Off the radar - GulfToday

Off the radar

Michael Jansen

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.


Donald Trump. File

Deprived of the presidency by an election he still claims was fraudulent, citizen Donald Trump plays golf with visitors from Washington and members at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida. He is no longer a constant presence in the news and in the face of the US and world public weary and wary of the daily diet of Trump and Trumpisms.

His wife of 17 years, Melania has managed to grab headlines by auctioning off a white hat and other momentoes from her time in the White House, which she hated. While a portion of the proceeds are to go to charity, it is reported most will be kept by the former first lady.

Barred from Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, Trump cannot spend hours communicating via these media to loyalists. Having given him nearly free reign while in the White House, under pressure from the public they reined him in for propagating fake news, hate speech, and misinformation they said amounted to a violation of the sacrosanct US Constitution’s hallowed Second Amendment guaranteeing freedom of speech.

Although his Twitter ban is permanent, he was suspended for only two years by Facebook and could return in January 2023 if the ban is not renewed.  

Since exclusion has frustrated him and curtailed his online connections, Trump launched a blog entitled “From the Desk of Donald Trump” but shut it down when it attracted few readers.  He then tried and failed to set up his own social network, called Truth Social, but it appears government regulators have stepped in.

 While being deprived of a direct connection with the public, he has maintained a lower key presence through press releases, targeted emails, media interviews and mass rallies. He remains the most potent force within the Republican Party and with its office holders and candidates for office.

On Jan. 15, Trump starred in a rally in Florence, Arizona, where he extended his backing to extremist Republican candidates running in state races this year. With him on the platform was a veteran of the Oath Keepers’ far-right grouping. Several of its members took part in the Capitol rioting and have been charged with “sedition.” While Trump has urged people to get vaccinated, there were few masks and no social distancing at the gathering in a field although more than 750,000 people were testing postive for covid across the country.

This event demonstrated once again that Trump has not changed his tune. He boasted about attendance at the rally by saying, “Look at the people, as far as the eye can see.  Way back I mean, football fields back...Nobody’s ever had a movement like this. Nobody’s ever had a spirit like this or a crowd like this.” These words echo his false claims after his presidential inauguration in January 2017 that the crowd he drew was far larger than the throng that gathered on the Mall in Washington for Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009.

At the rally, Trump also reiterated his claim, “I ran [for the presidency] twice, I won twice,” although he lost to Biden by clear popular and Electoral College majorities. He urged people to vote and make “sure its not a rigged vote, please.” He lauded the people who took part in the Capitol riot and argued, paradoxically, that the federal government was behind the violence.

Trump is sticking to the “Big Lie” on the expectation that if he tells it often enough people will believe him. His followers have. These two words were linked by Adolf Hitler in his 1925 book Mein Kampf to describe the propaganda technique of telling such huge lies that no one “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” He employed the “Big Lie” to claim falsely that during World War I Germany was the innocent victim of Britain, France, and the US and blamed Jews for World War II as justification for the Holocaust, murder by the Nazi regime of millions of Jews, Gypsies, dissidents and others.

Trump and the Republicans are now using the “Big Lie” of the stolen election to impose restrictions on voting which would deprive Democrat backers from poorer sections of the population of their right to vote. Measures include requiring identity card depicting the face of the holders, reducing the time to file mail-in ballots, reducing the number of polling stations and shortening the time people can vote, banning drive-in voting, and redrawing district boundaries to benefit Republicans.  

While he continues to exert control over the Republican party and to draw crowds, Trump remains vulnerable to Congressional censure and, perhaps, criminal prosecution for the role he played in inciting his supporters to mount the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol in Washington with the aim of preventing the legislature from confirming Democrat Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 election.

Trump also faces multiple litigations. He has mounted a legal case against New York State Attorney General Letitia James who is investigating alleged deflating and inflating valuations of his real estate holdings and other properties to avoid tax and attract investment. Trump’s business and tax practices have been for three years the subject of another criminal case lodged by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance. If charged, Trump will be the first former president prosecuted for criminal offenses.

He is being sued by I.E. Jean Carroll for defamation after he accused her of lying about a sexual assault decades ago; by his niece, Mary Trump, for fraudently depriving her of inheritance; and by a group of plaintiffs accusing him of taking payment for fake business propositions. There are half a dozen suits by politicians and policemen for inciting the Capitol riots.  The National Association of Coloured People is suing him for trying to overturn the 2020 election and restrict voting rights. A global rights group has challenged a vote in the Scottish parliament dismissing claims that Trump used laundered cash to purchase golf course properties in Scotland. A district attorney in the US state of Georgia has opened a criminal investigation into Trump’s flagrant interference in the 2020 election.

It is significant that none of these potential prosecutions sway Trump supporters from their loyalty to a man who never should have been elected US president in the first place. While in office, he did his best to reverse progressive legislation on health care and the environment, postponed the struggle against covid with the result that half a million US lives were lost by the time he left the White House, exited key international agreements and organisations, and undermined US credibility on the world scene. The fact that he could run again in three years time and win is beyond belief.

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