Inside the mysterious lot of land Donald Trump owns in Florida’s swamplands

The quarter-acre parcel generates no earnings, has no natural deposits and has ecological limitations. Why does the president still keep it?

Amid the gilded tower blocks, high-end hotels and high-end golf clubs of Donald Trumps huge worldwide home portfolio is a much smaller sized holding that looks more than a little out of location.

Its a quarter-acre great deal of thick forest in among Floridas poorest counties that the United States president has actually owned and paid real estate tax on given that 2005 having actually purchased it for $1 from a lady who owned a photographic studio specialising in adult underwear shoots.

The plot generates no earnings, has no roadways, pavement or instant possibility for advancement, and offers an environment that gets along just to the swarms of mosquitoes that prosper in the humidity of the scorching Florida summer season.

Photograph: Mapbox

Trumps interest in such a unattainable and small plot of land in Sebring, 120 miles from the garish environments of his seaside Mar-a-Lago palace in Palm Beach, is a secret to those knowledgeable about the location.

Your guess is as excellent as mine, stated Raymond MacIntyre, home appraiser for Highlands County, an area of main Florida popular with retired people and prime growing area for the orange groves of the states having a hard time citrus market.

Like so a lot of these plots of land in our county, you require a parachute, a helicopter or a jeep simply to obtain to it. The residential or commercial property tax costs gets sent out to Trump Tower in New York every year, and every year the taxes get paid.

Trumps little parcel , for which records reveal he paid$69.87 in taxes in 2016, is among numerous likewise sized and separately owned lots in a location west of Sebrings Lake Jackson called Orange Blossom Estates.

In the late 1960s, a business called Land Services Sebring got big systems of county land and offered neighborhoods with the objective of establishing them into homesteads. Floridas age of land speculation was at its peak, McIntyre states, and designers were clamouring for a piece of the action.

<img class="gu-image"itemprop ="contentUrl"alt ="There "are no natural deposits such as gas or oil anywhere close, the countys zoning department states.”src= “https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/ccc127c2b98a2df685c17414a3383e5342fbadbf/0_0_3060_1836/master/3060.jpg?w=300&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=1b3b3034a34d9446f3d0a1f28bc94c35″/> The situations of Trumps acquisition of the quarter-acre parcel are similarly as overwelming as his factors for preserving it for more than a years. Picture: Richard Luscombe for the Guardian

The business, nevertheless, ended up being bogged down in a variety of suits and ultimately folded, leaving landowners with successfully useless lots. Some were independently established however much more, consisting of most of those in the community where the Trump lot lies, stay unblemished. County records list countless single undeveloped plots that have actually been uninhabited for years.

New laws now need designers to supply facilities such as roadways, sewage and drain prior to they can divide and offer lots. The guidelines are too late for those whose land is available just by mud tracks, or in lots of cases not at all.

For a number of these land owners, theyll pay more in real estate tax in 15 years than the land is in fact worth, McIntyre states.

All of that makes Trumps interest in the land, valued at just$4,280 inning accordance with the county roll, even more curious. There are no natural deposits such as gas or oil anywhere close, the countys zoning department states. There is a close-by golf course, however it is municipally owned and not readily available for advancement. There are ecological constraints on the land, which includes a safeguarded, endemic Florida lawn called cut-throat, which would position even more barriers in the method of any brand-new advancement.

Its stunning, peaceful and serene around here simply the method it is, stated Clovena Minkah, Trumps next-door neighbour who has actually lived there for 20 years and whose home inhabits the only industrialized lot in the instant area. When the kids come through on their ATVs [#peeee

The deer often sit and come in the backyard and it just gets loud all-terrain lorries] in the evening. And the track to my home floods each time it rains. Ive been attempting to get the county to repair that for many years.

<img class="gu-image"itemprop="contentUrl"alt=
“Donald” exceeds tax costs for the uninhabited land.”src=”https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/1c23391f8552b69afc33287ce3db8ea2f05e4af6/0_9_612_765/master/612.jpg?w=300&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=95beab3140a5fb723773e388c42d5840″/>
Donald Trumps tax expense for the uninhabited land. Picture: handout

The situations of Trumps acquisition of the land, on the other hand, are similarly as overwelming as his factors for keeping it for more than a years. It was successfully talented to him for $1 in July 2005 by a lady called Nazeema Carrico, who was noted in Palm Beach County records as the owner of a photographic studio specialising in adult underwear shoots.

Carrico owned the land for just a few weeks, having actually purchased it in June 2005 for $3,300 from a guy in Ohio, who passed away previously this year.

Since her divorce in 2015, Carrico, 41, now passes the name of Nazeema Moonab and resides in a $550,000 estate in Covington, Georgia. Records reveal that members of her household continue to own numerous little, undeveloped plots of land in Highlands County, however Carrico surrendered her own joint ownership in about 50 more to her previous hubby as part of a divorce settlement.

Carrico did not return messages from the Guardian looking for remark and eliminated her Facebook and Instagram profiles the very same day the demands were made. A cousin of Carricos in Tamarac, South Florida, rejected understanding anything about her, and 2 other close family members reached by telephone somewhere else in the state hung up on the calls.

Trumps Sebring neighbours are puzzled regarding how the president, himself a respected home designer, gain from owning the land. Rosa Salmeron, 56, paid $12,000 for a nearby lot in 2005 that is now valued at a portion of that and states she is not anticipating to be talking with him over a garden fence whenever quickly.

I wouldnt have anything to state to him anyhow, stated Salmeron, who resides in South Florida and confesses she has actually never ever gone to the plot of land she owns.

I purchased it as a land financial investment, not for advancement, however it never ever exercised. Im shocked that Trump would likewise be an owner.

The Trump Organization, which handles Trumps portfolio of property holdings, did not react to ask for remark.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/25/donald-trump-florida-property-sebring

Being Donald Trump: the life of an impersonator

The long read: John Di Domenico has been playing Donald Trump longer than anyone else except Trump himself

John Di Domenico looks nothing like Donald Trump: hes 17 years younger, several inches shorter and a natural brunet, though lately he keeps his head shaved to make putting on the coppery wig easier, and his eyebrows bleached to match. Becoming Trump requires a full hour of hair and makeup. He tapes three large photographs of the president, one in profile and two straight-on, to any mirror hes using, and then uses Ben Nye CoCo Tan foundation to turn his skin the requisite shade of atomic tangerine, dabs on wrinkles, lengthens his nose, and so on. Trump has quite a big head, but theres not much anyone can do about that.

Even with the elaborate costume, Di Domenicos physical resemblance to the president requires a little imagination but of the many people who do Trump, his take is the most uncanny. Its the voice. He recreates the uncommon way that Trump, to use Di Domenicos phrase, speaks from his teeth; the wild fluctuations of nasality; the inconsistent New York accent; the sibilant Ss and exaggerated vowels. He has also mastered the neck jerk, the squint, the off-tilt swagger. When Conan OBrien and Chelsea Handler needed a Trump for their late-night talk shows, they called Di Domenico, and he has also become a regular on Fox Newss morning talk show.

Di Domenico enjoys the appearances on Fox and ABC, the cameos on Glenn Becks radio show, the invitations to do adverts and spoof films, but he makes his living at corporate events, trade shows and private parties. Hes the guy executives hire to keep middle management amused at national sales meetings, or to provide a little excitement at the launch party of a flu-reduction medicine. Hes the booth decoration that gets passersby interested in your carpet company. He is the entertainment. He can do Guy Fieri and Jay Leno and Austin Powers and Dr Evil, but for the last decade his trademark impression has been Trump. At the peak of the 2016 campaign, that one impression earned him as much as $40,000 a month.

Whenever Di Domenico appears in public in costume, people turn and gawk. They pull out their phones to take video, or they laugh spontaneously. Oh my god, they say. Or, breathlessly, Donald!

One afternoon in March, exiting a New York hotel, the sight of Di Domenico-as-Trump sent the front desk manager into a fit of giggles that verged on a panic attack. Oh my god, the guy kept saying, trying to catch his breath. No way. Faux Trump squinted, aimed a presidential finger in the mans direction, and agreed to a selfie.

In the photograph, Di Domenico has his chest and gut thrown out, as if hes leading from the widest point of his red sateen tie. The wig crests low over his brow. Hes flashing a presidential thumbs-up with one hand, his head is cocked to one side so his eyes squint unevenly, and his mouth has that protruded, half-open look of an aggravated orangutan. Its all correct.

Di Domenico handed the man his business card, with details of how to find him on social media. Tag me, he said, Youre terrific. And left.

Two college-aged guys hanging around stared after him, vaguely stricken. Its really good, said one. His friend nodded and looked around the lobby, presumably for Secret Service agents, or a hidden camera crew. What the fuck is going on?


As a professional impersonator,Di Domenico makes his living in an America where, as the historian Daniel J Boorstin wrote in 1962, fantasy is more real than reality. We have become, he wrote, the first people in history to have been able to make their illusions so vivid, so persuasive, so realistic that [we] can live in them. By the time Trump started to appear on the front pages of New York City tabloids in the late 1980s, politics, religion, news, athletics, education and commerce had been transformed into congenial adjuncts of showbusiness, as the cultural theorist Neil Postman famously wrote in 1984. Under this new dispensation, celebrities emerged as the unpredictable real-life stars of a never-ending show unfolding in real time. Thirty years later, Americans remain so compelled by the power of celebrity to make life feel entertaining and meaningful that we are thrilled by the mere facsimile of a famous person, so long as he conveys a hint of the same magic.

When Trump declared his candidacy, he turned himself into the most visible celebrity in the world, and Di Domenicos career exploded. By Di Domenicos estimation, peak demand for Trump impressions came during the election cycle, when Trumps political aspirations could still be seen as a joke that hadnt yet arrived at the punchline. Di Domenico worked every day for more than a year. He was soon joined by a cadre of other Donalds: the comedian Anthony Atamanuik, whose work Di Domenico admires (Trump is all id. Anthonys Trump is the id on steroids,); the prolific impressionist Frank Caliendo; Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon; and, of course, Alec Baldwin on Saturday Night Live. Di Domenico, though, has been doing this for 13 years longer than any other major Trump impersonator which not only lends him a bit of godfatherly cred, but also gives his impression singular nuance.

The relationship between the impersonator and the impersonated is a bizarre form of intimacy. Apart from its lopsidedness, the connection is almost spousal, marked by the closeness that comes from living with someone day after day for years and years, memorising their gestures, assimilating their speech patterns. Theres admiration and irritation, conjecture about the others intentions and inner life, struggles to keep a separate identity, and the sense of ownership that comes from believing you know a person better than anyone else. Its a parasitic homage.

Di Domenico keeps inside him, nested like matryoshka dolls, all the many selves Trump has fashioned in the last 30 years: Trump the businessman on CNN silkily telling Larry King in 1989 that his breath stinks; Trump the reality television star firing Cyndi Lauper on The Celebrity Apprentice in 2010; Trump the candidate declaring that he could stand on 5th Avenue in New York and shoot someone without losing a vote. Di Domenico talks about Trump with the same casual authority he displays when talking about himself. Hes gained a lot of weight lately, hell remark offhandedly. Or, Nah, he doesnt have OCD. Or he has selective OCD. Frequently, Trumps cadence will sneak its way into Di Domenicos speech: a nasal vowel, a tremendous.

Every morning, Di Domenico reads the news, scanning for any stories or new behaviours he needs to incorporate. He can list and demonstrate Trumps most common gestures, most of which only appeared when he entered political life. Theres the T-Rex, when he plasters his forearms to his sides and waves his stiff hands back and forth, as if conducting a tiny, mad choir. Theres the OK slightly effete, open-handed, with the thumb and forefinger pinched together and the wrist cocked and loose. And the Hi, where Di Domenico reaches out his right arm and tilts the hand up in greeting. Then theres the Heil Hitler here he straightens his wrist though hes stopped doing that. I think someone told him to stop doing that.

John
John Di Domenico becoming Donald Trump.

Trumps mannerisms have changed over time more dramatically than any other character Di Domenico has attempted. Its a much bigger repertoire now than it used to be, he says. Trump used to speak softly; his expressions were typically phlegmatic, and his gestures were minimal. For the most part he was in controlled situations a hotel opening, or a show where he was the boss. People were deferential and obsequious. No one was openly mocking him to his face, or accusing him of lying about his wealth and success.

Once the Republican primary debates began, Trumps expressions changed. He debuted the get-outta-here hand wave, the sceptical squint any way he could discredit, dissociate, discount somebody, Di Domenico told me. He demonstrated in quick succession the elastic facial exercises indicating exaggerated disgust: eye rolls, shrugs, clicking the tongue off the top of the mouth as if to get rid of a bad taste. These theatrical gestures subtly kept Trump in control of the exchange when it was Jeb Bushs time to speak during the debates, the cameras were still on Trump.

When people meet Di Domenico in his Trump costume, its not always clear that they know the difference between reality and fiction, or that they care. In the months leading up to the election, at corporate events all over the country, men in business casual would lean in and whisper in his ear, I think youre great. My wife hates you but I think youre great. I havent told her Im voting for you. Women would squeeze close to him and murmur, Will you grab my pussy?

Di Domenico knows things about the American electorate that pollsters and pundits cannot. During the campaign, peoples responses to his impression resembled the pure wonderment of children seeing Santa Claus at the mall: they knew it wasnt the real one, but still they felt moved to confess their hopes and griefs as if it were. He had expected this in red states such as Texas and Arkansas, but was startled to encounter the same in San Francisco and Chicago. People he expected to loathe Trump quietly adored him. At a meeting of people working in healthcare in New York City, he polled the crowd to see who was voting to make America great again, and the whole room cheered. (After this year, I will never be surprised by anything. About anybody, he told me.) He grew used to men in HILLARY FOR JAIL T-shirts asking him while posing for selfies, Are you gonna lock that cunt up?

Such questions require delicate answers from Di Domenico, who usually resorts to saying essentially nothing in a perfectly Trumpian way. Im gonna do what I can, Im gonna do what I can, he says in the familiar babbling rhythm. Or, She deserves it, dont you think she deserves it? He never echoes their language. It would be consummately not his manner, which is mild and aims to please and he usually has a contract that forbids obscenities. They can say whatever they want to me, but I wont he trailed off. He told me about one woman who grabbed his balls, though he wasnt sure whether this was retribution for Trumps pussy-grabbing or another sexual advance. I let people choke me, he said calmly. Whatever you wanna do. If its funny, youre not going to hurt me.

On election night, Di Domenico worked a party with 800 guests. He walked the grounds of a mansion filled with people wearing Crooked Hillary hats, Make America Great Again ice sculptures, Build a Wall T-shirts. I was just blown away, he said. Later, just as he was about to post a selfie from the party, he noticed a sign behind him in the photograph that made him stop: Trump for President: Make America White Again.

When the results came in, he wasnt surprised.


Di Domenico was raised in an outer suburb of Philadelphia named Ambler, a town whose biggest claim to fame at the time was that it housed the largest asbestos factory in America. He grew up playing on the Moon, which is what kids called the 25-acre lot of asbestos waste in town, and studying two types of people: actors and businessmen. Coming from where I come from my dad was a steel worker with a ninth-grade education I always just wanted to get the fuck out of Ambler and have money! Have a life! he told me. Not have to worry about I can buy this shirt or I can eat.

Power and money, and the people who had both, seemed perpetually elsewhere. As a young man, he felt wistful for the era of Carnegies and Rockefellers, when businessmen were public figures and statesmen, or the era of old Hollywood and its glamour. The first album he bought was by the comedian David Frye, who did impressions of influential men of the mid-century, most famously Richard Nixon. Di Domenico also had a severe speech impediment as a kid, one that vanished for the first time when he mimicked Frye doing Nixon. He started experimenting with other voices, and found that whenever he spoke as other people, he spoke cleanly. He decided to be an actor.

Di Domenico went to Philadelphia to study drama around the same time that Donald Trump started appearing in those New York tabloids with nameless models and showing up in New York Times headlines about his work to refurbish the derelict Wollman Rink in Central Park. (The Wollman Rink deal, at the time, was perceived to be an act of great personal generosity, and the triumph of the private sector over ineffectual government oversight.) Trump was no Carnegie, but he was a new kind of celebrity businessman: he had the success, the glitz and the cosmopolitanism that Di Domenico wanted for his own life. Trumps business was construction, which was reminiscent of working-class Ambler, but he was building towers of glass in Manhattan. Especially after the Wollman Rink deal, he presented himself as a genius at turning trash into gold. Trump understood, as the cultural critic Neal Gabler would later write, that in an entertainment-driven society, celebrity was among the most effective tools of salesmanship, and that consequently a businessmans job was not only the management of assets, but the management of image.

Di
Di Domenico on TV as Trump

Di Domenico was, if not envious, then watchful. He subscribed to Success magazine. His first wife gave him Trumps ghostwritten memoir The Art of the Deal for Christmas in 1987, the year it came out, inscribed with a note: I dont like this guy, I dont like what he stands for, but I thought you might want this book. Merry Christmas. Theres a story Di Domenico still tells from The Art of the Deal in which Trump, deep in a failing construction deal, holds a meeting with a potential investor in a room overlooking the projects building site. Work had stopped because there was no more money, but Trump hired extra construction workers to drive the trucks around in order to give the illusion of progress. Di Domenico told me that story recently, at a coffee shop in Manhattan, freshly changed out of his costume and bald once more. He grinned and shook his head. At first glance, I think you can admire him. And I think thats something he really wants, is to be admired, he said. Once you go below the surface of him, its not things that are admirable.

But what makes a Trump impersonation so fascinating is that Trumps surface, carefully crafted, is all we have of the man. A superficial rendition of his gestures is as faithful a portrayal as any. Conversely, the challenge of playing Trump is that Trump has always been impersonating Trump. As Gabler observed in Life: The Movie, a history of the rise of entertainment culture in America, Trumps ostentatious displays of wealth his gold-plated apartment, his casinos, his yacht were all what Trump once called props for the show, which he admitted was Trump, and which he crowed had enjoyed sold-out performances everywhere, meaning, presumably, the media.

The one fixed quality of Trump, Di Domenico believes, is his ability to manipulate the media. This relentless performance, this commitment to conjuring the image of success and power, confident in the knowledge that reality will follow the image this is the DNA, as Di Domenico calls it, of the character.

Di Domenico originally dreamed of a traditional acting career, but he couldnt quite get his break in film or theatre, and he worried about money. In 1997, the year Trump published The Art of the Comeback, about his recovery from bankruptcy, divorce and $3.4bn of debt, Di Domenico discovered that there was a good living to be made dressing up as Dr Phil or Ozzy Osbourne or Sean Connery and working corporate gigs. If he hesitated before quitting the off-Off-Broadway circuit, it wasnt for long he was married; they had a house to pay for. Now, when he chooses what roles hell play, he first considers the possible dividends: How much can I sell this character for in a corporate environment, and how much do I want to invest?


The presidential impression has had an uneasy role in American public life. No one even attempted it until 1928, when the famous comedian Will Rogers did a few lines as Calvin Coolidge at the end of a radio performance. Half the audience thought Coolidge had somehow materialised in the studio, and the other half, who caught the joke, found it shocking and disrespectful. Rogers immediately issued a public apology. Ten years later, Rogers tried again with Franklin D Roosevelt, who was so tickled by the impression that he encouraged it, inviting Rogers to appear alongside him and laughing uproariously at the sound of his own voice spoken back to him. The historian Peter Robinson suggests that Rogers and Roosevelt formed an alliance between humour and politics as a way of nourishing democracy at a moment when worldwide cataclysms and the mounting complexity of modern life threatened to smother it.

A century later, we still have the worldwide cataclysm and the mounting complexity, but weve passed through whatever veil was separating the spheres of celebrity and politics. The presidency itself has long had a theatrical element, but by the 1970s the New York Times journalist Russell Baker was arguing that the job of the president and the first family was to provide a manageably small cast for a national sitcom, or soap opera, or docudrama, making it easy for media people to persuade themselves they are covering the news while mostly just entertaining us. Reagan once told a journalist that he couldnt imagine how anyone did the job without being a trained actor.

We no longer need impersonators to turn the president into good television. Presidents deliver comedy routines at the annual White House correspondents dinner (or they used to, before Trump decided to snub it) and make guest appearances on Saturday Night Live. Barack Obama slow-jammed the news on The Tonight Show, allowed Stephen Colbert to submit him to a mock job interview, and appeared on Zach Galifianakiss internet comedy show to promote the new government healthcare plan. These days, presidential impersonators are a special class of critics or, as Di Domenico pointed out to me, court jesters.

If you study successful presidential impressions, three broad categories emerge. The first aims to gently bring the leader of the free world back down to human size. This is Steve Bridges doing George W Bush at the White House correspondents dinner in 2006, desperately trying and failing to pronounce nuclear proliferation, or Chevy Chase as Gerald Ford affably falling over furniture. Second, there is the impression thats sharper and more political a lament, a critique as when David Fryes paranoid, aggressive Nixon growled: I love America, and you always hurt the one you really love. More rarely, youll see presidential impressions that enact a kind of wish fulfilment. The most popular one of Obama was done by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, with Peele as Obama and Key as Obamas anger translator, who exploded with all the righteous anti-Republican rage Democrats often speculated must seethe below Obamas diplomatic public persona.

Di Domenicos take on Trump follows the first model: gentle mockery with an occasional edge. His goal is to avoid both reverence and outright disrespect. Insisting during the act that his hands are actually huge? Fine. Jokes about Trump committing sexual assault? Not fine. This allows him to do the same material with Glenn Beck, Fox News, Conan OBrien and Chelsea Handler, and leave everybody smiling. If you know my politics, Ive failed, he likes to say. He feels no need for an overly negative portrayal of Trump because, in his opinion, Trump is doing that himself. Its too easy. Its much harder to write comedy and keep it inclusive. If I can write for right-leaning people and left-leaning people, then Im doing my job. Like an old-school entertainer.

The decision is partly philosophical, partly practical. Other impressions, like Anthony Atamanuiks aggro Id Trump, are deliciously satisfying in short bursts, but Di Domenicos impression has to entertain (and not grate) sometimes for hours at a time. Thats why it comes back to the middle road. The Buddhist Trump, he joked. The Zen Trump.


This spring, Di Domenico travelled to New York, as he often does for work, to MC the 50th birthday party of an Orthodox Jewish hedge fund manager. The hedge fund managers wife had flown Di Domenico out from his home in Las Vegas, put him up in a hotel, and paid a generous fee (I cant remember exactly, but a minimum of $5,000) for a 20-minute set, general introductions, and some glad-handing among the dinner tables.

He spent the day of the party in a gloomy hotel room scattered with granola bars, coffee cups and empty bottles of Diet Snapple. Di Domenico writes all his own material, and his performance has to evolve daily to keep up with Trumps volatility and to meet the demands of the client. For this evening, he was going to have to write a bit about a piece of legislation called the Taylor Force Act, which would deny US federal funds to the Palestinian Authority, which from my perspective is a total boner-killer. He thought about it for a while, and then decided to just bring up the legislation without making it funny, and then slide sideways into a joke by making fun of a co-signer, the moderate Republican senator Lindsey Graham (Lindsey: what is that, a girls name?). He speculated that Trump would probably make this dig himself. He then spent some time figuring out how to poke fun at the birthday boys enthusiasm for sport. Which word sounds funnier: slalom or dressage?

After putting the finishing touches to the nights routine and phoning in a quick voiceover, he began his hour-long hair-and-makeup process, which he sometimes has to undertake three or four times a day. To pass the time, he turned on one of the Trump YouTube compilations he mimics to warm up. While the screen played a Game of Thrones parody that spliced Trumps head and voice into various scenes, in the mirror, Di Domenicos face, now half his and half not, spoke along with the dubs taken from one of Trumps rallies: We Cant! Be! The stupid country! Any more. He looked at me in the mirror, and smirked.

The party occupied the thickly carpeted second-floor banquet room of what a waiter described to me as a kosher Persian grill slash sushi restaurant in midtown Manhattan. A hundred people sat in rented chairs eating platters of rice and kebabs, dressed in suits and yarmulkes, wigs and colourful dresses with high necklines. There were pink tea roses and blue mood lighting, and at the front of the room was a teetering screen with a picture of the honoree at age 12 superimposed with the words HAPPY BIRHDAY [sic]. Spirits were high: the children had been allowed as many Shirley Temples as they could manage, and Di Domenico made his way around the dining room, comparing hand sizes with the men and telling all the pretty women that he was going to make them the fourth first lady the fourth lady!

Di Domenicos Trump is genuinely softer than the president himself his language is less brutal and his manner more genial. Fielding a question about how you show a woman you love her, hell suggest putting a hand on the womans shoulder, or eating a Tic Tac to freshen your breath. A fan handed him a phone and asked him to say hello to a co-worker who was, the man said, Lebanese. I love that youre Lebanese, Di Domenico crooned into the phone. I love Lebanese people and Ive known them all my life. Theyre great. And say hello to your girlfriend for me.

The more I listened to Di Domenico-as-Trump, the more likely I was to laugh than to wince a defanging effect that was unsettling. Laughing at the presidents expense also felt a lot like laughing with relief at the opportunity to not take him seriously to find him, if only for a moment, funny rather than frightening. I asked Di Domenico if he ever worried about the ethical implications of this work whether he might be seen as normalising Trumps behaviour. He answered immediately: No. Im not going change anyones mind in a 10-second interaction.

Later in the evening, as waiters cleared dirty plates, Di Domenico delivered the birthday speech, hitting the normal talking points (Horrible people, the press, horrible) and crowing that he was confident of re-election in 2020. The crowd cheered; the two bartenders in the corner booed quietly.

Part of Di Domenicos talent is mimicking the circuitous way Trump speaks: hell begin a story (I was visiting a coal mine in Tennessee ), and then digress once (fantastic people, coal people); go back to the beginning after a while (Anyway, I was in Tennessee ); digress again (No one loves the South more than me, by the way ); start over (So, in Tennessee ) and so on. His strategy is to create this effect without digressing nearly as far or frequently as Trump himself truly accurate mimicry would require a scale of incoherence that would lose the audience.

Di Domenico was well received, but the gig still didnt feel great. A few of his jokes had fallen flat, and he was grouchy about the conditions: no podium (which helps him appear presidential) and no backstage, nowhere for him to fall out of character and rest. He had to smile through two hours and 45 minutes of speeches. By 11 oclock, he was famished and tired, irritated that he hadnt negotiated to leave immediately after his 20-minute set. Eventually, some time between the second and third rabbi, a member of the staff brought out a plate of leftover rice and meat and set it on a banquet table in the far back corner that some exhausted partygoers had abandoned. Still dressed as Trump, Di Domenico sank into the chair and began eating. He suddenly looked like no more than a tired performer, a man in a ridiculous costume. His wig drooped. But when it came time to cut the cake, he popped back up, jolly and irascible, Trump once more, and bounded to the front of the room to lead a round of Happy Birthday.

The next morning, Di Domenico would be up early to do a photoshoot with one of my Melanias, and then run to a meeting with an agent who might help him better capitalise on the wave of Trump attention. Then, hed rush into costume and take a car to the Fox News studios in the evening to shoot two segments with their late-night talk show RedEye (which has since been cancelled), sleep for a few hours, and then get up at 4.30am to get into costume one more time for a segment with Fox & Friends and a quick Facebook Live Q&A at Huffington Post.

This is the pace Di Domenico has been working at since Trump got the nomination. Despite his success, he retains the anxiety of the performer who isnt sure when the laughter will die or the calls will stop coming. In the time I spent with him, he was constantly on the phone or writing an email angling for a new appearance, negotiating a new contract, pushing and pushing to establish himself as The #1 Trump Impersonator and to turn that distinction into bigger, better gigs. I love what I do and I feel like this is my last shot, he told me. Thats why I want to leverage this right now and ride the Trump train as long as I can.


Playing Trump has not been as rewarding for John Di Domenico as it has for Donald Trump, but it has given him a sliver of the recognition he always wanted as an actor. Di Domenico is in movies and on television all the time now as Trump, but still. In May, he even received an Emmy nomination for acting in a commercial. Hes finally the real deal. Or, sort of real.

When the cab driver taking Di Domenico to the birthday party in Manhattan asked him if hed met Alec Baldwin, Di Domenico, who was in full costume, replied as Trump rather than himself: Hes terrible, terrible. Hes very mean to me. Very mean. Im so nice to him! Ive given him many compliments. His career was in the toilet until he started doing me. But when the cabbie asked if hed ever been on Saturday Night Live, he broke character and replied as himself. The switch was immediate, and Di Domenicos voice, lighter and less nasal, sounded full of good humour and earnest longing. Oh, I wish. I wish. We were very close there for a minute.

While in character, Di Domenico is never asked if he has ever met the man hes portraying; the very question would break the mood. But they have met, only once while Di Domenico, suitably enough, was pretending to be someone else.

Di
Di Domenico at a mock presidential debate held by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce in October last year. Photograph: Russ DeSantis

Trumps birthday parties, particularly the ones held at his casinos in Atlantic City say, Trumps Castle or the Taj Mahal are aggressively themed and involve elaborate entertainment, with cameos from the ultra-famous. The Beach Boys played his 50th birthday. At his 60th, guests were showered with $200,000 in cash and prizes for a James Bond heist theme, during which Bond girl lookalikes danced among the tables and then swooned at The Donalds feet after he, dressed as 007, arrived just in time to save the day and give away a new BMW Z4.

At Trumps 55th, Di Domenico was hired to impersonate Austin Powers to pop out of the cake in the style of a 1950s stag party girl, and then banter with Trump before declaring an end to the multi-million dollar pageant with a hearty Yeah, baby. He burst out of the fake cake in a spray of cardboard icing (Bet you werent expecting me, baby!) and, flanked by a few dozen chorus girls, joined Trump on stage for a kick line and some light repartee. The two men stood together facing the cheering crowd: a man impersonating himself standing beside his future impersonator, in a casino masquerading as a castle.

This hall of mirrors is where Trump thrives. He may understand, better than anyone else, why an impersonator can acquire the power of the person hes impersonating: if you have the aura of fame, it doesnt matter any more if youre real. Even his early publicity stunts were designed to convince the world he was a statesman. In 1988, when Mikhail Gorbachev visited the US on a trip to improve Soviet-American relations, Trump offered him an invite to Trump Tower, where he could act as a representative of the American people. When Gorbachev accepted this preposterous invitation, Trump was triumphant only for the Soviet leaders staff to cancel days later.

Hearing of Trumps disappointment, a reporter for New Yorks Channel 5 called up a Gorbachev lookalike named Ronald Knapp, hired a black stretch limousine and four Russian models, and headed to Fifth Avenue. Upon arrival, a crowd quickly gathered around the faux-Gorbachev, who was greeting onlookers outside Trump Tower. Trump, thinking that Gorbachev had changed his plans, ran down from his office to the street with his bodyguards to meet the statesman. He elbowed his way through the crowd and arrived flushed and beaming.

Later, Trump claimed that he was never fooled. But there is news footage from the afternoon, and on it you can see a young Trumps eagerness as he moves through the crowd with an embarrassed, pleased smile on his face. It is a great honour, he says to the man pretending to be Gorbachev, and proudly shakes his hand. Gordon Elliott, the reporter who staged the whole thing, said later that Trump was starstruck. As he told the New York Times, There was absolutely no question that he bought it.

Main photograph by Stephen J Edgar

Follow the Long Read on Twitter at @gdnlongread, or sign up to the long read weekly email here.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/23/being-donald-trump-the-life-of-an-impersonator-john-di-domenico

Wanted in China: Beijing courts Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner for visit

Chinese interests of Donald Trumps child and son-in-law enter spotlight once again as Communist celebration looks for to fete prominent White House couple

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner have actually been welcomed to China as Beijing works to construct closer ties with the prominent couple inside an irregular White House.

Trump, child of the United States president, and her hubby both have main functions in the White House and the journey is anticipated to happen this year, Bloomberg News reported . The 2 had supper with the inbound United States ambassador to China on Sunday at the Trump Hotel in Washington as he prepared to leave for Beijing.

Chinas President Xi Jinping verbally welcomed Donald Trump and Kushner to check out throughout his check out to the Mar-a-lago resort in April that Kushner assisted strategy. Kushner has actually been entrusted with handling relations with China, amongst a host of other responsibilities consisting of making peace in between Israel and Palestine.

Chinese authorities have actually been rushing to develop closer ties with crucial members of the United States administration after Donald Trumps election triumph shocked lots of in the management. The couples see is not likely to happen prior to October, as senior authorities get ready for a two times a years management reshuffle at a crucial Communist celebration conference.

Ivanka Trump is broadly popular in China where state media frequently lavishes her and her Mandarin-learning child with appreciation.

Earlier this year a video of the 2 going to the Chinese embassy in Washington for lunar brand-new year went viral. Ivanka Trump regularly posts clips of her child singing in Chinese . The Global Times, a state-run tabloid, has actually explained her as balancing [Donald] Trumps severe posture.

But the couple have actually been criticised for their company ties to China , shining a spotlight on possible disputes as the 2 prepare to engage diplomatically with the nation.

Trumps brand name was just recently involved in debate after 3 labor activists were detained for examining working conditions at factories that make her items. Trump has actually remained quiet on the matter, although the United States state department has actually required the detectives release.

In an effort to distance itself from the debate, Trumps brand name formerly stated shoes had actually not been made at one of the factories because March, although internal files seen by the Guardian program orders were slated to be filled through completion of May when the activists were apprehended.

Kushner has actually likewise come under fire for his ties to China. In March a Chinese monetary corporation, Anbang, ditched a $400m financial investment in a structure owned by Kushners property company. The offer broke down after extreme public analysis and criticism from principles and legislators specialists.

Kushners business has actually likewise been knocked for motivating Chinese financial investment in its tasks by utilizing a questionable United States visa program.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/21/wanted-in-china-beijing-courts-ivanka-trump-and-jared-kushner-for-visit

Uber’s scandals, blunders and PR disasters: the full list

The business has actually had a relatively nonstop string of errors, from its questionable CEO to doubtful methods and unwanted sexual advances claims

Uber has actually been rocked by a stable stream of scandals and unfavorable promotion in the last few years, consisting of discoveries of doubtful spy programs, a high-stakes innovation suit, claims of unwanted sexual advances and discrimination and awkward leakages about executive conduct.

The PR catastrophes culminated in CEO Travis Kalanick taking an indefinite leave of lack today and pledges of strong reform that mostly disregarded the ride-hailing business strained relationship with chauffeurs.

Here is a timeline of a few of the most substantial debates.

Boob-er reaction, February 2014

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick dealt with reaction for a sexist joke about his increasing desirability, informing an Esquire press reporter: We call that Boob-er.

Targeting the rival, August 2014

Uber dealt with allegations that it scheduled countless phony flights from its rival Lyft in an effort to cut into its services and revenues. Uber employers likewise supposedly spammed Lyft motorists in an effort to hire them far from the competitor.

The God View scandal, November 2014

Uber executive Emil Michael recommended digging up dirt on reporters and spreading out individual details of a female press reporter who was vital of the business. He later on said sorry . It was likewise exposed that Uber has a so-called God View innovation that permits the business to track users places, raising personal privacy issues. One supervisor had accessed the profile of a press reporter without her consent.

Spying on Beyonc, December 2016

A previous forensic private investigator for Uber affirmed that staff members frequently spied on political leaders, stars and exes, consisting of Beyonc.

Self-owning pilot failure, December 2016

Regulators in California bought Uber to eliminate self-driving lorries from the roadway after the business released a pilot without licenses. On the very first day of the program, the lorries were captured running traffic signals, and biking supporters in San Francisco likewise raised issues about the automobiles developing threats in bike lanes. The business blamed red-light concerns on human mistake, however the New York Times later declared that the business declarations were incorrect which the self-governing innovation stopped working.

<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/video/2016/dec/15/uber-self-driving-car-drives-through-red-light-in-san-francisco-video"data-link-name =" in" body link"class=
“u-underline”> Uber self-driving cars and truck drives through traffic signal in San Francisco

False marketing, January 2017

Uber was required to pay$20m to settle accusations that the business deceived individuals into owning with incorrect pledges about incomes. The Federal Trade Commission declared that a lot of Uber chauffeurs made far less than the rates Uber released online in 18 significant cities in the United States.

#DeleteUber goes viral, January 2017

A #DeleteUber project went viral after the business raised rise rates throughout a taxi demonstration at a New York airport versus Donald Trumps take a trip restriction. An overall of approximately 500,000 users supposedly erased accounts after the scandal emerged.

Trump ties, February 2017

CEO Travis Kalanick resigned from Trumps advisory council after users threatened a boycott. Kalanick stated: Joining the group was not indicated to be a recommendation of the president or his program however regrettably it has actually been misinterpreted to be precisely that.

Sexual harassment scandal, February 2017

Former Uber engineer Susan Fowler went public with claims of unwanted sexual advances and discrimination , triggering the business to work with previous United States attorney general of the United States Eric Holder to examine her claims . The story triggered prevalent dispute about sexism and misbehavior throughout Silicon Valley start-ups.

Google suit, February 2017

Waymo, the self-driving vehicle business owned by Googles moms and dad corporation Alphabet, submitted a suit versus Uber , implicating the start-up of computed theft of its innovation. The match, which might be a deadly obstacle for Ubers self-governing automobile aspirations, declared that a previous Waymo worker, Anthony Levandowski, took trade tricks for Uber. Uber later on fired the engineer .

<path d ="M4 .6″12l -.4 1.4 c -.7.2 -1.9.6 -3.6 -.7 0-1.2 -.2 -1.2 -.9 0 -.2 0 -.3.1 -.5 l2-6.7 h.7l.4-1.5 4.2 -.6 h. 2l3 12h1.6 zm -.3 -9.2 c -.9 0-1.4 -.5 -1.4 -1.3 c2.9.5 3.7 0 4.6 0 5.4 0 6.5 6 1.3 c0 1 -.8 1.5-1.7 1.5 z”/> Anthony Levandowski, head of Ubers self-driving program, was fired after a suit brought by his previous employeer Waymo. Photo: Eric Risberg/AP

Deceiving police, March 2017

The New York Times reported that Uber for many years utilized a tool called Greyball to methodically trick police in cities where the business breached regional laws. The business utilized Greyball to recognize individuals thought to be working for city companies and performing sting operations, the Times reported. The discoveries caused the launch of a federal examination .

CEO captured chewing out a motorist, March 2017

Kalanick was captured on electronic camera arguing with his own Uber motorist, who grumbled about the trouble earning a living with the business decreasing rates. The embattled CEO chewed out the motorist: Some individuals do not prefer to take duty for their own shit. … They blame whatever in their life on someone else. Best of luck! He later on released an apology and stated he meant to obtain management aid.

Escorts in Seoul, March 2017

Tech news website the Information reported that a group of senior staff members, consisting of Kalanick, checked out an escort and karaoke bar in Seoul in 2014, resulting in an HR grievance from a female marketing supervisor. Customers at the bar normally choose females to sing karaoke with prior to taking them house.

Spying on the competitor, April 2017

News dripped of a secret program that Uber internally called Hell that permitted the business to spy on its competing Lyft to discover chauffeurs working for both business and to assist guide them far from the rival.

Underpaying chauffeurs, May 2017

Uber accepted pay chauffeurs in New York City 10s of countless dollars after confessing underpaid them for more than 2 years by taking a bigger cut of fares than it was entitled. The typical payment per motorist is anticipated to be about $900.

Twenty workers fired, June 2017

Uber exposed that it had fired more than 20 workers following an examination into the unwanted sexual advances claims and workplace culture.

Questioning a rape victim, June 2017

Reports exposed that a leading Uber executive had acquired the medical records of a female who was raped by an Uber chauffeur, supposedly to cast doubt upon the victims account. The executive, Eric Alexander, was fired after reporters discovered of the event, inning accordance with tech site Recode and the New York Times. The female later on took legal action against the business for breaching her personal privacy rights and maligning her.

A vigil in Delhi kept in assistance of a female who was raped by her Uber motorist in the Indian capital. Picture: Anindito Mukherjee/REUTERS

Kalanick departs of lack, June 2017

Kalanick revealed that he would take an indefinite leave of lack as the business launched a damning report on workplace culture that advised Uber evaluation and reallocate the CEOs obligations.

Board members sexist joke, June 2017

David Bonderman resigned from Ubers board after he made a sexist joke throughout an all-staff conference about reforming the business and fighting unwanted sexual advances. The investor had actually joked that there was most likely to be more talking with another lady on the board. He stepped and asked forgiveness down hours later on.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jun/18/uber-travis-kalanick-scandal-pr-disaster-timeline

Iran attacks: Trump reaction to Isis killings ‘repugnant’, says foreign minister

Mohammad Javad Zarif counters at the United States presidents discuss the suicide battle which has actually been declared by Islamic State

Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stated on Thursday that United States President Donald Trumps response to the fatal Islamic State group attacks in Tehran was repugnant.

Repugnant WH [White House] declaration … as Iranians counter horror backed by United States customers, Zarif tweeted.

He was reacting to Trumps comment that states that sponsor terrorism danger coming down with the evil they promote.

Thirteen individuals were eliminated and more than 40 injured in the attacks on Tehrans parliament complex and the shrine of advanced leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the very first declared by Isis in Iran.

Trump has actually long implicated Iran of backing terrorism and has actually threatened to wreck a 2015 nuclear offer in between Tehran and significant powers.

Even as Washington revealed its acknowledgements on Wednesday, the United States Senate advanced legislation that would enforce brand-new sanctions on Iran, partially for exactly what the expense referred to as the Iranian programs support for acts of worldwide terrorism.

Iranian security authorities counter that it is their local competing Saudi Arabia a close United States ally that is accountable for financing and spreading out the extremism that underpins Isis.

Irans Revolutionary Guards implicated Riyadh and Washington of being associated with Wednesdays attacks and swore vengeance.

Trumps remarks likewise brought criticism from Iranians on social networks, who remembered their federal governments deals of assistance and the candlelight vigils kept in Iran after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/08/trump-reaction-to-isis-attacks-in-iran-repugnant-says-foreign-minister

Newseum chief fears for future of journalism under Trump

Jeffrey Herbst states presidents denigration of media assists deteriorate public trust and sets unsafe example to authoritarian programs worldwide

J ournalists in the United States deal with a crisis of authenticity as consistent abuse by Donald Trump weakens the general publics rely on an agreed set of truths, the head of a leading media museum has actually alerted.

Jeffrey Herbst, president of the Newseum in Washington, forecasted that the presidents denigration of the media would motivate authoritarian routines to target press reporters, papers and broadcasters around the globe.

On Monday, the Newseum will rededicate its Journalists Memorial, including the names of 14 reporters who passed away in Afghanistan, Brazil, India, Iraq, Libya, Mexico, Somalia, Syria and Ukraine to represent all those eliminated in pursuit of the news in 2016. Now, nevertheless, issues over hostility to journalism are lapping at Americas coasts.

My most significant worry in the United States is delegitimisation of reporters, Herbst stated. This has actually been happening over an extended period of time: rely on the media has actually worn down in the United States for 20 years, partly due to the fact that of problems about the media, however honestly, rely on every organization in the United States has actually worn down over the last 20 years other than for the armed force.

But clearly in the [2016] project and ever since, due to the attacks by the president, while some individuals have actually rallied around reporters, I believe its likewise triggered this crisis of legitimisation to increase.

So thats my huge concern, that we as a society are not going to have the ability to settle on even the realities since we do not rely on anybody whos reporting them. If you settle on the exact same realities however disagree on where they lead you, thats called routine political dispute, however if you disagree on the truths themselves, thats much even worse. I believe part of the political issues we see in the United States is were not running off of a typical reality base and if reporters who produce those realities are delegitimated, its bad.

Since 2008, the Newseum has actually been positioned on Pennsylvania Avenue, a street address shown the White House and Trump International hotel. Its displays consist of areas of the Berlin Wall, a mangled antenna from the top of the World Trade Center, a TELEVISION news helicopter, the taped door that resulted in the Watergate examination and a desk phone that came from Rupert Murdoch.

It will likewise quickly get, on loan, a set of glasses coming from the Guardian press reporter Ben Jacobs that were broken when he was assaulted by Greg Gianforte, a Republican prospect who went on to win an unique House election in Montana. Critics fasted to draw a link in between that event and Trumps intense denunciations of the media as opponents of individuals.

Asked if he feared physical attacks on press reporters, Herbst responded: I do not know. I believe the delegitimisation might lead that method. The variety of real attacks is still extremely little however obviously Im fretted whenever theres physical violence.

In April, the Newseum Institute released a very first change progress report, where 15 panelists from throughout the political spectrum evaluated the state of the basic liberties: faith, speech, press, petition and assembly. Press liberty got the most affordable grade, a C, with panelists indicating Trumps project hazard to open libel laws, the phony news phenomenon and the presidents basic enmity for journalism.

Herbst, who is likewise a board member of the guard dog Freedom House, cautioned of worldwide ramifications.

Im likewise stressed that individuals take their hints all over the world, to some degree, from the United States. Press liberty has actually been decreasing all over the world for Ten Years, inning accordance with Freedom House. To the level that the United States, which is on a regular basis well known for its complimentary press, is having these issues, I believe it provides support to authoritarians throughout the world to frighten, to delegitimise their reporters.

Each day, at 5am, the front pages of papers from the United States and other nations are placed on display screen outside the Newseum and on its 6th flooring. It may appear like a charming gesture in an age of diminishing print blood circulations and digital migration. In a museum context, raised to the status of artifacts, the front pages command attention in a method a screen can not.

On Friday, reacting to Trumps choice to withdraw from the Paris environment arrangement, a New York tabloid portrayed the statue of liberty swallowed up by increasing seas. On Monday, the front pages will be blacked out as part of the 3rd yearly #WithoutNews project to raise awareness of the dangers to reporters around the globe.

Although the New York Times and Washington Post have actually gone toe to toe in the Trump period, frequently setting the program in an old-fashioned paper war, Barack Obama is amongst those who argue that the media landscape has actually been fragmented by cable television news and social networks, making it more difficult to decided upon a typical set of realities than in the age when many people saw the night news on ABC, CBS or NBC. All of a sudden, reality itself seems up for grabs.

<img class="gu-image"itemprop="contentUrl"alt="A"wall etched with the names of reporters who passed away covering the news, at the
newseum in washington dc.” src =”https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/5396a157df733dd7b508dcf689bad580a0d20e04/0_216_3840_2304/master/3840.jpg?w=300&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=b3821e292aa55cbc7a9ab43951187c79″/&gt; A wall inscribed with the names of reporters who passed away covering the news, at the Newseum, in Washington DC. Photo: Melissa Golden/Getty Images

Herbst stated: The gatekeepers have actually been taken down and they were viewed as the 3 network anchors and 2 or 3 papers. They were provided a high degree of authenticity throughout the society and they developed a typical news program for everybody.

We simply commemorated the centennial of Walter Cronkites birth. Therell never ever be another reporter that had his agenda-forming capability. He stated: Thats the method it was, and for a great deal of Americans, it was.

The gatekeepers being taken apart, in my view, is really favorable general due to the fact that they were a fairly couple of individuals, extremely white, extremely male, extremely New York. It wasnt varied. Exactly what we have now is the info community is totally available to anybody, so that a 17-year-old can have 10 million fans on YouTube, using up little cash, if any, to obtain that.

Thats generated, in my view, great deals of originalities, great deals of brand-new info, great deals of viewpoints that we never ever had in the past.

Herbst has cautions. I believe it is net really favorable however there have actually been, at the exact same time, a great deal of individuals that have their own programs, who are spreading out incorrect info intentionally to attempt and make it viral, he stated. To some degree business rewards of the present web benefit individuals with cash if they get a great deal of clicks, so theres a predisposition to sensationalism.

And this has all occurred so rapidly, actually in the last 5 years, with the web and Facebook, that I do not believe the American customer or individuals around the world have actually changed. Generally individuals are going to need to go from being on get if Walter Cronkie stated this, and the New York Times stated it the next early morning, then it was most likely real to being far more sceptical and far more deliberate customers.

Whats their program, is it most likely to be real? You can be much better notified today than before, however it takes a little work.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/jun/05/journalism-future-of-news-trump-newseum-trump-administration

Is there a neo-Nazi storm brewing in Trump country?

Can national socialism, repackaged as white identity politics, earn votes in rural counties that voted for Trump?

When the men in black walked into her restaurant one Friday morning and sat at the round table in the corner, Brittany Porter knew exactly what they were.

Pale, skittish, aggressively tattooed, they wore black T-shirts with a cryptic white logo over their hearts. One had a razor inked along his left jaw and two SS lightning bolts dripping next to his eye like a double set of tears. One wore a handgun on his hip.

Porter went to the table, smiled and asked what they wanted. It was just after 8am. Two of the neo-Nazis ordered chicken nuggets.

On Facebook the night before, Porter read about the group of racists who were coming to eastern Kentucky to hold a rally. They had chosen an economically struggling stretch of coal country with a population that was 98% white and that had voted 80% for Trump. In their propaganda videos, the neo-Nazi leaders had talked about the scourge of drug addiction in Pike County.

At 30, Porter knew Pike Countys problems. She herself was a recovered addict, as was her friend Chrissy Wooton, another waitress at the restaurant. Neither of them trusted either political party. Wooton, whose husband is a coal miner, had voted for Trump. Porter had not.

Together, they discussed whether they should start the day by accidentally pouring coffee into the neo-Nazis laps.

The neo-Nazis were on their way to Whitesburg, Kentucky, where they had secured a private piece of land in the woods to hold a weekend summit with a coalition of other white nationalist groups. At the table, there were several members of the Traditionalist Workers party, including Jason, a sallow musician in a black-metal punk band who left New York City to move to a mostly white community in Indiana; Scott, who had recently been kicked out of an Irish pub in Kentucky for celebrating Hitlers birthday; and Gabe, diffident and a little shy, with long eyelashes and the white power tattoos on his cheek.

Porter and Wooton watched from distance, swooping in now and then to refill the coffee cups. But they were too curious to stay quiet. Porter said people on Facebook were talking a bunch of crap. They were saying that the group was the Ku Klux Klan.

Wooton asked again more bluntly: Are you guys KKK?

The event the men were attending did, in fact, have KKK members on the list of potential guests. But the men at the table laughed and grinned. They were a political party, Matthew Heimbach, the groups 26-year-old leader, explained gently. Our motto is faith, family and folk, he said. Heimbach was the most famous man at the table: the one who was being sued for shoving and shouting at a young black protester at a Donald Trump campaign rally last March, and who had recently filed legal papers saying that Trump, who had reacted to the protesters by shouting Get em out of here!, should be held responsible for his behavior.

Heimbach was wearing the same black T-shirt, with his partys logo, as the other men, but he had a big cross around his neck and the cheerful bearing of a youth pastor: burly, bearded, bouncy with enthusiasm. One Kentucky local who watched a propaganda video Heimbach made had been perplexed that he looked like a teddy bear.

Their political party had been misrepresented, Heimbach explained to the waitresses. Theyre not the KKK. Theyre focused on family and faith and local control, on fighting the international corporations who came into Appalachia and took all the profits from Kentuckys coal. Heimbach did not try to sell the waitresses on his plan for a white ethno-state, his conviction that the Holocaust did not happen, his belief in thousands of years of Jewish conspiracy. He just talked about family struggles and immigrants taking jobs and hurting workers and how white Americans needed more representation.

Wooton, who had voted for Trump, was responding enthusiastically. She was furious at the lack of government response to the opioid addiction crisis and skeptical of establishment politicians. Her husband, a coal miner, had lost his job under Obama and been hired again three days after Trumps inauguration. Wooton came back to the table repeatedly to press Heimbach for more answers, explaining her manager was still calling him a racist. She asked if Heimbach was willing to work with people of other races. He said of course he was. He talked about the importance of black communities making decisions for themselves, about how black policemen might be better at policing black neighborhoods. Wooton agreed and agreed again.

Talking to Wooton, Heimbach acted like a local politician: polite, a little longwinded, but genuinely passionate. He was not Richard Spencer, the clean-cut, rich-boy racist who got punched in the face at Trumps inauguration. He was not a ranting internet troll. He was a small-town kid who put himself through college selling custom wardrobe tidying systems, and now he was using those skills trying to sell fascism to the American people.

Heimbachs Pike County trip was part of his broader preparation for 2018, when the party was planning to field six candidates in local elections for school board, county council and other positions in Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Dakota and Texas. All the candidates will be under 30, all open white nationalists, though they plan to focus their campaigns on more local issues.

Wooton kept coming back with more questions, but it was clear that she liked much of what she she was hearing. When she left the table, Heimbach grinned triumphantly at his group; it seemed he was attracting some local support.

Stepping from the shadows

White supremacists and neo-Nazis complain endlessly about media lies, and yet no one is more eager to pick up the phone than Heimbach and other extremist leaders. Getting attention even negative attention helps them recruit and inch toward the mainstream.

Analysts from the Data & Society Research Institute concluded the far right has risen to new prominence this past year in part by attention hacking, manipulating the conventions of mainstream news. Members of the alt-right, a mixed group of racists, nationalists, antisemites and misogynists, understand that many news stories are built on a framework of conflict and outrage, fueled by the power of a shocking image or the lure of a supposedly telling contrast. The medias dependence on social media, analytics and metrics, sensationalism, novelty over newsworthiness, and clickbait makes them vulnerable, its report said.

People who have had personal run-ins with Heimbach who have experienced him in action say the media should not simply ignore his activities. Instead of glamorizing them or portraying them as cartoonish monsters, scrutiny should attempt to reveal their impact.

However, one anti-fascist observed, it doesnt matter if the news coverage attempts to be negative neo-Nazis will still try to recruit people in the comments section underneath.

Measured in numbers, white nationalists and neo-Nazis remain the fringe of the fringe. Last years BronyCon, the annual conference of grown men who take an ironic fascination in the cartoon My Little Pony, attracted 7,600 people. Anthrocon, a convention of furries who like to do fun things while wearing fuzzy, full-body animal costumes, attracted more than 7,000. The Kentucky neo-Nazi summit in April attracted about 150 people, about 75 of them members of the Traditionalist Worker party. Heimbach claims that his party has 600 dues-paying members nationwide. They do not call themselves Nazis. Heimbach said the term Nazi is a slur, and that he draws inspiration from many fascist and national socialist regimes, not just Germanys.

Heimbach said being labeled a Nazi would undermine his attempt to educate the American people about what national socialism truly is, claiming it invokes every lie and every over-the-top media creation of the last 72 years [since 1945].

Ryan Lenz, an analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks American hate groups, sees no justification for his argument. It is fair to label Heimbach a Nazi because he is an avowed national socialist, Holocaust denier and antisemite.

In this context, Nazi is not a slur. Its not an attack. Its an accurate description, he said.

Neo-Nazi activism in America has been undermined for decades by what both extremist leaders and hate group monitors describe as incredibly childish infighting. Neo-Nazis have squabbled over their religious differences (some are Christian; others are pagans, some worshipping the Norse god Odin; one or two, a Neo-Nazi leader claimed, are even Buddhist), over their uniform and symbol choices, over which neo-Nazi stole which other neo-Nazis girlfriend.

Most of these people are malignant contrarians who have a lot of loyalty and trust issues, said Lenz.

But Trumps rise to power has encouraged the extremists to try to bridge their divides. Neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan leaders were jubilant over an openly xenophobic, politically incorrect presidential candidate who promised to stop illegal immigration and enact a Muslim ban and they have pursued news coverage, attracting headlines and staging dramatic photos. In May, a number of different groups met in front of a threatened Confederate monument and set garden torches on fire. In the photos, shared around the world, a mass of shadowy figures and flames made for a startling image.

Campus provocateur

Matthew
Matthew Heimbach. His Pike County trip was part of broader preparation for 2018, when his party was planning to field six candidates in local elections in Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Dakota and Texas. Photograph: Pat Jarrett for the Guardian

Heimbach has been perfecting the provocative art since he first made national headlines in 2012 by founding a White Student Union at his university, the perfectly logical complement to the campus Black Student Union, he said. Towson University, where he graduated in 2013, was majority white. It was one of the safest public universities in Maryland, but Heimbach would lead journalists around campus at night as he and his friends patrolled with flashlights in search of black crime.

When students and faculty protested this behavior, Heimbach claimed the rallies against him were proof of anti-white bias. The outrage brought in television cameras and left his classmates of color deeply anxious.

People were afraid of Matthew, said Ignacio Evans, a former classmate and the vice-president of the Black Student Union at the time.

At a campus town hall meeting, Evans recalled, Heimbach had said: I am going to bleed this university white.

It sent shockwaves through the campus, Evans said. As a result of Heimbachs activism, he thought attendance at campus events dropped. People didnt want to leave their rooms.

Everyone knew Heimbach had a gun. It wouldnt be uncommon to see him in a video shooting things, he said.

Evans countered Heimbachs views publicly and, as a result, he was featured on white supremacist websites, one of which dubbed him a black supremacist.

Evans said he had received a death threat at his college graduation, and walked across the stage fearing that he would be shot in front of his mother and his girlfriend.

Jonathan Munshaw, who covered Heimbachs early tactics for the Towson student newspaper, said he only ever verified one Towson student who was part of the White Student Union: Heimbach himself. But students on campus truly believed that the group was much bigger, Munshaw said and they were terrified.

To the national media, the campus conflict was irresistible. Matt was so accessible, Munshaw said. The national media outlets could come in and it was fairly easy for them to get a story because he was always very willing and ready.

It was the perfect recipe for a television segment: the white supremacist, the black students arguing against him. It was an easy story, Munshaw said.

Trump: the gateway drug to white nationalism

The Aryan Terror Brigade. The National Socialist Movement. The neo-Confederate League of the South. After he graduated from college, Heimbach met and formed alliances with so many different extremists groups that Lenz, the SPLC analyst, said he once thought Heimbach might be an informant of the federal government.

Heimbach serves as a lynchpin between the scattered groups of the radical right the one who can build connections with the working-class skinhead movement and the upper-class academic racists, said Lenz, who has been interviewing Heimbach periodically since he graduated from college.

His argument, Lenz said, is: were all compatriots in nationalism, and therefore we should stand together, whether we believe in the Holocaust or not.

Heimbach had only been a white nationalist in college. But supporters of his White Student Union responded by sending him books in the mail that helped shift his views about the Holocaust. At the end of the day, he said, you end up at national socialism.

Lenz said he does not know how Heimbach, who says he is forced to work low-paying jobs, can afford to travel constantly across the country and fly to Europe every year to meet with far-right groups. He said Heimbach had denied having a wealthy patron who funded the trips. Heimbach said he paid for the trips himself, with some contribution from his party, and that he kept costs low by staying with other far-right activists.

Ive been waiting for my rubles to show up. It hasnt happened yet, he said, chuckling, referencing more than a few media outlets that have claimed Im secretly working for the FSB.

By the month before Trumps election, Heimbach had shifted gears and developed a new message discipline capable of spinning answers to questions like someone who had spent years in a spin room, Lenz said.

Trump was Heimbachs dream come true. In early 2016, Heimbach had described the presidential candidate as the gateway drug to outright white nationalism.

Hes not one of us and everyone needs to know that, Heimbach told the site Vocativ last year, describing the president. But hes opening political space. Hes definitely opening up political space for people like ourselves.

On 1 March 2016, Heimbach and some of his party members attended a Trump campaign rally in Louisville, Kentucky. Heimbach was wearing a red Make America Great Again hat. Almost immediately, he and his group caught the attention of a Trump protester in the crowd.

For a second, I thought they were counter-protesters [against Trump]. They looked like punk rock kids, the protester said. Then she realized: No, those are skinheads.

The protester asked not to be named to avoid attacks from far-right trolls. She described watching Heimbach move through the crowd before the speech, handing out literature, trying to recruit Trump supporters for his Traditionalist Worker movement. He was circumspect, as usual, talking about workers losing jobs.

I dont think I ever even heard him say the word white, she said. Instead, it was: People are coming in, close the border, and theyre taking our jobs and our communities it was very dog whistle-y.

Nobody gave him any flak about it, the protester said. He wasnt getting any pushback.

In retrospect, she thought, Heimbach helped in revving up the crowd, priming it for what came later.

When the protesters group finally raised their banners toward the end of Trumps speech, Heimbachs group immediately rushed them, not just to tear down their anti-Trump banner but also to punch them, several protesters alleged in a lawsuit. The onslaught was so intense and violent that the protester, who was in the back, said she was overwhelmed.

The protester said Heimbach and his group had insinuated their way into the middle of the crowd, and when a moment of tension arrived they suddenly turned violent, and other men around them mirrored their behavior, shouting, pushing, furious.

Trump, from the stage, had called: Get em out!

A video from the rally shows Heimbach, in his hat, repeatedly laying hands on a young black protester, Kashiya Nwanguma, and shouting in her face. Next, an older man in a Korean war veterans uniform shoves her, follows her for a few steps and shoves her again.

Three protesters are now suing Heimbach and a Korean war veteran over this violence and suing Trump for inciting the violence.

A federal judge recently ruled that the case could move forward, writing: It is plausible that Trumps direction to Get em out of here advocated the use of force.

In a letter to the head of a Korean war veterans chapter, the veteran, Alvin Bamberger, apologized and said he was ashamed of his behavior, according to a copy of the letter obtained by a local news outlet. He blamed his behavior on being caught between black protesters and white supremacists, though he acknowledged that was no excuse.

In a blogpost afterward, cited in court filings, Heimbach wrote: Theres some viral footage of several heated moments in Louisville. One features yours truly helping the crowd drive out one of the women who had been pushing, shoving, barking, and screaming at the attendees for the better part of an hour. ( In court filings, Nwanguma denied she had done this.)

It wont be me next time, but White Americans are getting fed up and theyre learning that they must either push back or be pushed down, Heimbach wrote.

In court filings, he had denied that he behave improperly, but also argued that Trump should be held responsible for his behavior.

Heimbach was charged with harassment, a misdemeanor, and was recently served a summons to appear in court.

#EnglandYoureDrunk

For decades, American neo-Nazis have been trying to break into the mainstream by running for local political office, as Heimbach is now hoping his supporters can do. George Lincoln Rockwell, the head of the American Nazi party, told a journalist in 1966 that he expected he would be elected president by 1972 on a national socialist ticket, pushed to victory by a dramatic economic collapse. Instead, he was murdered by one of his own supporters outside a laundromat in 1967.

Far-right parties in Europe have had more political success. Amid the Greek debt crisis in 2015, Golden Dawn, a violent neo-Nazi party known for beating attacks on immigrants and people suspected of being gay or on the left, captured the third largest number of seats in the Greek parliament.

American neo-Nazis look at Golden Dawns rise and take hope. Heimbach has met with far-right nationalists across Europe, he said, including three visits with Golden Dawn over the past three years.

There will come a point where the people begin to awaken. [Golden Dawn] had to go through many years as a dedicated small group of men and women to carry the flame, Heimbach said.

He has also met with nationalist activists in the Czech Republic and spoke last year at the annual conference of Germanys National Democratic party. He calls himself a friend of the British neo-Nazi group National Action, which was banned in December after the home secretary dubbed it a terrorist organization.

Heimbach has also been banned from entering the UK on the grounds that your presence here would not be conducive to the public good. In response, he tweeted it was outrageous that he was denied while radical Muslims were let in. #EnglandYoureDrunk, he wrote.

Heimbach can put on a show of moderation. He doesnt think everyone should have to live in a white ethno-state. Thats just his preference. He doesnt hate other races. He just thinks that black Americans have, on average, a lower future time orientation.

In interviews and speeches to other neo-Nazis, Heimbach is less circumspect, quoting Goebbels and speaking fondly of Mussolini.

He is a Holocaust denier, believing that the systematic murder of 6 million European Jews by the Nazi regime did not happen, that its all a Bolshevik conspiracy. He has expressed sympathy for the racist killer Dylann Roof and praised white supremacist Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik.

Real Christianity, he said, is patriarchal, homophobic, racist and antisemitic. He laughed. I see that as a good thing.

Heimbach lives in Paoli, Indiana, with his wife and son; his fellow party leader, Matt Parrott; and Jason, the young white nationalist who moved from New York City to join him and who now edits his video projects and produces white nationalist music. Three other white families who support their views have moved to Paoli to join them, Heimbach said two from northern Indiana, one from Virginia. They try to get together weekly for board game nights and home-brewed mead. They play Risk of course, the battle of world domination and Cards Against Humanity.

We played Monopoly, but then we decided that was too capitalist, Heimbach said.

Almost none of the consequences he has faced for his activism seem to faze him. Heimbach says he was excommunicated by his Eastern Orthodox church for his racist beliefs. His family cut him off after he became famous for founding the White Student Union. By his count he has been fired from seven jobs, including a position as a trainee case worker at the Indiana department of child services. He claimed this was a punishment for his political convictions.

A spokeswoman for the department wrote in an e-mail Heimbach was dismissed for his behavior at work after less than three weeks as a trainee. His behavior in training was disruptive of the workplace, incompatible with public service, and not protected speech, she wrote. For example, what Ive been told is that, while in training, his response to a question suggested violence against a client.

Since college, Heimbach has been able to draw other racists around him, forming a likeminded group that acknowledges him as a leader. Throughout hours of interviews he has a politicians confidence, but when he talked about his family, he sounded sad.

My parents didnt exactly know what I was thinking or up to. I think in modern America, [there are] a tremendous amount of parents who would be horrified and scandalized with what their young sons and daughters are reading on white nationalist forums or reading on the Daily Stormer, he said.

After the coverage of his White Student Union, his family who did not respond to requests for an interview for this article confronted him in a phone conversation.

My folks said that they didnt raise me like this, that they didnt approve of this and that I had to make a choice, if I was going to do this or choose my family. And I said to them, this is choosing my family, because I want my siblings and their grandchildren to have a future. They didnt understand.

The rise of Nazi thought in America could change that, he said. Hopefully, as politics changes, as our ideas continue to grow, hopefully well be the new mainstream before too long.

Im not bitter and resentful, he said later. It hurts like, its not easy but its the safest thing for them to do.

On maneuvers

The night before their rally in downtown Pikeville, the neo-Nazis gathered on a scruffy patch of private land to eat picnic food and listen to each other give speeches about the future of the white race.

That evening, a convoy of about 20 cars had wound from the parking lot of a Walmart through narrow Kentucky back roads, past small houses flying the Confederate flag. White residents stood at their front doors or on their porches, watching silently as the cars passed.

Members
Members of the KKK, the Traditionalist Worker party and the National Socialist Movement gathered for a weekend of speeches, demonstration and fellowship at a private campground in Whitesburg, Kentucky. Photograph: Pat Jarrett for the Guardian

The road turned from pavement to dusty gravel to dirt. In the field at the top of a hill, there was a white rental tent, rows of cars, a portable toilet. Young men in paramilitary-style black outfits strode around the tent, armed with rifles and walkie-talkies.

The dress code for the white supremacist unity summit in April was strict: men were supposed to wear a black work shirt, black pants, and black boots; with an organizational patch on the left arm. Women are requested to dress modestly and in black as well.

Heimbach had allowed a small group of journalists to attend the Whitesburg neo-Nazi summit, including the Guardian and a French television crew, to attend part of the weekends private speeches. He claimed that he had turned down other larger American outlets, disliking their coverage.

In the tent, decorated with a White Lives Matter banner, the neo-Nazis slammed Trump for claiming he was both a nationalist and a globalist, and for keeping so many Jewish people as advisers. But they said they still hoped that the movement he had started would give them a political opportunity.

Reform is impossible, Heimbach declared in his speech. Heimbach assailed the removal of Confederate monuments, comparing politicians who permitted monuments to white supremacy being taken down to Isis destroying temples in Syria.

How long is it before the statues to Union soldiers are torn down, because, well, they werent multicultural enough they werent as accepting of transgender rights for children … they werent progressive enough?

How long before not just the south but every symbol of our people is wiped clean from this Earth like we never existed?

Heimbachs speech was well received. But as the night went on, the divide between the traditional neo-Nazi groups and the new, internet-savvy alt-right began to show. The speeches grew so dull, despite the periodic Nazi salutes and chants of white power, that most of the younger extremists melted away into the dark, leaving a smaller and smaller audience to listen to old Nazis drone on.

On Saturday morning, they conducted a series of military marching exercises at their retreat. The man leading the exercises advised the group that perception is reality. Coming across as disciplined and tough and organized were crucial to their mission. But the drilling went poorly. One young man, obeying the order to turn, stepped boldly the wrong way.

That afternoon, the neo-Nazis managed to be an hour late to their own protest in downtown Pikeville. More than 100 anti-fascists in bandanas had arrived by 2pm, when the rally was supposed to start. There was no sign of Heimbach and his crew.

When the larger group of more than 100 people marched in, they were in good spirits, waving flags and carrying hand-painted wooden shields with fascist symbols and, in one case, a real axe, bundled with sticks, a home-made symbol of fascism. Heimbach bounced through the scrum in his sensible shoes, helping to organize his followers into neat lines. Despite the howls of the plastic trumpets and the chants of the anti-fascists and the long lines of state police on the other side of the barricades, he moved with no sense of drama, as if he were a high school coach organizing his kids at an away game.

Gabe, the one with the razor tattooed on his jaw, was in the front row, holding a shield and clearly excited. Fuck you! he bellowed at the protesters.

Scott, wearing a rifle and aviators, was standing nearby. Gabe! he hissed in a warning tone. Gabe subsided.

Take a bath! Take a bath! the fascists chanted at the anti-fascists.

The
The attendees were trained on marching in formation by the handful of military veterans in the group. Photograph: Pat Jarrett for the Guardian

Heimbachs public speech was heavy on the socialism and light on conspiracy theories, denouncing corporate interests and environmental degradation, endorsing worker unions and nationalization of key industries.

The Republicans and the Democrats support Wall Street, they support more wars, they support your blood being spilled for their sake, he said, over the sounds of shouts and jeers and horns.

We are here to tell you: you dont have to choose the lesser of two evils. You can choose people that are actually on your side. Because we are you. We are the people you go to church with, you see in the grocery story, you work with.

At one point, the men gave the Nazi salute and chanted for at least a minute: Heil Heimbach! Heil Heimbach! Heil Heimbach!

Heimbach, who was standing near the front of the crowd, faced them and grinned. Im going to remember that the rest of my life, he said, with just the right amount of irony.

The men laughed, a low rumble of approval lost beneath the screams of the crowd.

He thinks were stupid

Pikeville was true Trump country, a rural area with permissive gun laws and strong conservative values.

In the political analysis of Trump voters, neo-Nazi advocates like Heimbach and some on the left tend to agree: Trump voters are a white identity movement, motivated to vote for him at least in part by outright racism, a claim Trump supporters vehemently reject.

The locals in Pikeville greeted the influx with outrage and shock. Outside a Pikeville tattoo parlor the day before the neo-Nazis were coming to town, a group of local men expressed disgust at the agenda and concern that the event would discourage students of different races from coming to the local university.

After their shift was over that Friday before the rally, Porter and Wooton were not finished talking about Heimbachs breakfast visit to their diner. They went to a nearby Taco Bell to discuss him more. Wooton had loved what he was saying, loved his passion. But hearing that Heimbach supported a white ethno-state immediately ended her interest. Woonton has brothers who are mixed-race.

If theyre saying they want an all-white community, where would my brother go? she said. She was appalled by the idea of segregation: she did want more representation for white Americans, just like the representation she sees people who are black or Mexican receive. At the same time, she ultimately wanted political leaders for different racial groups to work together for the common good.

Thats taking us a hundred years back, Porter said. She had told the group that she was gay, and they had said nothing in response. The Traditionalist Worker party, with its endorsement of traditional marriage, its rhetoric about deviants, was not going to earn the vote of this white Kentucky woman. Porters girlfriend worked for a local prosecutor. She knew that the people charged with crimes in their area were overwhelmingly white.

Wooton was incredulous that Heimbach could be a Holocaust denier. Hes so smart. He has to know better than that. Theres television footage of piles of bodies, she said.

They have a lot of really good ideas. Its really sad that they just bring this racism, she said.

She looked depressed. She had been hopeful that Heimbach was a politician who could actually bring help to their area. He seems really really smart. He seems like he knows what hes talking about on a lot of things. And this stupid racism thats going to hold him back from so many things he could do so many positive things.

She was distressed. She could not understand it. Maybe hes a little mental, she said. It was the only immediate explanation, that he had a little mental problem that he cant get past this racist thing.

Both women were increasingly angry that Heimbach had chosen to come to Kentucky to spread his message.

Hes targeting us, Wooton said, because he thinks that were stupid.

And hes wrong about that, Porter said.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/04/national-socialism-neo-nazis-america-donald-trump