Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Daily Dose of the Post

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 My addiction to news about the 2016 election for President in the United States reached previously inexperienced levels for me, when a few months ago I did the unthinkable, I signed up for a paid subscription for the digital version of a newspaper. I've had magazine subscriptions before, The Nation, The Smithsonian, Mother Jones, Z Mag, even Guahan back in the day. But newspapers were always something that I either purchased regular physical copies of, or I simply read articles online if they had been reposted into paywall-free forms. This election was different in so many ways for me, primarily because of the type of candidate that Donald Trump represented, whereby he followed very few established conventions for candidates and seemed to relish in energizing some of the grossest aspects of the American present and past. One thing that struck me early on was not his willingness to attack the media, as every candidate claims that they are not being treated fairly by the media. But his willingness to evict the media, deny them access and then encourage people to attack them. One newspaper that was targeted early on was The Washington Post. They were doing certain types of investigations into Trump that was far different than the stuff his campaign was expecting or thought of as acceptable. The work of reporter David Fahrenthold was particularly intriguing, as he sought to investigate some claims made by Donald Trump and his campaign about his levels of generous charity donations.

As we near the last two weeks of this frightening election, I am grateful I subscribed to the Washington Post, as it sometimes helps me gain my bearings in a world gone askew, but also just helps feed the politics junkie in me and keep him and his addiction malulok. 


Here's some of the Washington Post articles that I've really enjoyed reading recently. 


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Trump used $258,000 from his charity to help settle legal problems
by David Fahrenthold
The Washington Post
9/20/16
Donald Trump spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire’s for-profit businesses, according to interviews and a review of legal documents.
Those cases, which together used $258,000 from Trump’s charity, were among four newly documented expenditures in which Trump may have violated laws against “self-dealing” — which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses.
In one case, from 2007, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club faced $120,000 in unpaid fines from the town of Palm Beach, Fla., resulting from a dispute over the height of a flagpole.
In a settlement, Palm Beach agreed to waive those fines — if Trump’s club made a $100,000 donation to a specific charity for veterans. Instead, Trump sent a check from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a charity funded almost entirely by other people’s money, according to tax records.

In another case, court papers say one of Trump’s golf courses in New York agreed to settle a lawsuit by making a donation to the plaintiff’s chosen charity. A $158,000 donation was made by the Trump Foundation, according to tax records.

The other expenditures involved smaller amounts. In 2013, Trump used $5,000 from the foundation to buy advertisements touting his chain of hotels in programs for three events organized by a D.C. preservation group. And in 2014, Trump spent $10,000 of the foundation’s money on a portrait of himself bought at a charity fundraiser.

Or, rather, another portrait of himself.

Several years earlier, Trump used $20,000 from the Trump Foundation to buy a different, six-foot-tall portrait.

If the Internal Revenue Service were to find that Trump violated self-dealing rules, the agency could require him to pay penalty taxes or to reimburse the foundation for all the money it spent on his behalf. Trump is also facing scrutiny from the New York attorney general’s office, which is examining whether the foundation broke state charity laws.

More broadly, these cases­ also provide new evidence that Trump ran his charity in a way that may have violated U.S. tax law and gone against the moral conventions of philanthropy.

“I represent 700 nonprofits a year, and I’ve never encountered anything so brazen,” said Jeffrey Tenenbaum, who advises charities at the Venable law firm in Washington. After The Washington Post described the details of these Trump Foundation gifts, Tenenbaum described them as “really shocking.”

“If he’s using other people’s money — run through his foundation — to satisfy his personal obligations, then that’s about as blatant an example of self-dealing [as] I’ve seen in awhile,” Tenenbaum said.

The Post sent the Trump campaign a detailed list of questions about the four cases but received no response.

The Trump campaign released a statement about this story late Tuesday that said it was “peppered with inaccuracies and omissions,” though the statement cited none and the campaign has still not responded to repeated requests for comment.

The New York attorney general’s office declined to comment when asked whether its inquiry would cover these new cases­ of possible self-dealing.

Its money has come from other donors, most notably pro-wrestling executives Vince and Linda McMahon, who gave a total of $5 million from 2007 to 2009, tax records show. Trump remains the foundation’s president, and he told the IRS in his latest public filings that he works half an hour per week on the charity.

The Post has previously detailed other cases in which Trump used the charity’s money in a way that appeared to violate the law.

In 2013, for instance, the foundation gave $25,000 to a political group supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R). That gift was made about the same time that Bondi’s office was considering whether to investigate fraud allegations against Trump University. It didn’t.

Tax laws say nonprofit groups such as the Trump Foundation may not make political gifts. Trump staffers blamed the gift on a clerical error. After The Post reported on the gift to Bondi’s group this spring, Trump paid a $2,500 penalty tax and reimbursed the Trump Foundation for the $25,000 donation.

In other instances, it appeared that Trump may have violated rules against self-dealing.
In 2012, for instance, Trump spent $12,000 of the foundation’s money to buy a football helmet signed by then-NFL quarterback Tim Tebow.

And in 2007, Trump’s wife, Melania, bid $20,000 for the six-foot-tall portrait of Trump, done by a “speed painter” during a charity gala at Mar-a-Lago. Later, Trump paid for the painting with $20,000 from the foundation.

In those cases, tax experts said, Trump was not allowed to simply keep these items and display them in a home or business. They had to be put to a charitable use.

Trump’s campaign has not responded to questions about what became of the helmet or the portrait.

The four new cases of possible self-dealing were discovered in the Trump Foundation’s tax filings. While Trump has refused to release his personal tax returns, the foundation’s filings are required to be public.

The case involving the flagpole at Trump’s oceanfront Mar-a-Lago Club began in 2006, when the club put up a giant American flag on the 80-foot pole. Town rules said flagpoles should be 42 feet high at most. Trump’s contention, according to news reports, was: “You don’t need a permit to put up the American flag.”

The town began to fine Trump, $1,250 a day.

Trump’s club sued in federal court, saying that a smaller flag “would fail to appropriately express the magnitude of Donald J. Trump’s . . . patriotism.”
They settled.

The town waived the $120,000 in fines. In September 2007, Trump wrote the town a letter, saying he had done his part as well.

“I have sent a check for $100,000 to Fisher House,” he wrote. The town had chosen Fisher House, which runs a network of comfort homes for the families of veterans and military personnel receiving medical treatment, as the recipient of the money. Trump added that, for good measure, “I have sent a check for $25,000” to another charity, the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial.
Trump provided the town with copies of the checks, which show that they came from the Trump Foundation.

In Palm Beach, nobody seems to have objected to the fines assessed on Trump’s business being erased by a donation from a charity.

“I don’t know that there was any attention paid to that at the time. We just saw two checks signed by Donald J. Trump,” said John Randolph, the Palm Beach town attorney. “I’m sure we were satisfied with it.”

Excerpt from a settlement filed in federal court in 2007. 
 
In the other case in which a Trump Foundation payment seemed to help settle a legal dispute, the trouble began with a hole-in-one.

In 2010, a man named Martin Greenberg hit a hole-in-one on the 13th hole while playing in a charity golf tournament at Trump’s course in Westchester County, N.Y.

Greenberg won a $1 million prize. Briefly.

Later, Greenberg was told that he had won nothing. The prize’s rules required that the shot had to go 150 yards. But Trump’s course had allegedly made the hole too short.
Greenberg sued.

Eventually, court papers show, Trump’s golf course signed off on a settlement that required it to make a donation to a group of Greenberg’s choosing. Then, on the day that the parties informed the court they had settled their case, a $158,000 donation was sent to the Martin Greenberg Foundation.
That money came from the Trump Foundation, according to the tax filings of both Trump’s and Greenberg’s foundations.

Greenberg’s foundation reported getting nothing that year from Trump personally or from his golf club.

Both Greenberg and Trump have declined to comment.
Several tax experts said that the two cases­ appeared to be clear examples of self-dealing, as defined by the tax code.

The Trump Foundation had made a donation, it seemed, so that a Trump business did not have to.
Rosemary E. Fei, a lawyer in San Francisco who advises nonprofit groups, said both cases­ clearly fit the definition of self-dealing.

“Yes, Trump pledged as part of the settlement to make a payment to a charity, and yes, the foundation is writing a check to a charity,” Fei said. “But the obligation was Trump’s. And you can’t have a charitable foundation paying off Trump’s personal obligations. That would be classic self-dealing.”

In another instance, from 2013, the Trump Foundation made a $5,000 donation to the D.C. Preservation League, according to the group and tax filings. That nonprofit group’s support has been helpful for Trump as he has turned the historic Old Post Office Pavilion on Pennsylvania Avenue NW into a luxury hotel.
 
The Trump Foundation’s donation to that group bought a “sponsorship,” which included advertising space in the programs for three big events that drew Washington’s real estate elite. The ads did not mention the foundation or anything related to charity. Instead, they promoted Trump’s hotels, with glamorous photos and a phone number to call to make a reservation.

“The foundation wrote a check that essentially bought advertising for Trump hotels?” asked John Edie, the longtime general counsel for the Council on Foundations, when a Post reporter described this arrangement. “That’s not charity.”

The last of the four newly documented expenditures involves the second painting of Trump, which he bought with charity money.

It happened in 2014, during a gala at Mar-a-Lago that raised money for Unicorn Children’s Foundation — a Florida charity that helps children with developmental and learning disorders.
The gala’s main event was a concert by Jon Secada. But there was also an auction of paintings by Havi Schanz, a Miami Beach-based artist.

One was of Marilyn Monroe. The other was a four-foot-tall portrait of Trump: a younger-looking, mid-’90s Trump, painted in acrylic on top of an old architectural drawing.

Trump bought it for $10,000.

Afterward, Schanz recalled in an email, “he asked me about the painting. I said, ‘I paint souls, and when I had to paint you, I asked your soul to allow me.’ He was touched and smiled.”

A few days later, the charity said, a check came from the Trump Foundation. Trump himself gave nothing, according to Sharon Alexander, the executive director of the charity.

Trump’s staff did not respond to questions about where that second painting is now. Alexander said she had last seen it at Trump’s club.

“I’m pretty sure we just left it at Mar-a-Lago,” she said, “and his staff took care of it.”
The website TripAdvisor provides another clue: On the page for Trump’s Doral golf resort, near Miami, users posted photos from inside the club. One of them appears to show Schanz’s painting, hanging on a wall at the resort. The date on the photo was February 2016.

David A. Fahrenthold covers the 2016 presidential campaign for The Washington Post. He has been at the Post since 2000, and previously covered Congress, the federal bureaucracy, the environment, and the D.C. police.
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The Daily 202: How Democrats are dominating early voting in Nevada
by James Hohmann
The Washington Post
October 24, 2016

 With Breanne Deppisch
THE BIG IDEA:
LAS VEGAS — Katy Perry’s glamour, Tom Steyer’s money, Univision’s megaphone and organized labor’s muscle, along with a late assist from Barack Obama, each helped lubricate Harry Reid’s well-oiled political machine over the past 48 hours.

The media tends to focus on the lack of enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton relative to President Obama, which is real, but a few thousand more ballots were cast in Nevada on Saturday — during the first day of early voting — than during the kickoff day four years ago, when there was a similar flurry of activity to propel Democrats to the polls. And that was before Air Force One touched down yesterday afternoon.

It is a testament to the power of the organization that Reid, the retiring Senate minority leader, has built over three decades and that he is now using to get Clinton and his hand-picked successor, Catherine Cortez Masto, across the finish line.

As much as 60 percent of the vote will be cast before Nov. 8 in the Silver State. Democrats for several cycles have dominated early voting, running up the score so that Republicans struggle to overcome it on Election Day.

Since handily winning the Republican caucuses here in February, Donald Trump has been stronger in Nevada than in most other battlegrounds. The race remains tight here, a function of the relatively high percentage of low-income whites without college degrees.

“Let's face it, Nevada is always close,” Obama, who carried the state twice, said during a rally at a high school in North Las Vegas. “Nevada always makes you a little nervous because you don't know what's going to happen. But that's what makes it exciting.”

The bulk of Nevada’s Democratic voters are concentrated in Clark County, which includes Vegas. During a two-week window, the race is on to lock in Clinton’s narrow advantage in the polls by getting as many of her supporters as possible to one of 97 early voting sites. The Reid machine, fully activated, is a sight to behold.

-- Unions play a huge role. Reid kicked off his Saturday with a 9 a.m. speech at the Iron Workers Union in the suburb of Henderson. Cortez Masto joined him. Then she went to the Carpenters Union training center at 10:15 a.m. and the Service Employees International Union's office on Sunset Boulevard a little after noon. A taco truck parked out front served dual purposes: the promise of free lunch built a crowd while trolling the Trump surrogate who warned during a recent cable interview that a Clinton victory would mean a taco truck on every corner. A shuttle bus ferried people to the nearest polling location.

-- A few hours later, pop star Katy Perry drew a diverse, young crowd of 500 to the courtyard in front of the student union at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. The 31-year-old didn’t sing, but she did get right to the point. Perry talked about how she likes to procrastinate as much as anyone else, but that’s not okay when it comes to early voting. (“Let’s cut the crap. … We’ve all got excuses. Don’t put it off.”) She then lamented that votes in Nevada matter more than hers does in California. “I’m not just here to see a Cirque show,” she said. “You guys are important!”

Perry wore a blue leather dress, red heels and a white T-shirt that said “Nasty Woman” — which is what Trump called Clinton during their debate right here on the campus of UNLV last Wednesday night. As she spoke about how she’s been campaigning for the Democratic nominee since “the cornfields of Iowa,” a guy in the audience yelled that Clinton should appoint her to be an ambassador. “Not yet,” she replied. “I’ve got to put out a record — or four!”

Then Perry introduced Cortez Masto. “It’s important to not just vote for president,” the singer concluded. “We’ve got a crew. We’ve got a clique. We all run together. We need to vote for the right senators, too”

She announced at the end of her speech that she would take sophomore Kendra Patterson, president of the campus Black Student Organization, to vote for the first time. Perry and her entourage piled into three black Escalades and headed for the nearest polling place.

NextGen, the climate-change-focused super PAC bankrolled by liberal billionaire Tom Steyer, had a dozen volunteers working the Perry rally in orange T-shirts. They handed out water bottles and had a coach bus in front of the student union to shuttle anyone who wanted a ride to go vote.

-- Early voting also gives Democrats more opportunities to turn out Latinos who have never voted before. Mi Familia Vota and Voto Latino co-hosted a four-hour block party Saturday afternoon in the parking lot of a mall that has an early voting site. There was live Spanish music and all-you-can-eat plates of free tacos from a popular local eatery. There were two bouncy houses, face painting and popcorn for the kids. Steyer’s group helped pay for the event, and Univision Radio — a co-sponsor — promoted it on the air. Staffers directed attendees to go inside the mall to vote. At around 6 p.m. Saturday, there were about 100 people in line for tacos and another 50 voting inside. They waited in a line between a candy store and a cosmetics shop.

-- The Clinton team is investing heavily in door-to-door canvassing to run up her early vote numbers. Pilar Grullon, a field organizer for the Nevada Democratic Party, led a training session for 40 volunteers before Perry arrived at UNLV. The native of the Dominican Republic said her mom worked two jobs to make ends meet but that her family still relied on public assistance — including food stamps and Medicaid — to get by. She recently became the first in her family to graduate from college. “All of those services that my family depended on are at risk in this election,” she said.
Grullon spent 15 minutes giving volunteers tips on how to give “a little extra push” to registered Democrats who might be reluctant to vote early. Everyone got “commit cards” to get people to write down exactly when and where they will vote. And they got leaflets with the number for a hotline that Clinton supporters can call to get a free ride to the polls. “You walk through, and you make a plan with the voter at every door,” Grullon said.

She encouraged volunteers to be forceful: “If a mom tells you her daughter is voting for Hillary, don’t take her word for it.… Note that, and someone else will come back to find her.… Be scrappy. If there’s a gate, wait for someone to come to the gate.… If they speak Spanish and you can’t, mark it down and someone else will go.… Don’t engage anyone who wants to talk smack about our candidates. It is a waste of your time.” For good measure, she even told everyone to smile.

-- Part of the Democratic strategy is to unashamedly pester people until they vote. The campaigns find out who voted at the end of each day. So they can stop targeting potential supporters once they have cast a ballot. During the training session, Grullon urged her door knockers to tell people that they won’t get bothered once they’ve voted. “If you don’t want somebody to knock on your door or call you anymore, go vote,” she said. “And it will stop. Seriously.”

This turns out to be a powerful incentive in a state where almost every commercial is about the election. Beatriz Martinez, 27, voted Saturday inside a temporary trailer that has been set up in a Target parking lot in Las Vegas. Asked why she went on the first day, she said: “We got tons of texts saying early voting started this morning — from the Clinton campaign people, from the climate change people, from the party people.” She and her boyfriend, a law student, supported Bernie Sanders in the caucuses but rallied behind Clinton after she wrapped up the nomination.
Martinez also brought her dad with her to vote. The 58-year-old was born in Mexico and speaks Spanish. He became a U.S. citizen more than a decade ago but had never voted before Saturday. The chance to vote against Trump changed that. He was very excited.

At the end of Saturday, Democratic staffers celebrated news that 39,148 people had voted in Clark County — compared to 33,187 in 2012. Of those, 55 percent were registered Democrats and 27 percent were registered Republicans.

-- Hitting the churches. The work continued early Sunday. Ruben Kihuen, a state senator challenging Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy, arrived at a Baptist church just before 8 a.m. to warn that all the progress of the Obama years could unravel if Democrats do not win. “I was trying to convey the sense of urgency of getting to the polls,” he said in an interview after the service, as he headed to a second church to deliver the same closing argument. “This election could be won during early voting if you run a strong campaign.”

-- Five hours later, Obama arrived in Kihuen’s congressional district for a rally aimed primarily at turning out African Americans. The president took the stage at Cheyenne High School after Boyz II Men performed “The End of the Road.” Speaking in front of a giant sign that said “VOTE EARLY,” Obama told an audience of 5,100: “You've got the winning hand. You've got blackjack. But you’ve got to make sure to turn over the card by voting. … This game does not start on November 8th. The game ends on November 8th.”

Bringing back a fictional character whom he invoked often in campaigns past, Obama added with a hint of nostalgia: “I need you to call up cousin Pooky and say, 'Pooky, it’s time to vote!’ I need you to go call Jesse and say, ‘Jesse, come on. Don't be sitting on the couch. It's time to vote.’ Everybody has got to vote early. That's how we won in ’08. That's how we won in 2012. That's how we're going to win in 2016!”

-- The Republican effort to push early voting pales in comparison, and it certainly lacks the star power. The RNC-led victory program has 66 staffers spread across eight offices in Nevada, more than in 2012. The state Democratic Party declined to provide a staff count but said it has 17 field offices. But even GOP operatives marvel at the Reid machine. They are trying to play catch up, but they acknowledge that their only hope to carry Nevada is to win big among those who vote on Election Day. Starting this weekend, the GOP’s field staff pivoted to knocking on the doors of registered Republicans who are probably with Trump but do not routinely vote.

Rep. Mark Amodei, chairman of Trump’s campaign in Nevada, hosted a modest early vote kickoff event at the RNC’s Reno office on Saturday morning. Republican Senate candidate Joe Heck, meanwhile, campaigned with Ted Cruz in Reno and Elko, less populated but redder areas of the state. Heck, a congressman from Vegas, alienated many Trump supporters by rescinding his support. So he campaigned with the Texas senator in an effort to shore up his conservative base.

-- Many Republicans familiar with Nevada worry about this nightmare scenario: If Trump loses decisively along the Eastern seaboard — New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina and/or Florida — the networks could declare that Clinton is the president-elect before polls even close in Nevada. Many core GOP voters typically cast their ballots while commuting home from work. What if a couple percent of them decide that the election is over and it’s not worth waiting in line? Because Republicans are so reliant on these voters, and Democrats will have so many votes locked in from early voting, it could lead to a down-ticket bloodbath. At the very least, it could tip a close Senate race to Cortez Masto.


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3 things that Donald Trump gets very right
by Chris Cillizza
Washington Post
October 19, 2016
Donald Trump's campaign is in deep trouble — with the possibility of an electoral whitewash very much in play. Given the flailing state of Trump's campaign, there's a tendency to assume that everything he says and does is wrong or bad.
That's not true. In fact, in Trump's speeches over the last few days, there are pieces that have real resonance in this time of deep resentment and anger toward both political parties. Politicians on both sides would do well to borrow some of Trump's language — emphasis on some — going forward as they continue to navigate a fed-up electorate desperate for change.
1. "Drain the Swamp"
Why Trump didn't start using this phrase six months ago is beyond me. It's without question his best message of the campaign. The problem for Trump, of course, is (a) he just started saying it, and (b) there's so much water under the bridge for him with voters that it doesn't sell as well as it might have.
But, fundamentally, the idea of getting rid of the creatures and the culture of Washington is quite appealing to people who live outside the Beltway, a.k.a. normal people. There is an assumption that politicians (and the media) are not to be trusted. Anyone who can run as an outsider to the "way things work" in Washington has real power in this sort of environment.
While that's more easily done for a candidate with Trump's profile — never run for office before, businessman — it's also doable for politicians currently in office. Running on a reform message — whether tax reform, education reform or electoral reform — has power. Make sure people know that you know there's a problem and the only way to fix it is with fundamental change.
2. Term limits
Like "drain the swamp," Trump's call for term limits is a new arrival to his stump speech/overall messaging. But it is a very nice addition.
Are term limits ever going to get passed by Congress? Almost certainly not. (Would most employees pass a rule that puts a hard out-date on their careers? Would you?) And are term limits a good thing for politics? I would argue no; in the states where term limits are in place — state legislatures in California and Florida, for example — the institutional wisdom typically held by long-serving members is instead held by lobbyists, which is not the best trade-off.
That is all besides the point. What we are talking about here is trying to find ways to position yourself in a deeply toxic political environment. And "term limits" — politics shouldn't be a career occupation, citizen legislators and all that — is code to most voters for not being a same old, same old politician.
3. Why hasn't she changed anything?
One of Trump's best lines, which he used in the first debate before, inexplicably, dropping it, was that for all of Hillary Clinton's big promises about what she would do if she were elected president, she hasn't actually done much during her long years spent in politics.
For Republicans who expect Trump to lose and are already positioning themselves to be at or near the top of the 2020 Republican field, this line of attack should be front and center in any campaign against President Hillary Clinton.
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Keeping up with politics is easy now.
Yes, she will undoubtedly point to the accomplishments she is able to eke out from what is nearly certain to be a divided Congress and a very abbreviated (or maybe even nonexistent) presidential honeymoon period. But, given that likely divided Congress and the fact that Clinton will come to the White House as the least popular president elected since World War II, there's a strong likelihood that she may not be able to get a terribly ambitious agenda though the legislative branch.
Hammering Clinton as someone who has sold herself in this campaign as the single most effective bureaucrat in the country but then failed to make the gears of government go is actually an even more effective attack line in 2020 than it is in 2016 — since she isn't president yet.
Broadly speaking, what's important to do when it comes to Trump is separate the messenger from the message. The messenger is deeply and irretrievably flawed in ways that make it very tough for him to win a majority of the country's votes. But it is a testament to the strength of the message Trump carries — anti-elite, protectionist, populist — that he could ascend to the Republican nomination in spite of those considerable flaws.
Trump's message — and it's still not clear whether it's his or he sort of happened onto it and it can be co-opted by other pols — is, at times, exactly in tune with large swaths of the American public. Played properly — and Trump has quite clearly not done this in the campaign — that anti-Washington, anti-elites message could cut across partisan lines and put a Republican nominee very much back in the game for president.
Trump will almost certainly lose in 20 days' time. But that doesn't mean what he accomplished and, more importantly, how he did it should be ignored by politicians in his or the opposition party.

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Inside Donald Trump’s echo chamber of conspiracies, grievances and vitriol
By Phillip Rucker and Robert Costa
Washington Post
10/16/16
He is preaching to the converted. He is lashing out at anyone who is not completely loyal. He is detaching himself from and delegitimizing the institutions of American political life. And he is proclaiming conspiracies everywhere — in polls (rigged), in debate moderators (biased) and in the election itself (soon to be stolen).
In the presidential campaign’s home stretch, Donald Trump is fully inhabiting his own echo chamber. The Republican nominee has turned inward, increasingly isolated from the country’s mainstream and leaders of his own party, and determined to rouse his most fervent supporters with dire warnings that their populist movement could fall prey to dark and collusive forces.
This is a campaign right out of Breitbart, the incendiary conservative website run until recently by Stephen K. Bannon, now the Trump campaign’s chief executive — and it is an act of retaliation.
A turbulent few weeks punctuated by allegations of sexual harassment have left Trump trailing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in nearly every swing state. Trump’s gamble is that igniting his army of working-class whites could do more to put him in contention than any sort of broad, tempered appeal to undecided voters.
The execution has been volatile. Since announcing last week that “the shackles have been taken off me,” Trump, bolstered by allies on talk radio and social media, has been creating an alternate reality — one full of innuendo about Clinton, tirades about the unfair news media and prophecies of Trump’s imminent triumph.
The candidate once omnipresent across the “mainstream media” these days largely limits his interviews to the safe harbor of the opinion shows on Fox News, and most of them are with Sean Hannity, a Trump supporter and informal counselor.
Many Republicans see the Trump campaign’s latest incarnation as a mirror into the psyche of their party’s restive base: pulsating with grievance and vitriol, unmoored from conservative orthodoxy, and deeply suspicious of the fast-changing culture and the consequences of globalization.
“I think Trump is right: The shackles have been released, but they were the shackles of reality,” said Mike Murphy, a veteran GOP strategist. “Trump has now shifted to a mode of complete egomaniacal self-indulgence. If he’s going to go off with these merry alt-right pranksters and only talk to people who vote Republican no matter what, he’s going to lose the election substantially.”
Even retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, a Trump supporter and adviser, acknowledged the difficulties for Trump. He said the nominee’s understanding of what motivates his base is “what got him through the primaries. The problem for him is that you have to expand that in order to win a general election. What’s out there is powerful, but not enough.”
For Bannon and legions of Trump fans, Trump’s approach is not only a relished escalation of his combativeness, but also a chance to reshape the GOP in Trump’s hard-line nationalist image.
“This is a hostile takeover,” said former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R), a Trump ally. “They believe the media is their mortal enemy and the country is in mortal danger, that Hillary Clinton would end America as we know it.”
Gingrich continued: “This is not only about beating Hillary Clinton. It’s about breaking the elite media, which has become the phalanx of the establishment.”
Trump’s strategy was crystallized by his defiant speech Thursday in West Palm Beach, Fla., in which he brazenly argued that the women who have accused him of unwanted kissing and groping were complicit in a global conspiracy of political, business and media elites to slander him and extinguish his outsider campaign.
“It’s a global power structure,” he said. Trump went on to describe himself as a populist martyr — “I take all of these slings and arrows gladly for you” — and posited: “This is not simply another four-year election. This is a crossroads in the history of our civilization that will determine whether or not we the people reclaim control over our government.”
Two days earlier, Trump was in Panama City Beach on Florida’s culturally conservative panhandle sketching out his universe. His rally was outdoors after sunset. The amphitheater’s capacity was 7,500, and there were large pockets of empty space, but a man came on the loudspeakers with an announcement: This was a record crowd of 10,000 people, with an additional 10,000 outside the perimeter.
When Trump strode out, he one-upped his announcer. “I guess we have 11,200 here, and outside we have over 10,000 people!”
So it went for the next 50 minutes as Trump told a patchwork of exaggerations and falsehoods about what he deemed his criminal opponent and the libelous news media conspiring to elect her.
“The election of Hillary Clinton will lead to the destruction of our country,” Trump said. “Believe me.”
One of his believers was Chris Ricker, 49, an electrician. Trump’s slogans are his slogans — Ricker’s ­T-shirt read: “Hillary Clinton for Prison” — and Trump’s enemies are his enemies. “I watch Fox News 100 percent, but can you put down that I hate Megyn Kelly?” he asked.
Pointing at the crowd, Ricker said: “See this right here? This is a revolution.”
Ricker got to talking about Clinton and her “secret microphone” at the first debate. He was indignant when a reporter stated that Clinton had no such device: “Dude, where are you at? You haven’t seen the videos? There was somebody sitting backstage giving her answers. It’s all corrupt.”
By week’s end, a new conspiracy was born. Trump insinuated during a rally Saturday in Portsmouth, N.H., that Clinton may be taking drugs.
“We should take a drug test prior [to the next debate], because I don’t know what’s going on with her,” Trump said. “At the beginning of her last debate she was all pumped up at the beginning, and at the end it was like, ‘Oh, take me down.’ ”

The impact of Trump’s provocations could extend beyond Election Day. Again and again, Trump has ominously predicted a “stolen election.” In Pennsylvania, for instance, he has instructed his rural white supporters to go to Philadelphia, a city with a large black population, to stand watch for voter fraud.
On Friday in Charlotte, another diverse city, Trump said: “The election is rigged. It’s rigged to like you have never seen before. They’re rigging the system.”
Departing from the norms of American democracy, Trump appears to be laying the foundation to contest the results, should he lose, and delegitimize a Clinton presidency in the minds of his followers.
Trump’s echo chamber is not altogether new. It is a more nationalistic and racially charged strain of the one most elected Republicans have inhabited for two decades. Conservative talk radio and Fox News, which rose to prominence in the late 1990s, became for party leaders a retreat and a source of power.
But in recent years this echo chamber has evolved from being an arm of the party into an unpredictable and sprawling orbit of the American right. Starting with the tea party movement in the early years of Barack Obama’s presidency, fury over what activists saw as a capitulating GOP establishment created a vacuum for someone or something to take hold.
Enter Trump, who promised total disruption and whose movement has been fueled not only by talk radio and television personalities, but also by a galaxy of blogs, websites and super PACs that saw money to be made and influence to be gained. Together they fed on false theories such as challenging President Obama’s birthplace in Hawaii, and the connective tissue for their working-class rage has been the threat of illegal immigration.
Obama described this world as a “swamp of crazy that has been fed over and over and over and over again.”
“Donald Trump, as he’s prone to do, he didn’t build the building himself, but he just slapped his name on it and took credit for it,” Obama said Thursday in a speech in Columbus, Ohio.
Trump’s worldview extends beyond what is published on Breitbart, which specializes in turbocharged coverage of illegal immigration and unproved theories about Obama and Clinton. Still, Bannon, who has been traveling with Trump daily, shares with him the latest Breitbart material and helps him hone lines slamming the Clintons. He tells Trump that he is the American incarnation of populist movements rising in capitals around the world, such as Brexit in Britain.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) — who has excoriated the “masters of the universe” obsessed with open borders — is another conduit and confidant, as is Trump’s policy maven and speechwriter, Stephen Miller, a former Sessions adviser.


Then there is Roger Stone, Trump’s longtime adviser and provocateur who has published conspiratorial writings about the Clintons. From Stone one can trace Trump’s political bloodline to Alex Jones, who runs the website Infowars.com, which has trafficked in stories about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks being a tyrannical government conspiracy.
Trump sat for an interview with Jones in late 2015 in which Jones spoke about the United States becoming a “third-world nation” and “globalists that want to have a world government.” Trump nodded along.
Jones more recently has called Obama and Clinton “demon possessed,” smelling of sulfur and attracting flies. At the second debate, Trump picked up on that characterization, labeling Clinton “the devil.” And it was Stone, in a recent interview with Infowars, who introduced the unfounded theory advanced on the stump by Trump that Clinton was “jacked up on something” in the second debate.
Clinton has admonished Trump for taking what she calls “a radical fringe” into the political mainstream, and her advisers have watched with disgust as Trump has crafted a closing message rooted in dark conspiracies.
“It would be laughable that a Republican nominee for president would have allowed his campaign to be overtaken by Breitbart and Infowars, except that it is a very dangerous and cynical thing to do to try to convince voters of these lies,” said Jennifer Palmieri, the Clinton campaign’s communications director.
Trump may not be a fleeting example of how an outsider will use this alt-right ecosystem to build a base of national support from outside of the Republican mainstream. Carson said he saw firsthand how these forces could propel a political outsider to the top tier of the presidential nominating contest.
“There were a lot of people who supported me who recognized that the Democrats and the Republicans were often one and the same,” Carson said. “They saw them as one establishment, and they put the media together with it.”

***********************

Trump recorded having extremely lewd conversation about women in 2005
by David Fahrentholdt
The Washington Post
10/8/16

Donald Trump bragged in vulgar terms about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women during a 2005 conversation caught on a hot microphone, saying that “when you’re a star, they let you do it,” according to a video obtained by The Washington Post.
The video captures Trump talking with Billy Bush, then of “Access Hollywood,” on a bus with the show’s name written across the side. They were arriving on the set of “Days of Our Lives” to tape a segment about Trump’s cameo on the soap opera.
Late Friday night, following sharp criticism by Republican leaders, Trump issued a short video statement saying, “I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.” But he also called the revelation “a distraction from the issues we are facing today.” He said that his “foolish” words are much different than the words and actions of Bill Clinton, whom he accused of abusing women, and Hillary Clinton, whom he accused of having “bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims.”
“I’ve never said I’m a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I’m not. I’ve said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them. Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am,” Trump said.
In an apparent response to Republican critics asking him to drop out of the race, he said: “We will discuss this more in the coming days. See you at the debate on Sunday.”
The tape includes audio of Bush and Trump talking inside the bus, as well as audio and video once they emerge from it to begin shooting the segment.
In that audio, Trump discusses a failed attempt to seduce a woman, whose full name is not given in the video.
“I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it,” Trump is heard saying. It was unclear when the events he was describing took place. The tape was recorded several months after he married his third wife, Melania.
“Whoa,” another voice said.
“I did try and f--- her. She was married,” Trump says.
Trump continues: “And I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said, ‘I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.’”

“I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married,” Trump says. “Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.”
At that point in the audio, Trump and Bush appear to notice Arianne Zucker, the actress who is waiting to escort them into the soap-opera set.
“Your girl’s hot as s---, in the purple,” says Bush, who’s now a co-host of NBC’s “Today” show.
“Whoa!” Trump says. “Whoa!”
“I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her,” Trump says. “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”
“And when you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”
“Whatever you want,” says another voice, apparently Bush’s.
“Grab them by the p---y,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”
A spokeswoman for NBC Universal, which produces and distributes “Access Hollywood,” declined to comment.
“This was locker-room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course — not even close,” Trump said in a statement. “I apologize if anyone was offended.”
Billy Bush, in a statement released by NBC Universal, said: “Obviously I’m embarrassed and ashamed. It’s no excuse, but this happened eleven years ago — I was younger, less mature, and acted foolishly in playing along. I’m very sorry.”
After the video appeared online Friday afternoon, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton wrote on Twitter: “This is horrific. We cannot allow this man to become president.” Her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.), told reporters, “It makes me sick to my stomach,” while campaigning in Las Vegas.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which has endorsed Clinton, issued a statement from Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens saying: “What Trump described in these tapes amounts to sexual assault.”
Trump was also criticized by members of his own party. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who said he is “sickened” by Trump’s comments, said the Republican presidential candidate will no longer appear with him at a campaign event in Wisconsin on Saturday.
“Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified. I hope Mr. Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves and works to demonstrate to the country that he has greater respect for women than this clip suggests,” Ryan said in a statement.
In a short statement issued moments after Ryan’s, Trump said his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, “will be representing me” at the Wisconsin event.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), who is running for reelection and has said she will vote for Trump, called his comments “totally inappropriate and offensive.”
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who has stood by Trump uncritically through numerous controversies, said in a statement: “No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever.”
Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a Trump critic, said in a statement: “Hitting on married women? Condoning assault? Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America’s face to the world.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the comments are “repugnant, and unacceptable in any circumstance” and made clear Trump’s brief statement would not suffice.
“As the father of three daughters, I strongly believe that Trump needs to apologize directly to women and girls everywhere, and take full responsibility for the utter lack of respect for women shown in his comments on that tape,” he said late Friday.
One of Trump’s most prominent social-conservative supporters, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, told BuzzFeed’s Rosie Gray: “My personal support for Donald Trump has never been based upon shared values.”
Trump’s running mate, Pence, was at a diner in Toledo when the news broke — about to view the diner’s collection of signed cardboard hot-dog buns, which includes one signed by Trump. But the reporters traveling with Pence were quickly ushered out of the diner by campaign staff, before they could ask Trump’s running mate about it, according to Politico. Politico reported that the journalists, traveling in Pence’s “protective pool,” were not permitted to film Pence as he left the diner.
The tape appears at a time when Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, has sought to make a campaign issue out of his opponent’s marriage. Trump has criticized former president Bill Clinton for his past infidelity and criticized opponent Hillary Clinton as her husband’s “enabler.”
“Hillary Clinton was married to the single greatest abuser of women in the history of politics,” Trump told the New York Times in a recent interview. “Hillary was an enabler, and she attacked the women who Bill Clinton mistreated afterward. I think it’s a serious problem for them, and it’s something that I’m considering talking about more in the near future.”
Trump carried on a very public affair with Marla Maples — his eventual second wife — while still married to first wife Ivana Trump.
Trump has been criticized in this campaign for derogatory and lewd comments about women, including some made on TV and live radio. In an interview Wednesday with KSNV, a Las Vegas television station, Trump said that those comments were made for entertainment.
“A lot of that was done for the purpose of entertainment. There’s nobody that has more respect for women than I do,” he told the station.
“Are you trying to tone it down now?” asked the interviewer, Jim Snyder.
“It’s not a question of trying, it’s very easy,” Trump said.
The tape obtained by The Post seems to have captured Trump in a private moment, with no audience beyond Bush and a few others on the bus. It appears to have been shot around Sept. 16, 2005, which was the day media reports said Trump would tape his soap-opera cameo.
The video shows the bus carrying Trump and Bush turning down a street on the studio back lot. The two men cannot be seen.
“Oh, nice legs, huh?” Trump says.
“Oof, get out of the way, honey,” Bush says, apparently referencing somebody else blocking the view of Zucker.
The two men then exit the bus and greet Zucker.
“We’re ready, let’s go,” Trump says, after the initial greetings. “Make me a soap star.”
“How about a little hug for the Donald?” Bush says. “He just got off the bus.”
“Would you like a little hug, darling?” Zucker says.
“Absolutely,” Trump says. As they embrace, and air-kiss, Trump says, “Melania said this was okay.”
The video then follows Trump, Bush and Zucker into the studio. Trump did appear on “Days of Our Lives” in late October. In a tape of that cameo posted online, Zucker’s character asks Trump — playing himself — for a job at his business, and tells him suggestively, “I think you’ll find I’m a very willing employee. Working under you, I think, could be mutually beneficial.”
Trump’s character gives her the brushoff.
“That’s an interesting proposition,” Trump says on-screen. “I’ll get back to you.”
A publicist for Zucker did not immediately respond to questions on Friday afternoon.


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