Tue, 17 Oct 2017 08:57:18 -0400
William Thomas Cain / Getty Images
In remarks Monday, Republican Senator John McCain implicitly excoriated President Trump's administration and supporters, saying that "to refuse the obligations of international leadership ... for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism ... is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past."
He added, "We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil."
"Blood and soil," a 19th-century German Nazi slogan, was among the chants used by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, during a white nationalist demonstration in August, in which one counterprotester was killed when a demonstrator ran his car into the crowd.
McCain made the comments as part of an acceptance speech for the 2017 Liberty Medal, which he received for 60 years of public service, from the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.
Several of the other speakers at the event, including former Vice President Joe Biden, spoke of the need for bipartisanship.
Said the senator, who also serves as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee:
"To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain 'the last best hope of earth for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history."
McCain was elected to Congress in 1982 and has served in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. In July, he was diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer.
Mon, 16 Oct 2017 15:05:02 -0400
Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images
After falsely accusing former US presidents of not calling the families of fallen soldiers, President Trump on Tuesday called the four families of American troops ambushed two weeks ago in Niger, the White House said.
"President Trump spoke to all four of the families of those who were killed in action in Niger," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. "He offered condolences on behalf of a grateful nation and assured them their family's extraordinary sacrifice to the country will never be forgotten."
The phone calls came a day after Trump revealed in a press conference that he hadn't called the families because he wanted "a little time to pass." Thirteen days had passed since the October 4 ambush.
During the remarks, Trump also made a claim that previous presidents, including Barack Obama, didn't make calls to the families of soldiers who had died.
"The traditional way if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls. A lot of them didn't make calls," Trump said in the White House Rose Garden.
Alyssa Mastromonaco, a former aide to President Obama, called the claim "a fucking lie" on Twitter.
Mastromonaco, a former White House deputy chief of staff for operations in the Obama administration, added: "to say president obama (or past presidents) didn't call the family members of soldiers KIA - he's a deranged animal."
Four US Army soldiers were killed and two others were wounded in an ambush by a group believed to be affiliated with ISIS on October 4, near the Niger–Mali border. All soldiers involved in the ambush were members of the US Army Special Forces, known as the Green Berets.
Trump also claimed that he had written letters to the families, saying they would "either go out today or tomorrow."
"I've written personal letters. They've been sent or they're going out tonight, but they were during the weekend," the president said.
"I like to call when it's appropriate, when I think I'm able to do it," Trump added. "They have made the ultimate sacrifice so generally I would say that I like to call. I'm going to be calling them."
Trump called the phone calls "a very difficult thing."
"It gets to a point where you make four or five of them in one day, it's a very tough day and for me that's by far the toughest," he said.
Retired Gen. Martin Dempsey, a former Chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, also hit back at Trump:
Sanders said that Trump's comments earlier in the day were not critical of former presidents' actions, and that instead he was stating that presidents chose to pay their respects to fallen soldiers in different ways.
"The president wasn't criticizing his predecessors, but stating a fact," Sanders said. "Sometimes they call, sometimes they send a letter, other times they have the opportunity to meet the family member in person. This president, like his predecessor, has done each of these."
Sat, 14 Oct 2017 16:41:23 -0400
Craig Ruttle / AP
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon slammed Republican Senator Bob Corker for his public sledging of the Trump White House as "an adult daycare center," declaring him a "real piece of work" in a speech at a conservative summit on Saturday.
"Bob Corker has trashed the Commander-in-chief of our Armed Forces, while we have young men and women in harm's way," said Bannon at the Values Voter summit, a highly conservative political convention in Washington, DC.
Bannon, who returned to his role as executive chairman at Breitbart News after leaving the White House in August, declared it a "season of war" in the GOP.
He argued repeatedly that it was particularly bad for someone to insult the president while the country has troops fighting in wars.
"Some US senator in a position of that authority, for the first time in the history of our Republic, has mocked and ridiculed a commander-in-chief, and we have kids in the field," he said.
Meghan McCain, daughter of Republican Sen. John McCain, tweeted "give me a break" after reading Bannon's comments.
Trump has previously said of McCain, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam: "He’s not a war hero...I like people that weren’t captured."
Jake Tapper from CNN noted that it was definitely not the first time a US president had been mocked by a senator during wartime, noting that previous stories about senators mocking President Barack Obama ran on Bannon's own Breitbart.
Bannon's most recent comments came after a week of tit-for-tat between the president and the Republican senator from Tennessee.
Trump tweeted last Sunday that he refused to give Corker his endorsement for re-election (a claim Corker's camp denies) and that Corker "didn't have the guts to run!"
Bannon added on Saturday that he thought Corker was scared because he knew voters wouldn't re-elect him.
Last Sunday, Corker told the New York Times his concerns that Trump is leading the country "on the path to World War III."
He added: "I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it's a situation of trying to contain him."
Earlier on Sunday, Corker tweeted that "the White House has become an adult day care center"
On Friday he told the Washington Post that Trump's comments about Rex Tillerson effectively "castrate" the Secretary of State.
Bannon's speech on Saturday railed against the GOP establishment, calling it a "civil war inside the Republican party," and slammed those who didn't defend the president from Corker's comments, naming John Barrosso of Wyoming, Dean Heller of Nevada, and Deb Fischer of Nebraska.
"Have I seen [John] Barrosso come to a stick and condemn that?" he asked.
"Let me give a warning to you: no one can run and hide on this one. The days of taking a few nice conservative votes and hiding is over," declared Bannon.
Bannon referenced an Associated Press story about his speech headlined "In war on GOP establishment, Bannon enlists his troops."
“This is not my war. This is our war,” he declared.
“You didn’t start it. The establishment started it. But I’ll tell you one thing: you all are going to finish it.”
Bannon's speech focused heavily on his favored topics of populism and anti-globalism. But he also confidently declared Trump will win the next election comfortably.
"President Trump is going to win with 400 electoral votes in 2020," predicted Bannon.
He also referenced Trump's apparent personal wealth, but appeared to not know how much the president is worth.
"Worth billions of dollars. I don't know if it's four, five, seven, eight, ten. At some point you've got to quit counting, right?" asked Bannon.
Forbes estimates that as of February 2017, Trump, who has not released his tax returns, is worth $3.5 billion.
Thu, 12 Oct 2017 16:02:31 -0400
Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP
Robert Pruett, 38, was executed Thursday night for the 1999 murder of a Texas corrections officer, Daniel Nagle, while Pruett was serving a life sentence for another crime.
The US Supreme Court denied his last attempts to get the execution halted earlier Thursday.
At the time of Nagle's murder, Pruett was serving a 99-year sentence after being convicted as a party to a murder committed by his father, when Pruett was 15-years-old. His father remains incarcerated for that crime.
In December 1999, Nagle wrote a disciplinary charge against Pruett for trying to take his lunch to the recreation center in violating of prison rules.
Later that day, Pruett stabbed Nagle eight times with a shank made of a metal rod while he was in his office, according to court documents. Nagle, 37, died of a heart attack from the trauma of multiple stab wounds, the autopsy report said.
The state's theory was that Pruett murdered Nagle because he was upset about being reprimanded for carrying a sandwich into the recreation area. The only piece of evidence linking Pruett to the crime was torn up pieces of the disciplinary report Nagle wrote for Pruett that were found near his body.
In his final statement before being put to death, Pruett said he was sorry for hurting so many people, the Associated Press reported.
“I’ve had to learn lessons in life the hard way,” he said.
After telling friends who were there to witness the execution that he loved them, he said: "I’m ready to go. Nighty night. I’m done, warden."
In multiple state and federal appeals after his conviction in 2002, Pruett has steadfastly maintained his innocence in Nagle's murder. His lawyers have said there is a "complete lack" of physical evidence tying Pruett to the crime.
They also say that Pruett was framed by others who had a "powerful motive" to want Nagle dead because Nagle was working on a grievance complaining, among other things, of corrupt officials at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's unit where he worked.
At Pruett's trial, the only eyewitnesses to the crime who testified were inmate informants, whose "so-called snitch testimony is notoriously unreliable," Pruett's appeals state.
In 2015, Pruett avoided execution after a trial judge granted his motion for DNA testing to be conducted on the metal rod that was used to stab Nagle. The DNA tests proved inconclusive, but a swab of the metal rod revealed DNA belonging to an unknown female, who was likely someone involved in the previous DNA testing of the rod, authorities said. His execution was rescheduled for October.
In appeals since then, courts have denied his requests for additional DNA testing. In two separate appeals filed on Tuesday, Pruett's lawyers asked the US Supreme Court to stop his execution.
The requests state that Texas courts have denied Pruett his due process and seeks additional DNA testing. One of the cases is seeking review of a decision from the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. The other is an original petition at the Supreme Court, asking the court to rule on whether the Constitution "prohibit[s] a State from carrying out the execution of someone who is actually innocent" and, if so, how federal courts enforce that and what standards are used to do so. Texas opposes both requests.
The court denied the requests on Thursday, shortly before the execution was scheduled to take place. Although the vote count for such requests is not made public, justices can note their disagreement with the court's decision. None did so on either of Pruett's requests on Thursday.
Chris Geidner contributed to this report.
Thu, 12 Oct 2017 15:58:27 -0400
An organization that “supports the advancement and growth of women” in sports media is silent after one of its own, ESPN’s Jemele Hill, was disciplined for violations to the company’s social media policy and then targeted and personally attacked by the president of the United States.
After an email inquiry about the national attention around Hill, to a generic organization email account, BuzzFeed News received an unsigned response: “AWSM has not released a statement on Jemele Hill.”
Hill was warned by ESPN after tweeting that President Trump was a white supremacist, and this week was suspended for two weeks after suggesting that if fans wanting to make a statement to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones should boycott advertisers because “change happens when advertisers are impacted.”
She later stated that she was not, in fact, advocating for any sort of a boycott, but rather offering commentary. The suspension came immediately. AWSM’s Lydia Craver, the chair of the board of the organization and an ESPN employee did not immediately respond to an email from BuzzFeed News seeking comment.
Referring to the email sent from the nameless account, Jenny Dial Creech, a columnist for the Houston Chronicle, said, “Thanks for your email. I believe Meghan Montemurro got back to you yesterday.”
AWSM has featured Hill prominently on its website and sent a press release saying that she and ESPN colleague Cari Champion was set to participate in its annual conference this spring. In the recent past, it has quickly responded, for instance, to the press conference of Carolina Panthers quarterback in which Cam Newton said it was “funny to hear a female talk about routes.”
“AWSM is very discouraged by Cam Newton’s disrespectful remarks and actions directed to a female reporter during today’s Carolina Panthers press conference,” the organization said that day. “As a watchdog group, AWSM demands fair treatment and positive workplace environments for women working in sports media.”
In the release about Hill and Champion taking part in the conference in Texas, AWSM noted that ESPN, a “platinum-level” sponsor and “longtime supporter of the organization and has more AWSM members than any sports media outlet.”
Black Sports Journalists Group Says ESPN Relationship Has No Bearing On Their Feelings On Jemele Hill
Thu, 12 Oct 2017 11:45:54 -0400
Jemele Hill and Michael Smith earlier this year.
Paras Griffin / Getty Images
The leader of a group advocating for black sports journalists says he disagrees with ESPN’s decision to suspend Jemele Hill for two weeks.
Sherrod Blakely, a Boston-based basketball writer and president of the National Association of Black Journalists Sports Task Force, told BuzzFeed News in an email that he disagreed with ESPN’s decision to suspend Hill. He said that NABJ’s relationship with ESPN — the network is, for instance, listed as a partner to NABJ’s conference this year, and the network and organization cosponsor an internship — has no bearing on decisions as it relates to Hill.
“How many people ESPN employs that are members of the NABJ Sports Task Force didn't play a factor in the positions I have taken in the past in relation to Ms. Hill or our other members, and that will not change,” Blakely said in the email to BuzzFeed News.
NABJ President Sarah Glover did not respond to an email inquiry from BuzzFeed News regarding why NABJ hasn't commented publicly on Hill’s suspension.
Black journalists in sports media are grappling with how to address Hill’s situation — that of a prominent journalist disciplined for sharing strong opinions on race, sports, and the sports industry. President Trump’s Tuesday morning declaration that Hill’s presence on ESPN is the reason why ESPN’s rankings are tanking, a source inside the organization said, has made other black journalists even madder than they were over Hill’s suspension.
ESPN is one of, if not the, largest employers of black sports journalists. But Blakely signaled that the task force is prepared to deal strongly with ESPN should it come to that.
“As far as advocating for Ms. Hill, I believe my track record speaks for itself,” wrote Blakely. “When Ms. Hill was being attacked on several fronts, including [from] the White House, the Sports Task Force was the only group who made it clear to all that she had our support which led to me quickly garnering the backing of the National NABJ board to support our position.”
After Hill described Trump as a white supremacist, the task force along with NABJ commented on Hill’s standing as a well-respected veteran journalist and a consummate professional. “That withstanding, the National Association of Black Journalists supports Hill’s First Amendment rights on all matters of discussion, within and outside the world of sports, as they do not impinge on her duties as a host and commentator,” the NABJ statement said.
Current ESPN employees declined to speak on the record about Hill or Trump. But privately, many black journalists have expressed dismay at the difficulty of providing sports coverage in the current climate when black athletes are under attack for protesting inequality, police brutality, and racism — all deeply personal issues animating the national conversation and the subtext of the current NFL season.
Blakely’s statement is important; several journalists expressed anger at having no outlet for their frustrations because they weren’t authorized to speak about them publicly or on social media.
NABJ had not yet given a public position on Hill’s suspension, leading some to speculate that they would not be weighing because Trump calling Hill out by name escalated the situation — or that the importance of ESPN would affect their willingness to do so.
“Any media association that partners with NABJ knows one of our goals is to represent our membership,” said a former board member still close to the organization’s leadership. “I’m confident that our relationship history with ESPN will continue to evolve. I am sure Jemele would say she does not want to have any negative impact on the Mentor Breakfast that ESPN has sponsored for years because of what it does to help our young, aspiring journalists. But I know the Task Force leadership will address any concerns with the ESPN if the occasion arises.”
Hillary Clinton And The Obamas Respond To Harvey Weinstein Allegations. Clinton Says She'll Donate Funds To Charity.
Tue, 10 Oct 2017 13:54:13 -0400
Clinton and Weinstein in 2012.
Larry Busacca / Getty Images
Hillary Clinton said Tuesday she was "shocked and appalled" by allegations that movie producer Harvey Weinstein sexually assaulted numerous women — five days after they were made public by the New York Times.
Former President Obama followed up later in the day, issuing a joint statement with his wife that said they were "disgusted" with the allegations.
But neither Clinton nor Obama initially mentioned the money raised by Weinstein, a longtime Democratic campaign donor and fundraiser, to support their respective presidential campaigns.
On Wednesday, Clinton told CNN's Fareed Zakaria she would be donating Weinstein's donations to charity, but suggested it would be part of her usual 10% of income contribution to charities every year.
"Of course I will do that," Clinton said. "I give 10% of my income to charity every year. This will be part of that. There's no doubt about it."
Clinton's spokesman, Nick Merrill, clarified on Twitter Wednesday night that Clinton would be making her usual charity contribution of 10% of her income, in addition to donating the campaign contributions made by Weinstein.
Clinton herself told a British outlet that the campaign donations would also be donated. "We're going to, yes. Absolutely," she said. "It has to come out of our campaign funds, so there's a little more... but it will be done."
Last Thursday, a New York Times detailed multiple allegations of sexual harassment against Weinstein. On Sunday, he was fired from the company he cofounded, the Weinstein Company.
Not long after, Clinton's statement was released in a tweet from her press secretary Nick Merrill.
"I was shocked and appalled by the revelations about Harvey Weinstein," Clinton said. "The behavior described by women coming forward cannot be tolerated. Their courage and the support of others is critical in helping to stop this kind of behavior."
The Obamas released their statement later in the afternoon, praising the women who have come forward "to tell these painful stories."
But like Clinton's earlier statement, they made no mention of the political donations made by the Weinstein over the years.
Democrats in the US Senate rushed last week to condemn the film executive and donate any contributions received from the movie executive to charities.
Bill and Hillary Clinton have accepted thousands of dollars from Weinstein since at least the 1990s — including more than $35,000 in last year's presidential campaign. Obama, who also benefited from Weinstein's fundraising and donations, has not publicly stated any intention of donating the funds.
Asked about donating the 2016 campaign contributions, Clinton's vice presidential running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, told CNN on Tuesday, "The campaign is over."
Mon, 09 Oct 2017 22:50:17 -0400
Jemele Hill earlier this summer
Leon Bennett / Getty Images
The organizers of the Women's March called ESPN's suspension of Jemele Hill the silencing of a black woman speaking out against systemic oppression in America and "proof of how deeply entrenched racism is within our institutions."
ESPN suspended Hill for two weeks on Monday, saying that she had violated the company's social media guidelines.
Hill had tweeted that if fans didn't like Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' decision to bench players that kneel during the national anthem, they should boycott team advertisers. "If you feel strongly, about [Jones'] statement, boycott his advertisers," she tweeted.
Hill later clarified her comments, saying that she was not calling for a boycott.
The Women's March organized one of the largest protests in history beginning in January, a day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump; since then, the organizers have also protested the perceived blacklisting of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
"The suspension of Jemele Hill is a despicable attempt to silence a Black woman speaking out against systematic oppression in this country," the organizers wrote in a statement.
Hill has become a flash point this fall: Some critics say she should have been punished for calling the president a white nationalist, or that there should be no surprise ESPN objected to tweets about NFL advertisers. Her defenders, many with sizable Twitter followings, have expressed frustration with ESPN's sensitivity over the NFL, contend that the network doesn't really get the reality of including black voices, and say that Hill should be allowed to have her voice heard without fear of punishment — especially given that she's the host of an opinion program and paid to give an opinion.
To that end, the Women's March strongly characterized how they believed ESPN's actions should be interpreted Monday: "This suspension is proof of how deeply entrenched racism is within our institutions."
The statement continued, "Jemele’s comments to encourage consumers to let advertisers know how they feel, reflect the feelings of many of us. Millions of Americans understand the importance of protecting our first amendment right to free speech and of using this sacred right to express legitimate fear about the current climate of racism and bigotry."
In a statement, ESPN addressed its decision to suspend Hill by alluding to a piece she wrote for one of ESPN's properties focusing on the black experience in America. "Since my tweets criticizing President Donald Trump exploded into a national story," she wrote in that piece, "the most difficult part for me has been watching ESPN become a punching bag and seeing a dumb narrative kept alive about the company’s political leanings."
ESPN's statement appeared to reference that piece: "She previously acknowledged letting her colleagues and company down with an impulsive tweet. In the aftermath, all employees were reminded of how individual tweets may reflect negatively on ESPN and that such actions would have consequences. Hence this decision."
Women's March organizers are finalizing plans for its first convention, to be held in Hill's hometown of Detroit.
Mon, 09 Oct 2017 18:12:27 -0400
Ahn Young-joon / AP
President Trump would like you to believe he’s about to score his first major legislative victory by passing tax reform before the year ends. He'll then pass a bipartisan deal to protect DREAMers, convince Democrats to help repeal Obamacare, all while decertifying the Iran deal and playing good cop-bad cop with American diplomacy toward North Korea.
But the actual reality — and severity of the situation — is becoming clear: one where the president blasts an influential senator he'll need on tax reform and is criticized in turn in sharply personal terms; presents fantasy immigration principles that are dead on arrival in Congress; and where the president is limited to engaging in stunts, most recently sending his vice president on a $250,000 taxpayer-funded mission to an NFL game, which he promptly left in supposed indignation because some players wouldn't stand for the national anthem. All of this is taking place as Americans and world leaders worry that Trump could set off North Korea's unstable leader with tweets calling him "little rocket man," along with a suggestion that the only option may be war.
This is the Trump alternate reality show, one that seems to be getting more outlandish and unbelievable, as the White House inches toward all-out war with a GOP-controlled Congress.
@realDonaldTrump / Via Twitter: @realDonaldTrump
The clash between realities played out during a call White House adviser Stephen Miller held Sunday night with immigration hardliners and Trump surrogates to walk them through the administration’s new immigration principles, which would drastically alter the US immigration system in exchange for offering some protections for young undocumented immigrants. Miller, a source on the call said, did his best General Patton impression, imploring his brothers in arms to push forward because “we will not be deterred.”
No one on the call even brought up the possibility that the hardline wish list, which includes curbs to legal immigration, would have difficulty passing through Congress.
“People were very happy, it was, ‘How do we sell this? How do we get this done?’” the source on the call said. “They think they can get everything.”
That thought process seems out of line with the actual reality in Washington. Congressional Democratic leaders, who had gleefully announced the broad parameters of a deal with Trump on protecting DREAMers from deportation last month, immediately condemned the new proposal, which seemed to discard what they had discussed. And a source close to the administration said the framework was Miller’s “aggressive wish list that is clearly not going to happen.”
Strains between the world as Trump presents it and the world Republicans in Washington are experiencing also came into focus Sunday, when Sen. Bob Corker responded to criticism from Trump on Twitter by calling the White House an “adult day care center.” The Tennessee Republican followed up that comment during an interview with the New York Times, saying he wasn’t alone in his comprehension of the situation. “Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here,” he said his colleagues.
Corker also pricked Trump's version of events around why the senator decided not to run for reelection. "I don’t know why the president tweets out things that are not true," Corker said. "You know he does it, everyone knows he does it, but he does."
@realDonaldTrump / Via Twitter: @realDonaldTrump
Several congressional Republicans — who were out of Washington Monday for the Columbus Day holiday — declined to comment on their relationship with the president or did not respond to BuzzFeed News’ requests for an interview. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell defended Corker to the Associated Press Monday, calling him an “important part of our team.” McConnell did not mention the president. And in a statement to BuzzFeed News, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman praised Corker for his “unwavering integrity” and stressed the need for Republicans to come together: “If we’re going to accomplish our economic and national security agenda we’re going to have to work together, period.”
Trump spent at least some of his holiday working another Republican senator: He golfed with South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, where according to the White House the two went over the administration’s “very aggressive fall agenda,” including on tax reform and health care.
@realDonaldTrump / Via Twitter: @realDonaldTrump
But concerns about the deepening rift with congressional Republicans — and Trump’s version of his presidency — are now front and center, even for the president’s supporters.
"I’m insanely concerned, to be honest,” said a source close to the administration, nearly mimicking words Corker used in his interview with the Times. “I'm somewhat pessimistic on tax reform because the clock is ticking," the source said, adding that while the lion's share of blame is on "selfish, entitled" Senate Republicans, Trump hasn't done himself any favors by openly feuding with Corker. "I don’t know why the president felt the need to poke him at this juncture, it’s going to be a tightrope to get this done. The optics have to look like we can get something through legislatively, eventually."
Another source close to the administration said that Trump’s Twitter war with Corker is not “the way to influence or make friends.” But the president doesn’t want Republicans to take him for granted, the source said, adding that has become more evident in his recent willingness to chat with Democratic leaders.
White House aides, the source said, are getting increasingly frustrated with the lack of any legislative accomplishments in Trump’s first year, but are trying to focus their energies and faint optimism on tax reform. Republicans unveiled a framework for tax reform last month, and while there is agreement on broad principles, the details will be tricky to hammer out. Corker, for example, along with other GOP lawmakers, has already raised concerns about the proposed overhaul adding to the deficit. And Trump targeting the Tennessee senator on Twitter won’t help in getting him on board.
@realDonaldTrump / Via Twitter: @realDonaldTrump
But top administration officials are working to push Trump’s vision. In recent weeks, officials have been assuring major Republican donors that tax reform will be easier than the health care debacle, as money to the National Republican Senatorial Committee dries up. “Hope springs eternal,” said one such donor who has been briefed by White House aides. “The pressure on lawmakers to pass something is huge.”
Jack Kingston, a former congressman and Trump surrogate on CNN, said lawmakers should compartmentalize any attacks on them from the president and not see criticism as an indictment of the US Senate itself. He did, though, acknowledge that the administration is upset with congressional Republicans.
“There is general White House frustration with a body that said for seven years it would repeal Obamacare and hasn’t done it, and general frustration that with a very rare opportunity — maybe once in a decade, where you control the House, Senate, and White House — our own party is involved in a circular firing squad,” Kingston said.
The firing squad only stands to get more intense once midterms get closer, and Trump and his allies have the opportunity to primary disfavored Republican incumbents, like Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake. A national GOP strategist said the president’s feud with Congress hasn’t had as much of an impact yet on specific races, but if it continues to translate to lack of legislative accomplishments, it will. “To me this is all part of the Trump show and less to do with what’s going to happen with these campaigns on the ground,” the strategist said.
“It sucks right now. They need to get something done.”
@realDonaldTrump / Via Twitter: @realDonaldTrump
For now, that something may just be relegated to stunts, like Vice President Mike Pence’s ordered exit from this weekend’s Indianapolis Colts game. While some Trump supporters roll their eyes at the president’s belittling of Corker, they said they had no problem with his war with the NFL, which has conflated players kneeling over racial inequality in America with being anti-American and anti-military, and they don’t feel the focus on the fight takes away from his legislative agenda.
“That’s actually picking the right type of enemy,” said a source close to the administration, calling NFL players “smug, entitled millionaires,” before noting that would fit for any professional athletes in any major sports league.
“It’s an important fight when you have boots on the ground in hostile places, troops getting killed, and these millionaires are taking a knee,” Kingston said.
@realDonaldTrump / Via Twitter: @realDonaldTrump
But Democrats say the battle over players kneeling in the NFL is a distraction from the fact that Republicans run every chamber of government and can’t get anything done legislatively.
“The NFL fight is popular with part of Trump’s base, but as we get closer to the 2018 elections Republicans are going to have to answer for their inability to deliver for their constituents,” said Symone Sanders, a strategist for Priorities USA and CNN commentator. “What the Trump White House is orchestrating and concocting with Trump tweets, Pence at the game, Melania’s fight with Trump’s ex, and the NFL, none of these things make life better for the American people.”
@realDonaldTrump / Via Twitter: @realDonaldTrump
Henry J. Gomez contributed reporting to this story.
Mon, 09 Oct 2017 16:13:33 -0400
Pence in Las Vegas last week
Ethan Miller / Getty Images
US Virgin Islands Delegate Stacey Plaskett doesn’t believe it's essential to the US Virgin Islands recovery efforts that Donald Trump visit the island territory devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Plaskett a week ago, amid a crisis of a lack of media and attention on the extensive damage of her territory, expressed alarm that the aftermath of Puerto Rico’s had warranted a visit from President Trump, but that the US Virgin Islands seemed like an apparent afterthought. She made her concerns known in an national appearance with MSNBC’s Joy Ann Reid.
Trump tweeted that he "will hopefully be able to stop at the U.S. Virgin Islands" but never made the trip. In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Plaskett said she was able to impart her concern about the American territory's recovery to someone else close to Trump with whom she had been quite impressed: Vice President Mike Pence.
Plaskett’s satisfaction with Pence’s visit comes just days after Trump visited San Juan, accenting his arrival by flicking several packages of paper towels into an audience of onlookers as if shooting a basketball at a hoop.
She said a solemn Pence visited a small white church that had had two sections of its roof blown off, leaving water and debris all over the floor.
“It has been heartbreaking to see the impact of hurricanes Irma and Maria on the Virgin Islands,” the vice president said before his wife offered residents comfort from the book of Colossians.
In addition to attending a briefing on the recovery effort, the Pences also visited a shelter and participated in a helicopter tour to survey the damage on all three of the US Virgin Islands.
“I think you can tell when someone is putting on a show, but I believe the conversations [the Pences] had with people, young people, the workers, the volunteers were genuine,” Plaskett told BuzzFeed News in an extended interview about the federal government’s response and the recovery effort. “I think that is something that comes across from them. I think because he's been a governor he understands the human element of supporting people and understanding the day-to-day lives of people who have elected you. And I think that moves him and motivates him and that was clearly evident.”
Plaskett said her constituents are part of the “American experience” and take their role as Americans seriously. To have a sitting US president visit the US Virgin Islands would be “very gratifying” to residents, she said — and indeed a signal that their calls for relief and assistance from the federal government are being taken seriously.
“But is it necessary for us to move on in terms of our rebuilding?” Plaskett said. “I don't think so.”
Plaskett said she told Pence and his staff that the federal government has an opportunity help overhaul the island’s infrastructure, while there have been struggles with the federal government’s initial response. “When I have had conversations with officials from FEMA going into and talking to people in neighborhoods, we're seeing the issues people are having getting supplies, and getting support in a timely fashion," said Plaskett.
“There were challenges that the federal government had that I don't think we were ready for.”
Plaskett said federal workers were used to providing temporary roofing to homes that were partially destructed but weren't used to providing that type of assistance to people whose roofs had been totally ripped off.
“This is a test for the people of the Virgin Islands as a whole,” said Plaskett. “And it's also a test for the United States and the African diaspora to get engaged to ensure that we're not forgotten in that rebuilding.”
Sun, 08 Oct 2017 18:19:51 -0400
Milo Yiannopoulos is escorted away from the Berkeley campus last month.
Josh Edelson / AFP / Getty Images
A new generation of Republicans is being raised on the terms of a debate set by Milo Yiannopoulos.
Here’s how it’s happened the last few years: Some campus group, often a College Republican organization, will invite the right-wing provocateur — known by his first name and for his racist stunts and social media trolling — to campus. Offended classmates will plan protests. Wary administrators, citing security concerns, will roll out the red tape. And Milo will become a rallying cause for young conservatives eager to paint their liberal counterparts as free-speech hypocrites.
The popularity of Milo and others like him in this regard is the manifestation of years of frustration uncorked by students almost always in the minority among their peers. Their rebellion coincides with a national GOP uprising led by President Donald Trump, and with a moment in US politics when even grown-up Republicans define winning by their ability to antagonize the other side.
The fight against politically correct campus culture has energized College Republicans like never before, many activists told BuzzFeed News. But the energy is not always positive. Where Milo and other far-right figures go, the threat of dangerous confrontations is likely to follow. (One protester was shot earlier this year during the demonstrations surrounding Milo’s visit to the University of Washington.)
There also are unavoidable questions about what happens when an emerging crop of Republican leaders is focused on the free speech issue above all else, and whether these organizations can end up, intentionally or not, harboring outright racists.
Notably, some of the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, this summer turned out to be…College Republicans.
One participant has since resigned his post as president of the Washington State University chapter. Another attendee, photographed among the torch-wielding mob, brought unwelcome publicity to the chapter at the University of Nevada, Reno, where months earlier he was photographed with club members and Sen. Dean Heller.
“Our current College Republican chapter has kind of gone into hiding because of these last one-and-a-half months,” said Miranda Hoover, chairwoman of the Nevada Young Republicans and former president of the College Republicans at UNR.
After Charlottesville, one UNR student wearing a College Republicans shirt was heckled as she walked to class, Hoover said. Now other members don’t want to wear their shirts. “It’s just been really bad,” she added.
At Washington State, the new College Republicans president is trying to distance the organization from his predecessor: “Nothing that he did, alleged or otherwise, was as a representative of the club,” said Amir Rezamand. “Anything he does on his private time is him as a citizen.”
But not everyone is in hiding or on the defensive. On many campuses, there remains an appetite for an in-your-face free-speech fight, one that stems from years of feeling like outcasts in institutions filled with liberal administrators, liberal professors, and liberal classmates.
“Over my four-year tenure, I did see that it got worse,” said Alex Smith, who this year finished a stint as head of the College Republican National Committee. “College Republicans and other conservative groups have always faced what I call an institutional bias on campus.”
“It was almost comical,” Smith added. “Whenever there was any gathering of College Republican leaders, you could count on a good administration-screwed-me-over story.”
No one can pinpoint when, precisely, this became a defining issue for College Republicans. Over the last five years, debates over language — the words we use to describe identity and politics, who can use those words, what should be a fireable offense — have dominated college campuses and the ever-accelerated social conversation. There are some sharp generational divides about free speech, and particularly around the concept of physical space: Should a university host a certain kind of speaker? As that dynamic has become more prevalent, more and more college conservatives have reacted strongly.
Smith’s successor at the CRNC, Chandler Thornton, for instance, attributes the shifting dynamics to “the rise of trigger warnings and safe spaces” — two relatively recent watchwords. “Those words were not really used in the last 10 years before, to my knowledge,” Thornton said.
Into this charged situation came Milo, a colorful character with Breitbart credentials and shock value, an openly gay avatar of the alt-right who frequently uses that aspect of his identity as a cudgel to say whatever he wants.
And Milo has been complicated for a long time. Twitter permanently suspended him more than a year ago after he helped lead a harassment campaign against Saturday Night Live and Ghostbusters actor Leslie Jones, who is black. He came to internet prominence through Gamergate, and has written fairly extensively about the alt-right. Pushback against Milo, for example, has intensified over the last year, especially after he appeared to condone pedophilia.
A report published Thursday — based on emails and documents obtained by BuzzFeed News — detailed the close ties and communication Milo has kept with alt-right figures. The story featured a previously unreleased video of Milo performing “America the Beautiful” at a karaoke bar as a crowd that included white nationalist Richard Spencer raised their arms in Nazi salutes. The story also notes emails that make mention of Milo passwords that were apparent allusions to Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.
None of that has really stopped his popularity as a speaker, at least not yet. His Dangerous Faggot Tour has led to dozens of invitations, usually from College Republican groups. Last fall, students at Florida State University even favored Milo over Trump when voting on who their guest speaker should be.
"It was overwhelming, people really wanted to hear Milo," the FSU College Republicans president told the student newspaper at the time. "Milo has a lot of popularity, not necessarily because people 100% agree with him, but over the last couple of years we've been trying to get behind the idea of free speech."
The idea for a prospective college hosting a speaker like him: There’s the promise of scandal, there’s some built-in mystery about what Milo’s really about, there’s the lofty idea that it’s technically in service of free speech, and then there’s the reality that, frankly, Yiannopoulos is more relevant for a campus Republican than a think tank fellow or a Reagan appointee. He’s interested in the battles on campus — feminism, political correctness, social justice — that are more salient than, say, entitlement reform.
“I think that one of the most appealing things about him is ... he speaks like people in the 18-to-25 age range speak,” said Rezamand, the College Republican leader at Washington State, where in January a Milo speech was canceled due to bad weather. “I’ve heard many, many very well-regarded conservative speakers and libertarian speakers that are pretty much universally respected, and I love it. I live for this type of thing. But for your average slightly right-leaning guy, maybe he’s interesting for an hour, he’s interesting for the first time. Someone like Milo is such a charismatic figure and such a well-spoken and entertaining figure.”
(Rezamand, who made those comments before the Thursday story by BuzzFeed News, declined to comment on the record Friday when asked if the report changed his thinking.)
Others see Milo more as an imperfect messenger for a righteous cause.
“Candidly, I never found Milo to be helpful,” said Smith, the former CRNC chief. “What I will say, though, is I think the appeal to some of these College Republicans is that he was just a giant middle finger to the kind of escalating illiberal attitudes that were pervading campuses.”
These fights aren’t new obviously: The 1960s saw an explosion of campus activism and clashes, sometimes violent, from the free speech movement in California and anti-Vietnam War activism to a significant outpouring of conservative energy following Barry Goldwater’s 1964 campaign. All of that significantly affected politics in both parties for decades. Fifty or so years later, with campus battles ebbing and flowing in the interim, Trump’s win last year has only escalated the tension of recent years.
And while Republicans actually control everything in Washington and have long dominated statehouses across the country, the college campus is one of the few domains they haven’t conquered, a political reality that motivates young conservatives and liberals alike.
“The left is no longer in power, and they’re reacting,” said Niraj Antani, a former Ohio State University College Republicans leader who, at 26, is the youngest state lawmaker in Ohio. “They’re reacting in places where they’re in power — on college campuses.”
A police officer stands behind a barricade at the University of Utah, where conservative commentator Ben Shapiro spoke last month following massive protests when he spoke at the University of California.
George Frey / Getty Images
Cancellations seem to be just as common as invitations these days, though. Trump joined the fray in February, suggesting on Twitter that federal funds be withheld from the University of California, Berkeley, after officials there nixed a Milo event because of violent protests. “I mean, shoot,” said Alex Guerrero, treasurer of the University of Washington College Republicans, “after Trump got elected, it seemed like every week there was protesting that Republicans are racists.”
Michael Moroz, codirector of the editorial board for the University of Pennsylvania College Republicans, sees a connection between university officials taking public stances against Trump’s policies — such as hardline immigration positions — and university officials throwing up roadblocks to conservative speakers on campus. Even if not everyone in the College Republicans loves Trump (and on this point, many of the Republicans who spoke with BuzzFeed News repeated the same mantra about a diversity of opinions), the perception that everything is one way gets the College Republicans up in arms.
“As long as the university is trying to create a monopoly on ideology on campus, you’re going to have speaker shutdowns,” Moroz said. “You’re going to have a trend against free speech. It’s simply inevitable.”
Others, like Paul-Anthony Cuesta of the New York Federation of College Republicans, report a tougher time receiving budget approval for things such as trips to CPAC, the huge annual gathering of conservative activists.
And it's obviously not only Milo who is drawing protests. A recent speech at Berkeley by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro — hardly a provocateur in Milo’s mold — turned into a scene.
Rick Santorum, the conservative former senator and two-time presidential candidate, “was shouted down the whole time” during a speech at Cornell University after last year’s election, said Olivia Corn, then-president of the College Republicans chapter there. “I was screamed at when I tried to introduce him.” (Corn found Santorum preferable to Milo: “I don’t think he really provides valuable commentary.”)
Gavin McInnes — the Vice Media cofounder and self-styled anti-feminist, or “proud boy,” as he calls those that hold his views — caused an uproar during his February visit with College Republicans at New York University. Eleven people were arrested as a result of protests and clashes outside an NYU building upon his arrival. McInnes was drowned out by student protests during his talk and called an administrator a “dumb liberal asshole” before leaving early.
Some College Republican leaders say it’s time to shift their priorities.
Elena Hatib, president of the NYU chapter, said the club has decided to change its invitee selection in favor of less incendiary personalities. “I think going forward,” Hatib said, “we’re going to focus on free speech, but I want speakers who — instead of being provocateurs, instead of speakers who just want to put on a show, we’d rather have speakers of substance.”
Guerrero, whose University of Washington organization has hosted Milo, has a similar goal. He said he would like to bring “more relaxed” or “conventional” speakers to campus. He mentioned Jordan Peterson, the conservative Canadian academic, as one possibility.
“Last year was sort of the coming out moment,” Guerrero added. “Kind of like, ‘Hey, Republicans exist on this campus, too, and we deserve a right to bring in our speakers.’ So this year is more of the year where we’re like, ‘Hey, conservatives are here to stay’ and we’re sort of, like, normalizing conservative culture on campus.”
But Milo remains in demand: He has a Halloween event scheduled at Cal State Fullerton and had been scheduled to speak two days before that at San Diego State University, but College Republicans there say administrators canceled the event, citing extensive security demands.
If senior Republicans are worried about what Milo's prominence means for their party’s future or have any advice for their juniors, they’re not sharing these thoughts publicly. BuzzFeed News reached out to more than a dozen GOP officeholders, operatives, and activists. The list included prominent former College Republicans (tax-reform advocate Grover Norquist, strategist Karl Rove, and House Speaker Paul Ryan); Trump critics (Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, and Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse); and officials with the Republican National Committee. Nearly all declined to comment or did not respond to requests. And in the case of the RNC, a spokesperson showed interest before suggesting interviews with two College Republican leaders.
Ed Brookover, a GOP strategist who worked on Ben Carson’s presidential campaign last year and was an Otterbein College Republican leader in the 1970s, was a rare exception.
“I don’t think so,” Brookover said when asked if party leaders should be concerned about the influence Milo might have on young Republicans. “I think that most folks make their own decisions on their own sets of issues. This has not led either party or side into a rabbit hole.”
Rich Lowry, editor of the conservative National Review, believes the alt-right has had minimal impact on young conservatives.
“I think the appeal is just the outrageousness and having the right sort of enemies,” Lowry said. “It’s just sort of a way to poke a stick in the eye of the other side and maybe generate some publicity for him and for your club. That’s not a very elevated rationale.”
Lowry believes College Republicans should seek to host more informative, sober individuals rather than entertaining provocateurs who happen to lean right. “If you want to make a point about free speech,” he said, “you don’t need to go the route of just being outrageous for outrageousness’ sake.”
But to many, making a point is the point.
“If our audience shows a hunger for Gavin McInnes or a hunger for Milo Yiannopoulos, then I will make an honest effort to bring them,” Washington State’s Rezamand said.
“That is the hill that we die on.” ●
New Group Promises Real Money For Local Candidates Who Commit To Sweeping National Progressive Goals
Sun, 08 Oct 2017 15:30:05 -0400
Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University in June.
Michael Campanella / Getty Images
A leading development economist, a former Democratic state senator from New York, and a young entrepreneur and scion of the Pritzker family are converging to form a national network of state legislators committed to a package of far-sweeping goals for 2030.
The organization, a nonprofit set to launch Monday under the name Future Now, is described by one of its cofounders as an antidote to a moment where fraught partisan battles shape political debate, where lawmakers often resist the center, and special interests steer policy outcomes.
The group’s first investment, totaling $160,000, will support 10 candidates in the Virginia House of Delegates races — all Democrats who have pledged to work toward “America’s Goals for 2030.” Ahead of races across the country next year, Future Now will also seek Republican candidates willing to commit to the goals, a list of seven benchmarks on infrastructure, energy, education, and health care — though many of the proposals outlined align with policies and programs that liberals and progressives favor.
The goals were formed in large part by Jeffrey Sachs, a professor at Columbia University who studies economic development, poverty, and health and environmental policy. Early this spring, he partnered with a former student, Adam Pritzker, the CEO of Assembled Brands and the grandson of the Hyatt hotel creator, on ideas to implement the goals; a number of Pritzker family members have been active in Democratic politics, especially in recent years. Together, Sachs and Pritzker approached Daniel Squadron, a state senator representing parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, and in August, in a decision he described as "one of the hardest things I have ever done," Squadron stepped down from his seat to work full-time on the new venture.
“I’m really the observer in this group, watching the conversation play out between a state senator and a development economist,” the 33-year-old Pritzker said during an interview with the three cofounders this week.
“One thinks about this very large over-arching framework, and the other thinks about the day-to-day blocking and tackling and tactical implementation of policy, of getting things done at a local level or in a district. To hear the push and pull between them, I think that's when we all knew that there was something here.”
The framework for Future Now recalls some elements of past projects that have attempted a similar goal-oriented approach and sputtered out. No Labels, a bipartisan project formed in 2010 as an answer to Washington gridlock, promised to wield influence ahead of last year's presidential election with a list of four overarching goals branded as a "National Strategic Agenda," unveiled in 2015. The election they envisioned, with major candidates signing onto No Labels goals for the federal budget and Social Security, was far from the one that played out on the left and right, where Bernie Sanders rose as an ideological progressive icon and Donald Trump as the messenger for a growing anti-establishment sentiment.
Future Now's co-creators see the group as distinct in its approach, and its definition of each goal. "There's no single path to implementation," said Squadron, the 37-year-old former New York state senator. "There's no single policy that is required. We have a 50-state idea and there might be 50 different paths to these outcomes."
"That focus really on values and outcomes over a period of time is an important addition to the conversation," Squadron said.
Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images
The goals were designed by Sachs, 62, as a "holistic," overlapping "package deal," he said, meant to be measurable from state to state and against other countries.
Each goal outlines a number of specific benchmarks, many of which reflect policies unlikely to see support from Republicans for fiscal reasons.
The list moves from "Good Jobs" ("paid family, vacation, and sick leave for 100% of jobs"), to "Affordable Quality Health Care" ("universal, affordable health coverage with a cap on out-of-pocket expenses").
The other categories include "Investing in Children" ("a 100% completion of quality K–12 education"), "Empowering People Over Special Interests" ("limit corporate special interest spending in politics"), "Equal Opportunity for All" ("equal pay for equal work regardless of gender or race"), "Sustainable Infrastructure, Resilience, and Innovation" ("100% of roads, bridges, railways, airports, seaports, levees in good repair"), and "Clean Air, Water, and Energy" ("new energy investments in clean, safe energy").
Other goals range from "personal control for everyone over their private online data" to "freedom from ethnic and racial profiling for everyone."
Sachs cast the list as more a set of values than policy prescriptions.
"There are a set of set values, and there are a set of shared ways to measure whether we've gotten there. It's how we get there that everything has broken down," he said.
"My own view, working on these issues for decades, is they're gonna find out if you really want to do this, there isn't as much as a gap as you really think. Even if at the beginning people sign on because they think there really are different approaches — more market approaches from Republicans, more government-oriented from Democrats — if we're really gonna get the job done, my strong sense is it's going to have to be a convergence over time."
The candidates who commit to the Future Now agenda will "have access to a donor pool focused on setting and achieving goals," said Pritzker, who is helping fund the project and described the group at multiple points as a sort of donor network.
The cofounders declined to name other donors supporting Future Now, and to detail any plans for future investments, but said they will voluntarily disclose a list of contributors on a regular basis. The organization is structured as a 501c4, an entity able accept unlimited funds and is not required to make its donors public.
The 10 Democrats the group will support in Virginia are candidates committed to moving toward the Future Now goals, and willing to be measured against those goals. Sachs said they will partner with a think tank dedicated to measurement strategy and make data collection and analysis a large component of the project.
The Virginia House of Delegates candidates, each slated to receive a portion of the $160,000 ranging from $9,000 to $20,000, include Elizabeth Guzman, Karrie Delaney, Donte Tanner, Hala Ayala, David Reid, Schuyler Van Valkenburg, Jennifer Carroll Foy, Kathy Tran, Cheryl Turpin, and Chris Hurst.
Sun, 08 Oct 2017 14:01:54 -0400
@VP / Via Twitter
Vice President Mike Pence left Sunday's game between the San Francisco 49ers and Indianapolis Colts after players on the field knelt during the national anthem.
Pence tweeted that he had left the game, saying that he would not "dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem."
President Trump then tweeted that he asked Pence to leave if any players knelt, which seemed a fairly predictable outcome since it's happened at most games this fall.
@realDonaldTrump / Via Twitter
A spokesperson for the Colts did not immediately return a request for comment.
Monday morning, President Trump tweeted that the vice president was "receiving great praise" for leaving the game.
Also Monday, the Colts Twitter account retweeted a statement from former Colts player Robert Mathis that read, in part, "No hidden agendas, pub stunts or politics just old fashioned Love support & respect."
Pence's decision to leave Lucas Oil Stadium adds another dimension to the ongoing saga between the NFL and Trump.
At an event for Luther Strange in Huntsville, Alabama, last month, Trump said that he thought owners would let go of players who knelt during the national anthem. During Trump's tirade, he called such a player a "son of a bitch," setting off yet another round of protests from players, and backlash from the entire NFL community, who defended the players' right to freedom of expression and panned Trump's comments as inappropriate.
@VP / Via Twitter
Pence's office sent an expanded statement saying that "everyone is entitled to their own opinions."
"At a time when so many Americans are inspiring our nation with their courage, resolve, and resilience, now, more than ever, we should rally around our Flag and everything that unites us," the statement reads. "While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, I don’t think it’s too much to ask NFL players to respect the Flag and our National Anthem. I stand with President Trump, I stand with our soldiers, and I will always stand for our Flag and our National Anthem."
The vice president's office also sent a photo of the Pences during the national anthem, their hands to their hearts. His exit came after a whirlwind few days in which Pence visited Puerto Rico and St. Croix to survey hurricane damage, and Las Vegas to comfort victims of the mass shooting from a week ago.
According to President Trump's tweet Monday, Pence's visit had been "long planned." To be in Indianapolis for the game, he traveled back from the trip to the West Coast.
In a statement Monday from the Vice President's office, a spokesperson said that "if the vice president hadn't gone to Indiana for the Colts game, he would have flown back to D.C. for the evening -- which means flying directly over Indiana. Instead, he made a shorter trip to Indiana for a game that was on his schedule for several weeks."
The vice president did not take a pool reporter into the stadium, the New York Times reported, but a member of his staff did tell the reporter, Vaughn Hillyard, he might be leaving the game early.
With their protests, players on the 49ers have sought to bring attention to racial inequality and police brutality. Last year, the team's starting quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, started the demonstration.
Fri, 06 Oct 2017 15:27:59 -0400
Fabrice Coffrini / AFP / Getty Images
Some top Facebook executives have donated money to lawmakers serving on the two intelligence committees that are investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.
In February of this year, according to federal election filings, chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg gave $2,700 to Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich. In May, she donated $2,700 to Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, the ranking member of the intel committee.
In April of this year, Elliot Schrage, the vice president of communications and public policy, donated $1,000 to Heinrich and $2,700 to Warner.
And in March of this year, chief security officer Alex Stamos donated $2,700 to both Reps. Will Hurd and Eric Swalwell, who are a Republican and Democrat respectively and serve on the House intel committee. He also donated $2,500 to Heinrich in February.
The donations aren’t particularly big and are somewhat isolated — there are 41 total lawmakers serving on the committees combined. All three executives have given politically prior to this year and this isn’t the first time that the executives have given to some of these lawmakers. (Sandberg last donated $2,600 to Warner in 2014 and Schrage contributed $1,000 to his campaign in both 2014 and 2016. Stamos donated $2,700 to Swalwell in 2015 and $2,700 in 2016.)
But Facebook and other tech giants like Google and Twitter are also dealing with increased scrutiny over the platforms handled political advertising and misinformation during the 2016 campaign.
A spokesperson for Facebook referred BuzzFeed News to the company’s political engagement report which says, “Facebook employees may participate in personal political activities, on their own time and with their own funds. Employees must keep such activity separate from work and never represent that such activities are being conducted on behalf of Facebook.”
A spokesperson for Rep. Swalwell said that he knew Stamos before he began working for Facebook and noted that he’s contributed to Swalwell in the past. Offices for other senators and representatives did not respond immediately for comment.
Just this week, Facebook turned over a cache of ads purchased by a Russian troll farm to congressional investigators. Schrage authored the company’s public statement on those ads, and Stamos is heading up the internal investigation into the matter. Both Facebook and Twitter have said they will testify at an upcoming open Senate intelligence committee hearing, though neither CEO Mark Zuckerberg nor Sandberg are expected to participate. Stamos is a likely alternative, according to a report from CNBC.
Sandberg in particular has a long track record of donating to Democrats and publicly supporting candidates like Hillary Clinton. In this cycle, for instance, she has given to four other Democratic candidates who do not serve on intelligence committees (primarily Sen. Claire McCaskill, who faces a difficult re-election bid in 2018). She also wrote a $25,000 check to Women Vote!, a project of EMILY’s List, which supports pro-choice Democratic candidates.
Schrage has also given to Democrats in the past, and the DSCC and the DCCC in 2017, as has Stamos, which was noted by the Free Beacon earlier this week.
Warner is not up for re-election until 2020. In a press conference Wednesday, he called for stronger regulations for political ads appearing on social media sites and has joined Sen. Amy Klobuchar sponsoring a bill to disclose more information about political advertisements and their sponsors.
“I was concerned at first that some of these social media platform companies did not take this seriously enough,” Warner told reporters at the press conference. “I believe they are recognizing that threat now.”
Thu, 05 Oct 2017 12:36:52 -0400
Trump at the Alabama rally last month.
Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images
There aren't any specific policies about locker room music for the entire NFL, and sources with knowledge of player experience said that the issue is dealt with on a team-by-team basis.
So what would happen if players wanted to play "FDT," which stands for "Fuck Donald Trump," in the locker room?
Last weekend, a source close to the league told BuzzFeed News that a set of players were being advised not to play the song in the pregame or postgame locker room.
But BuzzFeed News never found anything that corroborated that rumor.
In the process of trying to figure it out if this were really a thing, though, we asked teams and other sources: What if players did play the song (or one like it)? Would they be allowed to do so?
The inquiries were made to journalists, former players, the National Football League Players' Association and all 32 teams. The rapper YG released the song in spring 2016. The song also features Nipsey Hussle, and an "FDT Part 2" was released later in the year. The song is very clear on how they feel about President Donald Trump.
Only one team — the New England Patriots — responded to the email inquiry; head coach Bill Belichick, as well as owner Robert Kraft and star quarterback Tom Brady all count Trump as a friend.
Asked about team policy related to locker room music, and alerted specifically to the content of the YG song, Patriots spokesperson Stacey James said in an email to BuzzFeed News, "I think players are respectful of others when playing their music in the locker room. As far as I know, we have never had to establish a policy. If ever it became a problem, I am sure we would."
Three organizations contacted by BuzzFeed News by phone strongly doubted the team would comment on anything related to either Trump or the White House.
The situation between the league, players, and the White House remains tense after Trump essentially referred to protesting players like former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick as "sons of bitches" during a campaign rally in Alabama.
Activist attention is increasingly centered on the motives and actions of NFL owners, several of whom, activists note, have donated to Trump's campaign and inauguration.
Tue, 03 Oct 2017 10:31:20 -0400
California Senator Kamala Harris says there's no space for compromise on President Donald Trump's commitment to protect undocumented immigrants who arrived when they were children.
Legislation protecting the roughly 700,000 people whose futures are in the balance "needs to be clean and I feel very strongly about that. No strings attached," Harris said in an interview on the BuzzFeed News morning show AM To DM, which airs on Twitter at 10:00 every day. "We made a promise as the United States government to these young people and we need to keep our promise. That’s it. Period. Full stop."
Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer left meeting last month telling reporters Trump had agreed to a "clean" bill enshrining the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. But the same politics that have derailed decades of efforts to overhaul the immigration system continue to threaten the plan.
And Democrats like Harris face an additional challenge: Trump is so deeply toxic with their supporters that they may find it hard to indulge in the theater of bipartisanship with him.
"How willing are you to work with Donald Trump on this?" I asked Harris.
"If he keeps his word, I’m all for it. That’s a big if," she said.
"So, you’ll be there standing over his left shoulder in the rose garden when he signs the bill? Can you even do that as a Democrat?" I asked.
"Stand over someone’s shoulder?" she laughed. "Listen, let’s get to that point and I am all for everyone who agrees that we need to pass a clean DREAM Act with no strings attached."
Harris also said she's walking a fine line as the deadline for renewing DACA status approaches this Thursday. One one hand, she appealed to DREAMers to make sure they submit their paperwork by Oct. 5, and to reach out to her office for advice.
But she also said she understands some of their trepidation about filing paperwork with the Trump administration.
"I cannot guarantee, because they won’t guarantee, that they won’t share the information with ICE," she said. "We get mixed signals. They say it’s not going to be a high priority for deportation. I’d like to believe that’s true, but they have not given us any guarantees. In that way I think it’s highly irresponsible of this administration. Highly irresponsible."
Harris also spoke in the interview of her confrontations with Jeff Sessions and other Republicans in the Senate this year, and of her obsession with the Kingsman movies.
Tue, 03 Oct 2017 09:14:33 -0400
Steven Perlberg / BuzzFeed News
On Monday night, Anthony Scaramucci invited friends, publicists, and reporters to the basement of the Hunt & Fish Club, his swanky New York restaurant, to announce the launch of a cryptic new media venture, the Scaramucci Post.
The New York Times, The Guardian, The Hill, McClatchy, BuzzFeed News, and others wanted answers. What is the Scaramucci Post? Why does it tweet bizarre Twitter polls and endless emojis? After a day of horrific news coming out of Las Vegas, why do we care?
“I am looking you dead in the face and saying I don't know,” Scaramucci told reporters, when asked about what the new media project will be.
“I just want to make sure I’m describing this right as I use words,” one reporter in the scrum said. “If I describe it as a social media news platform—”
“Say Scaramucci has absolutely no idea what he’s doing,” he interjected, “and he has absolutely no idea what Scaramucci Post is.”
Even in half-jest, Scaramucci still sounded like a conventional digital media executive: The ScarPo is, in his telling, an advertising-supported, politically centrist, millennial-focused news outlet distributed natively on social media platforms. There will be livestreaming. There will be discussions with political influencers. And he may even hire reporters down the road.
“It’s a social media, Periscoping, experiential thing,” he said. “I may drop some articles on the Twitter feed that I like. No landing page. On Twitter, Instagram.”
These are…kind of the right buzzwords? And in true media launch form, Scaramucci even showcased his first advertiser, a new women’s sports site called Knockout Times. “If I get four or five more sponsors, I'll be converting this thing into a website,” he said.
As for editorial ethos: “I think that there’s a wide-open space in the middle that is not being served,” Scaramucci told reporters gathered around him. “It’s the Walter Cronkite space. It’s the space in the middle where there's a level of objectivity.”
Scaramucci was also asked about a recent BuzzFeed News report that he had told friends, in writing, that he wants to run for president or governor of New York someday. Scaramucci, whose correspondence was obtained by BuzzFeed News after he called the original report “fake news,” once again denied he has elected office ambitions. And anyway, he told me on Monday night that media was more his thing: “I see myself as a TV host.”
Since Scaramucci got booted from the White House after he told the New Yorker that Steve Bannon likes to “suck [his] own cock,” he has hosted an episode of TMZ’s live show; he went on The View alongside his actor doppelganger, Mario Cantone, and suggested that Bannon is a white nationalist; he announced the launch of the Scaramucci Post with a series of polls about just who the account should follow next, often selecting well-known people in the media; and he hosted this would-be party for a group of New York reporters in the basement of his own restaurant, a charade of sorts, where Scaramucci reflected on topics like gerrymandering and the moon landing.
Reporters weren’t quite sure what they had witnessed. We knew we were at the Hunt & Fish Club with Anthony Scaramucci. We knew that Scaramucci is working on some sort of media outlet.
And we understood, I think, that Scaramucci shrewdly knows the best way to keep the media’s attention is to become part of the media.
Mon, 02 Oct 2017 17:12:52 -0400
President Donald Trump.
Drew Angerer / Getty Images
A group that describes itself as a “grassroots movement” to support Donald Trump is raising money in Trump’s name — and spending it to boost Republican candidates the president has not endorsed.
The group, Citizens for Trump, is raising that money through a group called Patriotic Strategies, which is organized as a limited liability company. In one race, Citizens for Trump even supported the opponent of the Trump-backed candidate, endorsing Roy Moore in last week’s Alabama Senate primary.
Citizens for Trump also lists a staffer who also works for a Republican congressman, though that congressman’s campaign now says the staffer no longer works for the outside group.
Neither Citizens for Trump nor Patriotic Strategies, the Texas-based company that claims to accept donations for “Citizens for Trump America First Movement” on the group’s behalf, is registered with the Federal Election Commission. There have been no public filings on how much has been collected or how it has been spent — a lack of disclosure that one campaign finance attorney called “shady” and that even one ally concedes is improper.
In a telephone interview with BuzzFeed News, Citizens for Trump executive director Tim Selaty Sr. described a volunteer effort that he sees as too small and too loosely organized to be considered a super PAC or a nonprofit advocacy group. But it’s a small operation with big goals: In addition to Alabama, Citizens for Trump wants to assert its influence in upcoming Ohio and Florida races.
A donate button was only added recently to the Citizens for Trump website to help offset out-of-pocket expenses, Selaty said. The button links to a PayPal page for Patriotic Strategies, which, according to business filings in Texas, incorporated as an LLC last March, listing Earl and James Lee Brown as officers. Selaty said he would be surprised if the group has raised more than “a couple thousand” dollars.
“We’re a volunteer organization who came together to help get Donald Trump elected,” Selaty said. “We didn’t get any PAC money.”
Asked if the organization was making a profit, Selaty replied: “No, actually, we’re probably losing money.”
Citizens for Trump is particularly focused on Ohio, where it has endorsed Trump-inspired Rep. Jim Renacci for governor and recently launched a website bashing one of Renacci’s Republican rivals.
The outside group shared a staffer with the congressman: Vanessa Treft, a field director for Renacci who also is listed as the Ohio and Michigan director for Citizens for Trump. Citizens for Trump’s website lists 19 volunteer team members, including Selaty and Treft.
Selaty acknowledged collaboration with Renacci’s campaign in several areas. “We discuss certain things on occasion,” he said. “Not through Jim, but through other surrogates,” including Treft.
Selaty said Treft “hasn’t lost her title” with the group, but she is “pretty much full time with Renacci now.”
In an email, Renacci campaign spokesman James Slepian wrote that Treft works full-time for the campaign, “but is no longer a paid employee” of Citizens for Trump.
Slepian also said campaign advisers are not aware of the group’s fundraising operations or structure, and that there had been no “legally impermissible communications” between the campaign and the group.
“To the extent that anything of monetary value is provided by Citizens for Trump to Renacci for Ohio, it would be subject to the same legal contribution and reporting requirements that govern any other donor,” Slepian added.
Republicans who favor other candidates in Ohio are complaining that the group is not playing fair. And a campaign finance expert says the Citizens for Trump arrangement raises legal questions, in part because it has not registered as a political action committee, and because outside spending groups are not supposed to use a candidate’s name — in this case, Trump’s.
“Unfortunately a group of shady operators saw the president's candidacy to profit from his name, likeness, and catchphrase,” Paul Jossey, a Republican campaign finance lawyer who has written about deceptive super PACs, told BuzzFeed News after reviewing the organization’s material. “Most Americans, even most lawyers, are not sophisticated enough to recognize ‘Citizens for Trump’ is wholly unrelated to the president's reelection campaign unless they read the fine print.”
Citizens for Trump formed during the 2016 presidential election to back Trump’s White House bid. The group was among those that sued the city of Cleveland over its security plan for last year’s Republican National Convention and eventually won more accommodating protest space. Longtime Trump political adviser Roger Stone and far-right provocateurs such as Milo Yiannopoulos and InfoWars’ Alex Jones were among those featured at the group’s convention-week rally.
Stone told BuzzFeed News that he has never been paid by Citizens for Trump but has appeared at other events for the group, including a recent speech in Georgia.
“I never knew how they were constituted,” Stone said. “They’re very much a shoestring operation. … Most of these people, it’s their first political outing.”
But, Stone acknowledged, “They do endorse candidates, therefore they do need to constitute themselves as a 527 or a c4” — two types of nonprofit political advocacy groups.
The group’s big move so far in Ohio is a website — dishonestjonny.com — that attacks Secretary of State Jon Husted, one of Renacci’s Republican opponents.
Original version of dishonestjonny.com, which included a "Paid for by Citizens for Trump" disclaimer. The disclaimer is longer on the site.
Citizens for Trump / Via Google cache of dishonestjonny.com
But information about that website’s origin began to disappear once BuzzFeed News began asking questions. The site, for example, no longer includes its original “Paid for by Citizens for Trump” disclaimer at the bottom of its pages.
According to online records BuzzFeed News reviewed during the week of Sept. 24, James Brown of Patriotic Strategies registered the dishonestjonny.com domain on Sept. 5.
Efforts to reach Brown or Patriotic Strategies were unsuccessful.
A Patriotic Strategies page on Facebook links to Citizens for Trump content and describes the company as “a ‘start to finish’ conservative based political solution provider company that provides insightful and intelligent action plans that follow strategic ideas aimed at solving problematic challenges.” The page also links to an undeveloped website that records show was registered by Selaty.
But the phone number listed with the registration for dishonestjonny.com — the site registered by Brown of Patriotic Strategies — is the same number Selaty used when applying for a rally permit in Cleveland last year and when calling and texting with BuzzFeed News last week. The address listed for Brown on Patriotic Strategies’ incorporation papers in Texas also matches the address on Selaty’s 2016 permit application. (Selaty did not respond to a follow-up text or email requesting to be put in touch with Brown.)
By Friday, the dishonestjonny.com domain’s registration information had been made private in the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) database and at GoDaddy.com.
Screengrabs from the original web domain registration for dishonestjonny.com, accessed by BuzzFeed News on Sept. 24. The registration information was made private days later.
ICANN / Via whois.icann.org
Meanwhile, records show the Renacci campaign registered a similar domain — dishonestjon.com — on Sept. 5, the same day Patriotic Strategies registered its anti-Husted site. The Renacci site has not yet been developed.
Selaty said Citizens for Trump would like to back an entire slate of pro-Trump Republicans in next year’s Ohio primary, where open races for all statewide offices are on the ballot. He acknowledged that the group sometimes could be at odds with Trump, as it was in Alabama.
“There’s a division in that base,” Selaty said. “We’re not mindless sheep.”
Sat, 30 Sep 2017 11:20:08 -0400
If you were a libertarian, 2016 was supposed to be your year.
Rand Paul was going to build from his father’s following, take the movement mainstream, and win the Republican presidential nomination. He would realign the party establishment around anti-interventionist, fiscally conservative, and (some) socially liberal policies. That didn’t work.
Then the Libertarian Party was going to capitalize on the historic unpopularity of Hillary Clinton and, especially, Donald Trump. Their nominees would run up the middle — if not to the White House, then certainly to official minor party status and the possibility of federal matching funds for future candidates. But their nominees were Gary Johnson and Bill Weld, and that didn’t work, either.
So now libertarians are, at best, back to where they were four years ago. Paul is talking about recapturing the magic of his 2013 filibuster. Johnson and Weld are just a phone call away (not that either should be waiting by the phone this time). President Trump turned out to be more of a foreign policy hawk than he let on, and he is pushing a law-and-order agenda that conflicts with the open-border, pro-criminal justice reform principles of libertarianism. Is his presidency an opportunity, or is it the snuffing out of an opportunity?
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is seen on a TV monitor as he participates in a filibuster on the Senate floor March 6, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong / Getty Images
The movement remains ever in search of the perfect messenger. There are some prospects in the pipeline. Most conversations start with Paul and include names like Justin Amash and Mike Lee, two Republican lawmakers with libertarian leanings and the occasional ability to make national news. But capital-L Libertarian Party libertarians are often suspicious of Republicans who must compromise once they are in Congress — and this is one of the key measures of how fraught with tension big-tent libertarianism can be. Some want purity, others preach pragmatism. You can ask a dozen libertarians the same question on the future of the movement and come away with a dozen different answers.
“There are a lot of anti-establishment coalitions that are starting to realize they don’t like the game of politics the way it’s being played,” said Matt Kibbe, the former CEO of the tea party-aligned FreedomWorks who helped a Paul super PAC last cycle. “I do think that’s a profound opportunity for libertarians. But the liberty movement has some growing up to do, because being anti-establishment is not nearly enough.”
Libertarian candidate for President Gary Johnson (right) and running mate Bill Weld (left) prepare to campaign at the Red Arrow Diner in Manchester, N.H.
The Washington Post / Getty Images
There also is renewed discussion of whether a third party is viable, as Trumpism splinters traditional Republicanism. But the early focus has been on Washington-friendly centrists: Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, atop a hypothetical 2020 unity ticket with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat. Such a bid would not advance the libertarian cause, but Weld could not hide his enthusiasm for it in a recent telephone interview. “I like the Kasich-Hickenlooper romance,” Weld said. “I’m not prepared to light candles against it. I think it would be a healthy thing.”
So the loop continues. The cycle repeats. Libertarians are the future of US politics — and always will be.
Mark Wilson / Getty Images
That future weighed on those who huddled inside a small hotel ballroom last month for the Libertarian National Committee’s summer conference in Kansas City, Missouri.
These two-dozen party leaders take their roles seriously — and the result felt a little like group therapy mixed with a college student government meeting.
Yes, they know they need to somehow figure out how to reactivate their coalition and cut through the noise in a post-Paul, all-Trump-all-the-time world. At the same time — point of clarification! — some of them would kindly appreciate it if only authorized entities use the Libertarian Party name.
The Libertarian National Committee’s summer conference in Kansas City, Missouri
Libertarian Party / Ustream / Via ustream.tv
Regardless of the heavy existential questions of what’s next or who’s next, most of the attendees were earnest and optimistic about the future. And during breaks over local barbecue served buffet-style or colorful cookies with the Libertarian torch eagle logo, they enjoyed each other’s company. The problem is they don’t often agree on the answers to any of the big questions.
In the opening hours of the weekend meeting, LNC member Jeff Hewitt raised the idea of a Coachella-style music festival: live entertainment and a celebrity speaker or two to attract a younger crowd.
“You’ve got to shake them a bit and say, ‘This is the cool one, these other two” — Democrats and Republicans — “are evil,” Hewitt, who serves as the mayor of Calimesa, California, told BuzzFeed News. “They’re what took your parents’ house away. They’re the ones where you keep going, ‘God, by the time I get my paycheck, there’s nothing left for me.’ Those are the issues we can drive home. But it’s kind of got to be sexy. It’s got to have the good rave-type music or whatever else that goes along with that.”
But is demonizing the two major parties as “evil” the best elevator pitch for a party looking to grow?
“We’re nice. Those guys are not nice.”
Libertarian National Committee Chairman Nicholas Sarwark believes in a more positive-reinforcement approach. Over lunch, he noted how, that morning, he had approvingly tweeted a link to a column on immigration that Jeff Flake, the Republican senator from Arizona who faces a tough reelection challenge from pro-Trump forces, had written for the New York Times. “We’re going out of our way to acknowledge those good people in the Republican and the Democratic parties when they do good things,” Sarwark said. “I think the realignment is going to come if [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell and Trump just keep beating the crap out of their party members who are legislators with libertarian positions.”
“We’re nice,” Sarwark added. “Those guys are not nice.”
Then there’s the foreign policy approach.
These libertarians believe that the less-interventionist, more-isolationist themes espoused last year appealed to voters — and that the Libertarian Party can be a home for those disappointed that Trump has not lived up to all of the themes he embraced as a candidate. At the LNC meeting, for example, members approved a resolution calling for the US government’s immediate withdrawal from NATO.
But for every creative outreach idea or substantive policy discussion aimed at building a bigger tent, there’s some other proposal or remark that shows how suspicious they are of outsiders. In Kansas City, some members moved to restrict unauthorized libertarian groups from using the party’s name. The measure failed by a 3-13 vote, after considerable debate. The discussion frustrated the LNC’s most colorful member, Starchild, a prostitute from San Francisco who prefers the terms erotic service provider or companion. “The party is just a vehicle, a means to an end,” he said. “It’s ultimately not what’s important.”
"We will always be a — what do you call it? Like a craft beer. We’ll never be the Budweiser.”
Even so, Starchild and others remain disappointed in last year’s presidential campaign. Johnson and Weld, former Republican governors with national profiles, were attractive to the party’s pragmatists because of their potential crossover appeal. Purists found plenty to dislike, especially in the squishy Weld, who before his contentious nomination to be Johnson’s running mate had supported Kasich in the GOP primaries. Johnson and Weld staked their viability on qualifying for the televised presidential debates. But their poll numbers were never quite strong enough — and they worsened after Johnson’s infamous “What is Aleppo?” blunder in response to a question about the war-torn city in Syria. They won a record number of votes for a Libertarian ticket, but it was a letdown nonetheless. “Setback? No,” said Larry Sharpe, an LNC member and business consultant who nearly beat Weld for the VP nod and now is running for governor of New York. “Could we have done better? Yes.”
Another LNC member, alluding to Johnson’s admitted marijuana use, grumbled ruefully: “Pot-smoking goofball.”
When told of these comments in a telephone interview, Johnson chuckled. “I would say to anybody that thinks they can do better: ‘Sign up. Do better. Advance the cause.’”
Hewitt, the man behind the Libertarian Coachella proposal, believes a start would be branching out beyond what he framed as niche issues, such as legalized drugs and prostitution. “If that defines who we are, we will always be a — what do you call it? Like a craft beer,” Hewitt said. “We’ll never be the Budweiser.”
Presidential candidates Ohio Governor John Kasich (L-R), Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz (R-TX), Carly Fiorina, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) take the stage in the Republican Presidential Debate sponsored by Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal at the Milwaukee Theatre November 10, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Scott Olson / Getty Images
Rand Paul was supposed to close this space between fringe and mainstream, and in the process, capture the 2016 Republican nomination — or at the very least, radically transform the party’s priorities and view of government.
But why he never took off doesn’t really have a clean answer. Was it the candidate? The issues? Too much noise from Trump? Not libertarian enough? Peaked too early?
In the wounded period that followed the 2012 presidential election, Paul looked like the heir apparent: He stormed into national relevance in March 2013, with his nearly 13-hour filibuster of incoming CIA Director John Brennan’s confirmation. For the junior senator from Kentucky, it was an opportunity to raise questions about the Obama administration’s use of drones (and for the Republicans in the Senate, an opportunity to join a media-friendly cause that concurrently rebuked a Democratic president).
"2013 was totally Libertarian Christmas for everyone.”
Soon, the Edward Snowden affair would invite scrutiny of US surveillance programs, right in the Fourth Amendment wheelhouse where many libertarians revel. Meanwhile, a war-weary nation was antsy over heightened expectations of US military intervention in Syria. No longer confined to the fringe of a major party, or to the backbenches of Congress, libertarians were confident this was their moment. “It’s true,” said Matt Welch, editor at large for the libertarian magazine Reason, “that 2013 was totally Libertarian Christmas for everyone.”
Paul struggled with the kinds of campaign mechanics that have felled some libertarian efforts, but he had no control over the rise of two other disruptive forces: Islamic terrorism and Donald Trump. ISIS beheading videos and ISIS-inspired attacks in the US began softening attitudes toward muscular foreign policy and surveillance programs. And Paul struggled to unite the insurgent populists who had backed the White House bids by his father, former Rep. Ron Paul, with the classic conservatives he would need to win the GOP nomination.
“I think Rand himself was a less-than-stellar candidate,” Welch said. “He couldn’t really develop a response for the Trump moments. He couldn’t sell his version of libertarianism as an authentically felt anti-establishment moment in a way others could.”
Rand Paul isn’t his father — a fact libertarian devotees acknowledge in different ways. His critics treat him like a sellout. “He’s just playing a different game,” said Sarwark, the LNC chairman. “The biggest frustration is he doesn’t speak for libertarians.”
Others are more nuanced. Liz Mair, a libertarian Republican strategist, wrote recently at RedState about a friend who observed that Ron Paul “telegraphs the belief that Americans (a traditionally majority white group) are exceptional. By contrast, Rand believes and tries to telegraph that America (an ideal, a dream, a concept, an idea undergirded by protection of a wide swath of fundamental liberties) is exceptional.” Trump clearly tapped more into the former.
"All this time, I thought they were voting for libertarian Republicans,” Rep. Thomas Massie, a libertarian Republican from Kentucky, told the Washington Examiner in March. “But after some soul searching I realized when they voted for Rand and Ron and me in these primaries, they weren't voting for libertarian ideas — they were voting for the craziest son of a bitch in the race. And Donald Trump won best in class, as we had up until he came along."
Marc Allan Feldman delivers his "I'm That Libertarian" speech.
LesGrossman News / YouTube / Via youtube.com
Crazy sons of bitches can be a liability, though. They can be particularly dangerous for a libertarian movement where so many are resistant to authority, and where there can be a rush to have whoever will have them. It’s tough to weed out the unsavory characters.
“We haven’t been particularly good at policing ourselves,” Mair, who worked on the Johnson-Weld campaign, told BuzzFeed News. “We don’t want to be mainstream, but the only way to win is to mainstream ourselves.”
Consider the words the Libertarian Party has chosen to rally around at its 2018 convention in New Orleans: “I’m That Libertarian.” It’s a sentiment from a little-known Cleveland Clinic doctor who finished fifth in last year’s balloting for the party’s presidential nomination (and who died of natural causes less than a month later at age 56). In a stemwinder of a debate speech, Marc Allan Feldman presented himself as a libertarian for all tastes.
"We haven’t been particularly good at policing ourselves"
Fri, 29 Sep 2017 13:30:40 -0400
Scott Olson / Getty Images
The Senate race in deep-red Alabama might be within reach for Democrats, after the Republican nomination of Roy Moore.
The poll, conducted by Opinion Savvy and commissioned by Decision Desk HQ, finds that Moore leads Democratic opponent Doug Jones 50.2% to 44.5%.
While still not a close-close race, that's definitely closer than a normal Senate race in Alabama for an off year. The poll is of 590 likely voters in the state reached this week by landline and mobile, with a margin of error of 4 points. (Full methodology here.)
Though he is well-known and has a built-in set of supporters in the state, Moore has a long and complicated history in Alabama and nationally: He was twice removed from the state's Supreme Court for refusing to follow federal rulings.
He's suggested various national tragedies — including 9/11 — happened because of what he calls the United States turning away from Christianity. He's written columns for World Net Daily, a fringe right-wing site known for pushing birther conspiracy theories about President Obama. And he has a long history of making anti-gay comments, as well as opposing Keith Ellison's being in Congress because he is Muslim, and another man from serving in the George W. Bush administration because he was an "admitted homosexual."
Jones, meanwhile, is a former US attorney backed in particular by former vice president Joe Biden. Winning in Alabama for a Democrat, though, even with an extreme candidate like Moore on the ticket, seems like a tall feat.
"Any time you get a result that seems to run totally contrary to the conventional wisdom of a state's politics, it gives you pause," said Brandon Finnigan, the executive director of Decision Desk. "However, Roy Moore barely won his election as chief justice to the state Supreme Court in 2012, underperforming presidential candidate Mitt Romney by 18 points. I still have difficulty seeing him lose in Alabama — even in the surprisingly close South Carolina 5th Congressional special, the Republican still won. But in a special held 13 days before Christmas? Who knows."
The poll also found that 56.1% of voters somewhat or strongly opposed "efforts within the state of Alabama to remove monuments to the Confederacy from public grounds," while 34.6% strongly or somewhat supported the efforts.
And when it came to the protests in the NFL that have become the source of a week's worth of Trump commentary and a year's worth of tense debate, that margin was slightly different. Per the poll's phrasing, 53.4% strongly or somewhat oppose the protest of what some players call "a country that oppresses black people and people of color" — while 41.7% somewhat or strongly support the players.
BuzzFeed News has partnered with Decision Desk HQ for live election results coverage in 2018.
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