New Yorker Report Details Trump’s Deep Ties to Fox News

H2 fox white house

An explosive new piece by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker reveals new details about how Fox News has become what one scholar described as “the closest we’ve come to having state TV.” Mayer reveals that in 2017 Trump directed then-top economic adviser Gary Cohn to put pressure on the Justice Department to block AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner. The move was reportedly due to Trump’s animosity toward CNN, which is owned by Time Warner. Cohn, however, viewed Trump’s order as “highly improper” and directed then-Chief of Staff John Kelly not to follow through on it. In contrast, the Trump administration handily approved Disney’s acquisition of Fox for $71 billion.

The piece also says that former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes shared key questions from the 2015 Fox News-hosted Republican primary debate with candidate Trump beforehand, including a question by then-Fox host Megyn Kelly pressing him on past misogynistic comments.

Jane Mayer also confirms that Fox News reporter Diana Falzone had evidence of Trump’s illegal hush money payments to Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign, but that her story was killed and a Fox executive told her, “Good reporting, kiddo. But Rupert wants Donald Trump to win. So just let it go.” Rupert Murdoch owns Fox News and has long been an ally of Trump. After suing and settling with Fox, Falzone signed a nondisclosure agreement, ensuring the network never released the story.

10 things the Trump administration did in 2018 that you may have missed

From limiting the number of refugees welcomed to the US to cutting aid to Pakistan, here are some things Trump did in 2018 that you may have missed.

Trump listens during a signing ceremony for criminal justice reform legislation in the Oval Office of the White House, Friday, Dec. 21, 2018, in Washington [Evan Vucci/AP Photo]
Trump listens during a signing ceremony for criminal justice reform legislation in the Oval Office of the White House, Friday, Dec. 21, 2018, in Washington [Evan Vucci/AP Photo]

Washington, DC – This year was full of a lot of surprises from US President Donald Trump and his administration

From a number of high-level departures to his recent decision to pull US troops out of Syria, despite opposition from many within his own party and inner circle, Trump never ceased to abruptly interrupt the news cycle with a new development or announcement.

But it’s also the things that didn’t make the front page or the lead story, they may also have you surprised.

Here are 10 things the Trump administration did that you may have missed this year:

1. Fewer Refugees

In 2018, fewer refugees made it into the US than any time during the previous 40 years. That’s because the Trump administration followed a campaign promise to cap the number of people coming to the United States.

In September, the Trump administration reduced that limit again from 45,000 to 30,000. The year 2019 could see the lowest number of refugee admissions in US history.

READ MORE

‘Shameful’: US slashes number of refugees it will admit to 30,000

The move follows remarks the president made throughout 2018 aimed at immigrants and refugees. In one closed-door White House meeting, according to the Washington Post and Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, Trump referred to Haiti, African countries and some Latin American countries as “s***holes” and wondered aloud why the US was letting anyone in from those regions.

His administration has also sought to put limits on who can request asylum. This month, the Supreme Court dealt a blow to the Trump, refusing to allow the administration to implement new rules prohibiting asylum for people who cross the US border between official ports of entry. A lower court has also blocked policies put in place by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier this year that made it harder for individuals fleeing domestic violence and gang violence to claim asylum.

2. Trump cuts Pakistan aid

In a New Year’s Day tweet, Trump took aim at Pakistan arguing, “the United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years.” He vowed that would end. And, it did. In September, during the Labor Day holiday, military assistance to Pakistan ended. The $300m, according to a Pentagon spokesperson, would be “reprogrammed” for “other urgent priorities”.

READ MORE

Pentagon to cancel $300m in Pakistan aid over armed groups

The US military has accused Pakistan of giving safe haven to groups that target US soldiers in Afghanistan. Islamabad has persistently denied the charges even though al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed by US forces in Abbottabad in 2011, less than a mile from a Pakistani military training academy.

3. Possible sexual assault rule change at US colleges

In November, while Washington, DC, was distracted with Jim Acosta’s White House credentials and the Russia investigation, Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued a Friday proposal to alter the rules when it comes to how sexual assaults and harassment are handled on school campuses.

Although DeVos said the changes were designed to make reporting “more transparent, consistent, and reliable in their processes and outcomes,” groups advocating on behalf of sexual assault survivors decried it as an attempt to give more power to the accused and lessen the legal burden on schools.

One controversial provision allows the person who is accused to cross-examine the accuser through representatives.

“If these draft rules become law,” said Sage Carson, manager for Know Your Title IX, “more survivors will be forced out of school by harassment, assault, and their schools’ indifference to their complaints.”

4. Climate change report buried

Normally, US administrations use the day after the Thanksgiving holiday (a Friday) to bury uncomfortable news.

READ MORE

Trump says he doesn’t believe his administration’s climate report

In 2018, that news came in the form of an annual government report on climate change. Since his election to office, Trump has repeatedly questioned whether climate change is real.

“Whatever happened to Global Warming?” he tweeted in November after a spate of cold weather hit the US. That thinking may have guided the decision to bury the report, released the day after Thanksgiving when most Americans weren’t paying attention, by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It not only declares climate change is real but it is getting worse, threatening coastal communities in the US.

“The severity of future impacts will depend largely on actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changes that will occur,” the report states. In 2017, Trump pulled out of the Paris climate accord, a historic international agreement on climate change aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

5. The election was rigged … or not

Just three days into 2018, Trump quietly got rid of a commission ending a taxpayer-funded venture that many people considered a waste of time and money. The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity was formed in May 2017 to investigate one of Trump’s main claims about the 2016 Presidential contest: it was rigged.

READ MORE

‘Sickening’: New anti-immigrant Trump campaign ad stokes outrage

Although Trump won the election, his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, earned nearly three million more votes. Under the American electoral college system, the popular vote does not guarantee victory. Nevertheless, Trump disliked the idea that more people wanted Clinton to be president. The commission’s official mandate was to “study vulnerabilities in voting systems used for federal elections that could lead to improper voter registrations, improper voting, fraudulent voter registrations, and fraudulent voting”. It was created around Trump’s unfounded claim that millions of people voted illegally for Clinton in 2016.

However, the commission was marred with infighting and legal battles and, in the end, found zero evidence of voter fraud. After it disbanded, the commission’s vice-chair, former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, was found in contempt of court by a federal judge in a voter suppression case.

6. National debt soars

As a businessman-candidate, Trump ran for president on the premise he knows how to save money and cut waste. More importantly, he promised to get rid of the US national debt, a sore spot for many Republican legislators for many years.

As president, the debt has continued to inflate under Trump. As of mid-December, US national debt was roughly $21.8 trillion. When Trump took office in January, 2017, it was $19.9 trillion. Spending on the military and programmes like social security and Medicare increased in 2018 and there is no indication Trump will take any significant action to reduce it. According to the Congressional Budget Office, interest on the debt is one of the fastest growing payments in the annual budget. They also project overall spending to increase by 5.5 percent a year over the next 10 years.

Ironically, Trump’s Republican Party made spending controls its signature issue throughout the administration of President Barack Obama and orchestrated a partial government down in 2013 as a result of it.

7. Endangered species under attack?

Ever since Trump took over, environmentalists and animal-rights activists have warned that protections for wildlife are on his target list. The president has persistently criticised government regulations that get in the way of big business. In July, the administration announced a proposal to strip the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of some key provisions.

READ MORE

Climate change could cost US billions, worsen disasters: report

While only a proposal, the request has set off alarm bells within some of the biggest environmental organisations. The Sierra Club, which boasts 3.5 million members, bluntly warned the law is “under attack”. If implemented, the Sierra Club argues, the regulation changes would loosen protections for certain animals and fish like the gray wolf, right whale and sage-grouse. In a Washington Post op-ed in August, Interior deputy secretary David Bernhardt called aspects of the ESA an “unnecessary regulatory burden”.

8. Trump boosts overseas military spending

In August, Trump signed off on one of the largest budgets for the US military in history. At a whopping $717bn, the 2019 American defence budget is bigger than that of China, India, the UK, France and Russia combined. “We are going to strengthen our military like never ever before,” the president boasted after authorising the spending during a ceremony at Fort Drum in New York. Within that budget is money for the same overseas military spending Trump once criticised his predecessors. Trump has consistently wondered aloud why Presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama spent trillions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In his 2019 budget, Trump increased military spending in both countries.

9. Calls to end chain migration … except for Trump family

Trump hates chain migration. He has said it many times. “Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives,” Trump told Americans in his annual state of the union address in January. “Under our plan, we focus on the immediate family by limiting sponsorships to spouses and minor children.”

READ MORE

US: ‘Chain migration’ grants Melania Trump’s parents citizenship

This apparent distaste, however, did not apply to his own family. In August, Amalja and Viktor Knav, the parents of First Lady Melania Trump, walked into a New York government building and took their oath to become American citizens. They are both from Slovenia. How did they get their citizenship? Through their daughter’s marriage to Trump or, put another way, chain migration. When asked whether the Knavs’ case was a textbook example of the practice, their own lawyer replied, “I suppose so.”

10. Trump poses in photo with conspiracy theorist

There’s no doubt the current occupant of the White House sometimes traffics in falsehoods. He has claimed, then retracted, his belief former US President Barack Obama wiretapped him, said people were rioting in California over sanctuary cities and suggested midterm election voters put on disguises so they could cast ballots multiple times. All those claims are incorrect.

READ MORE

Hate before the vote: Pipe bombs, shootings, incitement

So, in August, when Trump posed for a photo in the Oval Office with the proponent of a conspiracy theory, he seemed to be taking his false assertions to a new level. The visitor, Lionel Lebron, is one of the biggest advocates for a theory that gained significant traction in 2018.

Known as “QAnon” or “Q”, it’s a conspiracy pushed primarily by pro-Trump social mediastars and makes all sorts of unfounded claims about the president’s opponents, centring around a fictitious belief that prominent Democrats are running a paedophile ring. In August, “Q” posters and t-shirts followed the president everywhere. Lebron later tweeted that he never brought up QAnon with Trump.

 

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

CNN fires Commentator Marc Lamont Hill after criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

CNN: Facts first, just not on Israel

CNN firing commentator Marc Lamont Hill exposes yet another layer of mainstream media’s bias and lack of objectivity.Last week, the US mainstream media demonstrated once again that it has a Palestine problem. CNN suspended the contract of commentator and Temple University Professor Marc Lamont Hill, after he gave a speech at the United Nations in which he criticised the Israeli occupation and the abuse of Palestinian rights.

Hill based his speech very much on facts. He cited Israeli laws that discriminate against Palestinians; the use of arbitrary violence by the Israeli security apparatus; the use of torture against Palestinian detainees; the denial of due process to Palestinians by Israeli courts; the restriction on movement in the occupied territories, etc – all violations that have been well-documented and condemned by the UN and a myriad of human rights organisations.

Yet CNN, which last year adopted a new slogan – “Facts first” – did not seem to agree with these facts. After pro-Israel organisations like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) condemned the speech, the TV station was quick to sever its ties with Hill.

While CNN did not announce why it chose to do so, it is clear to many of us it caved in to pressure from pro-Israel groups. Hill was accused of being anti-Semitic for using the phrase “free Palestine from the river to the sea”, which supposedly is a “Hamas slogan” and a call for the destruction of Israel. Well, it is neither.

Advertisement

Throwing accusations of anti-Semitism at people criticising Israel and supporting the Palestinian right to self-determination is a convenient tool of the Zionist lobby. But calling for the freedom of Palestinians and for the recognition of their rights is not anti-Semitic; it is pro-Palestinian.

Conflating anti-Semitism with pro-Palestinian positions and criticism of Israel is not only ill-intentioned but also dangerous, as it does a disservice to Jews who have faced hate speech and hate attacks.

In Palestine, the Israeli authorities have brought this tactic to the extreme and have already passed a number of laws curbing freedom of speech. This means that those of us who dare criticise Israeli policy or call for resistance to Israeli occupation, even if in the form of a poem, face the risk of imprisonment.

In the United States, those who do so clearly face the risk of being fired, as in the case of Professor Hill and as in the case of many others before him- and probably many others after. The way CNN (mis)handled this situation offers us an opportunity to discuss how media organisations succumbing to Israel’s campaign of silencing critics is particularly problematic.

 

 

 

47561f18da5747ebab3536c9fd7add64_18

Tribune Media and Nexstar in $4.1bn local TV takeover. (Can you say “Monopoly?)

WGN TV station flag

US media group Nexstar is set to become the country’s largest operator of local TV stations after a deal to buy Tribune Media for about $4.1bn (£3.2bn).

It comes three months after Tribune’s sale to Sinclair Group, currently the largest US local TV operator, failed over regulatory hurdles.

Full details were expected to be confirmed on Monday, but the deal was widely reported in the US on Sunday.

Tribune’s 42 TV stations reach approximately 50 million households.

The Chicago-based company also owns national entertainment cable network WGN America, whose reach is more than 77 million households, and a number of websites. It also has a stake in the Food Network.

Nexstar, based in Irving, Texas, owns, operates and provides sales and other services to 174 television stations reaching nearly 39% of all US television households.

Reuters, which first disclosed the deal, said that US private equity Apollo Global Management had also been in talks with Tribune.

Tribune emerged from bankruptcy in late 2012 and completed a spinoff of its newspaper assets in 2014.

More deals

The company’s sale to Sinclair fell foul of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over promises to divest television stations. The regulator said Sinclair did not “fully disclose facts” over the sale.

But that prompted an intervention from President Donald Trump, who tweeted in July: “So sad and unfair that the FCC wouldn’t approve the Sinclair Broadcast merger with Tribune. This would have been a great and much needed Conservative voice for and of the People.”

The news broadcasts of many Sinclair’s TV stations are viewed as politically conservative.

More TV broadcasting deals are expected. Privately held Cox Enterprises announced in July that it was exploring strategic options, including a potential sale of broadcast TV stations it owns in cities such as Atlanta, Boston and Memphis.

It is also thought that Sinclair is pursuing other deals, having partnered with private equity firm CVC Capital Partners to bid for the regional sports networks that 21st Century Fox is selling following its deal to merge most of its assets with Walt Disney.

CNN sues Trump for suspending Jim Acosta’s press pass

The Trump administration vows to fight CNN lawsuit which claims the journalist’s constitutional rights were violated.

The dispute and Acosta's banishment triggered a wave of accusations that Trump is stifling the free press [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]
The dispute and Acosta’s banishment triggered a wave of accusations that Trump is stifling the free press

A federal judge will hold a hearing on Wednesday on a CNN lawsuit against President Donald Trump‘s administration after the White House revokedthe press credentials of the network’s journalist last week.

The American network said its correspondent Jim Acosta’s removal was a violation of his First Amendment rights to freely report on the government.

The White House dismissed CNN’s complaint as “grandstanding” and vowed to “vigorously defend” against the lawsuit.

If left unchallenged, the actions of the White House would create a dangerous chilling effect for any journalist who covers our elected officials

A CNN STATEMENT

The dispute on live national television and Acosta’s resulting banishment triggered a wave of accusations that Trump is stifling the free press, and marked a sharp escalation in tensions between the president and CNN.

“The wrongful revocation of these credentials violates CNN and Acosta’s First Amendment rights of freedom of the press, and their Fifth Amendment rights to due process,” the news network said in a statement, announcing the lawsuit filed on Tuesday in Washington.

“If left unchallenged, the actions of the White House would create a dangerous chilling effect for any journalist who covers our elected officials,” CNN said.

US District Judge Timothy Kelly ordered the Trump administration to respond by 11:00am (16:00 GMT) on Wednesday and set a hearing for 3:30pm.

Kelly, a former chief counsel for the US Senate Judiciary Committee, was appointed by Trump last year.

The First Amendment

The White House had suspended Acosta’s hard pass after he sparred at a news conference with the president, who demanded that the reporter give up the microphone and called him a “rude, terrible person” when he did not immediately comply.

They began sparring after Acosta asked Trump about the caravan of migrants heading from Latin America to the southern US border. When Acosta tried to follow up with another question, Trump said, “That’s enough!” and a female White House aide unsuccessfully tried to grab the microphone from Acosta.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders released a statement accusing Acosta of “placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern”, calling it “absolutely unacceptable”.

Hours later, Sanders announced Acosta’s hard pass had been suspended, in a move that she justified by claiming the reporter was inappropriately “placing his hands” on the intern.

The interaction between Acosta and the intern was brief, and Acosta appeared to brush her arm as she reached for the microphone and he tried to hold onto it. “Pardon me, ma’am,” he told her.

She alleged that Acosta “physically refused to surrender a White House microphone to an intern,” softening the earlier misconduct accusation and then casting blame on the journalist for his persistent questioning.

“The First Amendment is not served when a single reporter, of more than 150 present, attempts to monopolise the floor,” the press secretary said in a statement.

“If there is no check on this type of behaviour, it impedes the ability of the President, the White House staff and members of the media to conduct business.”

CNN lawyer Ted Boutrous said the White Houses’ suspension of the press pass made “clear it was based on the content of the reporting.”

“CNN’s argument is very straightforward,” the lawyer told the American network. “We can’t have the White House tossing people out because they don’t like what they are saying or what they are reporting.”

“That is what happened. That is the First Amendment.”

Political Puppet Sen. Collins ‘very concerned’ about Whitaker’s appointment, in an attempt to win back credentials with Maine Voters

Rape apologist Susan Collins said she has a group of senators who are going to pressure Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow a bill to protect Mueller’s investigation to be debated.

Speaking in Brunswick, Collins said she’s “very concerned” about the appointment of Matt Whitaker to serve as acting attorney general because of his comments about setting parameters for the probe into whether Trump’s presidential campaign coordinated with Russia in 2016.

Collins believes such a bill could pressure Trump to let Mueller’s investigation run its course.

“I recognize that the president is never going to sign such a bill, but I think Senate debate and passage of the bill would send a very strong message to the president,” she said.

She said ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions proved himself to be “an individual of great integrity” by recusing himself and allowing sufficient resources for Mueller to complete the probe. Under Sessions, the investigation was overseen by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Trump forced out Sessions and on Wednesday installed Whitaker, a Republican Party loyalist, to oversee the special counsel investigation. Democrats quickly called for Whitaker to recuse himself, as well, because of past comments in which he was critical of the investigation.

Whitaker’s past comments include a radio interview in which he maintained there was no evidence of collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. He also wrote in an op-ed that Mueller would be straying outside his mandate if he investigated Trump family finances.

Frank Thorp V

@frankthorp

Sen SUSAN COLLINS: “I believe that we should bring to the Senate floor legislation that would put restrictions on the ability of President Donald Trump to fire the Special Counsel.”

Collins said she has a group of senators who are going to pressure Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow the bill to be debated.

“It is time to bring the bill to the Senate floor,” she said, adding that she’d vote in favor of it.

The former centrist told a group of reporters that she’s keeping a positive outlook about the coming year. She said Democrats seizing control of the House on Election Day means both parties will have to work together.

I, personally a former supporter of Collins,  now cannot wait until she’s voted out and her legacy is sealed.

Traitor.

Hundreds of journalists condemn Trump’s ‘sustained’ media attacks

More than 200 journalists, mostly retired and semi-retired, released an open letter decrying Trump’s press attack.

On Thursday morning, Trump renewed his attacks on the press, taking to Twitter in an apparent attempt to blame the media for the spate of suspected bombs [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]
On Thursday morning, Trump renewed his attacks on the press, taking to Twitter in an apparent attempt to blame the media for the spate of suspected bombs [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

More than 200 journalists, most of them retired or semi-retired, accused US President Donald Trump of a “sustained pattern” of attacking media in an open letter published a day after a spate of suspected pipe bombs were sent to CNN and several prominent Trump critics.

“Trump’s condoning of political violence is part of a sustained pattern of attack on a free press – which includes labeling any reportage he doesn’t like as ‘fake news’ and barring reporters and news organisations whom he wishes to punish from press briefings and events,” stated the letter, which was published on Thursday morning.

Lambasting Trump’s recent praise for a violent assault on a Guardian journalist, the letter went on to accuse Trump of undermining media freedoms and inciting violence against the press.

Among the signatories were former press workers for CNN, ABC and Los Angeles Times.

Starting with a suspected explosive device sent to the home of liberal billionaire philanthropist and financier George Soros, at least 10 packages containing pipe bombs have been mailed to prominent critics of Trump this week.

Other packages were addressed to former US President Barack Obama, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, US Congresswoman Maxine Waters, actor Robert Deniro and former CIA director John Brennan in care of CNN, among others.

The incident comes just two weeks before midterm elections, which are expected to be a referendum on Trump’s performance.

Blaming the press

On Thursday morning, Trump renewed his attacks on the press, taking to Twitter in an apparent attempt to blame the media for the spate of suspected bombs.

“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,” he tweeted.

“It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description. Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!”

His comments were met with derision from CNN President Jeff Zucker, who charged the Trump administration with “a total and complete lack of understanding … about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media”.

Bill de Blasio, New York City’s mayor, described the string of packages as an “act of terror”.

“Don’t encourage violence, don’t encourage hatred, don’t encourage attacks on media,” he added without naming Trump.

“Unfortunately this atmosphere of hatred is contributing to the choices people are making to turn to violence.”

But White House press secretary Sarah Sanders defended Trump’s comments on Thursday morning. “Day in, day out, there is a negative tone,” Sanders told press outside the White House.

“You guys continue to focus only on the negative and there is a role to play.”

Since coming to office, Trump has been widely criticised by rights groups and press freedom organisations for his frequent criticism of the media.

After five press workers were killed by a shotgun-wielding man in Maryland in June, the US became the second most dangerous country for journalists during the first half of 2018, according to International News Safety Institute.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS