By Mary Papenfuss - HuffPost US
Erik Prince, former head of mercenary business Blackwater, revealed in a bombshell interview Friday that he attended a meeting in Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr. and a representative of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to discuss “Iran policy” during the presidential campaign. The interview marked the first time Prince has publicly acknowledged such a meeting. Prince said in congressional testimony in 2017 that he had no “official” or “unofficial” role in the campaign — other than a “yard sign” and writing “papers” — according to the transcript of his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. Nor did he mention the meeting in his testimony, according to transcripts. The New York Times reported last year that Prince organized the 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with President Donald Trump’s eldest son and Lebanese-American businessman George Nader. Nader revealed at the meeting that the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia wanted to aid Trump in his bid for the presidency, according to the newspaper. The meeting also reportedly included now-top White House aide Stephen Miller and Israeli social media expert Joel Zamel. The August meeting is yet another secret huddle with a representative of foreign governments that may have provided illegal international aid to sway the American election. Just months earlier Donald Jr. and the president’s son-in-law and now senior White House aide Jared Kushner met at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer connected to the Kremlin. Prince, brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, acknowledged the meeting in an on-camera interview on Al Jazeera’s “Head to Head” aired Friday. Asked by host Mehdi Hasan why he didn’t reveal the meeting in his congressional testimony, Prince insisted he had. When his actual response was read back to him, he suggested the transcript was “wrong,” drawing titters from the interview audience. He later also insisted that “not all of the discussion that day was transcribed.”
By Virginia Heffernan
As a convicted tax cheat, Paul Manafort stole $6 million from taxpayers. President Trump’s former campaign chairman then blew his fat stacks on Richie-Rich jive — eye-rollers such as monstrous houses, giraffe lawn ornaments, a limited-edition titanium watch, an ostrich skin jacket, a moat, four Land Rovers, blah blah blah. Even Judge T. S. Ellis III, a federal judge in the Eastern District of Virginia, who obsequiously praised Manafort at the sentencing hearing Thursday, had to concede that the fancy felon’s crimes were “serious,” that he had jacked the American people for his bunk lifestyle fetishes. This, said Ellis, was “a theft of money from everyone who pays their taxes.” But none of Ellis’ obligatory tut-tutting kept him from yielding to his own disturbing admiration for the infinitesimally repentant convict. In defiance of federal sentencing guidelines, which recommended 19 to 24 years in prison for Manafort-caliber misdeeds, Ellis gave him 47 months in federal prison, with nine months off for time served. A sentence as light as an ostrich feather. Who knows how someone like Ellis decides someone like Manafort deserves such magnificent leniency? To start, there’s this: The two men have class, race, gender and, evidently, party in common. It was when Ellis reflected on Manafort’s character that the proceedings turned downright creepy. Ellis, who turns 80 in May, was appointed to the bench by President Reagan in 1987. In the same decade, Reagan also appointed Manafort, who campaigned for him, associate director of the personnel office at the White House. It should go without saying that federal sentencing guidelines are no one’s partisan whim. They were established in the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, which passed with majority support in both houses. (The ’80s were evidently a weird time when both parties cared about equality and justice.) The reform was intended to ensure uniformity in the punishment of convicts who might otherwise have their sentences influenced by a judge’s biases or bigotry. The guidelines further serve as a check on a judge’s caprices because anyone who bucks them, as is his or her privilege, risks being seen as biased, or even in someone’s pocket. Indeed, soon after Ellis announced Manafort’s sentence, his decision came in for scrutiny. He seems to have given Manafort a fair amount of credit for his purported cooperation with the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, even as prosecutor Greg Andres, of Mueller’s team, insisted that Manafort’s cooperation had been close to useless: odd bits the team already knew, plus stone-cold lies. Andres and the rest of the prosecuting team made it clear they thought the 19-to-24-year guidelines were appropriate. The Eastern District of Virginia, according to federal data, doles out considerably longer sentences for those convicted of fraud than other courts. Not this time. On Twitter came even more eyebrow-raising comps: People not of the ostrich-jacket class sentenced to far more prison time for far, far less serious crimes. But the judge was well within his powers to choose a short sentence. It was when Ellis reflected on Manafort’s character that the proceedings turned downright creepy. Ellis commended Manafort as “a good friend” (to murderous oligarchs?) and “a generous person” (with his haberdasher?). Aside from all that bank and tax fraud, Ellis went on, Manafort had lived an “otherwise blameless life.” To anyone who craves justice or simply a return to reality, that “otherwise blameless” was a punch to the gut — a flat-out Trumpian denial of the public record. Manafort has been known for more than 40 years as a member of the torturers’ lobby, a list compiled by the Center for Public Integrity in 1992. With his partners, Manafort acted as an all-purpose concierge to brutal dictators and war criminals in Nigeria and Kenya. He also represented Zaire, Equatorial Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine and Somalia. Manafort amassed millions by essentially deflecting criticism of his brutal clients and opulently enabling them. Sounds like he found a kindred spirit in Judge Ellis. For most of us, looking into Manafort’s otherwise blamelessness would have to include questioning his intimacy with one Konstantin Kilimnik, who the FBI has long believed has links to Russian spy services. Specifically, there was a Manafort-Kilimnik rendezvous in a cigar bar, according to court documents, that Andrew Weissmann of Mueller’s team said goes “very much to the heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating.” Still: otherwise blameless in Ellis’ courtroom. Compare Ellis’ gratuitous hymn to Manafort’s angelic nature with the sentencing memo filed last month by Mueller’s team, which laid out how Manafort “repeatedly and brazenly violated the law” over the course of a decade. Even Manafort’s daughter described her father’s fortune as “blood money” and said he had no “moral or legal compass.” And even when Thomas J. Barrack Jr., Trump’s real estate crony, warmly recommended Manafort as campaign chair, he cited not the operator’s pure heart but his cold blood. He’s “lethal,” Barrack wrote.
Cashless stores are convenient, but they also marginalize low-income shoppers.
By Chavie Lieber
Shop at a trendy, millennial-oriented business like Sweetgreen or Everlane and the odds are pretty high that it won’t let you pay with cash. Instead, you’ll have to pay with credit card, an app, or Apple or Google Pay. That’s because these companies are pushing out cash payments, arguing that touchless pay makes shopping hassle-free. Lawmakers and public advocates, on the other hand, have long said this concept marginalizes low-income shoppers who might not be tech-savvy or have access to credit lines. Now these cashless stores are starting to come under scrutiny. Philadelphia just passed a bill banning stores from going cashless. The law won’t apply to businesses like parking garages, stores with membership models like Costco, or transactions that require a security deposit, like rental cars. But come July 2019, all stores in Philly will have to give customers the option to pay with cash. Mayor Jim Kenney signed the bill last week, making Philadelphia the first city in the US to take legal action against cashless stores. Massachusetts has had a law against cashless businesses since 1978, but other American cities are trying to follow in Philadelphia’s footsteps. Last year, Chicago tried to ban cashless institutions last year but did not succeed. In February, on the other hand, similar legislation passed to make cashless businesses illegal in New Jersey (although New Jersey’s governor has yet to sign a bill), and New York City politicians are pushing laws against cashless stores as well. Some oppose the idea that a city can take such a stance; one top official from Philadelphia’s Commerce Department complained that “modernization is going to happen with or without Philadelphia,” and Amazon had already warned the city that passing such a law would “impede” its plans to open an Amazon Go store in Philly. But others are supporting this move, and this disagreement represents a wider schism between those pushing for technological innovation in retail and those who argue that it’s exclusionary. Why cities are pushing back against cashless stores. William Greenlee, a council member in Philadelphia, told the Wall Street Journal that he decided to introduce this bill against cashless stores after finding that simple sandwich shops in major urban areas within Philly, like the Center City District, wouldn’t accept cash. “Most of the people who don’t have credit tend to be lower income, minority, immigrants. It just seemed to me, if not intentional, at least a form of discrimination,” said Greenlee. Now, he said, these stores have “to do what businesses have been doing since Ben Franklin was walking the streets of Philadelphia.” But where did this idea come from in the first place? Although it isn’t the only company exclusively pushing for this sort of tech, Amazon heavily subscribes to the idea of going cashless. Its bookstores don’t take cash and instead encourage shoppers to set up Amazon accounts, where they can link their credit card and pay with automated payment machines that are set up via kiosks. Many restaurants, especially in New York City, are cashless, too, as are digital-first brands like Drybar and Reformation. These stores argue that it’s better for their business, and that “digital payments are the future,” as the Sweetgreen founders wrote in 2016 upon announcing their switch to cash-free payments.
It’s indicative of the disparities in the criminal justice system. Former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort officially received his sentence on Thursday and it’s quite a bit lighter than many were expecting. For conviction on eight counts of bank fraud, filing fake tax returns, and failure to report foreign assets, Manafort was sentenced to 47 months in jail, which comes out to just shy of four years. Legal experts across the board were flummoxed. Many called out the length of the sentence as well as the message it sent: The leniency granted to Manafort only seemed to highlight the inequities in the criminal justice system, which has led to excessively harsh — and often biased — sentencing that favors wealthier, white defendants.
This Manafort sentence "suggests that the wealthy and the powerful do better in court that many other defendants do, and I think it is an attack on the legitimacy of the criminal justice system." -Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney pic.twitter.com/06ennWBbDJ
— Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) March 8, 2019
Paul Manafort’s lenient 4-year sentence — far below the recommended 20 years despite extensive felonies and post-conviction obstruction — is a reminder of the blatant inequities in our justice system that we all know about, because they reoccur every week in courts across America
— Ari Melber (@AriMelber) March 8, 2019
Public defender Scott Hechinger, a senior staff attorney at Brooklyn Defender Services, helped provide some additional context that underscores this point.
In a thread on Twitter, Hechinger noted how many of his clients received sentences that were far longer or comparable to Manafort’s, for minor offenses. His first tweet embodies this stark contrast.
For context on Manafort’s 47 months in prison, my client yesterday was offered 36-72 months in prison for stealing $100 worth of quarters from a residential laundry room.
— Scott Hechinger (@ScottHech) March 8, 2019
Hechinger went on to highlight others who had received incredibly long sentences for offenses that included “simple possession of a firearm,” or voting while on probation.
By Betsy Klein, Kaitlan Collins and Jim Acosta, CNN
Washington (CNN) White House deputy chief of staff and de facto communications director Bill Shine has stepped down to join the Trump campaign, press secretary Sarah Sanders announced in a statement Friday. Shine, a former Fox News executive, joined the White House in July 2018, the sixth person to fill or be tapped for the top communications role. Jason Miller, Sean Spicer, Mike Dubke, Anthony Scaramucci and Hope Hicks all came before him. He offered his resignation to President Donald Trump on Thursday but was spotted on the White House South Lawn on Friday ahead of the President's trip to Alabama. He will be joining the 2020 re-election campaign as a senior adviser. "Serving President Trump and this country has been the most rewarding experience of my entire life. To be a small part of all this President has done for the American people has truly been an honor. I'm looking forward to working on President Trump's re-election campaign and spending more time with my family," Shine said in a statement. Shine's effectiveness inside the West Wing came with mixed results and it was unclear how much he was able to change the White House's communications strategy. One source close to the White House told CNN that Trump had questioned Shine's judgment on a number of issues in recent months, from the midterm election to the government shutdown. Shine had been slated to travel with Trump to Vietnam for the second North Korea summit but unexpectedly dropped off the trip two days before, according to an administration official. While administration officials were in Hanoi, Shine was wandering the halls of the Conservative Political Action Conference. Asked why he was there, he declined to answer. Trump had been down on Shine for at least a few months, believing him ineffective and not what he'd hoped for when he hired him, according to people familiar. Shine's role basically became the person who adjusted the lighting and focused the cameras, and he showed no ability to shape a narrative or communications strategy. Shine was a key force behind shutting down much of the press access to the White House, including the daily press briefing, per the source. There has not been a White House press briefing since January 28.
By Eileen Sullivan
WASHINGTON — President Trump on Friday seized on a portion of a federal judge’s remarks during the sentencing of his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in a financial crimes case to again criticize the Russia investigation and falsely declare a finding of “no collusion.” Both the Judge and the lawyer in the Paul Manafort case stated loudly and for the world to hear that there was NO COLLUSION with Russia. But the Witch Hunt Hoax continues as you now add these statements to House & Senate Intelligence & Senator Burr. So bad for our Country! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 8, 2019. Speaking to reporters before he left for Alabama to inspect tornado damage, Mr. Trump said that the sentencing judge, T.S. Ellis III of the United States District Court in Alexandria, Va., had said “there was no collusion with Russia.” Mr. Trump added that he was “very honored” Judge Ellis made that statement. Mr. Trump, however, twisted Judge Ellis’s words. What Judge Ellis actually said Thursday was that Mr. Manafort was “not before this court for anything having to do with collusion with the Russian government to influence this election.” There was “no collusion” because Mr. Manafort was not charged with or convicted of any crimes of collusion, a word that has no legal definition but has become a term of art for the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Mr. Manafort on Thursday received a sentence of nearly four years for financial crimes for which sentencing guidelines recommend a prison term of 19 to 24 years. He was convicted in August of five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failure to disclose a foreign bank account. Mr. Manafort’s attorneys used the same false talking point as the president on Thursday, saying in a brief statement after the hearing, “There is absolutely no evidence that Paul Manafort was involved in any collusion with any government official or Russia.”
By Franklin Foer Staff writer for The Atlantic
Trump’s former campaign chair has always acted with impunity, as if the laws never applied to him. “He has lived an otherwise blameless life,” said Judge T. S. Ellis as he sentenced Paul Manafort to just 47 months in prison on Thursday. In an otherwise blameless life, Paul Manafort lobbied on behalf of the tobacco industry and wangled millions in tax breaks for corporations. In an otherwise blameless life, he helped Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos bolster his image in Washington after he assassinated his primary political opponent. In an otherwise blameless life, he worked to keep arms flowing to the Angolan generalissimo Jonas Savimbi, a monstrous leader bankrolled by the apartheid government in South Africa. While Manafort helped portray his client as an anti-communist “freedom fighter,” Savimbi’s army planted millions of land mines in peasant fields, resulting in 15,000 amputees. In an otherwise blameless life, Manafort was kicked out of the lobbying firm he co-founded, accused of inflating his expenses and cutting his partners out of deals. In an otherwise blameless life, he tried to use his perch atop the Trump campaign to help salvage his sorry financial situation. He installed one of his protégés as the head of the pro-Trump super PAC Rebuilding America. His friend allegedly funneled $125,000 from the super PAC to pay off one of Manafort’s nagging debts. In an otherwise blameless life, Manafort was found guilty of tax evasion on an industrial scale. Rather than paying his fair share to help fund national defense and public health, he kept his cash in Cyprus and wired it home to buy more than $1 million in bespoke clothing. In an otherwise blameless life, he disguised his income as loans so that he could bamboozle banks into lending him money. In an otherwise blameless life, he attempted to phone a potential witness in his trial so that they could align their stories. In an otherwise blameless life, he systematically lied to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors, after he promised them his full cooperation. In an otherwise blameless life, he systematically lied to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors, after he promised them his full cooperation. In an otherwise blameless life, he acted with impunity, as if the laws never applied to him. When presented with a chance to show remorse to the court, he couldn’t find that sentiment within his being. And with Ellis’s featherweight punishment, which deviated sharply downward from the sentencing guidelines, Manafort managed to bring his life’s project to a strange completion. He had devoted his career to normalizing corruption in Washington. By the time he was caught, his extraordinary avarice had become so commonplace that not even a federal judge could blame him for it.
By Will Sommer
Corsi used to work for Infowars. Now he’s warring with it. Jerome Corsi sued Infowars founder Alex Jones on Thursday, heating up the feud between two of the nation’s top conspiracy theorists. Corsi and his lawyer, conservative activist Larry Klayman, are both named as plaintiffs in the case against Jones, Infowars, Jones’ father David Jones, and Infowars host Owen Shroyer. The complaint alleges the defendants defamed Corsi and Klayman by questioning their mental fitness, with Jones saying that Corsi has dementia and has become “extremely mentally degraded.” Infowars and Jones didn’t respond to requests for comment. In their lawsuit, Corsi and Klayman allege that Jones and Infowars are hurting their careers as rival right-wing commentators, costing them “financial support and sales.” Corsi and Jones weren’t always at odds. A year ago, Corsi, a promoter of conspiracy theories like the “birther” claim that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, worked as Infowars’ Washington bureau chief. He appeared at events with Jones and went on Jones’ Infowars show. After Corsi left Infowars last June, the outlet paid him a hefty $15,000 monthly severance for six months. But Corsi’s relationship with Jones has soured as Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigates whether Corsi connected the Donald Trump campaign with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during the 2016 presidential election. The connection allegedly came through Trump adviser Roger Stone, himself an Infowars host who was arrested and charged with lying to Congress in January. As Mueller’s investigators closed in, Corsi became unusually vocal about the investigation and hinted that he might cooperate with Mueller, prompting former allies like Jones and Stone to attack his credibility.
(Axios) - From a White House source, the House Oversight Committee has obtained documents related to Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump's security clearances that the Trump administration refused to provide, according to a senior Democratic aide involved in handling the documents. Why it matters: The Trump administration's problems with leaks will now benefit Congress, making it harder for the White House to withhold information from Democratic investigators. The news: The White House this week rejected the committee's request for documents on the process for granting security clearances to staffers. The twist: But the House Oversight Committee in early February had already obtained the leaked documents that detail the entire process, from the spring of 2017 to the spring of 2018, on how both Kushner and Trump were ultimately granted their security clearances. The senior Democratic aide who was involved in handling the documents told Axios that two staffers on the Oversight Committee said the documents are "part of the puzzle that we would be asking for" from the White House, "so we appreciate having this upfront." The House Oversight Committee, via deputy communications director Aryele Bradford, declined to comment. The White House did not respond to a request for comment. The documents leaked to the Oversight Committee provide detailed information on the timeline for how Kushner's and Trump's security clearances were approved and who the people were involved in processing and the final decision.
By Rachel Weiner, Lynh Bui, Justin Jouvenal and Devlin Barrett
Paul Manafort, who once served as President Trump’s campaign chairman, was sentenced to nearly four years in prison Thursday for cheating on his taxes and bank fraud — a spectacular fall for a once high-flying political consultant who told the judge he is now “humiliated and ashamed.” Manafort had faced up to 24 years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines, but U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis called that calculation “excessive” and sentenced him instead to 47 months. Ellis said the sentence he imposed was more in line with others who had been convicted on similar crimes. “The government cannot sweep away the history of all these previous sentences” for similar crimes, the judge said. Ellis noted that he must consider the entirety of Manafort’s life when issuing a sentence, noting Manafort has been “a good friend” and a “generous person” but that “can’t erase the criminal activity.” Manafort’s tax crimes, the judge said, were “a theft of money from everyone who pays taxes.” But the judge expressed some sympathy for Manafort, a 69-year-old GOP consultant who worked on the presidential campaigns of Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. “He’s lived an otherwise blameless life,” Ellis said. The judged noted Manafort has no past criminal history and “earned the admiration of a number of people” who wrote letters to the court support Manafort. Wearing a green jail uniform with the words “ALEXANDRIA INMATE” in block letters on the back, Manafort entered the courtroom in a wheelchair. “The last two years have been the most difficult years for my family and I,” Manafort told the judge. “To say that I feel humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement.” He asked the judge “for compassion,” adding, “I know it is my conduct that has brought me here.” Speaking from his chair, Manafort did not apologize for his crimes, but thanked the judge for how he had conducted the trial. “I appreciate the fairness of the trial you conducted,” he said. “My life is professionally and financially in shambles.” Manafort said the “media frenzy” surrounding the case had taken a toll on him, but that he hopes “to turn the notoriety into a positive and show who I really am.” The worst pain, he said, “is the pain my family is feeling, ” adding that he drew strength from the “outpouring of support” he had received. The hearing came just days before Manafort is set to be sentenced for related conspiracy charges in a case in D.C. federal court. Manafort’s trial last year documented his career as an international lobbyist whose profligate spending habits were part of the evidence showing he’d cheated the Internal Revenue Service out of $6 million by hiding $16 million in income. Prosecutors painted the former Trump campaign chairman as an incorrigible cheat who must be made to understand the seriousness of his wrongdoing. Manafort contends he is mere collateral damage in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election. At the outset of the hearing, Ellis addressed the larger special counsel investigation, saying Manafort was not convicted “for anything to do with Russian colluding in the presidential election.” But the judge also rejected Manafort’s attorneys claims that the lack of any such evidence undermined the case, saying he had considered that issue at the beginning of the case. “I concluded that it was legitimate” for the special counsel to charge Manafort with financial crimes, Ellis said. Sentencing guidelines in the Virginia case had called for Manafort to serve somewhere between 19½ and 24 years in prison, after a jury found him guilty of eight charges and deadlocked on 10 others. The first skirmish in the sentencing hearing came when Manafort’s attorneys argued with federal prosecutors over whether he deserved any sentenced reduction for “acceptance of responsibility.”
By Margaret Sullivan
Chris Wallace is an exceptional interviewer, and Shepard Smith and Bret Baier are reality-based news anchors. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the overall problem of Fox News, which started out with bad intentions in 1996 and has swiftly devolved into what often amounts to a propaganda network for a dishonest president and his allies. The network, which attracts more viewers than its two major competitors, specializes in fearmongering and unrelenting alarmism. Remember “the caravan”? At crucial times, it does not observe basic standards of journalistic practice: as with its eventually retracted, false reporting in 2017 on Seth Rich, which fueled conspiracy theories that Hillary Clinton had the former Democratic National Committee staffer killed because he was a source of campaign leaks. Fox, you might recall, was a welcoming haven for “birtherism” — the racist lies about President Barack Obama’s birthplace. For years, it has constantly, unfairly and inaccurately bashed Hillary Clinton. And its most high-profile personality, Sean Hannity, is not only a close confidant of President Trump but appeared with him onstage at a campaign rally last year. Anyone who was paying the slightest bit of attention knew all of this long before Jane Mayer’s 11,000-word investigation in the New Yorker magazine was published a few days ago. But because Mayer is so highly respected, and the piece so thorough, it made an impact. Within days, DNC Chairman Tom Perez announced that Fox wouldn’t be chosen as one of the hosts of the Democratic primary debates. This was a mild, reasonable step that recognizes the reality that Fox News shouldn’t be treated as an honest broker of political news. It was not censorship as some bizarrely claimed, merely a decision not to enter into a business relationship.
By Jane Mayer
Fox News has always been partisan. But has it become propaganda? n January, during the longest government shutdown in America’s history, President Donald Trump rode in a motorcade through Hidalgo County, Texas, eventually stopping on a grassy bluff overlooking the Rio Grande. The White House wanted to dramatize what Trump was portraying as a national emergency: the need to build a wall along the Mexican border. The presence of armored vehicles, bales of confiscated marijuana, and federal agents in flak jackets underscored the message. But the photo op dramatized something else about the Administration. After members of the press pool got out of vans and headed over to where the President was about to speak, they noticed that Sean Hannity, the Fox News host, was already on location. Unlike them, he hadn’t been confined by the Secret Service, and was mingling with Administration officials, at one point hugging Kirstjen Nielsen, the Secretary of Homeland Security. The pool report noted that Hannity was seen “huddling” with the White House communications director, Bill Shine. After the photo op, Hannity had an exclusive on-air interview with Trump. Politico later reported that it was Hannity’s seventh interview with the President, and Fox’s forty-second. Since then, Trump has given Fox two more. He has granted only ten to the three other main television networks combined, and none to CNN, which he denounces as “fake news.” Hannity was treated in Texas like a member of the Administration because he virtually is one. The same can be said of Fox’s chairman, Rupert Murdoch. Fox has long been a bane of liberals, but in the past two years many people who watch the network closely, including some Fox alumni, say that it has evolved into something that hasn’t existed before in the United States. Nicole Hemmer, an assistant professor of Presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center and the author of “Messengers of the Right,” a history of the conservative media’s impact on American politics, says of Fox, “It’s the closest we’ve come to having state TV.” Hemmer argues that Fox—which, as the most watched cable news network, generates about $2.7 billion a year for its parent company, 21st Century Fox—acts as a force multiplier for Trump, solidifying his hold over the Republican Party and intensifying his support. “Fox is not just taking the temperature of the base—it’s raising the temperature,” she says. “It’s a radicalization model.” For both Trump and Fox, “fear is a business strategy—it keeps people watching.” As the President has been beset by scandals, congressional hearings, and even talk of impeachment, Fox has been both his shield and his sword. The White House and Fox interact so seamlessly that it can be hard to determine, during a particular news cycle, which one is following the other’s lead. All day long, Trump retweets claims made on the network; his press secretary, Sarah Sanders, has largely stopped holding press conferences, but she has made some thirty appearances on such shows as “Fox & Friends” and “Hannity.” Trump, Hemmer says, has “almost become a programmer.” Fox’s defenders view such criticism as unfounded and politically biased. Ken LaCorte, who was in senior management at Fox News for nearly twenty years, until 2016, and recently started his own news service, told me, “The people at Fox said the same thing about the press and Obama.” Fox’s public-relations department offers numerous examples of its reporters and talk-show hosts challenging the Administration. Chris Wallace, a tough-minded and ecumenical interviewer, recently grilled Stephen Miller, a senior Trump adviser, on the need for a border wall, given that virtually all drugs seized at the border are discovered at checkpoints. Trump is not the first President to have a favorite media organization; James Madison and Andrew Jackson were each boosted by partisan newspapers. But many people who have watched and worked with Fox over the years, including some leading conservatives, regard Fox’s deepening Trump orthodoxy with alarm. Bill Kristol, who was a paid contributor to Fox News until 2012 and is a prominent Never Trumper, said of the network, “It’s changed a lot. Before, it was conservative, but it wasn’t crazy. Now it’s just propaganda.” Joe Peyronnin, a professor of journalism at N.Y.U., was an early president of Fox News, in the mid-nineties. “I’ve never seen anything like it before,” he says of Fox. “It’s as if the President had his own press organization. It’s not healthy.” othing has formalized the partnership between Fox and Trump more than the appointment, in July, 2018, of Bill Shine, the former co-president of Fox News, as director of communications and deputy chief of staff at the White House. Kristol says of Shine, “When I first met him, he was producing Hannity’s show at Fox, and the two were incredibly close.” Both come from white working-class families on Long Island, and they are so close to each other’s children that they are referred to as “Uncle Bill” and “Uncle Sean.” Another former colleague says, “They spend their vacations together.” A third recalls, “I was rarely in Shine’s office when Sean didn’t call. And I was in Shine’s office a lot. They talked all the time—many times a day.” Shine led Fox News’ programming division for a dozen years, overseeing the morning and evening opinion shows, which collectively get the biggest ratings and define the network’s conservative brand. Straight news was not within his purview. In July, 2016, Roger Ailes, the co-founder and C.E.O. of Fox, was fired in the face of numerous allegations of chronic sexual harassment, and Shine became co-president. But within a year he, too, had been forced out, amid a second wave of sexual-harassment allegations, some of them against Fox’s biggest star at the time, Bill O’Reilly. Shine wasn’t personally accused of sexual harassment, but several lawsuits named him as complicit in a workplace culture of coverups, payoffs, and victim intimidation.
Objecting to an abundance of sealed and redacted records in the criminal case against Paul Manafort, the president’s former campaign chairman, The Washington Post petitioned a federal court Thursday to open those records to public view. The paper’s motion cited “the profound public interest in these proceedings” — as well as in the overall investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into Russia’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, which has swept up Manafort and scores of others. “The investigation, which concerns the integrity of this country’s elections, goes to the core of the interests protected by the First Amendment,” the motion, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, said. The filing comes as Manafort, 69, faces sentencing Thursday in Virginia and next Wednesday in Washington. He pleaded guilty in Washington to two conspiracy counts of hiding millions he earned as an unregistered lobbyist for Ukrainian politicians over a decade and, after he was charged in October 2017, attempting to tamper with witnesses. He was convicted at a federal trial in Alexandria in August on related charges of bank and tax fraud. At issue are redacted or sealed filings, sentencing memos, hearing transcripts and more than 800 pages of exhibits submitted after the special counsel’s office alleged in November that Manafort voided his cooperation agreement with prosecutors in Washington by lying to them about five subjects over more than 50 hours of interviews before and after his guilty plea. Prosecutors submitted the materials to substantiate their allegations but did so under seal or with heavy redactions, arguing that information related to uncharged individuals or ongoing criminal investigations, including secret grand jury matters, should not become public. “The long-standing principle of open criminal proceedings deserves to be sustained in this important case, especially considering that it comes in the context of an investigation into the integrity of a presidential election and relentless attacks on the investigation itself,” Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron said in a statement. The Supreme Court has recognized the public’s right of access to records under the First Amendment and common law, including to pre- and post-trial documents and court proceedings. However, courts have upheld that the presumption of access can be overcome when the government proves it has a “compelling interest” to protect, such as grand jury secrecy, individuals’ privacy or a pending law enforcement investigation. But such exceptions must be narrowly tailored and can be time-limited, courts have found, given the impact on core First Amendment rights and the principles of self-government and government transparency. Federal judges in Washington have upheld the public’s right to access criminal case materials, particularly in closed investigations, finding that the government can keep matters sealed only by showing a substantial probability that disclosing them would harm the compelling interest at stake and that no alternatives would adequately protect them.