Tracking Trump, Week 5: Feb 19-25 2017

Sunday

“We got to keep our country safe!” President Trump warned at a rally in Melbourne, Florida on Saturday night. He told a horror story about a Northern European nation (a.k.a Sweden) that “took in large numbers” of refugees and is now facing “problems like they never thought possible.” The President then said “Look at what happened last night in Sweden!.. Sweden! Who would believe this, Sweden?”. The problem was – no attack happened.

Says Sheri Berman, a political scientist at Barnard College and expert on Dictatorship:

It’s just an attempt to spin everything that supports his particular views or policies whether or not it’s truthful, he simply just doesn’t care. He has a tenuous relationship with the truth and that is something that is particularly problematic for democracy. While spin has existed for a long time, we’ve clearly crossed some kind of line — and it’s not an easy line to define — what we are in here is something very tenuous or ignored entirely.

Later in the week, Trump would fudge the numbers again with American economic growth (GPA), purportedly telling White House economic advisers to start with a GDP growth target of between 3 and 3.5 percent a year for the next decade and backfill numbers in their models to make that prediction work.

According to ThinkProgress.org:

Most presidential teams start with a baseline forecast and then calculate how their policies would either increase or decrease the growth rate. Trump is instead starting with the outcome he wants, and then having officials make the numbers work to get the economy there.

Monday

Trump refused to condemn anti-Semitism three times last week (including when he told Jake Turx, a Hasidic Jewish reporter to sit down, and called his question “very insulting.”) Today, approximately 200 tombstones at a Jewish cemetery were destroyed in St. Louis while more than 10 Jewish community centers (JCC) had received bomb threats. Tomorrow, Spicer would pivot against an Islamophobia question. Jack Jenkins (@jackmjenkins) on Twitter tweeted:

Reporter just asked @PressSec if Trump admin also denounces anti-Islam sentiment.

Mostly talked about “radical Islamic terrorism” instead.

Trump depends on KKK/Neo-Nazi/Alt-Right support. Many of them call him their Fuehrer. Also this week, Trump kicked off his reelection campaign for 2020 and beyond (including pushing out a strawman survey targeted exclusively to his supporters that this author accidently received where he asked whether “people want him to run the coming year”). So Trump pumps out numbers and narratives of immigrant and urban crime and ignores attacks perpetrated by White supremacists, such as the Kansas incident.

In the meantime, Think Progress tracked 261 hate incidents across the country since November 9, 2016. Incidents included the following:

Muslim women report being physically assaulted and told to remove their hijabs on buses and street corners. LGBTQ people allege being harassed and beaten as they walk home. Black churches were reportedly defaced with hateful racial slurs. A man of Guatemalan descent told police he was beaten as his assailants chanted “make America white again!” Trump supporters were also allegedly attacked, and at least three people were killed in what appear to be hate incidents.

The FBI reported in December that twice as many hate crimes were recorded in New York City after the election than in the same time period in 2015.

Hate crimes have increased to the extent that ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit newsroom created a national database to collect and verify reports.

According to ThinkProgress: “There have been four rounds of bomb threats against JCCs this year, and at least 70 hate crimes committed against Jews since Election Day. There has been a similar increase in anti-Muslim rhetoric and attacks  – which Trump has refused to condemn.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center recently discovered that the number of anti-Muslim hate groups nearly tripled between 2015 and 2016. Between November 9 and February 9, ThinkProgress recorded 31 hate crimes against Muslims, and not just “vague but unmistakably hateful speech.”

According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Corey Saylor, the director of the Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia, Trump’s relative silence on anti-Semitism and Islamophobia go hand in hand. His daughter and grandchildren may be Jewish, but:
“There’s been a wave of anti-Semitism going on since his election, and it took him until now to respond, which is profoundly troubling,” he said. “The President of the United States isn’t willing to speak out against such bigotry.”

Tuesday

Nearly a dozen Jewish community centers reported phoned-in bomb threats on Monday. Yet President Trump  –  known for instantly tweeting outrages about attacks committed in the U.S. and beyond by immigrants and Islamists before the facts are known – stayed silent until Tuesday morning.

Then, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that. “The President has made it abundantly clear that these actions are unacceptable.” Actually he doesn’t.

Trump claimed he denounces anti-Semitism “wherever I get a chance.” Actually, he doesn’t.

A Department of Homeland Security memo, entitled “Enforcement of the Immigration Laws to Serve the National Interest,” authored by Secretary John Kelly asserted that “criminal aliens routinely victimize Americans and other legal residents.”

In 2015, the CATO Institute report, “Immigration and Crime — What the Research Says”  found among other facts that:

  • [A study] “looked at 159 cities at three dates between 1980 and 2000 and found that crime rates and levels of immigration are not correlated”
  • Another study “looked at a sample of 150 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) and found that levels of recent immigration had a statistically significant negative effect on homicide rates but no effect on property crime rates.”
  • Yet another study found that an influx of immigrants is actually correlated with decreases in homicide and robbery rates. (italics, my own).

Return to Kelly’s memos. They detail “an implementation plan to hire thousands more immigration officials, make more criminal offenses punishable by deportation, allow local law enforcement officials to carry out federal immigration duties, and make it easier to prevent entry to asylum-seeking children who show up at the southern U.S. border.”

Never mind facts.

The CATO report again:

  • A study that looked looked at 103 different MSAs from 1994–2004 found that “the weight of the evidence suggests that immigration is not associated with increased levels of crime. To the extent that a relationship does exist, research often finds a negative effect of immigration on levels of crime, in general, and on homicide in particular.”…

Wednesday

On Wednesday night, at a bar in Olathe, Kansas, a man named Adam Purinton allegedly told two men he thought were Middle Eastern to “get out of my country” before shooting both of them, one fatally. He also allegedly shot and injured a white bystander who intervened in the situation. Trump’s response? Silence.

Research indicates a person in America is far more likely to be killed by a right-wing extremist or white supremacist   than a Muslim terrorist. But it took foreign leaders like Sushma Swaraj to respond to the Kansas shooting: “We will provide all help and assistance to the bereaved family,” the foreign Affairs Minister tweeted.

And Trump? He said it’s too early to say what motivated the Olathe shooter. Note: This is a man who is known for instantly tweeting outrages about attacks by immigrants and Islamists even before the facts are known.

Friday

A deputy assistant to President Donald Trump has spent years working closely with members of Hungary’s anti-Semitic hard right, according to a Friday report from The Forward, a publication for American Jews. The report says Sebastian Gorka, who advises the White House on national security, co-founded a political party with former members of Jobbik, which is frequently described as a fascist party. Gorka  - who once said it would be “national suicide” to admit Muslim refugees –  also worked for the Hungarian National Committee, a Jobbik-linked coalition party led by the head of the ultra-nationalist 64 Counties Youth Movement.

On Friday afternoon, Press Secretary Sean Spicer held a press briefing with a handpicked group of reporters.  NBC, ABC, and CBS were invited, along with Fox News. But several major news outlets, including The New York Times, CNN, Politico, and Buzzfeed, were kept out. Right-wing publications like the Washington Times and conspiracy sites like Breitbart were included.

See Reporting from @CNN’s White House team on being excluded from attending the gaggle.

Saturday

“Citizenship likely an unreliable indicator of potential terrorist activity” said a DHS Intelligence document released today. In fact, it continued, U.S. citizens were more likely to commit acts of terrorism, and made up more than half of terrorism-related convictions in America. Foreign-born terrorists, specifically, came from 26 different countries. The draft reported that only three of Trump’s targeted countries – Iraq, Syria, and Yemen- were likely to foster terrorists who wanted to launch attacks in America, while the other four – Iran, Sudan, Somalia, and Libya- were more likely to foster terrorism in their own countries.

Trumpery Week In short:

As Trump continues to promote fear of immigrants and his nationalist agenda this week, an old white guy shoots two Indians in Kansas yelling “get out of my country” and kills one, a Mosque is torched in Florida and Jewish grave stones are toppled (again and again and again). Trump’s response? Sweden’s “immigration problem” and strategized silence.