Archives for category: Elections

The mainstream media has given ample coverage to the likelihood that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is likely to announce his candidacy for the Republican nomination for president in the next week. The stories about him treat him as a normal elected officials. They do not reference his multiple efforts to censor ideas and people he doesn’t like; to ban teaching ideas he doesn’t like; to ban textbooks that include ideas he disagrees with; to persecute drag queens and gay people. The American people need to know who he is. DeSantis’ regime of censorship is a pathetic attempt by pasty-faced cowards to dumb down the students of Florida. They can’t succeed because everyone has access to the Internet and television, where they will learn about the lies the state is teaching them.

Scott Maxwell is a regular columnist for the Orlando Sentinel. He is fearless. In this post, he writes about Governor Ron DeSantis’ purge of knowledge he doesn’t like.

The headlines are as abundant as they are dystopian:

“Florida rejects, amends many social studies textbooks”

“An Entire Florida School District Has Banned a Kids’ Book on Segregation”

“Florida bans more than 40% of math books after review”

“350+ Books Banned in Florida School Districts Since Last July”

A knowledge purge is underway in Florida. The targets: History lessons that politicians want hidden. Perspectives that make parents uncomfortable. Truths that ideologues find inconvenient.

Basically, we have people who want to control the narrative. And they think it’s easier to do that if kids don’t know all the facts.

Now, it’s hard to get your hands around both the scope and the specifics of this purge, because education officials are censoring so much and revealing so little.

In the latest salvo, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ education department rejected 35 different social studies books — more than a third of all they reviewed.
Florida rejects some social studies books, forces ‘Take a Knee’ out of one

But to justify their actions, they released snippets from only six of the books they shunned or ordered altered. So you don’t have much to go on.
But let’s look at one of those six examples. It’s from an elementary school textbook that teaches children about patriotism.

DeSantis staffers approved passages that instructed students to learn the Pledge of Allegiance and encouraged parents to stress the significance of the national anthem. But they did not want kids hearing why they might see some Americans, especially athletes on TV, take a knee during the anthem.

Specifically, the Florida Department of Education ordered the textbook to remove a section that suggested parents — not teachers, mind you — use that lesson on patriotic traditions “as an opportunity to talk about why some citizens are choosing to ‘Take a Knee’ to protest police brutality and racism.” DeSantis staffers ordered that suggestion stricken.

A popular talking point for people who dislike athletes taking a knee is to describe them as “anti-American,” “anti-cop” or “unpatriotic.” And it’s easier to peddle that narrative if students don’t hear why the players themselves say they’re doing what they are.

Personally, I think there’s valid debate over taking a knee. I can see why some players would. I can see why many people would dislike them doing so. It’s not really that hard to understand the divide — if you listen to what people on both sides are saying.
But the new Florida model of education doesn’t want to share all sides. The censors say kids aren’t ready for these discussions. Really, though, it’s the adults who are scared their kids might hear a different perspective. They’re the snowflakes.

The DeSantis censors also axed a section about Black Lives Matter from a middle school textbook that presented both pro and con perspectives on the social movement. The passage described the killing of George Floyd, explained that social media gave rise to civic activism and then gave a brief explanation of why some people supported Black Lives Matter and an even lengthier description of why others opposed it.DeSantis’ education staffers ordered the entire section removed.

At least one of the passages DeSantis staffers removed looks justifiably flagged. It’s a section from a middle-school book that attempts to teach students what a socialist form of government is.
The first part does a fine job explaining that, in a socialist society, the government controls much of the means of production, but then says: “It keeps things nice and even and without unnecessary waste.” Um, what? That seems more like a pom-pom for socialism — and a pretty skewed one at that — than a civics lesson. Yank it out.

But here’s the problem: DeSantis staffers shared a reworked version of the textbook that met their approval. It removed the word “socialism” altogether, replacing it with “planned economies.”
I’m no fan of socialism, but I’d sure like students to have a correct understanding of what it is. Why? Because the vast majority of adults who scream about socialism absolutely do not. They somehow believe anything government-funded is “socialism” … and then turn into Cletus the Slack-jawed Yokel when you ask them if that means Medicare and highways are socialist as well.

I’d love to see students better informed than these adults. But that seems to be the last thing the grown-ups want.

Last year, before state officials were rejecting social studies textbooks, they were flagging math books for being allegedly too woke. A handful of people apparently believed liberal boogeymen had infiltrated the nation’s algebra-instructional complex. And the handful got their way.

Some of this censorship is silly, political theater. Some is a serious effort to indoctrinate.

One publisher, Penguin Randomhouse, sued the Escambia County school district last week over its book-banning. Other publishers agree to comply with whatever censorship orders they’re given as they’re more interested in selling textbooks than standing on any sort of educational principles.

Then there are all the school library books being banned in historic numbers, thanks to the Republican-led Legislature’s new book-banning bill — books about everything from the civil rights movement to nontraditional families.

School book challenges, already on rise, could escalate in Florida

The Lake County school district pulled a picture book about the true story of two male penguins in Central Park Zoo who raised a chick after the zookeeper gave them an egg. A Panhandle district removed a book about school segregation in the 1950s with the New Republic reporting the district concluded the subject matter was “difficult for elementary students to comprehend.”

I don’t think kids are the problem here. In fact, the local banning crusades are sometimes led by just one or two adults who not only want to shelter their own kids from ideas they find scary but want to keep books away from everyone else’s kids at school as well.

I thought of all this book-banning and history-censoring while attending a recent session on the rise of antisemitism at the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida. One panelist said the best way to combat hatred, intolerance and ignorance is to ensure children hear unvarnished truths. He described it as “The criticality of giving truth to our kids.”

The leader of a Holocaust Center in South Florida made a similar point recently stressing: “The Holocaust, it didn’t start with guns and death camps. It started with words.”

Well, words are precisely what Florida is trying to ban, censor and distort. In unprecedented fashion.

Bob Shepherd is a polymath and a daily reader of the blog. He has been involved in every aspect of educational publishing, and most recently, he was a teacher in Florida. He graciously offered to help me with two of my books—The Language Police and Slaying Goliath—by carefully editing them before they were turned in to the publisher. And we have never met!

He wrote on his own blog:

A few years back, a friend, someone whom I respect, challenged me on Facebook, saying that Trump might be a lot of things, but he wasn’t an actual Fascist. Well, I beg to differ. If it steps like a goose, . . .

Here are a few of the clear signs that, yes, Fascist is precisely the term to describe Trump, his supporters, and those who wish to assume the orange mantle:

Alliance with other Fascists/Authoritarians. D.T. allied himself with violent, extremist authoritarian nationalists around the globe—with, of course, his handler, Vladimir Putin, but also with Rodrigo Duterte, Narendra Modi, Jair Bolsonaro, Recep Erdoğan, Viktor Orbán and even, shockingly and weirdly, with Kim Jong-un. Hitler allied himself with extremist authoritarian nationalists around the globe—Mussolini of Italy, Hirohito of Japan, Tsar Boris III of Bulgaria, Horthy of Hungary, Antonescu of Romania, Tiso of Slovakia, and Pavelić‘of Croatia (see the Tripartite Pact signed in September of 1940 and joined later by other members of the Axis Powers).

Use of Violent Citizens’ Militias. D.T. supported and employed on numerous occasions armed, right-wing citizens’ militias, notably

a) at the March on Charlottesville by neo-Nazis who chanted “Jews will not replace us” and murdered an antifascist protestor;
b) when a group of these self-appointed militiamen invaded the Michigan Capitol and Legislature, armed, and plotted to kidnap and murder Michigan’s governor; AND
c) when several groups of these, including the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, broke into and ransacked the U.S. Capital, beat police officers, caused injuries that led to deaths, called for hanging the Vice President, and tried to overthrow the incoming government of the United States by preventing its certification.

Trump approved of all these actions by Citizens’ Militias, saying in the first instance that there were “Good people on both sides”—the Nazis and those opposing them–and in the latter instances that these were “patriots.” And, of course, he planned and stoked the last–the January 6th insurrection. In addition, he called on his Attorney General, Secretary of Defense, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to violate the Posse Comitatus Act and send federal troops to attack BLM protestors, which Barr sort of went along with his little green men (Esper and Milley, to their eternal credit, declined). Hitler, of course, infamously used citizens’ militias, the Sturmabteilung (the SA, or brownshirts), to provide protection at rallies, to attack enemies, and, with the SS, to carry out the infamous attacks on Jews during Kristallnacht. When asked to denounce white supremacy in a debate, Trump responded by saying, “Proud Boys—stand back and stand by.”

Monumentalism. D.T. loved monuments and monumental architecture and got a lot of political mileage out of riling up supporters of continuing to have on display in the public sphere commemorative statues of genocidal maniacs and enemies of the United States (Columbus; slave-owning men who led forces of insurrection during the Civil War). He organized a Republican Convention that was replete with monumental architecture and iconography. To do this, he violated the law by using the White House and its grounds as a political campaign/convention set. He called for absurdly expensive military parades of the kinds one sees in Communist China, North Korea. and Putin’s Russia. Trump called for building a massive “patriotic” sculpture garden. He held monumentalist nationalist events like the 4th of July military airshow at Mount Rushmore. Hitler, of course, employed Albert Speer to build monumentalist fascist architecture and devoted a great deal of his time to this.

The Cult of Personality. D.T. constantly referred to himself as “the best” or “the greatest” this or that and plastered his name on everything, from massive amounts of merch (Trump steaks, Trump straws, Trump flags) to buildings to letters accompanying Covid relief checks. He turned every discussion of every issue into one about himself and how great he is, even events that were supposed to be to honor Gold Star families or present information about how not to die from a virulent pandemic. Like a mob boss or any other Fascist leader, he required loyalty oaths and fired people who didn’t make them. At every cabinet meeting, cabinet members were expected to preface their remarks with long exhortations about the greatness of Trump (for an abject lesson in human self-abasement, go listen to a recording of one of these delivered by Mike Pence, to whom, of course, Trump showed no corresponding loyalty). He literally described himself as “the only” person who could solve the country’s problems. Clearly, Trump suffers from malignant narcissistic personality disorder. Conjure in your mind, if you have the stomach for it, a typical Trump rally. Trump created a cult of personality, just as all Fascist strongmen have done—Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Mao, Pinochet, the Kim Dynasty of North Korea, etc. The difference, of course, is that Trump was merely a WANNABE Fascist strongman.

The Myth of the Return to Racial and National Greatness. D.T. constantly referred to a mythical Golden Age to which he would return the country and even made this his official slogan (“Make America Great Again,” or MAGA). This was, of course, precisely what Hitler did, calling for a return to a time of Aryan and German greatness–the major theme of his propaganda and writing and speeches.

The Racial Supremacy Myth/Use of Racism to Mobilize the Masses. D.T. constantly issued racist dog-whistles, from his ad attacking the innocent members of the Central Park Five to his Obama birtherism to his calling asylum seekers “caravans” and “hordes” of “rapists and murders” to his references to “s—thole countries” to his “Good people on both sides” to his planning of rallies at sites of racist violence (near the Alamo, Tulsa, etc.) to his suggestions that China purposefully engineered and released SARS-COV-2, which Trump variously referred to, in his racist way, as the “China flu,” the “Wuhan flu,” and so on. And, of course, Trump built his whole campaign, initially, on the racist idea that America was being taken over by immigrants and that in order to “have a country,” we would need to keep out the brown-skinned hordes. In fact, this is why Jeff Sessions, Steve Bannon, and Stephen Miller chose Trump to run in 2015 to begin with. See the Frontline documentary about this, Zero Tolerance (2019). Trump called for the Border Patrol to SHOOT innocent asylum seekers and screamed at his Secretary of Homeland Security for saying that she couldn’t do that. Hitler baked anti-Semitism into the Nazi ideology. Both leaders ran concentration camps targeting members of particular ethnic groups. Both committed horrific Crimes against Humanity (Hitler’s genocides; Trump’s kidnapping of immigrant children and separation of these from their parents).

Scapegoating and Call for the Elimination of Enemies Within. D.T. constantly referred and continues to refer to “enemies within” that have to be eliminated “or you’re not going to have a country anymore.” These he refers to as Socialists, the “Radical Left,” “Antifa,’ and so on. One of Trump’s favorite and most often used slurs is Enemy of the People, a phrase that goes all the way back to Roman times and was famously the title of a great play by Ibsen. Calling for the elimination of enemies within is, of course, exactly what Hitler did, blaming Germany’s troubles, such as its loss of World War I and its hyperinflation on “enemies within”—Jews and Socialists and Communists—who had “stabbed the country in the back.” But it was, of course, the extreme left-wing Fascist leaders in Russia and East Germany, during the Stalin Era, who made Enemy of the People a standard catchphrase in the 20th Century, but Trump is too ignorant to know this, to know that every time he calls Biden or Fauci or whomever an “Enemy of the People,” he is sounding just like the murderous Joseph Stalin. (And yes, you can have Fascists who come to it from the left.) And even if Trump did know this, it probably wouldn’t bother him in the least bit. Trump has expressly said that he was unhappy with “his” generals because they didn’t show him the deference that Hitler’s generals showed to Hitler. Of course, Trump doesn’t know, because he is profoundly ignorant, a bear of very little brain, that a number of those very generals tried to assassinate Hitler several times. LOL. Be careful what you wish for, Donnie!

The Fascist Rally. D.T.’s main method of communication with his base was the large-scale rally—precisely the sort of method used by Hitler, with Goebbels and Speer as organizers and Leni Riefenstahl to film these.

Indoctrination of the Young. Trump called for the creation of an overtly exceptionalist, nationalist curriculum. Hitler did the same (see, for example, the Nazi textbook on Aryan supremacy, Rasse und Seele) and also created his Hitler Youth, his League of German Girls, and his Lebensborn Program.

The National Supremacy Myth. Trump’s American Exceptionalism, Hitler’s Übermenschen and Deutschland über alles. Same diseased thought.

Eugenics and Genetic Determinism. D.T. constantly referred to his “good genes” and what he called his “racehorse theory” of what constituted a fine woman–one who was properly bred. Despite the fact of his almost total scientific ignorance, he was and is committed to a myths of Eugenics and genetic determinism–one of the central myths, of course, of Nazi ideology. And this myth, of course, supports the racial and national superiority myths.

The Erasure of the Concept of a Nation of Laws and Totalitarian Insistence That His Will Is the Law. Trump insisted, “I have an Article 2 that says I can do anything I like as President.” He seems to think that he could just magically wave his hand and declassify documents and that, at any rate, rules about preservation and secrecy didn’t apply to him because NO RULES apply to him. Trump treated agencies and departments of the government as HIS, insisting, for example, that “His” generals and “His” DOJ and “His” everything else be absolutely subservient, and he fired or attempted to fire anyone who disagreed with him about anything. Barr went along with basically turning the DOJ into Trump’s private law firm. Hitler, of course, had the Enabling Act, making his will and the law identical. This the Fascists like Trump and Hitler share with Absolute Monarchists, the idea that L’état, c’est moi. Belief in the absolute authority of the Glorious Leader (Trump thought his image should be carved onto Mount Rushmore) is what puts the “total” in Totalitarianism.

The Portrayal of Himself as the Ultra-Masculine Leader, the Archetype of the Masculine, the Strongman. Trump loves to talk about how tough he is and constantly made threats via Tweet, yelled at staff, tore up briefs, and actually threw things when he got mad. And he constantly degraded women, speaking of grabbing them by the genitals, bragging about being able to get away with sexual assault, yelling at his female Secretary of Homeland Security and calling her “Honey,” making disgusting remarks about female celebrities and reporters. He actually ran a freaking old school beauty pageant. He bragged about walking in on the women while they were dressing because as owner, he could get away with it. He was a big pal of Jeffrey Epstein’s. Of course, Trump didn’t have the physique to portray himself as a male sex symbol, so he tweeted out pictures of his face Photoshopped onto the body of fictional boxer Rocky Balboa and actually sold this image on his website. Over twenty-five women have accused him of sexual assault. He paid off a porn star and a Playboy bunny to keep quiet about affairs with him. And in these respects, Trump was in the mold of other Fascist leaders who promulgated hyper-masculinized images of themselves (along with a big dose of hyper-sexism)–think Mussolini and Pinochet and Berlusconi and of Hitler’s military garb and Putin’s shirtless, horseback photoshoots.

One could go on and on. In Trump one had and has ALMOST the complete Fascist package. The one element that was missing was the competence to pull it off. Trump is far too ignorant and stupid to have effected a Fascist revolution in America. The next guy will have all Trump’s Fascist tendencies but be smarter and more knowledgeable.

P.S.: It is extraordinarily important to call Fascism out when it rears its monstrous head, to call it what it is. Why? Because silence is complicity. It’s letting it happen again. It’s making the same mistake that Germans made back in 1932-33, expecting that it’s not going to be all that bad. That experience is behind us all now. We are supposed to know better. It CAN get that bad, that quickly. Been there, done that. In the middle of the last century, we fought a war to end this shit. Here we are seeing it again, right here, on our soil. Who would have imagined that we would have slid so far backward? These must be more than just words: Never again.

This is one of the most disturbing articles I have read in recent memory. A prosperous county in Michigan elected a slate of evangelical rightwing fanatics to run their local government. The new majority replaced a conservative Republican board that was known for fiscal responsibility and moderate politics. The spark that lit the rebellion was a mask mandate for children during the pandemic.

The article was written by Greg Jaffe and Patrick Marley in the Washington Post:

WEST OLIVE, Mich. — The eight new members of the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners had run for office promising to “thwart tyranny” in their lakeside Michigan community of 300,000 people.

In this case the oppressive force they aimed to thwart was the county government they now ran. It was early January, their first day in charge. An American flag held down a spot at the front of the board’s windowless meeting room. Sea-foam green carpet covered the floor.

The new commissioners, all Republicans, swore their oaths of office on family Bibles. And then the firings began. Gone was the lawyer who had represented Ottawa County for 40 years. Gone was the county administrator who oversaw a staff of 1,800. To run the health department, they voted to install a service manager from a local HVAC company who had gained prominence as a critic of mask mandates.

As the session entered its fourth hour, Sylvia Rhodea, the board’s new vice chair, put forward a motion to change the motto that sat atop the county’s website and graced its official stationery. “Whereas the vision statement of ‘Where You Belong’ has been used to promote the divisive Marxist ideology of the race, equity movement,” Rhodea said.

And so began a new era for Ottawa County. Across America, county governments provided services so essential that they were often an afterthought. Their employees paved roads, built parks, collected taxes and maintained property records. In an era when Americans had never seemed more divided and distrustful, county governments, at their best, helped define what remains of the common good.

Ottawa County stood out for a different reason. It was becoming a case study in what happens when one of the building blocks of American democracy is consumed by ideological battles over race, religion and American history.

Rhodea’s resolution continued on for 20 “whereases,” connecting the current motto to a broader effort that she said aimed to “divide people by race,” reduce their “personal agency,” and teach them to “hate America and doubt the goodness of her people.”

Her proposed alternative, she said, sought to unite county residents around America’s “true history” as a “land of systemic opportunity built on the Constitution, Christianity and capitalism.’”

She flipped to her resolution’s final page and leaned closer to the mic. “Now, therefore, let it be resolved that the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners establishes a new county vision statement and motto of ‘Where Freedom Rings.’”

The commission’s lone Democrat gazed out in disbelief. A few seats away, the commission’s new chair savored the moment. “There’s just some really beautiful language in this,” he said, before calling for a vote on the resolution. It passed easily.
A cheer went up in the room, which on this morning was about three-fourths full, but in the coming weeks it would be packed with so many angry people calling each other “fascists,” “communists,” “Christian nationalists” and “racists” that the county would have to open an overflow room down the hall.

In May 2019, Attorney General Bill Barr asked John Durham, the U.S. Attorney for Connecticut to investigate the origins of the FBI inquiry into Trump’s ties to Russia in 2016. In December 2020, Barr elevated Durham to Special Counsel so he could continue his inquiry into what Trump called a witch-hunt, the crime of the century. After four years, the Durham report was issued a few days ago.

Thom Hartmann reviewed the Durham report:

Imagine you’re in the FBI overseeing national security and a candidate for President for the United States hired to run his campaign a man who’d:

taken $66 million from Russian intelligence services via Putin-friendly oligarchs,
— helped Russia install their own puppet government in Ukraine in 2010,
— was paid $1 million a year to help the corrupt dictator Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo) fight against democracy and maintain power,
— forced his party to remove references in their platform to defending Ukrainian democracy,
— gave a Russian intelligence agent top-secret insider campaign information about voters in 6 swing states so they could run an ultimately successful micro-targeted Facebook campaign to help the candidate,
— offered to run the campaign for free because he’d been well-compensated by Russian intelligence services,
— and then repeatedly lied to the FBI about his connections to Putin and Russia, leading to his being charged, convicted, and imprisoned until that candidate pardoned him.

Imagine that candidate had visited Moscow with his Soviet-citizen wife — whose father was a Soviet agent — and been groomed all the way back in 1987 by Russian intelligence (then Soviet intelligence, the KGB) to run for president.

— That he came back home from that 1987 trip to Moscow and spent $100,000 to run full-page ads in three major US newspapers urging America to abandon and leave defenseless its allies in Europe and Asia.
— That he then went to New Hampshire a month later and did a campaign rally to see if there was enough support for him to run for president.
— That US intelligence officers reported that the 1987 ad and campaign for president led toa champagne-laced celebration in Moscow, with Russian intelligence calling it one of their most successful infiltration/influence campaigns in decades.

Imagine if during his campaign for the White House that president — when only a candidate — had inked a secret deal with Russia to earn hundreds of millions of dollars by putting a hotel with his name on it in Moscow, and kept it concealed from the American public throughout the campaign.

Imagine that he made extensive use of his opponent’s emails that had been hacked by Russian intelligence services, who then ran a Facebook operation hyping that same information that reached 26 million targeted Americans in 6 swing states, helping him win the Electoral College vote.

Imagine that during the 2016 campaign an insider with Russian connections learned that Russia had successfully hacked this candidate’s opponent’s emails on behalf of the candidate before the hack was revealed on Wikileaks during the Democratic National Convention where his opponent was nominated for president…and that information came to you via an informant.

Imagine that candidate became president 29 years after his first Moscow trip and in his first weeks in office, presumably as thanks for their help, invited the Russian ambassador and the Russian foreign minister to a covert meeting in the Oval Office and gave them top-secret information on a spy about whom Russia had been concerned; that spy was then “burned.”

Imagine that this was nothing new for that president’s party: that two presidents before him had gained the White House by treasonous collaboration with openly hostile foreign powers (North Vietnam in 1968 and Iran in 1980). That congressional members of his own party would then go on to vote against compiling information about war crimes committed in Ukraine by Russia. That a senator from that party by the name of Rand Paul made a private trip to Russia to hand-deliver possibly stolen sealed “documents” to Putin’s intelligence service given him in confidence by that president.

Imagine that president had a series of nearly 20 secret telephone conversations with Putin (for which the records of what was said no longer exist) and then unilaterally — in defiance of both Congress and the law — blocked military aid to Ukraine while Russia was massing troops on its borders. And then followed those up with a years-long campaign to destroy NATO, which was Russia’s top military concern. And openly praised and deferred to Putin while trash-talking American intelligence services.

Imagine that the FBI worked with a special prosecutor named Mueller to determine the extent of Russian involvement in the 2016 election and:

— Found that Russian interference in the 2016 election was “sweeping and systemic.”
— Brought indictments against 37 individuals including six Trump advisers and 26 Russian nationals, secured seven guilty pleas or convictions, and found “compelling evidence” that the president himself had stonewalled or lied to investigators and “obstructed justice on multiple occasions.”
— Referred 14 criminal matters to the Justice Department, where the president’s hand-picked Attorney General — who’d helped President George HW Bush cover up the Iran/Contra Treason Scandal — ignored them and let them lapse.
— Uncovered five specific examples of the president criminally obstructing justice in ways that could easily have been prosecuted.

Imagine that when that president ran for re-election Russia again came to his aid by hacking his 2020 opponent’s family members, both looking for and trying to plant damaging information suggesting his opponent’s family was corrupt. That Russia then spread rumors across social media to that effect on the candidate’s behalf in the months before the election.

Imagine that when he nevertheless lost, Russian intelligence officers used social mediato amplify his claims the election was stolen, leading to an attempted coup conspiracy involving the assassination of the Vice President and Speaker of the House.

Imagine that the FBI — in part, during that president’s time in office — compiled material for a report concluding that:

“Throughout the [2020] election, Russia’s online influence actors sought to amplify mistrust in the electoral process by denigrating mail-in ballots, highlighting alleged irregularities, and accusing the Democratic Party of voter fraud.”

So, if you were in the FBI and knew all that, how do you imagine you’d react?

Would you want to dig deeper, to determine if an agent of a hostile foreign power was trying to co-opt or even destroy America from within, a la The Manchurian Candidate?

Yesterday we learned that Trump-humper John Durham, a former federal prosecutor who should know better, can’t imagine any of this.

He issued a 306-page report on his well-paid four-year investigation in a futile effort to salvage his reputation (or burnish it with Trump) claiming that the FBI really had “no basis” to investigate the possibility that the 2016 Trump campaign might have been infiltrated or corrupted by Russian intelligence.

Durham wrote there was “a complete lack of information from the Intelligence Community that corroborated the hypothesis upon which the [2016] Crossfire Hurricane investigation [of Trump’s connections to Russia and Putin] was predicated.” (I have to admit, I almost spit out my coffee when reading that line.)

During the course of his $6.6 million “investigation,” Durham pressed chargesagainst two people, costing each a fortune in legal fees and damaging their reputations, and in both cases the individuals were exonerated by a jury of their peers.

Durham later claimed he was “misunderstood” by the media, and that he brought the charges not because he thought he could easily win the cases but because he was interested in defining “the narrative,” apparently in a way that would be favorable to Trump:

“[D]efense counsel has presumed the Government’s [Durham’s] bad faith and asserts that the Special Counsel’s [Durham’s] Office intentionally sought to politicize this case, inflame media coverage, and taint the jury pool,” Durham wrote last year. “That is simply not true. If third parties or members of the media have overstated, understated, or otherwise misinterpreted facts contained in the Government’s Motion, that does not in any way undermine the valid reasons for the Government’s inclusion of this information.”

When Bill Barr and John Durham took multiple taxpayer-funded luxury trips to Italy to interrogate that country’s government about possible FBI wrongdoing in the Hurricane Crossfire investigation of Trump and Russia, they instead discovered evidence of specific “financial crimes” committed by Trump himself that were so serious they aborted the trip and Barr authorized himself to dig deeper.

The details of those Trump crimes aren’t mentioned in yesterday’s Durham report, and there’s no explanation for their absence. Barr’s “digging” was, perhaps, simply another cover-up like he did with Iran-Contra back in the day.

Apparently Durham’s imagination couldn’t extend to the possibility that Trump has been a Russian asset for at least 30 years and continues to be one to this day. After all, there’s obviously no connection between him and Russia, right?

Thank you for reading The Hartmann Report. This post is public so feel free to share it.

Florida is the state where freedom goes to die.

Since Governor Ron DeSantis was re-elected, he has been using the powers of his office to punish anyone who dares to criticize him. He fired an elected state prosecutor. He has harassed Disney, the state’s largest employer, for daring to oppose his “Don’t Say Gay” law. He has taken over the state’s only progressive college and handed it over to far-right zealots. He has banned the teaching of honest history, most especially Black history. Under his control, the state Department of Education censors textbooks that include facts he doesn’t like. Under his direction, the state board of education is whittling away the tenure and academic freedom of professors. He is replacing competent college presidents of public colleges and universities with his cronies. During the height of the pandemic, he banned any mandates for masks or vaccines. Now he is going after the elected superintendent of Leon County schools.

We have never before seen, at least in our lifetimes, a state attempt to enact fascism, day by day, week by week. I refuse to accept DeSantis’ dictatorial ways as normal. They are not normal. He personally gerrymandered the state, eliminating three of four Black members of Congress. The list of his anti-democratic actions should alarm everyone. He should turn all of us anti-fascist. The “Greatest Generation” fought a world war to defeat fascism. We must not ignore what is happening or normalize it, as the media does when they discuss DeSantis’ presidential aspirations. All I can do is shine a light. It’s up to the voters in Florida and in the GOP primaries to reject this wannabe Mussolini.

Florida officials are threatening to revoke the teaching license of a school superintendent who criticized Gov. Ron DeSantis, accusing the educator of violating several statutes and DeSantis directives and allowing his “personal political views” to guide his leadership.

Such a revocation by the state Department of Education could allow DeSantis to remove Leon County Superintendent Rocky Hanna from his elected office. The Republican governor did that last year to an elected Democratic prosecutor in the Tampa Bay area who disagreed with his positions limiting abortion and medical care for transgender teens and indicated he might not enforce new laws in those areas.

Disney also sued DeSantis this week, saying he targeted its Orlando theme parks for retribution after it criticized the governor’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law that then banned the discussion of sexuality and gender in early grades, but has since been expanded.

Hanna has publicly opposed that law, once defied the governor’s order that barred any mandate that students wear masks during the COVID-19 pandemic, and criticized a DeSantis-backed bill that recently passed that will pay for students to attend private school. The Leon County district, with about 30,000 students, covers Tallahassee, the state capital, and its suburbs.

“It’s a sad day for democracy in Florida, and the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, when a state agency with unlimited power and resources, can target a local elected official in such a biased fashion,” Hanna said in a statement sent to The Associated Press and other media Thursday. A Democrat then running as an independent, Hanna was elected to a second four-year term in 2020 with 60% of the vote. He plans to run for reelection next year and does not need a teacher’s license to hold the job.

“This investigation has nothing to do with these spurious allegations, but rather everything to do with attempting to silence myself and anyone else who speaks up for teachers and our public schools in a way that does not fit the political narrative of those in power,” Hanna said.

He said the investigation was spurred by a single complaint from a leader of the local chapter of Moms for Liberty, a conservative education group, requesting his removal.

President Biden has said he would not compromise on raising the debt ceiling but lately he has sent mixed signals. If the debt ceiling is not raised, the United States would be forced to default on its bonds for the first time in history. Congress raised the debt ceiling three times during Trump’s term in office. Congressional Republicans passed a budget that allows increases for defense and border security but requires steep cuts in everything else. Trump, the titular leader of the Republican Party, said at his New Hampshire town hall, that the U.S. should default on its debt, even though most economists predict that a default would likely precipitate a deep recession, with global consequences. Trump once called himself “the king of debt,” so he has no fear of the consequences, which would hurt Biden in 2024.

Ryan Cooper of The American Prospect explains why the President should not compromise and what those cuts would mean:

For months, President Biden had a consistent line on the debt ceiling: He would accept only a clean increase, without conditions. This was the lesson from the Obama administration, it was thought, learned at great expense when President Obama tried to negotiate with Tea Party Republicans in 2011 to get a grand bargain to cut the deficit. The result was the budget “sequester,” which badly eroded the federal government and elongated the agonizingly slow economic recovery. That’s why Obama stood his ground in 2013, and Republicans—eventually—backed down, getting essentially nothing out of the eventual debt ceiling increase.

But now all that is out the window. With the June 1 X-date approaching, the Washington media clamoring for Biden to cave, and administration officials working themselves into an anxious fit over potential executive actions to nullify the ceiling, it seems President Dark Brandon is returning to be old Conciliatory Joe. The man himself telegraphed this in a speech in New York last week that was designed to hammer Republicans over the debt ceiling, saying “we should be cutting spending and lowering the deficit without a needless crisis, in a responsible way.”

Reuters and Politico report that the White House is preparing to offer concessions in the form of cutting discretionary spending to the level of fiscal year 2022, and then capping the rate of increase at 1 percent per year for an indeterminate period, maybe two years. There would be other parts to the compromise, including rescinding some COVID aid and some bargain on permitting reform, but as far as spending, the discretionary caps would be the major piece.

This is a disastrous move. Politically, it reinforces the precedent that Republicans can extract concessions through legislative terrorism, and by signaling weakness and timidity in the Democratic leadership, it will further enable GOP extremism. If Republicans control either chamber of Congress next time the ceiling is hit—a high likelihood given how bad the Senate map is in 2024—then they’re virtually certain to take the debt ceiling hostage again.

But the practical consequences will also be terrible. We don’t know the details yet, but returning to fiscal year 2022 budget levels would mean an immediate cut of about 13 percent to every government agency and program (thanks to an unusually large spending increase in 2023 to account for economic growth, high inflation, and a few additional programs). If defense and border cops are exempted, then the cut will be perhaps 22 percent.

Read all of our debt ceiling coverage here

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), the ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, solicited estimates from various government departments on what that 22 percent cut would mean. They told her that just for starters, 60,000 people would not be able to attend college; 200,000 children would get kicked off Head Start; 100,000 families would lose child care; and 1.2 million people would be removed from WIC nutrition assistance.

One hundred twenty-five air traffic control towers would be shut down, affecting one-third of airports, and no doubt worsening the chronic snarls in American air travel. Rail safety inspections would be cut back by 11,000 work days, meaning 30,000 miles of track going uninspected. (More dangerous chemical spills, here we come!) Some 640,000 families would lose rental assistance, and 430,000 more would be evicted from Section 8 housing. And even all that isn’t the whole list of carnage.

Now, Republicans have not suggested an across-the-board cut, and it’s certainly possible that some of the above priorities would be spared. But that would only make the cuts to the programs that don’t get such treatment worse, because appropriators would need to hit that overall cap number.

Incidentally, this illustrates well the utter stupidity of Republican budget politics. Instead of drawing up a list of priorities, calculating how to fund them, and then writing a budget plan to fit—they neither know nor care about any of that stuff—they just demand arbitrary and escalating cuts to everything that isn’t the troops or border police, because that’s what right-wing media says is the most conservative thing to do.

Needless to say, there’s no indication of any revenue increases being discussed to offset this pain. Anti-tax Republicans wouldn’t like that, and in this hostage situation, you mustn’t anger the guys (and it’s mostly guys) with the guns.

There may well be macroeconomic effects from this deal as well. These cuts would suck hundreds of billions of dollars out of an economy that is already plainly softening, thanks to high interest rates and instability in the banking system. A ton of austerity might just be the thing that tips America into a recession during an election year, with Biden, a willing negotiator in this process, on the ballot.

Finally, it’s not at all clear that House Republicans will actually accept this partial ransom. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy just barely managed to pass his current debt ceiling hostage note by giving the far right everything it asked for (and then only because two Democrats were absent from the chamber). Sure enough, several members told PoliticoFriday that they want the spending cap to last ten years instead of two, at a minimum. As I was writing this, others also told Politico they want harsh border controls as well.

From their perspective, this makes perfect sense. If Biden is too weak-willed to stare down Republicans like Obama did in 2013, and too chicken to mint the coin or invoke the 14th Amendment, why not demand more concessions while he’s on the ropes? Heck, why not demand the entire ransom, including work requirements for Medicaid and gutting the Inflation Reduction Act?

Two years of capped spending is bad enough. But it might end up being even worse.

The Florida legislature passed a law, which Governor DeSantis signed, exempting records of his travel from the state’s robust public disclosure laws. The law is retroactive so no one can get information about where the governor and other public officials have traveled in the past. The justification is that the governor needs secrecy for security but this does not explain why travels in the past will be hidden from the press and taxpayers.

The Governor’s travels are paid for with taxpayer money, but the taxpayer has no right to know how much was spent and for what purpose.

DeSantis continues to build his authoritarian record, which all can see, unlike his travel record.

In Texas, people with strongly held conservative Christian beliefs wanted to send their dollars to a cellphone service that shared their values. Before long, such a company came into being, and it’s now selling mobile service to customers across the state. The money generated has been used to win control of four school boards.

NBC reported:

DALLAS — A little more than a year after former Trump adviser Steve Bannon declared that conservatives needed to win seats on local school boards to “save the nation,” he used his conspiracy theory-fueled TV program to spotlight Patriot Mobile, a Texas-based cellphone company that had answered his call to action.

“The school boards are the key that picks the lock,” Bannon said during an interview with Patriot Mobile’s president, Glenn Story, from the floor of the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, in Dallas on Aug. 6. “Tell us about what you did.”

Story turned to the camera and said, “We went out and found 11 candidates last cycle and we supported them, and we won every seat. We took over four school boards.”

“Eleven seats on school boards, took over four!” Bannon shouted as a crowd of CPAC attendees erupted in applause.

It was a moment of celebration for an upstart company whose leaders say they are on a mission from God to restore conservative Christian values at all levels of government — especially in public schools. To carry out that calling, the Grapevine-based company this year created a political action committee, Patriot Mobile Action, and gave it more than $600,000 to spend on nonpartisan school board races in the Fort Worth suburbs.

This spring, the PAC blanketed the communities of Southlake, Keller, Grapevine and Mansfield with thousands of political mailers warning that sitting school board members were endangering students with critical race theory and other “woke” ideologies. Patriot Mobile presented its candidates as patriots who would “keep political agendas out of the classroom.”

Their candidates won every race, and nearly four months later, those Patriot Mobile-backed school boards have begun to deliver results.

The Keller Independent School District made national headlines this month after the school board passed a new policy that led the district to abruptly pull more than 40 previously challenged library books off shelves for further review, including a graphic adaptation of Anne Frank’s “The Diary of a Young Girl,” as well as several LGBTQ-themed novels.

In the neighboring city of Southlake, Patriot Mobile donated framed posters that read “In God We Trust” to the Carroll Independent School District during a special presentation before the school board. Under a new Texas law, the district is now required to display the posters prominently in each of its school buildings. Afterward, Patriot Mobile celebrated the donation in a blog post titled “Putting God Back Into Our Schools.”

And this week at a tense, eight-hour school board meeting, the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District’s board of trustees voted 4-3 to implement a far-reaching set of policies that restrict how teachers can discuss race and gender. The new policies also limit the rights of transgender and nonbinary students to use bathrooms and pronouns that correspond with their genders. And the board made it easier for parents to ban library books dealing with sexuality.

To protest the changes, some parents came to the meeting wearing T-shirts with the school district’s name, GCISD, crossed out and replaced with the words “Patriot Mobile Action ISD.”

“They bought four school boards, and now they’re pulling the strings,” said Rachel Wall, the mother of a Grapevine-Colleyville student and vice president of the Texas Bipartisan Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting school board candidates who do not have partisan agendas. “I’m a Christian by faith, but if I wanted my son to be in a religious school, I would pay for him to go to a private school….”

Initially, Patriot Mobile’s founders said their goal was to support groups and politicians who promised to oppose abortion, defend religious freedom, protect gun rights and support the military.

After the 2016 presidential election, the company’s branding shifted further to the right and embraced Trump’s style of politics. One of Patriot Mobile’s most famous advertisements includes the slogan “Making Wireless Great Again,” alongside an image of Trump’s face photoshopped onto a tanned, muscled body holding a machine gun….

Patriot Mobile has also aligned itself in recent years with political and religious leaders who promote a once-fringe strand of Christian theology that experts say has grown more popular on the right in recent years. Dominionism, sometimes referred to as the Seven Mountains Mandate, is the belief that Christians are called on to dominate the seven key “mountains” of American life, including business, media, government and education.

John Fea, a professor of American history at the private, Christian Messiah University in Pennsylvania, has spent years studying Seven Mountains theology. Fea said the idea that Christians are called on to assert biblical values across all aspects of American society has been around for decades on the right, but “largely on the fringe.”

Trump’s election changed that.

“It fits very well with the ‘Make America Great Again’ mantra,” Fea said. “‘Make America Great Again’ to them means, ‘Make America Christian Again,’ restore America to its Christian roots.”

What next? Will every religion set up its own cell service? Why?

The stories about payments and gifts from rightwing billionaire Harlan Crow to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas continue to escalate. The revelations began with ProPublica’s report that Crow had given luxurious vacations to Thomas and his wife. Then ProPublica reported that Crow bought the house where Justice Thomas’ elderly mother lives, rent free. Crow paid the private school tuition of Thomas’s grandnephew. The stories of the billionaires’ beneficence to this one Justice continue to roll out. Justice Thomas’ wife, a rightwing political activist, also received large fees from other sources who have cases before the Court.

What have we learned? The Supreme Court is not subject to any explicit code of ethics. Chief Justice John Roberts (whose wife has been paid millions as a headhunter for law firms that appear before the High Court) has refused to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Boston Globe noted that the Clarence Thomas affair is unprecedented in its scope, so much so that it has had a profound effect on public respect for the Court.

As Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas faces a growing number of revelations that have raised intense scrutiny over his ethical practices, legal experts say the high court has found itself in unprecedented territory, its credibility in the eyes of the public rapidly eroding.

The slew of disclosures about Thomas, the most recent of which came Thursday, demonstrate a need for institutional reform and the revision of ethics rules, experts said.

“The revelations showcase how both wealthy and narrow interests cultivate their own relationships with justices with life tenure with the capacity to entrench or undermine policies for generations,” Robert Tsai, a professor at Boston University School of Law, said in an e-mail….

As Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas faces a growing number of revelations that have raised intense scrutiny over his ethical practices, legal experts say the high court has found itself in unprecedented territory, its credibility in the eyes of the public rapidly eroding.

The slew of disclosures about Thomas, the most recent of which came Thursday, demonstrate a need for institutional reform and the revision of ethics rules, experts said.

“The revelations showcase how both wealthy and narrow interests cultivate their own relationships with justices with life tenure with the capacity to entrench or undermine policies for generations,” Robert Tsai, a professor at Boston University School of Law, said in an e-mail.

Democrats are outraged and want accountability and reform. Republican sensors have closed ranks and insist that it’s up to the Court to reform itself. Fat chance.

Mark Paoletta defended Thomas, a friend of his, in a statement Thursday, arguing that, while Thomas was helping a “child in need,” Thomas was not required to report the tuition because his grandnephew was not technically his “dependent.”

But Stephen Gillers, a legal ethics professor at New York University School of Law, said that defense was invalid and that the payments “certainly had to be recorded on his disclosure statements.”

“The gift was to Thomas himself because Thomas had legal responsibility for his nephew’s education,” Gillers said. “He didn’t adopt the great-nephew, but he did become a legal guardian of the nephew and took on the responsibility to support the nephew, including education. The money relieves Thomas of having to pay.”

The report about Leo also poses “serious concern,” Gillers said. “The idea that a person can turn on the spigot, generate substantial income to the spouse of a justice, should be troublesome to the court and to the country.”

As outrageous as the Thomas revelations are, there is no chance that the Supreme Court will reform itself—or that a closely divided Congress will act. That is, unless Chief Justice John Roberts decides that he doesn’t want “the Roberts Court” to go down in history as the Court without ethical standards, unwilling to reform itself, indifferent to the collapse of public respect for the Court. If he has any sense of honor or shame, he might act.

Even if the Justices agree to stop taking gifts and money from interested parties, the Court still has the problem that it can’t solve: it is packed with five rightwing ideologues, three chosen by the Federalist Society, who used Trump as their willing dummy. Their decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, after swearing under oath that they would not, will be a permanent scar on the Suprene Court.

Charlie Sykes is a lead writer for the Never Trumper website “The Bulwark.” He watched CNN’s “town hall” with Donald Trump and shared his reactions. He was disgusted. I did not watch. I gather he called E. Jean Carroll, the woman who won a civil case against Trump the day before the New Hampshire town hall, a “wack job.” I wonder if she will sue him again.

Sykes wrote:

Critics had worried that giving the indicted, twice-impeached, coup-plotting, chronically lying sexual predator an unedited, live television forum might turn out badly.

The reality, however, was far ghastlier: a sh*tshow for the ages, and a moment that captured the thorough degradation of both our politics and the media. “It was a f**king nightmare,” remarked one savvy observer, “and it was programmed to BE a f**king nightmare.” 

Trump was, of course, thrilled. 

For her part, Kaitlan Collins was poised, prepared, and determined, but she never stood a chance. She raised all of the key questions and tried (not always successfully) to ask followups. 

But Trump just rolled over her with a torrent of invective, jibes, and bullsh*t. The fact-checkers were reduced to asterisks. “He declared war on the truth,” CNN anchor Jake Tapper said afterward. “And I’m not sure that he didn’t win.”

Where to start?

  • Trump called a black law enforcement officer a “thug.”
  • He repeated baseless conspiracy theories about 2020.
  • He lied about losing the 2020 election. (CNN’s Oliver Darcy tweeted: “I’ve lost count of how many times Trump has lied about the election. Collins keeps fact-checking him, but he keeps lying.”)
  • He lied about calling for “terminating” the Constitution so he could be returned to power.
  • He lied about his role on January 6th.
  • He suggested that he would pardon many of the January 6th insurrectionists.
  • He insisted again that Mike Pence should have overturned the election.
  • He endorsed letting the country default on its debt, even if it would bring on an economic cataclysm.
  • He claimed that residents of the Chinatown neighborhood in Washington, D.C., “did not speak English as part of an allegation that Biden stored boxes there after his vice presidency because he had nefarious ties to Beijing.”
  • He refused to back Ukraine against Russia.
  • He lashed out at Collins as “nasty woman” — and the audience CHEERED.

But this was hardly the worst of it. Actually, not even close.

The day after a federal jury found that the ex-president had sexually abused and defamed E. Jean Carroll, Trump turned the episode into a joke, mocking and insulting his victim.

And the crowd laughed.

The former president then turned Collins’ other questions about Carroll into his version of a comedy routine, cracking up the audience CNN assembled of New Hampshire Republicans and effectively independent voters. At many points, Trump appeared to repeat the same rhetoric that led to Carroll’s suit in the first place…

Trump went on to suggest that Carroll, who vividly recounted her allegation on the witness stand, was overly promiscuous.

The CNN audience loved it. 

“What kind of a woman meets somebody and brings them up and within minutes you’re playing hanky panky in a dressing room? I don’t know if she was married then or not. I feel sorry for you John Johnson,” Trump said to a chorus of laughter.

It was a shocking moment, even for veterans of Trump-era politics.

But that was the moment we knew.


Even the folks at CNN seemed to recognize how bad it was. “It’s hard to see how America was served by the spectacle of lies that aired on CNN Wednesday evening,” Oliver Darcy, the network’s senior media reporter wrote in CNN’s Reliable Sources newsletter. “It felt like 2016 all over again. It was Trump’s unhinged social media feed brought to life on stage.”

But let’s be clear about this: last night was not Kaitlan Collins’s fault. The decision to amplify Trump’s firehose of disinformation on live television doomed the whole thing from start. As Mehdi Hasan writes today, the “ridiculous town hall format and an audience seemingly recruited ‘from the Mar-a-Lago parking lot’, put its own anchor in a position to fail.”

Her bosses at CNN should have known that, but they made it clear last night that they had learned nothing. Or simply didn’t care.

Increasingly, Chris Licht is to CNN what Elon Musk is to Twitter.

The network’s defenses for all of this are bullsh*t on the surface. Of course, CNN needs to “cover” and report on the frontrunning GOP candidate. He’s news. 

But this was not journalism we saw on CNN last night: this was entertainment programming, the kind of reality television show that did so much to foist Trump onto the body politic. He owned last night’s format.

In a different format, Collins could have performed a flagrant act of journalism. She could have done an in-depth taped interview with the former president, the sort that Jonathan Swan has done. She could have been given the chance to ask detailed follow-up questions, like Mehdi Hasan might do. CNN could have edited the responses, rather than simply air one lie after another. 

Instead, well, you saw it… (via Rex Hupke):

Sexual abuse, like the kind a jury just found Trump liable of? That’s a laugh line for these folks. Literally. They laughed during CNN’s town hall as Trump continued to likely defame E. Jean Carroll, the woman he was just found liable of defaming. 

The Jan. 6 domestic terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol? Trump said he’ll swiftly pardon most of the now-imprisoned attackers, possibly even some of the Proud Boys who were convicted of seditious conspiracy, because they’re “great people.” And that brought applause from the crowd.

A rat-a-tat-tat string of lies about the “rigged election”? The crowd chuckled.

A lie about “finishing” the border wall he barely started? You know, the one Mexico didn’t pay for. The crowd applauded.

Lie, lie, lie, lie, lie. Laugh, applaud, chuckle, clap, cheer.

This was the moment we knew. 

We knew who Trump was of course. But last night showed us who we are and what’s about to happen. This is the GOP frontrunner. 

He is still the star who can do anything. And it will get worse.

“Listen,” wrote author Jared Yates Sexton, “if this town hall is any indication, and I think it is, the Trump Campaign of 2024 is going to be infinitely more disturbing and upsetting. I’ve spent a lot of time studying this man and his movement. I’m stunned by the depths here. This is . . . awful.”


More key reads:

Officer Michael Fanone:

Putting him onstage, having him answer questions like a normal candidate who didn’t get people killed in the process of trying to end the democracy he’s attempting to once again run, normalizes what Trump did. It sends a message that attempting a coup is just part of the process; that accepting election results is a choice; and that there are no consequences, in the media or in politics or anywhere else, for rejecting them.  

Tom Nichols in the Atlantic:

One might hope that Trump’s loss in New York would lead him to slink away in shame, but we now live in post-shame America. Instead, Trump will sit for a town hall on CNN tonight, where he will field questions as if he is a normal person running for office instead of a sexual abuser who incited sedition and violence against the government he is once again seeking to control.

Trump, of course, has the self-awareness of a traffic cone, and he is seemingly incapable of remorse. But CNN’s decision to move ahead with the event, as if nothing has happened, is disappointing. A more defensible position would have been to scrap the town-hall format and tell Trump that he is still invited to sit, one-on-one, with a CNN reporter. To present him to voters as just another candidate, however, is the very definition of normalizing his behavior.

Kara Swisher on Twitter:

A thread: As I said before, this was an impossible stage. But there were a few key moments where CNN could have taken back the con from Trump, even tho his cavalcade of lies made it very difficult and the audience was gamed in his favor. Here’s my quick thoughts as an interviewer.

In no particular order, you need to top Trump early and often, despite accusations of being unfair. For example, the obvious Nasty Woman retort would have been: “And a jury just yesterday unanimously called you a sexual predator. So here we are. Do you want to keep going here, because to quote Captain America, ‘I can do this all day.’” Make sure you can do it all day. (I can.)…

The Trump loving audience would jar anyone and it is easy to let it get to you. But it is also an opportunity to win some over, which is especially powerful if you are in someone’s home base. You only need one. 

So, when the crowd started snickering about E. Jean Carroll, for example, I would have stopped the interview cold, told Trump politely to sit still for a second, walked over to a man and a woman in the crowd who laughed and said: “Do you have a daughter? I do. She’s just three.”

Then, in the kindest tone possible, ask them if they said they did have a daughter or sister or wife, if they thought a man forcibly touching a woman’s genitals was actually funny, because I could not imagine they would since they did not look cruel. In any case, I would have interacted with the crowd a lot more, as most tend to fold when you pull individuals away from the mob. People don’t like to be found when they are acting badly and are usually embarrassed….

Amanda Carpenter in the Bulwark:

At times, it seemed like just another Trump rally. Even down to the moment where Trump turns the crowd against the press, as he did when he called Collins a “nasty person” to her face. (To her credit, she didn’t flinch.)

The event was a disaster for the reason that all of Trump’s live events are problematic: It’s much easier to spew lies on live television than it is for anyone to push back against them. Live coverage privileges the liar, no matter how nimble the interviewer.

But it all happened because CNN wanted a show. And they sure got one. No one should pretend it was some kind of public service.

The Daily Beast:

Throughout the 70-minute town hall, Trump refused to accept reality. When Collins tried to fact-check him, Trump just spoke over her and repeated his falsehoods. When she tried to correct Trump about his election lies, noting that Trump and his supporters lost more than 60 court cases, Trump simply kept lying.

“They found millions of votes on camera, on government cameras, where they were stuffing ballot boxes,” Trump falsely claimed.

Collins repeatedly tried to rectify the record, but Trump just kept forging ahead. When he said the “government cameras” showed “people going to 28 different voting booths”—something that never happened—Collins tried to correct him to no avail.

Halfway through the town hall, CNN staffers were acknowledging the event was a disaster for the truth.

“This is so bad,” one of CNN’s on-air personalities told The Daily Beast before the first commercial break. “I was cautiously optimistic despite the criticism… it is awful. It’s a Trump infomercial. We’re going to get crushed.”

“One of the worst hours I’ve ever seen on our air,” another CNN staffer told The Daily Beast.

Politico’s Playbook:

By the end of the night, the reviews were abysmal. The words “disaster” and “disgrace” were plastered all over Twitter….

Even network talent and talking heads participating on CNN panels following the event seemed shell-shocked. And sources inside the network confided their deep regrets.

“It was a complete disaster,” one CNN employee told Playbook, arguing that the format — specifically, stacking the audience with Trump supporters who cheered his lies — was a “strategic error.”

“It made it seem like CNN was endorsing that behavior,” the employee said. “Incredibly disappointing.”