MSNBC’s Velshi and Ruhle Celebrate Festivus Early
MSNBC hosts Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle appeared to celebrate Festivus early this year.
On Thursday’s segment of “Velshi and Ruhle,” Ruhle listed a number of instances when they felt President Donald Trump undermined U.S. democracy, and Velshi compared Trump’s attacks on the media to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. The segment felt like an end of the year airing of grievances.
Ruhle instruduced the segment by listing numerous instances from the past year when she felt Trump undermined democracy.
“The news cycle is intense. We feel it, you feel it. So let’s take a moment to broaden out for a second and talk about the ways that President Trump has undermined American democracy in his first year in office,” Ruhle said.
Ruhle kicked things off by listing how Trump “sided” with Russia, moved the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, criticized the FBI, didn’t fill various positions at the U.S. State Department, instituted a travel ban he proposed during the campaign. She also mentioned his comments in response to violence in Charlottesville, Va., Pocahontas remarks, and nicknames for his opponents and adversaries.
“First, Russia. President Trump has sided with Russia and Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence agencies. Intelligence agencies confirmed that Russia meddled in the 2016 election,” Rule said.
During his November trip to Asia, Trump stated that he believes the intelligence agencies conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Trump’s admission came after a number of previous statements in which Trump appeared to doubt the intelligence agencies’ findings that Russia interfered in the U.S. election.
Rule continued listing her grievances with Trump campaign officials hiding, lying, or forgetting about contact with Russians, and with Trump’s recent Israel announcement.
“Also, Trump has surrounded himself with people who either lied, hid, or simply forgot about multiple meetings with Russians while on the campaign,” Ruhle said. “Next, he undermined decades of established U.S. foreign policy in Israel by deciding to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. New York Times columnist Nick Kristof said it best, ‘Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a symbolic move that accomplishes nothing except making peace much less likely and violence much more likely.'”
It’s unclear how Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital undermines democracy since there have been numerous votes in Congress that have reaffirmed the position. The Jerusalem Embassy Act, which the U.S. Congress passed by wide margins in 1995, calls for the United States to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the embassy there.
“Also, President Trump has many, many times attacked the FBI, the Department of Justice, his own attorney general, and Robert Mueller’s investigation, a move that undermines the hard work of tens of thousands of men and women working day in and day out, some anonymously, to keep Americans safe,” Ruhle said.
Trump said the FBI’s reputation under former Director James Comey was in tatters and had previously criticized the FBI and Department of Justice for their handling of the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The Clinton campaign and Clinton herself had also attacked the FBI for their handling of the investigation into her.
During the campaign, Ruhle had questioned if there were factions of the FBI that were actively working against Clinton.
Ruhle continued to list the instances where she saw Trump undermining U.S. democracy.
“And leaving empty many important U.S. State Department positions, diplomats who work to support America around the world,” Ruhle continued. “Next, a travel ban that’s really a Muslim ban.”
The Muslim ban refers to Trump’s call during the campaign to temporary ban all Muslims from entering the United States. As president, Trump has proposed travel bans from several Muslim majority countries so that “extreme vetting” measures can be put in place, but it is not a complete ban of Muslims. The Supreme Court allowed Trump’s travel ban to go into effect as legal challenges make their way through the lower court.
“And a physical wall on our border with Mexico instead of a policy that embodies the quote on the Statue of Liberty ‘give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,'” she said. “And from calling the neo-nazis ‘fine people’ to retweeting anti-Muslim videos, to using a racial slur in front of Native American heroes while standing in front of a portrait of his favorite president, Andrew Jackson.”
Ruhle concluded her airing of grievances by declaring Trump has proven himself not to be a “defender of minorities.”
“The president has not proven himself to be a defender of minorities,” Ruhle said. “Also, President Trump’s ‘nicknames’ for world leaders, Democrats and Republicans alike: Little Marco, rocket man, Pocahontas, Jeff Flakey, little Bob Corker, lying Ted, crazy Bernie, and of course, crooked Hillary. And his favorite mantra, fake news, President Trump’s hostile, egregious, sometimes infantile attacks on any news organization that publishes any tiny bit of news that is in any way critical of him.”
Ruhle then joined her cohost Velshi and guest, NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss.
Velshi began by asking Beschloss how Trump’s behavior compares to other presidents and commented how he could think of examples around the world, but they “tend to be dictators.”
“How does he compare to other presidents? Can you think of other presidents who attack our institutions as much as he does? And our cultural norms?,” Velshi asked. “I can think of this all over the world in other places. They tend to be dictators.”
“You’re right. And we’re not even 11 months into this presidency,” Beschloss said.
Ruhle asked Beschloss if Trump was manipulating institutions to his favor.
“It’s easy for us to say sitting on a perch–we get criticized for it–that Trump doesn’t understand how our political or legal institutions work. Or does he? Is he sly like a fox? Is he manipulating the system of checks and balances to work in his favor?” Ruhle asked.
“Stephanie, you’ve absolutely got it,” Beschloss said. “You know, he certainly does not understand it in the way that most presidents have. Most presidents come in after a career in the military or political life. And most of them have a pretty good sense of history and understanding of our democracy. Almost none of that is true of Donald Trump, but that’s not the reason he’s doing this. He’s doing this because he wants power, wants to expand presidential power, He will be pushed and he will only stop when he is stopped.”
Velshi then compared Trump’s criticism of the news media to the actions of Hitler and Mussolini.
“But the fact is Donald Trump has threatened to ban an entire religion from entering the country. He attacks the news institutions, which is what Franco and Hitler and Mussolini and a whole bunch of other people did,” Velshi said. “Do you feel that our checks and balances in the Constitution and in our political system will protect us against these potential violations of the Constitution?”
“Only if we really push hard,” Beschloss responded.
Trump has made numerous attacks against the press for “fake news” and threatened to pull broadcasting licenses for certain broadcasters. Trump’s assault on the press has primarily been rhetoric while former President Obama spied on Fox News reporter James Rosen, seized two months of phone records from the Associated Press, and rejected more Freedom of Information Act requests than any other administration in history.
Beschloss said there are positive signs of being able to stop Trump from the courts and the special prosecutor. He said, however, Republicans in Congress are not doing as much as they should.
Ruhle pondered whether an independent judiciary was disappearing since Trump has been able to appoint a record number of judges.
“But is it disappearing [from] under our noses without us realizing? If you think about this year from a justice perspective, President Trump has an almost record number of judges and state attorneys he’s put in place, mostly white male conservatives,” Ruhle said. “Some on those lists that were named by the American Bar Association unfit. He’s got a Supreme Court justice in place. So while right now you can look at those three equal and separate branches of government, is that going to hold much longer?”
Now that Velshi and Ruhle have aired their grievances about Trump, it’s time for the Feats of Strength.