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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


Jane Fonda targets Trump over climate and inequality: ‘A boy in the bully pulpit’

Actor says her biggest fear about the incoming administration is Trumps pick to lead the EPA and she is ready to do whatever it takes to fight back

The screen legend and activist Jane Fonda said shes prepared to do whatever I need to do to counter a Donald Trump administration, and called the president-elect a sexist boy in a bully pulpit who is missing an opportunity to be an eco-hero.

The actor let loose on Trumps choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency, the global-warming skeptic Scott Pruitt, and called the pick her greatest fear about the incoming administration.

A self-confessed late bloomer as a feminist, Fonda also predicted that womens rights are going to come under incredible attack at the federal and state level in the aftermath of the Trump election victory.

But she chose the environment when asked to name her biggest worry about a Trump White House in an interview with the Guardian.

We are confronted by someone who is against the very existence of the agency hes being put in charge of. There are many dangers with Trump but the difference here is that we have no time. The tipping point for climate change is looming, Fonda said.

Experts are warning that Pruitt will be an unprecedented disaster for the environment, not just in the US but the world if he leads the charge to unwind Barack Obamas push against carbon emissions and pollution and his commitment to the global agreement signed in Paris to combat soaring atmospheric and ocean temperatures.

Thats what scares me the most. I will not be around to see the ultimate fallout from climate change, but its coming. I hoped the fact that he was meeting with Al Gore meant that he was open to seeing the light, but then he appointed Pruitt, she said.

Gore, a Nobel prize-winning environment campaigner and Bill Clintons vice-president, met with Donald Trump in New York last Monday and declared afterward that it was a productive session and they expected to talk further.

Three days later Trump announced his new head of the EPA would be Pruitt, the attorney general of Oklahoma who has been one of the chief architects of state-led legal challenges to Obamas environmental agenda.

Unlike Gore and his fellow eco-campaigner Leonardo DiCaprio, who met Trump last Wednesday, Fonda has failed in apparent attempts to connect with the president-elect to argue the case for action on climate change.

Her voice heavy with sarcastic humor, Fonda described her unorthodox efforts to win an audience with Trump prior to his naming Pruitt.

I was hoping there was some way I could reach Trump. He knows my favorite ex-husband, Ted Turner, whos a staunch environmentalist; he knows me. I thought if I come with Ted and some gorgeous women and explain to him that he is in a position where he can save the world … but its too late now because of his appointment of Pruitt, she said.

Fonda said she had hoped to visit the president-elects Trump Tower residence and offices in New York with the actors Pamela Anderson and Rachel McAdams, who had agreed to lobby with her, she said.

I wanted to have beautiful celebrities who are very smart and passionate to get his attention – and I would have said: You can turn the rust belt into the green belt and save the environment and jobs, she said.

Fonda indicated that she wanted Trump to develop an economic strategy that would create jobs developing clean energy equipment in areas where traditional industry is in decline and frustrated voters had turned to the real estate magnate as a savior.

The people who voted him in in the rust belt, most are not gloating, they are not thrilled with him, and they are going to be hurt and disappointed under his administration, she said.

Fonda, 78, is currently starring in the TV series Grace and Frankie, with Lily Tomlin, and remains a vigorous political activist.

In 1972, the year she won her first best actress Oscar, she also became known worldwide for her activism when she traveled to Hanoi to protest US bombing damage during the Vietnam war.

She spoke to the Guardian last Thursday at an event for Donor Direct Action, a New York-based non-profit she is involved with that supports womens causes around the world and is campaigning with the Nigerian womens organization WRAPA to rescue almost 200 girls still being held by the extremist rebel group Boko Haram after a mass abduction in 2014.

Fonda called the women standing up for feminist rights in countries like Nigeria fierce and said that women and other activists in the US must be ready to counterattack expected threats to their freedom in a Trump administration.

In Trump we have a boy in the bully pulpit. He is sexist and his whole sense of self is based around dominating women, said Fonda.

He does not like a free press and wants to shrink government, and people are going to be really badly hurt by that, so they will start protesting and there will be a further militarization of the police in response.

She intends to continue with her activism and said she would do whatever it takes to make her voice heard in resistance to Trump.

She declined to be specific about what that could include but hinted at direct action.

Im old now what have I got to lose?

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/dec/12/jane-fonda-donald-trump-climate-change-interview


Donald Trump’s talk of ‘draining the swamp’ rings hollow

A selection of Goldman Sachs brass past and present as well as some unqualified (and wealthy) nominees leaves one to wonder how long his honeymoon with his working-class constituency will last

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump pledged that he would be an agent of change. He was going to drain the swamp, booting from power the entitled elites who got rich while ordinary Americans struggled. So, just how is that working out? Not very well.

By the look of his appointments so far, voters who were hoping the president-elects cabinet would be handpicked to make the US a better place for ordinary Americans is likely to be sorely disappointed.

From the nomination of Wall Street insiders Steven Mnuchin and Wilbur Ross to key posts atop the treasury and commerce departments, respectively, to selecting individuals whose qualifications seem questionable at best, Trumps choices to fill key business positions in his administration appear likely to favor the elite more than the man on the street.

Lets consider some of these selections.

The upside of Mnuchins yes, there is one is that he understands the industry he would be charged with overseeing. The downside? Well, from the perspective of those of us on Main Street, theres a lot. Trump himself is on record as opposing the Dodd-Frank rules that have made Wall Street a (slightly) safer place in the wake of the financial crisis. Mnuchin, like all good Wall Streeters, clearly would love to see those rules vanish, although he has been discreet about what he says publicly.

Mnuchin himself profited when the distressed mortgage lender he bought at a firesale price, IndyMac, foreclosed on properties owned by tens of thousands of homeowners who had taken out mortgages with his firm prior to the financial crisis. In one case, the firm foreclosed on a 90-year-old woman following a 27-cent error in her payment. Is this someone who will fight for real Americans against insider interests? Or one who is more likely to fight against them on behalf of those insider interests?

Ross is a more complex character. He has made his money as a turnaround investor, taking near-bankrupt companies and salvaging them when possible. Some of those skills might translate to the commerce secretary role, where he would be responsible for promoting economic growth and developing business, as well as trade negotiations with countries such as China. But bankruptcy turnaround also involves cutting jobs, not creating them; its about keeping costs low and acting in the interests of a companys debt holders, and possibly its shareholders. Its workers? Well, their labor contracts, with guaranteed living wages, often serve as a barrier to the kind of restructuring deals that people like Ross want to negotiate.

But then we move on to look at Trumps pick for labor secretary, and the mind is truly boggled.

After several years in which fast-food workers have taken the lead in the battle for higher minimum earnings even going on strike in hundreds of cities to demand a wage of $15 an hour it seemed as if their efforts were finally gaining momentum. In New York City, for example, pay for fast-food workers will hit $15 an hour by 2018.

Trump, however, has just tapped a fast-food executive and outspoken opponent of the push for higher minimum wages, Andrew Puzder, to serve as his labor secretary. Good luck to any Americans looking for support from the government for any living-wage proposals. Puzders response to those who have advocated for the $15-an-hour wage? They should really think about what theyre doing, he has said. We need to keep entry-level salaries low in order to be able to accommodate entry-level workers, he added. No word about what happens when workers are no longer entry level but still earning those meager wages, or when those ultra-low earnings simply leave families eking out an existence just above the poverty line.

Puzder is even a fan of immigration, unlike many of Trumps supporters. Theyre very hardworking, dedicated, creative people that really appreciate the fact they have a job, Puzder told an American Enterprise Institute conference back in 2013. Whereas in other parts of the country you often get people that are saying, I cant believe I have to work this job, with the immigration population you always have the thank God I have this job kind of attitude. So you end up with a real different feeling. Try that speech out at a Trump rally and see where it gets you.

Puzder, Mnuchin and Ross now look set to be joined by Goldman Sachs chief operating officer Gary Cohn, who is rumoured to be Trumps pick to lead the national economic council. Cohn would be the third ex-Goldman banker to get a top slot in the Trump administration this from a presidential candidate who torched Hillary Clinton for her Wall Street ties.

Then theres the nomination of Linda McMahon, the co-founder of World Wrestling Entertainment, to serve as the head of the Small Business Administration. A collective groan may have gone up from the throats of many WWE wrestlers, dozens of whom filed suit against the company earlier this year alleging it deliberately misclassified them as independent contractors rather than as employees so that it wouldnt be responsible for concussions and other major head injuries that have caused long-term brain damage. Its the second time that WWE wrestlers have battled the company over their status. The first attempt failed for procedural reasons, although some legal scholars argue that WWEs classification of its wrestlers as independent contractors appears to be patently wrong.

Lets get this straight: the individual who will be responsible for overseeing the governments policies with respect to small business ensuring that those small businesses treat their employees responsibly and that the government finds ways to help them grow is a billionaire co-owner of a (large, not small) company that may have achieved its wealth in part by exploiting loopholes in labor rules? Thats a great model for those ambitious entrepreneurs to emulate, isnt it?

Im far from convinced that any of these nominees have the public good in mind, and thats what public service is all about. Their history shows an impeccable track record of understanding private good, whether in terms of their personal bottom line or the bottom lines of shareholders or organizations they have been hired to run, oversee or represent. But as Trump himself may not yet have fully grasped, running the United States of America is not akin to running USA Inc. His picks to run business-related portfolios need to include in their calculus more than just conventional business metrics such as return on equity or profit.

Thats particularly true if Trump wants to keep his core constituents happy. Hes in a honeymoon period right now, but if this new cabinet and its denizens of the billionaire swamp conduct business as usual, ignoring the needs of the ordinary workers who arent investors and who arent large-scale consumers or campaign donors, then that honeymoon wont last long.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/10/donald-trump-drain-swamp-cabinet-picks-billionaires


EPA fears ‘unprecedented disaster’ for environment over Scott Pruitt pick

Senate Democrats vow to fight Trumps nominee to lead the EPA, a climate denier who has sued the agency multiple times as attorney general of Oklahoma

Democrats have promised to stage a last-ditch effort to thwart the appointment of Scott Pruitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, amid fears within the agency that he will trigger an unprecedented disaster for Americas environment and public health.

Donald Trump has nominated Pruitt to lead an agency he has sued multiple times in his role as attorney general of Oklahoma. Pruitt has vowed to dismantle serried environmental rules and is currently involved in a legal effort by 27 states to overturn Barack Obamas clean power plan, the presidents centerpiece policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations, and I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses, Pruitt said in a statement.

Trump said Pruitt is a highly respected attorney general who will reverse the EPAs out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs. Earlier this year, the president-elect said there would be just little tidbits left of the EPA if he made it to the White House.

Environmental groups have reacted with dismay at the nomination of Pruitt, warning that he will not only tear up much of Obamas climate legacy but also imperil the reliably clean air and water that Americans have largely enjoyed over the past 40 years. Democrats have vowed to fight Pruitts nomination, with Chuck Schumer, the minority Senate leader, promising a torrid confirmation hearing for the Republican lawyer.

Some Democrats are hopeful that a number of Republicans could join them to block Pruitts confirmation. This is full-fledged environmental emergency, this is someone (Pruitt) who is a professional climate change denier, said Brian Schatz, a senator from Hawaii. This is a litmus test for every member of the Senate who believes in science. We are going to do everything to oppose his nomination, and we are confident we can do so.

Other elected Democrats have also vowed to take on Pruitt, with Eric Schneiderman, attorney general of New York, promising to use the full power of my office to compel the EPA to uphold federal environment laws.

Republicans, the majority party in the Senate, have largely welcomed Trumps pick. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma senator and a vocal denier of climate science, said Pruitt is thoughtful, experienced and a natural pick for the EPA administrator role. Inhofe is chairman of the Senate environment committee, which will question Pruitt prior to his confirmation.

EPA staff have expressed nervousness over Pruitts nomination, given his zealous pursuit of the agency. Pruitt has fought against EPA regulations that prevent air pollution haze in national parks, methane leaks from drilling and mercury and arsenic seeping from power plants.

The attorney general has proved to be such a staunch advocate for fossil fuels that he allowed Oklahoma firm Devon Energy to use his letterhead to send a three-page complaint to the EPA in 2014. He has questioned the accepted scientific stance on climate change, claiming in May that the debate is far from settled. Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.

One EPA scientist, who asked not to be named, said that Pruitt risks being an unprecedented disaster for the natural world and public health. Other EPA advisers warned that the agency risks being trampled under Trumps agenda of boosting corporations and eviscerating climate action.

Pruitt doesnt believe in the mission of the EPA, which is to protect human health and the environment, said Lisa Garcia, vice-president of Earthjustice and a senior adviser to the last two EPA administrators.

This isnt a business agency, its an environmental agency. Its scary to have someone who doesnt believe in the mission of the EPA walking in to run it. I expect they will choke the funding of the EPA and stop enforcing laws. The work of the agency will basically come to a halt.

People at the EPA are in shock, they are worried about carrying out its mission. People are worried about how they will do their jobs, even people who voted for Trump. They didnt expect this. Clean air and water, safe places for our children to play these things should be bipartisan. They should be above politics.

Trump has previously called climate change a hoax and threatened to end all spending on climate change and clean energy, but environmentalists saw a glimmer of hope when the real estate magnate met with Al Gore, the former vice-president, and the actor Leonardo DiCaprio. Both regularly call for action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The nomination of Pruitt, however, presages a lengthy battle between the Trump administration and green groups.

Donald Trump has made it clear that he intends to wage war on clean air and clean water, said Benjamin Schreiber, climate and energy program director at Friends of the Earth US. Trump has also put our climate in peril and shown he is out of step with the American people. With this EPA pick, Donald Trump is putting all Americans at risk.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/dec/08/epa-scott-pruitt-disaster-environment-senate-democrats


Obama administration rushes to protect public lands before Trump takes office

Environmental groups hope Utah, Nevada and Grand Canyon will be included in rapid conservation efforts as Trump plans to expand fossil fuel extraction

Barack Obamas administration is rushing through conservation safeguards for large areas of public land ahead of Donald Trumps arrival in the White House, presenting a conundrum for the new presidents goal of opening up more places for oil and gas drilling.

On Monday, the US Department of the Interior banned gold mining on 30,000 acres of land near the northern entrance of Yellowstone national park. This follows announcements last week that barred drilling in the Arctic Ocean off Alaska and a brokered settlement that cancelled 32,000 acres of mining leases on Montana land considered by the Blackfeet tribe as like a church, a divine sanctuary.

Obamas administration has also cancelled 25 oil and gas leases in Colorado since Trumps election win and further executive action is expected before the real estate magnate takes office in January.

Environmentalists expect some level of protection to be placed upon the Bears Ears landscape in Utah, Gold Butte in Nevada and the greater Grand Canyon area, in order to bar uranium mining in the region. A permanent ban on drilling in the Arctic is also on the wish list, but is considered less likely.

Trump has said that more public land should be opened up for fossil fuel extraction, although he has also said the government should be great stewards of the land. In a YouTube address outlining his first 100 days in office, Trump said he would cancel job-killing restrictions on the production of American energy, including shale energy and clean coal, creating many millions of high-paying jobs..

Obama has protected more land and water more than 265m acres via executive action than any other president. Green groups are quietly confident that they would be able to sway moderate Republicans to oppose any dismantling of the reserves Obama set up, citing strong public support for them, but Trump is expected to follow an aggressively pro-fossil fuels approach once in power.

The president-elect has promised to approve the controversial Keystone pipeline and has reportedly shortlisted former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin and Mary Fallin, the governor of Oklahoma who he met on Monday, as secretary of the interior. Both are strongly in favor of expanded oil and gas drilling, with Fallin recently declaring 13 October as a day of prayer for the oil industry in her state.

I would love the current administration to go further and protect places in California, Utah, Texas and the Grand Canyon, said Margie Alt, executive director of Environment America.

One of the vulnerabilities of executive action is that the next executive can act. But no one can work so fast that they can reverse all the action weve had over the past eight years. Im worried, yes, but the public is with us, the science is with us and we will mobilize support for this.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/nov/24/obama-administration-conservation-public-land-trump


President-elect: I had to settle Trump University case ‘to focus on our country’

Donald Trump says $25m settlement represented small fraction of potential award in Twitter post before great meeting with Mitt Romney

President-elect Donald Trump sounded off on his $25m payout to students who accused him of fraud on Saturday, as he prepared for a meeting with former foe Mitt Romney, tipped as a possible nominee for secretary of state.

On Friday the US president-elect settled class-action fraud lawsuits relating to his Trump University for $25m, avoiding the public embarrassment of having to testify in court, despite having previously vowed to fight the cases to the end.

On Saturday he sought to explain in a tweet: I settled the Trump University lawsuit for a small fraction of the potential award because as President I have to focus on our country.

He added:

Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

The ONLY bad thing about winning the Presidency is that I did not have the time to go through a long but winning trial on Trump U. Too bad!

November 19, 2016

The suits claimed that Trump university misled students and failed to deliver on its promises in programmes that cost up to $35,000. Trump had denied the allegations and insisted he would contest them in court. In February, he maintained: Trump University has a 98% approval rating. I could have settled but wont out of principle!

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/19/trump-university-settlement-twitter


How did less than stellar high school student Jared Kushner get into Harvard? | Daniel Golden

Donald Trumps son-in-law was accepted into the Ivy League university in the wake of a $2.5m pledge made by his parents

I would like to express my gratitude to Jared Kushner for reviving interest in my 2006 book, The Price of Admission. I have never met or spoken with him, and its rare in this life to find such a selfless benefactor. Of course, I doubt he became Donald Trumps son-in-law and consigliere merely to boost my lagging sales, but still, Im thankful.

My book exposed a grubby secret of American higher education: that the rich buy their underachieving childrens way into elite universities with massive, tax-deductible donations. It reported that New Jersey real estate developer Charles Kushner had pledged $2.5m to Harvard University not long before his son Jared was admitted to the prestigious Ivy League school, which at the time accepted about one of every nine applicants. (Nowadays, it only takes one out of 20.)

I also quoted administrators at Jareds high school, who described him as a less-than-stellar student and expressed dismay at Harvards decision.

There was no way anybody in the administrative office of the school thought he would on the merits get into Harvard, a former official at the Frisch school in Paramus, New Jersey, told me. His GPA [grade point average] did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it. We thought, for sure, there was no way this was going to happen. Then, lo and behold, Jared was accepted. It was a little bit disappointing because there were at the time other kids we thought should really get in on the merits, and they did not.

Risa Heller, a spokeswoman for Kushner Companies, said in an email on Thursday that the allegation that Charles Kushners gift to Harvard was related to Jareds admission is and always has been false. His parents, Charles and Seryl Kushner, are enormously generous and have donated over $100m to universities, hospitals and other charitable causes. Jared Kushner was an excellent student in high school and graduated from Harvard with honours. (About 90% of Jareds 2003 class at Harvard also graduated with honours.)

My Kushner discoveries were an offshoot of my research for a chapter on Harvard donors. Somebody had slipped me a document I had long coveted: the membership list of Harvards Committee on University Resources. The university wooed more than 400 of its biggest givers and most promising prospects by putting them on this committee and inviting them to campus periodically to be wined, dined and subjected to lectures by eminent professors.

My idea was to figure out how many children of these corporate titans, oil barons, money managers, lawyers, high-tech consultants and old-money heirs had gone to Harvard. A disproportionate tally might suggest that the university eased its standards for the offspring of wealthy backers.

I began working through the list, poring over Whos Who in America and Harvard class reunion reports for family information. Charles and Seryl Kushner were both on the committee. I had never heard of them, but their joint presence struck me as a sign that Harvards fundraising machine held the couple in especially fond regard.

The clips showed that Charles Kushners empire encompassed 25,000 New Jersey apartments, along with extensive office, industrial and retail space and undeveloped land. Unlike most of his fellow committee members, though, Kushner was not a Harvard man. He had graduated from New York University. This eliminated the sentimental tug of the alma mater as a reason for him to give to Harvard, leaving another likely explanation: his children.

Sure enough, his sons Jared and Joshua had both enrolled there.

Charles Kushner differed from his peers on the committee in another way: he had a criminal record. Five years after Jared entered Harvard, the elder Kushner pleaded guilty in 2004 to tax violations, illegal campaign donations and retaliating against a witness. (As it happens, the prosecutor in the case was Chris Christie, recently ousted as the head of Trumps transition team.) Charles Kushner had hired a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law, who was cooperating with federal authorities. Kushner then had a videotape of the tryst sent to his sister. He was sentenced to two years in federal prison.

I completed my analysis, which justified my hunch. Of the 400-plus tycoons on Harvards list which included people who were childless or too young to have college-age offspring more than half had sent at least one child to the university.

I also decided that the Kushner-Harvard relationship deserved special attention. Although the university often heralded big gifts in press releases or a bulletin called, in a classic example of fundraising wit, Re:sources, a search of these outlets came up empty. Harvard didnt seem eager to be publicly associated with Charles Kushner.

While looking into Kushners taxes, though, federal authorities had subpoenaed records of his charitable giving. I learned that in 1998, when Jared was attending the Frisch school and starting to look at colleges, his father had pledged $2.5m to Harvard, to be paid in annual instalments of $250,000. Charles Kushner also visited Neil Rudenstine, then Harvard president, and discussed funding a scholarship programme for low- and middle-income students.

I phoned a Harvard official, with whom I was on friendly terms. First I asked whether the gift played any role in Jareds admission. You know we dont comment on individual applicants, he said. When I pressed further, he hung up. We havent spoken since.

At Harvard, Jared Kushner majored in government. Now the 35-year-old is poised to become the power behind the presidency. What he plans to do, and in what direction he and his father-in-law will lead the country, are far more important than his high school grades.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/18/jared-kushner-harvard-donald-trump-son-in-law


Want to protest Trump’s inauguration? The government may not let you

Permit for Presidential Inauguration Committee grants space along parade route for pre-screened ticket buyers and activists are suing over free speech worries

If you want to protest Donald J Trumps inauguration from in front of the president-elects luxury hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, you may have a tough time.

Thats because the US National Park Service guarantees space to a little-known organization called the Presidential Inauguration Committee,which reserves space along the inaugural parade route for a pre-screened group of ticket buyers.

Not very free speech, you say? Well, theres a group of protesters that agree with you.

For us, its a critical issue about whether the government will get to give the prime spot, the most visible locations on the inaugural [parade] route, to a private entity which is collecting donations from banks and multinational corporations, said Ben Becker, a New York City-based organizer for Answer (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism).

The PIC, run by a president-elects appointees, organizes, raises money and sells tickets. As it stands, the National Park Service has set aside three-quarters of Freedom Plaza for the PICs exclusive use, and the remaining quarter for media, meaning that none of the plaza is open to the public. Parts of Pennsylvania Avenue are also set aside for PIC exclusive use. A group of protesters sued the agency to allow protesters in these areas.

We think its essential that the courts not simply privatize Pennsylvania Avenue, so that the street is sanitized of all dissent, said Becker.

Because tickets to the PICs bleachers are not traditionally available to the public (though Obama made some available), protesters say the government is essentially supporting one-sided political speech, that of the incoming administration.

However, US district court judge Paul L Friedman ruled in favor of the National Park Service in January. Friedman ruled the inauguration parade is essentially government speech, meaning it is irrelevant whether the speech is one sided.

The US department of justice also argued the speech could not be one-sided, because the views of the incoming administration are completely unknown until the administration is in place.

The DoJ did not respond to a request for comment from the Guardian, but in filings argued that 84% of the parade route remains available for the public.

Answer is appealing that ruling, and hoping for a decision from appellate courts before 20 January 2017 inauguration day. Suing on the protesters behalf is Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, which started litigating the case in 2005, long before Trumps election.

Whats happening here is that the government is setting aside public space, traditional public fora, thats supposed to be available to the people for speech, for debate, for assembly, said Partnership for Civil Justice Fund attorney and co-founder Mara Verheyden-Hilliard. And theyre setting it aside for a private, partisan, political organization which is the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Answers case against the National Park Service is actually the organizations second time litigating against space considerations for the PIC.

The National Park Service first attempted to set aside parts of Freedom Plaza and Pennsylvania Avenue for the PIC by accepting its permit ahead of other organizations. The park service told all public groups that it only accepted demonstration permits on a first come, first served basis, and only within 12 months of the inauguration.

But in practice the park service provided the PIC with permits in advance of a year.

Answer sued on the grounds that such preferential permitting was unconstitutional and they won but the National Park Service then wrote the PIC into its regulations, prompting further legal action.

Portions of Pennsylvania Avenue, National Historic Park and Sherman Park are designated for the exclusive use of the Presidential Inaugural Committee on Inaugural Day for: ticketed bleachers viewing and access areas, regulations say.

This time, the courts ruled against Answer.

This is an entity that raises tens of millions of dollars around the inauguration from deep-pocketed funders and supporters and lobbyists of the incoming administration, said Verheyden-Hilliard.

People want to speak out at this critical political moment, to say they are united in opposition to racism, to bigotry, to misogyny. And the government is actually pointing to areas up and down the parade route including, significantly, Freedom Plaza, whose dedicated purpose is for freedom of assembly, and the space in front of the Trump hotel.

Members of the committee include loyal Trump fundraisers, such as Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and Los Angeles real estate investor Thomas R Barrack Jr.

The lawsuit seeks to allow protesters in front of the Trump International hotel and elsewhere along the roughly 12-block parade route along Pennsylvania Avenue.

Even if protesters win this round before inauguration day, they may face another challenge to protesting in front of the hotel: they might need Trumps permission.

The hotel, housed in a former federal mail-sorting facility, was leased to the billionaire by the US General Services Administration for his hotel. That means the plaza in front of the building (excepting the sidewalk) is now under the control of the Trump organization.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/17/trump-inauguration-protest-pennsylvania-avenue


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