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.
“Good Lord, Who Among Us Hasn’t Paid For A Clarence Thomas Vacation?” David Kurtz of Talking Points Memo asked this morning. Kurtz was reacting to a new piece by Brett Murphy and Alex Mierjeski in ProPublica detailing Justice Thomas’s leisure activities and the benefactors who underwrote them.
Those activities include “[a]t least 38 destination vacations, including a previously unreported voyage on a yacht around the Bahamas; 26 private jet flights, plus an additional eight by helicopter; a dozen VIP passes to professional and college sporting events, typically perched in the skybox; two stays at luxury resorts in Florida and Jamaica; and one standing invitation to an uber-exclusive golf club overlooking the Atlantic coast.”
The authors add that this “is almost certainly an undercount.”Thomas did not disclose these gifts, as ethics specialists say he should have done. House Democrats Ted Lieu (D-CA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), and Hank Johnson (D-GA) have said Thomas must resign.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who has led the effort to extricate the Supreme Court from very wealthy interests for years, commented: “I said it would get worse; it will keep getting worse.
”Thomas’s benefactors, Murphy and Mierjeski noted, “share the ideology that drives his jurisprudence.” That ideology made Trump lawyer Kenneth Chesebro, who has been in the news for the release of his December 6, 2020, memo outlining how to steal the 2020 presidential election, speculate that Thomas was the Supreme Court justice the plotters could count on to back their coup.
“Realistically,” Chesebro wrote to lawyer John Eastman, “our only chance to get a favorable judicial opinion by Jan. 6, which might hold up the Georgia count in Congress, is from Thomas—do you agree, Prof. Eastman?” Last Saturday, Republican leaders in Alabama illustrated that their ideology means they reject democracy.
After the Supreme Court agreed that the congressional districting map lawmakers put in place after the 2020 census probably violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a lower court ruling that required a new map went into effect. But Alabama Republican lawmakers simply refused. Alexander Willis of the Alabama Daily News reported that at a meeting of the Alabama state Republican Party on Saturday, the party’s legal counsel David Bowsher applauded the lawmakers, saying, “House Speaker [Kevin] McCarthy doesn’t have that big a margin, that costs him one seat right there. I can’t tell you we’re going to win in this fight; we’ve got a Supreme Court that surprised the living daylights out of me when they handed down this decision, but I can guarantee you, if the Legislature hadn’t done that, we lose.”
Paul Reynolds, the national committeeman of the party, went on: “Let me scare you a little bit more; Texas has between five and ten congressmen that are Republicans that could shift the other way,” he continued. “How could we win the House back ever again if we’re talking about losing two in Louisiana, and losing five to ten in Texas? The answer’s simple: It’s never.”
Alabama attorney general Steve Marshall added: “Let’s make it clear, we elect a Legislature to reflect the values of the people that they represent, and I don’t think anybody in this room wanted this Legislature to adopt two districts that were going to guarantee that two Democrats would be elected…. What we believe fully is that we just live in a red state with conservative people, and that’s who the candidates of Alabama want to be able to elect going forward.”
The determination of Republican officials to hold onto power even though they appear to know they are in a minority is part of what drove even Republican voters in Ohio to reject their proposal to require 60% of voters, rather than a simple majority, to approve changes in the state constitution. Meanwhile, today’s July consumer price index report showed that annual inflation has fallen by about two thirds since last summer, a better-than-expected number suggesting that measures to cool the economy are working without hurting the economy. Real wages have outpaced inflation for the last five months, and unemployment is at a low the U.S. hasn’t seen since 1969.
At the same time, the country is ending one of the last pieces of the social safety net put in place during Covid: the rule that people on Medicaid could remain covered without renewing their coverage each year. That rule ended in April, and states are purging their Medicaid rolls of those who they say no longer qualify. In the last three months, 4 million people have lost their Medicaid coverage, mostly because of paperwork problems. (Texas dropped an eye-popping 52% of beneficiaries due for renewal in May.)
Biden officials have tried to pressure states quietly to fix the errors—including long waits to get phone calls answered and slow processing of applications, as well as paperwork errors—but yesterday released letters it had sent to individual states to warn them they might be violating federal law. Thirty-six states did not meet federal requirements.
GASLIT NATION WITH ANDREA CHALUPA AND SARAH KENDZIOR
In The United States vs. Donald J. Trump, Special Counsel Jack Smith hits Trump and Trump alone with four charges of trying to violently overthrow our democracy and install himself as dictator. Read the 45 page indictment of the 45th president here. The case has randomly been assigned to Judge Tanya Chutkan who famously told Trump,” Presidents are not kings.” She also has a record of appropriate tough sentencing of January 6 insurrectionists, another Black woman on the frontlines of protecting our democracy, and doing so at much personal risk to herself and her family. This mini-episode was recorded before the reports of a possible active shooter today at the U.S. Capitol, a chilling reminder of our nation’s slow moving civil war, as recent Gaslit Nation guest Jeff Sharlet appropriately calls it.For those who want to go back in time to see Gaslit Nation’s own indictment of Trump’s violent coup attempt, read the transcript or listen to our January 13, 2021 episode Clear Intent, laying out Trump’s clear intention to overthrow our democracy, something prosecutors must now prove in court in order to send Trump to prison where he belongs.
A little more than two years ago, on July 9, 2021, President Biden signed an executive order to promote competition in the U.S. economy. Echoing the language of his predecessors, he said, “competition keeps the economy moving and keeps it growing.
“Fair competition is why capitalism has been the world’s greatest force for prosperity and growth…. But what we’ve seen over the past few decades is less competition and more concentration that holds our economy back.”
In that speech, Biden deliberately positioned himself in our country’s long history of opposing economic consolidation.
Calling out both Roosevelt presidents—Republican Theodore Roosevelt, who oversaw part of the Progressive Era, and Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who oversaw the New Deal—Biden celebrated their attempt to rein in the power of big business, first by focusing on the abuses of those businesses, and then by championing competition.
Biden promised to enforce antitrust laws, interpreting them in the way they had been understood traditionally. Like his progressive predecessors, he believed antitrust laws should prevent large entities from swallowing up markets, consolidating their power so they could raise prices and undercut workers’ rights. Traditionally, those advocating antitrust legislation wanted to protect economic competition, believing that such competition would promote innovation, protect workers, and keep consumer prices down.
In the 1980s, government officials threw out that understanding and replaced it with a new line of thinking advanced by former solicitor general of the United States Robert Bork. He claimed that the traditional understanding of antitrust legislation was economically inefficient because it restricted the ways businesses could operate. Instead, he said, consolidation of industries was fine so long as it promoted economic efficiencies that, at least in the short term, cut costs for consumers.