By:
September 27, 2021

I wrote about Donald Trump as the lead item to one of my newsletters last week. It was about the Big Lie and the insurrection and many of the other things that underlined Trump’s final weeks in office.

As often happens whenever I write about the former president, I get lots of reaction. The general theme: Why? Why write about someone who isn’t the president anymore? Why give him oxygen, especially if it’s to amplify a bunch of lies or unhinged propaganda?

One reader wrote that Trump is “old news” and writing about him is “just what he likes” and to “stop feeding him.”

But here’s the thing. It’s not old news, because what Trump is saying and doing gives us all an indication of what he might be planning next. What he says and does has an impact on his followers and, more importantly, many in the Republican Party. And much of it is troubling.

For example …

The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Robert Costa appeared on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” to promote “Peril,” their new book on Trump’s presidency. The two authors continue to paint a very disturbing picture of Trump’s attempt to maintain power even after losing last November’s election.

And Trump’s desire for power remains strong, Costa said, pointing to Trump and his rallies. He held another over the weekend in Georgia.

“I’ve learned, covering President Trump and covering politics, it doesn’t really matter sometimes what people think, it’s what they do, and to assume nothing,” Costa said. “In 2015, a lot of people said Donald Trump won’t run. He’ll never win, once he announced in 2016. Well, he won and he lost in 2020. He wants power back. Our reporting in the book shows these rallies don’t get a ton of coverage, but he’s out there with this Churchillian type language, ‘We’ll never surrender. We’ll never give in,’ whipping up thousands of people across the country. And the most important thing, it’s not just his personality as the story. He’s influencing the Republican Party across the country to now run for office, to be secretaries of state, to be election officials — 2022 to 2024.”

Writing for Politico, Zack Stanton asks, “What If 2020 Was Just a Rehearsal?”

Stanton writes, “For the first time in American history, the losing candidate refused to concede the election — and rather than dismissing him as a sore loser, a startling number of Americans have followed Donald Trump down his conspiratorial rabbit hole. The safeguards that ensured he left office last January after losing the presidential election may be crumbling: The election officials who certified the counts may no longer be in place next time he falsely claims victory; if Republicans take Congress, a compliant Speaker could easily decide it’s simply not in his interest to let the party’s leader lose.”

Stanton has a Q&A with Rick Hasen, a legal scholar and expert in legislation, election law and campaign finance. Exactly one year ago, Hasen wrote a piece for Slate titled, “I’ve Never Been More Worried About American Democracy Than I Am Right Now.” And last month, on CNN, he said he was “scared (expletive).”

Hasen told Stanton, “But I’m even more frightened now than in those past months because of the revelations that continue to come to light about the concerted effort of Trump to try to alter the election outcome: Over 30 contacts with governors, state legislative officials, those who canvass the votes; pressuring governors, pressuring secretaries of state; having his lawyer pass out talking points to have Mike Pence declare Trump the winner even though he lost the election. I mean, this is not what we expect in a democracy.”

Hasen added, “The reason I’m so scared is because you could look at 2020 as the nadir of American democratic processes, or you could look at it as a dress rehearsal.”

Writing for The Washington Post, contributing columnist Robert Kagan wrote, “Our constitutional crisis is already here.” He starts with this ominous tone: “The United States is heading into its greatest political and constitutional crisis since the Civil War, with a reasonable chance over the next three to four years of incidents of mass violence, a breakdown of federal authority, and the division of the country into warring red and blue enclaves.”

He added, “First, Donald Trump will be the Republican candidate for president in 2024. The hope and expectation that he would fade in visibility and influence have been delusional. He enjoys mammoth leads in the polls; he is building a massive campaign war chest; and at this moment the Democratic ticket looks vulnerable. Barring health problems, he is running. Second, Trump and his Republican allies are actively preparing to ensure his victory by whatever means necessary.”

Meanwhile, according to The Detroit News’ Craig Mauger, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told the crowd at the Michigan Republican Party’s leadership conference, “I don’t think Trump is listening. He might be. I hope President Trump runs again.”

Yes, this is the same Graham who routinely slammed Trump before 2016.

“People ask me, ‘What happened with you and Trump?’” Graham told the crowd. ‘I say we found common ground. I’ve come to like him and he likes him.” Then Graham joked, “That gets us through 18 holes. The first nine, I’ll tell him why I like him. The back nine is why he likes him.”

Graham admitted Trump can be a “handful,” but added, “Now I believe there’s magic there. (He’s) got to turn it down a notch. But there’s magic there.”

All the brazen things Trump attempted to hold onto the presidency. All the signs that point to him wanting to run again. Others, like Graham, urging him to run. The support Trump gets from a very powerful conservative media.

That’s why I and others continue to write about Donald Trump.

Wallace grills Abbott

“Fox News Sunday” moderator Chris Wallace grilled Texas Gov. Greg Abbott about Texas’ abortion law not having an exception for rape or incest. Abbott previously had explained, “Goal No. 1 in the state of Texas is to eliminate rape so that no woman, no person will be a victim of rape.”

Wallace asked Abbott, “Is it reasonable to say to somebody who is the victim of rape and might not understand that they are pregnant, you know, until six weeks, ‘Well, don’t worry about it because we’re going to eliminate rape as a problem in the state of Texas?’”

Abbott said, “​​Well, there’s multiple things I have to say in answer to this. But the first thing, obviously, is that survivors of sexual assault, they deserve support, care and compassion. And Texas is stepping up to make sure that we provide that by signing a law and creating in the governor’s office a sexual assault survivors task force.”

Wallace continued to press Abbott, saying, “Governor, excuse me, because we are running out of time — there were more than 15,000 rapes in 2019 when you were governor.”

Wallace later said, “Let me just ask this question. A Republican state representative says that he’s going to offer a new measure that would restore the exception to the Texas abortion law for victims of rape and incest. If that came to your desk, will you sign it or not?”

Abbott continued to evade answering directly, saying, “The goal is to protect the lives of every child with a heartbeat. And so we’re working to achieve that goal.”

It was good work by Wallace.

Banned Books Week and race in America

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, in a photo taken in July (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

This is “Banned Books Week” in America. It’s described as the “annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.”

Appearing on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones talked about her “1619 Project” for The New York Times Magazine.

“This is a particularly dangerous moment,’’ Hannah-Jones told host Brian Stelter. “It’s one thing to have right-wing media saying they don’t like the ‘1619 Project,’ they don’t agree with the ‘1619 Project.’ But it’s quite something else to have politicians from state legislatures down to school boards actually making prohibitions against teaching a work of American journalism or really any of these other texts. The fact that we are all talking about this fake controversy called ‘critical race theory’ really speaks to how successful the public propaganda campaign has been. I don’t think it’s just about scared white parents. It’s about politicians savvily stoking racial resentment in response, I think, to the global protests last year in order to divide America from each other, and they’re being quite successful.”

Hannah-Jones said it isn’t just the “1619 Project” that is being targeted.

“This is actually trying to control the collective memory of this country,” Hannah-Jones said. “And trying to say we just want to purge uncomfortable truths from our collective memory. And that’s very dangerous.”

A false positive scare

CNN’s Oliver Darcy was all over this story from last week. Before Vice President Kamala Harris’ interview on Friday’s “The View,” co-hosts Ana Navarro and Sunny Hostin were asked to leave the set because both had tested positive for COVID-19. Well, turns out, the results appear to have been false positives. They have subsequently taken three more tests and the results have been negative.

Navarro told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Friday that she is “doing great.” Meanwhile, Harris was supposed to be interviewed in person on “The View” set, but instead was interviewed remotely as she sat in a room isolated from hosts Joy Behar and Sara Haines.

“It takes so much work to do an interview like this and it’s something that we were excited about,” Navarro told Cooper. “We were prepared to ask some tough questions. We were very proud to have the vice president come on ‘The View’ and all of a sudden it turned into an episode of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm.’ It was just surreal.”

Media tidbits

(Courtesy: NBC News)

  • This week, NBC News will focus on the nation’s opioid crisis in a series called “One Nation Overdosed.” Coverage of the series will air on the “Today” show, the “NBC Nightly News,” MSNBC, NBCNews.com and NBC News Now. It will begin this morning with national correspondent Kate Snow interviewing Drug Enforcement Administration administrator Anne Milgram.
  • “Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts will interview former President Barack Obama ahead of the groundbreaking for the Obama Presidential Center. The interview is scheduled to air on Tuesday’s “GMA.”
  • Shelley Ross, a veteran TV journalist and former executive producer at ABC and CBS, wrote a guest essay for The New York Times: “Chris Cuomo Sexually Harassed Me. I Hope He’ll Use His Power to Make Change.”
  • Candace Buckner has been named sports columnist at The Washington Post. I don’t know Buckner personally, but I know her work, and it’s outstanding. She should fit right in with the tradition of great sports columnists at the Post.
  • A quick step off the media beat for a second: Is anyone else watching HBO’s “Scenes from a Marriage?” Good gosh, because of the brutally honest subject matter, it’s a tough watch. But, man, the performances of Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac are spectacular.
  • Meanwhile, speaking of HBO, less than three weeks before “Succession” returns. Season three starts Oct. 17.

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Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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