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Vox Sentences: Soft fascism, firm backlash

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A Green Beret’s murder charges; protests in Hungary.

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Trump tweets and the rule of law, part 700 or so

Mark Wilson/Getty Images
  • President Donald Trump, apparently fueled by a Fox News segment, tweeted Sunday morning that he “will be reviewing” the murder case against a US Green Beret who was charged last week with murder for killing a suspected bomb maker in Afghanistan. [NYT / Helene Cooper, Michael Tackett and Taimoor Shah]
  • Trump’s tweet was just the latest development in a saga that began in 2010, when Army Major Matthew Golsteyn shot and killed an Afghan man an informant told him had built bombs for the Taliban that killed American military personnel. Army documents say that Golsteyn told the CIA killed the man off base, buried him, then burned his remains; Golsteyn’s lawyers dispute this version of events. [NYT / Helene Cooper, Michael Tackett and Taimoor Shah]
  • Golsteyn admitted killing the man in a job interview with the CIA in 2011, leading to an Army investigation that reprimanded him but did not charge him with murder. [Army Times / Michelle Tan]
  • Golsteyn then talked about the killing again in a Fox News interview in 2016, saying that he feared the bombmaker would kill the tribal leader who had identified him. After the interview, the Army reopened the case and charged him on Thursday. [Task and Purpose / Jeff Schogol]
  • The next step is a hearing to determine whether Golsteyn’s case will go to trial — and all of that brings us to Trump’s tweet, which some legal experts say could constitute “unlawful command influence” because the commander in chief is tweeting about an ongoing issue of military justice. [Law and Crime / Alberto Luperon]
  • But other experts say that merely promising to “review” the case does not go as far as previous examples. [Task and Purpose / Jeff Schogol]

A glimmer of hope in Hungary

  • For the last several days, Hungarians have been out in the streets protesting the regime of president Viktor Orban. Sunday’s protest, the largest to date, drew 10,000 people. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • The ostensible trigger for the protests is a new labor law passed by Orban’s Fidesz party, which would allow employers to demand up to 400 hours of overtime a year from their employees — and defer payment for up to three years. (The law is an attempt to solve the country’s labor shortage without allowing in more immigrants, which would be anathema to the nativist Orban regime.) [NPR / Joanna Kakissis]
  • But the protests have quickly become a catchall for those dissatisfied with Orban’s gutting of the independent judiciary, his shuttering of Central European University (which he claimed was involved in a George Soros plot), and his other moves to stifle democracy. [NYT / Patrick Kingsley]
  • (Indeed, the closure of CEU inspired a forerunner to the current protests, which makes sense because if you don’t want protests it’s generally a bad idea to give university students nothing to do.) [Deutsche Welle]
  • Some experts have seen Hungary as a prototype for “democratic backsliding”; Vox’s Zack Beauchamp calls it “soft fascism.” But either way, it depends on people continuing to treat the government as legitimate, and that’s not what’s happening right now. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • Indeed, the state-run media — which has aggressively backed Orban — has itself become a target of protesters. An opposition member of parliament attempted to get into a studio and read a list of demands. He was forcibly removed; others showed up to replace him. [BBC]


  • It is, amazingly, legal for senators to trade individual stocks, creating a wide-open field for insider trading. Two senators want to change that. [The Intercept / David Dayen]
  • The world’s greatest conspiracy theory: the reason that Mattress Firm has so many store locations everywhere is that it’s a giant money laundering scheme. (Note to Mattress Firm’s lawyers: we are not saying you are a giant money laundering scheme. Please don’t sue us.) [WBUR / Meghan B. Kelly]
  • To their Facebook friends, Jennifer and Sarah Hart seemed like a dream couple, with six beautiful kids. Then Jen drove her, Jen, and half their kids off a cliff, killing them all. [Glamour / Lauren Smiley]
  • This is the story of a butterfly lover who voted for Trump and then realized the border wall would threaten his beloved butterflies. [Washington Post / Luciano Guerra]
  • Comedy writer Megan Amram made a short-form series called An Emmy for Megan so she could get an Emmy. Now the Emmy people are changing the Emmy rules so Emmy-seekers like Megan can’t get Emmys anymore. [Uproxx / Ryan Nagelhout]


“‘Where were you when we were getting high?’ is such a beautiful lyrical gripe, where the irresponsible act is not showing up on time for the drugs.” [Emily Nussbaum]

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