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CNN and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign are unsuccessfully attempting to defuse the explosive new details surrounding ongoing payments from the campaign to former campaign manager and current CNN commentator Corey Lewandowski.
As reported by The Washington Post, Trump’s recent campaign filing disclosed that Lewandowski “was paid $20,000 in August by the campaign for what it described as ‘strategy consulting’” through his firm Green Monster Consulting. The Post also reported that “CNN has said previously that Trump’s payments to Lewandowski and his consulting firm were ‘severance’ for his employment by Trump.” However, as explained by the Post, “the description used by Trump’s campaign in the filing -- ‘strategy consulting’ -- also suggested that Lewandowski is playing a more active and current role in the campaign than ‘severance’ would suggest.” Responding to the allegations, campaign spokesperson Hope Hicks maintained that Lewandowski is “no longer involved in the campaign [and] continues to receive monthly severance payments.”
Hicks’ statements on Lewandowski’s role and CNN’s ongoing employment of someone who is still being paid in some form by the campaign leave several unanswered questions: Where is the money for severance documented, given that the Trump campaign filings call payments to Lewandowski “strategy consulting,” the same term that they used to describe his work while he was employed by the campaign for the last year and a half? Has Lewandowski been double dipping -- i.e. taking money from the Trump campaign for work while also receiving severance? Was CNN aware that Lewandowski was still receiving "strategy consulting" payments from the campaign? Most significantly, why hasn’t CNN suspended Lewandowski already -- or, better yet, fired him?
As The New York Times noted, the fact that in its most recent FEC filing the Trump campaign listed the August payment “as ‘strategy consulting’” raises “questions about whether [CNN] in effect has a Trump campaign strategist on its payroll.” Politico’s Ken Vogel pointed out a similar issue on Twitter, writing that Trump’s payments to Lewandowski “in AUGUST” appears to be “awfully long after his firing for him to be collecting old fees” and that he couldn’t “remember any [other campaigns] paying severance to fired staff.” The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple also raises the question of why Lewandowski is still receiving severance months after being let go from the campaign. Wemple quotes an employment lawyer suggesting the payments may be spread out as a way to “muzzle or control” Lewandowski:
A look at the timeline reveals that Lewandowski’s firing from Camp Trump occurred on June 20, or nearly three months ago. That’s a protracted severance-paying period, no?
It sure is, says employment lawyer Debra Katz of Katz, Marshall & Banks, LLP. “The vast majority of severance agreements that we’ve negotiated are lump-sum payments,” says Katz, especially if the firms have the financial wherewithal to pay them. So structuring the severance payments over a number of months could be the approach of a cash-starved organization.
There’s another motive, however. “It is not uncommon to string them out as a way to muzzle or control the person who’s receiving the funds,” says Katz.
It's not just the recent filings in which Lewandowski was paid for “strategy consulting." According to Trump's FCC filings, Lewandowski has received the same type of payment for “strategy consulting” since April 1, 2015 -- before and after he was reportedly fired by the campaign and before and after he began his employment with CNN. It appears Lewandowski has never been paid directly by the Trump campaign, but instead those uninterrupted funds went to the firm registered to him.
As reported by the Post in August, this isn’t the first time the Trump campaign’s FEC filings did not seem to match how CNN explained -- and justified -- Lewandowski’s employment and the continued payments he was receiving from the campaign. On August 21, the Post noted in passing that FEC filings showed “Lewandowski received his regular $20,000 monthly fee on July 6 – two weeks after he was jettisoned and had been hired by CNN as a political commentator.”
But the Post’s new report based on the new FEC filings highlights something different -- and far more damning.
The July 6 disbursement to Lewandowski’s firm reported by the Post in August was a payment for the 2016 primary -- and could technically be for campaign work done in June, before he was a CNN employee. The newly discovered August 11 payment to Lewandowski is a “strategy consulting” disbursement for the 2016 general election, while Lewandowski was being paid by CNN to shill for Trump -- almost a full two months after he was supposedly fired by the candidate.
So is Lewandowski being paid three times? Twice by the campaign, once by CNN, and all for the same job?
Lewandowski will reportedly be on CNN later today. If neither the network nor the campaign can explain these discrepancies and answer basic questions about this ridiculous conflict of interest, maybe he will.
CNN’s decision to continue employing Corey Lewandowski, who is being simultaneously paid by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign, clashes with its own years-long stated policies. The network has previously said that a person being "paid" by a campaign “would not be permitted to be a CNN contributor.”
Trump’s recently filed Federal Elections Commission report revealed that Lewandowski received $20,000 for “strategy consulting” in August through his company Green Monster Consulting LLC. CNN hired Lewandowski as a paid contributor in late June after he was fired from the Trump campaign. The new payment from Trump renewed criticism of CNN for continuing to employ the Trump insider, who is reportedly still advising the Republican nominee.
The Trump campaign has claimed the disbursements are for “monthly severance payments,” but a spokesperson did not respond to a New York Times question about “why the payments were not described as severance to the F.E.C.”
CNN’s defense of its Lewandowski employment clashes with its own stated policies toward contributors over the years.
In 2011, the New York Daily News raised questions about whether Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher could simultaneously work for President Obama’s campaign and CNN. The news network responded by stating that if a contributor gets “paid” by a campaign, that person “would not be permitted to be a CNN contributor”:
Belcher did not respond to requests for comment, but a CNN spokeswoman tells us the pollster is currently "not being paid by the Obama campaign. If he were," she added, "he would not be permitted to be a CNN contributor."
Presumably, Belcher will cease to appear on CNN when his work for Obama's campaign begins.
In 2010, Media Matters documented that the Republican National Committee paid $12,000 to CNN contributor Alex Castellanos for “consulting.” Castellanos said he returned the payment because it went against “CNN's preference and policy.”
In October 15, 2009, the Republican National Committee paid $12,000 to CNN contributor Alex Castellanos, a payment that apparently violated CNN's stated policy. When contacted last week by Media Matters, Castellanos said he was initially unaware of the payment and returned it last year when he "found out."
"I was not aware of the payment because ours is a large business and an employee who handles and processes payments for me dealt with the RNC transaction," Castellanos said.
"CNN's preference and policy is that I don't work for the RNC or political candidates. When I found out that I was being paid by the RNC, I returned it," Castellanos said. "I wish I could keep it. I would like to add to the economic recovery."
The New York Times reported at the time that CNN said contributors could continue working for the network as long as they weren’t getting paid by candidates or political parties:
Mr. Castellanos, who previously drew criticism from Democrats for owning a firm that produced advertisements for the Chamber of Commerce and health insurance companies, was named this week as an image consultant for the Republican National Committee.
On Tuesday, a CNN spokeswoman said the appointment would not disqualify Mr. Castellanos for working as a paid commentator because his job for the R.N.C. was an unpaid position. The spokeswoman, Edie Emery, said CNN had allowed Democratic political advisers like Paul Begala to continue working as long as the jobs they did for the party or candidates were unpaid.
In July, CNN temporarily suspended its contributor contract with Donna Brazile after she became the interim chair of the Democratic National Committee. Brazile is reportedly being compensated by the DNC for serving as interim chair.
CNN is overturning years of precedent by employing Lewandowski -- yet another reason the network should cut ties with him immediately.
Two former chief White House ethics lawyers, Richard Painter from the George W. Bush administration and Norman Eisen from the Obama administration, suggested that there is a media double standard evident in reporting on Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. They noted that while Clinton’s “actual or apparent conflicts … have been disclosed and publicly vetted,” Trump’s potential conflicts of interest are significantly more “obscure, profound and dangerous.”
Multiple investigations have revealed ethical issues regarding Trump: He used a charitable foundation in his name for personal gain, made an illegal donation to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R), and ran a fake “university” that defrauded thousands of people. Despite Trump’s unique ethical problems, media continue to devote an overwhelmingly unbalanced amount of coverage to (debunked) Clinton pseudo-scandals, obsess over her “optics”, and draw false equivalencies between the Clinton Foundation and fraudulent Trump Foundation.
In a September 21 op-ed, Painter and Eisen wrote that “a Trump presidency would be ethically compromised” by, among other things, his “refusal to disclose his tax returns,” a “lack of divestment” from Trump-branded properties, and “Trump’s propensity for dishonesty.” Painter and Eisen conclude that while Clinton’s potential and actual conflicts of interest “have been disclosed and publicly vetted,” “They are nowhere near as obscure, profound and dangerous as Trump’s.” From the op-ed (emphasis original):
As government ethics lawyers who have, respectively, counseled the most recent Republican president and the most recent Democratic one, we have watched Donald Trump’s campaign with increasing concern. We have come to believe a Trump presidency would be ethically compromised for the following reasons:
Opacity. Trump’s refusal to disclose his tax returns shields critical information about his finances that is not found in the basic details he is required to provide on his candidate financial disclosure.
Lack of divestment. Trump has said that if elected he would have his children manage his business and would not discuss business matters with them. That is not sufficient. Presidents for the past half-century have either converted assets to simple, conflict-free holdings such as U.S. government bonds, adopted blind trusts or done both.
Domestic conflicts. Without considerable additional detail about Trump’s finances, we cannot be sure his decisions on domestic matters would be conflict-free.
Foreign conflicts. Even more serious are the questions raised by Trump investments abroad. Those relate to some of the United States’ most important — and most sensitive — relationships, among them ones with Russia, China, India, South Korea and Turkey.
Legal exposure. Because of Trump’s seeming unwillingness to set up a true blind trust, and the difficulty of his doing so, his potential foreign conflicts could raise immediate legal issues.
Veracity. Finally, we must address Trump’s propensity for dishonesty. It is disturbing that just 15 percent of his statements checked by PolitiFact are “true” or “mostly true.” No ethics program can work if the client is not honest.
To be sure, counsel for a President Hillary Clinton would have to address actual or apparent conflicts posed by the Clinton Foundation, but those have been disclosed and publicly vetted. They are nowhere near as obscure, profound and dangerous as Trump’s. The ethics lawyer who would have President Trump as his or her client would face a far more daunting task than either of us — or any of our colleagues in recent years — has ever confronted.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump updated his tax reform plan in a September 15 speech, just over a month after his initial August 9 revision of the plan. The conservative-leaning Tax Foundation has now scored Trump’s latest tax plan and found it would still cost trillions of dollars in lost tax revenue and would overwhelmingly benefit higher-income earners. Mainstream media are using these findings to push back on Trump’s claims that he supports the middle class and to shine a spotlight on the contradicting statements about the economy his campaign has made.
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent promoted his appearance in a campaign video for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump with a message claiming that politicians currently engage in the “very stuff our forefathers declared their independence from, fought a revolution over, died for and warned us against allowing.”
Nugent appeared in a September 18 ad about hunting and the Second Amendment released by the Trump campaign where he claimed that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton “will destroy the freedom that is uniquely American.”
In a September 21 post on his Facebook page promoting the video and urging people to vote for Trump, Nugent wrote, “The list of high crimes and misdemeanors professional politicians have committed against us is the very stuff our forefathers declared their independence from, fought a revolution over, died for and warned us against allowing”:
Nugent has previously invoked revolutionary times to threaten political violence. During an appearance at a 2013 gun industry trade show, Nugent claimed the Obama administration "is attempting to re-implement the tyranny of King George" and that "if you want another Concord Bridge, I got some buddies." The Battle of Concord, one of the first battles of the Revolutionary War, was fought at the North Bridge in Concord, MA.
That same year at a concert, Nugent said, “When the British came to take our guns we met them at Concord Bridge and we blew their fucking brains out ... 2013, happening all over again, we got to be ready.”
Nugent has recently repeated a similar line at a July concert, saying, “I love when American shit-kickers hear that the British are coming to Concord Bridge to take away our guns, so we went to Concord Bridge and we shot the motherfuckers dead. So next time if any assholes try to come and try to take your guns, meet them at the bridge and shoot the motherfuckers dead. That’s what I said. I don't care who the fuck they are.”
Earlier this year Nugent called for Clinton and President Obama to be hanged for treason.
Nugent has a long history of making racist and other inflammatory commentary. In 2016 alone, Nugent has promoted anti-Semitic content, used a racial slur against a Latino critic, promoted misogynist reasons why guns are better than women, shared a racist meme advertising the fake moving company “2 niggers and a stolen truck,” and smeared Minnesota police shooting victim Philando Castile as a criminal. In 2015, Nugent devoted an entire column to praising the use of the word “nigger,” even in a racist context.
In May, Nugent, who has endorsed Trump for president, promoted a fake video of Clinton being shot. In an August post on his Facebook page calling for people to vote for Trump, Nugent termed Clinton a “lying hypocrite bitch.” He has also called the former secretary of state a “toxic cunt.” In a viral 2007 concert video, an assault-rifle-wielding Nugent called Clinton a “worthless bitch” and said that she should ride on his machine gun.
Harvard professor Thomas E. Patterson conducted an analysis of media coverage in the four weeks surrounding the Republican and Democratic national conventions and found that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton “has suffered substantially more negative news coverage” than her Republican rival, Donald Trump. Patterson concluded that if Clinton loses the election, news media’s disproportionately negative and context-free coverage of her email set-up as secretary of state will be partly to blame.
Throughout Clinton’s presidential campaign, media’s heavy reporting on Clinton’s private email server has been largely characterized by errors, mischaracterizations, and false reporting. Studies, including another from Harvard, have confirmed that Clinton has been the recipient of overwhelmingly negative news coverage, while Trump’s has been more positive.
Patterson, a professor at Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy, wrote in a September 21 Los Angeles Times op-ed that accompanied the release of his new study that if Clinton loses in November, her “email controversy did her candidacy in,” with “the news media” giving “a helping hand.” Patterson noted that coverage of Clinton’s emails and other scandals, which comprised 11 percent of her coverage and was 91 percent negative, more than doubled coverage of her actual policies. Patterson also pointed out that context, such as the fact that “the merging of private and official emails by government officials was common practice,” was “largely missing” from reporting on the emails and that, “As for Clinton’s policy proposals and presidential qualifications, they’ve been completely lost in the glare of damaging headlines and sound bites.” From the opinion piece:
My analysis of media coverage in the four weeks surrounding both parties’ national conventions found that [Clinton’s]use of a private email server while secretary of State and other alleged scandal references accounted for 11% of Clinton’s news coverage in the top five television networks and six major newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. Excluding neutral reports, 91% of the email-related news reports were negative in tone. Then, there were the references to her character and personal life, which accounted for 4% of the coverage; that was 92% negative.
While Trump declared open warfare on the mainstream media — and of late they have cautiously responded in kind — it has been Clinton who has suffered substantially more negative news coverage throughout nearly the whole campaign.
Not a single one of Clinton’s policy proposals accounted for even 1% of her convention-period coverage; collectively, her policy stands accounted for a mere 4% of it. But she might be thankful for that: News reports about her stances were 71% negative to 29% positive in tone. Trump was quoted more often about her policies than she was. Trump’s claim that Clinton “created ISIS,” for example, got more news attention than her announcement of how she would handle Islamic State.
Clinton’s emails and the accompanying narrative — “she can’t be trusted” — have been a defining feature of coverage from the campaign’s start. Only occasionally have reporters taken the narrative a step further. How important, exactly, are her emails in the larger context of presidential fitness? And just how large a transgression are they?
Decades ago, the Hutchins Commission on Freedom of the Press concluded that reporters routinely fail to provide a “comprehensive and intelligent account of the day’s events in the context that gives them some meaning.” Whatever else might be concluded about the coverage of Clinton’s emails, context has been largely missing. Some stories spelled out how the merging of private and official emails by government officials was common practice. There were also some, though fewer, that tried to assess the harm, if any, that resulted from her use of a private server. As for Clinton’s policy proposals and presidential qualifications, they’ve been completely lost in the glare of damaging headlines and sound bites.
Independent fact-checking services have found that 70 percent of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s statements are “mostly false,” “false,” or “pants on fire” lies. As the candidates prepare to face off in the presidential debates, debate moderators must be aware of, and prepared to address, Trump’s biggest and most common lies that have been debunked time and again.
Media outlets reporting on the NRA’s new $5 million ad buy that claims Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton “could take away” your “right to self-defense” failed to hold the gun organization to account for the falsity of that claim. While media reporting on the ad repeated and gave credence to the NRA’s claims, they often failed to cite Clinton’s actual positions on gun regulation or mention the fact-checkers who have debunked a nearly identical NRA ad targeting Clinton as “false.”
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Fox News spent less than three minutes covering a Washington Post report detailing how Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump “spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire’s for-profit businesses.” By contrast, CNN spent over 23 minutes on the story, while MSNBC devoted nearly an hour of airtime to the report. Fox News has previously essentially ignored investigations into the Trump Foundation and his business dealings.
The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold reported on September 20 that “Trump may have violated laws against ‘self-dealing’ — which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses.” Trump spent $258,000 from the Trump Foundation -- to which he has not personally donated since 2008 -- to settle legal issues involving his for-profit businesses, which Fahrenthold noted on CNN “is against the law.”
A Media Matters study found that from the time the story was published around 10:27 a.m. on September 20 through 9:00 a.m. on September 21, when the cable news morning shows ended, Fox News spent two minutes and 58 seconds on the report. CNN spent 23 minutes and 52 seconds on it, while MSNBC devoted 56 minutes and 12 seconds to the report. Fox’s flagship evening news program, Special Report, spent merely 12 seconds on the news.
Fox News’ segments on the report offered few details on the investigation. The longest segment Fox devoted to the report was one minute and 41 seconds on The O’Reilly Factor, in which guest host Bret Baier allowed Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway to dispute the report.
This is not the first time Fox News has omitted coverage of unflattering investigative reports into Trump’s foundation and business practices within a day or two of publication.
Fox News entirely ignored a report earlier this month that Trump has apparently broken both the law and IRS rules with his foundation, and he has not donated money to his own foundation since 2008. The report explained that Trump instead lies to other charities and the public by suggesting that the foundation’s donations are his own money. In addition, Trump has spent money from the foundation “to buy himself a gift” on two different occasions..
Fox News also failed to cover an illegal campaign contribution from the Trump Foundation to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, which “came as Bondi was reviewing whether to investigate fraud allegations against Trump University,” though she never took any action against Trump U.
Fox News also neglected to cover a report from Mother Jones revealing that Trump’s modeling agency, Trump Model Management, “profited from using foreign models who came to the United States on tourist visas that did not permit them to work here.”
At the same time, Fox has scandalized reports about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s associated foundation, claiming she engaged in “pay for play” as secretary of state, despite there being no evidence of wrongdoing. Fox’s own reporting has in fact undermined many of these claims.
Methodology: Media Matters searched SnapStream for mentions of Trump and foundation or charity on Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN between 10:27 a.m. on September 20 to 9 a.m. on September 21, excluding all mentions that took place between 11 p.m. on September 20 and 5 a.m. on September 21.
It’s long past time for CNN to cut ties with former Donald Trump campaign manager and current Trump advisor Corey Lewandowski.
Earlier today, Mediaite reported that according to its sources, CNN had suspended Lewandowski. A CNN spokesperson has told media reporters that this is not true, though some CNN staff apparently believed that it was.
Here’s what we know is happening right now:
Corey Lewandowski is getting paid by Donald Trump.
Corey Lewandowski is advising Donald Trump.
Corey Lewandowski is getting paid by CNN to talk about Donald Trump.
CNN and the Trump campaign both refer to the payments Lewandowski continues to receive from the Republican presidential nominee as “severance” rather than payment for “services rendered.” But according to the Trump campaign’s own filings, the payments are for “strategy consulting,” and Trump’s spokesperson says they will continue through the election.
As of yesterday, CNN’s president was still defending this stain on CNN’s reputation.
This is unacceptable.
CNN should cut ties with Lewandowski immediately.
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