Using a Powerful Spy Tool on Immigrants and Their Families | AI and Synthetic Biology Are Not Harbingers of Doom | The Danger Ahead, and more

But within the language of the methane rule, E.P.A. economists have tucked a controversial calculation that would give the government legal authority to aggressively limit climate-warming pollution from nearly every smokestack and tailpipe across the country.
The number, known as the “social cost of carbon,” has been used since the Obama administration to calculate the harm to the economy caused by one ton of carbon dioxide pollution. The metric is used to weigh the economic benefits and costs of regulations that apply to polluting industries, such as transportation and energy.

The Danger Ahead  (David Frum, The Atlantic)
For all its marvelous creativity, the human imagination often fails when turned to the future. It is blunted, perhaps, by a craving for the familiar. We all appreciate that the past includes many moments of severe instability, crisis, even radical revolutionary upheaval. We know that such things happened years or decades or centuries ago. We cannot believe they might happen tomorrow.
When Donald Trump is the subject, imagination falters further. Trump operates so far outside the normal bounds of human behavior—never mind normal political behavior—that it is difficult to accept what he may actually do, even when he declares his intentions openly. What’s more, we have experienced one Trump presidency already. We can take false comfort from that previous experience: We’ve lived through it once. American democracy survived. Maybe the danger is less than feared?
In his first term, Trump’s corruption and brutality were mitigated by his ignorance and laziness. In a second, Trump would arrive with a much better understanding of the system’s vulnerabilities, more willing enablers in tow, and a much more focused agenda of retaliation against his adversaries and impunity for himself. When people wonder what another Trump term might hold, their minds underestimate the chaos that would lie ahead.
By Election Day 2024, Donald Trump will be in the thick of multiple criminal trials. It’s not impossible that he may already have been convicted in at least one of them. If he wins the election, Trump will commit the first crime of his second term at noon on Inauguration Day: His oath to defend the Constitution of the United States will be a perjury.
A second Trump term would instantly plunge the country into a constitutional crisis more terrible than anything seen since the Civil War. Even in the turmoil of the 1960s, even during the Great Depression, the country had a functional government with the president as its head. But the government cannot function with an indicted or convicted criminal as its head. The president would be an outlaw, or on his way to becoming an outlaw. For his own survival, he would have to destroy the rule of law.
From Trump himself and the people around him, we have a fair idea of a second Trump administration’s immediate priorities: (1) Stop all federal and state cases against Trump, criminal and civil. (2) Pardon and protect those who tried to overturn the 2020 election on Trump’s behalf. (3) Send the Department of Justice into action against Trump adversaries and critics. (4) End the independence of the civil service and fire federal officials who refuse to carry out Trump’s commands. (5) If these lawless actions ignite protests in American cities, order the military to crush them.

A Warning  (Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic)
Tom Nichols, who writes The Atlantic’s daily newsletter and is one of our in-house experts on authoritarianism, argued in mid-November that Trump has finally earned the epithet “fascist.”
“For weeks, Trump has been ramping up his rhetoric,” Nichols wrote. “Early last month, he echoed the vile and obsessively germophobic language of Adolf Hitler by describing immigrants as disease-ridden terrorists and psychiatric patients who are ‘poisoning the blood of our country.’ ”In a separate speech, Trump, Nichols wrote, “melded religious and political rhetoric to aim not at foreign nations or immigrants, but at his fellow citizens. This is when he crossed one of the last remaining lines that separated his usual authoritarian bluster from recognizable fascism.”
Trump’s rhetoric has numbed us in its hyperbole and frequency. As David A. Graham, one of our magazine’s chroniclers of the Trump era, wrote recently, “The former president continues to produce substantive ideas—which is not to say they are wise or prudent, but they are certainly more than gibberish. In fact, much of what Trump is discussing is un-American, not merely in the sense of being antithetical to some imagined national set of mores, but in that his ideas contravene basic principles of the Constitution or other bedrock bases of American government.”
It is not a sure thing that Trump will win the Republican nomination again, but as I write this, he’s the prohibitive front-runner. Which is why we felt it necessary to share with our readers our collective understanding of what could take place in a second Trump term. I encourage you to read all of the articles in this special issue carefully (though perhaps not in one sitting, for reasons of mental hygiene). Our team of brilliant writers makes a convincingly dispositive case that both Trump and Trumpism pose an existential threat to America and to the ideas that animate it. The country survived the first Trump term, though not without sustaining serious damage. A second term, if there is one, will be much worse.
The Atlantic, as our loyal readers know, is deliberately not a partisan magazine. “Of no party or clique” is our original 1857 motto, and it is true today. Our concern with Trump is not that he is a Republican, or that he embraces—when convenient—certain conservative ideas. We believe that a democracy needs, among other things, a strong liberal party and a strong conservative party in order to flourish. Our concern is that the Republican Party has mortgaged itself to an antidemocratic demagogue, one who is completely devoid of decency.

Why a Second Trump Presidency May Be More Radical Than His First  (Charlie Savage, Jonathan Swan and Maggie Haberman, New York Times)
Mr. Trump’s violent and authoritarian rhetoric on the 2024 campaign trail has attracted growing alarm and comparisons to historical fascist dictators and contemporary populist strongmen. In recent weeks, he has dehumanized his adversaries as “vermin” who must be “rooted out,” declared that immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country,” encouraged the shooting of shoplifters and suggested that the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, deserved to be executed for treason.
As he runs for president again facing four criminal prosecutions, Mr. Trump may seem more angry, desperate and dangerous to American-style democracy than in his first term. But the throughline that emerges is far more long-running: He has glorified political violence and spoken admiringly of autocrats for decades.
As a presidential candidate in July 2016, he praised the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein as having been “so good” at killing terrorists. Months after being inaugurated, he told the strongman leader of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, that his brutal campaign of thousands of extrajudicial killings in the name of fighting drugs was “an unbelievable job.” And throughout his four years in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump blew through boundaries and violated democratic norms.
What would be different in a second Trump administration is not so much his character as his surroundings. Forces that somewhat contained his autocratic tendencies in his first term — staff members who saw their job as sometimes restraining him, a few congressional Republicans episodically willing to criticize or oppose him, a partisan balance on the Supreme Court that occasionally ruled against him — would all be weaker.
As a result, Mr. Trump’s and his advisers’ more extreme policy plans and ideas for a second term would have a greater prospect of becoming reality.

US Lawmakers Want to Use a Powerful Spy Tool on Immigrants and Their Families  (Dell Cameron, Wired)
Americans with family overseas who hope to visit the United States may soon face an increased risk of being surveilled by their own government.
Support in Congress is growing for intensified vetting procedures at the US border, which would see immigrants and foreign visitors subjected to the same levels of scrutiny as suspected terrorists and spies. A bill introduced last week by members of the Senate Intelligence Committee (SSCI) and forthcoming legislation from its House counterpart both aim to expand the use of a key foreign intelligence program—Section 702—for screening and vetting visitors to the US.
The House bill, which has yet to be introduced, would additionally target asylum seekers and those applying for nonimmigrant visas and green cards, according to a memo released by the House Intelligence Committee (HPSCI) last month.