• New Podcast Episode: The Debate Gave Americans the Starkest Choice Yet. That’s a Good Thing.

    Julio Cortez/AP

    The first presidential debate of the 2020 election this was a night of headache-inducing Trumpian nihilism, as our colleague Clara Jeffery wrote last night. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden was visibly trying to stay calm, focus on the camera, and speak as directly as possible to the American people—while President Donald Trump attacked, interrupted, and talked over everyone, moderator Chris Wallace included, whose 11th hour recommitment to the rules of the debate came far too late to somehow contain the wreckage.

    But, in the end, was this debate a good thing for voters? Trump’s careening performance rendered a debasing spectacle of American democracy, making the usual post-debate analysis feel practically pointless. Typically we ask: who won and who lost? But today, that question seems less relevant: This was about a stark choice, laid bare. “I understand why people wanted to rush to the shower afterwards. It was ugly. It was brutal. It was indeed debasing, but it was Trump revealing Trump,” says Washington D.C. Bureau Chief David Corn, on a new episode of the Mother Jones Podcast. And in that sense, Corn argues, “this was a great night for America.”

    Trump, in essence, proved Biden’s point, Corn argues: “It’s out in the open. He sees saying the quiet part aloud. And when a political opponent does that, it makes your work—if you’re a Democrat, if you’re someone who wants to see Trump gone—easier.” (Check out his debate-night essay here.)

    Podcast host Jamilah King also interviews DC-based reporter Nathalie Baptiste about her experience of the debate, and her main takeaways. They get into the mind-boggling  contrast between Donald Trump and Joe Biden on the debate stage, the racism embedded in the debate topics, and whether voters might have any reason at all to feel hopeful as November 3 approaches.

    Listen to their full conversations on the latest episode of the Mother Jones Podcast:


  • The Trump Files: Donald Has Been Inflating His Net Worth for 40 Years

    This post was originally published as part of “The Trump Files“—a collection of telling episodes, strange but true stories, and curious scenes from the life of our current president—on September 12, 2016.

    There’s seemingly nothing more important to Donald Trump than his net worth. The tycoon’s image is based on having over-the-top wealth, so he often pads his net worth by as much as billions of dollars—and sued a journalist who caught him in the act.

    In fact, Trump has been doing this ever since he first started appearing in the press as a fledgling developer. His front-page debut came in 1973, thanks to a landmark housing discrimination suit the Justice Department filed against Trump and his father for trying to bar black applicants from their buildings and offering black renters worse terms. (The Trumps settled, agreeing to take steps to combat discrimination in exchange for not having to admit any wrongdoing.) Three years later, the New York Times made him the subject of a gushing profile that sexed up the 30-year-old developer—”he looks ever so much like Robert Redford”—and parroted his claim that he was worth “more than $200 million.”

    As Washington Post reporters Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher charitably put it in their new book, Trump Revealed, the source of that figure was “unclear.” The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, which later investigated Trump when he sought a casino license, found that Trump’s income in 1976 was a grand total of “$24,594, in addition to some payments from family trusts and other assets,” as Kranish and Fisher wrote. A year earlier, while Trump was trying to buy the Commodore Hotel from the bankrupt Penn Central railroad, “Penn Central negotiators had estimated the Trump family holdings at about $25 million, all of it under [his father] Fred’s control,” Kranish and Fisher wrote.

    Trump did finally make it to the big time in 1982, when he was featured in Forbes‘ list of the 400 richest Americans. Forbes‘ estimate of his worth? $100 million.

  • Who Had Substantive Climate Discussion on Their Debate Bingo Card?

    Paul Kitagaki Jr./ZUMA

    Who expected a fairly substantive climate discussion in the first presidential debate, moderated by none other than a Fox News anchor? 

    President Donald Trump too did not seem prepared. Asked point blank whether he believes in man-made climate change, Trump equivocated, glossing over a record where he in fact has insisted it’s a hoax.

    “I think a lot of things do” contribute to climate change, he said. “But I think to an extent, yes. I think to an extent, yes.”

    Trump then immediately pivoted to a topic he’s more comfortable with, but way off on: forest fire management. Trump also insisted “we have to do everything we can to have immaculate water and do everything else we can to plant a billion trees.” This is a dodge. Despite Trump claiming he’s helped clean the air and water, his point doesn’t stand up to facts. More Americans now live in counties with unhealthier air than when Trump took office. The disparity is even starker in communities of color. 

    Joe Biden, meanwhile, reiterated the points of his climate platform, such as weatherizing 4 million buildings and installing 100,000 new charging stations. 

    Climate change wasn’t on the pre-debate list of topics for Fox News’ Chris Wallace, so the fact that it was a focus of first debate shows how far it’s climbed as a substantive issue for the electorate. It also drives home how vulnerable the president remains on the issue. Recent polling by Climate Power 2020 shows battleground voters prefer Biden’s stance by a whopping 27 points.

  • Joe Biden Paid 400 Times More in Taxes Than Donald Trump

    Matt Slocum/AP

    In 2016, Donald Trump won the presidency of the United States and—according to a bombshell report Sunday night from the New York Times—paid $750 in taxes. In 2017, he paid $750. Other years, he paid $0.

    This bill is way, way smaller than that of many Americans with much less wealth (and much less proficiency and seeming delight at playing financial hide-and-seek). It is, as my colleague Inae Oh wrote, enraging.

    For comparison, take the American Joe Biden—former vice president and opponent of Trump in this year’s election. In 2016, Biden and his wife paid $1.5 million in taxes. That is 2,000 times more than what Trump paid in 2016. In 2017, they paid about $3.7 million. That is over 4,900 times more than Trump paid in 2017. You get the idea.

    Biden released more returns before today’s debate, as did his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris. They also revealed that Biden paid $300,000 in taxes in 2019. And you demand consistency, so: That is 400 times more than Trump paid in 2016.

    Trump broke norms in not releasing his taxes during his initial campaign and over the past few years. Our own David Corn has been asking for their release for years. But Biden’s information was all easy to find. The Biden campaign makes his financial disclosures public on his website. Here is the 2016 federal tax release. And here is the same from 2017. Unlike with Trump, it’s not a bombshell to see his finances.

  • Want to See Just How Tiny Trump’s $750 Tax Payment Really Is? Watch This Video.

    Mother Jones illustration; Sarah Silbiger/CNP via Zuma

    The revelation shouldn’t really be that much of a surprise: The man who proudly crows on national television that not paying taxes makes him “smart” has paid little-to-no federal income tax for quite some time. But it still felt like a gut punch—particularly that one very specific detail, that the president paid exactly $750 two years in a row. As my colleague Inae Oh wrote:

    Amid the avalanche of takeaways, somehow the $750 figure has gained special power as a convenient shorthand for exactly how corrupt this president is. For many, including myself, it landed sharply after endless exposure to the scandals and abominations that flow daily from Trump’s White House. The precision of this number was strangely even more appalling than the investigation’s other striking revelation that Trump paid no federal income taxes at all in ten of the previous 15 years.

    That’s because average Americans simply know what $750 looks like. Maybe it’s substantially less than what you’ve been paying in taxes as an entry-level journalist fresh out of college with significant loans. It might be the exact amount you’re shelling out for a tax adviser to correct a mistake made during the same year you earned a $31,000 salary. It’s certainly cheaper than the cheapest rent I ever paid to live in New York—$800—and that was while still attending college and racking up student debt in 2009.

    I mean, $750 seems an impossibly small tax bill for someone who claims hundreds of millions of dollars in yearly income. But just how small?

    In the past several months, we’ve made animations to visualize wildly large and hard-to-comprehend numbers that crop up in the news. But this time, we’re flipping that around to show you exactly how tiny Trump’s 2016 federal income tax payment is. How does it compare to an average American household in 2016? Or the previous occupant of the White House? Watch our animated guide:

  • The Trump Files: When Donald Had to Prove He Was Not the Son of an Orangutan

    Mother Jones Illustration/Shuttershock

    This post was originally published as part of “The Trump Files“—a collection of telling episodes, strange but true stories, and curious scenes from the life of our current president—on June 23, 2016.

    Donald Trump has a well-documented tendency to file lawsuits when someone hurts his feelings. In 2013, the guilty party was Bill Maher, the late-night HBO talk show host known for his liberal leanings and biting commentary.

    After Trump had insisted in 2012 that President Barack Obama release his college transcripts and passport records, Maher pushed back on the mogul’s request with a demand of his own: that Trump show proof that he is not “the spawn of his mother having sex with an orangutan.” Maher, interviewed on Jay Leno’s The Tonight Show, cited the similarity in color between Trump’s coif and an orange orangutan’s fur, as split-screen images of Trump next to the animal were displayed. If Trump complied with the request and proved him wrong, Maher promised he would give Trump $5 million for the charity of his choice. The charities Maher suggested? “Hair Club for Men” or the “Institute for Incorrigible Douchebaggery.”

    Trump took the jab personally. He filed a $5 million lawsuit against Maher for breach of contract, alleging that when he provided his birth certificate to Maher proving he is not, in fact, the son of an orangutan, Maher never came up with the $5 million. Alas, the lawsuit didn’t get very far. Trump wound up dropping it, but the threat to Maher remained.

    Michael Cohen, an attorney for Trump, insisted that although the suit had been withdrawn temporarily, it could resurface in the future. “The lawsuit was temporarily withdrawn to be amended and refiled at a later date,” Cohen said.

  • Lindsey Graham Isn’t Being Subtle About Why Republicans Are Rushing to Fill RBG’s Seat

    Caroline Brehman/Congressional Quarterly/Zuma

    Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham said during a Fox News appearance on Thursday that he plans to get a ninth Supreme Court justice through the committee process before November 3 so that the court would be able to weigh in on the results of a contested presidential election.

    “A 4–4 Supreme Court is not a good deal for America,” Graham said. “Now, we may have litigation about who won the election, but the court will decide, and if the Republicans lose, we will accept that result.” Graham suggests that a deadlocked court would harm America, but the ideological split is already a 5–3 conservative majority. If Graham were to have his way, in the case of a contested election, a third of the people deciding the next president would owe their seats to Donald Trump—not exactly a model of impartiality.

    In an interview with CNN, Graham refused to acknowledge Democrats’ concerns that a ninth justice could unfairly sway the results of a contested election in favor of Trump:

    Lest we forget Graham’s justification for refusing to hold confirmation hearings of Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee in 2016: “If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first time, you can say, ‘Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might me, make that nomination.’ And you could use my words against me, and you’d be absolutely right.” Plus, the Senate’s refusal to hold confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland in 2016 left the Supreme Court with exactly the 4–4 split Graham now says he fears—and an even divide of liberal and conservative judges.

  • Trump’s “Transfer of Power” Quote Will Grab the Headlines. But His Full Statement Is Way Scarier.

    Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Zuma

    At President Trump’s Wednesday evening news conference, a reporter asked the president, “Will you commit to making sure that there is a peaceful transferral of power after the election?”

    In normal times, the answer would be obvious. But under Trump, such questions are seemingly designed to elicit an authoritarian response.

    “Well, we’re gonna have to see what happens,” Trump replied, echoing his previous unwillingness to state definitively that he would accept the results of the 2020 election. This reply immediately got attention online.

    But Trump’s refusal to answer the question wasn’t nearly as scary as what came after.

    “Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a peaceful—there won’t be a transfer, frankly,” Trump continued. “There’ll be a continuation.”

    By alluding to mail-in ballots, which the president has repeatedly, falsely argued are linked to voter fraud, Trump raised the specter of his deliberately manipulating the election to ensure that he is not voted out of office. He’s long toyed with the idea of refusing election results by playing the “we’ll have to see” tactic. Now, he’s talking about getting rid of ballots too.

    “The ballots are out of control,” he said. “You know it, and you know who knows it better than anybody else? The Democrats know it better than anybody else.”

    As we recently wrote, Trump sees one path to victory: Trash the Constitution.

  • There’s a New Plan to Shorten Voting Lines: Make the Responsible Officials Pay You

    voters waiting in long lines

    Voters wait in long lines at an Atlanta-area elementary school on Tuesday, June 9, 2020. The lines around lunchtime were taking two and a half hours.TNS via ZUMA Wire

    It’s practially a given that any major election will produce images of voters waiting in hours-long lines. It’s already happening in the run up to November, as waits have piled up outside of early voting sites.

    Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has an idea to help keep waits to under 30 minutes: force states where it takes longer to make direct financial restitution to voters. 

    The People Over Long Lines (POLL) Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkly (D-Ore.), would also allow voters to collect $50 for waiting longer than 30 minutes, with an additional $50 for each hour after that. If a court determines that the long lines were somehow intentional on the part of election officials, or caused by wreckless disregard of wait times, the payments ballon to $650 per voter after the first half hour, with $150 more each additional hour.

    While such payments are unlikely to become a reality, voting delays have very real consequences, including people who are forced to leave before they can cast a ballot. In 2012, between 500,000 and 700,000 votes were lost to long lines, according to an estimate prepared for the federal Election Assistance Commission. Long lines tend to disproportionately impact minority communities; the same study showed Black voters waited twice the time as whites. The reasons behind long lines vary—reduced polling locations, staff shortages, equipment breakdowns, poll workers not showing up due to COVID-19 fears—but the net result is, to some, blatant voter suppression

    “Voting shouldn’t be a war of attrition,” Wyden said in a statement releasing his bill Wednesday. “It is a national disgrace that millions of working Americans, seniors, and parents are forced to stand in line for hours just to exercise their God-given right to vote.”

    The bill would provide $500 million in federal funding to local election administrators to help them speed voting, and establish Election Assistance Commission audits of state performances. It would also mandate that voting locations have sufficient emergency ballots on hand to allow people to vote even if equipment fails, as happened in several places across the country during the 2018 midterms. 

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has blocked nearly all federal election-related legislation, arguing that elections are primarily state-run and that the  federal government has little role in protecting them from foreign interference or ensuring they are administered fairly.

    “Senator McConnell has been crystal clear that he opposes any bill that makes it easier or safer for Americans to vote,” Wyden told Mother Jones. “I’m not holding my breath that he’ll change his mind this time around. But any American who is stuck in line, waiting for hours to cast a ballot, needs to know that it doesn’t have to be that way.”

  • The Trump Files: The Shady Way Fred Trump Tried to Save His Son’s Casino

    Mother Jones Illustration/Shuttershock

    This post was originally published as part of The Trump Files—a collection of telling episodes, strange but true stories, and curious scenes from the life of our current president—on September 26, 2016.

    Donald Trump’s career was built on help from his father, Fred, whether it was the years Trump spent managing his dad’s apartment building or the political connections and multimillion-dollar loan guarantee that made cash-strapped Donald’s first deals possible. So it’s no surprise that Fred tried to bail his son out of trouble when Donald’s Trump Castle casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, was about to miss an interest payment in December 1990.

    By then, Trump had already defaulted on the debt from his Taj Mahal casino. If Fred simply wrote Donald a check, the money would be used to pay off that debt. So, as the Washington Post‘s Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher describe in their new book, Trump Revealed, the elder Trump sent a lawyer to the Trump Castle to sneak money straight into the ailing casino’s coffers.

    The lawyer, Howard Snyder, approached the casino cage and handed over a certified check for $3.35 million, drawn on Fred’s account. Snyder then walked over to a blackjack table, where a dealer paid out the entire amount in 670 gray $5,000 chips. The next day, the bank wired another $150,000 into Fred’s account at the Castle. Once again, Snyder arrived at the casino and collected the full amount in 30 more chips.

    That let Trump use the de facto loan in whatever way he needed. “Sure enough, the Castle made its bond payment the day Fred’s lawyer bought the first batch of chips,” Kranish and Fisher wrote. The tactic also had a nice financial benefit. “Not only did he avoid default on the bonds—and the risk of losing control of Trump Castle as a result—but patrons who hold gaming chips normally are not paid interest,” wrote the Philadelphia Inquirer at the time.

    New Jersey’s Casino Control Commission investigated the chip purchase the following year and said it was an illegal loan that broke the state’s rules about casinos receiving cash from approved financial sources. The Inquirer wrote that a casino lawyer told the paper that “Fred Trump is ineligible for licensing, and Trump Castle should be required to return the money, a move that would almost certainly force it into bankruptcy court.” In the end, the casino kept the money and the commission fined the casino the relatively small amount of $65,000. But it didn’t save Trump. A year later, the Trump Castle went into bankruptcy, and Donald gave up half the casino to his creditors.


  • The President May Have Been the Last Person in America to Find Out About RBG’s Death

    President Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally at the Bemidji Regional Airport on September 18, 2020 in Bemidji, Minnesota.Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

    While the whole country was processing the breaking news that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died—and was trying to figure out just what her death would mean given how close we are to the election—President Trump was seemingly unaware of her death. Trump, in fact, spoke at his Minnesota campaign rally for almost two hours Friday night, making his typical jokes about political opponents.

    After Ginsburg’s death was made public, I started watching the rally (which had already started before the news broke) to see what the president would say about her death. Instead, I saw a typical Trump off-script speech. He made fun of Democrats, talked how tough he was with Boeing, downplayed the “China virus,” and polled the crowd on which nickname they preferred for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden: “Sleepy Joe? or Slow Joe?”

    Time went on and Trump remained on stage uninterrupted. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put out a statement asserting whoever the president’s nominee is will get a vote on the Senate floor. Lawmakers from both parties took to social media. Even when the rally was over, Trump continued to dance on stage and wave at the crowd of supporters on his way to Air Force One, apparently without his staff alerting him of the news. 

    Trump finally made his way to a group of reporters who seemed to break the news to him. “She just died?” Trump asked a reporter. “Wow, I didn’t know that, you’re telling me now for the first time.” Trump then took a second and said: “She lead an amazing life, what else can you say, she was an amazing woman whether you agreed or not, she was an amazing woman who lead an amazing life. I’m actually sad to hear that, I am sad to hear that.” 

    Perhaps what was even weirder than this complete shift in tone was that at the beginning of the rally, before most of us knew of Ginsburg’s death, Trump joked that if given the chance, he would nominate Ted Cruz to the Supreme Court because Cruz was “the only one [he] can think of” who would get full support from Congress. “They’ll do anything to get him out of the Senate, but I joke when I say that to Ted, but I say that to him all the time.” 

  • 5 Times Mitch McConnell Said We Shouldn’t Confirm a SCOTUS Justice in an Election Year

    Stefani Reynolds/AP

    Not two hours after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died on February 13, 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had already thrown down a gauntlet: The Senate would not confirm a replacement for Scalia before a new president had taken office. McConnell sneeringly called the principle the “Biden rule,” referring to remarks in 1992 from then-Sen. Joe Biden, who urged the Senate president to delay a hypothetical confirmation until after the election if a vacancy did appear, following the contentious confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas.

    We all know how this story ended in 2016: McConnell got his way. President Barack Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, was never given a vote, and Trump nominee Justice Neil Gorsuch was confirmed on April 7, 2017. 

    There’s little hope that McConnell will actually stick to the principle he laid out when Scalia died four years ago (342 days before the next president took office). “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate,” McConnell said in a statement Friday night. But following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg earlier today (124 days before inauguration day 2021), it’s worth holding him to his words anyway.

    They include:

    February 13, 2016: “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” McConnell said in a statement released after Scalia’s death. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

    February 23, 2016: “I can now confidently say the view shared by virtually everybody in my conference, is that the nomination should be made by the president the people elect in the election that’s underway right now,” McConnell told reporters following Senate Republicans’ first closed-door meeting after Scalia’s death. “I believe the overwhelming view of the Republican Conference in the Senate is that this nomination should not be filled, this vacancy should not be filled by this lame duck president…The American people are perfectly capable of having their say on this issue, so let’s give them a voice. Let’s let the American people decide. The Senate will appropriately revisit the matter when it considers the qualifications of the nominee the next president nominates, whoever that might be.”

    March 16, 2016: “The Senate will continue to observe the ‘Biden rule’ so that the American people have a voice in this momentous decision on who to name to the court,” McConnell said in a floor speech the day Obama nominated Garland.

    May 18, 2016: Reacting to a forum called by Senate Democrats to discuss the lingering nomination of Garland, a statement from McConnell’s office called it a “sham hearing” and claimed Democrats were being hypocritical about the need to confirm Garland in an election year: “It seems the more we hear from Democrats about the Supreme Court the more we’re reminded by comparison of how reasonable and common-sense the Republican position is today.”

    August 6, 2016: “One of my proudest moments was when I looked at Barack Obama in the eye and I said, ‘Mr. President, you will not fill this Supreme Court vacancy,'” McConnell told supporters at a political event in his home state of Kentucky.

    Then, three year later, McConnell confirmed what everyone already knew: The principle he’d touted so regularly in 2016 was nothing but a matter of pure partisanship.

    May 28, 2019: An attendee at a Chamber of Commerce event in Kentucky asks McConnell, “Should a Supreme Court justice die next year, what will your position be on filling that spot?”

    “Oh, we’d fill it,” McConnell replied, grinning.

  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg Has Died

    Oh my God:

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the demure firebrand who in her 80s became a legal, cultural, and feminist icon has died. The Supreme Court announced her death, saying the cause was complications from cancer.

    Buckle up.

  • Former Pence Staffer Condemns Trump’s “Flat Out Disregard for Human Life”

    Another former member of President Donald Trump’s administration has denounced him and endorsed his Democratic opponent. This time it’s Oliva Troye—a former adviser to Vice President Mike Pence on homeland security and counter-terrorism and member of the White House’s coronavirus task force—who told the Washington Post she made her decision because of the president’s “flat out disregard for human life.” Troye left her position in August.

    Coinciding with the announcement, the group Republican Voters Against Trump released a two-minute video with Troye in which she elaborates on that charge, detailing a meeting with the president in which, she claims, he suggested that the pandemic was a “good thing” because he’d no longer have to shake hands with “disgusting people”:

    “Towards the middle of February we knew it wasn’t a matter of if Covid would become a big pandemic here in the United States, it was a matter of when,” Troye says in the video. “But the president didn’t want to hear that, because his biggest concern was that we were in an election year, and how was this going to effect what he considered to be his record of his success? It was shocking to see the president saying that the virus was a hoax, saying that everything was going to be okay when we know that it’s not.”

    Troye describes herself as a supporter of George W. Bush and John McCain who simply can’t take another term of Trump. Her video is an echo, in some ways, of RVAT’s first big testimonial, in which Miles Taylor, former chief of staff to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, called his experience working in the administration “terrifying.” In fact, Troye uses that exact word.

    On Thursday, Pence responded to Troye’s video calling her “one more disgruntled employee who’s left the White House to play politics during an election year.” It’s weird for an administration to repeatedly trash the people it once hired, but all things considered, it’s probably a better strategy than running on their response to the coronavirus.
  • Hey, Voters, Keep Sending Us Your Political Mail!

    Scott Varley/Digital First Media/Torrance Daily Breeze via Getty Images

    If you can remember as far back as January 2020, way back then, we at Mother Jones asked you to share your political mail. As my colleague Tim wrote at the time:

    Facebook, for all its faults (actually, because of all its faults), makes it extremely easy to search political advertisements. Anyone can see what states are being targeted, how much reach an advertisement had, and how much money went into it. But there’s no such database for old-fashioned political mail. You know the kind—glossy, filled with impeccably lit photos of the candidate’s smiling family. Or perhaps improperly darkened, ominous-looking images of their opponent. Campaigns and outside groups often say stuff in mailers they don’t say in public—it’s where they show their true colors. (Remember those unseemly Ted Cruz mailers in 2016? Or this super-racist attack on an Asian-American candidate in 2018?) It’d be easier if campaigns and other organizations just sent us all this stuff, but they don’t, and so we need your help: Did you get a piece of political mail that caught your eye for one reason or another? Send it to us.

    The instructions are simple:

    1. Take a photo of the mailer—the full thing, if you can
    2. Email it to our tipline, scoop@motherjones.com
    3. Use in the subject line: “Mailers” 
    4. Tell us your home state in the subject line or body of the email

    We’re looking for mailers of all kinds, be they from presidential candidates or congressional candidates or would-be sheriffs and county assessors, be they about ballot initiatives or issues relevant to the election, be they funny or tacky or monstrous. Tips can be anonymous, and we’ll be sure to redact any identifying details from the photos before publishing them.

  • The Trump Files: Donald vs. a “Nazi” School Board

    Mother Jones Illustration/Shuttershock

    This post was originally published as part of The Trump Files—a collection of telling episodes, strange but true stories, and curious scenes from the life of our current president—on October 26, 2016.

    Donald Trump has a long track record of pushing officials in New York and other cities to yield to his demands, but he doesn’t always get his way. Take the case of an old building in Los Angeles that he bought a stake in, where the local school board thwarted Trump’s attempt to build yet another massive tower.

    The building was the Ambassador Hotel, a rundown property most famous for being the site of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1968. It closed in January 1989 and that year Trump snapped up a 25 percent interest in the partnership that owned the hotel, later pledging—what else?—to build the world’s tallest building on the site. But LA’s school board wanted to use the property to build a high school, and its members voted to seize the Ambassador using eminent domain.

    Rather than agreeing on a sale price with the district, the Los Angeles Times reported, Trump decided to fight. Trump launched a years-long battle as he first lobbied to keep the property, then agreed to sell when he needed cash in 1991, and finally waded into a complicated legal battle with the city as both parties squabbled over how much the land was worth. Trump complained during one deposition obtained by the Times that the “fools” on the school board had taken the hotel from him “as viciously as in Nazi Germany.” And he griped: “I assumed that the people essentially teaching the kids were not stupid. They turned out to be very stupid.”

    The school board eventually won the dispute, knocked down the hotel, and built a wildly expensive K-12 campus that opened in 2010. And Trump, defeated, sold his stake in the partnership in 1998 and never tried to build a major building in Southern California again.


  • The Trump Files: Donald Trump, Tax Hike Crusader

    Mother Jones illustration; Shutterstock

    This post was originally published as part of “The Trump Files“—a collection of telling episodes, strange but true stories, and curious scenes from the life of our current president—on June 17, 2016.

    “By my calculations, one percent of Americans, who control 90 percent of the wealth in this country, would be affected by my plan. The other 99 percent of the people would get deep reductions in their federal income taxes.”

    No, that’s not Bernie Sanders. That’s Donald Trump describing the tax plan he proposed in 1999, a plan targeted specifically at raising huge amounts of money from rich people and promoted in language that Occupy Wall Street would have loved.

    Trump proposed hitting anyone worth $10 million or more with a one-time 14.25 percent tax on their assets, saying it would raise $5.7 trillion dollars and wipe out the national debt. According to Trump, his own bill would have come to more than $700 million dollars (pegging his net worth at just under $5 billion), but he said he was happy to fork over the cash. “Some will say that my plan is unfair to the extremely wealthy,” he wrote his 2000 book, The America We Deserve. “I say it is only reasonable to shift the burden to those most able to pay…I believe we have an obligation to pay. Taxes represent the cost of freedom and its defense. It is a small price.”

    The tax plan was part of Trump’s brief and unsuccessful run for the Reform Party nomination in 2000. But while the wealth gap between the top one percent and the rest of society has risen dramatically since then, Trump has backed off his willingness to sacrifice his own money for the common good. Not only did he drop support for his 1999 plan, but his 2016 tax plan would increase the national debt by another $10 trillion and hand out tax breaks that would be “highly concentrated among the highest-income households, which would get a bigger percentage of the tax cuts than the share of taxes they pay now,” writes the Wall Street Journal. That plan is so expensive that the Trump campaign has set up a team of economists who are “tweaking” the plan to lower its costs.

  • The Trump Files: Yet Another Time Donald Sued Over the Word “Trump”

    Mother Jones Illustration; Shuttershock

    This post was originally published as part of “The Trump Files“—a collection of telling episodes, strange but true stories, and curious scenes from the life of our current president—on September 16, 2016.

    If there’s one thing Donald Trump is determined to protect, it’s his name. From a brand of business cards to two real estate developers with the same last name, the Republican presidential candidate has never held back from suing over the word “trump.”

    In 1989, the target business was Trump Travel & Tours, a family-owned travel agency in the small town of Baldwin, New York, owned by Jules Rabin and his daughter Claudia Rabin-Manning, according to Newsday. The paper reported that Donald not only wanted the small business to change its name, but he expected $4 million in damages.

    According to Rabin-Manning, the agency was already named Trump Travel when she bought it, and the term was used in reference to playing cards. “I didn’t know what to do,” she told the New York Daily News in May. “I wondered, ‘Am I going to lose my business?’ I was so upset.” The case was settled out of court, but she told the Daily News that fighting the suit cost her almost $10,000 and she was forced to put a disclaimer on her business stationery, signs, websites, and emails declaring that the agency was “not affiliated with Donald J. Trump or the Trump Organization.”


  • The Trump Files: Trump Wanted a TV Show of Him Ogling Women

    Mother Jones illustration; Shutterstock

    This post was originally published as part of “The Trump Files“—a collection of telling episodes, strange but true stories, and curious scenes from the life of our current president—on October 31, 2016.

    “Donald Trump Presents the Most Beautiful Women in the World” isn’t a joke headline or a Trump campaign pledge. Believe it or not, it’s the actual name of a TV show Trump pitched to ABC in 1993.

    In 2016, Slate published a letter found by University of Iowa professor Travis Vogan in which the real estate mogul, still recovering from a string of bankruptcies and business failures in the early ’90s, told ABC’s Roone Arledge that a 60- to 90-minute special featuring Trump interviewing beautiful women from around the world would be a ratings hit. “This program will be done on a yearly basis and will get huge ratings,” Trump wrote. “I will promote it heavily—along with everything else I do.” Another unnamed mystery network was of course “very interested,” so ABC would have to act fast, he said.

    Trump included a handy list of beautiful women he could interview, made up mostly of supermodels. He also included Princess Diana—”whom I know and I think will speak to me,” he insisted—as part of his long-running campaign of creeping on the beloved British royal.

    It’s not clear if Arledge even acknowledged the letter, and the show was never made. As we know, Trump is always at his most charming and respectful when addressing attractive women on TV, so ABC likely turned down a gold mine.