Tuesday Reads: Trump’s Attacks on the Press and Mueller News

Henry Matisse, La femme en jaune, 1928

Good Afternoon!!

I’m having another one of those mornings. I’m scared to death about the way Trump is behaving, and I can’t get my brain to pull together a coherent understanding of what’s happening.

Trump’s latest obsession has been attacking the free press from multiple directions. He’s attacking Amazon and because Jeff Bezos owns both Amazon and The Washington Post, which Trump hates. At the same time, Trump tries to boost Fox News and Sinclair Broadcasting, because they suck up to him. Should we be worried?

Brian Klaas, an expert on authoritarianism thinks so.

BTW, Trump’s attacks on Amazon have caused the company’s stocks to lose value. Can investors sue Trump for that?

There are so many tentacles to what he’s doing with his corrupt self-dealing, his sucking up to dictators like Putin and Sisi, his attacks on the press, and his undermining of federal law enforcement. What can we do about it? It seems we can’t do much but hope that Robert Mueller finds more crimes to prosecute until he eventually gets to Trump. But will our democracy ultimately survive the Trump onslaught?

Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair: “Trump is like ‘How Can I F–k With Him'” Trump’s War With Amazon (And The Washington Post) Is Personal.

Trump has ripped into Amazon in recent days, claiming in a series of tweets that Jeff Bezos’s tech giant benefits from billions in subsidies from the U.S. Post office while skirting sales taxes. “Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!” Trump tweeted. On Monday, he wrote: “Only fools, or worse, are saying that our money losing Post Office makes money with Amazon. THEY LOSE A FORTUNE, and this will be changed. Also, our fully tax paying retailers are closing stores all over the country . . . not a level playing field!” The tweets caused Amazon’s stock to plunge 5 percent on Monday.

The Music, Henri Matisse

Now, according to four sources close to the White House, Trump is discussing ways to escalate his Twitter attacks on Amazon to further damage the company. “He’s off the hook on this. It’s war,” one source told me. “He gets obsessed with something, and now he’s obsessed with Bezos,” said another source. “Trump is like, how can I fuck with him?”

According to sources, Trump wants the Post Office to increase Amazon’s shipping costs. When Trump previously discussed the idea inside the White Hose, Gary Cohn had explained that Amazon is a benefit to the Postal Service, which has seen mail volume plummet in the age of e-mail. “Trump doesn’t have Gary Cohn breathing down his neck saying you can’t do the Post Office shit,” a Republican close to the White House said. “He really wants the Post Office deal renegotiated. He thinks Amazon’s getting a huge fucking deal on shipping.”

Advisers are also encouraging Trump to cancel Amazon’s pending multi-billion contract with the Pentagon to provide cloud computing services, sources say. Another line of attack would be to encourage attorneys general in red states to open investigations into Amazon’s business practices. Sources say Trump is open to the ideas.

Clearly Trump is a moron, but he’s doing a lot damage anyway. Couldn’t Bezos sue him?

NPR says that Trump is causing the Postal Service’s problems: As Trump Attacks Amazon-Postal Service Ties, He Fails To Fill Postal Governing Board.

The top planning and oversight board at the Postal Service has been unable to meet and consider matters such as the agency’s long-term relationship with Amazon, because the president has failed to appoint any of the nine governors to the 11-member Board of Governors of the U.S. Postal Service.

Henri Matisse – Girl in Yellow and Blue with Guitar, 1939 at the Art Institute of Chicago IL

In October, Trump nominated three candidates, who still await Senate confirmation. The board needs at least four new members to have a quorum for meetings, which prompted concerns from a bipartisan group of senators late last year.

“Without a quorum, the Postal Service cannot make key operational decisions or provide accountability for operational deficiencies, such as intentional mail delays, drug trafficking through the Postal Service’s network, and dramatically falling mail volumes and revenue,” according to a November letter to President Trump from the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

More details at NPR.

And what about the Sinclair Broadcast Group and their takeover of hundreds of local stations? Trump has been promoting Sinclair on his Twitter feed.

At Politico, Jack Shafer writes: Trump Wants to Promote Sinclair? Let Him. As long as I can still change the channel, who cares?

I intend no defense of Sinclair by pointing out that Sinclair’s brand of conservative news lies well within an established American tradition. To begin with, American newspapers were captive to political parties for the better part of the 19th century, forever claiming that their competitors were printing the malarkey of fake news. In the modern era, William Randolph Hearst made it his business to tell his readers what to think in the pages of his national newspaper chain. Henry Luce likewise applied a political whetstone to Time magazine and his other titles to give them a conservative edge. Colonel Robert R. McCormick turned his Chicago Tribune into a permanent campaign against President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Three months before the 1936 election, the Tribune ran a Page 1 anti-Roosevelt headline that read, “Only 97 Days Left to Save Your Country!’’ In more recent decades, banking heir Richard Mellon Scaife spent tens of millions to create a conservative Pittsburgh newspaper and convicted felon Rev. Sun Myung Moon spent billions on his conservative Washington Times. And don’t forget Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Channel.

Woman at the Piano, 1924, by Henri Matisse

The moral panic over Sinclair Broadcast Group’s stupid promo might make sense if its TV stations were beamed directly into our skulls, George Orwell style. I might join the liberal dither if Sinclair wiped out its competition on the dial. But as long as I can still change my local channel and avoid Sinclair’s partisan hackery, where’s the crisis?

I don’t know what to think. I never watch local news, so I had to check to see if Sinclair owns any Boston stations. They don’t, but they apparently own some in Maine and Rhode Island, according to this Boston Globe editorial. I tend to find the situation worrisome, but it’s all part of the consolidation of media ownership that has gone on for decades. It seems concerning that Comcast owns NBC too.

And then there’s this old Politico article that Howard Dean called attention to on Twitter.

Politico: Kushner: We struck deal with Sinclair for straighter coverage.

Donald Trump’s campaign struck a deal with Sinclair Broadcast Group during the campaign to try and secure better media coverage, his son-in-law Jared Kushner told business executives Friday in Manhattan.

Kushner said the agreement with Sinclair, which owns television stations across the country in many swing states and often packages news for their affiliates to run, gave them more access to Trump and the campaign, according to six people who heard his remarks.

In exchange, Sinclair would broadcast their Trump interviews across the country without commentary, Kushner said. Kushner highlighted that Sinclair, in states like Ohio, reaches a much wider audience — around 250,000 listeners — than networks like CNN, which reach somewhere around 30,000.

“It’s math,” Kushner said according to multiple attendees.

Woman with Mandolin, by Henri Matisse

But Sinclair and other networks said such a deal is nothing nefarious or new – just an arrangement for extended sit-down interviews with both candidates, one many campaigns have done in previous years to get around the national media and directly to viewers in key states.

Scott Livingston, vice president of news at Sinclair, said the offer for extended interviews with local anchors was made to both candidates. Trump did a handful of interviews, while Sen. Tim Kaine did a few as well, though Hillary Clinton did not.

One more topical article to consider from The Washington Post: A new study suggests fake news might have won Donald Trump the 2016 election.

The study from researchers at Ohio State University finds that fake news probably played a significant role in depressing Hillary Clinton’s support on Election Day. The study, which has not been peer reviewed but which may be the first look at how fake news affected voter choices, suggests that about 4 percent of President Barack Obama’s 2012 supporters were dissuaded from voting for Clinton in 2016 by belief in fake news stories.

Richard Gunther, Paul A. Beck and Erik C. Nisbet, the study’s authors, inserted three popular fake news stories from the 2016 campaign into a 281-question YouGov survey given to a sample that included 585 Obama supporters — 23 percent of  whom didn’t vote for Clinton, either by abstaining or picking another candidate (10 percent voted Trump, which is in line with other estimates).

Read all the details at the WaPo.

Some news on the Mueller investigation broke early this morning.

Bloomberg: Mueller Releases Secret Memo Underpinning Manafort Probe.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller defended the indictment of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort by releasing a secret government memorandum granting him authority to investigate crimes related to Manafort’s political consulting work for former President Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine.

Young woman at the piano, Henri Matisse

Mueller is using the memo to refute Manafort’s claims that prosecutors went too far by investigating crimes beyond Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Prosecutors released the memo just before midnight on Monday, arguing that Manafort can’t legally challenge his indictment for financial crimes arising from his work for Yanukovych and other Russian-backed politicians.

The memo, dated Aug. 2, 2017, and signed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, supplements a May 2017 appointment order directing Mueller to investigate possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, as well as “any matters that arose or may arise directly” from his probe….

In releasing the heavily redacted memo, Mueller argued that Rosenstein “left no doubt that the conduct that forms the basis for the indictment is within the special counsel’s jurisdiction.” Manafort faces a pair of indictments charging him with earning tens of millions of dollars in Ukraine, laundering much of that money, failing to register as a foreign agent and cheating on his taxes.

Mueller also cited business ties between Manafort and the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Any investigation of links between Russia and the Trump campaign “would naturally cover ties that a former Trump campaign manager had to Russian-associated political operatives, Russian-backed politicians, and Russian oligarchs,” according to the 53-page filing in federal court in Washington.

“It would also naturally look into any interactions they may have had before and during the campaign to plumb motives and opportunities to coordinate and to expose possible channels for surreptitious communications,” prosecutors wrote. “And prosecutors would naturally follow the money trail from Manafort’s Ukrainian consulting activities. Because investigation of those matters was authorized, so was prosecution.”

We’ll probably learn more about this in the course of today.

An interesting tweet from Ned Price:

So . . . what do you think? What stories are you following today?


40 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: Trump’s Attacks on the Press and Mueller News”

    • quixote says:

      I don’t even remember what he did anymore, he was in the news, what? two months? ago which is way too far back to remember these days, but 30 days seems low. Which I’m assuming means he provided Mueller with useful info?

      I hope so. Now charge and try and sentence the whole rest of the cabal. Given the scale of their crimes, the whole process shouldn’t take longer than about six hours!

      • bostonboomer says:

        I think he’s the one who had to admit the communications between Gates and the Russian intelligence agent, Kilimnik. He’s not cooperating, but he was caught in a lie. Besides going to prison, he has to pay a $20,000 fine and his legal career is over.

        • Catscatscats says:

          But he still has a nasty Russian oligarch for a father-in-law. Don’t want to piss that guy off!

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Politicus USA: Putin Leaks Details To Embarrass Trump And Show Him Who’s The Boss

    Former Obama National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price said that the Russians are intentionally leaking details of Putin’s conversations with Trump to gain leverage and embarrass Trump.

    Price said, “This is a substantive issue, and it provides a source of leverage to the Russians that they have consistently provided the official account, the readout of these meetings or phone calls, hours in some cases before the White House has done so. Look, in this case, what’s important is had this comment not been made, we may not have learned of this invitation. And the timing of this comment from a Kremlin aide is interesting. There’s reason to think that it may have been made to embarrass President Trump. Of course, this revelation comes just days after President Trump and some of our European allies together expelled 60 Russian spies from our country alone, re from Europe. We have been fixated on this issue of leverage or financial leverage. But we’ve forgotten the fact that Donald Trump routinely has given our allies and adversaries alike, additional points of leverage. This is one of those points of leverage. The Russians rolled this out according to their schedule in an effort to embarrass him. Let’s assume that The Washington Post hadn’t reported last spring that Trump had called Comey a nutjob no the oval office. If they had kept that and rolled that out according to their own timing, that, too, would have been a source of leverage. How many other sources, how many other points of leverage are out there that we just don’t know about, that president trump has doled out to our friends and I think most worrisome, to our foes.”

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Have a nice day everyone. I’m going to zone out for awhile–will be back later on.

  3. RonStill4Hills says:

    I think Trump is obsessed with Bezos and the post for two reasons.

    1) Bezos is the billionaire business man Trump wishes he was.
    2) Woodward, Bernstein, Bradley and Graham got Nixon, so Trump has a phobia about The Post.

    The other thing I will repeat what I said before:

    The Alt-Right has everyone in a trick bag because fake news is absolutely exists. The Alt-Right produces tons of it nonstop. If we say is does exist we sound like them, if we say it doesn’t we countenance their lies.

    Witch Hunts are real, The Alt-Right engages in them nonstop.

    What they do is try to conflate their “Fake News” (Fox, Face Book, Twitter, YouTube) with real news and real oversight that they falsely call fake. .

    The result is their idiotic followers are free to believe what they want to believe and dismiss the rest as fraudulent.

    It is the “Emperor’s New Clothes” only the Emperor is a 71 year old flasher who is in on the scam!

    He thinks we are powerless to stop the obscenity but I think he is wrong.

    To paraphrase George Wallace, ” Impeach now! Impeachment tomorrow! Impeachment forever!”

    • NW Luna says:

      Spot on. He’s envious of Bezos. Hate and envy and greed are what drive him.

    • NW Luna says:

      Uh-oh.

  4. RonStill4Hills says:

    “But as long as I can still change my local channel and avoid Sinclair’s partisan hackery, where’s the crisis?”

    Fair enough, but someone has to call out what they are doing.

    Before Dead Spin created their video I’ll bet not 1 in 10 had any idea the concerted effort that was going on.

    And I don’t just mean that one piece of propaganda, I mean the “Must Runs” the Sinclair circulates everyday. The Right Wing Editorials misrepresented as local journalist opinion pieces.

    Long live freedom of INFORMED choice!

    • joanelle says:

      We need to do more than change the channel, I agree that we need to call them out. Hey wasn’t there some little guy in Germany years ago who used the printed word – and his big mouth to co-opt their society?

    • Enheduanna says:

      Media consolidation is a huge problem and that “just change the channel” attitude is missing the whole point. When 62% (I think that is correct) of ALL local media stations in the country are owned by a hard-right wing corporation not interested in presenting all the facts, it is a huge problem. Look at all the damage just Fox News alone has done.

    • quixote says:

      “I can just change the channel” misses the point, as Enheduanna says. Actually, several points.

      1) Great. So you’ve changed the channel. How clever of you. Are you all voters? No? Just one. What matters are methods that fool *enough* people. Not that you, personally, are so smart.

      2) The choice argument ignores the evidence about how cognition works. We’re biased in favor of assuming we’re being told the truth, so we’re biased in favor of believing what we hear, and once we’ve heard it, we’re biased against rethinking the whole thing (which is work) and realizing we’ve been lied to (which is humiliating). (The “we” is “we humans.”)

      Training can reduce those tendencies, but not everybody has training that sticks. And all you need is *enough* people (50.1% of whoever gets to vote) to go with the first thing they heard.

      That means that owning 62% of all local stations and being the only local station and having most people in those areas tune in to your monopoly means they’ll hear whatever they’re given, they’re unlikely to hear anything else first, and what they hear second is often discounted given the way human minds work.

      It’s a huge deal, killing the real free press with BS free market “choice” mythology.

      (I’m not arguing against you, Ron. Against that viewpoint you’re arguing against too, and which crops up everywhere like a rash.)

      • RonStill4Hills says:

        I agree with you.

        You cannot watch a person pour a class of kerosene and label it “water” and then say, “well I’m just not gonna drink that.”

        Not unless there is something wrong with you. You have to expose these people for what they are.

        They trot out the “spokes model drones” like Tomi Lahren and Dana Loesch and Leeann Tweeden to seduce middle class suburban America too sophisicated to listen to Stephen Miller’s Nazi Weasel ass.

        They are what Anne Coulter and Kelly Anne (Fitzpatrick) Conway used to be, young women to spit vile hateful rhetoric…couched in neutral language so they can always fall back on “you are making it about” race or gender or sexuality.. You too can be a good looking successful Yuppy bigot/fascist!

        All that is required for evil to triumph is for good people to wait till it’s too late to fucking step up!

        • NW Luna says:

          “Do all the good you can, for as many as you can, for as long as you can.” Or something like that. Damn, wouldn’t it be nice to have a President who believed that? Oh, yeah. Emailz.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I agree too.

    • teele says:

      And how is the average viewer supposed to know if any of their local news stations ARE owned by Sinclair? They see Fox, CBS, NBC, ABC, nothing to indicate that the actual owner is a right-wing company with a fascist agenda to deliver. I just looked up the listing at Wikipedia, and discovered that one of the stations in my area is owned by Sinclair. It doesn’t really matter to my viewing habits, since I ditched satellite and cable 2 years ago. However, it does matter to my news gathering rounds, since I now realize I can’t really trust anything on their website that isn’t related to a local fire, crime, or accident.

    • NW Luna says:

      In many areas viewers do *not* have the option to change the channel and find independent news. There’s been too much consolidation leading to monopolies in many areas.

  5. dakinikat says:

    That study in WAPO is not peer reviewed it seems but the methodology seems solid. It’s nice to see political scientists trying to study that question.

    Waiting here to see if anything comes from the sentencing of that Dutch Lawyer.

  6. dakinikat says:

  7. dakinikat says:

    What Mueller’s Most Conspicuous Silence Suggests
    The theft of emails from Democratic officials seems like the most likely avenue for proving collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign—but the special counsel never mentions it.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/04/listening-to-the-sound-of-silence/557102/

    • NW Luna says:

      This is the second time in recent weeks that a Trump-connected person has offered this trust me, I was lying defense, following Cambridge Analytica’s Alexander Nix. Both men have been such prolific merchants of balderdash that it’s hard to dismiss this excuse.

  8. Pilgrim says:

    To see what all the hype was about, I watched Roseanne this evening. Very boring.

  9. NW Luna says:

    Some good news, with brief video at the link:

    Witnesses describe rare whale sighting

    On Saturday Friedman and Shore were among the eyewitnesses to an extremely rare, possibly unprecedented sight: a sperm whale swimming in the waters of the Salish Sea, which includes Canada’s Strait of Georgia, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound.

    Sperm whales are the largest toothed whales in the world and among the largest animals period, with adult males growing up to 65 feet long and weighing in excess of 45 tons. Their huge, blocky heads give them a distinctive, iconic look (think “Moby Dick”), but the whales’ propensity for deep dives means they are rarely sighted by humans anywhere near coastline, preferring instead to hunt in deep canyons thousands of feet below the surface.

    …there’s no way to know exactly why the 45-foot-long whale ended up in the Salish Sea. It might be a sign that sperm whales are returning to areas they once visited with more frequency as populations recover from now-banned commercial whaling.

    • Delphyne49 says:

      That was great, Luna! Hakai Magazine (online) had a wonderful article yesterday about the communication between whales and the indigenous people. I’m still learning about my new iPad and haven’t quite figured out the copy/paste of urls. I did tweet it yesterday, though – I think you might like it.

      • NW Luna says:

        Oh I missed your tweet — had to go look at your TL and then found it. Fascinating article; thanks!

  10. NW Luna says:

    Lovely paintings, BB, thx!

  11. NW Luna says:

    • NW Luna says:

  12. NW Luna says: