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  • What Trump’s Fox News cabinet wants him to do about Rod Rosenstein

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    When news breaks and you want to know how President Donald Trump might respond, it’s always a good idea to tune in to Fox News. On that network, a flock of pro-Trump propagandists compete for the president’s favor, describing him in increasingly lofty terms and his political enemies in increasingly dire ones, building semicoherent alternative narratives across their programs. Trump watches Fox shows, responds in real time on Twitter, and maintains personal relationships with several of the network’s leading commentators, consulting them for advice on policy and politics. Fox’s hosts hold as much influence on the president as his official cabinet does -- but the former broadcast their advice to the entire nation.

    Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is scheduled to meet with Trump Thursday to discuss whether he will remain in that position. The president’s Fox cabinet waged a brutal campaign against him for months, arguing that Trump could hamstring special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation by replacing Rosenstein, who oversees the probe, with a more Trump-friendly replacement. But while the president’s favorite commentators all have Trump’s best interests firmly in mind, they are now divided about whether the president should fire Rosenstein. That may influence his decision this week -- even as he reportedly intends to eventually take their advice and remove Rosenstein after the midterm elections.

    At issue is The New York Times’ Friday afternoon report that Rosenstein, in meetings with Justice Department and FBI officials in May 2017, suggested secretly recording Trump and seeking his removal from office via the 25th Amendment. It’s an open question whether he was being serious or sarcastic. But because the president and his propagandists have been attacking Rosenstein for months due to Trump’s authoritarian view that the Justice Department should protect his personal and political interests, it seemed plausible that the Times could have become the excuse Trump needed to get rid of the deputy attorney general.

    Several staunch members of Trump’s Fox cabinet clearly viewed the article that way at first. Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, Laura Ingraham, Gregg Jarrett, Sara Carter, and Joseph diGenova were among the commentators to call for Rosenstein’s firing.

    But as afternoon turned to evening, several Trump loyalists -- including Hannity -- began arguing that the Times article might be part of a trap by the president’s enemies, intended to goad him into firing Rosenstein and cause a scandal that could hurt GOP prospects in the midterm elections. As a result, some have been arguing that Rosenstein should not be fired, but should be stripped of his oversight of the Mueller probe -- a key sign that their actual goal is to damage that investigation.

    The situation on Fox has been fluid, with commentators moving from one camp to another, and at times synthesizing the two positions to argue that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should be the one to fire his deputy.

    This split among the Fox cabinet, and their warnings that he may be walking into a trap, may be influencing Trump to avoid immediately canning Rosenstein. Recent reports suggest that the deputy attorney general may escape unscathed from Thursday’s meeting, which was scheduled after Monday’s chaos, as dueling reports suggested that Rosenstein was either about to resign or be fired. But if Trump grants Rosenstein a respite, it is clear that it will be only a temporary one, with the day of his firing simply delayed until after the midterms, when the political risk is lessened. Eventually, the Fox cabinet will get its way.

    Here’s where Trump’s Fox allies stand right now.

    Sean Hannity: After originally arguing that Trump should fire Rosenstein, he now argues that Sessions should do it to avoid a trap.

    Hannity, the Fox figure closest to the president, has swung wildly on this topic depending on his interpretation of Trump’s best interest. Immediately after the Times story broke on Friday, and consistent with his campaign against Rosenstein and Mueller over the past year, Hannity argued on his radio program that Trump firing Rosenstein “would be the right thing to do, in my opinion.” But that night, the Fox host made headlines by saying on air, “I have a message for the president tonight: Under zero circumstances should the president fire anybody.” According to Hannity, the Times story was a “deep state” plot “designed to set up the president,” with Trump’s enemies provoking him to fire Rosenstein in order to “turn this politically into their equivalent of a Friday night massacre.” In order to avoid that trap, Hannity pressured Sessions to fire Rosenstein. “Now, it’s time tonight for the attorney general to now do his job. Mr. Sessions, this is your Department of Justice,” he said.

    Hannity returned to this point on Monday, repeatedly asking his guests why the attorney general hadn’t taken action, while stressing again that “the president should not be the one firing” Rosenstein.

    Lou Dobbs: Leave Rosenstein hanging to face Congress.

    Dobbs, another close confidant of the president -- who regularly watches Dobbs’ Fox Business show -- had previously called for Rosenstein’s impeachment, and on Friday he suggested that what the Times reported of Rosenstein “looks to be, if not treason, about as close to it as you can get.” But he has not called for Rosenstein’s firing since the story broke, arguing that night that the report “may be a ploy by the left-wing” newspaper “to get the president” to do so. Instead, Dobbs has supported calls Republican congressman have made on his program for Rosenstein to appear before their committees and testify about the story.

    Jeanine Pirro: After initially calling for Rosenstein’s firing, she now says it’s a trap.

    Pirro, a longtime friend of the president who interviewed for the Justice Department position that eventually went to Rosenstein, has supported his removal since at least January. The Fox host stuck with this position immediately after the Times story broke, tweeting, “Rod rosenstein shld have been fired long ago for being part of the ‘resistance’ and not providing documents to congress in order to save his corrupt pals. NOW HE MUST BE FIRED.”

    But by the time her show aired the next night -- and notably, after Fox appearances from Hannity and others who warned against Trump firing Rosenstein -- she pulled back from that position. On Saturday afternoon, she tweeted, “Is it possible Rod Rosenstein leaked the story to the @nytimes himself to force @realDonaldTrump to fire him?” And on her Saturday night show she stuck with that message, suggesting that the deputy attorney general may have “plant[ed] the story” himself because “he’s looking to be fired” in order to “bring on a Saturday night massacre and give the Dems a leg up.”

    “I don’t want him fired,” she added during a Monday appearance on The Five. “I don’t want the president firing him.”

    Fox & Friends weekday crew: The hosts provided minimal discussion of what Trump should do.

    The president regularly begins his work days by watching Fox & Friends and tweeting about what he sees. As this phenomenon has become more clear, the program’s effusively pro-Trump hosts and guests have increasingly aimed their commentary directly to him. But if Trump has been watching this week, show hosts Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt, and Brian Kilmeade haven’t been giving him much advice about how to handle Rosenstein. The trio really haven’t engaged with the topic much, though Doocy did at one point on Tuesday float the theory that the allegation had been leaked in an effort to “provoke the president” into firing Rosenstein so that “chaos will ensue.”

    On Wednesday, the program hosted Ian Prior, a former DOJ colleague of Rosenstein, for an interview that seemed geared toward mollifying Trump. Prior argued that Rosenstein “actually has a ton of respect for the president” and “enjoys the working relationship they’ve had,” adding that the Mueller probe will end up being “a colossal disappointment to Democrats and the never Trump Republican crowd.”

    Fox & Friends weekend crew: This is an effort to provoke Trump, and he shouldn’t fall for it.

    By contrast, Fox & Friends’ weekend crew -- whom the president also watches frequently -- spent much of their Saturday and Sunday editions running with the theory that Trump could be walking into a trap. At the top of the program, co-host Pete Hegseth -- a Trump sycophant who has been considered for a cabinet post -- argued that it was time for Rosenstein to go, but he swiftly agreed after correspondent Ed Henry raised the possibility that the president’s enemies were trying to get Trump to fire him and provoke a constitutional crisis. The next time the subject came up, Hegseth said that if Trump fired Rosenstein it would cause “a cascading effect that the media will run with forever.”

    The hosts stuck with that argument the rest of the weekend, including in an interview with Prior, who argued that Rosenstein’s remark was sarcastic; that Rosenstein was actually doing a favor for Trump by naming a special counsel because it took the investigation out of the hands of senior DOJ official Andrew McCabe, whom Prior suggested was biased against the president; and that a McCabe associate subsequently leaked Rosenstein’s remarks to set up Trump.

    Gregg Jarrett: Fire Rosenstein if possible, but at least relieve him of overseeing the Mueller probe.

    Jarrett, the Fox legal analyst who adds a lawyer’s imprimatur to the network’s anti-Mueller conspiracy theories, has gradually pulled back on the maximalist call for Rosenstein’s removal over tactical concerns. He called for Rosenstein’s immediate firing on Twitter, FoxNews.com, and Hannity’s radio show shortly after the Times story dropped. “I don't care who fires him, whether it's Sessions or the president. It may not be politically expedient at this time, but he certainly deserves to be fired,” Jarrett added on Hannity’s Fox show that night. But on the Sunday edition of Fox & Friends, he acknowledged that while “Rosenstein deserves to be fired,” Trump “realizes that it’s politically unwise to do it right now.”

    By Monday’s Hannity, he had adopted the position that because the story could be a “setup,” the better move was “to simply relieve Rod Rosenstein of oversight of the special counsel case pending an investigation into these very serious charges.”  

    Tucker Carlson: It’s a trap.

    Carlson, whose Fox program has driven the president to start international incidents, suggested on Friday night that McCabe had leaked Rosenstein’s remarks “knowing that the story might cause the president to fire Rod Rosenstein” and set off a constitutional crisis. "If you were laying a trap for Donald Trump, this might be exactly how you'd do it," Carlson warned. "Before moving forward, the president might ask himself, 'why do McCabe and the New York Times want me to fire Rod Rosenstein? And why do they want me to do it now, rather than a year ago?'"

    Carlson stuck with that theory on Monday night, arguing that the president’s best tactical move was to keep Rosenstein in place.

    Laura Ingraham: She’s no longer saying “fire him,” but she’s also not on board with the “setup” theory.

    Ingraham has gradually moved closer to her prime-time colleagues’ position, while not yet adopting their take on what is happening. Immediately after the Times story broke, she tweeted, “Rod Rosenstein must be fired today.” That night on Fox, she added that Trump “tonight should seriously consider whether Rod Rosenstein should remain on the job.” But the next morning, as journalists pointed out that her opinion diverged from the “trap” theory of Hannity and Carlson, she deleted her tweet.

    Ingraham disparaged her colleagues’ theory on Monday night, saying, “I don’t buy this whole thing, ‘It’s a big setup for Trump,’ I really don’t.” But she’s stopped calling for Rosenstein’s outright firing, instead suggesting that he should be moved to a different position in the administration.

    Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing: They’ve gone from “Fire the SOB tonight” to wait till after the election.

    Toensing and diGenova are a married legal team who are mainstays in the right-wing legal community (at one point it was announced they were joining Trump’s legal team) and regularly appear on Fox programs to disparage the Mueller probe. During a joint appearance on Hannity’s radio show immediately after the article dropped, diGenova argued, “Jeff Sessions should fire [Rosenstein] today, he should be out of that building, the U.S. marshals should escort him out of the building, if he stays one more day -- I just can’t imagine that he can stay any longer.” He added, “Fire the SOB tonight.” But on Tuesday’s Dobbs show, Toensing argued, “The president should not fire him. He should not do diddly squat before the election. It would be such a political distraction. Republicans are not good at handling it, and the mainstream media is great at generating it. No, do not fire him before then. The day after the election, yes.” DiGenova agreed.

    Tom Fitton: Fire him or otherwise “take him out of the equation.”

    Fitton is a Trump ally who uses his conservative Judicial Watch organization to obtain and distribute government documents he claims undermine the Mueller probe. He argued on Tuesday’s Dobbs show that Trump “has got a choice to make on Thursday,” which is to either “remove Rosenstein or, in the least, take him out of the equation in the sense of having the [inspector general] investigate everything he's been doing.”

    Sara Carter: Sessions should fire Rosenstein, but it’s “up to” Trump.

    Carter, a Fox contributor who publishes her anti-Mueller reporting on her personal blog, originally argued on Friday that Trump should fire Rosenstein, but she changed her tune later that afternoon to adopt Hannity’s position that Sessions should do it. But she has also exposed the hollowness of that argument by tweeting that whether Rosenstein will stay or go is “up to” Trump.

    Dan Bongino: Rosenstein has to be fired.

    Bongino, an NRATV contributor who regularly appears on Fox, argued on Saturday’s Fox & Friends that Rosenstein “has to be fired” whether or not the Times story is a “setup.”

    Jesse Watters: The Times article is “Rosenstein’s pink slip.”

    Fox host Jesse Watters said Saturday, “This New York Times article is Rod Rosenstein's pink slip. There's no way he can recover from this. The writing is on the wall -- Rosenstein is done. He's out of there.”

  • Fox News spun NY Times report about FBI’s attempts to flip a Russian oligarch involved in organized crime into proof of an anti-Trump “witch hunt”

    For Fox, this is a familiar editorial stance

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On September 1, The New York Times reported on an unsuccessful years-long FBI program to flip roughly six Russian oligarchs, seeking to turn them into informants for the United States in investigations against Russian organized crime. Justice Department official Bruce Ohr and former British spy Christopher Steele, who authored a dossier of information on President Donald Trump, started communicating about this effort long before Trump announced his run for president, documents released by the Justice Department show.

    And yet, Fox News has been citing, out of context, the documents reported on in the Times as further evidence supporting Trump’s conspiracy theory that there is a “witch hunt” against him.

    While the program began in 2014, eventually -- after evidence of a possible conspiracy was established -- questions about Russian interference in the 2016 elections and Trump campaign collusion were raised with at least one of the program's targets. The Times’ sources told the paper that they revealed the program’s existence to avoid the president and his media allies “us[ing] the program’s secrecy as a screen with which they could cherry-pick facts and present them, sheared of context, to undermine the special counsel’s investigation.”

    But cherry-picked facts taken out of context perfectly describes Fox’s reporting, including its coverage of messages Ohr and Steele exchanged. Fox spun those communiques to suggest under-the-table conspiring by Ohr, Steele, and others at the FBI to maliciously target Trump. Nothing in the Times article suggests that contacts between Ohr and Steele were part of illegitimate DOJ and FBI activity, but Fox stuck to its misleading claim. When the Times article was mentioned, here's how network personalities and guests reacted: 

    In one of Fox’s earliest on-air mentions of the story, the host claimed that Ohr "was working with a man in Deripaska who's known as Putin's oligarch," and suggested that it validated Trump’s claim that the FBI was colluding with Russia. After discussing the article, guest anchor Ed Henry said, “You hear the president say there's collusion on the other side, and yet it doesn't seem to get any traction,” suggesting that in attempting to get Russian oligarchs to inform about organized crime in Russia, Ohr was actually trying to collude with said oligarchs to stop Trump. The Daily Caller’s Amber Athey also claimed details in the report “seem to confirm the president’s tweets that this is a witch hunt against him.”

    Daily Caller White House correspondent Saagar Enjeti told a Fox host that the story shows Steele “used his years-long connection with Ohr in order to push his dossier to the highest levels of the DOJ and the FBI.” In fact, a source in the Times article described Steele telling Ohr about the dossier as “more of a friendly heads-up” and said that “Steele had separately been in touch with an F.B.I. agent” to get his dossier to the bureau. Enjeti also falsely claimed that the dossier “really was the genesis for much of the investigation into President Trump” as well as “all of the other [Trump] associates” targeted. The investigation actually began after the Australian government alerted the FBI to Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos’ drunken bragging.

    Fox host Jeanine Pirro cut off a guest who mentioned that “Ohr is there to go after the Russian mob -- that is why the president is probably against Ohr.”

    Fox host Pete Hegseth speculated that “maybe it was Bruce Ohr who was actually flipped by the Russians.” 

    Guest anchor Ed Henry misleadingly described the Times article as saying “Ohr was trying to flip a Russian oligarch against the president.” And when a panel guest accused right-wing media of cherry-picking facts to create a misleading narrative, Henry interrupted him to make another decontextualized and misleading allegation. 

    Fox News contributor Gianno Caldwell claimed that, with the Times report out, “it does appear that it is a witch hunt.”

    Fox’s reaction to the latest development in the Trump/Russia investigations closely mirrors its reaction to many previous news reports that reflected poorly on Trump. The network regularly asserts that negative reports are actually good news for Trump and minimizes bad news. 

    When the Times reported in May that a confidential FBI informant contacted at least two of Trump’s advisers as part of the counterintelligence investigation into his campaign, Fox said it proved only that there was “surveillance of the Trump campaign by the Obama administration.”

    When the congressional hearing for former FBI agent Peter Strzok revealed no evidence that his political beliefs affected his work on the investigation, Fox News simply kept stoking rage over texts that revealed his opposition to the president and included rude comments about Trump supporters.

    When The Washington Post reported that Trump campaign associate Carter Page was the target of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant after he left the Trump campaign, Fox personalities lied about the warrant and falsely claimed it showed “Donald Trump was right” to accuse former President Barack Obama of spying on him. 

    When the Department of Justice inspector general released a report showing “no evidence” for allegations that former FBI Director James Comey and others allowed their “bias” to affect the Hillary Clinton email investigation, Fox used the report -- which had nothing to do with the Trump-Russia probe -- to call for an end to the special counsel investigation. 

  • Executives from Twitter and Facebook are testifying before Congress. Here’s what you need to know.

    The six questions that tech executives need to answer before Congress

    Blog ››› ››› MELISSA RYAN


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Silicon Valley hikes back up to Capitol Hill this week. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg will testify before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in an open hearing on “foreign influence operations and their use of social media platforms.” Larry Page, CEO of Google parent company Alphabet, was invited to testify as well but has so far refused the invitation. The committee plans to have an empty chair at the hearing to illustrate Google’s absence.

    This will be the highest profile hearing on Russian interference on social media to date. Thus it’s Congress’ best opportunity to publicly hold Facebook and Twitter accountable for their role in allowing Russian operatives to game their platforms to target Americans with propaganda.

    I’ve been following this committee’s investigation from its first open hearing last year. I’ve watched (and often rewatched) every public hearing the committee has held and read every statement and report it’s issued. Here’s what you need to know.

    Senate intelligence: The adults in the room

    The Senate intelligence committee is tasked with overseeing the 19 entities that make up America’s intelligence community. The committee began investigating possible Russian interference in 2016 elections and collusion with the Trump campaign in January of last year, months before the special counsel’s investigation began. Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Vice Chairman Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) pledged from the start to conduct the investigation in a bipartisan manner, working together to uncover the truth and produce “both classified and unclassified reports.”

    So far, Burr and Warner have stayed true to those principles, in stark contrast to their counterparts on the House committee, whose own investigation has become a dumpster fire. Whereas Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and his Republican colleagues in the House seem mostly interested in giving the Trump administration cover, Burr actually seems to understand the gravity of the situation and works alongside Warner accordingly. The committee has produced two unclassified reports so far, the first intended to show election officials, political campaigns, and the general public what Russian attacks looked like in 2016, where government agencies failed in protecting us, and what actionable recommendations federal and state governments could take moving forward. The second report backed the assessment of intelligence agencies that the “Russian effort was extensive and sophisticated, and its goals were to undermine public faith in the democratic process, to hurt Secretary Clinton (Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton) and to help Donald Trump.” The committee has also produced classified reports available to federal agencies and state election officials.

    To put it another way, for the most part, the committee is acting in good faith and acknowledging reality. Members have gone out of their way to avoid political theater, give the public actionable information about election interference from Russia, and demonstrate what the future could look like. Their open hearings on election interference are the most useful source of information currently available from the U.S. government.

    Speaking of political theater, let’s talk about that other tech hearing on the same day

    In an impressive feat of counterprogramming, the Republican-led Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a hearing on “Twitter’s algorithms and content monitoring,” also with Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey, on the same day!

    Google, Facebook, and Twitter executives are staple witnesses at congressional hearings, but most of the time we don’t learn all that much from them. This is partly because Congress overall has a severe knowledge gap when it comes to technology issues, but mostly because these hearings often become moments of political theater for members of Congress looking to create a viral moment on YouTube or a fundraising hook.

    President Donald Trump and most other elected Republicans seem wholly uninterested in holding the tech companies accountable for election interference by foreign actors, opting instead to complain about censorship of conservatives on social media that doesn’t actually exist. (Trump tweeted last week that Google is “rigged” against him after Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs reported on a sketchy study about the search engine by PJ Media.)

    There’s no data to back up the GOP’s claims of censorship. Media Matters studied six months of data from political Facebook pages and found that right-leaning Facebook pages had virtually identical engagement to left-leaning pages and received more engagement than other political pages. The methodology of the PJ Media Google study that Trump mentioned on Twitter makes no sense. And reporters were able to debunk Trump’s most recent claim that Google gave former President Barack Obama’s State of the Union special treatment on the homepage that it did not give to President Trump in a matter of minutes using a screenshot from the pro-Trump subreddit “r/The_Donald.”

    Look for Republicans outside of the intelligence committee to try to derail the Senate hearing and focus instead on riling up their base around the mythical censorship issue. The right has been fairly open about the fact that this “major line of escalated attack” is its plan. Hopefully, Republicans on the committee won’t contribute to this line of attack, wasting valuable hearing minutes that should be devoted to election and national security.

    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s visit to Congress earlier this year is a prime example of how easy it is to derail a hearing. Zuckerberg testified over two days before House and Senate committees. The Senate hearing, held jointly by the judiciary and commerce committees, devolved into Zuckerberg explaining how the internet works to the poorly informed senators. House commerce committee members were more up to speed, but Republican members -- following Ted Cruz’s lead from the day before -- spent most of their time grilling Zuckerberg about nonexistent censorship of social media personalities Diamond and Silk.

    What tech companies will need to answer

    One thing that always comes across when you watch these hearings is the frustration that members of the committee feel toward the tech industry. Facebook has taken the most heat, but the frustration extends to Twitter and Google too. There’s a lot of blame to go around (Congress hasn’t passed one piece of legislation to protect American voters before the midterm elections), but tech companies allowed their platforms to be weaponized, missed what was happening until it was too late, and remain on the front lines of protecting Americans from attacks that game social media platforms.

    Both Facebook and Twitter made a lot of promises to the committee in a 2017 hearing. Tomorrow’s hearing will give committee members an opportunity to report back on promises kept and hold Facebook’s and Twitter’s leadership accountable for promises broken.

    In his opening statement at that 2017 hearing, Sean Edgett, Twitter’s general counsel, assured the committee, “We are making meaningful improvements based on our findings. Last week, we announced industry-leading changes to our advertising policies that will help protect our platform from unwanted content. We are also enhancing our safety systems, sharpening our tools for stopping malicious activity, and increasing transparency to promote public understanding of all of these areas. Our work on these challenges will continue for as long as malicious actors seek to abuse our system and will need to evolve to stay ahead of new tactics.”

    Facebook vice president and general counsel Colin Stretch promised that “going forward, we are making significant investments. We're hiring more ad reviewers, doubling or more our security engineering efforts, putting in place tighter ad content restrictions, launching new tools to improve ad transparency, and requiring documentation from political ad buyers. We're building artificial intelligence to help locate more banned content and bad actors. We're working more closely with industry to share information on how to identify and prevent threats, so that we can all respond faster and more effectively. And we're expanding our efforts to work more closely with law enforcement.”

    Members of the committee also pressed the tech companies to continue to share documents and relevant information with them, cross-check Russian-related accounts that the companies took down during the 2017 French election to see if they also participated in American influence operations, improve algorithms, report back on how much money they made from legitimate ads that ran alongside Russian propaganda, and confirm to the committee the total amount of financial resources they devoted to protecting Americans from future foreign influence attacks.

    Beyond what’s been promised, these companies need to answer:

    • What’s their plan to protect Americans in 2018 (and beyond)? By now, Americans know what Russian interference in 2016 looked like. We also know that Russian meddling hasn’t stopped and that other hostile foreign actors (Iran) are waging their own campaigns against us. The committee should ask Dorsey and Sandberg to walk Americans through their plan to protect their American users from foreign interference and to pledge accountability.

    • How are they combating algorithmic manipulation on your platforms? Algorithmic manipulation is at the heart of Russian interference operations. Russia weaponized social media platforms to amplify content, spread disinformation, harass targets, and fan the flames of discord. This manipulation warps our social media experience, most of the time without our knowledge. Americans need to know what the tech companies are doing to fight algorithmic manipulation and what new policies have been put in place.

    • Are their new ad policies effective? Facebook, Google, and Twitter have all rolled out changes in their advertising policies meant to curb the ability of foreign entities to illegally buy ads. It’s time for a report back on how those policies are working and whether any more changes are necessary for the midterm elections.

    • What support and resources do they need from government? As Facebook’s former chief security officer recently pointed out, “In some ways, the United States has broadcast to the world that it doesn’t take these issues seriously and that any perpetrators of information warfare against the West will get, at most, a slap on the wrist.” As hard as I’ve been on the tech companies, government’s failures to protect us and the current administration’s complete indifference to the issue are just as abysmal. Americans should know where tech executives believe government is failing and what resources they need to better fight back against foreign interference.

    • Do they have the right people in the room? Russia used America’s issues with racial resentment in its influence operations. Members of Congress have made the point in past hearings that tech companies’ lack of diversity in their staffs likely contributed to their inability to recognize inauthentic content from Russians posing as, say, #BlackLivesMatter activists online. In fact, #BlackLivesMatters activists attempted to alert Facebook about potentially inauthentic content and were ignored. Americans need to know if Facebook and Twitter have the right team of people in place to fight foreign interference and if those teams include diverse voices.

    • How are they protecting Americans’ data? Facebook’s record is particularly abysmal here. The company failed to protect user data from being exploited by Cambridge Analytica and still can’t tell us in full what data the company had or what other entities had access to it. Given how common data breaches are and that Russia used data to target Americans, we need to know what steps tech companies are taking to protect us from data theft and the resulting harm.

    Twitter and Facebook are American-born companies that make a lot of money from their American users. Having top executives testify on election interference, in an open hearing, is long overdue. As Burr and Warner warned us just a few weeks ago, time is running out. Burr invoked the famous “this is fine” meme to illustrate his point, saying that Congress is “sitting in a burning room calmly with a cup of coffee, telling ourselves ‘this is fine.’”

    As any American who uses the internet can tell you, it isn’t.

  • No crime but a witch hunt: Pro-Trump media’s off-the-wall reactions to Manafort's conviction and Cohen's guilty plea

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    After former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and former Trump attorney Michael Cohen were found guilty and pleaded guilty, respectively, each on eight criminal counts, right-wing media immediately rose to President Donald Trump’s defense. Multiple media figures claimed that none of the charges had anything to do with Trump and that Trump’s former associates pleaded guilty to crimes that “don’t exist.”