Election 2016

Trump is at war with the press — and it’s time for the press to stop helping him

[Commentary] For more than a year now, Donald Trump — first as a candidate, then as president — has made a war against the press a central plank of his public persona. He has singled out individual journalists for ad hominem attacks and declared entire news organizations to be working against America’s interests.

The lack of trust that now exists between the press and the public didn’t start with Trump, though he certainly has done his part to exacerbate it. It has been building slowly for decades, to the point that the conversation between the media and its readers is broken. Many Americans no longer think the press listens to or understands them, and they long ago started tuning us out. We became part of the establishment that had turned its back on them. These are our failings, and they need to be fixed. Reporters should be focused on the president’s team and his policies, examining his remaking of American government. These are the stories that resonate with Americans, not his views about what’s airing on MSNBC or CNN some Monday morning. We are already seeing some excellent reporting in this vein. We need more.

[Kyle Pope is editor and publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review.]

Facebook Shells Out $500,000 For Project to Fight Election Hacking

Facebook is sponsoring the efforts of former Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney campaign managers to combat hacking and disinformation campaigns designed to interfere with elections. Facebook’s chief security officer Alex Stamos announced the company’s $500,000 investment in the effort, called Defending Digital Democracy, today during a keynote at the security conference Black Hat. The project was launched last month by a Harvard University group and Stamos is a member of the group’s advisory committee.

“Our goal is to build an information sharing organization that includes political parties, campaigns, state and local election officials, and tech companies,” Stamos said. The information sharing unit will be modeled on similar efforts within the tech industry to share threat intelligence. Facebook and other major tech companies like Microsoft and Twitter use these kinds of partnerships to share information on terrorist threats, revenge porn, and child exploitation. “If one company detects an attack they can immunize others very quickly,” Stamos said. But Defending Digital Democracy plans to incorporate data not just from participating tech companies—executives from Google and the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike are also on the advisory board—but from election officials as well.

This is not okay

[Commentary] When President Donald Trump attacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a tweet July 25 for not aggressively investigating Hillary Clinton, most attention focused, understandably, on the implications for Sessions. Yet even more alarming than the president’s assault on his own attorney general is President Trump’s return to the “lock her up” theme of his 2016 campaign.

Members of Congress who are, properly, investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 race have not questioned President Trump’s legitimacy. Hillary Clinton herself graciously conceded. The FBI thoroughly investigated her e-mail practices and found no basis to prosecute. Yet President Trump now attacks Sessions for taking “a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes,” implying that a politically inspired re-investigation might help the attorney general keep his job. It is disgusting. What’s at stake is much more than the careers of any particular attorney general or special counsel. The United States has been a role model for the world, and a source of pride for Americans, because it has strived to implement the law fairly. When he attacks that process and seeks revenge on his opponents, President Trump betrays bedrock American values. It’s crucial that other political leaders say so.

Attorney General Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, US intelligence intercepts show

Russia’s ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with then-Sen Jeff Sessions (R-AL) during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, according to current and former US officials.

Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s accounts of two conversations with Sen Sessions — then a top foreign policy adviser to Republican candidate Donald Trump — were intercepted by US spy agencies, which monitor the communications of senior Russian officials in the United States and in Russia. Attorney General Sessions initially failed to disclose his contacts with Kislyak and then said that the meetings were not about the Trump campaign. One US official said that AG Sessions — who testified that he had no recollection of an April encounter — has provided “misleading” statements that are “contradicted by other evidence.” A former official said that the intelligence indicates that AG Sessions and Kislyak had “substantive” discussions on matters including Trump’s positions on Russia-related issues and prospects for US-Russia relations in a Trump administration.

Since Trump’s Election, Increased Attention to Politics – Especially Among Women

Following the 2016 election, which had one of the largest gender gaps in history, women are more likely than men to say they are paying increased attention to politics. And while far more Democrats than Republicans say they have attended a political event, rally or protest since the election, Democratic women – especially younger women and those with postgraduate degrees – are among the most likely to have participated in such a political gathering.

The latest national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted June 27 to July 9 among 2,505 adults, finds that 52% of Americans say they are paying more attention to politics since Donald Trump’s election; 33% say they are paying about the same amount of attention, while 13% say they are paying less attention to politics. The new survey also finds that, nearly nine months after the election, most people (59%) say it is “stressful and frustrating” to talk about politics with people who have a different opinion of Trump than they do; just 35% find such conversations “interesting and informative."

The Sinclair Revolution Will Be Televised. It’ll Just Have Low Production Values

In the menagerie of television talking heads who have come to prominence advocating for Donald Trump, Boris Epshteyn is hardly the most memorable. Yet he’s perhaps the best surrogate to study if you want to understand where the Trump/TV industrial complex goes next. Epshteyn briefly worked in the White House—the job ended not long after Politico reported that he’d gotten into a “yelling match” with a booker at Fox News—but since April he’s been employed as the chief political analyst for the Sinclair Broadcast Group. Sinclair is likely to get larger yet.

In May the company announced it was buying Tribune Media Co. for $3.9 billion. Among other assets, Sinclair would add 42 TV stations—including major ones in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago—if the deal is approved by regulators. The expansion wouldn’t have been possible if President Trump’s pick to lead the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, hadn’t voted a few weeks earlier to ease a major restriction on local media ownership...President Trump remains a protected figure on Sinclair airwaves. Even as the company has occasionally furnished its stations with ads made to look like journalism, it’s adopted President Trump’s tactic of hammering its competitors for producing “fake news.”

Excerpts From The Times’s Interview With Trump

President Donald Trump spoke on July 19 with three New York Times reporters — Peter Baker, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman — in an exclusive interview in the Oval Office.

BAKER: I do want to come out, on the email, now that you have seen that email that said Russia’s government — I mean, how did you — did you interpret it that way?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I thought originally it might have had to do something with the payment by Russia of the DNC. Somewhere I heard that. Like, it was an illegal act done by the DNC, or the Democrats. That’s what I had heard. Now, I don’t know where I heard it, but I had heard that it had to do something with illegal acts with respect to the DNC. Now, you know, when you look at the kind of stuff that came out, that was, that was some pretty horrific things came out of that. But that’s what I had heard. But I don’t know what it means. All I know is this: When somebody calls up and they say, “We have infor—” Look what they did to me with Russia, and it was totally phony stuff.

[Later On.]
BAKER: This is why I want to come back to that email, because, like — does it concern you? Let’s say that the election didn’t change because of anything Russia did, which has been your point, right? You point —
TRUMP: By the way, it’s everybody.
BAKER: Right, your point is that Democrats are trying to use this as an excuse, fine. But did that email concern you, that the Russian government was trying something to compromise——
TRUMP: You know, Peter, I didn’t look into it very closely, to be honest with you.
TRUMP: I just heard there was an email requesting a meeting or something — yeah, requesting a meeting. That they have information on Hillary Clinton, and I said — I mean, this was standard political stuff.

Lessons Learned From Roger Ailes One Year After His Fox Firing

On the anniversary of the ouster of the most influential man in conservative politics, who died in May, a legacy is revealed in Trump's anti-media venom, Rupert Murdoch's unrest and a vision that has jumped cable news to become the dominant historical current. It was Roger Ailes' tacit support of Trump that, in part, made his removal from Fox all the more urgent for the Murdochs. And it was not just the liberal sons who were agitated by Ailes' regard for Donald Trump, but also the father, whose tabloid, the New York Post, helped create Trump, but who found him now, with great snobbery, not of "our" conservative class. ("When is Donald Trump going to stop embarrassing his friends, let alone the whole country?" Murdoch senior tweeted the day after Trump officially declared himself a candidate.)

Murdoch instructed Ailes to tilt to anyone but Trump, Ailes confided to me before he was fired, even Hillary. (Ailes, for his part, characterized Murdoch's periodic efforts at interference as similar to Nixon's instructions to bomb this or that country — best ignored.) After the election, a confounded Murdoch had to call on his ex-wife Wendi's friends, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, to broker a rapprochement with the disreputable Donald. Now, to Trump's great satisfaction, a humbled Murdoch is a constant caller.

Rep Biggs: Media has 'Pavlovian' response to mention of Russia

Rep Andy Biggs (R-AZ) is slamming the media's coverage of President Donald Trump and Russia, saying news outlets have a "fixation" on the issue. Rep Biggs said the coverage is intended to “delegitimize the president.” "If you mention the word ‘Russia,' it's Pavlovian to CNN and The New York Times," Reps Biggs said. He added that he believes Trump and Republicans in Congress are making progress on areas such as immigration, regulation and boosting defense, but those stories are being overshadowed by the coverage about Russia. “We have to do a better job messaging,” he said.

Russian Dirt on Clinton? ‘I Love It,’ Donald Trump Jr. Said

The June 3, 2016, e-mail sent to Donald Trump Jr. could hardly have been more explicit: One of his father’s former Russian business partners had been contacted by a senior Russian government official and was offering to provide the Trump campaign with dirt on Hillary Clinton. The documents “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” read the email, written by a trusted intermediary, who added, “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

If the future president’s eldest son was surprised or disturbed by the provenance of the promised material — or the notion that it was part of a continuing effort by the Russian government to aid his father’s campaign — he gave no indication. He replied within minutes: “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.” Four days later, after a flurry of e-mails, the intermediary wrote back, proposing a meeting in New York on Thursday with a “Russian government attorney.” Donald Trump Jr. agreed, adding that he would most likely bring along “Paul Manafort (campaign boss)” and “my brother-in-law,” Jared Kushner, now one of the president’s closest White House advisers.