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Trump’s Exclusion and Demonization of Democrats Pushes 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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Foreign Policy

Haley Resigns As U.N. Ambassador, Shoots Down 2020 Speculation

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WASHINGTON, October 9, 2018 — Ambassador Nikki Haley will “take a break” from public service by resigning from her position as the United States’ top U.N. envoy at the end of the year, President Trump said Tuesday morning.

Haley will be leaving “at the end of the year,” Trump said while sitting alongside her in the Oval Office, citing the former South Carolina governor’s desire to “take a break.”

“You have been very special to me, done an incredible job,” he said while addressing Haley, adding that she has done an “incredible job” and “gets it.”

The sudden announcement came less than an hour after Axios broke the surprise news of her resignation.

Within minutes of the story’s appearance online, Haley was spotted by reporters as she walked into the Oval Office with several aides. But when she appeared alongside Trump shortly after she took pains to thank Trump for allowing her to serve, and called her time representing the U.S. at the United Nations “the honor of a lifetime.”

Trump’s conduct of foreign policy, Haley continued, has caused the United States to be respected again.

“Countries may not like what we do, but they respect what we do,” she said.

While some pundits speculated that the timing was connected to the #MeToo-related drama over now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, when he and Haley appeared before cameras, Trump claimed that Haley first approached him six months ago about setting a timetable to depart before the end of the Trump administration’s second year.

Haley is one of two members of the foreign policy team to have served for the entirety of Trump’s time in office. She joined the administration at a time when very few members of the Republican foreign policy establishment wanted to serve the new president, which served him just fine, as most of them had signed open letters criticizing him.

As so-called moderates like former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson were forced out after clashing with Trump over his disdain for international multilateral agreements like the Iran nuclear deal, Haley remained a fixture and an oasis of stability in an administration that has seen turnover at levels unheard of at this point in a president’s first term.

Even as other establishment-minded administration officials incurred Trump’s wrath for pushing back on his most extreme impulses and saw their own reputations sullied, Haley managed to thrive in her role at the U.N.

Her New York-based post gave her a place in the spotlight and a chance to burnish her foreign policy credentials. It also gave her enough geographic distance from Washington to avoid the contempt Trump developed for the members of his national security team who he saw more regularly.

But that geographic distance also allowed her to put political distance between her and the president at moments when she would break from him in one way or another, including the aftermath of last year’s white nationalist riot in Charlottesville, Virginia.

That distance was most evident on the occasions when she would contradict her boss by sharply criticizing the Russian government, even as he continually dismissed the idea that Russia interfered in the 2016 election as a “Democrat hoax” and attacked the Justice Department investigation into the interference as a “witch hunt.”

Haley’s frequent departures from the Gospel of Trump on those matters has made her the subject of endless rumors, most of which place her on the 2020 Republican primary ballot opposing her soon-to-be former boss. But Haley attempted to put a wet blanket on any such speculation by telling reporters that she’d be campaigning for Trump, not against him.

“No, I’m not running in 2020,” she said.

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Tech

Trump Threatens Google, Twitter and Facebook — Says Tech Companies ‘Treading On Very, Very Troubled Territory And They Have To Be Careful’

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WASHINGTON, August 28, 2018 — President Donald Trump on Tuesday directly threatened three of the largest technology and social media companies in the United States for allegedly working to censor conservatives despite a lack of verifiable evidence that any such censorship is taking place.

“I think Google is really taking advantage of a lot of people, and I think that’s a very serious thing and a very serious charge. I think what Google and others are doing, if you look at what’s going on at Twitter, what’s going on on Facebook, they better be careful because you can’t do that to people, you can’t do it,” Trump said during an Oval Office meeting with FIFA President Gianni Infantino.

“I think that Google and Twitter and Facebook are really treading on very very troubled territory and they have to be careful, it’s not fair to large portions of the population,” he added, claiming “we have literally thousands of complaints coming in” on the subject.

Trump’s remarks come less than a day after he took to Twitter to accuse Google of “rigging” search results to suppress positive news stories about him.

Google search results for “Trump News” shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake New Media. In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD. Fake CNN is prominent. Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out. Illegal?” the president wrote.

A short time later, he added: “96% of results on “Trump News” are from National Left-Wing Media, very dangerous. Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good. They are controlling what we can & cannot see. This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!”

Shortly after the president’s tweets were posted, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told reporters that the Trump administration is “looking into” Google’s operations.

Mr. Trump and other Republicans have frequently accused Google, Facebook, Twitter and other large technology companies of deliberately acting to censor or suppress content targeted at conservatives. Such accusations are beginning to become more common in conservative media.

In July, he accused Twitter of “shadow-banning” prominent conservatives. After Facebook and other platforms banned conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, Trump tweeted that “Social Media is totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices.”

Republican members of Congress have also frequently complained about so-called “censorship” by social media companies, usually in the form of banning or suspending users for content that violates their terms of service.

While Tuesday’s claims appear to be centered around allegations made in a right-wing blog post he saw discussed by Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs, this is not the first time Trump has cited a fringe media outlet when accusing Google of bias against him.

In September 2016, Trump told attendees at a Waukesha, Wisconsin rally that“Google search engine was suppressing the bad news about Hillary Clinton.”

That claim appeared to have been based on a widely-debunked story, which cited a YouTube video alleging that Google manipulated its search engine’s auto-complete function to bolster Hillary Clinton. The story was first published by Sputnik, a Russian state-owned news outlet which American officials say was part of Russia’s campaign to influence the 2016 election.

In a statement on Tuesday, a Google spokesperson flatly denied the president’s claims, citing the company’s goal of making sure users “receive the most relevant answers” to their queries “in a matter of seconds.”

“Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology. Every year, we issue hundreds of improvements to our algorithms to ensure they surface high-quality content in response to users’ queries. We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.”

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White House

Citing No Evidence, Trump Claims Google Search Results Are ‘Rigged’ Against Him, Repeats Debunked Claim First Made In Russian State Media

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WASHINGTON, August 28, 2018 — President Donald Trump on Tuesday accused Google’s search engine of suppressing conservative news stories and other “fair” news stories about him, repeating a discredited claim first made in a debunked Russian propaganda article.

“Google search results for “Trump News” shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake New Media. In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD. Fake CNN is prominent. Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out. Illegal?” the president wrote.

A short time later, he added: “96% of results on “Trump News” are from National Left-Wing Media, very dangerous. Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good. They are controlling what we can & cannot see. This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!”

Google reacts to Trump statement

In a statement on Tuesday, a Google spokesperson flatly denied the president’s claims, citing the company’s goal of making sure users “receive the most relevant answers” to their queries “in a matter of seconds.”

“Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology. Every year, we issue hundreds of improvements to our algorithms to ensure they surface high-quality content in response to users’ queries. We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.”

Frequent criticism of big tech and social media giants

Mr. Trump and other Republicans have frequently accused Google, Facebook, Twitter and other large technology companies of deliberately acting to censor or suppress content targeted at conservatives. Such accusations are beginning to become more common in conservative media.

In July, he accused Twitter of “shadow-banning” prominent conservatives. After Facebook and other platforms banned conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, Trump tweeted that “Social Media is totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices.”

Republican members of Congress have also frequently complained about so-called “censorship” by social media companies, usually in the form of banning or suspending users for content that violates their terms of service.

Diamond and Silk weigh in on alleged censorship on Facebook

When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified about Russian interference in the 2016 election before the House and Senate earlier this year, many Republicans in both chambers used the opportunity to question him about claims by Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, YouTube personalities better known as Diamond and Silk.

Hardaway and Richardson claimed Facebook employees had censored their Facebook page for being “unsafe to the community,” but the duo has never produced any documentary evidence to support that claim.

Another frequent target for these attacks has been Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who is expected to face similar accusations to Zuckerberg when he appears before Congress next month.

Trump accused Google of favoring Clinton during the 2016 campaign

Tuesday’s twitter eruption was not the first time Trump has accused Google of manipulating search results to his detriment. At a September 2016 campaign rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin, he alleged that Google’s search results were biased in favor of Hillary Clinton.

Graphic for the discredited Sputnik story accusing Google of manipulating searches against Trump, which he first cited in the closing months of the 2016 campaign.

Graphic for the discredited Sputnik story accusing Google of manipulating searches against Trump, which he first cited in the closing months of the 2016 campaign.

Trump told rally attendees that “Google search engine was suppressing the bad news about Hillary Clinton.”

That claim appears to be based on a widely-debunked story published by Sputnik, a Russian state-owned media outlet. Although the Russian government says Sputnik is no different from Voice of America, Al Jazeera or other state-owned news organizations, American intelligence officials found the outlet played a major role in Russia’s campaign to influence the 2016 election.

The story cited a video which accused Google of manipulating its autocomplete function to suggest positive search queries about Mrs. Clinton and negative ones about Mr. Trump. However, the choices presented in Google’s auto-complete function are based on the most popular searches made by users and not on any input from the company.

Trump administration apparently considering action against Google

Regardless of whether Trump’s claims of censorship are without merit, it appears he has ordered action to be taken against Google. National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told reporters that the Trump administration is looking into the search giant.

“We’ll let you know, we’re taking a look at it,” Kudlow said Tuesday while speaking near the White House’s North Lawn.

“We’re just going to do some investigation and analysis,” he added later when asked to clarify what “taking a look at it” meant.

Asked whether he was aware that Trump’s accusations appeared to be rooted in a discredited Russian propaganda story, Kudlow said that particular issue “is above [his] pay grade.”

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