October 19, 2018 USA Today Candace Owens’ rapid rise defending two of America’s most complicated men: Trump and Kanye
It’s a Wednesday morning at Liberty University and the basketball arena is packed with nearly 10,000 people. Students reach their arms skyward, eyes closed, entranced in deafening Christian rock music.
Backstage, administrators and students dote on Candace Owens, that day’s convocation speaker, who has quickly built a career trashing liberal politics with a millennial fierceness. She hasn’t rehearsed. It protects her authenticity. But she knows her beats.
Onstage, she speaks for about 24 minutes, calmly gliding back and forth across the stage in heels, attacking some of her usual targets: Planned Parenthood, feminism, the welfare system.
She builds to the moment. Then, she goes for it.
“Kanye West. Man, he’s a wonderful man,” she says to applause and cheering — breaking the quiet of what had become a calm, attentive audience.
“What is it that President Donald Trump, Kanye West and Candace Owens have in common?” she asks rhetorically. “Kanye West describes it as ‘dragon energy’ and to me I think it’s individualism. It’s believing in yourself. It’s standing up in the face of everybody telling you you can’t.”
Owens embraces her role as the young black woman defending conservatism, attacking liberals and praising two of America’s more complicated men.
Owens, 29, regularly appears on Fox News and travels six days a week to speak at college campuses. It’s made her friendly with Trump and the first family, some of whom she’s met for dinner.
But barely more than a year ago she was an unknown YouTuber.
What changed her life was a video about the Charlottesville rally, wherein she blames the media for creating racial hysteria. That video prompted Fox News host Jesse Watters to invite her on the network for the first time late last year.
Fox News amplified Owens, who was then hired by Turning Point USA, an organization aimed at bringing conservative ideas to college campuses. Her Twitter following quickly grew to 108,000. West’s tweet brought hundreds of thousands more, ballooning her audience to 850,000 today.
The president also took notice. Trump said Owens “represents an ever expanding group of very smart ‘thinkers.'”
Donald J. Trump
Candace Owens of Turning Point USA is having a big impact on politics in our Country. She represents an ever expanding group of very smart “thinkers,” and it is wonderful to watch and hear the dialogue going on…so good for our Country!
Her rapid rise gives her a massive political voice for someone with such a brief career – or even interest – in politics. Owens says she has never voted. Not for Trump, or any other candidate, and only recently registered as a Republican, but previously identified as liberal.
“I had no interest in politics whatsoever prior to 2015,” she said.
Owens illustrates a political fact stamped and sealed by Trump: that strong voices can break through regardless of prior experience.
Owens defends Trump’s comments after Charlottesville: “I still agree with him. There are morons on both sides.” She doesn’t believe in white privilege and often criticizes Black Lives Matter. Feminism, she claims, has become radicalized. Planned Parenthood is “murdering” people using abortion, which has slowed black population growth. The media causes dissent. And lately, amid Kavanaugh’s ascension to the Supreme Court: “I’m really passionate about defending men.”
She’s now preached politics to hundreds of thousands of students, said Turning Point founder Charlie Kirk. Her reach isn’t contained to conservative havens like Liberty, where its president Jerry Falwell Jr. is an outspoken Trump supporter. Most recently Owens and Kirk spoke at the University of Colorado-Boulder, the University of Washington and the University of Georgia.
After the speech at Liberty, Owens jumped off stage and was hounded by a group of students, black and white, seeking selfies. Security had to step in to control the crowd. On Twitter, the speech was mostly praised.
Hey @RealCandaceO I watched you Speaking at Liberty University Convocation, girl you killed it, I’m so glad we have you for our Voice, you speak with so much Common Sense, and I agree with you 100% #KeepItUp MAGA #BlessYou
But outside the arena at a small protest, Liberty senior Abigail Ferris held up a pro-#MeToo sign. It’s the day before Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, testified before a Senate committee. Owens often dismisses the #MeToo movement as a Democratic political ploy and called Ford a liar who should serve time in prison.
“We’re not directly protesting her,” Ferris said. “But we are showing while she has made some disparaging remarks to the movement, that there are students on campus who respectfully disagree with her.”
More than anything, Owens preaches against victimhood, particularly among African Americans, a pull-yourself-up-by-your bootstraps mindset.
“I consider myself insanely privileged to be in this country,” she said. “I try to tell people how much value there is in seeing yourself as privileged … because if you see yourself as a victim, you’ll have that shade over your eyes in life and you’re not going to accomplish much.”
She bolsters her message with an intriguing personal story, one that starts in poverty, involves a traumatic episode of racism and an I’ve-seen-the-dark-side political awakening. She sees it as the perfect antidote to liberal attacks on Republicans over race.
A ‘victim’ who hates the word
Owens grew up in Stamford, Connecticut, the middle child of three girls. Her father was a property manager and her mother an executive assistant. Even as a toddler, Owens didn’t back down in a debate, her dad Robert Owens Jr., said.
The family grew up in poverty, she claims, living in a small apartment before moving into the home of her grandfather, who laid tobacco out to dry on a sharecropping farm at age 5 and faced the Ku Klux Klan.
Happy birthday to the greatest man alive! I owe my spirit, my work ethic, and my “Owens temper” to you, granddaddy.
“the KKK used to come and shoot bullets at our house— and my daddy used to grab the rifle and shoot back at them boys!”
“He is a man’s man,” Owens said. “That masculinity is now being taught as toxic, when in reality it’s the one thing that grounded me as a child.”
In 2007, Owens’ senior year at Stamford High School, came an experience that shaped her personally – and eventually politically.
Four boys called her from a blocked number and left voicemails with racial epithets and threats of violence.
“They were calling me the N-word, they were saying they were going to put a bullet into the back of my head as they had done to Martin Luther King. They were calling me Rosa Parks. They were telling me that they were going to tar and feather my family,” she told the Liberty crowd.
The episode became enflamed because one of the boys was the son of then-Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy, the current Democratic governor of Connecticut. Owens, then 17, faced threats and harassment in school for weeks afterward, according to a lawsuit her father filed against the Stamford Board of Education. Robert Owens, in his filing, said the school district failed to protect his daughter from the harassment. The school board later settled with the family for $37,500, according to a settlement agreement provided by the board.
The Stamford Police Department said documents related to the case were sealed because those involved were minors and a spokesman would not confirm the outcome. But the Danbury News Times reported police arrested at least one student.
Owens was out of school for weeks because of the incident, which drew the attention of the NAACP, which defended her in the media. But Owens felt like a public relations pawn.
“I would come out of school and they would be outside with cameras and speaking, and I would stand there,” she said. “It was really awful because then it sort of gave people that fire of like, ‘she’s doing this for attention.'”
The incident, Owens said, set in motion years of anorexia, which lasted through college and into her working years.
“It was really just a manifestation of trying to control something in your life,” she said.
Today, she complains about the media framing her as the victim.
“What it taught me was how little value there was in victimhood,” she said. “Now, according to the left, that should have been the best moment of my life.”
“I’ll be the first to say I am sorry,” she wrote, “To all of them, having to endure that experience; a group of children dissected and labeled.”
Years later, Owens chalks up the voicemails to poor decision-making, not racism.
“They were labeled these racists, and I never felt that they were racists,” she said. “I felt that they were people who did something that was really stupid.”
She said some of the boys have since thanked her.
“People should be allowed to evolve,” she said.
Doxxing and media distrust
After high school, Owens enrolled at the University of Rhode Island to study journalism, but dropped out in 2010 because she said her loan was declined. She then moved to New York City, and found steady work at a private equity firm, where she worked for four and a half years, starting off as an assistant and working her way up to the vice president of administration.
In 2014, she started the website Degree 180, a now-defunct lifestyle blog.
“I wanted to find my voice,” she said.
The website sometimes touched on politics – one contributor wrote the idea of a Trump presidency “makes my skin crawl.” But Owens, listed as the founder and CEO, wrote mostly about relationships and sometimes sex. She did say in October 2015 that she welcomed the end of the Republican tea party movement and their “crazy antics.”
In April 2016 Owens started fundraising for another venture, an anti-cyberbullying website named Social Autopsy – the rapid downfall of which would embolden her political views and distrust of the media.
When Social Autopsy launched a $75,000 Kickstarter campaign, it drew criticism in blogs and a lengthy piece in New York Magazine. Kickstarter suspended the project after two days, arguing the “project’s plan to ‘dox’ people were in violation of our rules.”
Social Autopsy’s coverage in the media made Owens a conservative overnight, she told Dave Rubin on his YouTube show “The Rubin Report” last year. To USA TODAY, she describes her political switch as the result of a perfect storm driven by an intense distaste for the media and Trump’s rise.
“There’s this guy who I used to watch on reality TV who’s running for president of the United States and he says they’re fake news,” she said. “It was happening to me at the same time.”
The incident drew her to conservative outlets she’d formerly cast off as fringe, like Breitbart.com.
She also started exploring the writings of black conservatives, such as Thomas Sowell, a senior fellow at Stanford University’sHoover Institution. Like Owens, Sowell has alleged liberal attempts to stifle free speech on college campuses. He slammed the “liberal media” in a column for the conservative National Review in late 2016 regarding Trump’s picks for top White House positions.
“They would be worried about anyone who has not been brainwashed in the political correctness that reigns among the intelligentsia,” he wrote.
“I said, ‘How can I bring that message that they’re saying so brilliantly to a wider audience?” she said. “‘Oh, I’m like a millennial. I can do a YouTube channel. I’m hilarious.'”
YouTube to Fox to Kanye
Owens began making a series of YouTube videos in July 2017. Her first post features her “coming out” as a conservative to her parents, who are aghast at the news. All characters are played by Owens. In her most watched video, with 1.6 million views, she mocks a list of demands Black Lives Matter made of white people.
The videos kickstarted a new career as a conservative commentator, earning her airtime on Fox and, eventually, West’s attention. When he tweeted about her in April, she reacted like a fan, not the collaborator she is now.
“Please take a meeting with me,” she tweeted to West just minutes later. “I tell every single person that everything that I have been inspired to do, was written in your music.”
But former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, another black Republican, defended him.
“People ought to be able to express their views,” she said. “Not all of us have to think politically the same way. I’ve said to people sometimes, ‘You know, I’ve been black all my life. You don’t have to tell me how to be black.’”
Not long after TMZ, Owens visited Trump at the White House.
Owens doesn’t think she’s treated differently in conservative media because of her race, but does suggest there is a “sense of relief” with her in the fold.
“I think there’s a draw. I think there’s a validation,” Owens said. “Imagine being a Republican and for years and years you try to say something and you get called a racist.”
But Tasha Philpot, a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin, said Owens and West draw more attention because they’re unique.
“They’re novel and so they can get media attention and coverage in ways that black Democrats can’t,” Philpot said. “The idea that there is this special person, this aberration, exception to the rule, does certainly get you a platform that you wouldn’t have otherwise.”
An exception because Trump’s approval rating among African Americans lags at 10 percent, according to a most-recent Gallup poll. Just 8 percent of African Americans voted for Trump in 2016, which is slightly higher than Republican presidential contenders John McCain and Mitt Romney when they took on former President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012; but slightly lower than former Republican President George W. Bush’s outcomes with African Americans in 2000 and 2004, according to Cornell University’s Roper Center for Public Opinion Research.
“There’s nothing particularly appealing, especially in this highly racialized political environment that would draw blacks over to the Republican Party,” Philpot said.
Owens has her share of black critics. Black Lives Matter protesters have heckled her speeches. The news website The Root, which focuses on African American issues, often takes aim at her.
“Either they are delusional or they earned their Ph.D.s from the history, sociology and political science departments at the University of the Sunken Place,” wrote Michael Harriot in The Root, referring to Owens and West while referencing the hypnotic abyss from the film “Get Out.”
It’s the comments from other African Americans that bother her father, Robert Owens.
“What really makes me upset are the comments she gets from her own race,” said Owens, a registered Independent who did not vote for Trump or Hillary Clinton in 2016.
“We as African Americans need to stop believing that we can only vote Democrat,” said Owens, whose daughter predicted a black exodus from the Democratic party on Fox News. “We need to stop using slurs against those that choose to vote Republican because, in my opinion, there are good people on both sides.”
Philpot says black Republicans are different from black conservatives. Many African Americans identify as conservatives, which she ties to the importance of religion in black community. But, she says, not all of those black conservatives vote Republican.
“Usually (black Republicans) tend to have lower levels of group consciousness,” Philpot said. “They define their conservatism not just in terms of being anti-government or reduced social spending but also in terms of blacks not relying on the government to get ahead.”
Owens insists she’s not trying to convince people to become Republicans, but rather show them not to “blindly” trust in the media. She also comes out swinging against white progressives.
“Black people have become for white liberals like the puppy that they rescued from the pound,” she said. “White people that want to scream so much on behalf of black people that you can’t even hear what black people have to say. If a black conservative says, ‘No, thank you,’ they lose their minds because they’ve built their sense of worth on being the righteous white person.”
Owens’ abrupt shift from liberal to conservative confounds some. Her critics often point to some anti-Trump posts on Degree180 to counter what she says on television.
“You wonder why did she flip her perspective,” said Nikki Usher, a professor of media at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne. “Is it because she is somebody who genuinely has re-thought her ideological commitments or is this like a really good way to feed your ego and put yourself out there and establish a career?”
Usher suggests that a number of conservative pundits — Diamond and Silk, the black conservative duo popular on Facebook, as well as InfoWars’ Alex Jones and the website’s editor Paul Joseph Watson, whom Owens calls an “amazing friend and a true supporter” of hers — have found their way into the mainstream in a way “that didn’t really exist before the internet.”
Now people pay attention when someone is “taking very alternative positions that then gain attraction in the digital space and then cannot be ignored by sort of the more mainstream right-leaning sites,” Usher said.
Owens bats down suggestions she has ulterior motives.
“It’s just something that I believe in, and I love what I do,” she said.
Owens’ story of political conversion is part of her pitch. Such stories have appealed to people for generations and been used by famous leaders like Ronald Reagan, Hillary Clinton and Malcolm X, said Don Waisanen an associate professor of communication at Baruch College-CUNY who wrote a book about political conversions.
“This is one of the most convincing arguments you can make in politics,” he said.
Waisanen said most conversions go from liberal to conservative. He argues it resonates better with a crowd accustomed to religious redemption narratives.
“It’s a way of kind of arguing in a religious way without the overt religious overtones that you are going from one paradigm to the other,” he said. “That form of ‘I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see,’ it’s still maintained in these narratives.”
Whatever the draw, Owens now boasts a bigger profile than her boss.
“No one in the modern era of American politics has accomplished such a meteoric rise in the cultural and political world,” said Kirk, the Turning Point founder. “Commentating on the news and doing punditry is a very small piece of Candace Owens. She is a movement leader.”
For now, Owens won’t pinpoint a future. She’s planning to launch a podcast that touches on culture and politics, but says “there’s no destiny.”
“If I wanted to be the president, I would win,” she said “I hope we don’t need Candace for president. I hope it just is that America keeps on this trajectory and just that these social battles can die down. They’re a little insane.” Source
Oct 23, 2018 CNN Trump’s midterm campaign of fear
Donald Trump is waging one of the most inflammatory closing arguments of any modern campaign, lacing his midterm rhetoric with easily disprovable claims that are building on the fact-challenged foundation of his presidency.
With just two weeks to go before the midterm election, the President is doing what he does best, seizing national attention with a flood of outrageous and improbable lies that drown out rivals, leverage his brawling personality and rip at fault lines of race, identity and patriotism.
Above all, Trump is hardening his line on immigration, the explosive issue that is usually a winner for him, in a strategy designed to drive his loyalists to the polls to defy ominous midterm omens that haunt every first-term president.
There are signs the scorched-earth blitz is working as Trump’s approval rating ticks up, offering Republicans the possibility of increasing their Senate majority and longer-shot hopes of clinging to their control of the House.
But Trump’s gamble may not be universally successful. His clamorous approach could backfire in the more moderate suburban districts where the battle for the House will be decided and he ran behind Hillary Clinton in 2016.
And his strategy — which is essentially a case of a President grabbing some of the most emotive, divisive political issues and demagoguing them in a fear-based campaign for his own benefit — is likely to leave the nation more polarized and unable to reach solutions to its most pressing problems.
The President’s midterm onslaught is playing out in rallies across the nation that mostly target conservative regions where he is most popular.
His latest stop was Texas, where he appeared alongside former GOP presidential primary rival Sen. Ted Cruz on Monday night.
“The Democrats have launched an assault on the sovereignty of our country, the security of our nation and the safety of every American,” Trump said, blaming Democrats for “the crisis on our border.”
His hardcore approach sometimes overshadows the story of success that the President has to tell and would be the top talking point for most presidents, including the lowest jobless rate in half a century, an economy that has thrived since he has been in office and the two conservative Supreme Court justices he has installed.
But the volume and vehemence of Trump’s rhetoric, and his willingness to fling explosive claims even though they are demonstrably untrue is unlike any campaign in decades.
In Arizona, over the weekend for instance, a huge chunk of his speech was on immigration. Trump voters, many of whom believe politicians failed to do anything about what they see as undocumented migrants undercutting their wages and taking their jobs, see the President’s rhetoric as legitimate. And they reject media critiques that the President lies and many see his unchained rhetoric as exactly the kind of anti-establishment behavior that made him an attractive candidate in the first place.
The television footage of people marching across Mexico plays directly into Trump’s rhetorical law-and-order construct of a nation under siege from outside criminal elements — no matter what the reality on the ground may be. Trump’s claims are also relayed by conservative media.
“A Democratic victory in November would be a bright flashing invitation to every trafficker, smuggler, drug dealer and illegal alien on the planet. Come on in, folks,” Trump said in Arizona.
“A Republican victory would send the message that America will enforce our borders and defend our citizens. It’s important.”
Trump’s tough approach has highlighted one of his most useful political assets that also makes him the most dangerous threat to the conventions of the political system in decades — his lack of shame and willingness to make brazen arguments based on lies, which most presidents would avoid.
His energy and willingness to campaign like he is on the ballot may also be a factor.
“We’ve added a lot of spice to it, when I say we, maybe it’s I, and others perhaps. They see that I am coming here,” Trump said, in an interview with ABC 13 News in Houston.
How do Democrats respond?
Trump’s spiced up rhetoric has left Democrats facing questions about how to respond since they have no one on the national political stage with the star power of the President. Former Vice President Joe Biden on Monday accused Trump of scaremongering over the border and a caravan that is still 1,000 miles away.
“He’s making it sound like they’re breaking through the border. This is hysteria on his part,” Biden, a potential 2020 Democratic candidate, told CNN while campaigning in Florida.
On Saturday, the top two Democrats in Congress, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, argued that Trump’s harsh turn was a sign of weakness rather than strength.
“The president is desperate to change the subject from health care to immigration because he knows that health care is the number one issue Americans care about,” they said in a joint statement.
In some ways, Trump does not have many options but to go on such a rampage. He’s built his presidency on keeping his base angry — and in the process has alienated many more moderate voters. So only a presidential-election-level turnout from his base in a midterm election is likely to stave off big Democratic gains at a time when the opposition party is also enthusiastic.
And he knows that immigration — from the moment he stepped on the escalator in Trump Tower in 2015 to be a candidate — is the issue that has helped him at the ballot box more than any other, despite political missteps like the separation of undocumented immigrant families and their children earlier this year.
“I think Donald Trump is President because of the immigration issue,” Scott Jennings, a former campaign aide to Bush, told CNN on Monday.
“He wants to paint a line between a party that wants border security and a party that doesn’t.”
But former Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook argued that the fragmented nature of the Senate and House races meant that Trump’s immigration rhetoric represented a high-risk strategy.
“I don’t think it is going to save them in these suburban areas that are so important for the House map or the gubernatorial map,” Mook told CNN’s Erica Hill. Source
CNN’s Arlette Saenz and Jeremy Diamond contributed to this story
October 18, 2018 The New Yorker Jamal Khashoggi’s Final Words—for Other Journalists Like Him
On October 3rd, the day after Jamal Khashoggi disappeared, the Washington Post received a final column left behind with his assistant when he went off to Turkey to get married. It was, in seven hundred words, poignant and personal and epically appropriate, considering his fate. “The Arab world was ripe with hope during the spring of 2011. Journalists, academics and the general population were brimming with expectations of a bright and free Arab society within their respective countries,” he opined. “They expected to be emancipated from the hegemony of their governments and the consistent interventions and censorship of information.” Instead, rulers grew ever more repressive after the short-lived Arab Spring.
Today, hundreds of millions of people across the Middle East “are unable to adequately address, much less publicly discuss, matters that affect the region and their day-to-day lives,” Khashoggi wrote. They are either “uninformed or misinformed” by draconian censorship and fake state narratives. As the headline of his last published words asserted, “What the Arab world needs most is free expression.”
In his death, Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and former government supporter who became a vocal and fearless critic of the current Saudi crown prince, has galvanized global attention far more than he was able to do during his life. The horrific details of his murder and dismemberment have had an effect he would never have imagined—putting into serious question the fate of a Saudi leader, the state of U.S.-Saudi relations, American foreign-policy goals in the world’s most volatile region, and even policies that have kept dictators in power. The repercussions are only beginning.
But Khashoggi was hardly a lone voice decrying political repression in the Middle East, as he acknowledged in his final Post column. Saudi Arabia may be the most cruel and ruthless government in the region, but it uses tactics embraced by dictators, sheikhs, and Presidents across twenty-two countries.
In 2014, Egypt’s military-dominated government seized all print copies of the newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm, whose name means “The Egyptian Today.” Al-Masry Al-Youm is that rare private newspaper in the Arab world where young reporters once dared to question government policies in hard-hitting editorials and groundbreaking journalism. “The Egyptian government’s seizure of the entire print run of a newspaper, al-Masry al Youm, did not enrage or provoke a reaction from colleagues. These actions no longer carry the consequence of a backlash from the international community,” Khashoggi wrote. “Instead, these actions may trigger condemnation quickly followed by silence.”
The world, particularly the West, is partly culpable for looking the other way, he wrote. It is a tragic irony that the world is paying attention to Khashoggi’s death, yet still not making an issue of a sweeping problem that could determine the future of a region of twenty-two countries and four hundred million people. On Thursday, the U.S. Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, announced that he would not attend the Saudi investment conference known as “Davos in the Desert,” which is pivotal to the crown prince’s plans to modernize the kingdom’s oil-reliant economy. The British trade minister, the French and Dutch finance ministers, and the president of the International Monetary Fund also backed out after Khashoggi’s disappearance. But no foreign government is addressing the broader political practices in any other country, or any other case, in the region.
In his column, Khashoggi drew attention to imprisoned colleagues who receive no coverage. “My dear friend, the prominent Saudi writer Saleh al-Shehi, wrote one of the most famous columns ever published in the Saudi press,” Khashoggi noted. “He unfortunately is now serving an unwarranted five-year prison sentence for supposed comments contrary to the Saudi establishment.” Shehi, who had more than a million followers on Twitter, was charged with “insulting the royal court” for his statements about widespread government corruption in his columns for the newspaper Al Watan and on a local television program.
Michael Abramowitz, the president of Freedom House and a former national editor at the Washington Post, told me that Khashoggi rightly identified the broader stakes. “Khashoggi’s final column accurately pinpointed the appalling lack of political rights and civil liberties in much of the Arab world, especially the right to freely express oneself,” he said. Khashoggi began his last piece by citing Freedom House’s 2018 report—and the fact that only one Arab country, Tunisia, is ranked as “free.” Abramowitz told me, “What is especially sad is that, while we are properly focussed on the outrageous actions by the Saudi government to silence one critic, we must also remember that countless other bloggers, journalists, and writers have been jailed, censored, physically threatened, and even murdered—with little notice from the rest of the world. And, in some cases, notably Egypt, conditions have deteriorated.”
In the Gulf states, Human Rights Watch chronicled a hundred and forty cases—a number chosen based on the original character limit on Twitter, though there are actually many, many more—where governments have silenced peaceful critics simply for their online activism. Among the most famous is Raif Badawi, a young Saudi blogger who ran a Web site called the Saudi Liberal Network that dared to discuss the country’s rigid Islamic restrictions on culture. One post mocked the prohibition against observing Valentine’s Day, which, like all non-Muslim holidays, is banned in Saudi Arabia. In 2014, he was sentenced to ten years in prison, a thousand lashes, and a fine that exceeded a quarter million dollars. (I wrote about his case in 2015.)
Badawi’s sister Samar—who received the 2012 International Women of Courage Award at a White House ceremony hosted by Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—was arrested in July. When the Canadian Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland, tweeted her concern about the Badawi siblings, in August, the kingdom responded by expelling the Canadian Ambassador, recalling its envoy, freezing all new trade and investment, suspending flights by the state airline to Toronto, and ordering thousands of Saudi students to leave Canada. (I wrote about the episode that month.)
In Bahrain, Nabeel Rajab, one of the Arab world’s most prominent human-rights advocates, is languishing in jail after being sentenced to five years for tweeting about torture in the tiny sheikhdom and criticizing Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. In the United Arab Emirates, Ahmed Mansoor, who ran a Web site focussed on reforms, was sentenced to ten years for social-media comments calling for reform.
“The Arab people are desperate for real news and information, and Arab governments are desperately trying to make sure they never get that,” Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division, told me. “Uncensored communication on social media promised journalists and writers in the Middle East the greatest hope to freely exchange ideas and information, but it’s also why Arab governments, so terrified of the voices of their own citizens, rushed to pass laws criminalizing online communications and jailing writers and activists for mere tweets.”
The wider world bought into the Saudi narrative that Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince and de-facto ruler, was intent on opening up the kingdom. Perhaps tellingly, it is the free press elsewhere in the world that first asked questions about Khashoggi’s October 2nd disappearance, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where he had gone to get papers so he could marry. “The world should take note that it is the free press, not the Saudi government or the White House, that has doggedly searched for the truth about what happened to Mr. Khashoggi,” the Democratic senator Patrick Leahy, of Vermont, said in a statement. “It reminds us, once again, that a free press is an essential check against tyranny, dishonesty, and impunity.” Source
September 16, 2018 Daily Intelligencer The “Little Jerk” Once defined by his loathing for Trump, Lindsey Graham is now all-in for the president. Why?
Has a politician ever debased himself more in public than when Lindsey Graham eulogized his friend John McCain? Bleary-eyed from grief, the senior senator from South Carolina took his place at the lectern on the Senate floor and insisted on his own inferiority. He was the Great Man’s mascot, his funny little buddy — his “wingman,” he said — lucky to have walked in his shadow and blessed to have been loved by him. McCain, who used pejoratives as endearments, called Graham “Little Jerk.” Recalling this, Graham looked up from his notes, seeming to be considering its meaning for the first time. “You’ve all got your names,” he said darkly. “And you earned them like I did.”
It is tempting to imagine that in that moment, Graham was reflecting on all the ways he had betrayed his friend. McCain hated Trump with all his tenacious strength and banned him from his own funeral, yet as McCain lay dying, Graham went golfing with the president. Later he helped wangle an invitation to the funeral for Ivanka and Jared.
McCain hated Putin, too — “an evil man [who] is intent on evil deeds,” he wrote before his death — and, as a senator, devoted himself single-mindedly to preserving American hegemony abroad.
Yet a couple of days before McCain died, Graham was on Fox, giving Trump cover for potentially firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions after the midterms — a move that could have catastrophic political and constitutional effects should a more malleable AG find a way to end or curb the Mueller probe. Earlier this month, Graham clarified his position again, saying any new AG nominee would have to protect the investigation.
This waffling, from a politician who has always presented himself as a stalwart protector of the rule of law, made Democrats who had imagined in him a conscience or a plausible rebel turn away in despair. Even some of Graham’s erstwhile friends in the GOP reminded him of what he’d said just last year, that if Trump fired Sessions, “there would be holy hell to pay.” Bill Kristol, the conservative pundit and former ally of Graham’s, shamed him on Twitter: “History will record that @LindseyGrahamSC went out of his way to court favor with Donald Trump at precisely the moment … his enablers needed to hear a message of resistance.”
Before the Senate, the man who answered to “Little Jerk” wept. Was he talking to the nation or to himself when he added this: “It’s going to be a lonely journey for me for a while. Don’t look to me to replace this man.”
Graham, returning to the White House with President Trump, right, after playing a round of golf last year. Photo: Ron Sachs/Pool/Getty Images
During the 2016 election, Graham was defined by his loathing for Trump. The number of Republicans are legion who once promised to stand up to him but have failed to do so — worse, have capitulated to his vanity and turned a blind eye to his corruption. But of all the turncoats and double-talkers on Capitol Hill, there is no more vivid example than Graham, who during the campaign drew the brightest of lines, calling Trump a “kook,” a “jackass,” “a race-baiting bigot,” and “the most flawed nominee in the history of the Republican Party.”
The brawl between Graham and Trump was more than political theater: It was personal. First Trump insulted McCain, denigrating his heroism in Vietnam. Then he gave out Graham’s personal cell-phone number on TV. His foul language, his lack of intelligible policy positions, his isolationism, his disregard for the Constitution and the traditions of government — all this infuriated Graham, and during Inauguration Week, he and McCain were seen in the offices of the Senate building plotting to lead a brave Republican resistance. “They were off the charts,” says someone who encountered them then. “Explosive.”
But as the presidency wore on, of course, Graham’s path diverged from McCain’s. After a few short months of détente, mutual friends of Graham and the president, including some GOP bigwigs connected with Fox, prevailed on them to have a make-up lunch. What went down that day in March 2017 was no rehashing of past hurts or any quid pro quo but a bunch of joke telling. There, Graham and Trump discovered their mutual love for bro-ish trash talk and golf. “I think Lindsey likes the president a lot more than he thought he would,” says Steve Largent, the former NFL player who became close with Graham when they were freshmen in the House. But more, “I think Lindsey feels a little bit like the adult in the room, speaking with the president. I’m saying this — Lindsey has never said this to me — but there’s something about, I’m not going to say innocence, but the president’s affability as well as his naïveté that Lindsey is drawn to.”
It was at this juncture, according to someone familiar with his thinking, that Graham made the strategic decision to publicly flatter Trump. Occasionally, maintaining some profile of independence, he would push back — always in defense of his friend McCain, or when the president called certain countries “shitholes,” or when he threatened to pull troops from Syria. But in general, it made no sense to stand on principle only to draw Trump’s petty wrath — and risk getting fired in the next cycle by hard-liners back home. Better, Graham thought, to praise him in public in order to influence him in private. Graham understood that “all Trump really cares about is being celebrated,” this person said. By genuflecting to Trump, Graham could seem to be in collaboration with him — the impression probably most important to the president — and “move mountains behind closed doors.”
The public romance between Graham and Trump flourished during the summer and fall of 2017, amid golf games and Twitter compliments. McCain was diagnosed with brain cancer in July, and late that month, in an act of virtue or maybe vengeance, he cast the decisive vote to preserve the Affordable Care Act, while Graham voted with his party to scuttle it. McCain loyalists argued privately with Graham, but when CNN asked him about it, Graham grew defiant, insisting that his bond with McCain transcended any vote. “John McCain was willing to die for this country” — here his voice broke and his eyes welled up — “he can vote however he wants to, and it doesn’t matter to me in terms of friendship.”
It is perhaps useful to know that Graham grew up in a bar. His parents owned the Sanitary Cafe, a watering hole and pool hall popular with local textile workers, in a town called Central, in a region known as the Upcountry in the northwest of the state, a budding Appalachia. The patrons, many of whom, Graham once recalled, were missing fingers from machine accidents, were known locally as “lint heads” because of the cotton that stuck to their hair and clothing. African-American customers had to take their beer to go.
Graham, his parents, and his sister, Darline, 13 years younger, slept in one room behind the bar, and Graham worked at the bar after school. There he honed the skills that have defined him in politics: Always be charming, ready with a joke and a story; don’t make enemies; keep grudges private; defuse open conflict and resolve fights out back. Even among his political opponents, Graham maintains a reputation as great company, the kind of guy who will travel with Elizabeth Warren to Iraq just to show her around. Al Franken once called him the “funniest Republican in the Senate.” Graham tried to charm everyone, regardless of party. “He’ll disagree with you one day and the next day be working with you,” says Joe Riley, the former longtime Democratic mayor of Charleston, admiringly.
Every good bartender knows that a friendly face and an occasional drink on the house keep folks happy, and Graham absorbed these lessons, too. “When I ran for Congress, he endorsed the guy I ran against,” recalls Representative Trey Gowdy, a close friend. After winning the primary, “I think the first call I got was from Lindsey,” Gowdy continues. “Typical Lindsey. You beat me, now I’m going to be the best friend you got. I was the least surprised person in the world that the president and Lindsey play golf with each other.” Graham and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley represent opposing factions of their state’s GOP — he the “Establishment” and she the tea party — but when, as governor, Haley needed something on the Hill, “one of her first calls was always to Senator Graham,” says Rob Godfrey, who worked for Haley.
Both of Graham’s parents died when he was an undergraduate at the University of South Carolina, and Darline became Graham’s charge. She stayed with an aunt and uncle while he went to law school, also at South Carolina; then he joined the Air Force, becoming a trial officer in the JAG corps. For a poor young man from a small country town, these affiliations were bolstering. Trial lawyers are tacticians, able to charge down one course while plotting alternate lines of attack. Graham was good at it, and to this day, lawyers and law firms, a sector not usually associated with GOP giving, are the largest contributors to his campaigns (bankers are second).
“He’s an attorney and always looking out for attorneys,” complains Largent.
But it was the military — its hierarchy, its fraternity, its sense of mission — that gave the orphaned Graham a second family. As a young lawyer, Graham joined the reserves and officially adopted Darline so she could enroll in his military health benefits. His unwavering loyalty to the armed forces is bedrock for Graham, and his commitment to their work overseas is his singular political priority. Graham’s most consistent crusade in the Senate has been a hawkish insistence on increasing funds and manpower to American military and nonmilitary operations abroad. Since 2015, Graham has held the powerful post of chairman of the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The subcommittee funds nearly every U.S. program abroad, outside of the Defense Department, and, in its fiscal-2019 budget, allocated $3 billion to Israel and $1.5 billion to Jordan. In his position, Graham does nothing less than establish American priorities abroad and write the checks that support them. In Washington, some like to speculate that Graham sucks up to Trump in hopes of becoming the next secretary of Defense.
The military is also the basis of his kinship with McCain, who took note of Graham during the latter’s witty and zealous performance as a manager during Bill Clinton’s impeachment hearings. Graham famously said, “You know, where I come from, any man calling a woman at 2 a.m. is up to no good.” In the summer of 1999, while preparing a run for president, McCain reached out to Graham and his fellow South Carolinian Representative Mark Sanford and invited them to his Sedona ranch for Fourth of July fireworks and fishing. They idolized McCain and were starstruck. “Warren Beatty was there and his wife, Annette,” remembers Sanford. “It was get-to-know-you, give you face time so you feel included — yeah, I got invited to the ranch. It sounds quite grand.” McCain’s wartime heroism and his posture of political independence gave Graham a model of statesmanship. “Lindsey for some reason had sort of a man-crush on John McCain,” says Largent.
Graham lives alone and has never married, which has sometimes sparked insinuations about his personal life that he’s always swatted away. “Don’t believe anything anybody tells you about my Air Force exploits,” Graham once told the Washington Post about his military tour, which took him to Paris and Rome. “I was very heterosexual, that’s all you need to know.” (His record on LGBTQ-rights legislation is consistently conservative.) David Woodard, who ran Graham’s first congressional campaign, in 1994, believes Lindsey is married to politics — “One of those pledged bachelors,” he says. “Maybe if you were in Oxford or Cambridge, you had dons like that.”
Friends of Graham’s say that on the things that matter to him most, his sycophancy has been a success. Under the influence of Graham (as well as John Kelly and James Mattis and others), Trump has become far more hawkish than he was as a candidate or a private citizen, when he opposed U.S. involvement in Syria and Afghanistan. As president, Trump has increased troops in Afghanistan and has extended U.S. military engagement in Syria (Graham’s priority) indefinitely. His withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal had Graham’s full support, as did his relocating the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. Graham has long argued that terrorist suspects should be tried in military courts and not civil ones and was happy the president chose to keep the prison open at Guantánamo Bay. Graham pushed through legislation called the Taylor Force Act, which ends U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority, pending changes in the way the PA distributes that money. “You can go across the board on the foreign-policy front, and Graham has his fingerprints on everything,” a friend said.
On Russia, though, Graham has been threading the needle — or, rather, covering his ass. On Fox, he dutifully demonstrates his fealty to Trump, making the case wherever possible that “collusion” and “meddling” are not the same thing and directing media attention away from the president and back toward Trump’s favorite villains: Hillary Clinton, the Justice Department, and the FBI. “I’ve seen no evidence of collusion after two years,” Graham told Fox & Friends last month, before reciting lines that might have come out of Trump’s mouth: “Plenty of corruption in the Department of Justice and the FBI — should be stunning; not one Democrat seems to care.” Two days later, he was splicing hairs on CBS, upholding the Mueller investigation — with caveats. “There is no scenario where you can end this investigation, the Mueller investigation, through some political intrigue and survive. That’s the end of you” — italics mine, the implication being that while pique might be a bad motivation for firing Mueller, other, better, legitimate reasons might also exist.
Meanwhile, in the Senate, Graham makes a performance of his patriotism, cosponsoring bipartisan bills that will never pass, such as the one he introduced with Cory Booker in April giving extra protections to Mueller’s job (which Mitch McConnell has blocked) and the one he introduced in August with Bob Menendez that increases sanctions on Russia in an effort to deter meddling in the midterms. Both maneuvers appear designed to make Graham look prescient should disaster occur — without his having to assume the political risk of actually intercepting such disasters with meaningful action.
In this way, he is behaving much like the rest of his party, if only more visibly: uncertain whether the midterms will deliver a blow to the Trumpist takeover of the GOP or formalize it. Graham’s ultimate refusal to take a stand against Trump, when once he promised — so loudly! — to lead that charge, defies easy explanation. But the likeliest rationale is not that Trump or the Russians know some secret about Graham, or that the real Graham has been abducted by aliens, but that he has always operated like this, talking big but playing both sides and biding his time until a victor emerges — then positioning himself to his own best advantage. If the Trumpists win, Graham can claim elite membership in that tribe; if the Dems sweep Congress, he can establish himself as a leader of the middle. “He’s a survivor,” says one political colleague. “He’s Machiavellian in the way he tacks back and forth.”
Graham’s history of self-serving recalibrations is well documented. In January 1999, he was on the floor of Congress, self-righteously wagging his finger and setting a moral — not legal — standard for the removal of a president from office. “Impeachment is about cleansing the office,” he pronounced, Cotton Mather–like. “Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity.” This clip was circulating recently on Twitter, evidence to some that Graham is a hypocrite. But Graham was merely being himself. Not six months earlier, in the fall of 1998, he was breakfasting with his Democratic colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee, looking for ways to avoid impeachment proceedings and wondering if they were a drain of taxpayer money and a waste of everyone’s time, proclaiming, “If we impeach people for being silly and doing inappropriate things, we’ll wipe Congress out.” More recently, when asked whether he believed that Trump broke campaign-finance laws when he instructed his personal attorney Michael Cohen to pay off the porn star Stormy Daniels, Graham answered as truthfully as he could: “My No. 1 goal right now is to keep doing my day job.” And his power depends, at least until things change, on Trump’s continuing to be in power.
“His identity has become wrapped up in keeping that office,” says one old friend. All who know him say that what Graham loves most is to be at the center of things — the guy on the phone with the president in the middle of the night. Aides and staffers on both sides in Congress describe him as a buzzing bee, the guy who’s always in the Gang of 12 or Eight or however many there are, going back to his earliest days in Congress when he was a leader of the GOP rebels who attempted to oust Newt Gingrich (whom he recently praised for his memorializing of McCain). Except in foreign policy, “I don’t think he’s seen as a policy heavyweight,” says one Democratic operative in the Senate. “He’s seen as the guy who always wants to be in the middle. Rarely does he even break with Republicans. When you have an absolutely moronic ‘Common Sense Caucus,’ yeah, Lindsey is in the middle of it.”
Graham’s people-pleaser approach has worked for him so far in South Carolina. He raises enough money from wealthy out-of-state donors — and provides employment for all the top local operatives — that primary challengers haven’t stood a chance. And he covers his right flank by earning an A- rating from the NRA and a top score from anti-abortion activists. In 2014, the last time he was up for reelection, the National Review tagged him as one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country. But he crushed six primary opponents, none of whom raised over $1 million. He took in $11 million, a good bit of it from the pro-Israel lobby.
But Graham’s political tightrope act looks increasingly precarious. He’s up for reelection in 2020, and right now his approval rating in South Carolina is at an all-time low, 41 percent, while Trump’s has remained about steady at 54 — a sign that Graham’s toggling between fealty and empty gestures of resistance might be backfiring at a time when the electorate continues to be fixated on ideological purity. In his state, GOP operatives are cheerfully compiling lists of candidates who might beat him in a primary. His prospective challengers this time are bigger fish, with better name recognition and the donors to match. Gowdy, who is retiring from Congress, tops everyone’s list, but he swears he won’t oppose his friend. (“I would not run against him if you guaranteed me I would win,” he says.) Other possibilities include Haley (though the consensus is that she has more national aspirations); Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget and another golfing partner of Trump’s; Jeff Duncan, who represents Graham’s old district in Congress; and Sanford. Already, a businessman named John Warren has tentatively tossed his hat into the ring. A self-made millionaire and former Marine, Warren represents a credible threat. (His bid for the GOP nomination for governor was derailed only after Trump threw his support to his opponent, Henry McMaster.)
In South Carolina, the Trumpist right loathes Graham for a lot of things — he’s careerist, condescending, and arrogant, they say — but none more than his continued insistence on immigration reform, a policy position he picked up from McCain. Graham’s commitment to the issue has been cast as “principled,” but it’s likelier to be tactical, a play to broaden the demographics of the GOP to the benefit of politicians like himself — not a dishonorable aim, to be sure, but hardly evidence of Graham’s moral core. And in any case, that get-a-bigger-tent notion of the party’s future has fallen out of favor with the base. Trumpists in South Carolina call their senior senator “Grahamnesty”; others prefer “Flimsy Graham.” Mention Graham’s legislative partners — Ted Kennedy, Chuck Schumer, and, most recently, Dick Durbin — to this group, who are far more partisan than pragmatic, and they become apoplectic.
The immigration debacle of last winter proves just how little Graham — or any politician — gains from an alliance with Trump, whose own disloyalty knows no bounds. After all the golf and all the late-night comity, Graham believed he had persuaded the president to sign on to the latest version of his reform package, co-sponsored with Durbin. Trump called it “a bill of love,” and Graham thought he had the votes. But in the end, he was betrayed, the president ambushing him and Durbin in a meeting, siding with the rightists in his circle, calling immigrant countries “shitholes,” and allowing his henchpeople to publicly humiliate and insult Graham without ever coming to his defense. A courtship with Trump is a tricky business, says one Republican aide: “Does he have access? Yes. Does he have influence? It’s debatable. They’re dating, but it’s a long way off before the president says ‘Yes.’ ”
In his eulogy for his friend McCain on the floor of the Senate on August 28, Graham said, “Honor is doing the right thing at your own expense.” It was as if he were reminding himself. Source
Sept. 13, 2018 CNN US plans to pay $20 million to help Mexico deport migrants
The US government plans to pay millions of dollars to help Mexico deport thousands of migrants who have entered the country hoping to reach the United States.
According to a notification State Department officials sent to Congress, $20 million would be used to cover the cost of bus and plane tickets to deport migrants from Mexico to their countries of origin.
The funding would be transferred from the State Department to the Department of Homeland Security as part of a “migrant removals pilot” that could result in the deportation of up to 17,000 people from Mexico, the notification said.
“This one time infusion of assistance will help the (government of Mexico) address, and potentially deter, irregular migrant flows, which will help keep illegal immigrants from entering into the United States through the southwest border,” the notification said.
Officials from the State Department and Department of Homeland Security have been briefing congressional staff about the plan this week, according to a congressional aide who attended a briefing but was not authorized to speak publicly about what officials discussed.
Under the program, Mexican authorities would be responsible for interdiction, detention, asylum adjudication and other immigration proceedings in accordance with Mexican and international law, the notification says.
“The United States would only fund commercial airline tickets or charter flights and/or ground transportation,” the notification said.
“Secretary Nielsen has been engaging with Mexico on a regular basis, and this proposal is part of multi-faceted effort to address the crisis at our Southern border,” Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Katie Waldman said in a statement.
A State Department spokesperson said the funds were previously unallocated and had been set aside to address the administration’s policy priorities, which include “strengthening migration management through the Western Hemisphere to the U.S. southern border.”
It’s not clear whether Mexican officials requested the funding. Mexico’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Olga Sanchez Cordero, who’s slated to become Mexico’s interior minister when President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador takes office in December, told reporters Thursday that the incoming president’s administration hadn’t been involved in discussions over the matter. Asked whether Lopez Obrador’s government would ever act as police on behalf of the United States, she replied, “Definitely not.”
“That hasn’t been put on the table in any way,” she said.
Ali Noorani, executive director of the pro-immigration advocacy group National Immigration Forum, accused officials of “creating policy out of sheer desperation” by reallocating foreign aid to fund deportations.
“The administration, instead of paying Mexico to do our dirty work, should be working with Congress to make sure that an appropriate amount of foreign aid is invested in Central America and we have an immigration system that is functioning and treating people fairly,” he said.
Amnesty International decried the plan and called on Congress to put a stop to it.
“It is totally unconscionable for a country with the resources that the United States has to outsource its international obligations to protect human lives and create a wall of inhumanity with Mexico,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, the organization’s Americas director.
US authorities apprehended more than 37,000 people trying to cross the US-Mexico border illegally in August, 12,774 of whom were members of family units. Officials noted that the number of people apprehended who were part of family units increased 38% from July to August, blaming “broken immigration laws” for the uptick.
But the total number of apprehensions appears to be in keeping with seasonal trends in recent years; there is often an increase in illegal crossings from the hottest summer months into the fall. Experts say it’s impossible to ascribe monthly fluctuations to any one cause.
“We are working closely with our Mexican counterparts to confront rising border apprehension numbers — specifically a 38 percent increase in families this month alone — directly and to ensure that those with legitimate claims have access to appropriate protections,” Waldman said.
Mexico’s role in immigration enforcement has been a point of contention as the Trump administration mores toward increased detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants.
But Mexico has deported more immigrants to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras than the United States has in recent years, according to statistics compiled by the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute. Immigrant rights activists for years have slammed Mexico for deporting too many immigrants, accusing the country’s government of jeopardizing human rights and sending migrants back into the life-threatening conditions they fled. Source
September 4, 2018 washingtonpost.com Transcript: Phone call between President Trump and journalist Bob Woodward
Bob Woodward, an associate editor at The Washington Post, sought an interview with President Trump as he was writing “Fear,” a book about Trump’s presidency. Trump called Woodward in early August, after the manuscript had been completed, to say he wanted to participate.
Over the course of 11-plus minutes, Trump repeatedly claimed his White House staff hadn’t informed him of Woodward’s interview request — despite also admitting Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had told him Woodward wanted to talk. He also started the phone call by saying Woodward had “always been fair” to him, but by the end he said the book would be “inaccurate.”
This is a transcript of that call, with key sections highlighted and annotated. To see an annotation, click on the yellow, highlighted text.
BW: Real well. I’m turning on my tape recorder, with your permission.
Trump: Oh, that’s okay. That’s okay. I don’t mind that at all.
BW: I’m sorry we missed the opportunity to talk for the book.
Trump: Well, I just spoke with Kellyanne [Conway] and she asked me if I got a call. I never got a call. I never got a message. Who did you ask about speaking to me?
BW: Well, about six people.
Trump: They don’t tell me.
BW: A senator. I talked to Kellyanne about it two and a half months ago.
BW: She came for lunch.
Trump: Well, it’s too bad. Of course, you and I had a conversation a couple of years ago, and so that I think got you there a little bit. And we had a conversation many years ago, if you remember, in Trump Tower.
BW: Yeah, I do.
Trump: That has to be 20 years ago. And you were thinking about doing a book about me then, which is interesting. Who knew it would’ve been on this subject? Right? That was not in the cards at that time.
BW: That’s right. Well, I’m sorry, I . ..
Trump: I still remember that.
BW: I spent a lot of time on this, talked to lots of people.
Trump: All right. Good.
BW: And as you know and are living, we are at a pivot point in history.
BW: And I would’ve liked to have done that, and I maximized my effort, and somehow it didn’t get to you, or . ..
Trump: It’s really too bad, because nobody told me about it, and I would’ve loved to have spoken to you. You know I’m very open to you. I think you’ve always been fair. We’ll see what happens. But all I can say is the country is doing very well. We’re doing better economically just about than at any time. We’re doing better on unemployment maybe than ever. You know, I mean, if you look at the unemployment numbers, you’ve heard me say it. And we’re doing better on unemployment than just about ever. We’re having a lot of — a lot of companies are moving back into our country, which would’ve been unheard of two years ago. If the other administration or representatives of it had kept going, had kept — you know, if the other group had won, I will tell you, that you would have, I think you’d have a GDP of less than zero. I think we would’ve been going in the wrong direction. Because regulations are such a big part of what we’ve done, Bob.
BW: Well, I understand that point of view. And as you know, it’s also a difficult time where the political system and you and my business is being tested.
Trump: Yeah. Yeah.
BW: I take it very seriously. I’ve done books on eight presidents, going back from Nixon to Obama.
BW: And I learned something about reporting, frankly, Mr. President.
BW: I’ve got to go talk to people and see them outside of the White House and outside of their offices, and gained a lot of insight and documentation. And it’s — you know, it’s a tough look at the world and your administration and you.
Trump: Right. Well, I assume that means it’s going to be a negative book. But you know, I’m some — I’m sort of 50 percent used to that. [Laughter] That’s all right. Some are good and some are bad. Sounds like this is going to be a bad one.
BW: It was a chance missed, and I don’t know how things work over there in terms of . ..
Trump: Very well. We . ..
BW: . . . getting to you.
Trump: Well, if you would call Madeleine [Westerhout] in my office . . . Did you speak to Madeleine?
BW: No, I didn’t. But I . ..
Trump: Madeleine is the key. She’s the secret. Because she’s the person . ..
BW: Well, I talked to Raj [Shah] about it. I talked to . . . I talked to Kellyanne.
Trump: Well, a lot of them are afraid to come and talk, or — you know, they are busy. I’m busy. But I don’t mind talking to you. I would’ve spoken to you. I spoke to you 20 years [ago] and I spoke to you a year and a half or two years ago.
Trump: And I certainly don’t mind talking to you, and I wish I could’ve spoken to you. But nobody called my office. I mean, you went through, I guess, different people. …
BW: Well, Mr. President, how can I spend all this time talking to people and — like Kellyanne and Raj and Republican senators?
Trump: Who were the senators? No, they never called me about it.
BW: Senator [Lindsey] Graham said he had talked to you about talking to me. Now, is that not true?
Trump: Senator Graham actually mentioned it quickly in one meeting.
BW: Yes. Well, see. And then nothing happened.
Trump: That is true. That is true. Well, that — no, but that is true. Mentioned it quickly, not like, you know, and I would certainly have thought that maybe you would’ve called the office. But that’s okay. I’ll speak to Kellyanne. I am a little surprised that she wouldn’t have told me. In fact, she just walked in. [to Kellyanne] I’m talking to Bob Woodward. He said that he told you.
Trump: About speaking to me. But you never told me. Why didn’t you tell me?
Trump: I would’ve been very happy to speak to him. All right, so what are you going to do?
BW: Well …
Trump: So I have another bad book coming out. Big deal.
BW: . . . it goes on, and I . . . What you can count on is that I’ve been very careful. And Evelyn, are you on?
BW: Evelyn Duffy, who’s my assistant, Mr. President.
Trump: Hello, Evelyn.
BW: She transcribed all the tapes because, with permission, I taped people for hundreds of hours.
BW: And I think there’s nothing in this book that doesn’t come from a firsthand source. Is that correct, Evelyn?
EMD: I believe that’s —
Trump: But are you naming names? Or do you just say sources?
BW: Yeah, well, it names real incidents, so . ..
Trump: No, but do you name sources? I mean, are you naming the people, or just say, people have said?
BW: I say, at 2:00 on this day, the following happened, and everyone who’s there, including yourself, is quoted. And I’m sorry I didn’t get to ask you about these . ..
Trump: I mean, you do know I’m doing a great job for the country. You do know that NATO now is going to pay billions and billions of dollars more, as an example, than anybody thought possible, that other presidents were unable to get more? And it was heading downward. You do know all of the things I’ve done and things that I’m doing? I’m in the process of making some of the greatest trade deals ever to be made. You do understand that stuff? I mean, I hope.
BW: Certainly, I understand and I would’ve loved to go through a discussion with you about NATO, because this goes back to early in your administration and your concern about it, and the agreement that the countries have that they would increase their defense contribution, what is it, by the year 2024? And you know . . . So anyway, we are . ..
Trump: Well, you know last year, if you see the secretary, [Jens] Stoltenberg, he said I believe $44 billion just last year, and that was from last year’s meeting. And this year it’s much more money they’ve agreed to put up. So it’s a tremendous amount of money. No other president has done it. It was heading down in the opposite direction. So I don’t know if you’re going to report it that way; probably not. But that’s too bad, but that’s all right, but you know, one of those things.
BW: Everything is going to be factual. And it is not a good thing for my business, if I may say this to you, Mr. President, to the presidency, or to the country, to not have real, full exchanges on these. And I broke my spear on it trying to get to you.
Trump: Well, other than Lindsey [Graham], who did quickly mention it, nobody mentioned it.
BW: You say Kellyanne’s there, ask her.
Trump: Nobody told me about it. Well, let me ask her. Why don’t you speak to Kellyanne. Ask her. She never told me about it.
[Conway takes the phone.]
Conway: Bob, how are you? Hi.
BW: Hi. Remember two and a half months ago you came over and I laid out, I wanted to talk to the president? And you said you would get back to me?
Conway: I do. And I put in the request. But you know, they — it was rejected. I can only take it so far. I guess I can bring it right to the president next time.
Conway: But I try to follow all the protocols, or else I’m accused of being somebody who doesn’t follow protocol.
BW: President Trump, I just want you to know I made every effort.
Conway: But you had talked to [former White House communications director] Hope [Hicks], right, who said no?
BW: Listen, I talked to anyone I could. [Laughs]
Conway: You talked to a number of people and they all said no?
BW: I talked to Raj.
BW: He was going to work it out.
Conway: Hope. [Me?].
[The president says something in the background that is inaudible.]
Conway: I said you tried talking to everybody? What about when you interviewed, like, other people? They all said yes? That they’d try?
BW: Yeah, well, about six or seven people. I tried. And I couldn’t have — you and I spent a whole lunch on it, Kellyanne. And I said, I want to cover the substantive issues in foreign policy and domestic policy. And you said you would get back to me. Nothing.
Conway: Yeah. So, I did. I presented it to the people here who make those decisions, but . ..
BW: Who are the people?
Conway: But anyway, I’ll give you back to the president. And I’m glad to hear that you tried through seven or eight different people. That’s good. You should tell him all the names. [Laughs] Thank you.
Trump: But you never called for me. It would’ve been nice, Bob, if you called for me, in my office. I mean, I have a secretary. I have two, three secretaries. If you would’ve called directly — a lot of people are afraid . . . Raj, I hardly have . . . I don’t speak to Raj.
BW: Kellyanne is a . ..
Trump: I do, I do, and Kellyanne went to somebody, but she didn’t come to me.
BW: Well, does she have access to you?
Trump: And she should’ve come to me. She does have access to me. Absolutely. She has direct access, but she didn’t come to me. And you know what? That’s okay. I’ll just end up with another bad book. What can I tell you?
BW: It’s surprising to me that these people — did Raj have access to you?
Trump: Not really, but he would’ve been able to do it. But I have an office. You have the office number. I have an office that’s directly into my office.
Conway: [inaudible in background]
Trump: It doesn’t matter. Let me tell you what matters: The economy is the best it’s been in many, many decades. And it’s going to get a lot better. And the country is doing very well. That’s what’s important.
BW: Yes, sir. I thought I would . ..
Trump: We’re doing a good job.
BW: . . . never kind of say, let’s not talk about this because the book is done to a president . ..
Trump: Yeah, I know.
BW: . . . and, but that’s the position we’re in. And it’s one I tried to avoid. You need to know I made maximum effort.
Trump: All right. It’s too bad.
BW: Yes, sir.
Trump: I’m just hearing about it. And I heard — I did hear from Lindsey, but I’m just hearing about it. So we’re going to have a very inaccurate book, and that’s too bad. But I don’t blame you entirely.
BW: No, it’s [?] — it’s going to be accurate, I promise.
Trump: Yeah, okay. Well, accurate is that nobody’s ever done a better job than I’m doing as president. That I can tell you. So that’s . . . And that’s the way a lot of people feel that know what’s going on, and you’ll see that over the years. But a lot of people feel that, Bob.
BW: I believe in our country, and because you’re our president, I wish you good luck.
Trump: Okay. Thank you very much, Bob. I appreciate it. Bye.
“This November 6 election is very much a referendum on not only me, it’s a referendum on your religion, it’s a referendum on free speech and the First Amendment. It’s a referendum on so much,” Trump told the assemblage of pastors and other Christian leaders gathered in the State Dining Room, according to a recording from people in the room.
“It’s not a question of like or dislike, it’s a question that they will overturn everything that we’ve done and they will do it quickly and violently. And violently. There is violence,” Trump said, describing what would happen should his voters fail to cast ballots. “The level of hatred, the level of anger is very unbelievable.”
Evangelicals have provided a solid block of support for Trump, even amid the scandals involving alleged sexual affairs. After news of those purported encounters emerged, his standing among white evangelicals did not slip. But inviting the leaders to the White House only days after the President was newly implicated by his longtime personal lawyer’s guilty plea underscored the degree to which Trump is trying to keep his supporters on his side.
“You have to hopefully get out and get people to support us,” Trump said. “If you don’t, that will be the beginning of ending everything that you’ve gotten.”
The remarks from an attendee’s recording offered a more dire view of the upcoming vote than Trump has projected in public. He often trumpets an upcoming “red wave” of Republican victories, downplaying suggestions that Democrats are poised to exploit his divisiveness and retake the House or Senate.
Trump didn’t mention a “red wave” on Monday, instead acknowledging that midterms often present new presidents with a turnout challenge.
“The polls might be good, but a lot of them say they are going to vote in 2020, but they’re not going to vote if I’m not on a ballot,” he said. “I think we’re doing well, I think we’re popular, but there’s a real question as to whether people are going to vote if I’m not on the ballot. And I’m not on the ballot.”
That’s a problem Trump said the evangelical leaders could help solve by galvanizing their congregations and followers to vote.
“I just ask you to go out and make sure all of your people vote. Because if they don’t — it’s November 6 — if they don’t vote, we’re going to have a miserable two years and we’re going to have, frankly, a very hard period of time,” he said.
“You’re one election away from losing everything that you’ve gotten,” he added. “Little thing: Merry Christmas, right? You couldn’t say ‘Merry Christmas.’ ” Source
August 3, 2018 pbs.org Report: Trump commission did not find widespread voter fraudPORTLAND, Maine — The now-disbanded voting integrity commission launched by the Trump administration uncovered no evidence to support claims of widespread voter fraud, according to an analysis of administration documents released Friday.In a letter to Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who are both Republicans and led the commission, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said the documents show there was a “pre-ordained outcome” and that drafts of a commission report included a section on evidence of voter fraud that was “glaringly empty.”“It’s calling into the darkness, looking for voter fraud,” Dunlap, a Democrat, told The Associated Press. “There’s no real evidence of it anywhere.”Republican President Donald Trump convened the commission to investigate the 2016 presidential election after making unsubstantiated claims that between 3 million and 5 million ballots were illegally cast. Critics, including Dunlap, reject his claims of widespread voter fraud.The Trump administration last month complied with a court order to turn over documents from the voting integrity commission to Dunlap. The commission met just twice and has not issued a report.
Dunlap’s findings received immediate pushback Friday from Kobach, who acted as vice-chair of the commission while Pence served as chair.
“For some people, no matter how many cases of voter fraud you show them, there will never be enough for them to admit that there’s a problem,” said Kobach, who is running for Kansas governor and has a good chance of unseating the incumbent, Jeff Colyer, in the Republican primary Tuesday.
“It appears that Secretary Dunlap is willfully blind to the voter fraud in front of his nose,” Kobach said in a statement released by his spokesman.
Kobach said there have been more than 1,000 convictions for voter fraud since 2000, and that the commission presented 8,400 instances of double voting in the 2016 election in 20 states.
“Had the commission done the same analysis of all 50 states, the number would have been exponentially higher,” Kobach said.
In response, Dunlap said those figures were never brought before the commission, and that Kobach hasn’t presented any evidence for his claims of double voting. He said the commission was presented with a report claiming over 1,000 convictions for various forms of voter misconduct since 1948.
Pence’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.
Dunlap said he is unsure whether the administration has released all relevant documents, and said the matter is in litigation. He said he was repeatedly rebuffed when he sought access to commission records including meeting materials, witness invitations and correspondence.