Is Florida still a political battleground? Senate candidate Val Demings thinks so.

Originally published by The 19th

JACKSONVILLE — It wasn’t long after Rep. Val Demings took the microphone at a campaign event at a Florida union hall that she acknowledged it was perhaps a curious time for a Democrat to give up their spot in the House to try to flip a Senate seat in the country’s southernmost state.

“You may be saying: ‘Why on Earth, why would you want to run for the United States Senate now?’” Demings said to murmurs and nods from the crowd at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) hall in Jacksonville.

As of 2021, there were more registered Republicans than Democrats in Florida for the first time in at least 50 years. Donald Trump won there in 2016 and again in 2020, even as neighboring Georgia backed a Democrat, President Joe Biden, for the first time since 1996. In 2018, for the first time since the 1980s, Florida elected two senators from one party: the GOP. There is a political trifecta, with Republicans controlling the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the statehouse. But Gov. Ron DeSantis won by less than a half a point in 2018 in an election that went to a recount.

“We are living in some strange times, we’re living in some unbelievable times, we’re living in some difficult times, and we’re living in some crazy times,” Demings continued, “But I didn’t come tonight to just bring you bad news. I came tonight to bring you some good news too: I’m running for the United States Senate and, doggone it, I am going to win.”

“Why? Why is directly tied to my personal story,” Demings added.

These are the contours of Demings’ personal story: She grew up around Jacksonville. Her dad was a janitor who also picked oranges and mowed lawns. Her mother was a maid. She is the youngest of seven children and the first in the family to graduate from college. She was a social worker before joining Orlando’s police force. She made history as the city’s first woman chief of police in 2007, and violent crime dropped 40 percent during her tenure. In 2016, Demings was elected to the House of Representatives, where she serves on the Judiciary, Intelligence and Homeland Security committees. She was one of seven managers who made the case for Trump’s impeachment during the first Senate trial. Now, she is aiming to be the third Black woman ever elected to the Senate, following former Sens. Carol Moseley Brown of Illinois and Kamala Harris of California, whose elevation to vice president left the upper chamber with none. Demings was also on Joe Biden’s VP shortlist.

“I learned to fight a long time ago,” Demings said.

A Democrat will need to be a fighter to win a statewide race in Florida this year. Midterm elections are historically challenging for the party in the White House, and Biden’s approval rating is below 40 percent. DeSantis is a popular governor with high name recognition, seen as an early front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, and his presence at the top of the ballot will likely motivate the party’s base voters to turn out.

Among the states that are current or recent political battlegrounds, Florida stands out in the latest iteration of U.S. culture wars. DeSantis and the GOP-led legislature have pursued restricting abortion access, LGBTQ+ rights, voting, and the discussion of history and gender in public schools. The moves appeal to the Republican base, but Democrats are hoping that this could hurt DeSantis in November with moderate and independent voters. They’re also hoping there will be a carryover effect on Republicans such as Sen. Marco Rubio, who have not denounced — and at times lauded — the actions DeSantis has taken.

This is all while the Democratic agenda has largely stalled in Washington, with legislation related to voting access, policing, codifying abortion rights and other top priorities unable to get through the Senate.

But if any Democrat has a chance in Florida it is Demings, some in her party told The 19th. Though she still polls behind Rubio, the gap between them has narrowed. It is one of just three Republican Senate seats the Cook Political Report rates as leaning Republican, the second most competitive rating. DeSantis has pursued controversial bills related to the teaching of race and gender, and a 15-week abortion ban after the Supreme Court overturned 1973’s Roe v. Wade decision that could motivate Democratic voters to turn out in opposition. Plus, the ongoing House hearings related to the January 6 insurrection have lent credibility to the prior impeachment proceedings with voters already conflicted about Trump, strategists have said.

Demings raised a record $12.2 million in the second quarter, with about $13.2 million in the bank, and an average contribution around $30, according to her campaign. During the same time period, Rubio raised about $4 million, and has about $14.5 million still in the coffers. Both are the presumptive winners of their primaries, which will be held on Aug. 23.

Steve Simeonidis, a lawyer and former chair of the Democratic Party in Miami-Dade County, said Demings has “amazing name recognition because she’s been so involved, not only with her own community in Orlando, but helping out the entire state of Florida while representing us in Congress.”

Demings told the crowd at the IBEW hall that she is running so others can experience their own version of her “only in America” story, wherein the Black daughter of a maid and a janitor can ascend to police chief, then the House, now potentially the Senate.

“I am on a mission to make sure that every man, every woman, every boy, every girl, regardless of the color of their skin, where they live, how much money they have in the bank, their sexual orientation, sexual identity or religion, will have an opportunity to succeed,” she said to applause.

Demings was campaigning in Jacksonville shortly after a leaked draft Supreme Court opinion indicated that the conservative justices were poised to overturn nearly 50 years of federal abortion rights. The actual decision came the next month. The eight voters who spoke to The 19th at the IBEW event all brought up abortion access — and the Supreme Court — as a primary concern. The justices this term ended federal abortion rights and made it more difficult for states to regulate guns. They’re poised to hear a major case related to voting next term.

Verona Mitchell, 73, said she believes that concerns about the highest court would result in better-than-expected showings for Democrats in Senate races. “Democrats are going to surprise people this year — we’re going to overtake the Senate. There’s going to be an upset. Democrats are upset, but we’re quiet,” she said.

Mitchell’s friend, Gwen Coleman, also 73, agreed. She also believes that increasingly conservative cultural positions taken by DeSantis will make some of Florida’s independent or moderate voters think twice about backing Republicans up and down the ballot.

“I’m part of a powerful prayer group and we’re praying for God to touch these Republican minds,” she said.

Demings told The 19th that Democratic Senate candidates, herself included, “certainly understand the significance of the U.S. Supreme Court.” The Dobbs decision was “the first time the court has not protected a constitutional right, but chose to overturn one.”

“We are not going to tolerate it, we are not going to stand for it. … If they think that we are going away or shutting up or sitting down, or accepting this vicious attack on women’s rights, they are sadly mistaken,” she continued.

“I have three sons. I did not ask my congressman, I didn’t ask the governor, and I certainly didn’t ask my senator for permission to do that,” Demings said.

DeSantis, meanwhile, signed a 15-week abortion ban into law that took effect this month. He has also become embroiled in a spat over gender and sexuality with Walt Disney Co., the state’s largest employer with 70,000 workers in Florida. After the entertainment company’s executive criticized a DeSantis-led “Don’t Say Gay” bill that restricts elementary classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity, the governor quickly signed into law a retaliatory bill that dissolves the special district in which Disney has operated with special authorities and tax breaks since 1967. The 19th has reported on how the roughly 9,000 current openings for school personnel in the state is in part due to the anti-educator rhetoric coming from the DeSantis administration.

Rubio backed DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” bill, said Disney was lying about the legislation, accused the company of liberal activism, and has introduced federal bill that would block companies from taking a tax deduction for reimbursing employees who have to travel out of state for their child’s gender-affirming care or an abortion. Rubio was not one of the 15 Senate Republicans — including members of leadership and multiple lawmakers with “A” ratings from the National Rifle Association — who voted for a moderate, bipartisan gun bill last month. He has said the Disney spat is a “state fight” and that he plans on focusing on “federal problems that matter to real people” such as gas prices. He told reporters that a marriage equality bill pending in the Senate is a “stupid waste of time.” His campaign did not respond to a request to comment for this story.

Ione Townsend, head of the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee, said that she thinks DeSantis “has probably hurt himself significantly with suburban women,” ticking off “the whole Disney thing;” a bill that has allowed parents to object to books in schools that have ranged from Harry Potter to Toni Morrison’s ‘The Bluest Eye”; and asking a group of middle school students at a March 2022 televised event to remove their protective masks because it was “ridiculous” to continue wearing them.

Townsend is one of many Democratic operatives who believe that women will be particularly strong candidates this year as both parties attempt to woo suburban women who may be upset with GOP stances on abortion and LGBTQ+ rights.

Plus, Townsend said of Demings: “She’s a law-and-order person, so I think she’ll be attractive to some of the softer Republicans, so I think she has a good chance … it all depends on voter turnout.”

In a sign that Rubio’s campaign also believes Demings’ background as a police chief likely has crossover appeal, his first campaign ad of the cycle, released last week, touts his endorsement from law enforcement officials and features one who says Demings did not “condemn radicals who wanted to abolish police.”

As of last month, Florida had 14.2 million registered voters, including roughly 5.2 million Republicans, 5 million Democrats, 256,000 affiliated with minor parties and 3.9 million independents with no party affiliation. Last year was the first time that Republican registrations outnumbered Democratic registrations in the state since at least 1972, the earliest year for which the state provides online records.

Florida is the only battleground state that Trump won by a larger margin in 2020 than in 2016. Clinton won Miami-Dade by more than 30 points in 2016; Biden carried the county by less than seven points in 2020. His performance was so poor among Latinx voters there that prominent strategists said it could be a broader warning for the party.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), which supports Democrats in Senate races, said it has made clear from “day one that this will be a competitive race.”

“We’ve included Florida as part of the Defend the Majority program and know that Florida will be a competitive battleground,” according to spokesperson Amanda Sherman Baity.

The DSCC’s Defend the Majority program made an initial $30 million investment in September in nine Senate races in Florida, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The DSCC provides the candidates with field staff and offices, along with outreach advice to reach the Latinx community, AAPI voters and other critical Democratic blocs.

Demings told The 19th she would be traveling from “the Panhandle to the Keys … talking to people about things that keep them up at night.” She is talking to voters about not just the Supreme Court and abortion rights, but about issues like the economy, inflation, supply-chain holdups and housing prices, all of which GOP leaders have advised their candidates to focus on. She said her career in policing has prepared her well for the campaign trail.

It was a “nontraditional career for any woman and it was not easy to do,” Demings said.

“I am doing what a lot of candidates do not do: I’m not just going into places where it’s comfortable for me to go, like Marco Rubio does. I’m talking to Republican voters, Democratic voters and independent voters about the things that matter to them,” she said.

“I didn’t care as a law enforcement officer what your political party was. My message resonates with people throughout the state. And I’m going to continue to tell that story and not sit back and feel I’m entitled to their support.”

Here's what you need to know as Ghislaine Maxwell's sex trafficking trial begins

Originally published by The 19th

The sex trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, the former girlfriend and alleged accomplice of wealthy investor and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, begins in New York on Monday.

Maxwell, 59, faces six charges related to her involvement helping Epstein “recruit, groom, and ultimately abuse victims” for at least a decade, according to the indictment against her. If convicted, she could face more than 40 years in prison.

The trial of the well-connected British socialite has gotten a lot of media attention given the circles in which she and Epstein traveled. They were both photographed socializing at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort; Maxwell attended the wedding of former President Bill Clinton’s daughter.

Here is what we know about Maxwell, her links to Epstein and the case against her:

Who is Ghislaine Maxwell?

Maxwell is the youngest of nine children born to Elizabeth and Robert Maxwell. Her father was a Jewish refugee who fled Czechoslovakia during World War II and went on to become a member of the British parliament, rumored Israeli spy and media mogul who owned the Mirror Group Newspapers and the New York Daily News. In 1991, at 68, he went overboard his yacht, the Lady Ghislaine, and drowned in the Canary Islands, sparking conspiracy theories; Ghislaine has said she believes he was murdered.

After Robert’s death, hundreds of millions of dollars were found missing from the pension funds of his companies, which subsequently filed for bankruptcy. Two of his sons were tried for conspiracy to defraud and acquitted.

Over the years, the Oxford-educated Maxwell worked in various capacities at several of her father’s companies. She founded a now-shuttered charity to support the oceans. In 2016, she married a tech entrepreneur.

Maxwell started associating with Epstein in the early 1990s when she moved to New York City after her father’s death. The two dated for a period then remained close friends. Maxwell introduced Epstein to politicians, celebrities and even members of the British Royal Family, and the duo appeared separately and together at high-profile society events.

Who was Jeffrey Epstein?

Epstein was born in Brooklyn and, after a brief stint as a teacher, became an investment adviser known for his associations with high-profile individuals, including politicians, and a luxurious lifestyle that included homes in New York City and Palm Beach, a ranch in New Mexico, and a private island in the Caribbean. Epstein was a convicted sex offender, having pleaded guilty to the solicitation of prostitution involving a minor in Florida, but a 2008 non-prosecution agreement allowed him to avoid federal charges at that time.

Epstein was arrested in July 2019 after a federal grand jury indicted him on charges of sex trafficking minors and the conspiracy to commit it. The indictment describes how Epstein allegedly “enticed and recruited” minors to abuse at his homes in New York and Florida, then would pay them to help recruit additional girls.

Epstein died by apparent suicide in August 2019 in a New York jail while awaiting trial. He was 66. After his death, some of Epstein’s accusers appeared in court to describe their alleged abuse, with several mentioning Maxwell’s involvement. A compensation fund for Epstein’s sexual assault victims established by his estate has paid out more than $120 million to at least 135 people.

What are the allegations against Maxwell?

Federal prosecutors say that starting in 1994, Maxwell “enticed and groomed multiple minor girls to engage in sex acts with Jeffrey Epstein” by developing friendships with them, then tried to “normalize sexual abuse” by “discussing sexual topics, undressing in front of the victim, being present when a minor victim was undressed, and/or being present for sex acts involving the minor victim and Epstein.”

In July 2020, she initially faced a six-count indictment: conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts; enticement of a minor to travel to engage in illegal sexual acts; conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity; transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and two counts of perjury. In March 2021, a grand jury added sex trafficking charges. The two perjury charges will be tried separately. Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to all.

Where is Maxwell now?

Maxwell’s requests for bail have been denied multiple times, and she has been held in a Brooklyn jail since her arrest in July 2020. She will return there after trial proceedings end each day. Her legal team has said in court filings that the jail’s conditions are “reprehensible” and that Maxwell has suffered “physical and emotional abuse by the corrections officers, poor and unsanitary living conditions, insufficient nutrition, difficulties reviewing the millions of legal discovery documents in the case against her, and sleep deprivation.”

What will happen during the trial?

A potential jury pool of hundreds is expected to be winnowed to 12 jurors and six alternates who will be seated Monday ahead of opening arguments in what is expected to be a six-week trial.

Some or all of the four alleged victims in the indictment are expected to testify. Prosecutors are also likely to focus on Maxwell’s “black book.” Both Epstein and Maxwell are believed to have kept bound books of social contacts and notations. When Gawker published Epstein’s in 2015 it listed Trump, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and conservative billionaire David Koch — along with details about Epstein’s alleged underage victims. Britain’s Prince Andrew, who is himself being sued for sexual abuse by one of Epstein’s accusers, was listed multiple times.

Maxwell’s prosecutors said in court filings that a former Epstein employee is expected to testify that there were “two sets of contact books maintained in Epstein’s residences, both of which were printed and bound in a distinct format” and that the second is Maxwell’s. They say it will show she knew Epstein’s victims and was aware at least some were minors. Prosecutors are also expected to call as an expert witness a clinical psychologist to talk about how minors can be “groomed” for sexual assault.

Maxwell is not expected to testify in her own defense. Some of her siblings are likely to attend the trial. Maxwell’s attorneys are expected to call a series of expert witnesses, including some to counter the prosecution’s clinical psychologist or to create doubts about the veracity of trauma-related memories. One expert will “explain how it is that a person might go from having no memory of sexual abuse, and even denying sexual abuse, to later having ‘memories’ for numerous abusive acts, if the memories are false,” and another will testify to “hindsight bias” in cases where alleged grooming has occurred, her lawyers told the court. Maxwell’s attorneys did not respond to a request to comment.

Laurie Levenson, a criminal law expert at Loyola Law School Marymount who is not involved in the case, said the “most natural defense is to point to the guy who’s not there” and make the argument that his death “doesn’t mean you just go after the next person in line.” The questions prosecutors will need to answer are: “Did she participate in her own right?” and “How much did she know?”

Levenson said she expects a focus on texts, email messages and other communications between Maxwell and Epstein, or Maxwell with Epstein’s victims, or Maxwell and other men implicated in the sex trafficking ring.

“I think there will be a lot of finger pointing at people who are not in the courtroom, and Epstein will be the biggest ghost there,” she said.

Amy Coney Barrett has energized Supreme Court's rightward turn after just one year

Originally published by The 19th

When Justice Amy Coney Barrett was sworn into the Supreme Court just days before the 2020 elections, conservatives lauded her installation as a victory that would define Donald Trump's presidency and liberals lamented it as a death knell for abortion rights.

One year later, Barrett's influence on the court is still coming into focus, and the extent of her deference to the court's 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade is likely to become more clear over the next couple months as the court holds oral arguments in cases related to restrictive abortion laws.

Until then, there are hints in the court's record about Barrett's impact. They are seen less in the opinions she has authored and more in the strength she has given the court's conservative majority, with which she has sided to expand the use of what legal scholars call the court's “shadow docket," or procedural rulings in ongoing cases that are meant to be temporary but in reality can be the final word, such as in cases in which an abortion clinic shuts down while a law is in place.

It is the shadow docket — expedited orders and decisions the Supreme Court issues without oral argument, sometimes without providing vote breakdowns or signing names — that offers some clues about the Barrett-bolstered conservative majority's thinking as it begins a term with highly anticipated cases, experts told The 19th. Those include two related to restrictive abortion laws in Texas and Mississippi, slated for oral arguments on November 1 and December 1.

Abortion-rights advocates worried the September 2020 death of longtime liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who had argued landmark gender equality cases before the court before joining it, would spell the end for Roe, which established the right to an abortion before fetal viability outside the womb.

When Trump nominated Barrett, a former Notre Dame Law School professor and appeals court judge, to replace Ginsburg, many left-leaning women said she would be a “disaster" for abortion rights and the rights of women and LGBTQ+ people overall, in part due to her religious beliefs. Many conservative women, meanwhile, praised the mother of seven as a “new feminist icon." More than 200 women lawyers of various political leanings urged the Senate to confirm her, saying they rejected the idea that Barrett's Catholic faith should be disqualifying. Barrett clerked for now-deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who was also a conservative Catholic. She is now one of three women on the court, its only conservative woman and its only mother.

Like most first-term justices, Barrett was assigned noncontroversial opinions that were decided either unanimously or with coalitions across the ideological spectrum. Though her opinions — on the application of public information records to executive branch agencies, a dispute over interstate waters, when an individual has exceeded the authorized use of computerized government records and the certification of a class in securities lawsuit — didn't dominate headlines, her effect on the court's majority in other ways is clear.

Barrett's addition to the court further tilted the court's ideological makeup from 5-4 to 6-3 in favor of conservatives. The swing vote is now less likely to be conservative-but-centrist Chief Justice John Roberts, nominated by President George W. Bush. It's now Justice Brett Kavanaugh, another Trump nominee, who is a potential deciding jurist.

In September, Roberts and the liberal justices said that a Texas law that effectively bans abortions after six weeks should not be in effect as it was challenged in the courts. The other conservative justices, with Barrett and Kavanaugh among them, disagreed — and had a majority. As a result, the law, known as SB 8, has been in place since September 1, save a 48-hour window in October.

Emergency applications give the Supreme Court an opportunity to change the status quo as it waits to hear a case. An applicant must show that their underlying case is likely to succeed and that in the interim they would suffer irreparable harm. Stephen Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law, said the increasingly conservative court is “intervening earlier and much more often, deciding whether to let the law go into effect or not."

Before Barrett joined the court, it had issued only four emergency injunctions in the 15 years Roberts has been chief justice. Since November 2020, justices have issued seven. The court's total grants of emergency relief in the 2005 term were six, in the 2018 term were 15 and in the 2020 term were 20. “Part of where Justice Barrett made an immediate impact was in further accelerating that trend," Vladeck said.

Vladeck said these high-court interventions often allow laws passed by conservative lawmakers to remain in place or put laws that are passed by liberal lawmakers on hold.

Justice Stephen Breyer, one of the liberals on the court, recently told the New York Times in an interview pegged to his book release that the court should use the shadow docket less, and when it does, explain its reasoning. Justice Samuel Alito, a conservative, meanwhile said during a recent lecture at Notre Dame that there is nothing new about the court deciding emergency applications and that the portrayal of the shadow docket has been “sinister" and “misleading."

One of the earliest emergency rulings in which Barrett played a pivotal role was on Thanksgiving Eve 2020, when the court decided 5-4 in favor of Catholic and Jewish groups that were challenging then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's COVID-19 restrictions on the number of congregants who could gather for a service. Before Barrett joined the court, the justices had reached the opposite conclusion, allowing similar restrictions in California and Nevada to take effect.

Subsequently, in April of this year, Barrett was in a 5-4 majority that said people of faith could gather in homes, though a California coronavirus restriction limited in-home gatherings to three households. Though the injunctive orders were not signed, legal experts said they show how Barrett has tipped the balance of the court in cases where the conservative majority is showing it is unlikely to allow policies that could infringe on religious liberty to remain in effect while they are appealed.

Barrett's Catholic faith came up frequently during her confirmation hearings, when she was asked about how she would decide cases related to abortion rights and capital punishment if and when they overlapped with her religious beliefs. (The Catholic Church is against both the death penalty and abortion.)

Barrett wrote a 1998 law review article about how death penalty cases put Catholic judges “in a moral and legal bind" but they “cannot — nor should they try to — align our legal system with the Church's moral teaching whenever the two diverge."

In February, she openly sided with the court's liberal justices, along with at least one other conservative justice who did not sign their name, to rule that Alabama could not execute a prisoner without a requested pastor present. But in November 2020, when the court allowed the execution of a federal prisoner in Indiana to move forward, Barrett did not sign a dissent with the liberal justices. She likewise allowed executions to proceed when she was a judge on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Though the Supreme Court has not heard any abortion-related arguments since Barrett joined its ranks, it has handled emergency applications that reinstated federal requirements that abortive medicines be picked up in person during the coronavirus pandemic and allowed Texas' ban on abortions after six weeks to go into effect while the case wound its way through lower courts. The first order was unsigned and did not provide a vote breakdown. Barrett sided with the conservative majority on the Texas order but did not sign it.

Jill Wieber Lens, a professor at the University of Arkansas Law School, said that such procedural rulings “aren't supposed to be about the merits — they're about what do we need to do in the meantime, and who will be injured in the meantime."

“I think it says a lot that [SB 8] will be in place" until the Supreme Court hears the case on November 1," Lens said.

Trump explicitly said before appointing Barrett to the Supreme Court that he wanted to fulfill his campaign promise to install anti-abortion justices. Barrett has noted that her church considers abortion to be immoral and signed a 2006 newspaper advertisement opposing “abortion on demand." But she also said in a 2016 speech of Roe's “core holding that women have a right to an abortion, I don't think that would change."

It's impossible to know how justices will vote in different cases. On a different issue, for instance, Justice Neil Gorsuch, a conservative Trump nominee, authored the opinion in a closely watched case last year that found employment descrimination protections applied to LGBTQ+ workers. Nicole Huberfeld, a law professor at Boston University School of Law, said, “There's a long history of presidents appointing justices and then those justices vote in very different ways than those presidents anticipated."

Many legal experts are nevertheless expecting that Barrett's addition to the court, and its decision to leave SB 8 in place until a decision next year, augers an increased hostility to abortion rights that could result in Roe being weakened, if not overturned. It's already doing that, experts said, with clinics being shut down in Texas.

“It's clear [Texas's] goal is to shut down abortion clinics hoping they will never reopen — and history will show that's an accurate assumption," Huberfeld said.

“So waiting for the law to be applied to see if it violates constitutional rights is problematic," she added.

Greer Donley, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh law school, agreed that while the court's interim ruling in SB 8 was not on the merits of the law, which she called “obviously unconstitutional in a lot of ways," she thinks the procedural order makes the court's thinking clear.

“It speaks volumes about what the court thinks about abortion rights, right now," Donley said.

Liz Cheney raises $1.5 million amid battle with Matt Gaetz and other Trump defenders

Rep. Liz Cheney raised $1.54 million for next year's reelection campaign during the first quarter of 2021 as she fended off calls to step down from Republican party leadership over her vote to impeach Donald Trump during the final days of his presidency.

Originally published by The 19th

The Wyoming lawmaker's first-quarter fundraising is a five-fold increase over the amount her campaign raised during the first quarter of 2019, the last off year in which she did not face reelection. More than $1 million of it came from individual donors, her campaign said.

Cheney has held Wyoming's sole U.S. House of Representatives seat since 2017. In the last full quarter before Cheney's reelection in November, which she won with nearly 70 percent of the vote, her campaign raised about $443,000, according to campaign finance filings.

“Liz Cheney raised more money this quarter than ever before for a simple reason: People are responding to her effective, principled leadership," said Kevin Seifer, Cheney's political adviser.

The first months of Cheney's third term turned politically tumultuous after she said Trump “assembled the mob" that orchestrated the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, then voted to impeach the outgoing president. Trump was subsequently acquitted by the Senate, which was then under Democratic control.

Cheney was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach. She is the highest-ranking GOP woman in the House, the only woman in her party's leadership and the only member of Republican leadership to cast a vote for impeachment.

In reprisal for Cheney's vote, the Wyoming Republican Party decided overwhelmingly to censure her; two state lawmakers announced they would challenge her in next year's primary; Trump-allied colleagues such as Rep. Matt Gaetz flew to Wyoming to campaign for her defeat; and a group of conservative House lawmakers launched a failed effort to oust her from leadership. She retained her post after a 145-to-61 party vote done by secret ballot.

“She resoundingly won the support of the House Conference in February and she will continue to generate support from those who are concerned with the future of the Republican Party," Seifer said.

“The people of Wyoming deserve a representative who is principled and unwilling to buckle when the going gets tough," he added.

Political strategist Sarah Longwell, who is part of the Republican Accountability Project, which has pledged $50 million to defend lawmakers who backed Trump's impeachment, said Cheney's fundraising haul amidst the tumult signals continued support for the lawmaker.

“I think there are a lot of old-school Republicans who appreciate her principled stand against Trump after his incitement of the attack on the Capitol and wanted to send a message that she continues to have serious support, despite silly stunts like being censured by the local GOP or Matt Gaetz's visit to Wyoming," Longwell said.

Deb Haaland makes history as first Native American Cabinet secretary

The Senate on Monday confirmed Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico to head the Interior Department, marking the first time in U.S. history that a Native American will be Cabinet secretary of an executive branch agency.

In the 51-to-40 vote, four Republicans joined with Democrats to confirm the lawyer, climate activist and two-term House of Representatives lawmaker to the post overseeing more than 500 million acres of public land.

President Joe Biden has pledged to make his Cabinet secretaries — a president's inner circle — the most diverse group in history, and Haaland's confirmation furthers that goal. Of the 23 individuals Biden has nominated to his Cabinet, 17 have been confirmed thus far, including Haaland, with eight women among them.

Tribal leaders, environmental groups and progressive activists had pushed early on in Biden's administration for a Native American to lead the Interior Department, given the agency also manages most federal programs related to more than 550 recognized tribes. Haaland emerged as a top choice.

With the 100-seat Senate evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, and Vice President Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker, nominees cannot afford to lose the support of any Democratic senators if they do not have some Republican support.

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia indicated early on he had some reservations about both Haaland and Neera Tanden, Biden's pick to lead the Office of Management and Budget. His skepticism raised concerns that women of color faced steeper odds for confirmation in the chamber.

Manchin ultimately supported Haaland after she appeared before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources that he chairs. His opposition to Tanden, however, helped derail her confirmation. She is thus far the only nominee that the White House has had to withdraw. Manchin, along with some Republicans, said tweets sent by the leader of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, might make it difficult for her to negotiate with lawmakers. She would have been the first woman of color and South Asian American in the role.

When Haaland appeared before the Senate energy panel, she faced questions from Manchin, and committee Republicans, about progressive policy stances that included her support for the Green New Deal and her opposition to fracking. Manchin ultimately said he would support Haaland despite their differences because both parties needed to be “committed to a new era of bipartisanship."

Haaland said repeatedly in the panel hearings that if confirmed she would be implementing not her own agenda, but Biden's, which includes a moratorium on new permits for oil and gas drilling on public lands but does not ban fracking outright.

While Haaland hails from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party — she co-chaired Sen. Elizabeth Warren's 2020 presidential campaign — she introduced more bills that had bipartisan sponsorship during her first year than any other first-term representative.

The Energy and Natural Resources Committee ultimately voted 11 to 9 to send Haaland to the full Senate for confirmation. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska joined the Democrats on the panel. Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young, who is not on the panel, had introduced Haaland in a show of support. Roughly a fifth of Alaska's population is indigenous, and more than half of the state's land managed by the Interior Department.

The Interior Department employs about 70,000 people to oversee more than 500 million acres of public land, including 423 national park sites. It contains the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which administers most programs related to more than 550 federally recognized tribes.

In the 2018 midterm elections, Haaland was elected to represent New Mexico's 1st Congressional District. She was one of two Native American women elected that year who were the first to serve. She said when sworn in that “Congress has never heard a voice like mine."

At her confirmation hearings for the Interior post, Haaland said: “the historic nature of my confirmation is not lost on me, but, I will say, it is not about me. Rather, I hope this nomination would be an inspiration for Americans, moving forward together, as one nation, and creating opportunities for all of us."

Originally published by The 19th

Elizabeth Warren renews push for wealth tax after joining Senate finance panel

Originally published by The 19th

Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Monday renewed her push for an “ultra-millionaire" tax, reviving the proposed wealth tax that defined her own White House campaign to make the case that President Joe Biden could use it to finance his broad economic agenda.

As the Senate takes up the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed by the House last week, with a provision to raise the hourly minimum wage that is expected to be stripped out, the White House and Democratic lawmakers are already looking ahead to Biden's “Build Back Better" plan that is expected to be used as a vehicle to update infrastructure and create jobs, including in clean energy.

During the Democratic presidential primary, Biden did not support a wealth tax like the one offered by Warren and other progressive-leaning lawmakers such as Reps. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania, who are spearheading the effort in the House. The introduction of the proposal could mark the first notable policy conflict between Biden and the liberal wing of the Democratic Party if the administration does not consider it.

“It is time for a wealth tax in America," Warren told reporters on Monday.

She added that a wealth tax would “level the playing field a little bit and create the kind of revenue that would allow us to build back better, as Joe Biden says."

The proposal unveiled by Warren, Jayapal and Boyle, which mirrors the one detailed by Warren during her White House bid, would levy a 2 percent annual tax on the portion of households and trusts valued between $50 million and $1 billion, with an additional 1 percent tax on any wealth beyond $1 billion.

It would affect the top 0.05 percent of taxpayers, or about 100,000 of the wealthiest U.S. households. University of California-Berkeley economists have estimated that it would generate $3 trillion in revenue over a decade — even more than they estimated during Warren's presidential bid due to an economic downturn that has exacerbated income inequality and left ultra-wealthy individuals in even better financial shape.

The clean energy component of Biden's Build Back Better plan has an estimated price tag of $2 trillion. The full implementation cost will depend on whether other components, such as Biden's plans to support the caregiving workforce, are included and in what form.

The White House said last week that it did not expect to preview Build Back Better in detail until after the COVID-19 relief package is signed into law. Congressional Democrats aim to send the latest COVID-19 relief package to the White House by March 14, when previously passed unemployment benefits related to the pandemic expire. Press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday that Biden “strongly believes the ultra-wealthy and corporations need to finally start paying their fair share." She did not elaborate on what that might look like.

“Joe Biden is about to propose a multi-trillion Build Back Better plan that will likely need to be funded in significant part by taxing the rich," said Adam Green with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which supports liberal candidates and policies.

“Putting this out before he proposes his Build Back Better plan is absolutely strategic and gives him a pay-for on a silver platter," he added, referencing revenue-generating proposals lawmakers often pair with spending on social programs.

Jayapal said at Monday's news conference that when you look at racial inequality as it relates to wealth and not just income it is “particularly staggering." The wealth gap between White households as compared with Black and Latinx households left non-White households less able to weather the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Boyle reiterated a point that Warren frequently made on the campaign trail to support the idea of a wealth tax: that the type of wealth held by most Americans — their house — is already taxed.

Polls consistently show that the public broadly supports the implementation of a wealth tax and it crosses ideological boundaries.

Democrats control the House and legislation there passes by a simple majority whereas in the evenly split, 100-seat Senate, most legislation, including a wealth tax or broader economic package, would likely require 60 votes.

Warren noted last month when she joined the Senate Finance Committee that the introduction of a bill to implement a wealth tax would be among her first moves. The proposal is also co-sponsored by Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, all Democrats.

As the Senate takes up the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed by the House last week, with a provision to raise the hourly minimum wage that is expected to be stripped out, the White House and Democratic lawmakers are already looking ahead to Biden's “Build Back Better" plan that is expected to be used as a vehicle to update infrastructure and create jobs, including in clean energy.

During the Democratic presidential primary, Biden did not support a wealth tax like the one offered by Warren and other progressive-leaning lawmakers such as Reps. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania, who are spearheading the effort in the House. The introduction of the proposal could mark the first notable policy conflict between Biden and the liberal wing of the Democratic Party if the administration does not consider it.

“It is time for a wealth tax in America," Warren told reporters on Monday.

She added that a wealth tax would “level the playing field a little bit and create the kind of revenue that would allow us to build back better, as Joe Biden says."

The proposal unveiled by Warren, Jayapal and Boyle, which mirrors the one detailed by Warren during her White House bid, would levy a 2 percent annual tax on the portion of households and trusts valued between $50 million and $1 billion, with an additional 1 percent tax on any wealth beyond $1 billion.

It would affect the top 0.05 percent of taxpayers, or about 100,000 of the wealthiest U.S. households. University of California-Berkeley economists have estimated that it would generate $3 trillion in revenue over a decade — even more than they estimated during Warren's presidential bid due to an economic downturn that has exacerbated income inequality and left ultra-wealthy individuals in even better financial shape.

The clean energy component of Biden's Build Back Better plan has an estimated price tag of $2 trillion. The full implementation cost will depend on whether other components, such as Biden's plans to support the caregiving workforce, are included and in what form.

The White House said last week that it did not expect to preview Build Back Better in detail until after the COVID-19 relief package is signed into law. Congressional Democrats aim to send the latest COVID-19 relief package to the White House by March 14, when previously passed unemployment benefits related to the pandemic expire. Press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday that Biden “strongly believes the ultra-wealthy and corporations need to finally start paying their fair share." She did not elaborate on what that might look like.

“Joe Biden is about to propose a multi-trillion Build Back Better plan that will likely need to be funded in significant part by taxing the rich," said Adam Green with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which supports liberal candidates and policies.

“Putting this out before he proposes his Build Back Better plan is absolutely strategic and gives him a pay-for on a silver platter," he added, referencing revenue-generating proposals lawmakers often pair with spending on social programs.

Jayapal said at Monday's news conference that when you look at racial inequality as it relates to wealth and not just income it is “particularly staggering." The wealth gap between White households as compared with Black and Latinx households left non-White households less able to weather the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Boyle reiterated a point that Warren frequently made on the campaign trail to support the idea of a wealth tax: that the type of wealth held by most Americans — their house — is already taxed.

Polls consistently show that the public broadly supports the implementation of a wealth tax and it crosses ideological boundaries.

Democrats control the House and legislation there passes by a simple majority whereas in the evenly split, 100-seat Senate, most legislation, including a wealth tax or broader economic package, would likely require 60 votes.

Warren noted last month when she joined the Senate Finance Committee that the introduction of a bill to implement a wealth tax would be among her first moves. The proposal is also co-sponsored by Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, all Democrats.

Inside the Lincoln Project’s ‘toxic’ workplace

The Lincoln Project's launch in late 2019 was designed to make a splash.

“We are Republicans, and we want Trump defeated," four of its co-founders wrote in the New York Times of the organization that would go on to raise nearly $90 million for its stated mission of defeating Donald Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box in 2020.

They created attention-grabbing ads that provoked responses from the former president. High-profile liberals such as DreamWorks co-founder David Geffen wrote them six-figure checks. Hundreds of small-dollar donations poured in. Leaders and staff decamped to a pre-election headquarters in the ski haven of Park City, Utah, where their effort was chronicled by Hollywood filmmakers. Their post-election plans included leveraging the massive following they gained to build a media empire. They recently launched the platform LPTV.

But, as of this week, just three of the Lincoln Project's eight co-founders remained — Rick Wilson, Reed Galen and Steve Schmidt. Schmidt resigned from the organization's board late Friday, Axios reported.

The organization is facing a rapidly escalating controversy over allegations that another of its co-founders, John Weaver, sexually harassed more than a dozen young men, including some working for the project, and over what other members of senior management knew about the claims and when they knew it.

The accusations have roiled the organization, and as its current and former employees and contractors began coming forward to discuss them, they described a workplace where women in key positions were sidelined and where sexist and homophobic language was used by those in leadership posts.

In reporting a story over the past several weeks about the Lincoln Project's management, culture, finances and handling of the Weaver allegations, The 19th interviewed nearly two dozen individuals currently or formerly associated with the group or familiar with its operations.

Nearly all of them said they feared speaking publicly about their experiences with the Lincoln Project and its remaining co-founders. Many cited their tendency to “go nuclear," as several put it, when faced with internal dynamics that could undermine the public image they cultivated with their liberal fans.

The interviews depict an organization that grew quickly, with little planning at its inception, and then began to spiral out of control as its founders quarreled over the organization's direction, finances, tactics and even who would own the donor data that the project would eventually amass. Some of the co-founders had an informal management agreement that excluded the others, without their knowledge. Several had private firms to which the Lincoln Project channeled tens of millions of dollars that are then not subject to disclosure, while others were paid relatively modest amounts directly or nothing at all. There were clashes over ego and resentments over podcasts and television contracts.

The Lincoln Project's founders were some of the highest-profile players in Republican politics before they rejected Trump and became apostates within their own party. There was George Conway, a high-profile conservative lawyer who is married to Kellyanne Conway, who was a top adviser to Trump. Weaver worked on Sen. John McCain's presidential campaigns, as did Galen and Schmidt. Mike Madrid is a strategist specializing in Latinx voting trends. Jennifer Horn is a former GOP chair in New Hampshire. Wilson worked on Rudy Giuliani's mayoral and Senate campaigns. Ron Steslow started his own consulting firm after working at the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Conway was the first to leave in August, citing family obligations. Weaver took medical leave around the same time.

A three-person board — Galen, Madrid and Steslow — was created without input from some of the other co-founders. Eventually, disputes over that board, and its scope, led to bitter infighting that involved individual co-founders lawyering up and threatening one another with “oppo" research, Washington speak for the type of negative information amassed by a political campaign or organization to use against a rival.

In late 2020, Conway stepped in to help mediate what was quickly becoming a civil war within the organization. Madrid and Steslow departed in December after signing nondisclosure agreements and receiving separation packages that those familiar with the negotiations describe as lucrative.

On December 21, the Lincoln Project paid Madrid's firm, Grassroots Lab, two round sum payments of $1.1 million and $300,000. On the same date, it paid Steslow's firm, TUSK Digital, $900,000. All of the payments were described as for “political strategy consulting" on campaign finance filings.

The Lincoln Project was organized as a super PAC, meaning it could raise and spend unlimited sums of money but had to disclose only basic details about where the money was going. The firms that some of the co-founders brought with them to the Lincoln Project's work became a source of internal frustration, as more than half of the nearly $90 million raised by the project flowed to firms controlled by its various founders. Once it was there, there was usually no way to track how they spent or kept it.

As of late January, Galen's firm, Summit Strategic Communications, had received roughly $27.5 million from the Lincoln Project, with the bulk of that going to “independent expenditures" such as television or Internet advertisements and nearly $7 million to consulting. Steslow's firm, TUSK, received $22.4 million, with $7.1 million for consulting.

Schmidt's firm, SES Strategies, received $1.5 million for consulting, but he told the Chicago Tribune he returned it. Madrid's Grassroots Lab received nearly $2.2 million for consulting services. The Lincoln Project paid Horn directly in amounts of $5,000 or $10,000 per month, campaign finance filings show. In the fall, she began receiving additional payments from LPTV, but in all, her annual compensation was approximately $150,000, sources familiar with the situation said.

There is no way to determine what portion of the consulting fees went directly to the co-founders as their compensation for Lincoln Project work, or whether they paid one another, according to campaign finance experts. Super PACs are structured this way by design.

Super PACs are widely used by both political parties, but the percent of the Lincoln Project's money that went to vendors and firms connected to its co-founders raised eyebrows given the group's criticism of Trump-affiliated political groups that similarly directed money to the organizations of allies as a “criminal enterprise."

Another point of internal financial contention was the donor information that Lincoln Project amassed with ads that spread across social media. The specifics over who or which entity would own the data was not negotiated in advance, sources said, and the data's market value grew as more and more people gave.

A frequent quip from Schmidt overheard by multiple people was that the Lincoln Project was his vehicle to achieve “generational wealth."

As senior management squabbled over how to divide the pieces of the project's financial pie, dissatisfaction was growing within the organization's more junior ranks, which were made up of largely young and liberal staffers who said they had different standards than some of the group's leaders, citing Schmidt and Wilson specifically. There was language used in both the Lincoln Project's ads and within its workplace about gender and sexuality that made many of them uncomfortable, the dozens of interviews revealed.

Young men were “wizards" while young women were “girls." Political rivals were “pussies" or “cocksuckers" or “faggots." By the time the staff convened in Park City, the situation had become so “toxic," according to more than a dozen accounts, that at least two co-founders, neither of whom remain at the project, had tried unsuccessfully to intervene to improve working conditions.

Staff had also complained that some of the project's ads, specifically some related to Ivanka Trump, were sexist. There was dissatisfaction among the ranks when Ben Howe, billed as the wunderkind behind some of the Lincoln Project's earliest ads, was brought back by Wilson. Howe had been fired after The 19th reported that in a series of tweets, he had used offensive slang for female anatomy to insult political rivals.

There were few women in Lincoln Project's leadership, and those who were there were treated differently than the men, multiple people said. Horn was left out of meetings and not consulted about key decisions or public statements. At points, others within the organization had to persuade her not to quit entirely.

On Thursday night, the Lincoln Project tweeted out private direct messages on the social media platform between Horn, who left the organization last week, and this reporter.

Horn had just provided a lengthy statement to the New York Times on the specifics of her departure, citing the remaining co-founders' handling of the allegations against Weaver and saying that when she raised her concerns she was “yelled at, demeaned and lied to."

The Lincoln Project had the week before released a statement about Horn's departure — it had not done so for Madrid or Stenslow — that said they had parted ways with Horn over a compensation dispute after she asked for a “signing bonus" of $250,000 to remain with the group for its post-election work, along with a $40,000-per-month consulting contract.

Horn, who was in the middle of negotiating a post-election employment contract, has not denied the specifics. She said her departure was not about compensation but a request to take on sexual harassment that was “rejected outright."

Some of Horn's allies with ties to the Lincoln Project reached out to The 19th at that time, wanting to discuss the group's treatment of her specifically and women generally.

The screenshots shared Thursday night by the Lincoln Project, one of which was reshared by Wilson from his personal account, were of Horn's inbox on the social media platform. She said she had neither provided the images to the Lincoln Project nor had she given another individual permission to access her account. The tweets were quickly deleted after Conway said publicly that the move “looks on its face to be a violation of federal law" and urged their removal.

The Lincoln Project's sharing of Horn's private messages came shortly after The 19th had reached out to its spokesperson, Kurt Bardella, as well as Wilson, Schmidt and Galen, with a list of more than 20 specifics about the group's management, finances and handling of the Weaver allegations, drawn from publicly available government records and the interviews that it intended to publish in a forthcoming story.

Bardella said Friday that he was no longer with the Lincoln Project, effective immediately. Wilson, Schmidt and Galen did not directly respond to any of the points laid out by The 19th.

New attention has been drawn to issues at the Lincoln Project in the wake of allegations about Weaver.

Sources familiar with internal communications said that in June, multiple members of the Lincoln Project's senior leadership team were told in conversations and in writing about allegations that Weaver had sexually harassed young men, including some who were doing work for the organization.

By August, nearly all of the co-founders still with the project were aware and a media plan was being crafted after the group's employees and contractors were contacted by a news outlet working on a story about it. By the time staff gathered in Park City for the build-up to the election, it was an open secret even among junior staff, sources said.

The first allegations were published in January, first in the American Conservative and later in other publications, including the New York Times. Schmidt told the Times that senior management was not aware until that month. Schmidt's timeline conflicts with that offered by more than a dozen sources who worked within and as contractors for the group at various points.

In the past few days, multiple news outlets have published articles laying out more extensive accusations against Weaver, as well as allegations that they were known earlier than previously reported. Schmidt has run point on responding to the reporting.

He told the Associated Press on Wednesday that no Lincoln Project employee, intern or contractor ever made an allegation so serious it would have triggered an investigation by an independent investigator. He provided the same statement to New York Magazine on Thursday. By Thursday night, the Lincoln Project announced it would hire a “best-in-class outside professional" to investigate the matter.

Who knew how much and when, and who can say what, is now dominating the back-and-forth between those who remain at the Lincoln Project and those who have left.

When Ryan Girdusky first wrote about the allegations for the American Conservative magazine, he told The 19th it was a “constant problem of finding someone willing to come out and make allegations, go on the record, and within 48 hours, out of fear for their future, would drop out of the story. It happened for months on end."

Conway and Horn, who said she was not aware of severity of the allegations against Weaver until the New York Times published its story in January, have called for the Lincoln Project's current and former staff to be released from their nondisclosure agreements.

The group's remaining leaders said Thursday night that anyone who wants to be released from their nondisclosure agreements to discuss allegations against Weaver should reach out to them directly. Six individuals told the New York Times that they did not feel comfortable doing so, citing Horn's treatment and Schmidt's statements about when he first learned of the allegations.

Steslow's lawyer on Thursday night sent the Lincoln Project a letter asking that he be released from the nondisclosure agreement he signed at the time of his departure, a spokesperson said.

“Any time there is an imbalance of power in a relationship, the weaker person becomes vulnerable to abuse. The stronger, more influential person has an obligation to conduct themselves with honor and integrity in order to preserve the dignity and autonomy of all involved," Horn said in the Thursday night statement.

“Victims deserve to be — and must be — heard," she added.

Originally published by The 19th

Trump wielded toxic masculinity as a weapon — and it hurt America

Donald Trump's White House presidency ended as it started, with his noxious interpretation of masculinity — and his equally pernicious understanding of femininity — front and center.

In the final weeks of the 2016 campaign, a tape surfaced of Trump bragging about sexual assault, saying that "when you're a star" you can "grab 'em by the pussy, you can do anything." Within a few weeks, more than a dozen women had accused the real estate developer of various forms of sexual harassment and assault. He was elected anyway. The day after his inauguration, a crowd roughly three times the size of his gathered in the same spot as part of the largest single-day protest in U.S. history. They carried signs to reclaim his comment: "This pussy grabs back!"

Nearly four years later, as Congress met to certify Trump's loss to Joe Biden in the 2020 election, Trump, in a last-ditch effort to pressure Mike Pence to execute a spurious plan to overturn its valid outcome, told his vice president as he headed to the U.S. Capitol that he had a choice: "You can either go down in history as a patriot … or you can go down in history as a pussy," Trump said, according to the New York Times. He then falsely told a crowd of his supporters that Pence had the power to stop the certification before directing them to the Capitol, where they ransacked offices and desecrated official areas of the building chanting, "Hang Mike Pence!" as he sheltered in place. Even still, in a chain of tweets hours later, Trump wrote that Pence did not have the "courage" to carry out his plan.

Trump's evocation of the vagina, first to objectify and subjugate women, then to insult his top lieutenant, are bookends on a presidency that was marked by his adherence to an amped-up version of hegemonic masculinity, which researchers define as a cultural ideal that prioritizes the dominance of White, cisgender, heterosexual men and traits such as strength and power, over women, LGBTQ+ people, those with disabilities, racial minorities and traits such as cooperativeness and kindness.

This version of hegemonic masculinity — and Trump's apparent preoccupation with it — manifested throughout his presidency. His administration curtailed access to contraception and rolled back protections for LGBTQ+ individuals. He presided over the COVID-19 pandemic that resulted in the first recession to disproportionately affect women even as he mocked Biden for wearing masks, rejected the safety precaution as unmanly and contracted the coronavirus.

During his 2016 campaign, Trump previewed how he would wield hegemonic masculinity as a weapon once in office by repeatedly questioning his rivals' strength or using stereotypically feminine characteristics to insult them. Trump, who avoided serving in the military himself, questioned whether Sen. John McCain, a former prisoner of war, was a hero. In one debate, he mocked Sen. Marco Rubio's application of makeup and called him a "nervous basket case" who perspired too much. In another, Trump and Rubio sparred over the size of Trump's hands as a stand-in for his genitalia, which the president has repeatedly, and incorrectly, equated to his masculinity. Both McCain and Rubio, either indirectly or overtly, threatened Trump's comprehension of his own manhood. Both provoked a response.

Trump's backers support him because of, not in spite of, this hyped-up version of hegemonic masculinity, new research shows. It follows that the most fervent among them closed out his presidency by heeding his call to descend on the Capitol in a synthetic testosterone-fueled mob of mostly White men to protest Trump's loss to one of the many opponents whose masculinity he mocked.

"Everything he says and does is about masculinity," said Theresa Vescio, a professor of psychology and women's, gender and sexuality studies at Penn State University.

Vescio's research shows that after affiliation with a political party, an individual's embracement of hegemonic masculinity is the strongest predictor for supporting Trump, more so than someone's gender, race or level of education.

Once in office, Trump continued to use gendered insults, often attacking women's appearances or intellectual prowess. He called aide Omarosa Manigault Newman, one of the few Black women to serve in the Trump White House, a "crazed, crying lowlife" and a "dog" when she left, alleging the president had used racial slurs. He inexplicably claimed Rep. Nancy Pelosi's teeth were "falling out of her mouth" as the chamber moved to impeach him. He called British Prime Minister Theresa May a "fool" and German Chancellor Angela Merkel "stupid."

While criticizing democratically elected leaders of traditional U.S. allies, many of whom were women, Trump embraced authoritarian leaders, all of whom were men, weakening global alliances and leaving the country's stature diminished overseas.

After a meeting with Russia's Vladimir Putin, Trump exalted him as "very, very strong" even though U.S. intelligence agencies had found the Kremlin had interfered in the 2016 election. Trump became the first U.S. president to meet with North Korea's dictator, Kim Jong Un, after tweeting that his "nuclear button" was "much bigger and more powerful" than Kim's, adding: "And my button works!" The remarks could have been interpreted as a challenge by Kim as he built up the country's nuclear arsenal.

Trump's use of masculinity as a compliment and cudgel at times weakened his position. His relationship with Putin and Russia's effort in 2016 to get Trump elected, and ties between the campaign and the foreign power, cast a shadow over his presidency. In June, North Korea said its relationship with the United States was cooling after two unprecedented meetings between the two leaders because Trump was "hypocritical" and did not keep his promises. Trump's praise for Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan, another authoritarian leader, prompted a rare rebuke from those in his own party, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, a steadfast supporter of the president.

Trump singled out a group of House lawmakers known as "the squad" — all four are women of color — in racist attacks, saying they should "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came." In his reelection campaign, Trump told women voters who bore the brunt of an economic recession that he would be "getting their husbands back to work" and suggested that housing desegregation had made suburban women unsafe, leaning into the version of hegemonic masculinity that prioritizes White power.

But it was two moments of domestic crisis during the last year of his presidency that cemented Trump's application of this virulent strain of hegemonic masculinity as his legacy. Both led to violence against his own citizens:

First, when law enforcement officials were ordered to tear gas Black Lives Matter protesters in front of the White House to clear the way for Trump's photo opportunity as he condemned the mostly peaceful nationwide movement for racial justice.

Then, when the outgoing president sicced thousands of his supporters on the building where members of Congress and his own vice president were meeting to certify the valid results of the 2020 election, exhorting the mob to "fight like hell."

The insurrectionists ransacked the Capitol, known as the People's House, as they waved Confederate flags, attacked police and roved the halls carrying the type of zip-ties law enforcement uses to detain suspects. Lawmakers from both parties feared for their lives. Democrats said some of their Republican colleagues aided the rioters; some Republicans refused to wear protective masks during the lockdown and several of their Democratic colleagues subsequently announced they were infected with the COVID-19 virus. Trump's toxic masculinity had overrun the building's ceremonial chambers and its innermost rooms.

In the hours after the attack, Trump still insisted that the election had been stolen from him and called the rioters "patriots." Twitter locked the president's account after he continued to make false claims about the election and incite violence before shutting it down altogether. The account of Trump's presidential campaign went next, followed by those of some of his top aides.

People close to Trump tied his role in the attack and subsequent response to a counterproductive version of masculinity. John Kelly, Trump's former chief of staff, said the president could not admit to making a mistake because his "manhood was at issue." Fox News asked White House Press Secretary Hogan Gidley whether Trump was "emasculated" by losing his Twitter account, and Gidley responded that he is "most masculine person" to ever be president.

Trump is already the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice by the House of Representatives. Speaker Pelosi, the first woman to hold that role, again presided over the expedited proceedings; the highest-ranking Republican to join Democrats last week was Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who is also the only woman in party leadership. Trump's encouragement of those who attacked the Capitol could further erode his power if the Senate, in an unusual post-presidency effort, convicts him this time and blocks him from seeking reelection. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the highest-ranking Republican in that chamber, has indicated privately that he is open to it as a way to diminish Trump's hold on the party.

Trump leaves the White House as he entered it: consumed by his idea about what it means to be a man. He is the first outgoing president in modern U.S. history to not attend the inauguration of his successor. While he finally admitted that he would not be sworn in for a second term this week, he never officially conceded. He lost his office, then his megaphone, and now potentially his political future, emasculated by his embrace of toxic masculinity.

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