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  • Government Ethics And Legal Experts Pan Trump's "Prohibited" And Conflict-Ridden Plan For The Trump Organization

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Government ethics and legal experts say President-elect Donald Trump's plan to transfer oversight of his company to his sons does not go far enough to avoid serious conflicts of interest as president, and they urged journalists not to let him off the hook.

    Trump announced today at a press conference that he would transfer control of The Trump Organization to a trust controlled by his eldest sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, and Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, but would still retain an ownership interest in the business and receive reports on the business' finances.

    His attorney, Sheri Dillon of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, told reporters the company would also appoint an in-house ethics consultant to review future actions and cancel pending foreign deals. Still, ethics experts say the plan falls short of a clear separation from the business side.

    “It doesn’t do what everybody wanted it to do,” said Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project On Government Oversight. “In essence, keeping an ownership interest in the business is a wrong decision. He can’t just set up firewalls between himself and his sons who are running the business and think there isn’t a conflict of interest.”

    He later added, “As the chief executive of the United States government, there will still be decisions made that can affect his business and the public needs to know that the decisions he is making are in the best interests of the public and not of his business.”

    Amey said reporters “are going to have to stay on top of what the ethics agreement is going to look like and what enforcement mechanisms are in there to prevent conflicts of interest and what monitoring is being done on the government side and with this ethics official at The Trump Organization.”

    Matthew Sanderson, a government ethics lawyer with law firm Caplin & Drysdale, called it a “mixed bag” at best.

    “There are a few laudable measures,” he said. “The cancellation of any pending deals along with the appointment of an ethics advisor, freeze on foreign deals. Those are good things.”

    “The problem is he remains conflicted,” Sanderson stressed. “He still holds an ownership interest in The Trump Organization, which means his net worth will increase with any favorable government decisions. The fact that he is now letting someone else do the work, the management, does not change the fact that he will still benefit. … He’s still in the position of being a conflicted president and open to the accusation that he is monetizing the presidency.”

    Kathleen Clark, a Washington University School of Law professor and government ethics expert, said Trump needs to “remove not just his management activities, but remove himself from having a financial interest in the firm. He’s retaining a financial interest in the company -- that hasn’t changed.

    “He’ll still be financially benefiting from them. I didn’t see any indication that he is giving up an ownership interest at all.”

    She added: “There is the conflict of interest concern, an ethical concern even though the Congress has exempted the president from the conflict. But he will be in a position where he can use government office to enrich The Trump Organization and enrich himself.”

    She also cited the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution that bars federal officeholders from profiting from foreign governments or their agents: “The problem is that The Trump Organization and Donald Trump will receive and he will receive money from foreign governments, that is what’s prohibited. He says he will donate the profits, the Emoluments Clause is concerned with payments, not just profits. Who gets to define what the profits are?”

    Violating the Emoluments Clause is an impeachable offense. And according to legal experts, barring a full divestment from his business dealings with foreign governments, Trump will be in violation of this clause the moment he is inaugurated as president.

    On Twitter, Laurence Tribe, Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard University, argued that “Trump's workaround is a totally fraudulent runaround.” He added that the plan is “cleverly designed to dazzle and deceive, but it solves none of the serious ethical or legal issues.”

  • Trump Punishes CNN After It Challenged Him, Rewards Breitbart For Sucking Up

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    During Donald Trump’s press conference, the president-elect criticized CNN for reporting on alleged contacts between his campaign and the Russian government, and then CNN reporter Jim Acosta tried to ask a question. Trump refused Acosta’s repeated requests. Soon after, Trump solicited a question from Matthew Boyle of the embarrassingly pro-Trump Breitbart News, who served up a softball.

    On Tuesday, CNN reported that "classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump." The documents also reportedly included "allegations that there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government." Buzzfeed followed CNN's article by publishing pages of raw memos related to the allegations.

    At his press conference, responding to a question from CBS’ Major Garrett, Trump elaborated on a tweet he sent out on Wednesday morning in which he wrote, "Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to 'leak' into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?"

    Trump said BuzzFeed would “suffer the consequences” for publishing the memos and that CNN went “out of their way to build it up.”

    CNN reporter Jim Acosta then attempted to ask Trump a question, noting, “Since you’re attacking us, can you give us a question?” Trump refused and waved him away. Acosta persisted, and Trump refused and said CNN is “terrible,” told Acosta to be quiet, and said, “You are fake news,” before moving on to another reporter.

    A few minutes later, Trump turned to Matt Boyle of Breitbart.com, who proceeded to ask Trump about “all the problems that we’ve seen throughout the media over the course of the election” and “what reforms do you recommend for this industry here?”

    It would hardly be possible to ask a more sycophantic and fawning question, but coming from Breitbart, it’s not surprising.

    Breitbart has become the all-but-official voice of Trump over the past two years. The site has tied itself into absurd knots to defend him and attack his opponents in both the Republican and Democratic parties, while also mangling and inventing stories to serve his campaign’s narrative.

    Stephen Bannon, Trump’s incoming chief White House strategist, has been the chairman of Breitbart and has overseen its transformation from a more traditional conservative outlet to what he described as a “platform” for the so-called “alt-right,” whose noxious brand of white nationalist nativist politics now dominates the conservative movement.

    Breitbart’s dedication to Trump and its vilification of his perceived enemies were reflected in its writeup of the contentious exchange between Trump and Acosta, headlined “Trump to CNN: You Are Fake News.” Breitbart.com also posted the following headlines on its front page:

    In turn, Trump has often used the millions of followers he has on social media to direct web traffic toward Breitbart stories promoting him and his conspiracy theories.

    Later on CNN, Acosta reported that Republican National Committee communications director and incoming Trump press secretary Sean Spicer told him that if he were to persist in asking Trump questions in the same manner, he would be “thrown out of this press conference.”  (After his combative exchange with Acosta, Trump later fielded a question from CNN reporter Jeremy Diamond.)

    The lesson from Trump is that he won’t accept the sort of adversarial journalism CNN has engaged in here, which is necessary and vital for a modern, functioning democracy. But if you suck up like Breitbart did (and has done), you will be perfectly fine.

  • CNN's Russia Bombshell About Trump Deserves More Than Journalistic Navel-Gazing

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    President-elect Donald Trump is dodging serious questions raised by a blockbuster CNN story that top U.S. intelligence officials presented Trump with documents including Russian claims that they have “compromising” information about the president-elect. Instead, he is trying to turn the conversation into a discussion about ethics in political journalism, and some in the press are playing along, helping the president-elect avoid accountability.

    Yesterday, CNN reported that intelligence officials had presented information to President Obama and Trump that “Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump” and that “there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.” The allegations were presented in a two-page synopsis of 35 pages of memos authored by a British former intelligence officer, which CNN obtained but did not publish.

    CNN had not been able to verify the allegations in those memos, which have reportedly been “circulating as far back as last summer,” and the FBI is still reviewing the allegations. But according to CNN, “US intelligence agencies have now checked out the former British intelligence operative and his vast network throughout Europe and find him and his sources to be credible enough to include some of the information in the presentations to the President and President-elect a few days ago.”

    Shortly after CNN’s report came out, BuzzFeed published the memos. The site acknowledged that its own reporters had been unable to verify the contents but said it released them anyway “so that Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the US government.”

    In their responses, Trump and his allies have either deliberately conflated those two stories -- the raw information published by BuzzFeed and the journalism produced by CNN -- or focused solely on BuzzFeed in order to sidestep the serious questions raised by CNN’s report.

    Last night on Twitter, Trump himself declared the stories “FAKE NEWS” before highlighting an attack on the BuzzFeed story by LifeZette, a fringe website founded by conservative radio host Laura Ingraham that has pushed false conspiracy theories.

    Trump’s pick for White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, opened Trump’s press conference today by lashing out at “outrageous and highly irresponsible” BuzzFeed, then falsely suggested that CNN had also published the memos:

    Trump’s defense has actually included citing the Kremlin’s denial as evidence that the story isn’t true. And yet, some in the media have followed along, conflating BuzzFeed’s work with CNN’s and focusing on BuzzFeed’s decision to release the memo rather than engaging with the troubling implications of the CNN report.

    “Why would BuzzFeed and why would CNN put out these reports that are unsubstantiated and they can't name a source?” Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt asked incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus this morning. “Because it’s irresponsible and it's what's horrible about politics and what’s happening in America,” Priebus replied. “They should be ashamed of themselves.”

    “Right now there’s no story here," Mika Brzezinski said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “The two outlets [Buzzfeed and CNN] that are actually going with this and releasing it are continuing to make the same mistakes they made in the run-up to this election, which is to let their bias get in the way of actually finding out what the facts are and putting them out there.”

    By playing Trump’s game, these media figures are ignoring incredibly important questions that get to the heart of the democratic process.

    CNN’s report suggests that top U.S. intelligence officials suspect that a presidential candidate’s associates may have colluded with a foreign, hostile government to influence the election.

    It suggests that our officials found allegations about Russian claims of possessing “compromising” information about the president-elect to be valid enough to include in briefing documents.

    That information was reportedly delivered to Trump, and given the events of the last day it’s unclear whether he read it.

    The president-elect has responded by siding with that hostile foreign government over the apparent concerns of the U.S. intelligence community.

    Reporters need to keep their eyes on the ball, and off their navels.

  • Trump Just Shot Jim Acosta In The Middle Of Fifth Avenue And The Press Didn’t Blink

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    On the campaign trail last January, President-elect Donald Trump bragged that he “could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters.”

    Today during his press conference, Trump did the rhetorical equivalent to CNN reporter Jim Acosta, and the assembled reporters did nothing.

    After Trump attacked CNN’s report that top U.S. intelligence officials believe Russian operatives may have compromising information about him, Acosta yelled out, “Since you are attacking us, can you give us a question?” In an extended back and forth, Trump lashed out at Acosta’s “terrible” news outlet.

    “I’m not going to give you a question,” Trump said. “I’m not going to give you a question. You are fake news!”

    Acosta was left to say that Trump was being “inappropriate” and sink back in his chair as Trump’s supporters clapped.

    And the rest of the press apparently did nothing at all. They watched it happen, then moved on to ask their own questions. Rather than deferring to their CNN colleagues until they had an opportunity to speak or or pushing back against Trump’s attack on a media outlet or even walking out, they acted like it hadn’t happened.

    This is a pattern. Members of the press have repeatedly refused to stand together as Trump has lashed out at their colleagues.

    Trump banned The Des Moines Register from covering his campaign after it printed a critical editorial. There was no collective response from the press. So he banned more outlets when he didn’t like their coverage.

    His campaign threw a New York Times reporter out of an event. No response from the press.

    He confined the reporters to press pens where he could mock them by name to the glee of his supporters, putting them in physical danger. And into the pens they went, day after day.

    His campaign manager allegedly manhandled a reporter. CNN hired the campaign manager!

    Trump treats reporters like conquered foes who he can manhandle at will. If they can’t figure out a way to stand up together and for one another, he will pick them off one by one and grind the free press into the dirt.

    The press conference reportedly ended with Acosta being heckled by Omarosa. Who’s next?

  • Sen. Ted Cruz’s “Challenge” To The Media To Cover AG Nominee Sessions’ Involvement In Prosecuting A KKK Murderer Lacks Key Details

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) implored the media to run segments on attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions’ (R-AL) participation in the prosecution of an Alabama Klansman who lynched an African-American youth. But in his retelling of the 1981 prosecution, Cruz omitted key information, specifically that Sessions’ subordinate in the U.S. attorney’s office later testified that Sessions tried to dissuade him from pursuing prosecution in the case.

    On March 21, 1981, Michael Donald, an African-American teenager, was lynched in Mobile, AL, by Henry Hays and another conspirator. Hays was acting on the orders of his father, who was second in command of Alabama’s Ku Klux Klan organization, to randomly kill an African-American in retaliation for the murder of a white police officer.

    Local law enforcement severely botched the murder investigation. As reported by The Atlantic, one law enforcement officer told reporters that the murder was a case where “three junkies had killed this lowlife black man who thought he could take drugs from them and not pay.” Other members of law enforcement attempted to smear Donald with allegations of other criminal conduct.

    At the time of the murder, Sessions was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. Following the failure of local law enforcement to properly investigate the case, an assistant U.S. attorney in Sessions’ office, Thomas Figures, became the “driving force” in securing the involvement of attorneys in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. During the subsequent prosecution, Sessions took on a “supervisory role,” working in concert with Figures, attorneys from the Civil Rights Division, and state prosecutors. Hays was convicted of murder, sentenced to death, and later executed.

    Sessions lists his participation in the case as one of his biggest career accomplishments, and conservative media have repeatedly cited the case to defend Sessions against longstanding allegations of racism. (In 1986, the Senate Judiciary Committee rejected Sessions’ nomination to the federal bench amid testimony that he directed racially derogatory language toward Figures, who was black, and allegations that Sessions used his position as a prosecutor to unfairly target minorities.)

    During the first day of Sessions’ confirmation hearings on January 10, Cruz cited the case and the statements of other attorneys who worked on the case who said that Sessions was cooperative and helpful during the prosecution. Cruz then issued a "challenge," saying, “I would encourage the news media: Cover this story. Tell the story on the six o’clock news about Jeff Sessions helping prosecute a Klansman who had murdered an innocent African-American man, and putting him on death row, and bankrupting -- helping bankrupt the Klan in Alabama. That’s a story that needs to be told.”

    In his remarks, Cruz failed to mention Figures’ testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee during Sessions’ failed 1986 nomination. Figures testified that Sessions sought to prevent him from forming a prosecutable case, telling him at the time “that the case was a waste of time, that it wasn’t going anywhere, that I should spend more time on other things, and that, if the perpetrators were found, I would not be assigned to the case.” As Figures recounted, Sessions came on board only when it “became increasingly apparent that we were going to break the case.” During the 1986 hearing, Sessions denied Figures’ allegations. From The Atlantic:

    In 1986, Figures testified before the Senate that while it was “literally true” that Sessions had not “obstructed the investigation of the murder of Michael Donald,” Sessions had “tried to persuade me to discontinue pursuit of the case.” Figures said that Sessions “remarked, with regard to the investigation, that the case was a waste of time, that it wasn’t going anywhere, that I should spend more time on other things, and that, if the perpetrators were found, I would not be assigned to the case.” Figures told the Senate that after the case went to the grand jury, and it “became increasingly apparent that we were going to break the case, Mr. Sessions attitude changed” and that he supported the prosecution.

    Sessions’s statements to the Senate in 1986 about his supervisory role in the case are more modest than what he and his supporters say today, and while his testimony at the time generally did not directly contradict Figures’s account, Sessions insisted that he did not urge Figures to drop the case.

    Significantly, Cruz’s secondary claim about Sessions helping to bankrupt the Klan greatly overstates Sessions’ involvement. It was actually Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center who conceptualized and executed the novel civil lawsuit that led to that outcome, using the facts of the Hays murder case to establish that the Klan had organizational liability for Donald’s murder. A 1987 New York Times article on the verdict makes no mention of Sessions, instead focusing on the members of Donald’s family, attorneys, and activists who played the primary role in securing the outcome.

  • Wall Street Journal Invents Reasons For Trump To Gut Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

    Will Right-Wing Media’s Campaign To Destroy The Consumer Watchdog Succeed Under Trump?

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board joined Republican senators in urging the president-elect to fire the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Richard Cordray, for “a menu of reasons” ranging from the agency’s crackdown on racial prejudice in auto loans to the cost of building renovations.

    The CFPB was set up in the wake of the financial crisis as part of a new regulatory network constructed by the Dodd-Frank Act and has been a target of conservative media misinformation ever since, most of which has focused on the agency’s supposed overreach in protecting American consumers from predatory corporate behavior. The Journal’s editorial on January 9 calling on Donald Trump to fire Cordray “for cause” after Trump assumes the presidency followed calls for Cordray’s termination by Republican Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ben Sasse (R-NE). Among the reasons the Journal claimed as justification for Cordray’s termination was the CFPB’s allegedly poor handling of anti-discrimination regulations, its supposed failure to comply with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and reports of racial and gender discrimination from CFPB employees. From The Wall Street Journal:

    Meantime, Mr. Trump should fire Mr. Cordray for cause, and the President-elect has a menu of reasons. Take a CFPB auto-loan campaign, which involved guessing the race of a borrower by his last name, and then suing banks that seemed to offer better deals to people the government assumed are white. A House Financial Services Committee report detailed how Mr. Cordray and senior officers knew their statistical method was “prone to significant error” but hid that reality from the public.

    Mr. Cordray’s bureau routinely fails to show the reasoning behind its rules. In December the Cause of Action Institute filed a lawsuit against CFPB for refusing to produce more than 1,800 pages of documents on how the agency came up with a regulation on arbitration. Such disclosures are required by the Freedom of Information Act.

    [...]

    An investigation of CFPB employment practices by the Government Accountability Office found that a quarter of black, Asian and female respondents reported that they had been discriminated against. About 10% claimed to have personally observed retaliation against another employee. The bureau neglected to fulfill seven Inspector General recommendations in this area. Mr. Cordray also stood by while a CFPB office renovation notched more than $100 million in cost overruns.

    The Journal’s supposed evidence that the CFPB is a “lawless and unprofessional agency [that] deserves a dose of political accountability” does not hold up to scrutiny.

    The Journal has attacked the CFPB before for standing up to discrimination in auto lending after the agency drafted new guidance on interest rate markups and facilitated compensation for American consumers who had been the targets of discrimination. In November 2015, the Center for Responsible Lending concluded that the CFPB’s regulatory changes had the added benefit of saving all consumers money. The Journal's complaint that CFPB is not forthcoming enough with FOIA requests specifically cites a lawsuit from Cause of Action, a Koch-funded front group. The editorial’s allegation of rampant discrimination at the agency also ignored that it was the CFPB that initiated a self-assessment of its employee evaluations, as part of the “standards for equal employment opportunity” mandated by Dodd-Frank, and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report alluded to by the Journal actually found that the agency “has worked to strengthen personnel management practices and enhance its diversity and inclusion efforts.” Even the Journal’s accusation of mismanagement and cost overruns in the agency’s office renovation falls flat: The Federal Reserve Inspector General found that “construction costs appear reasonable” and that the agency’s building “costs are below the amount previously budgeted.”

    While the editorial attacked the CFPB, and Cordray, for problems that the agency took steps to fix years ago, it completely ignored the agency’s successes. According to a December 2, 2015, article in The New York Times, the CFPB has “seized upon its mission” to rein in abuses in financial services under Cordray, including cracking down on predatory for-profit colleges, arranging forgiveness of $480 million of student loans, and ordering the reimbursement of nearly $700 million to Citigroup customers swindled by illegal credit charges. Since its inception, the agency had “provided for $11 billion in relief for over 25 million customers,” according to the Times.

    The demands for Cordray’s termination mark the culmination of a years-long conservative campaign to undermine the agency. As New York magazine pointed out in a December 29 article, Cordray will be “one of the few adversaries of Wall Street” left after Republicans assume control of the federal government, and for conservatives, “Cordray’s success at enacting new regulations is a bug, not a feature.”

  • NRATV Offers Up A False History To Whitewash Sen. Sessions' Prosecution Of Civil Rights Workers 

    Blog ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    The National Rifle Association’s NRATV defended attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) against allegations of racial bias by offering a bogus history of a controversial criminal case Sessions prosecuted when he was a U.S. Attorney.

    The NRA has endorsed Sessions for attorney general. During the first day of Sessions’ hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, longstanding allegations of racial bias resurfaced during questioning. (In 1986, the Judiciary Committee rejected Sessions’ nomination to the federal bench amid testimony that he directed racially derogatory language toward a subordinate and allegations that Sessions used his position as a prosecutor to unfairly target minorities.)

    During the January 10 broadcast of NRATV, host Grant Stinchfield defended Sessions by claiming that “when the left doesn’t agree with you, what they do is they throw out the race card and they accuse everybody of being a racist.”

    NRATV commentator and conservative talk radio host Dana Loesch agreed and said she is “pretty damn tired of these racial accusations.” She claimed that critics of Sessions are “mad because he busted one group in Alabama who was engaged in voter fraud.” But in fact, the group in question was not engaged in voter fraud. Instead, Loesch was mischaracterizing the 1985 voter fraud investigation in Alabama, led by Sessions after civil rights activist and Martin Luther King Jr. adviser Albert Turner tried to help African-Americans vote using protections secured by the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The defendants were acquitted on all charges, and Sessions’ handling of the case was later cited as the primary reason the Senate considered him unfit to serve as a federal judge in 1986.

    Here is what actually happened: Turner and two other activists formed the Perry County Civic League, aimed at helping African-Americans in their county register to vote. Like other organizations at the time, the Perry County Civic League helped people register to vote absentee. (At the time, polls in Perry County were only open for four hours on Election Day.) After a number of black candidates won in the 1982 elections, Sessions, who was then a U.S. attorney, headed up an investigation for voter fraud that culminated in a 29-count indictment against Turner and two other civil rights workers alleging mail fraud, conspiracy to commit voting fraud and voting more than once.

    Sessions’ case was incredibly weak, giving rise to the accusation that he was motivated by racial animus. According to The New York Times, “During the trial, the prosecution adopted an exceptionally broad theory, arguing that it was a crime for a voter to sign a ballot that someone else filled out for him.” As a result, “The judge ruled that this theory was contrary to election law and the Constitution, and at the close of trial, threw out many of the counts against the Turners and Hogue. They were acquitted of the rest by the jury.”

    The NRA’s scrubbing of Sessions’ 1985 prosecution isn’t surprising, given that the organization has campaigned for his “swift” confirmation. NRATV previously grossly exaggerated the number of murders that occur in Chicago in arguing that Sessions should be confirmed as attorney general.

    From the January 10 edition of NRATV’s Live Updates with Grant Stinchfield:

    GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): Any surprises so far during the hearing?

    DANA LOESCH: No, Grant. I’m not surprised at all. This is what happens when a dying ideology and grievance-mongers lose the election. They have to whine like crybabies about it for weeks after. Al Sharpton has promised a season of civil disobedience. I would love to see Al Sharpton demonstrate just a week of common sense before he really attempts to go that far with it. Look, I am not shocked by any of this. Jeff Sessions is a threat to a politicized Department of Justice. The DOJ has been weaponized, and has been used to go after individuals. We all remember how the DOJ went after the press, how they went after -- I told you this yesterday, Associated Press reporters, a number of other individuals, how they allowed for voter fraud and inflated fraud to take place on voter rolls across the country. How they wouldn’t prosecute a lot of cases that really deserved the DOJ’s attention. Jeff Sessions is a threat to this. Also, Jeff Sessions upholds that recognition. He did it as AG of Alabama, he’ll do it as AG here of the United States of America, as [NRA top lobbyist] Chris Cox said. He’s going to uphold that recognition, the federal recognition that our right to bear arms doesn’t just stop at a state line and this is something that goes across all of the United States, which is why I’m happy to see national reciprocity. And I’m going to tell you too, Grant. I’m getting pretty damn tired of these racial accusations going up against Jeff Sessions because Democrats right now are repeating discredited arguments that have been discredited since 1986. When you have Thomas Figures, who was indicted on bribery -- he was one of two accusers who tried to make up some accusation that Jeff Sessions was a racist. The other was Gerald Herbert, who was publicly put down by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals because he acted with impropriety. These are the two completely ineligible for consideration people that Democrats are relying on for the whole of their racial argument about Jeff Sessions. And I’ll end with this, Grant. A number of associates with Jeff Sessions, black and white, have defended his character, they’ve defended his integrity, they’ve defended his record, and that’s why they’re coming together. And that’s why, from some of these Democrat senators, you’re seeing such soft questioning, because they’ve been there shoulder to shoulder with Jeff Sessions and they know he’s the DOJ America needs.

    STINCHFIELD: Well you and I both know, Dana, that when the left doesn’t agree with you, what they do is they throw out the race card and they accuse everybody of being a racist. What really gets me is they look at Jeff Sessions as such a threat simply for one reason: He has vowed to uphold the law on the books already. That’s it, it's that simple. It’s how you change America around, it's how you make America safe again.

    LOESCH: Well they’re mad because he busted one group in Alabama who was engaged in voter fraud. I don’t like how there are groups that exist and they try to hide behind the guise of calling themselves a civil rights group. ACORN did it. 

  • Both Of Roger Ailes’ Replacements Have Now Been Accused Of Participating In Fox News’ Culture Of Sexual Harassment

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Fox News’ culture of sexual harassment did not end when founder Roger Ailes was given the boot. Instead, the network seems to have replaced him with men who engaged in or helped cover up similar behavior.

    Last year, longtime Fox executives Jack Abernethy and Bill Shine became the network’s co-presidents, replacing Ailes, who left the network after dozens of women accused him of sexual harassment.

    Abernethy has now been accused of retaliating against an employee who refused a personal relationship with him, while Shine was previously identified as playing “an integral role in the cover up” of sexual harassment allegations against Ailes.

    After the allegations against Ailes came to light, the network’s parent company launched an investigation by a law firm hired to review the allegations and provide legal advice. But in spite of numerous reports pointing to a broader culture of sexual harassment at the network, the inquiry was reportedly never expanded beyond Ailes. Fox got its “revenue machine back on track” and tried to move on, as Vanity Fair put it.

    But in promoting Ailes’ proteges to replace him, the network exposed itself and its employees to more of the same behavior.

    Soon after Ailes’ removal, Fox paid former on-air personality Juliet Huddy “a sum in the high six figures” not to sue the network after her lawyers sent Fox a letter alleging that she had been sexually harassed by host Bill O’Reilly, The New York Times reported today. The details are grotesque, and this is not the first time O’Reilly has been accused of such behavior.

    But the allegations extend beyond the network’s biggest star. The same letter reportedly indicated that Abernethy “had retaliated against [Huddy] professionally after she made clear that she was not interested in a personal relationship.”

    Shine has yet to be publicly accused of the same behavior. But he reportedly played a key role in keeping similar accusations from exploding into the public eye.

    New York magazine writer Gabriel Sherman -- the leading source on the Ailes scandal -- said that Shine “played an integral role in the cover up of these sexual harassment claims.” He explained on CNN that Shine “pushed women into confidential mediation, signing nondisclosure agreements in exchange for their contracts to be paid.” Other reporters confirmed hearing from Fox sources that Shine had known of Ailes’ misconduct.

    Since the initial accusations came out against Ailes, news reports have indicated that he was only part of the problem. At least a dozen other women told the Times in July they had experienced sexual harassment or intimidation at Fox, with many of them citing supervisors other than Ailes.

    It’s long past time for Fox to commission a real, independent investigation into its culture of sexual harassment. The network’s women should not have to live in fear of retribution from executives and hosts seeking sexual relationships.

  • With Finance Hire, Breitbart Tries To Wash Off The Stench Of The “Alt-Right”

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    In a transparent play to give the website a veneer of credibility, Breitbart.com has hired Wall Street Journal reporter John Carney to head up its new finance and economics section.

    Carney will “manage a roster of news contributors that includes former CNBC personality Larry Kudlow” for the Breitbart vertical when it launches following Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration, Bloomberg Businessweek’s Joshua Green reported.

    Breitbart is currently defined by its bigoted content and popularity among the white nationalist and misogynist “alt-right.” Progressive activists have successfully urged the platform’s blue-chip advertisers to abandon it.

    Breitbart is ascendant in the political sphere; the candidate the site championed is on his way to the White House, accompanied by the outlet’s chairman, Stephen Bannon. But Breitbart’s position in the cultural sphere is waning due to scrutiny of its work. Its leadership wants to change the site’s narrative -- because, as Andrew Breitbart himself often warned, “politics is downstream from culture.”

    Over the past few years, Breitbart’s reach has expanded in two ways. The site has launched verticals that cover national security, technology, and sports (frequently with a heavy reliance on aggregation and wire service copy) in an effort to convince the members of its hard-right American audience to get their news about those subjects within the same ecosystem where they read about politics.

    And it has sought to expand its audiences in particular geographic areas by launching sections focused on California, Texas, the United Kingdom, Israel, and soon, Germany and France.

    The launch of the new financial and economic vertical sounds like a little bit of both.

    Breitbart has covered finance and economics in the past, but not with any real dedication or rigor; the website wants its audience to stay with it for that news, rather than going elsewhere.

    But Breitbart also seems to be seeking a new audience with the move: Wall Street professionals who are high value for advertisers but currently don’t get much from the website other than an association with the “alt-right.”

    That’s where Carney comes in.

    According to Green, Carney “writes about finance with a populist bent that often mirrors Breitbart’s outlook on politics.” He certainly seems on board with the Breitbart mission, telling Green that the section will promote “the economics of making America great again.”

    But he is also a professional journalist, with the Journal, Business Insider, and CNBC on his resume along with clips from other major publications. That makes him a dramatic departure from the editors the website has previously chosen to launch its new sections, a motley melange of conservative political operatives, conspiracy theorists, and fringe writers, often with a prior relationship with the website.

    Wall Street leaders who have worked with Carney in the past will likely continue to take his calls. Other mainstream journalists may be more willing to entertain offers from Breitbart now that they know Carney is helming part of the site.

    If that strategy holds, Breitbart may be able to generate enough independent reporting and scoops to attract that Wall Street audience. And with that audience comes more traffic and more advertising.

    While Carney suggests that the section will “hold [Trump] accountable,” Kudlow’s presence on the staff gives the game away. The longtime right-wing media personality lavished praise on Trump’s economic plans -- which he helped author -- during the presidential campaign. Trump has reportedly considered naming him to head the Council of Economic Advisors.

    Together, Carney and Kudlow will put a veneer of credibility over the same old Trump sycophancy.

  • Alex Jones Brags About Praise From “Top Putin Advisers” On Russian TV For His Pro-Trump Coverage

    Jones Was Feted As A “Hero” By “Putin's Rasputin”

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Radio host Alex Jones recently appeared on a Russian television program where he was feted by pro-Kremlin commentators as a “hero” who exposed "the war crimes of Hillary Clinton” and “told the truth while everyone else lied” during the 2016 presidential campaign. The station’s editorial director, who has been nicknamed "Putin's Rasputin," also described Donald Trump’s electoral win to Jones as “when you and him and all of us won.”

    Jones, a prominent conspiracy theorist and one of President-elect Donald Trump’s key media allies, appeared on a late December broadcast of Tsargrad TV’s Our Point of View. In a segment on his show about the appearance, Jones bragged about the alleged influence of the Tsargrad TV program, claiming it was “Vladimir Putin’s favorite TV show” and “it’s private media -- a couple of these guys are Putin advisers, I mean, top Putin advisers.”

    Foreign Policy wrote in October 2015 that the recently launched Tsargrad TV aims “to put a conservative yet modern spin on global news.” Founder Konstantin Malofeev is a Russian tycoon who is “one of Putin’s loudest ideological supporters.” The magazine reported that “while some oligarchs who tried to get involved in TV in the early 2000s were exiled or jailed under Putin’s new regime, Malofeev is so far enjoying carte blanche with his channel, which he boasts is even more patriotic than the Kremlin’s own state-run TV stations.” Slate called Malofeev “one of Vladimir Putin’s favorite businessmen” and said he has “close ties to the Kremlin elite.”

    Alexander Dugin is the editorial director for Tsargrad TV. He has been widely referred to as “Putin's Rasputin” because of his ties and influence on the Russian president and his political apparatus. The Guardian’s Matthew d'Ancona wrote of Dugin’s influence in Russia:

    The extent of Dugin’s personal access to the Kremlin remains opaque: it has certainly waxed and waned over the decades. What is beyond dispute, however, is the influence his geopolitical vision has enjoyed in the general staff academy and the Russian ministry of defence. Putin’s intervention in Georgia in 2008, his invasion of Ukraine in 2014, and his tightening grip on Syria are all entirely consistent with Dugin’s strategy for Mother Russia.

    All of which is alarming enough. But what makes Dugin so suddenly significant is his growing influence in the west. It has long been alleged that he acts as a covert intermediary between Moscow and far-right groups in Europe, many of which are believed to receive funding from the Kremlin.

    Jones celebrated Tsargrad TV’s coverage during his December 28 show and played clips from the program, which were translated by an Infowars staffer. Jones’ appearance on the network began with a pre-taped package hailing the “legendary” Jones as a “journalist who had the true courage to show the truth of what is really going on in the United States” by “exposing the war crimes of Hillary Clinton.” The show praised Jones for discussing “the WikiLeaks dumps” and concluded that “Infowars.com was practically the only resource where the elections were covered thoroughly and objectively.”

    Our Point of View called Clinton a “war criminal” and claimed Trump’s words had been “taken out of context” by the media. It also called the former secretary of state “the lady kingpin of the world financial elites.”

    Dugin told Jones during the program that he’s a “hero” who “changed our view of who a real American is.” He began by stating that they “have been following" Jones "for many years” and he has “marveled at” the American broadcaster. Dugin said that Jones is “a hero of this campaign” because he “told the truth while everyone else lied.” According to Dugin, “When Donald Trump won, whom you supported and whom we were all also in solidarity with, when you and him and all of us won, I said this: Anti-Americanism is over.”

    He added that Jones is “a true American man” and “from the bottom of our hearts we thank you for being the genuine face of real America.” Here is Dugin’s monologue to Jones, which Infowars translated into English:

    ALEXANDER DUGIN (Infowars translation): I’m very happy that Alex Jones is live with us right now. We have been following you, Alex, for many years, including myself personally, and when you became truly celebrated in this new era of Donald Trump, I marveled at you. The fact that such people as yourself, who embody such free and independent points of view which are shared in reality by millions of people, Americans and worldwide, and millions of Russian people, how you became a hero of this campaign. How you told the truth while everyone else lied. How you held your ground fearlessly against all the attacks and all the dirt that they were throwing your way. And whether it be Russians, Europeans, Asians, or Turks, for us, you were an example of a true American man. The true American spirit. You, Alex, have changed our view of who a real American is. If the American people are anything like you, then the attitude toward your country, toward your people, will be radically changed. And when Donald Trump won, whom you supported and whom we were all also in solidarity with, when you and him and all of us won, I said this: Anti-Americanism is over. Now the people of the free United States, free Russia, and all the anti-globalist powers worldwide have to build a new world, new architecture. We are exceedingly glad to see you on our program broadcasting live right now and from the bottom of our hearts we thank you for being the genuine face of real America.

    Dugin previously said that Infowars is “the most powerful resource of true information in the U.S.” ThinkProgress’ Justin Salhani wrote that Dugin has links to white nationalists and his “ideology has infiltrated white nationalist circles in the United States and parts of Europe.”

    Andrey Afanasiev, another Tsargrad TV personality, praised Jones for playing “such an important role” in Trump’s victory and attacked Clinton supporters for not having the “strength of mind” to accept defeat.

    Infowars promoted the Russian show under the headlines “Must See: Russian Coverage Of The Infowar” and “Alex Jones Instrumental In Changing Russians’ Perception Of Americans; Russian TV hosts praise Alex for fighting Globalism in a recent interview.”

    Jones has claimed that the U.S. government perpetrated the 9/11 attacks and the tragedies at Columbine, Oklahoma City, Sandy Hook, and the Boston Marathon, among others. During the 2016 election, he frequently pushed false stories and conspiracy theories in a successful attempt to help elect Trump.

    Trump went on the Jones program in December 2015, and he reportedly thanked Jones’ audience after the election for helping him win. Trump has reportedly watched the show and he has repeatedly echoed Jones’ theories and rhetoric, prompting Jones to remark that it’s “surreal to talk about issues here on air and then word for word hear Trump say it two days later.”

    Top intelligence officials recently alleged that Russia orchestrated efforts to undermine the 2016 presidential election. The Washington Post also recently reported that “senior officials in the Russian government celebrated Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton as a geopolitical win for Moscow, according to U.S. officials who said that American intelligence agencies intercepted communications in the aftermath of the election in which Russian officials congratulated themselves on the outcome.”