So much has happened since the Jan. 20 inauguration of Reality TV star and real estate mogul Donald Trump, it’s hard to keep track of his flurry of executive orders and the chaos and grassroots resistance movement created in response. It’s also hard to know what’s “true” anymore, as well, with the Trump administration honcho Kellyanne Conway touting the use of “alternative facts” and the administration’s incessant diminishing of the media.
This is important because diminishing the media and steamrolling a compliant populace are proven steps toward fascism. What we do know is that Trump is keeping his campaign promises and has not “pivoted” to become a statesman. So far he’s outraged much of the world by instituting a ban on people entering the United States if they are from one of seven Muslim-majority countries. The ban immediately impacted LGBT residents with green cards and visas and has terrified LGBT asylum seekers who were already not getting enough help.
The White Supremacist site The Daily Stormer was pleased:
￼In a startling move reminiscent of the clash between the Justice Department and the White house during Watergate, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, an appointee of President Obama, late Monday told department lawyers not to defend Trump’s executive order on immigration, refugees and the travel ban as various lawsuits make their way through the courts.
“My responsibility is to ensure that the position of the Department of Justice is not only legally defensible, but is informed by our best view of what the law is after consideration of all the facts,” she said in a letter, CNN reports. “In addition, I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right.”
“At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful,” she wrote.
Trump could either fire the defiant Acting AG or push hard for the confirmation of his Attorney General nominee Jeff Session (updated: Trump fired her approximately three hours laters and announced her replacement). If he chooses the former, he will surely face a barrage of TV reports comparing his action to that of disgraced President Richard Nixon who was forced to resign before his expected impeachment over the Watergate scandal. On Oct. 20, 1973, Nixon fired Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox and then, in quick succession, accepted the resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus in what became known as the “Saturday Night Massacre.” The special prosecutor had been tasked with investigating the break into Democratic Party headquarters and Nixon refused to turn over secretly recorded tape that implicated Nixon in the break in and the cover-up.
There have been other times when Attorney Generals have refused to defend a law in court, most famously California General Jerry Brown refusing to defend Prop 8 in state court, which was followed up by his successor Kamala Harris refusing to defend Prop 8 in state and federal court. Additionally, US Attorney General Eric Holder refused to Defend the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court, as well.
LGBT Americans are now holding their collective breath for the next onslaught of actions—expecting Sessions to get confirmed but not to be a good ally.
Tomorrow, Jan. 30, Trump is expected to announce his nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by ultra-conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. According Michael Keegan, the out President of People for the American Way, Trump “would like a justice who’s a rubber stamp for the kind of anti-constitutional actions that have dominated his administration’s first week in office.”
Meanwhile, the Senate continues to hold confirmation hearings for a bevy of anti-LGBT Trump picks: Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions, Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Health and Human Services nominee Tom Price, and Secretary of Treasury nominee Steve Mnuchin will begin this week. (Call your senators at (202) 224-3121 and demand they oppose Trump’s executive orders and block his nominees.)
Of gravest concern is the likelihood of an executive order rescinding President Obama’s executive order prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in federal contracts. Trump’s executive order is expected to come on Thursday after the annual religious conservative National Prayer Breakfast. According to LGBTQNation, “the executive order could be far-reaching, and could include: making taxpayer funds available for discrimination against LGBTQ people in social services; allow federally funded adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ parents; eliminate non-discrimination protections in order to make it possible to fire federal employers and contractors based on their sexual orientation or gender identity; and allow federal employees to refuse to serve people based on the belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and that gender is an immutable characteristic set at birth, which would impact a broad range of federal benefits.”
(UPDATE 1/31): Late Monday night, the White House released a statement saying Trump would not rescind the Obama executive order, but given his unpredictability and other campaign promises, some LGBT politicos question if this will hold.
The timing coincides with the announced re-introduction in both the House and Senate of the devastating First Amendment Defense Act, a so-called “religious freedom” bill that protects people and businesses who refuse service based on their religious objection to same-sex marriage.
AMERICAblog’s John Aravosis has already started a petition to “tell Donald Trump in no uncertain terms that homophobia is un-American, and we will not stand for it….. Enough is enough. We are only one week into this disaster of a presidency, and not only has Trump taken a swipe at Mexicans, women and Muslims, but now he may be on the verge of targeting LGBT people with his venomous un-American bigotry. We will not be made second-class citizens by a second-class president.”
Here’s a summary of just some of the jaw-dropping actions and reactions so far into Trump’s first 100 days, followed by 10 suggestions about how to #resist in this participatory democracy.
First came the estimated 4 million people worldwide who participated in the Women’s March the day after Trump’s ill-attended swearing-in. But global chaos ensued this weekend with thousands swarming airports around the country protesting Trump’s 90-day ban on immigration from the Muslim-majority countries of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen—ostensibly to protect America from terrorists.
However, the media—which now calls Trump “a liar” when fact-checking warrants it —pointed out that the recent terrorists have been “homegrown,” influenced by propaganda on the Internet. Additionally, the 9/11 terrorists actually came from countries like Saudi Arabia which do not have a ban and with which the Trump organization does business. The unclear ban prompted the splitting up of families and the confused detention of the old and young with green cards and valid visas vetted for up to two years, as well as an Iraqi translator targeted for helping save US soldiers’ lives on the battlefield.
Top officials say they were in the dark about the planned Muslim ban and numerous foreign service officers and diplomats have drafted a dissent memo opposing the ban.
Members of Congress from both political parties went to local airports to try to help the dentainees—including out California Assemblymember Evan Low in San Francisco and Reps. Maxine Waters and Ted Lieu at LAX, where approximately 7,000 protesters gathered peacefully offering support. Some of those were volunteer attorneys who were denied permission to see the detainees, even after a judge placed a nationwide injunction on the ban. Nonetheless, even Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer was denied access to detainees at LAX Saturday night into Sunday morning. “My goals in going were to get information as to whether customs officials were complying with the federal order … and to try and secure the release of the detainees,” he told the LA Times on Sunday.
Despite the lives thrown into chaos, an unnamed White House senior official insisted at a hastily called briefing that implantation of the ban was going well, telling the news media to calm down their “’false, misleading, inaccurate, hyperventilating’ coverage of the ‘fractional, marginal, minuscule percentage’ of international travelers who have been simply ‘set aside for further questioning’ for a couple hours on their way into the greatest country in the world,” the Washington Post reported. “It really is a massive success story in terms of implementation on every single level,” said the administration official, discounting the massive protests being covered “live” on television.
White House feuds with the press are commonplace but none like the current intense animosity. Last week, Trump’s alt-right senior counselor Stephen Bannon called the New York Times and said: “I want you to quote this. The media here is the opposition party,” adding that the media should “keep its mouth shut” and “just listen for a while.” On Saturday night, Bannon was given a prize seat at the National Security Council, elevating the political adviser to a position higher than top military and intelligence advisors.
Trump then confirmed that position, telling mega anti-LGBT TV preacher Pat Robertson: “Yeah, I think the media is the opposition party in many ways. I’m not talking about all of them … but a big portion of the media, the dishonesty, total deceit and deception. It makes them certainly partially the opposition party, absolutely.”
“Broadly speaking, it’s notable that Trump’s two most spirited feuds in recent months have been with American news organizations and American intelligence agencies. That’s not a coincidence: this is an administration that has a strained relationship with facts, which inevitably creates a degree of hostility between the Republican White House and those who challenge the conclusions Trump World embraces,” writes Rachel Maddow show producer Steve Benen.
This march to fascism includes dismissing the once revered. Last Friday, Jan. 27, the White House issued an official statement commemorating the UN-designated International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau. It is widely accepted that the Nazi genocide killed an estimated 6 million Jews, 200,000 Romani, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled, and 9,000 homosexuals. But Trump’s statement made no reference to the Holocaust’s Jewish victims and was hailed by the alt-right White Supremacist Daily Stormer, adding more suspicion to the belief that Trump and Bannon are anti-Semitic.
The White House shrugged off the criticism. “I don’t regret the words,” White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said on “Meet the Press,” adding that the White House considers “everyone’s suffering in the Holocaust … to be extraordinarily sad.”
The American Prospect co-found and co-editor Robert Kuttner has concluded that impeachment of Donald J. Trump is inevitable.
“Trump has been trying to govern by impulse, on whim, for personal retribution, for profit, by decree ― as if he had been elected dictator. It doesn’t work, and the wheels are coming off the bus. After a week!,” Kuttner wrote on the Huffington Post.
“Impeachment is gaining ground because it is the only way to get him out, and because Republicans are already deserting this president in droves, and because the man is psychiatrically incapable of checking whether something is legal before he does it.”
If Republicans are deserting Trump in droves, so far they’re not doing it publicly. But like Trump, they cannot escape the images of #resistance.
Here are 10 suggestions to jumpstart your participation in keeping America a democracy and working in coalition with other groups and other countries. This is by no means a full roster. Please create your own actions. (Hat tip to ACT UP organizing and message guru Ann Northrop)
1. Organize. Learn how to organize like-minded thinkers. Download the Indivisible Guide, “A Practical Guide For Resisting The Trump Agenda” created by former congressional staffers who know the best practices to make Congress listen. You can also find or register a group, sign up for alerts and updates, ask questions and stay in touch with others via Twitter.
2. Put your body on the line. Size matters to Trump and the media. If you hear about a non-violent protest, consider joining it. Bring your own sign. Keep it smart and simple but know that it won’t be captured and posted by photographers or TV media if you use profanity.
3. Sign up. Find legitimate websites that will enable you to DO SOMETHING and give you regular alerts for actions — phone calls, emails, marches, protests, and more. Some of those sites are: womensmarch.com, aclu.org, moveon.org,swingleft.org, as well as specifically LGBT political sites such as Human Rights Campaign (http://www.hrc.org/), Equality California (http://www.eqca.org/) and Victory Fund (https://www.victoryfund.org), which helps LGBT people run for political office.
Remember, personal phone calls to members of that person’s Congress district stopped (at least temporarily) the erasure of the independent Congressional Ethics Office. And keep pressing the orgs to take action, too.
4. Go local. There are a lot of local organizations that need volunteers and funding.
Latino Equality Alliance has gotten an increase in calls for legal immigration support, which they have been referring to the LA LGBT Center’s Legal Department: [email protected] or 323-993-7670. “For many years, Center staff and volunteer immigration attorneys have provided direct legal services for immigrants—including those seeking asylum. Demand for this support has greatly increased since Trump was elected, as has our need for experienced volunteer immigration attorneys,” says Roger Coggan, Director of Legal Services.
Additionally, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) is conducting “know your rights” trainings and information card distribution. This is especially critical for LGBT undocumented immigrants who face torture, harassment and even death if deported.
5. Use your fingers. Social media is easy, quick, fun and effective. Tap out your thoughts or feelings about an issue on Facebook – but be mindful of sharing too much about your identity and location. Be smart for re-tweets on Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram and follow people who you trust will make you smarter. And always have your camera phone ready. Video of constituents forcing an Aurora, Colorado Congressman to flee a town hall meeting to avoid answering questions went viral.
6. Get smart. Beef up your brain and defy the impulse to stick only with your favorite fun LGBT websites or shrug off all news as “fake news.” There are many fine professional journalists working to get the real story, like Newsweek senior writer Kurt Eichenwald and NBC’s Katy Tur, who Trump has explicitly called out at rallies, resulting in a need for security to protect her. A lot of online newspapers will give you 10-20 free views, if you can’t afford registration. Check out websites like Daily Kos, Huffington Post, ThinkProgress and People for the American Way for news and more. Also follow Dan Rather on his News and Guts Facebook page as he sorts fact from Trumped up fiction (full disclosure: Dan was my boss many moons ago).
7. Be coyly disruptive. Think of actions outside the box. Instead of calling the White House, call Trump hotels and golf courses. Ask for the Reservations desk. Tell them what reservations you have about the new administration.
8. Stay Mad but sane. Be inspired. Watch “Eyes on the Prize” (all episodes) on YouTube. Watch scary stuff to get yourself revved up—“Zero Days” on demand on cable, “The Battle of Chile,” “The Trials of Henry Kissinger,” lots and lots of WWII documentaries about how Hitler came to power (not equivalency—yet, just instructive). And throw in a comedy for some much needed relief.
9. Asterisk Trump’s Presidency. To be sure, Trump won the presidency by winning the electoral college. But the Russian influence of the election to tilt toward Trump has not been fully investigated, giving rising to respected icons such as civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis questioning whether Trump is a “legitimate” president. The Trump administration has angrily dismissed such claims, as well as dismissing the protesters as supporters on Hillary Clinton, who lost the election but won the popular vote by three million votes.
Lesbian psychologist Lara Embry has started a MoveOn.org petition to be delivered to Trump, the House and Senate and the national archivist to place an asterisk after listings of Donald Trump as president of the United States until questions surrounding the legitimacy of the election results — either through alleged voter fraud or Russian interference — can be resolved. “To date, 16 U.S. intelligence agencies have implicated the Russian government in a scheme to influence the outcome of our election in favor of Donald J. Trump. Public concern demands an investigation, already promised by Congress, to allay doubts caused by Russian interference regarding the integrity of this election,” Embry writes in her petition.
10. Breathe. Just breathe.