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    ‘It’s on the tape’: Bob Woodward on the criminality of Donald Trump

    Interview‘It’s on the tape’: Bob Woodward on the criminality of Donald TrumpDavid Smith in Washington The great Washington Post reporter has published 20 interviews he conducted with the then president – who is now running againJust when you thought it was safe to go back in the water. Donald Trump is running for president again. That was not a prospect Bob Woodward had to deal with when Richard Nixon resigned in 1974, after Woodward and his Washington Post colleague Carl Bernstein cracked open the Watergate scandal.“Our long national nightmare is over,” declared Nixon’s successor, Gerald Ford, and it was. Nixon faded into jowly retirement. But Trump yearns to regain the crown.The Trump Tapes: Bob Woodward’s chilling warning for US democracyRead moreWoodward spoke to the Guardian by phone six hours before the disgraced one-term, twice-impeached president took the stage at Mar-a-Lago, his gaudy personal Xanadu in Florida, to announce what might or might not be the greatest political comeback of all time.Does Woodward, who at 79 has written about nine American presidents, think Trump can win again? Or is Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida, hammer of wokeness, now the man to beat?“Who knows? Trump’s got tens of millions of supporters. DeSantis is the flavour of the month. DeSantis may be the one. Maybe not. I remember in 1990, before the ’92 presidential election, with a bunch of friends making a list of the 50 people who might be the next president. [Bill] Clinton was not on the list [though] he would have put himself there. So who knows? You can’t record the future.”But you can revisit the past. Trump pulled off an unlikely victory in 2016 in what many saw as an indictment of the media. While there was some fine reporting that left America in no doubt about what it was getting, there was also wall-to-wall cable news coverage and a constant pressure for his opponent, Hillary Clinton, to respond to Trump’s latest unhinged tweet. Are there lessons to learn?Woodward says: “If you look back on 2016, there was a lot of good coverage but it was never enough. He was able to sell himself as a successful, wealthy businessman. What do we know about him now that we didn’t know in 2016? There is a lot of evidence, good reporting, investigations by some committees on the Hill, that actually he was not a successful businessman, he’s not wealthy. What’s the lesson from all that? Dig deeper and then, when you dig deep, dig deeper more and more and more.”His image burnished by the reality TV show The Apprentice, the Trump of 2016 was able to essay the role of political outsider and swamp drainer. Now the novelty has worn off, he faces federal, state and congressional investigations and his four years in the Oval Office are a matter of record.Woodward has contributed a trilogy of books – Fear, Rage and Peril (the last written with Robert Costa) – and now an audiobook, The Trump Tapes, presenting his 20 interviews with the president. The Guardian’s Lloyd Green called it “a passport to the heart of darkness”.Woodward continues: “Now he’s going to run again and we in our business need to focus on what he did as president. That’s the office he’s running for. Yes, it’s a political office, and you see all the stories now about the politics of Trump running, people abandoning him, people sticking with him and so forth – that’s an important story.“But the real scorecard is what he did as president and on foreign affairs, dealing with Kim Jong-un or [Vladimir] Putin or all this stuff that’s on the tapes. He made it personal. He ran it on instinct.”Woodward describes the tapes as a “laboratory” for understanding Trump’s presidency. “My conclusions are very severe. He failed as president, failed to do his constitutional, moral, practical duty, and I think, not all, but most of the reporting should be on his presidency.”Woodward cites the example of Trump’s tax cuts in 2017, estimated to cost $1.9tn over a decade, criticised as a handout to the rich and corporations at the expense of working families.“I fault myself on this. I’ve not seen – maybe I’m not aware – of some really good reporting on the tax cut, how it happened exactly, who benefited. I wrote in one of my Trump books, Fear, that Gary Cohn engineered and drove it. The former president of Goldman Sachs benefited from that and you can surmise but I’d like to see my own paper or the Guardian or anywhere say: this is really who benefited from this.”Nineteen of the Woodward/Trump interviews happened in person or by phone between autumn 2019 and August 2020, amid research for Rage.This period included the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and ensuing Black Lives Matter protests. Woodward suggested to Trump that both had benefited from white privilege. The president was having none of it. He sneered: “You really drank the Kool-Aid, didn’t you? Just listen to you. Wow.”This chapter of Trump’s tenure was also defined by the coronavirus, which emerged in China in late 2019 but which he downplayed, claiming it would vanish over the summer. Now, more than a million Americans have died of Covid-19.In The Trump Tapes, Woodward interviews Robert O’Brien, the national security adviser who warned Trump the virus would be “the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency”, and his deputy, Matthew Pottinger, who likened it to the 1918 influenza pandemic that killed 650,000.Woodward adds: “I discovered they issued this warning 28 January. I was as shocked as I’ve ever been as a reporter.”By April, Woodward could not resist pushing Trump to meet the moment, telling him experts were saying he needed to mobilise the country, coordinate with intelligence agencies and work with foreign governments. Woodward argued: “If you come out and say, ‘This is a full mobilisation, this is a Manhattan Project, we are going – pardon the expression – balls to the wall’, that’s what people want.”Had he crossed a line? His wife, Elsa Walsh, also a journalist, thought so. He recalls: “I did these interviews on speakerphone so I could record them with Trump’s permission. She was there many times and Trump knew that and then afterwards she said I was yelling at Trump and that I shouldn’t be doing that. I’m just supposed to ask questions. She berated me for this. It’s on the tape.”But he insists: “It wasn’t an advocacy position. Trump had these coronavirus meetings and had virus deniers there and so the whole atmosphere was one of ‘Let’s not listen to the experts’. I knew some of these people and found out what they said and they were very specific and it had a logic to it, namely that overall Trump needed a world war two-style mobilisation to deal with this.“I couldn’t talk to him so I passed it on and made it clear this is not me but this is my reporting from what the experts are saying. As I said to my wife, we’re in a different world. It’s the reporter who’s on the street and sees somebody shot. Go help them as a human being and then you phone in the story. This is of the magnitude that 1.1 million people died in this country because of the virus.”By the summer, the scale of Trump’s failure and the price in death and grief were clear. In the tapes, Woodward asks: “Was there a moment in all of this last two months where you said to yourself, ‘Ah, this is the leadership test of a lifetime?’”Trump replies, with dead finality: “No.”Woodward reflects: “Even then, let alone now, it was the leadership test of a lifetime and just, ‘No’. It’s tragic. Not only did he conceal what he knew and deny it but it’s a crime. It’s a moral crime to know all this and not tell the people. I once asked him the job of the president and he said, ‘To protect the people.’ I’ve never heard about or read anywhere in my own reporting or in history where a president was so negligent.”The last long interview took place on 21 July 2020. Woodward said things were bad. Trump did not understand so Woodward had to point out that 140,000 people had died. The president claimed to have Covid under control. Woodward asked, “What’s the plan?” Trump said there would be one in 104 days. Woodward wondered what he was talking about. Then he realised: the presidential election was 104 days away.Such exchanges are damning and ensure that more than eight hours of conversations, by his own words shall Trump be condemned. Why, then, did he agree to talk? As the comedian Jimmy Kimmel put it: “Why are you agreeing to do 20 interviews on tape with the guy who took down Richard Nixon with tapes? With tapes!”Trump campaign announcement deepens Republicans’ civil warRead moreOne answer is ego. Trump can be heard flattering “a great historian” and “the great Bob Woodward”. Woodward suggests: “I had been sceptical of the Steele dossier and the Russian investigation and had said so publicly. [Senator] Lindsey Graham, [Trump’s] supporter from South Carolina, had told him I would not put words in his mouth, which was true, and so he agreed to do these interviews.”On the other side of the coin, this is a rare opportunity to hear the Woodward method. The Washington Post, where he has worked for half a century, observed that The Trump Tapes “offers a surprising window into the legendary investigative reporter’s process – a perennial focus of both mystique and critique”.At times, Woodward indulges Trump’s streams of consciousness, airing of grievances and pathological narcissism. At others he cajoles, challenges or confronts. Woodward says: “He’ll talk and talk and talk but I ask questions, very specific questions. What are you doing about the virus? Tell me about Putin.”He did miss one opening. He asked if, in the event of a close election in November, Trump would refuse to leave the White House. The president declined to comment.“It was the only question he didn’t answer in eight hours – 600 questions – and I should have followed up. I should have said, ‘Wait a minute, why isn’t he answering that?’ I didn’t.”Re-listening to all 20 interviews, and finding it such a different experience from reading the transcripts or listening to snatches on TV or the internet, convinced Woodward to release the recordings – a first in his long career. Raw and unfiltered, this is one instance where Trump does not benefit from a reporter “tidying up” his quotations to make him sound more lucid and less repetitive than he actually is.“To be frank, it’s very surprising and it’s a learning experience at age 79, having done this so many years, that there’s something about hearing the voice that gives it an authenticity and power,” Woodward says. “Especially Trump. He doesn’t ever hem and haw, he doesn’t go hmm. He just is right out of the box.”Fifty years since the Watergate break-in, he sees a parallel with the secret White House recording system that caught Nixon.“The Nixon tapes didn’t just come out as transcripts. They came out so you could hear it and this is a version of that. It’s the same problem of appalling criminal – I can’t use any other word for it – behaviour for a sitting president to look away.“There’s a statement that Henry Kissinger once made: ‘What extraordinary vehicles destiny selects to accomplish its design’. I’m not sure destiny exists, but what an extraordinary vehicle.”TopicsBooksBob WoodwardDonald TrumpPolitics booksRepublicansTrump administrationUS politicsinterviewsReuse this content More

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    Cheney hits back as Pence says January 6 committee has ‘no right’ to testimony

    Cheney hits back as Pence says January 6 committee has ‘no right’ to testimonyPanel vice-chair issues statement with chair Bennie Thompson after Trump vice-president gives interview to CBS The chair and vice-chair of the January 6 committee hit back after Mike Pence said they had “no right” to his testimony about the Capitol attack, and claimed they presided over a “partisan” investigation.Trump bills himself as only option but Republicans split on 2024 runRead moreTestimony presented to the panel and to the nation in a series of dramatic public hearings was “not partisan”, Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney said. “It was truthful.”Pence was speaking to CBS, to promote a new book in which he sets out his version of events on the day supporters of his president, Donald Trump, attacked Congress, some chanting that Pence should be hanged.Pence previously said he would consider testifying. But to CBS, he said: “Congress has no right to my testimony on separation of powers under the constitution of the United States.“And I believe it will establish a terrible precedent for the Congress to summon a vice-president of the United States to speak about deliberations that took place at the White House.”Trump supporters attacked Congress after he told them to “fight like hell” to stop certification of Joe Biden’s election win, in service of the lie that it was the result of electoral fraud. Nine deaths have been linked to the riot, including suicides among law enforcement.Trump was impeached a second time but acquitted when Senate Republicans stayed loyal. On Tuesday, he announced a third consecutive presidential run.Pence is also eyeing a run for the Republican nomination. In doing so he must balance promoting his record as vice-president to Trump, thereby appealing to Trump’s supporters, with distancing himself from a former president whose standing is slipping after Republican disappointment in the midterm elections.Pence said he was “closing the door” on the prospect of testifying.“But I must say again, the partisan nature of the January 6 committee has been a disappointment to me. It seemed to me in the beginning, there was an opportunity to examine every aspect of what happened on January 6, and to do so more in the spirit of the 9/11 Commission, non-partisan, non-political, and that was an opportunity lost.”The January 6 committee was appointed by the Democratic House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, after the Republican leader in the House, Kevin McCarthy, tried to appoint Trump allies to a 9/11-style panel. Pelosi rejected those appointments, leading McCarthy to withdraw from the process.The January 6 committee consists of seven Democrats and two Republicans, Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, anti-Trump figures who will soon leave Congress.Who’s next? Republicans who might go up against Trump in 2024Read moreThe panel is wrapping up its work, after it was confirmed on Wednesday that Republicans will take control of the House.In their statement, Thompson and Cheney said: “The select committee has proceeded respectfully and responsibly in our engagement with Vice-President Pence, so it is disappointing that he is misrepresenting the nature of our investigation while giving interviews to promote his new book.“Our investigation has publicly presented the testimony of more than 50 Republican witnesses, including senior members of the TrumpWhite House, the Trump campaign, and the Trump justice department.“This testimony, subject to criminal penalties for lying to Congress, was not ‘partisan’. It was truthful.”TopicsMike PenceJanuary 6 hearingsLiz CheneyUS politicsUS CongressHouse of RepresentativesRepublicansnewsReuse this content More

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    Pence risks Trump’s wrath by piling on criticisms of ex-president in new book

    Pence risks Trump’s wrath by piling on criticisms of ex-president in new bookIn memoir, former vice-president protests loyalty but hits out over Charlottesville, Russia, both impeachments and more In his new book, Donald Trump’s vice-president, Mike Pence, protests his loyalty to his former boss but also levels criticisms that will acquire new potency as Trump prepares to announce another presidential run and the Republican party debates whether to stay loyal after disappointment in last week’s midterm elections.‘It’s time to move on’: have the US midterms finally loosened Trump’s grip on the Republican party?Read moreAccording to Pence, Trump mishandled his response to a march staged by neo-Nazis in Charlottesville in August 2017, a costly error that Pence says could have been avoided had Pence called Trump before a fateful press conference in which Trump failed to condemn “the racists and antisemites in Charlottesville by name”.Also in Pence’s judgment, “there was no reason for Trump not to call out Russia’s bad behaviour” early in his term while beset by investigations of Russian election interference on Trump’s behalf and links between Trump and Moscow.“Acknowledging Russian meddling,” Pence writes, would not have “somehow cheapen[ed] our victory” over Hillary Clinton in 2016.Pence does not stop there. Among other judgments which may anger his former boss, he says Trump’s claimed “perfect call” to Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine in 2019, the subject of Trump’s first impeachment after he withheld military aid in search of political dirt, was in fact “less than perfect” – if not, in Pence’s judgment, impeachable.Pence also says that in January 2021 he urged Trump to make a farewell address to the nation and to encourage unity after the deadly Capitol attack he says Trump incited, the subject of Trump’s second impeachment. Trump remains unrepentant.Pence, famously devout, writes that he prayed for Trump throughout his presidency, and after urging a farewell address as given by “every president since George Washington … urged him one more time to take time to pray”.Perhaps unsurprisingly, the thrice-married, genital-grabbing, greed-worshipping Trump does not appear to have taken the advice to pray or be prayed for. A few days after the conversation about a farewell address, Pence writes, he “reminded” Trump “that I was praying for him”.“Don’t bother,” Trump said.Trump’s reluctance to be told what to do, to be told he is wrong or to credit advisers for anything mean Pence’s book would risk provoking attacks as Trump prepares to announce his next presidential campaign even if Pence were not a potential rival.Pence’s memoir, So Help Me God, will be published in the US on Tuesday. It has been trailed in the US media, including in a column published by the Wall Street Journal which presented the former vice-president’s version of events before, on and after January 6, when supporters incited by Trump attacked Congress in an attempt to stop certification of Joe Biden’s election win.Pence did not do as Trump demanded and reject electoral college results from key states while performing his ceremonial role in Congress. The House January 6 committee has presented Pence as something of a hero, but his reward on the day itself was a rampaging mob, members of which called for him to be hanged as a gallows was erected outside.In excerpts of an interview due to be broadcast on Monday, Pence told ABC News: “The president’s words [on 6 January 2021] were reckless and his actions were reckless. The president’s words that day at the rally endangered me and my family and everyone at the Capitol building.”Until last week, Pence’s book seemed likely to read as something of a balancing act, between loyalty to the president to whom in his own words he “always deferred” – and to that president’s supporters – and the service of ambition which has seen Pence visit early voting states and address conservative groups.Pence writes that after Biden’s victory, he advised Trump to follow a path to the 2024 nomination, treating his defeat as not “a loss – just an intermission”.“Thirteen days after the 2020 election,” Pence writes, “I had lunch with President Trump. I told him that if his legal challenges came up short, he could simply accept the results, move forward with the transition and start a political comeback, winning the Senate runoffs in Georgia, the 2021 Virginia governor’s race, and the House and Senate in 2022. Then he could run for president in 2024 and win. He seemed unmoved, even weary: ‘I don’t know, 2024 is so far off.’”Republicans lost the Senate runoffs in Georgia, won the Virginia governor’s race in large part by distancing their candidate from Trump, then missed their midterms target. Last Tuesday, an expected “red wave” failed to show.Instead, Democrats are celebrating while Republicans find themselves contemplating a narrow and unruly majority in the US House, the far right ascendant, and at least two more years in the Senate minority thanks to Democratic victories in Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania, the only seat flipped so far.A Republican backlash against Trump has formed quickly, particularly over his endorsements of election-denying candidates who lost Senate races and contests for governor and other state posts.01:41To make matters worse for Trump, the Republican governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, enjoyed a landslide re-election, a rare bright spot for the GOP, and has shot to the fore in polls of the nominal field for 2024.Pence blames Trump for events leading to January 6 in new memoirRead moreRegardless, aides to Trump have indicated that he will plough ahead and announce his 2024 campaign – his third consecutive run – at his Mar-a-Lago resort in DeSantis’s state on Tuesday.Trump has repeatedly attacked DeSantis. But regarding the governor, at least, Pence keeps his own powder dry. In his book, the former vice-president and Trump coronavirus taskforce chief mentions his potential primary rival just once, praising him for his handling of the pandemic.Pence doggedly claims the Trump administration passed its Covid test with flying colours, even praising government scientists including Anthony Fauci – “a great source of comfort to millions of Americans” – who are now likely targets for investigation by House Republicans.Under DeSantis, more than 82,000 people have died of Covid-19 in Florida, the third-highest state total. The national death toll is close to 1.1m.TopicsBooksDonald TrumpMike PenceTrump administrationUS elections 2020US midterm elections 2022US elections 2024newsReuse this content More

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    Trump said Pence was ‘too honest’ over January 6 plot, says ex-vice-president in book

    Trump said Pence was ‘too honest’ over January 6 plot, says ex-vice-president in bookPence also seems to blame anti-Trump Lincoln Project for angering former president with political ad, fueling Capitol attack Shortly before the January 6 insurrection, Donald Trump warned Mike Pence he was “too honest” when he hesitated to pursue legalistic attempts to stop certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory and would make Trump’s supporters “hate his guts”, the former vice-president writes in his memoir.The winner of the midterms is not yet clear – but the loser is Donald TrumpRead morePence also seems, bizarrely, to blame the anti-Trump Lincoln Project for enraging Trump with a political ad, thereby fueling the anger that incited the Capitol attack.Pence’s book, So Help Me God, will be published in the US on Tuesday. An extract was published by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.Describing a conversation on New Year’s Day 2021, five days before supporters Trump told to “fight like hell” stormed the US Capitol, Pence writes that he and Trump discussed a lawsuit filed by Republicans, asking a judge to declare the vice-president had “‘exclusive authority and sole discretion to decide which electoral votes should count”.Pence says Trump told him that if the suit “gives you the power, why would you oppose it?”Pence says he “told him, as I had many times, that I didn’t believe I possessed that power under the constitution”.“You’re too honest,” Trump chided. “Hundreds of thousands are gonna hate your guts … People are gonna think you’re stupid.”In the end, hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, some chanting that Pence should be hanged. Nine deaths, including law enforcement suicides, have been linked to the riot.Pence’s book emerges as he seeks to establish himself as an alternative to Trump in the Republican presidential primary for 2024.Trump has indicated he will announce his third consecutive run soon, a plan possibly delayed by midterm elections on Tuesday in which the GOP did not succeed as expected and high-profile Trump-backed candidates failed to win their races.Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor and a much stronger rival to Trump in polling than Pence, provided a bright spot for Republicans with a landslide win that thrust his name back into the spotlight.In hearings held by the House January 6 committee, Pence has been painted as a hero for refusing to attempt to block Biden’s win, even after his life was placed in danger.In the extract published on Thursday, Pence said the Lincoln Project, a group of anti-Trump conservative operatives, angered Trump with an ad which said Pence would “put the final nail in the coffin” of his re-election campaign by certifying Biden’s win.Rick Wilson, a Lincoln Project co-founder, told the Guardian: “It’s no secret that the Lincoln Project has lived rent-free in Donald Trump’s head since 2019. Mike Pence telling this story is one more powerful testimony to just how our ‘audience of one’ strategy unfailingly disrupts Trump world.”On Twitter, Wilson linked to the ad.On the page, Pence describes events inside the Capitol as Trump’s supporters attacked. His account parallels reporting by news outlets and testimony presented by the House committee, to which Pence has not yet testified.The devoutly Christian Pence gives his version of a call with Trump on the morning of 6 January in which Trump has widely been described as calling his vice-president a “pussy”.Pence writes: “The president laid into me. ‘You’ll go down as a wimp,’ he said. ‘If you [don’t block certification], I made a big mistake five years ago!’”Pence describes his refusal, also widely reported, to get in a Secret Service vehicle, lest his protectors drive him away while the attack was in motion.He describes meetings with Trump after the riot, when Trump’s second impeachment was in train. On 11 January, Pence writes, Trump “looked tired, and his voice seemed fainter than usual”. He says Trump “responded with a hint of regret” when he was told Pence’s wife and daughter were also at the Capitol during the deadly attack.“He then asked, ‘Were you scared?’“‘No,’ I replied, ‘I was angry. You and I had our differences that day, Mr President, and seeing those people tearing up the Capitol infuriated me.’ He started to bring up the election, saying that people were angry, but his voice trailed off. I told him he had to set that aside, and he responded quietly, ‘Yeah.’”Pence claims the Capitol rioters, more than 900 of whom have now been charged, some with seditious conspiracy, were “not our movement”. He says Trump spoke with “genuine sadness in his voice” as he “mused: ‘What if we hadn’t had the rally? What if they hadn’t gone to the Capitol? … It’s too terrible to end like this.’”Pence may risk angering Trump by presenting something approaching presidential contrition. Trump claims to regret nothing about his actions on 6 January, denying wrongdoing in the face of multiple investigations, pursuing the lie that his defeat was the result of electoral fraud and presenting rioters as political prisoners.Pence also describes a meeting on 14 January, “the day after President Trump was impeached for the second time”.“I reminded him that I was praying for him,” Pence writes. Trump, he says, answered “Don’t bother” but added: “It’s been fun.”Pence said he told Trump they would “just have to disagree on two things” – January 6 and the fact Pence would “never stop praying” for Trump.Pence says Trump smiled and said: “That’s right – don’t ever change.”TopicsBooksMike PenceDonald TrumpTrump administrationUS Capitol attackUS elections 2020US politicsnewsReuse this content More

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    Culture wars, abortion and conspiracy theories: what the midterms tell us about the US – podcast

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    Florida used to be seen as a swing state but in recent years it has lurched further and further to the right. Now there are worries democracy itself is under threat

    How to listen to podcasts: everything you need to know

    Ahead of the US midterm elections, Oliver Laughland travelled around Florida to find out what really mattered to the people getting ready to vote. He told Michael Safi how he travelled to Disney World, and found the “happiest place on Earth” had become a political battleground thanks to a controversial bill curtailing the teaching of sexuality and gender identity in schools. Elsewhere he met Charlie Crist, the politician trying to take on Ron DeSantis – the Florida governor who is seen by many as the successor to Donald Trump. And he heard how the Democrats are hoping the backlash against the scrapping of Roe v Wade, which protected the right to abortion in the US, could help their party. Finally, with so many voters in the US refusing to believe Joe Biden was lawfully elected, he asks what these elections tell us about the fragility of democracy in the country. More

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    The Trump Tapes: Bob Woodward’s chilling warning for US democracy

    The Trump Tapes: Bob Woodward’s chilling warning for US democracy The Washington Post Watergate veteran’s 20 interviews with the now former president prove to be must-listen materialBob Woodward has witnessed more than 50 years of depredation on the Potomac. Together with Carl Bernstein, he helped push Richard Nixon out the door. Only one president, however, left the veteran Washington Post reporter fearing for the future of the republic and democracy.‘A nutso proposition’: Robert Draper on Trump, Republicans and January 6 Read moreHis latest endeavor, subtitled “Bob Woodward’s Twenty Interviews with President Donald Trump”, is a passport to the heart of darkness. In June 2020, Trump confided: “I get people, they come up with ideas. But the ideas are mine, Bob. Want to know something? Everything is mine.” So much for the 24th Psalm: “The earth is the Lord’s.”Trump whispered and sought to draw Woodward close. The author questions, pokes and curates. But in the end, his subject is left unbowed.The Trump Tapes, an audiobook, is disturbingly relevant, an unplanned coda to Woodward’s print Trump trilogy. We hear Trump ladle out praise for Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin. Kim Jong-un is dear to his heart. Trump praises them for smarts, cunning and ruthlessness. He envies autocrats, seemingly wishes to join their ranks. A second term as president would provide that opportunity, Woodward argues.The tapes convincingly demonstrate that Trump knew in early 2020 that Covid posed a mortal danger to the US, but balked at telling the whole truth. His re-election hung in the balance.By the time Trump delivered his State of the Union address to Congress in February 2020, his national security team had delivered a stark warning. Yet Trump soft-pedaled the danger until his final months in office. Covid deaths in Republican America grew to outpace fatalities in Democratic states.Robert O’Brien, Trump’s national security adviser, and Matthew Pottinger, his deputy, confirmed to Woodward that they warned Trump the coronavirus would be “the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency”. They expected the devastation to be brutal, akin to the flu epidemic of 1918.Trump tacitly acknowledges receiving their message but does not dwell on Covid’s downside. He did not see it as his primary responsibility.In February 2020, Trump assured Woodward that everything was OK in the US, adding “now we got a little bit of a setback with the China virus”. He added that Covid would “go away in a couple of months with the heat”. In summer 2020, asked if this were “the leadership test of a lifetime”, Trump offered an emphatic “no”.He bragged of the US nuclear arsenal. “I have built a weapon system that nobody’s ever had in this country before,” Trump said. “We have stuff that Putin and Xi have never heard about before.”The tapes again demonstrate that Trump holds the press in contempt but yearns for its approval. Trump flatters his interviewer as “a great historian” and “the great Bob Woodward”. His tropism toward Woodward and Maggie Haberman is of the same piece. Woodward doubled as de facto White House stenographer and chronicler, Haberman as psychiatrist. Trump would call without warning. Woodward scattered devices around his home, to record such conversations.In the end, Trump smashed history’s clock. The US stands changed, possibly forever.“There is no turning back for American politics,” Woodward observes. “Trump was and still is a huge force and indelible presence, with the most powerful political machine in the country. He has the largest group of followers, loyalists and fundraisers, exceeding that of even President Biden.”Our divisions are unlikely to recede, Woodward worries. Trump better intuited where America stood in 2016 than any of his rivals. He grasped the impact of free trade, opioids and death by despair. He validated his base and relished his capacity to enrage. In the process, he obliterated the Republican legacy as the party of Abraham Lincoln and made the GOP his own.Woodward acknowledges the power of Trump’s instincts. On tape, Trump places himself on par with the 16th president and claims to have outshone Lyndon Johnson and the civil rights legislation of the 1960s.“No, I’ve done more,” he bristles, when pressed.Not surprisingly, Woodward and Trump spar over culture. A son of an Illinois state judge, a graduate of Yale, Woodward asserts that he and Trump are beneficiaries of white privilege. Woodward served in the navy, Trump dodged Vietnam. Trump refuses to have any of it. He says Woodward’s formulation is not part of his worldview.Maggie Haberman on Trump: ‘He’s become a Charles Foster Kane character’Read moreWoodward also focuses on the anger unleashed by the murder of George Floyd. Trump revisits the ensuing riots. From the left, the slogan “Defund the police” is a gift that keeps on giving for Republicans. This election cycle, law and order appears to be the winning message – as it was in 1968, 1972, 1988 and 2016. Latino voters and Asian Americans drift to the GOP.If Trump seeks the 2024 Republican nomination the crown will likely be his, together with excellent odds for re-election. Joe Biden’s ratings lumber. A criminal indictment might even burnish Trump’s allure to the faithful, albeit a conviction would be a wholly different matter.Biden has ignored the cold fact that his election came with a singular mandate: that he not act like his predecessor – nothing more. Instead, the 46th president fashioned himself as FDR 2.0, striving to usher in a second New Deal via razor-thin Democratic margins in Congress.On 8 November 2022, America will deliver a midterm verdict. Weeks later, Biden will turn 80. The country will be watching. So will an eager Trump and a vexed Woodward. No one said democracy was easy.TopicsBooksDonald TrumpAudiobooksCoronavirusUS elections 2020Politics booksUS domestic policyreviewsReuse this content More

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    Republican senator Tom Cotton brags about ignoring Trump impeachment evidence in new book

    Republican senator Tom Cotton brags about ignoring Trump impeachment evidence in new bookThe Arkansas senator, a Republican presidential hopeful, also suggests president did not know military procedures In January 2020, the rightwing Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton said he would vote to acquit Donald Trump in his first impeachment trial because despite senators having “heard from 17 witnesses … and received more than 28,000 pages of documents”, Democrats had not presented their case correctly.Trump bragged about new US nuclear weapons, Woodward tape showsRead moreAccording to Cotton, the senators who sat through so much evidence would “perform the role intended for us by the founders, of providing the ‘cool and deliberate sense of the community’, as it says in Federalist 63.”In a new book, however, Cotton boasts that he spent his time refusing to pay attention – pretending to read materials relevant to the president’s trial – but hiding his real reading matter under a fake cover.He writes: “My aides delivered a steady flow of papers and photocopied books, hidden underneath a fancy cover sheet labeled ‘Supplementary Impeachment Materials’, so nosy reporters sitting above us in the Senate gallery couldn’t see what I was reading.”“They probably would’ve reported that I wasn’t paying attention to the trial.”Reporters did report that Republicans were not paying attention. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee named the book she chose to read instead of participating in only the third presidential trial in history: “It was Resistance (At All Costs) by Kim Strassel.”Other Republicans fidgeted or doodled. But reporters noted that Blackburn violated decorum guidelines on relevant reading: “Reading materials should be confined to only those readings which pertain to the matter before the Senate.”Admitting the same infraction, Cotton – a leading China hawk – says he was reading “about the science of coronaviruses, the methods of vaccine development and the history of pandemics”.He adds: “I was paying attention – to the story that mattered most. The outcome of the impeachment trial was a foregone conclusion, and it wouldn’t impact the daily lives of normal Americans.”Cotton’s book, Only the Strong: Reversing the Left’s Plot to Sabotage American Power, will be published next Tuesday. The Guardian obtained a copy.Cotton is now among senators, governors and former members of the Trump administration jostling for position in the developing contest for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. Publishing a book is a traditional preparatory step.The senator, 45, is a former soldier who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and at Arlington Cemetery before entering politics as a foreign policy hawk. His book takes aim at Joe Biden and Barack Obama – and equally persistently, from the prologue to the note on sources, Woodrow Wilson, the president who took office in 1913, took the US into the first world war in 1917, left office in 1921 and died in 1924.Trump is the clear frontrunner for the Republican nomination 100 years later, despite facing legal jeopardy for inciting the Capitol attack, trying to overturn the 2020 election, retaining classified records and being the subject of criminal and civil suits over his business affairs and an allegation of rape.Cotton voted to acquit Trump at both his impeachment trials, the second for inciting the Capitol riot, but he was not among the eight Republican senators who supported Trump’s attempts to overturn election results in key states.In his book, however, the Arkansan skips over domestic concerns, including his own advocacy of using the military against “Antifa terrorists” during protests for racial justice in summer 2020, a position which stoked huge controversy and brought down an editor at the New York Times.Cotton is largely careful to target only Democratic presidents. Hitting Bill Clinton and Barack Obama for not serving in the military before running for the White House, he omits mention of George W Bush’s avoidance of service in Vietnam by securing a post in the Texas air national guard, to which he did not always show up.Unchecked review: how Trump dodged two impeachments … and the January 6 committee?Read moreBut Cotton does risk angering Trump, by criticising him for “waiting too long to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal” and by dishing on a private call in which the then president professed ignorance of military protocol.Early in Trump’s term in power, Cotton writes, the president called him about a potential nominee – common Senate business.But Trump then said: “The other night, they called me and asked for approval to kill some terrorist. I never heard of the guy.”Cotton asked if Trump approved the strike.“Trump replied, ‘Oh yeah, but I asked why they called me in the first place. Didn’t they have some captain or major or someone who knew more about this guy? I mean, I’d never heard of him.’”With nudging, Cotton says, Trump worked out that the military was working according to protocols laid down by Obama, who he accuses of “impos[ing] needless layers of bureaucratic and legal review” on strikes on terrorist targets.TopicsBooksDonald TrumpTrump administrationTrump impeachment (2019)RepublicansUS elections 2024ArkansasReuse this content More

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    Trump aide Mark Meadows must testify before Georgia grand jury, judge orders

    Trump aide Mark Meadows must testify before Georgia grand jury, judge ordersTrump’s former chief of staff must answer questions about alleged attempt to overturn 2020 election result A judge on Wednesday ordered the former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to testify before a special grand jury investigating whether Donald Trump and his allies illegally tried to overturn Georgia’s results in the 2020 election.Trump’s ex-chief of staff Mark Meadows complies with January 6 subpoenaRead moreMeadows is a key figure in the investigation. He traveled to Georgia, sat in on calls with state officials and coordinated and communicated with influencers either encouraging or discouraging the pressure campaign.The Fulton county district attorney, Fani Willis, opened the investigation last year. Meadows is just one of several Trump associates and advisers whose testimony Willis has sought.Because Meadows does not live in Georgia, Willis, a Democrat, had to get a judge where he lives, in South Carolina, to order him to appear. Edward Miller, a circuit court judge in Pickens county, ordered Meadows to testify, a Willis spokesperson confirmed.Meadows’s attorney, Jim Bannister, said his client was “weighing all options” including appeals.“Nothing final until we see the order,” he said.Willis has been fighting similar battles in courts around the US. An appeals court in Texas has indicated it may not recognize the validity of the Georgia summonses. Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator from South Carolina, asked the US supreme court to intervene after a federal appeals court ordered him to testify.In the petition seeking Meadows’s testimony, Willis wrote that he attended a 21 December 2020 meeting with Trump and others “to discuss allegations of voter fraud and certification of electoral college votes from Georgia and other states”.The next day, Willis wrote, Meadows made a “surprise visit” to Cobb county, just outside Atlanta, where an audit of signatures on absentee ballot envelopes was being conducted. He asked to observe but was not allowed to because the audit was not open to the public, the petition says.Meadows also sent emails to justice department officials alleging voter fraud in Georgia and elsewhere and requesting investigations, Willis wrote. And he took part in a 2 January 2021 call with the Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, during which Trump suggested Raffensperger “find” enough votes to overturn the president’s loss in the state.According to a transcript of the call, Meadows said Trump’s team believed that “not every vote or fair vote and legal vote was counted. And that’s at odds with the representation from the secretary of state’s office.” He also said he hoped they could agree on a way “to look at this a little bit more fully”. Raffensperger disputed the assertions.After the election, Meadows was widely seen in the White House as a chief instigator of Trump’s fixation on the election, passing along conspiracies about fraud other officials were forced to swat down. He pushed one theory that people in Italy had changed votes in the US with satellite technology, a claim the former justice department official Richard Donoghue labeled “pure insanity”.In a court filing this week, Meadows’s lawyer argued that executive privilege and other rights shield his client from testifying.Bannister asserted that Meadows has been instructed by Trump “to preserve certain privileges and immunities attaching to his former office as White House chief of staff”. Willis’s petition calls for him “to divulge the contents of executive privileged communications with the president”, Bannister wrote.Meadows also invoked that privilege in a fight against subpoenas issued by the House January 6 committee. Meadows has been fighting investigations of the Capitol attack and has avoided having to testify. He turned over thousands of texts to the House committee before refusing an interview.The House held Meadows in contempt of Congress but the justice department declined to prosecute.Special grand juries in Georgia cannot issue indictments. Instead, they can gather evidence and compel testimony and recommend further action, including criminal charges. It is up to the district attorney to decide whether to seek an indictment from a regular grand jury.TopicsGeorgiaTrump administrationUS elections 2020newsReuse this content More