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  • Trump Sycophant Tucker Carlson Legitimized Trump’s Wiretap Lie And Got Rewarded With An Interview

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN & BRENNAN SUEN

    Fox host Tucker Carlson is scheduled to interview President Donald Trump for an interview to air tonight on Fox News. The interview comes after Carlson legitimized Trump’s claim that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower -- an assertion that the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee has rejected. Carlson has admitted that Trump’s claim was not “literally accurate,” but called it “plausible” and said there was “a lot of evidence” supporting it.

  • Trump Rewards O'Reilly Minion Who Previously Aired Racist And Misogynist Reports

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT & CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Fox News host Jesse Watters will interview President Donald Trump for his show Watters World. Watters, who originally appeared on Fox as a correspondent for The O’Reilly Factor, has a track record of disparaging segments about immigrants, women, Asian-Americans and African-Americans. He has also produced reports in which he shamed homeless Americans, mocked members of the LGBTQ community, and “followed, harassed, and ambushed” a journalist.

  • State Department Rewards Reporter Who Wrote Tillerson Puff Piece With Sole Seat On His Plane To Asia

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The only reporter traveling with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during this week’s trip to Asia recently authored a puff piece on Tillerson’s close relationship with President Donald Trump that was based almost entirely on an anonymous Tillerson aide.

    Last week, the State Department announced that Tillerson would not allow the press to travel with him on his government plane during his trip to Japan, South Korea, and China, an extremely unusual step that will reportedly make it “exceedingly difficult, if not impossible” for journalists to cover the proceedings.

    D.C. bureau chiefs from a host of major news outlets sent a letter to the State Department last Tuesday protesting Tillerson’s decision. According to the letter, “Not only does this situation leave the public narrative of the meetings up to the Chinese foreign ministry as well as Korea’s and Japan’s, but it gives the American people no window whatsoever into the views and actions of the nation’s leaders.”

    At yesterday’s State Department press briefing, just hours before Tillerson was scheduled to take off, spokesperson Mark Toner was still unwilling to divulge whether any reporters would be traveling on the plane. But eventually, news broke that one reporter would be on board when the plane lifted off: Erin McPike, the White House correspondent for the conservative website Independent Journal Review.

    According to IJR founder Alex Skatell, who previously worked for the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Republican Governors Association, McPike got the spot because of her “tenacious, detailed brand of reporting.” According to the State Department’s Toner, the agency wanted to “take a journalist from an outlet that doesn’t normally travel with the Secretary of State, as part of an effort to include a broader representation of US media.”

    But it sure seems likely the State Department rewarded McPike because she was willing to help a Tillerson aide burnish the secretary's reputation.

    The glowing beat-sweetener, published two weeks ago, is a rebuttal to the widespread narrative that Tillerson has been largely sidelined by the White House, lacks influence with the president, and is unwilling to engage with the press or the public. Based on her interview with an unnamed “aide to the nation’s top diplomat,” who boasts that Tillerson frequently speaks with Trump on the phone, McPike decides that this is all Tillerson’s “strategy to keep his head down while he sets out to make the State Department more efficient.”

    McPike grants the aide anonymity to give quotes like, “If Trump closes the deal, Rex is the person who makes the deal.” She goes on to praise the aide’s statement: “It's a comment that suggests Tillerson may have figured out how to ingratiate himself well with his TV star boss: eschew the cameras and make the boss look better.”

    McPike appears to have figured out how to ingratiate herself with the State Department: Make the boss look better.

    The State Department Correspondents Association responded by saying that that it was "disappointed" Tillerson chose to travel to Asia “without a full contingent of the diplomatic press corps or even a pool reporter.” According to the association, several reporters “have traveled commercially to meet Secretary Tillerson on the ground in Asia.”

    “I covered State for more than nine years,” The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler said on Twitter in response to the statement. “What just happened is shocking -- and counterproductive for US diplomacy.”

    For its part, IJR is not interested in solidarity with the rest of the press corps; McPike reportedly is not filing pool reports from the plane. It’s the second time this month the site has been rewarded with exclusive access while the rest of the press was shut out; when Trump ditched the press for a dinner at the Trump Hotel, the website’s Benny Johnson had been tipped off and filed a fawning report after sitting at a nearby table.

    And there’s little reason to think that this will be the last time Tillerson -- or another member of the administration -- ditches the press in favor of hand-picking a reporter from a right-wing outlet who has proved willing to play ball.

    “I want to make the point going forward that we’re going to make every effort in future trips to have a contingent of press onboard that plane,” State Department spokesperson Toner said at the press briefing yesterday.

    Why should reporters believe this?

    If the administration wanted to have the diplomatic press corps accompany Tillerson to Asia, officials could have arranged that. But they haven’t.

    According to the State Department, while the secretary has access to an Air Force Boeing 757, Tillerson “prefers to travel on a smaller plane” which has no room for the press corps. That personal preference apparently outweighed any responsibility the secretary feels about providing the press with access. Part of the rationale is that this is “a cost-saving measure” because news outlets only “pay a degree” of the costs associated with sending journalists to travel with the secretary.

    None of this will change the next time Tillerson leaves the country on the nation’s business. His personal preferences about the size of his plane presumably will remain the same. So will the cost structure for bringing the press.

    There are only two plausible options. Either circumstances will remain the same, and the press will still have limited access to Tillerson when he travels.

    Or Tillerson will switch back to a plane that can accommodate the diplomatic press corps, suggesting that the decision with regard to the Asia trip was arbitrary, intended to send a message to journalists: Act more like McPike, and you, too, can have access to the secretary.

  • Rep. King Finds Safe Haven For His White Nationalism On Jan Mickelson’s Radio Show

    Iowa Radio Host Mickelson Is Notorious For His Bigotry Against Muslims, LGBTQ Individuals, And Immigrants

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Rep. Steve King (R-IA) appeared on Iowa radio host Jan Mickelson’s show to address the outrage over his racist tweet in which he claimed that “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” Mickelson, who is notorious for his bigotry against Muslims and LGBTQ Americans, as well as for calling for undocumented immigrants to be enslaved, helped King defend his tweet, and the interview ended with King urging Mickelson’s listeners to read the novel The Camp of the Saints, which The Huffington Post called “breathtakingly racist.”

    On March 12, King drew fire after tweeting, “Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” in apparent support of a prominent anti-Muslim Dutch politician, Geert Wilders. King’s tweet was cheered on by white nationalists and neo-Nazis, who rallied around the Republican congressman, calling him a “hero” for “openly endorsing White nationalism.”

    King defended his tweet during a CNN interview with Chris Cuomo on Monday, saying, “I meant exactly what I said,” and again on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, where the host agreed with King’s tweet. King additionally appeared on Mickelson’s show for a nearly 20-minute interview in which Mickelson offered defenses of King’s tweet by quoting John Jay, the country's first chief justice of the Supreme Court, criticizing diversity. Later Mickelson said, “You were accused of being a white supremist” (sic), but “you’re not talking about race, are you, at all?” CNN’s KFile first reported on this interview by highlighting a comment King made in which he predicted that “Hispanics and the blacks will be fighting each other” before they outnumber white people in America.

    Despite his claim that the tweet had nothing to do with race, at the end of the interview King recommended that Mickelson’s listeners read a novel titled The Camp of the Saints. The Huffington Post reported earlier this month that Stephen Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, has spent years telling people that this novel explains the European refugee crisis. The article explained why it’s so alarming that someone in power is citing this book:

    The book is a cult favorite on the far right, yet it’s never found a wider audience. There’s a good reason for that: It’s breathtakingly racist.

    “[This book is] racist in the literal sense of the term. It uses race as the main characterization of characters,” said Cécile Alduy, professor of French at Stanford University and an expert on the contemporary French far right. “It describes the takeover of Europe by waves of immigrants that wash ashore like the plague.”

    The book, she said, “reframes everything as the fight to death between races.”

    Upon the novel’s release in the United States in 1975, the influential book review magazine Kirkus Reviews pulled no punches: “The publishers are presenting The Camp of the Saints as a major event, and it probably is, in much the same sense that Mein Kampf was a major event.”

    Linda Chavez, a Republican commentator who has worked for GOP presidents from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush but opposed Trump’s election, also reviewed the book back then. Forty years later, she hasn’t forgotten it.

    “It is really shockingly racist,” Chavez told The Huffington Post, “and to have the counselor to the president see this as one of his touchstones, I think, says volumes about his attitude.”

    Mickelson’s show is an interesting choice for King to defend himself from accusations of racism, given the radio host’s own bigoted statements. In late 2015, Mickelson repeatedly characterized Muslims in America as not culturally compatible with the country. Mickelson also called LGBTQ advocates “same-gender Nazis” and said they are part of a “gay Taliban,” agreed with ex-Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that homosexuality is “ugly behavior,” and, years earlier, suggested that God invented AIDS to punish homosexuality. In August 2015, Mickelson suggested that the U.S. enslave undocumented immigrants who don’t leave America.

  • Legal Questions Abound For Stephen Bannon’s Shady Address Book

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Stephen Bannon has led an itinerant life -- living at various points in either Southern California or Florida or New York or Washington, D.C., or London. But one address -- 8383 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 1000 in Beverly Hills, CA -- has been a fixture in Bannon’s business and financial transactions.

    According to California public records and media reports, the white nationalist website Breitbart was at one point registered at that address. So, too, was Glittering Steel, a film production company helmed by Bannon. As were Freemark Financial, a business management firm that handled Bannon’s financials; the Government Accountability Institute, a Bannon-tied right-wing group that purports to investigate government corruption; and a handful of other Bannon-connected companies, including Bannon Strategic Advisors Inc., and Bannon Film Industries Inc.

    According to The Daily Beast, Freemark Financial, run in part by Steves Rodriguez, “is managing the money of” Bannon and has also worked for Breitbart, as well as the London-based data modeling firm Cambridge Analytica (on whose board Bannon once sat) and Glittering Steel. Bannon has reportedly told utility officials in the past to mail “bills to the office of his business manager on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills,” according to The Washington Post.

    Seemingly, all Bannon-connected companies are currently -- or were, until recently -- registered to the same Beverly Hills address, and the financials are managed by Rodriguez and his partners at Freemark Financial.

    Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports also show Make America Number 1 -- a pro-Trump super PAC ran by Bannon and Trump confidante Rebekah Mercer -- paid millions of dollars both to Glittering Steel and to Cambridge Analytica, which was also used by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. And though Cambridge Analytica has no publicly listed address in California, the super PAC payments were curiously sent to the Bannon-centered Beverly Hills address, prompting legal complaints of campaign finance violations. Newly amended FEC reports show Make America Number 1 continued to pay Cambridge Analytica at the Wilshire Boulevard address throughout the fall, raising a host of questions about whether financial transactions centered around Bannon's office are all above board.

    Make America Number 1's Payments To Cambridge Analytica Went To … Bannon’s Beverly Hills Office

    Rebekah Mercer is a multimillionaire GOP mega-donor with ties to Bannon and several other allies in Trump’s inner circle, including Kellyanne Conway, David Bossie, and Trump himself. She and her father Robert are major investors in Breitbart News (to the tune of $10 million) and the Government Accountability Institute, and they’ve employed Glittering Steel -- all Bannon-affiliated groups.

    Robert Mercer is also the principal owner of Cambridge Analytica, which specializes in “political microtargeting,” and Rebekah Mercer reportedly “used her influence in Trump’s circle to ensure that Cambridge Analytica … would be brought on board by Trump’s campaign team.” The Trump campaign ultimately utilized Cambridge Analytica’s services directly.

    Rebekah Mercer in September assumed all control of the pro-Trump Make America Number 1 super PAC, which was previously run by Kellyanne Conway and later David Bossie, before each joined the Trump campaign. The super PAC’s biggest donor was Robert Mercer.

    FEC filings for June, August, September, and October from the Make America Number 1 super PAC (run by Rebekah Mercer and largely funded by Robert Mercer) show millions of dollars going to Cambridge Analytica (owned and invested in by the Mercers) for “survey research,” “data acquisition,” “media” and “campaign management consulting [services].” These filings also show Make America Number 1 made regular payments to Glittering Steel for “video production.”

    Cambridge Analytica’s website lists U.S.-based addresses in Washington, D.C., and New York. A California business public records search returns no results for Cambridge Analytica, and a Delaware business public records search (that lists Cambridge Analytica’s registration) does not provide address registration. Yet, the FEC filings show the Mercer super PAC’s payments to Cambridge Analytica were all sent to the Bannon-centered 8383 Wilshire Boulevard address. It is unclear where or if Cambridge Analytica publicly lists this Beverly Hills address as its own.

    According to The New York Times, Bannon sat on Cambridge Analytica’s board until last August, “when he joined the Trump campaign.” Bannon’s spokesperson told the Times that Bannon no longer has “‘financial involvement’” with the firm.

    So, why were Mercer-approved payments for a Mercer-invested company sent to an address that’s affiliated with Bannon -- and has seemingly no public connections to Cambridge Analytica itself? Were the payments (especially the ones made after August) earmarked for Bannon, though his own spokesperson said he stepped away from Cambridge’s board in August? The shady web of connections among the Make America Number 1 super PAC, Cambridge Analytica, and Stephen Bannon prompted an FEC complaint that raises more questions than answers.

    Campaign Legal Center Filed Complaint Alleging “Illegal Compensation To Stephen Bannon By Mercer-Backed Super PAC”

    On October 6, the campaign finance watchdog Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed a complaint with the FEC alleging that the Make America Number 1 super PAC violated FEC laws by making illegal “in-kind contributions to Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. in the form of compensation for personal services rendered to the campaign ... and ‘coordinated communications.’” The complaint also noted:

    • The individuals who formed, fund and lead Make America Number 1 were
      responsible for Trump hiring as campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, previous
      president of the super PAC; hiring Stephen K. Bannon as campaign CEO, whose
      projects have long been funded by the individuals who formed, fund and lead
      Make America Number 1; and Make America Number 1 appears to have covered
      the salaries for both Conway and Bannon as they work for the Trump campaign.
    • At the request of Make America Number 1’s founders and funders, the Trump
      campaign has begun contracting with a data firm owned by Make America
      Number 1’s founders and funders and whose board includes Bannon, running
      afoul of the “common vendor” rule designed to preserve the independence of
      campaigns and political committees.

    Then, in December, the CLC “presented new evidence to the Federal Election Commission alleging that the super PAC Make America Number 1 illegally compensated Steve Bannon’s work as Donald Trump’s campaign CEO.” Specifically, the CLC’s new evidence claimed that the super PAC’s payments to Cambridge Analytica were meant as payment for Bannon, not the company at large.

    "If a Mercer-backed super PAC subsidized Bannon’s work for the Trump campaign," the complaint notes, "it violates federal campaign finance law." 

    Importantly, before the October CLC complaint was filed, Make America Number 1’s July monthly and August monthly FEC filings showed that payments to Cambridge Analytica were sent to the Wilshire Boulevard address. Then, after the CLC filed its initial complaint, the super PAC’s payments to Cambridge Analytica (and Glittering Steel) in its September monthly, October monthly, and pre-general election filings started going to new addresses in Virginia. But when the Make America Number 1 super PAC later amended those reports after the presidential election, it changed the Virginia addresses back to the Wilshire Boulevard address.

    In line with the Campaign Legal Center’s FEC complaint, the Make America Number 1 payments to Cambridge Analytica increasingly look like (potentially illegal) payments to Bannon.

    When considering that the FEC reports were amended (as recently as February 21, no less), more questions arise: Why did the super PAC start sending Cambridge Analytica payments to a Virginia address (after the CLC complaint), only to change them back later to Bannon's address? If those payments were earmarked for Bannon, as the CLC alleges, did they continue after he stepped down from the board, given that the amended FEC reports show payments to Cambridge Analytica (at the Wilshire Boulevard address) well past August? What business ties, if any, does Bannon still have with Mercer-backed companies, and if so, do conflict-of-interest laws apply, given that he is a senior White House official?

    Though it’s been documented that Bannon has “lived as a virtual nomad … with no fixed address,” as described by The Washington Post, questions abound about what, if any, legal violations may be looming over the millions of dollars coming into his shady Beverly Hills address.

  • New DHS Senior Adviser Pushed "Mosque Surveillance Program,” Claimed That Muslims "By-And-Large" Want To Subjugate Non-Muslims

    ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Former Florida radio host and Navy intelligence officer Frank Wuco has been serving as a senior White House adviser for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) since President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Wuco suggested in 2014 that banning visas from “Muslim nations” is “one of these sort of great ideas that can never happen”; warned that Muslims “by-and-large” will “subjugate and humiliate non-Muslim members” and enact Sharia law; and claimed that a "mosque surveillance” program is a key anti-terrorism tool. 

  • US Attorney Preet Bharara Was Investigating Fox News When Trump Fired Him

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    President Donald Trump’s decision to fire U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara happened as Bharara’s office was reportedly probing Fox News over its alleged failure to inform shareholders about repeated settlements for allegations of sexual harassment and assault by former Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes and other executives against female employees. Reports indicate Trump may pick one of Ailes’ former lawyers to replace Bharara.

  • Conservative Media Split On Who To Blame For Trump's Attempt To Destroy Health Care

    ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ

    Conservative media figures can’t decide who to blame for the disastrous American Health Care Act (AHCA), which seeks to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and will endanger the health insurance of millions of Americans. Despite President Donald Trump taking credit for this effort to roll back health care reform, right-wing media figures and outlets are grappling over whether they should fault the president for “Trumpcare” or absolve him of responsibility.

  • Trump's Desire To Track “Honor Killings” Echoes The Xenophobia Of Breitbart And Bannon, And It’s Not Grounded In Reality

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    President Donald Trump’s new Muslim ban calls on the government to publish information regarding “acts of gender-based violence against women, including so-called ‘honor killings,’ in the United States by foreign nationals.” This order adopts an Islamophobic narrative pushed by conservative outlet Breitbart.com, which was overseen by Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon, but reports suggest that honor killings are not at all common in the United States.