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Trump’s ‘revenge bender’ of perceived enemies was enabled by the GOP’s ‘willful blindness’: CNN’s Avlon

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On Thursday, CNN fact-checker John Avlon explored all the ways President Donald Trump has vilified and demonized not just political opponents, but career public officials and even members of his own party.

“Once upon a time, Sen. Lamar Alexander was really worried about enemies lists,” said Avlon, playing a clip of him saying, “I want to make what I hope will be a friendly suggestion to President Obama in his White House, and it is this: Don’t create an enemies list.”

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“That was good advice, rooted as an experience working for Richard Nixon, but seems kind of quaint in hindsight,” said Avlon. “Because now we’ve got something to work with. President Trump is on a revenge bender, one week after his impeachment trial acquittal with no witnesses that Sen. Alexander helped secure.”

“Hoping that Trump would be chastened was willful blindness, because Donald Trump loves obsessing over his enemies,” said Avlon. “In his book ‘Team of Vipers,’ former Trump aide Cliff Sims captured the president’s early purges. Quote, ‘Give me their names,’ he said Trump said. ‘I want these people out of here. We’re going to get rid of all these snakes, even the bottom feeders…’ Sounds like a stable work environment, right? Well, Trump talks a big game about loyalty, but it’s always been a one-way street.”

“So let’s take a look at some of the people who’ve been in his crosshairs lately,” said Avlon. “Chief among these are some of the usual suspects. Adam Schiff, Nancy Pelosi, Jerry Nadler, Mitt Romney, and of course even his former national security adviser John Bolton. But then some of his biggest enemies were his biggest boosters. Like one-time fixer Michael Cohen, first senator who ever endorsed him and AG Jeff Sessions, chief strategist and frenemy Steve Bannon, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Sec. Jim Mattis. He even rails against current appointees, like Fed Chair Jerome Powell.”

“But for a guy who campaigned as a law-and-order candidate, Trump also loves targeting law enforcement and the intelligence communities,” continued Avlon. “Like fired FBI Director Jim Comey, Obama-era CIA Director John Brennan, former DNI Jim Clapper, the FBI’s Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, the Justice Department’s Sally Yates. And of course Robert Mueller. It’s no secret that Trump can’t quit hating on Democrats like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden. They’re in the top tier of his negative Twitter mentions according to Factbase. But it’s not like Republicans have been spared his wrath, like former Sens. Jeff Flake and Dean Heller, both replaced by Democrats incidentally, former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, now-independent Congressman Justin Amash. The past three GOP nominees, including John McCain.”

“Now, some former Trump critics like Lindsey Graham have worked their way into Trump’s good graces by doggedly defending the president,” said Avlon.”But taking a gander at this list is exhausting. Evidence that Trump targets anyone who dares question him, from the right or left. And that’s why it’s strange that so many Republican senators live in fear of the president, and try so hard to appease him.”

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“Winston Churchill famously defined an appeaser as ‘one who feeds a crocodile hoping it will eat him last,’ said Avlon. “Which is why another public servant, former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, deserves the last word, from a speech she gave last night. ‘An amoral, keep-’em-guessing foreign policy that substitutes threats, fear, and confusion for trust cannot work over the long haul,’ she said. ‘Truth matters.’ And that’s your reality check.”

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‘That’s how authoritarian countries work’: CNN’s Toobin warns Trump is acting like a dictator

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On CNN Wednesday, legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin broke down the significance of President Donald Trump's decision to pardon several high-powered friends accused of political corruption and tax crimes.

"There is no doubt, under the Constitution, the president has the power to do this," said Toobin. "This is not legally a — an open question. And there is a history of controversial pardons, whether it's President Clinton pardoning Marc Rich, a fugitive financier, or George Herbert Walker Bush pardoning the Iran-Contra people on his way out of the office."

"So what makes this so troubling is in the middle of his term, here he is assigning friends, basically friends and friends of friends, to get pardons and clemency, which is how authoritarians behave, which is playing favorites with your personal friends at a time when you are playing with the opposite of favorites with prosecutorial decisions," said Toobin. "I want these people prosecuted, these people freed — that's how authoritarian countries work. Countries where there is the rule of law, there are systems in place for who gets prosecuted, who gets clemency. This is a very individually-focused way to run a presidency."

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GOP’s portrayal of Trump as a corruption fighter torn to shreds as ‘complete nonsense’

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Republicans who defended President Donald Trump during impeachment hearings insisted that he wasn't trying to shake down the Ukrainian government to investigate his political foes, but was instead sincerely concerned about fighting corruption abroad.

CNN's John Avlon, however, argued on Wednesday that Trump showed these claims were "complete nonsense" after he unleashed a slew of pardons and commutations for corrupt former public officials, including former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who both were sent to prison after being found guilty of abusing their offices for personal gain.

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2020 Election

Pete Buttigieg answers those who question his family values: ‘I’ve never had to pay off a porn star’

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Mayor Pete Buttigieg appeared on CNN Tuesday for a town hall in Nevada where he was asked about his sexual orientation. Thus far, Buttigieg is the first openly gay presidential candidate being taken seriously by both the media and the electorate.

He was asked by a voter how he would deal with the flood of personal attacks on his sexual orientation and his family.

He explained that it would happen and he was ready for it. Speaking about his coming-out story, Buttigieg said that he wasn't sure what impact it would have on his career but that he didn't want to not have a personal life anymore after he got out of the military.

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