Tired of ads? Want to support our progressive journalism? Click to learn more.LEARN MORE

Pulitzer winner believes we are now fighting the Second American Civil War

The second American Civil War has begun.

No official announced Trump's Civil War. That's the reason our major news organizations dance around the awful truth using obfuscating language.

But we don't need a press release to recognize that Donald Trump directed his white supremacist followers to attack another branch of our national government on Jan. 6—after years of undermining the judiciary and, in the executive branch, the intelligence, law enforcement and public health agencies.

Trump apologists will quarrel with the word "directed." Yes, Trump spoke, as he often does, out of four sides of his mouth when he said he would march with them to our Capitol where recordings show people shouting that they were invited by the president, that they were doing his will. It is the message the mob took that matters compounded by his video during the siege expressing his love for the insurrectionists.

That Trump will not attend the inauguration of Joe Biden should make you shudder. Without him on the outdoor platform rebels hellbent on overthrowing our government could assassinate Biden and Kamala Harris with no risk to their messianic and delusional leader.

We face danger from more than the lawless Trump mob that attacked our Capitol.

This is why police and National Guard will flood that zone on Jan. 20. And it explains why Biden and Harris insist on being sworn in outdoors, to signal that fear has no place in the land of the free and home of the brave.

And it's not just government buildings that now require extra protection from disloyal and self-righteous Americans who love Trump more than our Constitutional liberties. Mosques, synagogues and some churches, especially black churches, will be vulnerable to attack by those who want to make America white again, many of whom claim to be Christians but are in fact the embodiment of evil.

Trump's mob will not win this war. No matter what buildings they attack, what leaders they assassinate, they cannot win because there are not enough of them to destroy the United States of America in favor of a dictatorship under Trump, his children or anyone else.

Making America Endure

Eager and willing as Trump's army is to assassinate Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, as well as Biden and Kamala Harris, our freedom and continuity of our government does not hinge on any individual. Our nation endures so long as we sustain a broad and deep commitment to the six noble purposes articulated in our Constitution's preamble especially the promise to perfect our union over time.

If you don't know those six purposes please click here and read the 52 words again and again until you memorize them. And take note as you do that riches are neither mentioned or hinted at in the Preamble, while liberty, the general welfare, and justice are along with their products—peace and tranquility.

Still, even though the outcome of Trump's Civil War is certain, his band of domestic terrorists can and already have imposed enormous and lasting damage on our society.

These true believers in Trumpian rule can dissuade many from peaceful and joyful mingling in houses of worship, government buildings, sports arenas and political venues. While Biden and Harris are brave, millions will hold back because of their rational fear of violent attack. Doubt that? How eager are you to visit on vacation or ride a bus in Jerusalem? Kabul? Baghdad?

Our nation's capital is an armed camp today. So are the downtowns of many of our state capitals. Law enforcement and the intelligence community sift through plots organized on the Internet in the hope of disrupting attacks before they occur. The police and soldiers are backups for the inevitable failures to prevent attacks.

Among the Attackers

We also need to recognize that we face danger from more than the lawless Trump mob that attacked our Capitol and have menaced our state capitols.

We now know that the insurgents attacking our Capitol included active-duty military and police officers. Dozens of people on FBI terrorist watch lists were among the attackers, evidently not being watched at all closely. There are disturbing indications some members of Congress, Republicans all, may have helped the attackers scout the Capitol, pointing out hidden offices of Democratic Party leaders.

One Republican lawmaker openly encouraged rebellion. Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, outfitted in camo, riled up the Trumpian mob before its attack. Another, Republican Lauren Boebert of Colorado, tweeted out the location of Speaker Pelosi while she was being hunted with plans, one of them texted, to put a bullet in her head on television. Think about what America would be like today had the insurgents assassinated Pence, Pelosi and others by firing squad or hanging them from the gallows they set up outside the Capitol.

Brooks and Boebert must be expelled from the House if their vile and disloyal actions are to have consequences. Failure to do this will only give succor to others tempted by traitorous opportunity.

Even more disturbing, some Democratic lawmakers say that on the day before our Capitol was sacked they observed a few of the most extreme Republicans giving guided tours to people who turned out to be insurgency leaders. Now, they worry that this was a scouting operation supported from within. The coming investigations will tell us the facts, especially if prosecutors are smart about leveraging those who gave such tours in return for lessening the severe sentences they deserve.

That we may have a Fifth Column in Congress immediately alarmed their unwitting collaborators from the dominant economic force in America, big corporations. From American Express and AT&T to Tyson Foods and United Parcel Service, many big companies stopped, at least for now, aiding and abetting these faithless enemies of our Constitution with campaign contributions.

We live in strange times when we need help from soulless corporations to defend our liberties. To be sure, they acted out of self-interest. Under a dictatorship, corporate directors and executives would be forced to bend to the will of an unelected and unaccountable autocrat who could eviscerate their privileges and plunder their wealth.

Disloyalty and oath-breaking by officials also marked the 1860s, when some representatives, senators and federal judges used their office to wage war on the United States. Until they were stopped. Texas lawyer Barbara Radnofsky tells some of this compellingly in her concise book A Citizen's Guide to Impeachment.

Our Noble Purpose

The costs of Trump's Army waging war on our government will drain resources from improving America, from perfecting our union.

To secure our safety, National Guard troops sleep on the cold marble floors of America's Capitol. Fences and walls will become ubiquitous, a twisted outgrowth of Trump's lie that he would build a wall, to fencing and other barriers, metal detectors and other protections against domestic terrorists.

Trump's Civil War did not begin with the murderous attack on our Capitol. It dates to at least August 2017 when his violent thugs marched in Charlottesville, Va., shouting Nazi slogans. "Jews will not replace us" and "blood and soil," they chanted while marching past a synagogue. The next day one of them drove his car into a crowd, killing Heather Heyer, the first fatality in Trump's Civil War.

What these rebels heard the next day, what instilled them with bravado, was not Trump's confusing comparison between anti-Semitic racists and the counter-demonstrators, but this line about themselves—"very fine people."

Don't make the mistake of thinking there is no Second Civil War just because all is peaceful where you are. Six days before rebels bombarded Ft. Sumter on April 12, 1861, The New York Times reported that an attack was imminent. But once the fighting began, there was no battle of Grand Rapids, no skirmish in Rochester, no siege in Cincinnati. In some states, such as Oregon, all regular Army were withdrawn and volunteers maintained military outposts and kept watch on Confederacy sympathizers.

That is how wars take place. People may be sipping espresso in sidewalk cafes or picnicking beside a stream while soldiers fire on one another within earshot.

As we prosecute this war on Trump's militias and half-organized renegade insurgents, we must give no quarter in terms of criminal prosecution, especially for seditious conspiracy and murder. Where they fire their arms we must respond with lethal force as the laws of war allow. But we must be better than the attackers.

We must take care not to give Trump's army a perverse victory by destroying the soul of America, by losing sight of our nation's great purpose. We must not descend into a militarized safety zone. Instead, we must build up the institutions we have damaged with decades of malign neglect—schools, colleges, public health, law enforcement as guardians instead of warriors, and the public furniture from parks to bridges that make life pleasant and commerce efficient. We must make our union more perfect through caring for our citizens, providing the tools for stable and prosperous lives and vigorous debate about the way we want to order our liberty.

We must keep in our hearts and our politics the fundamental purpose of our government—to ennoble the human spirit with liberty and fraternity so that our people can attain the best that our nature makes possible.

Make no mistake: Trump's insurrectionists were there to kill Pence, Pelosi -- or whoever they could find

The mob Donald Trump sent to sack the Capitol on Jan. 6 intended to assassinate Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others, admissions by some of those captured, as well as photographs, videos, texts and tweets show.

The attackers came with a gallows and noose, ready to seize Pence, Pelosi and other lawmakers, police and journalists, among others. "Murder the Media" was scratched on a door.

Once the mob overwhelmed police and broke into the Capitol, pro-Trump lawyer L. Lin Wood, sent this inflammatory tweet on the insurrectionist Parler site:

"Get the firing squads ready. Pence goes FIRST."

Had Trump's mob proved competent to capture and murder our lawmakers, it would have given Trump cover to suspend habeas corpus. That would have allowed him to lock up his perceived enemies while ignoring their right of access to the courts, lawyers or anyone else.

Our Constitution at Article I Section 9 provides that "The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it."

While President Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus because America was under attack by the Confederacy, Trump perverts that necessity by having his own goons attack, creating a pretext to jail his enemies and seize dictatorial power.

Trump's Coup Effort Goes On

While Trump's coup has not so far succeeded, his effort to overthrow our government clearly is not over. Law enforcement agencies are asking for public help to prevent armed insurrections, especially on Jan. 15, 17 and 20, the latter Inauguration Day in Washington.

UPDATE: After this article was posted ABC News revealed that an FBI bulletin alerted law enforcement to armed actions planned "at all 50 state capitols" between Jan. 16 and Jan. 20.

Zealots infected with Trump's delusional belief that he won the November election in a landslide and the presidency is being stolen from him harbor crazy ideas. Some describe Joe Biden and other top Democrats as baby-raping cannibals. Others call Republicans traitors, as with the angry mob that surrounded Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) at Washington's Reagan National Airport.

Others assert that Democrats, whom they call socialists and communists, plan to destroy the Bill or Rights and deliberately force millions of people into joblessness. Crazed posts like this are all over extreme rightwing websites:

"Trump is done. America is on life-support. Stop living in fantasy land. The world shall fall to communism unless each of us stands up RIGHT FUCKING NOW!"

Civil War

Insurrectionists are also planning their next attack on our government. They're not doing it in secret, but telling journalists, writing on Internet webpages and forums right out in the open that they want a second Civil War.

As Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Julia Terruso tweeted, quoting a man on his way to the Jan. 6 rally: "We wait for Civil War. It will be next. You have to prepare for the worst, and the worst will come because the left is pushing it."

In remarks riling up the insurgents on Wednesday, Trump, Don Jr., Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), Rudolph Giuliani and Ginny Thomas (the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas) all clearly violated the federal law against seditious conspiracy. It provides, emphasis added:

"If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both."

As soon as Biden is sworn in Trump loses his immunity from prosecution for this and other crimes which I described in an earlier article.

People can be heard on videos shouting "bring us Pelosi" and calling her vile names. Rioter Cleveland Grover Meredith Jr. arrived in Washington with what he called "a shit ton of 5.56 armor-piercing ammo" and other weapons, an FBI affidavit shows.

A Bullet for Pelosi

Meredith texted that "putting a bullet" in Pelosi's head was one part of his criminal plans. In classic Trumpian style, Meredith also texted an uncle that he was just kidding.

A public repository of links to siege videos has been started at Google docs. While it has only one video at this writing, it is more than an hour-long and filled with scenes of attacks on and threats against police.

Sadly, the siege is being excused, justified or outright dismissed as an insurrection by a majority of House Republicans and a significant minority of Senate Republicans. Rep. Brooks, wearing camo at the Wednesday "Save America Rally" urged the mob to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden's November election victory. For that Brooks should be expelled by the House.

"Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass," Brooks told the crowd before it marched off, incongruously, toward the Capitol to a Village People anthem.

There are indications that people with deep knowledge of the many unmarked rooms and hideaways in the Capitol helped the invaders. Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C,.) said, "I have an unmarked office that you have got to know exactly where it is," and yet invaders did and broke in.

"They didn't go to where my name was. They went where I usually hang out," Clyburn said. "That to me indicates that something untoward may have been going on."

Given surveys showing Trump enjoys wide and deep support among police, it would be criminal, but not surprising, if the coup conspirators included Capitol Police officers.

Police officers, firefighters, state lawmakers and combat veterans were among the Trump mob that laid siege to the Capitol.

Donald Trump signals his coup attempts aren't over

The violent mob Donald Trump sent to attack and loot our national Capitol receded during the night, but his efforts to overthrow our government continue. Trump signaled in a Tweet that even after he leaves office his criminally seditious behavior will persist.

This is "only the beginning of the fight to make America Great Again!" Trump declared at 3:49 AM Thursday an aide Tweeted after Twitter locked Trump's own account for spreading dangerous lies.

While Trump's middle of the night statement also promised a peaceful transition of power when Joe Biden is inugurated on Jan. 20, it came without a critical word about the chaos and violence Wednesday by fanatical Trumpians in California, Kansas, Georgia, Oregon, Washington and Utah.

These enemies of America should be shown no mercy in prosecutions by our Justice Department.

Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, among others, defended or excused Trump's solicitation to mob violence. Six senators and a majority of House Republicans voted to reject the certified election results from several states. I think Hawley should be ousted by the rest of the Senate, not the least because Hawley gave a raised fist in solidarity with the mob as he entered the Capitol Wednesday.

Trump's baseless claims that he won by a landslide in November -- for which he produced no evidence in 60 failed lawsuits, -- are believed by a large share of Republicans. A poll during the siege found that 45% of Republicans support the mob attack while more than two-thirds of the GOP believe the violence and looting pose no threat to our democracy.

If other polls support this finding it is a powerful measure of how much enduring damage Trump has inflicted on our democracy by promoting disrespect for the rule of law. That Republicans of all people would support lawlessness and violence after decades "law and order" sloganeering shows the fervor for authoritarian rule among members of that party.

Propaganda favoring Trump plays a major role in the willingness of many Republicans to excuse Trump's criminal behavior and contemptuous violation of his oath of office.

Primetime hosts on Rupert Murdoch's Fox News repeatedly told the lie Wednesday evening that Capitol invaders were not Trumpian thugs, but antifa posing as Trump supporters or at least some of them were antifa. Fox News even posted a story excusing Trump's attempted coup. Fox politics writer Brooke Singman wrote:

"Trump said 'these are the things and events that happen,' referring to violent protests that sent the U.S. Capitol Building into lockdown, when a 'landslide victory' is' vicously [sic] stripped away from great patriots,' while urging America to 'remember this day forever.'"

Felonies Trump Committed Wednesday

Trump's remarks at the rally, where he told the mob to go to the Capitol while he headed in the other direction to the security of the White House, make him liable on Jan. 21 for prosecution for at least three federal crimes, as I reported Wednesday: inciting insurrection, sedition and advocating the violent overthrow of the government, as well as criminal conspiracy charges and local District of Columbia criminal charges.

Adding to the liability for criminal charges over the attack were the words used to rile up the crowd by his son Don Jr. and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who called for "trial by combat."

While some Capitol Police engaged in combat with the attackers, and one lone uniformed agent was forced to retreat up stairways as a menacing crowd closed in on him, some Capitol Police held doors open for the invaders and others smiled at them, video showed.

Had the invaders been black instead of white it is likely the attack would have been met with batons, handcuffs and even indiscriminate gunfire by Capitol Police. As CNN reporter Omar Jimenez tweeted "I saw more arrests during protests in Minneapolis this summer than I have watching people storm the US Capitol."

That conduct raises questions about whether racist and fascist groups have infiltrated the Capitol Police, just as they have many local and state police agencies.

Extensive video, including Congressional security cameras, can be used to identify the perpetrators of the first sacking of our Capitol since the British attacked in 1814. Every one of these insurrectionists must be identified, arrested, indicted, tried and if convicted given long prison sentences.

The most important question that should be asked of Merrick Garland, the federal appeals court judge Biden is nominating to be attorney general, is whether he will commit to ensure the prosecution of every one of these criminals.

Other than making deals to leverage some perpetrators into admitting their guilt to the most serious crimes tin return for slight –slight -- reductions in sentence, these enemies of America should be shown no mercy in prosecutions by our Justice Department. They also should all be tried in Washington, D.C., where they committed their many felonies.

Beyond the District of Columbia

A variety of actions by Trumpians from Atlanta to the Pacific Northwest on Wednesday showed how deeply the Trumpian desire to overthrow our government permeates American society. Posing as "patriots," these people spout conspiracy theories, make remarks showing they lack even a junior high school civics understanding of our Constitution and many of them call for violence against minorities, notably Muslims and Black Americans.

Some of what these American brown shirts did Wednesday:

Armed Trumpians marshaled outside the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City, while in Sacramento police arrested 12 Trumpians.

In Oregon, Trump's Proud Boy thugs fought outside the state capitol, prompting police to declare an unlawful assembly. A woman burned Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, in effigy.

In Olympia, Wash., Trumpian thugs broke down the fence at the governor's official mansion while Gov. Jay Inslee and his family were inside, shouting and waving blue Trump banners.

In Georgia, armed Trump thugs gathered outside the Capitol, prompting state police to hustle Brad Raffensperger, the top state elections official, out of the building, partly out of concern about the presence of a former KKK leader who now directs one of Trump's faux patriot support groups. Officials in Fulton County, which surrounds much of Atlanta, suspending vote counting because of safety concerns.

Trump's thugs also harassed random people. In Los Angeles a black woman walking down the street was surrounded by a score of Trump's thugs who menacingly demanded that she declare who she voted for in the November elections.

In Topeka some demonstrators, echoing Trump's baseless claims that he really won the November election by a landslide, entered the state Capitol, but were peaceful.

On an American Airlines flight from Texas to Washington "flight attendants are struggling to control a plane full of Trump supporters as they display a pro-Trump projection and harass others passengers bound for DC," freelance journalist Maranie R. Staab reported, posting video to authenticate her story.

That a poll found many Trumpers support the insurrection Wednesday is not surprising if they rely only on supposed new organizations that act as propaganda arms of Team Trump.

Fox News hosts on Wednesday evening described the violent mob not as Trump supporters, but leftists posing as Trumpians, a conspiracy theory with even less factual basis than Trump's delusional claims of election fraud.

What Trump made clear early Thursday morning is that after his term ends on Jan. 20, he will continue his efforts to overthrow the government he swore on oath to defend.

The question of the day is what will Democrats, now that they control the House, Senate and White House, do to protect our democracy? Will they decide to let bygones be bygones and move ahead, or will they do their duty and bring Trump and those who committed crimes on his behalf to justice.

President's coup deserves prosecution: Pulitzer Prize-winning Trump biographer

Here is the message Republicans must take from the violent mob that Donald Trump sent to attack our Capitol Wednesday in his failed coup attempt:

Break completely with this crazy, seditious wannabe dictator now. Hold him to account, preferably by prompt removal from office via the 25th Amendment or a rapid impeachment and conviction. He must be arrested and criminally prosecuted for trying to overthrow our government, a crime for which we have executed more than a few traitors.

The consequences of Republican leaders failing to totally denounce Trump and back up their denunciations with action? Trump and his dangerous and armed mob will become a millstone around your collective necks. And your failings will brand you as traitors unfit to hold public office.

For the Josh Hawleys, Ted Cruzes, Tom Cottons and other seditious Republican senators and representatives, any further defense of Trump should mark not just the end of your political careers, but the end of your acceptance in civilized society.

Expel Seditious Senators and Representatives

Both the House and Senate, which with the Georgia election results are now under Democratic Party control, should exercise their authority to expel these and other seditious lawmakers if they say another word defending Trump or challenging the certification of Joe Biden as the next president. That's not overreach, that's a Constitutional duty.

The mob that Trump riled up to lay siege to our Capitol, broke into the Capitol, occupied and looted the Senate chamber, engaged in hand-to-hand combat with uniformed Capitol Police, broke into the floors of Congress and rifled through desks, all criminal acts for which Trump is fully responsible. At least one person was shot and killed inside the Capitol, though we don't know at this writing whether a criminal looter or a police officer fired the weapon.

Thank goodness that someone had the presence of mind to gather up the state certifications of the November election results, denying Trump another potential opportunity to attack the inauguration of President Biden.

Trump Still Seeks Overthrow

If you doubt that Trump still wants to overthrow our government, just watch his one-minute video from the White House Rose Garden, made as the siege was underway. Trump asserted yet again the Big Lie that "everyone knows" the election was stolen because he won in a landslide.

While Trump did, in passing, tell the mob to go home, it was only a sort of suggestion because his core message to his riot squad was that "so bad and so evil" people stole the election. His real message to the rioters: never give up trying to end our democracy and keep him in power.


That the crowd did not disperse shows how hollow his words were. Instead, live television carried voices of rioters vowing violence, vowing to continue seeking to overthrow our government. And as the sun set and darkness enveloped the Capitol grounds, where were federal law enforcement other than the Capitol Police?

Trump literally put at risk the lives of his own vice president, Mike Pence, on whom he painted a target during his incitement to the rioters, as well as the next two people in line for the presidency, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Grassley, the Senate president pro tem.

Representative Linda Sanchez, a California Democrat, told MSNBC that she told her family where her last will and testament is just in case the riots turned murderous.

Warning Proved Right

Four and five years ago, I warned again and again that if Trump became president our democracy could end. I also warned that if instead voters ended his time in office his presidency would end badly. I said and wrote back then that while I couldn't predict precisely what would happen, I was certain that Trump would not leave office peacefully.

Now we have seen the violence that I anticipated, violence provoked by Trump, his oldest son and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. This cannot stand.

Give the siege today, there can be no doubt that Trump remains a wannabe usurper, plain and simple. In rallying the mob to march on the Capitol, he committed sedition, a federal crime in conspiracy with the rioters and his son Don Jr. He clearly advocated the overthrow of our government, another felony. And he incited insurrection, a third federal crime.

Add in the provocative words of Giuliani, who told the mob there would be "trial by combat."

Their own words establish a criminal conspiracy involving Trump, his son and his lawyer, a crime punishable by imprisonment for five years or more.

The videos from the Capitol also showed a banner hanging over the platform being built for the inauguration of President Joe Biden in two weeks. Here is what the insurrectionists declared: "We the people will bring DC to its knees. We have the power."

Stopping Further Coup Attempts

They do not have that power, but we also cannot just wave this off. Authorities must exercise their power to indict, try and upon conviction imprison all of the hundreds of criminals who assaulted our democracy, forcing lawmakers into hiding, forcing law enforcement with guns drawn to hold off rioters at the House chamber door with drawn handguns aimed at a broken window.

From Day One, Trump has violated his oath of office but never so dangerously as in his inciting violence, a local crime for which the local District of Columbia authorities should have him arrested the moment his presidency ends—at noon two weeks from today—if not before.

Hours after the siege began, the Capitol was still not under the control of our government as rioters, some of them looters, roamed the building. Lawmakers were forced into hiding.

Trump has over the decades said multiple times that looters should be shot on sight. So why did Trump not call for that in his Rose Garden video tweet? Of course, it's because Trump is at one with the rioters and looters. They are Trump's mob.

Trump has not sent federal law enforcement to corral, arrest and identify the rioters. Instead, the governors of Maryland and Virginia sent state police riot squads to defend the Capitol.

Contrast that with Trump's abusive assignment of the military to attack peaceful demonstrators so he could stage a June 1 photo op with a Bible at the church closest to the White House. Trump's failure to send authorities to quell the rioters is solid evidence of his complicity and support.

What to Do

It would be more than reasonable for Vice President Mike Pence and the cabinet to remove Trump immediately under the 25th Amendment. In my view, they must do this. However, given the fact that while Trump promised "the best people" would populate his administration he installed such low-grade weaklings and incompetents that, sadly, this is likely a vain hope.

While time is short, it's more than reasonable for the House to impeach Trump a second time. There is no bar to impeaching Trump after he is out of office, but the way to defend our democracy is for the House to rapidly pass articles of impeachment and the Senate to take the issue up the same day and vote to convict and remove him.

And if neither of those occurs, then as soon as Trump is out of office, and is presumed immunity from federal prosecution ends, he must be indicted on District of Columbia level charges. In addition to the crimes he is already under investigation for by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, a state grand jury in Manhattan, New York State attorney general and the district attorney in Fulton County (Atlanta) Georgia. All of these cases should proceed with all due speed.

There's a secret message buried in Trump's pardons everyone seems to have missed

The 24 pardons that Donald Trump granted last week drew a lot of attention, but no one seemed to notice the message Trump sent by not issuing pardons. Trump's choices made it clear that he is a white-collar crime boss.

Trump pardoned four mercenaries who murdered Iraqi civilians, but not Jeremy Ridgeway the soldier-for-hire who plead guilty to manslaughter, testified against the others, and was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison

Trump pardoned Roger Stone, his dirty trickster confidant; General Michael Flynn his national security adviser who was on the Kremlin payroll; and his 2016 campaign manager Paul Manafort, but not Manafort deputy Rick Gates, who turned state's evidence and confessed to his crimes.

He also pardoned Rod Blagojevich, the former Illinois governor convicted of trying to sell a Senate seat. But there was no pardon for Michael Cohen, Trump's lawyer, and longtime fixer who confessed to committing felonies at the direction of unindicted coconspirator “Individual 1," identified in federal court as Trump.

A future president could use the pardon power to protect elaborate criminal schemes, to subvert the Bill of Rights, to frame political opponents, and even direct political murders.

The pardons of the mercenaries, who worked for Trump ally Erik Prince who supplies hired armies, of campaign aides Stone and Manafort, of Flynn and of Blagojevich carried a clear message. You can bet that lawyers for others considering ratting out Trump or who are already working with authorities to rein in the Trump crime family got the message.

The message: the boss takes care of friends and allies if they lie for the boss or keep silent, but does nothing for those who cooperate with law enforcement. Give Trump's many attacks on the FBI and other law enforcement, this should surprise no one, especially journalists -- and yet it eluded them.

Missing The Story

How is it that none of our major news organizations figured this out? Hint: they rely too much on the official version of events, official announcements and access instead of thinking and exercising reportorial authority, afraid they will be seen as tendentious. If Trump declared that the Sun rises in the West many news organizations would flee from reporting that was false, crazy, or nonsense, and some would focus on how the Sun only appears to rise, never mind that it appears to rise in the East.

The pardons issued so far and more that are no doubt coming in the next three weeks, raise grave questions about the future of our democracy that have received less comment than outrage over the brazen abuse of the pardon power, especially as part of a scheme to obstruct justice.

Think about what will happen the next time someone as lawless as Trump becomes president. Imagine a president with much more skill, smarts, and vigor than Trump, and one with better lawyers. A future president could use the pardon power to protect elaborate criminal schemes, to subvert the Bill of Rights, to frame political opponents, and even direct political murders so long as they were committed in federal jurisdictions so no state-level charges could be brought. The presidential pardon, remember, applies only to federal crimes.

Trump behaved last week exactly as any crime boss would act if he could exercise the powers of the American presidency: show mercy to criminals, especially criminals who have aided your crimes or whose supporters may be useful to you in the future but do nothing for those who did the right thing once they were caught and helped bring others to justice.

Trump Helps Cocaine Trafficker Buddy

This is exactly what Trump, as a private citizen, did in a series of extraordinary favors for a major international cocaine and marijuana trafficker with whom he had extensive and close business ties.

In that case, Trump sought mercy three-time felon Joseph Weichselbaum. The trafficker personally managed and piloted Trump's helicopter in the 1980s, supplied Trump with a fleet of helicopters to ferry high rollers to Atlantic City, and rented a luxury Manhattan apartment from Trump under an unusual lease that obscured how much rent was actually paid.

In a 1986 letter to the sentencing judge, Trump called Weichselbaum “a credit to the community." Trump wrote that Weichselbaum should serve no prison time for a long-running scheme in which the mules – people who drove cars and vans loaded with drugs from Miami to Cincinnati – got 20 years.

Read carefully, Trump's letter was really directed not at the judge, but at Weichselbaum.

Trump's clear message to his buddy: don't rat me out and I'll take care of you.

Trump took excellent care of his cocaine trafficker buddy. Weichselbaum spent just 18 months in a Manhattan prison, paid only a token sum on his $30,000 federal fine because he said he was broke and yet he moved into a $2.4 million double apartment at Trump Tower upon his release. Weichselbaum said the Trump Organization also gave him a new job -- as Trump's helicopter consultant.

Now is the time to demand that Congress act to protect us from a future lawless president so he or she cannot use the pardon power balm to criminal pals and an ax to eviscerate our liberties and our control of our government.

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch -- unless you're Donald Trump

Buried near the end of the 5,593-page law granting new coronavirus relief is a special interest tax favor of the kind that Republican saint Ronald Reagan cut in half when he waged war on the "three-martini lunch"—code for living it up thanks to our tax code.

This new special interest tax break benefit is worth a lot more to business owners than the long-delayed and miserly $600 or smaller checks for most people, the latest evidence of how much the Trump administration and Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, favor business over people.

The new law doubles the tax deduction for most business meals from 50% to 100%.

'It just doesn't seem right for a wage earner carrying his tuna fish sandwich to work to subsidize exorbitant business lunches at luxury restaurants.' —President Ronald Reagan

Ever since Reagan's 1986 Tax Reform Act, as a general rule Section 274 of our tax code allowed only a 50% deduction for meals while traveling on business, meeting with customers, partners or associates or attending a business seminar. Employees got fully reimbursed, but their employers could only deduct half, which prompted personnel policies restricting how much all but the most highly paid workers could expense for meals while on company business.

This new favor benefits most businesses, but few as much as Donald Trump, who will enjoy a double benefit. The change was introduced at the last minute at the insistence of the Trump White House so there has been no public hearing or even public debate about its merits.

Three Benefits

The 12 lines of revised tax law on Page 4,956 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 provide these tax benefits:

  1. Businesses with a lot of employers on the road or many meetings can deduct the full cost of such meals, the equivalent of a slight tax rate cut.
  2. Sole owners, like Trump, who bear the full burden of spending by their enterprises, will feel concentrated benefits. Had the provision been in effect during the last decade it would have saved me thousands of dollars in income taxes because of extensive global travel for my investigations and lectures.
  3. Restaurant owners benefit because businesses will be more liberal in expense allowance spending.

That third point matters because as many as 85% of small, individually owned restaurants may go broke cue to COVID-19 shutdowns, restaurant industry advocates say. But these mom-and-pop operations will benefit far less overall than the kind of expensive dining establishments favored by corporate executives, sales executives and other highly paid workers dining out on the company dollar.

Trump as the owner of golf, hotel and restaurant businesses will benefit every time he or his employees wine and dine a customer, vendor or potential customer because he will get to deduct the entire cost of meals instead of just half.

Then he benefits again when others spend money dining at his golf resorts, hotel and restaurants because full deductibility should result in more spending on meals.

But wait, there's more.

This complete deductibility of business meals will continue from New Year's Day until the end of 2023. The pandemic is likely to be history sometime in 2022, making clear that this tax break is not targeted at the beleaguered restaurant industry but at a return to the era of the three-martini lunch.

Reagan's Tax Policy Killed

Republicans voted to level the playing field when it comes to restaurant meals in 1986. That's when Reagan championed a tax code that actually raised levies on business and reduced deductions for extravagances. Trump, who often claims Reagan's mantle, consistently promotes tax policies that would infuriate The Gipper.

Reagan said this during a June 7, 1985 meeting with economics writers at the White House:

"Why not find smarter ways to put our money to work than investing so heavily in executive lunches? It just doesn't seem right for a wage earner carrying his tuna fish sandwich to work to subsidize exorbitant business lunches at luxury restaurants. We'd still allow for legitimate expenses, but to those who complain they can't live quite so high off the corporate account, we can only ask: Why not brown-bag it once in a while?"

Ever since business lobbyists have been gutting the many level-the-playing field provisions in the 1986 tax law Reagan championed, loading up on favors for themselves and thus shifting the burden onto working Americans, including the massive borrowing required under Trump's 2017 tax law to shower tax savings on the richest among us.

Also, under the 2017 tax law that Trump signed, his only significant legislative achievement, more than a fifth of taxpayers lost the ability to deduct their mortgage interest, their state income, and local property taxes and other tax breaks that mostly affected married couples with three or more children, especially among the upper-middle class.

This year only about one in ten taxpayers, and perhaps as few as one in twenty, will itemize deductions. But those who own their own businesses – from people operating on the scale of Donald Trump to freelance graphic artists – will get benefits because under Trump the tax code has become more favorable to the self-employed and business owners and less so for employees.

This is the face of radical-Republican contempt

Joe Biden just won more votes than anyone else in American history, but the next four years may go down in history as the stymied presidency. That's because it looks highly unlikely that the Democrats will get a majority in the Senate, leaving the chamber under the iron-fisted control of Mitch McConnell, patron saint of polluters and profiteers.

Keep reading... Show less

How Donald Trump gets away with it: The president v. America's tax police

To understand how Donald Trump got away with paying little to no income taxes for many years, even after he forged at least one income tax return, it helps to first understand the risks that any wealthy business owner faces if they cheat. It also helps to know that about a million rich Americans didn’t even file income tax returns during President Obama’s last years in office and that the tax police lack the resources to pursue them and make them pay the estimated $47.5 billion they owe.

Keep reading... Show less

Trump spews death without shooting a gun on 5th Avenue -- as 3 mothers endanger their children for the president's vanity

Donald Trump is covering up just how he and 18 White House aides and supporters got the coronavirus, the latest proof that he doesn’t care about you or anyone else.

Keep reading... Show less

The ugly numbers are finally in on the 2017 Trump tax rewrite -- and the rich made out like bandits

The first data showing how all Americans are faring under Donald Trump reveals the poor and working classes sinking slightly, the middle-class treading water, the upper-middle-class growing, and the richest among us luxuriating in rising rivers of greenbacks.

Keep reading... Show less

Here's how Trump is driving millions of American seniors into poverty

Donald Trump’s inept handling of the coronavirus pandemic is condemning millions of older Americans to get by on much smaller incomes and forcing many into permanent poverty, a new study shows.

Keep reading... Show less

The numbers are in — and the rich are making out like bandits during this pandemic

Tens of millions of Americans are cashless, many desperate to feed their children. Meanwhile the richest Americans merrily float on a rapidly rising tide of money thanks mainly to Trump & Co.

Keep reading... Show less

Gleefully ignorant Trump fiddles as health officials scramble to contain deadly coronavirus outbreak

Worried about the coronavirus? Then you’ll be frightened to learn about Donald Trump’s cheapskate budget proposals for fighting disease.

Keep reading... Show less

Here are the hard numbers that show Trump's economy is nothing to brag about

At Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, Donald Trump will surely claim he has created a great economy. Trump will try to lower expectations, hoping people forget his towering 2016 claims and promises. My spring 2019 analysis of Trump economic performance was a grade of C , average.

Keep reading... Show less

We're about to find out if Trump can literally get away with murder

Donald Trump’s claim that if he actually shot someone on Fifth Avenue the NYPD cannot investigate him will be heard by our Supreme Court. Such are the crazy times we live in.

Keep reading... Show less