Trumpism 🐘 Newsbites
Parler's partial return is supported by a Russian tech firm with links to racist and conspiracy-theory sites
  • Parler's new static webpage uses an internet protocol address owned by DDoS-Guard.
  • The Russian tech company has been linked to racist, far-right, and conspiracy sites.
  • Parler critics said it was a potential security risk for it to depend on a Russian company.
Parler, a social media website and app popular with the American far right, partially returned online on Sunday – with the help of a Russian-owned technology company.

Parler was dropped by website host Amazon Web Services (AWS) on January 11. AWS said the platform "poses a very real risk to public safety." The site has since registered its domain with Epik and returned on Sunday as a static page containing a brief note from CEO John Matze.

The internet protocol address it used is owned by DDoS-Guard, which is controlled by two Russian men and provides services including protection from cyberattacks known as distributed denial of service attacks, infrastructure expert Ronald Guilmette told Reuters.

DDoS-Guard has worked with racist, far-right, and conspiracy sites.

... Evgeniy Marchenko, one of DDoS-Guard's two founders and owners, told The Guardian that the company is a global information security service, and said it hosted "thousands of websites." This includes Russian government sites and neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer.

It also previously worked with controversial Washington-based internet provider VanwaTech, which hosts the website of 8kun, a social-media site popular among QAnon supporters and used by rioters to plot the Capitol siege.

... Russian propaganda has stoked political divisions in the US, supporting outgoing US President Donald Trump and amplifying false narratives about election fraud and protests against police brutality.

Parler, which describes itself as a "nonpartisan" haven for free speech, had become a hub for President Donald Trump's supporters after many of their Twitter accounts were purged from the social media site, alongside Trump's own.

In the days after the Capitol siege on January 6, it became a haven for far-right activity and misinformation because of its lax stance on moderating content. Trump himself considered joining the site with the name "Person X," Matze previously said.

Dominion Voting Systems is threatening to sue MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell over his 'false and conspiratorial' election fraud claims
  • MyPillow's CEO Mike Lindell, an ally of President Donald Trump, faces "imminent" litigation from voting machine company Dominion.
  • Dominion is threatening legal action over Lindell's claims that it facilitated election fraud — a debunked conspiracy theory.
  • Dominion has sent similar letters to Fox News and Rudy Giuliani, and filed a lawsuit against Sidney Powell.
Dominion Voting Systems has told MyPillow's CEO Mike Lindell, a staunch ally of President Donald Trump, to expect "imminent" litigation over his baseless claims that Dominion's voting machines helped rig the presidential election.

Lindell, a major GOP donor, has repeatedly supported Trump's claims that the election was stolen, and in December said that "the biggest fraud is the Dominion machines." The conspiracy theory that Dominion's tech switched votes from Trump to Biden has been thoroughly debunked.

... Dominion said Lindell had conducted a "smear campaign" and used his social media presence "to inflict the maximum amount of damage to Dominion's good name and business operations."

The company said Lindell had "failed to identify a scintilla of credible evidence that even suggests that Dominion is somehow involved in a global conspiracy to harvest millions of votes in favor of President-elect Biden."

"Of course, this is because no such evidence exists," it added.

Trump is starting his last full day in office hiding from the public and plotting to steal Biden's thunder, as his approval ratings plummet to historic lows
  • President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated on Wednesday, meaning Tuesday is President Donald Trump's last full day in the White House.
  • Trump has spent the last days of his presidency hidden from public view, and with his approval ratings the lowest they have ever been.
  • Trump is not attending Biden's inauguration and is instead planning on stealing focus from the event, including by flying out early.
  • Vice President Mike Pence has taken Trump's place in many of the ceremonial tasks that presidents typically do before they leave office, like attending an inauguration briefing.
President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration is due to take place on Wednesday in a ceremony Trump said he won't attend, making him the first president since 1869 to buck the tradition.

Trump has also largely vanished from public life in the final days of his presidency.

Since some of his supporters staged a deadly riot at the US Capitol on January 6, the president has not made a single public appearance.

His aides have described him as angry and isolated in the White House, with CNN reporting late last week that aides had decided to limit his appearances before the media in case he veers from scripted comments about the riot.

The attack, and Trump's response, saw him isolated from many in the Republican Party and in his own cabinet. A number of top officials have resigned in the wake of the riot, leaving him largely alone in the White House.

The House impeached him for a historic second time over his role in inciting the Capitol mob last week, and he now faces an impeachment trial in the Senate. North Dakota GOP Sen. Kevin Cramer told Insider last week that Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, has told GOP senators that they can vote however they want during the impeachment trial.

Trump will also leave office deeply unpopular.

... Trump advisers told The Hill that Trump plans to spend the immediate future with close aides in Florida as he considers his next steps.

James Comey says the GOP needs to be 'burned down or changed,' calling the pro-Trump riot at the Capitol 'our own Chernobyl'
  • Former FBI Director James Comey eviscerated President Donald Trump, his supporters, and the Republican Party in an interview with The Guardian.
  • He described the pro-Trump riot at the Capitol as the US's "Chernobyl" — referring to the 1986 nuclear accident — saying it was the result of a breakdown in the country's checks and balances caused by Trump.
  • Comey has been forthright about the president in recent days, telling ABC News he has reservations about giving him post-presidential intelligence briefings.
  • Comey also criticized Trump's personal character, saying his lies make him "uniquely able to bend people."
"Something is shifting and I'm hoping it's the fault breaking apart, a break between the Trumpists and those people who want to try and build a responsible conservative party, because everybody should know that we need one," he said.

"Who would want to be part of an organization that at its core is built on lies and racism and know-nothingism? It's just not a healthy political organization."

... "Donald Trump conveys a menace, a meanness in private that is not evident in most public views of him," he told the paper.

Comey also referred to Trump's lies and misinformation, saying: "He rarely stops talking in a way that not only is filled with constant lying, but draws those to whom he's speaking into an involuntary circle of assent."

"I think it's something about that combination that makes him uniquely able to bend people — and he has bent lot of people," he added. "It's a really hard thing to resist. I bent in small ways that I convinced myself were tactical."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's departing message to the US is that 'multiculturalism' is 'not who America is'
  • Outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday decried "multiculturalism" as un-American.
  • "Our enemies stoke these divisions because they know they make us weaker," he said.
  • Pompeo was excoriated on Twitter for his comments.
On his last full day as the top US diplomat and just one day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Mike Pompeo deemed multiculturalism as un-American.

"Woke-ism, multiculturalism, all the -isms — they're not who America is. They distort our glorious founding and what this country is all about. Our enemies stoke these divisions because they know they make us weaker," the secretary of state said in a tweet.

The US is a country with an extraordinarily diverse populace and generally celebrates the hodgepodge of cultures that have helped define it as a nation.

Many on Twitter took issue with Pompeo's words, given that multiculturalism is widely viewed as a central tenet of the American experiment.

This is not the first time Pompeo has decried multiculturalism. In 2015, he cited a sermon before the Kansas state legislature that said: "'America had worshipped other Gods and called it multiculturalism. We'd endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.'"

Pompeo, who is thought to have ambitions of running for president in 2024, has been a controversial secretary of state throughout his tenure.

In November, Pompeo became the first US diplomat to visit an Israeli settlement, shattering decades of American policy. His hawkish stance toward Iran helped fuel fears that the Trump administration might provoke a new conflict in the Middle East. The departing secretary of state also garnered a reputation as an antagonist of the media, once berating a veteran reporter for questioning him about Ukraine and asking her to point it out on a map.

Pompeo last week abruptly cancelled a final trip to Europe because US allies were reportedly too embarrassed to meet with him following the Capitol siege, which was provoked by President Donald Trump.

An accused Capitol rioter threatened to kill his children if they turned him in, FBI says
  • Guy Reffitt, of Wylie, Texas, was arrested by the FBI on Sunday in connection to the January 6 US Capitol riot.
  • According to a charging affidavit, Reffitt threatened to kill his children if they told the FBI he had taken part in the riot.
  • Video from the insurrection cited by the FBI shows Reffitt standing on the US Capitol's steps as rioters who support President Donald Trump stormed the building.
Guy Reffitt, who the FBI says is part of a far-right extremist group called "Texas Freedom Force," was arrested on Sunday and charged with knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and obstruction of justice.

The FBI said in a charging affidavit that Reffitt, a 48-year-old oil worker from Wylie, Texas, first bragged about his trip to Washington, DC, to his family, saying he had filmed the riot on a GoPro-style camera.

Upon learning of the FBI's investigation into the insurrection, Reffitt threatened to shoot his children if they turned him in to authorities, the affidavit said.

His wife told the FBI that Reffitt told his son and daughter: "If you turn me in, you're a traitor and you know what happens to traitors … traitors get shot."

He separately told his daughter he'd "put a bullet" through her phone if she posted about him on social media, according to the affidavit.

But Reffitt's family did end up speaking to the FBI, the affidavit said, and days later, agents arrived at Reffitt's door with a search warrant.

Reffitt later told FBI agents that he was in Washington, DC, the day of the insurrection, but did not go inside the building.

He also said he brought Smith and Wesson pistol to Washington, DC, but had disassembled it to comply with gun laws.

Video cited by the FBI shows Reffitt standing on a staircase outside the Capitol building wearing a helmet and appearing to use a water bottle to flush out his eyes.

Reffitt is among about 100 people who have been charged so far in connection to the Capitol riot, which was carried out by supporters of President Donald Trump as Congress debated Electoral College votes from the 2020 election, which was won by President-elect Joe Biden.

Mitch McConnell blames Trump for deadly Capitol riots
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blamed President Donald Trump on Tuesday for his role in the deadly Capitol riots.
  • "The mob was fed lies," McConnell said. "They were provoked by the president and other powerful people."
  • McConnell previously condemned the violence and was rumored to have been upset with the president.
The Kentucky Republican's rebuke of Trump comes as the outgoing president faces an imminent impeachment trial in the Senate over the deadly siege at the Capitol. McConnell has said he's currently undecided on impeachment, but has been leaning toward convicting Trump in a bid to "purge him" from the GOP, The New York Times reported last week.

... "They tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government, which they did not like," McConnell said on Tuesday. "But we pressed on. We stood together and said an angry mob would not get veto power over the rule of law in our nation, not even for one night. We certified the people's choice for their 46th president."

McConnell condemned the violent scene when Congress reconvened to complete the election certification later on January 6, but hadn't mentioned the president in his remarks. The GOP leader has reportedly been furious with Trump over the riots, and has vowed to never speak to the president again. The two have apparently not spoken since mid-December when McConnell acknowledged Biden's win.

... "We'll have a safe and successful inaugural, right here, on the West Front of the Capitol," McConnell said on Tuesday. "And then we'll move forward."

The Capitol siege is forcing the Pentagon to be more aggressive about white supremacy in the military
  • The Pentagon is under increasing pressure to address white supremacist and extremist ties within the ranks of the US military.
  • Current and former members of the US military were arrested in connection with the Capitol siege on January 6.
  • The FBI is vetting thousands of troops in DC for inauguration, and the Pentagon's internal watchdog launched a probe into whether the military is doing enough to root out extremism.
For roughly two decades, the Pentagon has treated terrorism as a largely foreign threat. Following the Capitol siege, however, the Department of Defense is finally being forced to reckon with extremists within the military's ranks after years of warnings.

The Capitol riot has been described as an act of domestic terrorism by President-elect Joe Biden, among other prominent politicians, a shocking act that ignited a nationwide conversation about the threat of homegrown extremism in the US.

... On Tuesday, 12 National Guard members were pulled off the security mission for Biden's inauguration, including two who were found to have ties to far-right militias. Addressing these unsettling developments, National Guard chief Gen. Dan Hokanson on Tuesday said, "Extremism is not tolerated in any branch of the U.S. military ... If there are reported issues our leaders will address them immediately."

... "We … are doing everything we can to eliminate extremism in the Department of Defense," Garry Reid, the director for defense intelligence and counterintelligence, law enforcement and security, said on Thursday. "Simply put, we will not tolerate extremism of any sort in DOD."

There will be up to 25,000 National Guard troops in Washington, DC, to help provide security on Inauguration Day, roughly five times the number of US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. The massive troop presence is a stark reminder that homegrown extremism is a greater threat to the US than foreign terrorism — and has been for some time.

Bed Bath & Beyond and Kohl's will drop My Pillow products from stores after its CEO spread election conspiracy theories
  • Bed Bath & Beyond confirmed to Insider that it will cut ties with MyPillow.
  • The retailer told Insider that the decision was driven by data and buying patterns.
  • CEO Mike Lindell said it was due to social media pressure led by "leftist groups" in interviews.
Lindell first reported the retailer axing his products, telling a Fox News affiliate and right-wing media outlet RSBN about stores dropping the brand. In the interviews, Lindell attributed the retailer's decision to social media pressure led by "leftist groups."

"They're trying to cancel companies now," he told RSBN.

Bed Bath & Beyond said it's getting rid of the pillow brand because it's not selling well.

"As previously announced, we have been rationalizing our assortment to discontinue a number of underperforming items and brands. This includes the My Pillow product line," a Bed Bath & Beyond spokesperson told Insider in an email. "Our decisions are data-driven, customer-inspired, and are delivering substantial growth in our key destination categories."

Bed Bath & Beyond was one of the largest national retailers stocking My Pillow products.

... Kohl's said in a statement to CNBC in a statement that it will sell through its current inventory and not order additional product due to "decreased customer demand."

Trump admits his term is ending but doesn't say Biden's name or formally concede election loss in White House farewell speech
  • Trump acknowledged that a new administration will take office in a 20-minute farewell video on Tuesday.
  • In the video, Trump wished the new administration luck without ever mentioning Biden's name.
  • "I want you to know that the movement we started is only just beginning," he added.
Trump spent a chunk of the nearly 20-minute video highlighting his administration's major policy wins over the past four years.

Among those mentioned include tax cuts, new trade deals, the creation of a US Space Force, appointment of three Supreme Court justices, and the killings of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

The outgoing president also praised the speedy development of a COVID-19 vaccine and the passage of trillions of dollars toward coronavirus relief, but Trump did not mention the country's death toll surpassing 400,000 as of Tuesday, less than a year since the first case was reported in the US.

... "As I prepare to hand power over to a new administration at noon on Wednesday, I want you to know that the movement we started is only just beginning. There's never been anything like it," the president said.

"I go from this majestic place with a loyal and joyful heart, an optimistic spirit, and a supreme confidence that for our country and for our children, the best is yet to come," he added.

Joe Biden’s Inauguration Day Mandate: Just Be Normal
Joe Biden takes office at noon Wednesday with a less glamorous but arguably more pressing mandate: a return to a more normal time, before Americans lived in fear of contracting COVID-19, before the leader of the free world attacked and threatened on social media, and before basic facts – such as who got more votes in the presidential election – were considered up for legitimate debate. And it's definitely harkening for a time before citizens in a nation that holds itself up as the world's greatest democracy stormed the Capitol with the alleged intent of overthrowing the government.

... Biden – a septuagenarian white man who promises to unite people – is a natural political rebound, Engel says. "It doesn't surprise me that we would turn to a stabilizing figure who almost by definition has a lot of grey hair."

Biden's presidency will be "restorative" but also "transformative," says Simon Rosenberg, founder of the liberal-centrist group NDN and a veteran of Bill Clinton's famed 1992 campaign war room. After four years of a president who had zero political or military experience before he came into power, "it's now clear that there is no president in our history who has the incredible experience (Biden) has," Rosenberg says.

"We have someone with the capability of hitting the ground running on day one," but who also brings with him Kamala Harris, the nation's first female – and Black and Asian-American person – vice president, as well as the most diverse slate of cabinet nominees in history, he adds.

... Traditional niceties were thrown out the window: First lady Melania Trump declined to host incoming First Lady Jill Biden at the White House, even though Mrs. Trump – who had openly questioned President Obama's citizenship herself was welcomed by Michelle Obama in January of 2017. And the Bidens flew on a private plane to D.C. rather than the traditional military aircraft offered by the sitting president.

... The sitting president had no public events on his schedule – just the "many" meetings and calls his press office has said Trump is participating in, without providing any details. Biden was to spend the eve of his inauguration at an event to honor the lives of more than 400,000 Americans lost to the pandemic.

Trump, the first president in more than a century to refuse to attend his successor's inauguration, hastily arranged a good-bye ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base at which he wanted to include a red carpet and 21-gun salute. Biden delivered a teary good-bye to his home state of Delaware, lamenting that it should be his dead son, Beau Biden, who should be taking the oath of office instead of himself.

Trump was headed to the pricey resort and club he bought, Mar-a-Lago, while Biden eschewed glitzy balls and a parade down Pennsylvania Ave., a recognition of the security and viral contagion risks of holding such crowded events. Instead, Biden's celebration was to be largely online.

Trump leaves office a defiant but weakened man, with longtime allies revealing new tensions with the president. Vice President Mike Pence is attending Biden's inaugural, but not Trump's send-off. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, in remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday directly blamed Trump for having "provoked" the rioters who stormed the Capitol Jan. 6 – a foreboding sign for a twice-impeached president hoping to avoid conviction.

Trump is considering starting the 'Patriot Party' after facing criticism from top Republicans over Capitol riot, The Wall Street Journal reports
  • Donald Trump may launch a new political party after leaving office, The Wall Street Journal reported.
  • Sources told the newspaper he would like to call it the "Patriot Party."
  • The report comes after Sen. Mitch McConnell blamed Trump for this month's riot at the US Capitol.
It is unclear whether the effort would involve the recruitment and running of candidates or serve as a media and merchandise empire for the former president.

In 1968, George Wallace, the far-right segregationist governor of Alabama, won five states while running as the nominee of the American Independent Party. No third-party candidate has won a statewide or federal election since, although a number of independents have been elected to Congress.

Trump issues 73 pardons and 70 commutations in a final wave of executive clemency grants before leaving office
  • President Trump issued 73 pardons and 70 commutations on Tuesday as one of his final actions in office.
  • Trump was criticized for bypassing the DOJ review process that decides who gets executive clemency.
President Donald Trump issued more than 140 pardons and commutations late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, as one of his final acts before he leaves office on Wednesday.

The Washington Post reported that Trump and close aides, including his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, drew up the list during a Sunday meeting in the Oval Office. The New York Times reported that Ivanka sent the final list to the White House counsel's office for approval and that the Justice Department's pardon office, which typically reviews who gets executive clemency grants, was not included in the process.

Several people on the list include:
  • Former chief strategist Steve Bannon will be pardoned
  • Former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick will be granted a commutation
  • Rapper Lil Wayne will be granted a commutation
  • Rapper Kodak Black will be granted clemency a commutation
  • Former RNC finance chair Elliott Broidy will be pardoned
However, a number of individuals speculated to receive a pardon or commutation did not appear on the president's final list, including Rudy Giuliani, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, and Joe Exotic.

According to The Times, Trump came to his decision on including those individuals after consulting with the criminal justice advocacy group #Cut50, the former Koch Industries executive Mark Holden, and Alice Johnson, a criminal justice reform advocate who was convicted on drug trafficking charges and sentenced to life in prison before Trump commuted her sentence and later granted her a full pardon.

Before the White House announced the latest pardons and commutations, a source told CNN that some Trump allies believe many of the recipients were people the president expects to enjoy beneficial relationships with after he leaves office.

"Everything is a transaction," the source told CNN. "He likes pardons because it is unilateral. And he likes doing favors for people he thinks will owe him."

... The president is granted extraordinarily broad pardon powers under the Constitution. But Trump has drawn significant scrutiny for circumventing the lengthy legal and ethical review process at the Justice Department that determines who gets executive clemency.

Instead, the vast majority of the president's most high-profile pardons and commutations have gone to his friends and loyalists, or to others whose names were suggested by conservative media powerhouses, such as Fox News, Newsmax, and One America News.

or Trump-ism

Trumpism refers to the nontraditional political philosophy and approach espoused by US President Donald Trump and his supporters. The term Trumpism can also be used to directly refer to an outrageous or idiosyncratic statement made by Donald Trump.

Trumpisms are Bushisms on steroids.