frightening developments continue (of course)

Trump’s coup d’état election
Joseph Kishore, David North, WSWS, Sep 24 2020

The US presidential campaign is being transformed into a coup d’état by Donald Trump, who has declared that he will not accept the results of any vote that goes against him. At a White House press conference Wednesday evening, Trump was asked whether he would “commit here today for a peaceful transfer of power after the election?” He replied:

We’re going to have to see what happens. You know I have been complaining very strongly about the ballots. And the ballots are a disaster.

When his questioner persisted, Trump said:

You’ll have a very peaceful trans — there won’t be a transfer frankly. There will be a continuation.

Trump’s determination to rapidly appoint a new Supreme Court justice to fill the seat left by Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death is a critical element of the unfolding criminal conspiracy. Trump intends to stack the Supreme Court with lackeys who will rubber stamp his repudiation of the election results. Trump said at the news conference:

I think this will end up in the Supreme Court, and I think it’s very important that we have nine justices.

That the preparations for an overthrow of the Constitution are well advanced is now widely acknowledged. A column published Wednesday in the Atlantic, headlined “The Election that Could Break America,” outlines what it called a nightmare scenario for Nov 3, involving the mobilization of right-wing vigilantes and the seizure of uncounted ballots. The Atlantic references discussions within the White House over how to overturn the election results if they go against Trump:

According to sources in the Republican Party at the state and national levels, the Trump campaign is discussing contingency plans to bypass election results and appoint loyal electors in battleground states where Republicans hold the legislative majority. With a justification based on claims of rampant fraud, Trump would ask state legislators to set aside the popular vote and exercise their power to choose a slate of electors directly.

In doing so, Trump would be acting on the basis of Justice Antonin Scalia’s argument in Bush v Gore twenty years ago, when the Supreme Court intervened to shut down vote-counting in Florida and hand the election to Bush. Trump is not running an election campaign. He is setting into motion a plot to establish a presidential dictatorship. This is a continuation of the entire conspiracy initiated with his Jun 1 speech threatening to invoke the Insurrection Act and deploy the military against domestic protests. There is a staggering contrast between the ruthlessness with which Trump and his co-conspirators are implementing their plans and the fecklessness and cowardice of the Democratic Party and its presidential candidate, Joe Biden. Even as Trump is planning to stack the Supreme Court to facilitate his illegal seizure of power, the Democrats have declared that there is nothing that can be done to stop Trump’s appointment of another justice before the November election. After Republican Senator Mitt Romney announced Tuesday that he would support Trump filling the Ginsburg vacancy, the Democrats abandoned their “resistance” strategy, such as it was, of finding four Republicans who would break with Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and oppose a confirmation vote. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer has declared that “all options are on the table,” but only after the Supreme Court nominee is confirmed, and then only if the Democrats win control of both the Senate and the White House. But the Supreme Court pick is central to Trump’s strategy of maintaining his position in the White House.

On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who proclaimed that her quiver was “full of arrows,” reached an agreement with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday to extend funding for the federal government until after the election, removing the threat of a government shutdown in response to Trump’s effort to push through his Supreme Court nomination. With this craven capitulation, the Democrats are not only giving up a seat on the Supreme Court. They are going a long way toward surrendering to Trump’s coup. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on Wednesday that Trump is seeking “to discredit the votes of millions, stack the Supreme Court to disenfranchise millions and perpetuate himself in office,” warning that this is “how you see democracies end.” Schiff’s only response, in addition to blaming “foreign assistance” for Trump’s actions, was to propose legislation to restrain future presidents. He expressed the hope that voters would “turn out in such massive numbers that there’s a landslide repudiation of Trump and Trumpism.” The Constitution does not require that a presidential candidate receive a landslide to unseat the incumbent. Schiff’s statement amounts to a declaration that the Democrats will capitulate to Trump if Biden secures anything less than an overwhelming victory. Elissa Slotkin, one of the House Democrats closest to the intelligence agencies, stated yesterday that Trump is attempting to carry out a coup d’état, and implied that he was acting with high level support. She tweeted:

The pathetic response of the Democratic Party and its presidential candidate to Trump’s conspiracy is determined, above all, by its fear that any call for resistance would trigger a mass movement from below that would get out of control and threaten the capitalist oligarchy. The Democrats fear such a development more than anything. Their entire focus over the past four years has been to divert popular opposition to Trump behind the conflicts within the ruling class over foreign policy, centered on the demand for more aggressive action against Russia. To subordinate the fight against Trump to the Democratic Party can lead only to a political catastrophe. Workers must recognize that American democracy is collapsing. The language of Trump is the language of fascism, dictatorship and civil war.

The Democrats, meanwhile, are providing Trump with the ability to carry out his coup d’état and if they were to come to power would implement the same basic class policy. Beneath the political crisis in the US, what is unfolding is a massive confrontation between the corporate and financial aristocracy, which controls both political parties, and the working class. Trump’s coup plotting is entirely bound up with the ruling class policy of “herd immunity,” the drive to force workers to continue working and reopen schools amidst the expanding pandemic, and the utilization of the pandemic to orchestrate a massive redistribution of wealth to the rich. For the working class, the fight against the pandemic, the massive social crisis, the unending wave of police violence and the threat of dictatorship is entirely bound up with the fight for socialism. The critical issue now is the development of a mass movement of the working class. The logic of the rapidly developing crisis poses before working people the need to prepare for a political general strike. Popular organizations, controlled by working people, should be established in order to prepare resistance to Trump’s criminal conspiracy. The growing wave of strikes, protests and demonstrations, including those sparked by the whitewashing yesterday of the police murder of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, must coalesce into a general strike, demanding Trump’s removal from office.

Protests erupt over whitewash of police murder of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky
Niles Niemuth, WSWS, Sep 24 2020

People gather in Jefferson Square awaiting word on charges against police officers,
Wednesday Sep 23 2020, in Louisville, Ky. (Photo: Darron Cummings/ AP)

Protests erupted in Louisville, Kentucky on Wednesday following the announcement that a grand jury impaneled by the state attorney general, Daniel Cameron, had decided not to bring criminal charges against police officers for shooting and killing Breonna Taylor, a twenty-six-year-old African American emergency medical technician. Taylor was felled by multiple bullets during a police raid on her home in the early morning hours of Mar 13. Anger over Taylor’s killing, along with the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, has fueled months of multi-racial protests across the US and internationally demanding an end to police violence and racism. Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of Louisville as soon as Cameron, who served as a special prosecutor in the case, announced the grand jury’s decision at an afternoon press conference. Soon after, phalanxes of riot police waded into the crowd of peaceful protesters, swinging clubs and carrying out multiple arrests.

Already on Monday, Democratic Governor Andy Beshear had declared a state of emergency in Louisville and ordered a lockdown of the downtown business area, enforced with the aid of concrete barricades set up by the police. By Wednesday, Beshear had activated the Kentucky National Guard and Louisville Mayor Greg Fisher, also a Democrat, had imposed a 72-hour curfew from 9 pm to 6:30 am, beginning Wednesday night. In the weeks following the murder of George Floyd, hundreds of thousands marched and demonstrated in a wave of protests that spread to small towns as well as big cities. Louisville has remained a center of anti-police violence protests. Thousands have been arrested in violent crackdowns by police, who have assaulted and detained journalists and fired countless rounds of tear gas, pepper balls and rubber bullets. Two protestors were killed by a right-wing militia member in Kenosha, Wisconsin last month during protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

President Donald Trump has hailed the police violence against demonstrators and incited violent attacks on protesters by far-right and fascistic elements, including armed militia groups. His Department of Homeland Security sent federal police and paramilitary forces into Portland and Seattle to lead the crackdown on protesters in those cities. Trump has defended the targeted assassination of anti-fascist protester Michael Reinoehl by a police squad led by US Marshals. One of the officers involved in the fatal shooting of Taylor, Sergeant Jon Mattingly, sent an email to his colleagues that was leaked to the media on Monday. The email encouraged his fellow cops to confront protestors and hailed the police as “warriors.” Elsewhere, Democratic Governor J B Pritzker announced that the Illinois National Guard had been placed on a “state of readiness” ahead of Wednesday’s announcement in the Louisville case.

Hundreds of people gathered at a park near downtown Louisville Wednesday afternoon to listen to Cameron’s announcement on the grand jury’s decision. They began marching immediately after it became clear that none of the police officers involved would face trial over Taylor’s death. While police were arresting protestors and trundling them into waiting vans, they allowed heavily armed right-wing militia members to march and harass motorists. Wednesday’s grand jury decision came after 119 consecutive days of protests in Louisville, sparked by the release of the 911 recording of Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker pleading for help as Taylor lay dying on the floor of her home, having been struck by six police bullets.

Detective Brett Hankison is the only officer involved in the raid that led to Taylor’s killing to face criminal prosecution. Cameron announced that the grand jury had charged Hankison with “wanton endangerment” of Taylor’s neighbors. During the raid on Taylor’s apartment, Hankison blindly fired 10 bullets through a patio window, several of which entered another unit in the apartment building where a man, his pregnant wife and their five-year-old child were asleep. Hankison was booked Wednesday and immediately released on a $15k cash bond while awaiting trial. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 15 years in prison. His attorney told local NBC News affiliate WXIX that he plans to plead not guilty to the charges. attorney Stew Matthews said:

I don’t think the evidence will support the charge.

Hankison was fired by the Louisville Metro Police Dept in June for displaying “an extreme indifference to the value of human life.” None of the bullets that he sprayed into the apartment hit Taylor. Jon Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove, the two officers who fired the fusillade of 22 bullets that killed Taylor and wounded her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, have been on administrative reassignment since the shooting, but have faced no punishment within the department. Their fatal shooting of Taylor has now been ruled justified under the law. The rationale is that Walker fired first, striking Officer Mattingly in the leg.

The decision by the grand jury to not charge the officers for killing Taylor is a whitewash, overseen by Cameron, who is African American and a rising star within the Republican Party. He was elected attorney general in 2019 on a law-and-order platform. Cameron spoke at the RNC last month, which was a non-stop attack on “socialist” and “anarchist” protesters, demonized as terrorists and arsonists, and a glorification of the police. Trump presented himself as the leader of a twilight struggle to defend “American civilization” against a socialist menace that controlled the Democratic Party and its candidate, Joe Biden. The convention included thinly veiled appeals to racism, including a video statement by the St Louis, Missouri couple who had pointed guns at anti-police violence protestors. They warned that Biden and the Democrats wanted to destroy the suburbs by flooding them with outsiders.

The fact that Cameron spoke at this fascistic event while serving as special prosecutor in the police killing of Taylor should itself have led to his dismissal from the investigation. During his press conference Wednesday, Cameron denounced those who sought “mob justice” and dismissed the outrage of “celebrities and influencers” who were supposedly ignorant of Kentucky law. Cameron said the police were carrying out a “knock and announce” warrant, rather than a no-knock warrant as had been widely reported. He said they had announced themselves before using a battering ram to burst into Taylor’s apartment after midnight, where they found Walker already in a shooting stance with Taylor next to him. Cameron claimed that Walker almost immediately fired his gun. All three officers then opened fire on the apartment.

According to Cameron, only one of the six bullets that struck Taylor was fatal, but state investigators could not determine which officer fired it, meaning they could not ascribe blame. He also claimed that since Walker opened fire first, the officers were acting in self-defense and therefore manslaughter charges could not be brought. None of the officers were wearing body cameras, meaning that Cameron based his account of the shooting on the testimony of the three officers, which, he said, had been corroborated by one resident of the apartment, who claimed that he heard the officers announce themselves. Walker and the 11 other residents of the apartment building all say they never heard the police announce themselves. Walker, who had a legal permit for his gun, filed a lawsuit against the city of Louisville and the police department for damages earlier this month, claiming that he was the victim of police misconduct.

While it took months to investigate and ultimately exonerate the police who killed Taylor, Walker was arrested and charged with first-degree assault and attempted murder of a police officer within hours of the raid. The charges were eventually dropped with prejudice, meaning they could be pursued again if prosecutors choose to do so. Walker is still seeking immunity from prosecution. He told the press:

I am a legal gun owner and I would never knowingly shoot a police officer,” Walker said at a press conference on Sep 1. He said he believed he was acting in self-defense, confronted by a group of unidentified men invading the apartment. Breonna and I did not know who was banging at the door, but police know what they did.

The outcome of Cameron’s investigation and the grand jury decision is blanket immunity for police who burst into a home in the middle of the night. The decision makes clear that Taylor’s life meant nothing to the state. If confused or frightened residents act to defend themselves, they and their family can be blasted away. Police in the US already kill with almost complete impunity. Officers are charged and convicted in only the rarest of cases, despite killing approximately 1k people every year. The Supreme Court has routinely upheld and expanded the policy of qualified immunity, which gives police great leeway in the use of violence when on the beat.

The police are the armed enforcers of the capitalist state. While racism plays a role in police killings, contributing to the disproportionate number of African Americans and other minorities who fall victim to police brutality, the largest number of those who are killed are white. Police violence is a class issue. The never-ending wave of police attacks and killings is a function of a social system that condemns millions to poverty while concentrating ever more obscene levels of wealth in the hands of a parasitic elite. The implementation of cosmetic reforms and the placement of more minorities and women in positions of power has done nothing to ease the reign of police terror against the working class all across the country. The only way to end police violence is to put an end to the capitalist system, which is the root of all the social ills confronting the working class, and establish a system based on social equality, that is, socialism.

Senate confirmation hearing for Chad Wolf reveals bipartisan support
Jacob Crosse, WSWS, Sep 24 2020

Chad Wolf briefing the press at the White House.
(Photo: Shealah Craighead)

After ignoring a subpoena to appear before a congressional committee last week, Acting US Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf appeared before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Wednesday morning to answer questions as part of the confirmation process. The Senate panel is expected to vote Sep 30 to recommend that Wolf be made the permanent head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), paving the way for his approval by the full Senate. The less than two-hour long hearing was notable more for what was not said than what was said. Not a single Democratic senator voiced opposition to Wolf’s confirmation, despite near-daily revelations of unconstitutional and illegal arrests, as well as physical, sexual and mental abuses committed by DHS agents against immigrants and asylum-seekers, including children, in detention facilities throughout the country.

Wolf has been serving as acting head of the DHS since Nov 2019. The Senate had previously approved him for the position of DHS Under-Sec for Strategy, before Trump elevated him to fill the vacancy at the head of the department created by the removal of Kevin McAleenan. DHS, with an annual budget of over $50b, is the third largest cabinet department in the US government. Over 240k personnel are spread across 22 departments and agencies, including FEMA, TSA, ICE, CBP and the US Marshals Service. As acting head of the massive apparatus for repression, Wolf personally oversaw the deployment of federal police and paramilitary forces into Portland, Oregon this summer, over the public opposition of the elected leadership of the city and the state, to crack down on daily protests against police violence that began in the aftermath of the Memorial Day slaying of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. In the course of the occupation of downtown Portland by the federal police forces, DHS agents carried out kidnappings of protesters, who were bundled into unmarked vehicles and secreted to locations where they were held without charges and interrogated for hours on end before being released. In previous congressional testimony, Wolf called this police state practice “a common de-escalation tactic.”

Nor did anyone on the committee raise the Sep 4 assassination of Portland protester Michael Reinoehl by a taskforce led by US Marshals. At the urging of Donald Trump, the specially assembled task force assassinated the unarmed Reinoehl, who had previously confided to reporters in an interview that he was being “hunted” by far-right forces and the police. Eyewitness testimony attested that Reinoehl was fired on by agents after being confronted as he was walking to his car. His death came hours after an arrest warrant had been issued pertaining to his role in the killing of far-right Patriot Prayer member Aaron “Jay” Danielson during an armed pro-Trump rally on Aug 29. Wolf has overseen the imprisonment of thousands of immigrants, including children, in deadly ICE detention facilities. In addition to appalling reports of forced sterilizations, at least seven people have died in ICE detention centers this year from COVID-19. The latest victim was 61-year-old Cipriano Chavez-Alvarez, who died on Monday. Eunice Cho, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said the death of Chavez-Alvarez was “entirely preventable and foreseeable.”

The senators on the committee spent a majority of their allotted time thanking Wolf for “his service to the country,” with several urging their colleagues to move forward with the nomination process as soon as possible. This the Republican chairman, Senator Ron Johnson (Wisconsin), pledged to do. Johnson set the tone for the proceedings, expressing appreciation for Wolf and the “enormous challenges” his department has faced, including dealing with “protests which have turned into riots.” Johnson’s false characterization of the overwhelmingly peaceful protests went unchallenged by any of the senators. After Johnson ended his gushing praise of Wolf and the Trump administration, the ranking Democrat on the committee, Senator Gary Peters (Michigan), questioned Wolf on the whistle-blower complaint filed by Brian Murphy, former head of intelligence analysis at the DHS. Murphy has alleged that Wolf withheld intelligence reports that reflected negatively on the Trump administration, including that Russia was interfering in the elections to denigrate Joe Biden, and that the DHS was downplaying the threat of white supremacists and “white nationalist domestic terrorism,” while exaggerating the role of alleged terrorists infiltrating through the southern border.

Peters presented a chart titled “Domestic Extremist Related Murders in the US,” covering Jan 2010 through Aug 2020. The chart presented data from the ADL showing that 345 murders, or 77% of all “extremist related murders” that have occurred over the past decade, were attributed to “white supremacist, anti-Semitic, anti-government and related ideologies.” This was followed by “domestic Islamist extremism,” which accounted for 86 murders, followed by “anarchists, environment, animal rights, black nationalist and related ideologies,” which accounted for only 16 murders, or less than two a year. Wolf acknowledged that from “a lethality standpoint,” the most “persistent and lethal threat is white supremacist domestic terrorism.” But he quickly added:

It’s important that when we talk about domestic violent extremists, especially in the last four months, that we include the anti-government, anarchist, anti-law enforcement folks.

Peters readily agreed with Wolf’s assessment and then transitioned to Murphy’s allegations as they pertain to supposed election interference by the Russian government against Joe Biden, seeking to revive the Democrats’ discredited anti-Russia witch hunt.

Further revelations about sterilizations and medical malpractice at ICE detention facility in Georgia
Meenakshi Jagadeesan, WSWS, Sep 24 2020

Detention facility in McAllen, Texas, Sunday Jun 17 2018.
(Photo: US Customs and Border Protection).

There have been multiple new reports of the sterilizations and surgical procedures performed without consent on women held in the Irwin County Detention Center in rural Georgia. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center run by the private firm, LaSalle Correction, has been in the news most recently because of a whistleblower complaint filed last week on behalf of nurse Dawn Wooten, who had worked in a medical capacity at the center until July. Wooten alleged wide-spread, horrifying medical malpractice including mass hysterectomies that targeted the vulnerable immigrant women held in the center. Much of the mainstream media attention, as well as the indignation of the Democratic Party has been focused on the question of whether or not there were in fact “mass” hysterectomies. The point, however, is not the number of surgeries, but rather the fact that such a situation even exists.

It is a well-established matter of public record that the plight of detainees in the vast network of camps run by private contractors, and overseen by ICE, is nothing short of inhumane. The already ugly situation has been exacerbated by the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, the effects of which in the network of detention camps are still to be fully exposed. Tales of detainees being packed into small spaces, being denied basic hygiene products, and handed a single mask to protect them from the highly contagious coronavirus are by now widespread. In this context, Wooten’s complaint serves as yet another glimpse of horrors that the Trump administration’s relentless war on immigrants has visited upon the most vulnerable sections of the working class.

Wooten highlighted the role of an unnamed physician that she had named “the uterus collector” because of the sheer number of surgeries he had performed on female detainees. An AP review of the medical records of four women, and interviews with their lawyers, revealed even more evidence of medical malpractice by the physician, who had apparently performed numerous surgeries without the knowledge or express consent of the patients. Mileidy Cardente Fernandez, a 39-year-old immigrant from Cuba, was informed that she was getting medical help to treat her ovarian cysts. A month after the surgery, Fernandez, who showed a reporter the scars on her abdomen, still does not know what surgery was performed on her. Cardente told the AP:

The only thing they told me was, You’re going to go to sleep and when you wake up, we will have finished.

Irwin County Detention Center, when asked to explain the surgery, handed over 100 pages of Cardente’s medical records, none of which mentioned the surgery. Pauline Biman, who had been held in detention for nearly two years, asked to see a doctor because of abnormalities with her period. She was told she had an ovarian cyst and agreed to undergo a dilation and curettage procedure to remove the cyst. When she woke up after the surgery, she was told one of her fallopian tubes had been removed. The procedure, which Biman did not consent to, made it impossible for her to be able to conceive naturally. At the time of the surgery, Biman was 29 years old. As immigration attorney Elizabeth Matherne, who has many clients at the Irwin Detention Center told the Guardian she was “not surprised at all” by the revelations. She has heard from several women at the center that “multiple people” there went to the doctor only to be told they needed to have an ovary removed. As she pointed out:

That is a piece by piece sterilization, but it’s a sterilization… We think we’re going to find even more women who have had basically their fertility limited or taken away altogether because of the actions of this doctor and the facility to continue to take immigration detainees to him and for Ice to continue to foot the bill and approve their requests.

This past week, the Intercept revealed that the physician in question was obstetrics and gynecology specialist, Dr Mahendra Amin, based in Douglas, Georgia. Amin, who seems to have at least one other practice, works with Irwin County Hospital, where detainees have been taken for medical treatment. When contacted by the Intercept, Amin acknowledged that he has performed medical procedures on immigrant women brought in from the detention center, but claimed that he had only carried out “one or two hysterectomies in the past two or three years.” In a statement to the media, Amin’s lawyer, Scott Grubman insisted that his client was innocent of all the charges, and that he was a “highly respected physician who has dedicated his adult life to treating a high-risk, underserved population in rural Georgia.” Following the exposure of Amin’s name, Bryan Cox, a spokesman for ICE announced Tuesday that he would no longer be used to treat patients from Irwin. The former Irwin employee, who along with a detainee and several detainee advocates, had exposed the physician’s name had a somewhat different perspective:

All I know is, if you go in for anything, the majority of the time, he’s going to suggest surgery…I don’t know why. I just — I don’t know why. He does a lot of surgeries.

Amin, who is the only OB-GYN serving the detainee population at Irwin, was previously taken to court for filing false Medicaid claims. In the case against Amin, other doctors and Irwin County Hospital filed in the US District Court for the Middle District in Georgia, the government alleged that Medicaid was being billed for obstetric ultrasounds even when it was not necessary. The case was settled out of court with the hospital paying the government over half a million dollars without admitting liability. Detainees who spoke to the Intercept pointed out that they had no choice but to see Dr Amin for any gynecological problems despite his reputation for “rough treatment” and performing a large number of surgical procedures. One detainee, in fact, requested deportation after repeated medical visits, because she feared she was going to “lose her reproductive system” if she saw the doctor again. Another stated:

The doctor got mad when I didn’t want to have the surgery.

All of them stated that there were no interpreters present, and they were “unclear about the necessity or purpose of the proposed treatment.” The testimony of the detainees makes obvious the very real fear and confusion that prevails among the immigrant women forced to seek medical help while in federal custody. The detention network built up by the Obama administration and developed by the Trump administration has frequently drawn comparison with Nazi concentration camps. This latest round of revelations, with its harrowing tales of forced sterilization, only strengthens the chilling parallel.

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