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Yale Psychiatrist Explains How Devotion to Trump Is Based on Emotional Patterns Most People Grow Out of by Age 5



President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Monday to heap praise upon his ally Roger Stone, who continues to maintain his refusal to flip—even as Trump’s former fixer, Michael Cohen, who once said he’d take a bullet for the president, begged federal prosecutors to not serve jail time.

Stone might be Trump’s most famous supporter—but there are millions of Americans who refuse to abandon the president regardless of the chaotic news cycle. A poll conducted over the summer found that many Trump supporters trust the President more than their own friends and family.

Raw Story spoke with Yale psychiatry professor Bandy X. Lee on why the president’s supporters show such undying devotion to a man who’s repeatedly reneged on promises and whose tumultuous first term has been filled with shake-ups.

Raw Story: In your opinion, what are the emotions driving Donald Trump’s base?

Bandy X. Lee: The sense of grandiose omnipotence that he displays seems especially appealing to his emotionally-needy followers. No matter what the world says, he fights back against criticism, continues to lie in the face of truth, and above all is still president. What matters is that he is winning, not whether he is honest or law-abiding. This may seem puzzling to the rest of us, but when you are overcome with feelings of powerlessness, this type of cartoonish, exaggerated force is often more important than true ability. This is the more primitive morality, as we call it, of “might makes right,” which in normal development you grow out of by age five.

But, in this case, Trump appeals to that childlike degree of emotional development? Why?

Strongman-type personalities are very appealing in times of socioeconomic or political crisis, as the population is less able to think rationally but is rather overcome with fear, or desire to draw strength from fantastical ideas. This happens to normal people in times of stress, or to people whose development has been stunted because of emotional injury. The problem is, the person who promises the impossible and states, “I alone can fix it,” and gives himself an A+ on his performance, is not a strong person who can deliver but the opposite. So Mr. Trump’s “base“ looks for someone to rescue them and their intense yearning does not allow them to see through his deception, while Mr. Trump senses better than anyone their needs (they are his) and makes use of them for his own benefit—even as he disdains his supporters for being so gullible. In this manner, they fulfill each other’s emotional needs in a mutually unhealthy way.

What’s your biggest concern?

One concern I have, in my 20 years of studying this personality structure while treating violent offenders, is the disturbing societal trend. More and more of this personality type are taking on leadership positions, including of corporations, whereas 20 years ago one would mostly find them in jails and prisons. This also means there are a growing number of people who emulate them in the general culture, who become deprived from the structures that they create, and who become emotionally traumatized as a result of any of these consequences. People who are wounded this way continue to seek omnipotent parental figures as adults, and the vicious circle continues. Unable to find outer satisfaction for their inner needs, some keep pursuing ever greater power until they reach the highest positions, but since this is the opposite of proper treatment, their conditions only grow worse while society suffers a trail of carnage. It is actually a tragedy that Mr. Trump cannot receive proper care, even as his disorder is on display for the world to see, but is rather surrounded by those who enable his illness and make use of his weaknesses to their own destructive ends.

On the one hand, different demographics that have tended to support Trump in the past—let’s white women and neo-Nazis—don’t have much in common. Are there psychological factors that unite them?

Well, he unites them through a common, mythological past that they can all be nostalgic for, and that might be his “talent.” We know from the former Yugoslavia that this past can be hundreds of years ago, not just decades, and is really a metaphor for discontent with the self in the present. Mr. Trump’s behavioral pattern is not that of leaders at all but rather of obsequious followers, as we have seen Mr. Trump become in the presence of even more successful strongmen, such as Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-Un, or Rodrigo Duterte. We find in him a pattern of following exactly what his base is looking for—he has no intrinsic philosophy or ideology but is responding to an emotional need for adulation and approval, and so he will try anything that gets as many people on board as possible. He will also sense keenly those who will never go along with his pathological methods—that is, healthy people—and drop them instantly. That is why we see him desperately clinging to an ever narrower base with increasingly fringe ideas.

He also has to scapegoat groups in order to distract from his billionaire cabinet, tax breaks for the rich, and trade wars that hurt his base the most, and so his demonizing of other helpless groups will only increase with time. We were worried that he might lead us into a devastating war or stage a terrorist attack, but he actually managed to turn a humanitarian crisis of people fleeing violence into an invading army that required thousands of troops at the Mexican border. If this “feigned war” fails to distract, then he may yet stage a real war. With the special counsel’s investigations about to be released, after devastating midterm elections for him and in a vulnerable economy, he will experience loss of popularity as a terrifying threat to his inflated self-image. There will likely be no limit to the violence he is capable of, since destroying the world would be nothing compared to the shame and humiliation he might suffer.

By the way, I think we need to include a very different demographic group among his supporters, which is the richest one percent. This will be the more calculating, pragmatic group. How is such a minority able to control politics and to keep convincing 99 percent of the population to give up what it has so that it can grow richer still? It is by distracting and manipulating the 99 percent through advertising, hot-button issues such as abortion, Fox News, and reality TV, which explicitly employ psychological techniques to make the population more impulsive, irrational, and ill-informed. So when the federally-funded American Psychiatric Association, which heavily depends on the pharmaceutical industry, says that psychiatrists should not comment on the president’s mental instability, we have to question: is it protecting the psychological methods that are being used to manipulate the public so as to make it more unhealthy, while blocking information that might restore its health? If mental health professionals were allowed to educate and inform the public more about psychological matters, then the population would be empowered, and healing could start replacing the damage.

How does Donald Trump mirror and communicate with his base?

A big part of this is through Twitter. This is why Mr. Trump will not stop, no matter how undignified people said it was of a president from the beginning. He knows it is his psychological lifeline. I was recently asked in an interview to comment on Twitter’s hateful conduct policy, which I read for the first time, and it was clear that he violated it from the first line, but they were not able to deactivate his account, since they know the backlash would be severe. But the only way to manage someone with his condition is to set severe limits, restrain, and remove from access to weapons—and tweets are his psychological weapon, which he “shoots” in order to exert his power.

And the rallies?

Another way he communicates with his base is through his numerous rallies. He projects a lot. Projection is a psychological term for displacing thoughts or qualities in yourself you cannot tolerate onto someone else. He does this when he calls legitimate news “fake” and news agencies “the enemy of the people.” He is unconsciously telling us that he is himself “fake news” and “the enemy of the people.” He also made up the clever slogan, “Democrats produce mobs. Republicans produce jobs.”

And that is not accurate because … 

But if you look at the statistics, the majority of the “angry mobs” that commit violence and terrorism are right-wing, while Democratic policies almost always lower unemployment rates. And when he calls Hillary Clinton “crooked” and that we should “lock her up,” he is trying to disown his fraudulent tendencies and to block thoughts of seeing himself as someone we need to lock up. The extreme exaggeration, the inability to consider the possibility that it could apply to him, and the failure to test against obvious reality give away the fact that the opposite is true, but his obedient base is predisposed to believing his defenses more than their own observations.

Trump seems to have intuited how to communicate with his base, evading the filter of the media. What do you think about that?

You are right in that it is all intuitive, not rational or logical, which would have less emotional force. Emotional power can be helpful when healthy, but when unhealthy, it can overcome all healthy approaches. As mental health professionals, we have to watch the media continue to get played, and it still has not managed to catch up. There is a phenomenon called “shared psychosis” (also called “folie à deux”) that happens when an untreated sick person is in close proximity to, say, other family members within a household. In such a situation, normal people grow increasingly out of touch with reality and take on symptoms of the person who is unwell. It can also happen with an impaired president—once in power, he becomes not only the most urgent problem that needs to be addressed but a cause of widespread deterioration of health in a way that can become a “folie à millions.” Treatment involves removing the sick individual from the others, and very quickly, the others return to normal. It shows how powerful mental sickness is: the otherwise normal person becomes sick and not the other way around. His unfettered access to the people through Twitter is as dangerous as his unfettered access to the nuclear codes, since he is laying the groundwork for a culture of violence that can unleash epidemics of violence. This is why waiting for the next decision of voters in 2020 is itself dangerous and reckless in its lack of understanding of the present danger the president poses.


Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr and a CC license

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‘Hairsplitting Quibble’: Former US Attorney Scorches Durham for Focusing on ‘Useful Scapegoat’ While Ignoring Facts



Barb McQuade, the former U.S. Attorney and current professor of law, is taking now-former Special Counsel John Durham to the woodshed for his 306-page report publicly released Monday, the final work product of his failed four-year, multi-million dollar probe into the Dept. of Justice’s decision to investigate Russia’s efforts to attack the 2016 presidential election, and any involvement Donald Trump and his campaign may have had with that enemy foreign power.

Unlike then-Attorney General Bill Barr‘s fraudulent letter allegedly previewing the 2019 Mueller Report, a letter that so grossly mischaracterized that Special Counsel’s findings one federal judge called it “distorted” and “misleading,” Attorney General Merrick Garland offered neither introduction nor pushback, allowing Durham’s report to stand or fall on its own.

And fall it has.

In addition to initial condemnation from legal and political experts, journalists and professors who decimated Durham’s claims when the report became public Monday afternoon (and allegedly first leaked to a far-right wing news outlet), McQuade Tuesday explained in detail some of the duplicitous decision, errors, and omissions Durham made in what from the start was, as The Washington Post’s Philip Bump has said, “an effort to undermine the Russia investigation.”

In short, the Durham report was designed to be an investigation to prove Donald Trump’s false claims there was a “Russia hoax” and the FBI’s investigation was a “witch hunt.”

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In her 20-point Twitter thread, McQuade notes, “the Durham Report provides fuel for the false claim that the Russia probe was a hoax. Don’t fall for it. While Mueller found no conspiracy, he concluded that Russia worked to help Trump become president.”

“And rather than report Russia’s overtures to FBI, Trump’s campaign was willing to accept the help,” says McQuade, who is also a popular MSNBC legal analyst and the author of the upcoming book, “Attack from Within: How Disinformation is Sabotaging America.”

“Like Barr,” she says, “Durham says Mueller found no conspiracy between Trump and Russia but fails to mention the 2016 Trump Tower meeting to receive dirt on Clinton, sharing of polling data with Russian intel officer Konstantin Kilimnik, and coordinating of messaging with Wikileaks.”

“Durham also ignores Trump’s public statement, ‘Russia, if you’re listening …’ asking them to find Clinton’s missing emails, and the subsequent release of hacked emails hours after the release of the Access Hollywood tape,” she adds.

McQuade actually begins her dissection of Durham’s report with this: “After four years, review of 1 million documents, 490 interviews, his conclusion is that FBI should have opened a preliminary investigation (PI) instead of a full investigation (FI) in 2016.”

Fortunately, McQuade was a U.S. Attorney for seven years, and understands these nuances.

“The only difference between FI and PI is the duration and the authorities that may be used. This is a hairsplitting quibble, and one on which FBI officials routinely disagree,” she explains.

“Durham also minimizes the reasons FBI was alarmed enough to open a FI in 2016 based on information received from Australian diplomats about Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos,” she says.

“According to Aussies, Papadopoulos said, ‘Trump team had received some kind of suggestion from Russia that it could assist this process with the anonymous release of information during the campaign that would be damaging to Mrs Clinton.'”

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And apparently unlike Durham, McQuade puts events into context.

“Papadopoulos’s statement came right after the DNC hack. FBI was properly concerned about Russia’s efforts to influence the presidential election. This was an investigation into RUSSIA,” she declares.

More context from McQuade:

“Trump had other concerning ties to Russians: real estate deals, Miss Universe Pageant, loans from Russian lenders, Trump Tower Moscow project. Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort had lobbied for pro-Russian oligarchs.”

“Trump campaign members also had ties to Russia. Mike Flynn was paid $45,000 by Russia Today in 2015 for a speech he gave at a banquet where he sat next to Putin. He later lied to FBI about his calls with the Russian ambassador about sanctions during the transition.”

“Carter Page had been seen meeting with Russian intel officers. It now appears that he was unaware that they were trying to recruit him. Papadopoulos worked to set up a meeting with Putin.”

Others are expressing frustration with the Durham report, including Rachel Cohen, the communications director for U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA). Warner was the Vice Chairman (and is now Chairman) of the Senate Intelligence Committee when it “spent 3.5 years reviewing millions of documents and interviewing hundreds of witnesses and concluded the FBI had ample cause for concern in 2016. SSCI [U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence] was led by Republicans at the time,” she notes.

Exasperated, she asks, “so we’re just doomed to do this again and again forever until we all die, am i getting that right?”

Pointing to this report, Cohen also rightly points out that the Dept. of Justice Inspector General “also investigated this and found no evidence of political bias in the launch of the initial FBI investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign.”

Meanwhile, McQuade returns to the infamous Steele Dossier, which, despite what many on the right have claimed, the Dossier was not fully debunked or disproved.

“Durham criticizes the FBI for relying on the Steele Dossier for the Carter Page FISA. Steele Dossier was not the basis for opening the investigation, but it makes for a useful scapegoat to blur that fact.”

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It also makes good propaganda.

U.S. Rep. Dan Goldman (D-NY), a former Assistant U.S. Attorney SDNY under Preet Bharara, Tuesday weighed in on the Steele Dossier aspect of Durham’s report.

“The Steele Dossier was irrelevant to the origination of the Russia investigation and irrelevant to the Mueller Report,” he tweeted. “Yet Durham spent the majority of his ‘report’ on it. Having failed as a prosecutor, Durham morphed into a bad politician in a prosecutor’s clothes.”

But again, the Steele Dossier, while not the basis for opening the investigation into Russia and Trump, did have useful information.

McQuade observes, “some aspects of Steele Dossier were confirmed by Mueller and DNI: Putin favored Trump and was working to influence the election in Trump’s favor and against Clinton. It also contained unconfirmed information that could have seriously compromised Trump as president.”

“Failing to investigate these ties would have been a breach of duty by FBI,” she concludes. “This was an investigation into RUSSIA. Russia was the threat and the focus. Trump was just Russia’s useful idiot.”

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‘Circle of Garbage’: Experts Slam Durham ‘Wild Goose Chase’ as Investigation Into DOJ Trump-Russia Probe Ends With ‘Bupkis’



The four-year Trump-era probe examining why the FBI launched an investigation into Donald Trump, his 2016 campaign, and Russia’s efforts to attack the presidential election to help the GOP nominee win concluded Monday with the publication of a 306-page report that “appeared to show little substantial new information,” as The New York Times reports.

Former U.S. Attorney John Durham, once considered a well-regarded prosecutor, was assigned to lead the investigation by then-Attorney General Bill Barr four years ago, almost to the day. In October of 2020, Barr secretly altered Durham’s assignment, appointing him as a Special Counsel just weeks before the presidential election, ensuring the investigation would continue regardless of which party won the White House.

Legal and public policy experts, journalists, and political commentators are mocking Durham and his investigation, with several pointing out that Durham’s conclusions do not match the legal record, including sworn testimony.

“Special counsel John Durham concluded that the FBI should never have launched a full investigation into connections between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia during the 2016 election, according to a report compiled over three years by the Trump-administration appointee and released on Monday,” CNN reported, pointing to only the time Durham served as a Special Counsel.

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But experts say – and prove – the report obscures the actual facts.

MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace, while reporting the breaking news of the release of Durham’s final report, interrupted herself to do some “fact-checking in real time.”

“Today’s report, NBC News notes, ‘accuses the FBI of acting negligently by opening the investigation based on big and insufficient information in a sweeping 300-page report made public Monday. This is likely to loom larger in politics than in law. I’m going to pause right here,” Wallace told viewers. “I’m going to keep reading you NBC’s reporting but I’m going to try to do some real-time fact-checking. Now that finding by Mr. Durham is contradicted by DOJ’s own IG, Mr. Horowitz, in 2019, who found that the investigation was opened was predicated, it was necessary, and that there was no bias.”

“Now, NBC News goes on to report that Durham finds that the FBI made a series of mistakes, including what I just talked about, the decision to open the Trump-Russia probe not being justified. Now the end of Donald Trump and Bill Barr’s term, their quest to investigate the Justice Department is where we begin today with these clashing narratives right the Durham report which contradicts another inspector general report already in the public sphere and on the record.”

In fact, attorney and former FBI special agent Asha Rangappa observed, “I’ll be interested to see how Durham argues that there was no predication in the Russia probe when the DOJ’s OIG [Office of the Inspector General] found the opposite AND a Republican-led Senate Intel Committee found that Trump’s campaign manager was, in fact, in frequent contact with a Russian intel officer,” she wrote. “As many have noted, even before Durham’s report was released Monday, that FBI investigation Durham claimed had no basis of being opened, resulted in dozens of criminal prosecutions.

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Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti also takes Durham to task. He writes, former Special Counsel Robert Mueller “rightfully resisted using the term ‘collusion,’ which has no legal meaning in this context, instead focusing on conspiracy law. Durham’s report comes out and says there is “no actual evidence of collusion,” a media soundbite, not a legal conclusion. What a contrast,” he notes.

“The Trump-Russia investigation produced 37 indictments and several other outside criminal referrals. People were convicted at trial. People pleaded guilty. Hostile foreign government actors faced legal and diplomatic sanctions,” notes Media Matter’s Craig Harrington. “All of this was real!”

Indeed, in December of 2019, Vox reported, “Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team indicted or got guilty pleas from 34 people and three companies during their lengthy investigation.”

“That group is composed of six former Trump advisers, 26 Russian nationals, three Russian companies, one California man, and one London-based lawyer. Seven of these people (including five of the six former Trump advisers) have pleaded guilty.”

That’s quite an accomplishment for an investigation John Durham claims should never have even been opened.

There’s  more.

RELATED: ‘Failed Spectacularly’: Top Legal Experts Call for Ethics Probe Into Bill Barr’s Handpicked Special Counsel John Durham

Saying, “Point me to the confirmation bias here?” former FBI Counterintelligence Deputy Assistant Director Pete Strzok, who led the Bureau’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections, points out:

Paul Manafort – guilty
Rick Gates – guilty
Mike Flynn – guilty
George Papadopouolos – guilty
Roger Stone – guilty
Michael Cohen – guilty
Konstantin Kilimnik – wanted, $250k reward

Michael Sussman – not guilty
Igor Danchenko – not guilty

(above are direct quotes from Strzok)

Sussman and Danchenko were Durham’s, and they were found not guilty. The rest were the FBI’s.

Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign investigative correspondent Greg Miller of The Washington Post: “Durham’s report faults FBI for rushing to investigate candidate who urged Russia to hack opponent, was backed by Russian interference op, welcomed Russian offer of ‘dirt’, secretly pursued Moscow real estate deal, shared classified into w/Russian diplos…”

Others also slammed Durham.

“Durham’s mandate was to ‘investigate whether any… person or entity violated the law in connection with the intelligence, counter-intelligence, or law-enforcement activities directed at the 2016 presidential campaigns.’ Failing, he wrote a 300-page take,” says Media Matters’ Matthew Gertz, adding: “Basically he took Hannity monologues and converted them into two failed prosecutions, a guilty plea for someone who got probation, and a lengthy report that provides fodder for more Hannity segments. Circle of garbage.”

Investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler, who specializes in national security and civil rights, says, “Durham took well over twice as long as Mueller and found, literally, bupkis.”

The Atlantic’s Tom Nichols, a retired U.S. Naval War College professor and Russia expert, called Durham’s four-year probe a “wild goose chase.”

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‘One of the Worst Hours I’ve Ever Seen’: Critics Explode at CNN for ‘Spectacle of Lies’ Trump ‘Spewed’ for His ‘MAGA Zombies’



From the moment CNN announced it would host a “presidential town hall” that would star ex-president Donald Trump, many Americans voiced their outrage, expecting it to be a disaster.

Little did they know just how huge a disaster it would be – for both CNN and Donald Trump.

Throughout Wednesday night, Trump on stage, basking in audience applause, told lie after lie after lie to what some say was an ill-equipped anchor, Kaitlan Collins, who had no back up other than her earpiece. No video clips, no audio clips, just her microphone. Not only did she have to try, unsuccessfully, to keep the ex-president on track and fact-check him in real time, she was forced to contend with an audience so devoted to Trump they even laughed and applauded when he verbally attacked E. Jean Carroll, the journalist who won her sexual assault and defamation civil court case just one day earlier.

CNN, announcing the event on May 1, claimed the audience would be comprised of “New Hampshire Republicans and undeclared voters,” but on its own website Thursday morning CNN fully admitted it actually was a “mostly Trump-loyal audience.”

“Where are the never Trump Republicans? Where are the skeptical independents? This is not even a balanced audience of Republicans. It is gathering of MAGA zombies,” observed foreign policy, national security and political affairs analyst and commentator David Rothkopf.

In other words, this was not an event designed to help undecided voters make up their minds, 18 months before Election Day. This was an event designed to help CNN’s ratings and designed to promote Donald Trump to his already-decided fans.

It certainly seems to have backfired on CNN and Trump.

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“I’m no media expert,” tweeted conservative attorney George Conway, “but it seems to me that interviewing a narcissistic psychopath in front of a packed house of his flying monkeys is not the best format for television journalism.”

As expected, critics – which include casual observers, political experts, journalists including media reporters, university professors, and even CNN insiders who spoke with news outlets in real time and after the event – all excoriated CNN, including its chairman and CEO, Chris Licht.

Halfway through the 70-minute event, at 8:37 PM ET, The Daily Beast’s senior media reporter Justin Baragona tweeted, “Immediate reaction from a CNN on-air personality to me just now on this Trump town hall: ‘It is so bad. I was cautiously optimistic despite the criticism. It is awful. It’s a Trump infomercial. We’re going to get crushed.'”

Nearly one hour later, Baragona added, “Another CNN staffer reacts following the end of the Trump town hall: ‘One of the worst hours I’ve ever seen on our air.'”

Wednesday night Rolling Stone also reported what CNN employees were saying: “Network insiders who spoke to Rolling Stone were distraught that the former president had free rein to ‘spew lies’ during the ill-advised town hall.”

“One CNN insider who spoke to Rolling Stone called the evening ‘appalling,’ lamenting that the network gave Trump “a huge platform to spew his lies.”

Rolling Stone added, “the town hall was ‘a fucking disgrace,’ in the words of another network insider. ‘1000 percent a mistake [to host Trump]. No one [at CNN] is happy.'”

Overnight, CNN’s own Oliver Darcy in his “Reliable Sources” CNN newsletter slammed his bosses: “It’s hard to see how America was served by the spectacle of lies that aired on CNN Wednesday evening.” And he admits, “CNN and new network boss Chris Licht are facing a fury of criticism — both internally and externally over the event.”

“Trump frequently ignored or spoke over Collins throughout the evening as he unleashed a firehose of disinformation upon the country, which a sizable swath of the GOP continues to believe,” Darcy wrote. “A professional lie machine, Trump fired off falsehoods at a rapid clip while using his bluster to overwhelm Collins, stealing command of the stage at some points of the town hall.”

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Trump lied about the outcome of the 2020 election, lied about fraud, lied about comments he’s made, lied about classified documents, and, as Darcy noted, “mocked E. Jean Carroll’s allegations of sexual assault, which a jury found him liable for on Tuesday.”

Actor and activist Alyssa Milano tweeted, “Only in America can you be found liable for sexually abusing a woman by a jury of your peers and then be applauded on CNN the very next day—as the GOP Presidential candidate front-runner.”

“And CNN aired it all,” Darcy added, effectively lambasting his bosses. “On and on it went. It felt like 2016 all over again. It was Trump’s unhinged social media feed brought to life on stage. And Collins was put in an uncomfortable position, given the town hall was conducted in front of a Republican audience that applauded Trump, giving a sense of unintended endorsement to his shameful antics.”

That does not bode well for Kaitlan Collins, the 31-year old “CNN This Morning” co-host who recently ended her assignment as CNN’s chief White House correspondent. Barely hours before the CNN/Trump town hall, Puck and later Variety reported Collins was expected to be awarded CNN’s coveted 9 PM slot to anchor.

Collins tried to push back against Trump, but it was no contest. While she had some rehearsed responses to his expected lies, apparently no one at CNN told Collins she had the authority to shut the show down if necessary – which she should have but likely did not. Instead, she tried to use facts to control Trump.

Facts are of little consequence to the twice-impeached ex-president who is under numerous federal and state investigations. Unsurprisingly, at one point he unleashed his usual misogynistic attack, calling Collins a “nasty person.”

“Nasty Person” quickly trended on Twitter.

How bad was Collins?

How did she handle Donald Trump lying about abortion claiming Democrats want to abort fetuses at nine months, and kill babies after they are born? (A repeatedly false claim Trump has made that CNN previously fact-checked in 2019.)

Rather than push back, Collins tried to change the topic.

Early in the evening Collins did try to correct Trump’s lies, as she did when he falsely claimed that the 2020 election was “rigged.”

But he ignored her questions and just kept going.

Who is Kaitlan Collins?

Several critics Wednesday evening reminded Twitter users that Collins got her start in journalism at Tucker Carlson’s far-right website, The Daily Caller. She’s “famous” for writing a 2015 article rating the “hotness” of several Syrian refugees.

Media Matters’ Craig Harrington, just 15 minutes into the town hall, observed, “Kaitlan Collins just let Trump call insurrectionist Ashli Babbitt a ‘patriot’ and call the police officer who defended the Capitol a ‘thug.’ This is what happens when you play with Trump.”

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Meanwhile, others at CNN were also outraged.

Rolling Stone also quoted former Capitol Police Officer Michael Fanone, a CNN contributor who wrote in an op-ed for the magazine: “Putting him onstage, having him answer questions like a normal candidate who didn’t get people killed in the process of trying to end the democracy he’s attempting to once again run, normalizes what Trump did.”

“It sends a message that attempting a coup is just part of the process; that accepting election results is a choice; and that there are no consequences, in the media or in politics or anywhere else, for rejecting them,” Fanone added.

Outside of CNN, others were equally critical and outraged.

Republican turned independent turned Democrat Matthew Dowd, the chief strategist for the 2004 Bush–Cheney 2004 presidential campaign, also blasted CNN.

“Ok, I watched as much as I could,” he tweeted at 8:58 PM Wednesday night, about 12 minutes before the event ended. “CNN was completely unprepared to hold Trump accountable. CNN has done a complete disservice to our democracy. I withheld judgment on this until I saw it. CNN you failed journalism and our country.”

But NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen, one of the best critics of the media, responded to Dowd, writing: “The failure was earlier. In the delusion that by bringing him into your space, you could force him into your world: where there are such things as facts, where verification matters, and the public record speaks. It was a failure to accept how far gone this is, though you knew.”

Just how bad and how dangerous for America and our democracy was CNN’s Trump town hall?

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, praising CNN’s Oliver Darcy’s take on the horrific evening wrote, “It is excellent and brave on
[Darvcy’s] part but debating how successfully Trump was fact checked misses the whole point about his disinformation. He isn’t arguing over what reality is. He’s displaying an assertion of the power to dictate an alternative version of it.”

As Darcy wrote, “And CNN aired it all.”

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