GASLIT NATION WITH ANDREA CHALUPA AND SARAH KENDZIOR
That familiar refrain at Gaslit Nation: So many traitors, so little time. Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis made the time for a sweeping, detailed indictment of Trump and 18 others in his Kremlin Klown Kar for trying to overturn the will of the people of Georgia. You can read the annotated indictment here. And we finally got RICO! Charged with being the crime boss that he is, Trump faces a minimum of five years in prison if found guilty of racketeering.RICO is historically used to break up organized crime as one of the indicted, Rudy Giuliani, knows very well. Trump’s longtime friend and former lawyer Giuliani used RICO to go after the Italian mafia in New York City, which made room for Trump’s longtime benefactors: the Russian mafia and their easy, endless supply of money. The Idiot Sons Don Jr. and Eric have even admited the Trump family’s businesses depended on Russian money.In this fourth (and counting?) Trump Indictment special, Andrea discusses some of the red flags, some reasons for hope, and what’s next as a Russian mafia asset continues to run for president as Russia wages war against the democratic world, carrying out horrific war crimes and genocide in Ukraine.
Last night, after a Georgia grand jury’s indictment of 19 people who worked to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, indicted co-conspirator and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani made a statement saying: “This is an affront to American Democracy and does permanent, irrevocable harm to our justice system. It’s just the next chapter in a book of lies with the purpose of framing President Donald Trump and anyone willing to take on the ruling regime. They lied about Russian collusion, they lied about Joe Biden’s foreign bribery scheme, and they lied about Hunter Biden’s laptop hard drive proving 30 years of criminal activity. The real criminals here are the people who have brought this case forward both directly and indirectly.”
This morning, Trump posted on Truth Social a promise that next Monday he will present “A Large, Complex, Detailed but Irrefutable REPORT on the Presidential Election Fraud which took place in Georgia,” saying the report “is almost complete.” He went on: “Based on the results of this CONCLUSIVE Report, all charges should be dropped against me & others—There will be a complete EXONERATION!”
It appears the Trump Republicans have fully embraced what Russian political theorists called “political technology”: the construction of a virtual political reality through modern media. Political theorists developed several techniques in this approach to politics: blackmailing opponents, abusing state power to help favored candidates, sponsoring “double” candidates with names similar to those of opponents in order to confuse voters on the other side and thus open the way for their own candidates, creating false parties to split the opposition, and, finally, creating a false narrative around an election or other event in order to control public debate.
The reality, of course, is that the claims that Giuliani, Trump, and their co-conspirators have made in front of the cameras have never stood up in the courts. They have lost time and time again. Just last month, Giuliani conceded in court that he had lied about election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, and Georgia governor Brian Kemp—a Republican—responded today to Trump’s promise of an “Irrefutable REPORT” by saying: “The 2020 election in Georgia was not stolen. For nearly three years now, anyone with evidence of fraud has failed to come forward—under oath—and prove anything in a court of law.”
But Trump, and now his supporters, rose to power on their construction of a virtual political reality—pushing the story that former secretary of state Hillary Clinton had tried to “bleach” an email server until Americans believed it, for example (while Trump’s own recent attempt to delete security-camera footage after it had been subpoenaed by a grand jury has largely flown under the radar)—and Trump and his supporters continued to double down on that false world first to keep him in power and now to return him to it.
Notably, in 2019, they tried to smear Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden by pressuring newly elected Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky to announce an investigation into Biden’s son Hunter: not to conduct an investigation, but only to announce one because they knew that media coverage would convince a number of people that where there was smoke there must be fire.
That investigation continues in 2023, pushed by a new set of Trump supporters, but with what appears to be the same goal. There, too, actual testimony under oath, like that of Hunter Biden’s former business partner Devon Archer, belies all the hyperbolic language with which Republicans are accusing the Bidens of corruption, but in that case, flooding the zone with sh*t, as Trump media specialist Steven Bannon put it, is working.
In cases where it is less successful, they are deliberately tearing down public confidence in our system of justice, arguing that the decision of ordinary Americans on grand juries to indict the former president and his co-conspirators for trying to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election is a sign that the Justice Department has been “weaponized” against MAGA Republicans.
But reality is reasserting itself, not just in courtrooms, but also in the country at large.
Six years ago today, on August 15, 2017, then-president Donald Trump made remarks at a news conference at Trump Tower. It was there that he made the statement that there “were very fine people on both sides” of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a few days earlier. He and his supporters later denied he had said such a thing or claimed that it had been taken out of context, although the transcript is pretty clear.
But that was not what Trump was there to talk about that day. He was there to talk about infrastructure and a vision of the country’s economic future.
Trump promised that the Republican policy of slashing regulation, which had been central to the party since 1981 and went hand in hand with tax cuts, would mean “[w]e’re going to get infrastructure built quickly, inexpensively, relatively speaking and the permitting process will go very, very quickly…. No longer will we allow the infrastructure of our magnificent country to crumble and decay, while protecting the environment we will build gleaming new roads, bridges, railways, waterways, tunnels and highways,” he said.
Trump pledged: “We will rebuild our country with American workers, American iron, American aluminum, American steel. We will create millions of new jobs and make millions of American dreams come true. Our infrastructure will again be the best in the world…and we will restore the pride in our communities, our nation…. We want products made in the country…. You have to bring this work back to this country…. I want manufacturing to be back into [sic] the United States so that workers can benefit.”
And yet, that, too, was a fantasy. Trump’s policies did not deliver the economic revival he promised.
Instead, six years later, it is President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who have delivered that revival. They reordered the nation’s economic policies away from supply-side economics back toward the economic policies that guided the nation from 1933 to 1981, and now are taking a victory lap for actually rebuilding infrastructure, creating manufacturing jobs, and bringing supply chains home by investing in ordinary Americans.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which passed in November 2021, is enabling workers to rebuild the country’s roads, bridges, railroads, and other hard infrastructure. The CHIPS and Science Act has brought supply chains home and spurred investment in the production of semiconductors. The Inflation Reduction Act, which Biden signed into law on August 16, 2022, has created a surge of more than 170,000 jobs in manufacturing and clean energy, doubling the numbers of manufacturing jobs in the year since it passed, as private investment has followed the law’s public investment.
Political theorists constructed political technology as a way to create a false world that would convince voters to elevate a strongman to power. It is not clear what happens when that false world is revealed to be illusory, as it increasingly has been with regard to Trump’s statements.
At the very least, it seems unlikely that his announcement of “a major News Conference” to reveal why all the charges against him should be dropped will be met with the attention such an announcement would have attracted even a few years ago.
Anti-abortion Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker did not, in fact, sue the Daily Beast over the story he paid for an ex-girlfriend’s abortion. Instead, his son Christian Walker took to social media to call his father out for lying, abuse, and abandonment and to call out MAGA Republicans for continuing to support his father while claiming to believe in “family values.”
Walker’s supporters immediately blamed the son for hurting his father’s campaign. The candidate himself stayed away from the media, attending a private event sponsored by “Prayer Warriors for Herschel.”
The National Republican Senatorial Committee, organized to elect Republicans to the Senate, and the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, both reaffirmed their support for Walker. They will continue to keep spending to boost his campaign. Still, concern about the outcome in Georgia has prompted the right-wing super PAC Club for Growth Action to plan a massive $2 million ad buy in Spanish for the Nevada senate race, backing Republican Adam Laxalt against Democratic senator Catherine Cortez Masto.
Dana Loesch, a former spokesperson for the National Rifle Association and a former writer and editor for the right-wing media outlet Breitbart, made the position of party leaders clear: “I don’t care if Herschel Walker paid to abort endangered baby eagles,” she said. “I want control of the Senate.”
It is unclear if this scandal will hurt Walker with supporters who have already swallowed lies about his businesses, academic achievements, relationship with law enforcement, unacknowledged children, and accusations of domestic violence. But abortion is a key issue—perhaps THE key issue—in this election, and the demonstration that a Republican Senate candidate is calling for a nationwide abortion ban even as he paid for a girlfriend’s abortion will likely not sit well with those upset about the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Republicans are determined to take control of the country no matter what it takes.
Today, Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson, who is up for reelection, revised his August story about his role in overturning the 2020 election. After saying his part in the delivery of fake electoral votes to the vice president was only “a couple seconds,” he now says that he texted with Wisconsin-based lawyer Jim Troupis, who was working for Trump to overturn the results of the election in Wisconsin, for about an hour. He also downplayed the events of January 6 as not an “armed insurrection.”
In the Washington, D.C., trial of the Oath Keepers today, though, prosecutors played a recording of a November 2020 meeting in which Oath Keepers planned to bring weapons to Washington and “fight” for Trump. The gang’s leader, Stewart Rhodes, said it would be “great” if protesters were there, because violence would enable Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act.
“Pepper spray is legal. Tasers are legal. And stun guns are legal. And it doesn’t hurt to have a lead pipe with a flag on it,” codefendant Kelly Meggs told attendees.
A lawyer for the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol revealed in court today that the chair of the Arizona Republican Party, Kelli Ward, repeatedly invoked her Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination when testifying before the committee. Ward was one of Arizona’s false electors.
Also today, in a story about Trump’s disregard for the correct handling of classified records, Washington Post reporters Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey, Ellen Nakashima, and Jacqueline Alemany said Trump White House chief of staff John Kelly, a former Marine Corps general, told them that Trump “rejected the Presidential Records Act entirely.”
The Presidential Records Act is a federal law.
In contrast to the course of the current Republican Party, President Joe Biden has focused on demonstrating that democracy works. Today, the CHIPS and Science Act, which provided $52 billion in public investment in semiconductor manufacture, appeared once again to pay off: Micron announced that it would spend up to $100 billion over the next 20 years to build up to four plants in upstate New York near Syracuse to build computer chips. The company estimates that the project will create almost 50,000 jobs generally over the next 20 years, with about 9,000 of those in the plants themselves.
“To those who doubted that America could dominate the industries of the future, I say this,” Biden said in a statement. “[Y]ou should never bet against the American people.”
Today, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson brought an important new philosophy to the law when the Supreme Court heard arguments over Merrill v. Milligan, a voting rights case. This case concerns Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which, as summarized by the Department of Justice, “prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or membership in one of the language minority groups identified” in the act.
In 2021, Alabama’s legislature cut the state into seven districts that “crack and pack” Black voters. About 27% of the residents of Alabama are Black, but they are either “packed” into one district or “cracked” among the others, diluting their overall strength.
Registered voters, the Alabama chapter of the NAACP, and the multifaith Greater Birmingham Ministries sued under the Voting Rights Act. A district court of three judges, two of whom were appointed by Trump, agreed that the redistricting violated the law and gave the legislature two weeks to redraw the map to create two Black-majority districts.
The state immediately filed an emergency appeal with the Supreme Court, which was granted, allowing the states to use the original map for this year’s elections.
In today’s arguments, Alabama Solicitor General Edmund G. LaCour Jr. claimed that states must draw districts that are “race neutral.” When Justice Jackson pressed him to explain, he turned to the Fourteenth Amendment, saying it “is a prohibition, not an obligation, to engage in race discrimination.”
Jackson then turned on its head the so-called “originalism” that has taken over the court. “I understood that we looked at the history and traditions of the Constitution and what the framers and founders thought about,” she said, “and when I drilled down to that level of analysis, it became clear to me that the framers themselves adopted the equal protection clause, the 14th Amendment, the 15th Amendment in a race-conscious way.”
She’s right, of course, and while she followed up with more Reconstruction history, she could have gone even farther: when President Andrew Johnson vetoed the 1866 civil rights bill on the explicit grounds that it was not race neutral (among other things), Congress repassed it over his veto and based the Fourteenth Amendment on it.
Jackson’s approach was about more than this case, important though it is. She brought to the court what has been called “progressive originalism” or, perhaps more accurately, legal analyst Mark Joseph Stern’s term “egalitarian constitutionalism.” The Reconstruction Amendments—the 13th, 14th, and 15th—give to the federal government the power to protect individual rights in the states, and originalists’ avoidance of them has always stood out. Those amendments launched an entirely new era in our history; scholars call it a “second founding.”
Now, it appears, that second founding has an advocate on the Supreme Court.
Heather Cox Richardson | Letters from an American | April 7
April 7, 2021
Last night, commentator Kevin Williamson published a piece in National Review justifying voter suppression by suggesting that “the republic would be better served by having fewer—but better—voters.” Representatives, he says, “are people who act in other people’s interests,” which is different from doing what voters want.
This is the same argument elite slaveholder James Henry Hammond made before the Senate in 1858, when he defended the idea that Congress should recognize the spread of human enslavement into Kansas despite the fact that the people living in that territory wanted to abolish slavery. Our Constitution, Hammond said, did not dictate that people should “be annoyed with the cares of Government,” but rather directed that they should elect leaders who would take those cares upon themselves.
It is the same argument wealthy men made in the 1890s when they illustrated that laws calling for “better” voters meant that white registrars would hand-pick the nation’s voting population. In the South and the North both, legislators wrote new state constitutions to keep Black men, immigrants, and poor workers from the polls. Leading Americans argued that such men “corrupted” the vote by electing lawmakers who provided public infrastructure like schools and hospitals, paid for with the tax dollars of hardworking white men. To keep poor voters and men of color from the ballot, new state laws called for literacy tests, in which white registrars personally judged a man’s ability to read; poll taxes for which one had to keep the receipts; grandfather clauses, in which a man could vote if his grandfather had, and so on.
Heather Cox Richardson | Letters from an American | April 6
April 6, 2021
I spent much of today thinking about the Republican Party. Its roots lie in the immediate aftermath of the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in spring 1854, when it became clear that elite southern slaveholders had taken control of the federal government and were using their power to spread their system of human enslavement across the continent.
At first, members of the new party knew only what they stood against: an economic system that concentrated wealth upward and made it impossible for ordinary men to prosper. But in 1859, their new spokesman, Illinois lawyer Abraham Lincoln, articulated a new vision of government. Rather than using government power solely to protect the property of wealthy slaveholders, Lincoln argued, the government should work to make it possible for all men to get equal access to resources, including education, so they could rise to economic security.
As a younger man, Lincoln had watched his town of New Salem die because the settlers in the town did not have the resources to dredge the Sangamon River to increase their river trade. Had the government simply been willing to invest in the economic development that was too much for the willing workers of New Salem, it could have brought prosperity to the men who, for lack of investment, failed and abandoned their town. The government, Lincoln thought, must develop the country’s infrastructure.