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    Judge who told Pence not to overturn election predicts ‘beginning of end of Trump’

    Judge who told Pence not to overturn election predicts ‘beginning of end of Trump’‘What Trump has done is quite arguably the worst crime against the US that a president could commit,’ says J Michael Luttig The conservative judge who convinced Mike Pence he could not overturn the 2020 election has predicted “the beginning of the end of Donald Trump” – the former president who incited the January 6 insurrection but is now trying to return to the White House.Trump pleads the fifth more than 400 times in fraud deposition, video showsRead moreSpeaking to the Washington Post, J Michael Luttig also made a common comparison to another notorious former president, Richard Nixon, who resigned in 1974 over the Watergate scandal.“What Nixon did was just an ordinary crime,” Luttig said, referring to the cover-up of a break-in at Democratic headquarters. “What Trump has done is quite arguably the worst crime against the United States that a president could commit.”Luttig was a staffer for Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush, who put him on the federal bench in 1991. Now 68, he is a retired conservative jurist widely deemed unlucky not to have made the supreme court. He came to national attention last June, when he appeared before the House January 6 committee.In a televised hearing, using precise and powerful words, Luttig explained why on 4 January 2021 he told Pence he could not do as Trump wished and block certification of Joe Biden’s election win, an argument Luttig also published on Twitter.Luttig went on to paint a stark picture of America “at war against herself” and warned that a year and a half after the deadly Capitol riot, Trump and his supporters still posed “a clear and present danger to American democracy”.Another six months on, Trump is in legal jeopardy amid investigations of his election subversion, his financial and campaign finance affairs and his retention of classified records, and a lawsuit brought by a writer who says he raped her, an allegation Trump denies.But Trump is still the only declared major candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, dominating polls of the notional field.In a lengthy profile published by the Post on Tuesday, Luttig said he had seen “ample evidence” of criminal activity and believed Trump would be indicted. He also cautioned that any decision about indicting the former president should consider how it might “split the nation”, given the inevitable “spectacle” of Trump’s fight to beat any charges.But the Post said Luttig also thought Trump’s political future had been “dealt triple blows … by his recent assertion that parts of the constitution should be ‘terminated’ to return him to office, the criminal referrals by the January 6 committee and the failure of his favored candidates in the 2022 midterm elections”.Donald Trump sues Bob Woodward over The Trump Tapes for $50mRead moreTrump made his remark about the constitution in a social media post in December. The Biden White House rebuked him for remarks it said were “anathema to the soul of our nation”.The January 6 committee made four criminal referrals to the Department of Justice. The justice department investigation of Trump’s election subversion and incitement of the Capitol attack continues.High-profile Trump candidates were beaten at the polls in November, costing Republicans control of the Senate and, arguably, a healthier House majority.Luttig, the Post said, saw in the cumulative effect of such factors “the beginning of the end of Donald Trump”. But he added that Trump had not yet been stopped, and it might be down to the courts to do so.“Donald Trump has proven that the only thing that can stop him is the law,” Luttig warned.TopicsDonald TrumpUS Capitol attackMike PenceUS politicsUS elections 2020US elections 2024newsReuse this content More

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    Trump pleaded the fifth more than 400 times in fraud deposition, video shows

    Trump pleaded the fifth more than 400 times in fraud deposition, video showsFormer president repeatedly invoked constitutional right against self-incrimination in New York footage from late last summer Video released on Tuesday showed Donald Trump answering questions from the New York state attorney general, Letitia James, in a deposition in a civil fraud case late last summer.Video shows Trump taking the fifth 400 times in New York fraud deposition – liveRead moreQuestioned about his financial affairs, the former president repeatedly invoked his fifth-amendment right against self-incrimination – part of a refusal to answer he repeated more than 400 times.“Anyone in my position not taking the fifth amendment would be a fool, an absolute fool,” Trump said.On the advice of counsel, Trump said, he “respectfully decline[d] to answer the questions under the rights and privileges afforded to every citizen under the United States constitution”.The footage was obtained and reported by CBS News.Three of Trump’s children – Donald Trump Jr, Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump – were also deposed by James during an investigation which lasted for three years.In his deposition, Trump repeatedly claimed to have been treated unfairly.James told him: “Anything you say in this examination may be used in a civil proceeding, and that can include a civil enforcement proceeding or a criminal action. Do you understand that?”Trump replied: “I think.”James asked: “Is that yes?”Trump said: “I don’t know what I did wrong, but the answer is yes, I do understand.”Trump was also warned about the risk of perjury.Reading a prepared statement, he complained of “the greatest witch-hunt in the history of our country” and called James “a renegade and out of control prosecutor”.He added: “This whole thing is very unfair.”Trump acknowledged the deposition and his refusal to answer questions at the time, saying in a statement: “I once asked, ‘If you’re innocent, why are you taking the fifth amendment?’ Now I know the answer to that question.“When your family, your company, and all the people in your orbit have become the targets of an unfounded, politically motivated witch-hunt supported by lawyers, prosecutors, and the Fake News Media, you have no choice.”The deposition took place on 10 August, two days after Trump’s Florida home, Mar-a-Lago, was raided by FBI agents looking for classified documents.In his statement, Trump said the raid “wiped out any uncertainty” about whether he should take the fifth in his deposition by James.“I have absolutely no choice because the current administration and many prosecutors in this country have lost all moral and ethical bounds of decency,” he said.In late September 2022, James announced a wide-ranging civil suit against Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr, Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump and the Trump Organization.01:13James said Trump “falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and to cheat the system, thereby cheating all of us. He did this with the help of the other defendants.”Saying “the number of grossly inflated asset values is staggering”, the suit seeks to bar the Trumps from serving as executives in New York and to prohibit the company from acquiring commercial real estate or receiving loans from New York-based entities for five years.In November, Trump sued James, over what he called a “relentless, pernicious, public, and unapologetic crusade” against him.Trump dropped the suit this month, a day after a suit against Hillary Clinton was thrown out and Trump and his lawyer were hit with a near-$1m sanction.Ever litigious, on Monday Trump announced a near-$50m lawsuit against the Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward and the publisher Simon & Schuster, over an audio book, The Trump Tapes, for which Trump says he did not give permission.Woodward and Simon & Schuster said the suit was “without merit and we will aggressively defend against it”.Donald Trump sues Bob Woodward over The Trump Tapes for $50mRead moreEven as he steps up the pace in his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, Trump faces legal jeopardy on numerous fronts aside from the New York state civil suit.Prosecutors in New York City who secured a conviction against Trump’s chief financial officer on tax offences have said they are looking again at a hush money payment to a porn star, made in 2016.Also in New York, Trump faces lawsuits from E Jean Carroll, a writer who says he raped her in the mid-1990s, an allegation Trump denies.The Department of Justice and state authorities are investigating Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election and his incitement of the US Capitol attack, regarding which the House January 6 committee made four criminal referrals.The justice department also continues to investigate Trump’s retention of classified documents.On Monday, in a post to his Truth Social platform, Trump complained of “Democrat D.A.’s [sic], attorney generals and prosecutors” who he said were “very DANGEROUS to the well being of our country”.He also said he was being “hit” to keep him from running for the White House, “and all because I am leading by sooo much”.Trump is the only declared major candidate for the Republican nomination in 2024. His only close rival in polling of the notional field, the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, has led some surveys.TopicsDonald TrumpNew YorkUS politicsnewsReuse this content More

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    Trump seems oddly relaxed about Republican rival Nikki Haley | Arwa Mahdawi

    Trump seems oddly relaxed about Republican rival Nikki Haley. Is it because she doesn’t stand a chance?Arwa MahdawiRon DeSantis would supposedly be ‘disloyal’ if he challenged Trump for the White House. Haley, meanwhile, ‘should do it’. Guess who’s a bigger threat? Has Donald Trump taken up meditation as his new year resolution? Is he mainlining sedatives? Did a demon snatch his soul and replace it with that of a reasonable person? I ask because the unthinkable has happened: Trump has responded to the idea of one of his former acolytes challenging his 2024 ambitions in a calm and measured manner, instead of with his usual insults.The acolyte in question is Nikki Haley, a former South Carolina governor and Trump’s US ambassador to the UN. There are mounting rumours that Haley is exploring a potential run against Trump in 2024 – a fact that doesn’t seem to bother her old boss very much. Speaking to reporters on his plane on Saturday, Trump said Haley had called him up to chat about running and he’d told her: “Go by your heart if you want to run.” To be fair, he couldn’t resist a little dig, noting Haley had “publicly said that ‘I would never run against my president – he was a great president.’” Still, he magnanimously told her she “should do it”.Trump wasn’t quite as high-minded about another of his former disciples who also has his eye on the White House. During the same press session, Trump attacked the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, accusing him of trying to “rewrite” history as regards his Covid response. “When I hear that he might [run], I think it’s very disloyal,” Trump said, according to Politico, adding: “He won’t be leading. I got him elected. I’m the one that chose him.”Why is Trump bothered about DeSantis and blase about Haley? It’s not sedatives or soul-swapping demons at play, I reckon – it’s misogyny. My guess is that Trump thinks Haley has zero chance of the top job so he’s happy to humour the little lady. DeSantis, meanwhile, is far more of a threat.To be fair, the polls support this thesis. Three national polls released in January show Trump leads the field in a hypothetical 2024 Republican presidential primary, but DeSantis is firmly in second place. Haley, meanwhile, is polling at 3% – way behind Trump’s range of 48-55%. Still, if there’s one thing we’ve learned from recent years, it’s that polls should be taken with a very large pinch of salt. Just because it currently seems that Haley has little chance of winning the Republican nomination doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Remember how many people wrote Trump off in 2016.Haley, for her part, seems to think she’s in with a shot. In a recent interview with Fox News she noted that she’s “never lost a race … Stay tuned.” Meanwhile, one Republican told the Hill that the former governor “has decided her time is now and she’s about to take the gloves off when it comes to Trump, DeSantis and [Mike] Pompeo”. The gloves have already been slipping. Haley, 51, recently tweeted a clip from her Fox News interview during which she said, in a blatant reference to Joe Biden and Trump’s ages, that she thinks “it’s time for new generational change. I don’t think you need to be 80 years old to go be a leader in DC. I think we need a young generation to come in, step up and really start fixing things.” Look, I agree with the rabidly rightwing Haley on absolutely nothing but if she wants to define 51 as “young” (which it objectively is in the geriatric US government) I’m all for that.Also in Haley’s favour is that she has always cynically used the fact that she’s an Indian-American woman (her birth name is Nimrata Randhawa) and the child of immigrants to deflect from bigotry in the Republican party and seem palatable to some liberals. Simultaneously, however, she’s adept at throwing meat to the rightwing base and wading into culture wars. “CRT [critical race theory] is un-American,” she tweeted on Monday, for example.So could Haley be the first female president of the US? Again, I wouldn’t write it off. She’s smart, ambitious and apparently devoid of any sort of moral compass: all the qualifications you need to get to the top in politics.
    Arwa Mahdawi is a Guardian columnist
    TopicsUS politicsOpinionDonald TrumpRepublicansRon DeSantiscommentReuse this content More

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    Why Donald Trump’s return to Facebook could mark a rocky new age for online discourse

    Why Donald Trump’s return to Facebook could mark a rocky new age for online discourseThe former president was banned from Instagram and Facebook following the Jan 6 attacks, but Meta argues that new ‘guardrails’ will keep his behaviour in check. Plus: is a chatbot coming for your job?

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    It’s been two years since Donald Trump was banned from Meta, but now he’s back. The company’s justification for allowing the former president to return to Facebook and Instagram – that the threat has subsided – seems to ignore that in the two years since the ban Trump hasn’t changed, it’s just that his reach has reduced.Last week, Meta’s president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, announced that soon Trump will be able to post on Instagram and Facebook. The company said “the risk has sufficiently receded” in the two years since the Capitol riots on 6 January 2021 to allow the ban to be lifted.What you might not have been aware of – except through media reports – was Trump’s response. That is because the former US president posted it on Truth Social, his own social media network that he retreated to after he was banned from the others. And it is effectively behind a wall for web users, because the company is not accepting new registrations. On that platform, Trump is said to have fewer than 5 million followers, compared to 34 million and almost 88 million he’d had on Facebook and Twitter respectively.Meta’s ban meant that Trump wouldn’t have space on its platforms during the US midterms elections in 2022, but would anything have been different if Trump had been given a larger audience? As Dan Milmo has detailed, almost half of the posts on Trump’s Truth Social account in the weeks after the midterms pushed election fraud claims or amplified QAnon accounts or content. But you wouldn’t know it unless you were on that platform, or reading a news report about it like this one.If given a larger audience, will Trump resume his Main Character role in online discourse (a role that Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, has gamely taken on in the past few months)? Or has his influence diminished? This is the gamble Meta is taking.When Musk lifted Trump’s ban on Twitter in November after a user poll won by a slim margin, it was easy to read the former president’s snub of the gesture as a burn on the tech CEO. But it seems increasingly likely that the Meta decision about whether to reinstate him was looming large in Trump’s mind. Earlier this month, NBC reported that Trump’s advisors had sent a letter to Meta pleading for the ban to be lifted, saying it “dramatically distorted and inhibited the public discourse”. If Trump had gone back to Twitter and started reposting what he had posted on Truth Social, there would have been more pressure on Meta to keep the ban in place (leaving aside the agreement Trump has with his own social media company that keeps his posts exclusive on Truth Social for several hours).Twitter lifting the ban and Trump not tweeting at all gave Meta sufficient cover.The financialsThere’s also the possible financial reasoning. Angelo Carusone, the president of Media Matters for America, said Facebook is “a dying platform” and restoring Trump is about clinging to relevance and revenue.For months, Trump has been posting on Truth Social about how poorly Meta is performing financially, and in part trying to link it to him no longer being on Facebook. Meta has lost more than US$80bn in market value, and last year sacked thousands of workers as the company aimed to stem a declining user base and loss of revenue after Apple made privacy changes on its software (£).But what of the ‘guardrails’?Meta’s justification for restoring Trump’s account is that there are new “guardrails” that could result in him being banned again for the most egregious policy breaches for between one month and two years. But that is likely only going to be for the most serious of breaches – such as glorifying those committing violence. Clegg indicated that if Trump is posting QAnon-adjacent content, for example, his reach will be limited on those posts.The ban itself was a pretty sufficient reach limiter, but we will have to see what happens if Trump starts posting again. The unpublished draft document from staff on the January 6 committee, reported by the Washington Post last week, was pretty telling about Meta, and social media companies generally. It states that both Facebook and Twitter, under its former management, were sensitive to claims that conservative political speech was being suppressed. “Fear of reprisal and accusations of censorship from the political right compromised policy, process, and decision-making. This was especially true at Facebook,” the document states.“In one instance, senior leadership intervened personally to prevent rightwing publishers from having their content demoted after receiving too many strikes from independent fact-checkers.“After the election, they debated whether they should change their fact-checking policy on former world leaders to accommodate President Trump.”Those “guardrails” don’t seem particularly reassuring, do they?Is AI really coming for your job?Layoffs continue to hit media and companies are looking to cut costs. So it was disheartening for new reporters in particular to learn that BuzzFeed plans to use AI such as ChatGPT “to create content instead of writers”.(Full disclosure: I worked at BuzzFeed News prior to joining the Guardian in 2019, but it’s been long enough that I am not familiar with any of its thinking about AI.)But perhaps it’s a bit too early to despair. Anyone who has used free AI to produce writing will know it’s OK but not great, so the concern about BuzzFeed dipping its toes in those waters seems to be overstated – at least for now.In an interview with Semafor, BuzzFeed tech reporter Katie Notopoulos explained that the tools aren’t intended to replace the quiz-creation work writers do now, but to create new quizzes unlike what is already around. “On the one hand,” she said, “I want to try to explain this isn’t an evil plan to replace me with AI. But on the other … maybe let Wall Street believe that for a little while.”That seems to be where AI is now: not a replacement for a skilled person, just a tool.The wider TechScape
    This is the first really good in-depth look at the last few months of Twitter since Elon Musk took over.
    Social media users are posting feelgood footage of strangers to build a following, but not every subject appreciates the clickbaity attention of these so-called #kindness videos.
    If you’re an influencer in Australia and you’re not declaring your sponcon properly, you might be targeted as part of a review by the local regulator.
    Speaking of influencers, Time has a good explanation for why you might have seen people posting about mascara on TikTok in the past few days.
    Writer Jason Okundaye makes the case that it’s time for people to stop filming strangers in public and uploading the videos online in the hope of going viral.
    Nintendo rereleasing GoldenEye007 this week is a reminder of how much the N64 game shaped video games back in the day.
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    Donald Trump sues Bob Woodward over The Trump Tapes for $50m

    Donald Trump sues Bob Woodward over The Trump Tapes for $50mFormer president claims Washington Post reporter ‘never got his permission to release these tapes’ Donald Trump has sued Bob Woodward for a fraction less than $50m, claiming he did not agree to the veteran Washington Post reporter publishing tapes of their conversations as an audio book.The Trump Tapes: Bob Woodward’s chilling warning for US democracyRead moreWoodward’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, and its parent company, Paramount Global, were also named as defendants.The Trump Tapes was released in October 2022, under the subtitle Bob Woodward’s Twenty Interviews With President Donald Trump.Amid generally positive reviews, the Guardian called the audiobook “a passport to the heart of darkness” of Trump’s presidency.Woodward also wrote three print bestsellers about Trump and his administration: Fear, Rage and Peril – the last cowritten with Robert Costa. The interviews which formed The Trump Tapes were mostly carried out from December 2019 to August 2020, when Woodward was writing Rage.In the suit filed in the northern district of Florida on Monday, lawyers for Trump said their case “centers on Mr Woodward’s systematic usurpation, manipulation and exploitation of audio of President Trump”.They also alleged that one conversation was deceptively edited, citing a comparison with a recording made by Hogan Gidley, a Trump aide, at Mar-a-Lago in Florida on 30 December 2019.That recording, the suit says, contains an exchange in which Woodward tells Trump: “This again is for the book to come out before the election.”Rage was published in the US on 15 September 2020, a little less than two months before election day.Trump is seeking just under $50m in damages, a figure his lawyers say they reached by looking at sales of Fear, which “sold more than two million copies, which is the amount of copies that the audiotape can be estimated to sell.“Based upon the purchase price of the audiotape, $24.99, the damages President Trump has sustained due to the actions of the defendants as set forth herein are estimated to be at least $49,980,000.00, exclusive of punitive damages, attorney’s fees, and costs.”Trump first complained when the audiobook was released. Appearing on CNN, Woodward was asked about Trump’s claim that he “never got his permission to release these tapes”.Woodward said: “Well, they were done voluntarily, it was all on the record. I had used some of it before. So he’s president and … so he’s out there. And this is out there to the tenth power.”Woodward did not immediately comment on Monday. Simon & Schuster and Paramount Global also did not immediately comment.Trump is beginning to accelerate his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, a contest in which he remains the only declared candidate.He faces legal jeopardy on numerous fronts: over his attempts to overturn the 2020 election, his financial and campaign finance affairs, his retention of classified records and an allegation of rape by the writer E Jean Carroll, which Trump denies.Trump has often sued media foes, CNN among them. A lawsuit against the New York attorney general was recently thrown out of court.The section of Trump’s suit against Woodward which alleges deceptive editing, meanwhile, contains an echo of the scandal that made the reporter famous: Watergate, which brought down Richard Nixon in 1974.In an exchange published in The Trump Tapes, Woodward and Trump discuss Trump’s first impeachment, over his approaches to Ukraine for dirt on political rivals.Trump says the affair was “peanuts” next to Watergate.Woodward says: “But as soon as the Watergate burglars were caught, if Richard Nixon had gone on television and said, ‘You know, I’m the man at the top. I’m indirectly responsible for this. I am sorry. I apologize,’ it would have gone away.”Trump says: “Yeah, Nixon should have done that … But I can’t, I shouldn’t have done that, because I did nothing wrong.”TopicsBob WoodwardDonald TrumpUS politicsnewsReuse this content More

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    House Republicans rebuffed in bid to access details of DoJ Biden investigation

    House Republicans rebuffed in bid to access details of DoJ Biden investigationRepublican-controlled judiciary committee told that longstanding precedent prevents disclosures about active investigations The US justice department told top House judiciary committee Republicans on Monday that it would decline to produce confidential information about the special counsel investigation into the recent discovery of classified-marked documents at Joe Biden’s personal home and office.The department said in a letter to the committee reviewed by the Guardian that it would not provide details about the president’s documents case – or any other inquiry – because it could reveal the roadmap of the investigation and risk the appearance of political conflict.Republicans accuse Biden of hypocrisy over classified documents discoveriesRead more“Disclosures to Congress about active investigations risk jeopardizing those investigations and creating the appearance that Congress may be exerting improper political pressure or attempting to influence department decisions,” assistant attorney general Carlos Uriarte wrote.The department also noted that because the attorney general, Merrick Garland, had appointed a special counsel to oversee the Biden documents case, it was bound by the special counsel regulations that allow for certain communications at the start and at the end of investigations.“These regulations govern the department’s conduct in all special counsel investigations and will continue to govern our disclosures in this matter,” wrote Uriarte, a former top adviser to the deputy attorney general who currently leads the division which has been in touch with Congress.The clear refusal from the justice department to open its files to the judiciary committee sets up the prospect of a bitter fight with the new House Republican majority, which has made political investigations into the Biden administration a priority for the next two years.The justice department has come under increasing pressure from top lawmakers in both the House and Senate to brief them on details about the Biden case – as well as the parallel criminal investigation into Donald Trump’s retention of national security materials and obstruction of justice.Garland appointed top former prosecutor Robert Hur as special counsel to oversee the Biden case on 12 January, months after naming another top former prosecutor, Jack Smith, as special counsel to take charge of the January 6 Capitol attack and Mar-a-Lago documents investigations into Trump.The justice department has long refused to provide to Congress confidential information that could compromise investigations or grand jury secrecy rules, as well as deliberative communications like prosecution memos because of the risk of political interference in charging decisions.As the department explained in 2000 in a letter to the then-House rules committee chair, John Linder, its position has been upheld by the supreme court in United States v Nixon (1974) that recognized making such materials public could have an improper “chilling effect”.The so-called Linder letter noted the department had reaffirmed during the Reagan administration that providing congressional committees with briefings on criminal investigations would place Congress in a position to exert power – and undermine the integrity – of those inquiries.The Linder letter also raised the risk of inadvertent or deliberate leaks of materials that could reveal the roadmap of investigations to defendants, who could then use that information to assess the strengths and weaknesses of a potential prosecution.The spokesperson for the judiciary committee Russell Dye criticized the justice department’s response.“Our members are rightly concerned about the justice department’s double standard here,” Dye said in a statement about the Biden documents case. “It’s concerning, to say the least, that the department is more interested in playing politics than cooperating.”Uriarte’s response to the judiciary committee comes a day after he told top lawmakers on the Senate intelligence committee that the department would similarly decline to provide information about the classified-marked documents in the Biden case as well as in the Trump case.TopicsHouse of RepresentativesUS CongressJoe BidenDonald TrumpUS politicsBiden administrationnewsReuse this content More

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    Far-right project that pushed election lies expands mission as Trump ramps up 2024 campaign

    Far-right project that pushed election lies expands mission as Trump ramps up 2024 campaign ReAwaken America faces criticism from religious leaders as it pushes disinformation using Christian nationalist messages A far-right project that has helped spread Donald Trump’s false claims about voting fraud in 2020, and misinformation about Covid vaccines, is trying to expand its mission, while facing new criticism from scholars and religious leaders about its incendiary political and Christian nationalist messages.ReAwaken America, a project of the Oklahoma-based entrepreneur Clay Clark, has hosted numerous revival-style political events across the US after receiving tens of thousands of dollars in initial funds in 2021 from millionaire Patrick Byrne, and become a key vehicle for pushing election denialism and falsehoods about Covid vaccines.ReAwaken America also boasts close ties to retired Lt Gen Michael Flynn, who in December 2020 met with Trump, Byrne and others at the White House to plot ways to reverse Trump’s election loss. The meeting happened shortly after Trump pardoned Flynn, who was convicted for lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador before serving briefly as Trump’s national security adviser.Clark’s project also has links to Dr Simone Gold, who served a 60-day jail sentence for illegally entering the Capitol on 6 January and founded America’s Frontline Doctors, an anti-vaccine group that has also touted bogus cures.“Christian nationalism has deep roots in American history and has gained traction at different points,” said Amanda Tyler, the executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. “The ReAwaken America Tour taps into the unholy well of Christian nationalism to sow doubt about the US election system and the safety of Covid vaccines while equating allegiance to Trumpism with allegiance to God.”She added: “Clay Clark and others who run this tour are using the name of Jesus, holy scripture and worship music to promote a partisan political agenda and personal business interests.”Flynn and Gold have made multiple appearances at ReAwaken America events, and spoke this January at a two-day gathering hosted at the Tennessee church of rightwing pastor Greg Locke. It drew other Trump loyalists such as the My Pillow chief Mike Lindell, Eric Trump, Roger Stone and Kash Patel, all of whom have appeared at other ReAwaken meetings.Locke has attended a few other ReAwaken events too, and earned notoriety for calling vaccines “sugar water”, the pandemic fake, and holding book burnings.In a rabble-rousing attack on medical professionals at the Tennessee meeting, Gold announced that she plans to launch an “antidote” to the CDC on 10 March and denounced “mainstream systems” as being “ totally corrupted”.Gold was ousted from her post at the Frontline doctors group by its board last fall in a nasty legal dispute that alleged she misappropriated funds for her personal use, including the purchase of a $3.6m home in Florida and three cars, one of which is a Mercedes-Benz.Gold has countered reportedly in emails to three board members charging that “murdering the organization is incompatible with your fiduciary obligation to the organization”.Besides hosting Gold at its meetings, the ReAwaken website serves as a resource for vaccine naysayers. It provides information about jobs where proof of vaccinations are not required, and how to “request a Covid vaccine religious exemption”.To expand its events and audience in coming months, ReAwaken America has announced plans for a gathering in May to be held at the tony Trump National Doral golf club in Miami. Another is slated for Las Vegas in August.The ReAwaken event at Trump’s club could prove useful to Trump, too, as his fledgling campaign has reportedly witnessed a drop-off in support from some evangelical allies who have backed him in the past.The Doral event may “give the appearance that Trump is still strong among the evangelical community”, quipped veteran GOP consultant Charlie Black, adding that “it will be more expensive to do it at the Doral” than other venues the tour has used.But for mainstream religious leaders and scholars who have studied the growing influence of the Christian nationalist right, the evangelical trappings and talks at the ReAwaken events, coupled with conspiratorial claims about Trump’s loss and vaccine misinformation, are worrisome, and have prompted a backlash.Tyler’s group has worked with a religious coalition called Faithful America to mobilize mainstream leaders to take public stands against ReAwaken events, and has helped organize rallies to counter them in Tennessee and other states last year.“Our goal is to help Christians provide an alternative witness in the public square,” Tyler stressed, adding that these efforts began a few years ago as a movement dubbed “Christians against Christian nationalism. They want to counter the misinformation and threats to democracy.”Likewise, several academic critics are raising concerns about the medical falsehoods related to vaccines that Gold and others have spread at the ReAwaken events, as well as the far right’s mantra that the 2020 election was rigged.“The religious nature of these events is a pretext for a rally by people who are united by feeling victimized and outraged,” said Samuel Perry, a sociologist at the University of Oklahoma. “This is incredibly corrosive for democracy, because you have a group of political leaders and their followers who not only feel victimized by the culture, but they feel like the very political system is against them. That’s how you get populist coup attempts.”With regard to the attacks on vaccines, Perry said: “The rhetoric that we’re seeing from the Christian far right against medical experts stems from a variety of different sources, including the partisan tendency to fall in line behind leadership, information silos, and a bent toward populist conspiracy theories.”“From the earliest days of the pandemic, the issue of Covid response was politicized: Republicans and those on the right were more inclined to view any claims from so-called ‘experts’ with suspicion,” Perry added. “That obviously included masks and lockdowns, but ultimately bled into Covid-19 vaccines. These partisan conspiracies were promoted by pastors, conservative TV news and Christian talk radio, where conservative Christians would be more inclined to get their news.”Besides the ReAwaken tour’s events, there has been a drive by Gold, Flynn and other key figures in the election-denialist and anti-vaccine ecosystems to promote their conspiracies on multiple platforms, including the America Project that Byrne launched in early 2021 with Flynn as a key adviser.The America Project touts multiple missions – including election integrity, medical freedom and religious freedom – and likens its role to that of a “symphony conductor” with the goal of “magnifying the efforts of those who wish to ally with us through connecting, training, funding and working together to save America”. America’s Frontline Doctors, the group Gold founded, is listed among its allies.Byrne told the Guardian in 2021 that his group put up “tens of thousands of dollars” to launch the ReAwaken tour, and that he has attended some of their events too.In similarly expansive language, Gold’s rhetoric in Tennessee veered into a prophetic style as she talked up her vision for changing America: “We will create a separate society that is founded on righteousness, objective standards of right and wrong, good and evil.”From a historical perspective, the current role played by Christian nationalism in tandem with the election denial movement and the dubious critiques about Covid vaccines has been fueled by the rise of less-educated evangelicals in politics, especially in Republican ranks, said David Hollinger, a history professor emeritus at Berkeley.“White evangelicals are among the least educated of Americans. The Republican party’s increasing reliance upon them marks an unprecedented stage in American history: for the first time, one of the major political parties displays contempt for learning. Not even the Democratic party of Andrew Jackson was so dependent for its success on anti-intellectual postures.”TopicsDonald TrumpUS elections 2024US politicsnewsReuse this content More

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    Ron DeSantis prepares for 2024 White House bid as Trump hits campaign trail

    Ron DeSantis prepares for 2024 White House bid as Trump hits campaign trail Moves spur Trump into attacking Florida governor during low key events over the weekend in Iowa and New HampshireAmerica’s 2024 presidential race is showing signs of kicking into gear amid reports that Florida’s rightwing Republican governor Ron DeSantis is now laying the groundwork for a White House bid as Donald Trump finally hit the campaign trail.DeSantis’s moves even spurred Trump into attacking him directly as the former US president held relatively low key events over the weekend in the key early voting states of New Hampshire and South Carolina.“Ron would have not been governor if it wasn’t for me… when I hear he might run, I consider that very disloyal,” Trump said, before seeking to slam DeSantis’s actions over fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.DeSantis began his time as Florida’s governor in the shadow of Trump, whose political messaging he closely emulated. But he has since emerged as Trump’s most powerful political rival in the Republican party, increasingly popular with many party officials who are wary of the scandals and chaos that accompanied Trump’s time in office.The Washington Post has reported that DeSantis’s political team has already identified potential campaign hires in states like Iowa and New Hampshire, whose traditional early spots in the nomination contest give them outsize influence on the race.Citing two Republican sources with knowledge of conversations and staff meeting on DeSantis team, the paper said the Florida governor was in close talks with two current and experienced members of his current team – Phil Cox and Generra Peck – about possible senior roles in any 2024 effort.Bill Bowen, a New Hampshire Republican delegate, told the paper that his state would likely be receptive to DeSantis. “I’m convinced there’s a good network of establishment party people in New Hampshire that will quickly have a very effective DeSantis campaign,” Bowen said.DeSantis has carved out turf in the Republican party that invites conflict with Trump. He has tacked to the extremist right, especially on social issues. His state has restricted LGBTQ+ rights and abortion, sought to demonize further education in the state as a bastion of liberal power and he has enflamed tensions over immigration with a series of political stunts.In response to DeSantis’s likely presidential bid, Trump has issued threats against the governor. Last November, Trump appeared to warn DeSantis by hinting at political blackmail against DeSantis’s potential 2024 run.“I think if he runs, he could hurt himself very badly. I really believe he could hurt himself badly… I would tell you things about him that won’t be very flattering – I know more about him than anybody – other than, perhaps, his wife,” Trump told Fox News.It was once widely expected that Trump – the only so far declared major candidate for the Republican nomination – would be largely unopposed. But a series of scandals, including meeting with white nationalists, and the flop of high-profile Trump-backed candidates in November’s midterm elections, has seen his grip on the party loosen considerably.Now a swath of other Republicans seem poised to enter the race.Trump even appeared to give his blessing to his former US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, after she informed him that she is considering a 2024 presidential bid.“I talked to her for a little while, I said, ‘Look, you know, go by your heart if you want to run’… She’s publicly said that ‘I would never run against my president, he was a great president,’” Trump told reporters on Saturday, CNN reports.He added that he told Haley that she “should do it”.In a Fox News interview earlier this month, when asked about her previous comments about not running for president if Trump ran, Haley responded that the “survival of America matters”.“It’s bigger than one person. And when you’re looking at the future of America, I think it’s time for new generational change. I don’t think you need to be 80 years old to go be a leader in DC… I think we need a young generation to come in, step up, and really start fixing things,” she said.Other former Trump cabinet members have also hinted at their presidential bids. Earlier this week, CBS asked former national security adviser John Bolton if he is considering a 2024 run. Bolton said that characterization is “exactly right”, the outlet reports.Bolton also criticized Trump’s 2024 presidential bid, calling it “poison” to the Republican party.“I think Republicans, especially after the November 8 elections last year, see that he’s poison to the ticket. He cannot be elected president. If he were the Republican nominee, he would doom our chances to get a majority in the Senate and the House. I don’t think he’s going to be the Republican nominee,” he said.On Tuesday, former secretary of state Mike Pompeo said that he will decide whether he will run for president. Speaking to CBS, Pompeo said: “Susan and I are thinking, praying, trying to figure out if this is the next place to go serve,” referring to his wife.“We haven’t gotten to that conclusion. We’ll figure this out in the next handful of months,” he added.When asked whether Trump’s 2024 presidential bid is having an impact on his own decision-making, Pompeo said: “None.”There are also likely to be a host of other Republicans eventually in the race with people like Georgia governor Brian Kemp and Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin among names often touted as likely runners.TopicsUS elections 2024Ron DeSantisUS politicsDonald TrumpRepublicansFloridanewsReuse this content More