How Trump’s paranoid White House sees ‘deep state’ enemies on all sides

Internal document shows the ‘alt-right’ Steve Bannon wing of the administration’s fervent belief that America is at risk from ‘the Opposition’ – a cabal of bankers, globalists, the media and even Republican leaders.

An extraordinary memo by a former national security official contains a list of Donald Trump’s perceived enemies within, offering an insight into paranoia gripping the White House.

The author, Rich Higgins, was ousted last month by the national security adviser, HR McMaster. But the president reportedly saw the memo when it was passed to him by his son, Donald Trump Jr, and was said to be “furious” at Higgins’s forced departure.

Entitled POTUS & Political Warfare and written in florid pseudo-intellectual language, the memo illustrates the siege mentality that fuels Trump, his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, and the “alt-right” in their endless running battles with the media, the so-called “deep state” and others.

The seven-page document – leaked to Foreign Policy magazine – claims the Trump administration is suffering under “withering information campaigns designed to first undermine, then delegitimize and ultimately remove the president”.

It continues: “Recognizing in candidate Trump an existential threat to cultural Marxist memes that dominate the prevailing cultural narrative, those that benefit recognize the threat he poses and seek his destruction.”

Writing in May this year, Higgins, who was in the strategic planning office at the National Security Council, goes on to identify seven groups that he claims are part of a huge conspiracy to bring the president down.

Higgins’s memo, full of academic jargon and numerous references to Marxism, concludes that the “defense of President Trump is the defense of America” and compares him to Abraham Lincoln, although the hyper-suspicious Richard Nixon might be more accurate.

The memo produced a combination of amusement and fear among analysts. Ken Gude, a senior fellow on the national security team at the Center for American Progress thinktank in Washington, said: “It’s the craziest thing I’ve seen come out of the National Security Council staff, that’s for sure. It’s the bizarre ramblings of a conspiracy theorist. It’s unhinged.”

Gude noted that the list of Trump’s foes “could be read to describe just about everybody except for loyalists. It’s quite alarming to think this is how people close to the president view the world and view the country.”

He added: “It’s in some ways reassuring that this individual was removed but it’s deeply troubling he got there in the first place and it seems to be a reflection of some individuals close to the president. Steve Bannon doesn’t descend into the depths of lunacy this memo expresses but it is a similar worldview that links globalists and Islamists in a world conspiracy.”

Higgins’s removal has been taken as a sign that McMaster, currently under fire from Breitbart, has gained the upper hand in the White House power struggle. The national security adviser has been with Trump at his golf club in Bedminister, New Jersey, this week, whereas Bannon has not. But the so-called Breitbart wing has shown before it should not be counted out.

Gude added: “This faction is losing but as long as they have the ear of the president, and they appear to and he may be one of them, they won’t be talking without influence, so it’s something to be concerned about.”

The overwrought language of the memo – “political warfare as understood by the Maoist Insurgency model” – suggests an author who was trying too hard to impress Bannon and potentially Trump himself. But the broad outline of its ideas are in keeping with the “alt-right” echo chamber.

Joshua Green, author of the new bestseller Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency, said: “The memo itself is so overheated and batty that it doesn’t sound like Bannon. Or it sounds like Bannon if Bannon took a bong before writing it. I’ve never heard him use phrases like ‘cultural Marxist memes’ that Higgins does.”

But he added: “I’m not sure I entirely understand what the point of the memo is or who it’s meant to be read by, but the general paranoia that Trump is under assault by enemies including people in the administration is certainly something in the thinking of people around Bannon.”

Read the complete article on The Guardian newspaper web site.

Government Report Finds Drastic Impact of Climate Change on U.S.

A draft report by government scientists concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. Credit Branden Camp/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The average temperature in the United States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, and recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years, according to a sweeping federal climate change report awaiting approval by the Trump administration.

The draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies, which has not yet been made public, concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. It directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is uncertain, and that the ability to predict the effects is limited.

“Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans,” a draft of the report states. A copy of it was obtained by The New York Times.

The report was completed this year and is a special science section of the National Climate Assessment, which is congressionally mandated every four years. The National Academy of Sciences has signed off on the draft report, and the authors are awaiting permission from the Trump administration to release it.

The White House and the Environmental Protection Agency did not immediately return calls or respond to emails requesting comment on Monday night.

The report concludes that even if humans immediately stopped emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the world would still feel at least an additional 0.50 degrees Fahrenheit (0.30 degrees Celsius) of warming over this century compared with today. The projected actual rise, scientists say, will be as much as 2 degrees Celsius.

A small difference in global temperatures can make a big difference in the climate: The difference between a rise in global temperatures of 1.5 degrees Celsius and one of 2 degrees Celsius, for example, could mean longer heat waves, more intense rainstorms and the faster disintegration of coral reefs.

In the United States, the authors write, the heat wave that broiled Texas in 2011 was more complicated. That year was Texas’ driest on record, and one study cited in the report said local weather variability and La Niña were the primary causes, with a “relatively small” warming contribution. Another study had concluded that climate change made extreme events 20 times more likely in Texas.

Based on those and other conflicting studies, the federal draft concludes that there was a medium likelihood that climate change played a role in the Texas heat wave. But it avoids assessing other individual weather events for their link to climate change. Generally, the report described linking recent major droughts in the United States to human activity as “complicated,” saying that while many droughts have been long and severe, they have not been unprecedented in the earth’s hydrologic natural variation.

Worldwide, the draft report finds it “extremely likely” that more than half of the global mean temperature increase since 1951 can be linked to human influence.

Read the Draft of the Climate Change Report

Read the complete article in the New York Times.

 

Why Donald Trump’s tax cuts for the rich won’t make America great again

The impulsiveness and shallowness of America’s president threaten the economy as well as the rule of law. Graphic: The Economist

Donald Trump’s plan to lower taxes and deregulation, to “incentivise” investors and “free up” the economy won’t work because it never worked in the past.

When Ronald Reagan tried it in the 1980s, he claimed that tax revenues would rise. Instead, growth slowed, tax revenues fell, and workers suffered. The big winners in relative terms were corporations and the rich, who benefited from dramatically reduced tax rates.

Here’s Trump’s dilemma. His tax reform must be revenue neutral. That’s a political imperative: with corporations sitting on trillions of dollars in cash while ordinary Americans are suffering, lowering the average amount of corporate taxation would be unconscionable – and more so if taxes were lowered for the financial sector, which brought on the 2008 crisis and never paid for the economic damage. Moreover, Senate procedures dictate that to enact tax reform with a simple majority, rather than the three-fifths supermajority required to defeat an almost-certain filibuster by opposition Democrats, the reform must be budget-neutral for 10 years.

Most economists would agree that America’s current tax structure is inefficient and unfair. Some firms pay a far higher rate than others. Perhaps innovative firms that create jobs should be rewarded, in part, by a tax break. But the only rhyme or reason to who gets tax breaks appears to be the effectiveness of supplicants’ lobbyists.

But there’s the rub: the money must come from someone’s pocket. Import prices will go up. Consumers of cheap clothing from China will be worse off. To Trump’s team, this is collateral damage, the inevitable price that must be paid to give America’s plutocrats more money. But retailers such as Walmart, not just its customers, are part of the collateral damage, too. Walmart knows this – and won’t let it happen.

A politically astute president who understood deeply the economics and politics of corporate tax reform could conceivably muscle Congress toward a reform package that made sense. Trump is not that leader. If corporate tax reform happens at all, it will be a hodge-podge brokered behind closed doors. More likely is a token across-the-board tax cut: the losers will be future generations, out-lobbied by today’s avaricious moguls, the greediest of whom include those who owe their fortunes to scummy activities, like gambling.

The sordidness of all of this will be sugarcoated with the hoary claim that lower tax rates will spur growth. There is simply no theoretical or empirical basis for this, especially in countries like the US, where most investment (at the margin) is financed by debt and interest is tax deductible. The marginal return and marginal cost are reduced proportionately, leaving investment largely unchanged. In fact, a closer look, taking into account accelerated depreciation and the effects on risk sharing, shows that lowering the tax rate likely reduces investment.

In a country with so many problems – especially inequality – tax cuts for rich corporations will not solve any of them. This is a lesson for all countries contemplating corporate tax breaks – even those without the misfortune of being led by a callow, craven plutocrat.

Joseph E Stiglitz is a Nobel prize winner in economics, professor at Columbia University, a former senior vice-president and chief economist of the World Bank, and one-time chair of the US president’s council of economic advisers under Bill Clinton.

Read the complete article on The Guardian web site.

Trump’s Tweets Show Shallow Self

It is the hobgoblin of the littlest mind to live-tweet your response to a television show. Especially if that mind belongs to a president orphaned from reality.

The Morning Joe duo revealed on Friday that the Trump White House tried to blackmail them into shutting up about the president’s unhinged performance. That blackmail included the threat of a story to be published by Trump’s journal of record, the National Enquirer. The story would be spiked if Joe and Mika called to apologize.

In the worlds of politics and television, this is a bizarre turn of events. As the chief executive of the most powerful nation on the planet, what could justify such threats and tactics? It’s tempting to say these are the methods of the mob, but frankly the mafia would not stoop to morning television.

Naturally, Trump himself disputes the Morning Joe account. But strangely not the fact that he had a conversation about the National Enquirer with a TV star.

“Watched low rated @Morning_Joe for the first time in long time,” he tweeted unconvincingly. “FAKE NEWS. He called me to stop a National Enquirer article. I said no! Bad show”.

Presidential historians, please take note: the 45th president of the United States felt the most insulting way to end his message to the nation was to criticize Morning Joe as a “bad show”.

Melania Trump condemned people who use social media to spread insults and lies. “Our culture has gotten too mean and too rough,” she said.

How right she is. Unfortunately, in five very long months, her husband has made the culture even more mean and rough.

“We need to teach our youth American values: kindness, honesty, respect, compassion, charity, understanding, cooperation,” she said.

She could start right at home. Maybe over dinner tonight, with her husband and their son. It’s what you might call a teachable moment.

Problem is President Trump’s ego is both boundless and brainless, held within an orange-colored prune of advancing senility.

Read the complete article in The Guardian newspaper.

Tuscon, Arizona after Trump

Donald Trump is a well-known property developer and licensor of his brand name. Property developers know the greatest value of real esate and greatest demand for real estated is waterfront properties.

Thanks to Donald Trump dumping the Paris Accord more and more of America will soon become much more valuable as waterfront properties.

The Republicans who urged Trump to pull out of Paris deal are big oil darlings

James Inhofe: climate change’s biggest enemy in the Senate, and the co-author of the letter. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A withdrawal by Donald Trump from the Paris climate accord would go down as a hallmark of his presidency. It would be unilateral, reckless and splashy – trademark Trump. The president has said he will announce his decision at 3pm ET (8pm BST) on Thursday.

But while Trump has often stood on a range of issues as a maverick outlier from mainstream Republican politics, on climate change he is at the centre of the party’s orthodoxy. Trump’s disbelief in climate change and imminent decision on whether to support the Paris agreement reflects an area of unusual agreement between the president and elected Republicans, whose track record of climate change denialism is plain and long.

Unmissable behind the elected Republicans stand other interests: the oil, gas and coal industries, which together are some of the most influential donors to Republican candidates.

The big-money supporters got a return on their investment last week, when 22 Republican senators whose campaigns have collected more than $10m in oil, gas and coal money since 2012 sent a letter from the president urging him to withdraw from the Paris deal.

Donations from oil, gas and coal interests to the signatories of the letter are Open Secrets that seemed ready for a new review. A Guardian survey of Federal Elections Commission data organized by the Center for Responsive Politics found that the industries gave a total of $10,694,284 to the 22 senators over the past three election cycles.

Visible donations to Republicans from those industries exceeded donations to Democrats in the 2016 election cycle by a ratio of 15-to-1, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And that does not include so-called dark money passed from oil interests such as Koch industries to general slush funds to re-elect Republicans such as the Senate leadership fund.

At least $90m in untraceable money has been funneled to Republican candidates from oil, gas and coal interests in the past three election cycles, according to Federal Election Commission disclosures analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Here is a breakdown for the past three election cycles (2012, 2014 and 2016).

James Inhofe, Oklahoma

Oil & gas: $465,950

Coal: $63,600

Total: $529,550

John Barrasso, Wyoming

Oil & gas: $458,466

Coal: $127,356

Total: $585,822

Mitch McConnell, Kentucky

Oil & gas: $1,180,384

Coal: $361,700

Total: $1,542,084

John Cornyn, Texas

Oil & gas: $1,101,456

Coal: $33,050

Total: $1,134,506

Roy Blunt, Missouri

Oil & gas: $353,864

Coal: $96,000

Total: $449,864

Roger Wicker, Mississippi

Oil & gas: $198,816

Coal: $25,376

Total: $224,192

Michael Enzi, Wyoming

Oil & gas: $211,083

Coal: $63,300

Total: $274,383

Mike Crapo, Idaho

Oil & gas: $110,250

Coal: $26,756

Total: $137,006

Jim Risch, Idaho

Oil & gas: $123,850

Coal: $25,680

Total: $149,530

Thad Cochran, Mississippi

Oil & gas: $276,905

Coal: $15,000

Total: $291,905

Mike Rounds, South Dakota

Oil & gas: $201,900

Coal: none

Total: $201,900

Rand Paul, Kentucky

Oil & gas: $170,215

Coal: $82,571

Total: $252,786

John Boozman, Arkansas

Oil & gas: $147,930

Coal: $2,000

Total: $149,930

Richard Shelby, Alabama

Oil & gas: $60,150

Coal: $2,500

Total: $62,650

Luther Strange, Alabama

(Appointed in 2017, running in 2017 special election)

Total: NA

Orrin Hatch, Utah

Oil & gas: $446,250

Coal: $25,000

Total: $471,250

Mike Lee, Utah

Oil & gas: $231,520

Coal: $21,895

Total: $253,415

Ted Cruz, Texas

Oil & gas: $2,465,910

Coal: $103,900

Total: $2,569,810

David Perdue, Georgia

Oil & gas: $184,250

Coal: $0

Total: $184,250

Thom Tillis, North Carolina

Oil & gas: $263,400

Coal: $0

Total: $263,400

Tim Scott, South Carolina

Oil & gas: $490,076

Coal: $58,200

Total: $548,276

Pat Roberts, Kansas

Oil & gas: $388,950

Coal: $28,825

Total: $417,775

Sum total for all 22 Republican signatories: $10,694,284

Perhaps the only reason Donald Trump promoted ‘Drain The Swamp’ was to make it easier for oil & gas companies to drill.

Read the complete story on The Guardian web site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump had been said to be on the fence about the deal. Members of his inner circle, including his daughter, were reported to favor staying in.

“We strongly encourage you to make a clean break from the Paris Agreement,” read the letter, drafted by Wyoming’s John Barrasso, chairman of the Senate committee on environment and public works, and Oklahoma’s Jim Inhofe, a longtime climate change denier and senior member of that committee.

The letter argued that the Paris deal threatened Trump’s efforts to rescind the clean power plan, an Obama-era set of regulations and guidelines that include emissions caps and other rules deemed onerous by the fossil fuel industries.

It was not as if Trump wanted for advisers urging him to withdraw from the Paris deal even before the letter was sent. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt and chief strategist Stephen Bannon urged withdrawal, while energy secretary Rick Perry favored renegotiation.

Activists investigating Ivanka Trump’s China shoe factory detained or missing

Workers at the Huajian shoe factory, where about 100,000 pairs of Ivanka Trump-branded shoes have been made over the years among other brands. Photograph: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

A labour activist working undercover investigating abuses at a Chinese factory that makes Ivanka Trump shoes has been detained by police and two others are missing, raising concerns the company’s ties to the US president’s family may have led to harsher treatment.

Hua Haifeng was being held by police on suspicion of illegal surveillance, his wife Deng Guilian said. Hua had worked for labour rights organisations for more than a decade and was investigating a factory in southern Guangdong province for New York-based rights group China Labor Watch.

Hua, 36, attempted to travel to Hong Kong last week but was stopped at the border. He was later questioned by police in Shenzhen, a city on the border with Hong Kong, and was released. He then traveled to Jiangxi province and disappeared, before his wife was notified by police.

“I was scared when the police called me, I was shaking with a mix of fear and anger,” Deng told the Guardian, adding she was worried she would be unable to support their two young children as well as three elderly relatives without his income.

The case highlights the political sensitivity of a brand associated with the family of Donald Trump, who repeatedly bashed China for taking American jobs on the campaign trail but has since cosied up to president Xi Jinping.

Trump himself has been granted dozens of trademarks in China since becoming president, and relatives of Jared Kushner, an advisor to the president, were recently caught trying to entice wealthy investors into luxury developments, with the prospect of receiving US green cards in return.

Two other men, Li Zhao and Su Heng, had investigated a factory in Jiangxi province that assembles Ivanka Trump shoes and were still missing on Wednesday, said Li Qiang, executive director of China Labor Watch. He believes they have been detained by police or are being held at the factory.

“I think they were detained because this factory makes products for Ivanka Trump, so now this situation has become political and very complicated,” said Li. “I appeal to President Trump, Ivanka Trump herself, and to her brand to advocate and press for the release our activists.”

The undercover activists were to allege a host of labour violations at the plant, Li said, including paying below China’s legal minimum wage, managers verbally abusing workers and “violations of women’s rights”.

Li said he contacted the Ivanka Trump brand on April 27 to inform them of the labour violations, and urged them to ensure their suppliers were complying with Chinese law, but no changes were made.

The Ivanka Trump brand declined to comment when contacted by the Guardian. A woman who answered the phone at the Ganzhou, Jiangxi public security bureau said only, “I’m busy now,” before hanging up.

Calls to Huajian Group, the owner of the factory, went unanswered and staff at the factory where the three activists had gone undercover said they were not aware of the case.

Huajian also manufactures products for Coach, Karl Lagerfeld and Kendall + Kylie at the factory where the activists went undercover.

Read the complete article on The Guardian newspaper website.