Quick Thoughts on Impeachment

As the inquiry into the impeachment of President Donald Trump are winding to a close, and the House of Representatives prepares for a full vote, I realize two things to be true:

  1. We have ample overwhelming evidence of multiple crimes and impeachable offenses committed by the President – both during and before the (illegal) Ukraine bribery scheme to (illegally) extort Ukrainian officials in the (illegal) solicitation of in-kind campaign contributions from foreign nationals in exchange for the release of (illegally) withheld military aid to Ukraine funds obligated by Congress, a scheme which benefits Russia most of all – and for which, he will be impeached in the House on party lines; and
  2. Barring an unknown bombshell, the Senate – where representation is skewed in favor of less-populated states – will likely acquit him and prevent his removal, also on party lines.

Some GOP Senators will claim that while the President’s scheme was corrupt, possibly criminal, and perhaps undermined our national security, they do not have sufficient evidence for their purposefully murky criteria for impeachment and removal; and although the White House is defying subpoenas to produce related documents, they will decline to produce them.

If this moment plays out this way, it will be because:

  1. An overwhelming majority of Americans simply do not care enough about their government to have any opinion whatsoever on the matter; and
  2. A majority in those less-populated states choose to believe disinformation instead of the testimonies of Trump’s very own staff.

Our elected officials will be deciding, on our behalf, that:

  1. The President is above the law; and
  2. Their own partisan political careers are more important than the Constitution to which they took an oath.

At that moment, we will collectively and subtly redefine our system of government, slipping from a Republic to something else, wherein we, the American population, are not citizens but subjects of the state and its magistrate, who now hovers just above the law.

At which point, those of us who actually do care must look to the past and decide what to do in the present in order to preserve the future.

On Devin Nunes

On March 22, 2017, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes went to the microphones to discuss his recent conversations with President Trump regarding the “incidental collection” of communications of Trump Transition Team members and associates. At that time, Trump had been spreading a falsehood that Trump Tower had been wiretapped by the Obama Administration – a claim he later back-tracked – and he spun the information as a validation of that claim. Oddly, the surveillance information Nunes conveyed to the President had been brought to him by the White House.

Nunes officially stated that “none of this surveillance was related to Russia or any investigation of Russian activities or of the Trump team,” and that “additional names of Trump transition team members were unmasked.” He also stated that in this surveillance, the intelligence community captured the President’s personal communications.

In doing so, Nunes revealed that more than one person on Trump’s transition team were picked up communicating with foreign surveillance targets.

Days later, Nunes – a Trump Transition Team member himself – apologized to his committee for not discussing the information with them first and went on to temporarily recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

This story of incidental collection got lost in the news cycle, but there are still unanswered questions:

  1. How were the communications of Trump Transition team members incidentally collected?
  2. Which Transition team members were incidentally collected?
  3. Who was talking to whom to put them in a position to get collected?
  4. How did they get the President’s personal communications?

Nunes eventually “ghost-wrote” the Nunes Memo released to the public on 2 February 2018, as he was either unwilling or not allowed to read the underlying intelligence upon which the Memo was based.

The Nunes Memo focused on the 21 October 2016 FISA Court application to surveil Carter Page – which subsequently rendered three renewals – it quietly admits the FBI Investigation kicked off because of Papadapoulos on 31 July 2016 in a broad investigation that was dubbed “Crossfire Hurricane” by FBI agents.

By September 2016, the FBI had opened sub-inquiries on at least four Trump team campaign members: Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, Mike Flynn, and Carter Page.

We know from the indictment of Mike Flynn that his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were picked up likely under FISA Section 702 – but Flynn is just one Transition team member. Nunes indicated multiple members were surveilled, and his memo did not focus on Flynn.

It also appears from his court filing that Papadopoulos’ communications were incidentally collected under FISA Section 702. And while it’s true that the Nunes Memo mentions Papadopoulos in a footnote, unless Nunes was lying when he said “none of the the surveillance was related to Russia,” those communications would not have rendered the incidental collection he reviewed.

Page’s FISA Court application subsequently rendered three 90-day renewals and pages of relevant information that remain redacted. It wasn’t his first time under the FBI’s microscope.

Who is Carter Page?

I find it curious that Nunes in his memo went to great lengths to defend Carter Page and admonish the FBI‘s case to surveil him via FISA warrant, given his suspect background.

Carter Page graduated in the top 10% of his class from the U.S. Naval Academy, went on to get a Masters in Security Studies from Georgetown, was a Navy Intelligence Officer at the UN, got an MBA from New York University, then became a Vice President at Merrill Lynch, got a PhD from the University of London, and reportedly made millions in the Russian oil business.

In 2013, the FBI had a FISA warrant opened because “there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of Russia.” FBI intercepts later revealed that the SVR was attempting to recruit him. Page was questioned by the FBI in June 2013 and “assisted the prosecutors in their case against Evgeny Buryakov, who pleaded guilty to conspiring to act in the United States as an unregistered agent of Russian intelligence.”

In 2014, a FISA warrant was obtained against Page, and in 2015, charges were brought against the SVR agent who tried to recruit him.

In March 2016 – the same month he joined the Trump campaign – the FBI again questioned Page regarding his contacts with Russian intelligence.

In early July 2016, Page traveled to Moscow while he was a Trump campaign official to give a commencement speech at the New Economic School in Moscow. The trip that was approved by the campaign. Page emailed fellow Trump aides during the trip, including J.D. Gordon, describing “a private conversation” with a senior Russian official who spoke favorably of the Republican candidate, according to records released late Monday by congressional investigators. Page also wrote that he had been provided “incredible insights and outreach” by Russian lawmakers and “senior members” of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration during the trip.

It is at this point in the timeline where the Steele Dossier is relevant, as Carter Page is a prominent figure in Steele’s memos dated 19 July and 18 October 2016.

According to Steele’s 19 July memo, Sechin raised the topic of U.S. sanctions on Russia (on either July 7 or 8) saying that if a future Trump administration dropped “Ukraine-related sanctions,” there could be an “associated move” in the area of “bilateral energy co-operation.” Steele says that Page’s reaction to this offer was positive, adding that Page was “generally non-committal in response.”

Steele wrote that, according to an associate, Sechin offered Page “the brokerage of up to a 19 per cent (privatized) stake in Rosneft in return” for lifting the Magnitsky Act economic sanctions that had been imposed on Russia in 2012. Any brokerage fee would be substantial, in the region of tens and possibly hundreds of millions of dollars. Steele says Page “expressed interest” and confirmed that were Trump to become US president, “then sanctions on Russia would be lifted” on Trump’s “full authority.”

The FBI first received the Steele Memos in Mid-September. In October 2016, the FBI found it reasonable to surveil Page again, given his trip to Moscow in July 2016 and his meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in Cleveland in August 2016.

In November 2017, Page testified to Nunes’ Intelligence Committee that after delivering his speech in July 2016, he spoke briefly with one of the people in attendance, Arkady Dvorkovich, a Deputy Prime Minister in Dmitry Medvedev’s cabinet, contradicting his previous statements that he did not speak to anyone connected with the Russian government.

In addition, while Page denied a meeting with Sechin as alleged in the Trump–Russia dossier, he did say he met with Andrey Baranov, Rosneft’s head of investor relations, who works for Sechin.

Page testified that he did not “directly” express support for lifting the sanctions during the meeting with Baranov, but that he might have mentioned the proposed Rosneft transaction.

Page had previously denied meeting with Rosneft officials in Moscow in July – until he was under oath. Why did Page lie to the public if this meeting was innocuous?

In October 2017, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr stated “Though we have been incredibly enlightened at our ability to rebuild backwards the Steele dossier up to a certain date, getting past that point has been somewhat impossible. I say this because I don’t think we’re going to find any intelligence products that unlocked that key to pre-June 2016.”

This would include Steele’s allegations about Carter Page’s trips to Moscow.

My Speculations

Congressman Nunes was so concerned by the unmasking of targets captured in Carter Page’s FISA warrant that he risked everything in a “midnight run” to the White House, where he received the transcripts of Page’s conversations and the “Incidental Collection” of Trump Transition Team members captured in those transcripts.

I speculate that’s because Nunes recognized himself in those intercepts.

Nunes’ duties on the Trump Transition Team included advising Trump “on the appointment of his Cabinet members.” The day after the Rosneft deal was unveiled, Carter Page returned to Moscow, and at a Sputnik event on 12 December 2016, Page announced that Tillerson was going to be the next Secretary of State – the day before Trump announced that to the rest of the world. (See Page’s comments 14 minutes into his speech. Also of interest: 27 minutes into his speech, Carter Page admits “I did have the opportunity to meet with an executive at Rosneft” and, unprompted, discusses talks about the 19.5% sale to Glencore. He says “unfortunately, United States actors were constrained” and blames sanctions for that.)

I speculate that Page and Nunes discussed Tillerson’s appointment either before or after Page’s speech in Moscow. That is corroborated with the details of an additional Steele memo (not in the Dossier), as first reported in March 2018, that the Kremlin had input on who Trump chose as Secretary of State.

Furthermore, I also speculate Nunes had his Access to classified material either revoked or downgraded over his “midnight run” to the White House.

On 7 December 2017, the Ethics Committee determined that the intelligence Nunes shared was not classified and closed their investigation into their colleague.

This statement did not provide a status of his security classification – nor should it have. If Nunes indeed maintained his access classification, whatever that is, why would he not view the underlying documents he requested that his staff used to compose the Nunes Memo released two months later? Why did Congressman Gowdy view all documents on behalf of Nunes?

Until these answers are found, my speculation remains.

ICE: The American Gestapo

Last week, agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detained two men in Middlesex County, New Jersey, on Thursday morning, moments after taking their children to school.

A third man, Harry Pangemanan, spotted ICE agents in undercover cars outside his home as he was about to drive his daughter to school, ran inside the house and refused to open the door. His pastor came to Pangemanan’s house and recorded video of the agents knocking on the door.

Pangemanan eventually fled to the Reformed Church of Highland Park where he will be sheltered from the government. The church has been providing sanctuary for other undocumented immigrants in the community: “We had one night when 35 dads were taken in one night from Avenel, New Jersey, from the same apartment complex. I had 60 kids become orphans that night or become fatherless,” Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale said. ““ICE decides that they want to take the guy that just won the MLK award for repairing 209 houses during Hurricane Sandy, and assault and threaten him.”

Harry Pangemanan explained: “We are just here trying to achieve our dreams, working hard, provide for our family.”

Gov. Phil Murphy raced to the Reformed Church of Highland Park to show support for Pangemanan and the other immigrants living in the sanctuary of the church. The two immigrants detained Thursday in New Jersey and those being sheltered at the church are all from Indonesia. They fled their country in the late 1990s when Christians were being persecuted in the country. Their children were born here. The men have no criminal records.

Representative Frank Pallone, visiting his constituents’ church, highlighted the plight of the persecuted:

“To me this is even more egregious that people persecuted for religious reasons who would normally qualify for political asylum on that ground not only can’t pursue it but are now are being rounded up and being detained and deported. We know if they go back, they’re going to suffer the consequences of their religion, which is outrageous.”

The president, meanwhile, has pledged to deport more than 2 million undocumented immigrants.

New Jersey government officials have taken up the issue in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, accusing them of targeting what the policy deems “sensitive locations.”

Search the news for “ICE immigration” and you will find that this is just one of many stories popping up in recent weeks.

But why?

The uptick in raids is a direct result of Trump’s Executive Order 13768, titled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” which increased immigration enforcement along a new series of categories for undocumented immigrants to meet the President’s quota. I discussed detentions and deportations further under Trump in more depth here.

To boost their stats, ICE began deporting immigrants who showed up for their regularly-scheduled “check-ins” with ICE officers: “Under the previous administration, many were allowed to stay for humanitarian reasons if they faithfully appeared for periodic meetings with ICE and didn’t commit crimes.”

This year, an unknown number who appeared for ICE check-ins were arrested or given an ultimatum to leave: “This is all about the low-hanging fruit,” said Charles Kuck, an Atlanta immigration attorney who teaches at Emory University. “It’s how you can spend the least amount of money to get higher deportation numbers.”

In their endeavors to please an authoritarian President, ICE has become the American Gestapo. If this characterization seems like a ridiculous Reductio ad Hitlerum, consider that Harry Pangemanan’s home was vandalized the day after the incident with ICE. Whether this occurred at the hands of the Gestapo ICE agents or brown shirts acting on their behalf remains to be seen.

Secure Communities

Trump’s Executive Order instructed immigration law enforcement officials to prioritize removal by reinstating the Secure Communities Program and eliminate its successor, the Priority Enhancement Program (PEP). Keep in mind, both of these programs were created administratively, through DHS policy: Neither policy was passed by Congress, so neither program is law. No regulations were passed to govern either program’s implementation.

The Secure Communities was a pilot program starting with 14 jurisdictions in 2008 under the administration of George W. Bush. The program greatly expanded under Barack Obama to over 3,000 jurisdictions across the United States.

Secure Communities had a threat-based approach, prioritizing three levels of categorization based on the National Crimes Information Center’s (NCIC) Uniform Offense Classification. But due to its confusing implementation, the program was heavily criticized for diverting focus from its original goals of deporting criminals to facilitate general wide-sweeping deportation.

By summer 2011, state and local partners to the program came to resent the program for its detrimental effects on budgets, local law enforcement operations, and community sentiments. Several jurisdictions tried to “opt out” from the Secure Communities program, confused by conflicting guidance whether participation was mandatory.

The authors of a 2011 study released by the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at UC Berkeley School of Law highlighted several findings:

  • Only 52% of Secure Communities arrestees were scheduled to have a hearing before a judge.
  • Approximately 88,000 families that included U.S. citizens had a family member arrested under the Secure Communities program.
  • Among Secure Communities arrestees who had an immigration hearing, only 24% had an attorney.
  • ICE arrested roughly 3,600 United States citizens through the program.

A New York Times editorial called Secure Communities “misguided,” in part for how it “[strains] local resources.”

A 2014 study found:

“Our results show that Secure Communities led to no meaningful reductions in the FBI index crime rate. Nor has it reduced rates of violent crime—homicide, rape, robbery, or aggravated assault. This evidence shows that the program has not served its central objective of making communities safer.”

Another 2014 study found:

“Although a large body of evidence reports that municipal police can have an appreciable effect on crime, involving local police in federal immigration enforcement does not seem to offer measurable public safety benefits. Non-citizens removed through Secure Communities either would have been incapacitated even in the absence of the program or do not pose an identifiable risk to community safety.”

As a result of the backlash, President Obama – who had been dubbed the “Deporter in Chief” – moved to mollify some aspects of the Secure Communities enforcement policies, eventually adopting the Priority Enforcement Program in 2015.

Priority Enforcement Program

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s operational posture under Secure Communities was temporarily suspended by DHS policy from November 20, 2014, through January 25, 2017. Its replacement, the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), enabled DHS to work with state and local law enforcement focusing on convicted criminals and others who pose a danger to public safety. PEP was established at the direction of former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson in a November 20, 2014 memorandum and discontinued the Secure Communities program, stating: “Unless the alien poses a demonstrable risk to national security, enforcement actions through the new program will only be taken against aliens who are convicted of specifically enumerated crimes.”

PEP modified Secure Communities’ threat-based approach with its three levels of categorization, with priority clarification:

  • Priority 1 aliens were deemed “threats to national security, border security, and public safety,” whose removal was prioritized with asylum authority given to: An ICE Field Office Director; CBP Sector Chief; or CBP Director of Field Operations.
  • Priority 2 aliens were deemed “misdemeanants and new immigration violators,” who should be removed with asylum authority given to the aforementioned, plus: USCIS District Director; or users Service Center Director.
  • Priority 3 were those aliens found guilty of “other immigration violations, with asylum authority given to the previously aforementioned, plus: an immigration officer.

Resources were dedicated by priority, and all other non-criminal undocumented immigrants were not prioritized for removal. This change drastically reduced the number of deportations in the final two years of the Obama Administration.

Welcome to Trumpistan

Trump’s Executive Order 13768, titled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” increased immigration enforcement in reaction to what was criticized by the Right as lax enforcement of immigration law by the Priority Enhancement Program.

David A. Martin, professor of law emeritus at the University of Virginia and former principal deputy general counsel of the Department of Homeland Security from January 2009 to December 2010, said at the time of the EO’s signing:

“These priorities replace a set of priorities adopted by then-Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson in November 2014, and they sweep far more broadly. And unlike Secretary Johnson’s, they do not set up an internal hierarchy to indicate which categories should be emphasized when resources are short — as they always are. An old canard applies: When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. In practice, this feature gives individual agents wide latitude to follow their own preferences — or perhaps biases.”


“Secure Communities became highly controversial when it led to the ICE arrest of long-resident unauthorized immigrants, often based on mere traffic offenses. The political reaction led many localities to cut back more generally on ICE cooperation. The Priority Enforcement Program was designed to restore SLEA (state and local law enforcement agencies) cooperation. It called for ICE to narrow greatly the circumstances in which custody requests or information requests would issue on the basis of those ICE fingerprint checks, so that jurisdictions would generally be asked to hold or turn over only persons with serious criminal offenses. PEP succeeded in winning back at least tentative cooperation from many SLEAs. President Trump’s decision to revive “Secure Communities” — even using that controversial name — is almost a taunt, likely to be counterproductive, strengthening the resolve of non-cooperating jurisdictions.”

In February 21, 2017, DHS released additional guidance, clarifying that ICE was officially terminating the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) and restoring Secure Communities, directing its personnel to take enforcement action consistent with the priorities set forth in the executive orders:

“Under this Executive Order, ICE will not exempt classes or categories of removal aliens from potential enforcement. All of those present in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention, and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.”

“The guidance makes clear, however, that ICE should prioritize several categories of removable aliens who have committed crime, beginning with those convicted of a criminal offence.”

ICE echoed this language in their response to their arrests of Indonesian refugees, saying in part:

“The enforcement actions ICE employs are intended to fulfill the agency’s responsibilities fairly and safely. Under the President’s Executive Orders and pursuant to the Department of Homeland Security’s implementing guidance, except in certain limited circumstances, ICE does not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All those in violation of U.S. immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention, and removal from the United States pursuant to a final order of removal, issued in accordance with law … Individuals subject to removal proceedings before the immigration courts receive full and fair proceedings. During that time, they may apply for any relief or protection from removal for which they may be eligible, including asylum. If, at the conclusion of removal proceedings, a federal immigration judge (or, if the order of removal is appealed, the Board of Immigration Appeals) orders an alien removed from the United States and does not grant such protection, it is ICE’s duty to enforce that order, unless a stay of removal is entered. If removal orders are not given effect, our immigration system would simply have no integrity.”

ICE agents are caught in the dilemma of military obedience known as “superior orders,” also called the Nuremberg Defense, when typically good men execute unjust laws when “just following orders.”

Sometimes, the actions of military or law enforcement agencies are blatantly illegal, breaking international humanitarian laws of war established in the Geneva and Hague Conventions. Such was the case with the Nazi SS Einsatzgruppen, the Soviet People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (abbreviated NKVD), and the American soldiers at the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam. These forces acted on Superior Orders, and they acted with the idea of support – either real or perceived – from their fellow countrymen.

But what ICE is doing is not illegal. Just as during the Holocaust, when the American government turned away thousands of Jewish refugees, port authorities were “just following orders” – and following the law established in the Immigration Act of 1924.

Today, we turn away Muslim refugees and deport migrant workers, destroying families to the detriment of both our economy and our soul.

There are no new stories, only new characters.

We need to ask ourselves: In ten years, when the United States is no longer the world’s largest economy: Will the tables turn?

Will the world remember our persecution, detention, and deportations of immigrants who came to this country in pursuit of a better life?

Will they remember our complacency?

In that foreseeable future, when Americans seek employment in a foreign country, will they tell us: “Americans need not apply?”

More philosophically, we need to ask ourselves if we believe in “victimless crimes.” Like many other “crimes” codified in national and state law, immigration – in and of itself – has no victims; moreover, the economic data proves that immigration is a net positive to society. If we believe in the sovereignty of the individual, we would provide a path to citizenship to anyone who can pass a background check.

For a better functioning civil society, we must remember that ethics are more important than law, and that although borders may segregate nations, a person on the other side is still a person.


Diminishing American Dream

One year into the Trump Administration, Congress is entering a fierce debate over the nation’s immigration policy. At the center of the debate is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy which gives people who came to the U.S. as undocumented children a legal avenue to stay. In September 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the U.S. would end DACA. In the ensuing months, the President delegated to Congress the responsibility to protect DACA, and any actions to enforce the end of DACA have been deferred.

Also on the table is a version of the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act, introduced by Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), which would reduce legal immigration to the United States by 50% by halving the number of green cards issued. The bill would also impose a cap of 50,000 refugee admissions a year, end the visa diversity lottery, and limit visa sponsorship to spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens while implementing a point-based merit system to prioritize skilled workers. A version of this bill is supported by President Donald Trump.

All this comes after a series of Executive Orders that vastly expanded the authority of individual immigration officers and dramatically increased efforts to detain and deport undocumented immigrants.

As we watch history unfold on immigration, I wonder: What would the Trump Administration do, if they could do anything they want?

Candidate Trump — circling back on history — proposed a “Deportation Force” during the campaign to carry out his plans, modeled after the 1950s-era “Operation Wetback” program during the Eisenhower administration, which was utilized to enforce the Immigration Act of 1952. That program ended following a congressional investigation, as the military-style operation was both inhumane and ineffective.

But proposals from the Trump Administration hearken back even further. Limits to legal immigration began in earnest with the Immigration Act of 1924 — which was, coincidentally, the height of Ku Klux Klan participation in American politics. The Immigration Act introduced numerical caps or quotas based on country of origin that limited the number of immigrants. While the law was primarily aimed at restricting immigration of Italians, Slavs, and Jews, it severely limited immigration of Africans and banned the immigration of Arabs and Asians. Trump’s Attorney General stated that the 1924 Immigration Act was “good for America.”

Understandably, proponents of legal immigration have little trust in the Trump Administration on the topic.

Executive Orders Review

Trump signed his first two Executive Orders on immigration on January 25, 2017. EO 13767, titled “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,” directs the immediate detainment and deportation of illegal immigrants and directs the US Customs and Border Protection to hire 5,000 additional border patrol agents, in addition to authorizing (but not appropriating for) the construction of the border wall.

EO 13768, titled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” increased immigration enforcement along a new series of categories for undocumented immigrants that immigration law enforcement officials should prioritize for removing from the country, a reaction to what was criticized by the right as lax enforcement of immigration law by former President Barack Obama.

“The Obama administration had prioritized expulsion of undocumented immigrants who threatened public safety or national security, had ties to criminal gang activity, committed serious felony offenses or were habitual misdemeanor criminal offenders. But experts say the descriptions include virtually every person in the country illegally and give broad latitude to individual immigration officers to decide who should be detained for deportation.”

EO 13769 was signed on January 27, 2017 (and its rewrite, 13780, on March 16), titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” aka, in Trump’s words, the “Muslim ban.” Implicated by this order is 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1182, Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952. In defense of the proposed ban, Trump cited President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s use during World War II of the Alien and Sedition Acts to round up, detain, and deport German, Japanese, and Italian immigrants, saying: “I mean, take a look at what FDR did many years ago and he’s one of the most highly respected presidents. I mean respected by most people. They named highways after him.”

Finally, EO 13776, titled the “Presidential Executive Order on a Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety,” signed February 7, 2017, comprehensively address illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and violent crime. The action directs Attorney General Jeff Sessions to assemble a task force in order to identify new strategies and laws to reduce crime, and to evaluate how well crime data is being collected and leveraged across the country.

The Department of Homeland Security released two memos laying out guidelines for the implementation of his executive orders, detailing the increased authority federal officials will have to detain and deport immigrants in the US illegally and expanding the pool of unauthorized immigrants subject to “expedited removal” — that is, removal that bypasses court proceedings.

Parts of EOs 13768 and 13769 have been declared unconstitutional by Circuit Court judges, and further legal challenges await. With these EOs in place, the White House has widened the net to potentially ensnare more people with minor criminal histories, under the pretext of enforcing “public security.”

“Low-Hanging Fruit” and Sagging Deportations

As a result of these EOs, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) immigration arrests are up nearly 40% since Trump came to office, which they brag about on their website:

“In the 100 days since President Donald J. Trump signed Executive Orders (EOs) regarding immigration enforcement priorities, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has arrested more than 41,000 individuals who are either known or suspected of being in the country illegally. This reflects an increase of 37.6 percent over the same period in 2016.”

The agency arrested more than 28,000 “non-criminal immigration violators” between Jan. 22 and Sept. 2, according to the agency’s records, a nearly threefold increase over the same period in 2016. Likewise, the Justice Department reported that Total Orders of Removal and Voluntary Departures were up 30.9 percent over the same time period in 2016.

But deportations have been slow. The U.S. federal immigration court system faces a backlog of more than 600,000 cases: “It may take years before immigrants arrested under Trump can be deported after exhausting their appeals.”

To boost sagging deportation stats, ICE began deporting immigrants who showed up for their regularly-scheduled “check-ins” with ICE officers: “Under the previous administration, many were allowed to stay for humanitarian reasons if they faithfully appeared for periodic meetings with ICE and didn’t commit crimes.”

This year, an unknown number who appeared for ICE check-ins were arrested or given an ultimatum to leave: “’This is all about the low-hanging fruit,’ said Charles Kuck, an Atlanta immigration attorney who teaches at Emory University. ‘It’s how you can spend the least amount of money to get higher deportation numbers.’”

In the yet-to-be-decided SCOTUS case Jennings vs Rodriguez, the highest court will decide whether the government could indefinitely detain plaintiffs challenging a government decision on immigration status or whether a judicial bond hearing must be granted beginning at six months and held every six months thereafter. On August 26, 2016, then-acting Solicitor General Ian Gershengorn informed the Supreme Court that the solicitor general’s office “underestimated the average time that illegal immigrants spent in detention while waiting to appeal their case. The solicitor general’s office had told the court in 2003 that the average detention time was four months. … average detention time was actually more than a year.” A November 2016 Bloomberg report indicated that 41,000 individuals were held in immigration detention facilities.

In many parts of our nation, the Trump Administration’s “widened net” has created a fear society: In places like Owensboro, Kentucky, where the children of a deported immigrant decided to immigrate to Mexico to avoid foster care – only after they were able to crowd-source the funds to do so; and in places like Austin, Texas, children have stopped going to school to avoid ICE officers:

“‘There are teachers who told me they had students missing from school out of fear,’ said Greg Casar, a city council member in Austin, Texas. ‘I was with a constituent, a single mother with kids — good, hardworking everyday folks — and she had duct-taped sheets up and down her windows. ICE had come and knocked on her door earlier in the day.'”

And in places like Detroit, Michigan: Jorge Garcia (pictured above) was one of those recently deported after meeting with ICE as part of a regular check-in in November 2017, where he was informed that he had to leave the U.S. and would be detained. The 39-year old landscaper was deported on MLK Jr. Day:

“Jorge Garcia was brought to the U.S. by an undocumented family member when he was 10 years old. Today he has a wife and two children, all of whom are U.S. citizens. He’s been trying for years to find a path to live legally in the U.S., with he and his wife spending $125,000 in legal costs and fees since 2005, says his wife.

“Garcia had been facing an order of removal from immigration courts since 2009, but under the previous administration, he had been given stays of removal.  But because of the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown, Garcia was ordered in November to return to Mexico. His supporters say he has no criminal record — not even a traffic ticket — and pays taxes every year.”

I recommend you read the whole piece, but this part stuck out:

“Especially painful will be being separated from his children, Soleil (15) and Jorge Garcia Jr., 12. The Garcias said their 12-year-old son has been taking the news hard, not expressing himself, which is concerning his parents.

“‘I’m going to be sad because I’m not going to be able to be with them,’ Garcia said at the table of a friend’s home in southwest Detroit during a farewell party for him. ‘It’s going to be kind of hard for me to adjust, too. Not being there with them, helping the kids with school stuff. It’s going to be kind of hard. But it’s something, I guess I got to find a way to adjust.'”

In any other Administration, the traditional Republican position would champion this cause and fight like hell to get this family’s father back, in support of “family values.” But Trump’s immigration policies are not aligned with “family values.” His policies requires the ability to see other humans as less than human, based on their country of origin and the color of their skin.

That’s not a bug of Trump’s worldview; it’s a feature.

Economic Benefits of Immigration

There are little-to-no ethical arguments to support mass deportation of non-criminal immigrants in this country. Turns out, there’s not much of an empirical argument for it, either.

The fiscally-conservative American Action Forum group estimates that deporting every undocumented immigrant would cause a slump of $381.5 billion to $623.2 billion in private sector output, amounting to roughly a loss of 2% of U.S. GDP.

In his wonderful 2015 piece titled “The Case for Getting Rid of Borders—Completely,” Alex Tabarrok cites two studies, saying:

“Economists have estimated that a world of open borders would double world GDP. Even relatively small increases in immigration flows can have enormous benefits. If the developed world were to take in enough immigrants to enlarge its labor force by a mere one percent, it is estimated that the additional economic value created would be worth more to the migrants than all of the world’s official foreign aid combined.”

Studies also show immigration is a net-benefit for an area, particularly when second and third-plus generation families remain in the United States. From one particular study:

“Immigration is integral to the nation’s economic growth. The inflow of labor supply has helped the United States avoid the problems facing other economies that have stagnated as a result of unfavorable demographics, particularly the effects of an aging work force and reduced consumption by older residents. In addition, the infusion of human capital by high-skilled immigrants has boosted the nation’s capacity for innovation, entrepreneurship, and technological change.”

The George W. Bush Center illuminates how the benefits of immigration outweigh the costs:

“When immigrants enter the labor force, they increase the productive capacity of the economy and raise GDP. Their incomes rise, but so do those of natives. It’s a phenomenon dubbed the “immigration surplus.’”

What’s more, those benefits are felt even if that immigration is illegal.

Finally, construction of the border wall is not only an ineffective and costly method of maintaining border security; it’s also legally difficult. About two-thirds of the U.S.–Mexico border runs along private or state-owned lands. The federal government must either purchase or seize that land through eminent domain to build any border wall. The “process is likely to cost the government millions and could take years of complex litigation,” as was the case for preexisting border walls.

To me, the answer is simple, and defending DACA is not enough: Drop the walls, open the borders, streamline the naturalization process, and let the market decide legal immigration. This country is founded on the idea of opportunity and upward mobility for all those who come to it. That’s the American Dream, and it’s under attack, as Jeff Sessions made clear on Fox News last week:

“What good does it do to bring in somebody who’s illiterate in their own country, has no skills, & is going to struggle in our country & not be successful? That is not what a good nation should do, and we need to get away from it.”

Trump and Sessions are wrong: An influx of new Americans will benefit us all. The foreigner’s desire to become an American is not an insult to our shared culture; it is an exaltation of it.

The End of Something

I haven’t written much in the past year or so, because 1) I stay busy, 2) I realized transcribing my opinions on matters unsolicited was a colossal waste of time, and 3) I did not think we would be where we are today, with Donald Trump as the incoming President. If I had any idea we would be here now, though, I would have written more to try to do my part to prevent it – even if it were just one more Internet screed, one more voice in the abyss.


In just a few hours, Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. I have profoundly disliked the guy since his CPAC speech in 2011. I thought his proposals to build a wall on the Southern border, impede international trade through taxes and tariffs, and “take the oil” in Iraq and Libya were either some kind of Rorschach Test or a joke. So when he won on election night, I was floored – I mean literally, on the floor, trying to breathe. It felt like the end of something.

The election impacts our nation’s economy, increases volatility across the globe, and validates the worst impulses in our society. Trump’s threats to use government power to reward his perceived cronies in business and punish his perceived enemies – whether that’s a U.S. Judge of Mexican heritage or a Muslim Gold Star Mother – threaten to destroy American faith in free markets and our democratic values. He campaigned on threats such as these, including the promise to put his opponent, Hillary Clinton, in jail – and went so far as to make an off-the-cuff solicitation for her assassination.

The election also impacts me personally vis-a-vis my employment. I honestly considered moving the family out the country to avoid the fallout, but that’s not happening, at least not now. For now, I’m in the bunker with everyone else.

As the inauguration approaches, I hear a common refrain – both online and from certain family members – to “move on.” That position is represented here by the editors of the conservative paper, the Washington Examiner:

Trump is going to be president — everyone’s president — whether they like it or not. You can’t make a strong case when you try to build it on evident falsehood. Trump won. The country chose him. Only fools actually fail to believe it. Trump’s detractors need to accept that and figure out what to do next. So does Trump.

If “moving on” means accepting the outcome of the election: Then that notion is reciprocated. Trump’s supporters need to realize that – despite his claims otherwise – he didn’t win in a landslide. If “moving on” means accepting Trumpism as gospel: Not gonna happen. Herein, I hope to provide my reasons why ever supporting him or his agenda seems alien to me.

Part 1: The Electorate

Due to two of the weakest and weirdest candidates in modern history, 2016 turnout was at a 20-year low. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a margin of 2,864,974 votes – that’s 2.1% of the 136,628,459 votes cast in 50 states. In the end, the Electoral College system handed the victory to Trump by a slim margin: Only 77,744 people across 3 states (Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) delivered the Electoral College victory to Donald Trump – that’s 0.5% of the 13,233,376 votes cast in those 3 states.

However: The Electoral College system is legitimate, and therefore the vote is legitimate.

No system is perfect. After the 2000 election, for my undergraduate degree, I researched and wrote in favor of nationwide adoption of the Nebraska/Maine “congressional district method,” where the electoral votes are split throughout the state; but that system is also flawed, as the results are heavily influenced by gerrymandering.

These days, I think the Electoral College still makes the same amount of sense it always has. Our founders crafted the system to protect the republic from what John Adams called the “tyranny of the majority.” In the Federalist 68, Alexander Hamilton states the Electoral College was established so “that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”

Two hundred and twenty-nine years later, we have elected a man who is, arguably, the most unqualified and unpredictable person to ever hold the office, the first elected without having worked a single day in public service. It seems the Electoral College, a necessary evil intended as a means to protect the republic, will be a used as an instrument to test the republic.

All that said: I accept that Trump won, and everyone else should, as well. But he and his supporters need to realize he doesn’t have a mandate as President. Trump will enter the office with an approval rating of 40%, the lowest approval rating in four decades. That’s 44 points below that of President Barack Obama in 2009, so he doesn’t have a mandate, or anything like it.

A major factor in candidate support in 2016 was their dislike of the opponent. It was the primary factor for Trump supporters: Fifty-three percent of Trump voters said they were voting “against Clinton” while only forty-four percent said they were voting “for Trump.” Poll after poll proved this out.

This is consistent with what I saw both online and with family members: The profound dislike for Hillary Clinton overrode any concerns people had for Trump.

The primary concern with Clinton was her “dishonesty and secrecy.” While this concern has been a problem her entire public life, it was highlighted by the controversy surrounding her email server. The controversy was slowly fed by information deliberately leaked by Wikileaks in conjunction with the Russian government, and bolstered somewhat by FBI Director James Comey’s quixotic decision to reopen the case a few weeks before the election. Comey’s actions during the campaign are currently undergoing investigation.

We had a historically divided and pessimistic electorate, with Trump voters notably uninformed and willing to support quick and risky solutions. Interestingly, race, gender, and education divisions were not as stark as analysts thought they would be; but there was one socioeconomic factor that was a better indicator than the rest: The >2,600 counties that voted for Trump comprise about 36% of the U.S. economic output, while the <500 counties that voted for Clinton contributed 64%.

Said another way: While only sixteen percent of the nation’s counties voted for Hillary, they comprise nearly two-thirds of the American economy. This gives us a clue as to why Trump won, and what he represents. From the article:

Counties with higher GDP per capita were more likely to vote for Clinton over Trump, as were counties with higher population density. Counties with a higher share of manufacturing employment were more likely to vote for Trump.

“This is a picture of a very polarized and increasingly concentrated economy,” said Mark Muro, the policy director at the Brookings metro program, “with the Democratic base aligning more to that more concentrated modern economy, but a lot of votes and anger to be had in the rest of the country.”

So, when the political Right makes hay over the notion that our society is divided among “Makers” and “Takers:” They are correct.

We do, in fact, live in bubbles, with different sets of values. There was lop-sided enthusiasm among certain bubbles which Trump exploited, explicitly trying to draw lines between “us” and “them” – Hispanics, blacks, Muslims, and (somewhat odd coming from Trump) the elusive elite. Someone else was to blame for the feelings of social displacement and economic malaise, and Trump sold himself as the guy who could right those wrongs.

Within a partisan bubble, valid misgivings over the state of the economy coalesced with another kind of bubble. A segment of his supporters – the Neo-Nazis, the KKK, and the anti-Semites – were not insignificant in size. Knowingly or otherwise, Trump sent dog whistles their way throughout the campaign with repeated promises of a Muslim ban, a Mexican wall, and a return to colonialism with a seizure of oil in the Middle East. His first campaign ad reiterated each of those proposals, and our nation’s racists overwhelming backed him for those beliefs.

Let me be clear here: Not every Trump voter is a racist. As stated, most supported Trump due to their dislike of Clinton. But every Trump voter was on a bandwagon that supported a racist agenda. While they may not have been hate-filled themselves, Trump voters indeed self-identified not by their common ideas, but by their dislike of other ideas, and the other “team.”

We treat politics as if it’s a football game. The neuroscience associated with this kind of team identity is telling.

A 2010 study tested the empathy of European male soccer fans, where one subject would receive a shock on the back of his hand and then watch while another man received the same shock. When the shocked man was described as fan of the same team, there was an observable increase of neural activity in the anterior cingulate cortex – the region of the brain that generates an empathic neural response – creating an overlap in self-other pain, and an illusion of pain within the watcher. When the shocked man was described as a fan of an opposing team, however, that corresponding empathic pain the watcher had for the ingroup went away, he was less empathetic for the outgroup, and in some cases, derived pleasure from the other man’s suffering.

This is consistent with what I saw in 2016: Voters increasingly value party and polarity over common human decency and the consequences of policy. We have applied a professional sports mentality to politics, and many voters want to “sit in the bleachers and watch the reality show.” But this isn’t a football game. There are consequences.

Part 2: The Consequences

The day after the election, Trump communicated what he wants to get done in his first 100 days: Inhibit free trade through the renegotiation of NAFTA and withdrawal from TPP; block foreign travel; immediate deportation of 2 million people; build and pay for a wall on the Southern border; mandatory minimum sentences for illegal immigrants; and more.

These are all terrible ideas, but shouldn’t shock anyone. He was serious during the campaign. Everyone laughed. But this is real.

We have significant blind spots on the actual impacts of free trade and freedom of immigration. As President, Trump will have substantial influence over the conversation, so it’s a shame he gets so much wrong.

How much Trump can actually accomplish remains to be seen, but the normal checks and balances are weaker than ever. He now holds the majority in the legislative branch, and he’s about to have the Supreme Court, too. It’s up to party leaders like Mitch McConnell to stop him, but regarding the first 100 days agenda, he was quoted as saying: “I think most of the things that he’s likely to advocate we’re going to be enthusiastically for,” so I’m not hopeful.

Trump is poised to lead his party down multiple rabbit holes of bad policy, built on false assumptions. For instance, Trump’s belief – reiterated in his 100 days agenda – that China manipulates its currency is not true. It’s a mythical artifact from the last decade. This week, Trump stated that our own currency was “too strong” for US companies to compete with their Chinese counterparts, and as a consequence, the US Dollar retreated.

This election was considered a referendum on globalism, and nationalism won. In today’s economy, the rise of anti-trade nationalism will have a chilling effect on the business of global business, and could wreak havoc on the American economy, on the scale of Smoot-Hawley. Spooked by foreign competition, Trump threatens to upend global trade with promises to slash America’s trade deficit by tearing up international agreements with NATO and the EU and imposing massive new tariffs on imports from China (45 percent) and Mexico (35 percent).

What he doesn’t seem to understand is that in free trade, global competition is a good thing, and trade deals such as TPP and NAFTA encourage businesses to collaborate, innovate, and prosper. By contrast, protectionism is a recipe for recession, driving our allies into the arms of our primary competitors. Global trade is not a zero-sum game. From Scott Lincicome at the Cato Institute:

It’s crucial to remember the tremendous benefits of trade, particularly through NAFTA. About one-third of all U.S. merchandise exports are bought by Mexico and Canada, and exports from our service industries and from the agriculture sector have risen dramatically under the agreement.

Thanks to imports, American families effectively stretch their pay check by about $10,000 each year. Around 800,000 American auto industry jobs depend on a seamless North American supply chain to stay globally competitive. American-made raw materials constitute about 40% of the content of the products we import from Mexico, and almost 75% of all U.S. inputs that return here as finished goods come from Canada and Mexico. Undoing NAFTA would cause job losses, lower living standards and economic calamity.

Protectionism is no road to riches; it actually punishes American households. Bullying American companies such as Carrier and Ford into retracting dispossessed American jobs when economic reality does not support such a move is bull-headed. Unsurprisingly, Carrier has already cut some of the jobs Trump supposedly saved.

Trump’s empty promises to “Make America Great Again” by returning our manufacturing jobs underlies the support he had in the election, yet is woefully ignorant of the modern American economy. Today, manufacturing is more productive with far fewer people, and that’s a good thing:


In our modern era, it won’t be easy to bring yesterday’s jobs back. We will have to deliberately become less-efficient to do so.

Technology has always freed people to pursue other forms of employment. Technology enables innovation, research and development, thereby uncovering new markets while making the old ones obsolete. Technological changes beget labor market changes; this is nothing new. We (or more adeptly, our children) will move on. What makes our modern era any different?

The truth is, we are entering a period of post-scarcity, which I wrote more about here, and it will take sharper minds if we want to prevail through the transition rather than decline. R. H. Mabry and A. D. Sharplin made predictions about this period in their 1986 Policy Analysis:

Flatly in error are those that predict no more jobs for a very large sector of the population as a result of advancing technology, creating a massive problem of involuntary unemployment. It is not at all clear that a large number of jobs are about to be destroyed; even if they were, such long-run unemployment as would occur would certainly not be involuntary. Rather, it would take the form of even shorter workdays, shorter work-weeks, and fewer working members in the family, as it has throughout our history.

Moving on to Trump’s border wall: History tells us building walls precedes demise. From Rome through Britain with the Hadrian Wall, to the Ming Dynasty’s Great Wall, to the Berlin Wall of the Soviet Empire, border walls tend to accompany barriers to trade, and make a time capsule out of the country inside the wall. Border walls precede the decline of the empire.

Trump’s border wall was one of, if not the, campaign selling point. He said Mexico will pay for it, but it’s becoming more apparent they (of course) will not. If history shows it’s a bad idea, why do so many people support it? And what does that say about us?

Regarding immigration: Non-citizen immigrant adults and children are about 25% less likely to be signed up for Medicaid than their poor native-born equivalents, and are also 37% less likely to receive food stamps. We do not discuss the actual data available. Studies show immigration is a net-benefit for an area, particularly when second and third-plus generation families remain in the United States. From one particular study:

Immigration is integral to the nation’s economic growth. The inflow of labor supply has helped the United States avoid the problems facing other economies that have stagnated as a result of unfavorable demographics, particularly the effects of an aging work force and reduced consumption by older residents. In addition, the infusion of human capital by high-skilled immigrants has boosted the nation’s capacity for innovation, entrepreneurship, and technological change.

The George. W. Bush Center illuminates how the benefits of immigration outweigh the costs:

When immigrants enter the labor force, they increase the productive capacity of the economy and raise GDP. Their incomes rise, but so do those of natives. It’s a phenomenon dubbed the “immigration surplus.”

What’s more, those benefits are felt even if that immigration is illegal.

So, it seems obvious: Law-abiding immigrants should be able to become citizens as quickly as they can be vetted. They should become citizens, pay taxes when warranted, and get benefits when needed, just like poor white people do. Our country has voted against that notion, but it may not matter: Hispanics are leaving the United States faster than they are entering. Perhaps they know something we don’t.

Regarding foreign policy: We honestly don’t know what to expect. He might intervene more aggressively in Syria (or not), expand our footprint in the Middle East (or not), cooperate with the Russians and Turks there (or not), or pivot to Asia (or not). What we do know is that his threats to pull out of NATO obligations are already making our European allies nervous.

We also know that in the never-ending War on Terror, Trump’s support for waterboarding and intentionally killing civilian families cements the United States as a formidable enemy, which is why Trump was ISIS’ preferred candidate for the volatility he introduces to geopolitics. From Foreign Affairs magazine:

Jihadists are rooting for a Trump presidency because they believe that he will lead the United States on a path to self-destruction.

Ultimately, the 2016 election demonstrated that our nation’s divisions go beyond the water’s edge. In an effort to weaken the other party, Trump and his supporters aligned with a foreign country to intervene in presidential politics: Russia has admitted they were in communication with Trump campaign, as the electronic signatures show. His willingness to use a foreign power to disrupt the election – and his supporters’ willingness to follow him there – cuts us deep.

We are more divided than we’ve been since Watergate, but this divide has potential to go deeper than that. I am hoping we mend after the inauguration, because I believe this cut could prove to be fatal.

Part 3: The Person

What do we, as a nation, think of Trump as a person, his character, and his ethics? What does Trump’s character say about how he will govern? Who is he?

Trump often contradicts himself, confusing the breadcrumbs along the trail for anyone who wants to know what he actually believes. He’s been caught lying again and again and again and again. This election was overrun with fake news, some of which he repeated, such as: A claim that millions of illegals prevented him from winning the popular vote; a claim that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the JFK assassination; a claim that a protester was connected to ISIS; and so on.

A better term for what he does is called “gaslighting,” defined as “persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying.” He tests the waters to see what he can get away with. Some examples would be: His claim that he “could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters;” or telling his supporters to “knock the crap out” of protesters at his rallies, saying “I will pay your legal fees.” When confronted with the statement, Trump responded: “I didn’t say that.”

To get to the heart of who Trump might be, by his own testimonies, he enjoys discrediting his opponents – both political and personal – and is eager to punish his enemies. In his own words, from his 2007 book, Think Big:

When someone crosses you, my advice is ‘Get even!’ That is not typical advice, but it is real-life advice. If you do not get even, you are just a schmuck! When people wrong you, go after those people, because it is a good feeling and because other people will see you doing it. I love getting even. I get screwed all the time. I go after people, and you know what? People do not play around with me as much as they do with others. They know that if they do, they are in for a big fight. Always get even. Go after people that go after you. Don’t let people push you around. Always fight back and always get even. It’s a jungle out there, filled with bullies of all kinds who will try to push you around. If you’re afraid to fight back people will think of you as a loser, a ‘schmuck!’ They will know they can get away with insulting you, disrespecting you, and taking advantage of you. Don’t let it happen! Always fight back and get even.”

Trump’s long history of sexual misconduct allegations and numerous settlement cases trail him as he enters the White House. During the campaign, a tape emerged where Trump was caught bragging about sexual assault. Twelve women accused him of exactly that, and he threatened to sue them all. He also bragged about walking in on underage girls dressing for the pageant he owned; first-hand testimonies confirmed his claim.

Trump’s words do not convey the values I wish for myself, or my children, or anybody to hold in high esteem. But his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, said in December we shouldn’t listen to anything he says:

This is the problem with the media. You guys took everything that Donald Trump said so literally. The American people didn’t. They understood it. They understood that sometimes, when you have a conversation with people, whether it’s around the dinner table or at a bar, you’re going to say things, and sometimes you don’t have all the facts to back it up.

So if we shouldn’t judge Trump by the things he says, let’s look at some of the things he does.

Trump has quite the experience with lawsuits, with over 3,500 to date. During the campaign, he threatened antitrust lawsuits on businesses he doesn’t like, and libel lawsuits on politicians and press organizations he doesn’t like. Organizations that bear his name have recently settled major lawsuits, including the defunct Trump Foundation and the defunct Trump University.

The Donald J. Trump Foundation admitted to the IRS in 2015 it violated self-dealing practices, using Trump Foundation money to pay off Trump Organization lawsuits. It’s worth mentioning there were no employees of the Foundation, and all funding decisions were made by Trump himself. He shut the Foundation down in December 2016.

Then there’s Trump University, a fake training program that defrauded its students from 2005 to 2010 and finally settled various lawsuits for $25 million in November 2016, after Trump was elected President. Trump himself was found liable in the lawsuits.

With regard to the family business, Trump has multiple conflicts of interest with the Trump Organization’s numerous properties around the world which he still owns. If he cannot adequately divest himself of these business ventures, he may get snagged constitutionally by the Emoluments Clause. He has done little to guarantee those deals will not influence his presidency.

Trump’s answer? “The law’s totally on my side; the president can’t have a conflict of interest.” That is, by being president, Trump thinks he will be above the law.


Trump has profited off the weaknesses of humanity his whole life, and now he’s moving on to the federal government. He has lowered our standards for public behavior, our decorum, our policy expectations, and our collective reading level. So if “move on” means jumping in the bandwagon with racists; if it means supporting anti-trade and anti-immigrant policies; if it means venerating a terrible person due to the office he is about to enter: Not gonna happen.

I do not want Trump to succeed as President if that means “succeed with his agenda,” because his agenda will damage the nation. I would prefer we reach that optimal point where he fails spectacularly with the least amount of damage done to the United States, so that we learn our lesson never to experiment like this again. In this way, I feel as if I’m watching a child climb something they were warned not to climb: I know that in some cases, the child must feel that pain themselves before modifying their behavior. We just hope they don’t lose an eye in the process.

Trump did one thing well: He was able to read the fears and frustrations of his fellow Americans, leverage them, and create “Trumpism,” a cult of personality unique in American politics.

His charisma is like a cloak only his supporters can see. I have never been able to understand it. He strikes me as too thin-skinned, unhinged, and unprepared for the office he is about to enter, and I think the aspects of humanity he represents, knowingly or otherwise, are much worse.

Some see through the bravado, straight to his authoritarian tendencies. His bullying of companies resonated with one Nobel economist as comparable to 1930’s fascist economic policies in Germany and Italy. Maybe that’s a bit much, but there is no harm in overestimating the danger of a political situation; whole civilizations have been lost to underestimations.

One positive aspect of the election is that any notion Republicans stand for “individual rights” and “limited government,” for anyone other than themselves, is dead. They could have stopped Trump, but chose not to. Moving forward, I think any attempts to work from within the political system to somehow reach out to Trump is a fool’s errand. The best his party can do is stall him and divert his attention, and try to redefine themselves in eight years or so, because they are welded to him until then.

As for me, I hope and pray I never bow down and accept Trumpism. That would mean I gave up, like many of my fellow countrymen already have.