Whenever John Dean, Jill Wine-Banks, Dan Rather or Carl Bernstein are asked to discuss President Donald Trump’s controversies on CNN or MSNBC, a word that inevitably comes up is “Watergate.” Wine-Banks was a Watergate prosecutor in the 1970s, while Rather and Bernstein reported on Watergate extensively as journalists—and Dean served as White House counsel under the Richard Nixon Administration. Dean and Bernstein appeared together on CNN on November 20, discussing the revelation that Trump urged the Department of Justice to pursue criminal charges against Democrat Hillary Clinton and former FBI Director James Comey.
Dean told CNN, “If I had to channel a little of Richard Nixon, I think he’d tell this President he’s going too far. This is the sort of stuff of a banana republic….This is a level Richard Nixon never went to, where you went after somebody’s personal well-being by a criminal prosecution.” And Dean didn’t get any argument from fellow Watergate-era veteran Bernstein, who denounced Trump’s actions as exemplary of his “abuse of presidential power” and his “embrace of authoritarianism.”
Certainly, “banana republic” are strong words, but in Trump’s case, they are appropriate. Here are five ways in which President Trump has conducted himself like the leader of a corrupt banana republic.
1. Relentless Demonizing of the Press
In a democratic republic, the press is meant to serve as an aggressive watchdog—and most U.S. presidents have understood that, even when they felt the press was being unfair. President Barack Obama was visibly annoyed at Fox News at times, but he respected their 1st Amendment rights and realized that he wasn’t exempt from the media’s scrutiny. Trump, however, has repeatedly denounced the press as the energy of the people—even when CNN reporters were receiving death threats, even after the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. CNN reporter Jim Acosta, whose White House press credentials were revoked after the midterms, never received death threats before Trump’s presidency—now, Acosta has noted, he receives them regularly.
2. Undermining a Federal Criminal Investigation
In democracies, even sitting presidents are not exempt from the rule of law—which is why President Richard Nixon probably would have been removed from office via the impeachment process had he not resigned on August 8, 1974 (Trump faced articles of impeachment in the House of Representatives, but he stepped down before a Senate trial could come about). Trump, however, views himself as exempt from the scrutiny of the U.S. Justice Department. Furious with Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia-related investigation, Trump fired him after the 2018 midterms and replaced him with loyalist Matt Whitaker—who just happens to be an outspoken opponent of the investigation. This is very much the type of corrupt behavior one would expect from the leader of a banana republic.
3. Interference with Election Results and Voting Rights
Trump not only promotes blatant voter suppression in predominantly non-white areas that are more favorable to Democrats than Republicans—he also favors voiding election results that he disagrees with. Requesting a recount is perfectly legitimate; in the 2018 Florida Senate race, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson wouldn’t concede to Gov. Rick Scott without a recount. But when the recount showed a narrow victory for Scott, Nelson conceded defeat. Trump, however, wanted to throw out the election results in the 2018 Arizona Senate race when Democrat Kyrsten Sinema narrowly pulled ahead of Republican Martha McSally.
On November 8, Trump tweeted, “Just out — in Arizona, SIGNATURES DON’T MATCH. Electoral corruption – Call for a new Election? We must protect our Democracy!” There was no evidence whatsoever that Sinema’s supporters had committed any type of voter fraud; regardless, Trump went way beyond asking for a recount—he wanted a “new election.” But McSally, to her credit, rejected Trump’s conspiracy theory nonsense and eventually conceded to Sinema.
4. Pardoning Cronies, However Egregious Their Actions
In Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio (an outspoken Trump supporter) conducted himself like a dictator or an authoritarian rather than a democratically elected law enforcement official. But the system of checks and balances worked when Arpaio lost a bid for reelection and faced misdemeanor contempt of court charges for refusing to comply with a judge’s orders to cease traffic stops that specifically targeted Latino drivers. Arpaio faced up to half a year in jail, but he was spared incarceration when Trump gave him a presidential pardon in 2017. Chiraag Bains, a senior fellow at Harvard Law School’s Criminal Justice Policy Program, asserted that Trump’s pardon of Arpaio was disturbing not only because it was an “endorsement of racism,” but also, because it “reflects Trump’s deep disdain for the judiciary and its role in our system of checks and balances.”
5. Shameless Monetization of the Presidency
When Trump was campaigning for president in 2016, he promised that there would be a strict separation of his business interests and his political activity. But not unlike a family dynasty in a banana republic—for example, the Somoza family in Nicaragua—the Trump family has monetized the White House. Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, were appointed as top White House aides. And in July 2017, Mother Jones noted that neither of them had fully divested from their real estate holdings. Not only has President Trump failed to “drain the swamp”—he has made it much more toxic.
Image: DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith
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Grassley Slammed for Turning Photo With Iowa Family Who Drove 856 Miles to DC Into ‘Cheap Political Talking Point’
Seven-term Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, who has served the people of Iowa since 1959, is being criticized for using a photo of a family from his home state who drove all the way to Washington, D.C. He suggested they complained about the price of gas after their long journey, and his caption on the photo of him with the family ties into his campaign re-election talking points.
Senator Grassley, 88, who is running for re-election and known for a unique style of tweeting, posted this on Monday:
Met w the Sparlin family from Preston today. They drove to DC from Iowa so we talked about soaring ga$ price$ pic.twitter.com/OKVvCPwWHY
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) June 6, 2022
That same day Grassley posted this tweet about gas prices, a common GOP talking point they are falsely blaming on President Joe Biden.
— Grassley Works (@GrassleyWorks) June 6, 2022
Writer, activist, former press secretary and communications director Charlotte Clymer blasted Senator Grassley, saying the family deserved “a hell of a lot better” than to be used for “a cheap and ridiculous political talking point.”
I feel really bad for this family. These folks drove 14 hours to witness the majesty of American democracy only to have their senator reduce that effort to a cheap and ridiculous political talking point. They deserve a hell of a lot better than that, Sir.
— Charlotte Clymer 🏳️⚧️🇺🇦 (@cmclymer) June 7, 2022
Other responses to the photo of Grassey and the Iowa family pointed out the obvious fact that if their goal was to talk about the price of gas they could have saved a 13 hour and 26-minute drive, each way (according to Google Maps) and just picked up the phone or met their Senator in a local office.
They DROVE to dc to talk about GAS PRICES
— Santiago Mayer (@santiagomayer_) June 7, 2022
Why would you even post this? They drove from Iowa to DC to discuss GAS prices? Is THIS the level of intellect it takes to vote for a “Grassley”?
— Phil (@Philmachinist) June 7, 2022
Did they ask grassley why he voted against a bill that would have prevented gouging by oil companies?
— @eva (@evaingrid599) June 7, 2022
If gas prices are causing you financial problems, driving 1720 miles to complain about them seems 🤔
Esp when Senator Grassley takes phone calls & e-mails & has an office 47 miles from your town.
Also, 41 years is too long to be in same elected office. Even if it were my dad! pic.twitter.com/uGkzXkWxLc
— Kat O’Brien (@OBrien_Kat) June 7, 2022
Did you explain why Republicans voted against the gas price gouging bill?#RecordOilProfits
— Sarah Meinzer☮️ (@sarah_meinzer) June 6, 2022
Worldwide gas prices?? pic.twitter.com/pHAdMJnirO
— Becky Paige (@yellowpaiges) June 7, 2022
— cowboytexas🇺🇸🌊 (@cowboytexas) June 6, 2022
He was in Iowa recently. They could’ve saved some money…
— 🐾Misfit of House Moderna🐾 (@jenjenkra) June 7, 2022
‘Find a Spine’: State Farm Criticized After Celebrating Pride Then Dropping Program Supporting LGBTQ Books in Schools
Over the past year, insurance giant State Farm has posted ten tweets supporting LGBTQ people, programs, and organizations, as recently as last week:
When we talk about mental health, we take away the stigma. For #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth, learn about challenges faced by LGBTQ+ youth in the new 2022 national survey on LGBTQ+ youth mental health from @TrevorProject: https://t.co/KQ74fWPDvx
— State Farm (@StateFarm) May 19, 2022
The $79 billion company will turn 100 years old next month, which coincidentally is LGBTQ Pride Month. It has made strong statements in support of LGBTQ equality and diversity. Just last June they tweeted: “We believe no one should be afraid to celebrate who they are. Let’s support our LGBTQ+ neighbors and show our Pride together!” They even tagged the tweet with their own corporate branding, using #GoodNeighbor and #PrideMonth hastags.
— State Farm (@StateFarm) June 8, 2021
So many were left stunned when the Illinois-based corporation’s chief diversity officer sent an email to employees and agents, as The Daily Beast reports, stating it was dropping its “support of a philanthropic program, GenderCool,” saying it “has been the subject of news and customer inquiries.”
The program helps put LGBTQ-inclusive books into libraries and schools.
“This program that included books about gender identity was intended to promote inclusivity,” Victor Terry continued. “We will no longer support that program.”
And in an apparent bowing down to rising far right-wing extremism and anti-LGBTQ hate, the diversity expert declared, “conversations about gender and identity should happen at home with parents.”
The right-wing outlet Washington Examiner on Monday, as part of a series titled “Restoring America” published a report on State Farm’s support of LGBTQ students: “Backlash prompts State Farm to end program donating trans books to schools.” That article was a follow-up to one the very same day titled, “State Farm donating transgender books for 5-year-olds to schools in Florida.”
Here’s what those two pieces look like:
Outrage over State Farm’s “180” was immediate.
Well-known LGBTQ Activist and writer Charlotte Clymer explained via her Substack platform:
Last night, State Farm, the insurance company, gave up on LGBTQ rights after being pressured by hateful extremists.
So much for being a good neighbor. I wrote about it here.https://t.co/m5VD6Nu2qA
— Charlotte Clymer 🏳️⚧️🇺🇦 (@cmclymer) May 24, 2022
Parker Molloy, also a well-known LGBTQ activist and writer, blasted State Farm.
Since the company is so clearly and easily moved by public backlash, State Farm customers should call their agent and cancel their policies.
— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) May 24, 2022
She adds: “One of the reasons this is getting to me so much has to do with the fact that my dad (who is great and accepting, etc.) is a State Farm agent. That company has been a part of my life for as long as I’ve been alive.”
Bobby Lewis, who writes for Media Matters, tweeted, “something as anodyne as a fucking insurance company buying kids books turned into another fascist outrage campaign, and the corporate cowards caved in a second. it’s pathetic.”
He wasn’t finished, adding: “corporate pride is all window dressing that will never save anyone, but goddamn find a spine you sniveling cowards.”
Veteran journalist Michelangelo Signorile, host of the SiriusXM Progress’ “Signorile Show” and writer of The Signorile Report newsletter calls State Farm’s actions “grotesque as LGBTQ rights are backsliding across the country. Now companies joining Ron DeSantis, MAGA and the ‘don’t say gay’ purge.”
i’ll be canceling the State Farm insurance, switching to another company. You should too.
— Michelangelo Signorile (@MSignorile) May 24, 2022
— Colleen •WearAMask• Barry 🇺🇦🌻 (@Cbeary1608) May 24, 2022
.@StateFarm is a horrible neighbor to LGBTQ families.
— John Pavlovitz (@johnpavlovitz) May 24, 2022
Like your bigoted, racist neighbor, State Farm is there. https://t.co/KbHbFGH6yX
— Lesley Abravanel (@lesleyabravanel) May 24, 2022
So @StateFarm = cowards. Teaching kids about different identities is suicide prevention. Comprehensive sex education prevents *actual* grooming. Don’t listen to right-wing pundits and bitter transphobes. State Farm should double down, not back off. GenderCool does important work.
— Finley Daniels ☭🇵🇸 (he/him) (@FinleyDaniels1) May 24, 2022
State Farm is caving to the bigots and bullies and helping them erase LGBTQ children.https://t.co/pzZXZ8oqAE
— John Pavlovitz (@johnpavlovitz) May 24, 2022
There is no greater cowardice than giving into hate out of financial convenience.
When you appease homophobes, you empower homophobia and put LGBTQ families at risk. https://t.co/Nfcm5gZv1v
— Melanie D’Arrigo for NY03 (@DarrigoMelanie) May 24, 2022
— Erica French Csapo (@EricaCsapo) May 24, 2022
‘Sordid, Corrupt, Lawless’: Experts Call New Ginni Thomas Revelations ‘Breathtaking’ and Ask ‘What Did Her Husband Know?’
The latest revelations about the actions of Ginni Thomas, the far right wing activist, lobbyist, and spouse of a sitting U.S. Supreme Court justice who had unprecedented access to the Trump White House are leading experts to demand Clarence Thomas’ recusal while calling the combination of their actions “breathtaking corruption,” and noting the Justice’s extraordinary hypocrisy.
Later Friday morning The Washington Post reported that Ginni Thomas pressed two Arizona lawmakers to overturn the will of Arizona’s voters in the 2020 presidential election by choosing a “clean” slate of electors, representing Donald Trump and not Joe Biden. The Post notes Thomas did not mention any candidate by name but reports “the context was clear.”
“Before you choose your state’s Electors … consider what will happen to the nation we all love if you don’t stand up and lead,” an email bearing Ginni Thomas’ name, sent to the Arizona lawmakers, reads.
It included a link to a video of a man delivering a message meant for swing-state lawmakers, urging them to “put things right” and “not give in to cowardice.”
“You have only hours to act,” said the speaker, who is not identified in the video.
Thomas also pressed Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to work to overturn the election, as has been widely reported.
Her efforts, combined with Justice Thomas’ actions on the Supreme Court, amount to “breathtaking corruption,” writes Slate’s legal expert Mark Joseph Stern.
“The conflict of interest between Ginni and Clarence Thomas has never been greater. While Clarence was applying the ‘independent state legislature doctrine’ from the bench, Ginni was using the exact same theory to try to overturn the 2020 election. Just breathtaking corruption,” Stern says.
Clarence Thomas’ continued service on the Supreme Court is a scandalous and appalling breach of judicial ethics. He is implementing the exact same theories that his wife used to try to steal the 2020 election for Trump. It is sordid, corrupt, and lawless in the extreme.
— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) May 20, 2022
To be clear, I put “independent state legislature doctrine” in quotes because it’s a baseless theory that shouldn’t be taken seriously. It is precisely what Ginni Thomas describes in that email, though she didn’t use the academic name for it. Read more: https://t.co/6Hwvb1Q6ES
— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) May 20, 2022
Former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance, now an NBC News/MSNBC legal analyst and law professor, issued a strong warning:
“Either Justice Thomas recuses in every case that comes to the Court where his wife is heavily involved in the action or the public’s confidence in the Court will be damaged beyond repair.”
Reuters reporter covering the U.S. Supreme Court, Lawrence Hurley:
“I wonder how long we’re going to have these institutions at the rate we’re undermining them,” Justice Clarence Thomas, Ginni’s husband, said last week https://t.co/MQNH8YDupn
— Lawrence Hurley (@lawrencehurley) May 20, 2022
Former federal corruption prosecutor Noah Bookbinder, who is president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) says it is “outrageous” Justice Thomas has refused to recuse:
“New evidence that Ginni Thomas’s participation in efforts to overturn the 2020 election was even greater than we knew; in this case pressure on AZ legislators to overturn that state’s vote. Makes it even more outrageous that Justice Thomas did not recuse.”
“Wow!” exclaimed Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and former New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. “Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, pressed Arizona legislators to overturn Biden’s win and choose a ‘clean slate of electors.’ In other words, she supported a coup to overthrow an elected president. What did her husband know?”
Economist and frequent political commentator David Rothschild observes, “Ginni Thomas was conspiring with high ranking Republicans to overturn [the] republic, and her husband was either privy to or actively involved in this conspiracy before using his position to coverup his wife’s role.”
Former SDNY Asst. U.S. Attorney Richard Signorelli sums up:
“clean slate of Electors” = sedition
Ginni Thomas = psycho https://t.co/UGygIBpaPu
— Richard Signorelli (@richsignorelli) May 20, 2022
Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr and a CC license
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