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

Impeach Mike Pence For Continuing to Lie About Michael Flynn

 

One can’t help but wonder why, or how, all these devout evangelical Republicans violate one the most well-known commandments from the “Big Ten” and do it with conviction. Mike Pence, the religious right zealot Trump put in charge of running the government took the time again to lie about when he learned that Trump’s pick to run the NSA was a paid foreign agent for Turkey and had discussed lifting sanctions with the Russians during the transition. For a so-called Christian who wants every student in America to be exposed to and indoctrinated into learning the Ten Commandments, it’s obvious Pence is either grossly ignorant of those god-rules or is a pathological liar like the rest of the Trump administration.

The revelation that Michael Flynn informed the Trump through his lawyer that he was an agent for the Turkish government before being appointed as national security advisor gave Pence an opportunity to do the Christian thing and tell the truth. However, instead of acknowledging that as head of the transition team he did know about Flynn’s foreign agent status and supported Flynn’s appointment as national security advisor, Mike Pence stood by his previous lie and claimed through a spokesperson that “ The Vice President stands by his comments in March upon first hearing the news regarding General Flynn’s ties to Turkey.”

Pence lied and claimed in March that he first learned about Michael Flynn’s Turkish lobbying work through media reports and he is standing by that easily debunked lie. He is lying even after the “new report indicating [that] Flynn informed the transition team in January that he was under federal investigation for not properly disclosing the paid work.”

Of course Pence knew about Flynn’s status long before January, but it is beyond the pale that he expects any sane human being to believe that as head of Trump’s transition team that he only learned that Flynn was a foreign agent two months later after Flynn informed the Trump transition team that he was under investigation for being a paid foreign agent.

There is a simple reason one has no qualms calling Christian Mike Pence a dirty, filthy lying sinner who is no more a real Christian than the Moon is a big piece of cheese. The reason comes in the form of a letter dated November 18, 2016 informing Pence about Flynn’s paid work for Turkey and his contact with Russia. The letter, on official Congressional House stationary, lays out in detail, with 11 cited references, everything Pence said he just learned from media reports in March of this year. The letter was addressed to Mike Pence and cc’d to House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT).

The letter, from the House Oversight Committee’s ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings, not only informs Pence of Flynn’s paid work for Turkey, it describes Flynn’s paid speech denigrating America to Trump’s Russian collaborators at an event he attended with Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Still, Pence not only lies that he was unaware of any Flynn issues, he supported his appointment as Trump’s national security advisor with full knowledge he was a paid foreign agent and was being investigated. It is also noteworthy that Trump and his legal team certainly knew about Flynn’s work and collaboration with Turkey and Russia because Flynn alerted them in January. But they appointed him national security advisor regardless.

Maybe it is a requirement to be a liar in Trump’s administration because two of Pence’s closest aides lied and told POLITICO that Pence had never been made aware of Flynn’s Turkey work; one even said that in his role as chair of the transition meant he “would not necessarily be privy to all conversations.” However, that official letter dated November 18, 2016 from the House Oversight Committee’s ranking member was not “a conversation” any more than Flynn alerting the White House transition team Pence chaired, and Trump, that he was under investigation for being a paid foreign agent. It was something that happened weeks before Trump’s sparsely attended inauguration and prior to Trump appointing Flynn as his national security advisor.

There are rumors floating around that there are increasing calls for an in-depth investigation into Mike Pence for his involvement in the Russian scandal, and they certainly must concern his well-documented knowledge that Flynn was being paid by foreign governments. The real travesty is there is no apparent section in the  U.S. Code criminalizing filthy lies, but there is plenty about treason as well as collusion. According to the existence of an easily available letter from the House Oversight Committee alerting Pence to Flynn’s activities on behalf of foreign governments, Pence not only knew about Flynn’s activities several months before he claims he did, he kept that damning information to himself and supported a foreign agent as national security advisor.

Mike Pence is no Christian. For dog’s sake even a marginal believer would stop short of repeating an easily debunked lie if for no other reason that to avoid jeopardizing their chance at going to proverbial heaven. Mike Pence can claim his evangelical bona fides forever, but he is nothing but a filthy dirty liar on par with his boss Donald Trump. One can only hope that when Trump’s little castle starts crumbling, it will crush Mike Pence for lying to the people, for colluding with a treasonous cover-up and tacit cooperation with a hostile foreign government; and for his part in appointing a paid foreign agent as America’s national security advisor.