It’s telling that Pompeo, a hard-right tea partyer who has said that all Muslim American religious leaders are “potentially complicit” in terrorism, is the moderate in the group. You can be outraged at Trump’s appointments — not just these, but also that of Steve Bannon of the white nationalist website Breitbart News as his chief strategist — and you should be. But you can’t be surprised. This is who Trump was during the campaign, and this is who he’s going to be.
Just to catch you up, Flynn, a retired general who was fired by President Obama a couple of years ago, is an unhinged Islamophobe who has called Islam “a cancer” and propagates insane conspiracy theories about sharia law spreading through America. In February, he tweeted an infantile anti-Islam video and wrote, “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL: please forward this to others.” But he became Trump’s closest military adviser mostly because he was one of the few retired generals who loudly embraced the candidate. The same is true of Sessions: He was the only senator who endorsed Trump in the primaries, and so earned vital points for loyalty.
About the Alabama senator, I can’t be more succinct than the lead of Ryan Reilly’s article:
The man who President-elect Donald Trump will nominate as the 84th attorney general of the United States was once rejected as a federal judge over allegations he called a black attorney “boy,” suggested a white lawyer working for black clients was a race traitor, joked that the only issue he had with the Ku Klux Klan was their drug use, and referred to civil rights groups as “un-American” organizations trying to “force civil rights down the throats of people who were trying to put problems behind them.”
Obama appointed the first African American attorney general, and then the first African American female attorney general. She will be succeeded by Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, named for the president of the Confederacy and a Confederate general.
We should note that the case against Sessions isn’t just about what he did prior to 1986. Ever since, he has been a fervent critic of civil rights and both illegal and legal immigration. In fact, there may be no more adamant opponent of immigration in the Senate. As Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) said in a statement today, “No Senator has fought harder against the hopes and aspirations of Latinos, immigrants, and people of color than Sen. Sessions.”
What will the Justice Department look like under his leadership? Consider that Sessions’s most notable case as a prosecutor before being nominated by Ronald Reagan to that federal judgeship was when he unsuccessfully prosecuted a former aide to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. for helping elderly African Americans vote absentee. Something tells me that the rights and concerns of white people are going to become a much higher priority at the Justice Department.
While there are ways Trump is already betraying the voters who elected him, particularly with his eager embrace of lobbyists and Wall Street tycoons, when it comes to race they don’t have much to fear. Trump’s victory demonstrated the staggering power of a white nationalist appeal, and not because it drew in so many voters (let’s not forget that Hillary Clinton got more votes than Trump, by 1.4 million and rising as of the latest count). The power of that appeal can be seen in what Trump voters were willing to overlook in order to vote for the white nationalist candidate. It’s why, every time Trump said something awful or some new scandal was revealed, everyone who said “Surely his candidacy is finished now” was wrong. It’s what kept him going strong when he questioned John McCain’s service (the first thing people said would destroy him), when we learned about the scam that was Trump University, when we found out that he didn’t pay federal taxes, and when we heard him on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women and then a dozen women came forward to say that he done what he said he did.
In every case, his supporters laughed it off. Trump’s unapologetic embrace of white identity politics, coming after decades of Republicans who would only promote it through dog-whistles and implication, was so thrilling and empowering to them that there was almost nothing they couldn’t accommodate themselves to, twisting the latest controversy around in their minds until it became evidence of Trump’s virtue.
Trump’s white nationalism is what gave him the support of 81 percent of white evangelical Christians, despite his libertine lifestyle and disinterest in religion. It’s what drove up turnout in all-white areas around the country. It’s what made him the Republican nominee and what made him the president. It’s who he is, and who he’s always going to be. And the administration will be a reflection of the man.