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Nevilledog's Journal
Nevilledog's Journal
February 26, 2024

American Autocracy Threat Tracker (Just Security)



Former President Donald Trump has said he will be a dictator on “day one.” He and his advisors and associates have publicly discussed hundreds of actions to be taken during a second Trump presidency that directly threaten democracy. These vary from Trump breaking the law and abusing power in areas like immigration roundups and energy extraction; to summarily and baselessly firing tens of thousands of civil servants whom he perceives as adversaries; to prosecuting his political opponents for personal gain and even hinting at executing some of them. We track all of these promises, plans, and pronouncements here and we will continue to update them in real time.

We assess there is a significant risk of autocracy should Trump regain the presidency. Trump has said he would deploy the military against civilian protestors and his advisors have developed plans for using the Insurrection Act, said he would invoke the Alien Enemies Act to conduct deportations of non-citizens, continued to threaten legally-established abortion rights, and even had his lawyers argue that a president should be immune from prosecution if he directed SEAL Team Six to assassinate his political enemies. Trump also seeks the power to protect his personal wealth as he faces staggering civil fines, and to bolster his immunity as he faces 91 criminal charges in prosecutions in different parts of the country.

While Trump has claimed he will be a dictator for only the first day of his administration, his promise to do so–even for 24 hours–is antithetical to American democracy. History teaches us that dictatorial powers, once assumed, are rarely relinquished. Moreover, Trump cannot possibly achieve his stated goals for the use of that power (in immigration and energy policy) in one day, meaning that his “dictatorship” would of necessity likely last much longer.

Trump’s former advisors—those with the most experience watching him govern behind the scenes—believe he is a danger to the country. John Bolton, Trump’s former National Security Advisor, said, “I think Trump will cause significant damage in a second term, damage that in some cases will be irreparable.” Alyssa Farah Griffin, former Trump White House Director of Strategic Communications, noted, “Fundamentally, a second Trump term could mean the end of American democracy as we know it, and I don’t say that lightly.”


February 26, 2024

Beyond shock and awe: Inside Trump's potential second-term agenda


An increasingly detailed picture of former President Donald Trump’s second-term agenda is emerging — one that would make the near-daily shocks of his norm-shattering first White House tenure look tame.

Some of the particulars have already blown up into campaign furors, thanks to Trump’s public remarks about abandoning NATO allies and serving as a “dictator” on “day one,” as well as leaks of his private musings on a 16-week abortion ban. His supporters’ policy manifestos have yielded headlines predicting that Trump 2.0 would bring mass deportations of immigrants, overt use of the Justice Department to punish his political enemies, and — as POLITICO reported Tuesday — an embrace of “Christian nationalism” to guide federal policies.

Other items on the potential Trump second-term agenda would be more granular but also far-reaching, from publishing federal science reports that dispute the reality of global warming, to launching new and wider trade wars, cracking down on liberal school districts’ transgender policies and freeing the crypto industry from the threat of regulation.

What these proposals have in common: They would go well beyond steps Trump took — or in many cases even attempted — from 2017 to 2021.

February 23, 2024

Imagine a President Trump Who Owes Saudi Arabia $540 Million


No paywall link

Donald Trump is attempting to appeal and delay having to pay that whopping fine that New York Judge Arthur Engoron laid on him earlier this month in the Trump Organization fraud suit brought by state Attorney General Letitia James. As we’ve all heard, to do so, he has to secure a bond.

NBC News did some cipherin’ Wednesday and reported that he’ll need a bond of about $540 million. It is widely assumed he doesn’t have the liquid cash. He has some buildings, notably 40 Wall Street, but many experts are saying that the government doesn’t like to take real estate as collateral. “Whoever is going to bond [Trump] is committing that they’re going to make good on that judgment,” New York business attorney David Slarskey told NBC. “Who’s going to do that?”

Indeed. That is the question. And the possible answer is chilling, if we imagine Trump back in the White House next year.

In sum: He could borrow this money from just about anybody. Or not even borrow it. Someone might just give it to him. Incredibly, as Neal Katyal said on MSNBC Wednesday night, there is apparently no law that prohibits someone in Trump’s position from securing the collateral from anyone. It’s another one of those laws that I suppose no one ever even thought to write because the system has never encountered a Donald Trump before. But now it has.

February 22, 2024

Project 2025: Unveiling the far right's plan to demolish immigration in a second Trump term


Key takeaways

The Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025 is the policy playbook for a second Trump administration, and its impacts on immigration would be far more complex and destructive than previously reported. It isn’t simply a refresh of first-term ideas, dusted off and ready to be re-implemented.

Rather, it reflects a meticulously orchestrated, comprehensive plan to drive immigration levels to unprecedented lows and increase the federal government’s power to the states’ detriment. These proposals circumvent Congress and the courts and are specifically engineered to dismantle the foundations of our immigration system.

The most troubling proposals include plans to:

1. Block federal financial aid for up to two-thirds of all American college students if their state permits certain immigrant groups, including Dreamers with legal status, to access in-state tuition.
2. Terminate the legal status of 500,000 Dreamers by eliminating staff time for reviewing and processing renewal applications.
3. Use backlog numbers to trigger the automatic suspension of application intake for large categories of legal immigration.
4. Suspend updates to the annual eligible country lists for H-2A and H-2B temporary worker visas, thereby excluding most populations from filling critical gaps in the agricultural, construction, hospitality, and forestry sectors.
5. Bar U.S. citizens from qualifying for federal housing subsidies if they live with anyone who is not a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident.
6. Force states to share driver’s licenses and taxpayer identification information with federal authorities or risk critical funding.

These proposals, along with the others discussed herein, mark a significant divergence from traditional conservative immigration priorities like promoting merit-based immigration, fostering assimilation, and enhancing interior enforcement. Instead, they are designed to cripple the existing immigration system without regard for the extraordinarily harmful effects on the health and wealth of our country. They would weaken our nation’s prosperity and security and undermine the vitality of our workforce, with far-reaching consequences for future generations of Americans.

February 20, 2024

Murder and Extremism in the United States in 2023


Executive Summary

* Every year, individuals with ties to different extreme causes and movements kill people in the United States; the ADL Center on Extremism (COE) tracks these murders. Extremists regularly commit murders in the service of their ideology, to further a group or gang they may belong to, or even while engaging in traditional, non-ideological criminal activities.

* In 2023, domestic extremists killed at least 17 people in the U.S., in seven separate incidents. This represents a sharp decrease from the 27 extremist-related murders ADL has documented for 2022—which itself was a decrease from the 35 identified in 2021. It continues a trend of fewer extremist-related killings after a five-year span of 47-79 extremist-related murders per year (2015-2019). One reason for the trend is the decrease in recent years of extremist-related killings by domestic Islamist extremists and left-wing extremists.

* The 2023 murder totals include two extremist-related shootings sprees, both by white supremacists, which together accounted for 11 of the 17 deaths. A third shooting spree, also by an apparent white supremacist, wounded several people but luckily did not result in fatalities.

* All the extremist-related murders in 2023 were committed by right-wing extremists of various kinds, with 15 of the 17 killings involving perpetrators or accomplices with white supremacist connections. This is the second year in a row that right-wing extremists have been connected to all identified extremist-related killings.


February 17, 2024

Trump's 'No Victims' Fraud Defense Is an Insult to Taxpayers


No paywall link

“Reality TV Star Found Guilty of Fraudulently Inflating His Assets”

That headline would generally not surprise anyone who watches shows involving “Real Housewives” or other so-called reality TV stars. But today’s ruling by Justice Engoron in New York slams none other than Donald Trump, the former host of the “The Apprentice,” for rampant fraud, the same person who is very soon to be dubbed the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee for the highest office in the land. And if the recent verdict against Trump in the second defamation case brought by E. Jean Carroll of roughly $83 million was shocking, Justice Engoron’s ruling is at least more than four times that, a truly staggering $350 million, with interest. One important element of the opinion that has gotten less coverage than the fact that Trump appears to have defrauded banks: He also defrauded taxpayers.

The practice that led to this ruling is really not that difficult to understand. The former president is found to have inflated his assets when it served him to do so: that is, in order to get favorable treatment from lenders. That resulted in the Trump companies taking advantage of their lenders. Perhaps public sentiment in general and Trump supporters in particular are unlikely to cry any tears for those big banks. The law that Trump was found to have violated does not require that the victims come forward to seek damages, however; the fraud is on the market and the general public, and that’s why the attorney general of New York was able to bring this case. (In full disclosure, I served as a volunteer member of Attorney General Letitia James’ transition team in late 2018/early 2019, and have had no involvement in this or any other case brought by her office since.)

The corresponding move that Trump took with the very same assets when reporting their worth to governments was often to devalue them, or simply to defraud the government of other funds to which they might be entitled. By doing so, in no uncertain terms, he cheated governments, and, by extension, taxpayers.

Although much of the focus of the penalties Trump must pay focus on the defrauding of the financial institutions because he was able to secure favorable loans based on fraud, like his statement that his Trump Tower apartment was far larger and far more valuable than it was in reality, Judge Engoron found that there was a substantial amount of other fraud going on as well. With just two of the Trump Organization’s properties, Mar-a-Lago and the recently sold Ferry Point golf course in the Bronx, Trump was found to have managed the financials around those properties fraudulently, with significant consequences for taxpayers.


February 15, 2024

'Migrant Crime Wave' Not Supported by Data, Despite High-Profile Cases


No paywall link


Quantifying crimes committed by migrants is nearly impossible, because the police are not allowed to ask about a suspect’s immigration status, said Kenneth Corey, a former chief of the department who retired in 2022. But police data indicate that there has been no surge in crime since April 2022, when Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas started sending buses of migrants to New York to protest the federal government’s border policy.

More than 170,000 migrants have arrived in the city since then, and it is difficult to know what crime statistics would show had they not come. But as the migrant numbers have increased, the overall crime rate has stayed flat. And, in fact, many major categories of crime — including rape, murder and shootings — have decreased, according to an analysis of the New York Police Department’s month-by-month statistics since April 2022.

The monthly number of robberies since migrants began arriving in large numbers has fluctuated. It peaked at 1,730 in July 2022, hit a low of 1,155 in February 2023 and climbed to 1,417 last month.

Grand larcenies have also gone up and down, but the monthly total stood at 4,056 in January, compared with a high of 4,687 in August 2022.

Jeffrey Butts, director of the Research and Evaluation Center at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said that there was no discernible migrant crime wave.

February 10, 2024

Weissmann & Goodman: The Real "Robert Hur Report" (Versus What You Read in the News)


The Special Counsel Robert Hur report has been grossly mischaracterized by the press. The report finds that the evidence of a knowing, willful violation of the criminal laws is wanting. Indeed, the report, on page 6, notes that there are “innocent explanations” that Hur “cannot refute.” That is but one of myriad examples we outline in great detail below of the report repeatedly finding a lack of proof. And those findings mean, in DOJ-speak, there is simply no case. Unrefuted innocent explanations is the sine qua non of not just a case that does not meet the standard for criminal prosecution – it means innocence. Or as former Attorney General Bill Barr and his former boss would have put it, a total vindication (but here, for real).

But even without the prompting of a misleading “summary” by Barr, the press has gotten the lede wrong. This may be because of a poorly worded (we’re being charitable) thesis sentence on page 1 of Hur’s executive summary. Hur writes at the outset: “Our investigation uncovered evidence that President Biden willfully retained and disclosed classified materials after his vice presidency when he was a private citizen.” You have to wait for the later statements that what the report actually says is there is insufficient evidence of criminality, innocent explanations for the conduct, and affirmative evidence that Biden did not willfully withhold classified documents. Put another way, that same sentence about “our investigation uncovered evidence” could equally apply to Mike Pence, who had classified documents at his home, which is similarly some “evidence” of a crime, but also plainly insufficient to remotely establish criminality.

The press incorrectly and repeatedly blast out that the Hur report found Biden willfully retained classified documents, in other words, that Biden committed a felony; with some in the news media further trumpeting that the Special Counsel decided only as a matter of discretion not to recommend charges.

To clarify thinking about this topic, let’s consider another way Hur could have represented his actual findings on page 1 of his executive summary:

“We have concluded that there is not a prosecutable case against Biden. Although there was a basis to open the investigation based on the fact that classified documents were found in Biden’s homes and office space, that is insufficient to establish a crime was committed. The illegal retention or dissemination of national defense information requires that he knew of the existence of such documents and that he knew they contained national defense information. It is not a crime without those additional elements. Our investigation, after a thorough year-long review, concludes that there is an absence of such necessary proof. Indeed, we have found a number of innocent explanations as to which we found no contrary evidence to refute them and found affirmative in support of them.”

Below we first identify the relevant contents of the Hur report. We then provide a sampling of the erroneous press pronouncements.


February 8, 2024

Are conspiracy theories a cultural art form?


Why do people buy into conspiracy theories when they don’t necessarily believe them? In a recent paper, Macquarie University’s Professor of Philosophy, Neil Levy, looks at society’s complex relationship with evidence, the desire to suspend disbelief, and the role of gamification in conspiracy theory.

Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory – that the moon landing was faked, global warming is a Chinese hoax, Covid was a biological weapon, the mafia and/or the FBI assassinated John F. Kennedy.

Belief in conspiracy theories is widespread, says Neil Levy, Professor of Philosophy at Macquarie University. A recent Washington Post poll reports that more than one-third of Americans believe that Joe Biden stole the 2020 presidential election from Donald Trump.

“Observers often ask ‘How can people believe things like that, given how thin the evidence is?’

“And the evidence isn’t just thin. When we look at what people say in defence of their conspiratorial beliefs, they’re (literally) not even trying. They’re not citing real evidence at all: they cite memes and word games. For example, citing a still from a movie as evidence that Covid-19 was planned or that ‘Delta omicron’ is an anagram of ‘media control’.

“The explanation? People are playing a game.”

January 25, 2024

Republicans are ratcheting up the very crisis at the border that they claim they want solved.


Republicans are playing a dangerous game around the border. As I wrote about earlier this week, in a narrow 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court finally lifted an injunction that had prevented the Border Patrol from cutting and removing razor wire erected by Texas along the border at Eagle Pass. The wire was considered highly dangerous because it could trap bodies in flowing water, leading to drowning.

A mother and her two children recently died at Eagle Pass because, according to federal officials, border patrol agents had been prevented from reaching them due to the state of Texas’s occupation and fencing off of a surveillance and mission launch area.

In response to the Supreme Court’s ruling, however, Governor Abbott decided he would grandstand, telling the Texas state guard to “hold the line” at Eagle Pass. He then issued a statement, announcing that the Texas guard and law enforcement were now acting under a right of “self-defense” for the state. But it still isn’t clear what this means in practical terms.

Meanwhile, in Washington it became increasingly clear that all efforts to actually try and fix the border, including a hard-fought bipartisan Senate plan, are likely being scuttled. Why? According to Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump wants to “kill” the deal because he doesn’t want Biden to chalk a political win before the election.


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