republican president. Indeed, the aide said, some of the most senior Republicans on Capitol Hill have expressed interest in his potential candidacy.

The same aide told BeltwayBreakfast that two even more senior Republicans are contemplating throwing their weight behind a Mattis run: Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. Neither father nor son were among Trump’s supporters in 2016, and the aide said the only two living Republican former presidents are “almost on board” with lending their support to help add Donald Trump to their ranks.

Another reason for optimism, the aide said, is that in the past three months, Mattis’ exploratory committee has put together the resources necessary to have an organization ready to go from the moment an official announcement is made.

“The day we launch we open up a field office in almost every state,” he said.

This will be possible, he said, because Republican donors would be behind Mattis in enough of a big way that the RNC and Trump’s campaign “are in big trouble if Mattis decides to run.”

Asked to elaborate further, the aide offered a bold prediction: “If Mattis were to announce that he decided to run for President, his war chest would be equal to that of Hillary Clinton by June of next year.”

As for when — or if — that announcement will come, Mattis’ longtime aide and confidante explained that whatever decision gets made, it’ll be made based on the defense secretary’s belief that a second White House term for his boss would be “devastating” for the country. 

Mattis “is ready to run,” he said, even if he may not yet have admitted it. “You can see it in his eyes.”

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Courts

‘This Is All Bogus, And It’s To Take Control Over The Judiciary’ — A Veteran Administrative Law Judge Slams Trump’s Order Making ALJs Political Appointees

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WASHINGTON, July 11, 2018 — A veteran Administrative Law Judge says President Trump’s new executive order governing the hiring of ALJs could mean the end for many Americans’ right to have disputes against the government heard by a neutral arbiter.

The July 10 order, entitled “Excepting Administrative Law Judges From The Competitive Service,” puts an end to the system of selecting ALJs by their performance on a competitive examination and exempts them from the civil service protections to which they’ve long been entitled.

The White House says the order is necessary because of a Supreme Court ruling, Lucia v. Securities and Exchange Commission, which rejected a challenge to an Administrative Law Judge’s decision by finding them to be “inferior officers” under the Appointments Clause of the constitution.

White House says the order is necessary but a longtime Administrative Law Judge says there was no reason for it

A White House official told BeltwayBreakfast that any new judges hired under the new order would have statutory protections under the Administrative Procedure Act, the order specifically exempts them from civil service regulations.

But in an interview with BeltwayBreakfast, the veteran Administrative Law Judge, who hears cases at the Social Security Administration and has been active in the Association of Administrative Law Judges — the federal ALJ union — for many years, called the order a completely unnecessary assault on Americans’ right to due process.

BeltwayBreakfast is not naming the judge at his or her request because he or she was not speaking on behalf of the ALJ union and because he or she fears the Trump administration would retaliate against him or her for speaking to the press.

“[Trump] didn’t have to do any of this. This is all bogus, and it’s to take control over the judiciary,” said the judge. “This is a total assault on due process for the American people.”

The Lucia decision did not require any change in the way Administrative Law Judges are hired, the judge said, because it affirmed the source of current judges’ authority under the constitution.

In that case, the court ruled 7-2 against the petitioner, Raymond Lucia, who’d argued that the Securities and Exchange Commission judge who’d found him to have violated the law was not an “Officer of the United States.”

Ending competitive selection means a return to the spoils system

The judge told BeltwayBreakfast that nothing in that decision requires an end to the competitive selection process that has been used for many, many years, but suggested the White House is ending it anyway in order to reward their friends and rig the system.

“What it really means…is that the administration can hire 1000 attorneys with no experience, make them judges, and take over the process,” the judge said. “If you eliminate merit-selected judges it becomes a patronage game.”

The judge explained that if you can appoint a person under the Appointment Clause the person who is appointed can be removed just as easily.

“This is really about removal,” the judge said. “The new ones who are being appointed as ‘excepted ALJs’ have no protections whatsoever. I’m sure they’ll be hired as managers, which means they can’t unionize. I’m sure they’ll be employees-at-will, and if they don’t what the appointer tells them to do, they’ll be fired.”

While the White House has pointed to the current force of merit-selected judges — who cannot be fired without cause — as a reason that Americans should not be concerned, the longtime ALJ union official said the Trump administration doesn’t need to fire them to rig the process.

The Trump administration’s ‘endgame’ could be court packing to crowd out existing judges

“Here’s what I posit: They’ll hire 1,000 new judges, all managers, given a quota and told what to do. They’ll be given all the cases, as many as they can to reduce the backlog of 1 million cases. And they’ll RIF [Reduction In Force] us. They lay us off. They’re not firing us, they’re not removing us, but they’re saying ‘we don’t have any work for you,” said the judge. “I don’t want to put ideas into anybody’s head, but guess what? That’s the endgame.”

What’s more, the veteran judge suggested that it’s no coincidence that this new order was signed one day after a May executive order, which severely limits federal employee unions’ ability to represent their members during working hours or with government resources, went into effect.

“Don’t you think it’s interesting that on Monday, we were officially muzzled, and on Tuesday they drop this executive order knowing we can’t fight it?” the judge asked.

The longtime ALJ explained that Americans should be frightened at the prospect of not being able to have disputes heard by independent arbiters. Even people who aren’t pro-union “need to start waking up,” the judge said, calling the order “a frightening, frightening development.”

‘Give grandma her day in court’

Even Republicans in Congress have to understand, this is really dangerous, dangerous stuff,” the judge said, noting that Securities and Exchange Commission judges who rule against Wall Street could be removed, as well as Social Security Administration judges who rule in favor of too many Americans.

Deep red state Republican-leaning constituencies could also lose out with the loss of independent Administrative Law Judges, the judge explained, noting that Department of Labor has an ALJ staff to hear “black lung cases,” and they could lose their jobs under the new rules if they rule against coal companies.

“Does [civil service protection] benefit us as federal employees? Yes it does. But the real issue is due process for the American people. It’s not about us and your hatred of federal employees,” the judge said.

“There are people behind these jobs that help you, the American public. I’m here to protect your due process, I’m here to give your grandmother’s disability case a fair shake — give grandma her day in court.”

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