Jenner & Block has grabbed a handful of former top Federal Communications Commission officials for the law firm's communications, internet and technology practice. Earlier in May, Howard Symons, former general counsel of the FCC under Democratic chairman Tom Wheeler, joined the practice as a partner. The firm says it has also added Roger Sherman, former chief of the Wireless Bureau, and Johanna Thomas, former legal advisor to Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, as "of counsel" and special counsel, respectively. All will be based in the firm's Washington office.
President Donald Trump warmly welcomed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the White House. Just hours later, we found out that President Trump would like to put reporters in jail. There’s a connection here. And it’s not good news for America’s journalists or the citizens who depend on them to hold their government accountable. Both as a candidate and as president, President Trump has shown no regard for the role of a free press in a democracy. New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet told me he found appalling Trump’s suggestion, but not entirely surprising. “He doesn’t understand our role. He wants ‘Fox & Friends’ coverage instead,” Baquet said. So Trump’s embrace of Erdogan — who may be the leading jailer of journalists in the world — should come as no surprise. The same goes for his regard for the leadership of Russian President Vladimir Putin or Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, clear enemies of a free press in their countries.
During a private meeting in February with former-FBI Director James Comey, President Donald Trump floated a proposal that, even by the standards of a leader who routinely advertises his disdain for the news media, brought editors and reporters up short. You should consider, President Trump told Comey, jailing journalists who publish classified information. Presidents are rarely afraid to wrangle and bully reporters, and Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, was pilloried by news organizations for aggressively prosecuting leakers. But Trump’s suggestion breached new territory for political reporters who already consider their profession under siege. “Suggesting that the government should prosecute journalists for the publication of classified information is very menacing, and I think that’s exactly what they intend,” said Martin Baron, The Washington Post’s executive editor. “It’s an act of intimidation.” While Trump’s proposal to Comey could be construed as a private fit of pique, journalists and press freedom groups said that they were alarmed by the possibility that he considered, even casually, enlisting the Justice Department to quash reporting he disliked.
The Justice Department appointed Robert Mueller III, a former FBI director, as special counsel to oversee the investigation into ties between President Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, dramatically raising the legal and political stakes in an affair that has threatened to engulf Trump’s four-month-old presidency.
The decision by the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, came after a cascade of damaging developments for President Trump in recent days, including his abrupt dismissal of FBI Director James Comey and the subsequent disclosure that President Trump asked Comey to drop the investigation of his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Rosenstein had been under escalating pressure from Democrats, and even some Republicans, to appoint a special counsel after he wrote a memo that the White House initially cited as the rationale for Comey’s dismissal. By appointing Mueller, a former federal prosecutor with an unblemished reputation, Rosenstein could alleviate uncertainty about the government’s ability to investigate the questions surrounding the Trump campaign and the Russians. Rosenstein said that he concluded that “it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authorities and appoint a special counsel to assume responsibility for this matter.”
Apparently, Michael Flynn told President Trump’s transition team weeks before the inauguration that he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign. Despite this warning, which came about a month after the Justice Department notified Flynn of the inquiry, President Trump made Flynn his national security adviser. The job gave Flynn access to the president and nearly every secret held by American intelligence agencies. Flynn’s disclosure, on Jan. 4, was first made to the transition team’s chief lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, who is now the White House counsel. That conversation, and another one two days later between Flynn’s lawyer and transition lawyers, shows that the Trump team knew about the investigation of Flynn far earlier than has been previously reported. After Flynn’s dismissal, Trump tried to get James Comey, the FBI director, to drop the investigation — an act that some legal experts say is grounds for an investigation of President Trump for possible obstruction of justice. He fired Comey on May 9.
The Federal Communications Commission is set to move forward with a plan that would blow up the rules that have governed the internet in recent years and essentially start anew, opening the door to fundamental shifts in consumers’ online experiences.
The final regulation is expected to take some time to develop. The FCC’s planned action begins a rule-making process that will likely take months, meaning the broadband internet business won’t change overnight. But eventually the new rules, depending on how the commission fills in the details, have the potential to allow new alliances between broadband providers and major entertainment, shopping, search and social media platforms. Those deals could allow cable and wireless broadband providers to lure consumers with higher speeds and better quality video for favored services, even as their choices are potentially narrowed. Critics note that the providers’ profits would probably grow in the meantime. Even supporters of the changes acknowledge the new rules could give internet providers broad latitude to offer new services that arguably are inconsistent with recent ideas about net neutrality. The biggest potential change would allow providers to offer paid prioritization, a practice that would allow some internet traffic to move more quickly or more reliably in exchange for payment to the carrier. The current rules bar paid prioritization.
Democratic lawmakers rallied net neutrality supporters ahead of the Federal Communications Commission’s initial vote to start rolling back the Obama-era regulations. A string of Democrats took to the Senate floor to argue in favor of the rules, which require internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally. And many lawmakers took to social media to encourage people to show their support for the regulations. On May 18, the FCC will vote on whether to solicit public input on the proposal to undo the rules, the first step in the process of rolling them back. Democrats argue that getting rid of net neutrality will give internet service providers the ability to favor or discriminate against certain web content.
A warning to the hundreds of thousands of people publicly urging the Federal Communications Commission to keep its tough net neutrality rules: You might be wasting your time.
The FCC’s Republican majority has indicated it won’t be swayed by the electronic messages flooding the agency’s website. “Commission outcomes are not and cannot be decided by poll numbers or letter counts,” said FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly, a Republican. A top aide to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who is leading the charge to repeal the rules, echoed that view. Robert McDowell, a former Republican FCC commissioner who has known Chairman Pai for years, said the facts on the issue will outweigh the volume of public comment. “Ajit Pai will be data-driven and not poll-driven,” McDowell said. Supporters of the regulations said it’s still important for members of the public to express their views: The opinions of average Americans could influence judges if a rule change is challenged in court as well as members of Congress if they decide to write net neutrality legislation.
Commissioners Pai and O’Rielly could be taking a big risk if they dismiss public sentiment, said Gigi Sohn, who served as counselor to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, a Democrat who pushed the rules into place. “I say defy the American people at your own peril,” Sohn said. “To the extent the FCC is supposed to act in ‘the public convenience interest and necessity,’ it might be important what the people think,” she said, quoting a phrase from the telecommunications law regarding the FCC’s oversight of the public airwaves.
American Enterprise Institute’s Jeffrey Eisenach, who advised the Trump transition team on telecommunications policy, said, “When you get millions of comments that basically say, ‘Net neutrality is a principle that has to be upheld. I don’t really know the facts. If you vote against this rule, you’re the scum of the Earth,’ that’s not the kind of evidence that the commission should be weighing.” But Sohn said Americans are busy and even filing a short statement to the FCC shows that the issue is important to them. The agency’s leaders should care about that. “To simply kind of wipe your hands of the public submissions is really not what an administrative agency should be doing,” she said. “They’ve got to take them into account.”
A quartet of House Commerce Committee Democrats led by ranking member Frank Pallone (D-NJ) have called on the Republican majority to hold a hearing on Federal Communications Commission web site "failures."
The FCC said it was hit by a DDoS attack that affected comments, including in the net neutrality docket, while more recently there have been accusations that some mass filings were attributed to people who say they did not file them. “We have serious concerns that the FCC’s website failures deprive members of the public of opportunities to make their voices heard on net neutrality – an issue that affects everyone who uses the internet,” Rep Pallone said, joined by Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee ranking member Diana DeGette (D-CO), Communications Subcommittee ranking member Mike Doyle (D-PA), and Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY). “It is critical for the FCC to be able to facilitate public participation in open rulemaking proceedings.” They also want FCC CTO David Bray, who announced the DDoS attack, to testify at the hearing.
The proposed acquisition by Sinclair Broadcasting Group of Tribune Media Company is inflaming criticism of the Federal Communications Commission, which helped pave the way for the deal by relaxing media ownership restrictions.
Sinclair announced that it had reached an agreement to buy Tribune for $3.9 billion. The announcement came several weeks after the FCC voted to ease restrictions on the amount of local television stations that broadcasters can own. Broadcasters are now limited to serving 39 percent of the country’s households. Last month, the FCC reinstated what’s known as the UHF discount, which makes stations that used to broadcast on ultra-high frequency count less toward the 39 percent ownership limit. Without the discount, Sinclair already reaches 38 percent of US households, according to an analysis from Fitch Ratings. Once the discount goes into effect, the Fitch study finds, Sinclair’s share will drop to 25 percent — giving the company more room to buy local television stations. The deal with Tribune is still likely to push Sinclair over the media limit, and the company has said that it will explore ways to avoid exceeding the cap. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has said that he agrees that the UHF discount has outlived its usefulness but argues that it shouldn’t be modified or removed without also reviewing the overall ownership limit, which he has promised the FCC will do.