“When I have attributed exact quotations, thoughts or conclusion to the participants, that information comes from the person, a colleague with direct knowledge, or from meeting notes, person diaries, files and government or personal documents.”
Bob Woodward, Fear: Trump in the White House--Notes
Bob Woodward in Fear: Trump in the White House (2018) he divulges why the majority of Americans live in fear when the United States is the most well-armed nation with the biggest military budget and it controls most of the food supply in the world. Fear is learned via propaganda fostered by the Big Lie in America and passed throughout the world in the digital age via Tweets.
THE BIG RURAL AMERICAN LIE: A 70-YEAR-OLD NARCISSIST BUSINESSMAN WILL SAVE US
Woodward posits that Kellyanne Conway was supervising the filming of campaign ads for Candidate Trump.
“Am I paying for these people?” Trump asked her.
He complained about the camera setup. The equipment seemed old and he didn't like the lighting. The shoot wasn't high-definition (HD). He groused about the camera crew. “Tell them I'm not going to pay.” It was a standard line.
Later he said, “I want everyone to leave except Kellyanne.”
“Everybody tells me that I'm a much better candidate than Hillary Clinton,” he said, half-asking for her evaluation.
“Well, yes, sir. No poll necessary.” But they could do some things different. “You're running against the most joyless candidate in presidential history. And it's starting to feel like we are that way as well.”
Kelly took a stab at candor. “You know you're losing? But don't have to. I've looked at the polls.” CNN that day had him down five to 10 points. “There's a path back.”
“What is it?”
Conway belied that he had done something without realizing it. “This fiction of electability that was sucking the lifeblood out of the Republican Party,” that somehow he could not win and was not electable.
The voters were disillusioned with Republican presidential nominees. These arguments went, “You have to get behind Mitt Romney. He's the only one who can win. You have to support John McCain. He can win. Jeb can win. Marco can win. This time,” Trump, you, “can't win. The people decided. I will not be fooled again,” and he had won the Republican nomination.
“You get these massive crowds where you have not erected a traditional political campaign. You have built a movement. And People feel like they're part of it. They paid no admission. I can tell you what I see in the polling. We have two major impediments.”
Conway said they should never do national polling, ever. “That is the foolishness of the media,” which did national polls. Winning obviously was all about the Electoral College—getting the 270 electoral votes. They needed to target the right states, the roughly eight battleground states.
“People want specifics,” Conway said. It had been great when Trump released his 10-point veterans Administration reform plan in July, or a planned five-point tax reform plan. “People want those kinds of specifics, but they need them repeated again and again.
The second vulnerability I see is people want to make sure you can actually make good on your promises. Because if you can't deliver, if the businessman can't execute and deliver, you're just another politician. And that's who you're not.”
It was a sales pitch, a path forward that Trump seemed to embrace.
“Do you think you can run this thing?” Trump asked.
“What is 'this thing'?” she asked. “I'm running this photo shoot.”
“The campaign,” Trump said. “The whole thing. Are you willing to not see your kids for a few months?”
She accepted on the spot. “Sir, I can do that for you. You can win this race. I do not consider myself your peer. I will never address you by your first name.”
The Federalist Society is convening in Washington on Thursday for its annual convention, a Comic-Con of sorts for the conservative legal movement. It’s been a blockbuster year for those in attendance. The confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh last month cemented a reliable conservative majority on the Supreme Court for at least a generation. Judicial nominees for the lower courts are sailing through the Republican-led Senate at a breakneck pace. Those victories made George Conway’s announcement on Wednesday all the more striking.
Conway, a prominent Washington lawyer with deep conservative ties, announced the formation of Checks and Balances, which describes itself as “a group of attorneys who would traditionally be considered conservative or libertarian.” This is a bit of an understatement: The group’s 14 founding members are a medley of high-profile academics, litigators, and former government officials, including a former Cabinet secretary. Its brief mission statement is a straightforward summary of the basic tenets of small-r republicanism. Though President Donald Trump is not mentioned by name, he is unmistakably the target.
“We believe in the rule of law, the power of truth, the independence of the criminal justice system, the imperative of individual rights, and the necessity of civil discourse,” the statement says. “We believe these principles apply regardless of the party or persons in power. We believe in ‘a government of laws, not of men.’” It closes with a rallying cry: “We seek to provide a voice and a network for like-minded attorneys to discuss these ideas, and we hope that they will join with us to stand up for these principles.”
There’s always been an inherent contradiction in the conservative legal movement’s relationship with Trump. On one hand, the president has delivered them an unparalleled string of victories and decisively shifted the federal judiciary to the right. At the same time, the president has weakened the American rule of law, campaigned to turn the Justice Department into a political weapon, and used his office to threaten journalists and political opponents.
It’s been an open question when—or even if—the movement would reach a breaking point with him. That day may now come sooner rather than later.
“Some of us have been raising these concerns for a while,” Jonathan Adler, a Case Western University law professor who signed the mission statement, told me. “I’ve been open about criticizing the administration where I thought that was necessary from the beginning, and being positive where there are things to be positive about. But I think some people have needed a few straws on the camel’s back before they’re willing to be more open about it.”
Conway, as the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, may be the most recognizable name to the general public. But the rest of its members are all prominent figures in conservative legal circles and veterans of past Republican administrations. Tom Ridge served as the first secretary of Homeland Security. Peter Keisler was tapped to replace Chief Justice John Roberts on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2005, only to be rejected by Democratic senators for his conservative background. Orin Kerr, a University of Southern California law professor, is the Supreme Court’s go-to scholar on Fourth Amendment matters.
The question is whether other Federalist Society members, who have been hesitant to speak out, will answer the group’s call. There’s reason to believe so—precisely because they have been gotten what they wanted under Trump. As his first term—and perhaps his presidency—winds down, Trump may become a victim of his own success, as diminishing returns in judicial policy make it harder for the conservative legal community to stomach him.
The Checks and Balances group sprang from informal conversations between him and the other members over the past year, according to Adler, who helped craft the legal argument behind the Affordable Care Act challenge in King v. Burwell. Over the “last several weeks,” he said, those discussions turned toward forming an organization and making some kind of public declaration. The goal was to provide a space for other like-minded conservative and libertarian legal figures to express concerns about the Trump administration and its threats to the nation’s constitutional order.
Other conservative legal figures have been outspoken about Trump in recent weeks. Ted Olson, a former solicitor general and the victor of Bush v. Gore, signed on to represent CNN in its First Amendment lawsuit against the White House for revoking correspondent Jim Acosta’s press credentials. John Yoo, who took a maximalist approach to executive power under President George W. Bush, wrote in The Atlantic that Trump violated the Constitution by naming Matthew Whitaker to be acting attorney general after his boss, Jeff Sessions, was forced to resign. (George Conway published a similar argument in the New York Times last week, co-written by Obama DOJ veteran Neal Katyal.) Adler and others criticized Trump’s threat to end birthright citizenship by executive order on originalism grounds.
With few exceptions, liberal members of the American legal community have warned since the beginning that Trump posed a threat to American democracy. Many nonpartisan law professors also joined criticism of the travel ban directed at Muslim-majority countries, the administration’s separation of migrant families at the border, and other extreme policies. Legal critiques from the right, however, have been more sporadic until recently. Trump, as a presidential candidate, had struck a Faustian bargain of sorts with top figures in the conservative legal movement: In exchange for outsourcing judicial nominations to them, they would not oppose his takeover of the Republican Party.
His rise to power came at a fateful time for the movement. Since the 1960s, legal conservatives have dreamed of building a Supreme Court that mirrored their ideological worldview. Justice Antonin Scalia’s sudden death in 2016 imperiled decades of work to reshape the federal judiciary in their own image. The possibility that President Hillary Clinton would name his replacement kept the fracturing Republican Party together even as Trump assumed control of it. On Election Night, the gambit paid off. Instead of witnessing the first five-justice liberal majority on the court since Earl Warren, Republicans have now installed justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, securing the court’s ideological makeup for decades. More than 80 federal judges have also been confirmed over the past two years, steadily reshaping the lower courts.
Those accomplishments thrilled conservatives of all stripes. They also kept quiet many in the conservative legal community who had concerns about the Trump administration’s other policies, Adler said. “Last year at the Federalist Society conference, there were press reports about the ‘But Gorsuch’ stress ball,” he noted. “And it’s significant that they were ‘but Gorsuch,’ not ‘and Gorsuch,’ right? And it was a stress ball. The reason I think it was so popular is because there are a lot of people in FedSoc who are happy about judicial nominations, and were hoping that the judicial nominations would outweigh other things.”
The American left tends to picture the Federalist Society as a monolithic institution, one that grows originalist judges from giant cloning vats in its basement. In reality, it functions more like a decentralized social network and debate club, one where reputation is the coin of the realm. Checks and Balances’ members are effectively using that currency to provide cover for others who may fear professional reprisals from a vindictive White House, and to preemptively defuse attempts to paint members as conservative apostates.
“Concerns that I endorsed about the birthright citizenship proposal are based on the original public meaning of the constitutional text,” Adler noted, referring to Trump’s threat not to guarantee citizenship to everyone born in the U.S. “Criticism about the Justice Department not being sufficiently nonpartisan are based on traditional principles about what the role of the Justice Department is and what the role of law enforcement is.... We’re not abandoning our prior ideological affinities. In many ways, we’re seeking to reinvigorate them and see that they are upheld in this more challenging environment.”
It’s worth noting that liberals are no stranger to devil’s bargains themselves. Many Democrats brushed aside Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct in the 1990s because of their support for his policies and desire to keep Republicans out of the White House. Today, the American left might be skeptical of making common cause with their ideological adversaries, and rightly so. Many of those adversaries stayed silent over the past two years as Trump relentlessly weakened American democracy—and quietly applauded as he delivered one staunch conservative to the courts after another.
But if, as 2020 nears, Trump’s reelection chances are slim and no Supreme Court justices retire or die—two very big ifs, admittedly—the number of conservative critics may well grow. “I think there are quite a number of people that do have conflicts, and I think for a lot of people that conflict’s grown over time,” Adler said. “I think there are also people who think the administration’s ability to produce silver linings that outweigh the cloud is diminishing. If that means more people who are willing to criticize the administration when it does wrong, that’d be good.”
Perhaps some of these people will feel that the rule of law has become significantly more imperiled than it was in Trump’s early years. Others may simply conclude that, after the decisive rightward shift of the Supreme Court and the transformation of the most important lower courts, it is time to burnish their reputations for the post-Trump era. Whatever their reasons, the left ought to welcome them to the resistance.
I’m reminded of a high-school math teacher who would penalize me on a test when I got a question correct but used the wrong method. Sometimes, how one gets to the right answer matters less than getting there at all.
“Left wing commentators have no shame just making things up,” he tweeted, along with a link to the newsletter. “This piece is a work of fiction. No one is stopping #Florida recount. Only thing we ask is they follow the law.”
It was the latest of many false charges that he has levied this week. I want to walk you through those falsehoods this morning. They’re important to debunk, because Rubio is doing something dangerous: Deliberately undermining people’s confidence in our electoral systems for partisan gain.
Rubio, like President Trump, is part of a group of top Republicans who have been making baseless accusations against Democrats. “Now democrat lawyers are descending on #Florida. They have been very clear they aren’t here to make sure every vote is counted,” he tweeted Thursday. “They are here to change the results of election.” That same day, he accused lawyers of coming to Florida to “try to steal a seat in the U.S. Senate.” Yesterday, he repeated the charge, claiming “Dem lawyers” were trying to “steal an election.”
This simply isn’t true. Democratic lawyers — working for or with Senator Bill Nelson, the incumbent — are not trying to steal anything. They have filed lawsuits to make sure the state counts all votes, including ballots that were previously uncounted, misplaced or discarded for dubious technical reasons.
And the state of Florida should carefully count all of the votes. In an extremely close election, like Florida’s Senate race, it is not possible to do so on election night. Rubio, however, is trying to delegitimize a full counting of the votes — to make it look like fraud (a word he used on Twitter yesterday). His goal is transparently cynical. He knows his party’s candidate is currently ahead, and he is trying to make that lead look like the only fair outcome.
But here is the crucial point: There is no reason to believe that this messiness systematically benefits Democrats or Republicans. Multiple Florida agencies have found no evidence of election-related fraud or criminal activity in the two South Florida counties Rubio has focused on. This week, a Florida judge — appointed by a Republican governor — denied a request from Rick Scott, the Republican Senate candidate, saying his campaign had produced no evidence of fraud.
Rubio is doing precisely what I described yesterday: making false accusations of nefarious activity to create political pressure that would halt a full counting of votes. While doing so, he is invoking all sorts of worthy principles — that only “legally cast” votes should be counted and that election officials should stick to deadlines. But he is mixing these principles with false conspiracy theories about scheming Democrats and county officials who are trying to help the Democrats.
There was a different path available. He could have pushed for the interpretation of election law most favorable to Republicans — like his argument that the state should not extend deadlines to count ballots — without lying about what Democrats are doing. That would have been a tough but fair brand of politics.
Instead, Rubio has chosen to employ a classic tool of autocrats. He is using the language of democracy to subvert democracy.
Senator, I may disagree with you on policy. But I’m honestly disappointed and surprised you would stoop to this level. You should be better than President Trump.
Related: The New Yorker’s Sue Halpern writes, “Although it is not clear what impact these false accusations of voter fraud may have in future elections, what they expose, right now, is a blatant attack on democracy itself.”
Mayer writes that the economic writer and asset manager Barry Ritholtz labeled Wall Street's “big lie,” scholars at conservative think tanks argued that the problem had been too much government, not too little. The lead role in the revisionism was played by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), whose board was stocked with financial industry titans, many of whom were free-market zealots and regulars at the Koch donor seminars.
Specifically, AEI argued that government programs that helped low-income home buyers get mortgages caused the collapse. Ritholtz noted that these theories “failed to withstand even casual scrutiny.” There was plenty wrong with the government's quasi-private mortgage lenders, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but numerous nonpartisan studies ranging from Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies to the Government Accountability Office proved they were not a major cause of the 2008 crash.
By shifting the blame, Ritholtz noted, those “whose bod judgment and failed philosophy helped cause the crisis” could continue to champion the “false narrative” that free markets “require no adult supervision.”
Self-serving research from corporate-backed conservative think tanks wasn't exactly news by 2011, but what was surprising, Ritholtz contended, was that “they are winning. Thanks to the endless repetition of the big lie.” Phil Angelides, the chairman of the bipartisan commission that Congress set up to investigate the causes of the crash, was also taken aback by the revisionism.
In an op-ed column, he tried to remind the public that it had been “the recklessness of the financial industry and the abject failures of policymakers and regulators that brought the economy to its knees.” Instead, though, he said, “those at the top of the economic heap” were peddling “shopworn data” that had been “analyzed and debunked by the committee.” He conceded that history was written by the winners and that by 2011, while much of the country lagged behind, most of the financial sector had bounced back and “the historical rewrite is in full swing.”
Soon politicians backed by the same conservative donors who funded the think tanks were echoing the “big lie.” Marco Rubio, a rising [Koch] Republican star from Florida, for instance, who had defeated a moderate in the 2010 Republican senate primary with the help of forty-nine donors from the June 2010 Koch seminar, soon proclaimed, “This idea—that our problems were caused by a government that was too small—it's just not true. In fact, a major cause of our recent downturn was a housing crisis created by reckless government policies.”
Woodward writes that in mid-August, in the seventh month of Donald Trump's presidency, hundreds of white supremacist came into violent conflict with protesters in Chancellorsville, Virginia, vividly underscoring, once again, the racial divide in America.
On Saturday, August 12, Trump was watching Fox News from his golf course in Bedminster. At I pm. On Fox, a Virginia State Police spokeswoman describe the melee: “In the crowds, on all sides, they were throwing bottles. They were throwing soda cans with cement in them. They were throwing paint balls. They were fighting. Braking out and attacking one another. Launching chemicals into the crowd as well as smoke bombs.”
At 1:19 p.m. Trump tweeted a call for calm. “We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America Lets come together as one!”
Later in the afternoon at a routine veterans bill signing, trump had a script that was all condemnation that ended in the word “violence.” Trump said, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence.” But he departed from his text and added, “On many sides. On many sides. It's been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump. Not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time.” He then picked up the text: “It has no place in America.”
Trump touched a nerve with the phrase “many sides” suggesting an equivalence between the neo-Nazis and those who opposed white supremacy. Biting criticism of the president spanned the political spectrum including many Republican Party leaders.
“Very important for the nation to hear @potus describe events in #Chancellorsville for what they are, a terror attack by #white-supremacist,” tweeted Senator Marco Rubio.
Republican senator Lindsey Graham appeared on Fox News Sunday and said that the president needs “to correct the record here. These groups seem to believe they have a friend in Donald Trump in the White House,” and “I would urge the president to dissuade these groups that he's their friend.”
Author Bob Woodward says of his sources, "There's a lot of conscience and courage in this — people speaking up."
Veteran journalist Bob Woodward has written about every U.S. president since Richard Nixon — nine in total. But in all his years covering politics, he has never encountered a president like President Trump.
Woodward's latest work, Fear: Trump in the White House, paints a portrait of Trump as uninformed and mercurial. The book describes moments when staff members joined together to purposefully block what they believe are the president's most dangerous impulses — sometimes by surreptitiously removing papers from the president's desk.
"There were drafts of a proposal to get out of the Paris climate accord that were removed from the president's desk," Woodward says. "[There were] draft statements about withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement — which would have been a disaster — and [former economic adviser Gary] Cohn just took it off the desk."
Woodward says he was shocked by the lengths to which staff went to circumvent Trump: "I've never heard in any way of staff going around a president this way and taking the paperwork, taking the orders in order to stop the action."
On why Trump wanted to pull troops out of the Korean Peninsula
[Trump] is obsessed with the money. At a National Security Council meeting earlier this year, Jan. 19, this whole question comes up about money and the president says ... these are verbatim from a note taker there: "What do we get by maintaining a massive military presence in the North Korean Peninsula? What do we get from protecting Taiwan, say?"
And this is when [Gen.] Mattis finally says, "We're doing this in order to prevent World War III." Then the president says, "We're losing so much money and trade with South Korea and China and others. I think we could be so rich if we weren't stupid. We're being played as suckers, especially NATO."
On Secretary of DefenseJames Mattisand White House Chief of Staff John Kelly publicly denying having said things they are quoted as saying in Woodward's book.
Look, Mattis has to survive. He's in a difficult position. But, as I've said, nothing's off the record, and in the first days, after parts of the book came out last week, one key person in office now called me up and said, "Everyone knows what you've written is true. It's 1,000 percent correct." Because that's somebody who knows that I worked hard on this and tried to dig in and excavate what the reality was.
Look, they have First Amendment rights also. And they're in a position, and ... they should say whatever they want to say. I have no objection to that, even if it's a kind of politically calculated survival denial. ...
I am convinced that people need to wake up and not kind of pretend this is just politics or this is partisan. What's going on in the Trump administration — and I said this to the president when I called last month — I said, "We are at a pivot point in history."
On why he interviews people for his book on "deep background," as opposed to on or off the record
I knew that people in office in these sensitive positions were not going to talk on the record. ... You let people talk on the record, and you get things that are not true. If you use deep background, you're going to use [the information] but not say where it came from. You then are in that position to verify it with others and get a level of truth that's not available on the record, unfortunately. ...
There's a lot of conscience and courage in this — people speaking up. And, yes, they're protecting themselves but, my God, who doesn't try to protect themselves? But they were willing to help me in this process. And I think it illuminates what's going on, and not in some kind of abstract way.
The day after [special counsel Robert] Mueller was appointed, so it would be May 18 of last year, the president was in the Oval Office and normally he would sit at the Resolute Desk. But he was on his feet and then running to the television in the dining room, watching all the cable news shows, TiVo-ing them so he could go back and look, and was beside himself. ...
Rob Porter, the staff secretary, said this was almost Nixonian. It entered the paranoid zone — Nixon, in his final days, pounding the carpet, talking to the pictures on the wall. And Trump just would not come down from that moment, and announced [to anyone listening] that he was the president of the United States: He could fire anyone. He could do anything. And it was very disconcerting to people who witnessed this.
He realized then — he was right — that once you have a special counsel with this unlimited authority, essentially unlimited time, going after you, they're going to look under every rock. And that's exactly what Mueller has done and indicted Paul Manafort, indicted people at all kinds of levels, or got guilty pleas and so forth. It is what, in the FBI, they call the "full field." ... People are kidding themselves if they think it hasn't taken a dramatic emotional toll on the president.