No Trumps๐Ÿ‘ฑ‍♂️ Newsbites
Oath Keepers Plotting Before Capitol Riot Awaited ‘Direction’ From Trump, Prosecutors Say
The suspects discussed conveying “heavy weapons” into Washington and began to train for “urban warfare” even before Election Day, court papers said.

Chilling new details emerged on Thursday about the plot by the Oath Keepers militia group to attack the Capitol as prosecutors said that members discussed a brazen plan to ferry “heavy weapons” in a boat across the Potomac River into Washington and began training sessions “for urban warfare, riot control and rescue operations” well before Election Day.

The new accounts about the Oath Keepers’ role in the Capitol assault came on the third day of former President Donald J. Trump’s impeachment trial and included allegations that a member of the militia group was “awaiting direction” from Mr. Trump about how to handle the results of the vote in the days that followed the election. “POTUS has the right to activate units too,” the Oath Keepers member, Jessica M. Watkins, wrote in a text message to an associate on Nov. 9, according to court papers. “If Trump asks me to come, I will.”

The Justice Department has brought charges against more than 200 people in the attack on the Capitol last month, but the case against Ms. Watkins and her two co-defendants, Thomas E. Caldwell and Donovan Crowl, is among the most serious to have emerged from the vast investigation. Prosecutors say that the three Oath Keepers, who are facing conspiracy charges, appear to have worked with other far-right extremist groups and “began plotting to undo” the results of the election only days after it occurred.

Shortly after the three militia members were arrested last month, prosecutors said that they were some of the first rioters to have planned their part in the attack on the Capitol instead of merely storming the building spontaneously. Federal agents said that Mr. Caldwell, a 66-year-old former Navy officer, had advised his fellow militia members to stay at a particular Comfort Inn in the Washington suburbs, noting that it offered a good base to “hunt at night” — an apparent reference to chasing left-wing activists. Ms. Watkins, a 38-year-old bar owner from Ohio, apparently rented a room at the hotel under an assumed name, the agents said.

... The Oath Keepers, who largely draw their membership from former law enforcement and military personnel, appear to have coordinated before the Capitol attack with other extremist groups, prosecutors say. According to the court papers, Mr. Caldwell sent a text to an associate just before Christmas saying he was “expecting a big turn out of the Proud Boys,” the far-right nationalist organization, in Washington on Jan. 6. More than a dozen members of the Proud Boys have been charged in connection with the riot at the Capitol, including a group from Kansas City charged on Thursday with breaching the building.

Five separate major cases have been filed against members of the Proud Boys in the past few weeks, but investigators are working toward putting together an overarching case that shows how several members of the group worked together in the days and weeks before the riot to plan to disrupt the certification of the Electoral College vote, according to an official familiar with the investigation. That case will also lay out how the Proud Boys arranged travel and funding for the trip to Washington, the official said.

Days before the riot, prosecutors say, Mr. Caldwell reached out to a contact associated with another group, the Three Percenters, an extremist gun rights militia that takes its name from the supposed three percent of the U.S. colonial population that fought the British Army. In a text message, Mr. Caldwell suggested finding a boat that “could handle a Potomac crossing” and could carry a “Quick Response Team” with “heavy weapons” to militia members already at the Capitol.
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GOP Sen. Tommy Tuberville told Trump that he couldn't talk during the Capitol siege because security had just evacuated Pence from the Senate chamber
  • GOP Sen. Tommy Tuberville said he told Trump that security evacuated Pence during the Capitol siege.
  • "I said 'Mr. President, they just took the vice president out, I've got to go,'" Tuberville said.
  • Details of the conversation are new, and could add to impeachment managers' case against Trump.
Trump's interaction with Tuberville on that day had previously been reported, but the details of the conversation are new.

The information could boost House impeachment managers' case against Trump, potentially demonstrating that the former president knew that Pence was under threat but refused to act quickly and quell the riot.

Trump's knowledge of the violence in real-time as it was unfolding at the Capitol is unclear. His press office did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

Tuberville told Trump about Pence's evacuation around the same time the former president tweeted an attack against Pence, but the exact timing of the phone call is unknown.
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The way Senate Republicans are acting during Trump's impeachment proceedings would likely lead to juror removal in any other trial
  • Some senators' behavior during Trump's impeachment trial would have them removed from a regular jury trial.
  • A handful of Republican senators didn't appear to pay attention to arguments on Wednesday.
  • A judge can remove jurors for not paying attention, being absent, or falling asleep.
This is just one of the many ways the Senate impeachment trial differs from a regular jury trial. There is no standard of proof, punishment for the defendant is political and can't be appealed, senators will serve as judges and jurors, and all of the jurors were witnesses to the crime at hand. When it comes to the jury, perhaps the most important difference is that none of the jurors would meet the standard of impartiality required to sit on a criminal trial.

A slew of Republican senators paid close attention and took copious notes during the first two days of the impeachment trial. But others disparaged the process.

"I gotta listen to this crap," Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally, joked on Sean Hannity's Fox News program earlier this week. And after the second day of arguments on Wednesday, Graham said he thought "most Republicans found the presentation by the House Managers offensive and absurd."

Senators on both sides have appeared to violate the oath they took to "do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws." But there is no way to remove a senator for violating this oath.
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Trump sexual assault accuser Summer Zervos is trying to resume her lawsuit against him now that he's out of office
  • Summer Zervos has asked a court to move her lawsuit against former President Donald Trump forward.
  • Zervos accused Trump of sexual assault and filed a defamation lawsuit when he called her a liar.
  • Trump argued that he had presidential immunity, but Zervos' lawyers noted he's no longer president.
Summer Zervos, a former contestant on "The Apprentice" who accused Donald Trump of sexual assault, has filed a motion to move forward her lawsuit against him after it was gummed up for more than a year.

She filed the defamation lawsuit against then-President Trump in a New York state court in 2017. Zervos claimed Trump kissed her against her will in New York in 2007, after she appeared on the NBC show, and later groped her in a California hotel.

Zervos is among the 26 women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct. Trump called his accusers liars, prompting Zervos' defamation lawsuit.

Trump moved to have the case dismissed, arguing that state courts can't exercise jurisdiction over a sitting president. Lower state courts dismissed that argument, noting that Paula Jones' lawsuit against Bill Clinton moved forward while he was president, but New York state's top court paused the case in March 2020, hindering her efforts to obtain evidence through the discovery process, including a deposition from Trump.

Trump left office on January 20. Now, Zervos wants to move her lawsuit forward.

"Defendant now is no longer President. As a result, Defendant's appeal is moot," Zervos' attorney Beth Wilkinson wrote in the filing.
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Mike Pompeo's pricey pens: Ex-secretary of State spent $10K in taxpayer funds on China-made swag for dinners
  • Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spent more than $10,000 of taxpayer money on China-made pens for attendees at private dinner parties.
  • The parties were attended by a variety of CEOs, elected officials, GOP donors and diplomats. The pens were made in China.
  • The dinners had raised concerns among some State Department officials, who worried that the “events were essentially using federal resources to cultivate a donor and supporter base for Pompeo’s political ambitions,” NBC News reported.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spent more than $10,000 of taxpayer money on China-made pens for attendees at private dinner parties he hosted, including CEOs, conservative media figures and Republican donors, according to State Department records.

The pens Pompeo handed out to his Madison Dinner guests cost an average of more than $26 apiece, according to the records, first reported Thursday by the advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

CREW noted that at the same time the top U.S. diplomat was doling out 400 of the expensive pens, he was publicly bashing China for “trade abuses that cost American jobs and strike enormous blows to economies all across America.”

In a tweet Thursday, he said: “We must remain tough on China.”

Pompeo’s then-boss, now-former President Donald Trump, ran for the White House as a Republican on an “America First” platform and also often stuck out at China.

In addition to the cost of the pens, which in a classy touch were engraved with the words “Madison Dinner,” taxpayers footed the bill for $40,000 or so in other expenses related to the soirees, according to CREW, which received documents about the pens through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

CREW noted that an employee of the State Department’s protocol office sent more than a dozen emails to the pen vendor in the summer of 2018 sorting out details of the order, and asking questions about things like whether it would be possible to enlarge a medallion on the pen.

Records show that the pens were purchased from Madden Branded Goods, a Florida-based company that bills itself as “a team of creative thinkers and team players who are passionate about logo’d swag.”

In all, the State Department forked over at least $10,433 for the pens.

... NBC News, which first reported details of the dinners, previously said that State Department officials involved in the dinners “raised concerns internally that the events were essentially using federal resources to cultivate a donor and supporter base for Pompeo’s political ambitions.”

Only around 14% of the attendees were diplomats or foreign officials.

... NBC reported that the “elite group” of guests that Pompeo and his wife, Susan, feted at about two dozen Madison Dinners since 2018 included “billionaire CEOs, Supreme Court justices, political heavyweights and ambassadors.”
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Impeachment manager says he's not afraid of Trump running in 2024. He's afraid of him running, losing, and inciting another insurrection.
  • Rep. Ted Lieu warned if Trump runs in 2024 and loses it could spark another violent insurrection.
  • "I'm afraid he's going to run again and lose. Because he can do this again," Lieu said.
  • Democrats hope to convict Trump in his Senate trial and bar him from running for office again.
Impeachment manager Rep. Ted Lieu of California on Thursday said that he's not frightened of former President Donald Trump running for president again in 2024 — he's scared of the consequences of another Trump loss.

In short, Lieu is worried that if Trump runs again and loses, it could result in another violent insurrection similar to Capitol attack on January 6.

"You know, I'm not afraid of Donald Trump running again in four years. I'm afraid he's going to run again and lose. Because he can do this again," Lieu said during the third day of Trump's Senate impeachment trial.

Typically, removal from office is the punishment for conviction in the Senate, though disqualification from future office is also a possible sanction. Given Trump is no longer in the White House and removal isn't an option, Democrats are hoping to use the impeachment trial to prevent the former president from running again.

Trump, however, is expected to be acquitted given the slim majority Democrats hold in the Senate.

... Months after Election Day and weeks after President Joe Biden's inauguration, Trump has still not acknowledged that he lost the 2020 election. After the Capitol riot, Trump acknowledged that Biden would be president. But Trump has not explicitly stated that he lost in a free and fair election.

The impeachment managers made clear that Trump's baseless claims of mass voter fraud, general effort to overturn the 2020 election, and refusal to concede were at the heart of what caused the deadly violence at the Capitol on January 6. The fatal riot occurred as Vice President Mike Pence and congressional lawmakers met to certify Biden's Electoral College victory. Five people, including a police officer, died.
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Impeachment trial video shows Mike Pence rushing from the Capitol with a 'nuclear football' close behind as rioters stormed the building
  • Video footage from the Capitol riots showed former Vice President Mike Pence being rushed to safety.
  • A military aide behind Pence appears to carry a "nuclear football," a duplicate used if something were to happen to the president.
  • The presence of a "nuclear football" near rioters meant highly classified information was potentially at risk.
The rioters, some of whom were heard shouting 'Hang Mike Pence!" after a tweet from the president, are said to have come within 100 feet of Pence's position at one point, The Washington Post reported.

That puts the violent mob alarmingly close to the apparent "football" following Pence.

The "nuclear football," officially known as the president's emergency satchel, is a mobile nuclear command and control asset that a president can use in combination with other tools to wage nuclear war should such extreme action be deemed necessary.

The president as the commander in chief of the armed forces has sole nuclear strike authority, and the "football" follows him wherever he goes. A duplicate briefcase has also been known to accompany the vice president and would be activated in the event that the commander in chief is incapacitated or killed.

The practice of giving a backup "nuclear football" to the vice president started under Eisenhower, who was concerned about his own health and the ability to quickly respond to a possible Soviet attack. This, however, did not become relatively standard until much more recently, Fred Kaplan, author of "The Bomb: Presidents, generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War, explained in a post Thursday.

The close proximity of a violent mob to Pence on Jan. 6 raises questions about whether or not a "football" was at risk.

Getting the "football" would not have been an easy task, Steven Schwartz, a non-resident fellow with the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and an expert on the "football," told Insider.

The rioters "would have had to kill all of Pence's Secret Service agents, kill or incapacitate the military aide, and open the briefcase," he said. "While the mob got too close to Pence for comfort that day, I think it's unlikely anyone would have gotten that far."

That said, if the Capitol rioters had gotten to Pence and the "football," which contains communication tools and pre-approved nuclear strike options, it would have been a "massive and unprecedented security breach, disclosing some of the most sensitive and therefore highly classified information generated by the government," Schwartz explained.

But other than publicly reveal them or attempt to leverage them in exchange for something, which would not be good, "there's nothing the insurrectionists could have done with the information in the briefcase or Pence's 'Biscuit,'" he said, referring to the codes presidents and vice presidents carry on their person.

Given the inactive status of the nuclear tools, among other obstacles, the rioters would not have been able to launch a nuclear strike even if they got their hands on it.
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Trump's impeachment trial is literally occurring at the scene of the crime, and both the prosecutors and jurors are witnesses
  • Trump's impeachment trial is occurring at the site of the crime: the US Capitol.
  • The prosecutors and jurors in the trial were also witnesses and victims.
  • The entire situation is bizarre, and a troubling reflection of how US democracy has deteriorated.
In a normal criminal trial, it would be unthinkable for witnesses of the crime in question to serve as prosecutors or jurors.

But that's precisely what's happening with former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial of his incitement of a violent insurrection on January 6, a trial occurring at the scene of the crime: the US Capitol. The circumstances of the trial are bizarre on multiple levels.

"This is an extraordinarily unique situation where the jurors are witnesses and victims, and the crime scene also is the courtroom," House impeachment manager Rep. Eric Swalwell of California told CNN in late January.

Senators are meant to serve as impartial jurors during an impeachment trial — they will decide whether to convict Trump. It's hard to see how they can truly be impartial in the context of this trial, as it pertains to an event in which their lives were threatened.

Previously unseen video shown by impeachment managers on Wednesday revealed just how close the mob came to lawmakers during the riot. One clip showed Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman saving GOP Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah from the insurrectionists by urging him to turn around and get to safety.

... In spite of their actions on January 6, which have been broadly criticized, Cruz and Hawley are also serving as jurors. As are many Republican allies of Trump, such as GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who've made it clear they will not vote to convict. "The 'Not Guilty' vote is growing after today," Graham tweeted on Wednesday. Indeed, Republicans are openly shirking their oath to serve as impartial jurors. As Insider senior politics reporter Eliza Relman reported, the way Senate Republicans are acting during these proceedings would likely lead to juror removal in any other trial.

And in spite of the damning evidence against Trump, and his obvious role in inciting the violent insurrection on January 6 through his speech that day and broader effort to overturn the election, his acquittal seems virtually guaranteed. Democrats need a two-thirds majority to convict Trump, which would require 17 Republican senators to join them. At the moment, the probability of that occurring appears slim.

... The House impeachment managers, who effectively serve as prosecutors in the trial, were also victims and witnesses of the Capitol attack.

... There are a whirlwind of emotions and political aspirations steering this historic trial, a rare event that underscores the downward spiral America's democracy finds itself in.
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Judge tells Capitol siege 'bullhorn lady' she's 'so unpatriotic it makes my straight hair curl'
  • "Bullhorn Lady" Rachel Powell was released to house arrest pending her trial for charges related to the Jan. 6 Capitol siege.
  • Powell, a 40-year-old mother of eight, was filmed wielding a bullhorn to direct rioters inside the Capitol.
  • The conditions of her release require that she wear a mask at all times in public.
A Sandy Lake, Pennsylvania, woman dubbed "bullhorn lady" during the January 6 Capitol riots was released under house arrest but told she must wear a mask at all times in public.

Judge Beryl Howell offered the mask mandate after it was made clear that Powell had repeatedly refused to wear masks in the past, and had actually been fired from a job for refusing to wear one. In late December she posted "I'm unashamedly a 'super spreader'" on Facebook, according to The New Yorker.

Speaking to Powell during her release hearing, Howell said that her actions were "so unpatriotic it makes my straight hair curl," according to The Daily Beast.

... The mother of eight was filmed at the Capitol shouting instructions into a bullhorn and directing rioters around the Capitol. She has been charged with depredation of government property, entering restricted buildings or grounds with a dangerous weapon, entering restricted buildings or grounds, and violent entry or disorderly conduct.

According to prosecutors, Powell "picked up a large pipe and used it as a battering ram to break into the United States Capitol. Then, amplified by a large bullhorn, she corralled her fellow rioters and gave instructions on how to 'take' the Capitol, including instructions that revealed operative knowledge of the inner-Capitol layout."

Prosecutors said she ordered rioters to "coordinate together if you are going to take this building," and alerted them they had "another window to break."
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Trump was pictured golfing as Democrats hammered home the case against him at his impeachment trial
  • Donald Trump was pictured golfing on Thursday as his impeachment trial continues.
  • The Daily Mail published photos of him at his Florida resort, and a CNN anchor said he was pictured.
  • Trump golfed frequently during his presidency, including as networks declared his election loss.
Trump's love of golf was met with much grumbling during his presidency.

He played more than 250 rounds during his time in office — often at his own properties. Trump was also golfing while major news networks declared victory for President Joe Biden in the presidential election.
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Biden plans to bar states from forcing people to work for Medicaid cover, reversing Trump policy
  • Biden is rescinding states' ability to apply Medicaid work requirements, per multiple reports.
  • Currently, states can require low-income residents to work or volunteer in exchange for coverage.
  • Imposing work requirements was one of Trump's signature health policies, which Democrats hated.
The work requirements typically ask that residents work for 20 or more hours, either by doing a specified job, looking for work, doing community service, or taking classes, The Journal reported.

The COVID-19 pandemic was a key reason for Biden's rollback of the work rules, Politico reported, citing health department draft documents.

A draft plan cited by Politico referred to "serious concerns that now is not the appropriate time to test policies that risk a substantial loss of health care coverage or benefits in the near term."

"The uncertainty regarding the lingering health consequences of COVID infections further exacerbates the harms of coverage loss or lack of access to coverage for the Medicaid beneficiaries," the plan added, per Politico.
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Rudy Giuliani appeared to think the leader of China is called Zi Jingming instead of Xi Jinping
  • Rudy Giuliani posted a tweet referring to "CCP leader Zi Jingming."
  • Giuliani made the reference in a tweet critical of Biden's first call with the leader.
Rudy Giuliani posted a bizarre tweet referring to China's leader, Xi Jinping, as "Zi Jingming."

The lawyer's flubbed tweet was meant to be a criticism of Joe Biden's first call with Xi as US president, suggesting Biden was not tough enough.

"Biden has first conversation with CCP leader Zi Jingming," wrote Giuliani. "Did Biden mention CCP spreading virus all over the world and lying ... millions died. For Zi, all in a days work. For Biden, it's just keeping multi-million dollar partner satisfied."

Chinese names are usually transliterated according to the dialectal pronunciation of the person's name, which in Xi's case, is Mandarin. "Zi Jingming" corresponds to completely different Chinese characters.

There appears to be no record — at least in Romanized letters — of a Chinese politician of that name.
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Melania Trump disengaged from her husband's second impeachment trial and bitter over Jill Biden's publicity
Though she has been checking in on the trial, says one source familiar with her interest level, the former first lady has mentally all but left Washington behind, unlike her husband.

According to multiple people who spoke to CNN about Trump's life in the weeks since she departed the nation's capital, her daily schedule has nothing to do with politics, Congress, trials or stymied social media accounts.

"She goes to the spa, has lunch, goes to the spa (again) and has dinner with Donald on the patio," said one person familiar with Melania Trump's schedule at Mar-a-Lago, her home in Palm Beach, Florida. "Rinse and repeat. Every day."

Another person familiar with her daily routine confirms Trump's affinity for the private club's spa facilities, noting it is not unusual for her to spend several hours a day there, enjoying the benefits at her disposal, often going twice in a 24-hour period, for massages, nail care, facial treatments or other items on the menu.

"She almost always does dinner," said a third person who has seen Trump outside of the spa. She spends her evenings on the outdoor patio of Mar-a-Lago, where she prefers fish for an entrรฉe, according to the source, and is often joined at the table by her parents, Viktor and Amalija Knavs, who reside in a private suite of rooms at Mar-a-Lago for much of the year.

Though she is now a former first lady of the United States, her daily routine has not seen a significant change.

"It's pretty much the same as it was before (she was first lady) or even when she would come down during vacations," said the source familiar with Trump's schedule, noting there is not much evidence to delineate pre- and post-White House activities or work.

... Yet there have been moments of bitterness and regret, say several people with knowledge of Trump's conversations of late, most notably since Joe Biden's inauguration and with respect to the activities of her successor, Jill Biden.

When Trump left Washington, she had the worst favorability ratings of any modern first lady upon departure from the White House, according to polling conducted by SSRS for CNN.

... "She could see how it was going to go for her," said one former White House official who spoke to CNN, noting that Trump felt she was in a lose-lose predicament whether she spoke publicly or not. If she condemned the violence, her husband and his base would be angered and it would create a stir about her breaking with the President. And by staying silent, she was implying support for what happened.

"Once (the insurrection) happened, she knew there was nothing to gain for her by speaking out or doing something -- so she didn't do anything," the former White House official said.

... Disappointed by the way she left Washington, she has been "bitter and chilly" at times toward her husband, upset that her image became collateral damage in his quest to denounce the election and procure a peaceful transfer of power, two of the people familiar with her thinking of late note.

But Trump's most fervent ire has come from watching Jill Biden kick off her East Wing tenure on nearly the antithesis of the path Trump took. Biden moved into the White House right away, for starters, and had a staff hired and fleshed out within two weeks of the inauguration. Trump, meanwhile, remained in New York for the first five months of the administration, ostensibly to let son Barron finish up the school year; she never had more than 12 people on her White House staff, at times there were as few as seven. (Jill Biden already has nearly a dozen full-time staff members and is expected to add more.)

Though Melania Trump reportedly left a note of welcome for Biden in the Executive Residence, she has still not spoken to her, eschewing a long-held tradition of first ladies.

Trump has also taken note of the publicity her successor has garnered.

Within weeks of becoming first lady, Biden has done an interview with People magazine, gracing the cover with her husband, the new President, and was featured in Parents magazine, where she discussed her empathy for families dealing with homeschooling their children during the pandemic. The Bidens also appeared in a televised message that aired prior to last Sunday's Super Bowl.

Jill Biden has held at least seven events or speaking engagements since becoming first lady, on topics including military families, cancer prevention, health care, community college education and support for teachers. Prior to leaving Washington on January 20, Melania Trump had not been seen publicly for three weeks and had not held a solo public event for six weeks -- a schedule not entirely uncommon for the former first lady, who opted to maintain a less robust calendar, her staff said, to provide more focus on being a wife and mother.

... In four years, she never did an interview with a national publication.

"Donald was more upset about Melania not getting magazine covers than Melania was," said Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who served as Trump's senior adviser during her first several months as first lady before the relationship went south.

... But the former first lady is not blaming herself in hindsight, she's blaming others -- former staff members, magazine editors, and corporations and foundations that opted not to work with her because of the former President's political rhetoric. Trump has recently been noting to acquaintances that she thinks she could have participated in more media opportunities and policy events had her staff been more accommodating to her needs.

"That seems unfair, but typical to blame everyone else," said someone familiar with Trump's thinking during her White House years. "Everyone knows Melania Trump does what she wants when she wants, and not one staffer on her team could have done anything to change that."
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or Trump-ism

Trumpism refers to the nontraditional political philosophy and approach espoused by 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.

Trump, whom many observers consider an anomaly, left the White House by saying, “We will be back in some form.” His legacy is “Trumpism” – a wave of white nationalism.

Trumpisms are Bushisms on steroids.