CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 15: Police officers cordon off the area as they inspect the Al Noor Mosque, the shooting site, after gunmen attacked the two mosques and fired multiple times during Friday prayers in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 15, 2019. At least 40 people were reportedly killed in twin terror attacks targeting mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, an official said on Friday. Witnesses claim the Al Noor Mosque was targeted by armed assailants and there were up to 200 people inside for Friday Prayers. (Photo by Diederik van Heyningen/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
March 15, 2019

Don’t Just Condemn the New Zealand Attacks — Politicians and Pundi...

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 15: Police officers cordon off the area as they inspect the Al Noor Mosque, the shooting site, after gunmen attacked the two mosques and fired multiple times during Friday prayers in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 15, 2019. At least 40 people were reportedly killed in twin terror attacks targeting mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, an official said on Friday. Witnesses claim the Al Noor Mosque was targeted by armed assailants and there were up to 200 people inside for Friday Prayers. (Photo by Diederik van Heyningen/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Police officers cordon off the area as they inspect the Al Noor Mosque after gunmen attacked two mosques and fired multiple times during Friday prayers in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 15, 2019.

Photo: Diederik van Heyningen/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

“It’s the birthrates.”

So begins the online manifesto of the man accused of shooting and killing at least 49 Muslims in a terror attack targeted at two mosques in New Zealand.

“Even if we were to deport all Non-Europeans from our lands tomorrow, the European people would still be spiraling into decay and eventual death,” it continues. “In the end we must return to replacement fertility levels, or it will kill us.”

The alleged shooter goes on to refer to his “dislike” of Muslims, and his particular hatred for converts to the Islamic faith, while referring to the attacks as “revenge” against Islam. He talks of a “white genocide” and describes Muslim immigrants as the “most despised group of invaders in the West.”

Whether or not this manifesto turns out to be a trap, designed for the purposes of trolling, baiting, and “shitposting,” as Bellingcat’s Robert Evans has argued, there is no denying that it is a hate-filled screed. It is vile, viciously anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant, and unhinged.

But what it is is not shocking. There is nothing shocking about it. How can there be? Have you not been paying attention? Much of his rhetoric and references are borrowed from the political and media mainstream — especially here in the United States.

When I read his manifesto, I couldn’t help but think of high-profile American politicians, such as the president of the United States who said, “Islam hates us,” referred to “people coming out of mosques with hatred and death in their eyes and on their minds,” and compared a caravan of migrants to an “invasion.” Or Sen. Ted Cruz, who called on “law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.” Or Sen. Marco Rubio who said he was in favor of “closing down anyplace — whether it’s a cafe, a diner, an internet site — anyplace where radicals are being inspired.” Or Sen. Lindsey Graham who declared: “If I have to monitor a mosque, I’ll monitor a mosque.” Or former Gov. Mike Huckabee who described Muslims in the Middle East coming out of mosques on Fridays “like uncorked animals.” Or even former President Bill Clinton, who suggested at the Democratic National Convention in 2016 that Muslim-American citizenship was contingent on good behavior and proving loyalty: “If you’re a Muslim and you love America and freedom and you hate terror, stay here and help us win and make a future together.”

When I read the alleged shooter’s manifesto, I couldn’t help but recall how right-wing pundits have made so many similar statements — and paid no penalty. For example, author Ann Coulter who has spoken openly of “ragheads,” “camel jockeys,” and “jihad monkeys,” declaimed three days after 9/11 that “we should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity.” Or commentator Ben Shapiro, who believes that a “majority” of the world’s Muslim population is “radicalized” and has claimed that “Arabs like to bomb crap and live in open sewage.” Or Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has won the support of neo-Nazis by repeatedly making not-so-coded references to the white genocide conspiracy theory and has also dismissed Iraqis as “semiliterate primitive monkeys.” Or Brigitte Gabriel, friend of the president, who thinks that “a practicing Muslim who believes the word of the Quran to be the word of Allah, who abides by Islam, who goes to mosque and prays every Friday … cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America.” Or Steve Bannon, former executive chair of Breitbart News and ex-adviser to the president, who has declared, “Islam is not a religion of peace” but “a religion of submission,” and warned that the U.S. could transform into the “Islamic States of America.”

When I read the manifesto, I couldn’t help but remember the names of some prominent liberals, too, such as atheist and scientist Sam Harris, who dubbed Islam “the mother lode of bad ideas” and announced that “we are not at war with ‘terrorism.’ We are at war with Islam.” Or TV host Bill Maher who called Islam “a mafia” and accused “violent” Muslims of bringing “that desert stuff to our world.” Or author and ex-Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has demanded that Islam be “crushed” and thinks “every devout Muslim who aspired to practice genuine Islam, even if they didn’t actively support the [9/11] attacks, they must have at least approved of them.” Or novelist Martin Amis, who once said, “There’s a definite urge — don’t you have it? — to say, ‘The Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order.’ What sort of suffering? Not letting them travel. Deportation — further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they’re from the Middle East or from Pakistan.”

To be clear: I am not suggesting that any of these people, whether conservatives or liberals, politicians or pundits, are directly responsible for this heinous crime. We don’t know — yet. (The alleged shooter does, though, praise Donald Trump “as a symbol of white identity and common purpose,” and claims that “the person that has influenced me above all was Candace Owens,” an “alt-right,” social media superstar. Again, this may or may not be shitposting.)

What I am suggesting, however, is that violence does not exist in a vacuum. In fact, since the 9/11 attacks, the right has demanded that progressives and Muslims crack down on “preachers of hate.” Remember the so-called conveyor belt that leads from nonviolent rhetoric to violent acts by Muslims? Remember how “ideology matters”?

Isn’t it past time for conservatives to take their own advice?

And what of the rest of us? What lessons will we learn from this latest hate-filled atrocity in New Zealand? Are we willing and able to stand up to Islamophobia on days when there are not brutal terrorist attacks on Muslims in mosques? Will we call out vile anti-Muslim rhetoric when we see it on cable news, or in our newspapers and magazines — or only when we see it quoted from the online manifesto of a deranged mass murderer?

I doubt it. “People who can only condemn racism and Islamophobia — being ‘horrified’ and ‘shocked’ — only when so much blood is spilled are part of the problem,” the Cambridge academic Priyamvada Gopal observed on Twitter on Friday. “Because the rest of the time, they are busy normalising & minimising them.”

The post Don’t Just Condemn the New Zealand Attacks — Politicians and Pundits Must Stop Their Anti-Muslim Rhetoric appeared first on The Intercept.

March 8, 2019

Did Blackwater’s Erik Prince Lie to Congress About a Trump Tower Mee...

Mehdi Hasan interviews Erik Prince on Al Jazeera’s Head to Head. Video: Al Jazeera

Did Erik Prince perjure himself in front of Congress?

The founder and former CEO of the notorious private security firm Blackwater — and younger brother of hapless Education Secretary Betsy DeVos — is a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump. Prince donated $250,000 to help the president get elected in 2016.

Since the election, however, his ties to the scandal-plagued Trump campaign have come under increased scrutiny. Prince has been questioned by special counsel Robert Mueller, as part of the ongoing investigation into alleged collusion with Russia, and even provided Mueller “total access to his phone and computer.

Speaking under oath before the House Intelligence Committee in November 2017, Prince denied any formal connections to the Trump campaign, saying that he “played no official, or really, unofficial role.”

Yet, in May 2018, the New York Times reported that Prince had “arranged” a meeting in Trump Tower in August 2016, three months before the election, attended by Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son; Stephen Miller, then a senior adviser to the Trump campaign; George Nader, a convicted pedophile and an adviser to the United Arab Emirates; and Joel Zamel, an Israeli social media expert.

In an exclusive interview with me at the Oxford Union, for my Al Jazeera English show “Head to Head,” Prince confirmed the 2016 meeting at Trump Tower for the first time. He told me it was about “Iran policy.” However, he then proceeded to misrepresent his 2017 testimony to Congress — and contradicted himself in the process.

Which raises the question: What does he have to hide?

Sitting across from the 49-year-old Prince, a former Navy Seal who hails from a hard-right, billionaire family, can be unnerving. He tends not to smile. He has a cold, unbending stare that rarely betrays any emotion. And he likes to speak in short, sharp sentences.

For much of the hourlong interview, in front of a 300-strong audience in Oxford, I pressed Prince on Blackwater’s murderous record in Iraq, his own racist remarks about Iraqi “barbarians,” and his latest “garbage” proposal to privatize the NATO-led war in Afghanistan. (The Pentagon isn’t keen on the latter, though national security adviser John Bolton might be interested.)

Prince, I discovered, seems to have a Trumpian relationship with the truth. He tried to suggest that a car bomb exploded at Baghdad’s Nisour Square “five minutes” before Blackwater guards shot and killed 14 innocent Iraqis on September 16, 2007. I reminded him that there was no such explosion at Nisour Square. He denied that his current company, Frontier Services Group, is planning to build a “training facility” in Xinjiang, China, where more than a million Uighur Muslims are being held in Chinese detention camps, dismissing a press release confirming the news as a mistranslation from Mandarin. I had to inform him that the press release was issued by his own company, FSG, in English.

Toward the end of the interview, I raised the issue of “Russiagate” and the special counsel’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Putin government. Prince was grilled by the House Intelligence Committee over a secret meeting he had in the Seychelles with Kirill Dmitriev, a Russian oligarch described as a “messenger” to Putin by Prince’s friends in the UAE; the meeting was on January 11, 2017, nine days before Trump’s inauguration. “It lasted one beer,” he told me flippantly, in reference to the Dmitriev meeting, which has been described by U.S., European, and Arab officials as “an apparent effort to establish a backchannel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump.”

But why didn’t Prince tell members of Congress about his other secret meeting, in Trump Tower in August 2016? Especially if it was about a sensitive foreign policy issue like Iran?

“I don’t believe I was asked that question,” he replied.

Not true. I reminded him that he had been asked by a member of the House Intelligence Committee whether he had any “formal communications or contact with the campaign.”

The Blackwater founder then switched tack. He “did” inform the committee about the meeting, Prince told me. Why wasn’t it in the transcript of the hearing then, I countered? “I don’t know if they got the transcript wrong,” he said. Later in the interview, in response to a question from the audience, he doubled down: “Not all the discussion that day was transcribed, and that’s a fact.”

Got that? First, he said he wasn’t asked; then he said he told them about it; then he claimed that they made a mistake with the transcript; then he claimed that it was said off the record.

My understanding — based on a conversation between one of my Al Jazeera English colleagues and a staffer connected to the Intelligence Committee, and also based on public comments made by Rep. Eric Swalwell about Prince being “not truthful” with Congress — is that the off-the-record sections of the transcript contain zero references to the Trump Tower meeting, which was later revealed by the New York Times and (reluctantly) confirmed to me by Prince on “Head to Head.”

This is a major problem for this major ally of the president. It is, of course, a crime to lie under oath; it is also a crime to lie to a congressional committee, whether you are under oath or not. “Nixon’s Attorney General John Mitchell,” Vox notes, “was convicted of lying to a Senate committee during the Watergate scandal.”

So I couldn’t help but ask the defensive Prince: Did he not worry that Mueller might send him to prison for not telling the truth, as he did with Gen. Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos, and others?

“Nope,” he replied, giving me that dead-eyed stare once again, “not at all.”

This is far from over, however. Earlier this week, the House Judiciary Committee under its new Democratic chair, Rep. Jerry Nadler, sent out requests for documents to “81 agencies, individuals, and other entities tied to the president” — including Prince — as part of its sweeping investigation into alleged corruption and abuse of power by the president and his associates. In December 2018, Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee told the Daily Beast that the former Blackwater boss had been “discredited” and that they planned to recall him before their panel “even if we have to subpoena him.”

Will Prince have better answers for them than he had for me?

The former Navy Seal, lest we forget, has made plenty of enemies over the course of his career in private security and his role in the U.S. conservative movement. Hawkish Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham mocked his proposal to privatize the war in Afghanistan as “something that would come from a bad soldier of fortune novel.” Fellow mercenary Sean McFate dismissed Prince as an “amateur” with a “dangerous” plan. The former Blackwater CEO has also been denounced as a “war criminal” (Code Pink), a “Christian supremacist” (The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill), and a “super mercenary” (Rep. Jan Schakowsky).

Remember: The authorities famously got mob boss Al Capone on charges of tax evasion. Will they end up getting “super mercenary” Erik Prince not for alleged war crimes, money-laundering, or sanctions-busting but for … perjury?

The post Did Blackwater’s Erik Prince Lie to Congress About a Trump Tower Meeting? I Asked Him. appeared first on The Intercept.

US President-elect Donald Trump boards the elevator after escorting Martin Luther King III to the lobby after meetings at Trump Tower in New York City on January 16, 2017.  / AFP PHOTO / DOMINICK REUTER        (Photo credit should read DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)
March 6, 2019

Yes, Let’s Defeat or Impeach Donald Trump. But What If He Refuses to...

US President-elect Donald Trump boards the elevator after escorting Martin Luther King III to the lobby after meetings at Trump Tower in New York City on January 16, 2017.  / AFP PHOTO / DOMINICK REUTER        (Photo credit should read DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)

Then-President-elect Donald Trump boards an elevator in Trump Tower in New York City, on Jan. 16, 2017.

Photo: Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images

It is a question that has been bothering me for many months now: What if Donald Trump is defeated in November 2020, or impeached before then, but refuses to leave office?

Last week we discovered it’s a question that also bothers Trump’s former personal lawyer. In his concluding statement before the House Oversight Committee, Michael Cohen issued this ominous warning: “I fear that if he loses the election in 2020, that there will never be a peaceful transition of power. And this is why I agreed to appear before you today.”

To be clear: Since the first handover of the White House from one party to another, back in 1801, there has never not been a peaceful transition of power in the United States. There have been close calls — including the Compromise of 1877 and, of course, George W. Bush vs. Al Gore in 2000 — but the system has always worked. Even Richard Nixon, to whom Trump is oft-compared, conceded to John F. Kennedy in 1960, despite numerous accusations of vote-rigging by the Democrats. “In our campaigns,” the then-sitting vice president told Congress, “no matter how hard they may be, no matter how close the election may turn out to be, those who lose accept the verdict and support those who win.” In 1981, Ronald Reagan referred to the “orderly transfer of authority” in the U.S. as “nothing less than a miracle.”

Enter, however, Donald Trump. The 45th president of the United States has made clear that he does not give a damn about political, legal, or constitutional norms; his only concern is with winning at all costs. When running for office in 2016, he refused to commit to accepting the result of the presidential election. After emerging victorious, he baselessly claimed to have “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” In the wake of the 2018 midterms, he ridiculously suggested that Republican losses were a result of “potentially illegal votes” involving people changing their clothes to vote multiple times, and falsely accused Democrats of trying to “steal” the Senate and gubernatorial elections in Florida.

Trump has been laying the groundwork for 2020. Think about it: Why would a president who has violated a number of U.S. laws, traditions, and norms — from obstructing justice, to defying the emoluments clause, to threatening the free press, to inciting violence — show any deference to Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution?

Consider this scenario: On the morning of November 3, 2020, it becomes clear that Trump has lost both the electoral college and the popular vote to the Democratic candidate, whoever they may be. The president, however, rather than calling his Democratic opponent to concede, holds a rally with his supporters at which he declares himself the winner, tells the crowd “what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening,” slams the “fake news” media, and claims “millions and millions” of people voted illegally for the Democrats. He denounces a “deep state” coup and warns of “violence.”

Do you really think this isn’t possible? That this potential scenario shouldn’t make us all very afraid?

This is a man, after all, who point-blank refused to accept that he lost the popular vote when he won the presidency in 2016 — so why should we assume that he would accept the result of an election that he loses? On Tuesday, Kayleigh McEnany, the national press secretary for Trump’s re-election campaign, even tweeted out a statement that “desperate Democrats know they cannot beat President Trump in 2020… that they have zero chance of winning legitimately.”

Remember, there are multiple reasons why Trump might cry foul and refuse to concede come 2020, and why he might also believe he could get away with it.

First, there is his personality. Trump is a malignant narcissist who values himself and his own advancement over everyone and everything else. Using and abusing his presidential powers to protect his prestige and position would be “very tempting” for him, to quote professor Bandy Lee, a forensic psychiatrist at the Yale School of Medicine and editor of the 2017 book “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.”

“When you have extreme narcissism,” Lee told me on my podcast, “Deconstructed,” last month, “the danger of it is that one can quickly go to resorting to violence and resorting to extreme measures to move away from the possibility of humiliation and to project force.”

Second, there’s the possibility of prison. Right now, Trump is protected by Justice Department guidelines that say a sitting president cannot be indicted or prosecuted. Got that? A sitting president. Not a former president. As Trump supporter Chris Christie told CNN last week, prosecutors from the Southern District of New York are trying to build a case “against the president for when he leaves office.” So why agree to leave office?

Third, there are the president’s friends and allies, who will be loudly urging him to stay on and fight while whipping up grassroots fervor on his behalf. Asked about the prospect of impeachment, in September 2017, for example, Trump confidant Roger Stone responded, “You will have a spasm of violence in this country, an insurrection like you’ve never seen.”

In December 2017, Stone and fellow far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones — who Trump has praised as “amazing” — filmed themselves at a shooting range and posted the video to Jones’s YouTube channel with the title “Roger Stone Prepares For Civil War After Trump Is Removed From Office: LIVE AUTO GUNFIRE.”

How about Fox News? We know the far-right cable network exerts massive influence over this president — to quote from a recent Vox headline, “Fox News demanded a government shutdown — and got one.” Fox hosts have accused the “deep state” of plotting to “destroy the presidency of Donald Trump”; denounced a “coup” attempt against the president; and suggested Justice Department officials be “led out in cuffs.” Why wouldn’t they demand Trump hang on, and tell their viewers to back the (defeated) president?

Could we rely on congressional Republicans to rediscover their backbones and insist he stand down? Don’t. Be. Silly.

How about Republican voters? Well, three-quarters (75 percent) of them trust Trump over the media, while more than half (52 percent) support postponing the 2020 election.

Would the generals step in? Maybe. But how would the Secret Service react?

And what do the Democrats plan to do if Trump uses his presidential bully pulpit, in the weeks and months after the election, to incite riots and spread falsehoods about illegal immigrants and the “deep state”? Would leading media organizations, obsessed as they are with both sides-ism, have the courage to call out a GOP dictator-in-waiting?

These are some of the questions that at least need to be asked right now — even if there might not be any obvious answers. We have to listen to Cohen. This is not a drill, and there is no reason to believe Trump will go quietly if he is defeated. There is every reason, however, to believe he and his allies will incite hysteria and even violence. Those who assume otherwise haven’t been paying attention. 

The post Yes, Let’s Defeat or Impeach Donald Trump. But What If He Refuses to Leave the White House? appeared first on The Intercept.

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 10: Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., conduct a news conference in the Capitol to introduce a legislative package that would lower prescription drug prices in the U.S. on January 10, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)
March 5, 2019

Republicans and Democrats Say Their Criticism of Ilhan Omar Is About A...

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 10: Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., conduct a news conference in the Capitol to introduce a legislative package that would lower prescription drug prices in the U.S. on January 10, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Rep. Ilhan Omar and Sen. Bernie Sanders conduct a news conference in Washington, D.C., to introduce a legislative package that would lower prescription drug prices in the U.S. on Jan. 10, 2019.

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP

So let me get this straight: The president of the United States has called neo-Nazis “very fine people”retweeted neo-Nazis; told an audience of Jewish-Americans that Israel is “your country”; and indulged in viciously anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. While running for office, he tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton inside a Star of David, next to a pile of cash; told an audience of Jewish donors, “You want to control your politicians, that’s fine”; and put out a campaign ad that attacked three rich and powerful Jewish figures. While a private citizen, he insisted only “short guys that wear yarmulkes” should count his money and kept a book of Adolf Hitler’s speeches on his bedside table.

He has never apologized for any of this. Nor has he been censured by Congress.

Since coming to office, he has hired, among others, Sebastian Gorka — who made the Nazi-linked Hungarian group Vitézi Rend “proud” when he wore its medal to an inauguration ball — and Steve Bannon, who didn’t want his daughters attending a particular school in Los Angeles because of “the number of Jews.”

Neither of them has apologized. Nor have they been censured by Congress.

In the Senate, Ted Cruz has denounced “New York values” while on the campaign trail, and Sen. Chuck Grassley has suggested that Jewish philanthropist George Soros paid the protesters who confronted then-Sen. Jeff Flake in an elevator with their stories of sexual assault last October.

Neither of them has apologized. Nor have they been censured by Congress.

In the House, Republican members have referred to themselves as “David Duke without the baggage,” accused Soros of turning on his “fellow Jews” and taking “the property that they owned,” claimed that Soros funded the far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, sat on panels with white nationalists, invited a Holocaust denier to the State of the Union, and tweeted that three Jewish billionaires — Soros, Michael Bloomberg, and Tom Steyer — were trying to “buy” the midterms. On Sunday, Rep. Jim Jordan tweeted that Steyer — whose name he spelled as “$teyer” and whose father is Jewish — was trying to influence Rep. Jerry Nadler (who is Jewish) to investigate Donald Trump.

None of these Republicans have ever apologized. Nor have they been censured by Congress.

Trump and the Republicans’ favorite cable channels, Fox News and Fox Business Network, have run segments in which guests have referred to the State Department as “Soros-occupied” and accused Soros of working with the Nazis, while top-rated Fox host Sean Hannity used to regularly interview a neo-Nazi on his radio show. Their favorite news website, Breitbart, has referred to columnist Bill Kristol as a “renegade Jew” and to columnist Anne Applebaum as a “Polish, Jewish, American elitist.” Their favorite talk radio host Rush Limbaugh has spoken of a “Jewish lobby” and was accused of “borderline” anti-Semitism by the Anti-Defamation League for his comments about Jewish bankers.

Last October, a far-right conspiracy theorist — who, like the president and other prominent Republicans, blamed globalists” like Soros for allowing immigrant “invaders” to come into the United States — shot and killed 11 Jewish worshippers in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. To quote Adam Serwer of The Atlantic: “The apparent spark for the worst anti-Semitic massacre in American history was a racist hoax inflamed by a U.S. president seeking to help his party win a midterm election.”

On Wednesday, however, the House Democratic leadership will try and formally censure Rep. Ilhan Omar — a black Somali-American Muslim woman who came to the United States as a refugee, and who, in recent days, has been compared to the 9/11 terrorists by Republicans in West Virginia and described as “filth” by an adviser to the president — for saying that she wanted “to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.” Her fellow congressional Democrats have said little or nothing about the aforementioned and shameful Republican record of anti-Semitism, but many have joined the pile-on against Omar. One of them — Rep. Juan Vargas — went out of his way to insist, rather revealingly, that “questioning support for the U.S.-Israel relationship is unacceptable.”

So my simple point is this: Whether or not you agree with Omar’s remarks, whether or not you were personally offended, anyone who tells you that these nonstop, bipartisan political attacks on her are about fighting anti-Semitism is gaslighting you.

The post Republicans and Democrats Say Their Criticism of Ilhan Omar Is About Anti-Semitism. They’re Gaslighting You. appeared first on The Intercept.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., arrives to hear President Donald Trump deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
February 26, 2019

AOC, Sanders, and Warren Are the Real Centrists Because They Speak for...

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., arrives to hear President Donald Trump deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez arrives to hear the president deliver his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 5, 2019.

Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP

Do you know what really annoys me about the media’s coverage of U.S. politics, and especially the Democratic Party?

Google the words “moderate” or “centrist” and a small group of names will instantly appear: Michael Bloomberg, Amy Klobuchar, Joe Biden, and, yes, Howard Schultz.

Bloomberg is considered a “centrist thought leader” (Vanity Fair). Klobuchar is the “straight-shooting pragmatist” (Time). Biden is the “quintessential centrist” (CNN) and the “last hurrah for moderate Democrats” (New York magazine). Shultz is gifted with high-profile interview slots to make his “centrist independent” pitch to voters.

Now Google the freshman House Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She’s been dubbed a member of the “loony left” (Washington Post), a “progressive firebrand” (Reuters), and a “liberal bomb thrower” (New York Times).

Got that? Biden, Schultz and Co., we are told, sit firmly in the middle of American politics; Ocasio-Cortez stands far out on its fringes.

This is a brazen distortion of reality, a shameless and demonstrable lie that is repeated day after day in newspaper op-eds and cable news headlines.

“It’s easy to call what AOC is doing as far-lefty, but nothing could be farther from the truth,” Nick Hanauer, the venture capitalist and progressive activist, told MSNBC in January. “When you advocate for economic policies that benefit the broad majority of citizens, that’s true centrism. What Howard Schultz represents, the centrism that he represents, is really just trickle-down economics.”

“He is not the centrist,” continued Hanauer. “AOC is the centrist.”

Hanauer is right. And Bernie Sanders is centrist too — smeared as an “ideologue” (The Economist) and “dangerously far left” (Chicago Tribune). So too is Elizabeth Warren — dismissed as a “radical extremist” (Las Vegas Review-Journal) and a “class warrior” (Fox News).

The inconvenient truth that our lazy media elites do so much to ignore is that Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders, and Warren are much closer in their views to the vast majority of ordinary Americans than the Bloombergs or the Bidens. They are the true centrists, the real moderates; they represent the actual political middle.

Don’t believe me? Take Ocasio-Cortez’s signature issue: the Green New Deal. Former George W. Bush speechwriter — and torture advocate — Marc Thiessen claims that the Green New Deal will “make the Democrats unelectable in 2020.” The Economist agrees: “The bold plan could make the party unelectable in conservative-leaning states.” The Green New Deal “will not pass the Senate, and you can take that back to whoever sent you here and tell them,” a testy Diane Feinstein, the senior and supposedly “moderate” Democratic senator from California, told a bunch of kids in a viral video.

But here is the reality: The Green New Deal is extremely popular and has massive bipartisan support. A recent survey from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University found that a whopping 81 percent of voters said they either “strongly support” (40 percent) or “somewhat support” (41 percent) the Green New Deal, including 64 percent of Republicans (and even 57 percent of conservative Republicans).

What else do Ocasio-Cortez, Warren, and Sanders have in common with each other — and with the voters? They want to soak the rich. Ocasio-Cortez suggested a 70 percent marginal tax rate on incomes above $10 million — condemned by “centrist” Schultz as “un-American” but backed by a majority (51 percent) of Americans. Warren proposed a 2 percent wealth tax on assets above $50 million — slammed by “moderate” Bloomberg as Venezuelan-style socialism, but supported by 61 percent of voters, including 51 percent of Republicans. (As my colleague Jon Schwarz has demonstrated, “Americans have never, in living memory, been averse to higher taxes on the rich.”)

How about health care? The vast majority (70 percent) of voters, including a majority (52 percent) of Republicans, support a single-payer universal health care system, or Medicare for All. Six in 10 say it is “the responsibility of the federal government” to ensure that all Americans have access to health care coverage.

Debt-free and tuition-free college? A clear majority (60 percent) of the public, including a significant minority (41 percent) of Republicans, support free college “for those who meet income levels.”

A higher minimum wage? According to Pew, almost 6 in 10 (58 percent) Americans support increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to (the Sanders-recommended) $15 an hour.

Gun control? About six out of 10 (61 percent) Americans back stricter laws on gun control, according to Gallup, “the highest percentage to favor tougher firearms laws in two or more decades.” Almost all Americans (94 percent) back universal background checks on all gun sales — including almost three-quarters of National Rifle Association members.

Abortion? Support for a legal right to abortion, according to a June 2018 poll by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, is at an “all-time high.” Seven out of 10 Americans said they believed Roe v. Wade “should not be overturned,” including a majority (52 percent) of Republicans.

Legalizing marijuana? Two out of three Americans think marijuana should be made legal. According to a Gallup survey from October 2018, this marks “another new high in Gallup’s trend over nearly half a century.” And here’s the kicker: A majority (53 percent) of Republicans support legal marijuana too!

Mass incarceration? About nine out of 10 (91 percent) Americans say that the criminal justice system “has problems that need fixing.” About seven out of 10 (71 percent) say it is important “to reduce the prison population in America,” including a majority (52 percent) of Trump voters.

Immigration? “A record-high 75 percent of Americans,” including 65 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, told Gallup in 2018 that immigration is a “good thing for the U.S.” Six in 10 Americans oppose the construction of a wall on the southern border, while a massive 8 in 10 (81 percent) support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

How much of this polling, however, is reflected in the daily news coverage of the Democrats, which seeks to pit “leftist” activists against “centrist” voters, and “liberals” against “moderates”?

How is it that labels like “centrist” and “moderate,” which common sense tells us should reflect the views of a majority of Americans, have come to be applied to those who represent minority interests and opinions?

How many political reporters are willing to tell their readers or viewers what Stanford political scientist David Broockman told Vox’s Ezra Klein in 2014: “When we say moderate what we really mean is what corporations want. Within both parties there is this tension between what the politicians who get more corporate money and tend to be part of the establishment want — that’s what we tend to call moderate — versus what the Tea Party and more liberal members want”?

The center ground — if it even exists — cannot be found on a map; it is not a fixed geographical location. You cannot get in your car, type the address in your navigation, and then drive to it.

It moves, it shifts, it reacts to events. The center of 2019 is not the center of 1999 or even 2009. You want to know where it is right now? You want to find the moderate middle? Then ignore the right-wing hacks, the conventional wisdom-mongers, and the donor class. Go check out the policy platforms of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.

The post AOC, Sanders, and Warren Are the Real Centrists Because They Speak for Most Americans appeared first on The Intercept.

UNITED STATES - MARCH 14: Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Calif., greet students while attending a rally on the West Front of the Capitol to call on Congress to act on gun violence prevention during a national walkout by students on March 14, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)
February 22, 2019

Why Bernie Sanders Should Promise to Serve Only One Term as President...

UNITED STATES - MARCH 14: Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Calif., greet students while attending a rally on the West Front of the Capitol to call on Congress to act on gun violence prevention during a national walkout by students on March 14, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Grace Napolitano greet students while attending a rally at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on March 14, 2018.

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/AP

“We began the political revolution in the 2016 campaign, and now it’s time to move that revolution forward,” Bernie Sanders said on Tuesday morning, as he announced his candidacy for president of the United States. Within 24 hours, he had raised a whopping $6 million from more than 200,000 donors. And according to the latest polls, he is the most popular of the declared candidates.

Sanders has gone from 2016 insurgent to seeming 2020 frontrunner.

Nevertheless, his age is still an issue. It would be mad to pretend otherwise. “Since 1828,” reported Axios on Wednesday, “only 3 Democratic presidents have been in their 60s when inaugurated — and none came close to Sanders, who would be 79 if elected in 2020.”

If he were to win the next election, the independent senator from Vermont, who is five years older than Donald Trump, would be the oldest president in the history of the United States — six years older than Ronald Reagan was when he won re-election in 1984. In terms of the Democratic primaries, if 77-year-old former Vice President Joe Biden chooses not to run, Sanders will be the only candidate above the age of 70 come the first round of Democratic presidential debates this summer.

So how does he neutralize this issue?

There is a possible — if unconventional — solution: Sanders should promise to serve only one term in the White House. Four years max! 2020 and done!

A one-term pledge isn’t as crazy as it might sound. As the Washington Post’s Philip Bump noted in 2015:

Three American presidents made — and kept — pledges to serve one term at most. Rutherford B. Hayes and James K. Polk made one-term pledges; each served one term. William Henry Harrison, our second-oldest president at 68, also took a pledge to serve only one term, a pledge that was in keeping with his Whig Party. That pledge turned out not to matter; he barely served a full month before dying.

In recent years, high-profile — and older — figures in both parties have seriously entertained the idea. Seventy-year-old John McCain was “inches away” from making a one-term pledge when he announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination in 2007. Then-73-year-old Biden considered it in 2015, and may do so again this time around.

Think about it: There are several clear advantages to any older candidate, but especially Sanders, renouncing any ambition to serve a second term in the Oval Office. For a start, while Sanders and his surrogates might be able to defend the idea of a president who is in his late 70s, they might struggle to convince voters that he’d be as effective in his late 80s (he’d be, ahem, 87 at the end of his second term).

There are benefits beyond just Sanders’s age. Making such a pledge would be a dramatic and bold move that could shake up the Democratic primaries. Whether we like it or not, horse race-obsessed reporters and pundits love dramatic and bold moves. The more unconventional, the better. Sanders would immediately stand out from a crowded Democratic field, many of whom have adopted his ideas on everything from health care to higher education. It would make the Vermont senator look like he is interested only in the issues — in contrast to the naked ambitions of some of his younger rivals.

In fact, one of Sanders’s biggest selling points has always been that he is an independent and an outsider. A one-term pledge would only reinforce that iconoclastic image and boost his anti-establishment appeal with the millions of Americans who loathe the Washington political class.

His rationale for such a pledge could be both simple and popular: As president, he would be free of re-election pressures and distractions, allowing him to devote a full four years to two or three major issues: Medicare For All, a Green New Deal, and, maybe, free college for all, too.

A one-term pledge would only reinforce that iconoclastic image and boost his anti-establishment appeal.

There is a danger, of course, that a one-term president would be seen as a lame-duck. Maybe. On the other hand, Sanders would come to office with a very specific and time-sensitive mandate to get things done. His pledge might make it harder for Republicans in the Senate to block his agenda, given he’ll have been elected to serve only four years and won’t face the re-election pressures that they will. And, in terms of his legacy, he would also be dodging the second-term curse that has plagued so many previous presidents.

Finally, in declaring that he would only serve four years in office, Sanders could bestow much more significance on whomever he picks as his running mate. There is an opportunity here for the senator to address the “identity politics” objection to his candidacy, or what some might call his “old white guy” problem.

This is the most diverse field of Democratic presidential candidates in American history. Plenty of people in the party’s base, even those who are ardent fans of the Vermont senator and his politics, don’t want an all-white or all-male presidential ticket (and for good reason!).

So why not put Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for Georgia governor in 2018, on the ticket — and all but guarantee her the Democratic presidential nomination come 2024? She is black (check), a woman (check), progressive (check), and unites the various wings of the Democratic Party like no other politician in the United States.

How about Sen. Kamala Harris? Could Sanders-Harris 2020 be the unity ticket that the Democrats are looking for? The Jewish, male democratic socialist and the mixed-race, female former prosecutor? I have my own objections to her controversial record as a “law and order” district attorney and attorney general in California, but the fact of the matter is that Harris has the most progressive voting record of any Democrat in the Senate.

Why wouldn’t an ambitious politician want to run on the bottom half of a presidential ticket whose top half has pre-announced that they’ll be gone in four years? (This is assuming, of course, that Sanders wins the Democratic primary.)

To be clear, then: By making a one-term pledge, Sanders could help shut down the debate over his age; grab media attention from his rivals; elevate a progressive, nonwhite woman in the process; make it easier for himself to win a mandate; and improve his own effectiveness as a leader once he’s seated behind the Resolute Desk.

What’s not to like about any of that?

The post Why Bernie Sanders Should Promise to Serve Only One Term as President appeared first on The Intercept.

Gop-feature-1550183092
February 15, 2019

Six GOP House Members Who Need to Resign for Anti-Semitism Before Ilha...

Gop-feature-1550183092

Clockwise from top left: Matt Gaetz, Louie Gohmert, Paul Gosar, Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, and Steve King.

Photo: AP


“She should either resign from Congress or certainly resign from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.”

So declaimed President Donald Trump in the White House on Tuesday, as he denounced Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., for her “terrible” remarks and her “lame” apology.

To be clear: Omar apologized “unequivocally” for her two tweets on Israel and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, yet Trump has never apologized for any of his bigoted, sexist, racist, Islamophobic, and — yes — anti-Semitic remarks.

Here’s Trump’s problem: The modern GOP is riddled with bigots, Islamophobes, and anti-Semites.

There is a bigger issue here, though. Trump said that “anti-Semitism has no place in the United States Congress.” I agree with him. But here’s his problem: The modern GOP is riddled with bigots, Islamophobes, and anti-Semites.

If the president wants Omar to resign from Congress over alleged anti-Semitism, here are six Republican members of the House, including the two most senior members of the GOP leadership, who need to resign first.

Kevin McCarthy

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, representative for California’s 23rd Congressional District, has promised to “take action this week” against Omar over her tweets.

This is the same McCarthy who took to Twitter in October 2018 to accuse three Jewish billionaires — George Soros, Tom Steyer, and Michael Bloomberg — of trying to “buy” the midterms. He posted his tweet just a day after Soros received a pipe bomb at his home in New York.

Steyer called the tweet “straight-up anti-Semitic.” McCarthy, though, continues to refuse to apologize for it, saying he did nothing wrong. So why did he delete it? And why isn’t Trump calling on him to resign from Congress too?

Steve Scalise

Earlier this week, Steve Scalise, the House Minority Whip and representative for Louisiana’s 1st Congressional District, demanded that Democratic Party leaders “remove [Omar] from the Foreign Affairs Committee” over her “disgraceful anti-Semitic remarks.”

Yet, in 2002, Scalise, then a Louisiana state representative, attended and spoke at a convention of the white supremacist European American Unity and Rights Organization, a group founded by David Duke. You remember Duke, right? The Holocaust-denying former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan who has been described by the Anti-Defamation League as “perhaps America’s most well-known racist and anti-Semite.”

Scalise later said he “regretted” — but did not technically apologize for — attending the EURO event. When Louisiana-based political reporter Stephanie Grace first met Scalise, he likened himself to Duke. Grace recalled, “He told me he was like David Duke without the baggage.”

Why is Scalise still in Congress?

Louie Gohmert

Rep. Louie Gohmert represents Texas’s 1st Congressional District and is a darling of the tea party.

In December, he appeared on the Fox Business channel to discuss Google, but then decided to pivot and attack — yep, you guessed it — the right’s favorite Jewish billionaire.

“George Soros is supposed to be Jewish, but you wouldn’t know it from the damage he’s inflicted on Israel,” Gohmert said. “And the fact that he turned on fellow Jews and helped take the property that they owned. It’s the same kind of thing.”

This ludicrous and anti-Semitic claim that Soros helped “take the property” of fellow Jews during World War II has been repeatedly and thoroughly debunked. Soros, for the record, was 14 years old at the end of the war.

“Congressman Louie Gohmert for some reason went out of his way to bring up George Soros and made unsubstantiated and false allegations against him,” host Stuart Varney later announced, live on air. “I want to make clear those views are not shared by me, this program, or anyone at Fox Business.” How anti-Semitic and unhinged do you have to be for a Fox host to have to loudly disown you?

And why is Gohmert still a member of Congress?

Matt Gaetz

I’ve referred elsewhere to Rep. Matt Gaetz, who was elected to the House of Representatives from Florida’s 1st Congressional District in 2016, as “the most despicable and shameless member of the United States Congress.”

You want anti-Semitism? Where to begin with Gaetz? He invited the notorious Holocaust denier Chuck Johnson to be his guest at the State of the Union and later defended Johnson: “He’s not a Holocaust denier; he’s not a white supremacist. Those are unfortunate characterizations of him.”

He has appeared on Alex Jones’s “Infowars” show. Jones has said that “it’s not that Jews are bad, it’s just they are the head of the Jewish mafia in the United States. They run Uber, they run the health care, they’re going to scam you, they’re going to hurt you.”

He suggested the caravan of migrants that set out from Central America in October 2018 was funded by George Soros, who might be “giving cash 2 women & children 2 join the caravan & storm the US border.”

Trump has called Gaetz “one of the finest and most talented people in Congress.” Why hasn’t he called on the Florida representative to resign over anti-Semitism?

Steve King

“A newcomer member of Congress has apologized for her remarks,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., belatedly defending Omar from Republican attacks on Wednesday. “It took them what, 13 years to notice Steve King?”

Pelosi is correct. In January, House Republicans agreed to remove Rep. Steve King from two House committees after the Iowa Republican was quoted telling the New York Times, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”

The GOP has tried to draw an absurd and offensive comparison between King and Omar.

The GOP has since tried to draw an absurd and offensive comparison between King and Omar — aided and abetted by irresponsible members of the media — while demanding credit for taking action against King. But King has a long history of white nationalism, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism that was ignored and overlooked by House Republicans — and a GOP presidential candidate! — for years. “Steve King Is A White Supremacist, And The GOP Doesn’t Care,” read a HuffPost headline in the summer of 2018.

Long before his racist remarks to the New York Times, King retweeted a neo-Nazi. He sat on a panel with white nationalists. He praised both the German and Austrian far right. According to the ADL, he even “denigrated the Jewish history of the Holocaust.”

Why is there a place for him in the United States Congress?

Paul Gosar

Rep. Paul Gosar, the Republican who represents Arizona’s 4th Congressional District, has claimed that the far-right rally held in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 — at which marchers chanted “Jews will not replace us” — was “created by the left” and led by an “Obama sympathizer.” He has also suggested that Soros funded the event and falsely claimed that the Jewish billionaire “turned in his own people to the Nazis.”

In fact, Gosar is so brazen in his conspiratorial, anti-Jewish bigotry that his own family has felt the need to publicly denounce him. “We are aghast that Paul has sunk so low that he now spews the most despicable slander against an 87-year-old man without a shred of proof,” a letter signed by seven of his siblings said in October 2017. “It is extremely upsetting to have to call you out on this, Paul, but you’ve forced our hand with your deceit and anti-Semitic dog whistle.”

In October 2018, Gosar’s brother David went even further, describing the representative’s rhetoric as having “helped feed the anti-Semitism that just resulted in the murder of 11 people in a Jewish synagogue and an attempt on Mr. Soros’s life.”

When will Gosar be quitting the House?

“Fundamentally,” as the prominent Jewish-American journalist Peter Beinart observed on Twitter, “the furor over @IlhanMN’s tweets isn’t about policing bigotry or even anti-Semitism. It’s about policing the American debate over Israel.” I would go further: It’s also about smearing and demonizing women of color, especially Muslim women of color, in the Democratic Party.

Republicans don’t give a damn about anti-Semitism. They just don’t care. And we’ll know for sure that they do when they ask these six white Republican men to resign from Congress.

Just don’t hold your breath.

The post Six GOP House Members Who Need to Resign for Anti-Semitism Before Ilhan Omar appeared first on The Intercept.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 24:   U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) (R) speak to members of the media after a news conference January 24, 2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Democratic Congresswomen held a news conference on legislation providing childcare for workers affected by the ongoing government shutdown. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
February 12, 2019

There Is a Taboo Against Criticizing AIPAC — and Ilhan Omar Just Des...

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 24:   U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) (R) speak to members of the media after a news conference January 24, 2019 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Democratic Congresswomen held a news conference on legislation providing childcare for workers affected by the ongoing government shutdown. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Rep. Ilhan Omar speaks to members of the media after a news conference on Capitol Hill on Jan. 24, 2019.

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

In 2005, Steven Rosen, then a senior official with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, sat down for dinner with journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, then of the New Yorker. “You see this napkin?” Rosen asked Goldberg. “In twenty-four hours, [AIPAC] could have the signatures of seventy senators on this napkin.”

I couldn’t help but be reminded of this anecdote after Rep. Ilhan Omar, of Minnesota’s 5th congressional district, was slammed by Democrats and Republicans alike over her suggestion, in a pair of tweets, that U.S. politicians back the state of Israel because of financial pressure from AIPAC (“It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” she declaimed). Was the flippant way in which she phrased her tweets a problem? Did it offend a significant chunk of liberal U.S. Jewish opinion? Did it perhaps unwittingly play into anti-Semitic tropes about rich Jews controlling the world? Yes, yes, and yes — as she herself has since admitted and “unequivocally” apologized for. But was she wrong to note the power of the pro-Israel lobby, to point a finger at AIPAC, to highlight — in her apology — “the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry”?

No, no, and no.

Rosen, after all, wasn’t the first AIPAC official to boast about the the raw power that “America’s bipartisan pro-Israel lobby” exercises in Washington D.C. Go back earlier, to 1992, when then AIPAC President David Steiner was caught on tape bragging that he had “cut a deal” with the George H. W. Bush White House to provide $3 billion in U.S. aid to Israel. Steiner also claimed to be “negotiating” with the incoming Clinton administration over the appointment of pro-Israeli cabinet members. AIPAC, he said, has “a dozen people in [the Clinton] campaign, in the headquarters… and they’re all going to get big jobs.”

Go back further, to 1984, when Senator Charles Percy, a moderate Republican from Illinois, was defeated in his re-election campaign after he “incurred AIPAC”s wrath” by declining to sign onto an AIPAC-sponsored letter, and daring to refer to PLO leader Yasser Arafat as more “moderate” than other Palestinian resistance figures. AIPAC contributors raised more than a million dollars to help defeat Percy. As Tom Dine, then executive director of AIPAC, gloated in a speech shortly after the GOP senator’s defeat, “all the Jews, from coast to coast, gathered to oust Percy. And the American politicians— those who hold public positions now, and those who aspire — got the message.”

Nearly four decades later, as members of the U.S. political and media classes pile onto Omar, are the rest of us supposed to pretend that AIPAC officials never said or did any of this? And are we also expected to forget that Tom Friedman of the New York Times, a long-standing advocate for Israel in the American media, once described the standing ovations received by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, from members of Congress, as having been “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby”? Or that Goldberg, now editor-in-chief of The Atlantic and dubbed “the most influential journalist/blogger on matters related to Israel,” called AIPAC a “leviathan among lobbies, as influential in its sphere as the National Rifle Association and the American Association of Retired Persons are in theirs”? Or that J.J. Goldberg, former editor of the Jewish weekly newspaper, The Forward, said in 2002, in reference to AIPAC, “There is this image in Congress that you don’t cross these people or they take you down”?

Are we supposed to dismiss Uri Avnery, the late Israeli peace activist and one-time member of the Zionist paramilitary, the Irgun, who once remarked that if AIPAC “were to table a resolution abolishing the Ten Commandments, 80 senators and 300 congressmen would sign it at once,” as a Jew-hater? Or label Jane Harman, the ex-congresswoman and devoted defender of Israel, who told CNN in 2013 that her former colleagues on Capitol Hill had struggled to back Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear diplomacy due to “big parts of the pro-Israel lobby in the United States being against it, the country of Israel being against it. That’s a stiff hill to climb,” an anti-Semite?

To be clear: AIPAC is not a political action committee (PAC) and does not provide donations directly to candidates. However, it does act as a “force multiplier,” to quote the Jewish Telegraph Agency’s Andrew Silow-Carroll, and “its rhetorical support for a candidate is a signal to Jewish PACs and individual donors across the country to back his or her campaign.” As Tom Friedman explained to me in an interview in 2013: “Mehdi, if you and I were running from the same district, and I have AIPAC’s stamp of approval and you don’t, I will maybe have to make three phone calls… I’m exaggerating but I don’t have to make many phone calls to get all the money I need to run against you. You will have to make 50,000 phone calls.” (Is Friedman an anti-Semite too? Asking for a friend.)

What makes this whole row over Omar’s remarks so utterly bizarre is that so many leading Democrats loudly and rightly decry the pernicious and undeniable impact of special interests, lobbyists and donations on a whole host of issues — from the role of Big Pharma and Big Finance, to influence-peddling by Saudi Arabia, to the “grip” that the NRA has on the debate over gun control, to quote Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal. But any mention of AIPAC and lobbying in favor of Israel? “Anti-Semitism!”

Do they have no shame? Take Donna Shalala, new member of Congress from Florida’s 27th district (and a former cabinet member under Bill Clinton).

Yet here is the same Shalala boasting last month that she didn’t allow the NRA to “buy me during the campaign.”

 

 

Got that? It’s “offensive and wrong” to suggest the pro-Israel lobby tries to buy off politicians. But it’s totally fine to suggest the pro-gun lobby does. (The irony is that AIPAC’s leading lights haven’t been shy about making their own analogy with the NRA. “I’m sure there are people out there who are for gun control, but because of the NRA don’t say anything,” Morris Amitay, former AIPAC executive director, once admitted. “If you’re a weak candidate to begin with,” he continued, and your record is “anti-Israel and you have a credible opponent, your opponent will be helped.”

Today, the Palestinians continue to be bombed, besieged and dispossessed by their Israeli occupiers — with the full military and financial support of the United States government. There are a variety of credible explanations for this support: Israel’s role as a “strategic asset” and “mighty aircraft carrier”; U.S. Christian evangelicals’ obsession with Israel and the end-times prophecy; the impact of arms sales and the U.S. military-industrial complex; not to mention the long-standing cultural and social ties between American Jews and Israeli Jews. But to pretend money doesn’t play a role — or that AIPAC doesn’t have a big impact on members of Congress and their staffers — is deeply disingenuous.

And so we should thank Omar, the freshman lawmaker, for having the guts to raise this contentious issue and break a long-standing taboo in the process — even if she maybe did so in a clumsy and problematic fashion.

But you don’t have to take her word for it. “When people ask me how they can help Israel,” former Israeli Prime Minister and uber-hawk Ariel Sharon once told an audience in the United States, “I tell them — help AIPAC.” 

The post There Is a Taboo Against Criticizing AIPAC — and Ilhan Omar Just Destroyed It appeared first on The Intercept.

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 30: President Donald Trump takes a selfie with Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., in the House chamber after Trump's State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on January 30, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
February 8, 2019

Rising Star Matt Gaetz Represents Everything That’s Wrong With Trump...

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 30: President Donald Trump takes a selfie with Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., in the House chamber after Trump's State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on January 30, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Matt Gaetz takes a selfie with President Donald Trump after Trump’s State of the Union address in Washington D.C., on Jan. 30, 2018.

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

Joaquin Oliver, nicknamed ‘Guac,’ was only 17 years old when he was gunned down at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, on 14th February 2018, along with 16 other students and staff members.

On Wednesday morning, almost exactly a year later, his heartbroken father Manuel sat in the audience of a House Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence — “the first of its kind in nearly eight years” — as Republican lawmaker and NRA lackey Matt Gaetz ludicrously argued that “the greatest driver of violence … was not the firearm, it’s the fact that we have an immigration system that allows people to come here violently.”

“That’s a lie,” Manuel Oliver shouted as he stood up. “That’s not true.” (For the record, Joaquin’s killer was a U.S.-born citizen.)

How did Gaetz respond to the interruption? He jabbed his finger at Oliver while loudly demanding that this grieving father of a teenager killed in one of the deadliest shootings in modern American history be kicked out from the hearing. And then he doubled down on his ridiculous and racist claim that “if we really cared about safer streets we would build the wall and secure the border.”

Question: Is Matt Gaetz the most despicable and shameless member of the United States Congress?

The 36-year-old Gaetz, elected to the House of Representatives from Florida’s first congressional district in 2016, is a favorite of Fox News and a rising GOP star. He represents, however, everything that is wrong with the modern Republican Party: from racism, anti-Semitism and white nationalism; to conspiracism and anti-intellectualism; to a slavish and sycophantic loyalty to Donald Trump.

Consider his record.

Racism? Where to begin? In 2013, in the wake of the acquittal of Trayvon Martin killer George Zimmerman, Gaetz offered a “full-throated defense” of Florida’s “stand-your-ground law,” which multiple studies have found to be racially biased. In 2015, Gaetz, then a firebrand member of the Florida House of Representatives, suggested two black members of the state’s Senate did not know how to write or spell. In 2016, he lambasted “illegal immigrants” who he said were “sucking us dry.” In 2018, he tried to justify Trump’s description of Haiti as a “shithole” by referring to the “deplorable” and “disgusting” conditions in that country.

It is worth noting that Steve King of Iowa is far from the only Republican member of Congress to offer cover to white nationalists. In January 2018, Gaetz invited notorious far-right internet troll Chuck Johnson to be his guest at Trump’s first State of the Union. Johnson was banned from Twitter for wanting to “take out” Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson and once said he never “believed the six million figure” for the Holocaust. Gaetz, however, defended Johnson on — where else? — Fox Business: “He’s not a Holocaust denier, he’s not a white supremacist, those are unfortunate characterizations of him.”

The loathsome Gaetz is also a fan of conspiracy theories. He has appeared on 9/11 truther Alex Jones’ Infowars show, on which he was described as “one of the strongest, most focused, eloquent, on target voices” defending Trump. In March 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation in the 2016 presidential election. Gaetz’s response? Sessions, he claimed in May 2018, “has become sympathetic with his captors over there in the Deep State.” In July 2018, his fellow Republican congressman Jim Jordan was accused by eight former students of turning a blind eye to sexual abuse while working as a wrestling coach at Ohio State University. Gaetz’s response? “The deep state”, he told Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, is “out to get Jim Jordan.” In October 2018, a caravan of migrants set out from Central America and headed for the U.S.-Mexico border. Gaetz’s response? George Soros, he suggested in a tweet, might be “giving cash 2 women & children 2 join the caravan & storm the US border.”

Trump later retweeted the Florida congressman. The president of the United States is a big admirer of Gaetz — and the feeling is more than mutual. The latter’s Twitter bio contains this quote from Trump about him: “He’s a machine… handsome and going places.” In November 2017, Gaetz introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives calling for Robert Mueller to be removed as Special Counsel. Is it any wonder that Politico called him the president’s “best buddy in Congress,” one of his “most enthusiastic defenders…on cable news,” and a “proud Trump protege.”

I would go further: Gaetz is Trump’s “mini-me” in Congress. As with the president, though, it is difficult to work out whether Gaetz is dishonest or… demented. What is indisputable is that his behavior in Congress on Wednesday was a very Trumpian mixture of cowardice and callousness, of needless cruelty and brazen bigotry.

Listen to Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was also killed in the Parkland shooting, and who was sitting next to Manuel Oliver at the House Judiciary Committee hearing. An angry Gaetz tried to have both Oliver and Guttenberg ejected from the room.

“I found what he did, to treat what happened to our families that way, it’s disgusting, despicable and vile,” Guttenberg said. “But I’m actually thrilled Mr. Gaetz acted like Mr. Gaetz. I think it was wonderful for the American people to see who he is as a person.”

The post Rising Star Matt Gaetz Represents Everything That’s Wrong With Trump’s Republican Party appeared first on The Intercept.

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 30: President Donald Trump takes a selfie with Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., in the House chamber after Trump's State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on January 30, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
February 8, 2019

Rising Star Matt Gaetz Represents Everything That’s Wrong With Trump...

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 30: President Donald Trump takes a selfie with Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., in the House chamber after Trump's State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on January 30, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Matt Gaetz takes a selfie with President Donald Trump after Trump’s State of the Union address in Washington D.C., on Jan. 30, 2018.

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

Joaquin Oliver, nicknamed ‘Guac,’ was only 17 years old when he was gunned down at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, on 14th February 2018, along with 16 other students and staff members.

On Wednesday morning, almost exactly a year later, his heartbroken father Manuel sat in the audience of a House Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence — “the first of its kind in nearly eight years” — as Republican lawmaker and NRA lackey Matt Gaetz ludicrously argued that “the greatest driver of violence … was not the firearm, it’s the fact that we have an immigration system that allows people to come here violently.”

“That’s a lie,” Manuel Oliver shouted as he stood up. “That’s not true.” (For the record, Joaquin’s killer was a U.S.-born citizen.)

How did Gaetz respond to the interruption? He jabbed his finger at Oliver while loudly demanding that this grieving father of a teenager killed in one of the deadliest shootings in modern American history be kicked out from the hearing. And then he doubled down on his ridiculous and racist claim that “if we really cared about safer streets we would build the wall and secure the border.”

Question: Is Matt Gaetz the most despicable and shameless member of the United States Congress?

The 36-year-old Gaetz, elected to the House of Representatives from Florida’s first congressional district in 2016, is a favorite of Fox News and a rising GOP star. He represents, however, everything that is wrong with the modern Republican Party: from racism, anti-Semitism and white nationalism; to conspiracism and anti-intellectualism; to a slavish and sycophantic loyalty to Donald Trump.

Consider his record.

Racism? Where to begin? In 2013, in the wake of the acquittal of Trayvon Martin killer George Zimmerman, Gaetz offered a “full-throated defense” of Florida’s “stand-your-ground law,” which multiple studies have found to be racially biased. In 2015, Gaetz, then a firebrand member of the Florida House of Representatives, suggested two black members of the state’s Senate did not know how to write or spell. In 2016, he lambasted “illegal immigrants” who he said were “sucking us dry.” In 2018, he tried to justify Trump’s description of Haiti as a “shithole” by referring to the “deplorable” and “disgusting” conditions in that country.

It is worth noting that Steve King of Iowa is far from the only Republican member of Congress to offer cover to white nationalists. In January 2018, Gaetz invited notorious far-right internet troll Chuck Johnson to be his guest at Trump’s first State of the Union. Johnson was banned from Twitter for wanting to “take out” Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson and once said he never “believed the six million figure” for the Holocaust. Gaetz, however, defended Johnson on — where else? — Fox Business: “He’s not a Holocaust denier, he’s not a white supremacist, those are unfortunate characterizations of him.”

The loathsome Gaetz is also a fan of conspiracy theories. He has appeared on 9/11 truther Alex Jones’ Infowars show, on which he was described as “one of the strongest, most focused, eloquent, on target voices” defending Trump. In March 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation in the 2016 presidential election. Gaetz’s response? Sessions, he claimed in May 2018, “has become sympathetic with his captors over there in the Deep State.” In July 2018, his fellow Republican congressman Jim Jordan was accused by eight former students of turning a blind eye to sexual abuse while working as a wrestling coach at Ohio State University. Gaetz’s response? “The deep state”, he told Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, is “out to get Jim Jordan.” In October 2018, a caravan of migrants set out from Central America and headed for the U.S.-Mexico border. Gaetz’s response? George Soros, he suggested in a tweet, might be “giving cash 2 women & children 2 join the caravan & storm the US border.”

Trump later retweeted the Florida congressman. The president of the United States is a big admirer of Gaetz — and the feeling is more than mutual. The latter’s Twitter bio contains this quote from Trump about him: “He’s a machine… handsome and going places.” In November 2017, Gaetz introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives calling for Robert Mueller to be removed as Special Counsel. Is it any wonder that Politico called him the president’s “best buddy in Congress,” one of his “most enthusiastic defenders…on cable news,” and a “proud Trump protege.”

I would go further: Gaetz is Trump’s “mini-me” in Congress. As with the president, though, it is difficult to work out whether Gaetz is dishonest or… demented. What is indisputable is that his behavior in Congress on Wednesday was a very Trumpian mixture of cowardice and callousness, of needless cruelty and brazen bigotry.

Listen to Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was also killed in the Parkland shooting, and who was sitting next to Manuel Oliver at the House Judiciary Committee hearing. An angry Gaetz tried to have both Oliver and Guttenberg ejected from the room.

“I found what he did, to treat what happened to our families that way, it’s disgusting, despicable and vile,” Guttenberg said. “But I’m actually thrilled Mr. Gaetz acted like Mr. Gaetz. I think it was wonderful for the American people to see who he is as a person.”

The post Rising Star Matt Gaetz Represents Everything That’s Wrong With Trump’s Republican Party appeared first on The Intercept.

Former Chairman and CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, speaks during the presentation of his book 'From The Ground Up' on January 28, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP)(Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)
January 30, 2019

The Unbearable Stupidity of Howard Schultz’s Presidential Fantasy...

Former Chairman and CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, speaks during the presentation of his book 'From The Ground Up' on January 28, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP)(Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

The former chair and CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, speaks during a presentation on his book “From the Ground Up” on Jan. 28, 2019 in New York City.

Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

Is this a joke?

Billionaire Howard Schultz is considering running for president of the United States. The ex-Starbucks CEO and former owner of the Seattle SuperSonics, who has zero experience in government or politics, thinks Donald Trump is “not qualified” to be commander-in-chief.

To misquote Phoebe Buffay from “Friends”: “Hello, kettle? This is Howard. You’re black.”

If Trump is “not qualified,” then what the hell is Schultz? In all fairness to the pretend president, Trump is able to command crowds and attention like no other politician on the right. His name recognition was off the charts when he ran in the Republican primaries in 2016. The former Starbucks boss, on the other hand, is a charisma-free zone; the only crowds he seems to attract are his humiliating Twitter ratios.

The truth is that despite claiming to be “bored” by Trump, and voicing his opposition to the president’s “vitriolic display of bigotry and hate and divisiveness,” Schultz has far more in common with the reality star-turned-POTUS than he might like to admit. His Trumpian ego has made him — an old, rich white guy who got rich selling coffee! — think he can be Leader of the Free World™.

There’s also his Trumpian dishonesty. Schultz, the “lifelong Democrat,” has spent the past few days hurling a series of false accusations not against Trump, but against Democrats. He attacked Sen. Kamala Harris’s support for “Medicare for All” as “not American,” which is absurd given that Medicare itself has been around for more than 50 years, while “Medicare for All” is polling at 70 percent, with majority support even among Republicans.

He claimed that the “majority of Americans” are opposed to “a 70 percent income tax in America,” as suggested by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Another lie. A recent Hill-HarrisX survey found that 59 percent of voters support the Ocasio-Cortez tax proposal (which only applies to income over $10 million), including a clear majority of independents.

Schultz also said that “the greatest threat domestically to the country is this $21 trillion debt hanging over the cloud of America and future generations.” Again, false. A number of leading economists disagree with him on the debt. And, as HuffPost’s Zach Carter points out, “his $21.5 trillion debt monster is an exaggeration: It includes trillions of dollars the government owes to itself.” (Oh, and for the record, a whopping 2 percent of Americans cite the federal debt as “the most important problem facing the country today.”)

There’s the Trumpian stinginess too. According to an investigation by The Young Turks, in 2017, Schultz donated less than 1 percent of his $3.4 billion net worth to his own charity. “All told,” reported TYT, “Schultz has given an estimated two-and-a-half percent of his wealth to the family nonprofit, based on tax filings dating back to 1999.” Sound familiar?

The former Starbucks CEO doesn’t like paying higher taxes, either. Schultz, the self-styled deficit hawk, isn’t opposed to Trump’s deficit-busting tax cuts — only the size of them. He has lambasted Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s new proposal for a wealth tax as “ridiculous.” Should we be surprised? As a billionaire himself, he’d have to pay a 3 percent wealth tax, according to the Warren plan.

His beloved overpriced coffee chain doesn’t have a much better record on taxation. In 2017, Starbucks’s European division paid a mere $5.9 million in taxes, on U.K. profits of $213 million — or an effective tax rate of just 2.8 percent.

Then there’s the Trumpian ignorance. The self-deprecating Schultz, unlike the president, is willing to concede that he is not the “smartest person in the room.” That may be an understatement, though. For a start, why does he think he has any chance of winning the presidency in 2020? What’s his route to victory in a two-party system? Schultz, the political neophyte, does not even understand how presidential candidates get on the ballot. He thinks that polls showing that 4 in 10 Americans identify as “independents” means his own independent presidential campaign will attract widespread support — when reams of evidence suggest that self-styled independents are (closet) partisans. “Only about 7 percent of people who identify as independents truly don’t like either party,” reported NPR on Tuesday, citing research from political scientist Samara Klar, author of the book “Independent Politics.”

Schultz, it seems, is Trump without the tan, the bluster, or the border wall. And if he decides to run in 2020, his independent candidacy, to quote former Obama strategist David Axelrod, will be a “gift” to the Republican incumbent — potentially splitting the anti-Trump vote and giving this racist disaster of a president another four years in the Oval Office.

Guess who agrees?

Team Trump. Consider the president’s very deliberate tweet on Monday, goading the coffee mogul to enter the 2020 race as an independent:

Consider also the very deliberate praise heaped on Schultz by the likes of Hugh Hewitt and the hosts of “Fox and Friends.”

Is there a way, then, of dissuading the ill-informed, egomaniacal Schultz from burning through hundreds of millions of dollars on a pointless, Trump-boosting presidential campaign? Will op-eds like this work? How about a consumer boycott of Starbucks? Maybe more protests at his book-signing events? Kudos, in fact, to the protester who heckled Schultz at a Barnes & Noble in New York on Monday evening, summarizing the case against him in eight pithy words: “Don’t help elect Trump, you egotistical billionaire asshole.”

The post The Unbearable Stupidity of Howard Schultz’s Presidential Fantasy appeared first on The Intercept.

US President Donald Trump disembarks from Air Force One upon arrival at Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, Florida, on October 31, 2018, as he travels for a campaign rally. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)        (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
January 18, 2019

Trump’s Articles of Impeachment are Writing Themselves, with Echoes ...

US President Donald Trump disembarks from Air Force One upon arrival at Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, Florida, on October 31, 2018, as he travels for a campaign rally. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)        (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump disembarks from Air Force One upon arrival at Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, Florida, on Oct. 31, 2018.

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

On Thursday, at 10.11pm ET, BuzzFeed News dropped one of the biggest bombshells of the Trump presidency: “President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter.”

Let’s be clear: This is obstruction of justice, plain and simple. If this report from BuzzFeed News is correct, the president has committed a crime — obstruction of justice is prohibited by a number of federal criminal laws, including obstruction of judicial proceedings (18 U.S.C. 1503) and witness tampering (18 U.S.C. 1512) — and should therefore be impeached and indicted.

Trump’s lawyers have always claimed that the president “cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer” under the constitution. Again, let’s be clear: This is ahistorical nonsense; it is Trumpian dishonesty and deflection of the most brazen sort.

The president “cannot obstruct justice”?

Tell that to Richard Nixon. The very first article of impeachment adopted by the House Judiciary Committee in July 1974 stated that Nixon had “prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice,” and in the wake of the Watergate break-in, had “engaged personally and through his close subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or plan designed to delay, impede, and obstruct the investigation of such illegal entry; to cover up, conceal and protect those responsible; and to conceal the existence and scope of other unlawful covert activities.”

Tell that to Bill Clinton. In December 1998, the House of Representatives passed two articles of impeachment against him, one of which stated that Clinton had “prevented, obstructed and impeded the administration of justice, and has to that end engaged personally, and through his subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or scheme designed to delay, impede, cover up and conceal the existence of evidence and testimony related to a Federal civil rights action brought against him in a duly instituted judicial proceeding.”

In Nixon’s case the article of impeachment listed nine different examples of obstruction; in Clinton’s case, there were seven such examples.

What would such a list look like in Trump’s case? At the top of it would have to be the devastating allegation contained in this latest BuzzFeed News story, based on two law enforcement sources:

Now the two sources have told BuzzFeed News that Cohen also told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie — by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did — in order to obscure Trump’s involvement. The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents. Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office. … It is the first known example of Trump explicitly telling a subordinate to lie directly about his own dealings with Russia.

As even Trump’s own nominee for attorney general, William Barr, confirmed this week in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a president persuading a person to commit perjury would constitute obstruction of justice.

Then there is the firing of former FBI director James Comey in May 2017. The president may have had the legal authority to fire him, but it became obstruction of justice the moment he showed “corrupt intent.” How so? Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt that he had been thinking of “this Russia thing” when he decided to get rid of the FBI boss. The day after he fired Comey, Trump told the Russian foreign minister — of all people! — that “great pressure because of Russia” had been “taken off.”

But there are also plenty of other examples of this president obstructing justice with “corrupt intent.” As a recent study by the Brookings Institution handily summarized:

To take only a few examples, it has… been reported that President Trump: attempted to block Attorney General Sessions’ recusing himself from the Russia investigation despite the AG’s clear legal duty to do so; asked Sessions to reverse his recusal decision; demanded and obtained the resignation of Sessions for his failure to contain the Russia investigation (before ultimately rejecting it); twice ordered the firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller; dictated a false account for a key witness, his son Donald Trump Jr., of the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting between campaign and Russian representatives; publicly attacked Special Counsel Mueller and key witnesses to the obstruction case; and has repeatedly disputed the underlying Russian attack and Vladimir Putin’s role in it despite possessing evidence to the contrary.

Obstruction, obstruction, obstruction!

So what now? Trump’s apologists argue that he cannot be indicted; they point to Department of Justice guidance which says that the indictment of a sitting president “would unconstitutionally undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions.”

Yet as a recent paper for the California Law Review by University of Chicago law professors Eric Posner and Daniel Hemel points out, “it is simply not settled law that a president is immune from indictment while in office,” plus “even if a president cannot be indicted while in office, it may be possible to indict and convict him after he leaves office of a crime he committed while in office,” and “even if a president cannot be indicted for a crime committed while in office, he may be impeached for such a crime.”

Is there an appetite on the Democratic side for launching impeachment hearings, prior to the conclusion of Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government? On Thursday night, Rep. Ted Lieu tweeted: “Based on the Buzzfeed report and numerous other articles showing @realDonaldTrump committed Obstruction of Justice and other possible felonies, it is time for the House Judiciary Committee to start holding hearings to establish a record of whether @POTUS committed high crimes.” Former Attorney General Eric Holder tweeted: “If true — and proof must be examined — Congress must begin impeachment proceedings.” We will find out in the coming days and weeks, though, how many other top Democrats are willing to get onboard the impeachment train.

On this week’s Deconstructed, I asked new member of Congress Rashida Tlaib — who only a few hours after being sworn in on January 3 grabbed the headlines by pledging to “impeach the motherfucker” — how she responded to critics on left and right who suggest impeachment by a Democrat-led House would be a colossal waste of time and resources, given a Republican-led Senate would never agree to convict Trump and remove him from office.

“It’s not a waste of time to hold the president of the United States accountable,” she told me. “We need to understand our duties as members of Congress. And I believe, looking at even Nixon’s impeachment … it was Republicans and Democrats coming together and putting country first.”

There is very little chance of the modern Republican Party putting the national interest above their own partisan interests. So every GOP member of Congress should be asked, again and again, the fundamental questions posed by founding father George Mason at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, in response to those who objected to the inclusion of an impeachment clause in the new constitution.

“Shall any man be above justice?” he asked. “Above all shall that man be above it, who can commit the most extensive injustice?”

The post Trump’s Articles of Impeachment are Writing Themselves, with Echoes of Richard Nixon Growing Stronger appeared first on The Intercept.