With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA: It’s not enumerated in Article Two of the Constitution, but consoler in chief has always been one of the most important responsibilities of the American president. Playing this part has only become more important in the television age, and Donald Trump — who became president partially because of his mastery of the reality TV medium — has utterly failed to offer moral leadership during the biggest test yet of his seven-month presidency.
Think about Barack Obama’s 2015 eulogy when a white supremacist massacred African American churchgoers in Charleston, his 2011 speech after Gabby Giffords was shot in Tucson or his tearful comments after kids were gunned down at a Connecticut elementary school in 2012.
Bill Clinton encouraged Americans to “overcome evil with good” after 168 people were killed at the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995. “Let us teach our children that the God of comfort is also the God of righteousness: Those who trouble their own house will inherit the wind,” he said. “Justice will prevail.”
After millions of schoolkids saw the Challenger explode in 1986, Ronald Reagan spoke straight to camera from the Oval Office. “I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery,” he said. “The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave.”
Think back to the way Lyndon Johnson and then, a decade later, Gerald Ford worked to rehabilitate the country in the days after they inherited the most powerful job on Earth. As John F. Kennedy said in Germany a few months before he was assassinated, “Dante once said that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality.”
— George W. Bush really set the standard after Sept. 11, 2001. He projected steely calm on the night of the attacks, addressing the nation from the White House when his security team wanted him to stay away from Washington. He spoke out poignantly against targeting Muslims in anger. But his best moment came when he visited the World Trade Center site on Sept. 14. Workers at Ground Zero were yelling that they couldn’t hear him. Holding a bullhorn, Bush replied: “I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people … who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!” Recalling that moment still gives us chills 16 years later.
Three days after Charlottesville, Trump also flew to New York and made an off-the-cuff statement about a national tragedy. But instead of rallying the country behind a common goal, this president infected the wound. He offered a window into the depths of his soul, and his false moral equivalency is now generating fresh scrutiny of his checkered record on race.
Asked if he puts neo-Nazis on the same “moral plane” as liberal counterprotesters, Trump replied: “I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane. What I’m saying is this. You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other, and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and it was horrible.”
As Trump continues to dig in his heels and becomes increasingly isolated, Bush yesterday released a joint statement with his father, George H.W. Bush, from Kennebunkport. “America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms,” they said. “As we pray for Charlottesville, we are reminded of the fundamental truths recorded by that city’s most prominent citizen in the Declaration of Independence: we are all created equal and endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights. We know these truths to be everlasting because we have seen the decency and greatness of our country.”
Rich Lowry, the editor of the conservative magazine National Review, writes in a new column: “Over the past few days, Trump hasn’t spoken as the leader of the country, or even leader of one party, but as a leader of an inflamed faction. In general, Trump’s news conference was a tour de force of whataboutism, one of the most important rhetorical tools of the pro-Trump internet. The ‘alt-right’ marched on Charlottesville? Well, what about the ‘alt-left’? Robert E. Lee’s statue is coming down. Well, what about George Washington? … [They] were used, as whataboutism so often is, as cover for Trump’s failings and to obscure rather than sharpen distinctions. Charlottesville highlights how the problem with Trump is not the crudity of his expression. This, at times, can be part of his charm and makes him a distinctively powerful communicator. It’s the crudity of thought and feeling.”
Journalist Howard Fineman sees something even more sinister. “Having risen to power by dividing the country, his party leadership and even, at times, his own campaign team, [Trump’s] aim now is to divide or discredit any institution, tradition or group in his way,” Fineman argues on HuffPost. “Trump seems perfectly willing to destroy the country to maintain his own power. … The goal, as always with Trump, is to win amid the chaos he sows, to be the last man standing in rubble. And ‘winning’ is rapidly being reduced to the raw, basic terms he prefers: brute survival. With a record-setting low approval rating, world crises everywhere and a special counsel on his tail, the main victory he can hope for is staying in office. It’s not only an emotional imperative for Trump, it’s a deliberate ― and thus far successful ― strategy.”
— Trump’s continuing unwillingness and inability to console the country has created a huge void. Nature abhors a vacuum, and the American people yearn for someone who can powerfully restate our core principles in the face of the wickedness and hatred we saw last weekend. With Trump’s failure to lead, others are stepping up to say what Trump will not — to clarify that what we saw in Charlottesville is not who we are.
Besides the Bushes, here are nine other people or entities who have shown this week that you don’t need to be president to offer moral leadership for the country:
The mother of Heather Heyer gave an extraordinarily touching eulogy about her slain daughter during a memorial service in Charlottesville yesterday.
“They tried to kill my child to shut her up, but guess what, you just magnified her,” said Bro, sparking a standing ovation that lasted nearly a minute and a half.
More than that, it was a call to action for the 32-year-old’s life to not be lost in vain. “I have aged 10 years in the last week,” Bro said. After struggling up the stairs to the podium, she urged everyone watching to fight against intolerance “as Heather would do.”
“I’d rather have my child, but by golly if I got to give her up, we’re going to make it count,” she said.
“Moments later, as the service ended, Bro implored a protester in the audience to stop her critical comments about President Trump by asking the woman to be respectful of her daughter. The woman, who called Heyer a hero, complied, and there were no other outbursts,” Ellie Silverman, Arelis R. Hernández and Steve Hendrix report from Charlottesville. “In her remarks at the service, Bro described a determined, argumentative and passionate woman who made an impact on her community despite never going to college. She implored those who wished to honor Heyer to pay attention to social events in the way that her daughter had taught her and others to do. Citing a Facebook post of Heyer’s, Bro said: ‘If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.’”
The Veterans Affairs secretary, a holdover from the Obama administration, said yesterday that he is “outraged” by what he saw from neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville. “Shulkin, who is Jewish, spoke to reporters and said that although he serves Trump, he does not speak for him,” Dan Lamothe reports.
“I do feel like as an American and as a member of the Cabinet, that I can speak for my own personal opinions on this, and I am outraged by the behavior that I have seen with the Nazis and the white supremacists,” Shulkin said. “I am outraged on the use of violence — to be able to put one’s ideals, and force them upon others.”
Shulkin said it is “a dishonor to our country’s veterans for the Nazis and the white supremacists to go unchallenged, and that we all have to speak up about this as Americans.” He then quoted the famous poem by Protestant pastor Martin Niemöller that begins, “First they came for the Socialists.”
“I strongly believe that, and I believe that history teaches us that if we don’t do that, we’re going to get ourselves down a road that isn’t consistent with what America stands for,” Shulkin said. He added that “staying silent on these issues is not acceptable,” and that he will continue to speak up for things that he believes are important.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff:
The commanders of each service branch of the military, who normally steer clear of anything that has even a whiff of politics, have each spoken out strongly against racism this week.
The chief of Naval Operations:
— Adm. John Richardson (@CNORichardson) August 13, 2017
The Commandant of the Marine Corps:
No place for racial hatred or extremism in @USMC. Our core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment frame the way Marines live and act.
— Robert B. Neller (@GenRobertNeller) August 15, 2017
The Army chief of staff:
The Army doesn’t tolerate racism, extremism, or hatred in our ranks. It’s against our Values and everything we’ve stood for since 1775.
— GEN Mark A. Milley (@ArmyChiefStaff) August 16, 2017
The Air Force chief of staff:
— Gen. Dave Goldfein (@GenDaveGoldfein) August 16, 2017
The chief of the National Guard Bureau:
I stand with my fellow Joint Chiefs in condemning racism, extremism & hatred. Our diversity is our strength. #NationalGuard
— Gen. Joseph Lengyel (@ChiefNGB) August 16, 2017
Rabbi Emeritus Haskel Lookstein:
The rabbi who oversaw Ivanka Trump’s conversion to Judaism sent a letter last night to his congregation condemning Trump’s statements about Charlottesville.
Writing along with two other rabbis, he said: “We are appalled by this resurgence of bigotry and anti-Semitism, and the renewed vigor of the neo-Nazis, KKK, and alt-right. … While we avoid politics, we are deeply troubled by the moral equivalency and equivocation President Trump has offered in his response to this act of violence.”
“Lookstein was close enough to the Trump family that last year he was invited to speak to the Republican National Convention,” Yashar Ali writes for New York Magazine. “He initially planned to give an invocation but later dropped out after outcry from the Modern Orthodox community and other groups.”
Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.):
The Senate’s lone African American Republican said history has shown the nation typically sees the president as a part of the nation’s moral high ground. From the Charleston Post and Courier’s write-up of an interview with him yesterday: “Because of that, voters typically give deference to the objectives of the administration, he said. But he added that Trump’s answers equalizing the roles of the supremacist groups and the protesters have left the president weakened on the moral leadership front. ‘There is no doubt the last couple of days complicates this administration’s moral authority,’ Scott said …
“Scott said the issue is simple: ‘We do not support in any way, shape or form any group that thinks they are superior, or any folks who are looking to divide this nation into smaller groups.’ … Scott further pointed out that Trump’s rhetoric has not been clear enough on the denouncement of hate groups. That includes trying to equate protesters ‘with the extreme elements who are responsible for the death of an American citizen.’ By drawing a ‘moral equivalency’ between the white supremacists and counter-protesters, Scott said, ‘I think you are either missing four centuries of history in this nation or you are trying to make something what it’s not.’”
“When the administration speaks in a way that seems to cause confusion in ways I vehemently disagree, I’m going to speak out against the words of the administration,” Scott added.
The former CIA director wrote a letter to Wolf Blitzer, which he allowed to be published, after the CNN anchor noted on his show after Trump’s news conference that he had lost all four grandparents to the evils of Nazism.
“I just want to extend my sympathies not only for their deaths but also to you and your family — and countless others — for the pain inflicted today by the despicable words of Donald Trump,” Brennan wrote. “Mr. Trump’s words, and the beliefs they reflect, are a national disgrace, and all Americans of conscience need to repudiate his ugly and dangerous comments. If allowed to continue along this senseless path, Mr. Trump will do lasting harm to American society and to our standing in the world. By his words and his actions, Mr. Trump is putting our national security and our collective futures at grave risk.”
The secretary general of the United Nations issued a veiled but unmistakable criticism of Trump during a news conference yesterday, saying that racism is “poisoning our societies” and imploring all leaders to reject intolerance. “The U.N. chief was asked about Trump’s remarks in response to the racially charged violence in Charlottesville … and while Guterres said he does not comment on individual leaders, his criticism of Trump was nonetheless plain,” Anne Gearan reports.
“Racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism or Islamophobia are … poisoning our societies,” Guterres said. “And it is absolutely essential for us all to stand up against them everywhere and every time. … To condemn all forms of irrationality that undermine those values is essential, at the present moment, be it in the United States or everywhere else in the world. Unfortunately, these demons are appearing a little bit everywhere.”
Kenneth C. Frazier:
It took courage for Merck’s chief executive to resign from Trump’s manufacturing council on Monday. In so doing, he gave cover for others to follow. In a statement, one of the few African American CEOs in the Fortune 500 said he had to step down as “a matter of personal conscience.”
“America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal,” he said. “I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism. … Our country’s strength stems from its diversity and the contributions made by men and women of different faiths, races, sexual orientations and political beliefs.”
Other chief executives who have spoken out against Trump have seen their stocks fall when Trump inevitably retaliated, so it was a risky move. Indeed, with an hour after Frazier’s statement was first issued, Trump attacked Merck on Twitter for its “RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!” He followed up that night with another criticism of the company.
Van Jones interviewed an activist named Constance in Nashville yesterday as part of his “We Rise Against Hate” tour. She was injured in Charlottesville on Saturday and is afraid to give her last name for fear of retaliation.
“The hate that I saw on Saturday is something that I’ve never ever seen before, or that I have felt before,” Constance said. “One of [the Nazis] told me ‘I really wish I could lynch you’ and blew me a kiss.”
Recounting what it was like to be hit by the car when it plowed into the crowd, she said: “I’ll never forget the sounds … First I heard the car hitting people. Bam, bam, bam, bam, and then I heard the screaming. I don’t remember getting struck, but I remember landing on the ground. And I remember hearing people saying get up, get up, he’s putting it in reverse.”
Jones told her, “You would be forgiven for saying ‘I’ve done my part for justice and I’m going to let someone else go and carry this fight forward.’ Is that your view?”
“Absolutely not,” she replied. “I love this country too much.”
I’ve never seen the UVA lawn like this. And this is only a quarter of the people here. Hundreds more marching. pic.twitter.com/t0ChLe1BuC
— Nora Neus (@noraneus) August 17, 2017
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
— Hundreds gathered at the University of Virginia on Wednesday night for a candlelight vigil — peacefully singing and marching through campus. Arelis R. Hernández and Clarence Williams report: “They sang ‘God Bless America’ and ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ before invoking in unison the civil-rights-era anthem ‘We Shall Overcome.’ [And] as they stood on the steps of the Rotunda, students there led the chorus as the crowd on the central grounds followed singing ‘Don’t Let Hatred Blow It Out,’ an altered verse to the old gospel tune ‘This Little Light of Mine.’ The gathering was a ‘community effort’ … to bring a different face to Charlottesville, said [student] Rebecca Soistmann …
“Charlottesville resident Ben Brinkop said he found out about the vigil through an email that cautioned him not to place it on social media. There wasn’t a specific agenda or theme to the event, he said. ‘I thought it was just about coming out and not being afraid,’ [he] said. ‘It didn’t seem there was an overarching message, but it felt really good to reclaim this.’”
“Someone recited Maya Angelou’s poem ‘I Will Rise,’ and the crowd held a moment of silence for the three lives lost on Saturday. ‘The energy here is beautiful,’” said one faculty member. (CNN)
GET SMART FAST:
- Mike Pence cut short his Latin America trip on Wednesday, returning to Washington one day early for a strategy meeting with Trump and the national security team at Camp David. The vice president has also canceled two scheduled political appearances in Virginia this weekend, his aides confirmed, “to make himself available” to work on national security matters as needed. (Philip Rucker)
- Indian and Chinese soldiers yelled and hurled stones at one another in Kashmir, Indian officials said, a move that could escalate tensions in the Himalayas even as the two nations remain engaged in a border standoff elsewhere. (AP)
- Three prominent young activists in Hong Kong were sentenced to prison on Thursday for their role in 2014 pro-democracy protests — a move some fear could be a signal of Beijing’s creeping influence on courts in Hong Kong. The trio had been sentenced to community service for their role in the Umbrella Movement until a Beijing-backed local court pushed for harsher punishments. (Emily Rauhala)
- A Swiss hotel sparked outrage this week after it posted a sign asking “Jewish guests” to shower before using the swimming pool. (James McAuley)
- Three schools in Australia were broken into by neo-Nazis this weekend, who peppered the schools with posters calling to legalize the killing of Jewish people and “Keep Australia white.” Others encouraged young people to join their “local Nazi group” and “reject Jewish poison.” (Amanda Erickson)
- Meanwhile, an Australian senator wore a full body burqa to the Senate on Thursday. Pauline Hanson of the anti-immigrant One Nation party, who has said the country is in danger of “being swamped by Muslims” would like to see the garment banned. (New York Times)
- The New York Times editorial page editor testified in court yesterday in a defamation lawsuit brought by Sarah Palin against the publication. James Bennet said he didn’t review the NYT’s previous reporting when he rewrote an editorial stating that a political action committee linked to Palin distributed a map with gun crosshairs centered on members of Congress, linking the former veep candidate to the 2011 shooting of then-Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) The Times issued a correction saying no such connection was established between the shooting and the map. (Politico)
- Cleveland has outpaced Las Vegas for the distinction of the city with the most “underwater” homes, meaning those homes that are worth less than their current mortgages. (Bloomberg)
- A baby dolphin died in Spain after “hundreds” of beachgoers swarmed the animal to touch and take pictures of it, earning harsh condemnation from animal rights groups. The mob of curious people covered the dolphin’s blowhole as they touched and posed with the animal. (Amy B Wang)
- See that group of trendy people lined up outside a new restaurant or show? They could be getting paid to be there, thanks to a new app called Surkus that helps businesses generate buzz. The “actors,” if you will, are hand-picked by a casting agent and even given a “reputation score” based on their levels of engagement. (Peter Holley)
ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN:
— Steve Bannon called up the liberal American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner this week to offer his unplugged views on China, North Korea and his enemies in the West Wing. He had no prior relationship with Kuttner, but he’s told colleagues in the West Wing that he believed their chat was off-the-record. Kuttner says he didn’t say that it was off the record and notes that Bannon, the former head of Breitbar News, is “probably the most media-savvy person in America.” The interview really is worth reading in full, but here are the parts generating the most buzz:
- The money quote on white nationalists and his role in giving them a platform on Breitbart: “Ethno-nationalism—it’s losers. It’s a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more …These guys are a collection of clowns.”
- On pulling U.S. troops out of South Korea: “Bannon said he might consider a deal in which China got North Korea to freeze its nuclear buildup with verifiable inspections and the United States removed its troops from the peninsula, but such a deal seemed remote. Given that China is not likely to do much more on North Korea, and that the logic of mutually assured destruction was its own source of restraint, Bannon saw no reason not to proceed with tough trade sanctions against China.”
- Undercutting Trump’s threats of military action against North Korea: “There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it,” Bannon said. “Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”
- On his “rivals” at the State and Defense Departments: “They’re wetting themselves,” Bannon said. He then proceeded to detail “how he would oust some of his opponents” at the departments. “I’m changing out people at East Asian Defense; I’m getting hawks in,” he said. “I’m getting Susan Thornton [acting head of East Asian and Pacific Affairs] out at State.”
- On whether that’s a fight he can win internally: “That’s a fight I fight every day here,” he said. “We’re still fighting. There’s Treasury and [National Economic Council chair] Gary Cohn and Goldman Sachs lobbying.”
“Either the reports of the threats to Bannon’s job are grossly exaggerated and leaked by his rivals, or he has decided not to change his routine and to go down fighting,” Kuttner writes. “Given Trump’s impulsivity, neither Bannon nor Trump really has any idea from day to day whether Bannon is staying or going. He has survived earlier threats. So what the hell, damn the torpedoes.”
— Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, forwarded an email that echoed secessionist Civil War rhetoric on Wednesday — declaring, among other things, that the Black Lives Matter group has been “totally infiltrated by terrorist groups.” The New York Times’s Michael S. Schmidt and Matt Apuzzo report: “The email forwarded by [Dowd], who is leading the president’s legal team, painted the Confederate general Robert E. Lee in glowing terms and equated the South’s rebellion to that of the American Revolution against England. Its subject line — ‘The Information that Validates President Trump on Charlottesville’ — was a reference to comments Mr. Trump made earlier this week in the aftermath of protests in the Virginia college town. ‘You cannot be against General Lee and be for General Washington,’ the email reads, ‘there literally is no difference between the two men.’ [This, of course, is an insanely dumb statement. One led an army against the United States!]
“The email’s author, Jerome Almon, runs several websites alleging government conspiracies and arguing that the F.B.I. has been infiltrated by Islamic terrorists. He once unsuccessfully sued the State Department for $900 million over claims of discrimination. Mr. Almon’s email said that Black Lives Matter … is being directed by terrorists, [and] blamed the group for deadly violence against police last year in Texas and Louisiana.”
Dowd forwarded the email to more than two dozen recipients, including a senior DHS official, the WSJ’s editorial page, and journalists at Fox News and the Washington Times. One of the recipients provided a copy to the New York Times. “You’re sticking your nose in my personal email?” Dowd told the Times in a phone interview. “People send me things. I forward them.” He then hung up.
— Ben Carson, Trump’s HUD secretary and the only African American member of his Cabinet, downplayed the violence in Charlottesville — calling criticism of Trump’s remarks “little squabbles” being “blown out of proportion.” Lisa Rein reports: “On Monday, touring communities in Louisiana ravaged byfloods a year ago, Carson said about Trump: ‘When he talks about the fact that hatred and bigotry and these things are unacceptable,’ Carson said of Trump, ‘he’s talking about everybody. … You’d think he was saying that hatred and bigotry are unacceptable except by neo-Nazis. We really have got to begin to think more logically and stop trying to stir up controversy.'” He accused the media of “overreacting” to Trump’s comments, adding: “We the people have got to be smarter than this.”
MORE WEST WING INTRIGUE:
— Trump’s comments on the violence in Charlottesville this week have left John Kelly “deeply frustrated and dismayed” – and underscore the difficult challenges the new chief of staff will face as he attempts to instill a sense of order in the White House. Ashley Parker and Robert Costa report: “During Kelly’s short tenure, Trump has startled the world with his bellicose rhetoric on North Korea and attacked [Mitch McConnell], furthering imperiling his already stalled legislative agenda. Nonetheless, Kelly has so far largely improved staff morale, and implemented a rigor and order that has left West Wing aides feeling both more optimistic and less mistrustful of one another … Longtime Trump campaign associates have found themselves out of the loop and unable to build a rapport with Kelly. In the week before Trump departed for an August [vacation], the entire West Wing team began showing up at the 8 a.m. senior staff meetings. Even [Ivanka] — who rarely if ever appeared at staff meetings led by Reince Priebus … began regularly attending.
“Nonetheless, Trump has shown signs of chafing … one person close to the president described him as a ‘caged animal’ under Kelly, saying he is always going to respond negatively to attempts to corral him or keep him on a script. … Another Republican operative and unofficial White House adviser [said Kelly’s tenure has] demonstrated an essential truth about the Trump White House: The president will act as he so pleases, even in spite of — and sometimes to spite — the efforts of his aides.”
— “[Trump’s] decision to double down on his argument that ‘both sides’ were to blame for the violent clashes at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was driven in part by his own anger — and his disdain for being told what to do,” Politico’s Nancy Cook and Josh Dawsey report: “For Trump, anger serves as a way to manage staff, express his displeasure or simply as an outlet that soothes him. Often, aides and advisers say, he’ll get mad at a specific staffer or broader situation, unload from the Oval Office and then three hours later act as if nothing ever occurred even if others still feel rattled by it. Negative television coverage and lawyers earn particular ire from him. White House officials and informal advisers say the triggers for his temper are if he thinks someone is lying to him, if he’s caught by surprise, if someone criticizes him, or if someone stops him from trying to do something or seeks to control him.”
“In some ways, Trump would rather have people calling him racist than say he backed down the minute he was wrong,” said one adviser to the White House. “This may turn into the biggest mess of his presidency because he is stubborn and doesn’t realize how bad this is getting.’”
— Hope Hicks, Trump’s trusted confidante and adviser, has taken on an expanded communications role at the White House – working as interim communications director while staffers continue to search for a permanent replacement. Ashley Parker reports: “Hicks, 28, currently serves as Trump’s director of strategic communications, and is one of the president’s most loyal and trusted aides. She started as Trump’s press secretary during the 2015 campaign and sits right outside the Oval Office. She also has close ties to [Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner] … In many ways, Hick’s elevated role is just a continuation of a job she has already largely been doing … Hicks has previously been mentioned for the role of communications director, and has long unofficially served in that role for the president himself.”
TRUMP IS INCREASINGLY ISOLATED, AS THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY DITCHES HIM:
— The president was forced to shut down his major business advisory councils yesterday after his remarks on Charlottesville prompted a mass exodus of corporate leaders. Damian Paletta and Jena McGregor report: “Trump announced the disbanding of the two councils — the Strategy & Policy Forum and the Manufacturing Council [in a tweet] … But those groups had already decided to dissolve on their own earlier in the day … The dissolution of the councils was a remarkable moment for Trump, who has made his corporate experience and ability to leverage America’s business potential as one of his chief credentials.”
— Tick-tock: “On Wednesday morning, a dozen of the country’s most influential C.E.O.s joined a conference call, and, after some debate, a consensus emerged: The policy forum would be disbanded,” the New York Times’s David Gelles, Landon Thomas Jr., Andrew Ross Sorkin and Kate Kelly report. “As the call began, more than a dozen of the nation’s top business leaders dialed in from around the country … Two in the group — Jim McNerney, the former chief executive of Boeing and Jack Welch, the former leader of General Electric — proposed issuing a statement condemning the president, but keeping the group together. But most others, including [Laurence D.] Fink of BlackRock and [Indra] Nooyi of Pepsi, leaned toward disbanding. (JP Morgan’s Jamie) Dimon was also furious and wanted off the council, but felt conflicted because of his role as chairman of the Business Roundtable… [Virginia M.] Rometty of IBM, who had faced criticism from employees for her role in the group, advocated that the executives ‘condemn and disband.’ That phrase soon drew broad backing. By the time the call was over, the group had agreed to disband. Before they could make a statement announcing their decision, however, Mr. Trump spoke. He had caught wind of their planned defection and wanted to have the last word … [and] claimed on Twitter that he was disbanding the advisory groups.”
— Apple said that it has begun disabling the Apple Pay option from websites selling white nationalist and Nazi apparel. Buzzfeed reports: “Uber, Facebook, Twitter, MailChimp, and WordPress have all taken varying levels of action against white supremacists on their platforms in the wake of Charlottesville. Airbnb banned people tied to white supremacist groups who attempted to use its site to book lodging for the rally last week. [And] on Monday, both GoDaddy and Google removed the registration capabilities of The Daily Stormer, a white supremacist blog, in response to its posts about the events in Charlottesville.”
— The narrative: “Silicon Valley significantly escalated its war on white supremacy this week, choking off the ability of hate groups to raise money online, removing them from Internet search engines, and preventing some sites from registering at all,” Tracy Jan and Elizabeth Dwoskin report. “But the actions are also heightening concerns over how tech companies are becoming the arbiters of free speech in America. And in response, right-wing technologists are building parallel digital services that cater to their own movement. Gab.ai, a social network for promoting free speech, was founded shortly after the presidential election by Silicon Valley engineers alienated by the region’s liberalism. Other conservatives have founded Infogalactic, a Wikipedia for the alt-right, as well as crowdfunding tools Hatreon and WeSearchr. The latter was used to raise money for James Damore, a white engineer who was fired after criticizing Google’s diversity policy. ‘If there needs to be two versions of the Internet so be it,’ Gab.ai tweeted Wednesday morning. The company’s spokesman, Utsav Sanduja, later warned of a ‘revolt’ in Silicon Valley against the way tech companies are trying control the national debate.”
AMERICA IS DIVIDED AND ON EDGE:
— “City officials across the country are nervously trying to figure out how to avoid becoming the next Charlottesville as alt-right leaders and white nationalist groups vow to stage more rallies in coming days,” Janell Ross, Mark Berman and Joel Achenbach report. “A group claiming it is advocating free speech has planned a rally for Saturday on the historic Boston Common, with a group advocating racial justice planning its own gathering in opposition. Boston officials said they have laid down strict conditions, including no sticks, weapons or backpacks. …. A rally scheduled for Aug. 26 in San Francisco has prompted [Nancy Pelosi] and several California lawmakers to urge the National Park Service to rescind the permit to gather on federal park land there.”
— Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said last night that he is disappointed about Trump’s decision to hold a campaign-style rally in his city next week, and he called on the president to postpone. Also prompting concern is a Fox News interview this week in which Trump said he is “strongly considering” pardoning former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio. “If he is coming to Phoenix to announce a pardon for [Arpaio], then it will be clear that his true intent is to enflame emotions and further divide our nation,” Stanton said in a statement.
— The University of Florida has denied the request of a white nationalist group to hold an event on its campus. The rally is slated to be attended by white nationalist Richard Spencer and has been referenced on social media: “The Next Battlefield is in Florida.” University of Florida President W. Kent Fuchs said in a statement Wednesday that while the school remains “dedicated to free speech and the spirit of public discourse … the First Amendment does not require a public institution to risk imminent violence to students and others.” (Sarah Larimer)
— A Georgia park association has denied a permit request to the Ku Klux Klan to hold a cross-burning ceremony on top of Stone Mountain, which was where the group began their 1915 “revival” with a flaming cross on the evening of Thanksgiving. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
— Jeff Sessions said Wednesday that the Charlottesville car attack killing Heyer may be prosecuted as a hate crime, saying that federal authorities who are “intensely” probing the case could ultimately decide to prosecute the driver in a number of different ways. Mark Berman reports: “Sessions cautioned that no federal charges were imminent as officials are still conducting an investigation into the deadly attack that killed one woman Saturday and injured 19 others. ‘It doesn’t have to be done immediately,’ he told NBC News in an interview. ‘We will be working with the state to see how they will proceed with their charges. We could bring charges whenever the investigation justifies them. But I don’t think we should just feel like we’ve got to do it in a matter of hours or days.’”
— Fox News host Eboni K. Williams is receiving death threats after she criticized Trump on air this week. Variety’s Erin Nyren reports: “The [‘Fox News Specialist’ co-host] addressed Trump on Monday in her ‘Eboni’s Docket’ segment, which she writes herself, berating him for failing to specify white nationalist groups in his condemnation of the [Charlottesville violence]. She [said] her personal website … was inundated with over 150 emails, only three of which were anything other than ‘seething, scathing’ takedowns. ‘I should meet my maker soon, I shouldn’t be allowed to walk the streets of New York,’ she cited as some examples of the type of comments she received. ‘They heard that I live in Harlem — Harlem needs to watch out.’ Her book publisher became so concerned that he asked her to request additional security from Fox News, which she did — Williams is now escorted to and from the building when she arrives to work.”
— Politico Magazine, “How Militias Became the Private Police for White Supremacists,” by Casey Michel: “In the Trump era, armed antigovernment groups have found common cause with Nazis, KKK and other white nationalists.”
— “The ‘alt-right’ is just another word for white supremacy, study finds,” by Christopher Ingraham: “Although members of the ‘alt-right’ insist they’re not racist, from a practical standpoint it’s been tricky, if not impossible, to find any daylight between the views they espouse and plain old white supremacy. Now, a new study that asked 447 “alt-right” adherents to rank how “evolved” various groups are has sharply underscored just how indistinguishable those groups are. The most [striking result] came via the responses to questions asking survey-takers to rate how ‘evolved’ various groups were, using a series of silhouettes ranging from apes to modern humans as markers … On average, ‘alt-right’ adherents rated whites (92 points), men (88 points) and Europeans (87 points) the highest of all. They rated women lower, at 83 points. They rated Jews slightly below the figure of a spear-wielding Neanderthal figure, at 73 points. Mexicans came in at 67 points, while blacks came in at 65. Arabs, Nigerians, and feminists all came in at sub-60 points, close to the half-simian human ancestor in the middle of the chart. Muslims were the group ranked dead last, with 55 points.”
— The administration formally terminated an Obama-era program that granted Central American minors temporary legal residence in the United States, shutting the door on 2,714 people who had won conditional approval to enter the country,” David Nakamura reports: “[Obama’s] administration established the ‘CAM parole’ program in 2014 to respond to a massive spike in the number of unaccompanied minors and families entering the country illegally from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Under the terms, minors who failed to win refugee status could enter on a two-year, renewable parole if they had a parent already legally present in the country … DHS’s [announcement] means that the agency will begin the process of notifying families that the minors who had been approved for entry would have to reapply through other immigration channels that could be more difficult. In addition, 1,465 minors already in the [U.S.] under the CAM program will not be allowed to renew their status.”
— “[Jeff Sessions] lambasted Chicago and its political leaders Wednesday, tying local policies on undocumented immigrants to soaring crime rates and threatening to withhold federal police grants if the city does not change,” Sari Horwitz and Mark Berman report: “In a speech in Miami, Sessions said that in Chicago ‘respect for the rule of law has broken down,’ and he linked the increase in crime there last year to the city’s ‘so-called sanctuary policies.’ ‘Every year, too many Americans’ lives are victimized as a result of sanctuary city policies, whether it be theft, robbery, drugs, assault, battery and even murder,’ Sessions said. ‘We want to do everything we can to help … But we cannot continue giving federal taxpayer money to cities that actively undermine the safety and efficacy of federal law enforcement … So if voters in Chicago are concerned about losing federal grant money, call your mayor.’”
— The Trump administration began talks to “reform” NAFTA on Wednesday, Ana Swanson reports. “On Wednesday, U.S. trade negotiators confronted the challenge of translating Trump’s campaign trail pledges into technical policy as they met Canadian and Mexican representatives for the first of several rounds of negotiation scheduled to take place before the end of the year. At stake is the legitimacy of [Trump], who … campaigned on a pledge to renegotiate it. But also on the line are trillions of dollars of trade that flow through the North American economy.”
“In an opening statement, [Trump’s chief trade negotiator] Robert E. Lighthizer … emphasized that Trump would not be content with minor updates. ‘We feel that NAFTA has fundamentally failed many, many Americans and needs major improvement,’ [he said].” But trade experts have suggested that the U.S. may face more challenges in the NAFTA talks than Trump’s statements have implied.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump’s longtime personal attorney tweeted this:
— Michael Cohen (@MichaelCohen212) August 16, 2017
Here’s how tough it’s been to find *any* Republican willing to go on air to defend Trump…
On Fox News, Shep Smith said he couldn’t get any Republicans to come on his show to defend President Trump.
— Yashar Ali (@yashar) August 16, 2017
Yesterday, nutshell: @realDonaldTrump was infuriated he didn’t get credit for issuing statement he never believed in. So he told the truth.
— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) August 16, 2017
Cory Booker pledged to introduce a bill removing Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol:
I will be introducing a bill to remove Confederate statues from the US Capitol building. This is just one step. We have much work to do.
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) August 17, 2017
Bill de Blasio also promised a review:
After the violent events in Charlottesville, New York City will conduct a 90-day review of all symbols of hate on city property.
— Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) August 16, 2017
Jake Tapper shared this:
How one humor writer explained Trump’s tweet about “disbanding” his business councils…
Rather than forcing my beautiful Canadian girlfriend to drive all the way down from Montreal, I will not be attending prom https://t.co/eraBMerjDu
— Jason O. Gilbert (@gilbertjasono) August 16, 2017
From a Post satire columnist:
I found the protester who just loves statues and doesn’t even know what racism means but it was just a bunch of pigeons disguised in a coat
— Alexandra Petri (@petridishes) August 16, 2017
From a Wall Street Journal reporter in Berlin:
Berlin Stands with Charlottesville demonstration tonight before the Brandenburg Gate (chanting: “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA”) pic.twitter.com/HkMWhqE3AR
— Sara Germano (@germanotes) August 16, 2017
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Obama’s administration requested a Bikeshare station at the White House. Trump’s team just had it removed,” from Perry Stein: “The District’s Department of Transportation confirmed Wednesday that it removed the nine-slot Bikeshare station this week at the Trump administration’s request. Unlike every other Bikeshare station in the region, this one was not accessible to the public and could only be used by commuters who had access to White House grounds. The Obama administration requested the station in 2010. It’s unclear why the White House wanted it removed …”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Urine Art Show Aims 200 Gallon Stream Of Dissent At Donald Trump in SoHo,” from Patch: “An exhibit going on show in SoHo next month is designed to aim a stream of dissent at President Donald Trump’s administration – and it consists of 200 gallons of the creator’s own urine. Transgender artist Cassils’ installation comments on Trump’s February decision to rescind protections for transgender students. The gallery described the piece as a ‘minimalist structure’ filled with all of the liquid that the artist has passed since Trump revoked the Obama administration’s instructions to schools to allow students to use the bathroom of their choice.”
Trump is in Bedminster, N.J. This afternoon, he will have lunch with the governor of Florida, Rick Scott, before meeting with the administrator of the Small Business Administration.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
At Heather Heyer’s funeral, longtime friend Justin Marks, 30, said he watched a live-stream with her on Friday night of the hundreds of torch-wielding marchers. “She was just saying how crazy it was that this was happening in our town,” Marks said. “She didn’t think what they were chanting was peaceful.” But she didn’t hate those people, he added. “Heather didn’t have to stand up for anybody’s rights. She was a straight white woman. She didn’t have to show up that day,” Marks said. “I hope that speaks to people in the same position.” (Ellie Silverman, Arelis R. Hernández and Steve Hendrix)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
— Humid and cloudy with some storms ahead, per today’s Capital Weather Gang forecast: “Partly cloudy this morning with mostly cloudy conditions this afternoon. Temperatures advance into the middle to upper 80s for highs. Moderate to high humidity causes heat indices to register well up into the 90s. Scattered afternoon and evening thunderstorms could deliver some heavy downpours at times.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Stephen Colbert calls Trump the first “racist grandpa” president:
Jimmy Kimmel shows us a preview of Trump Tower, the movie:
He also interviews Kellyanne Conway:
See Seth Myers’s take on the moment:
Conan O’Brien gives us celebrity surveys with President Trump and Stephen K. Bannon: