‘Test case’ for America: Colorado’s top court poised to weigh Trump’s eligibility to run again

Politico

‘Test case’ for America: Colorado’s top court poised to weigh Trump’s eligibility to run again

Erica Orden, Kyle Cheney and Zach Montellaro – December 6, 2023

Matthew Putney/AP

The most potent effort to disqualify Donald Trump from the 2024 ballot lands Wednesday in the lap of Colorado’s highest court — and a ruling there could send the case hurtling toward the U.S. Supreme Court just as the election year arrives.

The Colorado case is one of dozens around the country that have challenged Trump’s eligibility to return to the presidency. The cases argue that he is disqualified under section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which states that anyone who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” after taking an oath of office to support the Constitution is forbidden from holding any public office.

So far, no court has declared Trump ineligible, and few of the cases have advanced beyond initial stages. In Minnesota, the state supreme court dismissed a challenge seeking to bar Trump from that state’s Republican primary ballot, but said the challengers could bring a new case concerning the general election after the primary. In Michigan, a state judge dismissed a challenge there, and an appeals court is expected to issue a ruling after Dec. 8.

The Colorado case, however, is on the fastest track, and the challengers there may have one of their most favorable venues: All seven justices of the Colorado Supreme Court are Democratic appointees.

During Wednesday’s argument, those justices will face two weighty questions: whether Trump provoked and participated in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and, if so, whether that act requires his removal from the ballot.

After a week-long trial last month in Denver, the district judge who heard the case on an expedited basis ruled that Trump was a willing instigator of the violence that nearly derailed the transfer of power in 2021. But Judge Sarah Wallace also concluded that Trump could remain on Colorado’s presidential ballot because she found that the 14th Amendment’s insurrection clause does not apply to the office of the president.

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, said the lower court ruling was “pretty surprising.”

“I think it is important that a court of law has decided that Donald Trump engaged in insurrection,” she told POLITICO. “The court’s decision to say the presidency is excluded from section 3 of the 14th Amendment is the really surprising part. Under that decision, Donald Trump is above the law when it comes to insurrection.”

Now, the Colorado justices have a chance to lend the imprimatur of a state supreme court to the debate. And if they rule against Trump, they will trigger a rush to the U.S. Supreme Court, which would be called upon to resolve Trump’s eligibility nationwide.

“I think once that happens, the court will seriously consider getting involved,” said Richard Hasen, an expert in election law who teaches at UCLA Law School.

Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), who appointed five of the seven current justices in his former role as the state’s governor, described the issue as a “test case” for the nation to determine the meaning of 14th Amendment provision. He said in an interview that he worries his state becoming the epicenter of the issue isn’t “in Colorado’s best interest.”

“That being said, we need to figure out what that law means,” he added.

Trump contends that the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6 doesn’t amount to an insurrection at all. He argues that the Colorado challengers seeking to remove him from the ballot — several voters backed by advocacy groups — relied too heavily on the work of the House Jan. 6 select committee and on witness testimony that he argues was subjective.

He also argues that his conduct on Jan. 6 was largely protected by the First Amendment and that he can’t be blamed for the violence that followed his remarks to the crowd.

But Wallace rejected those assertions. “The Court finds that Petitioners have established that Trump engaged in an insurrection on January 6, 2021 through incitement, and that the First Amendment does not protect Trump’s speech,” she ruled.

The case may turn on historical understandings about the roots of the 14th Amendment’s insurrection clause, which passed in the aftermath of the Civil War and was intended to prevent former leaders of the Confederacy from returning to power. The clause has rarely been applied in the modern era, and it has never been applied to a presidential candidate — nor has any former president been accused of aiding an insurrection against his own government.

The Jan. 6 select committee spent a year interviewing hundreds of witnesses in Trump’s orbit, amassing a trove of evidence that has formed the backbone of multiple civil and criminal investigations of Trump’s efforts to subvert the 2020 election. Though the committee’s conclusions were the subjective judgment of its nine members — seven Democrats and two Republicans — the hundreds of witness transcripts and exhibits laid bare an extraordinary effort by Trump to use his office to pressure federal and state officials to prevent Joe Biden from taking office.

That effort culminated with Trump’s incendiary speech to a crowd of supporters on Jan. 6 near the White House, where Trump urged them to “fight like hell” to “stop the steal” and told them to march on the Capitol. Violence was already underway during his speech, and thousands of his supporters began the 1.5-mile march before hearing him implore them to go “peacefully.”

Wallace’s trial featured testimony from the Jan. 6 committee’s chief investigator, Tim Heaphy, who described the panel’s evidence-gathering process. Other witnesses included D.C. Police Officer Daniel Hodges, who was famously assaulted by Jan. 6 rioters while he was wedged in a Capitol doorway; former Trump Pentagon aide Kash Patel; retiring Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.); and several experts in constitutional history and right-wing extremism.

Wallace’s ruling perplexed many legal advocates by concluding that Trump engaged in an insurrection but nevertheless holding that he could remain on the ballot.

Advocacy groups successfully deployed the 14th Amendment to have a local official in New Mexico removed from office last year over his actions related to Jan. 6. A state judge ordered that Couy Griffin, a “Cowboys for Trump” co-founder and then an Otero County commissioner, be removed. That lawsuit was backed by advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which is also backing the Colorado case.

Griffin was previously convicted in a federal court for a misdemeanor for entering the grounds of the Capitol on Jan. 6. The state Supreme Court twice turned away his appeal of the 14th amendment ruling.

Activists have pushed election officials across the country to remove Trump from state ballots, but they have largely balked, saying courts — not election officials — should be the ones to make that call. Now, officials across the country are watching the Colorado case for signals on how to proceed in their own states.

Recently, Oregon Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade, a Democrat, said she would not remove Trump from the state’s primary ballot last week. Her office — relying on legal advice from the state Department of Justice — noted that state law treats presidential primary elections and the general election differently, and that her decision here does not apply to the November election.

“We recognize that the same question may come up with respect to the general election if Donald Trump is nominated,” Benjamin Gutman, the state’s solicitor general, wrote in a letter to Griffin-Valade. But, he concluded, “we think it would be prudent to defer consideration of the general-election question at present.”

Anthony Adragna contributed to this report.

Liz Cheney warns Trump will never leave office if he’s elected president again

NBC News

Liz Cheney warns Trump will never leave office if he’s elected president again

Rebecca Shabad – December 4, 2023

https://s.yimg.com/rx/ev/builds/1.1.50/pframe.html

WASHINGTON — Former Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., warned Monday that if Donald Trump is elected president next year for a second term, he will try to remain in power beyond those four years.

“There’s no question,” Cheney said about that possibility in an interview on NBC’s “TODAY” show with host Savannah Guthrie in advance of the release Tuesday of her book, “Oath and Honor: A Memoir and a Warning.”

Asked if she believes Trump would try to stay in power forever, Cheney said, “Absolutely. He’s already done it once,” referring to his efforts after the 2020 presidential election to overturn Joe Biden’s victory and to stop its certification on Jan. 6, 2021.

President Trump Signs Bills That Nullify Measures Put In Place During Obama Presidency (Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images file)
President Trump Signs Bills That Nullify Measures Put In Place During Obama Presidency (Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images file)

The U.S. could become a dictatorship if Trump is re-elected, Cheney warned. “I think it’s a very, very real threat and concern. And I don’t say any of that lightly and frankly, it’s painful for me as someone who has spent her whole life in Republican politics, who grew up as a Republican to watch what’s happening to my party and to watch the extent to which Donald Trump himself has basically determined that the only thing that matters is him, his power and his success.”

Cheney said it’s “naive” for Americans to think the country would survive another Trump presidency. She argued that Americans cannot count on a House led by Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., to stop Trump or a Senate whose members include Republicans Josh Hawley, of Missouri, or Mike Lee, of Utah.

Asked what would happen if Trump tried to overturn the election again with Johnson as House speaker, Cheney said it’s “too dangerous to even contemplate going down that path” because, she said, they all had a “practice run” in 2020 and 2021.

Cheney suggested it would be safer for the country for Democrats to take control of the House, saying emphatically that Johnson and the Republicans currently serving there cannot be in the majority in 2025, especially if it has to determine the outcome of the presidential election.

“I think what we have seen is that you cannot count on this group of elected Republicans to uphold their oath,” she said.

Cheney repeated that she would “never vote for Donald Trump” and that she would “do whatever it takes to make sure that Donald Trump is defeated in 2024.” Asked if that means she would vote for Biden, she repeated, “I will do whatever it takes.”

“A vote for Donald Trump may mean the last election that you ever get to vote in,” she warned. “A vote for Donald Trump is a vote against the Constitution.”

The former congresswoman and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney said she would see how the presidential race unfolds over the next couple of months before deciding if she would try to launch her own White House bid.

‘Dictator’ Trump warnings spook America

AFP

‘Dictator’ Trump warnings spook America

Danny Kemp – December 5, 2023

A rash of dire warnings has appeared in US media that a second Trump presidency could slide into dictatorship (Brandon Bell)
A rash of dire warnings has appeared in US media that a second Trump presidency could slide into dictatorship (Brandon Bell)

Could a second Donald Trump presidency slide into dictatorship? A sudden spate of dystopian warnings has got America talking about the possibility less than a year before the US elections.

Dark scenarios about what could happen if the twice-impeached Republican former president wins in 2024 have appeared in the space of a few days in major US media outlets that include The Washington Post, The New York Times and the Atlantic.

Grim predictions also came from top Republican Trump critic Liz Cheney, who said that the country is “sleepwalking into dictatorship” and that she is weighing a third-party presidential run of her own to try to stop him.

Together, they paint a bleak picture of an angrier yet more disciplined Trump than during his first spell in the White House, one who would wreak vengeance on his perceived enemies and possibly try to stay in power beyond the two-term US limit.

Trump, 77, responded to the warnings in typical style by laughing them off — with an edge.

“He says, you’re not going to be a dictator, are you? I said no, no, no — other than day one,” Trump said when asked in a televised Fox News townhall on Tuesday if he would abuse power or seek retribution.

“We’re closing the border and we’re drilling, drilling, drilling (for oil). After that I’m not a dictator.”

– ‘Day one’ –

President Joe Biden, who is behind Trump in the polls ahead of a likely replay of their bitter 2020 contest, said the warnings backed his own claims to be defending democracy.

“If Trump wasn’t running, I’m not sure I’d be running. But we cannot let him win,” the 81-year-old Democrat told a campaign event in Massachusetts.

Biden cited Trump’s own increasingly violent language on the campaign trail, saying his rival’s description of his opponents as “vermin” echoed the language used in Nazi Germany.

The most eye-opening piece appeared in The Washington Post by conservative commentator Robert Kagan, with the headline: “A Trump dictatorship is increasingly inevitable. We should stop pretending.”

Comparing him to the power-grabbing Roman emperor Julius Caesar, the lengthy article says neither the US Constitution nor the Supreme Court could prevent Trump being “president for life” if he wanted.

Kagan wrote that if Trump survives the trials he faces over trying to upend the 2020 election and cling to power illegally, and wins the next election, he will in effect feel he is above the law and can get away with anything.

The New York Times analyzed the ways that a “second term could unleash a darker President Trump” than in his chaotic first presidency from 2017-2021.

Trump has “spoken admiringly of autocrats for decades” and would likely follow their example by packing the civil service with loyalists and using the Justice Department to crack down on opponents, it said.

In scenes reminiscent of a dystopian movie, it said Trump would also set up migrant detention camps and use the military against protesters under the US Insurrection Act.

The Atlantic magazine meanwhile is dedicating its entire January-February 2024 issue to what a Trump presidency would look like, with an editor’s note titled simply: “A Warning.”

– ‘Dangerous moment’ –

Some of the most dire forebodings have come from Cheney, the former Republican lawmaker and daughter of ex-vice president Dick Cheney, whose opposition to Trump made her a pariah in the party.

“It’s a very dangerous moment,” she told NBC on Sunday.

There was “no question” Trump would try to stay in office beyond 2028, she said, adding that the January 6, 2021 assault on the Capitol by supporters trying to overturn Biden’s election win was merely a “practice run.”

For his critics, Trump’s autocratic side has long been in plain sight.

Trump already faces trial for conspiring to upend the 2020 election result, with prosecutors saying on Tuesday that evidence shows he was determined to “remain in power at any cost.”

His language has turned more extreme in recent months, during which he described migrants as “poisoning the blood of our country” and suggested his former military chief should face death for treason.

But in the looking-glass world of Trump and his allies, he is always the victim.

“Joe Biden is the real dictator,” Trump said in a picture posted on his conservative Truth Social network.

The Atlantic’s new issue sounds alarm over second Trump term

The Hill

The Atlantic’s new issue sounds alarm over second Trump term

Lauren Sforza – December 4, 2023

The Atlantic’s new issue sounds alarm over second Trump term

The Atlantic’s newest issue is sounding the alarm over a potential second term by former President Trump, warning that another four years under the former president would be worse than the first.

For The Atlantic’s January/February issue, the magazine published a 24-article project titled “If Trump Wins” to outline what a second Trump presidency would look like. The magazine’s editor-in-chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, wrote an editor’s note titled, “A Warning,” to introduce the series, which largely argues against another Trump term.

He wrote that for a short-lived period he believed Trump would never be a candidate for the White House again. He said this period lasted only from Jan. 6, 2021, to Jan. 28, 2021 — the date when former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) visited the former president at his Mar-a-Lago residence.

“And so here we are. It is not a sure thing that Trump will win the Republican nomination again, but as I write this, he’s the prohibitive front-runner. Which is why we felt it necessary to share with our readers our collective understanding of what could take place in a second Trump term,” Goldberg wrote.

“Our team of brilliant writers makes a convincingly dispositive case that both Trump and Trumpism pose an existential threat to America and to the ideas that animate it. The country survived the first Trump term, though not without sustaining serious damage. A second term, if there is one, will be much worse,” Goldberg continued.

Goldberg emphasized that The Atlantic is not a partisan magazine, noting that its issues with the former president do not stem from him being a Republican.

“We believe that a democracy needs, among other things, a strong liberal party and a strong conservative party in order to flourish. Our concern is that the Republican Party has mortgaged itself to an antidemocratic demagogue, one who is completely devoid of decency,” he wrote.

David Frum, a staff writer for The Atlantic, used his piece to argue that Trump would lurch the country into a “constitutional crisis” if elected again. Frum was a speechwriter for former President George W. Bush.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Frum wrote that his article argues that “Trump’s attempt to destroy the legal system will lead — not to dictatorship — but to chaos, to the paralysis of the presidency, the US government, an open door to US enemies.”

The New York Times also published an article Monday pushing back on a second Trump term that argued his win could lead to a “more radical” term than the first.

“As he runs for president again facing four criminal prosecutions, Mr. Trump may seem more angry, desperate and dangerous to American-style democracy than in his first term. But the throughline that emerges is far more long-running: He has glorified political violence and spoken admiringly of autocrats for decades,” according to the article.

Trump’s campaign dismissed The Atlantic’s articles in a statement to The Hill.

“This is nothing more than another version of the media’s failed and false Russia collusion hoax,” Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said in a statement. “The Atlantic will be out of business soon because nobody will read that trash.”

A second Trump term ‘poses a threat to the existence of America as we know it,’ says The Atlantic’s top editor

CNN

A second Trump term ‘poses a threat to the existence of America as we know it,’ says The Atlantic’s top editor

Oliver Darcy, CNN – December 5, 2023

Bloomberg/Getty Images

Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor-in-chief of The Atlantic, refuses to go gently into that good night.

“We can’t participate in the normalization of Donald Trump,” an impassioned Goldberg told me by phone on Monday. “I refuse to participate in the normalization of Donald Trump.”

Goldberg is one of the few major newsroom leaders who has been exceptionally clear-eyed about the perilous storm on the horizon for American democracy. Using plain language, Goldberg and his team of writers at the renowned magazine have not shied away from portraying Trump as a vandal of civilized society and an outright menace to the U.S. Constitution.

On Monday, The Atlantic published a special edition of its monthly magazine focusing on what a second Trump term would look like. The aptly-titled “If Trump Wins” issue features two dozen articles laying out how the twice-impeached, four-time indicted candidate would shred norms, weaponize government, warp the rule of law, and degrade democracy.

“I want people to be able to hand this issue to people… who are still unsure about the nature of Trump’s authoritarianism,” Goldberg explained to me.

While the leaders of major American newsrooms might privately believe Trump will aim to rule as an authoritarian, it is rare to hear any of them say so aloud — especially in such frank terms. But Goldberg is more than comfortable doing so. He points out that his position is not a partisan one. It’s “not about Republicans and Democrats,” he stressed, but “about authoritarians versus pro-democracy Americans.” And, in his view, not being open with readers about dangerous forces on the march would amount to a dereliction of duty.

“I would prefer journalists to speak plainly about what they’re seeing,” Goldberg said. “And I believe that a second Trump term poses a threat to the existence of America as we know it.”

It is not difficult for newsrooms to state that they are pro-democracy. Most leaders in the Fourth Estate have no problem saying as much. The conundrum they face is that, in this dark time in which we find ourselves, staking out a vocal pro-democracy stance effectively means being anti-Trump. And most news organizations are not comfortable in that territory, given it could be perceived as partisan and turn away audiences.

“This is one of the discomforting aspects of this whole dilemma that people in the news media face,” Goldberg noted. “Our eyes and ears tell us that Donald Trump fomented an insurrection against the Constitution. Right? We saw it. We heard it. It happened. That means that he placed himself outside the norms of American democratic behavior. That is why I am comfortable devoting an entire issue of answering the question of what a second Trump term would look like and reaching the conclusion that it would be terrible. Absolutely terrible.”

When I asked Goldberg about whether being outspoken about the prospect of a second Trump presidency could alienate otherwise persuadable audiences, he argued that self-censorship is not the solution. As he put it, “At a certain point, you can’t convince people of reality.”

“All we can do is try to present fairly and completely our fact-checked views of Trump and Trumpism and hope that people read it and understand that we are trying to be truthful with our readers and truthful with ourselves and transparent,” Goldberg said.
“And if some voters in America can’t handle that, then they can’t handle that. There’s not much I can do about it.”

“And this is the dilemma facing all journalism institutions,” Goldberg continued. “We’d like to be able to speak to 100% of Americans. But at a certain point you don’t want to twist or muffle or downplay certain realities simply because reporting those realities offends a segment of your audience.”

Goldberg personally knows that being candid and reporting aggressively on Trump can come with severe consequences. After Goldberg reported in September 2020 that Trump had disparaged American servicemembers who had died in war as “suckers” and “losers” (something former White House chief of staff John Kelly later confirmed on the record to Jake Tapper), he had to move out of his house over security concerns for a period.

But, he warned, a second Trump presidency could be even worse for the press. And, for that reason, members of the news media will need to contemplate their editorial decisions now, given Trump’s already-declared hopes to muzzle critics if he were to regain power.

“We all understand that Trump thinks of us as enemies of the state, and we understand that there are consequences for us that come with this belief,” Goldberg said. “There’s a chance that he would try to somehow criminalize reporting in a second term, and so we have to sound the alarm about that, along with the more generalized threats to American democracy. And we have to sound the alarm now

A New Trump Administration Will ‘Come After’ the Media, Says Kash Patel

Donald Trump, who has already promised to use the Justice Department to “go after” his political adversaries, is expected to install Mr. Patel in a senior role if he returns to power.

By Jonathan Swan, Maggie Haberman and Charlie Savage December 5, 2023

Kash Patel stands holding a microphone in his right hand and gesturing with his left hand.
“We are going to come after the people in the media who lied about American citizens,” said Kash Patel, who served on the National Security Council during former President Donald J. Trump’s administration. Credit…Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times

A confidant of Donald J. Trump who is likely to serve in a senior national security role in any new Trump administration threatened on Tuesday to target journalists for prosecution if the former president regains the White House.

The confidant, Kash Patel, who served as Mr. Trump’s counterterrorism adviser on the National Security Council and also as chief of staff to the acting secretary of defense, made the remarks on a podcast hosted by Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former strategist, during a discussion about a potential second Trump presidency beginning in 2025.

“We will go out and find the conspirators, not just in government but in the media,” Mr. Patel said. “Yes, we’re going to come after the people in the media who lied about American citizens, who helped Joe Biden rig presidential elections — we’re going to come after you. Whether it’s criminally or civilly, we’ll figure that out.” He added: “We’re actually going to use the Constitution to prosecute them for crimes they said we have always been guilty of but never have.”

Earlier in the interview, when asked by Mr. Bannon whether a new administration would “deliver the goods” to “get rolling on prosecutions” early in a second term, Mr. Patel noted that the Trump team had a “bench” of “all-America patriots,” but he said he did not want to name any names “so the radical left-wing media can terrorize them.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Patel, Erica Knight, pointed out that in the same conversation with Mr. Bannon, Mr. Patel said they would “follow the facts and the law.” She also sent The New York Times a statement from Mr. Patel, reading, “When President Trump takes office in 2025, we will prosecute anyone that broke the law and end the weaponized, two tier system of justice.”

But Mr. Trump, who is facing 91 felony charges in four separate cases, has already promised to use the Justice Department to “go after” his political adversaries — signaling that a second Trump term would build on the ways it opened investigations into his enemies during his first term and fully abandon the post-Watergate norm of Justice Department independence.

“I will appoint a real special prosecutor to go after the most corrupt president in the history of the United States of America, Joe Biden, and the entire Biden crime family,” Mr. Trump said in June.

Mr. Patel was a relatively unknown Capitol Hill staffer in the early days of the Trump administration, in 2017, but he became an aggressive defender of Mr. Trump against the investigation into whether the president’s 2016 campaign conspired with Russians to affect the outcome. Over the next four years, he rose to become one of Mr. Trump’s most trusted aides and among the most powerful national security officials in the federal government.

In late 2020, Mr. Trump trusted Mr. Patel to such a degree that he asked for him to be installed as a deputy director of either the C.I.A. or the F.B.I. Mr. Trump jettisoned this plan only after senior officials, including the former C.I.A. director Gina Haspel and former Attorney General William P. Barr, argued forcefully against the move. Mr. Barr wrote in his memoir that he told Mark Meadows, then the chief of staff, that having Mr. Patel become deputy F.B.I. director would only happen “over my dead body.”

Over the past three years, since leaving government, Mr. Patel has capitalized on his fame as a Trump insider. He has sold “Kash” merchandise on an online store and wrote a children’s book about the Russia investigation in which a “King Donald” is persecuted by a wicked “Hillary Queenton.” The story’s hero is a wizard named “Kash” who exposes a conspiracy to tear down King Donald. Mr. Trump declared that he wanted to “put this amazing book in every school in America.”

Mr. Patel himself has filed defamation suits against The New York Times, CNN and Politico. And since leaving government he has set up a fund-raising entity to “fight the deep state” and finance lawsuits on behalf of the “everyday Americans” who he says have been “defamed” by what he calls “the fake news mafia.”

Mr. Patel’s threats against the news media echo warnings from Mr. Trump himself.

In a Truth Social post in September, the former president wrote: “I say up front, openly, and proudly, that when I WIN the Presidency of the United States, they and others of the LameStream Media will be thoroughly scrutinized for their knowingly dishonest and corrupt coverage of people, things, and events.” He added: “Why should NBC, or any other of the corrupt & dishonest media companies be entitled to use the very valuable Airwaves of the USA, FREE?”

In the same post, Mr. Trump wrote that “Comcast, with its one-side and vicious coverage by NBC NEWS, and in particular MSNBC,” should be “investigated for its ‘Country Threatening Treason.’”

Earlier this year, Mr. Trump recorded a video for his campaign website in which he promised that in a second term he would bring the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates broadcast licenses, “back under presidential authority as the Constitution demands.”

A spokesman for Mr. Trump, Steven Cheung, was asked if the former president disavowed Mr. Patel’s comments. Mr. Cheung did not answer the question directly, instead referring to a recent public statement from Mr. Trump’s top two campaign advisers that read, “Any personnel lists, policy agendas, or government plans published anywhere are merely suggestions. Likewise, all 2024 campaign policy announcements will be made by President Trump or members of his campaign team. Policy recommendations from external allies are just that — recommendations.”

Mr. Patel is among a small number of former senior national security officials from Mr. Trump’s first term who have stayed close to him. He was appointed by Mr. Trump in June 2022 to be one of his representatives to interact with the National Archives, whose officials had spent months the previous year trying to retrieve reams of presidential records that left the White House when Mr. Trump did, including classified material.

Mr. Patel told Breitbart News during an interview in 2022 that he had been on hand when Mr. Trump declassified documents before leaving office.

That interview attracted interest from federal investigators, who in May 2022 had subpoenaed any remaining classified documents that he hadn’t turned over. Three months later, the F.B.I. executed a search warrant to locate additional classified material at Mr. Trump’s Palm Beach club, Mar-a-Lago. Mr. Trump’s office claimed shortly after the search of the club that he had a standing order in place as president by which materials that left the Oval Office for the White House residence were considered declassified.

Several former senior officials, including former Vice President Mike Pence, said they knew of no such order.

Despite Mr. Trump’s obsession with news coverage and his need to stay in the headlines dating back to the 1980s, he has grown increasingly threatening toward the press throughout his life and particularly since his political campaigns began in 2015.

He has talked about changing libel laws to make it easier to sue over coverage. He repeatedly encouraged crowds at his rallies to antagonize the reporters gathered at the back covering the events. Once in office, he began referring to the press in public as “the enemy of the people,” language often used by despots globally to justify anti-press crackdowns.

He was obsessed with leaks. He wanted aides to interfere with the merger between AT&T and CNN, which covered him rigorously. And he told advisers he wanted officials to obtain phone records of a journalist covering him, a request that apparently was never fulfilled.

But Mr. Trump is suggesting there will be results next time.

“They are a true threat to Democracy and are, in fact, THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!” Mr. Trump wrote in September on Truth Social. “The Fake News Media should pay a big price for what they have done to our once great Country!”

“Chilling moment”: Liz Cheney says she secretly listened to phone call revealing Trump’s Jan. 6 plot

Salon

“Chilling moment”: Liz Cheney says she secretly listened to phone call revealing Trump’s Jan. 6 plot

Gabriella Ferrigine – December 5, 2023

Liz Cheney Gary Gershoff/Getty Images
Liz Cheney Gary Gershoff/Getty Images

Former Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., in her upcoming book “Oath and Honor,” disclosed the moment she learned of former President Donald Trump‘s plot to paint his loss of the 2020 presidential election as fraudulent, calling it “a very dangerous and chilling moment.” MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow read an excerpt from the book, detailing a phone call made two days before the deadly Capitol attacks in which the former president’s legal team allegedly discussed the fake elector scheme. Cheney, who noted that Trump’s attorneys were unaware that she was listening in on the call, also observed that former Vice President Mike Pence was acting in cooperation with the plans at that time.

“Listening to them describe how these fake electors were going to be used and the fact that they anticipated that Vice President Pence was gonna use them to refuse to count the legitimate electors was certainly a moment of intense concern,” Cheney wrote, also noting that she fled to the House parliamentarian after the call concluded to try and halt the plan. “It was very clear that there were not a lot of good answers to that,” Cheney added. The former legislator observed that Pence “ultimately of course did his duty bravely,” writing that she soon learned he was also speaking to the Senate parliamentarian. Pence would also eventually testify before a grand jury investigating Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

Ex-Flunkies Steve Bannon and Kash Patel Warn Trump Is Serious About Revenge

Daily Beast

Ex-Flunkies Steve Bannon and Kash Patel Warn Trump Is Serious About Revenge

AJ McDougall – December 5, 2023

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Kash Patel promised Steve Bannon, a fellow member of the former Trump adviser club, that the former president means to deliver on the vengeance he has vowed to exact should he win re-election to the White House next year. While hosting Patel on his War Room podcast Tuesday, Bannon asked if he felt “highly confident” that a fresh Trump administration could quickly “get rolling on prosecutions.” Patel, who held a number of national security roles in the Trump administration, replied that they already had “the bench for it.” Without naming said members of the bench, Patel continued, “We will go out and find the conspirators, not just in government but in the media… We’re going to come after you—whether it’s criminal or civilly, we’ll figure that out. But yeah, we’re putting you all on notice and Steve, this is why they hate us. This is why we’re tyrannical.” During the episode, Bannon issued his own warning. “And I want the Morning Joe producers that watch us,” he said, addressing the MSNBC staffers directly, “and all the producers that watch us—this is just not rhetoric. We’re absolutely dead serious.”

Trump doesn’t sound like somebody trying to get elected

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Trump doesn’t sound like somebody trying to get elected

Rick Newman, Senior Columnist – December 5, 2023

Donald Trump promises more of the same if he wins the 2024 presidential election — more of the protectionism that defined his first presidential term, more dismantling of government, more slashing and burning of the system that many Trump supporters think is rigged against them.

But he may be misreading what voters want. Trump found surprise success in 2016 with his populist, America-first agenda, but voters didn’t love all of it. Plus, the electorate has changed since Trump first won the White House.

Trump, for instance, said recently that he still wants to repeal and replace Obamacare, the 2010 health reform law President Obama signed that extended health insurance to 40 million Americans. “Obamacare sucks!!!” Trump wrote recently on his social media site, Truth Social, vowing to replace it with something better.

In 2016, most Americans agreed with Trump that Obamacare, aka the Affordable Care Act (ACA), was a bummer. But not anymore. Public approval of the ACA has grown from around 40% in 2016 to nearly 60% in 2023, according to polling by KFF.

Republicans, who uniformly opposed the law when in passed in 2010, warned of socialized medicine, soaring costs, and other dire developments. Big surprise: That was hyperbole.

There were, in fact, some problems at the outset. But Republicans who vowed to repeal it couldn’t get the votes in 2017, even though they controlled both chambers of Congress and the White House. After Joe Biden took office in 2021, he signed legislation and issued new regulations to patch up the ACA, which is now embedded in the US healthcare system, much as Medicare and Medicaid took root after Congress created them in 1965.

Repealing the ACA would cause hardship well beyond blue states and districts. The state with the most ACA enrollees is Florida, which leans red and which Trump won in 2016 and 2020.

Voters in the six swing states likely to determine the 2024 outcome — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — would be among those affected if a second-term Trump repealed the ACA. Biden won all of those states in 2020 by a combined 312,000 votes. Around 3.2 million people in those six states get health coverage through the ACA. The data doesn’t reveal how many of those 3.2 million people are swing voters who could tip the election one way or the other, but some of them certainly are.

Georgia is a stark example of the risk Trump faces by threatening, once again, to kill the ACA. Nearly 850,000 Georgians get coverage through the ACA. Biden won the state in 2020 by less than 12,000 votes. So whatever portion of those 850,000 are not die-hard Trumpers would have a new incentive to vote for Biden.

Former President Donald Trump speaks during a Commit to Caucus rally, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, in Ankeny, Iowa. (AP Photo/Matthew Putney)
Former President Donald Trump speaks during a Commit to Caucus rally, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, in Ankeny, Iowa. (Matthew Putney/AP Photo) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Trump also wants to impose a new tax of 10% on virtually all imports to the United States. That’s a political head-scratcher. Trump already tried something like that the first time around when he slapped tariffs on steel and aluminum imports and about half of all goods coming to the United States from China. Many economists slammed the tariffs as a foolish idea likely to raise costs for Americans, kill jobs, and undermine growth. The Tax Foundation estimates the tariffs amounted to an $80 billion tax hike during Trump’s term. Voters soundly disapproved of the tariffs and Trump’s overall trade war.

Trump’s across-the-board 10% tariff would be costlier, with the Tax Foundation estimating it would add $300 billion per year to consumer costs — at a time when voters’ biggest economic concern is inflation. Vowing to raise taxes is not a normal campaign promise, so maybe it’s possible Trump actually believes his own gobbledygook about foreign producers paying the tariff, which is patently untrue. At any rate, any politician threatening to raise costs for consumers is giving his political opponents a gift, and Biden is sure to attack that one as the 2024 election heats up.

Trump also has some explaining to do about his fight with labor unions and his trash talk relating to auto workers. In September, when unionized workers at Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis went on strike, Trump criticized Shawn Fain, president of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union, saying “auto workers are being sold down the river by their leadership.” Then he went to Michigan to give a speech at a non-union plant whose workers weren’t on strike, where he said “the workers of our country … are getting screwed.”

Fain and the UAW ended up negotiating a four-year raise of at least 25% for workers at the Detroit Three, which promptly led to wage hikes at many nonunion auto plants. Biden played the strike well, expressing solidarity with striking workers, touting his lifelong support for unions, and even showing up at a picket line. Trump’s campaign website, by contrast, still features a video in which Trump says, “What’s happening to our auto workers is an absolute disgrace. Auto workers are getting totally ripped off by Crooked Joe Biden.” Doesn’t seem that way, but hey, maybe Trump is playing three-dimensional chess.

Why a Second Trump Presidency May Be More Radical Than His First

Why a Second Trump Presidency May Be More Radical Than His First

Charlie Savage, Jonathan Swan and Maggie Haberman – December 4, 2023

Donald J. Trump, wearing a blue suit and pointing to his right.
The extreme policy plans and ideas of Donald J. Trump and his advisers would have a greater prospect of becoming reality if he were to win a second term. Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Donald Trump has long exhibited authoritarian impulses, but his policy operation is now more sophisticated, and the buffers to check him are weaker.

In the spring of 1989, the Chinese Communist Party used tanks and troops to crush a pro-democracy protest in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Most of the West, across traditional partisan lines, was aghast at the crackdown that killed at least hundreds of student activists. But one prominent American was impressed.

“When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it,” Donald J. Trump said in an interview with Playboy magazine the year after the massacre. “Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak.”

It was a throwaway line in a wide-ranging interview, delivered to a journalist profiling a 43-year-old celebrity businessman who was not then a player in national politics or world affairs. But in light of what Mr. Trump has gone on to become, his exaltation of the ruthless crushing of democratic protesters is steeped in foreshadowing.

Mr. Trump’s violent and authoritarian rhetoric on the 2024 campaign trail has attracted growing alarm and comparisons to historical fascist dictators and contemporary populist strongmen. In recent weeks, he has dehumanized his adversaries as “vermin” who must be “rooted out,” declared that immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country,” encouraged the shooting of shoplifters and suggested that the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, deserved to be executed for treason.

As he runs for president again facing four criminal prosecutions, Mr. Trump may seem more angry, desperate and dangerous to American-style democracy than in his first term. But the throughline that emerges is far more long-running: He has glorified political violence and spoken admiringly of autocrats for decades.

A row of people, mostly in suits, in front of a blue backdrop and behind a lectern at a news conference.
Fani Willis, the district attorney in Fulton County, Ga., brought one of the sets of indictments that Mr. Trump faces. Credit…Kenny Holston/The New York Times

As a presidential candidate in July 2016, he praised the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein as having been “so good” at killing terrorists. Months after being inaugurated, he told the strongman leader of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, that his brutal campaign of thousands of extrajudicial killings in the name of fighting drugs was “an unbelievable job.” And throughout his four years in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump blew through boundaries and violated democratic norms.

What would be different in a second Trump administration is not so much his character as his surroundings. Forces that somewhat contained his autocratic tendencies in his first term — staff members who saw their job as sometimes restraining him, a few congressional Republicans episodically willing to criticize or oppose him, a partisan balance on the Supreme Court that occasionally ruled against him — would all be weaker.

As a result, Mr. Trump’s and his advisers’ more extreme policy plans and ideas for a second term would have a greater prospect of becoming reality.

To be sure, some of what Mr. Trump and his allies are planning is in line with what any standard-issue Republican president would most likely do. For example, Mr. Trump would very likely roll back many of President Biden’s policies to curb carbon emissions and hasten the transition to electric cars. Such a reversal of various rules and policies would significantly weaken environmental protections, but much of the changes reflect routine and longstanding conservative skepticism of environmental regulations.

Other parts of Mr. Trump’s agenda, however, are aberrational. No U.S. president before him had toyed with withdrawing from NATO, the United States’ military alliance with Western democracies. He has said he would fundamentally re-evaluate “NATO’s purpose and NATO’s mission” in a second term.

He has said he would order the military to attack drug cartels in Mexico, which would violate international law unless its government consented. It most likely would not.

He would also use the military on domestic soil. While it is generally illegal to use troops for domestic law enforcement, the Insurrection Act allows exceptions. After some demonstrations against police violence in 2020 became riots, Mr. Trump had an order drafted to use troops to crack down on protesters in Washington, D.C., but didn’t sign it. He suggested at a rally in Iowa this year that he intends to unilaterally send troops into Democratic-run cities to enforce public order in general.

“You look at any Democrat-run state, and it’s just not the same — it doesn’t work,” Mr. Trump told the crowd, calling cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco crime dens. “We cannot let it happen any longer. And one of the other things I’ll do — because you’re supposed to not be involved in that, you just have to be asked by the governor or the mayor to come in — the next time, I’m not waiting.”

Mr. Trump’s plans to purge undocumented immigrants include sweeping raids, huge detention camps, deportations on the scale of millions per year, stopping asylum, trying to end birthright citizenship for babies born on U.S. soil to undocumented parents and invoking the Insurrection Act near the southern border to also use troops as immigration agents.

A line of people, some carrying bags, walking through an airport.
Mr. Trump has sweeping plans to deal with undocumented immigrants. Credit…Verónica G. Cárdenas for The New York Times

Mr. Trump would seek to expand presidential power in myriad ways — concentrating greater authority over the executive branch in the White House, ending the independence of agencies Congress set up to operate outside of presidential control and reducing civil service protections to make it easier to fire and replace tens of thousands of government workers.

More than anything else, Mr. Trump’s vow to use the Justice Department to wreak vengeance against his adversaries is a naked challenge to democratic values. Building on how he tried to get prosecutors to go after his enemies while in office, it would end the post-Watergate norm of investigative independence from White House political control.

In all these efforts, Mr. Trump would be backed in a second term by a well-funded outside infrastructure. In 2016, conservative think tanks were bastions of George W. Bush-style Republicanism. But new ones run by Trump administration veterans have sprung up, and the venerable Heritage Foundation has refashioned itself to stay in step with Trumpism.

A coalition has been drawing up America First-style policy plans, nicknamed Project 2025. (Mr. Trump’s campaign has expressed appreciation but said only plans announced by him or his campaign count.) While some proposals under development in such places would advance longstanding Republican megadonor goals, such as curbing regulations on businesses, others are more tuned to Mr. Trump’s personal interests.

The Center for Renewing America, for example, has published a paper titled “The U.S. Justice Department Is Not Independent.” The paper was written by Jeffrey Clark, whom Mr. Trump nearly made acting attorney general to aid his attempt to subvert the election and is facing criminal charges in Georgia in connection with that effort.

Asked for comment, a spokesman for Mr. Trump did not address specifics but instead criticized The New York Times while calling Mr. Trump “strong on crime.”

Even running in 2016, Mr. Trump flouted democratic norms.

He falsely portrayed his loss in the Iowa caucuses as fraud and suggested he would treat the results of the general election as legitimate only if he won. He threatened to imprison Hillary Clinton, smeared Mexican immigrants as rapists and promised to bar Muslims from entering the United States. He offered to pay the legal bills of any supporters who beat up protesters at his rallies and stoked hatred against reporters covering his events.

In office, Mr. Trump refused to divest from his businesses, and people courting his favor booked expensive blocks of rooms in his hotels. Despite an anti-nepotism law, he gave White House jobs to his daughter and son-in-law. He used emergency power to spend more on a border wall than Congress authorized. His lawyers floated a pardon at his campaign chairman, whom Mr. Trump praised for not “flipping” as prosecutors tried unsuccessfully to get him to cooperate as a witness in the Russia inquiry; Mr. Trump later did pardon him.

A woman in a white dress with a red floral pattern and a man in a dark suit and white shirt exiting an airplane.
Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, received White House posts despite an anti-nepotism law. Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

But some of the most potentially serious of his violations of norms fell short of fruition.

Mr. Trump pressured the Justice Department to prosecute his adversaries. The Justice Department opened several criminal investigations, from the scrutiny of former Secretary of State John Kerry and of the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey Jr. to the attempt by a special counsel, John Durham, to find a basis to charge Obama-era national security officials or Mrs. Clinton with crimes connected to the origins of the Russia investigation. But to Mr. Trump’s fury, prosecutors decided against bringing such charges.

And neither effort for which he was impeached succeeded. Mr. Trump tried to coerce Ukraine into opening a criminal investigation into Mr. Biden by withholding military aid, but it did not cooperate. Mr. Trump sought to subvert his 2020 election loss and stoked the Capitol riot, but Vice President Mike Pence and congressional majorities rejected his attempt to stay in power.

There is reason to believe various obstacles and bulwarks that limited Mr. Trump in his first term would be absent in a second one.

Some of what Mr. Trump tried to do was thwarted by incompetence and dysfunction among his initial team. But over four years, those who stayed with him learned to wield power more effectively. After courts blocked his first, haphazardly crafted travel ban, for example, his team developed a version that the Supreme Court allowed to take effect.

Four years of his appointments created an entrenched Republican supermajority on the Supreme Court that most likely would now side with him on some cases that he lost, such as the 5-to-4 decision in June 2020 that blocked him from ending a program that shields from deportation certain undocumented people who had been brought as children and grew up as Americans.

Republicans in Congress were often partners and enablers — working with him to confirm judges and cut corporate taxes, while performing scant oversight. But a few key congressional Republicans occasionally denounced his rhetoric or checked his more disruptive proposals.

In 2017, then-Senator Bob Corker rebuked Mr. Trump for making reckless threats toward North Korea on Twitter, and then-Senator John McCain provided the decisive vote against Mr. Trump’s push to rescind, with no replacement plan, a law that makes health insurance coverage widely available.

It is likely that Republicans in Congress would be even more pliable in any second Trump term. The party has become more inured to and even enthusiastic about Mr. Trump’s willingness to cross lines. And Mr. Trump has worn down, outlasted, intimidated into submission or driven out leading Republican lawmakers who have independent standing and demonstrated occasional willingness to oppose him.

Mr. McCain, who was the 2008 G.O.P. presidential nominee, died in 2018. Former Representative Liz Cheney, who voted to impeach Mr. Trump for inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, riot and helped lead the committee that investigated those events, lost her seat to a pro-Trump primary challenger. Senator Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee and the only G.O.P. senator who voted to convict Mr. Trump at his first impeachment trial, is retiring.

A row of people on a wooden dais, with American flags and a large screen behind them.
Representative Liz Cheney, center right, helped lead the investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and later lost a primary challenge to a pro-Trump candidate. Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Fear of violence by Trump supporters also enforces control. In recent books, both Mr. Romney and Ms. Cheney said that Republican colleagues, whom they did not name, told them they wanted to vote against Mr. Trump in the Jan. 6-related impeachment proceedings but did not do so out of fear for their and their families’ safety.

Perhaps the most important check on Mr. Trump’s presidency was internal administration resistance to some of his more extreme demands. A parade of his own former high-level appointees has since warned that he is unfit to be president, including a former White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly; former defense secretaries Jim Mattis and Mark T. Esper; the former national security adviser John R. Bolton; former Attorney General William P. Barr; and others.

Mr. Trump in turn has denounced them all as weak, stupid and disloyal. He has privately told those close to him that his biggest mistakes concerned the people he appointed, in particular his choices for attorney general. The advisers who have stuck with him are determined that if he wins a new term, there will be no officials who intentionally stymie his agenda.

In addition to developing policy papers, the coalition of think tanks run by people aligned with Mr. Trump has been compiling a database of thousands of vetted potential recruits to hand to a transition team if he wins the election. Similar efforts are underway by former senior Trump administration officials to prepare to stock the government with lawyers likely to find ways to bless radical White House ideas rather than raising legal objections.

Such staffing efforts would build on a shift in his final year as president. In 2020, Mr. Trump replaced advisers who had sought to check him and installed a young aide, John McEntee, to root out further officials deemed insufficiently loyal.

Depending on Senate elections, confirming particularly contentious nominees to important positions might be challenging. But another norm violation Mr. Trump gradually developed was making aggressive use of his power to temporarily fill vacancies with “acting” heads for positions that are supposed to undergo Senate confirmation.

In 2020, for example, Mr. Trump made Richard Grenell — a combative Trump ally and former ambassador to Germany — acting director of national intelligence. Two prior Trump-era intelligence leaders had angered Mr. Trump by defending an assessment that Russia had covertly tried to help his 2016 campaign and by informing Democratic leaders it was doing so again in 2020. Mr. Grenell instead won Mr. Trump’s praise by using the role to declassify sensitive materials that Republicans used to portray the Russia investigation as suspicious.

A man in a blue suit and white shirt at a lectern, in front of numerous American flags.
Richard Grenell was one of the acting heads named by Mr. Trump for positions that are supposed to undergo Senate confirmation. He became acting director of national intelligence. Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

After Mr. Trump left office, there were many proposals to codify into law democratic norms he violated. Ideas included tightening limits on presidents’ use of emergency powers, requiring disclosure of their taxes, giving teeth to a constitutional ban on outside payments and making it harder to abuse their pardon power and authority over prosecutors.

In December 2021, when Democrats still controlled the House, it passed many such proposals as the Protecting Our Democracy Act. Every Republican but one — then-Representative Adam Kinzinger, who was retiring after having voted to impeach Mr. Trump after the Jan. 6 riot — voted against the bill, which died in the Senate.

The debate on the House floor largely played out on a premise that reduced its urgency: Mr. Trump was gone. Democrats argued for viewing the reforms as being about future presidents, while Republicans dismissed it as an unnecessary swipe at Mr. Trump.

“Donald Trump is — unfortunately — no longer president,” said Representative Rick Crawford, Republican of Arkansas. “Time to stop living in the past.”

Charlie Savage writes about national security and legal policy. An individual winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting about presidential power, he is also the author of the books “Takeover” and “Power Wars.”

Jonathan Swan is a political reporter who focuses on campaigns and Congress. As a reporter for Axios, he won an Emmy Award for his 2020 interview of then-President Donald J. Trump, and the White House Correspondents’ Association’s Aldo Beckman Award for “overall excellence in White House coverage” in 2022. 

Maggie Haberman is a senior political correspondent and the author of “Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America.” She was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for reporting on President Trump’s advisers and their connections to Russia.