The pardons went to Democrats, lobbyists and rappers, with nary a “patriot” among them. The mass arrests of Antifa campaigners never came. The inauguration stage at the Capitol, full of America’s most powerful politicians, was not purged of Satan-worshipping pedophiles under a shower of gunfire. Even the electricity stayed on.
The moment the clock struck noon on Wednesday, Jan. 20, it was over — and the extreme factions of Trump’s diehard base were left reeling.
Inauguration Day 2021 was supposed to be a culminating moment for the legion of online conspiracy theorists and extremists who have rallied around the now former president. But the lengthy list of prophecies they’d been told would eventually happen under Trump’s watch never came.
In the days leading up to Trump’s departure from office, his online followers watched with horror as his pardons that were supposed to go to allies and supporters instead went to people who were inherently swampy: white-collar criminals convicted of tax fraud, family friends, Steve Bannon, even Democrat Kwame Kirkpatrick.
“So just to recap: Trump will pardon Lil Wayne, Kodak Black, high profile Jewish fraudsters … No pardons for middle class whites who risked their livelihoods by going to ‘war’ for Trump,” fumed a user in a white supremacist channel on Telegram, the encrypted messaging service that has gained thousands of new subscribers since the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.
Conspiracies flew — out of the mouth of Fox News host Tucker Carlson — that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had blackmailed Trump out of pardoning Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, further infuriating MAGA hardliners. Trump’s anti-immigrant base, who’d been with him since his initial run for the presidency in 2015, flipped out when he granted amnesty to tens of thousands of Venezuelan migrants.
“Please vote to convict,” Ann Coulter tweeted to GOP senators.
And the QAnon community, a group that had desperately hoped Trump had one final ploy to stay in power and fight against the nebulous forces of darkness in Washington, erupted in despair as Joe Biden became president of the United States. It got so bad that one prominent QAnon online forum threatened to ban any users who posted negative content.
“There's a lot of grief and confusion in Q world over the plan seeming to fizzle out, and feeling as if Q abandoned them,” Mike Rothschild, a disinformation researcher working on a book about QAnon, told POLITICO. “But I think that will very quickly turn into determination to continue down the path they've committed to.”
Taken together, the reactions across MAGA internet reveal a mosaic of anger, denial and disappointment that the former president let them down in his final days.
Without their leader to direct next steps, the MAGA coalition — the extremist militants, the hate groups, the conspiracy theorists, and the stans — is starting to turn on itself.
“The movement is self-driving now,” said Shane Creevy, a disinformation researcher at Kinzen, a data analytics firm that tracks online falsehoods and works with social media companies to counter potential threats. “With Trump gone, the head has been decapitated, but that doesn’t mean this is going away. The big question is what happens next?”
Since the Jan. 6 riots, which resulted in five deaths and scores of arrests nationwide, more mainstream right-wing influencers like Ben Shapiro and Dan Bongino scaled back their support for potential challenges to the results of the November election. But rather than calming their millions of online followers, the efforts have produced a backlash, with posters calling these high-profile personalities traitors for not fully supporting insurrection.
Conspicuously missing was any direction from Trump.
Without his Twitter account, the ability to communicate with his base was muted. The polished videos posted on the White House’s official Twitter account were greeted with suspicion. But in the build up to Inauguration Day, Trump supporters, QAnon acolytes and extremist militias still, at a minimum, held out hope that the outgoing president would stick it to the establishment on the way out the door.
On encrypted message boards and digital apps, followers labeled Jan. 19 as “national popcorn day” in the hopes that they would have a front-row seat to the mass arrests of Antifa campaigners and, possibly, Trump imposing martial law in an effort to turn the election.
As the hours ticked closer to Biden’s swearing in, the online chatter became more tense, with different online users questioning the loyalty of others, while increasingly getting desperate that “The Storm,” or the violent overthrow of deepstate agents, would never materialize.
In white supremacist Telegram channels—some of which have tens of thousands of followers—the anger soon spilled over into outright hatred toward Trump, as well as a call-to-arms to the outgoing president’s more mainstream followers that they had been misled.
“Let this be a wake-up call for QAnon followers and normies,” one post read just ahead of the inauguration. “No one is coming to save you. No one man can defeat this evil marxist machine.”
Amid accusations and counter-accusations, different parts of Trump’s base began to turn on each other. QAnon supporters lashed out at militia groups, claiming they were part of the deep-state plot to undermine Trump and that the Jan. 6 riots on Capitol Hill were part of an elaborate coup attempt, either by parts of the federal government, Black Lives Matter campaigners or, bizarrely, China. They even turned against certain QAnon celebrities — Lin Wood, Sidney Powell and Michael Flynn — for hyping them up.
Elsewhere, mainstream MAGA voters ridiculed QAnon groups’ unbending belief that Trump was the savior — even as he boarded Air Force One for the last time on his departure from the White House.
“It's all been a con from the start. Promises made and not kept,” one user posted on TheDonald.win, a website that has been flooded with conspiracy theories and calls for violence in recent weeks, in reference to the QAnon movement. “You sat on your butt waiting for someone else to do what everyone should have taken care of themselves.”
Several members of the QAnon community scrambled to suggest that Biden was now going to execute the conspiracy theory’s underlying beliefs, or even that the incoming president had switched faces with Donald Trump. But in a sign that Trump’s reign was truly over, former 8kun administrator Ron Watkins, one of the only people who allegedly knew the identity of the mysterious Q, published a post on Telegram surrendering to the inevitable.
“We have a new president sworn in and it’s our responsibility as citizens to respect the Constitution regardless of whether or not we agree with the specific details regarding officials who are sworn in,” Watkins wrote.
Former President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign aides played key roles orchestrating a rally protesting certification of President-elect Joe Biden‘s victory in the 2020 presidential election before hundreds of rioters breached the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
But the full extent of the Trump campaign’s ties to the protests may not be not fully known due to its use of shell companies that hide details of its financial dealings and the central role “dark money” played in the protests.
Multiple individuals listed on the permit granted by the National Park Service worked for Trump’s presidential campaign, as first reported by the Associated Press over the weekend. That raises new questions about the Trump campaign’s lack of spending transparency and the unknown extent of the event’s ties to Trump aides.
Trump’s campaign disclosed paying more than $2.7 million to the individuals and firms behind the Jan. 6 rally. But FEC disclosures do not necessarily provide a complete picture of the campaign’s financial dealings since so much of its spending was routed through shell companies, making it difficult to know who the campaign paid and when.
The permit lists the rally’s “VIP Lead” as Maggie Mulvaney, a niece of former top Trump aide Mick Mulvaney, who quit his position as Trump’s special envoy to Northern Ireland after the Jan. 6 events. Maggie Mulvaney’s LinkedIn profile shows her current position as the Trump campaign’s director of finance operations and manager of external affairs. Trump’s 2020 campaign paid her at least $138,000 through November 2020.
One of two operations managers on the rally permit is Megan Powers, whose LinkedIn profile says she was the Trump campaign’s director of operations as recently as this month. Powers was paid around $290,000 by Trump’s campaign while on its payroll from February 2019 through at least November 2020, FEC records show.
Caroline Wren, a veteran GOP fundraiser, is listed as a “VIP Advisor.” Wren received at least $20,000 from the campaign each month as its national finance consultant for its joint fundraising committee with the Republican National Committee, totaling $170,000 from March through November.
James Oaks, the rally’s operations associate, received $126,000 in salary from the Trump campaign through at least November.
Trump’s campaign paid Ronald Holden, the rally’s backstage manager, around $72,000 for payroll and consulting in early 2020. The campaign started paying William Wilson, also listed in the permit, in October 2020 with around $6,000 in payments for advanced consulting through November 2020 alone. The rally’s production manager is listed as Justin Caporale, the Trump campaign’s advance director who received more than $144,000 in direct payroll payments from the campaign in the one-year period leading up to November 2020.
Caporale’s business partner, Tim Unes, was the rally stage manager and was paid more than $117,000 by the Trump campaign through at least November 2020. Event Strategies Inc., their firm, was paid more than $1.7 million from Trump’s campaign and joint fundraising committee.
Trump-affiliated dark money group America First Policies paid the firm another $2.1 million from 2018 to 2019, the most recent years for which data is available. America First Policies’ tax returns obtained by OpenSecrets show it also provided funding to Women for America First, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that submitted the rally’s permit records to the National Park Service.
Trump’s top 2020 campaign vendor was American Made Media Consultants LLC, a firm created by Trump campaign aides to act as a clearinghouse for its spending. The firm routed more than $759 million of the campaign and its joint fundraising committee’s spending, hiding information about the identities of some individuals being paid by the campaign, how much money changed hands and when those payments took place.
“The Trump campaign’s FEC reports really only provide a snapshot of who was paid by the campaign,” Brendan Fischer, the director of federal reform at the Campaign Legal Center, told OpenSecrets. “Using FEC reports to identify Trump campaign aides involved in the January 6 riot has its limits, because we don’t fully know who the campaign was paying.”
Federal campaign finance law requires political groups to disclose spending to the FEC but imposes few restrictions on merely disclosing payments to opaque firms or shell companies that channel money to ultimate vendors whose identities remain hidden.
Following OpenSecrets investigations into the Trump campaign’s use of shell companies, the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center filed a July 2020 FEC complaint asserting that the Trump campaign and its joint fundraising committee may have violated federal election reporting rules by “laundering the funds through firms” concealing details of the campaign’s financial dealings.
Trump’s implicit endorsement of this opaque practice could have repercussions beyond his 2020 campaign as other groups across the political spectrum begin to deploy similar tactics with increased frequency.
On Dec. 23, Trump pardoned former Ron Paul campaign aides John Tate and Jesse Benton for charges tied to hiding bribes in a 2012 scandal by paying a vendor who then paid a subvendor — one of few cases showing consequences for violating the FEC’s ultimate vendor disclosure rules.
Trump’s pardons may be “intended to send clear messages,” excusing alleged crimes and corruption so long as the purported perpetrator remains loyal to Trump, according to reporting by multiple media outlets. If that is indeed the case, Trump’s John Tate and Jesse Benton pardons seem to send a very specific message effectively excusing alleged wrongdoing in one of the few high-profile cases where enforcement of the FEC’s ultimate vendor rules resulted in significant consequences.
Dark money groups that hide their funders and disclose minimal other information at best played a major role in organizing the rally, further obscuring detail of its financing and ties to operatives in Trump’s orbit.
Women for America First submitted the permit to the National Park Services and other 501(c)(4) nonprofits from Turning Point Action to the Rule of Law Defense Fund also helped organize and promote the rally. Since these groups only report minimal information about their financial dealings, information on who they pay and who provides their funding remains hidden.
The Trump campaign did not respond to request for comment prior to publication.
How stupid is Trump?
Quote:he probably brags about having an IQ of 170...How stupid is Trump?
Quote:he probably brags about having an IQ of 170...How stupid is Trump?
In the race to the bottom for the title of worst American president, the same few sorry names appear at the end of almost every list, jockeying for last place. There’s Andrew Johnson, whose abysmal behavior during Reconstruction led to the first presidential impeachment. There’s Warren G. Harding, responsible for the Teapot Dome scandal. There’s hapless, hated Franklin G. Pierce; doomed, dead-after-32-days William Henry Harrison; and inevitably, James Buchanan, often considered worst of all because of how badly he bungled the lead-up to the Civil War.
But as historians consider the legacy of Donald J. Trump, it appears that even the woefully inadequate Buchanan has some serious competition for the spot at the bottom.
“Trump was the first president to be impeached twice and the first to stir up a mob to try to attack the Capitol and disrupt his successor from becoming president,” said Eric Rauchway, professor of history at the University of California, Davis. “These will definitely go down in history books, and they are not good.”
“I already feel that he is the worst,” said Ted Widmer, professor of history at the City University of New York, noting that as bad as Buchanan was — and he was very bad indeed — he was “not as aggressively bad as Trump.”
“Andrew Johnson and Nixon would be the two others in the worst category, and I think Trump has them beat pretty handily, too,” he added. “He has invented a whole new category, a subbasement that no one knew existed.”
Presidential ranking may be a water-cooler exercise for historians, but it is also an official institutional pursuit. The Siena College Research Institute regularly compiles ranked lists of all the American presidents, based on the composite views of scholars. So does C-SPAN.
Various polls periodically ask regular citizens to weigh in. And on Twitter last week, Chris Hayes of MSNBC took the presidential-ranking parlor game to his followers, asking them to list the “five worst presidents of all time.” (He put Mr. Trump as the second worst, just ahead of Andrew Johnson.)
Mr. Trump was a highly divisive president, of course, and one of the confounding things about him was how two people could look at his behavior and make completely different assessments.
But not so much anymore.
“I would say that before the election it depended on one’s political outlook,” with conservatives applauding his tax cuts, deregulation policies and judicial appointments, said William J. Cooper Jr., professor emeritus of history at Louisiana State University. “But from the election forward, I don’t see how anyone could feel that Trump’s behavior was anything but reprehensible or that he hasn’t completely destroyed any legacy he would have left.”
He cited Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede the election; his promotion of baseless conspiracy theories attacking voting integrity; his intemperate, self-promoting behavior during the Georgia Senate runoffs, which helped ensure victory for the two Democratic candidates; and his encouragement of the crowd that rioted at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Even conservatives from Atlanta, where Mr. Cooper lives, have had it with Mr. Trump, he said. “He has tarred and feathered himself, and I think it will blemish him for a long, long, long time.”
Douglas G. Brinkley, professor of history at Rice University and a member of the advisory panel for C-SPAN’s Presidential Historians Survey, said that Mr. Trump “was a bad president in just about every regard.”
“I find him to be the worst president in U.S. history, personally,” Mr. Brinkley said, “even worse than William Henry Harrison, who was president for only one month. You don’t want to be ranked below him.”
Mr. Brinkley brought up Richard Nixon, the only president to resign in disgrace.
“At least when Nixon left, he put the country ahead of himself at the last minute,” Mr. Brinkley said. “Now he looks like a statesman compared to Trump.”
These are all hot takes, of course — the sound of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” the song playing on Wednesday as Mr. Trump flew out of Washington, has barely faded from our ears — and it is too soon to know how history will judge him. But things do not augur well, said Don Levy, director of Siena’s research institute.
In the most recent Siena survey, a year into the Trump administration, the president was rated 42nd out of 44 presidents, less terrible than only Buchanan and Andrew Johnson. In almost every category — integrity, intelligence and relationship with Congress, for instance — he was rated at or near rock bottom. (The exceptions: He was 25th in “willing to take risks” and 10th in “luck.”)
“Speaking in terms of this survey, it would be surprising if Trump was meaningfully rehabilitated,” Mr. Levy said. “If the opening paragraph of any discussion starts about being impeached twice, and the second sentence is about the coronavirus, and the third is about partisanship — that’s going to be very hard to overcome.”
Sean Wilentz, a professor of American history at Princeton University, said that Mr. Trump was the worst president in history, hands down.
“He’s in a whole other category in terms of the damage he’s done to the Republic,” said Mr. Wilentz, citing the radicalization of the Republican Party, the inept response to the pandemic and what he called “the brazen, almost psychedelic mendacity of the man.”
The presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, whose most recent book, “Leadership: In Turbulent Times,” looks at how four presidents confronted tough moments in history, said that it normally takes a generation to evaluate a leader. But to the extent that a president’s legacy is determined by his ability to rise to a crisis, Mr. Trump will be remembered for his failures: how poorly he handled Covid-19 and how disgracefully he behaved after the election.
“History will look with grave disfavor on President Trump for the crisis he created,” she said.
For his part, Mr. Rauchway said he believed that Mr. Trump would “crash the bottom five” on the presidential rankings, but that the bottom spot itself was uncertain. “I think he has some stiff competition” in Andrew Johnson, whom Mr. Rauchway personally regards as the worst president of all.
“If I had to predict where historiography would go, I think people would have to recognize that Trumpism — nativism and white supremacy — has deep roots in American history,” Mr. Rauchway said. “But Trump himself put it to new and malignant purpose.”
Robert Strauss, a journalist and the author of “Worst. President. Ever.,” a popular history of Buchanan, seemed reluctant to allow the subject of his book to relinquish his title.
“I can go through a litany of things that Buchanan did,” he said. “In the time period between Lincoln’s election and the inauguration” — that is, during the lame-duck period of Buchanan’s presidency — “he let seven states secede and said, ‘I can’t do anything about it.’ He also influenced the Dred Scott decision, the worst decision in Supreme Court history.”
Of course, “The difference was that Buchanan was a nice guy,” Mr. Strauss said.
He added: “He was the greatest party giver of the 19th century. He was kind to his nieces and nephews. What he was, was not a very good president.”
As they considered Mr. Trump’s record in comparison to that of other presidents, some historians said that he could have done things to salvage his reputation.
“If he had presided over a competent response to Covid, he would have won re-election easily,” Mr. Widmer of the City University of New York said. “And if he had responded with grace to his loss, a lot of people would have given him some grudging respect. ”
And yes, he added, President Trump was worse than President Buchanan.
“Trump is a worse failure because he really wanted to be re-elected, and he was rejected,” Mr. Widmer said. “Buchanan colossally failed, but at least he had the dignity not to run again.”
President Trump will be remembered as the second greatest POTUS of all time after Lincoln.
I’m now getting abusive pm’s from Trump’s braindead supporters.
I hare to point this out but he extracted 140 million from his admirers. So who here is the stupid one?