Michael Cohen knows the darkness in the soul of Donald Trump, and in the closing statement of his testimony on Wednesday he had a chilling warning for Americans. Michael Cohen’s parting shot: I fear what happens if Trump loses in 2020:
Michael Cohen closed his remarkable testimony before Congress on Wednesday with an opaque but alarming warning about what could happen if President Donald Trump loses the 2020 election and some words addressed directly to his former boss.
“My loyalty to Mr. Trump has cost me everything: my family’s happiness, friendships, my law license, my company, my livelihood, my honor, my reputation and, soon, my freedom. And I will not sit back, say nothing, and allow him to do the same to the country,” Cohen said at the hearing’s closing. “Indeed, given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful transition of power, and this is why I agreed to appear before you today.”
Donald Trump this week gave an interview to Breitbart News, which Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist and the former chairman of Breitbart News once described as “the platform for the alt-right” (just a euphemism for white supremacists), in which Trump again nods toward violence by his supporters — and maybe something bigger:
President Trump has repeatedly and not-subtly suggested his supporters could be violent — sometimes in an approving manner. And there’s a common thread running through much of it: Again and again, Trump has suggested they could rise up if they feel either they or Trump have been wronged by the political process.
There are several examples. The most well-worn was when Trump suggested during the 2016 campaign that “Second Amendment people” could stop a President Hillary Clinton from installing liberal judges. Trump played it off as a coincidence unrelated to violence that he flagged gun-rights supporters as the last line of defense against a political outcome he opposed.
Now, Trump is at it again. And this time, his statement has overtones of something bigger.
In an interview with Trump-friendly Breitbart News this week, Trump talked about how “tough” the left was getting, relative to his supporters. His quote meanders a little bit, but stick with it and focus on the text in bold:
It’s so terrible what’s happening. You know, the left plays a tougher game, it’s very funny. I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don’t play it tougher. Okay? I can tell you, I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump – I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad. But the left plays it cuter and tougher.
As The Washington Post’s David Nakamura pointed out, this is actually quite similar to something Trump said at a September campaign rally for now-Sen. Josh Hawley (R) in Missouri:
They’re so lucky that we’re peaceful. Law enforcement, military, construction workers, Bikers for Trump — how about Bikers for Trump? They travel all over the country. They got Trump all over the place, and they’re great. They’ve been great. But these are tough people. These are great people. But they’re peaceful people, and Antifa and all — they’d better hope they stay that way. I hope they stay that way. I hope they stay that way.
Michael Cohen testified that that Donald Trump speaks in code like a mob boss. He “doesn’t give [direct] orders. He speaks in code. And I understand that code.” Likewise here:
Trump will routinely suggest something without technically saying, “This is what I want.” And he will generally lather himself in plausible deniability. “It would be very bad” and “I hope they stay that way” allow him to say he doesn’t actually want this thing he’s hinting at to happen.
But it’s clear from these comments, and the repetition of this formula, that he’s suggesting his supporters from the military, law enforcement and even bikers could be tempted to rise up if things don’t go Trump’s way. He’s at the very least toying with the idea that things could become violent.
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But even if a coup seems patently ridiculous, that doesn’t mean there couldn’t be unrest, and it doesn’t mean that Trump isn’t proactively wielding that possibility for leverage against his opponents. Hinting that efforts to remove him from office — either via the 2020 election or impeachment — could be met with this kind of violence serves notice to his foes that they better play nice . . . and maybe investigators should back off.
The idea that anything like the scenes Trump is describing would ever happen is difficult to believe. But that’s not really the point. Musing about this kind of thing is a great way to plant a seed in certain people’s minds, and the fact that Trump keeps fertilizing that seed shouldn’t escape notice.
Then on Friday, a self-proclaimed white nationalist from Australia engaged in a mass shooting of a mosque in New Zealand that he broadcast online in social media. Racist suspect in New Zealand mosque massacre praised President Trump as ‘a symbol of renewed white identity’:
The immigrant-bashing white supremacist suspected of killing dozens of Muslims at a mosque in New Zealand released a disturbing manifesto before the Friday massacre praising President Trump as an inspiration for his hate.
The 74-page document shouted out right-wing extremists like South Carolina church shooter Dylann Roof and Norwegian neo-Nazi Anders Breivik, lauding them for attempting to provoke race wars in their home countries.
The hateful manifesto also lists Trump as a source of partial kinship.
“As a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose? Sure,” the suspect wrote. “As a policy maker and leader? Dear god no.”
Trump was asked about the mass shooting in New Zealand during his publicity stunt for his veto of the joint resolution of Congress passed by overwhelming majorities objecting to his emergency declaration on the Mexico border attempting to seize the “power of the purse” from Congress to fund his “big beautiful wall” on the Mexico border.
Here is a good summary of how it went. Erin Burnett: Trump’s ‘Invasion’ Talk in Aftermath of New Zealand Massacre is ‘Just White Supremacy’:
Hours after President Trump warned about an “invasion” of immigrants at the same time that he said white nationalism isn’t really a rising threat in response to a question about the white terror attack in New Zealand, CNN anchor Erin Burnett asked whether the president was foregoing “dog whistles” for open “white supremacy.”
At a White House signing event commemorating Trump’s veto of Congress’ resolution nixing his national emergency declaration, the president briefly offered condolences over the massacre of Muslims at their place of worship, only to quickly follow that up by raging against immigrants and painting them as dangerous criminals.
Appearing on Erin Burnett OutFront Friday, Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN), one of the few Muslims in Congress, expressed disappointment that Trump appears to be signaling to far-right extremists and ideologues in “his base” that he’s with them.
“The suspect, of course, cited [Trump] as, you know, a symbol—a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose,” Burnett noted, referencing the New Zealand shooter’s online manifesto.
The CNN host then noted “this word echo of ‘invade’” by the president, noting that the shooter used it repeatedly when describing immigrants.
“The President of the United States obviously happened to, today, talk about his wall and in a very, very eerie and unfortunately word echo used the exact same word to talk about brown people,” Burnett said.
“He knows it’s a dog whistle,” she said later in the program. “So then it’s not a dog whistle. That’s just white supremacy, isn’t it?”
Asked whether he saw a worrying rise in white supremacy movements around the world, Trump said he did not, blaming a small group of people “with very, very serious problems.” He is lying. He and his alt-right “deplorable” adviser Steve Bannon know that White Nationalism Is an International Threat, and that they have encouraged it:
The attack [in Christchurch] has underlined the internationalism of the ultra-nationalists, the global danger posed by white nationalists and neo-fascists who now feed one another’s violence, tactics, and ideologies.
The global rise of neo-fascism and white nationalism presents an “enormous threat to the well-being of multicultural society,” Alexander Reid Ross, author of Against the Fascist Creep, told me. “This is just the latest incident in what seems like an increasing tendency of white nationalists to attack civilians in synagogues, mosques, and churches, while attempting to build off one another.”
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Many of these groups nurture relationships with international counterparts, stretching from Greece’s Golden Dawn, a violent neo-Nazi outfit currently on trial for operating a criminal organization, to anti-Muslim hucksters in the United Kingdom and the U.S. In 2018, U.K. Islamophobe Tommy Robinson and former Proud Boys leader Gavin McInnes, known for urging his followers to attack anti-fascists in the streets, managed to sell tickets for up to around $750 a head for a planned five-event December speaking tour of Australia. (It was postponed when Robinson planned a conflicting Brexit protest.) “The Australian far right draws inspiration from overseas groups in the U.S. and U.K. trying to form local chapters,” sociologist Joshua Roose told Australian broadcaster SBS in November. “However, other groups formed organically in Australia. And they mostly formed in past three years.”
These international links were on full display in the violence in Christchurch. Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) president Richard Cohen observed as much in a statement Friday, warning that the manifesto “bears the unmistakable fingerprints of the so-called alt-right, both in tone and reference.” On Twitter, SPLC journalist Michael Edison Hayden pointed out that the same meme posted on the cover of the manifesto had been promoted by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke last month.
The symbols and slogans emblazoned on the killer’s weapon also pointed to the global nature of neo-fascism and white nationalism. Written in white on the suspect’s guns were the Greek word for “Turk eater” and the number fourteen, an apparent reference to the “Fourteen Words,” a white nationalist mantra coined by David Lane.
During the 2018 midterm elections, Trump maligned a U.S.-bound caravan of refugees and migrants as an “invasion,” a conspiracy theory repeated by white nationalist Robert Bowers when he gunned down worshippers at a Pittsburg synagogue last November. The Christchurch shooter used eerily similar language in a blog post on Thursday: “I will carry out an attack against the invaders,” he wrote, apparently referring to Muslim immigrants.
The similarities are not going unnoticed. “In this case, a killer attacked Muslims worshiping at two mosques. In November, a killer massacred Jews at a synagogue in Pittsburgh,” Cohen said Friday. “Though the victims were different, and the attacks came in different parts of the world, the terrorists shared the same ideology of white supremacist hate.”
Perhaps even more disturbingly, however, far-right politicians from Australia to Europe responding to the attacks have doubled down on white nationalist rhetoric, shifting the blame from the killer to the Muslims targeted by the violence. Australia Senator Fraser Anning, who represents Queensland, condemned the attacks but used the opportunity to spread Islamophobic bile. “The real cause of bloodshed on the New Zealand streets today is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place,” Anning wrote.
Halfway across the world, Hungary’s far-right Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, on Friday celebrated Hungarians for supposedly stopping “at our southern borders, the migrant invasion directed at Europe.” Orban has spent the last several years blaming Jewish Hungarian-American billionaire philanthropist George Soros for Europe’s refugee crisis. “Without the protection of our Christian culture we will lose Europe, and Europe will no longer belong to the Europeans,” he added—an uncomfortably close echo of Tarrant’s death-struggle us-versus-them manifesto language.
In the U.S. as well, President Trump called the attacks a “horrible, horrible thing” before quickly pivoting to the topic of immigration. “People hate the word invasion, but that’s what it is,” he said.
In the wake of yet another deadly attack amidst a global rise in far-right violence, many in the coming days will understandably be wondering what an appropriate response should look like. “It’s incumbent on leftists to work toward a clear internationalist platform that rebukes nationalism, rebukes hard borders, and rejects the notion that Europe is a white continent,” Ross told me. The increasingly international nature of rightist extremism requires an equally international anti-fascist response that addresses its root causes. Until that response comes, and so long as the people occupying the corridors of power from North America to Europe and beyond spread the same messages once thought to be confined to the dark crevices of the internet, we can expect more bloodshed targeting immigrants, worshippers, and everyone opposed to hate.
Did anyone ever imagine a day when an American president would be a symbol of international white supremacy? How does anyone see the wretched excuse for a human being that Donald Trump is as a symbol of white “supremacy”? He is proof that the premise of their racist theory is false.
UPDATE: Robert Kagan, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, in a lengthy essay writes that “Today, authoritarianism has emerged as the greatest challenge facing the liberal democratic world — a profound ideological, as well as strategic, challenge. Or, more accurately, it has reemerged, for authoritarianism has always posed the most potent and enduring challenge to liberalism, since the birth of the liberal idea itself.” And we have no idea how to confront it. The strongmen strike back.
And there is this wink and a nod to white supremacy from Donald Trump: ABC News is reporting that the new head of the pro-Trump Keep America Great PAC will be confederacy fan and white supremacy poster boy, Corey Stewart.