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THE CANADIAN VIEW
REACTION TO BIDEN'S VICTORY
Concluding debate on a resolution to impeach U.S. President Donald Trump for "incitement of an insurrection," Rep. Steny Hoyer invoked one of the fundamental truths about democracy that was exposed by recent events in the United States. "For millennia, people have understood that a republic is only as stable and lasting as the citizens and leaders who commit themselves to its upkeep," the 81-year-old Democratic congressman for Maryland's fifth district said on Wednesday. Shortly thereafter, Hoyer joined 231 other members of the United States House of Representatives in voting to impeach Trump. The violent attack last week on Capitol Hill in Washington was horrifying, but also clarifying. What the mob made clear is where the forces of lying, division, fear and nihilism can lead. Such a traumatic event has provoked another moment of reckoning in the United States. But the sight of the world's so-called greatest democracy nearly collapsing is cause for introspection for every other democratic country looking on, including Canada. WATCH | Trump first U.S. president to be impeached twice: However placid and rational Canadian politics might seem by comparison, an understanding of democracy's frailty necessitates some constant level of concern about its upkeep — across the political spectrum. And there is wear and tear worth thinking about here, too. Conservative strategist Ken Boessenkool, formerly an advisor to Stephen Harper, was among the first commentators in Canada to reflect in the wake of last week's violence, writing that he "won't tolerate casual Trumpism in my personal or political cohort anymore." Going forward, he said, Canadian conservatives must become harsher judges of character and more diligent about who they associate with. To that end, he said that Conservative MP Derek Sloan — who has questioned the national loyalty of Theresa Tam and sponsored a petition that cast doubt on the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine — should no longer be allowed to sit with the Conservative caucus. Accusations of 'rigging' election fly In an interview with CBC Radio's The Current this week, Boessenkool suggested he wouldn't want to work with a campaign that only wanted to stoke populist anger and said he's encouraged by the private reaction from Canadian conservatives to what he's had to say. But Boessenkool also stopped short of condemning a recently deleted page from the Conservative party's website that accused the Liberal government of "rigging" the last election. Conservatives levelled such accusations multiple times through 2018 and 2019, but Liberals resurfaced those charges last week after the attack on Capitol Hill. The Conservative party subsequently deleted the page, explaining that the content had become "stale dated" because it pre-dated O'Toole's election as Conservative leader. "Since Liberals were trying to falsely insinuate it was something new and recent, we took it down to prevent that from happening any further," party spokesperson Cory Hann explained via email on Monday. The Conservative claims of "rigging" were based on their objections to changes to the Elections Act proposed by the Liberal government — and both Boessenkool and Hann noted that MPs from other parties, including Liberals, used the term "rig" in 2014 while opposing changes made by the former Conservative government. Thus, perhaps no party has an indisputable claim to the high ground here. Drawing democratic system into disrepute But all politicians should know that accusing your rival of engineering an unfair election result is among the most serious charges that can be laid and, if the reality of the situation does not actually rise to that level, you can fairly be accused of committing the very dangerous act of unnecessarily bringing the country's democratic system into disrepute. In this moment of reflection, O'Toole might choose to leave other elements of Andrew Scheer's leadership behind too –like the party's opposition to the UN global compact on migration. Under Scheer, the Conservative party joined several far-right parties in opposing the compact, claiming without any basis in reality that the Trudeau government's decision to sign the statement of principles would compromise Canada's ability to control its own borders. Scheer was pilloried for peddling misinformation and entertaining extremist views. But Liberals, obviously now keen to point out anything that might be described as Trumpian, have also challenged O'Toole to account for his own language. As a candidate for the Conservative leadership, he promised to "take back Canada" — though it was never clear who had "taken" Canada, how it had been taken or on whose behalf he aimed to "take" it back. He dropped that phrase after becoming leader, but just before Christmas he adopted the populist theory that Canada can be divided between "somewheres" and "anywheres." Some of O'Toole's colleagues have pushed their rhetoric further. Pierre Poilievre, the party's finance critic, has warned that "global elites" are conspiring to push an agenda that threatens people's freedom. In October, Leslyn Lewis, the former leadership candidate who is now set to run for the Conservatives in the Ontario riding of Haldimand-Norfolk, warned that a "socialist coup" was unfolding in Canada. Federal government must promote unity Conservatives might charge that it is really Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who needs to be more of a unifying figure. Recall, for instance, the Liberal government's clumsily worded attempt to ban anti-abortion groups from using public funds to promote their cause. Significant responsibility for holding this country together — in all its geographic, social and political diversity — will always belong to the federal government. And Liberals should be sensitive to any evidence of social division, be it west versus east, rural versus urban or any other construct. But the other interesting question for Trudeau's Liberals is whether they will have left the major institutions of Canadian democracy better off than when they found them in 2015. Though no amount of parliamentary reform can necessarily prevent a phenomenon like Trump, it stands to reason that healthy and widely respected institutions can at least reduce the cynicism that drives dysfunction. Trudeau's decision to walk away from electoral reform will always figure prominently in this discussion, though it's also possible that Canada's first-past-the-post system provides better protection against extremism. It is, for instance, difficult to win a national majority government in the current system without appealing broadly across racial and ethnic communities. An independent Senate, the significant innovation that Trudeau did go through with, could also prove to be a useful check on any future government. The Liberals made smaller moves to introduce new rules around omnibus legislation and prorogation, but in neither case did they go so far as to significantly curtail a government's ability to abuse such tools — and the Liberals themselves have now made questionable use of both. Those might seem like rather minor issues when compared with the dysfunction of the American legislative system. But any system will suffer when governments and political parties give voters another reason to feel cynical. Underlying everything that has befallen the United States though is a voluminous amount of lying and subterfuge. "Post-truth is pre-fascism, and Trump has been our post-truth president," the historian Timothy Snyder wrote this past weekend. "When we give up on truth, we concede power to those with the wealth and charisma to create spectacle in its place." Beyond partisan politics and parliamentary procedure, the vital importance of truth and fact could frame efforts to address a number of policy and institutional issues, such as further strengthening the independence of Statistics Canada, regulating social-media platforms, finally fixing the woebegotten access-to-information system, increasing the independence of House of Commons committees, and addressing the decline of local media across Canada. It also puts an onus on the remaining mainstream media to be aggressive advocates for truth and substance. As the United States has now amply demonstrated, defeating lies and untruths is frightfully difficult. But nothing about keeping a democracy is ever easy.
President Donald Trump claimed to support the little guy against the elite. But after four years in power, examination of Donald Trump's economic record in reaching that goal has been set aside as the impeachment fight moves on to the Senate. Just as a new report by a U.S. business group shows Trump's trade battles with China alone led to major job losses, there is a danger that as factions take sides over whether he did or did not incite an insurrection, the president's economic successes and failures will be obscured. There are still plenty in the U.S. financial sector who celebrate the tax cuts and low interest rates that propelled markets to new heights. But markets are not necessarily a good proxy for economic success, something repeatedly pointed out by Janet Yellen when she chaired the U.S. Federal Reserve. "The stock market isn't the economy," said Yellen, who U.S. president-elect Joe Biden has said he will nominate as the first woman treasury secretary, in 2020. "The economy is production and jobs, and there are shortfalls in virtually every sector." That flawed relationship has certainly shown itself to be true over the past year as the COVID-19 pandemic overwhelmed the U.S. economy. Growth figures for the year, out later this month, are expected by economists to show U.S. GDP shrank by about three per cent even while the stock market finished the year at record highs. Economic champions? There is little doubt that Trump and his administration staked out their turf as champions of the economy. But some of the policies that they supported, including down-playing the impact of the virus to allow the economy to remain open, proved to be short-sighted. While it is impossible to prove, many critics have said earlier acceptance of the pandemic's dangers could have reduced the devastating effects of the pandemic not just on the record-setting death toll in the U.S., but on the economy as well. One of the great successes of the Trump administration was on job growth. Despite their opponents' objections to the post-Reagan conservative strategy of letting the economy rip at the expense of government planning and spending, unemployment rates repeatedly fell to new record lows. Just before the pandemic came and swept it all away, wage rates for the lowest-paid workers were beginning to creep up. Yellen's successor at the Fed, Jerome Powell, has said that as the poor suffered the most from COVID-19 job losses, it could be years before wages would start to rise again. Failing to plan for the future is a good economic strategy if nothing goes wrong, but the arrival of COVID-19 was an example of why that is not a foolproof approach. Shortages of personal protective equipment, the weakening of the once-mighty U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and failure to build a promised working replacement for Obamacare likely made the economic impact of the pandemic worse. In this regard the U.S. was not alone. Canada had also let its guard down, including its failed reorganization of the country's Global Public Health Intelligence Network, which has previously led the world as an early warning system for disease outbreaks. Aversion to planning and failure to take expert advice can lead to short term advantages, like keeping costs down. But in areas such as climate change planning, many otherwise conservative business leaders have made the case for a long term economic benefit in leading the way on green measures. Now, under Biden, U.S. industry will be playing catch-up. WATCH | Even pre-pandemic, there were holes in the U.S. economy (Feb. 2020): Economics by populist appeal Perhaps one of the biggest flaws in Trump's economic strategy was that he chose policy based on how it would appeal to the ideology of his populist base. Sometimes things that appeal to a large number of people are simply wrong. Immigration is one example. Blocking the arrival of highly skilled foreigners may sound like it is saving jobs for U.S. citizens, but the policy that helped Canada grab some of those people instead, is widely seen by labour economists as having the opposite effect. Protectionism is another example. Trump's attacks on Canada as a trade cheat may have played well to the Make America Great Again audience, but they were almost universally opposed by economists and U.S. businesses interested in making the economy stronger. Trump's hard line on Canada and the renegotiation of NAFTA may have gained the U.S. some small advantages in the short term but also lost as much in good will. Wins and losses are hard to calculate, but last week Reuters reported on a study by U.S. businesses that showed Trump's trade war with China, rather than bringing employment home, cost the economy 245,000 jobs. Perhaps the biggest flaw in Trump's economic strategy is the one that he celebrated as his biggest success: his $1.5-trillion overhaul of the U.S. tax system. While claiming to speak for poorer working Americans, it has been widely recorded that Trump's financial support came from the rich who benefited from tax cuts and rising markets. Especially after the impact of COVID-19, those measures have left the U.S. more starkly divided between rich and poor than when Trump took office. Meanwhile, some of those who supported and benefited from Trump's economic policy, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have now added their voices to the chorus criticizing the president. Now, rather than taking a hard look at Trump's economic policy, what went right and what went wrong, the impeachment may actually create even greater division. Whether the Senate ultimately votes to convict Trump or not, the rising temperature of political outrage will make sober analysis next to impossible, with the danger of leaving the Trump presidency's net benefit for the U.S. economy poorly examined. Follow Don Pittis on Twitter @don_pittis
- The New York Times
Every morning, Valerie Gilbert, a Harvard-educated writer and actress, wakes up in her Upper East Side apartment in New York City; feeds her dog, Milo, and her cats, Marlena and Celeste; brews a cup of coffee; and sits down at her oval dining room table. Then, she opens her laptop and begins fighting the global cabal. Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times Gilbert, 57, is a believer in QAnon, the pro-Trump conspiracy theory. Like all QAnon faithful, she is convinced that the world is run by a Satanic group of pedophiles that includes top Democrats and Hollywood elites, and that President Donald Trump has spent years leading a top-secret mission to bring these evildoers to justice. She unspools this web of falsehoods on her Facebook page, where she posts dozens of times a day, often sharing links from right-wing sites like Breitbart and The Epoch Times or QAnon memes she has pulled off Twitter. On a recent day, her feed included a rant against COVID-19 lockdowns, a grainy meme accusing Congress of “high treason,” a post calling Lady Gaga a Satanist and a claim that “covfefe,” a typo that Trump accidentally tweeted three years ago, was a coded intelligence message. “I’m the meme queen,” Gilbert told me. “I won’t produce them, but I share a mean meme, and I’m kind of raw.” These are confusing times for followers of QAnon, a deranged conspiracy theory birthed in the bowels of the internet. They were told that Trump would be reelected in a landslide, and that a coming “storm” would expose the global pedophile ring and bring its leaders to justice. But there have been no mass arrests, and Trump is leaving office Wednesday under the cloud of a second impeachment. Many prominent QAnon followers have been arrested for their roles in this month’s deadly mob riot at the U.S. Capitol. They are being barred by the thousands from major social networks for spreading misinformation about voter fraud, and law enforcement agencies are treating the movement as a domestic extremist threat. These setbacks have left QAnon believers like Gilbert hoping for a last-minute miracle. Her current theory is that Trump will not actually leave office Wednesday but will instead declare martial law, declassify damning information about the “deep state” and arrest thousands of cabal members, including President-elect Joe Biden. Like any movement its size — which is almost certainly in the millions, although it is impossible to quantify — QAnon contains a wide range of beliefs and tactics. Some “anons” are veteran conspiracists who have spent years exploring the theory’s many tributaries. Others are newer converts who have only a vague idea how it all connects. There are law-abiding keyboard warriors as well as violent, unhinged radicals. There is no question that QAnon, which began in 2017 with a series of anonymous posts on the 4chan online message board by “Q,” a person purporting to be a high-ranking government insider, has outgrown its roots on the far-right fringes. It is now a big-tent conspiracy theory community that includes left-wing yoga moms, anti-lockdown libertarians and “Stop the Steal” Trumpists. QAnon believers are young and old, male and female, educated and not. Every community in America has its fair share of them — dentists and firefighters and real estate agents who disappeared down a social media rabbit hole one day and never came back. “This is not just young, male incels who live in their parents’ basements and can’t get a real job,” said Mike Rothschild, a conspiracy theory researcher who is writing a book about QAnon. “QAnon gives you a target to point your anger at, and it gives you something to do about it. That’s something that can appeal to anyone who is disaffected in any way.” Gilbert’s elite pedigree — she attended the Dalton School in Manhattan and worked on The Harvard Lampoon with Conan O’Brien in the 1980s — illustrates the wide range of people who have ended up in Q’s thrall. And her story hints at how hard it will be to bring those people back to reality. What attracts Gilbert and many other people to QAnon isn’t just the content of the conspiracy theory itself. It’s the community and sense of mission it provides. New QAnon believers are invited to chat rooms and group texts, and their posts are showered with likes and retweets. They make friends and are told that they are not lonely Facebook addicts squinting at zoomed-in paparazzi photos but patriots gathering “intel” for a righteous revolution. This social element also means that QAnon followers aren’t likely to be persuaded out of their beliefs with logic and reason alone. “These people aren’t drooling, mind-controlled cultists,” Rothschild said. “People who are in Q like it. They like being part of it. You can’t debunk and fact-check your way out of this, because these people don’t want to leave.” I first met Gilbert in 2019, a few months after she had gotten seriously into QAnon. Friendly and soft-spoken, she explained that Hollywood elites conducted Illuminati blood rituals behind closed doors, that former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s laptop contained a video of Hillary Clinton committing murder and that photos from a recent meeting between Trump and Queen Elizabeth II proved that he had secretly dethroned her. Despite these delusions, Gilbert — a self-described mystic who has written four books, with titles like “Swami Soup” — mostly struck me as a New Age eccentric who could use some time away from screens. She disdains the mainstream media, but she agreed to be profiled, and we kept in touch. Over a series of conversations, I learned that she had a long-standing suspicion of elites dating to her Harvard days, when she felt out of place among people she considered snobby rich kids. As an adult, she joined the anti-establishment left, advocating animal rights and supporting the Standing Rock oil pipeline protests. She admired the hacktivist group Anonymous and looked up to whistleblowers like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. She was a registered Democrat for most of her life, but she voted for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, in the 2016 presidential election after deciding that both major parties were corrupt. Gilbert’s path to QAnon began in 2016 when WikiLeaks posted a trove of hacked emails from the Clinton campaign. Shortly after, she started seeing posts on social media about something called #Pizzagate. She had dabbled in conspiracy theories before, but Pizzagate — which falsely posited that powerful Democrats were running a child sex-trafficking ring out of a Washington pizza parlor, and that all of this was detailed in code in the Clinton emails — blew her mind. If it was true, she thought, it would connect all of her suspicions about elites, and explain the horrible truths they had been covering up. “The world opened up in Technicolor for me,” she said. “It was like the Matrix — everything just started to download.” Pizzagate primed Gilbert for QAnon, which she discovered through the YouTube videos of a British psychic. It quickly took over her life and yanked her politics sharply to the right. Seemingly overnight, her Facebook feed switched from Change.org petitions and cute animal photos to Gateway Pundit links and “Killary Clinton” memes. Like many QAnon die-hards, Gilbert has a purely virtual attachment to the movement. She said she had never attended a QAnon rally, or even met another QAnon believer in person. She works from home as a freelance audiobook narrator, rarely leaves her apartment and scoffed when I asked if she would ever take up arms for Q. “I am a digital soldier,” she said. “I work through the computer.” She was not at the Capitol riot, and she denied that QAnon was a violent movement. She said there was no proof that the participants were QAnon believers and suggested that they might have been antifa activists in disguise — all things that have been widely debunked. She sounded frustrated that Biden had been certified as the winner of the election — something that Q had never predicted — but she said it hadn’t shaken her faith. “The ups and downs have not fazed me because I get it,” she said. “This is a war of information, of propaganda, and I’m just riding the waves.” Gilbert used to get push notifications on her phone every time Q posted a new message. But Q, who once sent dozens of updates a day, has essentially vanished from the internet in recent weeks, posting only four times since the November election. The sudden disappearance has caused some believers to start asking questions. Chat rooms and Twitter threads have filled with impatient followers wondering when the mass arrests will begin, and if Q’s mantra — “trust the plan” — is just a stalling tactic. But Gilbert isn’t worried. For her, QAnon was always less about Q and more about the crowdsourced search for truth. She loves assembling her own reality in real time, patching together shards of information and connecting them to the core narrative. (She once spent several minutes explaining how a domino-shaped ornament on the White House Christmas tree proved that Trump was sending coded messages about QAnon, because the domino had 17 dots, and Q is the 17th letter of the alphabet.) When she solves a new piece of the puzzle, she posts it to Facebook, where her QAnon friends post heart emojis and congratulate her. This collaborative element, which some have likened to a massively multiplayer online video game, is a big part of what drew Gilbert to QAnon and keeps her there now. “I am really good at putting symbols together,” she said. Believing in QAnon tends to clear one’s social calendar, and Gilbert is no exception. She cut ties with her closest friends years ago, after arguing with them about Pizzagate. She is estranged from her sister, who tried and failed to stage an intervention over her Facebook posts. She is divorced and has lived alone for years, and the pandemic has only sharpened her isolation. She thinks the danger of COVID-19 is overblown and refuses to wear a mask (except at the grocery store, where she has no choice). As a result, her neighbors steer clear of her, and she feels their wrath every time she steps outside. “I am called names and abused,” she told me during a recent call. “A 90-year-old woman who lives in my building cursed me out today on the sidewalk.” Gilbert insists that she’s a lone wolf by choice, but becoming a pariah has clearly taken a toll. She compares Manhattan to Nazi Germany and speaks bitterly about the friends she has lost. (I talked to several of those former friends. They miss her but can’t imagine reconciling with her in her current state.) This week, when Biden becomes president and Trump leaves the White House, it will be a huge blow to QAnon’s core mythology, and it may force some believers to acknowledge that they’ve been lied to. Many will cope by spinning the development as a win, or saying it proves that Trump is playing the long game. Others will quietly ditch Q and transfer their enthusiasm to a new conspiracy theory. A few might be jolted back to reality. Gilbert knows that some of her fellow travelers are losing patience. Their daily well of QAnon content is drying up, and their favorite QAnon influencers have been barred by every app except Calculator and Stocks. Some are openly threatening to denounce Q and leave the movement if Biden is inaugurated. But the meme queen is undeterred. She trusts Q’s plan, at least for a little while longer, and she wants them to trust it, too. “Be prepared, and stay cool,” Gilbert wrote to her Facebook friends recently. “Slow and steady wins the race. We’re in the home stretch now.” This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
- The New York Times
Immediately after the attack on the U.S. Capitol, all corners of the political spectrum repudiated the mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters. Yet within days, prominent Republicans, party officials, conservative media voices and rank-and-file voters began making a rhetorical shift to try to downplay the group’s violent actions. In one of the ultimate don’t-believe-your-eyes moments of the Trump era, these Republicans have retreated to the ranks of misinformation, claiming it was Black Lives Matter protesters and far-left groups like antifa who stormed the Capitol — in spite of the pro-Trump flags and QAnon symbology in the crowd. Others have argued that the attack was no worse than the rioting and looting in cities during the Black Lives Matter movement, often exaggerating the unrest last summer while minimizing a mob’s attempt to overturn an election. The shift is revealing about how conspiracy theories, deflection and political incentives play off one another in Trump’s GOP. For a brief time, Republican officials seemed perhaps open to grappling with what their party’s leader had wrought — violence in the name of their Electoral College fight. But any window of reflection now seems to be closing as Republicans try to pass blame and to compare last summer’s lawlessness, which was condemned by Democrats, to an attack on Congress, which was inspired by Trump. Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times “The violence at the Capitol was shameful,” Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, tweeted at 6:55 a.m. the morning after the attack. “Our movement values respect for law and order and for the police.” But now, in a new video titled “What Really Happened on January 6th?,” Giuliani is among those who are back to emphasizing conspiracy theories. “The riot was preplanned,” said Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City. “This was an attempt to slander Trump.” He added, “The evidence is coming out.” For months, Republicans have used last summer’s protests as a political catchall, highlighting isolated instances of property destruction and calls to defund the police to motivate their base in November. The tactic proved somewhat effective on Election Day: Democrats lost ground in the House of Representatives, with Republican challengers hammering a message of liberal lawlessness. About 9 of every 10 voters said the protests had been a factor in their voting, according to estimates from AP VoteCast, a large voter survey conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago. Nearly half of those respondents backed Trump, with some saying they worried that the unrest could disrupt their communities. Republicans are now using the looting to try to explain away the Capitol attack. The result, for some Republican voters, ranges from doubt to conspiratorial thinking. Suzanne Doherty, 67, who traveled from Michigan to be in Washington on Jan. 6 to support Trump, came away feeling confused and depressed over the invasion of the Capitol and not trusting the images of the mob. “I heard that on antifa websites, people were invited to go to the rally and dress up like Trump supporters, but I’m not sure what to believe anymore,” she said. “There were people there only to wreak havoc. All I know is that there was a whole gamut of people there, but the rioters were not us. Maybe they were antifa. Maybe they were BLM. Maybe they were extreme right militants.” The conjecture that the mob was infiltrated by Black Lives Matter and antifa has been metastasizing from the dark corners of the pro-Trump internet to the floors of Congress and the Republican base, even as law enforcement officials say there is no evidence to support it. Law enforcement officials are now flagging threats of violence and rioting leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. That has not stopped Republican lawmakers and some of their constituents from pushing these narratives to defend Trump. Interviews with voters this past week in Kenosha, the southeast Wisconsin city that was roiled by a high-profile police shooting last summer, captured the yawning split along ideological and racial lines. Democrats pointed to the differences in motivation between the Capitol mob and the mass protests of the Black Lives Matter movement, which was not seeking to overturn an election or being incited by the president. Republicans saw the Capitol attack as the work of outsiders or as justified by the summer’s isolated incidents of looting and property destruction. “I think the goal was to try to put some final nails in the coffin of Donald Trump,” said Dale Rovik, a 59-year-old who supports Trump and is a native of Kenosha. “I think it’s pretty clear that they did that to make him look bad and to accuse him and, of course, to try and impeach him again. That certainly is pretty clear to me.” Joe Pillizzi, a 67-year-old retired salesman in Kenosha who supports Trump, said he believed that last summer’s looting and rioting had “put a seed” in the minds of the mob that attacked the Capitol. “If the Black Lives Matter didn’t do what they did, I don’t think the Capitol attack would have happened,” he said. Democrats have also seized on a point of conservative hypocrisy. For all the talk of supporting “law and order,” this month’s attacks pitted a violent mob against Capitol Hill law enforcement personnel, and a police officer was killed. Dominique Pritchett, a 36-year-old mental health therapist in Kenosha who supports Black Lives Matter, said the events of the summer were being portrayed inaccurately by the right, while the Capitol rioters were treated far more softly by the police than peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters were. “No, the protests did not turn violent; the looting and rioting started,” she said. “No violence is acceptable; I think we all can agree to that.” Referring to the Capitol rioters, she said: “They are tearing up one of the most protected and prestigious places in the United States because No. 45 lost. Someone lost an election, versus Black and brown people getting gunned down and killed every day.” The misinformation on the right reflects the mood of Trump’s most ardent base, the collection of elected officials in deep-red America who have consistently rationalized his behavior in crises. But other signs indicate that some Republicans are exasperated by Trump and his actions in a way not seen since he entered office. A new Pew Research poll released Friday showed the president’s approval rating dropping sharply among Republicans since he inspired the mob violence, cratering to an all-time low of 60%, more than 14 percentage points lower than his previous nadir. Among Americans at large, Trump’s approval rating was 29%, a low since he took office in 2017, and he had a 68% disapproval rating — his highest recorded number. In the House, 10 Republicans voted to impeach Trump for a second time, making it the most bipartisan effort of any impeachment effort in the country’s history. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, has signaled a desire to rid the party of Trump. And in recent days in Washington, some Republicans spoke out about the misinformation that had spread through the ranks of the party’s base and its elected officials. Rep. Peter Meijer, a Republican freshman who voted to impeach Trump, said in an interview with “The Daily,” The New York Times audio podcast, that the prevalence of false information among the base had created “two worlds” among congressional Republicans — one that is based in reality and another grounded in conspiracy. “The world that said this was actually a landslide victory for Donald Trump, but it was all stolen away and changed and votes were flipped and Dominion voting systems,” Meijer said, describing what he called a “fever swamp of conspiracy theories. In a video news conference Friday, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina also made a direct appeal to Republicans still in doubt. “Biden actually won,” he said. “The election wasn’t rigged.” Their words, contrasted with Trump’s own message and that of many supporters, highlight a challenge for the Republican Party. The rioters targeted law enforcement personnel, members of Congress and even Vice President Mike Pence. However, much of the party’s base and many of its leaders at the local and state levels remain loyal to Trump. Another Republican who backed impeachment, Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina, acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press that he was likely to face a GOP primary challenger in his 2022 reelection effort because of his vote — a threat the other nine Republicans who voted for impeachment will probably face as well. “FIRST GOP Primary Challenger Announces Run in Michigan Against Freshman Rep. Meijer — One of 10 GOP Turncoats,” read a headline on Gateway Pundit, the right-wing and often conspiratorial news outlet that has amassed influence among Trump’s base. Reached by email, the site's founder, Jim Hoft, did not reply to questions but did send along several of his own news articles related to claims of antifa involvement in the Capitol attack — citing the case of a man named John Sullivan, whom the right-wing media has dubbed an “antifa leader” in efforts to prove its theory of infiltration. He was the same man cited by Giuliani in tweets that threatened to “expose and place total blame on John and the 226 members of Antifa that instigated the Capitol ‘riot.’” Interviews with local and state Republican officials show the long-term effects that the amplification of misinformation has among the party. While few members of Congress have agreed with Trump’s assertion that his actions were “totally appropriate,” several party officials did. And while many Republicans condemned violence, attacks on law enforcement personnel and the killing of a Capitol Police officer, Brian Sicknick, they did not agree that those things were the work pro-Trump mobs acting in the president’s name, as is the consensus among law enforcement officials. “I do not believe President Trump should be blamed for what happened in D.C. on Jan. 6 any more than the media should be blamed for the carnage in Minneapolis, Portland, Dallas or Seattle,” said Ed Henry, a former campaign chair for Trump in Alabama. “The attack on the Capitol has not shaken my confidence in President Trump. I still support him.” Eileen Grossman, a Republican activist from Rhode Island who worked on Trump’s campaign, dismissed the violence as the work of outside agitators. “I know that the violence was caused by bad actors from antifa and liberal progressives as well as Black Lives Matter,” Grossman said, without citing any evidence. She added, using an acronym for “Republicans in name only,” that the Republicans who voted for impeachment would face primary challengers. “They are RINOs and traitors.” Grossman has recently left Rhode Island because, in her words, she “wanted to live in a red state.” She moved to Georgia, a historically Republican state that in the past three months has voted for Biden in the presidential election and sent two Democratic candidates to the Senate. “Obviously I chose poorly,” she said. This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
- The New York Times
WASHINGTON — When Rudy Giuliani was treating his efforts to carry out President Donald Trump’s wishes to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election as a payment opportunity — he proposed a daily retainer of $20,000 for his legal services from the burgeoning Trump campaign legal fund — the president dismissed it and responded by demanding to personally approve each expense. Nine weeks and another impeachment later, Trump began the day Thursday by asking aides to erase any sign of a rift. Stripped of his Twitter account, Trump conveyed his praise through an adviser, Jason Miller, who tweeted: “Just spoke with President Trump, and he told me that @RudyGiuliani is a great guy and a Patriot who devoted his services to the country! We all love America’s Mayor!” White House officials are universally angry with Giuliani and blame him for both of Trump’s impeachments. But the president is another story. Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times Even as he complains about Giuliani’s latest efforts as fruitless, the president remains unusually deferential to him in public and in private. “Don’t underestimate him,” Trump has told advisers. But only up to a point. While Trump and his advisers balked at the $20,000 request weeks ago, it is unclear whether the president will sign off on Giuliani being paid anything other than expenses. The on-again, off-again tensions are a feature of a decadeslong, mutually beneficial relationship between the former New York City mayor from Brooklyn and the former real estate developer from Queens. Although the two were never particularly close in New York, Trump enjoyed having the former mayor as his personal legal pit bull during the special counsel investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia. In return, Giuliani, who failed at his own bid for the presidency in 2008, got to hang out with the president in the Oval Office and used his new connections to pursue lucrative contracts. Trump deployed Giuliani on politically ruinous missions that led to his impeachment — twice. Now, isolated and stripped of his usual political megaphones, the president faces the devastation of his business and political affairs for his part in encouraging a pro-Trump mob that went on to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6. Giuliani — who, for his part, encouraged a group of the president’s supporters that day to carry out “trial by combat” — is one of few people still willing and eager to join Trump in the foxhole. While most lawyers are reluctant to represent the president in a second Senate impeachment trial, Trump advisers said Giuliani remained the likeliest to be involved. Despite President-elect Joe Biden’s certification as the winner, Giuliani has continued to push unproven theories about the election results and falsely attributed the violence to anarchists on the left. A podcast hosted by Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, was taken down Thursday because of an interview in which Giuliani repeated false claims about the election. During the interview, Bannon pleaded with Giuliani to move on to a new topic. “I don’t mind being shut down for my craziness,” Bannon told Giuliani, according to Alexander Panetta, a reporter for CBC News who listened to the podcast before it was removed. “I’m not going to be shut down for yours.” Trump has always had an abundance of yes men and women around him, but Giuliani occupies a unique space in his orbit. Few people have had such durability with the president, and few have been so willing to say and do things for him that others will not. “Your typical role as legal counselor is to tell your client the hard truth and walk them away from risk,” said Matthew Sanderson, a Republican political lawyer based in Washington. “Rudy instead seems to tell his client exactly what he wants to hear and walk him toward risk like they’re both moths to a flame.” That journey has left him looking the worse for wear. Days after the election, Giuliani hit the road, challenging the results in a much-maligned news conference in front of a Pennsylvania landscaping company. In another appearance that month, Giuliani was on camera with black liquid, apparently hair dye, streaming down his face as he railed against the election outcome. Few have been so willing to defend the president, and, paradoxically, few have been so damaging to his legacy. Giuliani stepped into the president’s legal affairs in April 2018. His eagerness to attack special counsel Robert Mueller impressed Trump, who was constantly making changes to his legal team. Most Trump advisers came to see Giuliani’s efforts with Mueller as a success. “There was never a moment when Rudy wasn’t willing to go lower, and that’s what Trump requires,” Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio said. “He proved that actually delivering for Donald was not as important as continuing to try.” In addition to his work with Trump, Giuliani pursued side projects with the added cachet of being the president’s personal lawyer. Free of ethics laws that restrict government employees, Giuliani pursued lucrative deals even in the midst of the special counsel investigation. And then came the impeachments. When the history of the Trump presidency is written, Giuliani will be a central figure, first by pursuing a pressure campaign against the Ukrainian government to investigate Biden’s family members and then by traveling the country in efforts to overturn Biden’s victory. Giuliani’s own legal problems have mounted alongside those of the president. As Giuliani pursued separate business opportunities in Ukraine, intelligence agencies warned that he could have been used by Russian intelligence officers seeking to spread disinformation about the election — reports that Trump shrugged off. Giuliani’s work in Ukraine continues to be a matter of interest in a continuing investigation by federal prosecutors in New York. And his remarks to Trump supporters before the Capitol riot are now the subject of an effort by the New York State Bar Association to expel him. Giuliani appears undeterred. In a 37-minute video published Wednesday evening, Giuliani tried to rewrite the history of the Capitol riot. Although Trump incited his supporters to march to the building and “show strength,” Giuliani suggested in the video that antifa activists had been involved, a repeatedly debunked theory that has proliferated in pro-Trump circles online. “The rally ended up to some extent being used as a fulcrum in order to create something else totally different that the president had nothing to do with,” Giuliani said. Now his calls to the president are sometimes blocked at the orders of White House officials. Advisers say that Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, holds Giuliani partly responsible for the mess currently embroiling the White House. But Giuliani hangs on in the shrinking circle around Trump. “He’s not alone,” Alan Marcus, a former Trump Organization consultant said of the president. “He’s abandoned. Rudy’s just the last in a whole group of people.” This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
- The New York Times
Keith Lee, an Air Force veteran and former police detective, spent the morning of Jan. 6 casing the entrances to the U.S. Capitol. In online videos, the 41-year-old Texan pointed out the flimsiness of the fencing. He cheered the arrival, long before President Donald Trump’s rally at the other end of the mall, of far-right militiamen encircling the building. Then, armed with a bullhorn, Lee called out for the mob to rush in, until his voice echoed from the dome of the Rotunda. Yet even in the heat of the event, Lee paused for some impromptu fundraising. Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times “If you couldn’t make the trip, give five to 10 bucks,” he told his viewers, seeking donations for the legal costs of two jailed “patriots,” a leader of the far-right Proud Boys and an ally who had clashed with police during an armed incursion at Oregon’s statehouse. Much is still unknown about the planning and financing of the storming of the Capitol, aiming to challenge Trump’s electoral defeat. What is clear is that it was driven, in part, by a largely ad hoc network of low-budget agitators, including far-right militants, Christian conservatives and ardent adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory. Lee is all three. And the sheer breadth of the movement he joined suggests it may be far more difficult to confront than a single organization. In the months leading up to the riot, Lee had helped organize a series of pro-Trump car caravans around the country, including one that temporarily blockaded a Biden campaign bus in Texas and another that briefly shut down a Hudson River bridge in the New York City suburbs. To help pay for dozens of caravans to meet at the Jan. 6 rally, he had teamed with an online fundraiser in Tampa, Florida, who secured money from small donors and claimed to pass out tens of thousands of dollars. Theirs was one of many grassroots efforts to bring Trump supporters to the Capitol, often amid calls for revolution, if not outright violence. On an online ride-sharing forum, Patriot Caravans for 45, more than 4,000 members coordinated travel from as far away as California and South Dakota. Some 2,000 people donated at least $181,700 to another site, Wild Protest, leaving messages urging ralliers to halt the certification of the vote. Oath Keepers, a self-identified militia whose members breached the Capitol, had solicited donations online to cover “gas, airfare, hotels, food and equipment.” Many others raised money through crowdfunding site GoFundMe or, more often, its explicitly Christian counterpart, GiveSendGo. (On Monday, money transfer service PayPal stopped working with GiveSendGo because of its links to the violence at the Capitol.) A few prominent firebrands, an opaque pro-Trump nonprofit and at least one wealthy donor had campaigned for weeks to amplify the president’s false claims about his defeat, stoking the anger of his supporters. A chief sponsor of many rallies leading up to the riot, including the one featuring the president Jan. 6, was Women for America First, a conservative nonprofit. Its leaders include Amy Kremer, who rose to prominence in the Tea Party movement, and her daughter, Kylie Jane Kremer, 30. She started a “Stop the Steal” Facebook page on Nov. 4. More than 320,000 people signed up in less than a day, but the platform promptly shut it down for fears of inciting violence. The group has denied any violent intent. By far the most visible financial backer of Women for America First’s efforts was Mike Lindell, a founder of the MyPillow bedding company, identified on a now-defunct website as one of the “generous sponsors” of a bus tour promoting Trump's attempt to overturn the election. In addition, he was an important supporter of Right Side Broadcasting, an obscure pro-Trump television network that provided blanket coverage of Trump rallies after the vote, and a podcast run by former Trump adviser Steve Bannon that also sponsored the bus tour. “I put everything I had into the last three weeks, financial and everything,” Lindell said in a mid-December television interview. In a tweet the same month, he urged Trump to “impose martial law” to seize ballots and voting machines. Through a representative, Lindell said he only supported the bus tour “prior to Dec. 14” and was not a financial sponsor of any events after that, including the rally Jan. 6. He continues to stand by the president’s claims and met with Trump at the White House on Friday. By late December, the president himself was injecting volatility into the organizing efforts, tweeting an invitation to a Washington rally that would take place as Congress gathered to certify the election results. “Be there, will be wild!” Trump wrote. The next day, a new website, Wild Protest, was registered and quickly emerged as an organizing hub for the president’s most zealous supporters. It appeared to be connected to Ali Alexander, a conspiracy theorist who vowed to stop the certification by “marching hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of patriots to sit their butts in D.C. and close that city down.” Alexander could not be reached for comment, but in a video posted to Twitter last week, he denied any responsibility for the violence. While other groups like Women for America First were promoting the rally where Trump would speak — at the Ellipse, about 1 mile west of the Capitol — the Wild Protest website directed Trump supporters to a different location: the doorsteps of Congress. Wild Protest linked to three hotels with discounted rates and another site for coordinating travel plans. It also raised donations from thousands of individuals, according to archived versions of a web portal used to collect them. The website has since been taken down, and it is not clear what the money was used for. “The time for words has passed, action alone will save our Republic,” a user donating $250 wrote, calling congressional certification of the vote “treasonous.” Another contributor gave $47 and posted: “Fight to win our country back using whatever means necessary.” Lee, who sought to raise legal-defense money the morning before the riot, did not respond to requests for comment. He has often likened supporters of overturning the election to the signers of the Declaration of Independence and has said he is willing to give his life for the cause. A sales manager laid off at an equipment company because of the pandemic, he has said that he grew up as a conservative Christian in East Texas. Air Force records show that he enlisted a month after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and served for four years, leaving as a senior airman. Later, in 2011 and 2012, he worked for a private security company at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan. In between, he also worked as a police detective in McKinney, Texas. He had never been politically active, he has said. But during Trump’s presidency, Lee began to immerse himself in the online QAnon conspiracy theory. Its adherents hold that Trump is trying to save America from a shadowy ring of pedophiles who control the government and the Democratic Party. Lee has said that resonated with his experience dealing with child crimes as a police officer. His active support for Trump began in August when he organized a caravan of drivers from around Texas to show their support for the president by circling the capital, Austin. That led him to found a website, MAGA Drag the Interstate, to organize Trump caravans around the country. By December, Lee had achieved enough prominence that he was included in a roster of speakers at a news conference preceding a “March for Trump” rally in Washington. “We are at this precipice” of “good versus evil,” Lee declared. “I am going to fight for my president. I am going to fight for what is right.” He threw himself into corralling fellow “patriots" to meet in Washington on Jan. 6, and at the end of last month he began linking his website with the Tampa organizer to raise money for participants’ travel. The fundraiser, who has identified himself as a web designer named Thad Williams, has said in a podcast that sexual abuse as a child eventually led him to the online world of QAnon. While others “made of steel” are cut out to be “warriors against evil” and “covered in the blood and sweat of that part,” Williams said, he sees himself as more of “a chaplain and a healer.” In 2019, he set up a website to raise money for QAnon believers to travel to Trump rallies. He could not be reached for comment. By the gathering at the Capitol, he claimed to have raised and distributed at least $30,000 for transportation costs. Expression of thanks posted on Twitter appear to confirm that he allocated money, and a day after the assault online services PayPal and Stripe shut down his accounts. Lee’s MAGA Drag the Interstate site, for its part, said it had organized car caravans of more than 600 people bound for the rally. It used military-style shorthand to designate routes in different regions across the country, from Alpha to Zulu, and a logo on the site combined Trump’s distinctive hairstyle with Pepe the Frog, a symbol of the alt-right that has been used by white supremacists. Participants traded messages about where to park together overnight on the streets of Washington. Some arranged midnight rendezvous at highway rest stops or Waffle House restaurants to drive together on the morning of the rally. On the evening of Jan. 5, Lee broadcast a video podcast from a crowd of chanting Trump supporters in the Houston airport, waiting to board a flight to Washington. “We are there for a show of force,” he promised, suggesting he anticipated street fights even before dawn. “Gonna see if we can do a little playing in the night.” A co-host of the podcast — a self-described Army veteran from Washington state — appealed for donations to raise $250,000 bail money for Chandler Pappas, 27. Two weeks earlier in Salem, Oregon, during a protest against COVID-19 restrictions, Pappas had sprayed six police officers with mace while leading an incursion into the state Capitol building and carrying a semi-automatic rifle, according to a police report. Pappas, whose lawyer did not return a phone call seeking comment, had been linked to the far-right Proud Boys and an allied local group called Patriot Prayer. “American citizens feel like they’ve been attacked. Fear’s reaction is anger, anger’s reaction is patriotism and voilà — you get a war,” said Lee’s co-host, who gave his name as Rampage. He directed listeners to donate to the bail fund through GiveSendGo and thanked them for helping to raise $100,000 through the same site for the legal defense of Enrique Tarrio, a leader of the Proud Boys who is accused of vandalizing a historically Black church in Washington. By 10:45 a.m. the next day, more than an hour before Trump spoke, Lee was back online broadcasting footage of himself at the Capitol. “If you died today and you went to heaven, can you look George Washington in the face and say that you’ve fought for this country?” he asked. By noon, he was reporting that “backup” was already arriving, bypassing the Trump speech and rally. The Proud Boys and Oath Keepers were among the groups that went directly to the Capitol. “Guys, we got the Three Percent here! The Three Percent here that loves this country and wants to fight!” Lee reported a little later, referring to another militant group. “We need to surround this place.” Backed by surging crowds, Lee had made his way into the Rotunda and by 3 p.m. — after a fellow assailant had been shot, police officers had been injured and local authorities were pleading for help — he was back outside using his megaphone to urge others into the building. “If we do it together,” he insisted, “there’s no violence!” When he knew that lawmakers had evacuated, he declared victory: “We have done our job,” he shouted. This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
- The New York Times
When President Donald Trump faced (and overcame) the gravest crisis of his first campaign, he defended his boasts of sexual assault on the “Access Hollywood” tape as ultimately harmless gabbing. “Locker room talk,” he said — nothing to dwell on. Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times When the president faced (and overcame) impeachment in 2019 after pressing the Ukrainian president to investigate President-elect Joe Biden, he insisted it was merely an innocuous case of two guys talking. “A perfect call,” he said, not a high crime. And when Trump leaves the White House no later than Wednesday — amid the impeachment sequel and uncommon comeuppance he has encountered since inciting a riotous mob in Washington on Jan. 6 — he will surrender a valued perk: an executive phone system, he once enthused, that made it feel as if his words would self-destruct before they became self-destructive. “The world’s most secure system,” Trump marveled in a 2017 interview during his first week in office, observing that no one was listening in and recording. “The words just explode in the air.” Poof. Gone. Just as he likes it. For most of Trump’s 74 years, the relationship between his words and their consequences has been fairly straightforward: He says what he wants, and nothing particularly durable tends to happen to him. But in the final frames of his presidency, Trump is confronting an unfamiliar fate. He is being held to account as never before for things he has said, finding his typical defenses — denial, obfuscation, powerful friends, claiming it was all a big joke — insufficient in explaining away a violent mob acting in his name. Aides could not do it for him, anonymously offering more palatable accounts. Allies could not argue that he had been misunderstood. His own words were all anyone needed to hear on this one. In almost certainly the most expansive series of penalties he has incurred in his life, Trump’s Twitter account has been banned, his business brand badly dented, his presidency doomed to the historical infamy of a second impeachment. His largest lender, Deutsche Bank, is moving to create distance from him. His New Jersey golf club was stripped of a major tournament. Some once-reliable Republican congressional loyalists are revisiting their commitment, threatening his grip on the party, even as the president’s popularity with much of his support base remains undimmed. Those who have known and watched Trump across the years cannot shake the irony of a president felled by the very formula that powered his rise: inflammatory speech and a self-regard that has congealed at times into functional self-delusion. He has never considered words to be as significant as actions, or even in the same category of prospective offense. Words were whatever got him through the next interaction, people who worked with him say. Words were not deemed important enough to invite serious trouble. So well-developed were Trump’s survival instincts, in theory, that he had all but perfected the art of semiplausible deniability — an upside of being on seemingly every side of every major political issue at various points in his adult life. Hadn’t he said the right thing that one time? That was what he meant. Hadn’t he winked at the crowd a bit? Everyone takes him too seriously. Hadn’t he used the word “peacefully” one time in that address before the Capitol riot, tucked between the more dominant instructions to “fight” and “show strength” and “go by very different rules” as he whipped up anger against elected officials, including his own vice president, who were disinclined to subvert the will of the electorate? “He has had a habit of saying outrageous things and then saying he was being sarcastic, he was kidding, that people shouldn’t take him literally — and in fact, if you do, what an idiot you are,” said Gwenda Blair, a biographer of the Trump family. “It’s both deniability for himself, but it’s also deniability for his followers. He gives them something to hold onto so that they can then continue to believe in him.” But Trump and much of the political class that was shocked and disoriented by his 2016 win have sometimes conflated his reputational resilience with a notion that nothing he says can hurt him, no matter how ostensibly damaging. His term has been pocked with episodes — from his equivocation on white supremacy after the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, to his downplaying the unambiguous risks of COVID-19 — that made him an unpopular president whose contract was not renewed. Less assured is his capacity to recognize the link between his conduct and this outcome. In fact, since entering politics, Trump has often delighted in cutting down opponents who sounded too practiced or restrained. “Just words,” he said of Joe Biden as the Democrat accepted his party’s nomination last summer. “It’s just words, folks,” Trump said of Hillary Clinton at an October 2016 debate days after the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape, at once deflecting any denunciation of his own remarks and calling Clinton’s empty. “It’s just words.” As president, Trump benefited daily from an army of defenders in Congress and across the conservative media who dedicated themselves to interpreting his often-inexplicable words as charitably as possible. And since his time as a private citizen, Trump has generally been insulated from the fallout from his words because associates have been left to navigate it instead. “He said stupid things, and we did damage control, and that was it,” said Barbara Res, a former executive vice president of the Trump Organization. “He never gave it a thought.” Experts in the Trump canon have struggled to summon an analogy for his present conditions, when his words or deeds had caused things he cared about to be taken from him. “Ivana during that first divorce kind of got back at him a bit,” Blair recalled of the amply chronicled dissolution of his first marriage, before reconsidering. “In fact, he loved that whole thing because it got him more ink.” Tony Schwartz, who ghostwrote “Trump: The Art of the Deal” and has in recent years become a ferocious critic, said Trump’s relative evasion of consequences until now “has progressively increased his conviction that he can and should get away with anything he does.” It is no surprise, then, that since last week, as in much of his White House tenure, Trump has proved himself capable of only temporary modulation, defaulting to defiance but snapping to attention when advisers impressed upon him that he could face legal exposure for his incitements. In a video Wednesday, he condemned “violence and vandalism” and held up his “true” supporters as champions of law enforcement — a message aimed, perhaps, at unnerved Senate Republicans before his impeachment trial. Yet for all the things Trump did not say — that he lost the election, that Biden would be inaugurated, that he assumed any responsibility for the state of affairs — and all the things he has said before, it was impossible to believe the president’s heart was in it, implausible to assume the words were meant to last, to hang rather than explode in the White House air. “All of us can choose by our actions to rise above the rancor … ” he said dutifully this time. “ … to overcome the passions of the moment … ” “ … to move forward united … ” Anyone listening knew that these were just words. This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
When the border finally opens, Priscilla Brough says she's going to cross into Detroit and hug the first American she sees. "But the first American I'll see will be the border guard and I'm sure he won't appreciate it like, 'hey, remember me?'" she said with a laugh. Brough has been taking the bus across the border by herself since she was a child to visit her dad, who lived in Michigan. Over the years, her relationship with Detroit has deepened and she has gone over seeking new thrills from the city's rich music scene to its telling street art. "People all over the world come here for ... the jazz festival, they come here for the art, the experience of being in Detroit — it's its own thing," she said. But for the first time in her 40 years of living in Windsor, Detroit is temporarily unavailable and has been for the last 10 months. T On March 21, the border closed, as COVID-19 swept across Canada and the United States. And it's yet to reopen. The time away from some of Brough's favourite places and people have been "awful." And for many other Windsorites, the Detroit River has never felt so big. Most locals went from weekly visits to gazing at the looming buildings from afar. It wasn't just the food, shopping or the entertainment that was missed, but the people. Yet without their American counterpart, Windsorites said they rediscovered parts of their hometown and put more effort into supporting local Canadian businesses. The last time Brough hopped across the border was on a weekend in early March of 2020. Just like any other, she was headed over with a list of things to do: go to a concert, grocery shop, head to a bar with some friends and check out the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). She didn't end up going to the DIA, but figured she would just head there another day. "That other day hasn't actually come yet, which is really, really sad. I love Detroit, I really do," said Brough, who would often visit the city several times a week. Sanja Srdanov, is another Windsorite who went from crossing into Detroit once or twice a week to waving at it from across the river. "It's bizarre and sad, it's just looming there and you can't go," she said. As a visual arts and photography teacher in Windsor, Srdanov said Detroit's art and music scenes are also her favourite, along with the tacos in the city's Mexican town. "But it did get me to get out in this community here," she said. Srdanov said she spent quite a bit of time walking Windsor's Riverfront trail, Drouillard Road and the Walkerville and Riverside neighbourhoods. And she managed to satisfy her taco fix with ones out in the county at Birdie's Perch in Leamington. Similarly, Meaghan Marton, who would go over to see friends, eat at vegan restaurants and volunteer at a Detroit animal shelter, said the restricted access only deepened her love for her hometown. "I'm already a huge advocate and love everything local," she said. "I have just kind of developed and cultivated more of my love for it ... but I think I'm really just putting more of my energy into what we have here." As for Brough, she said despite how difficult its been, she too came to appreciate Windsor-Essex all the more from the Downtown Farmers' Market in the summer to discovering the street art in the city's core. A loss of perspective And while there was lots to gain by staying put in Windsor, there was one major loss: perspective. In a year that saw a tense election that overturned Donald Trump's presidency, protests over the Black Lives Matter Movement and a struggle with a global pandemic, Windsorites said they missed out on getting to understand those challenges from America's point of view. Brough said it's a lot easier to understand what others are going through when you can personally ask them. "The big con is that we don't have as much exposure to other points of view as we may have once, cause it's one thing to see it on social media or one thing to see it on television on how the average person ... sees their world and ... how they perceive their situation," she said. "The Black Lives Matter Protest, imagine how much different that would have been ... we're all seeing it on television, we're hearing stories, but we're not there to witness it." There was more disconnect than usual, Marton added and that created more feelings of division in a year full of turmoil. "It really does feel like we have this wall built up between Canada and the U.S.," she said. "There's already so much division this year in so many different things, I think having that border closed in a way it symbolizes kind of like a closure between these two cities when for so many years, Windsor-Detroit has had such a huge connection and relationship among it's people that live there [and] businesses ... [The border] breaks down the barriers and our perception of what we think Detroit is or what we think America is and I really miss that." Ready for Detroit reunion All three Windsorites said they're eager to head over once it's safe to and hope that 2021 might be the year for that. "I'm really excited to cross back over when the possibility is there and everybody believes that it's safe and there's no stigma behind crossing cause I think the unfortunate part about it too is once you start or decide to cross over there's still going to be people that might be like 'oh I can't believe you're going across," Marton said. She said if it's possible to go over in a "healthy and safe" way, she's more than ready to get back to how life used to be. As for Brough, the first person she'll actually hug is her friend Angela who lives in the U.S. When the day comes, she says it will be a moment of celebration. "There will be dancing in the streets, I'm sure — probably by me, frankly," she said. Brough's only concern is that the places she frequented may not be there when she returns due to the toll of the pandemic. Earlier this week the border closure was extended until Feb. 21, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the border likely won't reopen until the pandemic is globally under control.
- The New York Times
SAN FRANCISCO — Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief executive, was working remotely on a private island in French Polynesia frequented by celebrities escaping the paparazzi when a phone call interrupted him Jan. 6. On the line was Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s top lawyer and safety expert, with an update from the real world. She said she and other company executives had decided to lock President Donald Trump’s account, temporarily, to prevent him from posting statements that might provoke more violence after a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol that day. Dorsey was concerned about the move, said two people with knowledge of the call. For four years, he had resisted demands by liberals and others that Twitter terminate Trump’s account, arguing that the platform was a place where world leaders could speak, even if their views were heinous. But he had delegated moderation decisions to Gadde, 46, and usually deferred to her — and he did so again. Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times Dorsey, 44, did not make his misgivings public. The next day, he liked and shared several tweets urging caution against a permanent ban of Trump. Then, over the next 36 hours, Twitter veered from lifting Trump’s suspension to shutting down his account permanently, cutting off the president from a platform he had used to communicate, unfiltered, with not just his 88 million followers but the world. The decision was a punctuation mark on the Trump presidency that immediately drew accusations of political bias and fresh scrutiny of the tech industry’s power over public discourse. Interviews with a dozen current and former Twitter insiders over the past week opened a window into how it was made — driven by a group of Dorsey’s lieutenants who overcame their boss’ reservations, but only after a deadly rampage at the Capitol. Having lifted the suspension the next day, Twitter monitored the response to Trump’s tweets across the internet, and executives briefed Dorsey that Trump’s followers had seized on his latest messages to call for more violence. In one post on the alternative social networking site Parler, members of Twitter’s safety team saw a Trump fan urge militias to stop President-elect Joe Biden from entering the White House and to fight anyone who tried to halt them. The potential for more real-world unrest, they said, was too high. Twitter was also under pressure from its employees, who had for years agitated to remove Trump from the service, as well as lawmakers, tech investors and others. But while more than 300 employees signed a letter saying Trump’s account must be stopped, the decision to bar the president was made before the letter was delivered to executives, two of the people said. On Wednesday, Dorsey alluded to the tensions inside Twitter. In a string of 13 tweets, he wrote that he did “not celebrate or feel pride in our having to ban @realDonaldTrump” because “a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation.” But, Dorsey added, “this was the right decision for Twitter. We faced an extraordinary and untenable circumstance, forcing us to focus all of our actions on public safety.” Dorsey, Gadde and the White House did not respond to requests for comment. Since Trump was barred, many of Dorsey’s concerns about the move have been realized. Twitter has been embroiled in a furious debate over tech power and the companies’ lack of accountability. Lawmakers such as Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., have railed against Twitter, while Silicon Valley venture capitalists, First Amendment scholars and the American Civil Liberties Union have also criticized the company. At the same time, activists around the world have accused Twitter of following a double standard by cutting off Trump but not autocrats elsewhere who use the platform to bully opponents. “This is a phenomenal exercise of power to de-platform the president of the United States,” said Evelyn Douek, a lecturer at Harvard Law School who focuses on online speech. “It should set off a broader reckoning.” Trump, who joined Twitter in 2009, was a boon and bane for the company. His tweets brought attention to Twitter, which sometimes struggled to attract new users. But his false assertions and threats online also caused critics to say the site enabled him to spread lies and provoke harassment. Many of Twitter’s more than 5,400 employees opposed having Trump on the platform. In August 2019, shortly after a gunman killed more than 20 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Twitter called a staff meeting to discuss how the gunman, in an online manifesto, had echoed many of the views that Trump posted on Twitter. At the meeting, called a “Flock Talk,” some employees said Twitter was “complicit” by giving Trump a megaphone to “dog whistle” to his supporters, two attendees said. The employees implored executives to make changes before more people got hurt. Over time, Twitter became more proactive on political content. In October 2019, Dorsey ended all political advertising on the site, saying he worried such ads had “significant ramifications that today’s democratic structure may not be prepared to handle.” But Dorsey, a proponent of free speech, declined to take down world leaders’ posts because he considered them newsworthy. Since Twitter announced that year that it would give greater leeway to world leaders who broke its rules, the company had removed their tweets only once: Last March, it deleted messages from the presidents of Brazil and Venezuela that promoted false cures for the coronavirus. Dorsey opposed the removals, a person with knowledge of his thinking said. Dorsey pushed for an in-between solution: appending labels to tweets by world leaders if the posts violated Twitter’s policies. In May, when Trump tweeted inaccurate information about mail-in voting, Dorsey gave the go-ahead for Twitter to start labeling the president’s messages. After the Nov. 3 election, Trump tweeted that it had been stolen from him. Within a few days, Twitter had labeled about 34% of his tweets and retweets, according to a New York Times tally. Then came the Capitol storming. On Jan. 6, as Congress met to certify the election, Twitter executives celebrated their acquisition of Ueno, a branding and design firm. Dorsey, who has often gone on retreats, had traveled to the South Pacific island, said the people with knowledge of his location. When Trump used Twitter to lash out at Vice President Mike Pence and question the election result, the company added warnings to his tweets. Then, as violence erupted at the Capitol, people urged Twitter and Facebook to take Trump offline entirely. That led to virtual discussions among some of Dorsey’s lieutenants. The group included Gadde, a lawyer who had joined Twitter in 2011; Del Harvey, vice president of trust and safety; and Yoel Roth, head of site integrity. Harvey and Roth had helped build the company’s responses to spam, harassment and election interference. The executives decided to suspend Trump because his comments appeared to incite the mob, said the people with knowledge of the discussions. Gadde then called Dorsey, who was not pleased, they said. Trump was not barred completely. If he deleted several tweets that had stoked the mob, there would be a 12-hour cooling-off period. Then he could post again. After Twitter locked Trump’s account, Facebook did the same. Snapchat, Twitch and others also placed limits on Trump. But Dorsey was not sold on a permanent ban of Trump. He emailed employees the next day, saying it was important for the company to remain consistent with its policies, including letting a user return after a suspension. Many workers, fearing that history would not look kindly upon them, were dissatisfied. Several invoked IBM’s collaboration with the Nazis, said current and former Twitter employees, and started a petition to immediately remove Trump’s account. That same day, Facebook barred Trump through at least the end of his term. But he returned to Twitter that evening with a video saying there would be a peaceful transition of power. By the next morning, though, Trump was back at it. He tweeted that his base would have a “GIANT VOICE” and that he would not attend the Jan. 20 inauguration. Twitter’s safety team immediately saw Trump fans, who had been saying the president abandoned them, post about further unrest, said the people with knowledge of the matter. In a Parler message that the safety team reviewed, one user said anyone who opposed “American Patriots” like himself should leave Washington or risk physical harm during the inauguration. The safety team began drafting an analysis of the tweets and whether they constituted grounds for kicking off Trump, the people said. Around noon in San Francisco that day, Dorsey called in for an employee meeting. Some pressed him on why Trump was not permanently barred. Dorsey repeated that Twitter should be consistent with its policies. But he said he had drawn a line in the sand that the president could not cross or Trump would lose his account privileges, people with knowledge of the event said. After the meeting, Dorsey and other executives agreed that Trump’s tweets that morning — and the responses they had provoked — had crossed that line, the people said. The employee letter asking for Trump’s removal was later delivered, they said. Within hours, Trump’s account was gone, except for an “Account suspended” label. He tried tweeting from the @POTUS account, which is the official account of the U.S. president, as well as others. But at every turn, Twitter thwarted him by pulling down the messages. Some Twitter employees, fearing the wrath of Trump’s supporters, have now set their Twitter accounts to private and removed mentions of their employer from online biographies, four people said. Several executives were assigned personal security. Twitter has also broadened its crackdown on accounts promoting violence. Over the weekend, it removed more than 70,000 accounts that pushed the QAnon conspiracy theory, which posits that Trump is fighting a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles. On Wednesday, employees gathered virtually to discuss the decision to bar Trump, two attendees said. Some were grateful that Twitter had taken action, while others were eager to leave the Trump era behind. Many were emotional; some cried. That afternoon, Trump returned again to Twitter, this time using the official @WhiteHouse account to share a video saying he condemned violence — but also denouncing what he called restrictions on free speech. Twitter allowed the video to remain online. An hour later, Dorsey tweeted his discomfort about the removal of Trump’s online accounts. It “sets a precedent I feel is dangerous: the power an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation,” he wrote. But, he concluded, “everything we learn in this moment will better our effort, and push us to be what we are: one humanity working together.” This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
- Yahoo News 360
Despite the prevalence of homegrown extremism, domestic terrorism isn't a federal crime in United States. Should it be?