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Newspapers Assert Freedom of the Press; Trump Fires Back

With the Boston Globe taking the lead, newspapers in 49 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico published editorials on Thursday emphasizing the importance of a free press, and lamenting those who might suggest otherwise. Here are a few examples:

Newspapers from States that Voted for Clinton:

  • The Denver Post: Trump is a difficult politician to cover. His tweets and factually inaccurate statements frequently put him at loggerheads with the media. In a vacuum void of his outlandish statements, some of Trump's policies would earn more straightforward media coverage. It has become a destructive cycle where the media covers Trump's words and instead of self-reflection following scathing media reports, Trump cries fake news. It's a dangerous cry coming from the White House. And so we are taking this opportunity to assure our readers that The Denver Post newsroom and opinion pages are dedicated to bringing you all the facts. We are also encouraging our readers to point it out when we are missing the mark of telling "the whole truth." We are listening and capable of self reflection.

  • Chicago Sun-Times: We are, at the Sun-Times, the enemy of unchecked authority and undeserved privilege. We are the enemy of self-entitlement. We are the enemy of the notion that the only way up is to hold somebody else down. We are the enemy of nothing but "thoughts and prayers" when children are slaughtered. We are the enemy of faked-up outrage. We are the enemy of deadly streets and violent gangs. We are the enemy of thugs who shoot into crowds. We are the enemy of the societal failings of our city and country that have shaped the thugs and given them space. We are the enemy, that is to say, of dead-end jobs and no jobs, bad schools, racism, bad parenting and people who look away. We are the friend, though, of so much more.

  • The Boston Globe: Replacing a free media with a state-run media has always been a first order of business for any corrupt regime taking over a country. Today in the United States we have a president who has created a mantra that members of the media who do not blatantly support the policies of the current U.S. administration are the "enemy of the people." This is one of the many lies that have been thrown out by this president much like an old-time charlatan threw out "magic" dust or water on a hopeful crowd. "The liberty of the press is essential to the security of freedom," wrote John Adams. For more than two centuries, this foundational American principle has protected journalists at home and served as a model for free nations abroad. Today it is under serious threat. And it sends an alarming signal to despots, from Ankara to Moscow, Beijing to Baghdad, that journalists can be treated as a domestic enemy.

  • Las Vegas Sun: Although previous presidents have been critical of the media, they at least publicly have recognized the critical role that a free press plays in democracy. Trump, on the other hand, has already damaged our society with his vilification of the media, which has helped drive Americans into tribalized media echo chambers and contributed to the rise of fake news sites trading in conspiracy theories. The outcome is that Americans are no longer just disagreeing over how to interpret facts, they're disagreeing over what is fact. This is dangerous, because agreement on facts is part of a society's connective tissue, and for Trump to characterize facts as tribal myths will inevitably tear the nation apart.

  • Bristol Herald Courier (Virginia): We've been complacent. We thought everybody knew how important a free press was to our world and that all this talk about us being the enemy of the people would be dismissed for the silliness that it is. But the reckless attacks have continued, instigated and encouraged by our president. When the leader of the free world works to erode the public's trust in the media, the potential for damage is enormous, both here and abroad. We once set an example of free and open government for the world to follow. Now those who seek to suppress the free flow of information are doing so with impunity. The time has come for us to stand up to the bullying. The role journalism plays in our free society is too crucial to allow this degradation to continue.

Newspapers from States that Voted for Trump:

  • Arizona Daily Star: When President Trump points to journalists and calls us the "enemy of the people," when he wants you to believe that coverage of his own actions and his own words is "fake news," Trump is asking you to join him in a grand charade. When Trump weaponizes and perverts the very concept of truth and a free press by trafficking in bold lies with a smile on his face, he does so with a purpose: To hold the American people hostage to his whim, to his control, to his reality.

  • Folio Weekly (Florida): Our nation is being gas-lit by a two-bit huckster would-be king in a ten-thousand-dollar suit, a fork-tongued buffoon crashing about hither and thither, straddling a wrecking ball that swings between greed and narcissism, all bluster and id, swaying and shouting and preening, a lusty lothario careening and grabbing and lying...oh, how he lies. He tells lies on lies on lies—he has intended a lie and stumbled into the truth. The highest crime in this king's court is hearing other than the king would hear, seeing other than the king would see, telling other than the king would tell. In the view of this inglorious, feckless louse of a king, he is the living embodiment of his subjects—we are he and he is wee—the slightest slight against the liege as an act of war on the louse's largesse.

  • Lawrence Journal-World (Kansas): Journal-World reporters take their jobs seriously. They strive for accuracy and to tell both sides of every story. When they make a mistake, they correct it. They are parents, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters. They share the Midwesterners' work ethic, putting in long and often unpredictable hours. They believe in the mission of journalism and in truth-telling. They are as vital to the fabric of the Lawrence community as teachers, police officers, doctors, nurses, pastors, small-business owners and other professionals. Journal-World reporters are not "disgusting." They are not "horrible, horrendous people." They are not "very dangerous and sick." They are not the "enemy of the American people."

  • The Morehead News (Kentucky): It should be clear to most Americans that Trump is relying on another Goebbels principle of propaganda: "A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth." Whether it comes directly from the president or his press secretary or another White House staff member, we are told incessantly that we cannot believe the reporting of any of the news media organizations except those like Fox News which openly favor the Trump administration.

  • Aberdeen News (South Carolina): "The media" is not one organism with one brain and one goal. The vast majority of the nation's media is small, local and community-driven. By dehumanizing the press, he makes palatable the anger many of his supporters have directed toward news media. The press no longer appears to be friends, neighbors and fellow Americans — now "the fake news is our enemy." Trump's rhetoric weakens the importance of a free press, creates conspiracy and further polarizes an already divided nation. His words are not only beneath the dignity of the office he holds, but also is creating a dangerous environment for working journalists. Perhaps more terrifying are the long-term effects of this anti-media campaign. Long after Trump is gone, the seeds of mistrust he has so carefully cultivated will grow into a divided, angry population for generations to come.

  • The Houston Chronicle: The president would have you believe that we — the reporters, editors, opinion writers, photographers, designers of the newspaper you are reading now — are your enemy. He is only right if your friend is unchecked government power. If your allies are corruption and misuse of taxpayer dollars. Biased grand juries and wrongful convictions. A state policy illegally denying special education services to thousands of Texas children. Short-sighted policies that worsened Harvey's epic destruction. Unpoliced stockpiles of deadly chemicals across Houston that leave residents and first responders vulnerable. These are the true enemies of everyday Americans. They are among the problems that journalists at the Houston Chronicle have worked to expose, to critique, to change.

  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Trump would have Americans believe that he's a victim of a witch hunt fueled by a vindictive and out-of-control news media. More often than not, it's journalists' reporting of Trump's actual words and deeds that sends his administration scrambling for excuses, scapegoats and diversions — such as his attacks on the messengers. There was no "fake news" in Trump's utterances in a 2005 recording about his belief that male stars get to sexually abuse women. There was no fake news when he attacked the parents of a fallen U.S. soldier during the 2016 Republican National Convention. Trump alone is responsible for his harsh rhetoric about immigrants, those with disabilities, minorities and women. Trump alone is responsible for his remarks defending white supremacists. But if journalists inconvenience him by quoting his exact words, they get labeled as enemies of the people.

Trump, of course, is not one to let a provocation pass. Particularly when that provocation involves literally hundreds of newspapers. And so, he fired back on Twitter, making sure to underscore that he definitely doesn't get it (or, that he gets it all too well):

Trump was clearly still steaming after sending these tweets, however. At a cabinet meeting held several hours after the last tweet, he turned to the reporters there and sneered, "If you'd like, you can stay. If you'd like, you can leave. Freedom of the press."

The whole list of participating newspapers is here. And, incidentally, the one state that had no entries on the list? Wyoming. (Z)

Omarosa Releases a Recording of Lara Trump Offering Her a $15,000/Month Job

Omarosa Manigault Newman released yet another of the many recordings she claims to have yesterday. This one features Lara Trump, Donald Trump's daughter-in-law and campaign adviser, offering a $15,000/month job, which was basically hush money. Manigault Newman had made that claim before, but now she released proof, as she has done several times already. Every time she backs up some claim that Trump has tried to shoot down, her credibility goes up.

Manigault Newman noted that Trump has called her a lowlife and a dog, yet on the recording Lara praises her and tells her to join the campaign because she is so awesome. Parts of the recording were played on MSNBC. The show's producer heard the entire recording, but Manigault Newman selected the four clips that were aired. Her book came out on Tuesday and she is clearly releasing recordings bit by bit to back up claims she makes in the book (and to drive up sales). The book is #1 on Amazon in numerous categories, including Presidents & Heads of State, Hoaxes & Deceptions, and Memoirs. It is #2 overall, trailing only a book on women's empowerment, and just ahead of one on Asian Americans and one on maintaining psychological health. So, the President probably won't be sampling from this week's bestseller list. Trump is trying to stop Manigault Newman from releasing more recordings, citing a nondisclosure agreement she signed in 2016. Lawyers aren't sure whether an NDA signed by a campaign employee is binding, but Trump has started arbitration proceedings against Manigault Trump to try to shut her up.

After the recording was played on television, Trump tore into Manigault Newman, but didn't deny that the tape was real and the offer was made. Trump said: "I am absolutely shocked and saddened by her betrayal and violation on a deeply personal level." Manigault Newman responded to the attack on her by saying: "So, if that's the best that they have, I'll just say this to them: I am not going anywhere. I'm not going to be bullied. I'm not intimidated." She also hinted that there are more tapes to come. (V)

No Verdict Yet in Manafort Case

The jury in the Paul Manafort case began their deliberations Thursday morning. It was not terribly likely that they would finish the job in one day, since they have 18 separate counts to consider. And indeed, the end of the day came on Thursday without any resolution.

Needless to say, only 12 people truly know what's going on in that jury room. However, it certainly appears that they are working diligently, as they sent several questions to the judge throughout the day on Thursday, including requesting a clarification of "reasonable doubt." That particular clarification is probably not a hopeful sign for the defense, since it ostensibly means that they're 98% sure he's guilty, and they just want to make sure that 2% is not enough to find otherwise.

Also noteworthy is that the jury is examining the facts and law very carefully. For example, one of the other questions the jury sent to the judge is whether an American who owns less than 50% of a foreign account and does not have signature authority over the account but who does have disbursement power is required to file an FBAR report with the Treasury Dept. Manafort had such an account and he didn't file the FBAR. The judge essentially told the jury that yes, he should have filed the FBAR, so it looks like Manafort will be found guilty on this count, at the very least. Deliberations begin again at 9:30 a.m. EDT this morning.

In the unlikely event that Manafort skates on all 18 counts, he's hardly out of the woods, though. Court filings from Thursday reveal that for his second trial, set to begin Sept. 17 in Washington D.C., the prosecution has just a tad bit more evidence. How much more? About three times as much. And because the second trial focuses on different crimes (money laundering and illegal foreign lobbying vs. tax evasion and bank fraud), the evidence is almost entirely new. So, success in the Virginia case is not at all predictive of success in the Washington case. And Manafort's attorneys will certainly earn their money (whether they actually get it is another matter). (Z)

Another Piece of the Stormygate Puzzle

Continuing with the theme of former Trump associates who are now causing him headaches, the Wall Street Journal added another detail on Thursday to the saga of former Trump paramour Stormy Daniels (nee Stephanie Clifford). According to their reporting, Daniels tried early in the campaign to get hush money via then-fixer Michael Cohen, and was told "Thanks, but no thanks." Then, after Trump was caught on tape talking about grabbing women by the pu**y, Cohen was happy to discuss a deal with Daniels. A deal that was, of course, ultimately consummated.

This certainly affords some interesting insight into the thought process of Team Trump. It would seem that they felt that "adulterer" was salable, but "adulterous pu**y-grabber" was not. The real significance here, however, is that this news pokes even more holes in the story that the payment to Daniels was not campaign-related. If the point in purchasing her silence was to spare Trump's family, or to protect Trump's marriage, or whatever the case might be, the pu**ygate tape wasn't relevant. On the other hand, if the goal was to protect the Donald's political fortunes, then the tape and Daniels are intimately connected (no pun intended). Of course, all of this only matters if the Democrats take over at least one chamber of Congress, and get the power to do something about it. Congressional Republicans seem to be entirely uninterested in following up on illegal payments made to ex-flings, probably for more reasons than one. (Z)

Admiral Who Oversaw the Raid on Bin Laden Wants His Security Clearance Revoked

Wednesday, it came out that Donald Trump had revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan. Trump didn't claim that Brennan had endangered national security in any way. He just likes to use his power to punish people he doesn't like, and he certainly doesn't like Brennan, who has often criticized him. Yesterday, Adm. William McRaven (ret.), who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, wrote on open letter to Trump in the Washington Post. Here is how it begins:

Former CIA director John Brennan, whose security clearance you revoked on Wednesday, is one of the finest public servants I have ever known. Few Americans have done more to protect this country than John. He is a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question, except by those who don't know him.

Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.

McRaven goes on to criticize Trump for embarrassing us in the eyes of our children, humiliating the country on the world stage, and dividing the nation. Trump likes military leaders generally, but no doubt he will make an exception for McRaven. The tweets are sure to come. What nickname will McRaven get? Perhaps "birdbrain?" (V)

Trump Badly Wants to Take the Show on the Road

Although Donald Trump rarely does formal press conferences, he does give impromptu interviews on a fairly regular basis. So it was on Wednesday, when he spent 20 minutes chatting with the Wall Street Journal. Although the President's primary purpose was to brag about how he was going to singlehandedly save America's steel industry with his tariffs, he also spoke about the midterm elections, and how he has the power to bend the results to his will:

As long as I can get out and campaign, I think [Republican candidates are] going to win, I really do. It's a lot of work for me. I have to make 50 stops, it's a lot. So, there aren't a lot of people that can do that, physically. Fortunately, I have no problem with that.

When asked a follow-up about how his campaigning might also fire up Democrats, Trump added: "If you want to know the truth, I don't think it energizes them. I think it de-energizes them. I think they give up when I turn out."

There's no doubt that Trump really and truly believes what he's saying. Indeed, it's the exact same thing he thinks about Robert Mueller—if he (Trump) can get the Special Counsel into a room, he can make this whole thing go away solely by the force of his will. In both scenarios, Trump is—to be entirely blunt—delusional. Every human being is guilty of confirmation bias on occasion, but Trump may very well have a worse case of it than anyone else walking the planet. He recalls all the naysayers that he proved wrong in 2016, and the roaring crowds at his rallies, and the fawning coverage from Fox News, and the people he endorsed who actually won, and he persuades himself that he's an even greater politician than Abraham Lincoln. But, of course, Trump ignores reams of information that argue to the contrary. In particular, if he can see all the protests he's generated—many of them conducted in his very presence—and then conclude that he demoralizes his opponents and makes them stay home, then he's in a very special place, cognitively.

With that said, the folks around Trump are not quite so myopic. They recognize that he's very divisive, his time is limited, the Senate is much more salvageable than the House, and he's much better off campaigning in the red states he won, as opposed to Congressional districts he lost. In other words, they would much prefer to see him spend his time in North Dakota or Missouri, and not in trying to help Dana Rohrabacher in CA-48, or Mike Coffman in CO-06, or Leonard Lance in NJ-07. Of course, we know what happens when Trump gets an idea in his head. In other words, Rohrabacher, Coffman, and Lance should start stocking up on Make America Great Again hats immediately, so they have enough for the rallies. (Z)

Trump Has Praised All the Candidates in the Arizona Senate Primary

Much to the chagrin of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Donald Trump has praised all three Republicans running for the seat of retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ). McConnell wants Trump to endorse Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) and tell the other two—right-wing firebrand Kelli Ward and convicted-but-pardoned felon Joe Arpaio, formerly sheriff of Maricopa County—to drop out. McConnell knows very well that either Ward or Arpaio would be a loose cannon in his caucus, so he is fervently rooting for McSally. But Trump has praised all of them and endorsed none of them. It could be that since Trump hates backing losers, he is waiting to see who will win and then will come out with a last minute endorsement that is too late to do any good (early voting is already in progress).

While the three Republicans are battering each other, Democratic nominee Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) owns the airwaves. She has been running positive ads for months, touting her life story. Her parents divorced when she was a young child and her mother was so poor, they lived in an old gas station. She worked hard and later got a masters degree, a law degree, and a Ph.D. from Arizona State University. It is the kind of success story that will impress voters with her determination and will to succeed, especially since there are no negative ads being run against her now, and by September, when the primary winner starts them, her image will already be set in most people's minds.

What could also be an issue in Arizona is that the primary is very ideological and the losers may not be so interested in party unity, especially since Ward and Arpaio don't have strong ties to the Republican Party. They are in it basically for themselves. On the other hand, the RNC and NRSC view this as a very critical race and will be there with bags of money when the winner is chosen on Aug. 28. (V)

Who's Who on the House Judiciary Committee?

If you think the Republicans will hold onto the House, skip this story, as it is irrelevant. But if you think the Democrats will get a majority, read on. If the Democrats get a solid majority—say, 230 seats—in the new House, it is a given that there will be impeachment hearings for Donald Trump, and possibly an impeachment. The way that works is that the House Judiciary Committee will run the show initially. If the Democrats take control, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) will be chairman and conduct the proceedings. He is certainly Donald Trump's peer since he represents NY-10, which is adjacent to NY-12, where Trump Tower is located. As a starting point, here is the current membership of the Judiciary Committee:

Republicans Democrats
Bob Goodlatte, Virginia, Chair Jerrold Nadler, New York, Ranking Member
Jim Sensenbrenner, Wisconsin Zoe Lofgren, California
Lamar Smith, Texas Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas
Steve Chabot, Ohio Steve Cohen, Tennessee
Darrell Issa, California Hank Johnson, Georgia
Steve King, Iowa Ted Deutch, Florida
Louie Gohmert, Texas Luis Gutiérrez, Illinois
Jim Jordan, Ohio Karen Bass, California
Ted Poe, Texas Cedric Richmond, Louisiana
Tom Marino, Pennsylvania Hakeem Jeffries, New York
Trey Gowdy, South Carolina David Cicilline, Rhode Island
Raúl Labrador, Idaho Eric Swalwell, California
Doug Collins, Georgia Ted Lieu, California, New York
Ron DeSantis, Florida Jamie Raskin, Maryland
Ken Buck, Colorado Pramila Jayapal, Washington
John Ratcliffe, Texas Brad Schneider, Illinois
Martha Roby, Alabama Val Demings, Florida
Matt Gaetz, Florida  
Mike Johnson, Louisiana  
Andy Biggs, Arizona  
John Rutherford, Florida  
Karen Handel, Georgia  
Keith Rothfus, Pennsylvania  

The members in gray are retiring, except for Keith Rothfus. He is on track to be involuntarily retired by Conor Lamb, who leads in polls by double digits. If the Democrats take charge, they will get the majority of slots, but with eight Republicans leaving the House, probably all the current Republicans will stay on the committee, with some unknown number of Democrats added, so the committee balance will roughly match that of the House.

With Goodlatte retiring, in principle Jim Sensenbrenner should become ranking member, but he has already served three full terms as chairman, and a fourth term would violate Republican caucus term limits. Lamar Smith may prefer to stay as the #1 Republican in the Science, Space, and Technology Committee. Steve Chabot would be a good choice, but he is in danger of losing his election. Steve King is probably the most racist member of Congress, and it is doubtful that the new minority leader would want to give him a big megaphone. If the Republicans picked the crazy firebrand Louie Gohmert, it could be quite a show. Ditto Jim Jordan, who co-founded the Freedom Caucus, and who currently has a molestation scandal hanging over his head. So maybe Doug Collins would be the ranking member. It's important because he's the one who has to fight back to defend Trump if it comes to that.

The Democratic lineup is interesting for a different reason. The only real bomb thrower is Steve Cohen. There is an audio tape of him wishing that Tennessee Republican Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn would jump off a bridge. The lead prosecutor would be Nadler, a New Yorker. He's Jewish, as are four other members. Six Democrats on the Committee are black. One is Latino, one was born in India, and one was born in Taiwan. Only two members are white Protestants (Zoe Lofgren and Eric Swalwell). Thus, the Democrats on the Committee look a lot like the Democratic Party. The Republicans look a lot like the Republican Party and like Trump's base, but not a lot like America.

Now, here's the rub: How would Trump's base react if a committee full of Jews, blacks, immigrants, and Latinos were to recommend impeachment? Probably not so well. If the Democrats were to take charge, Nancy Pelosi should give some thought to whom she wants to add to the Judiciary Committee, both in terms of ethnicity and how they behave in public. If the goal is to get a conviction in the Senate, the country has to believe that Trump wasn't railroaded and that may be harder than it looks, just due to the demographics of the Judiciary Committee, no matter what Robert Mueller reports. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug16 Takeaways from the Primaries
Aug16 Does Trump's Endorsement Matter?
Aug16 Trump Revokes Security Clearance of Former CIA Director John Brennan
Aug16 Manafort's Trial Ends
Aug16 Republican Midterm Strategy Is to Play Nice for a Few Months
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Aug15 Kobach Advances, Johnson Throws His Hat in the Ring
Aug15 White House Staffers Scared Witless of Omarosa's Next Tape
Aug15 Trump Doing His Best to Prove that Yes, He Is a Racist Who Used the N-Word
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Aug14 FBI Fires Peter Strzok
Aug14 Prosecution Rests Its Case in the Manafort Trial
Aug14 Stone Says He Won't Testify Against Trump
Aug14 Omarosa Keeps Dishing
Aug14 Team Trump Decides on a New Flynn Narrative
Aug14 Florida Might Have a Red Tide Instead of a Blue Wave
Aug14 Political Spending at Trump's Properties Is $3.5 Million Since His Inauguration
Aug13 Omarosa: Trump Is a Racist
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Aug13 Over 100 Newspapers Will Fight Back on Trump's Attacking the Media
Aug13 The Trump Jr. Follies Continue
Aug12 Omarosa Was Telling the Truth about the Hush Money
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Aug12 Today's Swamp News, Part II: Who's Really Running the VA?
Aug12 Realignment Was on Full Display in Ohio Special Election
Aug12 Paul Ryan Nears the End of the Line
Aug11 Sarah Huckabee Sanders Slams Omarosa Manigault-Newman's Not-Yet-Published Book
Aug11 Manafort Trial: Judge's Errors, Mystery Conference
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Aug10 Devin Nunes: GOP Has to Keep the House to Protect Trump
Aug10 Pence Announces "Space Force" Proposal
Aug10 Kobach's Lead Is Cut in Half
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Aug10 Time for Pelosi to Go?