David Gardner writes: Mr Trump will get along just fine with local strongmen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Egyptian army chief who took power in 2013 in what was initially a popularly backed coup, was among the first to congratulate him. The president-elect has argued against too much criticism of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the purges that followed this July’s failed coup in Turkey. The construction tycoon, in any case, makes them look moderate since neither leader publicly endorses torture or killing the families of terror suspects.
In broad terms, a Trump administration will almost certainly de-emphasise human rights, gender equality and the rule of law. Man-made climate change afflicts the ancient fertile crescent but, unlike Mr Trump, its inhabitants probably doubt it is “a hoax” (drought and desertification were factors behind the initial uprising in Syria).
The fixation of Barack Obama’s administration is the defeat of Isis in Syria and Iraq. That will remain true under a Trump administration, but with a difference. President Obama lost interest in helping Sunni rebels topple Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Mr Trump seems inclined towards co-operating with President Vladimir Putin, Mr Assad’s patron and another strongman soulmate, in ways that will do more to make Russia than America great again. [Continue reading…]
The Wall Street Journal reports on Rudy Giuliani’s possible nomination as Secretary of State: Beyond the Iraq war [which he supported], Mr. Giuliani is also drawing scrutiny for his regular appearances at events supporting an Iranian opposition group, called the Mujahedin-e Khalq, which the State Department designated as a terrorist organization from 1997 through 2012.
Last year, Mr. Giuliani addressed MEK leaders in Paris and called for the overthrow of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his clerical regime. “The Ayatollah must go! Gone! Out! No more!” Mr. Giuliani told a crowd of thousands. “He and Rouhani and Ahmadinejad and all of the rest of them should be put on trial for crimes against humanity.”
The MEK paid Mr. Giuliani and other former U.S. officials to speak at its events, according to group leaders and U.S. officials who investigated the matter. Speaking fees ranged from $25,000 to $40,000 per appearance.
A broad mix of senior Republicans and Democrats has appeared at MEK events, including James Jones, President Barack Obama’s former national security advisor; Howard Dean, a one-time head of the Democratic National Committee who is now seeking that post again; and Mr. Bolton.
The Treasury Department launched a probe into the legality of former officials being paid by the MEK or its affiliates while it was still on the State Department’s terror list, U.S. officials have said. Treasury officials declined to comment on the status of that probe, including whether it has been closed. [Continue reading…]
Reuters reports: An architect of anti-immigration efforts who says he is advising President-elect Donald Trump said the new administration could push ahead rapidly on construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall without seeking immediate congressional approval.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who helped write tough immigration laws in Arizona and elsewhere, said in an interview that Trump’s policy advisers had also discussed drafting a proposal for his consideration to reinstate a registry for immigrants from Muslim countries.
Kobach, who media reports say is a key member of Trump’s transition team, said he had participated in regular conference calls with about a dozen Trump immigration advisers for the past two to three months. [Continue reading…]
Update: CNN reports:
Frank Gaffney, an anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist, denied a media report that he had been named to Trump’s transition crew.
“An unattributed quote appeared in the press yesterday indicating that I had been appointed to the Trump transition team,” Gaffney, the founder of the Center for Security Policy, said in a statement. “In fact, I had not been contacted by anyone from the team and appreciate the campaign’s clarification today that the previous day’s reports were inaccurate. I look forward to helping the President-elect and the national security-minded team he is assembling in whatever way I can.”
The Wall Street Journal reports that following the latest shake-up in the Trump transition team, Frank Gaffney has been brought in to assist on national security issues.
Philip Bump writes: In June 2009, shortly after President Obama wrapped up his visits to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the Washington Times ran an opinion piece suggesting that the newly inaugurated president might be the first to be a Muslim.
It starts slowly, saying that Obama might be the “first Muslim president” in the same sense that Bill Clinton was once dubbed the “first black president” — which is to say that he’s not Muslim, he’s just sympathetic to the community. But a few paragraphs later, that conceit evaporates.
“With Mr. Obama’s unbelievably ballyhooed address in Cairo Thursday to what he calls ‘the Muslim world’,” columnist Frank Gaffney wrote, “there is mounting evidence that the president not only identifies with Muslims, but actually may still be one himself.” That evidence? Obama referred to the “Holy Koran.” He said he knew about Islam. And he used the phrase “peace be upon them” when mentioning Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Obama, Gaffney wrote, was engaged in “the most consequential bait-and-switch since Adolf Hitler duped Neville Chamberlain over Czechoslovakia at Munich.” [Continue reading…]
Eliot A. Cohen writes: I am a national security Never-Trumper who, after the election, made the case that young conservatives should volunteer to serve in the new administration, warily, their undated letters of resignation ready. That advice, I have concluded, was wrong.
My about-face began with a discreet request to me from a friend in Trumpworld to provide names — unsullied by having signed the two anti-Trump foreign policy letters — of those who might be willing to serve. My friend and I had agreed to disagree a while back about my taking an uncompromising anti-Trump stand; now, he wanted assistance and I willingly complied.
After an exchange about a senior figure who would not submit a résumé but would listen if contacted, an email exchange ensued that I found astonishing. My friend was seething with anger directed at those of us who had opposed Donald Trump — even those who stood ready to help steer good people to an administration that understandably wanted nothing to do with the likes of me, someone who had been out front in opposing Trump since the beginning.
This friend was someone I liked and admired, and still do. It was a momentary eruption of temper, and we have since patched up our relationship. I surmise that he has been furious for some time, knowing that supporting Trump has been distinctly unpopular in his normal circles. He is in the midst of a transition team that was never well-prepared to begin with and is now torn by acrimony, resignations and palace coups. And then there are the pent-up resentments against a liberal intellectual and media establishment that scorned his ilk for years. [Continue reading…]
The Washington Post reports: President-elect Donald Trump, who clashed with leading Republicans throughout his campaign, faced growing tumult in his national security transition team on Monday as key members of his own party appeared to question his views and personnel choices.
Former congressman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), a respected voice on national security thought to be a leading candidate to run the CIA, was among those pushed out of the team over the past two days, two individuals with direct knowledge said, in a series of moves that have added to the anxiety across the upper ranks of U.S. intelligence agencies.
The changes came as Trump met Tuesday with incoming Vice President Mike Pence to discuss Cabinet and top White House personnel choices. Pence last week replaced New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) as head of Trump’s overall transition efforts, and Christie’s associates — who had been Trump’s link to the GOP mainstream for months — now find themselves losing influence.
A number of Christie allies have been told they were no longer in line for top posts, according to several people familiar with the transition, who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak candidly.
Also on Tuesday, perhaps the most influential Republican on national security matters, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), weighed in on Trump’s efforts to work with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying any efforts to “reset” relations with Russia are unacceptable.
McCain, the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman who had a difficult relationship with Trump during the campaign, issued a statement blasting Putin as “a former KGB agent who has plunged his country into tyranny, murdered his political opponents, invaded his neighbors, threatened America’s allies and attempted to undermine America’s elections.’’
A former U.S. official with ties to the Trump team described the ousters of Rogers and others as a “bloodletting of anybody that associated in any way on the transition with Christie,” and said that the departures were engineered by two Trump loyalists who have taken control of who will get national security posts in the administration: retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: Mr. Pence took the helm of the transition on Friday after Mr. Trump unceremoniously removed Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who had been preparing with Obama administration officials for months to put the complex transition process into motion. That effort is now frozen, senior White House officials say, because Mr. Pence has yet to sign legally required paperwork to allow his team to begin collaborating with President Obama’s aides on the handover.
An aide to Mr. Trump’s transition team who insisted on anonymity to discuss internal matters said that the delay was taking place because the wording of the document was being altered and updated, and that it was likely to be signed later Tuesday.
Still, the slow and uncertain start to what is normally a rapid and meticulously planned transfer of power could have profound implications for Mr. Trump’s nascent administration. It challenges the president-elect’s efforts to gain control of the federal bureaucracy and to begin building a staff fully briefed on what he will face in the Oval Office on Day 1. [Continue reading…]
Jamelle Bouie writes: Millions of Americans are justifiably afraid of what they’ll face under a Trump administration. If any group demands our support and sympathy, it’s these people, not the Americans who backed Trump and his threat of state-sanctioned violence against Hispanic immigrants and Muslim Americans. All the solicitude, outrage, and moral telepathy being deployed in defense of Trump supporters — who voted for a racist who promised racist outcomes — is perverse, bordering on abhorrent.
It’s worth repeating what Trump said throughout the election. His campaign indulged in hateful rhetoric against Hispanics and condemned Muslim Americans with the collective guilt of anyone who would commit terror. It treated black America as a lawless dystopia and spoke of black Americans as dupes and fools. And to his supporters, Trump promised mass deportations, a ban on Muslim entry to the United States, and strict “law and order” as applied to those black communities. Trump is now president-elect. Judging from his choices for the transition — figures like immigration hardliner Kris Kobach and white nationalist Stephen Bannon — it’s clear he plans to deliver on those promises.
Whether Trump’s election reveals an “inherent malice” in his voters is irrelevant. What is relevant are the practical outcomes of a Trump presidency. Trump campaigned on state repression of disfavored minorities. He gives every sign that he plans to deliver that repression. This will mean disadvantage, immiseration, and violence for real people, people whose “inner pain and fear” were not reckoned worthy of many-thousand-word magazine feature stories. If you voted for Trump, you voted for this, regardless of what you believe about the groups in question. That you have black friends or Latino colleagues, that you think yourself to be tolerant and decent, doesn’t change the fact that you voted for racist policy that may affect, change, or harm their lives. And on that score, your frustration at being labeled a racist doesn’t justify or mitigate the moral weight of your political choice. [Continue reading…]
German Lopez writes: In 2016, researchers stumbled on a radical tactic for reducing another person’s bigotry: a frank, brief conversation.
The study, authored by David Broockman at Stanford University and Joshua Kalla at the University of California Berkeley, looked at how simple conversations can help combat anti-transgender attitudes. In the research, people canvassed the homes of more than 500 voters in South Florida. The canvassers, who could be trans or not, asked the voters to simply put themselves in the shoes of trans people — to understand their problems — through a 10-minute, nonconfrontational conversation. The hope was that the brief discussion could lead people to reevaluate their biases.
It worked. The trial found not only that voters’ anti-trans attitudes declined but that they remained lower three months later, showing an enduring result. And those voters’ support for laws that protect trans people from discrimination increased, even when they were presented with counterarguments for such laws.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this research since Election Day. After Donald Trump’s victory last week, it is clear that the prejudiced views of a lot of Americans helped elect to the White House a man who’s repeatedly made racist, offensive statements. Not only did Trump build his campaign largely on fears of immigrants and Muslims, but based on a lot of polls and surveys, he also attracted the voters who reported, by far, the highest levels of racial resentment and other prejudiced views. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: Emboldened by the Republican sweep of last week’s American elections, right-wing members of the Israeli government have called anew for the abandonment of a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians.
“The combination of changes in the United States, in Europe and in the region provide Israel with a unique opportunity to reset and rethink everything,” Naftali Bennett, Israel’s education minister and the leader of the pro-settlement Jewish Home party, told a gathering of the Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem on Monday.
Mr. Bennett, who advocates annexing 60 percent of the occupied West Bank to Israel, exulted on the morning after Donald J. Trump’s victory: “The era of a Palestinian state is over.”
That sentiment was only amplified when Jason Greenblatt, a lawyer and co-chairman of the Trump campaign’s Israel Advisory Committee, told Israel’s Army Radio that Mr. Trump did not consider West Bank settlements to be an obstacle to peace, in a stark reversal of longstanding American policy. [Continue reading…]
CNN reports: White nationalist leaders are praising Donald Trump’s decision to name former Breitbart executive Steve Bannon as his chief strategist, telling CNN in interviews they view Bannon as an advocate in the White House for policies they favor.
The leaders of the white nationalist and so-called “alt-right” movement — all of whom vehemently oppose multiculturalism and share the belief in the supremacy of the white race and Western civilization — publicly backed Trump during his campaign for his hardline positions on Mexican immigration, Muslims, and refugee resettlement. Trump has at times disavowed their support. Bannon’s hiring, they say, is a signal that Trump will follow through on some of his more controversial policy positions.
“I think that’s excellent,” former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke told CNN’s KFile. “I think that anyone that helps complete the program and the policies that President-elect Trump has developed during the campaign is a very good thing, obviously. So it’s good to see that he’s sticking to the issues and the ideas that he proposed as a candidate. Now he’s president-elect and he’s sticking to it and he’s reaffirming those issues.” [Continue reading…]
The Hill reports: Conservative commentator Glenn Beck called President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for a top adviser a “nightmare” who has ties to the white nationalist movement.
“You know, if people really want to in the press would like to call Donald Trump a racist, you might want to stop on that one and spend a little time on [Steve] Bannon,” Beck said on his radio broadcast Monday.
“Bannon has a clear tie to white nationalists — clear tie,” Beck added of the former Breitbart News executive and Trump campaign CEO. “He’s built Breitbart as a platform for the alt-right.
“He’s on record saying that. He’s on record defining the alt-right. He knows what it is. He’s a guy that wants to tear this system down and wants to replace it with a new system.”
Beck said Bannon’s role in Trump’s future administration should inspire fear about the pair’s intentions for America.
“He’s a nightmare,” Beck said of Bannon. “And he’s the chief adviser to the president of the United States now.
“He is a frightening — no, no, no, he is a terrifying man, terrifying man. … It speaks volumes.” [Continue reading…]
In an editorial, the New York Times says: Anyone holding out hope that Donald Trump would govern as a uniter — that the racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and nativism of his campaign were just poses to pick up votes — should think again.
In an ominous sign of what the Trump presidency will actually look like, the president-elect on Sunday appointed Stephen Bannon as his chief White House strategist and senior counselor, an enormously influential post.
Many if not most Americans had never heard of Mr. Bannon before this weekend, and for good reason: He has kept a low profile, even after taking over Mr. Trump’s campaign in August. Before that, he worked as the executive chairman of the Breitbart News Network, parent company of the far-right website Breitbart News, which under Mr. Bannon became what the Southern Poverty Law Center has called a “white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill.”
Mr. Bannon himself seems fine with that description, telling Mother Jones last summer that Breitbart was now “the platform for the alt-right,” a loosely organized group of mostly young men who believe in white supremacy; oppose immigration, feminism and multiculturalism; and delight in harassing Jews, Muslims and other vulnerable groups by spewing shocking insults on social media.
To scroll through Breitbart headlines is to come upon a parallel universe where black people do nothing but commit crimes, immigrants rape native-born daughters, and feminists want to castrate all men. Here’s a sample:
“Hoist It High and Proud: The Confederate Flag Proclaims a Glorious Heritage” (This headline ran two weeks after a white supremacist massacred nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C.)
If you don’t find the headlines alarming, check the reader comments. Or take a look at who’s rejoicing over Mr. Bannon’s selection. The white nationalist Richard Spencer said on Twitter that Mr. Bannon was in “the best possible position” to influence policy, since he would “not get lost in the weeds” of establishment Washington. The chairman of the American Nazi Party said the pick showed that Mr. Trump might be “for ‘real.’” David Duke, former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, called the choice “excellent” and said Mr. Bannon was “basically creating the ideological aspects of where we’re going.”
Mr. Bannon is in some ways a perplexing figure: a far-right ideologue who made his millions investing in “Seinfeld”; a former Goldman Sachs banker who has reportedly called himself a “Leninist” with a goal “to destroy the state” and “bring everything crashing down.” He has also called progressive women “a bunch of dykes” and, in a 2014 email to one of his editors, wrote of the Republican leadership, “Let the grassroots turn on the hate because that’s the ONLY thing that will make them do their duty.”
A few conservatives have spoken out against Mr. Bannon. Ben Shapiro, a former Breitbart News editor who resigned in protest last spring, said Mr. Bannon was a “vindictive, nasty figure.” Glenn Beck called him a “nightmare” and a “terrifying man.”
But most Republican officeholders have so far remained silent. Some have dismissed fears about Mr. Bannon. Other Republicans have praised him, like Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, whom Mr. Trump announced as his chief of staff on Sunday, and who said Mr. Bannon could not be such a bad guy because he served in the Navy and went to Harvard Business School. Some saw the pick of Mr. Priebus as evidence that Mr. Trump would not be leaning so much on Mr. Bannon. But don’t be fooled by Mr. Priebus’s elevated title; in the press release announcing both hires, Mr. Bannon’s name appeared above Mr. Priebus’s. In a little more than two months Mr. Bannon, and his toxic ideology, will be sitting down the hall from the Oval Office.