Republicans are falling into line even as Trump’s seditious behavior becomes harder to deny

As the House committee probing the January 6 attack on the Capitol ramps up its investigation, new details continue to emerge about former President Donald Trump's efforts to stay in the White House despite losing the 2020 election. The Senate Judiciary Committee recently revealed Trump directly asked the Justice Department nine times for help overturning the election. One of Trump's lawyers also wrote a memo detailing how Trump could stage a coup by getting electors from seven states thrown out, thus denying Biden's victory. The House select committee may also file charges against top Trump adviser Steve Bannon if he refuses to testify and hand over documents. John Nichols, national affairs correspondent for The Nation, says Trump's continued grip on the Republican Party and his likely run for president in 2024 make the investigations vital to safeguarding democracy. "We really are looking at the prospect that Trump will seek to implement exactly the strategy that he was trying to implement before January 6 again in 2024," says Nichols.

The Nation’s John Nichols: Trump’s Coup Nearly Succeeded. He Will Try Again in 2024 www.youtube.com

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I'm Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

The House committee investigating the January 6th insurrection has subpoenaed former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, whom Donald Trump considered installing as attorney general in the final weeks of his presidency because he supported subverting the election. This comes as information continues to come out about Trump's extraordinary efforts to stay in the White House after losing to Joe Biden. The Senate Judiciary Committee recently revealed Trump directly asked the Justice Department nine times for help to overturn the election. The Senate report states, "Trump's efforts to use DOJ as a means to overturn the election results was part of his interrelated efforts to retain the presidency by any means necessary," unquote. One of Trump's lawyers, John Eastman, also wrote a two-page memo detailing how Trump could essentially stage a coup by getting the electors from seven states thrown out, preventing Biden from winning enough electoral votes. On Wednesday, former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen testified in private for eight hours before the House subcommittee investigating the January 6th insurrection. The committee is preparing to file criminal charges as soon as today, if former Trump adviser Steve Bannon misses a deadline to testify and hand over documents. Bannon has been pardoned by Donald Trump.

We're joined now by John Nichols, national affairs correspondent for The Nation, his latest article "Trump's Coup Attempt Is Far From Finished."

Explain why people should care right now, John Nichols, as, of course, President Trump is not president anymore.

JOHN NICHOLS: You're right, he is not president anymore, although he certainly tried to remain as president. And we're getting more and more evidence of that. People should care because there's very little doubt at this point that Donald Trump is preparing to run for president in 2024. He was in Iowa over the weekend. And you couldn't look at that rally, that event, with all of the state Republican leadership and senior member of the U.S. Senate Chuck Grassley present, and not know that this was preparation for a presidential run in the first caucus state in the country. So, that's number one. We know that Trump is going to run for president again, or at least we can make that assumption.

Number two, he has taken full control of the Republican Party. It is absurd to suggest at this point that Donald Trump doesn't have top-to-bottom control of the party at the national level and, frankly, in most of the states. And so, he will, if he runs, be the Republican nominee for president of the United States in 2024.

And then, finally, if he is the Republican nominee, even if he loses, we know from his past behavior that on election night or the next morning, he will declare that he won and the only thing that stood in his way was fraud. And because of this increasing control over the Republican Party, because of this increasing acceptance within the Republican Party at the state level of this big lie approach, we really are looking at the prospect that Trump will seek to implement exactly the strategy that he was trying to implement before January 6th again in 2024.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: John Nichols, you have argued that, of course, Trump was impeached, but he should have been convicted. If he had been convicted, of course, he would have been prevented from running for another term. But could he have been convicted?

JOHN NICHOLS: Well, this is the very interesting question, because as all of this new information comes out, Nermeen, what we're starting to see is that the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate did not have all of the evidence about Donald Trump's wrongdoing. What we now know is that he abused his position in ways that are jaw-dropping. The pressure that he put on the Department of Justice, the clear strategy that he had developed to get the Department of Justice to say that it was investigating fraud, and then to use that statement to get state legislatures under Republican control to send alternative slates of electors, was clearly part of an overall plan to upend the election results and to retain the presidency. That might — I say "might" — have had an impact on at least some Republican senators and might have led to a conviction. But you didn't get the conviction. What you got instead was 57 senators, the largest number in history, voting to convict a president who had — or former president at that point, who had committed high crimes and misdemeanors. Now the question is: Can we do anything going forward?

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Donald Trump speaking on the John Solomon Reports podcast earlier this month.

DONALD TRUMP: The insurrection took place on November 3rd. That was the insurrection, when they rigged the election. The big insurrection, the real insurrection, really the crime of the century, that took place on November 3rd and not on January 6th.

AMY GOODMAN: The real insurrection was Election Day. John Nichols, the significance of this, and the point that the voting rights attorney Marc Elias makes, that there are so many voter suppression laws that are passing around the country right now to make it extremely difficult, particularly for Black, Latinx populations, to vote, that it will make it more possible that there will be charges of fraud when someone makes a mistake because they vote in the same way they voted for years and suddenly they're wrong?

JOHN NICHOLS: There is simply no question, Amy. That's exactly what's going on. Donald Trump is promoting a big lie. And there's a lot of folks who are saying, "Well, yeah, he's the former president. He's been called out as a liar. We know that. We know that." But the fact is, he's succeeding. In state after state after state, Republican officials, many of whom in the past stood up to him, or at least didn't go along with him on everything, are falling into line. They are supporting these bogus audits. And, as you point out, they are supporting election and voter suppression strategies, that, if implemented, will make it dramatically easier for the Republicans to upend election results or to impact election results in 2024.

This is a big deal. And people have to refocus on the whole of this story, refocus on Donald Trump's clear sedition, his efforts to overturn an election result, and refocus on how to, A, avert the voter suppression strategies — and that's something that Congress can do by endorsing the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — but also to hold Trump to account. It is absurd to suggest, as we learn more and more about Donald Trump's personal engagement in dramatic abuses of office, that Congress does not revisit these issues, and, frankly, that state officials do not revisit these issues, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: We just have 30 seconds. The John Eastman memo, the significance of it?

JOHN NICHOLS: It lays out the strategy that was being examined in 2020, and it tells us what will be done in 2024 if action is not taken to hold Donald Trump to account and to avert voter suppression.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you, John Nichols. There's much more to talk about with you. We'll have you back on, The Nation's national affairs correspondent, and we'll link to your piece at democracynow.org.

And we end today's show — we send condolences to our producer John Hamilton on the death of his father, William "Billy" Selden Hamilton, a professor of Slavic languages and linguistics, spent nearly three decades as assistant dean of the college at Wake Forest University, also a longtime bluegrass musician, was affectionately known as "Banjo."

And that does it for our show. Democracy Now! is currently accepting applications for two positions: a director of finance and administration and a human resources manager. Learn more and apply at democracynow.org.

Democracy Now! produced with Renée Feltz, Mike Burke, Deena Guzder, Messiah Rhodes, María Taracena, Tami Woronoff, Charina Nadura, Sam Alcoff, Tey-Marie Astudillo, John Hamilton, Robby Karran, Hany Massoud and Adriano Contreras. Our general manager is Julie Crosby. Special thanks to Becca Staley, Miriam Barnard. I'm Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. Stay safe. Wear a mask. Save lives.

Former Attica prisoner describes racist, brutal treatment that sparked deadly uprising 50 years ago

On the 50th anniversary of the Attica prison uprising, the deadliest prison uprising in U.S. history, we speak with Tyrone Larkins, a formerly incarcerated survivor, who was shot three times in the brutal crackdown of September 13, 1971. He describes Attica as "the roughest place that I've ever seen in my life," as he recalls what led to the rebellion on September 9, 1971, when prisoners overpowered guards and took over much of Attica prison in upstate New York to protest conditions. At the time, prisoners spent most of their time in their cells and got one shower per week. Larkins lays out how tense negotiations with politicized prisoners followed, and says the rebellion was on its way to being resolved through diplomacy when Governor Nelson Rockefeller ordered state police to storm the facility. Police opened fire, killing 29 inmates and 10 hostages.


Activist: My 9/11 responder son died from exposure to Ground Zero as officials denied connection

As we look at "9/11's Unsettled Dust" and the massive environmental and public health crisis that followed the 9/11 attacks in New York City 20 years ago this week, we speak with Joe Zadroga, father of New York police officer James Zadroga, who died of a respiratory illness after assisting in rescue efforts at ground zero. He says government officials spent years denying his son's symptoms were related to ground zero rescue efforts. "We spent five years trying to get Jimmy help," says Zadroga. "Everyone refused to help us." Congressmember Carolyn Maloney said she faced extreme pressure to change the name of the James Zadroga Health and Compensation Act, which provides billions in healthcare for them.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González, as we spend the hour looking at the outraging film 9/11's Unsettled Dust, the powerful documentary following the 9/11 responders and other survivors who had to fight for healthcare justice while they were sick. In this clip, we hear Joe Zadroga discuss his son James, a 9/11 responder, and then New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.

JOE ZADROGA: My son Jimmy, who was an NYPD detective, he was actually sick as soon as he got home. Three months after the event, I said to him, "You know, let's go to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital and go talk to, you know, the pulmonologist, the head pulmonologist in Columbia Presbyterian." And I took him. We went to the hospital. The doctor sat with him for an hour or so and examined him and told us to come back in two weeks.
Well, when we came back in two weeks, the doctor brought us into his office, with nice cushioned chairs and everything, and sat us down and just said to Jimmy, "I'm not going to treat you." And we were shocked. And we said, "What do you mean, you're not going to treat him?" He said, "No, I'm not going to treat him." And he got up and walked out. And, you know, we were a little dumbfounded. And we looked at each other. We couldn't understand why this doctor wouldn't treat him. And as we were going down the elevator I said to Jimmy, I said, "Jimmy, this is going to be a long process." I said, "And to tell you the truth, you're screwed. They're not going to take care of you."
You know, the department treated him terrible. The department refused to admit that he was sick. And they just persecuted him, and they wouldn't give up. Really, they wanted him to quit. They would send a sergeant to the house to make sure he was in the house, because they were hoping to catch him outside the house, where they could discipline him and probably fire him. That's how much they wanted to get rid of him, to say that he wasn't sick.
Jimmy died January 6th, 2006. Found him up in his bedroom with his little daughter sleeping on the bed. He got up during the night to get her a bottle, and I found him on the floor with the bottle in his hand, the baby sleeping.
Fortunately, we were in New Jersey, and the Ocean County Medical Examiner did a post on him. And the post came back. The doctor stated on the medical report that Jimmy died from working at ground zero on 9/11, that he had the dust particles in his lungs and that's what he passed away from.
Of course, the city wouldn't admit to that. Bloomberg came on the air and said, with his medical examiner, that "Who was this New Jersey medical examiner to say that this person" — he wouldn't call him an officer — "that this person died from 9/11?"
So, when we went to the Medical Examiner's Office, I brought a picture of Jimmy. I said, "Listen, we're not talking about an object here. We're talking about my son. And I want you to look at that picture when you talk about him." He turned around and said, "Listen, I want you, your family, to drop that saying that he died from 9/11. If you don't drop that he died from 9/11, I will go to the press and I will say that James used his drugs illegally and he died from misusing his drugs."
REP. CAROLYN MALONEY: It became so nasty, with so many headlines that were derogatory towards James Zadroga, that some people came to me and said, "Carolyn, change the title of the bill. It's too controversial. Everyone believes that Zadroga was a dope addict." I said, "If I change it to whoever the next name is, they'll do the same thing to them. He wasn't a dope addict. He was a first responder. He served at 9/11. And we should stick with the Zadroga name."

AMY GOODMAN: "We should stick with the Zadroga name." That was Congressmember Carolyn Maloney of New York in the documentary 9/11's Unsettled Dust, which is premiering this week.

We are joined now by Joe Zadroga. You've just been watching or listening to the father of the NYPD police detective James Zadroga, who died of a respiratory illness after assisting in rescue efforts at ground zero.

Joe, we didn't see your son, year after year, either in a wheelchair or with oxygen or with crutches, going to Washington, this parade of people who were victims of 9/11 — of their own government — because he died in 2006. But Carolyn Maloney stuck with your son being the name on the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. Can you talk about what this means to you, and who is covered, and what you went through at the end trying to get Jimmy help?

JOE ZADROGA: Well, yeah, we spent five years trying to get Jimmy help medically, through the politicians, through newspapers, through the radio, through TV stations. Everyone refused to help us. They would deny us access. When he went to the hospital, the doctors would want to treat him. They wanted to treat him, and they said they would take good care of him. He was a 9/11 responder. They would take good care of him. And then, two days later, they discharged him. Obviously, it was from the — it wasn't from the doctors; it was from the administration from the hospitals telling them to get him out and, you know, let him go home and die. More or less, that's what they were saying. And we went on for five years trying that, and we went to everybody. And it was very frustrating, and it took a toll on the family, took a toll, obviously, on Jimmy. Jimmy felt that, you know, they just let him out to die, more or less.

The police department wouldn't do anything for him. As I said previously, they were trying to get rid of him. They wanted him to go out on a general disability, just to get rid of him. And I told Jimmy to refuse general disability — it was definitely a job-connected injury — and to stay for the fight. And we stayed for the fight. And eventually, they did let him out on a job-related injury. They didn't say it was directly the result of 9/11, but they let him out. And more or less, you know, they just wanted to get rid of him. And that's how it went.

And he was on oxygen. I mean, to sit and watch as your child, who was a healthy 30-year-old man, deteriorate down to sitting on oxygen 24/7. His wife passed away from the stress of watching him die.

In the early part, we did go to one doctor in Westchester. Actually, Jimmy was friends with all the firemen, because he worked street crimes citywide. So, he knew — he used to go to firehouses to eat. But he asked to tell him — he asked the firemen who they go to for their lung problems. And they gave him a doctor in Westchester. And, mind you, this is within three months after the event. And he went to the doctor in Westchester. The doctor examined him. And after examination, the doctor told him, "Three years, you're going to be blind. Five years, you're going to be dead." And he did. He died in five years.

AMY GOODMAN: And our condolences, because even though it was 2006, I know how incredibly hard this is for you on this 20th anniversary, Joe — what is it? — 15 years later.

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How the US war on terror fueled and excused right-wing extremism at home

In an extended conversation with Spencer Ackerman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning national security reporter, he examines the connection he sees between the rise of right-wing extremism in the United States and the so-called war on terror, which he writes about in his new book, "Reign of Terror: How the 9/11 Era Destabilized America and Produced Trump." He begins his book with Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh visiting the far-right paramilitary compound in Elohim City, Oklahoma, before what was then called the worst terror attack in U.S. history.


Spencer Ackerman on How the U.S. War on Terror Fueled and Excused Right-Wing Extremism at Home www.youtube.com


Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman. We're spending the hour with Spencer Ackerman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning national security reporter, author of Reign of Terror: How the 9/11 Era Destabilized America and Produced Trump.

Spencer, you begin your book, with the prologue, with Timothy McVeigh visiting the far-right paramilitary compound in Elohim City, Oklahoma, before what you call, the prologue's chapter heading, "the worst terrorist attack in American history." Talk about the connection you see between the rise of right-wing extremism in the United States and the so-called war on terror.

SPENCER ACKERMAN: I thought it was extremely important to see the war on terror in its fullness, in its totality, and only then can we understand its implications. And I think the only way to really do that is to look at who were the exceptions to the war on terror, who the war on terror didn't target, despite fundamentally similar actions. And there we can understand not just what the war on terror is, but its relationship to American history, which shapes it so deeply.
And so, I also wanted to kind of start with a journalistic cliché, where the reporter kind of zoologically takes a reader through this unfamiliar and scary world of violence committed by fanatical people who are training with heavy weapons and talk about committing mass atrocity for a sick and supposedly divinely inspired religion. But I wanted those people to be white. I wanted the reader to see how similar these actions were, how similar some of the motivations were, how similar some of the justifications were. But we never treated them like that.
The whole purpose of the phrase "war on terror" was a kind of social compromise amongst respectable elites in order to not say the thing that they were in fact building, which was an expansive war only against some people's kinds of terror, only against nonwhite people's kinds of terror, only against foreigners' kinds of terror, and not against the kind of terrorism that is the oldest, most resilient, most violent and most historically rooted in American history, one that seeks to draw its own heritage out of the general American national heritage, people who call themselves not dissenters, not rebels, but patriots, people who are restoring something about America that they believe a corrupt elite, that is now responsive to nonwhite power at the expense of the extant racial caste, that has been deeply woven inside not just the American political structure, but the American economy, that drives American politics — how that ultimately never gets treated.
This is exactly what Timothy McVeigh was about. This is what Timothy McVeigh had as his motivations for murdering 168 Americans in Oklahoma City, including 19 children. And we looked away from it. We looked away from how deep the rootedness of white supremacist violence was in this country. We listened to what I believe are principled civil libertarian objections against an expensive category of criminalized association. Treating people who might have believed as McVeigh did, odious as I believe that is, but ultimately not committing acts of violence — treating them as, essentially, indistinct from McVeigh was absolutely intolerable, as it always should have been, to the American political elites, but that intolerability did not extend to Muslims.
And there it was easy, after 9/11, to construct an apparatus fueled by things like the PATRIOT Act, that expanded enormous categories of criminal association, known as material support for terrorism, authorized widespread surveillance, that certainly would not be focused simply even on American Muslims, as disgusting as it was that it was focused on them primarily. But, ultimately, all of these things that both parties, that the leaders of the security services and intellectuals created, maintained and justified, so readily, against the threat of a foreign menace, seen as civilizational, seen as an acceptable substitute for a geopolitical enemy that had served as a rallying purpose throughout the 20th century — the war on terror is kind of a zombie anti-communism in a lot of its political caste and association. And never would any of this be visited upon white people. From the start, the war on terror showed you exactly who it was going to leave out from its carceral, from its surveillance and from its violent gaze.
AMY GOODMAN: So, I want to go to Donald Trump this week, considering a 2024 challenge to President Biden, said in a statement Biden "surrendered" to the Taliban. Meanwhile, Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee demanded a plan from Biden to stop Afghanistan from becoming a, quote, "safe haven" for terror groups after the Taliban takeover. This is Republican Congressman Michael McCaul on CNN.
REP. MICHAEL McCAUL: We are going to go back, Jake, to a pre-9/11 state, a breeding ground for terrorism. And, you know, I hate to say this — I hope we don't have to go back there — but it will be a threat to the homeland in a matter of time.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you have the Republicans now talking about a foreign terrorist threat. The Republicans, who have been denying the insurrection of January 6, calling it, you know, no worse than a group of tourists coming to Washington, D.C., and not wanting to investigate that, even though, under Bush, under Trump, the intelligence agencies have said the number one domestic terror threat is right-wing white supremacists.
SPENCER ACKERMAN: We see who the war on terror, then as now, is a mechanism for having terrorism excused, not terrorism dealt with: when that terrorism is white, when it is politically powerful. When, for reasons that they themselves probably ought better to explain, politicians sympathize with it, seek to draw strength from it, that's a real serious red flag for American democracy. We don't have to treat it as if it is a new red flag for American democracy. This is always how American democracy has been eroded. This is always alongside the ways in which capital has been extremely willing to ally with white supremacy. This is what the creation of Jim Crow was. This is how the maintenance of segregation in the North of the country, which we don't often talk about as much in its different permutations — I'm a New Yorker. This city is segregated even still. You see that definitely with the way the school system is constructed.
Ultimately, we are seeing, throughout this past week, the ease with which the Republican Party, supposedly now in the Trump era feeling antipathy to the war on terror, readily snapped to war on terror politics when it comes to the demonization of refugees, the idea that America has a responsibility to take in the refugees that it itself creates, out of this psychotic, racist fear of white replacement, that demographics are ultimately driving the erosion of, you know, in its respectable settings, white political power, not just on the fringes, but at the centers of American governance.
And that is a politics of the war on terror that has been here from the start. Trump makes it vastly less subtle, to the extent that it was subtle, than it was before. And his hold on the party is not an accident. His hold here has everything to do with the way that he was able to recognize the ways in which the war on terror is an excellent sorting mechanism for figuring out who is a real American and who is a conditional American. And then, as we saw him using the tools of the war on terror on the streets of cities like Portland and Washington, D.C., and New York and in the skies over as many as 15 cities last summer, he's willing to use it on Americans that he calls terrorists.
AMY GOODMAN: Spencer Ackerman, you write repeatedly about Adham Hassoun. Tell us his story.
SPENCER ACKERMAN: Amy, I just want to thank you so much for asking about Adham. I knew you would. You have truly been one of the journalistic heroes of this era.
And Adham Hassoun is a symbol of the ways that the war on terror criminalized people. Adham Hassoun is a Palestinian-born man who survived — he grew up in the Lebanese civil war of the 1980s and immigrated to Florida in the 1990s. And as a refugee himself and an active participant in his community in Miami, in South Florida, in the Islamic community there, he wrote a lot of checks to refugee charities, people that he had thought were helping refugees and helping war victims in places like Bosnia, where the wars became genocidal in the Balkans against Balkan Muslims.
And, ultimately, among the people that he met and tried to help was a convert named José Padilla. José Padilla would, after 9/11, become famous as someone John Ashcroft accused of trying to set off a radiological weapon inside the United States. And very shortly after that happened — Padilla was at first placed in military custody, an American citizen; that was allowed at the time — the feds came for Adham. And even though Adham had committed no violence, Adham had done nothing criminal, the feds and immigration authorities locked him up, and they leaned on him to try and inform on his community, to try and be an informant. And he refused to do that. He considered it an affront to his dignity. He considered it unjust.
And as a result, he spent a tremendous amount of time — he spent years in jails in Florida, while, ultimately, the FBI and the local prosecutor — who eventually would be the Trump Cabinet member Alex Acosta — came up with pretexts to prosecute him. He was originally charged as a co-defendant with José Padilla, who is now placed in federal custody. And even though there was no way that the government could connect him to any act of violence, thanks to the PATRIOT Act and thanks to, frankly, the atmosphere politically in the years after 9/11, that he could be charged with things that simply were not acts of violence or acts of active contribution to specific people committing specific acts of violence that the government could name, and he was convicted. And as he was sentenced, the judge reduced his sentence — the feds were seeking life for Adham — because the judge recognized that the government couldn't point to any act that he — you know, act of violence that he was responsible for. That was in 2007. He served until 2017 in federal prison, a variety of federal prisons.
And then, in 2017, when he had finished his sentence, he had figured that he would be deported, that ultimately he would go back to probably Lebanon. He was kind of done, as you can imagine, with the United States at that point. But he didn't. What happened instead was that he was sent into ICE detention in western New York, outside of Buffalo, at a place called Batavia. And after the PATRIOT Act became law in 2001, there was great civil libertarian fear over one of its provisions, Section 412. Section 412 said that any nondeportable noncitizen, which is to say a stateless person who doesn't have a country that will take that person in, who is deemed a threat to national security by the authorities — ultimately, in this case, the determination is made by the secretary of homeland security — could be imprisoned indefinitely. That never happened throughout the whole war on terror, until it was time to keep Adham Hassoun locked up.
Ultimately, in early 2020, around like late February, early March, Adham gets sick, to the point where he — we don't know for sure, but he thought that he got COVID. By April of that year, Batavia was the ICE detention facility with the highest COVID outbreak inside. So, here was a figure who the United States criminalized, robbed of his freedom, and then ultimately endangered his life by the incompetence and indifference that it showed in allowing COVID to run wild in facilities filled with people that the United States functionally treated as nonpeople.
And it took a very valiant effort by local attorneys and by the American Civil Liberties Union to challenge his detention. Ultimately, instead of outright losing the case, as a judge indicated after she ruled Adham had to go free, because the FBI admitted —
AMY GOODMAN: We have 30 seconds, Spencer.
SPENCER ACKERMAN: — that it relied on a — sorry. Adham was ultimately successful, once the government dropped its case in order to preserve its power to do this. And he lives in freedom, I'm happy to say, right now in Rwanda.
AMY GOODMAN: We have 30 seconds. What has surprised you most about what is happening today?
SPENCER ACKERMAN: Very little at this point, I'm sorry to say, surprises me. But the general indifference by the American political and intellectual elites to the relationship between the war on terror and the erosion of democracy is also a very deep thread and very historically rooted, not just in the war on terror, but before, and certainly seeing that those connections have to be made in order to have any form of real democracy in this country and safety and dignity for so many people.

AMY GOODMAN: Spencer Ackerman, I want to thank you so much for being with us, Pulitzer Prize-winning national security reporter. His new book, Reign of Terror: How the 9/11 Era Destabilized America and Produced Trump. I'm Amy Goodman. Thanks so much.

Ex-Pence aide explains how a former Trump advisor sabotaged the Afghanistan withdrawal

As thousands of people in Afghanistan attempt to flee the country before the United States' withdrawal on August 31, we look at how the Trump administration made it much harder for Afghans who worked with the U.S. to apply and receive what is known as a special immigrant visa, or SIV. Oliva Troye, a former top aide to Mike Pence who resigned in protest, has placed the blame on Trump's xenophobic adviser Stephen Miller, saying he peddled "racist hysteria" in White House meetings about bringing Afghan allies to the U.S. "Stephen Miller would say, 'Well, these are terrorist cells in the making if you bring them here,'" says Troye, director of the Republican Accountability Project and former homeland security adviser to Pence. "I know for a fact that the Trump administration was planning this withdrawal for several years," says Troye. "Why were they not actively prioritizing this population so that we wouldn't be in the situation we're in today?"


Ex-Pence Aide: Stephen Miller’s “Racist Hysteria” Made It Harder for Afghan Allies to Get Visas www.youtube.com


Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman.

As thousands of Afghans attempt to flee Afghanistan before the U.S. withdrawal on August 31st, we turn now to look at how the Trump administration made it harder for Afghans who worked with the United States to apply and receive what is known as a SIV, a special immigrant visa. One former top aide to Mike Pence has placed the blame on Trump's xenophobic adviser Stephen Miller. Olivia Troye recently tweeted, quote, "There were cabinet mtgs about this during the Trump Admin where Stephen Miller would peddle his racist hysteria about Iraq & Afghanistan. He & his enablers across gov't would undermine anyone who worked on solving the SIV [Special Immigrant Visa] issue by devastating the system at DHS & State," she said. In recent weeks, Stephen Miller has repeatedly appeared on Fox News to criticize efforts to resettle Afghans in the United States.

STEPHEN MILLER: The Taliban has all of the control of the government now. So the notion that people could just show up at a checkpoint and demand resettlement into the United States, so we could have any idea about their background, their belief system, where they come from, now that the U.S.-backed government has fallen, it's just an impossibility. … Resettling in America is not about solving a humanitarian crisis; it's about accomplishing an ideological objective: to change America.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that is Stephen Miller on Fox.

We're joined now by Olivia Troye. She worked as a homeland security and counterterrorism adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, until she resigned in August of last year. She's now the director of the Republican Accountability Project.

Olivia Troye, welcome to Democracy Now! It's great to have you with us. Can you talk more about — I mean, you were in the room. So, talk about what the Afghan visa process is. We're talking about now a law passed by Congress. They have to go through something like 14 steps, is that right?

OLIVIA TROYE: Yes, that's correct. And to hear Stephen Miller sort of just disregard the fact that these people are vetted so extensively — I mean, the process is cumbersome, and it is challenging, despite the Trump administration's attempts to really gut the entire thing. But, you know, they go — they have to be sponsored by either the military commander at the time or the person they were working for. They have to get a letter of recommendation from them. And then it's a series of steps. They go through health checks. They go through vetting. They go through background checks. I mean, this isn't something that just happens overnight. It is a cumbersome process that lasts at least several months. But in this situation, what we've had is that many of these people were in the pipeline for years just waiting to get through the process, and they never saw results.

AMY GOODMAN: So, describe a scene. Describe a meeting that Stephen Miller was in, talking about these Afghan allies. Now, he is continuing to talk about this to this day.

OLIVIA TROYE: Look, Stephen Miller does not hide the fact that he is anti-immigrant, anti-refugee. This is something that he has been consistent about from day one of the Trump administration, when they took office, and, you know, whether it was issuing the travel ban, as it's referred to, or — and that in that travel ban, it was actually — it called for a full stop of the refugee process, to do security reviews and review vetting.

Well, I sat in those meetings, when we discussed many of these scenarios. And in these meetings, it was brought to the attention, especially before Cabinet meetings and in senior staff meetings at the National Security Council, the importance of protecting these translators, these interpreters, these U.S. allies that have served on the ground with us and who needed to get through the process expeditiously. And Stephen Miller would say, "Well, these are terrorist cells in the making if you bring them here." He would say, "These are going to be — what is it that you want? You guys want a bunch of little Iraqs throughout the United States? You want a bunch of 'stans everywhere in the country?" And it was so offensive to many senior military commanders and generals, you know, brass, military brass, offensive to intelligence career people like myself.

AMY GOODMAN: So, who spoke up? Can you talk about General Mattis, for example, when he couldn't attend a meeting?

OLIVIA TROYE: Yeah, so — and he wrote a memo specifically about the P-2 program on Iraqis. And I think this is happening in 2018 when we were discussing the refugee ceiling cap. And Stephen Miller was a big advocate for lowering it.

AMY GOODMAN: P-2 program is similar to SIV, right?

OLIVIA TROYE: Yes, exactly. And this conversation, you know, we were talking about SIV processes. We were talking about the P-2s for Iraqi translators, many of these who had been in the pipeline for years already. And so, General Mattis is not able to attend this Cabinet meeting on the refugee ceiling discussion, and so he writes a memo. And he writes this memo because he wants it to go on record, and he wants it distributed at the meeting because he's concerned about what is going to happen when people come into the room. What is Pompeo going to do? Will he cave to the likes of Stephen Miller and his ilk?

And he was right to be concerned, because in this discussion Stephen Miller pontificates once again and pushes this narrative of fearmongering about what's going to happen if we bring these people here. And Mattis pushes back, through his memo, and makes sure that he's on record that if we do not protect this population, that if we don't get them through the process, this is a serious matter of national security, because what message are we sending to the world?

AMY GOODMAN: You were a special adviser to Vice President Trump — Vice President Pence. Did you feel you could stand up to Stephen Miller?

OLIVIA TROYE: Yes, but you always had to do it in a very calculated manner, because when you do take a stand, unfortunately, he did have the power to remove people from their positions. He pushed a number of many of my competent colleagues out, State Department, Foreign Service officers, who were serving across the National Security Council, some of them known to be pro-refugee and pro-SIVs and pro-P-2s. And many of these people get pushed out of the National Security Council, and they're replaced by Stephen Miller allies.

And so, what I did was I worked closely with my colleagues to figure out how we were going to navigate this careful situation. And I — look, I briefed Vice President — former Vice President Pence about the scenario. I told him that I was meeting with numerous organizations who were raising serious concerns about what was happening here, whether it was budget cuts for the refugee resettlement programs for Afghans and Iraqis and other refugees. And they were kind of — they were asking the right question. There were saying, "What is happening here? What's happening at the State Department?" Well, when I dug into this and I actually go and meet people at the State Department, I find myself faced with one of Stephen Miller's allies, one of the strongest supporters. And it all sort of comes together for me, and I come back and say, "Well, I don't know how we're going to counter what's happening here across the U.S. government, when we have a group of people that are actively working to undermine the entire system."

AMY GOODMAN: In a statement to The New York Times, Stephen Miller responded to your accusation, saying, "The sole reason that anyone is stranded in Afghanistan is because Joe Biden stranded them there in the single most imbecilic act of strategic incompetence in human history." And, of course, President Trump has weighed in, and he's attacking Biden, calling his responses imbecilic, as well. Your response, Olivia?

OLIVIA TROYE: Well, I think Trump had four years to do something about getting these people out of harm's way, who were in the system waiting to be processed. And so, I think what you see now is a scenario where President Biden takes office, he comes in, they realize that the program is gutted. They have spoken about this before, where they come in and they realize that the program is definitely in need of resourcing and staffing. And so, this is not something that you can just flip a switch and turn on overnight. It's a cumbersome process. And if it wasn't functioning the way it should have — which I know that it wasn't, because I know this firsthand — it's going to take some time. And so you end up in a crisis situation now where you are trying to figure out how you're going to protect thousands of people whose lives are going to be at risk once we withdraw. If that were the case — and, you know, I know for a fact that the Trump administration was planning this withdrawal for several years now — why were they not actively prioritizing this population so that we wouldn't be in the situation we're in today?

AMY GOODMAN: Olivia Troye, I want to thank you for spending this time with us, former homeland security and counterterrorism adviser to former Vice President Mike Pence, now director of the Republican Accountability Project.

When we come back, we look at how right-wing radio host Larry Elder, who once mentored a young Stephen Miller, could become the next governor of California, if voters back a recall of Gavin Newsom. Back in 30 seconds.

Ex-official who resigned over Afghan war says US mistakes helped Taliban gain power

"The only thing more tragic than what's happened to the Afghan people is that in a few days America will have forgotten Afghanistan again," says Matthew Hoh, a disabled combat veteran and former State Department official stationed in Afghanistan's Zabul province who resigned in 2009 to protest the Obama administration's escalation of the War in Afghanistan. He says much of the U.S. media coverage has been filled with "complete lies and fabrications," despite decades of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. "You see the same people who've been wrong about this war trotted out over and over again," says Hoh, a senior fellow with the Center for International Policy.

Please check back later for full transcript.

Houston doctor: Greg Abbott is a 'direct threat' to the children of Texas

As the highly contagious Delta variant continues to spread, many hospitals are reporting record numbers of children being hospitalized, especially in areas with low vaccination rates, including Arkansas, Florida, Missouri and Texas. Dr. Christina Propst, a pediatrician in Houston, says children under 12 who are still ineligible for COVID-19 vaccines are at risk. "They are currently our most vulnerable population, just as this highly transmissible variant is surging across the country," Propst says. She says Texas Governor Greg Abbott's order banning mask mandates in schools is a purely political decision that ignores science. "What he is doing is a direct threat to the health and well-being of the children of Texas," says Propst.



This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Many schools are reopening this week. We begin today's show looking at the rise of COVID-19 infections in children as the highly contagious Delta variant continues to spread. Many hospitals across the country are reporting record numbers of children hospitalized especially in areas with low vaccination rates. The New York Times reports, in a single day last week, Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock had 19 hospitalized children; Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida, had 15; and Children's Mercy Kansas City in Missouri had 12. Some of the children were in the intensive care unit. This is Dr. Mark Kline, physician-in-chief at Children's Hospital New Orleans.

DR. MARK KLINE: I have to tell you that I am as worried about our children today as I have ever been. This virus, the Delta variant of COVID, is every infectious disease specialist's and epidemiologist's worst nightmare. … As the governor mentioned, there was a myth that circulated during the first year of the epidemic that children somehow were immune. I think there was — there were people who said children don't get the disease, they can't transmit the disease. We know that those were fallacies all along, but particularly now that the Delta variant has emerged, it has become very clear that children are being heavily impacted by this organism and by this pandemic at this point, perhaps more than ever before.

AMY GOODMAN: In Florida, where many schools reopen today, the sharpest spike in COVID cases has recently been in children under the age of 12. As of Sunday, Florida had 172 children being treated in hospitals for COVID — the highest number in the country. This comes as Florida's Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is threatening to defund the salaries of school officials who mandate mask wearing in schools. Several counties have announced mask mandates in schools in defiance of DeSantis.

A similar battle is brewing in Texas, where school authorities in Dallas and Austin are requiring masks in defiance of Republican Governor's Greg Abbott's order. This comes as pediatric wards in Houston are nearing or at capacity. One 11-month-old baby in Houston was recently airlifted to a hospital 170 miles away because there was not enough space to get treated in a Houston hospital.

So that's where we're going, to Houston, where we're joined by Dr. Christina Propst. She is a physician, a pediatrician at a private practice and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Council on Children and Disasters. She is also a member of the Texas Pediatric Society Committee on Infectious Diseases and Immunizations.

Dr. Propst, thanks so much for being with us. Can you start off by explaining what the Delta variant has to do with this increased number of children being hospitalized? Why are they so particularly vulnerable right now?

DR. CHRISTINA PROPST: Right now we are in an unfortunate situation where the Delta virus is prevalent. The Delta variant of COVID-19 is the prevalent circulating variant in this country. It is more easily transmissible, and, notably, more easily transmissible to those who are unvaccinated. And as I'm sure you and your listeners know, children under age 12 are currently still ineligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19. They are currently our most vulnerable population, just as this highly transmissible variant is surging across the country, notably in Texas, in Florida, in Louisiana, in Arkansas, Missouri and many other states.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Doctor, could you talk about also the issue of long COVID in children? There have been reports that many children are suffering from lingering physical, mental and neurological symptoms as result of sometimes an infection that is very mild or asymptomatic.

DR. CHRISTINA PROPST: Absolutely. That is one of the greatest concerns, I would say, for pediatricians, and, frankly, should be one of the greatest concerns for parents across the country right now. There is a condition, as many people have heard, called long COVID. It was originally identified in adults, mostly because adults were getting tested. From day one, children have been undertested in this country. So, long COVID, now also known as post-acute sequelae of COVID-19, is a condition that can arise weeks to months later and generally involves a constellation of symptoms, including the brain fog many people have heard of, aches, low-grade fevers, a malaise that just won't go away, a lack of energy.

And unfortunately, we are seeing more and more long COVID, which can be truly debilitating, in young children. We are seeing that as the incidence among the pediatric population increases, we are starting to see those long COVID cases, so the malaise and fatigue that just does not go away, six, eight, 10 weeks after an acute COVID infection, which might even have been a mild infection. The vast majority of children do not require hospitalization for COVID-19. However, that does not mean they are safe or somehow immune from long COVID or from multisystem inflammatory conditions that can occur post-COVID infection.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And could you respond to Texas Governor Abbott's having issued a ban on school masking mandates?

DR. CHRISTINA PROPST: It's so frustrating, as a pediatrician and as a parent. I feel for parents who are making these difficult decisions right now, whether to homeschool. Many school districts do not offer a virtual option this year. Many have done away with the plexiglass and some of the other COVID-mitigating modes and modalities in their classrooms. Our governor, unfortunately, has taken our children's lives and is using it in a political game of chicken. That's really the best way to describe it right now.

I'm thrilled to see Houston Independent School District, our new superintendent, Millard House, last week announced intention to issue a mask mandate in our huge public school system here in Houston. Dallas has followed. Austin has followed. Other districts are now starting to try to come up with a virtual option. Masks are the last best hope of defense for children who are vulnerable, and that includes every single child under age 12 right now.

Unfortunately, it also includes a huge proportion of our population of school-age children who are eligible, who are between ages 12 and 17. Currently only 30% of tweens and adolescents in that age group are fully vaccinated. And so, pediatricians across the country and the American Academy of Pediatrics are begging parents to get their children vaccinated before the start of school.

AMY GOODMAN: Would you say, Dr. Christina Propst, that the governor is threatening the health of the children of Texas?

DR. CHRISTINA PROPST: I would say what he is doing is a direct threat to the health and well-being of the children of Texas. Unfortunately, also we need to keep in mind that for some Texans who can afford to send their children to private school, this might not be a problem. Private schools have issued mask mandates. Private schools are doing pooled testing and screening for symptoms. This will disproportionately affect, in every way, health, mental well-being, education, the most vulnerable students among the most vulnerable of our population. And so, that includes our unvaccinated children under age 12 who are in perhaps the poorest performing, oldest schools, with the most overcrowding, with the oldest school buildings, with the poorest ventilation. Those children have a disproportionately high incidence of some comorbidities that even put them at higher risk — asthma, a high BMI or obesity. So, those children absolutely will be disproportionately affected by this purely political and unfortunate decision by our governor.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Christina Propst, we're going to break, then come back to this critical discussion about children and COVID, why it's not only surging — COVID is not only surging in the United States among children, and also among the unvaccinated population overall, but around the world, as well. Dr. Christina Propst is a pediatrician at a private practice in Houston, member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Council on Children and Disasters, member of the Texas Pediatric Society Committee on Infectious Diseases and Immunizations. We'll be back with her in a moment.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: "Sea of Tranquility" by Kool & the Gang. Co-founder Dennis "D.T." Thomas died this week at the age of 70.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González. As we talk about children and COVID, we turn to top White House adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, who was speaking on NBC's Meet the Press about the rise of COVID infection in kids and what can be done to protect them from the virus.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: There is a problem with children. You've got to separate and make sure you get the facts. The likelihood of a child getting serious disease compared to an elderly person or someone with an underlying condition is absolutely less. But less doesn't mean zero. And there are a lot of children now — all you need to do is do a survey of the pediatric hospitals throughout the country, and you're seeing a considerable number of young people who are not only infected, but who are seriously ill. Again, the numbers compared to the elderly are less, but that's a false comparison. These kids are getting sick. We've really got to make sure we protect them. …
There are two things you do with children who are not vaccinated, and that's the recommendation. You surround them with those who can be vaccinated, whoever they are — teachers, personnel in the school, anyone. Get them vaccinated. So, protect the kids with a shield of vaccinated people. For the kids who can't get vaccinated, that's the reason why we're having a strong recommendation that, in the schools, everybody should wear a mask, whether or not you're vaccinated.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that's Dr. Anthony Fauci. We're talking to Dr. Christina Propst. She is a Houston pediatrician, member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Council on Children and Disasters, member of the Texas Pediatric Society Committee on Infectious Diseases and Immunizations. You have, in Houston, hospitals filling, in Austin, in Dallas. An 11-month-old is taken on a plane 150 miles away because there wasn't room for them in the Houston hospital. Can you talk about what parents have to look for? If you can't — what are the symptoms? Are they different in infants, in young children? And also, Texas, Arkansas, Florida, huge unvaccinated populations, but in places like New York, the vaccination rate is very high. How concerned should parents be here?

DR. CHRISTINA PROPST: So, to address your first question, the presenting signs for COVID in children can really vary. I have treated children as young as 5 weeks old, and I have treated teenagers, 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds. Obviously there is a huge range of how those individuals can respond, even can articulate how they are feeling. So, for some children, it can be abdominal pain. And I have seen children, school-age children, for whom significant or even severe abdominal pain was really the presenting sign. Then they developed fever. Some have not developed fever at all. Many develop upper respiratory symptoms. So, I would say the majority of patients that I have seen have had cold-like symptoms — congestion, cough, sore throat, low-grade fever, sometimes then elevating fever a few days in. Some pediatric patients, of course, do lose their sense of smell and their sense of taste, as well. So, it's really a variety of symptoms.

And parents and pediatricians, of course, need to have a very low threshold right now for testing and for getting a quality test. There are still tests out, that are widely circulating, that have a very high false negative rate. That's not helpful to anyone. So, getting tested frequently, certainly as soon as symptoms are setting in — if we know there's been an exposure, getting tested several days out, if you are asymptomatic — and getting a quality test truly is important.

There certainly are parts of the country where the vaccination rate is significantly higher. Now, we need to remember, cohorting among a group of adults, let's say, in New York City, where the adults have a very high vaccination rate, and possibly even the teens and tweens, although it is significantly lower than the adult population, is not enough to protect our young children under age 12 from the Delta variant of COVID-19. It's simply not going to do it. There is enough travel. There is clear data showing vaccinated individuals can transmit the virus to the unvaccinated. So, if you have an adult in a household who is vaccinated in New York City who's hopped on a plane where someone with the Delta variant took their mask off to eat or drink, that person could be harboring the virus, could be asymptomatic or have a very mild infection, where they think it's allergies, and pass it on to their child. And even a mild infection in children — we need to remember this — even a, quote, "mild" or moderate infection with COVID-19 still puts that child at risk for long-haul COVID and for multisystem inflammatory conditions. So, that is a key takeaway right now, that even areas with a high vaccination rate among adults, children there are still incredibly vulnerable.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Dr. Propst, I'd like to ask you about a surge in another virus called RSV. Could you tell us what you've seen of that virus? Is there a connection between it and COVID? And why has there been a sudden surge in RSV?

DR. CHRISTINA PROPST: So, RSV is a virus that many parents are not familiar with, and it is — it stands for respiratory syncytial virus. In the pediatric community, it is notorious. It tends to run in tandem with flu season. It tends to be a wintertime virus that predominantly affects young children, babies, particularly premature babies. They can have respiratory distress and even respiratory failure. Here in the state of Texas, typically, the state stops monitoring, stops even counting, cases of RSV in late May or June. This year, they didn't stop. In fact, our surge occurred afterwards. Our surge really has been June, July and August, which is unprecedented for this viral infection, at least in the 20 years that I've been in practice here in Houston. So, it is highly unusual.

There doesn't appear to be a direct relation between COVID-19 and RSV per se. The respiratory syncytial virus by far predates SARS-CoV-2, which is a novel or new coronavirus. So, it is unclear why RSV is surging right now. It's also notable that in an area such as Houston and in Texas, where RSV right now is surging and rampant, flu really is not — and I knock on wood as I say that. Certainly people are vaccinated against influenza; however, the vaccine efficacy from last season would have waned significantly by now. And so, with those viruses generally running in tandem, one would have expected flu also to be at least increased, if not surging.

So we are really in a perfect storm down here. And other states are facing this, as well, certainly. RSV hospitalizations are at a level I've never seen at this time of year. I have personally had to hospitalize more babies with RSV respiratory distress, and some who developed respiratory failure and had to be intubated and in the intensive care unit for over a week due to RSV, more in the past two months than I have in the previous three to four years.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, would you send — do you have school-age kids or younger?

DR. CHRISTINA PROPST: I have college-age kids.

AMY GOODMAN: If you had younger kids, whether you're in Texas or New York, would you send them to school?

DR. CHRISTINA PROPST: If my children were under age 12 and in a schooling situation such as public schools right now in Texas, where our governor has banned mask mandates in a school setting against the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Disease Control, I would be seriously looking at other options, whether that is homeschooling, virtual option — for those who can't afford it, let's say, a private option. Unfortunately, that is not reality for the vast majority of students.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you for being with us, Dr. Christina Propst, pediatrician —

DR. CHRISTINA PROPST: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: — private practice in Houston, member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Council on Children and Disasters, as we continue on the issue of schools, but now we're going to talk about teachers.

Trump's military advisors were 'throwing their bodies in front of something dangerous': biographers

A new book by two Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporters provides fresh details on former President Trump's response to the pandemic, his campaign to overturn the 2020 election results, and the events surrounding the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The book, "I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump's Catastrophic Final Year," details how the country's top general, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, feared Trump would wage a coup after losing the November election, among other revelations. We speak with co-authors Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig, who say their reporting unearthed "a lot of things that made our jaws drop to the ground." In an interview for the book, Trump said his only regret during his last year in office was not deploying the military against Black Lives Matter protesters. "He wanted to use active-duty troops on the streets of America's cities to combat American protesters who were exercising their First Amendment rights," says Rucker.



This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. I'm Nermeen Shaikh, with Juan González.

We end today's show with the authors of a new book that debuted last week at number one of the best-seller list, I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J.Trump's Catastrophic Final Year. The book is by two Washington Post reporters: White House bureau chief Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig, a longtime investigative reporter. Their book sheds new light on what happened during the early days of the pandemic, how Trump responded to the deadly January 6th insurrection, and alleges the nation's top general, Mark Milley, feared Trump would wage a coup after losing the November election. Rucker and Leonnig are both Pulitzer Prize winners and also co-authors of the 2020 best-seller, A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump's Testing of America.

Welcome to Democracy Now! Carol, let's begin with you. This is your second book on Trump. You both reported extensively on his administration. Talk about what you found in this book. What was most striking?

CAROL LEONNIG: Yes, there were a lot of things that made our jaws drop to the ground, but I think that the most striking was just the degree to which people who wanted to serve Donald Trump, people that were ardent supporters in his White House, in his Cabinet, in his administration, how much they were nearly in panic about the impulses of the president, the degree to which he was willing to put American lives in peril, and actually how much he was willing to risk the democracy, again, all for his short-term political gain, his own personal profit.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Phil, you write that Trump told you it was his greatest regret that he did not deploy the military to shut down last year's protests over the police killings of George Floyd, saying, quote, "I think if I had to do it again, I would have brought in the military immediately." Could you talk about that?

PHILIP RUCKER: That's right. When Carol and I sat down with President Trump, former President Trump, earlier this spring for an interview, an extensive interview for this book, he said his only regret from that final year as president was how he handled the Black Lives Matter protests and that he wished he had followed his impulse, his gut, to send in the military immediately into Portland and Seattle and Minneapolis, D.C., all these cities where demonstrations were taking place. He wanted to use active-duty troops on the streets of America's cities to combat American protesters who were exercising their First Amendment rights. It was pretty chilling for us to hear him say that.

And the book details a lot of reporting, scenes that happened behind closed doors, where the defense secretary and attorney general and the aforementioned chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were trying to persuade Trump not to send in the military and explaining how that would be so inappropriate and not justified. But Trump said, after the fact, that he regretted not doing so.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And you also report — I guess perhaps the most shocking revelation is how the top generals in the U.S. military were responding to Trump. You say that Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley was so afraid that Trump would attempt a coup that he and other top officials discussed a plan to resign one by one, rather than carry out orders from Trump that they consider to be illegal. Could you elaborate on that further?

CAROL LEONNIG: You know, this was a very frightening moment for us to learn, as well. Remember, we were covering this administration in real time. So, we thought we did a pretty good job at the first draft of history for The Washington Post. And then, when we excavated this time, we found out there was a lot more fear within the Pentagon and at the highest levels. These were people who had been to combat multiple times, and yet they were quite worried about what Donald Trump might do.

As Chairman Milley told confidants and colleagues, he became convinced that President Trump was trying to get his hands on the so-called guys with the guns — the agencies like the FBI, the CIA and the Defense Department. And the military leaders that he worked with, the other Joint Chiefs, and he began meeting to talk about how would they block the president from something that was illegal or dangerous for the country, some sort of deployment of the military that they thought was wholly inappropriate. And their plan, or their plot, their counterplot, was to essentially decide that they would resign one by one, a serial reverse Saturday night massacre, if you will, the idea being that each one of them had a legal duty to give the president their best military advice, and if he were to order something, each one of them would request a meeting whereby they could give him their advice and then then resign, almost like in slow motion. Again, they were throwing their bodies in front of something dangerous. That was their plan.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Carol, I'd like to go to another facet of the last year of Trump's administration that you cover extensively in the book, beginning with this clip from your two-hour interview with former President Trump in which he refers to the, quote, "loving crowd" during the deadly January 6th insurrection.

DONALD TRUMP: I would venture to say I think it was the largest crowd I've ever spoken before. It went from that point, which is almost at the White House, to beyond the Washington Monument. It was — and wide. And —
CAROL LEONNIG: But if you could have waved your want —
DONALD TRUMP: And it was a loving crowd, too, by the way. There was a lot of love. I've heard that from everybody. Many, many people have told me. That was a loving crowd.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: When Capitol Police officers testified last week at the first hearing of a House committee investigating the deadly January 6th riots, Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell responding to Trump's comment.

SGT. AQUILINO GONELL: If that was hugs and kisses, then we should all go to his house and do the same thing to him. To me, it's insulting and it's demoralizing, because everything that we did was to prevent everyone in the Capitol from getting hurt, and what he was doing, instead of sending the military, instead of sending the support or telling his people, his supporters, to stop this nonsense, he egged them to continue fighting.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And meanwhile, as we reported earlier in headlines, a fourth Washington, D.C.-area police officer who responded to the violent January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol has now died by suicide. So, Carol, could you respond to this latest news and also what Trump said in his interview with you on the so-called loving crowd?

CAROL LEONNIG: You know, there couldn't be a more stark split screen between officer Gonell, Metropolitan Police officer Fanone, what they actually experienced, what they told the public that medieval combat was like as they tried to protect the lawmakers and the staffers on the Hill who were scrambling for their lives from Donald Trump's supporters, from chants of execution for Vice President Pence — that's one side of the screen. And on the other side of the screen is Donald Trump sitting down with Phil and with me in Mar-a-Lago and explaining that this was a loving crowd, that he was watching them on television and he felt very supported by them, glad that they were going to "stop the steal," that they were going to show their support for the fact that he believed the election was rigged — though there's no evidence for it — and they were going to help him stay in power.

I thought that officer Gonell's remarks about the fact that he's still trying to recover from those hugs and kisses that Donald Trump told us the protesters were giving was really on the mark. There were no Capitol Police officers warmly ushering in these individuals, as President Trump — former President Trump told Phil and me when we were visiting with him. There was no love. There was a threat of death. There were chants for hanging Mike Pence. There were officers who were screaming for their lives, and, as officer Gonell described, literally having a heart attack, having the wherewithal to call out to the people around him, "Please don't take my gun. Please don't hurt me. I have children." Donald Trump was in a room watching television while that was happening.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Phil Rucker, the first section of your book deals with President Trump's response to the biggest crisis of his presidency, clearly: the COVID pandemic.

PHILIP RUCKER: Yeah.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And he told you that "I think we did a great job on COVID, and it hasn't been recognized." Could you talk about his paranoia on believing that the drug manufacturers actually tried to delay the COVID vaccine in order to hurt his election chances?

PHILIP RUCKER: Sure. You know, Trump seemed to think that all of his enemies, his perceived enemies, were out to get him during the COVID pandemic, in part because he saw the pandemic through the prism of his reelection chances. He thought he was on a glide path to winning a second term before COVID arrived and that COVID spoiled his chances of winning the election last November.

He had particular disdain for pharmaceutical companies, for drugmakers, in part because of some tensions earlier in the administration between the industry and his administration. But during COVID, he thought that they were slow-walking the development of a vaccine. He thought it was imperative that he have a vaccine or multiple vaccines developed, tested and ready to be distributed before Election Day, so that he could get political credit for that. And when that did not become a possibility, he became enraged.

And he was especially angry at Pfizer, because Pfizer made their announcement about a week or so after the election, that their first COVID vaccine had met the mark, and Trump thought that was intentionally delayed to hurt him politically. There, of course, is no evidence to support that claim, but it does show you a little bit the paranoia in Trump's mind that he thought individuals, but also companies, industries were plotting to try to undermine his political standing.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Carol, I wanted to ask you about this, Trump's conviction or clear belief that he was going to win on election night, and his reaction as the numbers came in that night and the days that followed. Also, if you could talk about the role of Rudy Giuliani? I mean, I covered Rudy Giuliani throughout his period when he was mayor of New York, and I always believed back then that there was something not right about him, but most people then didn't agree. But talk about the relationship between Giuliani and Trump, if you can, as well.

CAROL LEONNIG: Of course. You know, the conviction issue that you mention is so interesting, because what Phil and I learned was that in the days before the election, President Trump had been warned multiple times that this was going to be a hard slog and that the odds were not great. You know, people who were paid to tell him that the odds were great were warning him that it didn't look so good, that Biden's poll numbers were quite strong.

And, in fact, we learned that, unbeknownst to us when we were reporting in real time, that Bill Barr called the defense secretary the night before the election to say that he had learned from White House sources that the president, whether he won or not, was planning to declare that night, election night, that he had won, before all the ballots were counted, that that was sort of a plan that was being cooked up. And it's unclear where Bill Barr heard this, but it was from inside the White House.

So, the conviction that President Trump had that he was going to win or had won really started to solidify after he lost. His conviction that it had been stolen from him was what got more calcified as time went on. The reason is, he basically shut out those people, those adults who were explaining to him that he had lost, people he had trusted and had his confidants alongside him for years, people like Hope Hicks, who counseled him that he was ruining his legacy, that he needed to think about graciously and appropriately conceding, people like Kellyanne Conway, who said she really didn't see the evidence and asked the president to either produce it or think about a plan B for stepping away.

And what's interesting about Rudy is he represents the group of individuals on that fringe who were spinning increasingly fanatical tales of how this election was stolen, though Bill Barr had a team of Department of Justice prosecutors and also FBI agents, ultimately, underneath him investigating these claims. He warned the president they had looked into all of them, they were nonsense, they were BS. But Rudy kept insisting they were true. On election night, he was the voice who said, "Just declare victory. Just say you won," even as important swing states were coming down for Biden and looked like they were going to go for Biden pretty strongly.

So, Rudy was warned, actually, and this is sort of the most colossal fall from grace that I think I've seen in covering politicians and government officials. This was "America's mayor." This was one of the strongest, most revered federal prosecutors in the country. Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, former, warned Rudy in a phone call after the election that he was ruining his legacy and that he was becoming a joke on late-night television. And Rudy hollered back at him and said, you know, "I'm fighting for now. Who cares about legacy? I'm fighting for today." But everything he was fighting for was a mirage.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, speaking of today, let's talk about what prospects Trump has in a possible future campaign. New federal campaign finance filings show that Trump has raised more funds than other Republicans in online donations during the first half of this year, entering July with more than $100 million from his 2021 political committee. Some say Trump is pursuing a, quote, "shadow presidency" as he plans to run again in 2024. On Friday, Mark Meadows, former chief of staff for the Trump White House, told Newsmax Trump is now meeting with people he called cabinet members at his golf resort in New Jersey.

MARK MEADOWS: We met with some of our cabinet members tonight. We actually had a follow-up member — meeting with some of our cabinet members. And as we were looking in that, we're looking at what does come next. I'm not authorized to speak on behalf of the president.
STEVE CORTES: OK.
MARK MEADOWS: But I can tell you this, Steve: We wouldn't be meeting tonight if we weren't making plans to move forward in a real way with President Trump —
STEVE CORTES: OK.
MARK MEADOWS: — at the head of that ticket.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Philip Rucker, your response, and on the question, in particular, on continuing Republican support for Trump?

PHILIP RUCKER: Yeah. Well, look, the Republican support continues to be very strong for Donald Trump. He is by far the most popular figure in Republican politics today. He has made no secret about his desire to run for president again in 2024. And when Carol and I sat down with him, it was clear to us that he wanted back in the game, that he sort of had that itch to get into the arena again. He has a lot of time left before he has to make that decision about whether to actually launch a campaign for 2024, but all signs point towards the likely possibility that he does. And if he were to run, you know, barring some change in the political environment, he would almost certainly become the Republican presidential nominee. He is that popular in his party right now.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Thank you so much, Philip Rucker, Carol Leonnig, co-authors of I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump's Catastrophic Final Year. And that does it for the show. I'm Nermeen Shaikh, with Juan González. Stay safe.

Workers beg Joe Manchin to save West Virginia pharma plant as his daughter walks away with $31 million

More than 1,400 workers in West Virginia are set to lose their jobs this week when the Viatris pharmaceuticals plant in Morgantown shuts down and moves operations overseas to India and Australia. Workers say they've had no response to their urgent requests for help from their Democratic senator, Joe Manchin, who is often called the most powerful man in Washington. Viatris was formed through a merger between two pharmaceutical companies, Mylan and Upjohn. Mylan's chief executive, Manchin's daughter Heather Bresch, got a $31 million payout as a result of the corporate consolidation before the new company set about cutting costs, including the closure of the Morgantown plant. Joseph Gouzd, president of United Steelworkers of America Local 8-957 and a worker at the plant, says Viatris has given little reason for the closure except to say the company is looking to "maximize the best interests of the shareholders." We also speak with investigative journalist Katherine Eban, who says moving pharmaceutical production overseas contradicts the recommendations of numerous reports that have found major safety lapses in drug manufacturing abroad, as well as concern from lawmakers about keeping a key industry within the United States. "This is pure insanity," Eban says. "It seems like it is both pharmaceutical and national security suicide to close this plant."


Workers Beg Joe Manchin to Save West Virginia Pharma Plant as His Daughter Walks Away with $31M www.youtube.com

‘Crazy’ Trump struggles to put two thoughts together – but the GOP is powerless to stop him: Michael Wolff

As a special congressional committee investigating the January 6 insurrection prepares to hold its first hearings later this month, we speak with author Michael Wolff, whose new book, "Landslide," provides fresh details about former President Donald Trump's efforts to undermine the 2020 election, how he spurred his supporters to attack the U.S. Capitol and why he still holds the reins in the party. "There's no question Donald Trump runs the Republican Party," Wolff says. "We have two realities here: the reality of Donald Trump in charge, and the other reality which is that everybody knows that there's something wrong with Donald Trump."


“Landslide”: Michael Wolff on Trump’s Final Days in Office & Why He Still Rules the Republican Party www.youtube.com


Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Former President Donald Trump met with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy Thursday as McCarthy has yet to appoint Republicans to the congressional committee investigating the deadly January 6th riot by Trump supporters. For months Republicans have downplayed the insurrection, which was timed to disrupt the counting of electoral votes. McCarthy's meeting with Trump came after the select committee investigating the Capitol riot said it would hold its first hearing about the attack on July 27th. After the meeting, McCarthy returned to Washington, D.C., from the Bedminster Trump hotel to attend a dinner at the White House with President Biden and visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

CNN reports McCarthy will likely appoint supporters and defenders of Trump to the January 6 committee. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can veto any of his picks.

This comes as a series of new books offering new details about what happened January 6th, when then-President Trump spoke to thousands of his supporters at a so-called Save America rally outside the White House and urged them to march on the Capitol building.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We're going to walk down to the Capitol! And we're going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women. And we're probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them, because you'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.

AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about what happened January 6th, what led up to it, and particularly those last weeks of the Trump administration, we're joined by Michael Wolff, author of the new book Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump White House, which completes his best-selling trilogy on the presidency of Donald Trump, following Fire and Fury and Siege.

Michael, welcome back to Democracy Now! Why don't we start off right there, when President Trump — I don't know how many — tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands — of lies this was — but said that he will join the others in walking to the Capitol? Did he ever have a plan to do that?

MICHAEL WOLFF: Well, you know, it was at that moment — to just set the background here, this was a speech that he was largely reading off the teleprompter, which is unusual for Trump. Certainly, when he's in the moment, enthusiastic, he's departing from his speech. So he wasn't really thinking about this. His mind was wholly on Mike Pence and what — and he believed that Mike Pence had the power and the willingness to throw out the electoral votes and install him as the president. That was on his mind. So he was sort of reading through this speech.

But at one point he did depart from the speech and said, "We will walk to the Capitol." And that was the moment at which all of his aides kind of looked up and said, "What did he say? We're going to walk to the Capitol?" And all of them had the same response: "What is he talking about? Donald Trump doesn't walk anywhere." So, that's what they all thought at that point.

And then, when he came down after the speech, they said, "You know we can't do that. You know, there's no security for that." And Trump responded, "What are you talking about?" And they said, "You said you're going to walk." And he said, "Oh, oh, I didn't mean that literally." So, again, we're in the world of Donald Trump, which is mostly a world of what's coming out of his mouth and of — and I would say that for a good part of the time, he's not even aware of what's coming out of his mouth.

AMY GOODMAN: So, I mean, this is particularly significant right now for some who are thinking, "Why do we have to talk about Donald Trump? He's not the president anymore, even if he thinks he is." But the fact is, he, by far, is the leading contender, if he chooses to run for president again. By far. And, of course, just yesterday, the House minority leader went to the Bedminster golf course to meet with President Trump. And he, Kevin McCarthy, has yet to choose the five Republican members of the committee — they quashed the commission that would investigate the insurrection. Also, just interesting to note that you have the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Beatty, being arrested yesterday with nine others. They were arrested in less time than it took Capitol Police, who were, to say the least, taken off guard, to arrest that number that day in the time of extremely violent riot, insurrection.

MICHAEL WOLFF: Yeah. Well, I mean, I think that there's no question Donald Trump runs the Republican Party. He is — it's entirely top down. Nearly everybody, or at least certainly everybody who is contemplating a future in the Republican Party, has to pay — has to constantly kiss the Trump ring, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, the significance of this right now with him being in Mar-a-Lago, where you did a last interview with him — in Bedminster, running the show from behind the scenes? The significance of what that means for politics in this country? For example, even this investigation. And when you spoke to him in Mar-a-Lago, what did he say about the insurrection? What did he say about the number of the police, that he supposedly so reveres, being devastated, traumatized, beaten? One died.

MICHAEL WOLFF: Yeah, he didn't say anything about the January 6. That's clearly a subject that he is steering clear of.

But, you know, I want to make another point, and I think it's an interesting point, that even though Donald Trump has a kind of lockstep control over the Republican Party, one of the things that's also always going on is every — while every Republican acknowledges that, every Republican is also trying to walk that back or mitigate that or slow walk whatever the president wants. So we have two realities here: the reality of Donald Trump in charge, and the other reality which is that everybody knows that there's something wrong with Donald Trump. Donald Trump is crazy. Donald Trump, you know, I mean, essentially, can't put two sequential thoughts together.

You know, so Kevin McCarthy is going down there, and he's perfectly well aware this is an aberrant situation. And, in fact, Trump himself is always kind of saying bad things about McCarthy out of the side of his mouth. So, you know, it's this incredibly unusual situation, of which — I mean, it's essentially an emperor's new clothes situation. Everybody recognizes the completely unusual nature of what's going on here, but nobody can do anything about it.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Wolff, you detail election night and the significance of the relationship between Fox and President Trump. Can you talk about what happened that night when Fox, before the other networks, called Arizona for Biden?

MICHAEL WOLFF: Sure. And that's another example of this. I mean, OK, so we have Fox, the Fox News network, in abject fealty to Donald Trump. You know, I mean, that's their entire business and programming strategy: bow down to Donald Trump. At the same time, the Murdoch family, who owns Fox — could change Fox at a second's notice if they wanted to — detests Rupert Murdoch, cannot stand him. And that night, in their own sort of guerrilla action against Murdoch, when the call — when the call came from the election desk, which was that, you know, "We can call Arizona now. We're confident about that. However, you know, we can also wait on this" — so, this decision went to Rupert Murdoch. And Rupert Murdoch said — I noticed on your instructions that you advise against using obscenities here, so I'll let you phrase this if you want to. But anyway, Murdoch delivered an obscenity directed at Donald Trump and said, "Yes, make the call now." And it was a devastating call for Trump at that moment on election night.

AMY GOODMAN: He said, "Make the F—ing call."

MICHAEL WOLFF: That's what he said. No, no, he didn't say that. He said, "F— him." In other words, directed to Trump himself.

AMY GOODMAN: And what about Fox letting the White House know that they're going to make this call?

MICHAEL WOLFF: Yeah, and, I mean, that got some attention. And so, minutes before they made the call, Bill Hemmer, one of the Fox on-air people, called Jason Miller, who was one of the key campaign aides, and said, "Hey, this is what's going down. We're going to make this call. We can't do anything about it." And so, when this came out that I had reported this, then Fox immediately said, "That's totally untrue, completely untrue." You know, a lot of other publications immediately went to say, "OK, Michael Wolff is wrong." And then Jason Miller said, "Oh, yeah, that was true. Everybody, many people around, many people heard that."

AMY GOODMAN: Jason Miller, a surrogate for Donald Trump, who also —

MICHAEL WOLFF: Exactly.

AMY GOODMAN: — who appeared on Fox.

MICHAEL WOLFF: Yes, and who got the call. I mean, so the call went from Bill Hemmer to Jason Miller, who said then, "Yes, I got the call."

AMY GOODMAN: And so, you're a close observer of the right networks, of the right-wing networks, like Fox, OANN, Newsmax, maybe not as close as Trump himself, who you say spent hours every day — I mean, just hours — watching these networks.

MICHAEL WOLFF: Well, I am — just, I am pretty close. In addition to writing books about Trump, I'm Rupert Murdoch's biographer. So, yes, I'm pretty familiar.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, what about the role of Fox now, and particularly the role of Sean Hannity?

MICHAEL WOLFF: Well, you know, Hannity is in — you know, let's — I'm trying to find the word. What would be the word? Cahoots, I suppose, with Donald Trump. As a matter of fact, there's one point in Landslide where I — during the campaign, and which I outline, in which Sean Hannity calls the president and says, "You know, your campaign is terrible. You know, you really need some help here." And he says, "And I've written an ad for you." And then the president calls up the campaign and says, "Sean says the campaign is terrible." You know, this goes on. And then the campaign, in trying to keep Hannity from calling the president and then having the president call the campaign, the campaign then produces the ad. They literally make Hannity's ad. And then they only run the ad on Hannity's show. So, in some weird thing going on on here, Hannity gets the campaign to essentially give the Fox network a couple of million dollars to run this ad, only on his show.

AMY GOODMAN: Which, of course, is always helpful, because there are all these boycotts against advertisers on his show.

MICHAEL WOLFF: So, again, you know, yes. I mean, this is a consuming relationship. You know, Hannity works for Donald Trump, or Donald Trump works for Sean Hannity. You can barely separate this. But I would say that Hannity is certainly, and has been for four years, one of Trump's closest outside advisers.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, I want to ask you about the man who did not desert President Trump, and he is Rudy Giuliani. He now has had his law license suspended by the state of New York, by Washington, D.C. Talk about his pivotal role as you talk —

MICHAEL WOLFF: And also, for his trouble, Trump no longer speaks to him. As a matter of fact, Rudy Giuliani cannot get a call through to the former president at this point. So, you know, it's one of the — you know, a constant Trump theme. You know, whoever — the closer you get to Donald Trump, the more you'll get burned by Donald Trump. But — which is not at all to excuse Rudy Giuliani, who has been a persistent part of the Trump toxicity and the Trump insanity, really. And, I mean, one of the things which I constantly point out in the book, because it certainly is — could not be more germane, is that Rudy is drunk all the time.

So, you know, stepping back from this, we see the Trump administration as, in part, terrifying and as, in part, engaged in all of this destructive behavior, but on another level, it's also absurd. It's the gang that couldn't shoot straight. I mean, none of these people can do anything. I mean, they're either drunk or they're incompetent. And as we told the story, as this story unfolded about Donald Trump's effort to undermine the election, what was seldom said, certainly by the established media, is that he had no ability to do this. He had no — he couldn't work the levers of government. Everybody had deserted him. This was just weeks and weeks and weeks of utter ridiculousness. It was — as I said a couple of times, it isn't really the big lie; it's the big lunacy. And Donald Trump is the lunatic-in-chief.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you so much for being with us, Michael Wolff, author of the new book, Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump White House, which completes his best-selling trilogy on the Trump presidency.

Next up, we look at the catastrophic impact of the climate crisis around the world with leading climate scientist Michael Mann. Stay with us.

Expert: Donald Trump isn't named in tax fraud indictment -- but 'he is all over the document in terms of actions he had to take'

The Manhattan District Attorney's Office has charged former President Donald Trump's family business with operating a 15-year tax fraud scheme, accusing the Trump Organization of helping executives evade taxes by giving them compensation off the books. Allen Weisselberg, the company's chief financial officer, who has worked with Trump for decades, was also charged with grand larceny for avoiding taxes on $1.7 million in perks that he did not report as income. Weisselberg surrendered Thursday and pleaded not guilty, and he could face up to a decade in prison if convicted. Legal experts suggest prosecutors targeted Weisselberg with the hope he will flip and help investigators in other ongoing probes into the former president's company. "Donald Trump, while not named in the indictment, is all over the document in terms of actions he had to take," says David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who has followed Donald Trump and his finances for more than 30 years. "Donald Trump and the people around him believe that they shouldn't be subject to the law."


Trump Organization and Top Company Exec Charged with Tax Fraud. Is Donald Trump Next? www.youtube.com

NSA whistleblower Reality Winner released from prison as family pushes Biden to pardon her

Former National Security Agency contractor Reality Leigh Winner was released from prison Monday to serve the rest of her sentence in a halfway house. We get an update from the lawyer handling her commutation and pardon process. Winner was arrested in 2017 under the Espionage Act for leaking classified government information about Russian interference in the 2016 election to reporters at The Intercept. Prosecutors told The New York Times she got the longest sentence ever given by a federal court for unauthorized disclosure of government information to the press. Winner's family and legal team say she should receive a pardon and are calling for her sentence to be commuted. "Reality released a document that gave us information that we needed to know at a time that we absolutely needed to know it," says Alison Grinter Allen, Winner's attorney.


NSA Whistleblower Reality Winner Released from Prison as Family Pushes Biden to Pardon Her www.youtube.com


Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The former National Security Agency contractor Reality Winner was released from prison Monday. She was arrested in 2017, sentenced to five years in prison under the Espionage Act for leaking classified government information. She worked at Fort Gordon in Georgia as a contractor with Pluribus International, when federal law enforcement agents raided her house after determining she had given reporters at The Intercept a secret document about Russian interference in the 2016 election

Prosecutors told The New York Times she got the longest sentence ever given by a federal court for unauthorized disclosure of government information to the press. Reality Winner was released from the Federal Medical Center Carswell, a prison in Fort Worth, Texas, and will serve the rest of her sentence over the next six months in a halfway house.

Reality's family and legal team say she should receive a pardon and are calling for her sentence to be commuted. Last week, Reality Winner's mother, Billie Winner-Davis, addressed Biden on The Mehdi Hasan Show.

BILLIE WINNER-DAVIS: This really — this is in his hands right now. My daughter has a petition for clemency with the United States pardon attorney. And all it's going to take is for his signature to commute her sentence to bring her home to us. And I believe that she deserves this. You know, the Trump administration persecuted Reality so strongly because of the information that she released. And the continued silence from this administration is a continued persecution.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we go to Dallas to speak with Alison Grinter Allen, the lawyer handling Reality Winner's commutation and pardon process.

Welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about Reality being released, except not to freedom, but to a halfway house? Was her sentence in any way shortened by the White House or the Justice Department, or this was simply her serving out her term as she continues to do in the halfway house?

ALISON GRINTER ALLEN: Thank you, Amy, for having me.

No, this is the normal release process. The last six months of a sentence are usually spent in the reentry process, which includes halfway houses. There's an infrastructure all over the country of halfway houses that help people readjust into normal life after incarceration.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And have you been able to speak to Winner after she was released? And do you have a sense that there's still a possibility for a pardon for her?

ALISON GRINTER ALLEN: Well, I have spoken with her. I was fortunate to be there when she was released. She's in good health and excellent spirits.

But the pardon process continues. The fight goes on, regardless of whether she is in prison or not. She is a felon. She will have that on her record for life. And a pardon can still do quite a bit to improve her circumstances.

But we believe that it's more important, probably, for the country. Reality released a document that gave us information that we needed to know at a time that we absolutely needed to know it. And she was in prison not because the information was a danger or put anyone in danger; she was in prison to salve the insecurities of one man, who was concerned about the validity of his election win. And as we saw from the last four years, absolutely nothing could put those insecurities at rest.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Could you talk a little bit about exactly what happened? She was arrested by FBI agents in her home in Augusta, Georgia, back in June of 2017, just a couple of days after The Intercept published an exposé. Could you talk about that?

ALISON GRINTER ALLEN: Yes. Armed FBI agents came to her house and interrogated her in her own home, largely in order to avoid the idea that it was a custodial interrogation. They did not provide her with her Miranda rights or an attorney, and they — eventually, she admitted that she was the one who had leaked the document, and she never saw the light of day again. She was incarcerated, denied pretrial release and basically forced into a plea agreement for the longest sentence ever given for a release of classified information to the media.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you about a Justice Department official who's leaving. This according to AP: The Justice Department is tightening its rules around obtaining records from members of Congress, Attorney General Merrick Garland said, amidst revelations the department, under Trump, had secretly seized records from Democrats and members of the media. Garland's statement came as a Justice Department official said the top national security official, John — I think it's — Demers, planned to leave by the end of next week. He was sworn in a few weeks after the subpoena of the Democrats' records, one of the few Trump appointees who's remained in the Biden administration. What's his involvement with Reality's case?

ALISON GRINTER ALLEN: Well, his involvement is pretty crucial in Reality's case. But it's certainly not him. It's fairly clear that the national security arm of the DOJ was very willing to be political. National security at DOJ was running her entire prosecution. Everything was coming from Washington. And it was very clear from the beginning that this was going to be basically something that could be made an example of, that Reality could be made an example of and shown around to ice any kind of release of confidential information, especially information that embarrassed the president.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in terms of this issue of embarrassing the president, wasn't The Intercept article that supposedly Reality provided documents for — there was an NSA report from May of 2017 that showed that the agency was convinced that the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, or the GRU, was responsible for interfering in the 2016 presidential election?

ALISON GRINTER ALLEN: Exactly. We're not really sure when this information became top-secret, because, substantially, the conclusions of the intelligence had been made public under the Obama administration. So, it's not even clear when this information was made to be top-secret that Reality released.

AMY GOODMAN: Any other message for the Biden administration, Alison?

ALISON GRINTER ALLEN: This is a wrong that can be set right. And for the health of the country, I think it needs to be. We're living in such a divided society, and we are not going to be able to start healing until we forgive our truth tellers. And a pardon for Reality is an excellent first step for the country to start healing and putting this right.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Alison Grinter Allen, I want to thank you so much for being with us, attorney for Reality Winner, who's just been released to a halfway house, will serve out her term 'til November there unless pardoned or sentence commuted.

I want to end with the legendary whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, the former defense analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, 50 years ago this week. We spent the hour with Dan Ellsberg Monday on Democracy Now! and afterwards continued to talk to him and asked him about the former U.S. intelligence analyst Daniel Hale, who was unexpectedly arrested and jailed ahead of his sentencing, which is scheduled for July 13th. In March, he pleaded guilty to one count of violating the World War I-era Espionage Act for leaking classified documents about the secretive U.S. drone and targeted assassination programs. This is Ellsberg speaking about Daniel Hale.

DANIEL ELLSBERG: I think what he did was very admirable. And it was not only simply passing on some documents or some information, but really carrying on, as he should, a campaign against the murderous aspect of this campaign. He acted very admirably, in a way that very, very few officials have ever done in showing the moral courage to separate themselves from criminal activities and wrongful activities of their own administration, and resist them, as well as exposing them. So, I would say he's a particularly admirable person, especially one that should not be put in prison for this.

AMY GOODMAN: To see the full hour with Dan Ellsberg, as well as our post-show interview, you can go to democracynow.org.

Next up, we turn to the historian Stephen Wertheim. As the NATO summit wraps up, he writes an op-ed piece in The New York Times headlined "Sorry, Liberals. But You Really Shouldn't Love NATO." Stay with us.

Disaster capitalism: Puerto Rico plunged into darkness after privatization of electric utility

More than 1 million people in Puerto Rico were left in the dark this month after power transmission and distribution for the island was taken over by a private company under a 15-year contract. Much of Puerto Rico lost power after a fire at an electrical substation caused a massive blackout just days after the private U.S. and Canadian company LUMA Energy formally took over management of the island's electric grid from the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, or PREPA, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria. Many people are still without power or facing ongoing blackouts. "This is a classic example of disaster capitalism," says Arturo Massol-Deyá, executive director of Casa Pueblo, a community-based natural resources conservation and sustainable development group.


Disaster Capitalism: Puerto Rico Plunged into Darkness After Privatization of Electric Utility www.youtube.com

Disturbing video shows officer tasering teenage refugee from Honduras at children’s shelter in Texas

The Biden administration has vowed to take a compassionate approach to migrants and asylum seekers who are fleeing violence, poverty and persecution, but a damning new investigation reveals the mistreatment of children upon their arrival to the border. The report found more than 80 children in government-funded shelters were turned over to local law enforcement when they engaged in behavior common for kids, especially those who have been through trauma. Many were arrested for fighting, breaking property or mental health crises, and police body-camera footage obtained by Reveal shows at least one child was tasered without warning by a sheriff's deputy in San Antonio, Texas. "The idea that a child, particularly a refugee child, someone who is fleeing violence and is a minor and has special rights under international law and U.S. law, would then be subjected to arrest for something like fighting … that seems highly unusual," says Aura Bogado, senior investigative reporter at Reveal.


Shocking Video Shows Officer Tasering Teenage Refugee from Honduras at Children’s Shelter in Texas www.youtube.com

Legal expert: America’s secret spy court should be forced to make rulings public

We speak to Jameel Jaffer about a petition asking the Supreme Court to review whether the public has a right to access the decisions of the special federal court that rules on the legality of government surveillance, known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISA Court. The American Civil Liberties Union submitted the request with support from the Knight First Amendment Institute, whose director, Jameel Jaffer, notes the court routinely issues rulings that have far-reaching implications for Americans' privacy and freedom of speech rights. He says the argument free speech advocates are making is that the First Amendment guarantees the public a right of access to the FISA Court rulings like other courts that also deal with national security issues.



This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Jameel Jaffer, I wanted to ask you about the piece you recently co-authored in The New York Times headlined "What Is America's Spy Court Hiding from the Public?" And it cites a petition the Knight First Amendment Institute and the American Civil Liberties Union, among others, submitted to the Supreme Court to review whether the public has a right to access the decisions of the special federal court that rules on the legality of government surveillance, known as Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or the FISA Court. Lay out your argument.

JAMEEL JAFFER: Yeah. So, this is a court that has been around since 1978. I think it's probably fair to say that most Americans have never heard of it, but it's an extremely influential court. In its original form, it actually had a relatively narrow mandate. It issued wiretap applications in foreign intelligence investigations. There weren't that many foreign intelligence investigations, and there weren't that many wiretaps, just a couple hundred every year in the first years of that court's existence.

But that court has been around now for 40 years, and, over time, Congress has gradually expanded the court's role. Especially after 9/11, when Congress, through the PATRIOT Act and other laws, expanded the government's surveillance authority, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court's role grew pretty dramatically. And now that court routinely issues rulings that have far-reaching implications for Americans' individual rights, for privacy rights, as well as the freedoms of speech and association.

Just to give one example, the court authorized the government to order telecoms to turn over all call records relating to virtually every phone call made or received in the United States for many years after 9/11. And that came to light when Snowden disclosed what he disclosed in 2013. But the surveillance had gone on for many, many years, implicating almost everybody's privacy and free speech and associative freedom rights, and yet it was withheld from public view. Nobody knew about it.

And the argument that we've made, it's a petition that — the ACLU is the petitioner, but we at the Knight Institute are among the lawyers representing the ACLU. The argument we're making is that the First Amendment guarantees the public a right of access to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court's rulings, especially the rulings that have real implications for individual rights. And every other court in the United States, every other Article III court, recognizes a right of access — in other words, recognizes that the First Amendment protects the public's ability to read the court's rulings. But this court, the FISA Court, doesn't. And the FISA Court has basically reached that conclusion on the grounds that it's a national security court. But many, many other courts in the United States deal with national security issues all the time, and yet they routinely publish their rulings. So the argument we're making here is that the FISA Court should be required to publish its rulings, as well. And that's the argument we've now presented to the Supreme Court.

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