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Aide asks voters to unseat Republican congressman critical of Trump

White House director of social media called on voters to defeat big liability Justin Amash in new sign of division between the president and the party

A top aide to Donald Trump has called for a primary challenge to a Republican member of Congress.

In a tweet on Saturday, Dan Scavino, the White House director of social media, called on voters to defeat congressman Justin Amash of Michigan.

Scavino wrote: @realDonaldTrump is bringing auto plants & jobs back to Michigan. @justinamash is a big liability. #TrumpTrain, defeat him in primary.

The libertarian-leaning Amash, who was first elected to the House in 2010, is a member of the hardline Freedom Caucus and has long been critical of Trump.

The direct intervention by Scavino, who has worked for Trump since caddying for the then-real estate developer as a teenager, is however a new sign of division between Trump and congressional Republicans.

The president this week used Twitter to criticize members of the Freedom Caucus for their role in blocking the American Health Care Act, the House bill that aimed to replace Barack Obamas healthcare reform, the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.

The AHCA was pulled from the House floor shortly before a scheduled vote, due to insufficient support from all corners of the Republican party.

Many members of the Freedom Caucus thought the bill, which was widely criticised for its likely removal of insurance from millions of Americans, in fact left government with too prominent a role in the provision of healthcare.

In a reference to rightwing descriptions of supposedly self-serving Washington DC, Amash derided the AHCA as Swampcare.

In tweets on Thursday, Trump criticized three members of the Freedom Caucus: chair Mark Meadows of North Carolina, Jim Jordan of Ohio and Ral Labrador of Idaho.

Meadows and Labrador stumped for Trump in 2016, and Labrador was considered for a cabinet post.

In a tweet of his own on Thursday, the Idaho Republican wrote: Freedom Caucus stood with u when others ran. Remember who your real friends are. Were trying to help u succeed.

Trump has yet to criticize Amash by name. The maverick Michigan Republican is however used to primary challenges. In 2014, he fended off a self-funding establishment Republican who was endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce.

However, a competitive primary in Amashs district, which includes the city of Grand Rapids, could have political consequences. Obama won the district in 2008 and Trump ran 8% behind Amash there in 2016.

Spokesmen for the White House did not immediately reply to requests for comment on Scavinos tweet.

However, Amash tweeted in response: Trump admin & Establishment have merged into #Trumpstablishment. Same old agenda: Attack conservatives, libertarians & independent thinkers.

Justin Amash (@justinamash)

Trump admin & Establishment have merged into #Trumpstablishment. Same old agenda: Attack conservatives, libertarians & independent thinkers. https://t.co/ALcV59iHXx

April 1, 2017

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/apr/01/justin-amash-republican-challenge-freedom-caucus-trump-dan-scavino


‘Doing good so far’: Virginia voters unfazed by Trump’s turbulent first weeks

Donald Trump supporters in the small city of Winchester feel optimistic about the president and Republicans in the Capitol seem almost perfectly in tune

The controversies swirling around the Trump administration have been constant and fast-moving in the past 44 days, but the turbid waters have not swept away his supporters.

From the halls of Congress to the rustic Virginia streets where George Washington first campaigned for office over two and a half centuries ago, Republicans are still willing to give their new president a chance.

Since Donald Trump took the oath of office and warned of American carnage on a drizzly January day, his White House has careened from scandals over contacts with Russia to massive outcry over the botched roll out of its travel ban but supporters in the historic town of Winchester, Virginia this week remain unfazed.

Standing on streets scarred by civil war battles and within view of the site of the courthouse where George Washington won his first election by plying voters with alcohol in 1758, conservatives in the town were confident in Trumps performance so far. To be fair though, they werent all paying attention.

Cindy Grove, a Winchester resident who worked in a real estate agency in town, said I dont listen to the news. She thought Trump was doing a good job because so far, I havent heard of anything horrible. A registered independent, she said she voted for Trump because he says the things out loud that I say to myself. Grove added: They say government is big business, and hes a businessman, and ought to know how to take care of things.

Others just simply thought Trump, who has been in office now for six full weeks, simply needed to be given some slack.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/05/virginia-voters-optimistic-donald-trump-first-six-weeks


‘Gun for hire’: how Jeff Sessions used his prosecuting power to target Democrats

As the justice departments man in Alabama, Trumps attorney general indicted political opponents in remarkably thin cases, court filings show

Arthur Outlaw wanted a second term.

It was 1989 and Outlaw, the Republican mayor of Mobile, Alabama, was girding himself for his re-election campaign. Word was that Lambert Mims, a popular local Democrat, would run against him. Some Republicans were growing skittish.

But a close friend of Outlaws had something planned. The friend had been president of the state Young Republicans, chairman of the regional GOP, then a senior official in the Mobile County Republican party. And now he was the top federal prosecutor in southern Alabama.

Jeff says that Mims wont be around by that time, an Outlaw aide said ominously, while discussing the election at a City Hall meeting that February, according to a sworn affidavit from an official who was in the room.

A few months later, Mims confirmed that he would be challenging Outlaw. Then Jeff Sessions made his move.

Sessions, then the US attorney for Alabamas southern district, indicted Mims on criminal corruption charges relating to obscure four-year-old negotiations over a planned recycling plant. Mims was the ninth notable Democrat in the area to be indicted by Sessions since the young Republican was appointed by President Ronald Reagan. He would not be the last.

Opponents concluded that Sessions used his federal prosecutors office, and the FBI agents who worked for him, as political weapons, according to more than half a dozen veterans of Mobiles 1980s legal and political circles. Some alleged in court filings that the ambitious young Republican actually worked from a hitlist of Democratic targets.

Sessions was a gun for hire, said Tom Purvis, a former sheriff of Mobile County, and he went after political enemies. Purvis was acquitted of charges against him that Sessions oversaw after Purvis unseated another Outlaw ally from the elected sheriffs position.

The decades-old concerns have been revived by Donald Trumps appointment of Sessions as US attorney general, and the mounting anxiety over his ability to remain even-handed as the nations most senior law enforcement official given his record of vigorous partisanship. Earlier this week, Sessions was pressured into removing himself from oversight of any FBI investigations into the Trump campaigns contacts with Russia.

Bolstering the claims are the remarkably thin prosecution cases brought by Sessions against some of those Democrats he indicted, which are detailed across thousands of pages of archived court filings that were reviewed by the Guardian.

Lambert
Lambert Mims. Photograph: Garry Mitchell/AP

Sessions had no direct evidence that Mims had committed a crime. The recycling plant was never even built. Ive never seen such a flimsy, weak case as this against anybody, Mimss attorney said in court.

Still, Sessionss office, which boasted a 95% conviction rate, persuaded a jury to find Mims guilty. Mims, a 60-year-old lay preacher, sobbed through his trial. He cried when he was convicted, then cried again when he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. I will go to my grave proclaiming my innocence, Mims told Judge Charles Butler.

A few years later, Sessions ran to be Alabama attorney general. His old friend Outlaw, who was also a wealthy businessman, personally donated $25,000 to Sessionss campaign. It was more than any other contributor gave.

He is an ideologue

Sessions began the 1980s on the front lines of Mobiles partisan warfare.

Having left his job as an assistant US attorney following the election of Jimmy Carter as US president, Sessions worked on Ronald Reagans triumphant 1980 White House bid in Alabama and campaigned to elect fellow Republicans to local offices that were then still dominated by conservative Democrats.

After one such contest ended in narrow defeat for a Republican nominee, Sessions was incandescent. The 34-year-old disputed the result in the county courts and forcefully demanded a full recount.

During one hearing, Sessions so furiously accused the Democrats of wrongdoing that the judge ruled him out of order three times. The Republicans took the election challenge all the way to the Alabama supreme court before finally admitting defeat.

It was a declaration of intent.

He is an ideologue, said Ed Massey, a Mobile attorney who has known Sessions since the 1970s. His attitude was, Ive got a job to do, and this is what I think my job is, and Im going to do it with guns blazing.

A few months later, Sessions was announced as Reagans choice to fill the top job in the federal prosecutors office in Mobile. Once installed, he quickly got to work on reshaping the agenda of this little outpost of the US justice department.

In September 1982, Bob Gulledge, a first-term Democratic state senator, was preparing to defend his seat when Sessions indicted him for alleged land fraud conspiracy. Gulledge and an associate had profited from the sale of a tract of land that had been bought with a mortgage from a government-backed lender where the associate was also an executive.

What are we doing here? Wheres the crime? Gulledges exasperated attorney asked the court at trial, after Sessions gave an extravagant 90-minute opening statement.

The attorney, Barry Hess, said Gulledge was no different from other borrowers except he happened to be in the state senate, and happened to be running for re-election soon:

The prosecutor is like a dog with a bone, said Hess. Its a bone with no meat on it, but he keeps playing with it, burying it. There just aint any meat on it.

A mistrial was declared after jurors could not reach a verdict. But by then, Gulledge had lost his party primary contest, and was out of his re-election race altogether. He did not respond to requests for comment.

As the next election season approached in late 1984, Sessions struck again. The city commissioner, Gary Greenough, was sentenced to 10 years for allegedly stealing a cut of the profits from Mobiles municipal auditorium, a city-run entertainment venue that hosted top-tier shows such as the Jacksons, Santana, and Kool and the Gang.

Greenough, who had, with Lambert Mims, pushed through municipal contracting reforms that left Sessions allies out of pocket, always maintained his innocence.

And a review of the case shows that the evidence against him was far from clear-cut. His conviction rested on the testimony of two auditorium managers, who were clearly guilty of embezzlement themselves, and made plea deals with Sessions in return for their cooperation in prosecuting Greenough.

In the paperwork that he submitted earlier this year to the US Senate judiciary committee for his confirmation hearings, Sessions named the Greenough case as one of the 10 most significant of his career.

It was about eliminating opposition, said Danny Mims, one of Mimss sons. The reason they targeted my father was that he was really good at it.

Rejection for a federal judgeship

Activists
Activists call on the Senate to reject Jeff Sessions as attorney general in November. Photograph: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for People For The

The fight was not only partisan but generational. Members of a so-called Old Establishment in Mobile politics were increasingly seeing their jobs, and patronage for their corporate backers, threatened by a new breed of upstarts. With Sessions as its spearhead, the establishment fought back.

Rumors began flying around Mobiles corridors of power and newspaper gossip columns about who might be next in line for indictment. The atmosphere grew increasingly febrile.

They would do it just to shake the branches, said one prominent Mobile attorney from the time, who did not want to be identified being critical of the US attorney general because he still practices law. The FBI would put people through these vague, threatening interviews, trying to get them to say things about other people.

The inquiry into Greenough was led by Jack Brennan, a senior FBI agent in Mobile who was close to Sessions. Distinctive for his puffy red face and thinning hair, Brennan would reappear several times in Sessionss cases against local Democrats. Reached by email, he did not respond to questions.

At 7am on 25 November 1985, Brennan and two other investigators paid a visit to the home of Gurney Owens, Mobile Countys top waste disposal official. Owens was in deep trouble.

He had been caught on tape soliciting a bribe from a local businessman, who had been trying to secure a landfill contract. Unknown to Owens, the businessman, Gerald Godwin, had been wearing a wire for the FBI and Sessions when the pair chatted over a breakfast of eggs, bacon and coffee at the Quality Inn.

Now the agents in his living room were telling Owens they could help him to help himself. He was facing a long prison sentence, they said, but it could be cut down to two years if he cooperated with what they and Sessions wanted.

The US attorneys office and the FBI presented to Mr Owens a hitlist of approximately 20 people that they wanted him to snare, Owenss attorney, Jim Atchison, said in a statement filed to court. It is interesting to note that every single person on the list is either a well-known Democrat or active in the Democratic party.

The county waste official said he was dumbfounded by what was being asked of him. They told me that they wanted me to wear a concealed radio transmitter and go out and talk to a number of people and see if I could involve them in something improper or illegal, Owens said in his own statement.

Sessions flatly denied the existence of a hit list, later telling US senators that Owenss allegation was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen in my practice of law. A justice department review agreed that the claim of a list was utterly without foundation.

But William Hinshaw, the FBI official who took over the Mobile office in 1986, said in an interview that it was feasible. It is a technique that is used, he said, noting that a justice department official should sign off on such a target list.

Owens declined to take the deal. He was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Sessions would get really, really mad at my dad because my dad refused to roll over, recalled Owenss son Gerry, who said he once watched an enraged Sessions berate his father in a courthouse corridor. Hed be sitting there calm as can be, and would then explode like a firecracker.

In any case, Owens had already helped Sessions and the FBI with one of their targets. On the secret recordings, Owens was heard claiming he had been ordered to collect the bribe by Douglas Wicks, a Democratic county commissioner, who had voting power on who should win the contract.

Wicks insisted that this was merely a cover story that Owens told to make himself look better while requesting money he would actually keep himself. Sessions did not initially indict Wicks for involvement in the alleged bribery. But then came Sessionss disastrous visit to Washington DC.

Still only 39 years old, Sessions was nominated by Reagan for another promotion as a federal judge for Alabamas southern district.

Democrats in the Senate had other ideas. Members of the Senate judiciary committee voted to reject Sessions, after receiving allegations of racism toward African Americans. It was only the second time in 50 years that a nominee had been denied a federal judgeship.

Wicks, who had been the first black person elected to the Mobile County commission, had a walk-on role in the melodrama. During the Senate hearings, future vice-president Joe Biden asked Sessions if it was true that he called Wicks a nigger during a break in a court hearing in November 1981.

Sessions denied using the racist term but the allegation, coupled with other first-hand accounts of Sessions use of racially insensitive language, went some way to killing his nomination.

A few months later, his judgeship prospects in tatters, Sessions indicted Wicks after all. The indictment for extortion was publicly unveiled by Sessions two days after the Senate confirmed an attorney to take the judgeship he had been denied.

Sessions decided to go after me because he didnt get the judgeship, Wicks said, echoing remarks he made immediately after being indicted.

Sessions accused Wicks of demanding a bribe from the owner of a pumping firm in return for a permit. Owens said so, too. But the businessman testified that he voluntarily gave Wicks a campaign contribution after the permit had been given. I dont feel that I was extorted, he said.

douglas
Douglas Wicks. Photograph: Courtesy Douglas Wicks

There was also no proof offered that Wicks had received the bribes that Owens was recorded asking for. Brennan, the FBI agent, fed Godwin wads of marked $20 bills to make the bribes, and then followed Wicks around Mobile trying to catch him spending them at stores and restaurants. But none of the $20s were recovered.

The lack of any smoking gun might have seen Wicks headed for an acquittal. But something extraordinary happened in the days before his trial.

On 4 March 1987, Wicks and a friend were looking around vacant houses that had recently been bought by the city of Mobile. The structures were to be sold and moved elsewhere to make way for new construction. Wicks and his friend stopped at one house with a set of anti-burglar bars on the ground outside. They picked up the bars and threw them in their truck to sell as scrap metal.

But a man appeared and told them that he was in the process of buying the house. Where are you going with my stuff? asked the man. Wicks, who thought he recognized the man, apologized. We didnt know anybody owned this place, Wicks said. They returned the bars to where they had been found, and left.

Wicks later realized that the man who had confronted them was Brennan, the FBI agent and friend of Sessions, who had been surveilling Wicks for months for the corruption case. Wicks was charged with theft. A story about the case ran on the front page of the Mobile Register under the headline Wicks charged with felony. Days later, Wickss trial for extortion began.

It was unfair, so unfair, said Irmatean Watson, a Democratic city councilwoman at the time. It was all political. Douglas didnt do anything wrong.

Hinshaw, then the FBI field office chief, said in an interview that Sessions had personally approved the arrest of Wicks for the theft and brushed aside any concerns about political correctness or awkward timing.

He strenuously denied that the theft charge was cooked up to tarnish Wickss name before his trial. Agent Brennan insisted that he really was buying the house, and that another man named as the purchaser in the county records was acting on his behalf.

But Wicks and his attorney, Billy Kimbrough, claimed the FBI had been watching and waiting for any act by Wicks that they could make look like criminal activity. The following month the charges relating to the burglar bars were dismissed. By then, Wicks had been found guilty in the corruption trial and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Mims was not a crook

It was the prosecution of Mims, however, that astonished even hardened Mobile political operatives. At the center of the case, wearing a wire once again, was Gerald Godwin, the same businessman who helped Sessions nail Owens and Wicks.

Godwin alleged that he had been pressured to give 40% of his company to a friend of Mimss if he wanted Mims to award him the contract to develop the recycling plant.

There was no evidence presented of such extortion, let alone Mimss knowledge of it, let alone his involvement in it. Godwin claimed to have been threatened on 30 September, yet Mims had already signed a city resolution agreeing to the plant almost a week before that. The negotiations collapsed and the plant was never built.

And yet four years after Mims had stepped down from politics, and shortly after he reappeared with his campaign for mayor Sessions proceeded with criminal charges against him.

Mims was not a crook. He would never have knowingly done anything like what they claimed, his attorney, Thomas Haas, said in a recent interview. These people were politically motivated.

After pleading not guilty, Mims told reporters that he was a victim of people who have used the system to try to destroy me politically and that the indictment had been timed to affect the outcome of the election.

The authorities had even sent an FBI agent into Mimss office, posing as an executive from a mortgage lender, and tried to make Mims reveal illegal cronyism by saying on tape that his friend would definitely be awarded the contract. But Mims was only recorded saying platitudes such as: Naturally, Id rather see local people get it rather than to bring in somebody from out of state.

So underwhelming was the evidence when played in court that the Mobile Registers front page headline the following day was: Recording reveals no wrongdoing.

Attempting to have the case thrown out, Haas called it a farce and a cruel joke. In his closing argument, he told jurors: You have wasted 10 weeks of your life. There is no evidence of any criminal activity by Mr Mims. Youve heard the evidence. Thats all there is, folks. The fat lady has sung.

After more than 20 hours of deliberations, however, the jury found Mims guilty.

Asked following the trial whether he had brought the prosecution to kill Mimss political career, Sessions said nothing could be further from the truth. These cases are based on the law and the facts and not on any other consideration, he said.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/04/jeff-sessions-legal-past-democrats-trump-administration


Donald Trump returns in triumph to CPAC with Breitbart as supporting cast

Six years after he was loudly booed there, Trump will take the main stage as the Republican president with some new allies at the conservative confab

When Donald Trump first spoke at the largest annual gathering of conservative grassroots activists, he was loudly booed for taking a shot at one of their heroes.

The room erupted in jeers when Trump, in 2011, told the conservative political action conference (CPAC) that prominent libertarian Ron Paul can not get elected, partly because Congress was in recess.

Six years later, Trump will appear as the Republican president at the conservative confab that mixes policy, paranoia and partying in equal measures.

By day, it draws college students and ardent activists to speeches from elected officials and panels on topics such as If Heaven Has a Gate, a Wall and Extreme Vetting, Why Cant America?

By night, the college kids, many of whom at past conferences have been passionate libertarian supporters of Ron and Rand Paul, start drinking and can go to parties where top Republican operative Grover Norquist tends bar, or a disgraced congressman can be spotted lounging in a hot tub.

The four-day event has been held in recent years at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, a huge complex featuring a new casino that is placed just outside Washington on the Potomac river. While the location is geographically outside the Beltway, it is physically as convenient as possible to Alexandria, Virginia, the DC suburb that is the heart of the conservative political establishment.

CPAC, though, has never been a place for country club, establishment Republicans. It was founded by the nascent conservative movement in the 1970s in a successful effort to move the Republican party to the right.

In recent years, it flatly refused to extend speaking invitations to Chris Christie, who was perceived as insufficiently conservative, and prevented a gay conservative group from sponsoring the event.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/23/cpac-donald-trump-steve-bannon-breitbart-conservative-political-action-conference


Trump interior secretary pick on climate change: ‘I dont believe its a hoax’

Ryan Zinke distanced himself from the president-elect in confirmation hearing: The climate is changing. The debate is what is that influence and what can we do

Donald Trumps nominee for secretary of interior, Ryan Zinke, distanced himself from the president-elect on Tuesday, saying the climate is changing. The debate is what is that influence and what can we do.

Zinke, a two-term congressman for Montana, had been asked by Bernie Sanders about Trumps infamous 2012 tweet where the real estate developer described climate change as created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.

Zinke, a former navy Seal, responded by stating matter of factly, I dont believe its a hoax.

The statement came in a hearing on his nomination held by the Senate energy and natural resources committee on Tuesday.

However, the Trump cabinet nominee insisted he wasnt a climate science expert and stated his belief in being prudent towards what he characterized as a lot of debate on both sides of the aisle.

Zinke also differed from many in his own party by insisting: Im absolutely against transfer or sale of public lands. Many Republicans have long pushed for the federal government to transfer ownership of public lands to the states, and this was included as a plank in the partys platform. However, the Montana Republican still made clear his support for fossil fuel drilling on federal lands, saying We have to have an economy.

Zinke is expected to sail through the Senate with bipartisan support. He was introduced by both of his states senators, Democrat Jon Tester and Republican Steve Daines, before the hearing on Tuesday. Zinke had long been considered the strongest general election opponent to Tester in 2018 but his appointment likely prevents him from seeking a Senate bid and boosts Democratic chances of holding onto Testers seat in the midterms.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/17/trump-interior-secretary-pick-ryan-zinke-climate-change


Attempts to hold Trump to account only seem to make him stronger and stranger

In a week in which the world of the president-elect grew ever more bizarre, he remained his own unpredictable, infuriating, charismatic, deeply flawed self

Dont be rude! Dont be rude! barked the president-elect with the authority of a school principal reprimanding a two-year-old. Not for the first time in the course of 18 months of Donald Trumps wild ride to the White House and surely not for the last the worlds media found itself gathered at his feet, dutifully soaking up his scorn like naughty children.

Dont be rude! No, Im not going to give you a question! repeated the man destined in seven days time to become the 45th president of the United States as he shut down CNNs senior White House correspondent. The reporters misdeed? Having the temerity to try to ask a question.

It was one of those moments, of which there have been many along the way, when observers of the Trump phenomenon had to pinch themselves to maintain equilibrium. Was this man really about to occupy the most powerful office on the planet? And were we actually receiving a lesson in good behavior from the individual who mocked a disabled person and bragged about grabbing pussy?

This weeks event was the first press conference Trump had held since his shocking victory in November, the first indeed for six months since he took the unusual decision to cut out the media middleman and communicate directly to the American people through Twitter. Even before he appeared in the lobby of Trump Tower, his Fifth Avenue HQ and home, he had put us firmly in our places squashing about 250 reporters into a space barely able to hold half that number, prompting an unseemly scramble for journalistic real estate.

To add to the enervating claustrophobia, Trump further packed the lobby with staffers who proceeded to cheer raucously at all the right moments in the manner of canned laughter in a recorded TV show. The subliminal message to the gathered media throng was clear: cheer along with us, or risk being subjected to the CNN treatment.

So much has changed, so much stayed the same in the half year since his last media encounter. Physically, Trump emphasised his altered status by drawing a blue curtain across the lobby and placing 10 American flags with eagle finials in front of it, as a suitably televisual presidential backdrop.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/14/donald-trump-press-conference-twitter-media


Trump has a life many aspire to. That’s one reason people voted him | Justin Gest

The president-elect wields his version of the American dream to inspire millions of supporters who ironically are highly unlikely to achieve it

It is a statement about the desperation of white working-class representation in American politics that their voice is a jet-set real estate developer from Manhattan who happened to make a direct appeal for their votes. However, its not enough to appeal to voters; the great politicians bond with them.

Those who roll their eyes at Trumps ongoing rallies underestimate the extent to which the President-elect actually connects with his white working class voters by living the life many of them have always wanted.

In his aspirational but undisciplined You only live once style, Trump is an avatar of those who are acutely aware of moneys evanescence.

For much of American history, all the rich were nouveau riche to some extent. There is no landed aristocracy or royalty to speak of. At some point, all American families were commoner muck from somewhere else. But over time, the US has grown older and developed an increasingly ossified class hierarchy that has effectively entrenched the wealthy by birthright distinguishing them from the arrivistes.

By most accounts, the president-elect won the birthright lottery by inheriting a sizable trust fund. But the ostentatious gold lettering, the unsubtle cherry red ties, the beauty pageant wife, the overt self-aggrandizement everywhere, the fake tanner: this is beer taste on a champagne budget.

While this is reminiscent of a lottery winners palate, more subtly it communicates an understanding of money as fleeting and fragile the experience of many white working-class people who have lost so much in the decline of manufacturing, the savings and loan crisis, and the great recession.

As part of my research on white working class politics over the past five years, I spent several months in Youngstown, Ohio a once prosperous mecca for steel that is now one of the poorest cities in the US. There, the American Dream is increasingly tarnished, but my respondents hold out hope for the messianic return of a signature industry and a political champion.

Everybody wants the big stroke, a former Youngstown public official told me. There have been scrambles for a Lufthansa air cargo hub here, the worlds first indoor Nascar race track, an Avanti car body factory. That drives things. Somebody from the outside is going to rescue us and make it like the steel mills again.

To replace the collapse of an industrial behemoth, many Youngstowners can only fathom the majestic arrival of another. There is little patience for the organic growth promoted by earlier leaders and President Obama, whose 2009 stimulus rescued the neighboring automobile industry and supported incremental actions like a local business incubator in the heart of Youngstown.

While Obama is skeptical of the environmental risks associated with hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that is transforming landscapes in adjacent western Pennsylvania, Trump promises to go big and spread his winnings around the peoples billionaire.

And Youngstowners know precisely what they would do with the windfall. Already, many yearn for the life of Trump.

Im going to get lung cancer like this, said an industrial painter I interviewed. He patted his brow. If they would open that racetrack casino, Id take a job there, so I can be in the air conditioning all day with broads walking around me.

An unemployed, mother of three told me: For two people whove worked all their lives, the only way to have the American Dream is to hit the lottery. Thats the new American Dream.

Ironically, it is the prospect of the American Dream that Trump wields to inspire millions of supporters who according to economic research are highly unlikely to achieve it.

Compared to the working classes of European countries, Americans are less inclined to resent the rich. Rather, we celebrate them as job creators, innovators and engineers of economic growth. There is a perception many would say, a myth that we are all buoyed by their success, indeed that we contributed to and are associated with their success, or that we may even live vicariously through them.

However, Americans do resent the surreptitiously wealthy, characterized by exclusivity and invisibility. We resent the wealthy who do not engage their fellow citizens, and rather shroud their cushioned lifestyles behind the deception of offshore bank accounts, shell companies and homes inside the gates of St Tropez. For his supporters unnerved by such stealth wealth, Donald Trumps glitzy public persona is far more accountability than a complicated tax return.

Tax returns force the stealthily wealthy to disclose their dealings, and contrasts Trumps public exhibitionism with the discreet fortunes of the Bush Family, the Romneys and Republicans of yesteryear. In the eyes of many working class white people, downplaying ones wealth to artificially connect with the poor is a far greater sin than aspirational puffery and false grandeur.

Trump is Scrooge McDuck to their Montgomery Burns the inscrutable boardroom fat cat.

At one Pennsylvania rally in October, he even said he considered himself to be in a certain way a blue-collar worker.

In this way, Donald Trump also transcends what has become a barrier between white working-class people in Americas hinterland and white, liberal cosmopolitans in its cities. Those in the hinterland often feel that their urban co-ethnics have turned their back on struggling, working-class white people in order to embrace immigrant upstarts and African-Americans in light of the structural disadvantages they face.

In his lifestyle choices, Donald Trump embodies a reassurance to working class white people that he is somehow one of them.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/16/trump-american-dream-working-class


Don’t call Clinton a weak candidate: it took decades of scheming to beat her

Years of Republican plots, an opponent deified by television, and FBI smears stood in her way and she still won the popular vote by more than Kennedy did

Sometimes I think I have never seen anything as strong as Hillary Clinton. That doesnt mean that I like and admire everything about her. Im not here to argue about who she is, just to note what she did. I watched her plow through opposition and attacks the like of which no other candidate has ever faced and still win the popular vote. To defeat her it took an unholy cabal far beyond what Barack Obama faced when he was the campaign of change, swimming with the tide of disgust about the Bush administration. As the New York Times reported, By the time all the ballots are counted, she seems likely to be ahead by more than 2m votes and more than 1.5 percentage points. She will have won by a wider percentage margin than not only Al Gore in 2000 but also Richard Nixon in 1968 and John F Kennedy in 1960.

You can flip that and see that Trump was such a weak candidate it took decades of scheming and an extraordinary international roster of powerful players to lay the groundwork that made his election possible. Defeating Clinton in the electoral college took the 2013 gutting of the Voting Rights Act by Republican appointees to the supreme court. It took vast Republican voter suppression laws and tactics set in place over many years. It took voter intimidation at many polling places. It took the long Republican campaign to blow up the boring bureaucratic irregularity of Clintons use of a private email server into a scandal that the media obediently picked up and reheated.

It took James Comey, the director of the FBI, using that faux-scandal and his power to stage a misleading smear attack on Clinton 11 days before the election in flagrant violation of the custom of avoiding such intervention for 60 days before an election. It took a compliant mainstream media running after his sabotage like a golden retriever chasing a tennis ball. It took decades of conservative attacks on the Clintons. Comey, incidentally, served as deputy GOP counsel to the Senate Whitewater committee, that fishing expedition that began with an investigation in a messy real estate deal in Arkansas before Bill Clintons presidency and ended with a campaign to impeach him on charges related to completely unrelated sexual activities during his second term.

It took a nearly decade-long reality TV show, The Apprentice, that deified Trumps cruelty, sexism, racism and narcissism as essential to success and power. As the feminist media critic Jennifer Pozner points out: Everything Trump said and did was framed in a way to flatter him, and more importantly, flatter his worldview. The colossal infomercial fictionalized the blundering, cheating businessman as an unqualified success and gave him a kind of brand recognition no other candidate had.

It took the full support of Fox News, whose CEO, Roger Ailes, was so committed to him that after leaving the company following allegations of decades of sexual abuse of employees, he joined the Trump campaign. It took the withdrawal of too many Americans from even that calibre of journalism into the partisan unreliability of faux-news sites and confirmation-bias bubbles of social media.

It took the mainstream medias quarter-century of failure to address climate change as the most important issue of our time. It took decades of most media outlets letting the fossil-fuel industrys propaganda arm create the false framework of two equally valid opinions rather than reporting the overwhelming scientific consensus and tremendous danger of climate change.

To stop Hillary Clinton it also took Julian Assange, using WikiLeaks as a tool of revenge, evidently considering his grudge against the Democratic nominee important enough to try to aid the campaign of a climate-denying racist authoritarian. Assange now appears to have so close a relationship with Russia that he often appears on the state-funded TV channel and news site RT. He tweeted protests when Russian president Vladimir Putins information was included in the Panama Papers hack and has been coy about where his leaked information on the Democratic National Committee came from.

Many intelligence experts say it came from Russian hackers, and Putin made it clear that he favored Trumps win. The day Comey dropped his bombshell, the New York Times ran a story reassuringly titled Investigating Donald Trump, FBI Sees No Clear Link to Russia with its own astounding, underplayed revelation buried inside: Investigators, the officials said, have become increasingly confident, based on the evidence they have uncovered, that Russias direct goal is not to support the election of Mr Trump, as many Democrats have asserted, but rather to disrupt the integrity of the political system and undermine Americas standing in the world more broadly.

And it took a shortsighted campaign of hatred on the left, an almost hysterical rage like nothing I have ever seen before about any public figure. Some uncritically picked up half-truths, outright fictions, and rightwing spin to feed their hate and rejected anything that diluted the purity and focus of that fury, including larger questions about the other candidate and the fate of the Earth. It was so extreme that in recent weeks, I was attacked for posting anti-Trump news stories on social media by furious people who took the position that to be overtly anti-Trump was to be covertly pro-Clinton. If the perfect is the enemy of the good, whose friend is it? The greater of two evils?

A lot of people seemed to think the Sanders-Clinton primary ended the night Trump was elected. I saw that stuckness from climate activists, anti-racist journalists, civil-rights champions, and others who you might expect would have turned to face the clear and present danger of a Trump presidency. I heard, for example, much about Clintons failure to address the Dakota pipeline adequately which was true, and bad, but overshadowed by what we heard so little about: Trumps million dollars or so invested in the pipeline and the guarantee he would use presidential powers to push it and every pipeline like it through.

Its impossible to disconnect the seething, irrational emotionality from misogyny, and the misogyny continues. Since election night, Ive been hearing too many men of the left go on and on about how Clinton was a weak candidate. Ive wondered about that word weak, not only because it is so often associated with women, but because what theyre calling her weakness was their refusal to support her. Its as if theyre saying, They sent a pink lifeboat and we sent it back, because we wanted a blue lifeboat, and now we are very upset that people are drowning.

Or, as my brilliant friend Aruna dSouza put it Wednesday: At some point soon we need to discuss whether Sanders would have been able to win, but helpful hint: today, it just sounds like youre saying: The Democrats should have cut into Trumps lead in the misogynist vote and the whitelash vote by running a white man. Lets come to terms with the racism and the misogyny first, before analyzing the what-ifs because otherwise were just going to replicate it forever. And if you think that the angry anti-establishment vote won (hence Sanders would have fared better), let me remind you that patriarchy and white supremacy are the cornerstones of the Establishment.

I know that if Clinton had been elected there would not be terrified and weeping people of color all over the country, small children too afraid to go to school, a shocking spike in hate crimes, high-school students with smashed dreams marching in cities across the country. I deplore some of Hillary Clintons past actions and alignments and disagreed with plenty of her 2016 positions. I hoped to be fighting her for the next four years. But I recognize the profound differences between her and Trump on race, gender, immigration and climate, and her extraordinary strength, tenacity and courage in facing and nearly overcoming an astonishing array of obstacles to win the popular vote. Which reminds us that Trump has no mandate and sets before us some of the forces arrayed against us.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/14/hillary-clinton-defeat-republicans-trump-comey


Paul Ryan lists Trump-era priorities as he insists Republicans have ‘mandate’

Speakers remarks at odds with president-elect as Trump tells CBS he plans to deport as many as three million people and fence may replace sections of wall

The wall that Donald Trump has promised to build on the US-Mexico border may in part be some fencing, the president-elect said in an interview released on Sunday, as the top Republican already in Washington hinted at disagreements and uncertainties for how they intend to govern together.

In an interview with CBSs 60 Minutes, Trump said there could be some fencing in his proposed wall, which would span nearly 2,000 miles and cost billions. On the campaign trail he promised that the barrier would be exclusively built of hardened concrete, rebar and steel.

Im very good at this, he told CBS. Its called construction.

Also on Sunday, Paul Ryan, speaker of the House and the lawmaker poised to write sweeping new legislation for the Republican-controlled government, said he believed his party had a mandate to reshape healthcare, taxes, regulations and border security for the Trump administration.

Discrepancies between Trumps promises and Ryans plans, however, suggested that the president-elect and his future Congress do not yet know how they will make such changes.

Ryan insisted, for instance, that Trumps priority would not be the mass deportation of millions of undocumented migrants.

That is not what our focus is, we are focused on securing the border before we get on any immigration, Ryan told CNNs State of the Union. We are not planning on erecting a deportation force, Donald Trumps not planning on that.

Trump has repeatedly promised a deportation force and in August said: Day one, my first hour in office, those people are gone! In his CBS interview, he said he would deport as many as 3 million people.

What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, where a lot of these people, probably 2 million, it could be even 3 million, we are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate, Trump said.

But were getting them out of our country, theyre here illegally.

In June, Ryan broke with Trump over a proposed ban on Muslims entering the US. On Sunday, Rudy Giuliani, one of the president-elects advisers, said the ban would now be imposed on a country-by-country basis.

The ban would be restricted to particular countries, the former New York mayor told CNN, naming Syria and Yemen. All the rest from countries that contain dangerous populations, they would be subject to extreme vetting.

Giuliani suggested the US could work with regimes in Egypt and Pakistan for pretty good vetting, but not a complete ban.

Speaker Ryan also said the Republican party, which until last year largely supported Barack Obamas free trade agenda with Asia, was not entirely behind Trumps promises to impose high tariffs on countries such as China and Mexico.

Not tariffs, not trade wars, Ryan said, instead saying he wanted to fix our taxes on border adjustments.

He maintained that the party would find common ground with the new president, saying: Hes trying to make America more competitive.

Ryan echoed Trump in suggesting that the party intended to keep some parts of Barack Obamas Affordable Care Act, while repealing the healthcare law itself.

A full repeal could mean as many as 20 million people losing health insurance. Ryan told CNN that people 26 and younger could, according to his proposals, stay on their parents plan, and that Congress would need to have a solution for pre-existing conditions. He also said the party would propose refundable tax credits that would lower the cost of coverage.

We would have a healthcare system in America where everyone, regardless of income and position, he said, would get to buy what you want to buy, not what the government is making you buy.

But Ryan refused to answer questions about whether women would still be able to have birth control covered.

Im not going to get into all the nitty gritty details about these things, he said, adding, Im not going to get into hypotheticals about legislation that hasnt even been written yet.

Giuliani also insisted that Trump would have no conflicts of interest in office, even if he hands control of his sprawling, international business to three of his children, who have acted as his closest advisers.

Once he gets into government they will not be they will not be advising, Giuliani said. There will have to be a wall between them with regard to government matters.

Ryan also expressed confidence in Trump and his entourage, which includes Steve Bannon, a former investor and far-right media chief executive whose website, Breitbart, has trafficked in openly racist, sexist, homophobic and antisemitic writing.

Ive never met the guy. Ive never met Steve Bannon, Ryan said. So I have no concerns. I trust Donald Trump.

I believe that Donald is going to have a great set of choices to make for staffing [the White House], Ryan continued. Hes a successful person, he surrounds himself with successful people. So Im confident hes going to do the same here.

He denounced the perpetrators of hate crimes and racist graffiti that have been reported since Trumps victory, saying: They are not Republicans and we dont want them.

We are pluralistic, we are inclusive, and will continue to be. I really think people should put their minds at ease.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/13/paul-ryan-donald-trump-republicans-mandate


Jobless, jaded, and voting for Trump in Ohio: ‘Hell be different, in some way’

David Brunelle, 50, has spent a life in manufacturing in Ohio, but hes now unemployed and hes gunning for Donald Trump to shake things up

A generation ago, a man like David Brunelle would probably be working through the autumn of a long career for the same manufacturer in north-eastern Ohio. A Democrat like Hillary Clinton could probably count on his vote.

But having worked for eight companies since he was 18, Brunelle has now been without a full-time job for about eight months. His 50th birthday came and went in May. He tries to stay cheerful, but hes tired, and he voted for Donald Trump.

There is just constant change, Brunelle said. Its always changing, merging, closing, takeovers and restructuring.

US presidential election: five scenarios

Brunelle is not even confident that Trump would follow through on his quixotic pledges to revive heavy industry in the midwest by rewriting international trade deals, punishing companies for moving jobs overseas and declaring economic war on China.

But hell be different, Brunelle, who lives in the tiny town of Atwater, said hopefully. Hell be different, in some way or another.

It is with the support of voters such as Brunelle, who feel belittled rather than empowered by globalisation, that Trump hopes to wrest Ohio back into the Republican column on Tuesday. After a late surge in polls, Trump holds a 2.2% lead in the RealClearPolitics average. The state has backed the winner at every presidential election since 1960, when it picked Richard Nixon over John F Kennedy.

David
David Brunelle.

Once-proud rust belt cities that have been Democratic strongholds for decades appear to be within the real estate developers reach. Only eight years ago, 86% of presidential primary voters in Youngstown and the surrounding Mahoning County, for instance, were Democrats and just 14% were Republicans. This year, the split was 51-49.

Under Barack Obama, Ohios economy has recovered steadily from the 2008 recession. The number of manufacturing jobs in the state has actually ticked up slightly in recent years, after falling sharply and consistently under the administration of George W Bush.

Trump has, however, relentlessly claimed that the sectors decades-long structural decline was somehow caused directly by Clinton and her husband, Bill, who was president when the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), which was signed by his predecessor, came into force.

The Republican nominee has turned the trade pact into a shorthand for one of the central themes of his campaign: that leaders in Washington, supposedly incapable of standing up to canny foreigners, have left US workers exposed to the ravages of international competition without protection.

Every time you see a closed factory or wiped out community in Ohio, it was essentially caused by the Clintons, Trump said at a rally in Springfield last month.

However untrue, the message has resonated deeply with workers such as Brunelle, who long for the stability enjoyed by their parents and grandparents.

Because of global competition, we have to compete with second- and third-rate countries around the world, he said, noting that he and his friends discuss Nafta quite a bit these days.

Until last year, Brunelle managed a plant in the town of Bedford for Production Pattern, a company which makes moulds for vehicles. But the firm was buffeted by competition from China, he said, where companies could sell finished moulds for less than the cost of the materials he and his colleagues were using to make them. Some jobs at Brunelles plant were moved out of state and others went overseas, he said. Brunelle lost his position, which paid him $70,000 a year.

Before that, Brunelle was a plant manager for Water Star, a hi-tech manufacturer in Newbury, Ohio. The firm makes anodes and cathodes that are used to purify and treat water. But then Water Star was bought by Tennant, a commercial cleaning company from Minnesota, which wanted the technology for its floor scrubbers. Brunelle lost his job.

As he wandered around a state-sponsored jobs fair in Akron on Monday, Brunelle winced at the sort of positions on offer at many of the stands.

Packing boxes of potato chips on the midnight shift for $30,000 a year. Helping gamblers use video slot machines at an out-of-town mega-casino for $10 an hour plus tips. Serving sandwiches in a popular fast-food outlet for $9 an hour.

Brunelle is a smart man. He knows the arguments in favor of globalisation, knows how difficult it would be for any president to turn back the clock. But as he sets off to wander the aisles for a few more minutes while employers begin dismantling their stalls, its just difficult to take.

In the long term, maybe it is good for the world economy, he said. But we have to go down for the rest of them to go up. And it hurts.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/08/donald-trump-ohio-vote-republicans-jobs


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