Donald Trump’s next-term promises are a laundry list of fascist ideas

The Washington Post has a roundup of Donald Trump's most recent dystopian visions of what his theoretical second term might look like—if we assume that America just moves on from that whole violent militia-assisted end of democracy thing; the requests to state officials to fake their election totals; and the squirreling away of "highly classified" security secrets to a room in Spytown, USA, otherwise known as Donald Trump's Florida golf club.

His proposals range from petty to just plain crooked, and from impossible to fascist. Since there seems to be no great urgency to put the treasonous coup-plotter and document thief in handcuffs anytime soon, however, we've got time. So, sure. It's a bit like publicly debating Al Capone's gardening skills, but whatever. Let's take a look at the Post's six identified planks in whatever the hell Donald Trump thinks he's building up to.

"Execute drug dealers"

This is a retread. Trump had a pathetic fascist crush on Philippines strongman Rodrigo Duterte from the first months of his presidency, specifically for his "unbelievable job" in the extrajudicial killings of anyone in his country suspected of drug sales. A year into his term, he was already pushing to copy the Duterte approach.

But he didn't do it. He couldn't do it. There's a whole government in the way of plans like, "What if we impose the death penalty for Eric's cocaine dealer while eliminating all penalties for selling nuclear secrets to Russia?” We know Trump was just itching to kill people because, once William Barr landed in the attorney general spot, the administration started executing death row prisoners like it was a new Trump team sport. But it's already looking like much of Trump's would-be new presidential campaign will be based on pointing out that he was a colossal failure at getting the big-ticket fascist stuff done the first time around. So vote for him again!

"Move homeless people to outlying 'tent cities’"

Again, this is just his standard real-estate tycoon fixation on property values and how all these poor people around here are lowering them. He famously complained about unhoused people outside expensive buildings. The "people in those buildings pay tremendous taxes," but "all of a sudden they have tents. Hundreds and hundreds of tents and people living at the entrance to their office building," he ranted back in 2019.

So his solution to poor people ruining rich people's office building experiences is, of course, concentration camps. In Donald's America, you'll be able to call a hotline to report a disheveled person on the sidewalk outside your place of work, and authorities will come to take that person away to the "outer skirts of the various cities" where they can get the tent-based care they need.

"You don't have time to build buildings, you can do that later," he opines.

Concentration camps for the Americans wealthy property owners don't want to see. I'm mostly curious as to how the democracy-hostile and fascism-curious current Supreme Court would justify that brazenly creep-ass-strongman proposal. There's little doubt that Justice Samuel Alito would reach back to 1600s Britain to assert that, actually, there are 400 years of history that says wealthy people can imprison whoever the hell they want.

"Deploy federal force against crime, unrest, and protests"

Yeah, been there before. The Lafayette Square approach to policing: If regular law enforcement is encumbered by too many rules restricting who they can use violence against and for what reasons—and heaven knows American law enforcement is famously reluctant to use violence against people who aren't doing actual crimes—then call up your hand-picked attorney general and have them send some prison riot teams to crack skulls. Or, of course, the National Guard.

Fascism, then. Republicanism has been going here for a long time. Sen. Tom Cotton and Bill Barr and innumerable state Republicans with strong opinions about protesters have been so noisy in advocating that those who protest against the regime be met with a military or paramilitary response that Trump's not breaking any new ground here. Yeah, he wants to be able to hurt and kill protesters. It's one of his big things.

It was also a central part of his coup plans; the Trump coup team hoped that Mike Pence could be convinced to throw the election into chaos, upon which time Trump would declare emergency powers under the Insurrection Act to snuff out whatever protests of the stolen election developed, and/or use the military to literally seize the voting machines. A fully fascist plan. Trump is still pissed that it didn't work.

"Strip job protections for federal workers"

Yeah, that's a pretty banal subhead for Trump's actual proposal here. Trump and his fascist allies (see: Ginni Thomas) have long been enamored with the notion that whenever one of Captain Bigbrain's ideas lands with a thud, or whenever the U.S. Constitution and other laws prevent Captain Bigbrain from doing something—like executing drug dealers on sight or putting disheveled-looking people in government camps—Trump's failures were actually because of a "deep state" conspiracy to make him fail. Ginni Thomas, coup supporter, is all about this theory. And Trump, in his first term, focused obsessively on firing any government official or watchdog who reported his possible crimes, undercut one of his favored lies, or was unwilling to assist in corrupt acts.

It's not just Trump; it’s all of his orbiting Republican allies who propose a new solution that would solve many of their past problems with, you know, being caught doing illegal stuff. They want the ability to fire any government worker they want to, through the entirety of the federal government. No more rules preventing presidents from wholesale firings to clear out entire agencies so that their own sycophants can be installed into every last role.

So, fascism again then. This is basically the Russian model as well; in Vladimir Putin's Russia, all jobs are allocated not according to competence or expertise but by loyalty. Putin rewards his most reliable sycophants with the most powerful jobs, which each loyalist then uses to siphon as much money as possible into their own accounts; those sycophants, in turn, hire only those willing to help them in their corruption, in exchange for their own corrupt schemes being overlooked, ad nauseam all the way through government.

In a government based on willingness to overlook corruption, corruption becomes the primary task of government. When an emboldened and sycophantic-to-the-point-of-delusion Russia declared a new war of conquest, it turned out much of Russia's military had simply ceased to meaningfully exist. The food the troops were to bring with them consisted of long-expired rations. Warehouses of materials turned out to be imaginary. From vehicle maintenance to secure communications plans, the money that was to be used to keep the military running had gotten siphoned away to the point of logistical collapse.

This is an absolute dream scenario for the likes of Donald J. Golfboy: A government in which he gets to do anything he wants, punish whoever he wants, and take whatever he wants, and a government that allows him to control who else gets similar spoils. And if it later turns out that all the crookedness has led the country to ruin, then who the hell cares, baby, because he got to be the one doing it.

It's also now standard-issue Republicanism. From the first impeachment onward, the party declared en masse that Republican leaders could absolutely do crooked things and get away with it. Republican Party rhetoric, both from the party itself and individual lawmakers, is currently centered on vows of revenge against whichever government agents, witnesses, or whistleblowers dared to catch Trump doing yet another crime. This has been the theme of Republican governance for a decade: Find the names of those who testify to Republican corruption. Expose them. Eliminate them.

"Eliminate the Education Department"

Right, the revenge-for-segregation thing that's animated the right for a half-century. Trump doesn't give a damn, he's just jumping on the latest bandwagon. Some hack wrote this into his speech, and he said it, and it got applause from the angry racist base, so he's probably going to say it some more. Didn't do it the first time around. Was willing to attempt a coup that resulted in deaths, but wasn't able to do that. Because it would require work. Lots of work. Donnie Two-Scoops does not do work.

"Restrict voting to one day using paper ballots"

Ha ha ha ha ha—yeah, uh, again, it's more than just that. Donald Trump, supergenius big-brain uberdude from planet Golfcheat, convinced himself the election machines were all rigged against him in order to block out any hint that maybe America just wanted to scrape him out of the Oval Office because they didn't like him. He convince himself absentee ballots were all rigged against him for the same reason. And that there was a conspiracy by elections officials. And China. And possibly Italy, and a dead South American guy, and Hillary Clinton, and the guy who designed the ramp that Donald Trump once had to gingerly inch down, tarnishing his big-muscle superguy image.

Trump wants to get rid of voting by mail, obliging everyone to vote at the polling places. Republicans, historically, have made a game of under-allocating booths and staff to polling places in Democratic-majority districts, making it far more difficult (or even impossible) to vote if you're in one of those blue places. Republicans used to love voting by mail because their base skews much older and is less mobile; they now absolutely hate mail-in ballots because, during the pandemic, there was a surge of pandemic-conscious younger voters who took advantage of the same system—which erased, and then some, what Republicans thought was a built-in party advantage. So now it’s gotta go; it can’t be controlled, Republicans have learned, the same way physical polling places can be controlled.

Oh, and Donald Trump thinks it's a conspiracy against him if the person who's leading in the first released results loses that lead in later counts. And he thinks it's a conspiracy against him if the counting isn't done before he gets sleepy and wants to go to bed.

Oh, and Trump's Republican "Big Lie" believers want every ballot to be hand-counted. Hundreds of millions. Gotta do it by midnight, though, or it's crooked. Whatever didn’t get counted by midnight is automatically crooked. No, we won’t be allocating any more counters to the job; that’s much too expensive.

Guess what: If Republicans accomplish all of this, and their latest Dear Leader figure still doesn't win, they're still going to say the vote was crooked. That's why Republican lawmakers in the various most-crooked states have already passed new laws giving Republican officials the power to challenge whatever vote totals they don't personally like, and the power to take over the ballot-counting in places that might produce such unpleasant results.

All of this has gone far beyond one man's uncontrollable narcissism. Trump didn't get the job the first time around because of his supposed promises or claims that he was smarter than every scientist, military general, and world leader on the planet. He got it because he was a mean, blustery asshole willing to spout more hate more openly than anyone else on the debate stage—and Republican voters absolutely love that stuff. They don't want good government; they want government that will punish their enemies while elevating their own paranoias.

Trump could drop dead tomorrow, and the "let's corral the poor into death camps" plank of Republicanism would probably wither away. But the Republican Party moves to take control of election counts, identify and fire government workers who are not loyal to the latest party proclamations,  and meet protests against them by sending in military forces to crush those protests? Those are here to stay.

That's standard-issue Republicanism now. All of the candidates will be promoting that. DeSantis, Hawley, Cruz, Graham, Cotton, McCarthy, Abbott—all of them. It's carved into the movement now, and there's no evidence it can be scraped back out. They happen across the fascist solutions to each of their problems, and adopt the fascist solutions as their answers.

As for how it got this way—how we got a base that no longer cared whether government functions, had no interest in policies or in facts but would instead eagerly identify with all of a narcissistic conman's most guttural burps of paranoia and anger—well, that's a different question. Ask the Murdoch family; they probably could run you through the whole history.

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The Republican reactions to Trump, ahem, being caught with highly classified nuclear weapons-related documents after asserting to federal agents he didn't have them continues, and as the facts worsen for Trump his pro-attempted-coup Republican allies are sliding towards the obvious endpoint. If a Republican leader commits a crime against the government, well then maybe that thing shouldn't even be a crime at all!

Rand Paul has been homing in on that one. He started out claiming that the FBI might have been planting evidence against Trump.

Rand Paul suggests the FBI may have planted evidence in boxes they seized from Mar-a-Lago pic.twitter.com/3yd6I9tlaa

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 10, 2022

Then we found out that it wasn't just any documents the government was hunting for, but classified nuclear weapons documents, and that among the potential criminal charges facing Trump was violations of the Espionage Act, so Paul had to revise and extend his hackery. If Donald Trump violated the Espionage Act, and the government has him dead to rights on that, it can only mean the Espionage Act is wrong. "It is long past time to repeal this egregious affront to the 1st Amendment," tweeted Paul.

It's not enough to merely suggest that the FBI is full of crooks who would plant evidence against Dear Leader, as addled Trump supporters throughout the country target FBI offices and individual FBI agents. No, if Donald Trump is caught with classified national security documents being stored in a room at his spy-riddled for-profit golf club, it is A Violation Of The First Amendment Itself to not let him keep them. Or to, you know, even look into it.

Good work, Rand. Can always count on you to jump off any rhetorical bridge you might come across. A First Amendment right to keep and sell classified nuclear secrets, sure, you stick with that one.

Rand Paul has always been a bit of a turd, piping up with sudden libertarian proclamations in between advocating for big government powers, but ... actually, I forget where I'm going with that. He's just a turd.

On Team Spy, however, Trump ally Peter Navarro isn't content with "let's just repeal whatever laws Donald Trump was caught violating." He wants you to know that Donald Trump was patriotically planning on patriotically leaking our nuclear secrets so that the American people can "get more jobs."

The video suggests that Navarro was on exactly as much cocaine as you think he was when suggesting this.

Peter Navarro says the documents Trump had should never have been classified in the first place, and Trump needed them to let the American people know what was in them so we can stay out of wars and get more jobs. pic.twitter.com/ZMRc7Eon9G

— Ron Filipkowski 🇺🇦 (@RonFilipkowski) August 12, 2022

Got it? Donald Trump is a big-brain whistleblower who was going to out national nuclear secrets so that the United States would "stay out of wars." Then you'll all get jobs, America. Don't you want jobs?

Surely, we can all agree that Donald Golf Resort Trump, in between hosting Saudi golf tournaments and attempting to overthrow the United States government, only has the American people's best interests at heart. He wasn't going to trade those documents away for the right to build a new hotel in Saudi Arabia or in the center of Moscow. He was going to patriotically release that information for the good of everyone who congregates in midwestern diners.

It is not enough, say other Republicans, to merely erase whatever laws Donald Trump may have willingly broken. The Republican focus during two impeachment trials and during every other scandal during Trump's years was always on finding out who was trying to enforce laws Donald wanted to break, so that those people or government agencies could be punished good and hard.

That's why Trump and his lawyers released a their copy of the government warrant papers served at Mar-a-Lago with the names of the goverment agents involved left unredacted, which in turn immediately led to Trump's base hunting down information about the agents and, predictably, death threats. It's why Republicans followed up the release with a party-wide campaign accusing the FBI of being corrupt, which almost immediately led to an attack on FBI offices because of course it did.

By Wednesday the Republican message was already out, though. Sen. Rand Paul was only one of the Republicans whose immediate reaction to the raid was to parrot the Trumpworld insistence that whatever Bad Stuff the FBI might have found was, uh, actually planted there. Why, Dear Leader being caught doing a crime means it's time to gut the FBI, which every Republican knows has been corrupt this whole time!

The FBI has a long history of corruption that’s only grown over time - but these recent actions are the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s time for Congress to bring the swamp to heel. pic.twitter.com/IR83QaAdP5

— Rep. Dan Bishop (@RepDanBishop) August 10, 2022

Don't just get rid of the laws Trump broke. Find out who found out he was breaking the laws, call them corrupt, release their public information, and shutter their whole agencies if we have to. All hail Dear Leader, and so forth.

Obviously, catching Donald Trump with nuclear weapons secrets in the basement of his spy club means that the sitting attorney general also has to go. That's just common sense.

GOP strategist: Trump has to be indicted or Merrick Garland has to resignhttps://t.co/UiDw3f3qgt

— Ryan Struyk (@ryanstruyk) August 14, 2022

Here's a tip: "GOP strategist" is not a news thing. CNN chose to host a "GOP strategist" despite the job of "GOP strategist" being, quite literally, strategizing how to best bullshit the American people with party-flattering spins on news events. It is not news; CNN, as a network, is reliant on booking partisan liars to mislead the public about current events in between news reports of what those current events actually are. Hosting professional liars is the core network strategy; it's cheap, it's assured to generate faux-"controversy," and you can be abso-tootly sure that party-paid propagandists will always, always be willing to show up. They own the suits, they know where the studio is, and they know how to look presentable on camera. Can’t say that about government records law experts.

But sure, this is all very bad news for Merrick Garland. The first former president to be caught stealing nuclear secrets is really putting Merrick Garland in a bind here, and if Merrick Garland doesn't want to be seen as overplaying his hand he either has to put Donald in prison or this or resign in shame.

Sure, fine. Let's go with that. The dude who defended Trump through a list of half-dozen treasons and counting is going with it, so you know it's gonna be a (very stupid) thing. But we agree: If the Department of Justice can't see its way to prosecuting a very powerful figure caught dead to rights doing the sort of crime other people get decades in prison for, then it would certainly demonstrate Justice Department leadership isn't up to snuff. That's what you meant, right?

All right, so the Republican response is now morphing into one in which Trump violating the Espionage Act means we have to erase the Espionage Act, Donald Trump hiding nuclear weapons secrets in his for-profit golf club serves only as proof that Donald Trump was valiantly trying to save the American people by spilling those secrets, the FBI discovering that Donald Trump was lying through his crooked teeth when he claimed he didn't have the documents now requires a wholesale purge of the FBI for Their Unholy Audacity, and the attorney general who oversaw getting those papers back is now hopelessly politically compromised because he may have actually believed the bullshit we tell our schoolchildren about "nobody being above the law," which is not something the Republican Party has believed at any point in its modern history.

Fox host defends Trump’s handling of top secret documents: “President Nixon said, that if the president does it, that it is not illegal. Is that not truly the standard when it comes to classified documents?” https://t.co/xGTOhrP52O pic.twitter.com/ZXorS95AV4

— Media Matters (@mmfa) August 14, 2022

If you're going to eliminate whatever laws Donald breaks from now until his eventual McDonald's-caused death, plus whatever agents discovered the crimes, plus whatever agencies the agents belong to, plus the attorney general for having the audacity to believe he had any right to, for example, take classified nuclear documents out of Donald's golf club and for-profit wedding venue even if Donald didn't want him to, there's not much of America that's going to be left. You're undermining everything that counts as "rule of law," when people say "rule of law."

At some point you don't have a government at all, if you're getting rid of all the parts that might inconvenience Dear Leader during a crime spree.

Which, as it turns out, is what the pro-insurrection parts of Republicanism's violent base are again saying out loud. Republicanism is becoming indistinguishable from the threats of terrorism it fosters. And it's all because Republicans think that whatever Trump wants, whether it's stealing nuclear weapons secrets or staying in office despite losing an election, Trump should get.

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As evidence of Trump’s coup plot grows, most Republican pundits are only shouting louder

The evidence that Donald J. Trump attempted to overthrow the United States government on Jan. 6, 2021 is overwhelming, and the House select committee tasked with investigating the coup has been remarkably effective in gathering and presenting it. It's a certainty that Trump gathered the crowd that day, that he was told many were armed, and that he specifically told them to "march" to the Capitol at the exact time Congress was meeting to acknowledge his election loss. His intent was to intimidate Congress into declaring the election invalid. He sat on his behind, watching television, watching the violence play out, and with a tweet attacking vice president Mike Pence specifically, egging it on. He refused to help until it had already been made clear that the violence had failed and both Congress and Pence were safe.

Trump is a stone-cold traitor surrounded by Republicans bent on toppling the government, and the effectiveness of the Jan. 6 committee's explanation of Trump's pathetic but still-violent plot has been enough to rattle anyone in conservative media not explicitly devoted to kissing Trump's ass. And that would be very good news—if the number of media conservatives who condemned the coup to begin with amounted to more than a handful. Everyone else in Republicanism is still riding the ol' fascist trolley, and anyone who thinks a fascist base is going to condemn a fascist leader for attempting to erase the rules preventing him from retaining power needs a refresher on what fascism actually is.

Is the conservative media turning against Trump, then? Not in any real numbers, no. What's changing right now is that some individual media figures are looking to cut Trump loose as too much of a liability even for Trumpism. Most of the movement is not that tactical, however, and those who supported the coup by promoting the invented hoaxes used to fuel it, and who immediately downplayed the deaths afterward—either with new hoaxes or by insisting that "most" of the crowd Trump gathered did not attempt to beat Capitol police officers to death in an effort to hunt down Trump's named enemies—are only shrieking those same hoaxes louder.

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In The New York Times, we get a run-through of so-called conservative reactions to the hearings and, surprise, it's all the usual garbage fire. Radio shrieker Mark Levin says that it wasn't a real insurrection because a real insurrection would have involved Trump arresting Mike Pence. Merely pointing an angry mob in his direction and telling them that Pence was the thing standing between them and victory doesn't count. There's Laura Ingraham, one of the Fox News hosts who thought the violence of the day was extremely bad when it was happening, and were begging the White House to call it off—but who immediately turned around to downplay the same violence to viewers, a process that has become rote whenever the network's hosts have found their own network rhetoric to be in too-close proximity to acts of domestic terrorism.

As for Tucker, what is there even to say? The perpetually whining brat remains as devoted to a fascist remaking of the country as fellow sociopath Steve Bannon, who Carlson hosted after Bannon was found guilty of criminal contempt of Congress. As the House select committee has held hearing after hearing, Carlson's show has gotten more and more vigorous in its condemnations of the committee's very existence.

Carlson's post-Trump-revelations show was a raging trash fire, an absolute parade of gaslighting with mockery for Pence's Secret Service team and every other law enforcement officer on the job that day:

Watch Tucker Carlson literally laugh at DC cop Michael Fanone saying he's "been left with psychological trauma and emotional anxiety" from the Capitol riots. Fanone was nearly beaten to death and suffered a heart attack! This is truly sociopathic behavior here. pic.twitter.com/VA2QN3Rk5T

— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) July 28, 2021

Sociopathic? Maybe. But even back during his CNN days, Tucker Carlson had a thing for mocking injured people—he spent multiple such days sneering about a lawsuit filed after a child had been disemboweled by a poorly designed pool drain. That giddy cruelty is his own little schtick, and possibly the only aspect of his persona that carried over from "smug fraternity kid in bowtie" to "globetrotting white nationalist with penchant for anti-democratic strongmen."

At The Washington Post, Greg Sargent mulls the "fracturing" between those conservatives that are attempting to cut Trump loose and those who are not, and is correct in suggesting that the split is mostly for self-serving reasons.

Two editorials from far-right media kingpin Rupert Murdoch's possessions, in The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, are unambiguous in cutting Trump loose; Trump has proven "unworthy" for office, says the Post. Sargent cites Post newsletter-writer Olivier Knox to note that the split is perhaps between those who fancy themselves part of the D.C. establishment versus those whose public personas rely on demonizing that establishment.

Put more bluntly: As revelations mount about what Trump did not just to assemble the violent mob, but the acts he took to use the resulting violence in his bid to stay in power, it's every conservative pundit for themselves. The question in every pundit’s mind is whether Donald Trump is so damaged—or so close to being indicted—that the movement has to pry him loose and accept the damage.

Much of what passes for intellectual Republicanism still secretly despises Trump, as anyone with a brain and a pulse naturally should, and would absolutely love to cut the ineffectual, unpredictable blowhard away from his base so that the movement could be inherited by an equally mean-spirited but more competent new Dear Leader. From most Republican senators to the editors of the Journal, replacing Trump with a less buffoonish figure would be a dream come true.

For the vast majority of the "conservative" media, however, every possible off-ramp was passed by long ago. The whole point of the newly fascist movement is that their "enemies" are wrong, every investigation of wrongdoing by movement leaders is a fabrication meant to discredit them, and indeed the entire world is allied in conspiracy against them. The news is no longer even news, but a jumping-off point for adding another lie to the big pile.

Fox's Greg Gutfeld makes ridiculous claim that the January 6 hearings are “exonerating Trump”https://t.co/idqPuLxcXG

— Media Matters (@mmfa) July 25, 2022

You're not going to get career talking heads who staked themselves to the notion that four years and two impeachments’ worth of rampant Trump corruption was all a conspiracy by Republicanism's enemies to make the ridiculous public clown look bad to now reverse themselves. They became big-name pundit celebrities by claiming all Republicans are innocent all the time.

Nobody on the Fox News programs is struggling with the question, or doing any nighttime soul-searching on whether the new details of Trump's inaction should finally be the brick that walls him up forever in the mausoleum of failed leaders. Every paycheck for the last four years has been dependent on their own ability to feed their audience whatever that audience wants most to hear, and the Republican base most wants to hear unhinged conspiracy theories about how all of their non-white, non-conservative, non-straight, non-library-hating enemies all plotted to make it look like Trump is a nation-betraying pile of crap, even after far-right cartoonists spent all those years drawing him as conservatism's musclebound and perfect-postured savior.

Republicanism is a fascist movement. There's no getting around that at this point; the party is dedicated to pushing hoaxes and propaganda as a primary means of winning elections, and is especially focused on targeting all Americans who are not them as their enemies. The truth of whether or not Dear Leader incited a violent, armed mob to assault a joint session of Congress rather than abide an election loss is not important, because the Republicans of the House and Senate, the Fox News punditry, and the Republican base would all have absolutely supported Trump's move to seize power if it had worked.

If the mob had found and killed Mike Pence and Trump used the act to declare emergency powers, nullify the election, and remain parked in the White House, every Republican from McConnell to Graham to McCarthy to Sean Hannity would all be defending Trump's position as the only plausible path forward. It would only be "reasonable" for Trump to act to maintain the nation's "security," and if the loser of an election announcing themselves to be the winner has never been done before, at the presidential level, then it would still be declared better than the unrest that would transpire if law enforcement or the military tried to remove him from the building.

We've been here before. We've been here even during the impeachment process launched against Trump for this precise event. Terrible shame, the Republicans all said, but Congress having to flee a violent mob is hardly reason to put a negative mark down in a president's permanent political record. Now let us all move on to hunt down "critical race theory" in all its imagined forms.

Fascist pundits respect power (see: Viktor Orban) and mock perceived weakness (see: Capitol police officers unable to subdue the mob.) The coup attempt is still seen, by them, as a perfectly reasonable bit of politicking, and the main concern even when it was happening was not over whether their dear ally Donald Trump was a filthy violence-provoking traitor using hoaxes to overturn an American election but the optics that would result after it presumably failed. There's nobody on Fox News saying this should never happen again. They're saying it was no big deal to begin with, and why are our political enemies so obsessed with this.

The bad news for Trump is that even pro-fascist conservative pundits are likely to cut Trump loose in the near future. The movement no longer needs him. Anyone looking for promises of vengeance against non-whites, against LGBT children, against school librarians, against pandemic scientists or other movement enemies has a host of Republican governors who have been falling over themselves to prove they could lead such a movement. Florida's Ron DeSantis has literally been copying even Trump's mannerisms in his bid to detach Trump from his base and paste himself into its leadership.

Whether the base will go along is another matter, but ... they probably will. Again, fascist movements celebrate power and mock weakness; all a new leader has to do to beat Trump is belittle him in front of the base that coalesced around Trump specifically because they liked seeing people belittled. Trump's success in creating a movement that is utterly vapid will eventually be his own undoing; these are people with low attention spans. Their focus is on hurting their perceived enemies, not loyalty toward their perceived allies. Anyone who lets them express their constant bubbling rage will do.

Trump and his followers proved on Jan. 6 how dangerously close they came to overturning our democracy. Help cancel Republican voter suppression with the power of your pen by clicking here and signing up to volunteer with Vote Forward, writing personalized letters to targeted voters urging them to exercise their right to vote this year.

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Republican Tom Rice gives long interview, calls Trump some pretty bad names

Republican Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina was one of the architects of the enormous tax breaks for the rich that the Republican Party passed during the Trump administration. While it was wildly unpopular and led almost entirely to further extremes in wealth inequality in our country, it may be considered the only piece of Republican legislation to actually be passed during all of the years the GOP enjoyed majority control under Trump. This, of course, is not good enough for the more fascist wing of the Republican Party, and after Donald Trump’s attempts to orchestrate a coup d’etat fell through, Rep. Rice found himself among the 10 Republican representatives who voted for his impeachment.

To be crystal-clear here: Rep. Rice is the only one of the 10 Republicans to vote for impeachment that also voted against certifying the results of 2020 election. He subsequently told reporters, months later, that while he still has reservations about the results of the presidential election, he regrets his anti-certification vote, and felt it was clear that “President Trump was responsible for the attack on the U.S. Capitol.” This means that in 2022, Rice is persona non grata among wannabe fascist henchmen like craven Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy and others.

Rice is facing a backlash and a Donald Trump rally-machine that has continued to call him a Benedict Arnold to the MAGA-Nazi movement. Trump has endorsed GOP primary candidates against Rice and has traded public jabs with him, with Trump calling Rice a “disaster” while Rice called Trump a “would-be tyrant.”

As a result of the orange-grey-haired elephant in the room, Rice has tried to remind his blood-red congressional district that he is the same misinformation-peddling anti-masker who has called COVID-19 the “Wuhan flu,” like every other racist shitheel in his Party. He has tried to remind everyone that he basically voted with Donald Trump all of the time and has done his part to vote with his fellow Republicans against popular legislation and emergency aid for front line workers. He even voted in support of Marjorie Taylor Greene to keep her committee assignments, in a showing of non-accountability for promoting blatantly white supremacist ideologies and conspiracy theories.

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Depending on whose polling you go by, the primary race for Rice’s 7th Congressional District is going great for him … or his opponent. So Rice, like Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, has decided to lean into bashing Trump while attempting to remind the GOP’s base that Donald Trump is just the bluntest version of what Rice and the rest of the Republican Party have always been.

On Sunday, Rep. Rice did an interview with ABC News’ Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl to help promote himself, as well as further explain why Donald Trump is sort of a terrible person. The interview was a pretty softball one (you can watch below) where Karl attempts to paint Rice as some kind of maverick. It’s a bit embarrassing, honestly. That being said, Rice does a solid job of pointing out that Donald Trump did to try and orchestrate the overthrow of the government, and that when the Capitol building was being invaded by his followers and conspirators, Trump didn’t do a single thing to protect the legislative branch of the U.S. government. In fact, he didn’t even do anything to protect his own vice president.

“When he watched the Capitol, the ‘People's House,’ being sacked, when he watched the Capitol Police officers being beaten for three or four hours and lifted not one thing or to stop it -- I was livid then and I’m livid today about it,” Rice recalled. “And it was very clear to me I took an oath to protect the Constitution.”

Rice also points out that while Donald Trump has publicly called him a “disaster” who lacks the respect of his fellow GOP operatives, he was a good little foot soldier to the Donald, until he wasn’t: “If I am a ‘disaster,’ and a ‘total fool’ and I voted with him 169 times out of 184, what does that make him? I was following his lead.”

Here is where we see the limitations of the modern Republican Party, and more specifically, the neocon wing of the Party that is hoping to retain control while waiting for Trump to pass. Rice told ABC News that he hopes Trump does not run for office again. But his hope has nothing to do with what’s good for the country. It’s not simply because Trump is, in Rice’s words “ a narcissist, and he’s driven by attention, and he’s driven by revenge.” It isn’t because Trump should be in jail or on trial for treason, but because “We’ll [the GOP] get painted more in the corner of extremism, they'll try to label us as extremist. And he’ll feed that.”

Asked about whether or not he would support a Kevin McCarthy speakership if the GOP took majority control of the House in November, Rice was equally mushy-mouthed, saying, “We’ll see what happens.”  

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In leaked audio, Sen. Lindsey Graham calls Biden ‘maybe the best person to have’ as president

Let it be known that during a brief, ephemeral moment when Donald Trump sycophant Sen. Lindsey Graham momentarily gained a conscience and understood just how horrific the Jan. 6 insurrection provoked by Trump's lies really was, even he expressed relief that Joe Biden would soon be taking office and sending Trump back to the toxic swamp from which he came.

"We'll actually come out of this thing stronger," Graham told reporter Jonathan Martin in a recording only being released by Martin now to goose publicity for his new book. "Moments like this reset. It'll take a while."

Martin probed Graham on his optimism: "And Biden will be better, right?"

"Yeah, totally," responded Graham. "He'll be maybe the best person to have, right? I mean, how mad can you get at Joe Biden?"

Yeah, we're all just going to have to let that sit there for a while. It turns out that Lindsey Graham is just as wrong about the actions the Lindsey Graham of the future will take as he is about everything else. What followed next was indeed Graham's predicted "reset," but it was he and his closest allies who did the resetting. In the immediate aftermath of the attempted coup, numerous Republican House and Senate leaders expressed horror at the violence Trump had unleashed and privately vowed to cut him loose, or at least think real hard about cutting him loose. House minority leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy was among those to float either removing Trump as unfit for office or asking for his resignation.

But then Republicans "reset," and not only returned to rally around Trump but to publicly dismiss the severity of the violent coup, to near-unanimously once again support Trump during his impeachment trial, and indeed to flit to Trump's Florida crime laboratory to publicly polish his boots. (A fun thing to think about: McCarthy and all the other Republican visitors presumably not knowing, during their Mar-a-Lago trips, that inside a private room sat boxes of documents Trump had stolen from the government, some of them highly classified. Or maybe Trump was handing them out as party favors.)

And Graham bungled his prediction even worse when he supposed that nobody could get too mad at the incoming Joe Biden. Republicans quite swiftly pivoted back into lying about Biden outright, and Biden's every new proposal was met with bulging Republican eyes as lawmakers declared him to be the real "fascist."

Graham and the others weighed an attempted coup against proposals to hike corporate tax rates or speed the transition away from fossil fuels and decided that they preferred the coup. So here we are—except, now, with Republican state legislatures and Republican Party functionaries all hurriedly scribbling up new rules allowing the precise methods Trump attempted for his coup, evidence-free declarations that some communities should not have their votes counted paired with new Republican means of overturning elections if the votes do not go their way, to go forward with less resistance next time around.

In Graham's case the motives for flipping from outrage to coverup may be simpler than most. Graham himself was one of the Republicans to pressure Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to alter presidential vote totals in the state, backing the very Trump strategies that would soon consolidate into an attempted coup.

Yes, Lindsey Graham is a terrible person. Just terrible. This has been evident for years and was evident when he ditched his longtime ally Sen. John McCain to back Trumpism instead, and is evident every time he defends Republican sexual assaults, international crimes, or violent coup attempts with teary eyes and sneering contempt for the witnesses. He is a horrible, horrible, horrible person of the sort that Republicanism breeds; you cannot back Trumpism after all that has happened unless your devotion to horribleness surpasses every other ambition and personality trait.

So-called journalists who keep private these demonstrations that our elected officials lie constantly and grotesquely to us, exposing them only later when the quotes can be better monetized, aren't much better.

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Another book again confirms that Trump wanted the military to ‘just shoot’ BLM protesters

In news we already knew but now know more, er, knowingly, a new book by ex-Trump secretary of defense Mark Esper confirms that yes, Donald Trump really did want to "just shoot" Black Lives Matter protesters rallying near the White House during the 2020 protests. Specifically, Trump said he wanted the U.S. military to "beat the fuck" out of the protesters, and told Joint Chiefs of Staff chair Gen. Mark Milley and other top administration officials to "just shoot them" on several occasions. When Milley and then-attorney general Bill Barr resisted due to the blazing illegality of such an order and, let's assume, not wanting to spend the rest of their lives in prison on this bozo's behalf, Trump modified his proposal to "just shoot them in the legs or something?"

We knew these incidents had taken place because a previous book profiting off the slow death of democracy described them last year; Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender's 2021 book revealed them in similar detail, including Trump's demands to use military force, "beat the fuck" out of protesters, and "shoot them in the leg" or "maybe the foot."

That earlier book also gave us the heartwarming scene in which a fed-up Gen. Milley, tired of White House white nationalist Stephen Miller egging Trump on with claims that parts of the United States were now a "war zone" due to the protests, "spun around in his seat" and told Miller to "shut the fuck up, Stephen." There is no military medal awarded to generals who personally tell Stephen Miller to "shut the fuck up," but there ought to be. We're all perhaps a bit disappointed Milley didn't shoot Miller in the leg or "maybe the foot," but there you go. That's military discipline for you.

What Mark Esper's new book brings to the scene is confirmation by another participant that yes, all of this really did take place and they took place just as previous accounts said. Donald Trump wanted to use the military, and he specifically wanted to use the military to kill protesters or, after meeting resistance from the rest of his staff, shoot them "in the legs" so that they could no longer march against his self-imagined greatness. That Black Lives Matter protesters might have had a legitimate point to make never crossed his mind; that he, as president, was not allowed to simply murder protesters outright was something he struggled to understand even as the top officials who would have to order such murders tried to explain it to him.

Listen to Markos and Kerry Eleveld talk Ukraine and speak with Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair Ben Wikler on how hitting back at Republicans helps win elections on Daily Kos’ The Brief podcast

Truly, the worst president ever. Possibly the worst human being ever, though that's a value judgment—and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is making his own bid for both positions, so Trump may last as America's Worst President for no longer than George W. Bush did before him.

The purpose of Esper's book is self-redemption. Esper was Trump's secretary of defense during a time, post-impeachment, when Trump was widely purging the U.S. government of anyone thought to be disloyal, felt newly emboldened after Senate Republicans immunized him from the consequences of a Watergate-plus sized campaign of political corruption, and was increasingly deemed by many to be dangerously unstable—as he would go on to prove at numerous points during the 2020 campaign and post-election, culminating in an attempted coup. Esper was one of Trump's enforcers, as Trump attempted to do to the military what he was doing everywhere else, only to be replaced after Trump's November election loss with the more-toadying Christopher Miller.

Whatever career Mark Esper once had before Trump appeared on scene is now well and truly gone; he will remembered now alongside William Barr and other Republicans who protected Trump through years of corrupt, self-serving, often-delusional, nation-harming behaviors only to write up books afterwards mumbling that they were Actually against all of the outright evil things all along, or were against at least some vanishingly small number of them, and ought to still be served in public restaurants and invited to Washington parties.

If a sitting president of the United States repeatedly—no, incessantly—asks his staff to do criminal things, anything from the political extortion of an at-war government to further a propaganda effort to requesting that Americans protesting against him simply be murdered, refusing to do the murder part is not bold. Trump's vast and wide-ranging ignorance made him an incompetent leader during every national crisis he was faced with. He could not grasp security briefings, forcing staff to include frequent mentions of him to at least keep him reading; he was so obsessed with self-promotion that he altered government hurricane maps and promoted the altered forecasts rather than admitting to a piffling Twitter mistake; his prescriptions for dealing with pandemic continuously did active harm to the nation, even as his lack of focus made more organized and sensible responses impossible.

All of this was a pattern and was being warned of, incessantly, both long before and during every winter day leading up to a Trump-led attempted coup. His own staff knew of his history of demanding illegal or corrupt actions—and, after his election loss, much of his stalwart-Republican staff helped him take those actions. Some, like chief of staff Mark Meadows, may have played a more pivotal role in attempting to nullify the election than the buffoonish Trump could himself even manage.

You do not get to say, "I worked for the man who soon afterward attempted to end United States democracy," and append "but was of course against the coup part," unless you can provide even a teaspoon of evidence of being "against" the government purges, political purges, manufacturing of hoaxes, flagrant daily lying, contempt for the American public, white nationalism, autocratic demands, and ingrained fascist beliefs that had been laying the groundwork for that outcome through Trump's whole long, crooked descent. There's now an entire cottage industry of hard-right Republican officials who helped Trump do extraordinarily bad and damaging things, but who are propping themselves up now on the pretense that, well, at least they did not support murdering protesters outright, or at least they did not support attempts to capture or murder Trump-opposed House and Senate leaders, or at least they did not help the rest of Trump's staff in schemes to declare that the vice president could scrub out the votes of whatever Americans he wanted to, in order to arrive at whatever election outcome the current leaders of government wished to announce.

You especially cannot respond to an attempt to overthrow democracy itself by demanding that Americans move on while your party allies write new election laws to get around the flaws of the first coup attempt and make a second one easier to muster. You don't get to say, "I am still a Republican," without adding, "even though the party both plotted an election-nullifying coup and is continuing to protect its plotters."

Take your books and shove them. Do something worthy of redemption before demanding it. William Barr, Mark Esper, the blizzard of propagandist-to-news-"analyst" career slides—Americans have every right to treat all of these people with contempt for their parts in normalizing horrific acts, bragging that they prevented even more horrific acts, and demanding the nation move on without any doled-out consequence or comeuppance. We've got library book bans now. We've got a party that has convinced the majority of American voters that our elections are illegitimate—based on a barrage of internet hoaxes and nothing more. White nationalism is now a party plank, such that even mentions of racism in American history are now fodder for public retaliation.

Stuff your books. Abandon your party or do your part to redeem it—or shut the fuck up, Stephen. Nobody has time to give you the attention you seek.

Far-right Marine Le Pen pledges submission to Moscow, reminding us what Trump 2.0 would look like

In the span of a few weeks, the tilt of the geopolitical world has shifted so quickly that perhaps Americans just haven’t had enough time to digest how fortunate they are Donald Trump did not win the 2020 election. Doubtlessly the Ukrainians are aware, and those living in the Baltic nations of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia are as well because their very lives would have been entirely forfeit or at grave risk right now. But given the soothing comfort of its giant pick-up trucks, guns, and doorbell cameras, it might be asking too much of American culture to pause and consider the alternative reality we could all be living in.

Still, many—both in this country and elsewhere—would gleefully embrace that reality with open arms. Even as Vladimir Putin’s appalling army systematically rapes, tortures, and beheads helpless civilians in its murderous invasion of Ukraine, the Russian dictator has found a fawning ally in the French far-right, with the re-emergence of Marine Le Pen. Last week, Ms. Le Pen drew 23% of the vote in France’s splintered election, forcing a runoff on April 24 between herself and French President Emanuel Macron, who garnered approximately 28%.

On Wednesday, Le Pen—apparently unperturbed by what is now aptly characterized as a genocidal campaign by Russia to eradicate the Ukrainian population—pledged to effectively abandon the 70-year-old NATO alliance in order to ratify Putin’s brutality, should the French people vote her into the presidency. 

PARIS — Rejecting a “herd-like conformity” with the Biden administration, Marine Le Pen, the French far-right candidate for the presidency, said Wednesday that France would quit NATO’s integrated military command if she were elected and would seek for the alliance “a strategic rapprochement” with Russia.

As reported by Roger Cohen for the Washington Post, Le Pen’s rationale for accommodating Putin’s aims echo the same sentiments espoused by Donald Trump, who, according to former aides, was also intent on appeasing Putin by withdrawing the U.S. from the NATO alliance had he managed to be re-elected. This brand of Putin-envy appears to be particularly common among more autocratic, fascist-leaning politicians who have traditionally applauded the Russian despot as exemplifying what they call “strength” and resolve. In reality, they admire and envy the lack of any real constraints on his power, which they all shamelessly covet. We now see the end product of that lack of constraints playing out in Ukraine.

As Cohen observes, Le Pen’s agenda, to the extent she has one, mirrors Trump’s in all its essentials. 

Dismissing multilateralism, blasting Germany, criticizing the European Union, relegating climate issues to a low priority, attacking “globalists” and maintaining a near silence on Russia’s brutal assault in Ukraine, Ms. Le Pen gave a taste of a worldview that was at once reminiscent of the Trump presidency and appeared to directly threaten NATO’s attempts to arm Ukraine and defeat Russia.

The similarities between Le Pen and Trump were evident in the first days of the latter’s administration. As James Traub observed in a column written for Foreign Policy, Le Pen’s xenophobic brand of so-called “populism” (by now simply a more pleasant word for “fascism”) and the race-baiting lies she espoused to support it were simply more glib and soothing in their delivery than Trump’s general penchant for crudeness and bombast:

Le Pen repeated Donald Trump’s canard that Barack Obama had “banned” immigrants from Iraq; denied, despite vast evidence to the contrary, that her supporters routinely fire off racist and homophobic tweets; and claimed, wrongly, that immigrants can automatically gain French citizenship through marriage. And then there were the Trumpian delusions: that a policy of “economic patriotism” penalizing French companies that move abroad would not raise the cost of French products but rather would foster a “virtuous circle” boosting growth and employment.

As Traub points out, Le Pen’s calculated delivery of her trademark nationalism and bigotry largely stems from her need to distance herself in the French public’s eyes from her ultra-radical and unabashedly antisemitic father, Jean Marie Le Pen, who founded the National Front party she now leads. Still, Le Pen and Trump appear to be cut from basically the same cloth, even where Le Pen will, as Traub puts it, “demonize Muslims with a gracious smile instead of a vicious Twitter tirade.” Both are adept at cynically manipulating their public through fear of the “other.”  Both display an instinctive aversion to the very idea of cooperation between nations, which they perceive only as a means to undercut their own aspirations for control and power.

Both are also intolerant of any dissent. Just as Trump encourages his rabid base to attack journalists and protesters at his rallies, Le Pen exhibits a similar hostility against perceived political enemies:

 

🇫🇷France🇫🇷 A protester holding a picture of Le Pen and Putin shaking hands was tackled and dragged outside by security mens during a press conference in Paris.#MarineLePen #FrenchElection #EmmanuelMacron #Paris pic.twitter.com/M5IlF9rB8r

— Zaid Ahmd  (@realzaidzayn) April 14, 2022

Le Pen is currently expected to lose the run-off election, mainly because the majority of those who originally voted for the far-left Jean-Luc Melenchon will be unable (at least in theory) to stomach a Le Pen victory. And even if she wins, the NATO alliance will most likely remain standing, albeit with France as a thoroughly diminished and unreliable presence.

But suppose the 2020 U.S. election—which Trump may have lost simply because of his dismal handling of the COVID-19 pandemic—had gone the other way. What would have been left of American strategic power and influence in this world would have withered and died on the vine in brutally short order, probably from the moment Putin sent troops into Ukraine. It’s impossible to know how much resolve to assist Ukraine would have existed among the remainder of NATO, but without a credible leader, it’s difficult to imagine how that response would have been effective. The world has never seen a nuclear-armed pathology like Putin invade a peaceful neighboring country for wholly irrational reasons, wielding his nuclear capability as a threat against any country that dares to oppose him, and even worse, vowing to continue his efforts until he is stopped. History suggests that such countries will not stop until they encounter an immutable opposing force.

And Trump would not have delivered that force. A mercurial buffoon with no grasp of (or interest in) foreign policy or even a basic understanding of what NATO stands for—and against—might have been cajoled into reluctant action by an exasperated military. But the sheer weakness of that position would have been evident to anyone paying attention. And Putin, for all his now glaringly apparent flaws, pays attention.

Law professor Alan Rozenshtein, writing for Lawfare, described the “nightmarish” scenario that this country would have faced if Trump were still in office:

From this perspective, it is sobering, if not downright terrifying, to think of how Trump would have handled this current crisis, had he won in 2020. Consider first the question of loyalty. Trump’s infamous phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in which he responded to the Ukrainian president’s request for more Javelin anti-tank missiles (which have proved vital for the Ukrainian defense) by asking for Ukrainian help in digging up dirt on his main political rival, betrays a disloyalty to the national interest whose geopolitical implications are now all too clear.

Nor is it clear that Trump would even feel that it was his responsibility to rally the world to confront Russia, as the Biden administration has skillfully done. After all, Trump’s response to criticisms of his administration’s early missteps in handling the coronavirus pandemic was to say “I don’t take responsibility at all.” Why expect that he would feel different about a war half a world away, or that he wouldn’t simply have delegated weighty foreign policy decisions to informal advisors, thereby maintaining distance and plausible deniability, as when Rudolph Giuliani effectively ran the White House’s Ukraine policy. Even worse, given Trump’s personal affinity for Vladimir Putin, which he reiterated even as Russian forces entered Ukraine, is the very real possibility that Trump would have supported Russia’s invasion.

The world we all still live in—the world of liberal democracies with a legitimate transfer of power untainted by autocratic, fascistic propaganda, coercion, and repression—is now sitting atop a knife-edge, susceptible to one misguided election by an apathetic, self-absorbed and frankly historically ignorant electorate. Racist demagogues like Le Pen and Trump are perfectly willing to push us off into the abyss simply to realize their dreams of power—the rest of the world be damned. They are both aided by a radicalized base that sees no problem with simply watching the world burn if only to validate its own delusional, stoked-up grievances.

In 2020 we dodged a bullet. But that gun is still pointed at us. If Democrats can’t wake Americans up to that reality, no one else is going to. 

Editor’s Note: This story’s lead image has been changed.

House Republican resolution would erase House impeachment of Trump for Ukraine extortion

Republicans have been trying very hard to shift to a pro-Ukraine stance since Russian autocrat and far-right hero Vladimir Putin invaded the country and began a systemic program of war crimes, but it has been hard going. The Republican talking points of the Donald Trump era were that Ukraine was a hopelessly corrupt country and that we needed to support whatever crackpot schemes Rudy Giuliani and other party toadies came up with to put the screws to its corrupt-but-not-in-the-right-way government. Also oh-by-the-way maybe it was Ukraine, not Russia, who attacked our 2016 presidential elections, and maybe it was Donald Trump's political opponents who orchestrated it rather than a laundry list of Donald Trump's grifting underlings and kin.

No matter how hard walking lie dispenser Sen. Mitch McConnell or other Republicans bluster that actually the party has been pro-Ukraine, anti-Russia all along, it regularly goes to hell again when some pro-Trump House Republican pipes up with a new defense of how Donald Trump had every right to block military aid from reaching Ukraine until the Ukrainian president did him, personally, an election favor.

Sure enough, here comes Oklahoma's Rep. Markwayne Mullin, and with impeccable timing. Mullin is taking this moment to introduce a new House resolution that would "expunge" Donald Trump's first impeachment. It would officially, according to, uh, this document, never have happened. And Mullin is doing this because, he told Fox News, Democrats were "manipulating a perfect phone call with a vulnerable nation" for their "political gain."

It is possible this bearded gas station bollard was drunk when he was saying that, because nobody in full possession of their faculties would still use the phrase "perfect phone call" in the year Dickety Dickety Two unless Donald Trump was standing behind them with a gun to their back. It is a level of maudlin sycophancy that even Sen. Lindsey Graham shies away from these days.

Though we have never once said this and will never say it again: Markwayne Mullin is right. The House of Representatives should absolutely be taking time out of whatever the hell they are currently pretending to do to revisit the debate on whether Donald Trump's extortion of the Ukrainian government was, as they have insisted ever since, how the Republican Party believes their foreign policy should function. Whether it is reasonable for a president to make congressionally mandated military assistance contingent on an allied government announcing false accusations against Republican enemies. Whether the timing of Trump's delay, which took place as Russian cutouts and Russian forces were stepping up military attacks inside Ukraine as part of the overall plan to annex the eastern side of the nation outright was coincidental or conspiratorial.

We should again all be pondering whether the near-entirety of the Republican Party, its lawmakers, its allies, and its pundits sought to immunize Trump from consequences because they genuinely do not feel that a president corrupting foreign policy to gain personal, nongovernmental benefits is out of bounds—or if they believe only that Republican elected officials ought to be able to commit such crimes.

And, of course, the House needs to come to terms with the most consequential question of all: whether the near-unanimous Republican decision to immunize Trump against charges of corruption against our democracy led directly, a short time later, to Trump attacking our democracy even more directly with a propaganda-premised coup attempt that turned violent inside the halls of the U.S. Capitol. By. All. Means.

Come to think of it, Mullin's request that Trump not just be immunized from consequences for extorting the Ukrainian government, but the records "expunged" of any mention that Congress even objected, is something that would fit well with the House select committee probing the Jan. 6 insurrection. Donald Trump clearly believed that in a showdown between this nation's written Constitution and his own personal ambitions, Republicans would choose him. Why did he think so? Why was he so certain that the Republican Party would, so long as a little bit of preemptive violence was added to the mix so that all parties would understand the consequences for opposing him, fall in line and demand that the election be erased rather than acknowledge his loss?

Which, in fact, happened: The majority of Republican lawmakers did vote to nullify the election. But Democrats, at that particular moment in time, happened to outnumber them anyway.

Why would Trump think that the Republican Party would back him even if he committed sedition itself? Why was he so certain?

Mullin, author of a new resolution calling on Congress to "expunge" the impeachment charges Trump faced after an international extortion scheme looking to boost his own power even if it directly conflicted with laws passed by Congress: Do you have any insight as to why Trump would believe House Republicans would allow him to commit any crime he wanted to?

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene goes full pro-Putin after Zelenskyy addresses Congress

Republicans continue to struggle mightily with the task of distancing themselves from Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin, now that Putin not only ordered the annexation of a European democracy but has committed to a campaign of war crimes to accomplish it. Putin has been a favorite of the American far-right for his nationalist policies, his contempt for human rights, and of course, his ability to govern as a "strong" autocrat who dispenses with his own political opposition using whichever tools of the state are most convenient. The admiration turned mainstream once Donald Trump started praising him, and sucking up to him, for the same reasons.

Putin is the autocrat of the exact sort that the Republican right have demanded this country also install. We have all seen Sen. Ted Cruz's mocking of the "woke" American military compared to the testosterone-heavy recruiting ads of the (now proven incompetent) Russian army. We have years of history of the most highly connected Republicans working directly with pro-Russian oligarchs to destabilize Ukrainian democracy in exchange for either cash or "favors"—in the form of fraudulent claims and documents that can be used against Republican enemies here at home. Fox News' Tucker Carlson went from cheering for Putin to vaguely condemning him to speedily shifting into a top international promoter of Kremlin "biolab" propaganda intended to retroactively justify the invasion.

The party is a wreck on this. And speaking of wrecks, here's Marjorie Taylor Greene, coming out with the straight-fascist conspiracy take. It no longer even matters whether she herself believes these things to be true; she is either a willing purveyor of hoaxes or an unwilling one, and either should be sufficient grounds to remove her from office outright.

Marge Greene issues a statement tonight against help for Ukraine. Says both sides are at fault, the Ukraine govt only exists because of Obama, and Biden, Pelosi and Romney have financial interests in the country. pic.twitter.com/9Ra8VWpKsT

— Ron Filipkowski 🇺🇦 (@RonFilipkowski) March 16, 2022

Greene punctuated her speech, which was delivered soon after Ukrainian President Zelenskyy's virtual address to Congress, with repeated claims that Ukraine is certain to lose to Putin—a claim that, at this point, few outside the Kremlin are still claiming. On the contrary, the Russian advance has stalled out amid devastating supply shortages, the Putin government is urgently asking China for Chinese-made weapons to replace what they have expended, and as it currently stands Russia has devoted 75% of its total offensive forces to an effort which may end the nation's claims of superpower status.

There surely cannot be anyone left in America who believes that Marjorie Taylor Greene, of all people, has put even ten minutes of serious thought into what should or should not happen in Ukraine. But the more central point is that she is not an outlier on this.

Which Republican lawmakers have been eager to adopt Rudy Giuliani-pushed hoaxes claiming that their Democratic enemies-of-the-moment were responsible for all sorts of subterfuge in Ukraine and that the Ukrainian government was in cahoots with those efforts? Nearly all of them! And not just a little, but to the point that Republican lawmakers were willing to repeat those claims as part of their justifications for nullifying a U.S. constitutional election on behalf of the liars who invented the theories.

Which Republican lawmakers stubbornly insisted that there was no foul done when Donald Trump held up weapons shipments to an at-war Ukraine in a flagrantly crooked attempt to extort the Zelenskyy government into publicly endorsing a hoax aimed at Trump's election opponent? All of them, save one Republican senator.

Many of those same Republicans are now on television feigning great outrage over President Biden's unwillingness to directly engage Russian aircraft in combat. The very same Republicans were using Greene's arguments during Trump's first impeachment trial to argue that Trump's one-person blockade of military aid to Ukraine during a time of war was of no great consequence.

The Greene position is the basest form of the Republican position, in that she is not clever enough to couch her demands in the doublespeak most politicians use to pretend at nuance. The Republican position on Ukraine is that whatever is happening is the fault of Democrats, the answer is to do the opposite of whatever Democrats want to do, and the actual outcome—whether a European democracy lives or dies—is irrelevant. The war only exists as attack line. It is important only to the extent that it can be used to pin Bad Things on the movement's domestic enemies.

There is no unified Republican Party "position" on the Russia-Ukraine war. There are only attacks. A few senators are using the war to demand that the supposedly cowardly Biden administration do more. House Republicans who have long expressed at least subtle admirations for Putin (aka, the Trump wing of the party) is demanding their Democratic enemies do less. And all of it is a complete afterthought, as the dominant Republican theme of the war centers itself around rising gas prices, and why those rising gas prices are not Vladimir Putin's fault but the fault of Joe Biden because ... something.

There's no unified Republican Party position on what ought to happen in Europe because Republicanism no longer has any measurable, identifiable ideology that would guide such a thing. It's chaos. Tucker is promoting top Kremlin conspiracies, Greene is demanding the United States cut off supplies and let Putin win, Sen. Lindsey Graham is daring the administration to get into a shooting war, Donald Trump is still praising Putin's supposed genius even as his military gets bogged down, literally, in soggy Ukrainian fields.

The only unified party position is that of the typical fascist movement; no matter what crisis hits, it is their domestic enemies who are responsible, claims that are supported by newly constructed hoaxes supposing all of it to have been manufactured so as to benefit the secret corruption of their enemies, and whether the crisis ends well or in abject disaster is of no consequence except as a tool for further demonizing those domestic enemies.

We saw this at the beginning of the pandemic when even the most basic of emergency precautions were opposed en masse by a Republican Party devoted instead to claims that every one of those medical precautions—from masks to public closures to vaccines—was a supposed assault on nationalist freedoms. We are seeing it now, as Republicans take to the airwaves to claim that Putin only invaded Ukraine because Joe Biden tricked him into it, or looked "weak" compared to President Hamburglar, or that Biden is doing too little to protect Ukrainians but is also doing too much, which means temporarily high gas prices are his fault, which means we should be easing sanctions on Putin, but we should also be taking Russian yachts, and in the background, Tucker continues to yell about "biolabs" with all the conviction of a dog barking at passing cars.

Republicanism has long passed the point at which it can respond to a real crisis with urgency—or even competence. It cannot distinguish between true crises and its own crafted delusions, and does not care to, and instead insists that incompetence in times of crisis is itself bold. When Donald Trump botched each and every aspect of the early pandemic response, due largely to his fixation on assigning such tasks to incompetent, suck-up underlings, those failures became a newly invented ideology to rally around. No masks! No public safety measures! Testing is for cowards!

Republicanism is now obsessively a movement devoted to attacking the movement's own domestic enemies, and there is no ideology or policy that takes precedent over that. Greene is acting on reflex, but it is the reflex that the party base now demands of every one of its politicians. Anyone who can't handle the job, like Rep. Liz Cheney, is declared an enemy.

Putin is targeting and slaughtering civilians in a brutal unprovoked war against Ukraine, a sovereign democratic nation. Only the Kremlin and their useful idiots would call that “a conflict in which peace agreements have been violated by both sides.” pic.twitter.com/Ld9WomOStd

— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) March 17, 2022

This was once a completely unremarkable centrist position. But now Cheney is the one being purged, and the Dear Leader-humping conspiracy goons of the party are those doing the purging.

Russian state TV also jumped on comments by Republican congressman Madison Cawthorn, who called Zelenskyy “a thug”. That got played over and over. pic.twitter.com/VdC2AG48NQ

— Raf Sanchez (@rafsanchez) March 17, 2022

Putin is doing the world a small favor in demonstrating that an autocratic government consisting of a single Dear Leader who surrounds himself with toadying yes-men and who cares not a damn about corruption—so long as it is corruption that benefits himself and his allies—will eventually hollow out their state to the point it becomes nonfunctional. This is not a lesson any of these Republicans will learn, as they demand the United States be recrafted into a similar one-party state that frees their own Dear Leader to violate laws at will and without consequence.

They won't learn from it because the party exclusively picks incompetent would-be autocrats to rise up their ranks while scrubbing out anyone with even the slightest bit of expertise. The rest of us, though, need to be watching closely.  

Related: 'R' is for Russia

Related: Cawthorn isn't alone as a Republican crapping on Ukraine. He just has bad timing

Related: 'Biolabs' boom shows that Russia's disinformation networks are still functioning

Related: Tucker Carlson's new argument is that NATO (and Kamala Harris) tricked Putin into war

Related: Kremlin tells Russian media it is 'essential' to broadcast Tucker Carlson clips

Subpoenas in Georgia’s Trump corruption probe won’t come until May at best

If we've learned anything in the last few years, it's that when powerful people commit crimes, the odds that our nation's various legal jurisdictions can be roused to do so much as even investigate what happened in a rational timeframe are iffy at best. It has been a year and change since the last Republican administration mounted an all-out effort to overturn the results of a not-even-close United States election; although each of of the connected plots mounted by Donald Trump, his allies, and complicit Republican lawmakers are now known in public detail, whether any of those involved face legal consequences for attempting to overthrow the United States government appears to depend on whether Rep. Liz Cheney goads the rest of government into doing so.

If you're feeling cynical about an entire year and change going by with no word from prosecutors that organizing a mob to interfere with Congress' ability to carry out a foundational constitutional function—or just calling up election officials directly to pressure them to change the vote tallies—then join the club.

Yes, yes, we are told that the wheels of justice turn slowly and that, behind the scenes, no doubt, prosecutors are gathering up vast mountains of evidence because they want to do this thing properly. That may be true and it may not be—the Mueller investigation suggests this is the rosiest possible interpretation. But as far as anybody can tell, top members of government conspired to nullify a United States election based on hoaxes, and nobody has done squat about it. The co-conspirators, in the meantime, are invited onto the Sunday shows to rail about the audacity of anyone even being upset about these things a whole year later.

In Atlanta, there is maaaaaaaybe some movement over a year past the time when the American public first heard the audio recording of the Trump White House pressuring the Georgia Secretary of State to "find" enough Trump votes to erase Biden's win of the state. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis received court approval in late January to seat a special grand jury to hear evidence in the case; this was necessary, she said, because witnesses to Trump's pressure were refusing to cooperate with her office without subpoenas forcing them to do so.

So here we are: A year later, key witnesses to the calls are expected to be subpoenaed to give their accounts of what happened. Welcome to the American justice system, subcategory "when you're rich or know somebody who is."

When will the subpoenas demanding testimony and documents begin? Well, the special grand jury won't be seated until May, so no sooner than that. In a new CNN interview, Willis predicted that "most" will begin to come "in June and later months."

In the interview, Willis sounded determined but not necessarily gung-ho about the investigation, which is admittedly the only public demeanor you're allowed to have when investigating even crimes that threaten the stability of government itself. "This is a criminal investigation," and "we're not here playing a game," she said. She also dismissed the expected Trump defense, the claim that presidents can't be prosecuted for crimes committed while in office.

You might remember the theory from its previous versions, in which Trump and the near-entirety of House and Senate Republicans argued during one impeachment that Trump couldn't be held accountable for crimes while he was still president because Shut Up, and couldn't be held accountable for crimes committed on his way out of office because it's just too damn Divisive. But the more generic version offered up by Trump defenders is that you can't prosecute [Republican] presidents for anything, at any time, period.

As for any hint as to which way the district attorney's office is leaning, Willis gave not much. She told CNN:

"You and I have listened to that phone call. But also I have the benefit of also having talked to a lot of witnesses and probably having read more on this than most people would like to."

I'm not going to argue here that the public should be "patient" in waiting to hear if elected officials are allowed to just straight-up phone elections officials to tell them that the election results are wrong and they need to "find" some votes to fix it.

I'm also not going to argue that prosecutors are dragging their feet, because we're in no position to know. But the facts of the matter are this: We're only going to be seeing subpoenas filed to investigate the Trump-Raffensperger call in summer, and the system will assuredly be gamed so that the first (secret) testimony takes place in the fall at best.

That means that the decision about whether to proceed with a Trump indictment will not be made until close to the midterm elections ... which means Willis will likely feel pressure to push it past the midterms so as to not be accused herself of influencing an election.

None of this feels like anybody, anywhere is treating an attempt to overthrow democracy via straight-up crookery as something that needs to be responded to with above-average urgency.

Yes, we get it; it takes vast amounts of time to do even the littlest things when laws are applied to people who have enough money to hire as many lawyers as it takes to make sure tee times are not threatened. But maybe that's been the underlying problem that's led to all the rest of it. We're a society in which a specific subclass of the wealthy, mostly Wall Street and real estate tycoons, can topple economies and even mount attempted coups—and it will all be considered just the sort of thing rich Americans are allowed to do.

Trump's been a crook his whole life and never faced a consequence, other than having to shell out a little bit of cash for settlements that would let the rest of his grift machine keep going. It's obvious he would expect that he could commit any crime he wanted to, as "president," and walk away again. And it's pretty damn obvious that Republican lawmakers have so internalized their positions as protectors of the wealthy that there is no crime an ally could commit that would result in abandonment. Crash the economy, kill hundreds of thousands, rouse fascist mobs to demand we put an end to vote-counting rather than put up with the results—nothing.

So long as the consequences for crimes can be pushed past the next election season, there are no consequences for crimes at all. It's just a question of being able to outlast whatever momentary public disgust is aimed at you.

Related: Trump is trying to incite violence against prosecutors investigating him. One has turned to the FBI

Related: Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis may have best case to hold Trump criminally liable

Related: Chair of Jan. 6 House committee says testimony from Raffensperger is proving he is a key witness

Related: Georgia's Brad Raffensperger refuses to rule out supporting Trump, even after death threats