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    Texts show Fox News host Hannity’s pleas to Trump aide after Capitol attack

    Texts show Fox News host Hannity’s pleas to Trump aide after Capitol attackMessages said there should be ‘no more stolen election talk’ and ‘no more crazy people’ should be admitted to president’s orbit

    US politics – live coverage
    In the aftermath of the deadly attack on the US Capitol last year, the rightwing Fox News host Sean Hannity pleaded with a top aide to Donald Trump that there should be “no more stolen election talk” and “no more crazy people” should be admitted to the president’s orbit.Michael Flynn allies allegedly plotted to lean on Republicans to back vote auditsRead moreKayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, agreed – but to little effect.More than a year after the riot, around which seven people died as Trump supporters sought to stop certification of electoral college results, Trump continues to lie that the 2020 election was stolen by Joe Biden.He also continues to keep company with far-right conspiracy theorists including Mike Lindell, the MyPillow founder who in a lawsuit this week was accused of being “crazy like a fox”.Hannity has also long been close to Trump, as an informal adviser and sometime rally guest. Though he has been revealed to have been shaken by the attack on the Capitol, he has spent the year since the riot supporting Trump’s version of events.The House committee investigating January 6 has asked for Hannity’s cooperation, a request a lawyer for the host said raises “first amendment concerns regarding freedom of the press”.Hannity has previously said he does not claim to be a journalist.Excerpts of his messages to McEnany on 7 January 2021 were included in a letter from the January 6 committee to Ivanka Trump, the former president’s daughter and adviser whom the panel also wishes to question.“First,” the letter said, “on 7 January, Mr Hannity texted Ms McEnany, laying out a five-point approach for conversations with President Trump. Items one and two of that plan read as follows:“1 – No more stolen election talk.“2 – Yes, impeachment and 25th amendment are real, and many people will quit… ”McEnany, the letter said, responded: “Love that. Thank you. That is the playbook. I will help reinforce… ”If McEnany did follow Hannity’s playbook, it did not produce a touchdown or even a reasonable punt.It has been widely reported that invoking the 25th amendment, which provides for the removal of a president deemed incapable of carrying out his or her duties, was seriously discussed among cabinet and White House officials.That came to nothing but Trump was impeached a second time. He was acquitted when enough Senate Republicans stayed loyal.On Friday, Politico published the text of a draft executive order for the seizure of voting machines and the text of a speech in which Trump would have condemned the Capitol rioters – but which he never gave.According to the January 6 committee, Hannity also told McEnany: “Key now. No more crazy people.”McEnany said: “Yes. 100%.”A footnote to the letter says Katrina Pierson, another rightwing commentator, “also uses the term ‘crazies’ in her text messages, apparently to describe a number of the president’s supporters”.Lindell continues to insist he has evidence the 2020 election was stolen, recently claiming his work could lead to the imprisonment for life of “300 and some million people”.That prompted the Washington Post to ask: “Are you one of the one in 11 Americans Mike Lindell doesn’t want to arrest?”In remarks at a Trump rally in Arizona last weekend, Lindell took aim at Hannity’s employer.MyPillow CEO faces defamation lawsuit from second voting machine makerRead more“When was the last time you saw anyone on Fox talk about the 2020 election?” he asked.Fox News has continued to stoke conspiracy theories about the Capitol riot but Fox Corporation faces lawsuits regarding claims of a stolen election.This week, Lindell joined Fox in being sued by Smartmatic, a maker of election machines.In the suit, the company accused Lindell of knowing what he was doing – namely, trying to sell pillows – when spreading election lies.He was, the company said, “crazy like a fox”.TopicsUS Capitol attackUS politicsFox NewsUS television industryRepublicansTrump administrationDonald TrumpnewsReuse this content More

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    Draft Trump order told defense chief to seize swing-state voting machines

    Draft Trump order told defense chief to seize swing-state voting machinesUnpublished executive order, obtained by Politico, among documents provided to January 6 panel after court ruling

    US politics – live coverage
    In the heady days between Donald Trump’s defeat in November 2020 and the 6 January insurrection at the US Capitol, an executive order was prepared. It commanded the defense secretary to seize voting machines in battleground states, as part of Trump’s “big lie” that the vote was rigged.Michael Flynn allies allegedly plotted to lean on Republicans to back vote auditsRead moreThe draft executive order, obtained and published by Politico, was never sent and its author is unknown. It was part of a cache of documents handed over to the House committee investigating the 6 January violence, after the supreme court ruled this week that Trump could not shield himself from oversight on grounds of executive privilege.The disclosure of the draft order adds to evidence of the lengths to which Trump and his close advisers were prepared to go to keep him in the White House, against the will of the American people. Under the draft order, the defense secretary would have been required to carry out an assessment of the voting machines “no later than 60 days from commencement of operations”.That would have pushed the chaos that Trump assiduously attempted to sow around Joe Biden’s legitimate victory well beyond the handover of power at the inauguration on 20 January.The publication of the document will provoke intense speculation as to who wrote it. Politico pointed out that at the time the draft order was dated, 16 December 2020, the idea of seizing voting machines in key states was being vigorously promoted by Sidney Powell, a controversial lawyer who had Trump’s ear at the time.The document outlines the seizure of voting machines by the Pentagon under federal emergency powers. That would in itself have been incendiary, as it would have amounted to a dramatic display of federal over state power of the sort normally fiercely resisted by Republicans.The author of the draft order seeks to justify such a contentious move by regurgitating conspiracy theories. For example, pointing to voting machines, the document says there is “evidence of international and foreign interference in the November 3, 2020, election”.It names Dominion Voting Systems, a leading provider of voting machines that has become the target of rightwing conspiracy theorists and big lie merchants. Dominion has sued several purveyors of false claims that its products were used to swing the election from Trump to Biden.“Dominion Voting Systems and related companies are owned or heavily controlled and influenced by foreign agents, countries, and interests,” the draft order falsely claims.The draft also singles out Antrim county, Michigan. Claims that voting machines in that county were compromised have been thoroughly rebutted, including by state election authorities.A second document was also leaked to Politico from the new mountain of paperwork received by the 6 January committee. Titled Remarks on National Healing, it appears to be the text of a speech Trump never delivered.The tone of the speech is striking because it stands in stark contrast to the approach Trump actually adopted in the wake of the Capitol violence. Still president for two weeks, he attempted to belittle the significance of the day.Had this alternative speech been given, Trump would have sent out a very different message. It describes 6 January as a “heinous attack” that left him “outraged and sickened by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem”.The text added: “The Demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy.”TopicsUS elections 2020Donald TrumpUS politicsUS voting rightsTrump administrationnewsReuse this content More

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    Trump held secret meetings in days before Capitol attack, ex-press secretary tells panel

    Trump held secret meetings in days before Capitol attack, ex-press secretary tells panel Stephanie Grisham gave more significant details than expected about what Trump was doing before 6 January, sources say The former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack that Donald Trump hosted secret meetings in the White House residence in days before 6 January, according to two sources familiar with the matter.The former senior Trump aide also told House investigators that the details of whether Trump actually intended to march to the Capitol after his speech at the Ellipse rally would be memorialized in documents provided to the US Secret Service, the sources said.The select committee’s interview with Grisham, who was Melania Trump’s chief of staff when she resigned on 6 January, was more significant than expected, the sources said, giving the panel new details about the Trump White House and what the former US president was doing before the Capitol attack.Grisham gave House investigators an overview of the chaotic final weeks in the Trump White House in the days leading up to the Capitol attack, recalling how the former president held off-the-books meetings in the White House residence, the sources said.The secret meetings were apparently known by only a small number of aides, the sources said. Grisham recounted that they were mostly scheduled by Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and that the former chief usher, Timothy Harleth, would wave participants upstairs, the sources said.Harleth, the former director of rooms at the Trump International Hotel before moving with the Trumps to the White House in 2017, was once one of the former first family’s most trusted employees, according to a top former White House aide to Melania Trump.But after Harleth sought to ingratiate himself with the Biden transition team after Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election in order to keep his White House role, Trump and Meadows moved to fire him before Melania Trump stepped in to keep him until Biden’s inauguration.Grisham told the select committee she was not sure who exactly Trump met with in the White House residence, but provided Harleth’s name and the identities of other Trump aides in the usher’s office who might know of the meetings, the sources said.The Guardian previously reported that Trump made several phone calls from the Yellow Oval Room and elsewhere in the White House residence to lieutenants at the Willard hotel in Washington the night before the Capitol attack, telling them to stop Joe Biden’s certification.Trump increasingly retreated to the White House residence to conduct work as his presidency progressed, according to another former Trump administration official, as he felt less watched by West Wing aides than in the Oval Office.Towards the end of his presidency, the former Trump administration official said, an aide to former White House adviser Peter Navarro tried at least once to quietly usher into the residence Sidney Powell, a lawyer pushing lies about election fraud, to speak with Trump.A spokesperson for the select committee declined to comment on Grisham’s interview that took place the first week of January. Harleth did not respond to questions about the meetings in the White House residence when reached last week by phone.Over the course of her hours-long interview, Grisham told House investigators that the mystery surrounding Trump’s promise at the Ellipse rally that he would march with his supporters to the Capitol might be resolved in Trump White House documents, the sources said.The former president’s purported intention to go to the Capitol has emerged as a crucial issue for the select committee, as they examine whether Trump oversaw a criminal conspiracy coordinating his political plan to stop Biden’s certification with the insurrection.Trump’s promise is significant as it served as one of the primary motivations for his supporters to march to the Capitol alongside militia groups like the Oath Keepers, and was used by far-right activists like Alex Jones to encourage the crowd along the route.But Trump never went to the Capitol and instead returned to the White House, where he watched the attack unfold on television – after being informed by the Secret Service before the insurrection that they could not guarantee his security if he marched to the Capitol.The select committee is now trying to untangle whether Trump made a promise that he perhaps had no intention of honoring because he hoped to incite an insurrection that stopped the certification – his only remaining play to get a second term – one of the sources said.Grisham told the select committee that Trump’s intentions – and whether the Secret Service had been told Trump had decided not to march to the Capitol – should be reflected in the presidential line-by-line, the document that outlines the president’s movements, the sources said.The chairman of the select committee, Bennie Thompson, has told reporters the panel is already seeking information from the Secret Service about what plans they had for Trump on January 6, as well as what evacuation strategies they had for then-vice president Mike Pence.But the presidential line-by-line, which gets sent to the Secret Service, could also reveal discussions about security concerns and suggest a new line of inquiry into why an assessment about conditions that were too dangerous for the president were not disseminated further.Grisham also told the select committee about the necessary coordination between the Trump White House, the Secret Service and organizers of the “Save America” rally at the Ellipse on 6 January in order to ensure Trump’s appearance, the sources said.The former Trump aide suggested to the select committee that Trump was determined to speak at the rally once he heard about its existence, the sources said, and was constantly on the phone to oversee the event’s optics, the sources said.TopicsUS Capitol attackUS politicsTrump administrationDonald TrumpnewsReuse this content More

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    Supreme court rejects Trump bid to shield documents from January 6 panel

    Supreme court rejects Trump bid to shield documents from January 6 panelCourt’s move leaves no legal impediment to turning National Archives documents over to congressional committee The US supreme court has rejected a request by Donald Trump to block the release of White House records to the congressional committee investigating the deadly January 6 attack on the Capitol, dealing a blow to the former president.The order, which casts aside Trump’s request to stop the House select committee from obtaining the records while the case makes its way through the courts, means more than 700 documents that could shed light on the attack can be transferred to Congress.The only member of the high court who signaled he would have granted Trump’s request for an injunction was justice Clarence Thomas. The order did not provide a reasoning for turning down the application, which is not uncommon for requests for emergency stays.Trump’s defeat in court allows the select committee to obtain from the National Archives some of the most sensitive White House records from his administration, including call logs, daily presidential diaries, handwritten notes and memos from his top aides.The documents, which Trump tried to shield behind claims of executive privilege, also included materials in the files of his former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, deputy counsel Pat Philbin and advisor Stephen Miller.“These records all relate to the events on or about January 6, and may assist the Select Committee’s investigation into that day,” justice department attorneys, acting on behalf of chief archivist David Ferriero, wrote in an earlier filing.The supreme court’s action, which follows the earlier rejection of Trump’s request by two lower courts, is also likely to have a cascading effect on other lawsuits filed against the panel, which hinged on the success of Trump’s pending litigation.Lawyers for Trump had urged the supreme court to take the case as they disagreed with the unanimous ruling of the US appeals court for the DC circuit that the current president Joe Biden could waive executive privilege over the objections of a former president.The lower court rulings directing the National Archives to turn over the records “gut the ability of former presidents to maintain executive privilege over the objection of an incumbent, who is often, as is the case here, a political rival”, they said.Trump’s legal team argued that the select committee also lacked a legitimate, legislative need for seeking the documents and was instead engaged in a partisan investigation seeking evidence to cause political damage to the former president.“These sweeping requests are indicative of the committee’s broad investigation of a political foe, divorced from any of Congress’s legislative functions,” Trump’s lawyers said of the panel.But in an unsigned opinion, the nation’s highest court rejected those arguments, upholding the appellate court ruling that found that although Trump had some limited power to exercise executive privilege, it was not sufficient to overcome Biden’s waiver.The court cited a 1977 supreme court decision in a dispute between former president Richard Nixon and the National Archives, which said the sitting president was in the best position to decide whether the protection should be asserted.The appeals court said that as long as the select committee could cite at least one legislative purpose for the documents – reforming laws to prevent a repeat of January 6, for instance – that would be enough to justify its request for Trumps’ records.The select committee has also rebutted Trump’s claim that forcing the National Archives to hand over White House documents could discourage future presidential aides from providing candid advice.That argument was misguided, the select committee said, because the conduct by Trump and some of his most senior aides under investigation went far beyond any usual deliberations concerning a president’s official duties.Moments after the supreme court handed down its decision, investigators working in the select committee’s offices on Capitol Hill were heard clapping in celebration, just as the panel subpoenaed more individuals connected to the January 6 insurrection.In its latest investigative action, the panel issued subpoenas to far-right Trump activists Nicholas Fuentes and Patrick Casey who received thousands of dollars in funds potentially connected to illegal activity and the Capitol attack.The new subpoenas demanding documents and testimony from Fuentes and Casey suggest the panel is drawing closer to the source of funding for the rallies that preceded the Capitol attack and the coordinated travel plans of thousands of pro-Trump rioters.Congressman Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the select committee, said that House investigators are interested in the pair since they were intimately involved in the transfer of money surrounding the Capitol attack and were present on Capitol grounds on January 6.The select committee said in the subpoena letters that Fuentes and Casey led the “America First” or “Groyper” movement and promulgated lies about voter fraud as they sought to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election win and get Trump a second term.TopicsDonald TrumpUS supreme courtLaw (US)Trump administrationUS Capitol attackUS politicsnewsReuse this content More

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    Donald Trump’s former attorney general William Barr to publish his memoirs

    Donald Trump’s former attorney general William Barr to publish his memoirsThe book, to be published in March, will divulge details from his tenure as attorney general for George HW Bush and Trump William Barr, Donald Trump’s second attorney general and perceived “hatchet man” until he split from the former president over his lies about election fraud, will publish his memoirs in March.In an era of rightwing populism, we cannot destroy democracy in order to save it | Jeff SparrowRead moreHarperCollins, the publisher of One Damn Thing After Another: Memoirs of an Attorney General, promised a “vivid and forthright” read on Barr’s long career in law and conservative politics, in which he was first attorney general under George HW Bush.“Barr takes readers behind the scenes during seminal moments of the Bush administration in the 1990s, from the LA riots to Pan Am 103 and Iran Contra,” the publisher said on Tuesday.“With the Trump administration, Barr faced an unrelenting barrage of issues, such as Russia-gate, the opioid epidemic, Chinese espionage, big tech, the Covid outbreak, civil unrest, the first impeachment, and the 2020 election fallout.”The publisher also said Barr would help readers understand how Bush and Trump “viewed power and justice at critical junctures of their presidencies”.During the investigation of Russian election meddling and links between Trump and Moscow, Barr stoked rage among Democrats who accused him of interfering on behalf of the president.His handling of Robert Mueller’s report also prompted protest from the special counsel himself.Republicans and other observers defended Barr but the Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, then a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, called him “a disgrace” and “not a credible head of federal law enforcement”.Barr was also present during key flash points of the Trump administration, for instance, walking at the president’s side in summer 2020 when he marched across Washington DC’s Lafayette Square, which had been cleared of protesters against racism and police brutality, to stage a photo op at a historic church.Barr split from Trump as the president refused to admit defeat by Joe Biden in the 2020 election. Angry scenes between the two men have been reported in other books, including bestsellers by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa of the Washington Post and Jon Karl of ABC News.Barr stoked Trump’s rage by telling the Associated Press he had not seen evidence of “fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election”.He was no longer in office during the culmination of Trump’s concerted attempt to overturn his election defeat – the deadly Capitol riot of January 6.On 7 January 2021, Barr condemned Trump for “orchestrating a mob to pressure Congress” and said: “The president’s conduct was a betrayal of his office and supporters.”The same day, the Guardian published an article examining the state of the Department of Justice after Barr’s second stint in the chair.Vanita Gupta, a former head of the civil rights division, said: “The morale and the reputation of the department has been gutted because of undue political influence on the decisions of career staff.“The department needs to be rebuilt by new leadership committed at every turn to decisions made on the law and on the facts, and not on what the president wants.”On Tuesday, Sadie Gurman, a Wall Street Journal reporter, was among observers to note the provenance – and irony – of Barr’s chosen title.Current attorney general Merrick Garland, Gurman said, might appreciate that “Barr’s book title is actually an homage to his hero, Ed Levi”, who, when asked “to describe the job of attorney general … famously replied, ‘It’s just one damn thing after another.’”Ed Levi, a law professor and “non-politician”, was installed by Gerald Ford in 1975, after the Watergate scandal brought down Richard Nixon and his attorney general, John Mitchell – who served time in prison.TopicsWilliam BarrDonald TrumpUS politicsGeorge HW BushTrump administrationRepublicansnewsReuse this content More

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    In an era of rightwing populism, we cannot destroy democracy in order to save it | Jeff Sparrow

    In an era of rightwing populism, we cannot destroy democracy in order to save itJeff SparrowDemocracy isn’t an institution – it’s a practice that becomes stronger through use. The key to defeating Trump lies in mobilising ordinary people to articulate their real needs The recent anniversary of the Trumpian riot at the Capitol building highlighted a growing anxiety about the state of democracy both in America and around the world.In a widely circulated article, the Canadian professor Thomas Homer-Dixon warned of a rightwing dictatorship in the US by 2030. At the same time, a Quinnipiac University poll found nearly 60% of Americans believed their democracy is “in danger of collapse”.Internationally, the Stockholm based-NGO International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance says more nations than ever before faced “democratic erosion”, while Freedom House argues that “in every region of the world, democracy is under attack by populist leaders and groups that reject pluralism and demand unchecked power”.Trump’s ‘cult-like control’ of Republican party grows stronger since insurrectionRead moreUnfortunately, in response to that rightwing populist threat, many centrists fall back to the bad arguments of the past.In the wake of the first world war, US journalist Walter Lippmann claimed the mass media and its techniques of persuasion rendered the ordinary voter so susceptible to propaganda as to render democracy unworkable.“The world about which each man is supposed to have opinions,” he complained, “has become so complicated as to defy his powers of understanding.”Lippmann drew explicitly on a critique made by Plato in The Republic, where the philosopher described the Athenian assembly as giving liberty to demagogues. Such men, Plato explained, used rhetoric and emotion to whip up the masses behind power-hungry rogues, rather than allowing competent leaders to rule.Following Trump’s shock election in 2016, a modern-day version of this argument became a kind of centrist common sense, neatly captured in a viral New Yorker cartoon by Will McPhail. The drawing showed an airline passenger addressing others in the plane: “These smug pilots have lost touch with regular passengers like us. Who thinks I should fly the plane?”One from this week’s @NewYorker. Hello politics, my names Will.— Will McPhail (@WillMcPhail) January 2, 2017
    The gag was widely circulated by liberals aghast at Trump’s policies. Yet, as I’ve argued elsewhere, rather than critiquing his racism and sexism the cartoon implied that the problem lay with a system that allowed ordinary people to opine on matters they weren’t qualified to adjudicate. Running the country, the image suggested, was like flying a plane: a matter best left to the experts.That was pretty much Plato’s argument – the basis on which he advocated a dictatorship by philosopher kings.Yet, contrary to what centrists claim, the real problem with rightwing populism is not that it’s populist but rather that it’s not – and can’t be – populist enough.The evolution of the Republican party into a vehicle for Trumpian populism provides a good illustration. The Washington Post recently noted that at least 163 politicians who accept Trump’s false claims about fraud in the 2020 poll are now running for “statewide positions that would give them authority over the administration of elections’”.That matters because legislatures dominated by Trump supporters have already been cracking down on mail-in ballots, imposing onerous ID requirements and otherwise making voting more difficult, with the nonpartisan Brennan Centre for Justice reporting at least 19 states imposing laws in 2021 that restricted voting access in some way.Why do those associated with Donald Trump seek a restricted franchise?A movement dominated by the super-wealthy and exploiting racial and gender anxieties relies upon exclusion. Despite its “populist” rhetoric, Trumpian demagoguery appeals to a minority: it cannot offer solutions to the population of an increasingly diverse nation.The key to defeating Trump thus lies in mobilising ordinary people to articulate their real needs.But across the United States, the legislative response to the Capitol riot pushed by Democrats has centred not on extending democratic rights but on laws criminalising demonstrations.As Branko Marcetic points out, the aftermath of 6 January saw “a crackdown on dissent: a dramatic increase in anti-protest bills around the country, including at least 88 that have been introduced since the Capitol riot; a massive buildup of the Capitol police into a national force to target ‘terrorism’; as well as the rollout by the Biden administration of a sweeping domestic counter-terror strategy.”Covid will not be our last global health crisis – we need a long-term plan | Jeff SparrowRead moreThe strategy includes on its list of “domestic violent extremists” groups such as environmentalists, anti-capitalists and animal rights activists, all of whom you’d expect to play an important role in a movement against Trump to cultivate.During the Vietnam war, an American commander supposedly explained the necessity of destroying a village in order to save it. In an era of rightwing populism, we need to ensure that the defences of democracy doesn’t follow a similar logic.Instead, progressives require a program that, as Nicholas Tampio puts it, treats “people as citizens – that is, as adults capable of thoughtful decisions and moral actions, rather than as children who need to manipulated”. That means entrusting them “with meaningful opportunities to participate in the political process” rather than simply expecting them to vote for one or another leader on polling day.Democracy isn’t an institution. It’s a practice – and, as such, it becomes stronger through use.That’s the real problem. When’s the last time you felt your opinion actually mattered in your daily life? How often do you take part in democratic debates in your workplace, your neighbourhood, your trade union or your community group?The withering of opportunities for ordinary people to exercise meaningful power over their collective affairs gives the Platonic critique of democracy an unwarranted credibility.Conversely, the more we practise governing ourselves – by debating, by organising, by demonstrating and protesting – the more natural democracy seems and the more isolated demagogues become.
    Jeff Sparrow is a Guardian Australia columnist
    TopicsUS politicsOpinionTrump administrationDonald TrumpRepublicansUS Capitol attackProtestcommentReuse this content More

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    Look around you. The way we live explains why we are increasingly polarized

    Look around you. The way we live explains why we are increasingly polarizedIn 2016, I set out to understand why a border wall appealed to so many. I realized Americans are increasingly boxing themselves in – with vast impacts on the way we see the world “The border’s like our back door,” a concrete salesman named Chris told me in January 2017. “You leave it open, and anyone can walk right in.” It was the day of Trump’s presidential inauguration, and we were chatting on the exhibition floor of a trade show in Las Vegas, called World of Concrete. Circular saws, cement mixers, gleaming new trucks – it was an unusual place to talk about the politics of immigration.But the simple promise of a concrete wall between the US and Mexico had flung a business tycoon into the White House, and I wanted to understand what this was about.Chris was a millennial from a small town in western Ohio. With a trim beard and short, sandy hair, he projected an air of casual self-sufficiency. “I don’t really like neighbors,” he quipped, speaking with a dose of wry humor about how far he chose to live from other people.I was struck by the mismatch between the salesman’s genial manner and his suspiciousness, his sense of anyone beyond his home or country as a potential threat. I wondered, as we talked amid a sea of construction equipment, what it would take to build genuine warmth and concern for outsiders, rather than such walls.For the last five years, I’ve crisscrossed the United States as an anthropologist, pursuing conversation and debate between the coasts and heartland. I set out in 2016 to grasp the appeal of the border wall, the fantasy of sealing off the country with a stark, symbolic barrier. What I learned is that such barricades appeal to many Americans because they resonate with familiar boundaries in their daily lives.What I learned from an unlikely friendship with an anti-maskerRead moreWhile Trump’s presidency has passed, the defensive thinking that drove his ascent remains a pervasive and powerful force. I think of the Gen Xer with a bushy beard and colorful tattoos down the length of his arms, whom I saw hawking a motion sensor lighting system with these words of advice: “I know it sounds cold, but you want to keep people away as best you can.” Or this motto and promise from the home security company ADT: “a line in the sand between your family and an uncertain world.” Time and again, I’ve heard such ideas expressed by Americans I’ve met and spoken with around the country in my job as an anthropologist: businessmen and truck drivers, police officers and media personalities.The give and take of neighbors has long been a foundation for our democracy, philosopher Nancy Rosenblum writes. But cultural and economic forces have worked stark distinctions – insider v outsider, familiar v stranger, safety v threat – deep into the texture of our daily lives. These hard lines and everyday divides fuel our political troubles in ways we don’t always realize.To get to this gated community on Florida’s Treasure Coast, you have to drive through a continuous stretch of walled compounds, everything inside hidden from view by towering hedges and palms. I show my credentials at the guardhouse, and the railway gate swings open. As I drive with the security director past sprawling homes and unnervingly empty streets, Timothy tells me about a residential population – wealthy, mostly white – primed for disaster and desperate for repose.One out of every six American houses in a residential community is secured now by such community walls or fences, and I met Timothy to try to understand why.Residents who live here are mostly seeking psychological assurance, he admitted: “They like us smiling and waving at them.”Contemporary gated communities build on a century of intentional segregation and suburban white flight. Suburban interiors were designed as “escape capsules to enable their independence from the outside world”, architectural historian Andrea Vesentini has shown, built as shelters from the unpredictability of urban life. The pandemic has magnified the appeal of such distance and defense, with more features like security cameras, video doorbells and HEPA air filters built into new houses than ever before.These histories have profoundly reshaped how Americans live in relation to each other, as much as where. So much of everyday life and leisure now takes place in secluded spaces. The front porch sessions with neighbors and passersby that once epitomized American social life have given way to more private gatherings on the backyard deck, or time with the television and other screens indoors. These changes lessen the chance for happenstance conversation with neighbors and strangers.A realtor in Fargo, North Dakota, helped me understand the significance of these shifts. A fit man in his early 60s, Paul had worked in the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan real estate market for more than 20 years. He took me one morning to a compact new house in a middle-class subdivision, the smell of fresh paint lingering in the cool air inside.Standing in the living room and looking to the front, I felt enclosed in the space, almost hemmed in: the house was fronted by a three-stall garage and one narrow window on to the street and sidewalk. Turn to the back though, and you were flooded with light from every direction, the rear of the house framed with big panes of glass instead of walls.“Doesn’t it bother people that there aren’t many windows in the front?” I asked Paul. “You can hardly see what’s happening on the street.”“The inside is what they care about,” he replied. “And,” he added, pointing out the sunroom at the rear of the house and the back patio beyond, “living on the back. This is where we engage socially with our neighbors.”The small patio was lodged between other private decks and yards, a place to socialize with others by choice rather than necessity. “This is my space, I’ll engage with who I want, when I want,” the realtor explained. “It’s a bit selfish,” he acknowledged.Whether it comes to the climate emergency or systemic racism, the migrant crisis or the ongoing pandemic, so much turns on whether we can acknowledge and accept the intertwining of our separate lives. But it’s not just our homes that are styled now like defensive fortresses.Over the last decade, imposing vehicles like SUVs and trucks have come to dominate the American car market, far outpacing smaller sedans in sales. These are automobiles designed with aggressive profiles and built as defensive steel cocoons, often marketed as ways to survive an uncertain and even hostile world. As an automotive designer in Los Angeles told me, such vehicles appeal in a society that is “suffering a case of insecurity”.There is a political side to such choices: researchers have found that cities with more sedans than pickup trucks will probably vote Democratic in a presidential election, while those with more pickup trucks will probably vote Republican. But it isn’t simply a matter of signaling partisan affiliation through automotive choice. Vehicles say a lot about what people care most about.Consider an exchange I had one morning in Los Angeles with the driver of a Cadillac Escalade, a few years ago. He was an Asian American dad, like me, and we’d run into each other on the driveway of a cheery and progressive nursery school on the Westside. I’d walked my daughter there that morning; his daughter was buckled into one of the Escalade’s seats. I was struck by how tiny the child looked inside the three-ton vehicle, how challenging it would be for her to clamber down to the ground outside.The hulking white automobile was brand new, still without license plates. Why an Escalade? I asked. “It’s perceived to be safe,” he replied. “You know, more mass.”More mass. The phrase kept playing on my mind as I walked back home. Whose safety was secured by all the vehicular mass hurtling down American roads, and at whose expense?The rise of the SUV in global automotive markets is the second largest cause of increasing carbon emissions over the last decade, more significant than shipping, aviation and heavy industry. And at an everyday scale, there are serious consequences for those who encounter them in collisions.Because of their rigid and heavy frames, SUVs and trucks are far more dangerous than conventional sedans for the pedestrians, cyclists and children at play who share American streets with automobiles. Pedestrian deaths on roadways in the United States have soared by more than 50% over the last decade.Someone in an armored cockpit, someone else on their own two feet: this too is a polarized encounter. Low-income Americans and people of color are much more likely to be struck and killed while walking, which brings home another difficult truth in these developments.Indifference is a privilege. Some can afford to seal themselves off from the world beyond, while those left outside must fend for themselves as best they can.The fortress mindset thrives on suspicion, and the urge to protect oneself can make shared spaces and resources seem more dangerous than they are. Take that necessity for life itself, the water we drink. American consumers now buy an astounding 75 billion disposable bottles of water each year, each a tiny enclosure of an essential resource, a shelter made for one. The bottled water industry has capitalized on widespread unease about the quality of public water supplies in the United States. Meanwhile, as interest and investment in shared public infrastructure lags, people are left with polluted and contaminated water, forced to rely on bottled alternatives.Two years before the pandemic began, I attended a bottled water trade show in Texas. Most everyone walked around with a small disposable bottle in hand, always closed, the little caps screwed back on after every sip. “I don’t drink public water,” people would avow, wrinkling their noses in distaste at the very idea of a drinking fountain. “Someone else’s mouth is on it and over it.”Water fountains were switched off across the country in 2020 when the pandemic struck. But they’d already been disappearing for years, and how many will return remains uncertain. Bottled water is regulated so loosely that its quality is difficult to judge. Yet many Americans have come to believe again in the purity of a resource untouched by the wrong people, a dark contemporary echo of the segregated fountains of the Jim Crow era.At the bottled water trade show, I spoke with a middle-aged white man in a brown suit who worked for a water conditioning company in west Texas. I noticed his habit of crumpling up each disposable bottle into a little ball when it was empty, and I asked him about this gesture.“I like to put things away,” he told me, describing how he’d throw these crinkled balls of plastic into the back of his SUV while he was driving. I imagined them piling up in heaps, a travelling signpost for the mountain of waste that all of us are building together.There’s a curious resonance between this faith in a sealed bottle, and a culture that celebrates the invulnerable body. Americans are often encouraged to imagine their own bodies as armored enclosures, to seal off against the outside world. Think of bottled sports drinks like BodyArmor or BioSteel. “Your body, your fortress,” their taglines read.The coronavirus pandemic has supercharged such ideas, setting off a boom in personal disinfectant products and touchless technology, making it easier to deny the truth that we depend on each other for our wellbeing. The deep resistance to face masks and vaccination in the United States also relies, quite often, on a highly individualized sense of bodily autonomy.I think of a middle-aged white businessman from Michigan with whom I’ve debated the pandemic for many months. A staunch libertarian, he considers compulsory public health precautions as tantamount to slavery. They deny, he says, “my feelings, my rights, my personal body”.Regular exposure to different points of view could complicate such diehard convictions. But our fractured media have deepened the existing fissures of American society.Walls at home and on the road, shielding the body from exposure and the mind from uncomfortable ideas: these interlocking divides make it more difficult to take unfamiliar people and perspectives seriously; harder to acknowledge the needs of strangers, to trust their motives and empathize with their struggles. In an atomized society, others become phantoms all too easily, grist for the mill of resentment and mistrust.There’s a deep and pernicious history at work here. Longstanding patterns of neighborhood racial segregation have inflamed the prejudice against outgroups, bolstering stereotypes, as the political scientist Ryan Enos and others have shown. When such divisions are reproduced at an everyday scale, the gulf between self and other widens even further, and everyone becomes a potential outsider.But this isn’t all that is happening, or could yet happen.Around the country in 2020, the pandemic spurred a return to socializing with neighbors on front yards and porches. Cities and towns have carved out new places for walking, biking and outdoor life, new ways of sharing public space with people, known and unknown. It remains to be seen whether these are temporary adjustments or more enduring experiments.Movements for mutual aid, racial justice and cultural solidarity have also brought Americans together, spurring more radical commitments to collective care-taking, redrawing the line between stranger and kin. The vitality of such movements depends on adequate space and support. Calls abound to redesign our personal and public spaces for conviviality rather than isolation. Commons, parks and open streetscapes; living quarters and resources arranged to encourage social awareness, not solipsism; communication platforms that nurture contrary lines of thought: these spaces can nurture the capacity to live and thrive alongside others unlike oneself, working against the tendency to reject and retreat.Our feelings for others are structural realities as much as personal qualities. In a society built on walls of indifference, empathy will remain an elusive hope. For “the death of the heart” is one of the most tragic consequences of segregation, as James Baldwin observed: “You don’t know what’s happening on the other side of the wall.”TopicsLife and styleTrump administrationVaccines and immunisationUS politicsfeaturesReuse this content More

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    Capitol attack: Trump not immune from criminal referral, lawmakers insist

    Capitol attack: Trump not immune from criminal referral, lawmakers insistKinzinger asks if Trump ‘incompetent or a coward’ during 6 January riot while Raskin ponders 14th amendment to bar new run

    Is the US really heading for a second civil war?
    Donald Trump cannot hide behind immunity from criminal prosecution and faces the possibility of being debarred from running for public office over his role in the Capitol attack, several members of Congress said on Sunday.Unthinkable review: Jamie Raskin, his lost son and defending democracy from TrumpRead moreDays after the anniversary of the 6 January insurrection that left five people dead and scores injured after Trump supporters attempted to scupper the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, the threat of possible criminal proceedings looms large over the former president.Lawmakers from both main parties, including moderate Republicans, warned on Sunday that Trump will not be spared criminal liability should evidence emerge that he actively coordinated the attack.A Republican senator, Mike Rounds from South Dakota, told ABC’s This Week that any immunity from prosecution that Trump enjoyed while in the White House evaporated on 20 January 2021, when he left office.“The shield of the presidency does not exist for someone who was a former president – everybody in this country is subject to the courts of this country,” Rounds said.Rounds added that it was up to the justice department, not Congress, to decide whether evidence existed of criminal wrongdoing by Trump.On Saturday, the Guardian revealed that the House select committee investigating 6 January is homing in on the question of whether Trump led a criminal conspiracy to try and block Biden’s certification as his successor in the White House.Depending on what they find, the committee has the power to refer the matter to the Department of Justice for possible criminal prosecution.Adam Kinzinger, a Republican congressman from Illinois who sits on the committee, underlined the laser-like focus of the investigation on Trump’s potential complicity.Speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press, he said the key question now was: “What did the president know about 6 January leading up to 6 January?”Kinzinger added that the panel wanted to know why Trump failed to take any action for almost three hours while the violence at the Capitol was unfolding on his TV screen. Was it a sign of weakness or complicity?“It’s the difference between, was the president absolutely incompetent or a coward on 6 January when he didn’t do anything or did he know what was coming? That’s a difference between incompetence with your oath and possibly criminal.”While the question of whether the former president broke the law is fast rising up the political agenda, Congress is also considering another potential route to hold Trump accountable for the violence of a year ago: action under the 14th amendment of the constitution.Section three of the amendment holds that nobody in elected federal office, including the president, should engage in “insurrection or rebellion” against the union.Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland who led the second impeachment of Trump for “incitement of insurrection”, told ABC the 14th amendment might yet be “a blockade for [Trump] ever being able to run for office again”.While the relatively tiny number of moderate Republicans who have been willing openly to criticize the former president were airing their views on Sunday, the opposing tack taken by most party leaders was also on display.Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump loyalist from South Carolina, told a New York radio channel the Capitol attack was a “dark day”, but went on to lambast Biden for marking the anniversary this week.“It was an effort on his part to create a brazen political moment to try to deflect from their failed presidency,” Graham said.A moment of silence staged at the House to mark the anniversary was attended by only two Republicans: the congresswoman Liz Cheney and her father, the former vice-president Dick Cheney.Trump has birthed a dangerous new ‘Lost Cause’ myth. We must fight it | David BlightRead moreAfterwards, the older Cheney expressed his disappointment at the “failure of many members of my party to recognize the grave nature of the 6 January attacks and the ongoing threat to our nation”.Asa Hutchinson, the Republican governor of Arkansas, attempted to defend congress members from his state, all of whom sat out the anniversary proceedings.“I don’t know that absolute attendance was the only way to show frustration with 6 January,” he told CNN’s State of the Union.But Hutchinson did say he regretted that large numbers of Republican candidates running for public office are openly embracing Trump’s big lie that the 2020 election was rigged.“What worries me is that they are not demonstrating leadership,” he said.“We have to make clear that [6 January] was unacceptable, it was an attempt to stop the peaceful transfer of power and we have to make clear that President Trump had some responsibility for that.”TopicsUS Capitol attackUS politicsUS CongressHouse of RepresentativesUS SenateDonald TrumpTrump administrationnewsReuse this content More