U.S. Politics

Jeff Sessions, Trump’s attorney general pick, would be a massive setback for civil rights

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Sen. Jeff Sessions meets with President-elect Donald Trump.Kevin Hagen/Getty Images

And so it begins…the massive destruction of decades worth of civil rights legislation for Blacks, Women and Immigrants…ks


Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions will be President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for US attorney general.

If there was ever any doubt on where Trump will take the country on issues like civil rights, criminal justice, and immigration, Sessions’s nomination should put all of those doubts to an end. On all of these issues, Sessions has been extremely conservative — he has opposed reforms to reduce mass incarceration, proposed stringent crackdowns on immigration, and he even has a history of racist remarks that ended his hopes of a federal judgeship. And that’s not even getting to other issues, from voting rights to discrimination against LGBTQ people, where Sessions has been equally conservative.

As attorney general, Sessions wouldn’t be able to set law, but he would have a lot of power in guiding how the law is interpreted and enforced. Particularly on criminal justice and voting rights, this makes Sessions a big threat for reformers and civil rights advocates who made gains during President Barack Obama’s time in office — but will likely see many of those gains erased under Sessions.

But Sessions’s nomination is also not much of a surprise. On the campaign trail, Sessions’s very conservative views on immigration made him a close Trump ally. And since he previously served as a federal prosecutor and Alabama’s attorney general, he’s a natural fit, in terms of career qualifications, for the job of US attorney general.

Indeed, Trump’s team suggested as much in a statement on Thursday: “While nothing has been finalized and he is still talking with others as he forms his cabinet, the President-elect has been unbelievably impressed with Senator Sessions and his phenomenal record as Alabama’s Attorney General and U.S. Attorney. It is no wonder the people of Alabama re-elected him without opposition.”

Whatever Trump’s impressions of Sessions may be, the nomination may end up very controversial in the Senate. Not only is his record very much to the right, but it’s also mired by several controversies in which Sessions was accused of racism.

Sessions has a very conservative record on issues the Department of Justice oversees

The US Department of Justice seal.Ramin Talaie/Getty Images

Sessions has a long conservative record, one that suggests he would move the Justice Department to the right on issues ranging from crime to immigration.

For one, Sessions has time and time again proven to be “tough on crime,” opposing efforts to roll back tough prison sentences that contributed to mass incarceration.

Over the past few years, a bipartisan group of senators has been working on legislation that would reduce mandatory minimum prison sentences for nonviolent offenders and give judges more sentencing discretion in cases involving low-level drug offenders. But the legislation never really got anywhere in the Senate, in large part because Sessions, along with Trump allies and Sens. Tom Cotton and Ted Cruz, opposed the bill.

Sessions used typical “tough on crime” rhetoric to justify his opposition, arguing that the legislation would send a signal to the courts and criminals that their punishments aren’t being taken seriously anymore. As he put it, it would “send a message to judges and prosecutors that we’re not interested in people serving sentences anymore” when “the crime rate is beginning to go up.” (The FBI shows the homicide rate ticked up in 2015, but it’s still at half of what it was at its peak in the 1990s.)

Sessions has shown some capacity for reform. He co-sponsored the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which raised the threshold for a five-year mandatory minimum for possession of crack cocaine from 5 grams to 28. That brought it a bit closer to the 500-gram threshold for powder cocaine, which is pharmacologically similar to crack. And it helped reduce one of the major drivers of racial disparities in the criminal justice system, because crack is more common in black communities than powder cocaine.

But when it came to bigger criminal justice reforms in the past couple years, Sessions helped kill the bill that would have undone the far broader criminal justice policies that contributed to mass incarceration.

On voting rights, Sessions has also toed the conservative line. In the 1980s, Sessions prosecuted Albert Turner for alleged voter fraud after Turner helped black voters register in Alabama — earning the nickname “Mr. Voter Registration.” The charges fell flat, with a jury deliberating for less than three hours before finding Turner not guilty of all counts of mail fraud, altering absentee ballots, and conspiracy to vote more than once. This moment is very telling: These kinds of court challenges would be tried time and time again by conservative lawmakers and prosecutors, even in 2016, to stop black voter registration efforts.

Then, when the Supreme Court in 2013 struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act and effectively allowed states with histories of racial discrimination to pass new voting restrictions, Sessions denied that Shelby County, Alabama — which brought the challenge to the Supreme Court — ever had a history of voter discrimination. “Shelby County has never had a history of denying voters and certainly not now,” he claimed.

Shelby County and Alabama have a long history of discrimination of all kinds. And the Supreme Court’s decision let Alabama pass a strict voter ID law in time for the 2016 election — a policy that makes it harder for minority voters in particular to cast a ballot. To deny all of this as a US attorney general is a bit like handling energy policy and denying the science on global warming.

But Sessions, in fact, previously admitted to calling the Voting Rights Act a “piece of intrusive legislation.” And after the Supreme Court’s ruling, he opposed efforts to update the law so the federal government could continue to oversee voting laws in places with histories of discrimination.

Sessions is also very conservative on immigration, which is one of the reasons he came around to supporting Trump (who based much of his campaign on being “tough” on immigration) fairly early in the Republican primary. Sessions, for one, helped shape Trump’s immigration plan, which cracks down on both illegal and legal immigration.

And when it comes to LGBTQ issues, the Human Rights Campaign recently gave Sessions a flat 0 percent score, in large part because he opposed every proposal to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in the workplace, housing, and other settings. And he also opposes same-sex marriage to this day, arguing that the US Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriages nationwide was “unconstitutional.”

Sessions also has a history of racist remarks

Jeff Sessions campaigns for Donald Trump.Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Before he became a US senator in 1995, Sessions served as a federal prosecutor in the 1970s and 1980s. He was later elected attorney general of Alabama in the 1990s.

In between those two jobs, in 1986, then-President Ronald Reagan nominated Sessions to serve as a federal judge in Southern Alabama. The nomination quickly turned controversial — and was rejected — as multiple witnesses testified that Sessions had made racist remarks.

A prosecutor, J. Gerald Hebert, told Sessions about the time a federal judge called a prominent white lawyer “a disgrace to his race.” Sessions replied, “Well, maybe he is.” Hebert also claimed that Sessions once said the ACLU and NAACP are “un-American” for “trying to force civil rights down the throats of people.”

Thomas Figures, a black prosecutor, said Sessions had called him “boy” and told him to be careful with what he said to “white folks.” Figures also claimed that Sessions said that the KKK “was okay until I found out they smoked pot.”

Sessions did not deny and even acknowledged most of the accusations, claiming that many of them were jokes and taken out of context. “I am loose with my tongue on occasion, and I may have said something similar to that or could be interpreted to that,” he testified. He also said that the KKK is “a force for hatred and bigotry.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee did not buy it — and rejected Sessions’s nomination.

Still, Sessions claims he did some promising civil rights work as a prosecutor. He told the National Journal in 2009, “I signed 10 pleadings attacking segregation or the remnants of segregation, where we as part of the Department of Justice, we sought desegregation remedies — the takeover of school systems, redrawing lines — all those things that I was allowed to participate in supporting.”

Sessions will likely shift the Justice Department sharply to the right

If Jeff Sessions's nomination is accepted, he'll replace US Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
If Jeff Sessions’s nomination is accepted, he’ll replace US Attorney General Loretta Lynch | Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Based on this record, we can expect the Justice Department to move sharply to the right if the Senate accepts Sessions’s nomination.

One of Sessions’s biggest jobs as attorney general will be guiding the massive network of federal prosecutors, which sprawls all across the US. In that role, Sessions could try to double down on mass incarceration. He could, for example, rescind instructions to federal prosecutors to incarcerate fewer low-level drug offenders — something that his record suggests he’d be very willing to do.

If Sessions continues his “tough on crime” streak on policing issues, he also may stop investigations into police. Under the Obama administration, the Justice Department has carried out nearly two dozen investigations into local police departments — more than any of President Obama’s predecessors — typically in response to high-profile police shootings. The investigations uncovered all sorts of abuses and constitutional rights violations in cities ranging from Baltimore to Ferguson, Missouri. Sessions could bring an end to these investigations.

On voting rights, Sessions may not try to challenge Southern states’ voting restrictions in the same way the Obama administration was willing to. This may be a return to the Bush administration, which essentially treated civil rights enforcement as a joke and never took accusations of voter suppression or other civil rights violations very seriously. In fact, Sessions could guide the Justice Department to focus on voter fraud, which, even though it’s extremely rare, Republicans over the past few years have cited as part of an effort to make voting more difficult — typically in a way that disproportionately hurts minority voters.

On immigration, Sessions could make Trump’s deportation plans more likely. Since the Justice Department runs the immigrant court system, Sessions could make it easier — by staffing up the court, for example — to deport 2 to 3 million undocumented immigrants, as Trump proposed.

And on LGBTQ issues, Sessions wouldn’t have as much power as he would in other realms. But he could, for example, reverse the Justice Department’s LGBTQ-inclusive interpretation of federal civil rights laws and stop pushing for the courts to recognize that LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination in the workplace, housing, schools, and other settings.

Sessions’s nomination validates many critics’ fears of Trump

President-elect Donald Trump meets with Republicans on Capitol Hill.Mark Wilson/Getty Images

When you put this all together, Sessions’s nomination appears to validate many Trump critics’ greatest fears. His administration will go “tough on crime.” It won’t care much for the civil rights of minority Americans. It will try to be “tough” on immigration. And given Sessions’s history of racist remarks, it certainly doesn’t appear that Trump is too sorry about his own history of racist comments on the campaign trail and beforehand.

Indeed, some critics immediately voiced deep concerns. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat, quickly released a statement condemning Sessions’s nomination: “If you have nostalgia for the days when blacks kept quiet, gays were in the closet, immigrants were invisible, and women stayed in the kitchen, Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is your man. No senator has fought harder against the hopes and aspirations of Latinos, immigrants, and people of color than Sen. Sessions.”

There are some open questions. It’s unclear, for example, if Sessions will try to crack down on states that have legalized marijuana, since pot is still technically illegal under federal law. Trump said that pot legalization should be left to the states, but Sessions, an opponent of legalization, may take a hard-line stance — reversing President Obama’s hands-off approach to states legalizing. And it remains to be seen whether Sessions will let Trump use the Justice Department as a tool of the White House rather than keep it as a quasi-independent agency.

But even if Sessions doesn’t take a Trump-approved or conservative approach on every issue, it’s likely he would move the Justice Department sharply to the right — in a way that could affect anyone from federal prisoners to undocumented immigrants to minority voters.

Watch: Donald Trump and the rise of American authoritarianism

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U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: November 18, 2016

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1. Trump offers Michael Flynn, Jeff Sessions top positions
Donald Trump has reportedly asked retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn to be his national security adviser, and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions to be his attorney general. Flynn is retired from the U.S. Army and resigned as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in 2014, forced out over his leadership style and, he said, his hardline views on Islamist extremism. Sessions, for his part, has long been tough on free trade and immigration, and has historically opposed prison sentencing reform, legalizing marijuana, same-sex marriage, and curbing the war on drugs.

Source: CBS, Bloomberg

2. Trump to discuss possible Cabinet post with Romney
President-elect Donald Trump plans to meet with Mitt Romney to discuss a possible Cabinet post for the former Massachusetts governor. Romney, the Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nominee, criticized Trump harshly during this year’s campaign, calling the billionaire businessman a “phony” who was “playing the American people for suckers.” Trump now is considering nominating Romney as secretary of state. Trump met Thursday with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who also reportedly is being considered for the job. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, a senior Trump adviser, also is believed to be in the running.

Source: ABC News

3. Obama urges Trump to get tough on Russia
President Obama joined leaders from Germany, Britain, France, Italy, and Spain on Friday to discuss security and economic concerns the U.S. shares with its trans-Atlantic partners. The meeting, held in Germany in what is likely Obama’s last such gathering as president, came a day after Obama made his strongest public comments yet since last week’s U.S. election, saying that President-elect Donald Trump must take the job seriously and “stand up to Russia” when necessary. “If you’re not serious about the job, then you probably won’t be there very long,” Obama said. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a close ally of Obama’s, said she was approaching the incoming Trump administration “with an open mind.”

Source: ABC News, The New York Times

4. Trump holds first meeting with foreign leader, Japan’s Shinzo Abe
President-elect Donald Trump met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in New York on Thursday, his first face-to-face talk with another world leader since winning last week’s election. During the campaign, Trump said U.S. allies in Europe and Asia should pay more for the umbrella of protection provided by the U.S., such as American troops stationed in Japan. Abe said after the meeting that he had “great confidence” in Trump and believed they could build a relationship of trust. Trump has received 32 congratulatory phone calls from foreign leaders in the nine days since the election, all arranged directly through his staff rather than through the State Department in accordance with diplomatic tradition.

Source: BBC News, The New York Times

5. Clapper resigns from intelligence post as Trump builds security team
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Thursday that he had submitted his resignation letter. Clapper had said previously that he was “counting the days” until he could step down at the end of President Obama’s final term, and he told members of the House Select Committee on Intelligence it “felt pretty good” to be able to do it. Clapper is stepping aside as President-elect Donald Trump builds his own national security team.

Source: CNN, The Associated Press

6. Yellen says rate hike could come ‘relatively soon’
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said Thursday that an interest rate hike “could well become appropriate relatively soon” if incoming economic data reinforces recent evidence that employment is gaining strength and inflation is edging up to the Fed’s 2 percent target rate. Yellen, in remarks to Congress’ Joint Economic Committee, reiterated Fed indications that any rate increases would be “gradual.” Yellen did not allude to expectations that President-elect Donald Trump plans to cut taxes and boost spending on infrastructure projects, which investors expect to speed up inflation and economic growth.

Source: Bloomberg, Reuters

7. Trump takes credit for keeping a Ford vehicle’s production in U.S.
President-elect Donald Trump claimed credit Thursday for keeping a Ford plant in Kentucky. “No Mexico,” Trump tweeted. Ford, however, had not been planning to move the plant; it was going to move production of its low-selling Lincoln MKC utility vehicle and keep the same number of jobs as it increased production of the Ford Escape, which is also produced at the plant. The company said it had told Trump of its decision to cancel the production shift, and that it was “encouraged that President-elect Trump and the new Congress will pursue policies that will improve U.S. competitiveness and make it possible to keep production of this vehicle here in the United States.”

Source: The Washington Post

8. Tesla and SolarCity shareholders approve merger plan
Tesla Motors shareholders on Thursday overwhelmingly approved the electric car maker’s proposed acquisition of SolarCity, a solar-panel maker. SolarCity shareholders also strongly backed the deal, which is valued at $2 billion. Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk is the chairman and largest stockholder of both companies, and he hopes the merger will create a one-stop source for green technology for their cars and homes. “I think your faith will be rewarded,” Musk told Tesla shareholders, promising them that “some really amazing stuff will be coming out.”

Source: Los Angeles Times

9. U.S. snow cover at historic low
The Lower 48 state are experiencing record low snow cover so far this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported this week. “How unusual is this?” NOAA writes. “National snow analyses have been compiled by NOAA’s National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center since 2003 and, during that time, never have the first two weeks of November shown such small amounts of snow.” Only 0.2 percent of the country is covered in snow, most of it in the high Sierra Nevada, Rocky, and Cascade mountains. 2016 is on track to be the hottest year on record, although a snowstorm developing in the Rockies is expected to sweep the High Plains and Minnesota later this week.

Source: NOAA, The Washington Post

10. Cubs’ Bryant and Angels’ Trout win MVP awards
Chicago Cubs slugger Kris Bryant and Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout won Major League Baseball’s most valuable player awards on Thursday. Bryant, the National League MVP, hit .292 with 39 home runs, and hit homers in Game 5 and Game 6 of the World Series to help the Cubs win their first championship since 1908. Trout, the American League MVP, was the first player from a losing team to win the award since Alex Rodriguez in 2003. Trout — who also won in 2014 and placed second in 2012, 2013, and 2015 — hit .315 with 29 homers and led the majors in runs (123) and on-base percentage (.441).

Source: The Associated Press, The New York Times

U.S. Politics

Don Lemon hammers Trump surrogate over fake Ford story: ‘You’re saying the truth doesn’t matter?’

Don Lemon Panel (Photo: Screen capture)

Don Lemon Panel (Photo: Screen capture)


CNN host Don Lemon nailed President-Elect Donald Trump’s surrogate Paris Denard on Thursday night’s show. Trump is drawing criticism after taking credit for Ford Motor Company not moving to Mexico. Denard attempted to explain that the truth doesn’t matter and Lemon wouldn’t let it slide.

Trump tweeted Thursday night, “I worked hard with Bill Ford to keep the Lincoln plant in Kentucky. I owed it to the great State of Kentucky for their confidence in me!”

Trump made the accusation that Ford was moving a Kentucky plant to Mexico in September’s presidential debate. Ford fact-checked Trump’s statement with a graphic showing that they have more American workers than any other auto company. Ford is also bound by a labor contract with the worker’s union that they cannot move their plant to Mexico. It was never in the cards for Ford to move to Mexico, despite Trump’s claims.

Sellers couldn’t take it, calling it a “fake news story.”

“I think that this builds into a larger narrative and the larger narrative is Donald Trump is himself a fake news story,” Sellers said. “What we’ve seen is this — it’s this cycle of fake news stories that pop up and drive the narrative. Donald Trump will flat out lie and said he did something, which we can have objectable proof he did not do and it’s category categorically false.”

Trump surrogate Paris Denard tried to explain that Trump was instrumental in this latest achievement.

The facts are, Mr. Trump was outspoken and talking about how he was going to make America great again. He was outspoken and talking about how he wanted to bring jobs back,” Denard said. “When it comes to Ford, Mr. Ford, Trump was very factual and talking about, how he was not going to allow that to happen under his watch, meaning leave the American soil and go across the boarder to Mexico.”

Sellers seemed as if he didn’t believe what he was hearing. “But they weren’t going to,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter,” Denard said, before continuing what he was saying.

Host Don Lemon pushed back. “Paris, are you sure it doesn’t matter?”

“It’s not about the truth. It’s about raising awareness,” he insisted.

Lemon pushed back again. “You’re saying the truth doesn’t matter? He’s taking a victory lap, Paris. Let’s be honest and you’re sitting here on international television and telling people the truth doesn’t matter?”

“Don, if I may briefly,” Sellers continued. “One of the things about this whole dynamic of President-Elect is you have Paris say it doesn’t matter and now we’re saying maybe it was a step too far but what we’ve created over the past 18 months, and something we’ll have to deal with is a culture of low exception. The fact is Donald Trump told a lie. He had to be corrected by the CEO of Ford. Ford was not leaving the United States going to Mexico. They had a contract with the union that said they could not leave, something that had nothing to do with Donald Trump at all and they were never going to Mexico. Now people pick up on this story. It’s a fake news story that goes around and it’s below the office of the presidency. I mean if he can’t tell the truth in a tweet about Ford, I mean, how will we believe him about anything else.”

According to CNN Money correspondent Christina Alesci, this is not the first time Trump has taken credit for something he didn’t do. In 2015, Trump told a New Hampshire crowd that Ford would be building a massive plant in the United States because he’d been attacking them.

See the video below:

U.S. Politics

10 things we learned about Trump adviser Steve Bannon from this recently surfaced speech

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Steve Bannon.Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images


Stephen Bannon, the CEO of far-right media outlet Breitbart News and Donald Trump’s newly named chief strategist, believes we are in the midst of a crisis — of both global economy and moral standing.

Godlessness and libertarianism has “sapped the strength of the Judeo-Christian West to defend its ideals,” and the Muslim world is growing in numbers, Bannon told a conference at the Vatican in 2014. “Every day that we refuse to look at this as what it is, and the scale of it, and really the viciousness of it, will be a day where you will rue that we didn’t act.”

BuzzFeed published the transcript of Bannon’s remarks at a conference hosted by the Human Dignity Institute and attended by some of Europe’s most conservative religious voices. Two years ago, before Trump’s rise in American politics or the Brexit vote, Bannon made a case for a populist conservative movement and explained the biggest dangers facing the Christian world, while he downplayed the roles racism and bigotry often play in these fringe right movements.

Now, as Bannon’s worldview has direct access to the Oval Office, it’s of the utmost importance to understand the ideology that will have the private ear of the 45th president of the United States.

Here are 10 of the key passages from the transcript of Bannon’s remarks, framing a worldview that could shape the next four years of a Trump administration — and what they tell us about the man who spent years mainstreaming white nationalism.

1) Bannon says: We are in an era of global economic crisis

Bannon believes in a golden era of economic prosperity; a period in the mid-20th century — the Pax Americana — distinct as a time of peace in the Western Hemisphere. But since the fall of the Soviet Union, he says, the world has come off track, and what has ensued is a crisis in capitalism:

The underlying principle is an enlightened form of capitalism, that capitalism really gave us the wherewithal. It kind of organized and built the materials needed to support, whether it’s the Soviet Union, England, the United States, and eventually to take back continental Europe and to beat back a barbaric empire in the Far East.

That capitalism really generated tremendous wealth. And that wealth was really distributed among a middle class, a rising middle class, people who come from really working-class environments and created what we really call a Pax Americana. It was many, many years and decades of peace. And I believe we’ve come partly offtrack in the years since the fall of the Soviet Union and we’re starting now in the 21st century, which I believe, strongly, is a crisis both of our church, a crisis of our faith, a crisis of the West, a crisis of capitalism.

This “enlightened capitalism” has been replaced with a “disturbing” form of “libertarian conservatism,” Bannon explains:

It is a capitalism that really looks to make people commodities, and to objectify people, and to use them almost — as many of the precepts of Marx — and that is a form of capitalism, particularly to a younger generation [that] they’re really finding quite attractive. And if they don’t see another alternative, it’s going to be an alternative that they gravitate to under this kind of rubric of “personal freedom.”

The idea of a golden era resonates with Trump’s rise: He made the tagline of his campaign “Make America Great Again,” harking back to an undefined period of great wealth. The motto led many on the left — including President Barack Obama — to question which era Trump was referring to with his “again,” pointing out the immense social and cultural strides that have been made since the Pax Americana era began.

2) The best capitalist leaders held Judeo-Christian beliefs

There is a religious and moral underpinning to Bannon’s understanding of economic prosperity and “enlightened capitalism.” In other words, the golden era of capitalism he speaks of — when the Western world was enjoying an abundance of wealth and peace — was dictated by Judeo-Christian ideals:

One thing I want to make sure of, if you look at the leaders of capitalism at that time, when capitalism was I believe at its highest flower and spreading its benefits to most of mankind, almost all of those capitalists were strong believers in the Judeo-Christian West. They were either active participants in the Jewish faith, they were active participants in the Christians’ faith, and they took their beliefs, and the underpinnings of their beliefs was manifested in the work they did. And I think that’s incredibly important and something that would really become unmoored. I can see this on Wall Street today — I can see this with the securitization of everything is that, everything is looked at as a securitization opportunity. People are looked at as commodities. I don’t believe that our forefathers had that same belief.

Judeo-Christian ideals have a long history in conservative movements, from Barry Goldwater to Ronald Reagan, emphasizing the importance of traditional American religious values in all aspects of life. The notion feeds the image of a simpler and more homogeneous nation, which Trump’s campaign largely signaled throughout the race.

3) The secular and Muslim worlds have put the Judeo-Christian West in crisis

Therefore, Bannon’s “crisis of capitalism,” as he talks about earlier in his remarks, is paired with a crisis of faith — a weakening of Judeo-Christian ideals, brought on by the recent popularity of secularism and the growth of the Muslim world.

Bannon sees secularism as a crisis among younger generations: With “younger people, especially millennials under 30, the overwhelming drive of popular culture is to absolutely secularize this rising iteration.”

That tendency, as well as the rise of Eastern religion, has weakened the pillars of Western ideals, Bannon believes:

I certainly think secularism has sapped the strength of the Judeo-Christian West to defend its ideals, right?

If you go back to your home countries and your proponent of the defense of the Judeo-Christian West and its tenets, often times, particularly when you deal with the elites, you’re looked at as someone who is quite odd. So it has kind of sapped the strength.

But I strongly believe that whatever the causes of the current drive to the caliphate was — and we can debate them, and people can try to deconstruct them — we have to face a very unpleasant fact: And that unpleasant fact is that there is a major war brewing, a war that’s already global. It’s going global in scale, and today’s technology, today’s media, today’s access to weapons of mass destruction, it’s going to lead to a global conflict that I believe has to be confronted today.

It’s not too far a leap to what we saw in the 2016 election, with the “othering” of Muslim American communities. Trump’s insistence to look at Islam with the utmost skepticism effectively created an us-against-them mentality between Americans and Muslim Americans.

4) These crises have given way to ISIS

The byproduct of these crises in Judeo-Christian faith and capitalism “converges” on ISIS, Bannon says. “We are in an outright war against jihadist Islamic fascism. And this war is, I think, metastasizing far quicker than governments can handle it,” he said:

If you look at what’s happening in ISIS, which is the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant, that is now currently forming the caliphate that is having a military drive on Baghdad, if you look at the sophistication of which they’ve taken the tools of capitalism.

They have a Twitter account up today, ISIS does, about turning the United States into a “river of blood” if it comes in and tries to defend the city of Baghdad. And trust me, that is going to come to Europe. That is going to come to Central Europe, it’s going to come to Western Europe, it’s going to come to the United Kingdom. And so I think we are in a crisis of the underpinnings of capitalism, and on top of that we’re now, I believe, at the beginning stages of a global war against Islamic fascism.

Much of this rhetoric has continued, asserting that the incompetence of the left led to the rise of ISIS. Trump even once wrongly claimed Obama was the “founder” of ISIS.

5) ISIS is the biggest threat, and the Judeo-Christian West needs to stand up against it

Bannon’s conclusion on much of this is the need to again strengthen the Judeo-Christian stronghold against, most importantly, ISIS, but also what he implies are the creeping ideals of the East, or Islam:

I believe you should take a very, very, very aggressive stance against radical Islam. And I realize there are other aspects that are not as militant and not as aggressive and that’s fine.

If you look back at the long history of the Judeo-Christian West struggle against Islam, I believe that our forefathers kept their stance, and I think they did the right thing. I think they kept it out of the world, whether it was at Vienna, or Tours, or other places … It bequeathed to use the great institution that is the church of the West.

There has been every effort to heighten the fear of ISIS and terrorism throughout the election on Trump’s part — even as Americans’ direct threat of terrorism is vanishingly small. His promise to make American safe again, extreme calls for a ban on Muslim immigration, increased surveillance on Muslim communities, and so forth could very easily be interpreted as the execution of Bannon’s call for a Judeo-Christian pushback.

6) The populist uprising is driven by economic anxiety

There has been a lot of talk this election about the ideas behind Trump’s rise and whether they stemmed from economic anxiety or racial resentment. The two are clearly not mutually exclusive. Bannon, however, explained it as a byproduct of the 2008 bailouts:

So you can understand why middle class people having a tough go of it making $50 or $60 thousand a year and see their taxes go up, and they see that their taxes are going to pay for government sponsored bailouts, what you’ve created is really a free option. You say to this investment banking, create a free option for bad behavior. In otherwise all the upside goes to the hedge funds and the investment bank, and to the crony capitalist with stock increases and bonus increases. And their downside is limited, because middle class people are going to come and bail them out with tax dollars.

And that’s what I think is fueling this populist revolt. Whether that revolt is in the midlands of England, or whether it’s in Middle America. And I think people are fed up with it.

This populist revolt fell behind Trump this year. He was able to energize the white working class, a contingent of voters that largely led Trump’s victories in states like Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa, and Pennsylvania.

7) Bannon has seen incremental Tea Party success throughout the years

The strength of what were once fringe movements has proved shocking to many. But Bannon has been seeing their growing strength for years, arguing that even while losing in the election, the need to address Tea Party concerns has become increasingly visible in Washington:

And I think that’s why you’re seeing — when you read the media says, “tea party is losing, losing elections,” that is all BS. The elections we don’t win, we’re forcing those crony capitalists to come and admit that they’re not going to do this again. The whole narrative in Washington has been changed by this populist revolt that we call the grassroots of the tea party movement.

And it’s specifically because those bailouts were completely and totally unfair. It didn’t make those financial institutions any stronger, and it bailed out a bunch of people — by the way, and these are people that have all gone to Yale, and Harvard, they went to the finest institutions in the West. They should have known better.

Bannon’s own Breitbart may be the best articulation of the smaller successes. This year, alt-right media outlets entered the mainstream, and as Bannon explained, these ideas, once only shared by the fringe, have been mainstreamed to the White House.

8) In 2014, Bannon said conservative populism would take over the world

These remarks were given long before Trump’s rise or the passing of Brexit. But in 2014, Bannon saw a shifting tide globally, a brand of conservative populism taking hold:

And that center-right revolt is really a global revolt. I think you’re going to see it in Latin America, I think you’re going to see it in Asia, I think you’ve already seen it in India. Modi’s great victory was very much based on these Reaganesque principles, so I think this is a global revolt, and we are very fortunate and proud to be the news site that is reporting that throughout the world.

Breitbart found its niche with these “working” people, Bannon said, pairing it with social conservatism:

We’re the voice of the anti-abortion movement, the voice of the traditional marriage movement, and I can tell you we’re winning victory after victory after victory. Things are turning around as people have a voice and have a platform of which they can use.


I will tell you that the working men and women of Europe and Asia and the United States and Latin America don’t believe that. They believe they know what’s best for how they will comport their lives. They think they know best about how to raise their families and how to educate their families. So I think you’re seeing a global reaction to centralized government, whether that government is in Beijing or that government is in Washington, DC, or that government is in Brussels.

Bannon was right to cue a change in tide; conservative populist movements have been gaining steam globally, whether with the Brexit win in the United Kingdom, Trump’s rise in the US, or the Front National in France. But each of these anti-elite movements has also been paired with strong racial resentments and xenophobic tendencies, which Bannon’s understanding of the working and “socially conservative” right seems to miss.

9) He believes racism and nativist beliefs have been “washed out” in the alt-right…

On multiple occasions, Bannon was asked to comment on the racist undertones — and, at times, explicit overtones — of these alt-conservative populist movements. He answered once, downplaying the role racism plays in the movement.

“I think when you look at any kind of revolution — and this is a revolution — you always have some groups that are disparate. I think that will all burn away over time and you’ll see more of a mainstream center-right populist movement,” he said.

In other words, there will always be the more extreme factions of a movement — but racism and nativism are “washed out” on the whole, he said:

It seems that they have had some aspects that may be anti-Semitic or racial. By the way, even in the tea party, we have a broad movement like this, and we’ve been criticized, and they try to make the tea party as being racist, etc., which it’s not. But there’s always elements who turn up at these things, whether it’s militia guys or whatever. Some that are fringe organizations. My point is that over time it all gets kind of washed out, right? People understand what pulls them together, and the people on the margins I think get marginalized more and more.

Of course, as we have seen throughout both the movements in the United Kingdom with the Brexit referendum and Trump’s rise, racial anxiety and xenophobia have played central roles — and have often translated to objectively discriminatory policy proposals like, most recently, the Muslim registry.

10) …and that Putin is a kleptocrat — but with good leadership ideas

Two years before Trump’s presidential victory, and a campaign during which Trump openly complimented Putin’s leadership qualities, Bannon summed up Putin similarly, calling him a strong traditionalist leading an important nationalist movement:

I’m not justifying Vladimir Putin and the kleptocracy that he represents, because he eventually is the state capitalist of kleptocracy. However, we the Judeo-Christian West really have to look at what he’s talking about as far as traditionalism goes — particularly the sense of where it supports the underpinnings of nationalism — and I happen to think that the individual sovereignty of a country is a good thing and a strong thing. I think strong countries and strong nationalist movements in countries make strong neighbors, and that is really the building blocks that built Western Europe and the United States, and I think it’s what can see us forward.

You know, Putin’s been quite an interesting character. He’s also very, very, very intelligent. I can see this in the United States where he’s playing very strongly to social conservatives about his message about more traditional values, so I think it’s something that we have to be very much on guard of.

Putin had a central role in the American election — he was an open supporter of Trump and long blamed by Clinton’s campaign for attempting to meddle in the democratic process. Bannon’s understanding of him fits in line with both these realities: that he has leadership qualities Trump seems to admire, and that he is a self-serving dictatorial leader.

Tara Golshan

U.S. Politics

Lewandowski Admits It: FBI Comey’s Letter Won Trump The Election

Image result for Lewandowski Admits It: FBI Comey’s Letter Won Trump The Election

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Donald Trump was right about one thing. The election was ‘rigged’ and in more ways than one. From WackyLeaks interfering to hackers to exit polling contradicting election results to voter suppression to FBI director James Comey’s bizarre and vague letter he sent to Congress just 11 days before voters cast their ballots.

Trump’s former presidential campaign manager admitted late Wednesday that the president-elect won the keys to the White House because the FBI renewed its examination of Hillary Clinton’s private email server, according to The Hill.

“With eleven days to go, something amazing happened,” Corey Lewandowski said, The Telegraph reports.

“The FBI’s director James [Comey] came out on a Friday and he said they may be reopening the investigation into ‘Crooked Hillary’s’ emails,” he said.

“What that did was remind people that there are two different rules in Washington — those of the elites and the privileged, and those for everybody else,” he continued.

“When Comey moved forward with that investigation… it allowed the campaign a little spring in their step, and for them to redouble their efforts,” he said.

“In those last last eleven days Mr Trump was exceptionally disciplined. He used a teleprompter…” he said, without one bit of irony. Trump blasted others for using a teleprompter then used one  himself.

“And then, Donald Trump won the election campaign by the largest majority since Ronald Reagan in 1984,” Lewandowski added without noting that Hillary Clinton’s lead in the popular vote could reach more than 2 million votes.

After Comey sent Congress the letter, he took until two days before Election Day to say his bureau would not change its earlier conclusion. In other words, Comey’s assertion that something ‘pertinent’ might be in Anthony Weiner’s emails was a big fat lie. Comey did that to interfere with our country’s election process. The FBI director was blasted by Democrats and some Republicans as well. It was a stunningly obvious tactic to put Donald Trump into power.

Corey Lewandowski is expected to be offered a key position in the Trump administration.

Yes, the election was ‘rigged.’

By Conover Kennard


U.S. Politics

Kellyanne Conway and Ted Cruz deride Trump protesters as “snowflakes” and “idiots”

Kellyanne Conway and Ted Cruz deride Trump protesters as

Image Credit: AP


Donald Trump isn’t the only one with a flare for a putdown.

As protests and condemnations of the president-elect continue to roil the country, Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said the country needs to toughen up on tender millennials.

“We’re just treating these adolescents and these millennials like precious snowflakes,” Conway told Sean Hannity of Fox News on Wednesday night.

Conway said she was brought up to “respect the office of the presidency and its current occupant and the flag, and that’s it.”

As her candidate has, Conway went after “paid protesters” and politicians who want to “whine and cry” about Trump’s defeat of Democrat Hillary Clinton.

By comparison, she said, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have been much more modulated in tone and have encouraged the public to give Trump a chance.

Said Conway:

I‘m just amazed how many texts and emails I received about these college professors saying, “You don’t have to take the test, you can get a college credit if you protest.” What’s the worst thing that can happen to these millennials? That Donald Trump will make good on his promise to create 25 million new jobs? That he’ll unleash energy investment? That he’ll get rid of the Obamacare penalty on day one, so that you’re not forced to buy government-run health care?

On Thursday, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz echoed Conway’s contention that the same people who had demanded Trump would accept the election results are now the ones chanting “Not my president.”

“These are now the idiots that are protesting in the street and laying down their bodies in front of cars and disrupting traffic,” Cruz said on Fox & Friends. “And… look, we had an election. The people spoke. Democracy is a powerful, powerful way of choosing.”

To be exact, Trump became president-elect by defeating Clinton in the Electoral College. She won the popular vote.

Hundreds of demonstrators associated with a group called IfNotNow marchedThursday morning on Trump Tower in Manhattan to demand that Trump rescind his appointment of former Breitbart head Steve Bannon as chief counselor.

Members of IfNotNow, which describes itself as “a movement to end the American Jewish community’s support for the occupation and gain freedom and dignity for all Israelis and Palestinians,” assailed Bannon as a pusher of hate rhetoric and a proponent of white nationalist and alt-right thought.

Kellyanne Conway and Ted Cruz deride Trump protesters as

Protesters have targeted Trump’s appointed chief counselor, Steve Bannon.Source: Evan Vucci/AP

The Trump campaign and Breitbart, among others, have sprung to Bannon’s defense even as prominent figures, including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, have attacked him as a bigot.

Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, told reporters Thursday at Trump Tower that Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence are true friends of the country.

Dermer, according to a pool report, made a point of saying he looked forward to working with Bannon.

Celeste Katz

U.S. Politics

How Bots, Twitter, and Hackers Pushed Trump to the Finish Line

Note:  My candidate lost so out of natural instinct I’m inclined to believe the following report.  Had it been the other way around, I would have naturally rejected it.  Also my tech support background allows me to see the real possibilities of this having occurred in a few election cycles already. (ks)


Every presidential election, new tech trends emerge. Here are the innovations — good and bad — that powered the 2016 campaigns.

The 2016 presidential election season is, at last, over. Polls and the press were reasonably certain Hillary Clinton would emerge as the country’s first female president. But the winner, to the shock of many, was Donald Trump, a candidate written off early by the Republican establishment, and then by the Democratic establishment, as a sideshow.

Yet Trump, now the President-elect, managed to win by pulling an electoral college coup, winning in places like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, and Ohio—states whose electoral votes went to President Obama in both 2008and 2012. In a race that was unpredictable through Election Day itself, what seems most certain now is that the normal rules of campaigning no longer apply. You can tweet out that the electoral college is a “disaster for democracy” — and then rely on that electoral college to make you president four years later.

As the Democratic and Republican parties scramble for new tactics, they will turn to, and on occasion joust with, technology more intensely — though not always in the ways we might expect. This year, bots took on new prominence; cybersecurity breaches exposed the inner workings of Clinton’s campaign; and the influence of Silicon Valley heavyweights grew even larger.

Here’s our rundown of the stand-out tech moments of 2016. Please add your own suggestions at the end.

Following the third debate, automated pro-Trump accounts on Twitter pumped out seven times more messages than pro-Clinton accounts. Most of these accounts, it turned out, were powered by chatbots: the newest tool in computational propaganda. “It’s definitely one of the most significant digital aspects of this campaign season,” says Samuel Woolley, a researcher with the Political Bots Project.

Bots began their social media careers as a way to artificially increase a candidate’s follower count. In 2011, for example, Gawker reported that as many as 80 percent of Newt Gingrich’s 1.3 million Twitter followers were fake. This year, bots grew in prominence and numbers, with about 400,000 of them tweeting out hashtagged messages for and against Trump and Clinton. They are the new robocalls, influencing and persuading voters in their Twitter timelines.

These automated social media bot accounts are created by people familiar with Twitter’s API. Individual bots are then organized into larger collections called botnets to send out propaganda for political users or groups. It’s a trend researchers say is bound to stick around unless social media companies start moderating politically oriented content. “Bots will continue to be used in more sophisticated ways by people to game the polls that go on online, to stretch the limits of truth, to circulate fake stories,” Woolley says.

Twitter was a big propellant of Trump’s campaign, even as the platform has struggled to secure its own future. Twitter offered Trump a workaround of what he considered the biased mainstream media, and his tweets almost always carried an anti-establishment tenor. As Garry Wills observed last week, “Trump seems to ‘tell it like it is’ because he voices [his followers’] dissatisfactions.”

Clinton’s Twitter feed, meanwhile, was its antithesis. Her tweets remained largely scripted and uncontroversial, often even referring to the candidate in third person. Elizabeth Cohen, assistant professor of communication studies at West Virginia University, sees this as a telling misstep. “Trump doesn’t have the voice of a campaign. He has the voice of himself, and I think that has really gone a long way in helping him get this far,” Cohen says.

Cohen researches ghost-tweeting, which is when a campaign surrogate controls a candidate’s Twitter account and sends canned messages. Though these tweets carry the air of a carefully considered message, they also increase how distant people feel from a campaign. Both Clinton and Trump used ghost-tweeters, but Trump cut through most effectively when he posted as himself and replied to followers on Twitter.

The desire among constituents for online realness isn’t going away. “Social media’s a two-way medium, and now we expect our candidates to interact,” says Cohen. “We expect a different type of access to them.”

One of the main storylines to emerge during the 2016 campaign was the increasing influence of Silicon Valley on national politics. Over the last 20 years, the tech industry has contributed almost $60 million to politicians, second only to the oil and gas industry. But in 2016, tech’s bigwigs were especially visible.

Clinton’s campaign drew the tech elite most tightly into the fold. The fallout of the hacked emails published by WikiLeaks revealed that Google co-founder Eric Schmidt had expressed interest in acting as an outside adviser to Team Clinton, while Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was “hungry to learn” about politics from Clinton’s inner circle, according to emails between Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. Clinton’s campaign also considered Apple’s Tim Cook and both Bill and Melinda Gates as possible vice president picks.

But Trump — who reportedly does not use a computer and is generally tech-phobic—also benefited from his immensely powerful Silicon Valley friends. Peter Thiel supported Donald Trump even before speaking at the Republican National Convention in July. At a National Press Club event last month, he succinctly captured the disconnect between the media and the voters. “The media always is taking Trump literally,” he said, adding, “I think a lot of the voters who vote for Trump take Trump seriously, but not literally.”

It wasn’t just Thiel. In September, The Daily Beast unearthed the fact that Oculus founder Palmer Luckey was funding a group dedicated to online “shitposting” of Hillary Clinton through meme warfare. Less widely recognized is the technological influence of billionaire Robert Mercer, a major financial backer of Trump and co-CEO of the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies. While at IBM in the 1970s and ’80s, Mercer pioneered the use of big data in natural language processing — a transformational idea that garnered him a 2014 lifetime achievement award from the Association of Computational Linguistics.

“Until just a few years ago, the perspective in Silicon Valley was to have nothing to do with Washington,” tech entrepreneur Ben Casnocha told FiveThirtyEight. “It’s only in the last few years that tech companies have really established a significant lobbying presence in Washington.”

Speaking of WikiLeaks, can someone teach John Podesta what spear-phishing is? Perhaps the biggest, juiciest, and scariest element of this year’s presidential campaign was the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and of Podesta. Among the thousands of hacked emails, disseminated widely by WikiLeaks were messages that seemed to suggest the DNC was working against Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

In October, the New York Times reported that Russia was behind not only the hack of the DNC, but also the hack of Podesta’s email account, a caper executed by sending Podesta a seemingly authentic email asking for his Gmail account information. The email was actually a way to infect his computer with malware and then scoop his emails. As news of these hacks came out, Trump’s campaign denied having any contact with the Russian government, although Russia’s deputy foreign minister told a state-run news agency after the election that Moscow did have “contacts” with Team Trump.

As the final weeks of the campaign passed, Trump repeatedly seized on information exposed by WikiLeaks to prop up his verbal attacks against Clinton. Though previously secret information about Trump made its way to the news cycle as well—see his comments, revealed in an old “Access Hollywood” tape, about making moves on married women—he wasn’t targeted by WikiLeaks in the same way. According to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the group received no information, hacked or shared otherwise, to release about Trump or his campaign. (There’s now a Change.org petition calling on Trump to pardon Assange.)

Future campaigns would do well to — at the very least! — consider email encryption or other cybersecurity measures to prevent their own fiascos. Or they might try a time-tested technology to keep their conversations from going public: the telephone.

Staffers working for Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary were amazed when they managed to draw 381 supporters to the candidate’s first official campaign event in Oklahoma only three days after telling people about it. Days later, 338 people showed up to an event in Tulsa. Sanders, who ultimately lost the nomination to Hillary Clinton, won Oklahoma by 10 points. To rally the troops in Oklahoma, campaign staffers turned to the same tool they had been using since the Iowa caucuses: Hustle. The app allowed them to send up to 50 text messages per minute and put them in touch with 8,000 people in-state in just the first weekend.

Originally created to help advocacy organizations and nonprofits build relationships with donors, Hustle fit in naturally with a political campaign. Data the startup compiled on how the app helped Sanders’ campaign showed that texts from staffers received a response 30 percent of the time, versus 10 percent of the time for phone calls. According to CEO and co-founder Roddy Lindsay, senators and governors seeking re-election in 2018 are already talking to Hustle about how they can use the app to reach voters. “We have to find new ways of reaching people where they are, and for most of us in 2016, where we are is mobile,” he says.

Trump’s campaign also made use of text messages. At his rallies, signs bearing his name invited supporters to “Text TRUMP to 88022.” Just one problem: In April, a class-action lawsuit was filed against the campaign alleging it had violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by sending text messages to people without their consent. Now the Department of Justice is deciding whether to wade into the controversy. Trump’s campaign might soon find itself in a place with which the new president-elect is quite familiar: the courtroom.

Andrew Zaleski

U.S. Politics

‘We’re in for the fight of our lives’: ACLU exec. dir.


‘We’re in for the fight of our lives’: ACLU exec. dir.

Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, talks with Rachel Maddow about the surge in public support since the election of Donald Trump, and how his group is preparing to defend civil liberties from President-elect Donald Trump’s stated agenda. Duration: 5:28