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Trump’s base is a ‘cult’ that may never be deprogrammed: report

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On Saturday, The Daily Beast’s Kelly Weill posted an analysis of President Donald Trump’s base, and what their recent behavior, which “experts say resembles a cult or totalitarianism,” says about the country’s political health.

“Trump has long stoked bigoted grievances among his followers, but the Greenville rally saw him act as a more overt radicalizer than ever before,” wrote Weill. “And with a portion of Trump’s fanbase now openly clamoring for the physical removal of several prominent Democrats of color, experts are questioning whether the country can repair the damage — even if Trump loses in 2020.”

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It is an open question how many people who chanted “Send her back” about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) are true believers.

“Some people might be there because they genuinely believe in this ideology,” New York University professor Mary Beth Altier was quoted as saying. “Some may be questioning those beliefs. They’re toying with them, and they go because a friend brought them or they think it’d be cool to go. They go and get swept up. People start chanting, are you going to be the only one standing there not chanting?”

Nonetheless, it is clear that at least some of the president’s fans will defend whatever behavior he engages in reflexively, as the CNN panel of “Trumpettes” demonstrated vividly. And even worse, Trump’s behavior appears to be sparking violence.

“During a March 2016 rally, Trump asked fans to eject protesters, calling on them to ‘get ‘em out of here,'” wrote Weill. “Matt Heimbach, a neo-Nazi who was later instrumental in 2017’s deadly white supremacist rally in Charlotteville, complied, assaulting a black protester. In October, a Florida man sent 16 pipe bombs to politicians, news outlets, and public figures who have been critical of Trump. The bomber had attended Trump rallies and described them as ‘like a new found drug.’ Trump’s election has coincided with a marked spike in hate crimes, and a rise in overt white supremacist action.”

Part of the problem, noted Weill, is that in today’s media environment, it is possible to entirely filter out people with opposing political viewpoints and build more and more insular networks of like-minded supporters to reinforce one’s views.

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As Altier warned, deprogramming them will be especially difficult because the very thing that appears to be radicalizing them — Trump’s rallies — might also be the only thing containing their radicalization.

“While people saying these things is awful and they may radicalize other people, if we quash their ability to say them, my research shows they may become more violent because they can’t express those grievances,” she said. “It’s a catch-22.”

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World of slime: Here’s why President Trump likes to hang out with bottom-feeders and crooked lawyers

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Donald Trump has been a real estate developer, a TV show host, a casino owner, a politician and more. But through it all, there has been one constant: Trump has surrounded himself with sleazy characters. Oddly enough, those are exactly the people who helped propel him to becoming the 45th president of the United States.

That's the thesis of the new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters Michael Rothfeld and Joe Palazzolo, titled aptly enough, "The Fixers: The Bottom-Feeders, Crooked Lawyers, Gossipmongers, and Porn Stars Who Created the 45th President." I spoke with Rothfeld during a recent edition of Salon Talks about the book, a veritable encyclopedia of the unsavory characters that have made Trump who he is, alongside some new reporting.

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How corporate lawyers made it harder to punish companies that destroy electronic evidence

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In the early 2000s, a series of civil lawsuits against giant corporations illustrated the disastrous consequences that could ensue if a defendant failed to provide electronic evidence such as company emails or records. In one suit against tobacco giant Philip Morris in 2004, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler concluded that the company deliberately deleted troves of emails that contained incriminating information. She fined the company $2.7 million for the breach, levied $250,000 fines against each of the company supervisors found culpable and barred them from testifying at the trial.

Big corporations rallied for changes and got them. In 2006, the rules that govern federal litigation were changed to create a “safe harbor” that would protect companies from consequences for failing to save electronic evidence as long as they followed a consistent policy and, when put on notice of imminent litigation, preserved all relevant materials.

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John Bolton had concerns about Donald Trump’s favors to autocrats: report

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Former national security advisor John Bolton privately told the US attorney general last year about concerns that President Donald Trump was essentially granting favors to autocrats, The New York Times reported Monday.

It said the revelations, concerning the leaders of China and Turkey, come in an unpublished book manuscript by Bolton.

The same manuscript says Trump told Bolton that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security aid to Ukraine until officials there helped to investigate his political rivals, the Times previously reported.

Those allegations have roiled Trump's impeachment trial that is ongoing in the US Senate.

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