I Beg Your Pardon?
Having just finished reading Bill Browder’s Red Notice, the story behind the Sergei Magnitsky law that sanctions Russians connected to civil rights abuses as well as financial crimes, it became more apparent to me as to why Donald Trump is such a huge fan of Vladimir Putin. Trump’s actions this weekend --- his pardon of Joe Arpaio and his ban on transgender people in the military --- are worthy of Putin at his best/worst (depending on your point of view). Let’s make no bones about the fact that Vladimir Putin is, quite simply, the “Boss” of the world’s largest criminal syndicate, a kleptocratic band of thugs who control a nation with an iron hand and maintain power by claiming they are “Making Russia Great Again.” If you want to know just how corrupt and criminal the Putin regime is, Red Notice provides ample evidence. That Bill Browder is still around and managed to publish his book is his good fortune and probably only because he is not a Russian citizen and could (barely) escape the grasp of the murderous Putin regime. (See BLAST #173 – The Sopranocracy of Vladimir Putin, March 23, 2017 for just a small list of some of Putin’s assassinations). The idea of denying certain groups civil rights, of shutting down the free press (“fake news,” “enemy of the people”), and supporting civil rights abuses is a page right out of the Putin playbook and Trump seems to revel in mimicking his strong-man idol.
Let’s be clear about what the “President” did this weekend under the cover of Hurricane Harvey. In moving his military transgender ban forward, Trump played to his base while blatantly denying equal rights to a vulnerable group of citizens. According to CNN:
The official signaled that the administration was returning to the military's pre-2016 policy under which no transgender individuals were allowed to serve openly in the armed forces, but said Trump was giving the secretaries of defense and homeland security leeway to determine the policy on currently serving transgender troops.
Trump's July announcement was met with widespread rebuke by members of both parties and civil rights advocates, who argued that Trump's decision reversed years of progress for LGBT rights and flew in the face of studies showing minimal impacts on the military.
Nonetheless, Trump is determined to proceed with this discriminatory action. How does that compare with Putin’s handling of LGBTQ rights in Russia? If we check this out on Wikipedia we find:
Although same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults in private was decriminalized in 1993, same-sex couples and households headed by same-sex couples are ineligible for the legal protections available to opposite-sex couples and there are currently no laws prohibiting discrimination regarding sexual orientation. Transgender people are allowed to change their legal gender following sex reassignment surgery, however, there are currently no laws prohibiting discrimination regarding gender identity or expression and recent laws could discriminate against transgender residents.
It seems our “President” would be quite comfortable operating in the Russian environment his hero, Putin, has created.
As regards Arpaio --- the similarities to the Putin regime’s handling of dissidents, political opponents, or persona non grata (read “people of color” for Arpaio/Trump) is quite striking. Browder details how Sergei Magnitsky, a 36-year-old tax attorney, was tortured and killed while incarcerated (because he exposed a $230 million tax fraud by Russian government officials) and it closely resembles the charges Arpaio was convicted for. Here are citations from the LA Times and the New Yorker illustrating “Sheriff Joe’s” handling of Latino “prisoners.”
That’s the kind of strong man just “doing his job” (Trump’s words) that our President saw fit to pardon this weekend. The American Civil Liberties Union immediately issued this statement: “With his pardon of Arpaio, President Trump has chosen lawlessness over justice, division over unity, hurt over healing,” The sad fact is that Trump revels in that kind of criticism. His gross lack of knowledge --- of U.S. History, of the Constitution, of ethics --- makes him a fan of Putin and an opponent of democracy. His rash decision to pardon Arpaio violated all kinds of protocol, if not outright legal strictures --- but that doesn’t matter to Comrade Trump.
The Russian interference in the 2016 election was designed to put Trump in office --- not necessarily because of “the dossier” but because Putin understood the kind of chaos and lawlessness this ignorant philistine would impose on the United States. Withdrawing from the Paris Accord, jousting with Kim Jong-Un, encouraging white supremacy and basic lawlessness for his followers --- Putin, I’m sure, is smiling at how well the election interference worked.