Trump’s love of tyrants hits “religious freedom” limit

Anyone keeping track of the world leaders Donald Trump has lovingly embraced surely noticed one overriding characteristic and defining trait, they are predominately authoritarian dictators. In addition, the tyrants Trump is enamored with have human rights abuses on their records that seemingly make them more appealing to Trump for the obvious reason that his dream is imposing harsh punishment on the people he regards as enemies.

There is little doubt, at least to this author, that if he believed he could get away with it, Trump would parrot the actions of tyrants such as Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, North Korea’s Kim Jung un, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and of course the tyrant he is most enamored with Vlad Putin. It is beyond doubt that one particular reason Trump is enamored with the aforementioned tyrants is the regularity of their human rights violations, particularly against dissenters.

During the 2016 presidential campaign Trump told supporters at a rally that he’d like to punch a protester in the face, and that he lusted for the “good ole’ days” when protesters could be  carried out on a stretcher.” During one rally he appallingly urged his supporters to “stand ready to knock the crap out of hecklers;” something he would instruct law enforcement to do if he had the same dictatorial authority his favorite tyrants enjoy. Instead, he offered to pay the legal fees of supporters arrested for assaulting peaceful protestors.

One of the tyrants Trump admires, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, must have held a special place in Trump’s black heart because after the terrible Turk  observed his security detail “brutally assault” American protestors in America’s capital, Trump’s silence was tacit approval. His silence also reinforced what many Americans already believed about Trump; an overwhelming desire to allow his vile supporters to “brutally assault”  anti-Trump protestors. It is certainly why he fairly praised white supremacists as “very fine people” after they attacked peaceful protestors in Charlottesville Virginia killing one woman for protesting against Trump’s fascist acolytes.

Trump has been silent about all of his favorite dictators’ record of human rights abuses since his poorly attended inauguration leaving many Americans to wonder what kind of atrocity would inspire Trump to condemn his authoritarian heroes. This week Americans learned there is a limit to Trump’s pleasure in human rights abuses at the hands of tyrants, but that limit was set by his extremist evangelical supporters and the aspiring preacher-in-chief Mike Pence – not any sense of common decency or regard for human rights.

It is telling that Trump condoned Turkish President Erdogan’s security detail viciously assaulting peaceful American protestors on American soil, but he is reportedly incensed at Erdogan for detaining an American evangelical preacher accused of causing dissent. This week, Trump threatened to “impose large sanctions” on Turkey over the detention of evangelical preacher Andrew Brunson. Trump’s threat was on the same day as  Mike “preacher”  Pence’s warning during a “religious freedom” summit. To keep pace with the “religious freedom” crusade to pressure an ally,  the Senate Foreign Relations committee passed legislation that would use America’s influence on the World Bank to withhold financial assistance to Turkey – for as long as the evangelical preacher is being detained.

Of course Turkey’s foreign minister responded to the threats in the same way America responds to threats from religious extremists:

No one dictates Turkey. We will never tolerate threats from anybody. Rule of law is for everyone; no exception.”

The particulars of why preacher Brunson is being held under house arrest are, for the purpose of this screed, primarily irrelevant. Harsh treatment, whether it is being imprisoned or summarily slaughtered, in Turkey has not incurred any untoward comments, much less threats, from the Trump theocrats. But there is a new “international religious freedom” campaign underway and it was during one such confab led by Pence that a tyrant is being reproached by America’s theocrats – over the treatment of one “man of the evangelical faith.”

What is noteworthy is that the Muslim-majority nation charged Brunson with “dividing and separating the majority-Muslim country by spreading his Christian faith.” That is the reason preacher Pence called on “believers across America to pray for Brunson” while warning the sovereign Muslim nation:

That if it does not take immediate action to free this innocent man of faith the United States will impose significant sanctions on Turkey – until pastor Andrew Brunson is free. To President Erdogan I have a message on behalf of the president of the United States of America: Release Pastor Andrew Brunson now or be prepared to face the consequences.”

Trump is no more interested in a tyrant’s aggression toward people in his nation than he is fulfilling the pledge he made to uphold and support the U.S. Constitution during his poorly attended inauguration. If that were the case he would be dispensing threats of “significant sanctions” on all manner of nations including his heroes Kim Jung un, Vlad Putin and Rodrigo Duterte et al for committing real human rights abuses, not just “detaining” an evangelical “man of faith.”

In fact, Trump and Pence had a prime opportunity to deliver threats and warnings against Egypt just recently for sentencing 75 people to death for participating in a “sit-in” in 2013. Just like when Turkey’s president watched his security detail brutally assault American protestors on American soil, Trump and Pence have been silent over a tyrannical nation imposing the death sentence for protesting; because the protestors are Muslims.

This absurd round of threats against a sovereign nation for imposing its own laws is a very bad sign that the Trump administration’s “international religious freedom” crusade has nothing to do with promoting religious freedom internationally. Frankly, it is nearly impossible to have any empathy for an American evangelical preacher who relocates to a majority-Muslim nation to “convert” Muslims to Christianity. For dog’s sake, the evangelicals  championing “religious freedom” in America do not comport Muslim adherents whatsoever, much less if they came from foreign nations to proselytize Christians and convert them to Islam.

It is worth noting that as an American of Armenian descent, this author has little-to-no regard for Turkey or its tyrannical leader – no matter if the country is an American ally. However, Turkey is a sovereign nation and if according to its laws the evangelical preacher violated some statute against using his religion to divide the country, then it is the evangelical’s problem regardless of his nationality. He may enjoy “religious freedom” to ignore and violate the law and U.S. Constitution with impunity in America, but he is not in America. Moreover, regardless of how one views a nation guilty of exterminating 1.2 million Armenians, at least in Turkey “the rule of law is for everyone; no exception.”  If only that were the case in America that was founded on the “rule of law,” it is highly likely the threat of “religious freedom” to impose a theocracy would not exist.

Image: AP Photo/ Evan Vucci

Trump’s Voter Commission Does Exactly What Americans Feared

Donald Trump is widely regarded by anyone who has had the unfortunate experience of coming in contact with him as a vindictive piece of work. In particular he has built a reputation of “getting even” with any human being who doesn’t bend to his will or dares challenge anything he does. Billionaire Richard Branson related a story where Trump told him he would move the proverbial heaven and Earth, and spend the rest of his life trying, to destroy the 5 people who failed to “help him,” and he is now out to cause misery to Americans who oppose his corrupt voter suppression “commission.”

There is only a “voter integrity commission” because Trump cannot tolerate the idea that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by about 3 million votes. Remember, Trump still claims he lost 3 to 5 million votes to fraudulent (illegal immigrant) voters; a claim that has been so widely and often debunked that even Republicans know Trump is lying. But they also know that Trump’s fragile ego will allow them to go to extreme lengths to launch robust voter suppression tactics based on Trump’s claim and they are moving at breakneck speed to enact legislation restricting the right to vote to their white evangelical base. As of March of this year there were 20 Republican states enacting severe voter suppression laws and using Trump’s claim of “massive voter fraud” as justification.

When Trump tasked Mike Pence and voter-suppression expert Kris Kobach with demanding states hand over all voter data from the past ten years, including highly personal and confidential information, only a fool believed there was not a typical Republicans’ untoward motive behind it.

In fact, even Republican state election officials opposed the “demand” and were not bashful about telling the “commission” to go to Hell, or “go jump in the Gulf of Mexico.” Trump’s response to 46 states refusing to cooperate was that even Republican election officials were afraid the results would show that he, Donald J. Trump, really won the popular vote and won by historically unheard of majorities.

What Trump discovered after foolishly calling for public comments on the request for their personal and private data was that it wasn’t just 46 state election officials who opposed the illegal maneuver, the public went ballistic. And, as if to justify every public commenter’s worst fears that the commission would publicize voters’ sensitive personal information, the commission duly publicized voters’ sensitive personal information.

Pence and Kobach released the contact information, along with some really angry comments, of everyone who responded on the White House website.

As noted by nearly everyone with a pulse, Mike Pence and Kris Kobach’s decision to publish the emails containing the names, phone numbers, home addresses and places of employment of Americans who were concerned that Trump’s  voter integrity commission was a nefarious plot to make such information public was no accident. In fact, there are already reports, and comments on the White House website, that many Americans are “deregistering to vote” to keep their private data out of Pence’s and Kobach’s dirty hands. However, even though the “commission” cannot access their private data from the state election officials, their voter suppression ploy worked by frightening voters to take their names off voter rolls.

What the people probably didn’t know prior to submitting their “public comments” was that now the White House website includes a warning that the “Commission may post such written comments publicly on our website, including names and contact information that are submitted.

One of the commenters actually expressed his fear that the commission’s request for his personal data and identifying information would make him a target. Subsequently, the commenters’ email, replete with his current identifying information including his home address, was published on the White House website.

There was no reason whatsoever to publish the comments, much less the respondents’ personal contact information, except to use the White House website and taxpayer dollars to inform Trump’s hateful supporters of who to harass and intimidate and precisely where to find them. And there is little doubt that Trump acolytes will rush to defend their fascist hero based on a sampling of some of the less brutal comments courtesy of Salon’s Sophia Tesfaye. These are only a few printable “excerpts” from angry Americans sans their email addresses or personal identifying data still on the White House website.

  • Mr. Trump’s claims that millions of fraudulent votes were cast against him is the ravings of an egomaniac who can’t stand to lose
  • I hope and pray that you fail
  • The person reading this email should be ashamed to be supporting this effort.
  • It is obvious that your commission will be using this information, especially voting history, to target people who are likely to vote Democratic, and use various, well-known techniques to suppress as many of their votes as possible. I am a Teddy Roosevelt Republican. He would never condone such un-American behavior
  • P.S. I removed my name from voter rolls. And I’m a Republican!

That last comment about removing their name from voter rolls apparently is of no concern to the “king of voter suppression,” Kris Kobach, and one suspects that indeed was part of his voter suppression plot. Instead of being appalled that the administration’s actions would prompt even one registered voter to abandon participation in the democratic process, Kobach called it a “political stunt,” by a Republican voter no less. Kobach said that no matter that it is glaringly obvious Americans are so “fearful of what he’ll do with their personal information,” like making it public, that they are voluntarily “removing themselves from voter rolls.” The king of voter suppression said:

It could be a political stunt ― people who are trying to discredit the commission and withdrawing temporarily because they are politically active but planning to get back on the voter rolls before the election next November,”

If those voters live in Republican states with harsh voter suppression laws, they may never be allowed to register again; a fact they are likely aware of and one that Kobach knows is a fact. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) didn’t designate Kobach as the king of voter suppression without good cause and it is just one of the reasons why there is such opposition to Trump’s voter integrity commission; that and the fact that even Republicans understand that giving anyone connected with Trump personal information about voters will be used to against them.

If any idiot was confused as to why other Americans, including Republicans, were highly suspicious of what Trump would do with their personal voting and private information, the revelation that his commission revealed the private contact information about commenters opposed to the “commission” should clear up any confusion; including any doubts that the Trump administration is being run by criminal fascists.