With Israel's prime minister eager to court the votes of the country's influential West Bank settlers, President Donald Trump's Mideast plan seemed to be the key to ramping up their support ahead of critical elections next week.
A month before the Supreme Court takes up cases over his tax returns and financial records, President Donald Trump on Tuesday made the unusual suggestion that two liberal justices should … Click to Continue »
U.S. Senate Democratic leaders have urged the administration of President Donald Trump to impose sanctions on Russia after U.S. intelligence officials briefed members of Congress that Russia was again trying to interfere in a national election.
When a senior White House aide would brief President Donald Trump in 2018 about an Ebola-virus outbreak in central Africa, it was plainly evident that hardships roiling a far-flung part of the world didn’t command his attention. He was zoning out. “It was like talking to a wall,” a person familiar with the matter told me.
Now a new coronavirus that originated in China is confronting him with a potential pandemic, a problem that Trump seems ill-prepared to meet. A crisis that is heading into its third month could draw out every personal and managerial failing that the president has shown to this point. Much of what he’s said publicly about the virus has been wrong, a consequence of downplaying any troubles on his watch. He has long stoked fears that foreigners entering the United States bring disease. Now he may double down on xenophobic suspicions. He has hollowed out federal agencies and belittled expertise, prioritizing instead his own intuition and the demands of his political base. But he’ll need to rely on a bureaucracy he’s maligned to stop the virus’s spread.
“We have a president who doesn’t particularly care about competent administration, and who created a culture in which bad news is shut down,” says Democratic Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii, whose state is home to one of multiple airports screening passengers for the coronavirus. “And when you’re dealing with a potential pandemic, you need to know all the bad news. If this disease ends up not overwhelming us, that would be a blessing. But it would not be because the Trump administration was ready. They were not.”
From the first, Trump has offered false reassurance. In a CNBC interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last month, Trump maintained that the coronavirus was “totally under control” and that he wasn’t concerned about the risk of a pandemic. “It’s going to be just fine,” he said.
Except that it wasn’t under control—it still isn’t—and no one knows just how bad it will be. “Even a middle schooler wouldn’t have said that,” Michael Mina, an epidemiology professor at Harvard’s School of Public Health, told me. “Everyone is using caution in how we’re framing what the risk is, primarily because we don’t understand what the risk is at this moment. The last thing anyone would say is, ‘We’re not concerned.’ Everyone is concerned.”
Since Trump’s first upbeat assessment, the number of people sickened by the virus has spiraled. At the time of the CNBC interview, 17 people in China had died from the virus and about 540 were infected. Today, the death toll is about 1,900 and the number of infections tops 73,000. At least 15 cases have been reported in the U.S., and an additional 14 Americans infected with the virus arrived yesterday following their evacuation from a cruise ship in Japan.
Much about the virus is still unknown, but you wouldn’t know that listening to Trump. Speaking to the nation’s governors at a conference last week, the president said it would dissipate when the weather turns warm. “Typically, that will go away in April,” Trump said. In fact, no one knows when the outbreak will subside, and what experts have said conflicts with Trump’s Panglossian assurances. Last week, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said the virus could linger into next year and eventually establish a “foothold” in the U.S.
Guiding Trump’s response is a hardheaded nationalism. On January 31, the administration announced strict travel bans: Most foreign nationals who’d recently been to China were barred from entering the U.S., and Americans were warned to stay clear of the country. These measures—which career public-health officials argued were needed to delay the virus’s spread—broke with guidance from the World Health Organization, which did not recommend curbs on travel or trade. The restrictions did, however, reflect the alarm coming from Trump’s base.
Inside the administration, some officials maintain that China has not shown needed cooperation or transparency as the virus has spread. “This has been a signal failure of the Communist Chinese Party in handling the crisis,” Peter Navarro, a senior Trump trade adviser who is part of the administration’s effort to combat the outbreak, told me. “The CCP suppressed information early to both the U.S. and Chinese people. This delay allowed the virus to proliferate much faster than it otherwise would and reach other countries that it might otherwise have not.”
But critics from WHO and elsewhere have said the bans are unnecessary and could generate a racist backlash against Chinese people. One Chinese foreign official asked of the U.S.: “Where is its empathy?”
Empathy may be a casualty of Trump’s own phobias: He is squeamish about contagion. A body man traveling with him would make sure that two implements were always in his possession: a Sharpie for autographs and hand sanitizer for germs, said a former White House official, who like others I talked with for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity. Aides would try to suppress coughs in his presence. If they couldn’t stifle repeated sneezes, Trump might order them to leave his presence. “He never said, ‘Go home.’ He just didn’t want them anywhere near him,” the ex-official told me.
When an Ebola epidemic struck in 2014, Trump was unnerved. For months, he sent dire messages with a common theme: Keep the virus out of the U.S. at all costs. He faulted then-President Barack Obama for sending troops to Africa to combat it, and chided him for playing golf amid the outbreak. (A couple of weeks ago, with the number of coronavirus infections piling up, Trump didn’t hesitate to release a picture of himself teeing off at his golf club in West Palm Beach, Florida.)
So determined was he to keep Ebola from coming into the U.S., Trump wanted to keep Americans out. A doctor named Kent Brantly had gone to Liberia to treat Ebola patients and became infected. His life in jeopardy, he was airlifted to a hospital in Atlanta. Trump was watching; he didn’t believe that Brantly should be allowed back home for treatment. “The U.S. cannot allow EBOLA infected people back. People that go to far away places to help out are great—but must suffer the consequences!” he tweeted.
Brantly ultimately recovered. I contacted him recently and asked him about Trump’s hard-line stance. In an email, he didn’t mention the president, but wrote that “we MUST choose compassion over fear. We must choose to respond to people (even in deadly outbreaks of infectious diseases) with actions and words and attitudes that convey compassion and uphold the dignity of our fellow human beings.”
Before long, Trump was running for president on an anti-immigrant platform. One message he pushed was that immigrants carry contagion. In 2015, he put out a statement warning that “tremendous infectious disease is pouring across the border,” a claim unsupported by fact.
Should the coronavirus outbreak spread in the U.S., it could pose the biggest test yet of Trump’s managerial competence, given his habit of elevating his own judgment over expert opinion, as I’ve described before.
He has said he knows more about terrorists than the generals, more about social media than Facebook, more about the economy than the Federal Reserve. In 2014, he suggested that he understands disease better than epidemiologists, saying that “Ebola is much easier to transmit than the CDC and government representatives are admitting.”
Amid the outbreak that year, Obama tapped a so-called czar, Ron Klain, to coordinate the work of a slew of federal agencies. Trump has chosen a different model, setting up a 12-member task force headed by a Cabinet member, Alex Azar, the secretary of health and human services. The task force has proved balky, say Schatz and his colleague Senator Mazie Hirono, who is also a Hawaii Democrat: Without a single point person in command, there’s a pass-the-buck mentality that has made getting answers difficult. Hirono says that she gets “conflicting information” about how people will be quarantined and who will foot the bill. “When we call [Azar’s] office, they usually have to refer us to other agencies,” she told me. “One of the ways we can change this lack of communication is to have one person in charge. We have a model for that: the Ebola epidemic in 2014.”
For his part, Navarro said the administration’s response has been effective. “The U.S. effort is going to be a model effort in fighting an infectious disease like this,” he told me.
At times, Trump has seemed at odds with his own team. That may have something to do with diverging priorities. He has sought to preserve a relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping as the two spar over trade issues. Throughout the crisis, he’s heaped praise on Xi, but what he hasn’t mentioned is a profound source of frustration for his own coronavirus task force: Chinese leaders have been slow in letting the U.S. in to help.
Here, it might be helpful if Trump had maintained a strong diplomatic corps to smooth negotiations. But morale at the State Department has suffered in the “America first” era, with the president attempting to cut the department’s budget and leaving key positions unfilled. William Burns, a former deputy secretary of state who spent more than 30 years as a diplomat and who retired in 2014, told me: “The sidelining of career expertise over the last three years puts you at a disadvantage in dealing with crises and big challenges like this one.”
Trump insists on being the protagonist in every drama. He wants to promote the idea that everything on his watch is improving. Virology isn’t politics, though. Tweets don’t beget vaccines. Following his instincts in the face of an outbreak that has left the world on edge risks making things worse.
During his inaugural presidential visit to India, Donald Trump was greeted with a rally at the world’s largest cricket stadium. In an atmosphere reminiscent of a typical Trump event back home in the United States, he waxed lyrical about an electoral win. Only this time, he wasn’t referring to his own.
“Last year, more than 600 million people went to the polls and gave him a landslide victory like no other, in the largest democratic election ever held anywhere on the face of the Earth,” Trump said of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing a crowd of more than 100,000 people in Ahmedabad, the first stop on his two-day tour of the country. Trump praised Modi for being an “exceptional leader” and a “very tough negotiator,” calling his ascent to the premiership an “incredible rise.”
Trump has a well-documented affinity for his host, and it’s not hard to see why. The pair share a number of similarities, including a nativist governing philosophy and a strongman appeal. Perhaps their greatest commonality, though, is their adherence to a familiar autocratic playbook, the likes of which have been adopted by other democratically elected leaders around the world.
What makes an autocrat? In the most narrow sense, it is a ruler who governs with absolute power. Though neither Trump nor Modi can lay claim to exercising that kind of influence (both India and the U.S. have robust, albeit strained, democratic institutions), their illiberal tendencies offer some insight into what a democracy in autocratic transition might look like. As the leaders of the world’s two largest democracies, their shared disregard for norms, disdain for dissent (from the media and elsewhere), and dedication to strengthening their own executive power at the expense of state institutions designed to curb it have made them emblematic of the democratic deterioration that has been taking place in recent years.
A mainstay of autocratic rule is the consolidation of executive power. In some countries, this tactic plays out in a sort of piecemeal way. For example, Trump’s bid to extend his presidential authority in the U.S. has steadily increased over time, from his attempts to defy Congress and the Constitution over his hard-line immigration policies to his impeachment-spurring efforts to withhold congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine. In both cases, Trump’s rationale was largely the same: to invoke presidential privilege or, in autocratic speak, to declare himself constitutionally above the law. Similarly, Modi has tested the limits of his authority in India—most recently by unilaterally revoking the constitutionally enshrined autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state; by establishing new limits on India’s citizenship laws that discriminate against Muslims; and by imposing violent crackdowns on protests across the country.
This extension of executive power takes more blatant forms in other democratic countries, however. In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has overseen a raft of reforms designed to grant him sweeping new powers, including the authority to appoint senior officials and declare states of emergency. In Poland, the ruling Law and Justice party has gone to great lengths to impose its authority over the country’s judicial system. And in the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has bypassed due process altogether, overseeing a “war on drugs” in the country that has resulted in the extrajudicial killing of tens of thousands of people, according to rights groups.
Another hallmark of autocratic rule is the repression of dissent—particularly that from the media. In the U.S., this has largely come in the form of the White House withholding press briefings and attacking news outlets and journalists perceived as critical. In India, the government’s relationship with the press has gone well beyond condemnation, with Modi opting to amend accreditation guidelines in order to weed out “fake news,” exacerbating self-censorship, and, in one case, even revoking a form of Indian citizenship from a critical journalist.
Efforts to quell dissent have been no less prevalent in other democratic countries led by leaders with autocratic tendencies. In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro accused the media of “lying” about the scale of the widely documented Amazon fires last year and has threatened to withhold government advertising funds from outlets deemed to be publishing “fake news.” In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s moves to subjugate the free press have included the establishment of a conglomerate of government-friendly outlets. The most severe examples, however, are in Turkey, which Erdoğan has transformed into the world’s largest jail for journalists, shedding any pretense of freedom of the press.
But perhaps the most common trait among burgeoning autocrats in recent years is the growing appeal to populist and nationalist sentiment. This has been most pronounced in India through Modi’s efforts to transform the country from a secular democracy into a theocratic, nationalist one that dominates its minorities. In the U.S., Trump has made his nativist rhetoric about immigration a hallmark of his administration. And in Hungary, much of Orbán’s populist rhetoric against the “elites” has been leveled almost exclusively at one person in particular: the prominent Hungarian-born financier George Soros, who founded the vilified Central European University.
This “autocratization of democracies” hasn’t compelled any of these countries to renounce their democratic credentials, Shelley Inglis, the executive director of the University of Dayton’s Human Rights Center, told me. On the contrary, she said, many of these countries “firmly place their identity on [their] democratic structures,” adding that even countries regarded as more fragile democracies, such as Brazil and the Philippines, continue to tout their democratic identity. (This sets these countries apart from regimes such as China and North Korea, neither of which claims any sort of democratic legitimacy.)
Nor have citizens of these countries necessarily turned on their leaders either. In the case of Trump and Modi, both remain relativelypopular with their base despite political challenges at home (for Trump, impeachment; for Modi, the political fallout of his Hindu-nationalist project paired with an economic slowdown). Others, such as Duterte, remain wildly popular nationwide. When I asked Inglis whether this approval should register as tacit support for these leaders’ autocratic tendencies, she said it would be better to interpret it within the broader trust deficit in democratic institutions.
“There is an overall declining trust in institutions—in government, in civil society, in [the] media,” she said. “That makes it easier to somehow rationalize the behavior of leaders that would otherwise probably be more concerning.”
A U.S. judge on Tuesday warned lawyers representing President Donald Trump's longtime friend Roger Stone to protect the privacy of the jurors who found him guilty ahead of a hearing in which the defense was seeking a new trial.
U.S. Supreme Court justices on Tuesday signaled skepticism toward a federal law that made it a felony to encourage illegal immigrants to come or stay in the United States as they heard a bid by President Donald Trump's administration to revive the measure after it was struck down by a lower court.
U.S. President Donald Trump's Attorney General William Barr still had the support of Republicans in the Senate, who control the upper chamber of Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said at a news conference on Tuesday.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday turned his ire on liberal U.S. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, making a highly unusual call for them to recuse themselves from any cases involving him or his administration.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio on Tuesday said he was confident the administration of President Donald Trump will extend a ban on oil and gas drilling off Florida, despite its enthusiasm for opening much of the country's coasts to petroleum development.
Bernie Sanders' surge to the front of the Democratic presidential contest has echoes of Donald Trump's improbable 2016 nomination, according to Republican strategists who tried and failed to stop the man who later won the presidency.
U.S. Republican President Donald Trump has intensified his administration's fight in recent weeks against Democratic-led "sanctuary" jurisdictions that limit cooperation with federal immigration enforcement.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that no country was trying to help him win the November election, after a top intelligence official told lawmakers Russia was interfering in the 2020 presidential vote to help Trump win a second term.
U.S. President Donald Trump's longtime friend Roger Stone will urge a federal judge on Tuesday to grant him a new trial, after she sentenced him last week to serve more than three years in prison in a case that angered Trump and rattled the Justice Department.
U.S. President Donald Trump will seek $2.5 billion from Congress to fight the coronavirus epidemic and U.S. and South Korean militaries are considering scaling back joint training as the virus spreads in Europe and the Middle East.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that India will buy $3 billion worth of military equipment, including attack helicopters, as the two countries deepen defense and commercial ties in an attempt to balance the weight of China in the region.
Donald Trump has told reporters Vermont senator Bernie Sanders is the 2020 rival he fears the most during his tour of India, which began with the president receiving a bear hug from Narendra Modi and a lavish welcome from the locals.
Donald Trump reportedly advised conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh not to apologise to Democratic 2020 contender Pete Buttigieg after saying America is not ready for a gay president kissing his husband on the world stage, prompting the candidate to mock Trump over his affair with porn star Stormy Daniels.
President rages at Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Sotomayor criticized frequent appeals for justices to step in
Even as the US justice system faces a crisis of credibility because of the Trump administration’s handling of federal cases, Donald Trump has taken the unusual step of attacking two supreme court justices on Twitter and in remarks to the press.
Democrats say White House is not taking outbreak seriously
Democratic contenders face off in TV debate on Tuesday evening
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Tweeting while aboard Air Force One on his way back from India, Donald Trump just doubled down on his attack against the jury foreman in the case of Roger Stone, long-time GOP political operative and former Trump confidant, and said the judge in the case is also biased against him.
There has rarely been a juror so tainted as the forewoman in the Roger Stone case. Look at her background. She never revealed her hatred of “Trump” and Stone. She was totally biased, as is the judge. Roger wasn’t even working on my campaign. Miscarriage of justice. Sad to watch!
Back to the 2020 election: Comments made by Diana Taylor, Mike Bloomberg’s long-time partner, on the reported nondisclosure agreements with women who accused his company of discrimination and harassment is giving ammunition to his critics.
In an interview with CBS News, Taylor said that none of the nondisclosure agreements accuse Bloomberg of “saying something nasty to a woman”. “That’s not who he is. Life has changed. I grew up in that world. It was bro culture,” Taylor said.
Here's the full clip of the interview, where we I asked her whether the Dems can come together after the primary process. "I don't know. It's pretty nasty & I think that we have lost sight of what the goal here is. The goal is to get Donald Trump out of the White House," she said pic.twitter.com/URuiZ4IIuf
Evaluations of 26 people by Physicians for Human Rights provides first in-depth look at policy’s psychological impact
The trauma Donald Trump’s administration caused to young children and parents separated at the US-Mexico border constitutes torture, according to evaluations of 26 children and adults by the group Physicians for Human Rights (PHR).
The not-for-profit group’s report provides the first in-depth look at the psychological impact of family separation, which the US government continued despite warnings from the nation’s top medical bodies.
Ronny Jackson says he encouraged president to eat vegetables
‘The exercise stuff never took off as much as I wanted it to’
A former White House physician who memorably said Donald Trump might have lived to 200 if he had improved his junk-food heavy diet has confessed to sneaking cauliflower into the president’s mashed potatoes.
Strong results in New Hampshire and Iowa helped the senator achieve a landslide victory. He is clearly in the lead to win the democratic nominations and take on Donald Trump in a presidential election. Sanders' rivals congratulated him but galvanised their supporters as they looked ahead to the South Carolina race and Super Tuesday in March, when 14 states will vote
The two strongmen favour immigration and citizenship policies designed to demonise minority groups
The US president, Donald Trump, has delighted a stadium of 125,000 cheering Indians in Gujarat by declaring: “America loves India. America respects India. And America will always be a faithful and loyal friend to the Indian people.” It might seem a discordant note from a president whose rule has been marked by a single-minded obsession with halting foreign immigration. But it’s an obsession he shares with his Indian counterpart, prime minister Narendra Modi, who stood on the stage alongside him.
The president has previously complained about immigration from “shithole countries” and suggested a policy that prefers migrants from “countries such as Norway”. And his administration has assiduously prioritised changes in immigration laws. Trump’s first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, called for a return to something like the 1924 Immigration Act, which banned immigration from Asia and severely restricted the entry of other people considered racially undesirable.
Another Democratic debate shakes up the race ahead of Nevada’s caucuses while a Florida man figures out how to take ‘Trump’ with him to the doctor
It’s been another wild week in American politics, with a Democratic debate shaking up the field again and Donald Trump tangling with the justice system in multiple dramatic ways. But who’s up and who’s down as Nevada gets ready to vote in the primary race on Saturday?
Amy Berman Jackson tore into Trump’s longtime friend and reminded the court ‘he was prosecuted for covering up for the president’
Roger Stone, a longtime friend of Donald Trump and a self-styled dirty trickster of American politics, showed little emotion as he stood, squeezed between his defense team, at the front of the courtroom to await his sentence on Thursday.
“Unsurprisingly, I have a lot to say,” the federal district court judge Amy Berman Jackson began.
Donald Trump has dismissed reports of Russian interference in the 2020 presidential election to his benefit as 'disinformation' at a rally in Las Vegas the day before the democrats are due to hold the Nevada caucuses.
Trump had previously cast doubt on the intelligence community’s conclusion that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 election to help him beat Hillary Clinton
Donald Trump said his longtime ally Roger Stone had a 'very good chance of exoneration', addressing the case for the first time since his former associate was sentenced at a Las Vegas event on Thursday 20 February. Trump also said the jury foreman in Stone’s case was 'totally tainted' and an an 'anti-Trump activist'. After he issued a series of commutations and pardons earlier this week, speculation that Trump will pardon Stone has intensified
The former Democratic Illinois governor called himself a ‘Trumpocrat’ as he thanked Donald Trump for commuting his prison sentence, praising Trump’s ‘kind heart’. Blagojevich had been recorded trying to sell the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama when he became president, but Trump has claimed it did not happen