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Trump Claims He’s a Victim of Tactics He Once Deployed

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WASHINGTON — Two days after the 2020 election that Donald J. Trump refused to admit he lost, his oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., made an urgent recommendation: “Fire Wray.”

The younger Mr. Trump did not explain in the text he sent why it was necessary to oust Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director his father himself had appointed more than three years earlier. He did not have to. Everyone understood. Mr. Wray, in the view of the Trump family and its followers, was not personally loyal enough to the departing president.

Throughout his four years in the White House, Mr. Trump tried to turn the nation’s law enforcement apparatus into an instrument of political power to carry out his wishes. Now as the F.B.I. under Mr. Wray has executed an unprecedented search warrant at the former president’s Florida home, Mr. Trump is accusing the nation’s justice system of being exactly what he tried to turn it into: a political weapon for a president, just not for him.

There is, in fact, no evidence that President Biden has had any role in the investigation. Mr. Biden has not publicly demanded that the Justice Department lock up Mr. Trump the way Mr. Trump publicly demanded that the Justice Department lock up Mr. Biden and other Democrats. Nor has anyone knowledgeably contradicted the White House statement that it was not even informed about the search at Mar-a-Lago beforehand, much less involved in ordering it. But Mr. Trump has a long history of accusing adversaries of doing what he himself does or would do in the same situation.

His efforts to politicize the law enforcement system have now become his shield to try to deflect accusations of wrongdoing. Just as he asserted on Monday that the F.B.I. search was political persecution, he made the same claim on Wednesday about the New York attorney general’s unrelated investigation of his business practices as he invoked his Fifth Amendment right to avoid testifying because his answers could incriminate him.

“Now to flip the script and falsely claim that he’s the victim of the exact same tactics that he once deployed is just the rankest hypocrisy,” said Norman L. Eisen, who served as special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during the first Trump impeachment. “But consistency, logic, evidence, truth — those are always the first to go by the board when a democracy comes under assault from within.”

Mr. Trump’s Republican allies argue that he was not the one who undercut the apolitical tradition of the F.B.I. and law enforcement, or at least he was not the first to do so. Instead, they maintain, the system was corrupted by the bureau’s leadership and even members of the Obama administration when Mr. Trump and his campaign were investigated for possible collusion with Russia during the 2016 campaign, an inquiry that ended with no charges of conspiracy with Moscow.

The former president’s camp has long pointed to text messages between a pair of F.B.I. officials that sharply criticized Mr. Trump during that campaign and to surveillance warrants obtained against an adviser to Mr. Trump that were later deemed unjustified. The Justice Department acknowledged the warrants were flawed, and an inspector general faulted the F.B.I. officials for their texts. But the inspector general found nothing to conclude that anyone had tried to harm Mr. Trump out of political bias.

In a letter to Mr. Wray on Wednesday, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, alluded to the history of the F.B.I.’s previous investigation of Mr. Trump to cast doubt on the current inquiry that led to Monday’s search for classified documents that the former president may have improperly taken when he left office.

“The F.B.I.’s actions, less than three months from the upcoming elections, are doing more to erode public trust in our government institutions, the electoral process and the rule of law in the U.S. than the Russian Federation or any other foreign adversary,” Mr. Rubio said in the letter.

The search was approved by a magistrate judge and high-level law enforcement officials required to meet a high level of proof of possible crimes. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, himself a former appeals court judge who was appointed by Mr. Biden with bipartisan support and whose caution in pursuing the former president until now had generated criticism from liberals, has offered no public explanation so far.

The degree to which Mr. Trump has succeeded in promoting his view of a politicized law enforcement system was evident in the hours after the F.B.I. search on Monday when many Republicans, including Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House minority leader, wasted little time assailing the bureau’s action as partisan without waiting to find out what it was based on or what it turned up.

Even Republicans who have been critical of the former president in the past felt compelled to challenge the validity of the search. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader who excoriated Mr. Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 attack on Congress, waited 24 hours but finally spoke out on Tuesday to question whether something untoward had happened.



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“The country deserves a thorough and immediate explanation of what led to the events of Monday,” he said in a statement. “Attorney General Garland and the Department of Justice should already have provided answers to the American people and must do so immediately.”

But some law enforcement veterans said Mr. Trump simply projects his own views onto others. “Trump may actually believe that Merrick Garland is serving a political agenda because he has trouble processing anything else,” said Michael R. Bromwich, a former Justice Department inspector general. “Trump simply doesn’t understand people like Garland and the top leadership of D.O.J. and the F.B.I. because their values are so alien to him.”

The F.B.I. has a history at the intersection of politics and investigations. Under J. Edgar Hoover, its longtime director, the bureau bugged and pursued domestic opponents of the federal government, at times serving as a political tool of various presidents of both parties. But with revelations of past abuses after Hoover’s death in 1972, Congress and the F.B.I. sought to cast off the bureau’s history and transform it into a more professional, politically neutral organization.

F.B.I. directors were appointed to 10-year terms to make them less subject to presidential whims, a new office of professional responsibility was established, the House and the Senate set up intelligence oversight committees, and other reforms were enacted to remove the bureau from politics. Along the way, the bureau earned the respect of both parties and many Americans in the last half-century.

That built-up store of public credibility has eroded significantly in the Trump years. The proportion of Americans who told Gallup pollsters that they thought the F.B.I. was doing a good job fell from 57 percent in 2019 to 44 percent in 2021.

And while public approval of the bureau had long been bipartisan, views have now diverged along party lines. In Mr. Trump’s first year in office, as he attacked the F.B.I. over the Russia investigation, the share of Republicans who had a favorable view of the bureau fell to 49 percent from 65 percent in surveys by the Pew Research Center while remaining steady among Democrats at 77 percent.

“Trump upset the post-1970s status quo when he became president, tipping off-balance over 40 years of an imperfect-though-laudable D.O.J.- and F.B.I.-constructed culture of apolitical independence,” said Douglas M. Charles, a historian of the F.B.I. at Penn State and the author or editor of several books on the bureau. “It seems to me Trump has really put that culture and the F.B.I. itself to the test to expose the weaknesses and limitations of the post-1970s system.”

Mr. Trump’s view of the law enforcement system has been shaped by his own encounters with it, starting as a young developer in New York when the Justice Department sued his family company in 1973, accusing it of racial discrimination. Eventually, the Trump firm settled and agreed to change its policies, leaving a bitter taste in Mr. Trump’s mouth.

By the time he ran for office, Mr. Trump viewed the justice system through a political lens. He led rally crowds in “lock her up” chants as he suggested he would imprison his opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was investigated but not prosecuted for improper handling of classified information — much as he is now suspected of doing.

After winning, Mr. Trump saw law enforcement agencies as another institution to bend to his will, firing the F.B.I. director James B. Comey when he declined to pledge personal loyalty to the president or publicly declare that Mr. Trump was not a target of the Russia inquiry. The president later fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from that investigation and therefore not protecting Mr. Trump from it.

During his time in office, Mr. Trump repeatedly called on the Justice Department and the F.B.I. to investigate his foes and let off his friends. He publicly criticized the prosecutions of campaign advisers like Paul J. Manafort and Roger J. Stone Jr., eventually reversing their convictions with pardons after they refused to testify against him. He complained when two Republican congressmen were charged shortly before the 2018 midterm elections because it could cost the party seats.

Frustrated with Mr. Wray, Mr. Trump sought to install a more supportive director at the F.B.I. in 2020, backing down after protests by Attorney General William P. Barr. By that fall, as the president trailed in the polls for re-election, he pushed for the prosecution of Mr. Biden’s son Hunter and lashed out at Mr. Barr and Mr. Wray for not prosecuting Democrats like the elder Mr. Biden and Barack Obama because of the Russia inquiry.

“These people should be indicted,” Mr. Trump said. “This was the greatest political crime in the history of our country, and that includes Obama and it includes Biden.”

After losing his bid for a second term, Mr. Trump ultimately disregarded his son’s advice and did not fire Mr. Wray, but in his final weeks in office pushed the Justice Department to help him overturn the election. Mr. Barr rebuffed Mr. Trump and publicly rejected the false election claims before resigning.

Mr. Trump repeatedly pressed Mr. Barr’s successor, Jeffrey A. Rosen, to go along with his scheme to discredit the election results and came close to firing him when he would not and installing an ally who would, Jeffrey Clark. The president was blocked only when told that every senior Justice Department official would resign in protest.

That was his last chance to influence law enforcement from the inside, at least for now. So from the outside, he rails against what he calls the injustice of a law enforcement agency run by his own appointee.

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Your Holiday Rituals

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“Our holiday ritual involves stretching buñuelos over cheesecloth on our bent knee. We use a secret family recipe that my older sister has yet to share. Everyone is involved in an assembly line according to expertise, mixing, forming testales, rolling out perfectly round tortillas, stretching, then frying to a golden color!” — Elma Cadena, San Antonio, Texas

“My family and I burn a yule log on the winter solstice. We find a weirdly shaped or very large hunk of wood, decorate it with twigs, berries, foliage and other items as we see fit, then we fasten a note or make a marking on the log indicating some intention we have for the coming year.” — Candace Abraham, Newport, Wash.

“I carry around one $100 bill to tip someone randomly. I go about my business and when I find that person who needs a pick-me-up, I plant the big bill as I normally would: in the hand of the hair dresser, jar at coffee shop, billfold for server. And don’t stick around for the reaction. Let them enjoy their surprise privately!” — Jackie Shapiro Brooker, Greenville, S.C.

“My husband’s family’s 20-plus-year tradition of a Christmas Eve dinner we call ‘mishy mashy.’ There is one rule: Every person must bring or make one food item that they want to eat. Anything is game, and no judgment allowed. Soft pretzels? Yum! Oyster soup? OK! Cheese shaped like reindeer that you just bought? Looks good!” — Jen Bowerman, Traverse City, Mich.

“When I was in my early 20s, we lost my 22-year-old brother to cancer just before Christmas. As a means of coping, my mom and I took a class where we constructed a gingerbread house completely from scratch. Over 40 years later, I continue to make one every Christmas season with my daughters.” — Beth Q. Reynolds, Hopkinton, Mass.

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US woman killed when ‘rogue wave’ strikes Antarctic cruise ship

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An American woman died and four other passengers were injured when a “rogue wave” hit a Viking cruise ship sailing near the southernmost tip of South America on an Antarctic cruise, the company said Thursday. 

The unidentified 62-year-old woman was hit by broken glass when the wave broke cabin windows on the Viking Polaris ship late Tuesday during a storm, Argentine authorities said. The ship suffered limited damage and arrived in Ushuaia, 1,926 miles south of Buenos Aires, the next day.

“It is with great sadness that we confirmed a guest passed away following the incident,” Viking said in a statement. “We have notified the guest’s family and shared our deepest sympathies.”

The four passengers injured were treated onboard the ship by a doctor and medical staff for non-life-threatening injuries, the company said. 

The ship itself sustained “limited damage,” Viking said. 

“We are investigating the facts surrounding this incident and will offer our support to the relevant authorities,” the company said. “Our focus remains on the safety and wellbeing of our guests and crew, and we are working directly with them to arrange return travel.”

Damage is seen on the bottom windows of the Viking Polaris ship after a wave hit it on Thursday.
AFP via Getty Images

Rogue waves, also known as “extreme storm waves” by scientists, are greater than twice the size of surrounding waves and often come unexpectedly from directions other than prevailing wind and waves, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Suzie Gooding, who was on the ship when the incident happened, told WRAL-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina, that it felt like the ship had struck an iceberg.

“Everything was fine until the rogue wave hit, and it was just sudden. Shocking,” she said. “We didn’t know if we should get our gear ready for abandoning ship.”

Viking said it has canceled the ship’s next scheduled departure, the Antarctic Explorer, slated to sail from Dec. 5-17. The Viking Polaris, a vessel that has luxury facilities and was built in 2022, has a capacity for 378 passengers and 256 crew members.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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With Mauna Loa’s Eruption, a Rare Glimpse Into the Earth

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In 1963, a geophysicist named John Tuzo Wilson proposed that the islands, which are covered with layers of volcanic stone, sit above a magma plume, which forms when rock from the deep mantle bubbles up and pools below the crust. This “hot spot” continually pushes toward the surface, sometimes bursting through the tectonic plate, melting and deforming the surrounding rock as it goes. The plate shifts over millions of years while the magma plume stays relatively still, creating new volcanoes atop the plate and leaving inactive ones in their wake. The results are archipelagoes like the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain and parts of the Iceland Plateau.

The hot spot theory gained broad consensus in the subsequent decades. “There is no other theory that is able to reconcile so many observations,” said Helge Gonnermann, a volcanologist at Rice University.

Some confirming observations came relatively recently, in the 2000s, after scientists began placing seismometers, which measure terrestrial energy waves, on the ocean floor. John Orcutt, a geophysicist at the University of California, San Diego, who helped lead that research, said that the seismometers had provided an X-ray of the magma plume rising beneath Hawaii. The instruments were able to accurately read the direction and speed of the magma’s flow; the results pointed resoundingly toward the presence of a hot spot.

This hot spot has probably been fomenting volcanic activity for tens of millions of years, although it arrived in its current position under Mauna Loa only about 600,000 years ago. And as long as it remains there, Dr. Orcutt said, it will reliably produce volcanic activity. “Few things on Earth are so predictable,” he added.

Closer to the surface, predicting when, where and how intense these eruptions will be becomes more difficult, despite the profusion of seismometers and satellite sensors. “The deeper you go, the more smooth the behavior gets,” Dr. Orcutt said. “By the time you get this interface between rock and molten rock and the ocean, the magma tends to come out sporadically.”

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