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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Who is Derrick Watson, the Hawaii judge who blocked Trump’s latest travel ban?

He has made himself a lightning rod with his strongly worded ruling on the ban, but many have praised Watson as fair-minded and highly principled

The ink was barely dry on Judge Derrick Watsons order suspending Donald Trumps latest travel ban when the recriminations and conspiracy theories began.

One Fox News commentator called it judicial tyranny. President Trump himself called it unprecedented judicial overreach. On social media, amateur sleuths noted that Judge Watson had graduated from the same Harvard Law School class as Barack Obama (in 1991), and even noted that Obama had been in Hawaii on the day of the ruling, as though they had cooked it up together.

One thing is beyond doubt: Judge Derrick Kahala Watson, the only native Hawaiian currently serving as a US federal judge, has made himself a national lightning rod with a ruling that admirers and detractors alike have described as pointed and outspoken.

His 43-page document flatly describes the governments contentions in defense of the revised travel ban as untrue and says the administrations illogic is palpable. It is rare that judges are willing to stick their necks out so visibly. And Judge Watson hardly has a reputation as a hothead or a rabble-rouser. He is a product of Hawaiis prestigious private school system, attended Harvard as an undergraduate as well as a law student, and had a distinguished career as a federal prosecutor in northern California and Hawaii before being elevated to the federal bench. He has also served as a reserve captain in the US army.

Interviews with colleagues and friends by the Associated Press overnight suggested a man who was usually understated and fair-minded if also strict and highly principled. That was also the impression gleaned by the Senate when it voted unanimously to confirm Watson as a federal judge in 2013. At the time, President Obama praised him and five other judicial nominees for their talent, expertise, and fair-mindedness.

Certainly, Watson is not the first federal judge to take issue with the administrations attempts to impose a temporary ban on travelers from certain Muslim-majority countries. A similar restraining order was issued in early February by Judge James Robart in Seattle in response to the first draft of the administrations executive order, and Watsons ruling coincided with a similarly argued, though less broad, ruling from a federal judge in Maryland. All of them have argued that the travel ban looks a lot like an instrument of religious discrimination both because of what is in the executive orders themselves and because of what President Trump and his team have said about them on the campaign trail and in public appearances since the election.

There are indications, though, that Watsons viewpoint may have been further influenced by his Hawaiian heritage and his long record of advocacy for immigrant rights and civil rights. While with a San Francisco law firm in the early 2000s, he devoted hundreds of hours to pro bono cases defending the rights of Mexican restaurant workers being held in slave-like conditions and to landlord-tenant disputes.

The complaint filed by Hawaiis attorney general against the Trump travel ban contained an explicit reference to some of the most painful chapters in the islands history the Chinese Exclusion Acts and the imposition of martial law and internment of Japanese Americans following the bombing ofPearl Harbor. At the time, the US supreme court upheld the governments argument similar to Trumps that it had the executive authority to defend national security as it saw fit. But the courts ruling in Korematsu v United States has since been described as a stain on American jurisprudence and has been widely repudiated in federal court rulings if never explicitly overturned.

If you have an order taking us back half a century to a time when there was discrimination on the basis of national origin or religion, Hawaiis attorney general, Doug Chin, told reporters after Watsons ruling, thats something we have to speak up against.

Watsons suspension of the travel ban rested on the argument that the plaintiffs, including the head of the Muslim Association of Hawaii, had a strong likelihood of prevailing at a full trial. That conclusion, though, rests on a reading of case law that many more conservative jurists and commentators do not share particularly when it comes to considering comments by President Trump and administration officials as well as the text of the executive order itself.

Watsons imaginative reasoning in Hawaii v Trump asserts a new judicial power to disregard formal law if the presidents personal words create a basis for mistrusting his motives, conservative commentator David Frum wrote in a column worrying about the kind of precedent this could set for future administrations of either party persuasion. In the age of Trump, many will be sympathetic to this judicial power but it is crammed with dangers, too.

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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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Bill Clinton warns US and Britain face an ‘identity crisis’ amid nationalist surge

Clintons first appearance since the election was at the launch of Yitzhak Rabin biography, where he drew parallels to Israel turmoil that led to his assassination

Bill Clinton, the former US president, has warned that America, Britain and other parts of the world are embroiled in an identity crisis as nationalist movements carve divisions within borders.

Clinton was making his first major public appearance on Thursday since his wife Hillarys shock election defeat by Donald Trump, which robbed him of a widely trailed return to the White House.

Appearing relaxed and in good humour, the 42nd president spoke at the launch of a biography of Yitzhak Rabin, the late prime minister of Israel, at the Brookings Institution thinktank in Washington. He made no reference to Trump or the bruising election but suggested that the rise of nationalism echoes the turmoil in Israel that led to the 1995 assassination of Rabin.

In the microcosm of the Middle East he prefigured the battle that is now raging across the world, that you see in America, you see in the Brexit vote, you see in the Philippine election, you see in the debates being held in the Netherlands and France, all over, where people who claim to want the nation state are actually trying to have a pan-national movement to institutionalise separatism and division within national borders all over the world, Clinton said.

And nothing strikes people as unusual about that, in thinking that that loyalty is more important than the loyalty to the traditions, the rules, the laws, the development of your own nation. This is a global deal. Its like were all having an identity crisis at once and it is the inevitable consequence of the economic and social changes which have occurred at increasingly rapid pace.

Rabins rise to become prime minister for the second time, putting some old adversaries in government, offering Israelis assurance that they could vote on a final peace deal and trying to reconcile conflicts within the country has lessons for the present, Clinton added.

It is worth remembering that what happened 20 years ago is a microcosm of what is coming full bloom across the world today and these things are going to have to be worked out. He believed in the end wed be better off sharing the future.

In what could be construed as a dig at Trump, the former president said: I think if you believe that climate change is real, if you believe that technology will give terrorists more options to kill people and basically delegitimise the whole idea of the nation state, then the idea of institutionalised internal conflict in nation after nation after nation is not the wisest strategy to pursue.

Clinton, who campaigned for his wife across the country and recounted her story at the Democratic national convention only to suffer crushing disappointment in November, observed that people often have found more political success and met the deep psychic needs people have had to feel that their identity requires them to be juxtaposed against someone else.

He challenged the audience: It always comes down to two things are we going to live in an us and them world, or a world that we live in together? If you got that, in every age and time, the challenges we face can be resolved in a way to keep us going forward instead of taking us to the edge of destruction.

Last years election featured moments that shocked even veteran observers when at the second presidential debate Trump paraded women who have previously accused Clinton of sexual abuse. On Thursday the Democrat decried an erosion of standards and said: We have to find a way to bring simple, personal decency and trust back to our politics.

He called the day of Rabins assassination by an extremist Jew after Rabin had signed the Oslo peace accords with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat as maybe his worst day in the White House. I remain convinced that had he lived we would have achieved a comprehensive agreement with the Palestinians by 1998 and wed be living in a different world today.

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The best way to counter the far right? Know the enemy | Hari Kunzru

Since Trumps election win, his online footsoldiers are ever more emboldened. Heres how to fight back

Last weekend, I flew to Berlin to speak at a seminar. I found myself relieved to be off American soil but worried about leaving my family behind. I wasnt concerned about their safety, at least not as things stand. My wife and children are citizens and my immigration status is solid, though its significant that these are times when I have to think about my wifes citizenship and my solid immigration status.

Since the inauguration, which feels like a long time ago, the pace of change has been rapid and the need to be close to my loved ones is strong. Like many of my friends, my social media use has become compulsive and unhealthy. You could think of it as informational hyper-vigilance, a draining state in which your need to keep yourself informed wakes you up in the middle of the night to check if something has happened, something that requires an immediate response or decision. You need to know how everyone else is reading each new development. Who is being melodramatic? Who is complacent? Who is reading the roiling political currents in a helpful way?

Ha ha ha, says the voice in my head. Look at the anxious snowflake who cant get past muh feelz. One of my symptoms is a compulsion to spend too much time on the far-right internet. While itself driven by extreme emotionalism, the toxic right tends to adopt a tone of lofty rationality towards its antagonists. The pain of leftists is not only intellectually contemptible but actively enjoyable. Indeed, theres an argument that it may even be a policy driver for the Bannon-Miller faction of the new Trump administration, the part that has migrated from the internet to the Oval Office and which understands the appetite of its base for bloody revenge.

The coastal liberal, that great straw man, is considered to be smug and insulated from the consequences of the politically correct positions he or she holds, particularly on immigration. The measure of Trumps various Bannon-authored policy announcements may not be their substance, their wisdom or their basis in any kind of broadly shared reality but their capacity to wound and unsettle ideological enemies.

On accounts with profile pictures of crusader knights, Roman philosophers or anime characters in states of ecstatic euphoria, one reads a lot about the Enlightenment and about the self-indulgence and corruption of a mythical hegemonic left. The great vice is empathy, the decadent prioritising of sentiment over reason and of racial or cultural outsiders over insiders, a trait of a self-indulgent class that has been infected by a sort of viral guilt by Frankfurt School Marxism. Rationality is a cipher for whiteness in this conversation and often cloaks itself in the language of sociobiology. Liberal expressions of empathy, particularly towards minorities or out-groups, are not only maladaptive in evolutionary terms, theyre not even sincere, merely so-called virtue signalling, part of a coercive shame game the rightists are refusing to play. This appeal to rationality comes with a supplement of irrational violence.

In the days after the election, as the message boards exulted in the power of their meme magic to alter the course of history, the hashtag #rwds did the rounds, standing for right-wing death squads. A quick and queasy perusal showed a lot of frothing millennials gleefully imagining the cartoonish torture of Jews, intellectuals, all the usual suspects, with an aesthetic derived from the cold war in Latin America. After the inauguration day incident in which Richard Spencer was punched while giving a TV interview, these same people presented themselves as victims of an intolerable breakdown of civility and the rule of law and threatened to take matters into their own hands if they werent protected by the authorities.

Ive never had much time for the strand of armchair American liberalism that believes in the essential goodness of America, the sort of people who quote Dr Martin Luther Kings famous phrase about the arc of the moral universe bending towards justice, not in order to urge fellow citizens towards struggle but to suggest that some cosmic process will make everything turn out all right. Theyre usually people who would never dream of espousing the embarrassingly retrograde theology of Manifest Destiny but cling on to a sort of fuzzy exceptionalism, in which they are absolved by their Americanness of responsibility to make the future.

While I was in Berlin, the executive order on immigration was announced and all hell broke out at the airports. Customs and Border Protection started detaining travellers whose status had changed while they were in the air. At Washington Dulles airport, a five-year-old Iranian boy was handcuffed. The Customs and Border Protection patrol defied court orders to give access to detainees, court orders that wouldnt have even been sought had a large cohort of lawyers not been part of massive protests that made it impossible for the authorities to ignore the situation.

This kind of practical grassroots action is in sharp contrast to the supine posture of congressional Democrats, who are lagging far behind the people they purport to lead.

Though the right berates the left for a politics based on empathy, their own strategy (or tendency, if you prefer not to tell conspiracy stories) is towards the colonisation of the public sphere by the presentation of feeling, instead of more traditional republican (and Republican) virtues such as moral rectitude, sincerity or adherence to truth. The presidents background in reality television gives him an intuitive sense that the veracity of a thing has no necessary relation to its feeling of truth and in that lies its political force. If he says his inauguration was the biggest ever, or that some nameless expert told him that torture works, no amount of fact checking will, in itself, counter that.

For those of us who believe that we need to preserve a functioning public sphere based on some shared standard of truth, it remains important to combat the alternative facts of the new administration, but the most successful actions of the last two weeks, such as the Womens March and the occupation of the airports, have shown that the facts on the ground matter just as much.

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Trump eases into presidency with two actions but major work starts Monday

President signed executive order to ease burden of Obamacare and agencies were under regulatory freeze, but many first steps were postponed

Less than eight hours after becoming president, Donald Trump sat behind the desk in the Oval Office and issued his first executive order. However, the newly elected president seemed to only stick his toe in the water of governance.

Trump directed government agencies to ease the burden of the Affordable Care Act on Friday night. The new president campaigned on repealing Obamacare and replacing it with something terrific.

In addition, new White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, issued a memo on Friday night directing an immediate regulatory freeze to prevent federal agencies from issuing any new regulations. This echoed Trumps pledge to repeal two existing regulations for new government regulation imposed by his administration.

However, these actions fell far short of the big promises Trump made for his first day in office on the campaign trail.

Trump took pleasure in boasting about the feats he would accomplish in his first 24 hours in the Oval Office, ranging from building a wall on the US-Mexico border to promises to announce a renegotiation of Nafta and withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

There was also a broad statement that he would cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama.

On Friday, however, the reality seemed far more restrained. Many of the first steps for the new administration had been postponed until Monday morning, three days after he assumed office. With a slow transition process that did not lead to the announcement of a full cabinet until the day before the inauguration, members of the new administration tamped down on expectations.

Vice-President Mike Pence said as much on Wednesday, telling CNN the administrations first day really wouldnt be Friday or even Saturday. I think you can expect that President Donald Trump will hit the ground running on day one come Monday morning, he said.

A source familiar with the transition indicated to the Guardian that many administration staffers would not even begin their orientation until Monday, although it was noted that appointees in many key positions were poised to be sworn in at 12.01pm Friday.

Some administration priorities are likely to wait for months. Although Trump has long insisted he will move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a source familiar with administration foreign policy indicated that no such step was likely for months and would in any case wait for Trumps pick for US ambassador, David Friedman, to be confirmed.

Friedman is not scheduled to receive a hearing until February and is unlikely to be confirmed until March at the earliest.

Surprisingly, for all of Trumps promises for executive action on his first day, he signed his first bill hours before his first executive order. Shortly after taking the oath of office Trump, signed a law that would give Gen James Mattis, his nominee for defense secretary, the needed waiver to serve in a ceremony in the Capitol. US law requires any potential defense secretary to have been retired from the military for seven years. Mattis retired from the marines in 2014.

At the inauguration celebrations, supporters did not to focus on specifics. Many touted their belief in the new presidents ability to bring back jobs and, of course, make America great again.

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Senate grills attorney general nominee Sessions on KKK, bigotry and ‘lock her up’

Trumps nominee for attorney general discussed allegations of bigotry throughout his career and distanced himself from Trumps most extreme promises

Donald Trumps nominee for US attorney general denied being a racist on Tuesday and promised to act as a restraint on the president-elect, as protesters began disrupting the transition of power in Washington.

Jeff Sessions described allegations of bigotry that have dogged his career as damnably false charges during a confirmation hearing that was repeatedly interrupted by furious demonstrators chanting: No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA.

I abhor the Klan and what it represents, and its hateful ideology, Sessions told the Senate judiciary committee. He pledged as Americas top law enforcement official to protect our African American brothers and sisters as well as the rights of LGBT people and women.

Sessions, a veteran senator from Alabama, distanced himself from several of Trumps most extreme campaign promises, declaring that waterboarding the torture technique by US forces was illegal, and that there should be no ban on all Muslims entering the US.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the committees most senior Democrat, told Sessions that there were deep concerns and anxieties among some Americans about Trumps agenda, which includes a crackdown on illegal immigration and return to tough on crime policing.

Communities across this country are concerned about whether they will be able to rely on the Department of Justice to protect their rights and freedoms, said Feinstein. Protesters were forcibly removed from the hearing at several points.

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US housing crisis: what can Ben Carson learn from radical 1960s ‘new town’ plan?

The US housing departments ambitious initiatives of the 60s and 70s created urban communities that were both mixed race and mixed income. Though many didnt last, are there lessons in them for Donald Trumps new housing secretary?

Innovation is, to put it mildly, not one of the first attributes that come to mind when you think of Hud the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, soon to be overseen by Donald Trumps former Republican rival Ben Carson. Yet this wasnt always the case.

Imagine urban and suburban communities that banned cars, collected trash in pneumatic tubes, offered prototype community video chat capabilities, built elaborate pedestrian and cycle networks, and carefully retained existing foliage. You may not be thinking of the Jetsons, but products of the groundbreaking Hud New Towns initiatives in the late 1960s and early 70s.

Whats more, these aims were achieved while paying real and successful attention to creating both mixed-income and mixed-race communities.

So where should Carson go to be inspired by these pioneering projects? The catch is (with a few exceptions) federal support for them had sputtered by the mid-70s and vanished entirely in subsequent years, leaving at best, mere fragments of their once grand ideals.

The genuine problems with some of these projects now perceived as failures, if recalled at all eclipsed their admirable qualities in historical memory. These are qualities that might have offered Carson models for a country that is currently experiencing acute housing shortages in many of its metropolitan areas.

In the 70s, 15 projects were approved for Title VII support, most on greenfield sites near existing metropolitan areas. Two were in cities: Roosevelt Island (previously known as Welfare Island) in New York and Riverside Plaza in Minneapolis. Another, Soul City, was distant both from any nearby cities and prevailing practices of building them, as an effort to build a genuinely multi-racial community, spearheaded by an African American developer and African American architects.

There were many inventive elements on the drawing board, and some became a reality. If most developments were substantially suburban in character, planning mainly for single family homes, they often integrated higher density elements or multi-family homes, as well as significant efforts at pedestrian friendliness.

Donald Trump nominated Ben Carson as his secretary for housing and urban development. Photograph: Rainier Ehrhardt/Reuters

The Woodlands, near Houston, attracted praise for a trait that seems intuitive: retaining nature. Initial planning in semi-arid Texas was guided by an intention not to disturb the sites water table, which would have affected the vegetation. The preservation of generous amounts of greenery around existing streams and drainage patterns was the first planning goal, not an afterthought.

Jonathan, Minnesota, a suburban new town, included an extensive trail system throughout the community and even more futuristic touches. According to Andy Sturdevant in the Minneapolis Post: Each house was to be wired with interconnected cables as part of a General Electric Community Information Systems (CIS) project that would turn each television into a telephone that allowed you to communicate visually with your neighbours.

Each homes address was also its ID number for the system: Someone dials up 110612 on their television, your TV makes a futuristic ringing sound, and you can have a video conversation, Sturdevant wrote.

The two urban projects, Roosevelt Island and Riverside both of which were fairly substantially realised were thoughtful reactions against the known shortcomings of the design and composition of prior decades of low-income housing. Both forsook the anti-urban characteristics of prior decades of towers in the park and stressed the importance of planning for a mix of incomes.

Roosevelt Island (substantially the work of New Yorks fascinating Urban Development Corporation) centred its marquee-architect designed main street around a coherent, colonnaded main street lined with shops. It introduced other innovations, banning private cars (for a while) and collecting trash via a pneumatic tube system.

Floyd McKissick visualises the future Soul City to be built on these empty fields in Warren County. Photograph: Harold Valentine/AP

Riverside Plaza, designed by the notable modernist Ralph Rapson, included Minneapoliss first high-rise residential towers but, more importantly, offered buildings at a variety of scales designed to house a variety of incomes, along with retail and community amenities. It was also a surprising television star, the site of Mary Tyler Moores residence in later seasons of the eponymous show.

How did this brave new wave of innovation come about? Two housing bills in the twilight of the Great Society sought to chart a brighter residential future in offering loan guarantees and other incentives to developers to build mixed-income and mixed-race modern towns. The latter bill, passed in 1970, formed a corporation chartered to distribute $500m in bond guarantees to new town projects.

Inspirations were quite openly European, yet the programmes structure was considerably different. Congress eschewed the direct construction of new towns, as Nicholas Dagen Bloom, associate professor of social science at New York Institute of Technology, wrote in an 2001 essay entitled The Federal Icarus:

Title VII stated instead that the government would rely to the maximum extent on private enterprise in the creation of new towns. At heart, congressmen sought to harness the power of private enterprise for public policy, believing they could save the government money by recruiting developers who would, through their plans, attract home-buyers and their money. Title VII thus relied on the individual choices of thousands of homeowners who would, in theory, buy homes in these towns and in turn subsidize the high development costs of these communities.

It was a forward-thinking solution, mandating the substantial provision for housing within the means of persons of low and moderate income. It also encouraged the use of design innovations in land use and construction, the provision of community services, and more. The carrot was federal loan guarantees and promises of eligibility for other financial support.

Construction work at Roosevelt Island in 1975. Photograph: New York Post Archives/The New York Post via Getty Images

The developers were varied, ranging from Robert E Simon (creator of the well-known new town of Reston, Virginia) to Edmund Marcus (son of the Neiman Marcus department store founder) to Floyd McKissick (civil rights leader and head of the Congress for Racial Equality, who lead the Soul City project).

What could go wrong? Quite a lot, actually. Most Title VII projects didnt advance very far. Some, such as Soul City, were too far away from existing population centres to attract much growth. Others were admirably set up but failed to attract buyers, probably due to their aversion to any or all of the characteristics of modern, mixed-race or mixed-income planning. Some developers didnt manage their projects well; others suffered when pledged federal grants failed to materialise.

In time, the Carter and Reagan administrations terminated federal relationships with most of these projects. Some never really developed, while others ended up as conventional suburbs. Riverside Plaza fell from grace after its owners abandoned its original careful balance of income, and converted the complex entirely to subsidised housing.

And yet some things went very right. Roosevelt Island, which had been carefully designed and engineered for multiple incomes, remained a lasting success, with an unusually low crime rate even through the citys most dangerous years, and a recent spurt of growth including a new Cornell Tech campus on the islands south end. The Woodlands, too, flourished as both a high-end suburb and a corporate centre, although its lower-income elements essentially vanished.

Suburban new towns may seem quaint to foolhardy given 40 additional years of sprawl, yet there are traces of these ideas in the recent rise of New Urbanism and efforts to provide options beyond the car. Perhaps more importantly, the Title VII new towns were a large-scale effort to achieve income integration as a central goal of housing policy. Subsequent decades only rendered clearer the lesson that concentrated amounts of poverty tend to produce comparativelyhigh concentrations of crime and little opportunity.

Today its not simply the poor, but a broader number of lower-income Americans who are increasingly squeezed by rising rental costs. A Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies report early last year found a remarkable growth of 9 million renters to 43 million from 2005 to 2015. These are increased numbers chasing a dwindling supply, leading to the unenviable situation of more than 28% of renters paying more than half of their gross income in rent. As with any shortage, lower-income Americans are most affected.

Whats the most important quality missing today? While barriers to construction continue to choke off the meaningful expansion of housing supply, government support for low-income housing typically remains minimal. There is also an element of self-fulfilling prophecy to much of their work: low-quality construction only sporadically maintained will inevitably age badly and produce undesirable results. The new towns movement wasnt a panacea by any measure, but it demonstrated the notably superior results that slightly greater effort could produce.

The Trump administration has broadcast its enthusiasm for infrastructure spending and theres no structure more important to the public than a home. Ben Carson and the Department of Housing and Urban Development could do far worse than look to the spirit of experiment of the new towns movement. Today its not new towns but old ones under increased pressures of growth but we need experiment and effort to make them generally accessible again.

Anthony Paletta writes about architecture and urbanism for The Wall Street Journal, Metropolis, Architectural Record and The Architects Newspaper. Follow Guardian Cities on Twitter and Facebook to join the discussion, and explore our archive here

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