Freedom News

Notes from the US: Trump gets indicted


Just as last month’s ‘Notes from the US‘ appeared, the Biden administration announced its biggest and most far-reaching attempt so far to contribute to the destruction of life on Earth. The deceptively-named ‘Willow project‘ is led by ConocoPhillips, a company aiming to generate up to US$8 (£6.5) billion by further devastating the Arctic. If the ruin goes ahead, up to 250 wells will be sunk to drill for greenhouse gases – producing oil and petroleum. The Willow Project will also adversely affect wildlife in the Arctic and many Native Americans – particularly of the Nuiqsut population and in Utqiaġvik, Anaktuvuk Pass, and Atqasuk. This is, of course, in addition to significantly advancing climate collapse by pouring huge amounts of Earth-warming substances into the atmosphere for decades to come. Fortunately indigenous and environmental groups have always opposed the reckless project and have already begun to advance this resistance.

The same objections, to thinking of Biden as a president who really cares about the Earth, apply to his decision at the end of last month to offer up for auction a huge portion of the Gulf of Mexico. A staggering 73 million acres (almost as much as the area of land occupied by Poland) would be divided into 313 lots. These sales will also advance the destruction of both the Earth’s atmosphere and countless species of ocean wildlife: potentially a billion barrels or nearly four and a half trillion cubic feet of gas would be released over the next 50 years.


Last month the Silicon Valley Bank failed. Instead of looking for a cause in the excesses of capitalism – or at least in wider economic forces – the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, who appears to be in with a chance of the presidency next year, blamed the collapse on… wait for it, blink and read it twice, tolerance of race and gender identities other than his own. That’s right: DeSantis used ‘DEI’ (Diversity Equity and Inclusion) to explain a series of economic events. If the bank had not made efforts to celebrate diversity, it would not have failed. The governor said. With a straight face. Perhaps he may even actually believe what he says. He certainly expects other people to believe it. And many will. And add such a spurious explanation to their sack of reasons for intolerance and hatred of others.

DeSantis seems to be going all out to ‘activate’ his base in order to win his party’s nomination and move forward to nomination and – help us – the presidency. (It seems inconceivable that the number and severity of legal cases against Trump won’t somehow attenuate his chances of being elected.) Although polled approval for DeSantis dropped sharply after Trump was indicted last month; DeSantis clearly needs to commit more serious crimes to regain some popularity. His mass censorship of books which don’t push the same fascist agenda as he does (and as he wants to foist on the rest of the United States) reached new lows last month.

Martin County in Florida, for instance, banned nearly 20 books by acclaimed author Jodi Picoult. Her ‘The Storyteller’, for example, is a novel about the unusual relationship between the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor and an aging SS officer. It’s a book which both examines healing, redemption and our capacity to forgive. It contains nothing salacious, controversial or tawdry. Picoult’s books invite families to understand gay rights and issues like racism, disability, abortion rights and gun control. This is all too much for the Republican county censors in Florida.

If you needed proof that such banning and censorship are thinly-disguised attempts to promote white supremacy, look no further than the complaint filed by a parent at North Shore Elementary school in St. Petersburg, Florida. It asked for the film, ‘Ruby Bridges‘, to be removed from the school’s list of approved films. The film tells the story of a black six year old who was integrated into an all white primary school in the 1960s in the United States South. Indeed, Bridges herself is celebrated by the tolerant and well-informed for having gone on effectively to pioneer school desegregation.

The same supremacist suppression in schools in the United States is likely to have consequences for how the Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act will be received. The bill makes lynching a federal hate crime after more than a century of failed efforts in Congress to pass similar legislation. Yet many states now have laws in place which forbid the teaching and discussion of race (let alone racism) in classrooms. What will teachers do when pupils – say, in civics lessons – want to know more about this legislation? If teachers aren’t allowed to deal with the legislation in class, maybe they should just single out for praise those three Republicans who couldn’t even bring themselves to condemn lynching: Thomas Massie (Kentucky), Chip Roy (Texas), Andrew Clyde (Georgia).

Or maybe educators are now on safe ground if they praise Laura Loomer. She describes herself as a “Jewish conservative woman, a Trump loyalist and a free speech absolutist”. A more accurate description would be an anti-Muslim, white supremacist bigot. Loomer has admitted to advocating “pro-white nationalism”. Amongst her choicest remarks on record is the assertion that the US was “really … built as the white Judeo-Christian ethnostate, essentially…” and that “…Over time, immigration and all these calls for diversity […are…] starting to destroy this country.”

Acceptable? Probably – because Trump has just picked Loomer to play a key role in his election campaign.

A study published last month found that anti-semitic content spiked when Elon Musk took over Twitter at the end of October 2022. The number and severity of such racist tweets did not drop again in the following months, as might have been suspected. The research from CASM Technology and ISD found that in the nine months from June 2022 to February 2023 there were over 325,000 anti-semitic (as defined by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) tweets in English. That corresponds to an increase from over 6,000 to nearly 13,000 a week before and after Musk took control. Although Musk’s names have Hebrew origins and although he is often thought to be Jewish, many authoritative sources mark this as false. Since taking over Twitter, Musk has often supported – implicitly or explicitly – racist, supremacist and anti-semitic content and posters. He has restored the right to post of notorious supremacists like Donald Trump. Some outlets who approached Musk for comment on the way in which anti-semitic content has been allowed to proliferate on Twitter, and why he has endorsed and amplified such content, have been met with inappropriate and vulgar ‘responses‘.

Given its ‘loose’ relationship with truth and reality, much of the ostentation of Trump and the MAGA cult can be dismissed as attention seeking ostentation. But at times their excesses do ring an alarm bell at the back of one’s head.

For example, Trump chose Waco, Texas, as the venue for the first official rally in support of his candidacy for re-election as president next year. That was provocative: Waco was the site of notorious Klu Klux Klan and other supremacist and racist activity in the 1920s and beyond. The siege near Waco in April 1993 is seen by many on the right as a ‘noble’ attempt by ‘patriotic citizens’ to stand up to, and ideally overthrow, a ‘liberal’ government and to replace it with a ‘strong’, fascist regime.

How? Perhaps with guns. The slogan for Trump’s Waco spectacle was “God, guns and Trump”.

Trump also (deliberately) evoked the Holocaust by calling for the “final battle” during his speech last month in Texas. He has launched a new ‘anthem‘, ironically entitled ‘Justice for All’ which is allegedly performed by those ‘patriotic prisoners’ who were caught and charged with crimes after they tried to overturn the 2020 election by armed insurrection on January 6 2021, killing at least nine people. The ‘anthem’ has already been both streamed and downloaded several million times.

It’s true that this and other popular ‘songs’ have been co-opted for roll-out at his spectacles in such a way that would normally be regarded as mainstream entertainment. But they have come to stand for Trump’s egotistical, megalomanic, sanctimonious ‘ideological’ warfare.

On the other hand, beware songs which allude to people loving one another – especially if they have the word ‘rainbow’ in the title. Then they’ll be banned. And remember how Trump’s supporters have enlisted visual artists to portray Trump as the great Leader (as were Hitler and Stalin) – a mix of the vengeful Christian God, the soave statesperson and sex symbol.

But the majority of people in the United States are more politically savvy, less gullible and more learned in their reading of mid-twentieth century history (and aware of the boiling frog metaphor) than the willing followers of that era’s dictators, one of whom was easily and officially elected to office… aren’t they? Surely that one third of the electorate who say that they will vote Trump no matter what are… just having the rest of us on.

Aren’t they?


Two days after the Waco rally another mass shooting took place in Nashville, Tennessee and six people were shot dead. But the person responsible was transgender. So the attention of the right shifted to that. Within a few days, Tucker Carlson, Fox ‘News’s most popular and watched primetime host, was branding (in his ‘commentary’ and with prominent on-screen graphics) a peaceful but boisterous protest against gun violence in Nashville as a ‘transsurrection’. (This came a day after Carlson appeared to be supporting (another) armed insurrection because of Trump’s indictment – on primetime cable TV.)

This tracker site gives a chilling indication of just how much damage bigotry and fear are inflicting on pluralism in the United States. Last month two more states, Kentucky and West Virginia, introduced legislation to discriminate against trans people. Although it’s hard to say for sure, one’s impression is that hatred and intolerance of the trans movement is growing apace.

A few days after the shooting in Nashville there was an encouraging exodus from their classrooms by thousands of pupils from schools there as part of a growing movement which advocates more effective gun controls. In response, Republicans in the House of Representatives for Tennessee moved to expel three Democratic congresspeople for supporting the protest to save lives. The legislature’s chair also compared the demonstration to an ‘insurrection’. In the event, on Thursday 6 April the two black Democrat Representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson were indeed expelled (while the white protester, Gloria Johnson, was not). The Tennessee legislature has promised financial retribution (funding cuts – in the areas least able to afford them) is they are re-instated by (s)election elsewhere – as seems imminent this week.

Far right senator, Josh Hawley, who gave a ‘fist pump’ of encouragement to the January 6 rioters and was the only senator to vote against a bill to try and tackle hate crimes against Asian Americans during and after Covid, came to see the shooting in Nashville as a hate crime after all: Christians were attacked by a ‘man in a dress’ – as his colleague, Marco Rubio, puts it.

The mood after the expulsion, though, saw the irony in the fact lawmakers in Tennessee had provided near perfect confirmation of continuing institutionalised racism in the United States. As explained by the very Critical Race Theory which southern states like Tennessee in particular have been so keen to censor. And also that the racism and over-reaction to a protest advocating the saving of lives in the face of gun violence will backfire as young people – and (young) black people in particular – are even more strongly committed to opposing it. (Several commentators are also pointing to the fact that the election in 2024 will be the first where a substantial tranche of voters described as Generation Z will be enfranchised. They expect change. We’ll see.)

Another trend worth watching is that where states are enacting their own laws – on abortion, gun control, and even climate – in the absence of, and opposition to, federal moves in those areas. The demarcation between national and local laws, rights and responsibility in the United States, though, is a perennially fraught area of politics and jurisprudence.

Such power works both ways: North Carolina is one of an increasing number of states where it is getting ever easier to buy, carry and use guns, pistols, rifles and other deadly weapons – in the name of ‘personal freedom’. That state’s Republican legislature overrode a veto to curtail their availability and use by Democratic governor Roy Cooper of Senate Bill 41. No permit to buy is now needed. More people with guns. More aggression; and eventually more deaths from guns.

Just a week before the next mass shooting after that in the Nashville school, by a disgruntled bank employee in Louisville Kentucky, Florida’s DeSantis signed a bill into law which encourages such events by making it legal for people in that state to carry guns without either permit or training.

If you had any doubt about the direction in which states like these are moving, then ponder the case of a psychology teacher, Jeffrey Keene, at Dr Phillips High School near Orlando, Florida. Ten days ago Keene invited his pupils, who are aged between 16 and 18, to respond to the recent shooting of (younger) children in Nashville. He suggested they write their own obituaries for them – as an act of empathy and affirmation of the importance of life. Given that Keene had the training and sensitivity to assign such an activity, it would seem appropriate and supportive of those in his care, who – like pupils across the country – continually voice their concern and fear at even having to come to school at all. Jeffrey Keene was summarily dismissed and his career (as teachers across the country are leaving schools in droves) at best severely damaged.


It is OK, though, for children to be deliberately harmed in other (southern) states: Arkansas is one of several states which are planning legislation to let children as young as 14 work without first getting permission from their parents. At the moment, companies in Arkansas which want 14- and 15-year-olds to work for them must obtain a permit that proves their age. Young people must also have written permission from a parent or guardian and the (potential) employer must provide families with provide a written description of the work and the children’s schedule. Now ‘The Youth Hiring Act of 2023’ weakens the state’s oversight of child labour laws by removing the need for such permits. Parents don’t count when they want to protect their children. Except when Republicans need to count on them for outrage at their children’s exposure to views of the world which prize tolerance and compassion.

Perhaps repeated brute force in these families will do the trick: a federal court recently struck down as illegal a ban on gun ownership for perpetrators of domestic violence. As the number of (mass) shootings across the United States continues to grow (January 2023 was the deadliest first month of a year since the Gun Violence Archive began to track such events), the right-leaning Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals turned its back on another statistic: that over two-thirds of mass shootings are either of domestic violence or are carried out by shooters with a history of domestic violence.

Knock-on effects of last year’s effective removal of abortion, women’s and families’ rights to their (reproductive) health continue. The Bonner General Health hospital in Sandpoint, Idaho, for example, recently announced that it will no longer offer any services for expectant mothers, and that its maternity wards are to close. The hospital’s management cited Idaho’s ban on abortions, one of the most restrictive and punitive in the United States, has effectively caused the closure.

Doctors who provide gynaecological care in Idaho can be charged with a felony, suspension or termination of their medical licences – as well as up to five years in jail. This is becoming a relatively common form of oppression.

Meanwhile, as mothers in the area are left to fend for themselves, advocacy groups such as this one point out that ‘faith-based’ medical ‘care’ results in the highest number of childhood deaths in the US. There appears to be little or no attempt by legislators in Idaho – a notoriously reactionary state, with the second largest percentage in the United States of Republicans in a state legislature – to put this right.

Then there is execution. A bill which envisages the death penalty for women who obtain an abortion, the ‘South Carolina Prenatal Equal Protection Act of 2023’, recently attracted the support – not of a majority of legislators – but of one in six (17%, 21) Republicans. A stunt? Election vote-getter? Maybe. But worries have been expressed that the wording of the bill as it currently stands is vague enough for those who miscarry to be eligible to be murdered by the state.


Much of what happened after Trump was indicted (in United States law ‘indictment’ means being formally charged with a criminal offence) for campaign finance fraud on March 30 was predictable and really passed without incident. But the (widely-expected) development does throw light on the state of affairs in the country:

• almost without exception Republicans lined up that same night to call the indictment “outrageous”. To be clear Trump has been charged with a serious crime; there should not be exceptions for him

• similarly, his supporters across the country voiced unwavering support – apparently oblivious of the fact that their party is supposed to be the ‘law and order’ faction of the establishment

• most seriously, a leading, prominent elected official announced his intention to break the law in support of the indicted criminal: if Trump had refused to surrender himself for arraignment (appearing before the court to enter a plea), which he did not do, then the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, said formally that he would not follow federal law and assist law enforcement in their duty of extraditing Trump to New York: ‘…Florida will not assist in an extradition request…’. The United States constitution contains an Extradition Clause (the Interstate Rendition Clause). It plainly says that anyone charged with a crime in one state who ‘… shall flee from justice…’ to another state must be extradited to the state where they face charges; and that it is the governor’s duty to facilitate such extradition, which is of course a long-established practice. What’s more, Florida law (which of course recognises the Federal statute) cannot legally use any presumption of guilt or otherwise as a criterion for whether or not its officers comply with the extradition order. A potential candidate for presidential office in 2024 has said publicly that he will defy this.

On the same day (4 April) last week as Trump was arrested and charged in New York for the first of his many crimes, there was an election in Wisconsin that almost went unnoticed. Because Wisconsin is a swing state, whose voters vacillate arithmetically between Democrat and Republican, the states races are always close. In recent years, too, Wisconsin has been one of fewer than half a dozen states which effectively decide the result of national elections whenever voting across the United States is close.

Last week voters elected a new judge for Wisconsin’s Supreme Court and a senator for the state legislature. There was fear that if a Republican were elected to the former post, there would be every likelihood that the Court would determine the result of the 2024 elections in favour of the majority party – and not according to the votes cast, as is required under electoral law. That is something on the cards with several Republican-controlled states next year. What makes it worse is that Wisconsin is the most gerrymandered state in the country. While the arithmetical balance in the state is almost equal in terms of the votes actually cast by Democrats and Republicans, the latter party holds 63 of 99 seats in the state assembly and 21 of 33 seats in the senate.

But a left-leaning circuit court judge, Janet Protasiewicz, won the Supreme Court seat by a clear margin; in theory this ought to have averted the danger of a rigged election. But Daniel Kelly, her opponent and a right wing former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice, refused to concede to his opponent: “It brings me no joy to say this… I wish that in a circumstance [sic] like this, I would be able [sic] to concede to a worthy opponent. But I do not have a worthy opponent to which [sic] I can concede.” Later in the week state senator Duey Stroebel said to ‘The New York Times’ that impeachment was “not impossible”.

Here’s a nice little titbit to end on. It illustrates how serious the threat from the fascist faction is in the United States as books are burned, lifestyles other than those advocated by white males are suppressed, genuine free speech is curtailed and insurrection to overturn elections is condoned and supported. In the same week as the Republican House of Representatives passed a law to shut down tolerance and compassion, not to mention authentic learning in schools, the principal (headteacher) of Tallahassee Classical School in Florida was sacked because she used images of one of the most outstanding achievements of the Renaissance in early C16th Italy – Michelangelo’s marble statue of the Biblical figure, David.

Louis Further

Image: Rod Webber

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