Government & Communications

Attempts by governmental bodies to improve or impede communications with or between the citizenry.

'Morning Joe' hosts: White House threatened us with tabloid story

The hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” made the startling allegation that senior White House officials threatened them with a negative story in the National Enquirer unless they called President Trump and apologized. Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, who are engaged to be married, revealed the alleged threat in an op-ed in The Washington Post that was published the morning after President Trump attacked Brzezinski in two widely condemned tweets.

"This year, top White House staff members warned that the National Enquirer was planning to publish a negative article about us unless we begged the president to have the story spiked. We ignored their desperate pleas," they wrote. Brzezinski and Scarborough detailed the alleged blackmail attempt during June 30's episode of "Morning Joe." “We got a call that, hey, the National Enquirer is going to run a negative story against you guys, and it was, Donald is friends with — the president is friends with — the guy that runs the National Enquirer,” Scarborough said.

Audio shows President Trump threatened to sue CNN at private fundraiser

President Donald Trump told supporters he wanted to sue CNN at a private fundraiser. “Boy, did CNN get killed over the last few days,” the president said, referring to a retracted story that linked Trump ally Anthony Scaramucci to a Russian investment fund, triggering resignations at the outlet. “It’s a shame what they’ve done to the name CNN, that I can tell you,” continued Trump, who frequently refers to the network as "fake news." “But as far as I’m concerned, I love it. If anybody’s a lawyer in the house and thinks I have a good lawsuit — I feel like we do. Wouldn’t that be fun?” he said. The president’s comments come as tensions have flared between the administration and the media.

Effective Date Announced for Revisions to Public File Requirements

On January 31, 2017, the Commission adopted a Report and Order in MB Docket No. 16-161 eliminating two public inspection file requirements: (i) the requirement that commercial broadcast stations retain in their public inspection file copies of letters and emails from the public; and (ii) the requirement that cable operators maintain for public inspection the designation and location of the cable system’s principal headend. On March 24, 2017 and May 25, 2017, the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) approved the Commission’s Paperwork Reduction Act (“PRA”) submissions associated with changes to the broadcaster correspondence file and cable principal headend rules adopted in the Public Inspection File Report and Order. Today, the Federal Register published OMB’s approval, and the effective date of these rule changes will be June 29, 2017.

Fox News fans see Trump much differently than the country on the whole

Suffolk University released detailed numbers from a poll it conducted with USA Today, exploring, among other things, how views of political issues overlap with public confidence in various media outlets. In this poll, 60 percent of Republicans identified Fox News as the outlet in which they had the most confidence. Every other network combined for 23 percent. By contrast, only 4 percent of Democrats cited Fox as their most trusted. (Most trusted among Democrats was CNN, at 20 percent.) On issue after issue, those who most trusted Fox News held positions that were much more favorable to the president and his party than survey respondents overall. For example, consider President Trump’s job approval. More than half of the population overall disapproves of Trump’s performance. Among those who trust Fox , 9 in 10 approved. Nearly three-quarters of that group think America is headed in the right direction; overall, half think we’re on the wrong track.

President Trump angrily lashes out at ‘Morning Joe’ hosts on Twitter

President Donald Trump lashed out at the hosts of MSNBC's “Morning Joe” in two vicious tweets on the morning of June 29, calling Mika Brzezinski “low I.Q. Crazy” and claiming that she had a facelift late in 2016. President Trump also called Joe Scarborough “Psycho Joe” and said the hosts came to Mar-a-Lago — his private club in Palm Beach (FL) — three nights in a row around New Year's Eve “and insisted on joining me.” He claimed that Brzezinski “was bleeding badly from a facelift” at the time and that: “I said no!” Brzezinski and Scarborough were both spotted at Trump's New Year's Eve party, according to pool reports at the time, prompting Scarborough to fire off numerous tweets defending his presence there.

At the time, Scarborough said that he and Brzezinski were at the party to set up an interview with the president-elect. At least three GOP senators on Twitter assailed President Trump's attack, saying the insults were "beneath the dignity" of the office of the president. Sens Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Ben Sasse (R-NE) and Susan Collins (R-ME) joined a loud chorus on social media denouncing the president's latest tweets.

President Trump seizes the advantage in war with media

President Donald Trump and his allies believe he’s gained a tactical advantage in his war with the media. As he escalates his attacks on the “failing media,” President Trump and his allies are increasingly convinced that recent evidence, including the retracted CNN piece on an aspect of the Russia investigations, will prove to skeptical voters that the mainstream media has a vendetta against the administration. Many White House staffers were “elated,” a person with knowledge of their conversations said, when they learned that three journalists had resigned over a botched story that claimed newly appointed Export-Import Bank official Anthony Scaramucci was being investigated for his ties to a Russian investment fund.

What Happens if the Media Defies White House Camera Ban?

CNN host Don Lemon suggested that the White House press corps defy the White House camera ban, and turn on their cameras during the daily briefings. Reporters could certainly do that, but the White House would be within its rights to kick them out because reporters probably don’t have a First Amendment right to film or even attend the briefings, experts said. “Having a seat at a White House briefing is a privilege, not a right,” said Lucy Dalglish, dean of the University of Maryland journalism school. “The White House writes the rules,” Dalglish said. “If the networks turned on their cameras, my guess is that the entire network would be indefinitely expelled from the briefings. Credentials would be yanked.” At least reporters would not break any laws if they secretly taped. “I’m not sure any law would be broken if the the cameras were turned on surreptitiously,” Dalglish said. That’s because the District of Columbia is a “one party” jurisdiction that allows a person to record their conversations with another person, she said.

Rep Pallone Wants Investigation of Bogus Net Neutrality Comments

The Federal Communications Commission's network neutrality docket continues to draw a crowd of critics. The latest is House Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ). Rep Pallone has called on the Department of Justice and the FBI to investigate whether any federal law has been broken in the filing of fake comments using stolen identities, as some have claimed.

Rep Pallone said he was also worried that some "unknown parties" may be trying to influence federal policy. hat came in a letter to attorney general Jeff Sessions and acting FBI director Andrew McCabe. Rep Pallone wants them to investigate net neutrality activist group Fight for the Future's assertion that at least 14 people had told the FCC that their identities had been used to file comments without their permission, as well as that some 450,000 identical comments were submitted by an "unknown party" that may have been using info gained via data breaches. "Federal law prohibits knowingly making any materially false statement or representation in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch," Rep Pallone's office said.

News Reports Prompt Senate Request for FISA Court Info

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Crime and Terrorism Subcommittee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have asked for all the surveillance warrants the FBI asked for from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court as part of the FBI's investigation into Russian campaign interference, including possible collusion with the campaign of Donald Trump.

The top Republicans cited stories by both the BBC and CNN, the latter of which President Trump continues to brand as fake news. The request by the senators was based on news reports that the Justice Department had asked the court for authority to monitor members of the Trump presidential campaign—which the court denied, advising the FBI to narrow its focus. They said they want copies of both classified and non-classified.

CBO Scores S 760, OPEN Government Data Act

The OPEN Government Data Act (S 760) would direct federal agencies to publish all data they collect in an open format that can be used by any computer. Under the bill, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) would establish an inventory of all federal data sets and would direct the General Services Administration (GSA) to maintain an online interface for all such data. The bill also would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO), OMB, and Chief Information Officers at each federal agency to report to the Congress about this effort.

Information from the General Services Administration and selected agencies suggest that most of the provisions of the bill would codify Executive Order 13642 and other executive branch policies that set the framework for agencies to promote openness and interoperability in information management. That executive order requires agencies to standardize data sets and to make them publicly available. A website (www.data.gov) has been established to share this government information with the general public. However, CBO expects that implementing S. 760 would cost about $2 million over the 2018-2021 period, for additional administrative and reporting costs for GSA and other agencies and to implement the new reporting requirements for GAO; such spending would be subject to the availability of appropriated funds.