Few people who knew Trump had illusions about him. That was his appeal: He was what he was. Twinkle in his eye, larceny in his soul. Everybody in his rich-guy social circle knew about his wide-ranging ignorance. Early in the campaign, Sam Nunberg was sent to explain the Constitution to the candidate. “I got as far as the Fourth Amendment,” Nunberg recalled, “before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head.”

The day after the election, the bare-bones transition team that had been set up during the campaign hurriedly shifted from Washington to Trump Tower. The building — now the headquarters of a populist revolution —­ suddenly seemed like an alien spaceship on Fifth Avenue. But its otherworldly air helped obscure the fact that few in Trump’s inner circle, with their overnight responsibility for assembling a government, had any relevant experience.

Ailes, a veteran of the Nixon, Reagan, and Bush 41 administrations, tried to impress on Trump the need to create a White House structure that could serve and protect him. “You need a son of a bitch as your chief of staff,” he told Trump. “And you need a son of a bitch who knows Washington. You’ll want to be your own son of a bitch, but you don’t know Washington.” Ailes had a suggestion: John Boehner, who had stepped down as Speaker of the House only a year earlier.

“Who’s that?” asked Trump.

As much as the president himself, the chief of staff determines how the Executive branch — which employs 4 million people — will run. The job has been construed as deputy president, or even prime minister. But Trump had no interest in appointing a strong chief of staff with a deep knowledge of Washington. Among his early choices for the job was Kushner — a man with no political experience beyond his role as a calm and flattering body man to Trump during the campaign.

It was Ann Coulter who finally took the president-elect aside. “Nobody is apparently telling you this,” she told him. “But you can’t. You just can’t hire your children.”

On the Sunday after the immigration order was issued, Joe Scarborough and his Morning Joe co-host, Mika Brzezinski, arrived for lunch at the White House. Trump proudly showed them into the Oval Office. “So how do you think the first week has gone?” he asked the couple, in a buoyant mood, seeking flattery. When Scarborough ventured his opinion that the immigration order might have been handled better, Trump turned defensive and derisive, plunging into a long monologue about how well things had gone. “I could have invited Hannity!” he told Scarborough.

After Jared and Ivanka joined them for lunch, Trump continued to cast for positive impressions of his first week. Scarborough praised the president for having invited leaders of the steel unions to the White House. At which point Jared interjected that reaching out to unions, a Democratic constituency, was Bannon’s doing, that this was “the Bannon way.”

“Bannon?” said the president, jumping on his son-in-law. “That wasn’t Bannon’s idea. That was my idea. It’s the Trump way, not the Bannon way.”

Kushner, going concave, retreated from the discussion.

Trump, changing the topic, said to Scarborough and Brzezinski, “So what about you guys? What’s going on?” He was referencing their not-so-secret secret relationship. The couple said it was still complicated, but good.

“You guys should just get married,” prodded Trump.

“I can marry you! I’m an internet Unitarian minister,” Kushner, otherwise an Orthodox Jew, said suddenly.

“What?” said the president. “What are you talking about? Why would they want you to marry them when could marry them? When they could be married by the president! At Mar-a-Lago!”

Excerpted from Michael Wollf’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House”

Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon has described the Trump Tower meeting between the president’s son and a group of Russians during the 2016 election campaign as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic”, according to an explosive new book seen by the Guardian.

Bannon, speaking to author Michael Wolff, warned that the investigation into alleged collusion with the Kremlin will focus on money laundering and predicted: “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”

–David Smith, Trump Tower meeting with Russians ‘treasonous’, Bannon says in explosive book

U.S. President Donald Trump blasted former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon on Wednesday as having “lost his mind” in the fallout over damaging comments Bannon made about Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. in excerpts from a new book.

Trump, who had continued to speak privately with Bannon after firing him in August, essentially cut ties with his former aide at least for now in a blistering statement issued after Bannon’s comments came to light.

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind,” Trump said.

–Steve Holland, Trump breaks with Bannon, says former White House aide ‘lost his mind’

[T]he debate about whether to turn inward or to engage with the world has been resurrected by Donald Trump. He insists that he is not an isolationist but he describes US foreign policy in unilateral, transactional terms and has championed “America First” — a phrase originally associated with opposition to Roosevelt’s desire to fight Hitler.

The most prominent spokesman for the 1940s America First Committee, the celebrated aviator Charles Lindbergh, accused Jewish groups of “agitating for war” and was himself accused of being pro-Nazi.

Embracing the phrase “America First” does not in itself indicate fascism, but there is more to the picture than that.

For Lindbergh and Roosevelt, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor changed everything. In 1944 American troops waded through the surf of Normandy’s beaches and into the path of Nazi bullets.

Half a lifetime later, at Pointe du Hoc on the English Channel, Ronald Reagan commemorated their sacrifice with the words: “Here the Allies stood and fought against tyranny in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.”

Of course, the United States has not always lived up to its own ideals.

This week marks the 153rd anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre, when US troops murdered and mutilated women and children of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes in Colorado, just one atrocity among many as white Europeans vanquished the native peoples of the New World.

Then a country founded on genocide and slavery covered its ears for shameful ages before it heard Martin Luther King’s insistence that it “make real the promises of democracy” for African Americans. Woodrow Wilson, for one, used fine words but he introduced racist policies too. Even now, that promise of democracy remains only partially fulfilled.

The US has been guilty of bombing civilians, of torture and imprisonment without trial and of subverting the very democracy it professes to hold sacred when it does not like what democracy delivers.

A question comes to mind: did American soldiers fight and die on the beaches of Normandy so their president could promote fascism?

It is an astonishing question, absurd even. To many it may seem offensive even to ask.

But it falls to reporters to describe in plain language what we see, and promotion of fascism and racism is all too easy to observe in the United States of 2017.

–James Cook, Giving succour to the far right, Trump breaks with American ideals

On Dec. 4 last year, less than a month after Donald Trump had defeated Hillary Clinton, Austria held a revote in its presidential election, which pitted Alexander Van der Bellen, a liberal who had the backing of the Green Party, against Norbert Hofer of the right-wing Freedom Party. In May 2016, Van der Bellen had defeated Hofer by just more than 30,000 votes — receiving 50.3 percent of the vote to Hofer’s 49.7 percent — but the results had been annulled and a new election had been declared. Hofer had to like his chances: Polls showed a close race, but with him ever so slightly ahead in the polling average. Hofer cited Trump as an inspiration and said that he, like Trump, could overcome headwinds from the political establishment.

So what happened? Van der Bellen won by nearly 8 percentage points. Not only did Hofer receive a smaller share of the vote than in May, but he also had fewer votes despite a higher turnout. Something had caused Austrians to change their minds and decide that Hofer’s brand of populism wasn’t such a good idea after all.

The result didn’t get that much attention in the news outlets I follow, perhaps because it went against the emerging narrative that right-wing populism was on the upswing. But the May and December elections in Austria made for an interesting controlled experiment. The same two candidates were on the ballot, but in the intervening period Trump had won the American election and the United Kingdom had voted to leave the European Union. If the populist tide were rising, Hofer should have been able to overcome his tiny deficit with Van der Bellen and win. Instead, he backslid. It struck me as a potential sign that Trump’s election could represent the crest of the populist movement, rather than the beginning of a nationalist wave.

It was also just one data point, and so it had to be interpreted with caution. But the pattern has been repeated so far in every major European election since Trump’s victory. In the Netherlands, France and the U.K., right-wing parties faded down the stretch run of their campaigns and then further underperformed their polls on election day. (The latest example came on Sunday in the French legislative elections, when Marine Le Pen’s National Front received only 13 percent of the vote and one to five seats1 in the French National Assembly.) The right-wing Alternative for Germany has also faded in polls of the German federal election, which will be contested in September.

The beneficiaries of the right-wing decline have variously been politicians on the left (such as Austria’s Van der Bellen), the center-left (such as France’s Emmanuel Macron) and the center-right (such as Germany’s Angela Merkel, whose Christian Democratic Union has rebounded in polls). But there’s been another pattern in who gains or loses support: The warmer a candidate’s relationship with Trump, the worse he or she has tended to do.

–Nate Silver, Donald Trump Is Making Europe Liberal Again

Horribly, [Donovan and O’Meara] are not the only gay men to respond to an olive branch lately offered by white nationalism. The opening of this movement to cisgender gay men is a radical change, “one of the biggest changes I’ve seen on the right in 40 years,” says Chip Berlet, co-author of Right-Wing Populism in America. In the United States, unlike in Europe, out gay men have never been welcome in white supremacist groups. The Klan and neo-Nazi groups, the main previous incarnations of white hate in this country, were and still are violently anti-queer. And while a subset of openly gay men has always been conservative (or, as in all populations, casually racist), they never sought to join the racist right.

That was before groups like NPI, Counter-Currents Publishing, and American Renaissance started putting out the welcome mat. Since around 2010, some (though by no means all) groups in the leadership of the white nationalist movement have been inviting out cis gay men to speak at their conferences, write for their magazines, and be interviewed in their journals. Donovan and O’Meara, far to the right of disgraced provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, are the white nationalist movement’s actual queer stars. But there are others in the ranks, like Douglas Pearce of the popular neofolk band Death in June. And there are many more gay men (and some trans women) who have been profoundly influenced by two white nationalist ideas: the “threat” posed by Islam and the “danger” posed by immigrants.

But when Donovan says violence, he means violence. This is not BDSM. “The ability to use violence effectively is the highest value of masters,” Donovan said in a 2017 speech at a fascist think tank in Germany. “It is the primary value of those who create order, who create worlds. Violence is a golden value. Violence rules. Violence is not evil–it is elemental.” Though Donovan tries to mine the latent sexiness in violence for all it’s worth, he is, in fact, against consensual BDSM, condemning it in a 2010 essay as part of a long list of evils that he feels has been perpetuated by gay culture: the “extreme promiscuity, sadomasochism, transvestism, transsexuality, and flamboyant effeminacy” promoted by “the pink-haired, punk rock stepchildren of feminism,” gay activists. No, it’s straight-up people hurting and killing other people he’s endorsing.

And what is all this violence for? Creating small, decentralized “homelands” in this country separated by—surprise!—race. He enthusiastically embraces an idea the alt-right calls “pan-secessionism,” under which, as Donovan says in his book A Sky Without Eagles, “gangs” of white men would form “autonomous zones” for themselves and white women, where women “would not be permitted to rule or take part in … political life.” The gangs would enforce racial boundary lines, because, as Donovan puts it, whites have “radically different values [and] cultures” than other people, and “loyalty requires preference. It requires discrimination.”

–Donna Minkowitz, How the Alt-Right Is Using Sex and Camp to Attract Gay Men to Fascism

Democracy Dies In Darkness

KIEV, Ukraine — A month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, one of his closest allies in Congress — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on Capitol Hill with his fellow GOP leaders: that Trump could be the beneficiary of payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, according to a recording of the June 15, 2016 exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a Californian Republican known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) immediately interjected, stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy’s assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy.

Before the conversation, McCarthy and Ryan had emerged from separate talks at the U.S. Capitol with Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, who had described a Kremlin tactic of financing populist politicians to undercut Eastern European democratic institutions.

News had just broken the day before in The Washington Post that Russian government hackers had penetrated the computer network of the Democratic National Committee, prompting McCarthy to shift the conversation from Russian meddling in Europe to events closer to home.

Some of the lawmakers laughed at McCarthy’s comment. Then McCarthy quickly added: “Swear to God.”

Ryan instructed his Republican lieutenants to keep the conversation private, saying: “No leaks…This is how we know we’re a real family here.”

The remarks remained secret for nearly a year.

–Adam Entous, House Majority Leader to colleagues in 2016: ‘I think Putin pays’ Trump