I just started reading this Buzzfeed article about Facebook board member and Trump backer Peter Thiel’s relationship with racist fringe groups. Thiel seems like an outlier in Silicon Valley because of his high profile support for Trump. But he is actually part of a rising tide of neo-authoritarian thought in the tech world which argues that democracy has failed and must be replaced. This reminded me of something I’ve been coming back to again and again with greater clarity and understanding its greater significance as the years have gone by.
At some point in 2015 I was sitting at my desk in TPM’s New York office’s talking with a good friend who worked at Gawker. The Hulk Hogan lawsuit had been on the horizon for a long time before it actually came to trial. In preparation Gawker founder and owner Nick Denton had recently cut some deal with a Russian oligarch to give Gawker deep enough pockets to withstand an adverse judgment which they anticipated and hoped could be reversed on appeal. My friend was walking me through all of these developments. He was very much preaching the Hulk Hogan lawsuit gospel. The future of freedom of the press, he told me, was on the line with Gawker’s fate.
I nodded in agreement with each point. As a publisher and strong supporter of press freedom, I supported Gawker’s position publicly and privately. And yet tucked away in my head part of me was saying, “C’mon. You published a sex tape.” Publishers see every libel suit and think there but for the grace of God. In this case, I knew to a certainty that this particular libel situation was not one TPM ever would have found itself in.
Michael Caputo is a career Republican political operative with no medical expertise beyond an annual physical. He is best known as being an associate of convicted felon Roger Stone, with his own lengthy history working in Russia and as a suspect in the Russia probe. Trump installed Caputo as the acting director of communications for the Department of Health and Human Services in April. We learned yesterday that he demanded and received the right to review and amend the CDC’s weekly mortality and morbidity reports, which are among the canonical public health and scientific reports of the US government, in order to make sure they don’t depart from President Trump’s COVID messaging.
Tragedy is tragedy. And while the invisible crisis our country is currently facing looks and feels and hurts differently than this day 19 years ago, the parallels of massive loss of life and the infiltration of a society-altering fear are clear.
It’s the 20th most important thing about the book or the interviews. But everything that comes out about these Trump-Woodward interviews, details and news notwithstanding, communicates an almost limitless personal insecurity and need for validation and acceptance. See here. It’s hardly surprising. It’s the flip side of his grievance politics. I certainly don’t feel sorry for Donald Trump – he deserves every bad thing that comes to him. But I don’t think it would be any fun being Donald Trump.
The former Republican presidential candidate and longtime Christian Broadcasting Network host’s ire is not aimed at President Trump ghastly admission that he intentionally downplayed the severity of COVID-19 even though he was aware of it’s deadliness. He’s upset he offered up his iniquities freely to the press. Specifically, to the famous Bob Woodward.
And there it is yet again. The President’s personal lawyer and apparent bag man Rudy Giuliani has been exposed as an active participant in yet another Russian intelligence operation aimed at supporting President Trump’s reelection campaign. The details of the story — and Giuliani’s work with Andrii Derkach — have been something of an open secret, especially if you’ve been reading Josh’s on-going reporting. But Derkach has now been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department as an “active Russian agent for over a decade, maintaining close connections with the Russian Intelligence Services.”
President Trump is reportedly banking on a fever swamp perception of former Vice President Joe Biden’s mental acuity — which has been the subject of baseless rumors perpetuated not only by the right, but also, apparently, by Russian propaganda — to guide him through the debates in coming weeks.
I failed. I was fooled. He pulled one over on me. I admit it and hang my head in shame. Last week I noted the demonstrable reality that Michael Cohen squeezed the Falwells for Jerry Falwell’s critical January 2016 endorsement of Donald Trump because he and Trump had photographs and documents that revealed that the ultimate power couple of rightwing evangelical Christianity were committed swingers and part of the so-called ‘cuckold lifestyle’. But Cohen continued to deny it, even with a soon to launch “tell all” memoir. I said he was likely still holding out because of continuing criminal liability for blackmail and extortion.
But I had it totally wrong.
Cohen was lying. But not to stay ahead of the law. He was lying in the interests of book promotion. He wasn’t going to wrongfoot his book roll out. I’m not sure whether this is more virtuous or proper. But it’s definitely more on brand. So I salute him.
TPM reporter Kate Riga has been following all of Congress’ failed attempts to pass any type of COVID-19 relief bill for the last several weeks. But even with the Senate back in session, there doesn’t appear to be a clear end in sight.
Bloomberg News this morning floats the doubly absurd idea that President Trump is weighing the possibility of putting $100 million of his own money into his campaign. On its face this seems absurd. Trump had to be dragged kicking and screaming to put half that amount into his campaign in 2016 when the campaign’s need for money was far, far greater. (We don’t even know if Trump has that scale of liquid assets available.) But the bigger question is, why does his campaign even need him to pump in his own money?
This article in the Post talks to a number of epidemiologists who say we’re on the cusp of what may be the worst of the COVID-19 epidemic.
The article is based in significant measure on a new model from the IHME modelers at the University of Washington. They don’t have a perfect record. So I don’t think we should see this as consensus opinion or what “the science” says. But it’s worth taking note of as at least one quite dire outlook.
As President Trump and the White House collectively go after the Atlantic for its recent report on Trump’s remarks about the late-Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and fallen American soldiers, pundits and journalists across the spectrum are suggesting there’s one person who could easily set the record straight: John Kelly.
I wanted to update you on some new news on the Falwell/Trump 2016 endorsement scandal. Since we last checked in on this story another Liberty University student has come forward to say that Becki Falwell pursued him sexually. But it’s the Michael Cohen part of this story that remains the really newsworthy part.
It’s easy to get lost in the big muddy river of polling data and headlines. But before we get further into the day I wanted to discuss a new group of polls that came out yesterday. This was the first batch of quality polls entirely after the GOP convention. The upshot of really all of them is that “law and order” is not only not helping Trump cut into Biden’s lead. Trump appears to be losing that debate on its own terms. When pollsters ask voters which candidate they trust more to handle civil unrest, protests or crime, they’re picking Biden.
This post may take a few deep breaths because it’s hard to have any sympathy for Kyle Rittenhouse. But it’s not about sympathy. TPM Reader BG raises some important legal points – a couple of which had occurred to me as well – about his legal representation. I’ll note as a separate or related matter that Rittenhouse is being represented by a couple of wingnut hucksters, one of whom, Lin Wood, is the celeb right wing lawyer who’s been filing nuisance lawsuits against myriad news organizations on behalf of Nicholas Sandman. From BG …
Rittenhouse is 17, which means he can be a child in need of assistance (CINA) in most states.
He will also be charged as an adult, almost certainly.
From TPM Reader JB, a physician and professor at a major academic medical center …
I think we now know what the October surprise will be for the election: It will be the rolling out of a COVID19 vaccine. The CDC has already said that states should prepare for distribution in October/November and the head of the FDA, Stephen Hahn, has said he may Fast Track approval for a vaccine.
They couldn’t even find a willing participant. So they replaced a shop owner with someone who’d be happy to play his game.
TPM Reader SD has a reply to my post about the psychology and ideational worlds of Republican and Democratic partisans …
I think your post on the jitters of Democrats understates the really dramatic role consistent winning of elections can bring to the psyche of your average Democratic voter. It has been 52 years since 1968, and in those 52 years, the Republicans were really in the ascendancy for more than half of the period and then in the last 20 years the two sides have had an uneasy, unsteady equilibrium with each side gaining temporary advantages (and with Republicans doing a better job than Democrats at preserving or entrenching their otherwise temporary gains). Almost no Democrat under the age of about 70 (someone who would have been 10 years old in 1960) remembers a time where the Democrats had super majorities in the Senate and House while also holding the Presidency. Democrats who were 40 years old in 1960 would have essentially conceived of themselves as being a member of the dominant political party, accustomed to running the country and seeing the government reflect their values, because it is all they would have known in their lifetimes. Even a Republican holding the Presidency as Eisenhower did from 1953-1961 did not revisit the changes wrought by the New Deal. Instead, he could probably be more properly seen as a person of the other party holding the office in an era of the other party’s dominance. I think of Bill Clinton’s Presidency in similar terms.
My roommate just asked me this question. There’s not a solid answer, but it’s related to news out of New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt’s forthcoming book, which was obtained by CNN.
The President continues his policy promoting a maximal climate of violence and instability in the hopes that fear, uncertainty and demoralization will give him another term in power. He continues his tacit embrace of Kyle Rittenhouse, the self-styled 17 year old ‘militia’ member who gunned down two protestors in Kenosha, Wisconsin last week. This morning NBC reports that Rittenhouse’s lawyer will argue that his client was part of a “well-regulated” militia and that at least the weapons charges against him are unconstitutional. That argument seems unlikely to succeed. But it is another sign of how the brazen murders of two civilians are being embraced as a new cause celebre on the right.