What We're Reading

Daily Reads: Did Russian Propaganda Get Billions of FB “Shares”?; Trump Will Rescind Birth Control Mandate

A roundup of stories we're reading at BillMoyers.com HQ...

Did Russian Propaganda Get Billions of FB "Shares"?

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Presidential fury” –> White House chief of staff John Kelly “abruptly scrapped plans to travel with President Donald Trump on Wednesday so he could try to contain his boss’ fury and manage the fallout from new revelations about tensions between the president and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson,” report NBC’s Carol Lee, Kristen Welker, Courtney Kube and Andrea Mitchell.

With Tillerson’s future in the administration uncertain, Melissa Quinn reports for the conservative Washington Examiner that Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin have reportedly “forged a ‘suicide pact’ in which all three members of President Trump’s Cabinet would leave if one of them becomes a target of the president.”

And Mike Allen and Jonathan Swan report for Axios that “Trump advisers and allies are floating the idea of replacing” Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, in part because he’s “someone who’s already around the table in the Situation Room, and could make the switch without chaos.”

New charges coming? –> Texas’ ultra-conservative Attorney General Ken Paxton has been battling criminal fraud charges since 2015. Now Lauren McGaughy reports for The Dallas Morning News that “Paxton is being investigated under bribery and corrupt-influence laws for accepting a six-figure gift from a CEO whose company was under investigation by the state for fraud.” The “gift” of $100,000 was intended to help Paxton fight those fraud charges.

It wasn’t a secret to the inner circle –> Jodi Cantor and Megan Twohey report for The New York Times that independent film mogul Harvey Weinstein — a liberal, married man and frequent Democratic donor — has been the subject of sexual harassment claims “stretching over nearly three decades.”

In a statement, Weinstein expressed remorse for his actions and vowed to battle his demons, but his lawyer tells The Hollywood Reporter that he nonetheless plans to sue The Times.

A bunch of Russia stuff –>Talking Points Memo’s Esme Cribb writes that, according to a paywalled report in The Wall Street Journal, “Russian hackers stole information about how the National Security Agency gains access to foreign computer networks and protects those in the United States by exploiting an NSA contractor’s use of a popular antivirus program.”

Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz and Pamela Brown report for CNN that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team met with Christopher Steele, the former MI-6 officer who authored the infamous “dossier” on Trump and Russia.

According to Craig Timberg at The Washington Post, new research by Jonathan Albright, a faculty associate at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, suggests that Russian propaganda may have had “a total reach well into the billions of ‘shares’ on Facebook.”

Not necessarily related –> “White House officials believe that chief of staff John Kelly’s personal cellphone was compromised, potentially as long ago as December,” report Politico’s Josh Dawsey, Emily Stephenson and Andrea Peterson. They write that “the discovery raises concerns that hackers or foreign governments may have had access to data on Kelly’s phone while he was secretary of Homeland Security and after he joined the West Wing.”

Elections have consequences –> Juliet Eilperin reports for The Washington Post that Donald Trump saw a TV story about Iowa Republicans’ efforts to shore up the Affordable Care Act, and personally intervened to stop them. Eilperin writes that, in addition to “hampering state efforts to control premiums,” with the ACA’s fifth enrollment season set to begin in just a few weeks, “advocates say the Health and Human Services Department has done more to suppress the number of people signing up than to boost it.” More on that in our “While He Was Tweeting” series.

And Hannah Gold writes for Jezebel that “the Trump administration is planning to announce an extreme easing of [Obamacare’s] federal mandate that requires health insurance plans offered by employers to include birth control coverage.” The move could strip co-pay-free contraceptives from 55 million women.

Historic campaign finance limits –> On Thursday, the St. Petersburg, Florida, City Council voted to “limit individual political action committee contributions to $5,000 and ban donations from companies that are more than 5 percent foreign owned” in local races, but Charlie Frago reports for The Tampa Bay Times that in doing so, they “likely invited a legal challenge that could end up in the US Supreme Court.”

Sanctuary –> California will beef up protections for undocumented immigrants beginning in January under a controversial new law Gov. Jerry Brown signed Thursday to create a statewide sanctuary policy, reports Maria Gutierrez for The San Francisco Chronicle. While it doesn’t affect federal officials’ conduct, California’s “sanctuary state” law goes further than similar measures that have been enacted elsewhere.

We’re not a hate site –> That’s the official line at Stephen Bannon’s Breitbart, but Joseph Bernstein writes that “an explosive cache of documents obtained by BuzzFeed News… clearly show that Breitbart does more than tolerate the most hate-filled, racist voices of the alt-right. It thrives on them, fueling and being fueled by some of the most toxic beliefs on the political spectrum — and clearing the way for them to enter the American mainstream.”

A death at Penn State –> Caitlin Flanagan’s disturbing longform report about fraternity hazing in The Atlantic, which begins with the death of a young man whose “brothers” refused for 12 hours to seek treatment for the injuries they’d inflicted upon him, is impossible to summarize briefly, and truly a must-read.

Fulfilling a dangerous campaign promise –> Anne Gearan reports for The Washington Post that “Trump plans to announce next week that he will ‘decertify’ the international nuclear deal with Iran, saying it is not in the national interest of the United States and kicking the issue to a reluctant Congress.” That would be a first step in blowing up the international nuclear deal with Tehran, but she cautions that plans are not fully set and could change.

Dan DeLuce and Robbie Gramer write at Foreign Policy that “the White House is gambling on European help to roll back Iranian influence,” but this “carries the risk of a transatlantic rift that could backfire on Trump and play into the hands of Tehran’s hardliners.”

I’m sick and tired of nothing happening –> “Republicans are confronting a growing revolt from their top donors, who are cutting off the party in protest over its inability to get anything done,” according to Politico’s Alex Isenstadt and Gabriel DeBenedetti. They write that “the backlash is threatening to deprive Republicans of resources just as they’re gearing up for the 2018 midterms.”

What were they thinking? –> A Georgia sheriff and several of his deputies were indicted on charges of “sexual battery, false imprisonment and violation of oath of office” for their roles in a school-wide search during which deputies touched hundreds of students in intimate parts of their bodies but turned up no drugs. The search made national headlines back in April. Brad Schrade reports for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that additional indictments are forthcoming.

Daily Reads was compiled by BillMoyers.com staff and edited by Kristin Miller.



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