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Trump on Black History Month: Frederick Douglass "Has Done an Amazing Job"

Mother Jones

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During a listening session at the White House to honor Black History Month on Wednesday, President Donald Trump praised Frederick Douglass, who died in 1895, as “somebody who’s done an amazing job” and whose work is “being recognized more and more.”

The remarks immediately called into question whether the president knew who the abolitionist actually was:

Trump went on to use the listening session to give shout-outs to his own black surrogates, including Omarosa Manigualt, the former Celebrity Apprentice contestant who is now an adviser to the president. Despite once labeling her an untrustworthy liar, Trump on Wednesday said she was an “actually very nice person.”

The president also took the opportunity to bash CNN as “fake news” and plug Fox News, a network he says has “treated him very nice.”

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Trump on Black History Month: Frederick Douglass "Has Done an Amazing Job"

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Conway: It’s Cool for Trump to Be Apprentice Executive Producer Because Obama Golfed

Mother Jones

On Wednesday afternoon, Variety published a scoop: President-elect Donald Trump will stay on as executive producer of Celebrity Apprentice on NBC, the hit franchise he created with reality TV mogul Mark Burnett from MGM. The show returns to air on January 2—hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Trumps spokeswoman Hope Hicks confirmed the president-elect “has a big stake in the show.” Trump won’t be involved in actually producing the show, but his fee per episode is likely to be in the low five figures, according to Variety. According to the Hollywood Reporter, this fee will be paid by MGM Television, the studio responsible for the production—not by NBC.

All this is raising concerns about potential conflicts of interest. As the Huffington Post explained:

Trump’s role is rife with potential entanglements. While his paycheck will come from MGM, the program airs on NBC, a major broadcast network with an influential news division (which employs reporters Trump has personally attacked). It’s also the same network that airs Saturday Night Live, a show Trump has criticized on numerous occasions for its unflattering depiction of him. And NBC is owned by Comcast, a corporation that was recently slapped with a hefty fine by the Federal Communications Commission—an entity that will soon be under Trump’s control.

Today, Trump adviser and former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway appeared on CNN’s New Day to defend the decision. According to Conway, whatever Trump does in his “spare time” is up to him, much in the way that Obama liked to play golf. “Were we so concerned about the hours and hours and hours spent on the golf course of the current president?” Conway said. “I mean presidents have a right to do things in their spare time, in their leisure time.” Watch the entire exchange above.

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Conway: It’s Cool for Trump to Be Apprentice Executive Producer Because Obama Golfed

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Things We Can Count On In the Next Two Years

Mother Jones

What is Donald Trump going to do in office? Beats me. For the most part, I’d ignore what he said on the campaign trail, since he said so many different things at different times. It’s obvious that (a) he doesn’t know much, and (b) he doesn’t truly care about very many things—and that means he’s going to be willing to negotiate. On that score, I mostly agree with Tyler Cowen, who speculates that “his natural instinct will be to look for some quick symbolic victories to satisfy supporters, and then pursue mass popularity with a lot of government benefits, debt and free-lunch thinking.”

However, this also means Trump is likely to follow the lead of Congress, which is completely in Republican hands and likely to follow the lead of Paul Ryan. Given that, I think there are a few things we can speculate about. Here’s a short list:

The filibuster is toast. Republicans will get rid of it as soon as they need to.

There are three Supreme Court justices who support Roe v. Wade and are getting on in years: Stephen Breyer (78), Anthony Kennedy (80), and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (83). Using standard actuarial tables, there’s a 60 percent chance that at least one of them will die during Trump’s term. That means there’s a 60 percent chance that Roe v. Wade will be overturned.

Repealing Obamacare will be harder than Republicans think, and it’s possible that they’ll shrink from it when they truly have to face up to the consequences. For one thing, it’s impossible to keep the “good parts” (pre-existing conditions, community rating, etc.) and only get rid of the bad parts. In the best case, they’ll pass a bill that repeals Obamacare in name, but leaves most of it in place under a different name. But I doubt that. In the end, I think they’ll rip down the whole thing.

There will be a recession sometime during Trump’s term. I don’t know what this means. But I’ll bet the Republican Congress will be a whole lot more eager to fix it with crude Keynesian pump priming than they were for Obama.

Trump seems to really care about infrastructure, which makes sense since he thinks of himself as a builder. So we might very well get an infrastructure bill passed. I expect that a wall on the southern border will be part of it.

Congress will pass a big tax cut for the rich. Not as big as Trump’s, I think, but plenty big anyway.

Winners from a Trump presidency: rich people; pro-lifers; Paul Ryan, who will now be reelected Speaker easily; China; Wall Street; Vladimir Putin; James Comey; and CNN president Jeff Zucker, who did everything in his power to help elect a guy who could keep his ratings up.

Losers from a Trump presidency: poor people; anyone on Obamacare; illegal immigrants; climate change; the white working class, which fell for Trump’s con but will get virtually nothing from his presidency; anyone who cares about human decency and national dignity; Barack Obama, whose presidency will now be considered a failure; and the Democratic Party, which has lost control of the presidency, the House, the Senate, the Supreme Court, and most of the states.

Since I have the Reconstruction era on my mind right now, it’s hard to avoid the obvious comparison. Reconstruction lasted about eight years, and then was dismantled almost completely. Barack Obama’s presidency lasted eight years and will now be dismantled almost completely. I will withhold my opinion for now on the obvious reason for this similarity.

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Things We Can Count On In the Next Two Years

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Exclusive: Central Park Five Members Blast Trump for Insisting They’re Guilty

Mother Jones

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After Donald Trump reaffirmed his long-held belief this week that the men known as the Central Park Five were guilty in an infamous, decades-old rape case, two members of the since-exonerated group blasted Trump in interviews with Mother Jones, calling him a “stunt artist” and saying “he’s gotten worse” since his involvement in their 1990 conviction.

“You have a person who’s supposed to be a very intelligent business man, and what I’m sure he would do if he was trying to purchase a property is do his due diligence,” Yusef Salaam told me Friday, noting that Trump continued to ignore the facts of the Central Park Five case. “For somebody to still stand on the side of injustice like Donald Trump is, that becomes a very scary place to be.”

In a statement to CNN this week, Trump said he still believed the Central Park Five were guilty. “They admitted they were guilty,” he told CNN’s Miguel Marquez. “The police doing the original investigation say they were guilty. The fact that the case was settled with so much evidence against them is outrageous. And the woman, so badly injured, will never be the same.”

In 1989, five black and Latino teenagers were convicted of brutally attacking a young white jogger in New York City’s Central Park. The crime, which came at the height of the crack epidemic and skyrocketing crime rates, enflamed racial tension in the city. About two weeks after the incident, Trump published a full-page ad in four major New York newspapers calling for the teens to be brought to justice—and suggesting that they should face the death penalty. But in 2002, all five men—who spent between 6 and 13 years in prison—were exonerated based on DNA evidence and a confession from the actual perpetrator, whose DNA was shown to match evidence at the scene.

Mother Jones talked to two members of the Central Park Five—Salaam and Korey Wise—about Trump’s role in their case, their thoughts on his presidential candidacy, and his latest comments about their case. Not surprisingly, neither is happy to see one of their main antagonists on the national stage day in and day out. Nor is a third member of the group, Raymond Santana, who skewered Trump on Twitter:

Salaam, who was 15 when he was jailed for the assault, said he believes Trump played a crucial role in the media campaign against him.

“Trump was one of the fire starters—really the main fire starter—because his name held a lot more weight,” he said. His ad facilitated “the conviction that was going to happen in the public arena prior to us even getting into the courthouse.”

Wise told me he only learned about Trump’s ad after watching a documentary on his case several years ago. After seeing it, he understood why the case had become so incredibly charged. “I said, ‘Wow! Wow! Wow!'” Wise said. “This is where a great deal of the energy that was directed at me in terms of physical threats” came from.

“The ad was talking about and goes specifically into fears that the public was having at that particular time,” Salaam told me. “He’s talking about how ‘we’ve had to give up our leisurely stroll in the playground, and we can’t ride our bikes, or we can’t walk around in the streets because now we’re hostages, ruled by the laws of the streets.'” Trump has revisited those themes in his presidential campaign, often citing gun violence in cities like Chicago as indicative of a breakdown in “law and order,” which he insists he can restore.

Salaam also suggested that Trump was a hypocrite for attacking Hillary Clinton over her “superpredator” remarks in the first presidential debate. “She well within her right could have said, ‘Well you took out a full-page ad calling for the execution—the lynching, the death—of young black and Latino men—and you have never apologized.'”

More than 25 years later, Trump hasn’t changed, Salaam said. “As a matter of fact, he’s gotten worse,” he said. “He believes in everything he’s put out there—the racial vision he’s created.”

For his part, Wise said he doesn’t think about what a Trump presidency would mean because he doesn’t take him seriously: “He’s a stunt artist…He follows publicity.”

But Salaam had a bleaker assessment of what the country would look like with Trump as commander in chief: “If he becomes president, what is that going to mean for the people who are losing their lives in the street? This ‘law and order’ is going to be a very, very scary thing for us as a people.”

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Exclusive: Central Park Five Members Blast Trump for Insisting They’re Guilty

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Trump shows us what happens to a climate denier in denial

If Donald Trump is trying to run away from his well-known position as a climate change denier, he’s doing a terrible job at it.

Less than 12 hours after a debate against Hillary Clinton in which he personally denied calling climate change a hoax, Trump’s campaign manager and running mate offered different versions of what the candidate supposedly believes: He thinks it exists but isn’t human-made, or he thinks it is human-made but doesn’t want to do anything about it.

Regardless of what his surrogates are saying on TV this morning, there’s a long Twitter record of Trump’s unscientific statements about climate to fall back on. His position is clear: It’s a hoax. What’s less clear is what he hopes to gain by changing that position now. Could it be that even the Trump campaign recognizes that climate denial in the face of clear evidence is a losing position in a general election?

Certainly Clinton seems to think it’s a strong avenue of attack: Unprompted by moderator Lester Holt during the debate last night on Long Island, Clinton said: “Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese.”

Because he couldn’t help himself, Trump only managed to emphasize her point by interjecting, “I did not,” sending all the fact checkers to Twitter, where his four-year-old tweet saying exactly that became the top retweeted tweet during the debate:

Oops?

The lying doesn’t stop there, though. Tuesday morning, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway was asked on CNN if her candidate thinks global warming is a hoax. Conway insisted, no, he doesn’t believe it’s a hoax, but he does believe “that climate change is naturally occurring, that there are shifts naturally occurring.”

Then, on the very same show, Trump’s vice presidential pick took an abruptly different tone on climate change. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who himself once called global warming “a myth,” suggested that greenhouse gases have “some impact” on the climate.

“There’s no question that — that — that the activities that take place in this country and in countries around the world have some impact on the environment and some impact on climate,” Pence said. “But Donald Trump and I say: Let’s follow the science, but for heaven’s sakes, let’s not go rushing into the kind of restrictions on our economy that are putting Americans out of work.”

When it isn’t Trump himself talking, his campaign has sometimes tried to soften his position on the climate issue. “Perhaps we should be focused on developing energy sources and power production that alleviates the need for dependence on fossil fuels,” Trump (or his campaign) wrote to ScienceDebate earlier this month.

It’s clear why Clinton wants to emphasize Trump’s inconsistent and unscientific climate positions. In light of recent polls, her campaign has zeroed in on more millennial-friendly messaging, in hopes of winning over young voters looking to third-party candidates like Green Jill Stein or Libertarian Gary Johnson.

Clinton largely sidelined climate change in her speeches after Bernie Sanders conceded in the primary contest, but she’s now turning to the issue again as part of a strong messaging strategy. The differences between her and Trump are more stark on climate change than on nearly any other issue — one accepts scientific consensus, the other doesn’t.

So while Clinton’s plan was clear, what the hell was Trump doing?

Clearly, calling a respected field of science a “hoax” on the national stage is not the image his campaign wants to put forward. Trump’s position on climate and energy isn’t that different from the rest of the GOP, but in a normal presidential year, he might have at this point recast his climate denial as mere reluctance to act, to make the position more palatable to the general election voter.

Yet Trump’s not running a normal campaign in any sense, so climate change gets the same brash treatment as every other issue the candidate touches on.

There were plenty of other positions that the candidates skirmished over last night, and Clinton implored the “factcheckers, get to work” a few times. Trump once again said he never supported the Iraq war, which was a lie; he did.

Conway, Trump’s spokesperson, in fact tried to pivot to the Iraq war this morning on CNN when asked about Trump’s climate answer. The Trump campaign clearly isn’t eager to answer questions on the subject.

But in denying his denial, what’s the logic? He’s been fine with it for years. His 2012 China tweet wasn’t just a poorly considered slip, but one of many:

As recently as late 2015, Trump still was fine saying: “a lot of it’s a hoax. It’s a hoax. I mean, it’s a money-making industry, okay?”

Then in January, as Politifact points out, Trump tried to play off the tweet about China as a joke: “I often joke that this is done for the benefit of China. Obviously, I joke. But this is done for the benefit of China, because China does not do anything to help climate change.”

Was Trump joking all those times he called it a hoax?

Hard to believe. And his voters sure don’t.

Other than Trump’s unexpected backtrack (or not) on climate, we didn’t learn anything new about either candidate’s energy positions in this debate. The themes of “prosperity” and “securing America” might have lended themselves to discussing both climate, which the military calls a significant threat, and clean energy, which has overtaken the fossil fuel industry as a job creator. But as is usual in presidential debates, the moderator didn’t see fit to steer the candidates in those directions.

Clinton, however, did cite two of her climate and energy proposals: deploying a half-billion solar panels and rebuilding the electric grid. Trump never once mentioned his energy proposals, even forgetting his promises to wave a wand and restore coal country, despite the debate’s focus on American industry in the first 15 minutes.

In the end, though, Clinton didn’t need to go on at length about her climate solutions, because it’s enough for her to draw out the contrast with Trump. He has no position on climate, except for his plan to appoint a climate change denier to lead the Environmental Protection Agency transition.

Clinton for now is content to use Trump’s words against him and let his position speak for itself. Their little exchange on Trump’s tweet did more to help put climate change on the map for future debates than any of Clinton’s policy positions.

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Trump shows us what happens to a climate denier in denial

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