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Trump’s violent rhetoric echoes the fascist commitment to a destructive and bloody rebirth of society

Former President Donald Trump’s rhetoric has regularly bordered on the incitement of violence. Lately, however, it has become even more violent. Yet both the press and the public have largely just shrugged their shoulders.

As a political philosopher who studies extremism, I believe people should be more worried about this.

Mark Milley, the outgoing chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, is guilty of “treason,” Trump said in September 2023, just for reassuring the Chinese that the U.S. had no plans to attack in the waning days of the Trump administration. And for this, Trump says, Milley deserves death.

And back in April, Trump said that his indictment by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg would result in “death and destruction.” Then, in early October, Trump urged people to “go after” Letitia James, the New York attorney general who filed suit against him for business fraud.

Trump’s prior rhetoric is also now on record as having inspired many of those convicted to engage in insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

But it is not just government officials whom Trump suggests be targeted for extrajudicial killings. Mere shoplifters should be killed too. “Very simply, if you rob a store, you can fully expect to be shot as you are leaving,” Trump said to cheers at the California Republican Party convention in September.

With some wielding weapons and wearing protective gear, rioters clash with police on the steps of an entrance to the U.S. Capitol.

Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Brent Stirton via Getty Images News

More than crazy bluster

This rhetoric may seem like crazy bluster, which is no doubt why many people appear prepared to ignore it. But put in its historical context, what Trump is doing is echoing views that are part of a long tradition of illiberal and outright fascist thought. For fascists have always seen the use of violence as a virtue, not a vice.

First, this is the natural result of the way that fascist communities define themselves. According to Carl Schmitt, a prominent Nazi and for a time the official legal theorist of the party under Adolf Hitler, one builds and maintains a community by identifying and vilifying its enemies. And in this kind of highly polarized environment, the threat of violence always hangs in the air.

Second, among fascists, machismo is much admired. Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, whose own outrageous rhetoric has also encouraged violent behavior by his supporters, simply “beamed” when Russian President Vladimir Putin praised him for his masculinity.

Trump often acts as a sycophant for Putin too, and machismo also is a big part of Trump’s own public persona.

Third, fascists are obsessed with purity. They long for a world where they can live among their own racial, ethnic, religious and ideological kind on land they view as exclusively theirs.

But in the real world, people are too intermixed for this to occur naturally. True purity of community is an aspiration that can be made real only through violence and subjugation. Hence the Holocaust,genocide and ethnic cleansing, and other more limited attacks on minority and immigrant populations.

Violence as noble and intoxicating

Fascists, then, see violence as noble and intoxicating. For example, Julius Evola, a far-right intellectual active in Italy from 1920 to 1970 and the author, among other things, of “Fascism Viewed from the Right” and “A Handbook for Right-Wing Youth,” writes that violence “offers man the opportunity to awaken the hero that sleeps within him.”

Today, Evola is a favorite of the alt-right, and he suggests that a hero’s death is preferable to a life built on liberal compromise. “The moment the individual succeeds in living as a hero,” Evola writes, “even if it is the final moment of his earthly life, weighs infinitely more on the scale of values than a protracted existence consuming monotonously among the trivialities of cities.”

The ultraconservative Catholic authoritarian and opponent of the French Revolution Joseph de Maistre, who is recognized as one of the intellectual forefathers of fascism, goes even further.

“The whole earth, perpetually steeped in blood, is nothing but a vast altar upon which all that is living must be sacrificed without end, without measure, without pause, until the consummation of things, until evil is extinct, until the death of death,” Maistre writes. Indeed, without an executioner, the man who kills other men, Maistre claims society could not exist. For violence is necessary to satisfy “men’s natural desire to be destructive,” he writes; it leaves them feeling “exalted and fulfilled.”

With the Washington Monument in the background, a group of protesters march.

Patriot Front – labeled a ‘white supremacist group’ by the Anti-Defamation League – marches in Washington, D.C., in May 2023. Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Social disruption and destruction

These comments make clear that fascists see violence as something to be used for more than just personal retribution and intimidation. It is to be used to create wider social disruption and destruction. Not only are individuals to be subject to attack, but institutions and norms as well.

Consider “The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy,” a work by two amateur historians popular on the far right.

The book is actually a restatement of Evola’s theory of historical regression, set forth in his “Revolt against the Modern World.”

The idea is that history moves in cycles, the first one being the best and each one thereafter representing a further decline. The fourth cycle is the worst, and it ends only when all existing social institutions are destroyed. This, in turn, is an application of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s idea that “one can build only in a space which has been previously razed to the ground.”

Then history will reset and cycle once again.

Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon admires these ideas so much he made a movie about them.

Trump appears to embrace these ideas too. “When the economy crashes, when the country goes to total hell, and everything is a disaster, then you’ll have riots to go back to where we used to be, when we were great,” he says.

Viewed in this context, not taking Trump’s violent rhetoric more seriously seems dangerous indeed.

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Praying for Putin: Spies in Cassocks Threaten the West


The Kremlin’s increasing use of Russian Orthodox priests as spies and propagandists is a security threat that the West should counter more decisively.

Bulgaria and North Macedonia have expelled Russian and Belorussian clerics for acts contravening their national security, and in the US the FBI has warned Russian and Greek Orthodox churches that the Kremlin’s intelligence services may be using them to recruit agents.  

Analysts have long warned that the Kremlin employs the Orthodox Church as a tool for advancing its foreign policy and infiltrating European Union (EU) and NATO member states. According to declassified archives, the head of the Church, Patriarch Kirill, worked for both the KGB and its successor, the FSB.  

Kirill has wholeheartedly supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, portraying it as a holy war against “Nazis”. During a sermon in September 2022, he reportedly told Russian soldiers that “sacrifice in the course of carrying out your military duty washes away all sins.”  

Kirill sought to justify Putin’s war, saying it was essential to “defend God’s truth” and that Russians and Ukrainians were “really one people” joined by a “common national identity.”  

The Church has served as a sharp power tool for Putin’s foreign policy over other issues as well. In 2018, during a visit to Bulgaria, Kirill used the commemoration of the 140th anniversary of the 1877-78 Russo-Turkish war, which set Bulgaria on a path to independence, to scold Bulgarian President Rumen Radev for showing “ingratitude” to Moscow.  

The Kremlin envoy had been enraged by a speech from Radev in which he expressed gratitude to the Romanian, Ukrainian, Russian, Belarussian, Finnish, Polish, and Lithuanian soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the war. Kirill called this a “wrong historical interpretation” and said Russia alone deserved thanks for liberating Bulgaria from Ottoman rule.  

His words amounted to a high-handed and clearly political, intervention in the affairs of Bulgaria with a propaganda message designed to amplify divisions in Bulgarian society (where there is a traditional pro-Russian segment of the population), and to assert Russia’s desired image as the sole defender of the Christian world.  

Although the close ties between the Kremlin, its intelligence services, and the Orthodox Church are well-documented, Western governments have hesitated to sanction high-ranking clergy to avoid accusations of violating religious liberty.  

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The EU attempted to freeze Kirill’s assets and ban him from entering the bloc for his support for the invasion and propagandist behavior, but Hungary blocked the decision, declaring it to be against “fundamental principles of religious freedom.”  

Others argued that religious freedom cannot be used as an excuse for violating state sovereignty and territorial integrity, nor as a justification for wars of aggression. In addition, Putin’s Russia has shown over and over again that it does not care about religious freedom.  

Bulgarian authorities expelled the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Sofia, Archimandrite Vassian Zmeev, who was expelled from Skopje for alleged involvement in Russian espionage.  

Bulgaria’s State Agency for National Security said Zmeev and his colleagues had been involved in “the implementation of various elements of the Russian Federation’s hybrid strategy to purposefully influence socio-political processes in the Republic of Bulgaria in favor of Russian geopolitical interests.”  

In response, Moscow expressed “outrage” and the Russian Patriarch accused the Bulgarian authorities of Satanism. Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov fired back: “Russian priests were not expelled, only people who worked against the national interests of Bulgaria.” 

The West should expose and punish Russia’s hypocrisy in its abuse of religion, and the EU and US should follow the UK’s lead and sanction the Russian Patriarch. Clearly worded political and economic sanctions would make clear that the problem is not Kirill’s religion but the transformation of his church into a mouthpiece for the Kremlin.  

It is Moscow’s use of Russian priests as propagandists and spies that violates religious freedom, not the countries that remove them. 

Impunity is what emboldens the Kremlin to continue weaponizing religion in order to divide and destabilize democracies. The West should expose Russia’s hypocrisy and sanction the propagandists and spies masquerading as clergy.  

Dessie Zagorcheva holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from Columbia University. She specializes in international security with a focus on Russia and Eastern Europe. Her current research examines NATO’s response to Russian sharp power.  

Europe’s Edge is CEPA’s online journal covering critical topics on the foreign policy docket across Europe and North America. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.

Europe’s Edge

CEPA’s online journal covering critical topics on the foreign policy docket across Europe and North America.

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Praying for Putin: Spies in Cassocks Threaten the West – Center for European Policy Analysis

Praying for Putin: Spies in Cassocks Threaten the West  Center for European Policy Analysis
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Son of Russian security official revealed as Sukhumi Airport investor

The mystery Russian investor behind the restoration of the Sukhumi (Sukhum) airport has been revealed as the son of Rashid Nurgaliyev — Russia’s former interior minister and current First Deputy Secretary of the Russian Security Council.

On Friday, Abkhazia’s Economy Ministry and Russia’s Economic Development Ministry announced that Infrastructural Development, a recently established company based in Moscow, had won the controversial tender. The company is owned by Nurgaliyev’s son — also named Rashid Nurgaliyev.

His father is currently serving as the First Deputy Secretary of Russia’s Security Council and is subject to Western sanctions against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The deal for a Russian investor to restore the airport has led to fears it could trap Abkhazia in debt and lead to a loss of sovereignty, fears exacerbated by the identity of the investor being kept secret until now.

Nurgaliyev said that the restoration of the airport, which has been out of commission since 1992, would make travel to Abkhazia quicker for Russian tourists.

‘Interest in the resorts of Abkhazia from tourists from Russia is growing from year to year’, said Nurgaliyev, noting that a modern airport would allow the ‘high tourism potential of [Abkhazia] to be fully realised’.

Sergey Gribkov, Infrastructural Development’s general director, has said that the company intended to build a new airport complex in parallel with the restoration work.

The airport is expected to resume operation by the end of 2024.

The announcement drew criticism from Abkhazia’s opposition and civil society.

Izida Chania, a journalist and political commentator, likened the tender to that of the railway project of 2010 — a failed tender that ‘plunged the country into unaffordable debt’.

However, many in Abkhazia support the restoration of the airport. Astamur Lakashia, an Abkhaz entrepreneur, said that the airport would create ‘a lot of jobs and new infrastructure’.

 For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.

The post Son of Russian security official revealed as Sukhumi Airport investor appeared first on OC Media.

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Putin Ruling May Have Unintended Sanctions Consequences – Law360

Putin Ruling May Have Unintended Sanctions Consequences  Law360
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With Racketeering Charges, Georgia Prosecutor Aims to ‘Tell the Whole Story’

Prosecutors have found racketeering laws to be powerful tools in targeting not only foot soldiers in a criminal enterprise, but also high-level decision makers.

Donald J. Trump speaks behind a lectern at night.

Former President Donald J. Trump at a campaign rally in support of Georgia’s Republican senators before their runoff election in January 2021.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Aug. 15, 2023Updated 8:19 a.m. ET

For more than 50 years, prosecutors have relied on a powerful tool to take down people as varied as mafia capos, street gangs like the Crips and the Bloods, and pharmaceutical executives accused of fueling the opioid crisis.

Now a prosecutor in Georgia is using the state’s version of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, better known as RICO, to go after former President Donald J. Trump, who along with 18 of his allies was indicted on Monday on charges of participating in a wide-ranging conspiracy to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia.

One power of RICO is that it often allows a prosecutor to tell a sweeping story — not only laying out a set of criminal acts, but identifying a group of people working toward a common goal, as part of an “enterprise,” to engage in patterns of illegal activities.

Fani Willis, the district attorney in Fulton County, Ga., is using a RICO indictment to tie together elements of a broad conspiracy that she describes as stretching far outside of her Atlanta-area jurisdiction into a number of other swing states, a legal move made possible by the racketeering statute. Her investigation also reached into rural parts of Georgia — notably Coffee County, where Trump allies got access to voting machines in January 2021 in search of evidence that the election had been rigged.

Signaling its breadth, the indictment brought Monday night laid out a number of ways the defendants obstructed the election: by lying to the Georgia legislature and state officials, recruiting fake pro-Trump electors, harassing election workers, soliciting Justice Department officials, soliciting Vice President Mike Pence, breaching voting machines and engaging in a cover-up.

“RICO is a tool that allows a prosecutor’s office or law enforcement to tell the whole story,” Ms. Willis said at a news conference last year.

Her challenge will be to convince jurors that the disparate group of 19 conspirators charged in the indictment — including a former president and a local bail bondsman, a White House chief of staff and a former publicist for Kanye West — were all working together in a sprawling but organized criminal effort to keep Mr. Trump in power.

State and federal prosecutors have found that they can use RICO laws to effectively make such arguments, and Ms. Willis has done it before. So has Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of the defendants, who made his name trying racketeering cases against mafia families decades ago as a federal prosecutor in New York.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, at the Fulton County courthouse in Atlanta last year.Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

Clark D. Cunningham, a law professor at Georgia State University, said the indictment “shows the incredible power brought to bear against Trump by using Georgia’s racketeering law,” noting that in addition to the 19 people charged, it encompassed “as many as 30 unindicted co-conspirators — over 160 separate acts in all.”

But RICO laws have their detractors. Some critics say that the laws have granted too much power to prosecutors, allowing them to indict dubious members of “organizations” that are in some cases barely organized.

“Because RICO is so expansive, and so open, as a tool, it allows people to be caught in its dragnet that are nothing like the people who were originally intended” when the laws were first developed more than 50 years ago, said Martin Sabelli, a past president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Another potential pitfall for a big RICO case is that it may become too complex for jurors to follow. As Michael J. Moore, the former U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, put it on Monday night: “When you fish with too big a net, you risk getting tangled up yourself.”

Some of the defendants were already accusing Ms. Willis of overreaching. A spokeswoman for Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official who was charged in the case, said Ms. Willis was “exceeding her powers by inserting herself into the operations of the federal government to go after Jeff.”

Mr. Trump’s legal team said, “We look forward to a detailed review of this indictment which is undoubtedly just as flawed and unconstitutional as this entire process has been.”

Mr. Trump and his allies have argued that their efforts to challenge his 2020 election loss in Georgia were well within the bounds of the law. Indeed, Mr. Trump has been laying the groundwork for his defense for months, arguing repeatedly that there was nothing illegal about his now-famous call to Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, on Jan. 2, 2021.

In that call, Mr. Trump told Mr. Raffensperger he hoped to “find” the 11,780 votes he needed to win Georgia.

But the RICO indictment forces Mr. Trump to push back against a broader allegation — that he was part of a multipronged criminal scheme that involved not only calls to state officials, but the convening of bogus pro-Trump electors, the harassment of Fulton County elections workers, and false statements made by Trump allies, including Mr. Giuliani, before state legislative bodies.

The Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, where the fake electors gathered in 2020.Credit…Audra Melton for The New York Times

In Georgia, RICO is a felony charge that carries stiff penalties: a potential prison term of five to 20 years, a fine or both.

Racketeering statutes are an outgrowth of New York City’s long history of combating corruption and organized crime. The word “racketeer” itself is derived from the “racket” at boisterous Tammany Hall fund-raising dinners where it was an expectation, among crooked politicians, that anyone who hoped to get a piece of city business would buy tickets.

Under Mr. Giuliani’s leadership in the 1980s, the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York used RICO to prosecute powerful mobsters like Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno of the Genovese crime family, and Anthony “Tony Ducks” Corallo of the Lucchese family. But Mr. Giuliani also used the federal statute to prosecute white-collar business cases.

Ms. Willis may rival Mr. Giuliani in her deep well of experience with RICO charges. She made her name as an assistant district attorney by bringing a sprawling RICO case against educators in the Atlanta public school system in 2013 in the wake of a cheating scandal, and has used Georgia’s version of the law repeatedly since then.

In the 2013 case, a group of Atlanta educators were accused of inflating standardized test scores and giving a false sense of academic progress. At the time, there was concern that the state was applying a law known for targeting the mob to a group of modestly paid public schoolteachers, most of whom were Black.

“I think it’s overkill,” the Atlanta lawyer Bruce H. Morris told The Los Angeles Times. “RICO was originally designed for organized crime.”

Ms. Willis has said defending the integrity of the education system — and children’s right to an education — was paramount. The trial ended with 11 defendants being found guilty of racketeering, with some convicted of other crimes.

After being elected Fulton County’s top prosecutor in 2020, she has continued to be aggressive in using RICO to prosecute other cases, particularly in her fight against street gangs. The best known is the ongoing RICO conspiracy case against the group Young Slime Life, headed by the Atlanta rapper Jeffery Williams, who performs as Young Thug.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis made her name as an assistant district attorney by bringing a sprawling RICO case in 2013.Credit…Audra Melton for The New York Times

The indictment charges that members of the group, known as YSL, committed the crime of conspiracy to violate the RICO act, and that certain members are responsible for crimes like murder, aggravated assault and armed robbery. Defense attorneys maintain that the group is merely a musical collective.

In an analysis of the case for the pop culture website Complex, Andre Gee, a music and culture writer, blasted Ms. Willis for wielding RICO as an overly broad dragnet.

“It’s an ugly, precedent-setting maneuver in the war on rap that can only happen because the law allows her to be creatively predatory with their definition of a ‘corrupt organization,’” Mr. Gee wrote.

Some experts have argued that applying RICO charges in a criminal case allows prosecutors to use the laws’ often stiff penalties to pressure defendants marginally connected to criminal groups to take plea bargains. In the YSL case, Ms. Willis’s office obtained pleas from a number of defendants, securing admissions along the way that the group was indeed a criminal street gang.

The Young Thug case, taking place in the same courthouse that may eventually host Mr. Trump, has shown how unwieldy a large racketeering case with multiple defendants can be: Jury selection, which began in January, has yet to be completed, and has been rife with hiccups and scandals.

Noting that Ms. Willis is hoping for a trial within the next six months, Christopher Timmons, an Atlanta trial lawyer and former prosecutor experienced in RICO cases, said the timetable seemed to be “ambitious.”

“Six months to start a RICO trial is lightning fast,” Mr. Timmons said in an email early Tuesday. “They usually take a year to put together. That suggests the D.A.’s office walked into the grand jury room knowing what their case will look like at trial.”

Even though RICO laws now go far beyond mob-busting, their origins in fighting the New York mafia can still work against defendants in the court of public opinion.

But a good defense lawyer can sometimes use the laws’ association with the mob to their client’s advantage. That was the case in 2013, when one of Mr. Trump’s current lawyers in Georgia, Drew Findling, was defending a sheriff in the suburbs of Atlanta who had been accused of corruption and was facing state RICO charges.

In his closing argument at trial, Mr. Findling, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, ridiculed state prosecutors for not reaching out to federal authorities if they truly believed they were dealing with a criminal on a par with the nation’s most infamous gangsters.

His client was acquitted.

Richard Fausset is a correspondent based in Atlanta. He mainly writes about the American South, focusing on politics, culture, race, poverty and criminal justice. He previously worked at The Los Angeles Times, including as a foreign correspondent in Mexico City. More about Richard Fausset

Danny Hakim is an investigative reporter. He has been a European economics correspondent and bureau chief in Albany and Detroit. He was also a lead reporter on the team awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News. More about Danny Hakim

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Why the Georgia RICO case could be dangerous for Trump — and …  Yahoo! Voices