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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Massive Protests All over the Country
      •  Does Trump Deserve This?
      •  The Left Will Rise Again?
      •  Five Takeaways from the Inauguration
      •  Trump Visits the CIA and Boasts about Himself
      •  Trump vs. the Media: It's War
      •  Justice Department Says Kushner Is Allowed to Advise Trump
      •  Can You Plagiarize a Cake?
      •  Now, When Trump Deletes Tweets, He May Be Breaking the Law

Massive Protests All over the Country

Far more people showed up in D.C. yesterday to oppose President Donald Trump than showed up Friday to cheer his inauguration. The number of protesters easily exceeded 500,000, far more than the 200,000 the organizers predicted, and more than the 250,000 who came to the inauguration. The crowd stretched 14 blocks down Independence Avenue. Many marchers held signs savaging Trump for his behavior toward women, his cozying up to Vladimir Putin, and many other things. Some of them wore knitted hats with cat ears, an oblique reference to Trump's comments on a videotape about "grabbing women by the p****y." There were also events in other cities. The New York Times produced a map of cities where rallies and marches took place:

Map of marches

The rallies and marches in other cities, estimated to number over 600, were also enormous. The number of marchers in Chicago, over 150,000, was so great that portions of the event were canceled because the streets were filled to overcapacity. In Boston, the crowd was about 125,000. The gatherings were also huge in New York, Miami, Denver, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Seattle. One man in Juneau, AK, said the crowd was the biggest one he has ever seen. There were also rallies and marches against Trump all over world, including in nearly every country in Europe, and on every continent. People in Antarctica even demonstrated. The total number of marchers worldwide was certainly in the millions, but no exact count is known. More than 200 organizations signed up as partners for the marches, including Planned Parenthood, the NAACP, the NOW, and Human Rights Watch.

Numerous speakers at the various rallies told the crowds to fight back against Trump. At the Boston Common, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) told the crowd that the playing field has long been tilted to favor those on top and now it will get even worse. Feminist icon Gloria Steinem, an honorary co-chair of the event, said that if Trump forces Muslims to register, everyone should register. Celebrity speakers around the country included Cecile Richards, Michael Moore, Ashley Judd, and America Ferrera. Lawmakers who spoke included Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). (V)

Does Trump Deserve This?

It has been a long time since a president triggered a response that was this overt, this extensive, and this loud. While each of the last three presidents certainly had legions of detractors, citizens haven't taken to the streets in this way since, perhaps, the waning months of the Johnson administration. And that, of course, was only after years of mismanaging the mess in Vietnam, and not the day his administration began. To find a president whose very election generated this kind of pushback—well, then, we're probably talking about Abraham Lincoln, whose triumph in 1860 triggered both secession and a civil war.

Of course, it is the right of American citizens to protest—at least, as long as the First Amendment is still on the books. The question is whether the demonstrations we're seeing are mere sour grapes (the position of many Republicans), or if there's justification for treating Trump differently from his predecessors (the position of many Democrats). Deadspin's Hamilton Nolan has written an intriguing essay on the question entitled, "This Is Why You Don't Kiss The Ring." His argument is that Trump has made this response absolutely necessary through his total disregard for the customs and courtesies of American politics. Nolan observes:

Our society and our institutions are simply not set up to deal with someone who is fully prepared to flout all of our norms of good behavior. Our system, to a large degree, relies on social sanction rather than laws to prevent powerful people from getting too far out of line. When our most powerful person is willing to ignore all of that, there is not much in place to stop him...This is not going to be a free and fair exchange of ideas. This is going to be a fight. If you have not absorbed that fact yet, you are already losing.

Given the extent to which Trump has repeatedly subverted the spirit (and often the letter) of the rules—unqualified cabinet appointments, repeated peddling of outright falsehoods, refusal to divest himself of his businesses, assuming presidential duties while still president-elect—Nolan's argument certainly has some meat to it. (Z)

The Left Will Rise Again?

Owen Jones, writing from an outsider's perspective in The Guardian (UK), has authored an op-ed that complements the piece discussed above. He argues that the Obamacare repeal has uncovered something surprising about the current state of American politics: Republicans are divided, and Donald Trump is weaker than he looks, while the Democrats are pulling together. Thus, the seeds are being sown for a resurgence on the part of the blue team.

Jones spoke to several prominent Democratic activists, most of them of a progressive stripe, and there was general consensus that centrism is not the way forward for the party. Obama tried to be centrist and never gained any traction with the GOP and its supporters; Hillary Clinton is quite centrist, and was sent packing. The proposal is that the Democrats should craft their own brand of populism, challenging the entrenched political and economic elite as Trump did, but sans the racism and misogyny. Of course, that is easier said than done, particularly if the 2020 battle for the Democratic nomination ends up as another heated battle between a centrist and a progressive. (Z)

Five Takeaways from the Inauguration

Now that Donald Trump is the "45th" president of the United States (actually the 44th, but most news outlets count Stephen "Grover" Cleveland twice because his two terms were not consecutive), the takeaways from the inauguration are starting to roll in. Here is one from The Hill:

  • Trump is sticking to his blistering, populist campaign style, depicting a country in crisis
  • Trump loves to schmooze with Congress, something Barack Obama never did, probably to his detriment
  • Jan. 20 ushered in an unimaginable dark day for the Democrats, whose only remaining power is the filibuster
  • The country is not coming together to heal; in fact, it is getting more divided every day
  • Trump will move quickly to change the country in innumerable ways

No doubt many other lists of takeaways will follow. (V)

Trump Visits the CIA and Boasts about Himself

Although he has been feuding with the intelligence community for months, Donald Trump made a quick visit to the CIA's Langley, VA, headquarters yesterday, to tell about 400 CIA employees how much he is behind them. He also boasted about the size of his crowds and how many magazine covers he has appeared on. He also said: "Probably almost everybody in this room voted for me," which is highly unlikely given how much he denigrated the agency during his campaign. In addition, he said that when the U.S. invaded Iraq, it should have taken Iraq's oil, and noted that maybe there will be another chance to do so.

One former CIA official said that Trump did the visit all wrong. He should have waited until the new director, Mike Pompeo, was confirmed, visited on a weekday when more people were present, made the meeting private, and answered questions. The official said Trump's visit was a waste of time. The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), was also not impressed, saying: "He will need to do more than use the agency memorial as a backdrop if he wants to earn the respect of the men and women who provide the best intelligence in the world." (V)

Trump vs. the Media: It's War

During his visit to CIA headquarters, Donald Trump said quite a few mouthfuls. In amongst his braggadocio and his off-the-cuff foreign policy, he also had some rather unkind things to say about the media. He blamed them for creating the narrative that he was anti-intelligence, conveniently forgetting that they were merely repeating his sharply-worded anti-intelligence tweets. He also said, "I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth," and specifically slammed Time's Zeke Miller, who made (and promptly corrected) an error in reporting that Trump had removed the Martin Luther King, Jr., bust from the Oval Office. Although Trump's remarks received cheers from the back of the room, senior CIA leadership was not amused, and sat stonefaced. Needless to say, telling overt and easily disprovable lies, declaring war against the media, and singling out a reporter are all far, far outside the norm for a president. Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, went so far as to call it "chilling," and worried what Trump will do now that "he's got the power to turn this obsession into policy."

Appropriately enough, the Washington Post's Margaret Sullivan wrote a column this week that anticipated Trump's declaration. She says that the next four years are going to be "hellish" for journalists, for three reasons. The first is his gaslighting—a term that refers to the 1944 film Gaslight, in which a husband dims the lights in his home, then convinces his wife that she's just imagining the darkness. In modern usage, as CNN's Frida Ghitis explains, the techniques of gaslighting include, "saying and doing things and then denying it, blaming others for misunderstanding, disparaging their concerns as oversensitivity, claiming outrageous statements were jokes or misunderstandings, and other forms of twilighting the truth."

Sullivan thinks that the second challenge for reporters is the one that Joel Simon worries about: That Trump will find ways to punish his critics. It could just be lack of access, but it's unlikely to stop there, particularly given his lifelong penchant for filing lawsuits. There could be new anti-press laws, or threats of financial harm, or even prosecutions. While it is very difficult for a president to prevail in a libel suit, just the cost of a defense could be a backbreaker to a reporter who is not very well-heeled (or whose employer is not well-heeled).

The third problem is Trump's oft-demonstrated willingness to manipulate reality. He's got some skilled assistants at his command, including strategic adviser Steve Bannon, son-in-law/adviser Jared Kushner, and friend and confidant Peter Thiel. Already, The Donald has seeded events with people who were paid to applaud, shout, and whistle (this happened when he announced his campaign, at his press conference this week, and may also have been the case at Saturday's CIA meeting). There's also been all the fake news stories, of course, and with the resources now at Trump's disposal, the sky's the limit.

The point, then, is that the nature of Trump's relationship with the media is clear to both sides. And battle lines are already forming, as the various players prepare to take on their roles. For example, it is Sean Spicer's job, as spokesman, to communicate Trump's messaging to the world. Which means that it's now Sean Spicer's job to fudge the truth. For example, the administration has developed something of an obsession with convincing the world that more people showed up for Trump's inaugural than for Barack Obama's. This is simply not true, and Team Trump was unwise to even open that can of worms, given the historic nature (and thus the appeal) of being present at the inaugural of the first black president.

In any case, Spicer's main task on Saturday was to sell this falsehood, and he did so by telling four obvious lies in five minutes of press conference, while at the same time attacking the media for their dishonesty. The problem is that Spicer is not nearly as skilled a prevaricator as Trump. Scholars who study the matter know that lying successfully is very hard, as human beings are very skilled lie detectors. The only way around this is for the liar to believe his falsehoods (which is known as self-deception), or else to be a sociopath who simply does not care . Anyone who watches Spicer's press conference can tell he does not believe what he's saying, because he oversells it. In particular, his declaration that, "This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period." (which occurs at 2:37 in the linked video). This so obviously struck a false note that it sent the Internet into convulsions, and even became a joke on "Saturday Night Live" 12 hours later (forward to 1:53 at this link, if interested).

Spicer is not the only who is adjusting to the brave new world in which we find ourselves. CNN, for its part, declined to air Saturday's press conference live, so that they could first evaluate the content and broadcast only the parts that were factual. And, as we've noted several times, Fox News is in flux (flox?), due to the departure of Megyn Kelly, Roger Ailes, and others, as well as the likelihood that their #1 personality, Bill O'Reilly, is nearing the end of the line. Events on Saturday helped clarify that they are positioning themselves to be, essentially, Breitbart TV. They chose not to to cover Saturday's protests at all, keeping their focus on Trump and his activities (praying, speaking to the CIA, working in the Oval Office). Also on Saturday, the network announced that it will not be renewing the contracts of several longtime contributors: Ed Rollins, Stacey Dash, Marvin Kalb, Cal Thomas, and George Will. These are among the channel's more moderate voices, their departure presages a shift rightward.

Needless to say, none of this is going to help bring the country together. One side will get their information and their understanding of events from one set of sources, and the other wise will do the same from an entirely different set of sources. If America didn't have two different realities already, they're going to now. (Z)

Justice Department Says Kushner Is Allowed to Advise Trump

One of Donald Trump's most trusted advisers is his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Trump wants him to serve in an unpaid position as an adviser, working in the White House, specifically on issues relating to the Middle East. There was a potential problem, because a federal law passed after John F. Kennedy appointed his brother Bobby as attorney general forbids presidents from naming relatives to high positions. The need for such a law is far from clear when the nominee has to be confirmed by the Senate, but it is still on the books. Trump was worried that there could be a problem with Kushner, even though he is not actually an employee, so he asked the Justice Dept. for a ruling. In a 14-page opinion, the government lawyers said that there is no problem because the intent of the law was to have it apply only to the heads of the executive departments, something Kushner is not.

To avoid conflicts of interest, Kushner will sell some of his assets to his brother and put others in a trust of which his mother is trustee. It is not certain that Kushner will divest himself of all assets, though. (V)

Can You Plagiarize a Cake?

We already know that the Trumps are big fans of the Obamas' speechmaking, to the point of Melania borrowing Michelle's words quite liberally (and without attribution). It turns out that they like the Obamas' taste in cake design as well, as the dessert served at Donald Trump's inaugural ball bore a striking resemblance to the one served at Barack Obama's ball four years ago. Resemblance, in fact, is not quite the right word. Exact copy is more like it. The Obama cake was made by Duff Goldman, who has achieved some measure of fame through his television program "Ace of Cakes." He saw the Trump version, and tweeted pictures of the two confections next to each other, noting that:

The cake on the left is the one I made for President Obama's inauguration 4 years ago. The one on the right is Trump's. I didn't make it.

Later, baker Tiffany MacIsaac came forward and said she was responsible for the Trumps' cake. She was given a photograph of the original and told to duplicate it. Even though she pleaded to use the Obama cake only as an inspiration, she was rebuffed, and instructed to make a copy, down to the last ounce of fondant. MacIsaac did as she was told, and promptly donated her fee to the Human Rights Campaign. So, there we have it. It seems very odd that Trump would borrow so liberally from someone who wasn't even born in America. (Z)

Now, When Trump Deletes Tweets, He May Be Breaking the Law

Donald Trump is poised to spend most of his presidency living in gray areas of the law, and now that includes his Twitter account. The Presidential Records Act of 1978 requires the preservation of all records related to the president. It does not mention Twitter, of course, though the Obama administration concluded that @POTUS tweets were subject to the act's terms and assiduously archived them all. By contrast @BarackObama was not used by the president while he was in office (it was in the hands of his nonprofit Organizing for Action), and so was not archived.

So, where does @RealDonaldTrump fit in? It's clearly his private account, but it's equally clear that Trump is using it as president. While it's not a slam dunk, the general consensus is that he has a responsibility to keep every tweet. If that is true, then Trump's deletion of misspelled tweets (which happens often) or of inconvenient tweets (less frequent) would be illegal. It's unclear what the penalty would be, though, and the incoming Attorney General is rather unlikely to prosecute. However, it's certainly possible that this could be on the list if Congress ever gets it in its mind to impeach. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jan21 Donald Trump is Inaugurated
Jan21 The Trump Administration Gets Underway
Jan21 Protests are Numerous, Mostly Peaceful
Jan21 First Ethics Complaint Filed Against Trump
Jan21 What Will Trumponomics Be Like?
Jan21 How to Know If America Has Been Made Great Again
Jan20 Trump Will Inherit a Deeply Polarized Country
Jan20 Trump Starts with Half an Administration
Jan20 Trump to Get the Nuclear Launch Codes Today
Jan20 What Kind of Man Is Trump?
Jan20 Trump Plans Drastic Budget Cuts
Jan20 Mnuchin Doesn't Toe the GOP Line During Confirmation Hearing
Jan20 Obamacare Is as Popular as it Has Ever Been
Jan20 Yellen: Economy Near Maximum Employment
Jan20 How Did this Happen? (Part I)
Jan20 How Did this Happen? (Part II)
Jan20 Trump's Victory: A View from the White House
Jan20 Strange Presidential Transitions
Jan20 Discount for Political Wire
Jan19 Trump Taps Perdue for Agriculture; Cabinet Is Now Complete
Jan19 Pruitt Faces Withering Fire; Admits Climate Change is Man-made
Jan19 Price Says Stock Purchases Were Legitimate
Jan19 More Questions Arise About DeVos
Jan19 Dozens of Democratic Representatives Now Boycotting Inauguration
Jan19 Five Areas Where Democrats Could Make a Deal with Trump
Jan19 Why Not Al?
Jan19 Canada Gets Its Own Trump
Jan18 At Least 18 Million Would Lose Health Insurance If the ACA is Repealed
Jan18 GOP Representatives Getting an Earful about Obamacare
Jan18 DeVos Has a Rough Day
Jan18 Trump Unready for a National Security Crisis
Jan18 New Poll: Trump's Approval is Deep Under Water
Jan18 Woman Sues Trump for Defamation
Jan18 Trump Doesn't Like Tweeting?
Jan18 Obama Commutes Chelsea Manning's Sentence
Jan18 Inaugural Concert Lands Sam Moore
Jan17 Trouble for Trump Appointees
Jan17 Trump Has Been Trying to Do Business in Russia for Decades
Jan17 Trump's Opinions on Russia Have Shifted
Jan17 Trump, Price, and Hatch Don't Agree on What the ACA Replacement Should Look Like
Jan17 White Supremacists No Longer Hailing Trump
Jan17 Poll: Trump Can Keep Businesses but Should Release Tax Returns
Jan17 Obama Leaves Office with a 58% Approval Rating
Jan17 Trump Reaches 20M Twitter Followers
Jan16 CIA Director Brennan Rips into Trump
Jan16 Feinstein Says Russia Altered the Election Outcome
Jan16 Trump Calls NATO Obsolete
Jan16 Trump Won't Visit African-American Museum After All
Jan16 Thousands Rally to Resist Repeal of the ACA
Jan16 Constituents Ask ACA Questions, Their Congressman Flees
Jan16 Inauguration Gets Some Performers
Jan16 Mr. Trump: Please Attack Me Next
Jan14 Trump's Cabinet Is Not on the Same Page as Trump
Jan14 What Will Trump Do? We Should Know February 6
Jan14 Senate Committee Will Investigate Russian Interference
Jan14 Inauguration Day Will Be Tense in D.C.