Sarah Sanders leaving White House job; governor run ahead?


Darlene Superville and Zeke Miller report:

WASHINGTON (AP) — White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, whose tenure was marked by a breakdown in regular press briefings and questions about the administration’s credibility, as well as her own, will leave her post at the end of the month, President Donald Trump announced Thursday.

Trump said he’s encouraging her to run for governor when she returns home to Arkansas, where her father once held the job.

Sanders is one of Trump’s closest and most trusted White House aides and one of the few remaining who worked on his campaign, taking on the job of advocating for and defending a president who had his own unconventional ideas about how to conduct the people’s business.

At an unrelated White House event, Trump described Sanders as a “warrior” as he called her to the stage. Sanders, appearing emotional, said serving Trump has been “the honor of a lifetime” and pledged to remain one of his “most outspoken and loyal supporters.”

Sanders, who is married and has three young children, later told reporters she wanted to spend more time with her family, but did not rule out running for public office.

“I learned a long time ago never to rule anything out,” said Sanders, 36. She was the first working mother and just the third woman to be named White House press secretary.

Under her roughly two-year tenure as chief spokeswoman for the White House, daily televised briefings led by the press secretary became a relic of the past after Sanders repeatedly sparred with reporters who aggressively questioned her about administration policy, the investigation into possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia or any number of controversies involving the White House.

Sanders has not held a formal briefing in more than three months - since March 11— and said she does not regret scaling them back. Instead, reporters were left to catch her and other administration officials on the White House driveway after their interviews with Fox News Channel and other networks.

Trump also has made it a habit to regularly answer reporters’ questions in a variety of settings, most notably on the South Lawn before boarding the Marine One helicopter. Sanders often sought to justify the lack of formal briefings by saying they were unnecessary when journalists could hear from Trump directly.

Behind the scenes, Sanders worked to develop relationships with reporters, earning the respect and trust of many of those on the beat.

Still, her credibility had come under question after she succeeded Sean Spicer, Trump’s first press secretary, in mid-2017 in the high-profile role.

The Russia report released by special counsel Robert Mueller in April revealed that Sanders admitted to investigators that she had made an unfounded claim about “countless” FBI agents reaching out to express support for Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey in May 2017.

Sanders characterized the comment as a “slip of the tongue” uttered in the “heat of the moment.”

She faced similar questions last year after Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s personal attorneys, surprised the White House by saying on national TV that Trump had reimbursed his then-fixer Michael Cohen for the $130,000 Cohen had paid porn actress Stormy Daniels to keep quiet during the campaign about an alleged past sexual encounter with Trump. Trump has denied Daniels’ claim.

The White House had failed to disclose the reimbursement. Sanders said she didn’t know anything about the repayment until Giuliani disclosed it.

Sanders told reporters Thursday that she had informed Trump earlier in the day of her decision to step down. Her staff learned the news shortly before Trump tweeted, “After 3 1/2 years, our wonderful Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be leaving the White House at the end of the month and going home to the Great State of Arkansas.”

Trump added that “she would be fantastic” as Arkansas governor. Sanders said she’s had people “begging” her to run for governor for more than a year.

Her father is former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a two-time GOP presidential candidate. She managed his second White House bid.

Asa Hutchinson, the current Arkansas governor, was re-elected in 2018 and is limited to two terms. The seat will become open in 2022.

Sanders said she hasn’t discussed possible replacements with Trump. She said she saw no reason to delay informing the president once she had made her decision, saying her departure should give Trump time to put someone else in place before the 2020 presidential campaign heats up.


Trump signs long-stalled $19.1B disaster relief bill


Caitlin Emma writes:

President Donald Trump Thursday signed a package that would deliver $19.1 billion in disaster relief to communities across the country that are still recovering from a spate of catastrophic hurricanes, wildfires and flooding.

The House passed the bill on Monday after Republicans successfully thwarted three attempts to fast-track the package. The Senate passed the bill before the Memorial Day recess, removing Trump’s request for billions in emergency border aid in a last-minute scramble because it was holding up the deal. The legislation was delayed for months prior to that amid partisan infighting.

The more than 70-page bill includes $600 million in nutrition assistance for Puerto Rico, in addition to $304 million in new Community Development Block Grant funding for the island and language ensuring that Puerto Rico can access billions in already-appropriated CDBG funds that Democrats accused the Trump administration of slow-walking.

It provides $3 billion for farmers to help cover crop losses, $1.6 billion to help repair damaged highways, $720 million for the U.S. Forest Service to help cover wildfire suppression efforts and $120 million to help the National Park Service repair damaged public lands.

The bill also provides $670 million to the Air Force to repair hurricane damage at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida and flooding damage at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.

The package extends the National Flood Insurance Program through the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year.


Russia's Manipulation of Twitter was Far Vaster than Believed


Tim Starks reports:

Russia's infamous troll farm conducted a campaign on Twitter before the 2016 elections that was larger, more coordinated and more effective than previously known, research from cybersecurity firm Symantec out Wednesday concluded.

The Internet Research Agency campaign may not only have had more sway — reaching large numbers of real users — than previously thought, it also demonstrated ample patience and might have generated income for some of the phony accounts, Symantec found.

The company analyzed a massive data set Twitter released in October 2018 on nearly 3,900 accounts and 10 million tweets.

The research discovered that the average lag between account creation and first tweet was 177 days. The most retweeted account garnered 6 million retweets, and less than 2,000 of those came from within the IRA-linked network of accounts. The huge delay points to a lot of patient preparation, and the retweets indicate that a lot of unaffiliated Twitter users were amplifying the IRA's message.

While most of the accounts were automated, they frequently demonstrated evidence of manual manipulation, such as slight wording changes in an apparent bid to dodge detection, according to Symantec.

"While this propaganda campaign has often been referred to as the work of trolls, the release of the dataset makes it obvious that it was far more than that," the company wrote. "It was planned months in advance and the operators had the resources to create and manage a vast disinformation network."


DoJ Getting Ready To Go After Google


Jazz Shaw writes:

Just how big has Google become? That almost seems like a silly question in 2019. The company is omnipresent. If you own an Android phone and want to ask a question, you don’t address “Siri” or “Cortana.” You say, “Okay, Google.” The name of the company has become a verb. Most of us don’t talk about doing a web search. We say, “let me Google that.” When asking for the location of a particular place, Google Maps is the go-to answer.

SEE ALSO: Schiff no longer quite so sure about impeachment

So have they gotten “too big” for their own good? Perhaps. The Department of Justice is opening another investigation to see if the company is in violation of anti-trust laws. And if they are, they could conceivably be broken up just like Bell Telephone was back in the day. (Associated Press)


The U.S. Justice Department is readying an investigation of Google’s business practices and whether they violate antitrust law, according to news reports.

The search giant was fined a record $2.72 billion by European regulators in 2017 for abusing its dominance of the online search market. In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission made an antitrust investigation of Google but closed it in 2013 without taking action.

Now the Justice Department has undertaken an antitrust probe of the company’s search and other businesses, according to reports by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and Bloomberg News. They cited unnamed people familiar with the matter.

So is Google a monopoly or not? The EU clearly thinks so, having fined them billions of dollars. But let’s keep in mind that the current European Union is pretty much the epitome of Big Brother governance. We’ve seen pro and con arguments over Google’s monopolistic traits for years now. Back in 2017, Ryan Cooper, writing for The Week, made the argument that Google was most certainly a monopoly and needed to be broken up. But nearly the entirety of Cooper’s argument consisted of saying that Google’s success was unearned since they only grew massively because they were in the right place at the right time. Even if we accept this argument, to the best of my knowledge there is still no law against being lucky.

Conversely, James Pethokoukis made the argument last year that there is absolutely zero evidence that Google is a monopoly. He bases this conclusion on the belief that Google fears competition and spends “tens and hundreds of billions of dollars a year on R&D.” He also notes that there is no empirical evidence to suggest that the company’s operations are bad for consumers.

It seems to me that there are three possibilities to consider. First, does Google control infrastructure that allows them to shut out possible competition the way Bell did through owning all of the phone lines? No, they don’t. You can delete your bookmarks to Google any time you like and use Bing, Yahoo, or any other search engine you prefer. 

Another question is whether or not Google is squashing the competition by preventing them from doing business. They do buy an awful lot of companies, but I’ve yet to see one market segment where they don’t have competitors available. In fact, some of their efforts have failed spectacularly. You may recall how they tried to break into the social media market by launching Google Plus. That landed with a thud and they stopped supporting the service a while back. 

All that leaves us with is the possibility that Google grew so large because they simply offer a family of products that people like to use. And yes, perhaps they benefitted from a bit of luck in the beginning. But neither of those concepts are particularly nefarious.

Don’t get me wrong. Google is most certainly up to all sorts of shady things. From selling off all of your data to the highest bidder and tracking your every move, there’s plenty to complain about. They largely avoid legal problems in the United States because Google relies on the fact that most of the people in the government who are assigned to investigate them probably couldn’t tell you much more about how the internet operates beyond saying that it’s like a large series of tubes. But I’m not yet convinced that they’re operating in violation of anti-trust laws or need Uncle Sam to dismantle them.


Trump Announces Tariffs on Mexico Over Immigration


Rafael Bernal and Jordan Fabian report:

'President Trump on Thursday announced new tariffs on Mexico in an effort to pressure the country to halt the flow of migrants from Central America, a dramatic escalation of his hard-line border policy that could jeopardize a pending trade deal with Canada and Mexico.

Trump said in a pair of tweets that the U.S. will impose a 5 percent tariff beginning June 10 on all Mexican imports “until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our Country, STOP,” a goal that has never been achieved in recent history.

The tariff will increase by 5 percent each month until it reaches 25 percent “unless and until Mexico substantially stops the illegal inflow of aliens coming through its territory,” the president said in an unusual, 1,004-word follow-up statement distributed by the White House.

Trump teased the announcement earlier Thursday, saying he would be making a “big league statement” that would include a “very dramatic” move regarding the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump last month threatened to slap tariffs on Mexico or close the border, but described his threat as a “one-year warning.”

The Trump administration has struggled to stem the tide of illegal migration, as crossings by migrants seeking asylum have approached levels not seen in more than a decade. More than 1,000 migrants were apprehended near a border crossing in El Paso, Texas on Wednesday in the largest single round-up on record, according to NBC News.


Mueller says he doesn't want to testify before Congress

 President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with senior advisors in the Oval Office to discuss the shooting in Aurora, Colorado, July 20, 2012. Pictured, from left, are: Kathryn Ruemmler, Counsel to the President, and FBI Director Robert Mueller. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

Natasha Bertrand reports:

Special counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday said he would prefer to not testify before Congress about his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. 

“I hope and expect this to be the only time that I will speak to you in this manner. I am making that decision myself,” Mueller said in remarks on camera at the Justice Department. "I do not believe it is appropriate for me to speak further about the investigation."

Mueller also said he would be resigning from his position and returning to private life. 

His remarks were the first time the public had heard from Mueller after two years, 199 criminal charges and 37 indictments.

Mueller delivered the statement more than two months after he submitted his 448-page final report on the 22-month Russia investigation. He did not take any questions.

The rare statement came after negotiations between Mueller’s team and the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees for him to testify publicly about his findings — talks that have faltered in recent weeks as Mueller has sought clarity from the Justice Department on the boundaries of his would-be testimony.

The White House was notified on Tuesday night that Mueller might make a statement on Wednesday and was not caught off-guard by the announcement. It’s not clear whether the White House knows what Mueller will say, but President Donald Trump will be monitoring the comments, said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The House Judiciary Committee was also given a heads up, according to a spokesperson.

Mueller did again outline his findings, which were set out in two separate volumes of his final report. The first section outlined the campaign’s contacts with Russia but determined that the evidence did not establish a criminal conspiracy between the two sides. The second section discussed Trump’s efforts to interfere in the Russia investigation but declined to either indict or exonerate Trump on possible obstruction of justice charges.

Justice Department officials confirmed to POLITICO last month that Mueller wrote a letter to Attorney General Bill Barr in March complaining that a four-page memo Barr wrote characterizing Mueller’s primary findings “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the Russia investigation.

Mueller sent the letter to Barr on March 27, three days after Barr issued his four-page summary. The missive cited “public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation.”

“This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations,” Mueller wrote at the time.


Academic Elitists Have Invented a New Way to Rig Voting in the Future

The question of whether or not “democracy” works is always being studied, by proponents of freedom as well as by proponents of authoritarianism. The founding fathers of the sovereign American experiment were far more intelligent than some critics today give them credit for – they knew full well that democracy does NOT work, not without some rules which make certain rights inalienable. This is why they modeled the original American system as a Republic, not a democracy.

Today, there are many people (primarily in academia) that seem to think they are gifted with more insight into our political and social systems than the founders of old, and are constantly trying to sell a myriad of concepts for improving our existing structure. Some of these people are well meaning, and some of them are not, but their ideas for “fixing” the problems of our political and social systems almost universally ignore or overlook the root causes of those problems. They try to cure the symptoms rather than the disease.

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