Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Trump Charged With Stacey Abrams Syndrome

London Breed Is Falling Down :: Vaccine Heartache :: Network Effects Still A Thing :: Pediatricians Self-Correct :: Denmark Disallows Disrespect

Former Georgia Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and former President Donald Trump

On Tuesday, Department of Justice Special Counsel Jack Smith charged former president Donald J. Trump with three conspiracies related to the 2020 election and its aftermath: conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct vote certification proceedings, and conspiracy to violate the civil right to vote and have one’s vote counted. Trump’s conspiracies, the indictment stated, “targeted a bedrock function of the United States federal government.”

These charges all rest on the idea that Trump made “knowingly false” claims. But if Trump actually did believe the 2020 election was stolen, the accusation of a conspiracy to undermine democracy through illegal interference falls apart.

Smith’s indictment, notably, does not provide any evidence that Trump’s allegations of election fraud were “knowingly false.” Smith simply states that Trump was “notified repeatedly that his claims were untrue.” Without reading Trump’s mind, it is impossible to know whether he believed his claims or not.

The indictment does not accuse Trump of inciting the Capitol riot and yet Smith, in announcing his charges against Trump, discussed January 6. “The attack on our nation’s Capitol on January 6, 2021,” he said, “was an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy.” Smith’s indictment cites Trump’s speech on January 6 as a feature of his effort to sow doubt about the election and allegedly organize a conspiracy to overturn it.

But as Public has reported, there was more going on during the January 6 riot than Trump’s speech. Dozens of undercover agents and confidential human informants from multiple law enforcement agencies were present. Court documents indicate that there were FBI informants in two of the groups that organized the riot, the Proud Boys and the Oathkeepers.

And as Public documented last month, the FBI has a long history of using confidential informants to entrap people who otherwise would not have committed a crime. At best, the riot was a massive security failure; at worst, informants may have encouraged rioters to enter the Capitol.

While it is true that Trump lied before, during, and after the election, the Supreme Court has held that it is unconstitutional to prosecute politicians for lying.

One need not be a Trump supporter to recognize the dangerous precedent that Smith is setting. Democrats who wish to question or challenge election results in the future should be cautious.

Some might remember when Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams denied her own election defeat. “We had this little election back in 2018,” she said. “And despite the final tally and the inauguration and the situation we find ourselves in, I do have one very affirmative statement to make. We won.”

Lest there be any doubt about this, Abrams said the election was “stolen” and that it was “not a free or fair election.” She told The New York Times, “I won.” She claimed Georgia’s election laws were “rigged.”

Like Abrams’ claims, Trump’s false statements about the election were instances of political speech about a political event, and his attempt to have state legislatures submit alternative Electoral College electors was a fundamentally political act. We may not like this act, but that does not necessarily make it an illegal conspiracy. Smith’s indictment effectively criminalizes issues of political opinion and constitutional or statutory interpretation.

What’s more, it is clear that election denial has become baked into the political process. It is commonplace on both sides of the political aisle to question electoral losses. When Hillary Clinton lost to Trump in 2016, her campaign crafted the Russiagate narrative which fueled a vast conspiracy within the government to clamp down on freedom of expression on social media. We are still uncovering the extent and lasting effects that Clinton’s election denial has had on this country.

We can acknowledge that Trump did not execute a respectable and traditional transfer of power while still maintaining that prosecuting him for spreading disinformation about the election is a grave violation of the First Amendment. Arguably, it is a much greater threat to democracy than Trump’s false claims.

— AG


FBI Controlled The American Communist Party

Tablet last week published a must-read interview with David Garrow, the Pulitzer-winning biographer of books about the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Barack Obama. We will have more to say about the many revelations in the interview in a future article. But one stood out that is worth mentioning now: the FBI controlled the Communist Party of the United States.

Here’s the key passage:

TABLET: I remember there was a female historian who condemned you for publicizing the details of Dr. King’s sex life, which seemed like a strange position for a historian to take.

GARROW: The only people who were nasty about it were a trio of people whose professional history features a hatred of law enforcement. One of them had written a book about [the Black Panther and convicted murderer] Joanne Chesimard, or somebody like that.

You may have seen me say in print somewhere that there’s a very clear distinction in FBI documents. Something that comes from an electronic intercept is 99.9 percent reliable because they were very good transcriptionists. Where FBI records are bullshit is when it’s coming from human informants. Which is the whole elongated story of Dr. King being quoted as saying, “I am a Marxist.” Well, Morris Childs is telling the FBI what Gus Hall said Lem Harris told him that Stanley Levison told Lem. It’s like fifth-hand.

And the whole relationship between the bureau and the CPUSA was so totally fucked up because Hall and the other CPUSA hierarchy are embezzling significant amounts of money. The Childs were certainly embezzling some themselves. But the bureau is running the CPUSA. The bureau could have shut down CPUSA in about 1958.

It was one of those moments where I wondered: did everybody other than me already know this? I asked around. Nobody I knew had ever heard this.

But it’s true. Two American Communist Party officials, Morris Childs and Jack Childs, brothers, in 1958 started reporting to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover about their meetings with Chinese and Soviet leaders, Khrushchev and Mao. They also funneled Soviet money to the American Communist Party. The files providing it are on the National Security Archive’s web site.

But nothing like that is happening today, the FBI assured Public last month. There’s no reason to think any of these guys below, ha ha, are Feds. That would just be a silly conspiracy theory.

— MS

Members of the far-right group Patriot Front are seen marching through Washington, DC on May 13th, 2023. (Photo by Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

London Breed is Falling Down

San Francisco’s United Nations Plaza, just across the street from City Hall, is home to a teeming 24-hour open-air drug market, the biggest in the city. In the last five years, UN Plaza had more overdoses than any other block in San Francisco, the SF Standard reported yesterday. Since the start of the pandemic, at least 33 people have overdosed to death in that one-block radius.

The disorder emanating from the drug market is a metastasizing cancer on the city. It has driven the flagship mid-Market Whole Foods store, which experienced rampant theft and drug use by homeless addicts, out of business. Westfield Mall, a few blocks away, is also shuttering, due to rampant crime and disorder, including knifepoint robberies and human feces in its elevators. A YouTube video from a week ago showing all the store closures in the vicinity has more than 900,000 views.

The chaos has spread beyond downtown into adjacent residential neighborhoods. In Hayes Valley this week, a massive conflagration engulfed a construction site. It took more than 140 firefighters to put it out. The cause of the fire has not yet been confirmed, but neighbors report having seen homeless people in the past sheltering inside the unfinished building and starting fires.

In May, Hayes Valley’s neighborhood association wrote a letter to the Mayor, the police chief, and their district supervisor complaining about “a series of damaging fires,” including another construction site, around a tent encampment. “When we report these issues, every public servant tells us the same thing — they aren’t allowed to do anything about encampments because of the injunction,” the letter reads.

“The injunction” is a December 2022 court ruling prohibiting the city from sweeping homeless encampments. According to the federal magistrate, the city has violated the law by failing to offer displaced people shelter beds. But the city attorney argues that homeless people routinely refuse the shelter that’s offered them, in at least one case on the advice of their ACLU lawyers, who need their homeless plaintiffs to remain on the street to continue to maintain standing in their lawsuit against the city.

The Mayor has tried for years to overcome the formidable legal and political forces aligned behind the status quo, and force a change on the streets. But every effort she has made has failed.

Last year, a month after announcing a crackdown on crime, drug dealing and “all of the bullshit that has ruined our city,” Mayor London Breed opened a “linkage center” on the plaza in order to connect drug users to needed services like housing and addiction treatment. Just days after its opening, Michael and I and two other reporters revealed that the city’s public health department was running an illegal supervised drug consumption site in the center’s courtyard area. That turned out to be its primary function, as it was barely connecting anyone to services. The facility was closed down last December.

Since then, Governor Gavin Newsom has deployed the Highway Patrol and the National Guard to help disrupt the downtown drug trade. The District Attorney, who the Mayor appointed before the voters elected her, has been prosecuting criminals, in a radical shift from her predecessor.

But it’s not obvious to any casual observer that any of it has made a shred of difference. Dealers and addicts continue crowding UN Plaza at all hours of the night and day, and another drug dealing zone has taken root a few blocks away on 8th and Mission that rivals the plaza in its activity level.

It’s become hard even to imagine San Francisco turning things around, so accustomed have residents and visitors become to its deterioration and to the haplessness of its political leaders in the face of its decline. But California is famous as a place of reinvention. Never has the city needed to summon that spirit more than now.



Deep Fake of the Week

by Vincent Uill using MidJourney and Photoshop

Backlash to Disinformation Industry Grows

“Disinformation journalism is one of the most toxic editorial developments in the media,” writes Davide Mastriacci in an article titled, “The ‘Disinformation’ Craze Is Ruining What’s Left Of Journalism,” for The Maple. Mastriacci concludes that, “If journalism in Canada is to survive in a manner that’s of service to the public, the disinformation racket has to be shut down.”

Vaccine Heartache

Swiss researchers have published a new peer-reviewed study measuring the rate of vaccine-associated myocardial injury after taking the Moderna Covid-19 booster. The researchers measured cardiac biomarkers in hospital employees who received a booster and found myocardial injury in 2.8% of study participants.

This represents a significantly high level of risk — one in 35 — for a routine medical product. Notably, this is a risk that most people had no awareness of before getting boosted.

Despite plenty of scientific evidence, public health officials and the media continue to deny that myocarditis is a concern.

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