This segment originally aired Jan. 13, 2016, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.
When political candidates blow through town, they leave more than a trail of big promises and broken placards. They also leave behind a pile of debt.
Between them, the Trump, Clinton, and Sanders campaigns still owe towns and cities at least $678,000 for security and other costs incurred during the 2016 cycle. And many municipalities aren’t happy about getting stiffed.
“You know, it’s unfortunate that we’re stuck absorbing these costs,” said Tucson, Arizona city attorney Mike Rankin, who originally threatened to sue but decided to back down. City officials claim the Trump and Sanders’ campaigns combined owe over $126,000.
This segment originally aired Jan. 13, 2016, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.
New Jersey police pulled John Cramsey over outside the Holland Tunnel last June. Inside his truck, they found a cache of weapons. Cramsey told the cops that he was an anti-heroin activist on his way to Brooklyn to save a young girl from a drug den.
“I buried my baby girl back in February, 20 years old,” Cramsey said while speaking to a group of teens in Allentown, Pennsylvania. “We’re burying you kids way too quick. You have to save your generation before we lose them.”
After his daughter’s death of a heroin overdose, Cramsey sought revenge against all heroin dealers. He began posting pictures of himself in tactical gear alongside intimidating messages on Facebook.
His critics contend that Cramsey is no hero and, at most, drives addicts to rehab facilities. Still, he says he’ll continue with his campaign against drug dealers.
“Don’t worry about the blue and red lights after you. Worry about us angry dads,” Cramsey said.
This past October, I taught a weeklong seminar on the history of conservatism to honors students from around the state of Oklahoma. In five long days, my nine very engaged students and I got to know each other fairly well. Six were African American women. Then there was a middle-aged white single mother, a white kid who looked like any other corn-fed Oklahoma boy and identified himself as "queer," and the one straight white male. I'll call him Peter.
Peter is 21 and comes from a town of about 3,000 souls. It's 85 percent white, according to the 2010 census, and 1.2 percent African American—which would make for about 34 black folks. "Most people live around the poverty line," Peter told the class, and hunting is as much a sport as a way to put food on the table.
Peter was one of the brightest students in the class, and certainly the sweetest. He liked to wear overalls to school—and on the last day, in a gentle tweak of the instructor, a red "Make America Great Again" baseball cap. A devout evangelical, he'd preferred former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee at the start of the primary season, but was now behind Donald Trump.
One day the students spent three hours drafting essays about the themes we'd talked about in class. I invited them to continue writing that night so the next morning we could discuss one of their pieces in detail. I picked Peter's because it was extraordinary. In only eight hours he'd churned out eight pages, eloquent and sharp.
When I asked him if I could discuss his essay in this article, he replied, "That sounds fine with me. If any of my work can be used to help the country with its political turmoil, I say go for it!" Then he sent me a new version with typos corrected and a postelection postscript: "My wishful hope is that my compatriots will have their tempers settled by Trump's election, and that maybe both sides can learn from the Obama and Trump administrations in order to understand how both sides feel. Then maybe we can start electing more moderate people, like John Kasich and Jim Webb, who can find reasonable commonality on both sides and make government work." Did I mention he was sweet?
When he read the piece aloud in class that afternoon in October, the class was riveted. Several of the black women said it was the first time they'd heard a Trump supporter clearly set forth what he believed and why. (Though, defying stereotypes, one of these women—an aspiring cop—was also planning to vote for Trump.)
Peter's essay took off from the main class reading, Corey Robin's The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism From Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin. Its central argument is that conservative movements across history are united in their devotion to the maintenance of received social hierarchy. Peter, whose essay was titled "Plight of the Redneck," had a hard time seeing how that applied to the people he knew.
"We all live out in the wilderness, either in the middle of a forest or on a farm," he wrote. "Some people cannot leave their homes during times of unfortunate weather. Many still dry clothes by hanging them on wires with clothespins outside. These people are nowhere near the top, or even the middle, of any hierarchy. These people are scraping the bottom of the barrel, and they, seemingly, have nothing to benefit from maintaining the system of order that keeps them at the bottom." His county ended up going about 70 percent for Trump.
Concerning race, Peter wrote, "In Oklahoma, besides Native Americans, there have traditionally been very few minorities. Few blacks have ever lived near the town that I am from...Even in my generation, despite there being a little more diversity, there was no racism, nor was there a reason for racism to exist." His town's 34 or so black people might beg to differ, of course; white people's blindness to racism in their midst is an American tradition. As one of the African American students in the class—I'll call her Karen—put it, whites in her town see "racism as nonexistent unless they witness it firsthand. And then it almost has to be over the top—undeniable acts of violence like hate crimes or cross burnings on front lawns—before they would acknowledge it as such." But it's relevant to the story I'm telling that I'm certain Peter isn't individually, deliberately racist, and that Karen agrees.
Still, Peter's thinking might help us frame a central debate on the left about what to make of Trump's victory. Is it, in the main, a recrudescence of bigotry on American soil—a reactionary scream against a nation less white by the year? Or is it more properly understood as an economically grounded response to the privations that neoliberalism has wracked upon the heartland?
Peter knows where he stands. He remembers multiple factories and small businesses "shutting down or laying off. Next thing you know, half of downtown" in the bigger city eight miles away "became vacant storefronts." Given that experience, he has concluded, "for those people who have no political voice and come from states that do not matter, the best thing they can do is try to send in a wrecking ball to disrupt the system."
When Peter finished with that last line, there was a slight gasp from someone in the class—then silence, then applause. They felt like they got it.
I was also riveted by Peter's account, convinced it might be useful as a counterbalance to glib liberal dismissals of the role of economic decline in building Trumpland. Then I did some research.
According to the 2010 census, the median household income in Peter's county is a little more than $45,000. By comparison, Detroit's is about $27,000 and Chicago's (with a higher cost of living) is just under $49,000. The poverty rate is 17.5 percent in the county and 7.6 percent in Peter's little town, compared with Chicago's 22.7 percent. The unemployment rate has hovered around 4 percent.
The town isn't rich, to be sure. But it's also not on the "bottom." Oklahoma on the whole has been rather dynamic economically: Real GDP growth was 2.8 percent in 2014—down from 4.3 percent in 2013, but well above the 2.2 percent nationally. The same was true of other Trump bastions like Texas (5.2 percent growth) and West Virginia (5.1 percent).
Peter, though, perceives the region's economic history as a simple tale of desolation and disappointment. "Everyone around was poor, including the churches," he wrote, "and charities were nowhere near (this wasn't a city, after all), so more people had to use some sort of government assistance. Taxes went up [as] the help became more widespread."
He was just calling it like he saw it. But it's striking how much a bright, inquisitive, public-spirited guy can take for granted that just is not so. Oklahoma's top marginal income tax rate was cut by a quarter point to 5 percent in 2016, the same year lawmakers hurt the working poor by slashing the earned-income tax credit. On the "tax burden" index used by the website WalletHub, Oklahoma's is the 45th lowest, with rock-bottom property taxes and a mere 4.5 percent sales tax. (On Election Day, Oklahomans voted down a 1-point sales tax increase meant to raise teacher pay, which is 49th in the nation.).
As for government assistance, Oklahoma spends less than 10 percent of its welfare budget on cash assistance. The most a single-parent family of three can get is $292 a month—that's 18 percent of the federal poverty line. Only 2,469 of the more than 370,000 Oklahomans aged 18 to 64 who live in poverty get this aid. And the state's Medicaid eligibility is one of the stingiest in the nation, covering only adults with dependent children and incomes below 42 percent of the poverty level—around $8,500 for a family of three.
But while Peter's analysis is at odds with much of the data, his overall story does fit a national pattern. Trump voters report experiencing greater-than-average levels of economic anxiety, even though they tend have better-than-average incomes. And they are inclined to blame economic instability on the federal government—even, sometimes, when it flows from private corporations. Peter wrote about the sense of salvation his neighbors felt when a Walmart came to town: "Now there were enough jobs, even part-time jobs...But Walmart constantly got attacked by unions nationally and with federal regulations; someone lost their job, or their job became part-time."
It's worth noting that if the largest retail corporation in the world has been conspicuously harmed by unions and regulations of late, it doesn't show in its profits, which were $121 billion in 2016. And of course, Walmart historically has had a far greater role in shuttering small-town Main Streets than in revitalizing them. But Peter's neighbors see no reason to resent it for that. He writes, "The majority of the people do not blame the company for their loss because they realize that businesses [are about] making money, and that if they had a business of their own, they would do the same thing."
It's not fair to beat up on a sweet 21-year-old for getting facts wrong—especially if, as is likely, these were the only facts he was told. Indeed, teaching the class, I was amazed how even the most liberal students took for granted certain dubious narratives in which they (and much of the rest of the country) were marinated all year long, like the notion that Hillary Clinton was extravagantly corrupt.
Feelings can't be fact-checked, and in the end, feelings were what Peter's eloquent essay came down to—what it feels like to belong, and what it feels like to be culturally dispossessed. "After continually losing on the economic side," he wrote, "one of the few things that you can retain is your identity. What it means, to you, to be an American, your somewhat self-sufficient and isolated way of life, and your Christian faith and values. Your identity and heritage is the very last thing you can cling to...Abortion laws and gay marriage are the two most recent upsets. The vast majority of the state of Oklahoma has opposed both of the issues, and social values cannot be forced by the government."
On these facts he is correct: In a 2015 poll, 68 percent of Oklahomans called themselves "pro-life," and only 30 percent supported marriage equality. Until 2016 there were only a handful of abortion providers in the entire state, and the first new clinic to open in 40 years guards its entrance with a metal detector.
Peter thinks he's not a reactionary. Since that sounds like an insult, I'd like to think so, too. But in writing this piece, I did notice a line in his essay that I had glided over during my first two readings, maybe because I liked him too much to want to be scared by him. "One need only look to the Civil War and the lasting legacies of Reconstruction through to today's current racism and race issues to see what happens when the federal government forces its morals on dissenting parts of the country."
The last time I read that, I shuddered. So I emailed Peter. "I say the intrusions were worth it to end slavery and turn blacks into full citizens," I wrote. "A lot of liberals, even those most disposed to having an open mind to understanding the grievances of people like you and yours, will have a hard time with [your words]."
Peter's answer was striking. He first objected (politely!) to what he saw as the damning implication behind my observation. Slavery and Reconstruction? "I was using it as an example of government intrusion and how violent and negative the results can be when the government tries to tell people how to think. I take it you saw it in terms of race in politics. The way we look at the same thing shows how big the difference is between our two groups."
To him, focusing on race was "an attention-grabbing tool that politicians use to their advantage," one that "really just annoys and angers conservatives more than anything, because it is usually a straw man attack." He compared it to what "has happened with this election: everyone who votes for Trump must be racist and sexist, and there's no possible way that anyone could oppose Hillary unless it's because they're sexist. Accusing racism or sexism eliminates the possibility of an honest discussion about politics."
He asked me to imagine "being one of those rednecks under the poverty line, living in a camper trailer on your grandpa's land, eating about one full meal a day, yet being accused by Black Lives Matter that you are benefiting from white privilege and your life is somehow much better than theirs."
And that's when I wanted to meet him halfway: Maybe we could talk about the people in Chicago working for poverty wages and being told by Trump supporters that they were lazy. Or the guy with the tamale cart in front of my grocery store—always in front of my grocery store, morning, noon, and night—who with so much as a traffic violation might find himself among the millions whom Trump intends to immediately deport.
I wanted to meet him halfway, until he started talking about history.
"The reason I used the Civil War and Reconstruction is because it isn't a secret that Reconstruction failed," Peter wrote. "It failed and left the South in an extreme poverty that it still hasn't recovered from." And besides, "slavery was expensive and the Industrial Revolution was about to happen. Maybe if there had been no war, slavery would have faded peacefully."
As a historian, I found this remarkable, since it was precisely what all American schoolchildren learned about slavery and Reconstruction for much of the 20th century. Or rather, they did until the civil rights era, when serious scholarship dismantled this narrative, piece by piece. But not, apparently, in Peter's world. "Until urban liberals move to the rural South and live there for probably a decade or more," he concluded, "there's no way to fully appreciate the view."
This was where he left me plumb at a loss. Liberals must listen to and understand Trump supporters. But what you end up understanding from even the sweetest among them still might chill you to the bone.
Read Peter's full essay at motherjones.com/oklahoma.
Watching the inauguration yesterday, I saw the smallish crowds just like everyone else. My immediate thought was: Oh God, this means tomorrow will be a 24/7 offensive from the White House about how this was the biggest inaugural crowd ever in history. The boy king will demand no less.
Sure enough, that's what we got. Trump went out to visit the CIA today and informed everyone that the inauguration crowd was at least a million, maybe a million and a half. Then he sent out his press secretary, Sean Spicer, to deliver an unprecedented screed, yelling at the assembled reporters about how dishonest they were and then spewing out a whole array of fabricated numbers to back up his boss's lies. When he was done, he turned on his heels and left without taking any questions.
I'm not interested in pointless discussions of whether Trump does this stuff to distract us (in this case, from the massive number of people at the women's marches around the country). I suppose that's part of it. But it's obvious from decades of watching Trump that he simply can't abide any criticism, either express or implied. Everything he does has to be the biggest and best. He's incapable of not lashing out when anyone suggests otherwise.
That's obvious enough to be banal at this point. What I'm more interested in is when the media is going to get over its faintheartedness and start calling this stuff what it is: lies. On MSNBC, Jim Sciutto reminded us that Trump frequently says things that "defy the facts." CNN wrote about Spicer's "misstatements of fact." The New York Times said Trump's crowd numbers were "false." Other newspapers said the same thing in different ways.
But even by the strictest definition, Trump and Spicer were lying. Trump made up his numbers out of thin air, knowing perfectly well they were based on nothing. Spicer delivered a whole bunch of numbers that were obviously either invented or just plain fake—and did it in an angry tone that was clearly meant to intimidate everyone in the room.
All of this stuff was not just "false," it was knowingly false. Everyone knows this. So let's cut out the delicate language and the earnest panel discussions about whether Spicer might have a point about one thing or another. He was lying. Trump was lying. Can't we be adults and just say so?
More than a million people took to the streets of cities across the country Saturday to protest President Donald Trump on his first full day in office. Demonstrators at the events, which were billed as Women's Marches, criticized the president's policy agenda and his attacks on women and minorities. Many of the marchers pledged to use the rallies as a springboard to get involved in local politics.
"This is the first election in which I've become politically involved," said Olivia Lezcano, 20, from Cleveland. "So I'm considering getting involved with my local congressman and local municipal government."
The flagship event in Washington, DC, overwhelmed the city's train system, as event organizers were swamped with more than double the 200,000 people they expected. People packed Independence Avenue in downtown DC, which runs along the National Mall, eventually clogging the planned march route, according to the Associated Press, and likely surpassing the turnout for Trump's inauguration on Friday. Large numbers of marchers also came out in Denver, New York City, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Miami, and dozens of other cities around the United States and abroad.
We asked a range of the marchers in DC what they were committing to do over the next four years. You can check out their answers in the video above.
There’s a growing chorus of Canadians claiming they have been detained and turned away at the U.S. border for trying to attend the presidential inauguration and the Women’s March on Washington.
Sasha Dyck, a 34-year-old from Montreal, told reporters yesterday that he and five other Canadians and two French nationals were denied entry at the St. Bernard de Lacolle border crossing into New York on Friday after explaining their protest plans to the American border guards.
He claims the group was told to go to secondary screening where they spent hours being searched, fingerprinted, and were told to unlock their cell phones for inspection.
“I hope it doesn’t represent a closing down or a firming up of the border, or of mentalities south of the border,” said Dyck, who added that he had no trouble getting through the border for Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009.
Dyck, who also holds American citizenship but didn’t have that passport, said the border officials did not provide a reason for denying the group entry, something they don’t usually do anyway, as they have total discretion over who they deny or let in.
Thousands of other Canadians traveling by buses and planes did, however, successfully make it through to join the hundreds of thousands in Washington rallying for women’s rights.
CBC also heard from two other Montrealers who say they were also denied entry at the St. Bernard de Lacolle checkpoint on Thursday after a border guard asked what they were up to. “The first thing he asked us point blank is, ‘Are you anti- or pro-Trump?’” McGill University student Joseph Decunha told the news outlet.
“According to the agent, my traveling to the United States for the purpose of protesting didn’t constitute a valid reason to cross,” he continued. “It’s concerning to see that at a border crossing you’re being screened for what your political beliefs are.”
Also on Thursday, U.K. national Joe Kroese said he and a group of three American and Canadian friends were also detained at the same crossing after telling the guard they had tentative plans to attend the Women’s March. Kroese, 23, told the Guardian on Saturday the border guard said they weren’t allowed through because the march was a “potentially violent rally.”
A couple from Sudbury, Ontario told the CBC they were allowed through the Niagara Falls border on Thursday, but only after being subjected to hours of questioning about their motives. “We were told essentially that, as Canadians, we had no right to go and participate in this march,” said Amber Gazdic. “[They said] it’s none of our business, and Canada has its own problems we should address.”
A spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not immediately respond to a request for comment from VICE News, but has released statements saying they cannot comment on specific cases for privacy reasons, and that visitors to the U.S. must always “state the true purpose of your travel.”
In a statement to Reuters, a spokesman for Canada’s Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said that U.S. authorities are entitled to search the cell phones of Canadians trying to cross the border.
“When entering another country, including Canada, it has always been the case that goods accompanying a traveler may be searched to verify admissibility,” said Scott Bardsley, the minister’s press secretary. “Every country is sovereign and able to make its own rules to admit people and goods to manage its immigration framework, health and safety.”
It’s unclear what, if any, new Trump administration policies will impact relations with Canada. He has vowed to overhaul major trade agreements among the U.S., Canada and Mexico. His inauguration speech on Friday was isolationist in tone and promised to put “America first.”
In his inaugural address Donald Trump promised to make America great again, but he also used some very stark, dire language to describe the current state of the country. Here is a selection of the some of the strongest rhetoric he used:
Hundreds of thousands of people descended on Washington D.C. for the Women’s March on Washington, one day after President Donald Trump was sworn into office, marking one of the largest mass mobilizations after an inauguration in recent history. And more than 100 solidarity marches and protests are taking place around the world, including an estimated gathering of 100,000 protestors in London. All told, an estimated 3-4 million people participated in the protests worldwide.
Estimates and D.C. Metro ridership data put attendance at more than 500,000 people, suggesting Saturday’s protest saw a significantly larger turnout than Trump’s inauguration the day before.
The Women’s March started as a decentralized movement organized primarily online in response to the election of Trump, but it quickly mushroomed into a massive mobilization. The march is not explicitly anti-Trump. Instead, it’s intended “to send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights,” according to the mission statement online. The organizers of the march emphasized that any and all “defenders of human rights” are welcome to attend.
On stage in D.C., iconic feminist leader Gloria Steinem opened the march with strong words for President Trump and described the events as the beginning of a movement. “When we elect a possible president, we too often go home. We’ve elected an impossible president and we’re never going home. We’re staying together and we’re taking over,” Steinem said.
“This is the upside of the downside. This is an outpouring of energy and true democracy like I have never seen in my very long life,” she added.
In addition to the overarching feminist theme, the event attracted activists in favor of a wide range of causes. People at the march showed their support for the environment, LGBT rights, anti-gun violence, immigrant rights, and criminal justice reform.
Since its grassroots beginnings, the Women’s March has since attracted the support of some prominent organizations and female leaders. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, NARAL Pro-Choice America and the ACLU are sponsors. Civil rights and feminist icons Angela Davis and Gloria Steinem are honorary co-chairs. Democrats Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand plan to attend the march in their home cities of Boston and New York, respectively.
The march is expected to be bigger than the inauguration itself. Less than 400 buses received permits for Friday’s ceremony, compared to the 1,200 permits given by the city for the Women’s March the following day.
The hashtag #WhyIMarch has helped to spread the word about the march and increase its visibility in the weeks leading up to it.
I'm marching to ensure we don't roll back the clock on women's rights and to empower women & girls to speak out & be heard. #WhyIMarch
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) January 17, 2017
— michele mueller (@hilarybama) January 20, 2017
— Linda Sarsour (@lsarsour) January 20, 2017
On the night before Donald Trump’s inauguration, Trump confidant Roger Stone received a call from the New York Times asking for comment about a broad investigation by law enforcement and intelligence agencies into his alleged ties to Russia.
VICE News Tonight reporter Elle Reeve was with Stone when the Times called and VICE News filmed his reaction. It was part of a hectic evening for Trump’s controversial advisor — we also followed him to the Deploraball, billed as the official party of the alt-right’s most dedicated Trump supporters, where his group was turned away at the door.
Watch the story from VICE News Tonight on HBO:
And when you’re done, watch the entire inauguration episode:
MOSCOW — It was an average Friday night in the noisy bar of Moscow’s Chicago Prime steakhouse, save for two details: Many of the patrons were wearing red Trump-Pence campaign hats, and the televisions suspended above the bar were showing Fox News.
Welcome to inauguration night in Moscow.
Chicago Prime was one of a handful of bars in the Russian capital hosting viewing parties for the inauguration of Donald Trump, a politician who gives many Russians hope for a brighter future and reminds them of their own president, Vladimir Putin.
Real estate consultant Georgy Cheremsky said that while watching the ceremony, he had the “impression that Trump was in control.” Russians like Trump, he added, because Trump voiced his sympathy for Putin, who “is considered a great president by lots of Russians.”
Russia left its stamp on the 2016 presidential election. Trump’s regular praise of Putin coupled with the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russian military services ordered the hack on the Democratic National Committee in an effort to swing the election toward Trump shrouded the 45th president’s administration in controversy before it even began. Then an unverified and explosive dossier was leaked last week alleging that Russian intelligence had gathered compromising material, known in Russia as kompromat, on Trump that could be used to influence his policy decisions as president.
Cloak-and-dagger intrigue notwithstanding, Russia has been unabashedly pro-Trump; it was the only G20 country in which a majority of people polled during the race favored the businessman over Hillary Clinton. Trump enjoys a vaunted stature on Russian state television and recently saw Putin come to his defense, challenging the dossier’s legitimacy and accusing reporters who cover such “fake reports” as being “worse than prostitutes.”
Trump’s ascendence to the presidency on Friday elicited an outpouring of support in Moscow that was far greater than anything Obama experience here in 2008 when he took office, even though Obama had given hope to Russians exhausted by George W. Bush’s overreaching foreign policy.
“I would like to make a hat that says, ‘Make Russian-American relations great for the first time,’” biomedical engineer Pavel Vereshchetin said at the viewing party. “That’s why Russians are excited. It’s a win-win-win, for (Russia, America) and the international community.”
Russia’s inauguration celebrations kicked off on Thursday at the Moscow karaoke restaurant Arbat 13 with a concert by The Trump Band and Willi Tokarev, a Russian emigre to the U.S. who made his name in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn singing about America and the criminal underworld.
At the karaoke night, he performed a song with the refrain, “Trump, Trump, he’s unbelievable! Trump, Trump, he’s superman!”
The celebration parties were hardly limited to Moscow. In Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-largest city located about 1,100 miles east of the capital, the Ogonyok bar advertised an inauguration event where participants could “meet those very same Russian hackers,” drink half-off vodka, dance to DJs dressed as Trump and Putin, and take selfies in Trump masks and versions of the red “Make America Great Again” baseball hat that Alec Baldwin recently translated into broken Russian.
“This Friday is the inauguration of U.S. president Donald Trump, a president chosen thanks to an attack by our hackers, a president whose collection includes photos with all of Russia’s star entertainers, a president whose election all of Russia greeted happily,” read the bar’s Facebook event page.
Meanwhile, the Russian Army chain of clothing stores on Friday offered U.S. citizens and embassy workers a 10 percent discount in honor of Trump’s inauguration.
Conservative activists who hosted a viewing party to root for Trump on election night were behind an event for his inauguration in the huge Central Telegraph building in downtown Moscow. Maria Katasonova, a member of the pro-Kremlin National Liberation Movement, posed for photographs in front of her infamous triptych featuring Putin, Trump, and French far-right politician Marine Le Pen. She argued Trump’s inauguration could “become a new page in history when the world becomes multipolar.”
The triptych will be fully realized once Le Pen wins in France’s April elections, she added.Pro-Kremlin National Liberation Movement member Maria Katasonova, pictured second from right, posed for photographs during an inauguration celebration in downtown Moscow's Central Telegraph building. Alec Luhn
The who’s-who of Moscow’s ultraconservative chattering classes sipped cheap champagne and ate meat pirogis as inauguration coverage played on a big screen and hosts from the far-right Tsargrad television channel led upbeat discussions about the future. At one point, they played Russian rapper Sha Man’s “Trump” music video featuring cartoons of the new president smiling in a Superman outfit and laughing as dollar bills floated behind him.
“Trump-paru-pam, Trump-paru-pam, a red fox in a black-and-white herd!”
Copies were on hand of “Black Swan,” a new Russian-language biography of Trump.
“People look at [the inauguration] with interest, with the same interest as the Oscars or the Olympics,” said pro-Kremlin blogger Anton Korobkov-Zemlyansky. He held one of many Guy Fawkes masks at the event, meant as a humorous symbol of the Russian hackers that he, like many here, denied had influenced the U.S. election.
Katosonova said the event was sponsored by a group called White Star and had no connections with the Kremlin. But several figures tied to the government were in attendance, including nationalist member of parliament Alexei Zhuravlyov. He was one of several to laud Trump.
“Russia likes strong people, Russia likes strong men, plus [Trump] likes our women,” Zhuravlyov said. “He’s a normal person, and he isn’t afraid to say the truth.” Trump’s off-color sense of humor, reminiscent of Putin’s own penchant for salty jokes, was also cited by many of his fans here.
“I’m sympathetic to Trump because he asks in ways that aren’t customary in society, he talks about grabbing women by a certain area,” said well-known conservative talk show host Maxim Shevchenko. “I watched his debates with Clinton, she was like a robot, he was like a human. Americans are sick of robots. They got tired of Democrats with their moralism and desire to create a new liberal socialism.”
He added that the internal conflict he expected under Trump would turn the United States inward and give Russia and the world a rest from “imperial wars and liberal values.” The more problems for America, the fewer for Russia, he said.
In addition to admiration for Trump, there was a palpable joy that the existing order was being turned on its head. Former member of parliament Dmitry Nosov said he wanted Trump to usher in warm relations with Russia, but more importantly, he longed for a break from humdrum politics-as-usual.
“I have hopes that it will be action-packed, it will be interesting,” Nosov said. “Not boring like before.”
After waiting all night at the foot of the Juarez-Lincoln International Bridge, Yojaine Fernandez, a brawny plumber who’d spent the previous five weeks migrating from Cuba to the U.S.-Mexico border, was first in line to enter Texas on Jan. 12.
Immigration agents ushered Fernandez and several other Cubans into an office and began processing them for legal residency. But as the agents took photos, fingerprints, and biographical data, America’s so-called “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which for half a century had granted Cuban citizens automatic admission to the States, officially came to an end.
And so, having arrived at the border one day too late, Fernandez was forced to return to Mexico.
“Just imagine what that feels like,” the 34-year-old Fernandez said while standing on a street corner in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, within sight of the bridge that almost led him to America. “It was an awful blow — I was finally fulfilling my dream.”Yojaine Fernandez. (Photo by Meredith Hoffman)
Fernandez scowled for a moment beneath his black Adidas hat. Then he brightened.
“We have hope that President Trump will do something for us,” he said. “I’ll keep waiting here until he says something.”
Both successful and prospective immigrants tend to dread the thought of a Trump administration, but Cubans desperate for passage into the U.S. are looking to the new president as their possible redeemer, hoping he will reverse President Obama’s sudden revocation of the wet foot, dry foot policy. There’s little reason to believe Trump, who campaigned on harsh immigration crackdowns, will make current U.S. immigration policy more liberal, but as hundreds of stunned Cubans wait in northern Mexico and continue trekking through Latin America, they can do little but cling to hopes that he will.
The U.S. had considered Cubans political refugees since 1966, when thousands fled the Castro regime after the revolution. But in the wake of the normalization of U.S. relations with Cuban, Obama announced Jan. 12 that the U.S. would begin “treating migrants from Cuba like we treat migrants from all other countries.” Meanwhile Trump, who has called Cuba an “authoritarian island,” has threatened to “terminate the deal” with the island nation — though he has not clarified his plans.
If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 28, 2016
Every day in Nuevo Laredo, a crowd of Cubans — families, seniors, groups of friends, individuals whose relatives are in the U.S. — pack the street corner across from Juarez-International Bridge, hoping the border guards will again allow them to cross. The Cubans huddle there from dawn until nightfall, and more arrive each day after completing their journeys through Latin America. They pass around food and clothing donations from local churches, and share snacks and stories.
“We were in a bus just six miles from here when my friend messaged me on Facebook that the law had changed to stop letting in Cubans — none of us could believe it,” said Angel Diaz, 38, who reached Nuevo Laredo with his wife, 6-month-old daughter, and 8-year-old son on Jan. 12. “Our plans are to wait with a lot of patience and calm, and to see what Trump does.”Angel Diaz and Irina Ricardo hold their two children. (Photo by Meredith Hoffman)
Diaz, who said he studied economics and served in the Cuban Marines, fled Cuba two years ago with his family and worked in Ecuador for two years saving money to migrate to the States, a two-month journey that included hiking through the notoriously dangerous and remote Darién Gap straddling Colombia and Panama.
“I’d go to prison in Cuba for what I said about the administration,” Diaz said while holding his baby daughter. “I left for political problems. I love the country but I don’t agree with the system.”
Migrants waiting in Nuevo Laredo were eager to share their stories: crossing 13 countries to get here, selling all their belongings, spending days in detention centers in Mexico awaiting approval to continue north. One woman said she had to be airlifted out of the jungle by helicopter because she’d become so dehydrated after days of hiking.
As the Cubans congregated on the corner, leaning against the faded stucco wall of a money exchange store and eyeglass shop — nearby store owners said they had become friendly with the Cubans, and one had even offered one a job — a cluster of men gathered around a visitor from the U.S.
“Here I feel like I’m with my family,” said Rainier Prado, a Cuban-American who had migrated to the U.S. five years earlier and now lives in West Texas, where he’s working to save money to bring his wife and child to the States. His advice for the migrants?
“They should wait to see what Trump does.”Pastor Aaron Mendez Ruiz. (Photo by Meredith Hoffman)
Pastor Aaron Mendez Ruiz, who runs Casa de Migrante Amar, a 100-person shelter in Nuevo Laredo where migrants have flocked, said that he doesn’t believe Trump will change anything. Nonetheless, he encourages the migrants and makes space for as many as possible; he believes there are currently about 130 in the city. Though most residents of Nuevo Laredo have expressed sympathy and kindness, the migrants are easy targets for gangs.
Despite the efforts of Ruiz and others, the Cubans may not be able to stay much longer. On Wednesday the Mexican government announced it planned to deport Cubans waiting in the border city, though it was unclear when deportations would begin or if there would be any way to apply to stay in the country. The migrants were not yet aware of the plan, but Ruiz said he read the news with dread.
“This was their opportunity and they lost it,” Ruiz said. “But I’ll let them stay as long as they need… I can’t abandon them.”
Meredith Hoffman is a freelance journalist based in Austin who has reported from South and Central America, Europe, New York, and throughout Texas. She regularly writes on immigration for VICE.
He must have been exhausted. We have all been exhausted, watching America shout down common sense and set ablaze the last few defensible vestiges of circa-1787 political and economic philosophy. But as much as it all weighed on many of us, he carried extra baggage. He had literally written the book on Donald J. Trump's bent psyche and business. He had forgotten more dirt on Trump than reporters of my generation ever dug up.
But Wayne Barrett, a longtime Village Voice investigative political reporter and mentor to hundreds of journalists, wasn't tired. He wanted to work, man; and work he did, even as he was driven away to the hospital for the last time, dying there at 71 late Thursday. Wayne needed all the time allotted to him, because America needed him.
On the drive to the hospital where he breathed his last, Wayne Barrett was still doing interviews for a big, tough story on Donald Trump.— Tom Robbins (@tommy_robb) January 20, 2017
When it became clear a year ago that Trump actually might ascend to lead the nation's oldest political party, Wayne's 1992 investigative biography, Trump: The Deals and the Downfall, got a reprint—and an instant audience among other journalists. Based on digging Wayne had done since the '70s, it's the keel on which a great deal of the best Trump reporting was built.
Trump was only one of the big whales Wayne hunted, though. He wrote two books on Rudy Giuliani, scorching his largely bogus 9/11 heroism, along with his relationship-wrecking and influence-peddling. In 37 years at the Voice, and recently in other fair corners of the internet, Wayne put the screws to Ed Koch, Al D'Amato, Mike Bloomberg, and multiple Cuomos.
Over the past 18 months, Wayne fielded a steady stream of calls and emails. Reporters asked for help with a distant mob name, a defunct company, a disgruntled counterparty. "I got some stuff on it in the basement," he told me on the phone last year when I ran a very specific bit of '80s Trump trivia past him. "Come on up and dig."
Lots of reporters took him up on similar offers, a steady queue of them making the pilgrimage to the Brooklyn house he shared with his wife, Fran, to chitchat and sift boxes on boxes of notes and clippings downstairs. He was there for all of us, even if it the scheduling occasionally had to be done by one of his research interns.
Ah, the interns. Wayne maintained an army of them to dig through databases, cajole sources, connect dots, and frequently co-author pieces with him. Like the paper's size, the Voice's office space shrank over the years, and six of us at a time might pile into Wayne's cube for a quick confab. I once tried to spread out into the mostly empty next-door cubicle, which worked fine for a week until Nat Hentoff ambled in and cussed me out for a good three minutes, yelling to have his goddamn desk back.
The interns of Barrett Nation. You know them, even if you don't realize it. They shape Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, Politico, ABC News, every major New York paper, and certainly this magazine, as my former colleague Gavin Aronsen and I have written. We are not all journalists now, and those of us in the profession aren't all investigative reporters—one of my cohort is a book reviewer of some note and another is a fast-paced entertainment reporter, but goddamn, if you are hiding dirt, they will find it.
I loved Wayne, even when he was screaming at me, a rite of passage any of his interns can describe. He pursued truth and exposed sin with the zeal of a young Jesuit, which was fitting, since he'd considered taking up the cloth before a debate scholarship sent him to St. Joe's College in Philly. I'd had a similar upbringing, joining the military instead of the church, debating in school, and seeking an outlet for my inflamed sense of justice.
Wayne had that fire, and lighting up other people was how it manifested sometimes. We were in a serious business. We had to be thorough, accurate, fair—even when we were breaking shit.
But it was all to an end. If Wayne burned for justice, he practiced it, too, singing his protégés' praises to recruiters, offering a crash weekend at his beach place down the shore in Jersey, taking a sincere interest in his charges' spouses, children, money, and family issues. "He was a family man" is often a hollow note in these kinds of tributes. But family—his and everybody else's—truly was Wayne's greatest pleasure, and the reason he couldn't not needle the greedy who screwed the rest of us.
For more than a year, we watched Republicans slouching toward Trump Tower, saying that yes, seriously, they believed this debauched tycoon with a rambling sales script and an unadulterated id could handle the nukes. We saw Russia tossing gasoline on the fire, beheld our media colleagues collapsing under the weight of takes and think pieces on how maybe facts don't matter. Now we watch the Queens-bred Caligula begin to rip up the things that make America an idea worth defending. And Wayne's illness, exacerbated by his all-consuming work, has chosen this moment to take him from us.
We are allowed to be exhausted and dispirited and fearful. This has all really happened, and the ineptitude and malice of the incoming administration will cost lives and livelihoods. But we are not allowed to stop. Wayne wouldn't let us.
I worked for Wayne when Rudy Giuliani was making his last serious stab at a presidential bid, and we spent a lot of time running down new stories on the candidate. His campaign had looked formidable early on, but hizzoner flamed out spectacularly and retreated into private consulting.
Was it bittersweet, I asked Wayne? His white whale, the subject of years of his life's work, was finished and never coming back.
Wayne laughed. It was the laugh of a man who wasn't about to retire from the truth-digging, shit-kicking business, no matter how good or bad it might get. "He'll come back, man," he said. "These guys always come back."
The fun part, Wayne said, was that the good guys came back, too.
President Donald Trump famously munched on KFC chicken, McDonald's hamburgers, and taco bowls during his campaign, and he picked a fast-food mogul as his labor secretary. But when it came time for his first day in office, Trump dined on haute cuisine. The three-course inaugural luncheon included Maine lobster, Angus beef, and chocolate soufflé, all washed down with California wines. You can see the full menu here.
While it comes as no surprise that a new leader's luncheon would include such fancy fare, that doesn't mean every president has dined in such luxury—Roosevelt faced butterless rolls at the first lunch of his fourth term, which occurred during the stark days of World War II. Here's a quick journey through some of our past presidents' inaugural meals:
1865: Abraham Lincoln's midnight inaugural buffet serves foie gras, turtle stew, and leg of veal. Too bad a rowdy, drunken mob use it to start a food fight.
1889: After a meal of oysters, cold tongue, and quail, Benjamin Harrison and his guests are presented with a cake replica of the Capitol building, measuring six feet tall and weighing 800 pounds.
1945: In the interest of wartime rationing, Franklin D. Roosevelt's housekeeper, Henrietta Nesbitt, serves guests cold chicken salad, rolls without butter, coffee with no sugar, and cake with no frosting at the president's fourth inauguration.
1957: In the short-lived tradition of "minorities dinners," Dwight D. Eisenhower's staff serves Greek salad and gefilte fish at the president's second inauguration.
1977: Jimmy Carter cancels his inaugural meal so he can be the first to walk from the Capitol to the White House in the parade after being sworn in. In lieu of a lavish luncheon, his guests munch on peanuts and pretzels.
1981: Ronald Reagan relied on jelly beans to quit smoking, so for his inaugural festivities, Herman Goelitz Candy Company of Oakland, California, sends three and a half tons of cherry, coconut, and blueberry Jelly Bellies to the White House.Former first lady Nancy Reagan toasts Ronald Regan on Inauguration Day in 1985. AP Photo/John Duricka
1993: Transition aide Richard Mintz calls the American menu at Bill Clinton's inauguration a "cross between a Crittenden County coon supper and a formal state dinner."
2005: George W. Bush starts his second inaugural meal with a prayer and finishes it with a steamed lemon pudding, one of Teddy Roosevelt's favorite desserts.George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush bow their heads in prayer after being sworn in. AP Photo/Dennis Cook
2009: In honor of Abraham Lincoln's bicentennial birthday, Barack Obama chooses a menu inspired by the 16th president's favorite foods: pheasant, duck, and caramel apple cake.Barack Obama toasts Joe Biden with "Special Inaugural Cuvée." Obama White House/Flickr
The streets of Washington descended into chaos today with tear gas, vandalism and at least 217 protesters arrested for demonstrating against President Donald Trump.
But the tumult was not limited to the streets. President Trump’s signing ceremony quickly spiraled into a brief bit of confusion over who received a pen, whether Senator Chuck Schumer knew how to properly cap a pen, and whether or not President Trump, in true maverick fashion, had “added some letters” to his name.
Watch a compilation of the carnage in the video above.
As John Lewis and 66 other Democratic members of Congress boycotted the festivities surrounding the inauguration of Donald J. Trump, they got an earful from pundits about how wrong it was to question the “legitimacy” of an elected US president.
“For all of John Lewis’s heroic service to his country,” wrote the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus (1/16/17), “the Georgia congressman’s assertion that Donald Trump is not a ‘legitimate‘ president was not appropriate or helpful.”
“In the end, the protests are not about legitimacy,” declared Jonathan Turley (USA Today, 1/19/17). “Trump is by any measure our duly elected and legitimate president. It is about a refusal to accept legitimate results.”
“I’m ready to grit my teeth and accept Trump as our legitimate president for the sake of national unity,” said Clarence Page (Chicago Tribune, 1/17/17), “just as I hoped America would unite behind President Obama, whether they voted for him or not.” He went on to “suspect that Lewis, not being a stupid man by any means, knows Trump is ‘legitimate,’ at least in the constitutionally legal sense.”
While acknowledging that “moral legitimacy” was “in the eye of the beholder,” Page concluded that “as good Americans, we should support our newly elected president in good faith, even as we criticize his ways—and look ahead to the next election.”
In Real Clear Politics (1/17/17), Carl Cannon and Caitlin Huey-Burns wrote of “The Danger of Delegitimizing Trump,” which turned out to be a warning that there might be “long-term ramifications to these guerrilla tactics that Republicans can choose to employ the next time they lose the White House.” So Republicans might start questioning the legitimacy of a Democratic president? Ominous.
Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/18/17) complained that “Lewis is…refusing to attend Trump’s inauguration and arguing that Trump cannot be a legitimate president because of Russian meddling in the election.” His rebuttal to that was peculiar:
Lewis may have reason to believe that Trump did not win fair and square, but questioning Trump’s legitimacy is exactly what the Russians probably wanted from the beginning: to undermine Western and American faith and confidence in democracy.
So Goldberg’s argument is that you should not question the legitimacy of a president who, through “Russian meddling,” likely “did not win fair and square”—because, otherwise, the Russians win? Got it.
Goldberg noted as “a sign of Lewis’ partisanship that he also boycotted George W. Bush’s first inauguration because he didn’t think Bush was legitimate either.” That’s the Bush, you may recall, who lost the popular vote, but was awarded the presidency when a partisan majority of the Supreme Court ordered a halt to the recount in Florida. That George W. Bush.
(Goldberg also cited, as an example of “poisonous cynicism,” Lewis’ “insinuating that voting for Mitt Romney might lead America to ‘go back’ to the days of fire hoses, police dogs and church bombings.” Those who have followed the struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline are aware that the use of water cannon and attack dogs against protesters is alive and well in 21st century America. As for church bombings, the BATF has reported at least 2,378 cases of arson at houses of worship over the past 20 years—if you’ll pardon my cynicism.)
Why is it so important to corporate media commentators that presidential legitimacy not be questioned? By and large, they are part of, and identify with, an establishment whose fragility is all too evident. That’s why you get circular arguments like Marcus pleading for the public to accept election results because accepted election results are what the public needs:
At some point, after the procedures established by the rule of law have run their course, the country needs to accept the result, however difficult it may be…. Trump is a legitimate president because our system demands finality and acceptance even in the presence of uncertainty. Posting an asterisk next to an election result is not healthy for democracy.
That’s completely wrong: Refusal to accept undemocratic results is the only thing that has moved democracy forward. This country came into being when people refused to accept a system in which the chief executive was the first-born son of the previous chief executive. Even though hereditary monarchy was the procedure established by the rule of law, the signers of the Declaration of Independence rejected it, holding that it was their inalienable right to alter or abolish their form of government.
The new system of government, of course, still left almost everything to be desired from the standpoint of democracy. From 1789 until 1824, the proportion of the US population taking part in presidential elections never got above 4 percent, and usually was closer to 1 percent. With the extension of suffrage to non-propertied white men, to African-American men, to women, to young adults, the country came closer to being a society where the people actually ruled—but this happened only when the people refused to concede the legitimacy of systems designed to disenfranchise.
It’s easy to see now that a country where only wealthy white men could vote was not a democracy. For some of us, it’s equally obvious that the system we have now—where a candidate who loses by 2.9 million votes is declared the winner, due to an archaic structure designed to preserve the power of slaveholders; where voter suppression removes voters from the rolls or simply leaves their votes uncounted; where vast disparities of wealth allow a handful of billionaires to alter the course of elections—cannot call itself democratic either.
Only when we refuse to accept such results—when we say that a rigged system has no legitimacy—will these problems be addressed. It’s the boycotters, and not the legitimacy-mongers, who are pushing this country toward what it ought to be.
In the hours leading up to Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday, Washington D.C. was riddled with protests organized by a range of issue groups. Kicking off before sunrise, Black Lives Matter to climate activists marched through the city.
While a majority of the protests appeared to be peaceful and only blocked pedestrian traffic or checkpoints, some escalated. At least 95 people have been arrested as of Friday evening, according to various reports, after smashing windows and damaging other property.
Protests, including the widely-publicized Women’s March on Washington, are expected to continue over the weekend.
Rex Santus contributed to this report.
Barack Obama had to hand his @POTUS Twitter handle to Donald Trump Friday afternoon. But the now ex-president isn't ditching the social media platform. After he'd taken off from DC in a helicopter, Obama revved up his old Twitter handle to reassure people that (after a brief vacation) he'd be back.
Hi everybody! Back to the original handle. Is this thing still on? Michelle and I are off on a quick vacation, then we’ll get back to work.— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) January 20, 2017
To fulfill his campaign slogan of "Make America great again," Donald Trump must back the boom in green technology—that was the message from the leading climate figures ahead of his inauguration as president on Friday.
Unleashing US innovation on the trillion-dollar clean technology market will create good US jobs, stimulate its economy, maintain the US' political leadership around the globe and, not least, make the world a safer place by tackling climate change, the experts told the Guardian.
The omens are not encouraging. Trump has called global warming a hoax and is filling his administration with climate change deniers and oil barons. But reversing action on climate change and championing fossil fuels will only "make China great again," said one top adviser.
Here are the messages to Trump from some of the key figures the Guardian contacted.
Michael Liebreich, founder of analyst firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance who has advised the UN and World Economic Forum on energy: "If I had one minute with president elect Trump my message would be that the best way to 'Make America great again' is by owning the clean energy, transportation and infrastructure technologies of the future. Not only will this create countless well-paid, fulfilling jobs for Americans, but will also lock in the US' geopolitical leadership for another generation."
John Schellnhuber of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, who has advised Angela Merkel, the Pope and the EU: "Mr. President, if you want to make China great again, you have to stay the course you have promised. I think it would be the end of US domination in innovation, in economics. If you try to take the US backwards to the days of mountain top removal [for coal] in West Virginia and all those things, then you will just make sure China becomes No. 1 in all respects. In the end, you would produce precisely what you promised to avoid to your electorate."
Dame Julia King, an eminent engineer and one of the UK government's official advisers at the Committee on Climate Change: "If President Trump wants to deliver greater job security for Americans, he should focus on clean and sustainable industries where the US has a competitive advantage. Those are the sectors that are set to prosper. He needs to build an economy for 2050, not one for 1950."
Lord Nicholas Stern, a leading climate change economist at the London School of Economics: "If you want to make America great again, building modern, clean and smart infrastructure makes tremendous commercial and national sense. In the longer term, the low carbon growth story is the only growth story on offer. There is no long-term, high-carbon growth story, because destruction of the environment would reverse growth."
Mark Campanale, founder of the Carbon Tracker Initiative think tank: "If you're interested in quality, high paying and skilled jobs for the American middle classes, then renewable energy has to absolutely be the place to look. It's a sector with more employees now than in the US coal industry and with a long way to grow."
James Hansen, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University: "If [Trump] wants to achieve the things that he claimed he would: improving the situation of the common man, the best way he could do this would be a program of a rising carbon fee with the money distributed to the public."
Jennifer Morgan, co-executive director of Greenpeace International: "[Mr. Trump,] you might not realize it yet, but your action, or inaction, on climate will define your legacy as president. The renewable energy transformation is unstoppable and, if the US chooses to turn its back on the future, it will miss out on all the opportunities it brings in terms of jobs, investment and technology advances. China, India and others are racing ahead to be the global clean energy superpowers and surely the US, led by a businessman, does not want to be left behind."
Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists in the US: "Trump's stance threatens to diminish America's standing in the world and to weaken the ability of US companies and workers to compete in the rapidly growing global market for clean energy technologies."
May Boeve, head of climate campaign group 350.org: "Quit. But if you have to stick around, realize that the clean energy economy is the greatest, biggest job creator in history."
Some leading figures, who will have to deal directly with the Trump administration, chose more diplomatic messages to the new president, while emphasizing the vital need to act on global warming:
Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change—the UN's climate chief: "I look forward to working with your new administration to make the world a better place for the people of the US and for peoples everywhere in this very special world."
Scientist Derek Arndt, at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, presenting the temperature data showing 2016 was the hottest year on record: "We present this assessment for the benefit of the American people."
The night before Donald Trump was sworn in as president, the New York Times dropped a bombshell: intelligence and law enforcement agencies have been examining intercepted communications and financial transactions in an investigation of possible contacts between Trump associates and Russian officials. This report seemed to confirm previous indications that the US government has collected sensitive intelligence about interactions between Trump insiders and Russians. And hours before the inauguration, I ran into Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has been one of the few Republicans to call for a special investigation of the Russian hacking that helped Trump, and I asked him about this latest development.
Graham, a member of the Senate judiciary committee, said that he didn't know anything about the intelligence intercepts. He remarked, "I want to learn and investigate all things Russian, wherever it leads." He noted that it was clear that Vladimir Putin's regime had "tried to undermine our election" and "succeeded in creating discontent and discord." He added, "I want to know what they did and who they did it with." He went on: "I want to see all of it...I want to know what Russia did...If there is campaign contacts, I want to know about it."
Graham said he hoped to examine what the FBI knew about any Trump-Russia contacts and what actions the bureau had taken. (Before the election, FBI Director Jim Comey talked rather publicly about the bureau's investigation of Hillary Clinton's handling of her email at the State Department. But Comey has declined to say anything in public regarding whether the bureau has probed links between Trump associates and Russians.) "I hope to be able to work with Sen. Grassley [the chair of the judiciary committee] to look into the FBI's role," Graham said, "in terms of what they did, what they know, and what they can provide to Congress."
At the moment, the Senate investigation of the Russian hacking and possible contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign is being conducted by the Senate intelligence committee. So it's unclear whether Graham will get his wish for a judiciary committee inquiry into the FBI end of this matter.
Before darting off to inauguration business, Graham, who often tussled with Trump during the 2016 campaign, criticized the incoming president for trying to downplay Russian meddling in the 2016 election. "Trump," he said, "seems to be in the forgive-and-forget mode." He noted the "biggest mistake" Trump could make would be "forgiving Russia...for what they did in our election."