Thursday Reads: Snuggling Cats, Dogs, and Bunnies (and the News)Posted: October 25, 2018
On Monday, someone put a bomb in Democratic donor George Soros’ mailbox. Yesterday authorities discovered more mail bombs, and it became clear that someone had attempted to assassinate two former presidents, a former secretary of state, a former vice president, and a former attorney general, and two sitting U.S. Congresswomen, all Democrats and all targets of Trump’s verbal attacks. In addition, a bomb was sent to CNN, addressed to former CIA director John Brennan. Today another bomb was discovered, this one sent to actor and Trump critic Robert De Niro.
FBI Press Release: Statement on the FBI’s Investigation of Suspicious Packages.
Between October 22 and 24, 2018, suspicious packages were received at multiple locations in the New York and Washington, D.C., areas and Florida. The packages are being sent for analysis at the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia.
“This investigation is of the highest priority for the FBI. We have committed the full strength of the FBI’s resources and, together with our partners on our Joint Terrorism Task Forces, we will continue to work to identify and arrest whoever is responsible for sending these packages,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “We ask anyone who may have information to contact the FBI. Do not hesitate to call; no piece of information is too small to help us in this investigation.”
The packages are similar in appearance, as depicted in the below photograph, and contain potentially destructive devices.
The FBI will continue to work with our federal law enforcement partners at the United States Secret Service, United States Postal Inspection Service, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as well as our state and local law enforcement partners, to identify and arrest the person or people responsible for sending these packages.
It is possible that additional packages were mailed to other locations. The FBI advises the public to remain vigilant and not touch, move or handle any suspicious or unknown packages.
If you have information about these packages, please contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or tips.fbi.gov. If you observe any suspicious activity that requires an immediate response, please call 911 or contact your local law enforcement.
Trump declined to cancel his Hitler rally in Wisconsin last night, and during the rally, he again attacked the “mainstream media.” Before Trump came on stage, the audience chanted “lock her up” as a Republican politician grinned ear to ear. The Cut:
On the same day bombs were discovered in packages addressed to Hillary Clinton and several other top Democrats, supporters of President Donald Trump packed onto the tarmac at Central Wisconsin Airport in Mosinee, Wisconsin began shouting “lock her up” at the mention of Clinton’s name….
The rally was part of Trump’s national midterm campaign tour to bolster support for Republican candidates. It was during Senate Republican candidate Leah Vukmir’s address to the crowd, before Trump’s arrival, that the chants began. She paused as the crowd yelled Trump’s infamous line several times, before continuing her speech….
When Trump came onstage, he limited his usual attacks on Democrats, and there were no “lock her up” chants during his remarks. He did not mention senators Dianne Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi, nor did he mention Representative Maxine Waters, who was sent three of the seven bombs discovered this week. He instead shaped his speech around what he read from a teleprompter, and asked politicians to “stop treating political opponents as being morally defective.” He also asked the media to help unify people.
“The media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative and oftentimes false attacks and stories,” said Trump at one point. “They’ve got to stop. Bring people together.”
Trump did not reach out in any way to any of the people who were targeted by mail bombs, and this morning he suggested that the media are responsible for the attacks.
The Washington Post this morning: Trump doubles down on blaming media as suspicious packages continue to surface.
“A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News,” the president said in a morning tweet. “It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description. Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!”
Trump’s tweet — which prompted sharp criticism from Democrats — was sent amid television coverage of police in New York swarming a block in Lower Manhattan after receiving reports of a suspicious package at a building where actor Robert De Niro has offices. The package was addressed to De Niro, who attacked Trump in June during a profane presentation at the Tony Awards.
The Post notes that while Trump was “relatively subdued” at last night’s rally, he still attacked the media and Democrats.
During the rally, Trump was relatively subdued as he spoke, interrupted himself several times to point out that he was “trying to be nice” and took no responsibility for his own role in contributing to the country’s degraded civic discourse.
“The media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative — and oftentimes, false — attacks and stories,” Trump said at the rally.
In an apparent swipe at Democrats, Trump also denounced those who “carelessly compare political opponents to historical villains” and who “mob people in public places or destroy public property.”
Yesterday we learned that Trump is still using unsecured cell phones even though he has been warned that China, Russia, and likely other countries are monitoring his conversations.
The New York Times: When Trump Phones Friends, the Chinese and the Russians Listen and Learn.
When President Trump calls old friends on one of his iPhones to gossip, gripe or solicit their latest take on how he is doing, American intelligence reports indicate that Chinese spies are often listening — and putting to use invaluable insights into how to best work the president and affect administration policy, current and former American officials said.
Mr. Trump’s aides have repeatedly warned him that his cellphone calls are not secure, and they have told him that Russian spies are routinely eavesdropping on the calls, as well. But aides say the voluble president, who has been pressured into using his secure White House landline more often these days, has still refused to give up his iPhones. White House officials say they can only hope he refrains from discussing classified information when he is on them….
American spy agencies, the officials said, had learned that China and Russia were eavesdropping on the president’s cellphone calls from human sources inside foreign governments and intercepting communications between foreign officials….
The current and former officials said they have also determined that China is seeking to use what it is learning from the calls — how Mr. Trump thinks, what arguments tend to sway him and to whom he is inclined to listen — to keep a trade war with the United States from escalating further. In what amounts to a marriage of lobbying and espionage, the Chinese have pieced together a list of the people with whom Mr. Trump regularly speaks in hopes of using them to influence the president, the officials said.
The “good news,” according to these officials is that Trump is a moron who doesn’t really focus on his intelligence briefings–so they can only hope he isn’t giving away state secrets.
Administration officials said Mr. Trump’s longtime paranoia about surveillance — well before coming to the White House he believed that his phone conversations were often being recorded — gave them some comfort that he was not disclosing classified information on the calls. They said they had further confidence he was not spilling secrets because he rarely digs into the details of the intelligence he is shown and is not well versed in the operational specifics of military or covert activities.
How is this not a crime? Surely any other government official who did this would be investigated.
“This stunning revelation by the NYT is one that has sweeping ramifications for intelligence and the security of the American people,” says former White House chief information officer Theresa Payton in an email to Fast Company.
Trump reportedly has three iPhones, but only two of them are equipped with security features that have been added by the National Security Agency. One of the secure phones is strictly intended for tweeting, and only over Wi-Fi networks.
His third phone is said to be as unsecured as any regular iPhone. Former administration officials said that in spite of their repeated warnings that spies might listen into his calls, Trump refused to give up the phone, and kept using it as usual. The president likes to keep his personal iPhone around reportedly because “he can store his contacts in it.” [….]
“If true, this may be the largest, most significant breach of White House communications in history,” says Payton, who served in the George W. Bush administration and is now CEO of security firm Fortalice Solutions. “America’s most sophisticated peer competitor now has a direct line into the president’s confidential thinking and conversations.”
As the “president” endangers the lives of multiple prominent Americans with his public rhetoric and threats, while blithely ignoring warnings that he’s also endangering national security through his use of unsecured cell phones, Robert Muller is still plugging away on his investigation of Russia’s attack on the 2016 election and possible cooperation by the Trump campaign.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office has obtained communications suggesting that a right-wing conspiracy theorist might have had advance knowledge that the emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman had been stolen and handed to WikiLeaks, a source familiar with the investigation told NBC News.
Mueller’s team has spent months investigating whether the conspiracy theorist, Jerome Corsi, learned before the public did that WikiLeaks had obtained emails hacked by Russian intelligence officers — and whether he passed information about the stolen emails to Donald Trump associate Roger Stone, multiple sources said.
Mueller’s investigators have reviewed messages to members of the Trump team in which Stone and Corsi seem to take credit for the release of Democratic emails, said a person with direct knowledge of the emails.
The source and other people familiar with the matter say they have seen no evidence suggesting either man played any role in the hacking or release of the emails. Stone adamantly denies doing anything but passing on information already in the public domain.
One more story: NBC News finally begins to recognize that hiring former Fox News personalities ia a losing proposition. CNN Business: Megyn Kelly is off her 9 a.m. show, and may not be back.
“Megyn Kelly Today” is not over yet. But it’s a matter of when, not if.
Kelly’s exit from the 9 a.m. hour of the “Today” show appears to be imminent, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.
“Given the circumstances, Megyn Kelly Today will be on tape the rest of the week,” an NBC News spokeswoman said Thursday morning.
Another source said that Kelly’s show will be ending, but negotiations about the end date and other details are still underway.
Kelly is under fire for defending the use of blackface in Halloween costumes.
The talks about dropping Kelly’s 9 a.m. show pre-dated this week’s controversy about her offensive comments about blackface Halloween costumes.
NBC News staffers were calling her show a “disaster” well before this latest controversy.
Kelly has been dropped by her talent agency. Hollywood Reporter:
CAA is no longer working with Kelly, The Hollywood Reporter learned on Wednesday. CAA declined to give a reason for the split, but a source says the Megyn Kelly Today host sought new representation because the agency also reps NBC News president Noah Oppenheim.
To replace CAA, UTA co-president Jay Sures had been in talks to sign Kelly and had been courting her before Tuesday’s blackface backlash, in which Kelly said on her 9 a.m. show that she didn’t understand why people couldn’t wear blackface on Halloween. Sures is said to have backed out of representing Kelly on Wednesday amid the controversy. A source close to the situation says Sures’ decision came after he made at least one call to NBC News president Noah Oppenheim and had set a meeting with NBC for Friday on Kelly’s behalf.
Then later on Wednesday, Kelly hired attorney Bryan Freedman, one of Hollywood’s top talent-side litigators. The move is a sign that she is gearing up for a fight with NBC that could lead to her exit. She will not appear on the Thursday or Friday episodes of her show, according to sources.
The drama comes a day after the host of Today’s 9 o’clock hour defended blackface during a segment on Halloween costumes, claiming that the practice, which finds its roots in 19th century racist minstrel shows, was acceptable when she was a kid. Online reaction was swift, with Hollywood figures from many races, including Padma Lakshmi, Patton Oswalt and Roy Wood Jr., criticizing the stance.
A few hours later on Tuesday, Kelly sent an internal e-mail to the company, explaining that she had now learned that “the history of blackface in our culture is abhorrent.” Her NBC colleagues did not shy away from the subject, covering the incident both on NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt and in late night. “Say what you want about Megyn Kelly, but she looks great for being 200 years old,” cracked Late Night host Seth Meyers, while writer Amber Ruffin added, “For someone with a morning show, Megyn Kelly, you sure are late as hell.”
So . . . what stories are you following today?