Category: Media

WSJ: National Enquirer Publisher Asked The Justice Department If It Should Register As Saudi Agent

We have been following the seedy legacy of American Media CEO David Pecker and his National Enquirer tabloid. Pecker is a cooperating witness with Special Counsel Robert Mueller after using his publication to pay off a former Playmate model who reportedly had an affair with President Donald Trump. Pecker and the newspaper previously denied the arrangement to help Trump by buying and killing the story of Karen McDougal.  AMI was also recently implicated in an effort to effectively blackmail Washington Post owner and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos with the threat to release embarrassing photos. Bezos suggested that AMI was acting at the behest of Saudi figures upset with the Washington Post investigation of Saudi influence. Now, the Wall Street Journal has disclosed a letter confirming that AMI considered filing papers as a Saudi agent. The letter would seem to reinforce the AMI-Saudi connection referenced by Bezos.

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Lock Him Up? Warren Suggests Trump Will Go To Prison Before 2020

Democrats have (for good reason) criticized President Donald Trump for his signature campaign rally chant of “Lock her up” in referring to his then opponent Hillary Clinton.. Many of us objected to the display as obnoxious and demeaning to our political system. That objection apparently does not hold when a Democratic candidate, in this case Elizabeth Warren, is referencing Donald Trump as being locked up. Warren received the predictably wild applause to her suggestion in a campaign rally that Trump will be in prison by 2020.

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Did National Enquirer Extort Jeff Bezos?

In an incredible disclosure, the Amazon founder and owner of The Washington Post Jeff Bezos has released what he says was communications from the National Enquirer that sought to blackmail him into dropping an investigation into the tabloid’s motivations in targeting Bezos, a long target of President Donald Trump. The tabloid is of course owned by close Trump friend David Pecker, who is viewed by many as a thoroughly disreputable businessman. On this occasion, however, Bezos says that he has something that has long been missing: an actual letter laying out the alleged extortive pitch. In the middle of this sordid mess is an American Media, Inc. (AMI) attorney named Jon Fine, who identifies himself as the Associate General Counsel. The role of an attorney in such a matter could raise very serious bar and ethical concerns.

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Is The Criminal Collusion Theory Dead?

Below is my column in The Hill Newspaper exploring the current evidence supporting a criminal collusion case against President Donald Trump or his campaign. While clearly not popular to raise, the evidence released to date is rather underwhelming. Indeed, the basis for a criminal collusion prosecution is weaker today than it was a year ago. That does not mean that new evidence cannot be released but this is an attempt at an objective review of past filings and disclosures from the Special Counsel, Congress, and witnesses. That evidence strengthens the case against collusion and certainly supplies ample foundation for a defense against the charge of a criminal conspiracy with the Russians in hacking computer systems. Once again, the column only addresses the basis for a criminal charge based on collusion by Trump or his campaign. The prosecution of Russians for hacking is strong and the fact that Russians wanted to help Trump seems unassailable. The narrative supporting a criminal conspiracy however seems increasing incomplete and incoherent.

Here is the column:

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“That Hero Lies In You”: Saudi Feminist Leader Reportedly Tortured In Saudi Arabia While Saudis Enjoy Mariah Carey Concert

Saudi Arabia is full of contradictions as a nation imposing medieval Islamic laws while striving to portray itself as a modern country. We have routinely discussed the incredible bravery of women in the Kingdom who have risked everything to demand the most minimal rights of human beings from freedom of speech to freedom of travel to associational rights. One of these heroes is Saudi activist Loujain Alhathloulwho remains incarcerated and is being reportedly tortured for her advocacy of equal rights. For all of the women being abused in the Kingdom, many objected to Maria Carey holding a concert when this repression continues. Carey, who loves to sing about that “hero inside you,” took the money and will be holding the concert today. It appears that Carey’s commitment to women does not extend as far as turning down one concert from her already burgeoning fortune.

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Duopoly Distemper: Media and Democrats Attack Schultz For Even Considering A Third Party Run

The exploration of former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz of a possible third party candidacy has been welcomed by many who have long seen our dysfunctional politics as a result of the duopoly of power in the country in the hands to just two parties. People want change and that is highly unlikely to occur in our current system. That is precisely why Schultz has been met with a torrent of criticism by the media and Democrats for even suggesting a third party run. The spin is that he is handing the election to Donald Trump by splitting the anti-Trump ticket. However, this has been the same mantra for every third party candidate in my lifetime. The problem is that he could win and there is no danger that more threatens the establishment in Washington. So we are back to the same refrain — eagerly repeated by the media — that the country simply cannot handle more choice than the two offered by the party elites.

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Mueller’s Roadkill Trophy: A Hunt For Collusion Bags A Circus Clown

Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on the Stone memorandum and the specific counts indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Notably, after investigating Stone for much of two years, Mueller ended up indicting Stone overlapping false statements from a transcript that he secured just weeks ago from Congress. The coverage has been wildly out of sync with the substance of the indictment. There were many people, including journalists, who were trying to review the Wikileaks materials. That is not a crime. The stated desire to see any Wikileaks material is neither surprising nor illegal. Moreover, we already knew that Stone wanted to see the Wikileaks material and that he was seeking information from Wikileaks. He stated so publicly.

Here is the column:

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The Stone Indictment: Mueller Continues To Build A Case Of Non-Collusion

Below is my column in USA Today on the Roger Stone indictment. I have been frankly astonished by the coverage, which has focused on simply the fact that he was charged as opposed to what he was charged with. Once again, the indictment’s significance has been uniformly over-played with little objective analysis of the specific counts themselves. From any objective perspective it is underwhelming in both the underlying conduct and the scope of the allegations.

Here is the column:

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SOTU Games: Trump Drops Speech After Pelosi Drops Pretense

We previously discussed the controversy over the State of the Union. I view both sides as irresponsible in this dispute. I previously objected to Speaker Nancy Pelosi using a clearly manufactured excuse of security. After Trump confirmed that security was not an issue, Pelosi simply dropped the pretense and disinvited the President. The media was virtually silent about the earlier misrepresentation and misuse of the security rationale. Trump then dropped plans to give the speech and seemed to morph into Jack Nicholson and saying that “Nancy” cannot handle the truth. The problem is that that line was given by a trapped, unhinged perjurer in A Few Good Men. We are left not only without a SOTU but no leader in sight on this issue. Frankly, most of us cannot handle the truth about both parties and their apparent priorities.

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Barr and BuzzFeed: What Two Stories Reveal About Coverage and Commentary In The Age Of Trump

Below is my column on the concerns raised about the media coverage from last week. As I have stated, my concern is not with the BuzzFeed story per se, but how it was used to start a feeding frenzy of speculation. The treatment of the two major stories of last week (the Barr and BuzzFeed stories) speaks volumes about the consistent pattern of coverage and commentary in the age of Trump.

Here is the column:

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THE BUZZFEED STORY FOLLOWS A PATTERN OF BOOM AND BUST STORIES

Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on the controversy over the Buzzfeed story of President Donald Trump allegedly telling his former counsel Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. This weekend BuzzFeed stood by its story, though it declined to explain a disturbing discrepancy in the account. I disagreed with the call of Rudy Giuliani to investigate or sue BuzzFeed. If BuzzFeed had two officials associated with the Special Counsel making these allegations, it was right to run the story. My criticism is how the story was overblown by experts and members of Congress as a “slam dunk’ case for prosecution and impeachment despite the absence of any clear evidence or corroboration.

Here is the column:

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No, Mr. Giuliani, BuzzFeed Should Not Be Sued Or Investigated [Updated]

It often seems that when the Trump team has the high ground on a story, it rushes to bulldoze it to the ground. The controversial interview by Rudy Giuliani on CNN, it a case in point. In response to the rebuke of BuzzFeed by the Special Counsel, Giuliani gave a rambling interview that included a call for BuzzFeed to be investigated or sued. Neither should occur. I have been critical of how the media and legal experts overplayed the BuzzFeed story. However, if BuzzFeed had two officials connected to the Mueller investigation giving this information, it was news. Indeed, aspects of the story are likely to be born out by Michael Cohen in his testimony before Congress. There is ample reason to criticize how the media treated this story but the suggestion that journalists should be investigated or sued for reporting such a story is dangerous and unwarranted. Indeed, Giuliani made news  an by asking “And so what if he talked to him about it?” In fairness to Giuliani (who has been unfairly reported on the context of the statement), he prefaced that statement by saying that he did not know if Trump spoke to Cohen. However, it would be a reckless and problematic act if Trump spoke to a witness about this testimony on his and Trump’s conduct. Such an act would maximize the risk to himself and Cohen.

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MSNBC Host Suggests Lindsey Graham Is Being Blackmailed By Trump

While the media often (and often correctly) criticizes President Donald Trump for attacking critics personally or making claims without sufficient support, there seems less scrutiny when he or his allies is the target of such attacks. The recent attacks on Sen. Lindsey Graham after MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle suggested on national television that his support for Trump is due to being blackmailed with “something pretty extreme.” Various Republicans denounced the allegation (which was picked up by a Democratic member) as a clear reference to long-standing rumors that Graham is gay (which Graham as denied). They have described the statements are inherently homophobic. The reprehensible statement was soon echoed by others — not only implying that President Trump engages in blackmail but that Graham has sold out to conceal some “extreme” conduct.

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Giuliani: “I Never Said There Was No Collusion Between The Campaign, Or People In The Campaign”

Another interview, another controversy. Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani has found himself in another firestorm after telling CNN host Chris Cuomo: “I never said there was no collusion between the campaign, or people in the campaign.” The problem is that his client has . . . repeatedly.

Update: In what has become a pattern, Giuliani spent the next today walking back his statements.

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Witch Hunt or Mole Hunt? The Times Bombshell Could Blow Up Both Sides

Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on the recent disclosure that the FBI opened an investigation into whether President Donald Trump was working for Russia after his firing of former FBI Director James Comey. In reading the story, it struck me that the emerging picture from early 2017 looks increasingly like a study in cognitive bias. Indeed, it raises a rather intriguing possibility that both sides may feed each other in reaching the wrong conclusions.

Here is the column:

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