Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA), who survived the Jonestown massacre in Guyana, said in an interview with The Guardian on Thursday that ex-President Donald Trump is a “political cult leader.”
Speier was working as a legislative aid during the congressional investigation into the People’s Temple, led by Jim Jones:
It was 18 November 1978, and she had traveled to Guyana as part of a congressional investigation into the Jonestown settlement and its cult leader, Jim Jones. The fact-finding group of 24 were ambushed by cult members on a jungle airstrip; the congressman for whom Speier then worked, Leo Ryan, and four others were murdered.
Speier, shot five times and left for dead, had to wait 22 hours for help to arrive. She told herself as she lay on the tarmac that if she survived the ordeal she would devote herself to public service.
Speier explained to The Guardian that the parallels between Trump and Jones are uncanny.
“Jim Jones was a religious cult leader, Donald Trump is a political cult leader,” Speier said. “As a victim of violence and of a cult leader, I am sensitive to conduct that smacks of that. We have got to be wary of anyone who can have such control over people that they lose their ability to think independently.”
The Congresswoman also pointed out that while the military has standards for disqualifying servicemembers for being affiliated with domestic terror organizations, they do not go far enough.
“I thought it was urgent a year ago when I held a hearing on violent extremism in the military and was astonished at the number of service members who are recruited in part because of their training to these extremist groups,” she said. “It’s not as though we haven’t been given a heads-up.”
Speier said that “lackadaisical enforcement” consequently manifested during the January 6th insurrection at the United States Capitol, for which Trump is facing a second impeachment trial in the Senate.
The Guardian noted that Speier is lobbying President Joe Biden “to use his executive powers to identify white supremacy and extremism as a specific threat within the military,” and that she “also wants him to sign an executive order that would ensure that all military recruits and those seeking top security clearances are screened for signs of violent extremist activity on their social media accounts.”
Further, Speier said, “It’s astonishing to me that we have to be pulled kicking and screaming into the 21st century as it relates to how social media has become a tool for these violent fringe organizations.”
Speier added that because the armed forces had not been more diligent about rooting out white supremacy within the ranks, Trump head the means to detonate a proverbial ticking time bomb.
“Donald Trump had a code for talking to these groups. ‘There’s good people on both sides,’ ‘We love you,’ ‘You’re special.’ He recognized that they were valuable to him, and they recognized that he could amplify their recruiting,” she said. “It was a toxic brew of personal gain, and it put at risk the entire democracy of this country.”
Read the full interview here.
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Brandon is a political writer for the Hill Reporter specializing in current events, breaking news, and scientific discovery. Brandon holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. He lives in New York City.