House committee grills Comey and Rogers on Trump and Russia: key points

FBI director confirms investigation of Trump campaigns ties to Russian government and smacks down several of the presidents tweets

The House intelligence committee hearing on Russian tampering in the US election has wrapped, as has day one of judge Neil Gorsuchs confirmation hearings. Heres what happened.

  • FBI director James Comey announced for the first time that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian governments efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russias efforts.
  • Trump campaign figures mentioned at the hearing included Michael Flynn, Carter Page, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, JD Gordon, Jeff Sessions and Kellyanne Conway. Comey declined to say whether the president was or is being personally investigated.
  • Comey knocked down Trumps assertion on Twitter that Barack Obama had wire tapped him. We do not have any information that supports those tweets, Comey said.
  • Republican chairman Devin Nunes admitted: We know there was not a physical wiretap at Trump Tower. However it is possible that other surveillance technology was used against President Trump and his associates.
  • Tweets sent from the @potus account during the hearing mischaracterized Comeys testimony and that of NSA director Michael Rogers. One tweet said the witnesses had told Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process.
  • Comey was asked about the tweet. Weve offered no opinion, have no view, have no information on potential impact, because its not something weve looked at, Comey said. It certainly wasnt our intention to say that today.
  • Rogers denied a White House claim that the Obama administration asked GCHQ to conduct surveillance on Trump, saying it would have been a violation of US law to ask the British to conduct such an operation.
  • Republicans called for punishment for anyone who leaked classified information to the press, concerning Flynns contacts with Russian operatives or other issues.One member promised to grill former CIA director John Brennan and former director of national intelligence James Clapper about leaks next week.
  • It emerged that the FBI investigation of Russian tampering was launched in late July, although the public did not learn of the investigation for months, well after the FBI saw fit to announce its investigation of Hillary Clintons emails.

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Donald Trump anti-China tweet gives Rex Tillerson a fresh wall to climb

As secretary of state travels to Beijing, his mission to set stage for a leaders summit is hampered by presidents hectoring messages

Donald Trump took his latest online swipe at Chinas leaders as his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, flew into Beijing to finalise plans for a high-stakes summit designed to soothe tensions after months of bad blood and uncertainty.

Trump is expected to host Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach on 6-7 April for an informal no necktie encounter similar to the 2013 Sunnylands summit between Barack Obama and the Communist party chief.

Tillerson was due to arrive in Chinas capital on Saturday tasked with making final preparations for that presidential tte–tte. He will reportedly meet senior leaders, including Xi.

But on the eve of Tillersons two-day visit, during which he is also expected to call on Beijing to step up pressure on North Korea over its nuclear programme, Trump risked complicating those negotiations with his latest 140-character rebuke to Chinas leaders.

North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been playing the United States for years. China has done little to help! the US president wrote on Twitter in a message that is likely to anger and unnerve Beijing.

Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been “playing” the United States for years. China has done little to help!

March 17, 2017

Paul Haenle, the national security councils China director under George W Bush and Barack Obama, said US officials would be concerned about the possibility of totally off-message late-night tweets marring Xis stay in Mar-a-Lago.

His rash way of dealing with things could offend the Chinese and could offend personally Xi Jinping … Its the Trump factor, he said.

It is so important to the Chinese that their leader is being treated with real respect. If he travels there and then something happens that appears to be disrespectful to Xi Jinping that could play very badly in the domestic politics here.

Trumps shock election sparked fears that US-China relations were entering a new era of confrontation. In books and interviews, on the stump and on Twitter, the billionaire has spent years berating Beijing over everything from currency manipulation to political repression.

During Xis last trip to the US, in 2015, Trump accused Chinas leader of crippling American industry by devaluing the Chinese currency and called on Obama to feed him a double-sized Big Mac.

However, tensions have subsided following President Trumps first phone call with Xi last month when he backed away from threats to challenge Beijings claim over Taiwan.

Experts say they are encouraged that after months of simmering discord Xi and Trump are preparing to thrash it out at the so-called Winter White House.

I think it actually has the potential to be quite a game-changing moment, said Orville Schell, the head of the centre on US-China relations at New Yorks Asia Society.

This will allow Trump to exhibit something he has not been able to really put on display in the public foreign policy realm, namely his putative deal-making skills. I think either the meeting will go very well, with some rather surprising deals announced, or it could go completely south. And that would be a very bad sign indeed.

Haenle, now head of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre in Beijing, said China would see the meeting, which has yet to be officially confirmed, as a chance to bypass the most stridently anti-Beijing voices in Trumps team.

Trump likely thought that by getting Xi on his turf he could kick off efforts to strike a new deal with China. North Korea will be a the top of the list and rebalancing the economic relationship is going to be huge, said Haenle.

Speaking in Seoul on Friday, Tillerson warned that a pre-emptive US military strike against North Korea was an option and said Washingtons strategic patience with Pyongyang had run out.

Schell said it was possible the Mar-a-Lago summit would see some big breakthrough on the issue. I think it is a long shot but it is possible that Trump could just say to Xi, Listen, you and I have a lot of important things to do together. This is something that is important to us … what do you want?

Haenle expected Xi to bring a list of gestures such as infrastructure investment or market access that would allow Trump to emerge from the summit and tweet: Xi Jinping came and I got X!.

But he doubted China would do more on North Korea, with foreign minster Wang Yi recently describing Beijing and Pyongyang as being as close as lips and teeth. The US and China are in very different places right now, at least in terms of the rhetoric that we are hearing.

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Trump’s loose talk came back to haunt him in judge’s travel ban ruling

Hawaii judges insistence that Trumps talk of banning Muslims must be taken literally is a reminder of the enduring power of language

For months, critics of the president have been told that they should take Trumps words seriously, but not literally.

On Wednesday night federal district judge Derrick K Watson refused to take the bait. He insisted that Trumps words on banning Muslims should be taken seriously and literally.

Judge Watson made headlines when he granted a temporary restraining order halting Trumps latest effort to ban entry of people from six predominantly Muslim nations into the United States.

The judge found that the executive order violates the constitutions establishment clause and discriminates against a religious group.

His decision galvanized attention because it set up a new clash between Trump and the judiciary, a clash that the president eagerly took up when he told a large and supportive audience in Nashville, Tennessee, that the judges order striking down what he called a watered down version of the first order was an unprecedented judicial overreach.

Yet as important as substance of the judges decision, and the clash that it foretells, is, what may be even more important is the lesson that it offers about the enduring power of language.

The judge set out to determine if the revised executive order, which now makes no reference to religion, was simply a pretext for an unconstitutional act of religious discrimination. To do so he recalled the many things that the president said about the purpose of the executive order he issued, both before and after his took office.

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John McCain tells Trump: present wiretapping evidence or retract the claim

Senior Republican calls on president to prove extraordinary allegation that his predecessor tapped phones in Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign

Senior Republican John McCain has told Donald Trump to either present evidence proving Barack Obama was involved in wiretapping his phones or retract the claim.

McCains demand came after the House intelligence committee asked the president for evidence that phones at Trump Tower were tapped during the campaign.

I think the president has one of two choices: either retract or to provide the information that the American people deserve, because if his predecessor violated the law, President Obama violated the law, we have got a serious issue here to say the least, McCain said.

Trump asserted in a tweet last week: Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my wires tapped in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism! He continued the allegation against Obama in other tweets but offered no evidence.

The committees request for evidence by Monday was made in a letter sent to the justice department by the House committee chairman, Republican Devin Nunes, and the panels ranking Democrat, Adam Schiff, a senior congressional aide said on Saturday. The aide wasnt authorised to discuss the request by name and requested anonymity.

Obamas director of national intelligence, James Clapper, has said that nothing matching Trumps claims took place. Despite the denial, Trump has asked Congress to investigate.

During the past week, Schiff said the committee would answer the presidents call to investigate the claim. He also said he would ask the FBI director, James Comey, directly when he appears later this month before the full committee, which is investigating Russian activities during the election.

On Sunday, Schiff said he doubted there was any evidence of wiretapping but that Comey and others called to testify at the upcoming hearing would be in a position to have to know.

I think on March 20 if not before well be able to put this to rest, Schiff told George Stephanopoulos on ABCs This Week. I dont think anyone has any question about this, George. The only question is why the president would make up such a thing.

McCain said Trump could clear this up in a minute if he were to call the director of the CIA, director of national intelligence and say, OK, what happened?

The president had an obligation to provide evidence that Obama broke the law or retract his claim, the Arizona Republican said.

I do believe on issues such as this, accusing a former president of the United States of something which is not only illegal, but just unheard of, that requires corroboration. Ill let the American people be the judge, but this is serious stuff, McCain said on CNNs State of the Union.

Kellyanne Conway, an adviser to the president, said on Sunday on Fox News Channels MediaBuzz that the House and Senate intelligence committees had agreed to investigate and well make a comment after those findings are complete.

Nunes has said that so far he has not seen any evidence to back up Trumps claim and has suggested the news media were taking the presidents weekend tweets too literally.

The president is a neophyte to politics hes been doing this a little over a year, Nunes told reporters this past week.

Other lawmakers also have asked for evidence.

Declaring that Congress must get to the bottom of Trumps claim, senators Lindsey Graham and Sheldon Whitehouse asked Comey and the acting deputy attorney general, Dana Boente, to produce the paper trail created when the justice departments criminal division secures warrants for wiretaps.

Associated Press contributed to this report

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Donald Trump says nuclear threat from North Korea has entered ‘new phase’

US president told Japanese PM he is 100% with Tokyo as US moves Thaad missile defence system into South Korea following Pyongyang missile launches

The threat posed by North Korea to the US and its allies has entered a new phase, Donald Trump said on Tuesday, a day after the regime test-launched four ballistic missiles towards Japan.

In phone talks on Tuesday, Trump told Japans prime minister, Shinzo Abe, that the US stood 100% with Tokyo after three of the intermediate-range missiles landed in the sea off Japans north-west coast.

President Trump told me that the United States was with Japan 100%, and that he wanted his comments to be communicated to the Japanese people, Abe told reporters at his residence. He said he wanted us to trust him as well as the United States 100%.

Japan and the United States confirmed that the latest missile firing by North Korea is a clear challenge to the region and the international community, and that its threat has entered a new phase.

The comments came as the US said the first elements of its controversial missile defence system had arrived in South Korea on Tuesday. The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) anti-missile system is meant to intercept and destroy short- and medium-range ballistic missiles during the last part of their flights, the US Pacific Command said in a statement.

Continued provocative actions by North Korea, to include yesterdays launch of multiple missiles, only confirm the prudence of our alliance decision last year to deploy Thaad to South Korea, US Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris said.

China has denounced Thaads deployment, saying its powerful radar would compromise its security.

South Koreas Yonhap news agency, citing military sources, said the system could be operational as early as April, well ahead of schedule.

Trump and Abe spoke as the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, declared the launches a success and warned that they were part of a training exercise for an attack on US military bases in Japan, home to almost 50,000 American troops.

The four ballistic rockets launched simultaneously are so accurate that they look like acrobatic flying corps in formation, the state-run Korean Central News Agency quoted Kim as saying. The regime also released images of the missile launches, with a smiling Kim in attendance.

Jon Passantino (@passantino)

North Korea releases new photos of what it says is yesterdays missile launch with Kim Jong Un in attendance

March 7, 2017

The launches were seen as a protest against the start of joint military exercises involving South Korea and the US that Pyongyang regards as a rehearsal for an invasion of North Korea.

A day after operation Foal Eagle began last Wednesday, North Koreas army, deploying the same vitriolic language it reserves for the annual drills, warned that it was ready to immediately launch its merciless military counteractions if South Korean or US forces fired even a single shell into waters near the divided Korean peninsula.

North Koreas ambassador to the UN, Ja Song-nam, said the joint exercises were driving the region towards nuclear disaster. It may go over to an actual war, Ja said, adding: Consequently, the situation on the Korean Peninsula is again inching to the brink of a nuclear war.

Abe said that Trump, who was diplomatically wrong-footed by a North Korean missile launch last month, had reaffirmed Washingtons unwavering commitment to Japans security.

The leaders agreed that Mondays launches were in violation of UN resolutions banning Pyongyang from developing ballistic missile technology. Washington and Tokyo have requested a meeting of the UN security council on Wednesday.

Abe said he had told Trump that Japan was willing to take on a large role and responsibility to enhance the deterrence provided by the Japan-US alliance.

Trump has yet to state how he intends to address the growing North Korean threat from ballistic missiles, amid evidence that the regime is edging closer to acquiring the ability to marry a miniaturised nuclear warhead with a long-range missile capable of striking the US mainland.

The UN has imposed six rounds of sanctions since the North conducted its first nuclear test in 2006, but they have failed to dent the regimes quest to build what it claims is a defensive nuclear arsenal.

Trump has not publicly commented on Mondays missile launch, but his ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said on Twitter that the world wont allow North Korea to continue on its destructive path.

Choi Kang, an analyst at the Seoul-based Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said the launch was a warning to Tokyo. North Korea is demonstrating that its target is not just limited to the Korean peninsula any more but can extend to Japan at any time and even the US, he said.

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Trump golf resort and Scottish planners clash over the environment

US presidents Scotland development is under fire as it seeks to expand its boutique hotel and ditch its ecological monitoring group

The Trump Organization is facing a new battle with Scottish planners and conservationists over the protection of rare dunes and wildlife at its Aberdeenshire golf resort.

Trump International Golf Course Scotland has challenged a key part of the planning permission it won for the resort in 2008 as it pushes ahead with plans for a second 18-hole golf course and an extension to its boutique hotel.

The company, now being run by Donald Trumps son Eric, applied to Aberdeenshire council last week to discharge clauses in its planning permission which require it to run an environmental advisory group to oversee construction across the rare, legally protected dune system used for the course.

To the alarm of conservationists, it wants to replace the group, which Trump unilaterally closed down in 2013, with annual environmental inspections for the next three years.

In January, the president signalled a fresh offensive against out of control environmental regulations in the US as he offered to cut pollution controls on the car industry, while declaring he was to a large extent an environmentalist who had won awards.

The proposal risks putting the Trump Organization into conflict with Scottish government planning inspectors who ruled in December that robust environmental monitoring of any new building was needed at the resort.

Insisting Trump follow the 2008 master plan in full, the inspectors said the site was environmentally sensitive and part of a legally protected site of special scientific interest (SSSI). They said ecological monitoring may need to be strengthened.

It will be essential for robust environmental assessments to inform detailed development proposals and to ensure necessary environmental safeguards are in place. Environmental assessments and management plans concluded some years ago may require to be revised, updated, extended or amended, they said.

The inspectors also objected to Aberdeenshires proposals to include Trumps latest plan to build 850 private homes and 1,900 leisure accommodation units because that new scheme was too dissimilar to the plans approved in 2008.

They said the Trump Organization should stick to the original plan, requiring the US company to pay for a primary school and affordable homes if it tries to build a timeshare complex and private housing estate. Aberdeenshire council is expected to accept the inspectors recommendations on Thursday 9 March.

The Menie Environmental Monitoring Advisory Group (Memag), named after the estate where the resort is based, was originally proposed by Trumps advisers to placate environmental groups and the government conservation agency Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

Ecologists objected strenuously to the resort because it involved bulldozing large parts of one of Scotlands rarest coastal dune habitats protected by the Foveran Links SSSI mentioned by planning inspectors.

Those objections played a large part in forcing Scottish ministers, who publicly backed Trumps plans, to put the resort application to a formal planning inquiry. It approved the plans in 2008 partly on condition that SNH and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, the countrys water and air pollution watchdog, had seats on Memag.

To the alarm of environment groups, the Trump Organization has since allowed Memag to lapse. It last met in January 2013. After that point, the Trump organisation said it had fulfilled its purpose and been closed down. Aberdeenshire failed to take any action to force Trump to keep it running.

TIGCS has now written to the council saying it had carried out an internal review which found no evidence Memag added value to the monitoring work by council officials now that its first golf course had been built.

Even though it originally proposed setting it up, its report to the council said the review had decided it was an unnecessary and disproportionate development management tool in the context of this development.

There are no known examples of a Memag mechanism elsewhere in Scotland in relation to golf course maintenance and operation.

James Reynolds, of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Scotland, said they were not surprised. The Trump Organizations environmental commitments never seemed like anything more than greenwash at the time of application, in a cynical bid to secure consent for the golf development, he said.

It should not be forgotten that the irreversible environmental damage to this nationally important site of special scientific interest was justified by the then Scottish government due to its supposed national benefits for the economy, jobs and more. But now, with the promise of those myriad national benefits open to doubt, it begs the question was it worth it?

Debra Storr, an ex-councillor who voted against the original planning application, said attempts to remove Memag from the planning approval should be opposed.

I believe it was actively undermined by the Trump Organization and the council was negligent in permitting this, she said. The formal abandonment of Memag would send a further signal to Trump that he may trample the environment with impunity.

TIGCS has been approached for a comment.

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‘Angry white men’: the sociologist who studied Trump’s base before Trump

Michael Kimmel, one of the worlds foremost experts on masculinity, examines its role in mens adherence to and departure from far-right movements

During the Obama years, various commentators made wild predictions about the death of the white male as a politically relevant demographic. Then came Trump, propelled to power by a wave of angry white men.

The sociologist Michael Kimmel is one of the worlds foremost experts on the phenomenon. As the director of Stony Brook Universitys Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities, hes a leader in the emerging field of masculinity studies. His recent research has looked at topics including spree killers (who are overwhelmingly male and white), as well as the relationship between masculinity and political extremism. Hes also just wrapped up a new book studying why men join hate groups and how they leave.

In a recent interview, Kimmel discussed the election of Trump, domestic terrorism, the mens rights movement, and the alt-right.

Your book Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era will be republished this April, is that right?

Yes. Since youve read it, youll know that the book doesnt include the name Trump anywhere in it. So my publisher thought it would be a good idea if they reprinted it with a new preface by me that talks about him. Essentially, I wrote a book about his followers for whom the leader hadnt showed up yet.

Can you tell me more about your new book? When is it coming out?

Its slated for 2018 . Its based on interviews with four different groups around the world. One of them is an organization in Sweden which helps young neo-Nazis and skinheads get out of the movement. Another is Exit, in Germany, which does the same with German neo-Nazis and white supremacists, and Life After Hate, a US group created by former members of the far-right extremist movement. The fourth group, called Quilliam, is a foundation based in London that helps ex-jihadists get out of the movement.

My book is really about masculinity and how men get into these movements and how they get out how masculinity is entirely wrapped up with this. These are guys that really think that they dont matter in the world and have been tossed aside.

Participation in the movement gives them validation of their masculinity. There are some differences, of course. The ex-neo-Nazis who go through the program in Sweden are on average 16 or 17 years old. The German guys are a lot older and have a different trajectory. They come in largely through connections they make in prison. They are burglars and petty criminals who are radicalized there.

I also wrote a lot about the power of music. Neo-Nazi rap is big in Sweden, Germany, the United States, alongside hatecore music.

Policymakers and researchers typically ignore masculinity when they try to understand how people get into these movements. My challenge to them is: if you ignore masculinity in understanding how these guys get into these movements, you will not be able to help them get out.

In 2009, the homeland security intelligence analyst Daryl Johnson wrote a report arguing that rightwing extremist movements were on the rise. The report became an unexpected political football: Republicans were enraged at what they saw as politically motivated alarmism conflating nonviolent conservative and libertarian groups with terrorists.

What most angered conservative critics of the report, however, was Johnsons prediction that returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan would be prime targets for recruitment to the far right. Has any of your research touched on that issue?

I think this is one of those problems in logic that we call the compositional fallacy. Just because a lot of recruits for white nationalist movements are veterans does not in any way imply that all veterans are going to become recruits.

What we do know to be true is that our military exercises in Iraq and Afghanistan have left veterans coming home with serious PTSD. I mean, think of the types of terror that theyve lived with that any time you get into a car could be your last time on earth. That cant help but shake you up. Couple that with racism towards your enemy one of the ways you convince yourself to kill an enemy is to hate them; think about what we used to say about the Vietnamese, or what my fathers generation used to say about the Japanese. I think that is an equation that might make some people susceptible to far-right ideology.

And it is also true that a large number of guys enter the military precisely because they want to fight. Timothy McVeigh signed up for the military during the first Gulf war and when he came back he wanted to join the special forces and they told him no, that psychologically he wasnt suited. He was angry about that and that is where he started to drift towards extremism.

So I would never say that veterans are more susceptible to far-right ideology. But I would say that a large number of veterans have been seriously affected by their experiences. We do them no good if we pretend this isnt true, and we do American citizens no good if we pretend that we are more likely to be attacked from outside rather than within. Far more likely is Wade Michael Page [identified in a shooting at a Wisconsin Sikh temple], not some jihadist group.

One of the major points you make in Angry White Men is that the notions of masculinity which drive men to join far-right groups or go on shooting sprees are deeply rooted in humiliation.

In The Looming Tower, Lawrence Wright discusses how a similar sense of humiliation in the Arab world informed the line of thinking that eventually became al-Qaida (and Isis). So I wonder, how much of this is about angry white men and how much is about angry men, full stop?

One of the most prescient observers of violence Ive ever read, James Gilligan, wrote a book called Violence. He argued that shame and humiliation underlie basically all violence: Because I feel small, I will make you feel smaller.

In my interviews with extremists, both actives and formers, I have found time and time again that they have experienced that sense of humiliation and shame.

In his famous statement, Osama bin Laden talked about how the west had humiliated the Muslim world that conservative Muslims have been humiliated by hyper-modern society and the cosmopolitan McDonaldization of the world. For them, restoring the seventh-century caliphate is their way of reinstating traditional masculinity.

I call this aggrieved entitlement. If you feel entitled and you have not gotten what you expected, that is a recipe for humiliation.

At least in the case of the German, Swedish and American guys that I interviewed, sometimes it is not really political at all. Many of them, especially the American guys, were sexually abused, beat up, bullied as children. Some of them have basically the same sort of profile as the victims of the Catholic priests. Growing up they were deeply ashamed of themselves; they didnt do well in school, they didnt have friends, they were sad, miserable, and they escaped into themselves. That just made them better targets, and the far right drew them in.

The camaraderie of the community validates their masculinity, and even more importantly than that gives them a sacred mission. That is really powerful for these guys.

Angry White Men talks at length about the manosphere on the internet, and the rise of the mens rights movement. Mens rights activists have long complained of the ways that government policies penalize men divorce and alimony laws, for example, or benefits designed for single mothers but not single fathers. Do you think with Trump in office, the MRAs may actually influence change in legislation and policy?

The group that I think has a point is the fathers, or some of the fathers. Some of the fathers rights groups who blame women, blame feminism I dont have much sympathy for them. But I do think that the courts have not kept pace with changes in society. Fathers have changed. Far more men now are involved in childcare. But our laws were really designed for the Don Draper era, when men were absentee landlords at home. So in some respects, some of these guys really have gotten a bad deal.

On the other hand, lets be clear what were talking about: a Californian study found that 80% of divorcing couples got the custody arrangement that they wanted. Both of them. So were really only talking about 20% of cases, and of those 20% of cases only a fraction of them are like the cases that the mens rights activists describe: he wants joint custody, she wants sole custody. The reasons for this problem are usually the circumstances for why she wants sole custody: she wants to leave the state, she wants to move for a job or a relationship.

So you have to calculate that. There are legitimate cases, I grant that, but I dont think we should make it sound like the entire American court system is slanted against men.

What do you make of Milo Yiannopoulos? He is gay; he has dated black men. Does someone like him complicate the narrative of masculinity and the conservative right?

Do you remember Phyllis Schlafly, who made a career out of telling women they shouldnt have careers? Milo Yiannopoulos is basically a provocateur. He wants to provoke a reaction so that he can claim victim status. Oh my God, they wont let me speak. These people on college campuses are whining all the time. Meanwhile, he is doing most of the whining. He is very like Trump: Everybody hates me, Im a victim of the bad media, I got more votes than she did.

Yiannopoulos may be gay but he is also white and upper-class. He is hardly underprivileged. What he wants to do is provoke a censorious reaction so he can say the left is equally censorious as the right. But in this country, that has not been the case. We have a long history of censoring free speech and that history has always come from the right. And this notion that the left is all so angry and censorious it depends on ignoring one small technical detail: the left is not in power right now. The left does not have the power to be censorious.

What are your thoughts about the age-old debate about men being violent? Is it purely social a product of culture or are there biological factors at work? Is it nature or nurture or both?

I think its a false debate. I think nature and nurture are intimately linked. What we know is that testosterone as a hormone both drives aggression and responds to aggression. It is a really malleable hormone. And I think that you cant understand the natural biological conditions of violence without understanding the social conditions, and I think you cant understand the social conditions without understanding the biological conditions.

Let me give you two examples. The first: how come men use a biological argument when they are angry and they beat up someone smaller or older than they are or they beat their wives yet they dont beat their bosses? I mean, my boss would likely piss me off more than my wife would, right? Why dont I beat him up? Because you have to feel like you have permission. You have to believe that the target of your violence is legitimate.

There is a famous experiment by a primatologist at Stanford. He takes five monkeys and measures their testosterone. Then he puts the five monkeys in a cage. The monkeys immediately establish a hierarchy of violence number one beats number two, number two beats number three, number three beats number four, number four beats number five. Of course, number one has the highest testosterone, and so on.

So the experiment is: he takes monkey three out of the cage and he shoots him up with testosterone, off the scale, and puts him back in. What do you think happens? When I tell this story my students always guess that he immediately becomes number-one monkey. But thats not true. What happens is that when he goes back in the cage he still avoids monkeys number one and two but he beats the shit out of numbers four and five.

So what any reasonable biological researcher would conclude is that testosterone does not cause aggression, it enables it. The target of the violence must already be seen as legitimate. You have a biological argument and a sociological argument. So the answer to your question is that it is never either/or. It is always both. Always.

This transcript has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity

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The Gabriels: heartbreaking plays take on new meaning as everything changes in America

Audience reaction to Richard Nelsons eye-opening drama about the US election campaign has shifted through time and in performances on a different continent

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