This Is What a Slide into Authoritarianism Looks Like

[Content Note: Disablist language.]

In three parts:

1. Donald Trump started the day, as usual, with a disgorgement of heinous tweets, including this trash:

I'm not even sure what he's threatening here, but the President of the United States just tweeted "what goes around, comes around" as though that is perfectly normal. It is not normal. None of this is normal.

It is, however, increasingly familiar:


2. Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair: Inside Trumpworld, a Bizarre Counter-Narrative Takes Hold.
Donald Trump's demand that the Justice Department investigate the F.B.I. for surveilling aides who were in contact with Russian intelligence agents — or, as he alleges, putting "spies in my campaign" — marks an inflection point in his standoff with special counsel Robert Mueller. "The F.B.I. thing really set him over the edge," longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone, who is himself entangled in the investigation, recently told me. "He's a little rusty, but he's on offense. And it's always better to be on offense than defense."

Trump's scorched-earth strategy has been in place since Rudy Giuliani replaced Trump's long-suffering lawyers John Dowd and Ty Cobb. At first, it looked as if it were careening off course, as Giuliani gave off a series of erratic and combative interviews. Some speculated that Trump might be unhappy with his performance, but sources I spoke to say Trump is pleased. This is the plan. "Rudy doesn't do anything without Trump's permission," said one Republican close to the White House. The strategy grew out of conversations Trump has held in recent weeks with a group of outside advisers that include Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows, House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes, Sean Hannity, Dave Bossie, and Corey Lewandowski, among others. "People think Trump is angry, but he likes the direction this is going," an outside White House adviser said.

According to people familiar with Trump's thinking, his team is attempting to build the case that anti-Trump forces in the F.B.I. entrapped his advisers using informants to plant evidence about Russian collusion. The theory goes that the F.B.I. later used these contacts with the Russians to delegitimize his presidency. Trump's advisers say the intelligence community believed Hillary Clinton would win the presidency, but in case she didn't, they concocted this elaborate plot to remove Trump from office. "Just when you think it can't get stranger, it does," a Trump adviser told me. Stone claims the anti-Trump conspiracy includes senior intelligence officials from the Barack Obama administration. "The guy who will end up burning in all this is [former C.I.A. director] John Brennan," Stone told me. "If I were him I'd break the capsule and swallow it now. That psychopath is going down."
Phew. Okay, a few things:

A. Roger Stone is a shitbag. He's been a stain on American politics since the Nixon administration, and, in that time, he has said a lot of despicable things, but admonishing John Brennan to kill himself is right at the top of a very long and horrendous list.

B. House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes is serving as an advisor to the president on his defense strategy, even as his committee is meant to be investigating him. That is audaciously corrupt.

C. That Trump is pleased with Giuliani's strategy is precisely what I've been saying, even as certain commentators haughtily sniffed that people like me were "Rudy Face Plant Truthers." Whooooooops.

Being wrong about this stuff, over and over, has consequences. Demeaning as crazy "truthers" people who have been and continue to be right about this administration also has consequences. And yet (disproportionately) white, male political writers keep confidently being wrong and arrogantly mocking the (primarily) women who keep getting things right. Maybe it's time to listen to women.

3. Caroline O. shared this clip of journalist Lesley Stahl sharing a chilling (if entirely unsurprising) exchange she had with Donald Trump:

Transcript: Before the interview, I met with him in Trump Tower — and he really is the same off-camera that he is on-camera. [grins] Exactly the same. And at one point he started to attack the press. And it's just me and my boss and him in his — he has a huge office. And he's attacking the press. And there were no cameras, there was nothing going on, and I said, "You know, that is getting tired. Why are you doing this? You're doing it over and over, and it's boring and it's — it's time to end that, you know, you've won the nomination, and, uh, why do you keep hammering at this?" And he said, "You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all, so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you." He said that. So. Put that in your head for a minute. Yeah.
Put it in your head for longer than a minute. Put it there forever.

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