Friday, August 31, 2018

TRUMP - Cry Baby 'n Chief

"No, 96% of Google news stories on Trump aren't from left-wing outlets" by Louis Jacobson, PolitiFact 8/29/2018

In a pair of early-morning tweets, President Donald Trump took aim at Google’s system of search results, saying it was biased against outlets that are friendly to him.

In two successive tweets on Aug. 28 (later deleted and reposted to correct a spelling error) Trump wrote:

"Google search results for ‘Trump News’ shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake New Media.  In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD.  Fake CNN is prominent.  Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out.  Illegal?  96% of … results on ‘Trump News’ are from National Left-Wing Media, very dangerous.  Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good.  They are controlling what we can & cannot see.  This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!"

....results on “Trump News” are from National Left-Wing Media, very dangerous.  Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good.  They are controlling what we can & cannot see.  This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!

Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 28, 2018
The part where Trump said that 96 percent of "results on ‘Trump News’ are from National Left-Wing Media" caught our eye.

A close look at the source of the statistic suggests that Trump’s figure is dubious.

Where does the figure come from?

The White House didn’t respond to an inquiry.

The 96 percent figure appears to come from a post on PJ Media, a conservative site.  The Aug. 25 story had attracted some attention in conservative media circles before getting picked up by Trump.

"Is Google manipulating its algorithm to prioritize left-leaning news outlets in their coverage of President Trump?"  Paula Bolyard, PJ Media’s supervising editor, wrote in the article.  "It sure looks that way based on recent search results for news on the President."

To test the premise, Bolyard performed a Google search for "Trump" using the search engine's "News" tab and analyzed the results using a media bias chart.

Of 76 total stories, most came from outlets such as CNN, the Washington Post and NBCOnly three came up from the Wall Street Journal, which is labeled right-leaning by the chart.

Bolyard wrote that she repeated her search "multiple times using different computers (registered to different users) and Google returned similar results."

Bolyard acknowledged that while the study is "not scientific," though she did conclude that "the results suggest a pattern of bias against right-leaning content."

But this conclusion is debatable, and Trump’s reporting of the results is more problematic still.

Factors that go into Google searches

There is broad agreement that the factors that go into Google’s algorithms for news searches are opaque.  And the lack of transparency can allow theories about ideological bias to flourish.

They "depend on a lot of factors, including what other people are searching for, what they're clicking on, what sites link to a given search result, whether the website is optimized for mobile, and even whether the site supports encrypted HTTPS," said Jeremy Gillula, tech policy director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.  "But with all that said, Google's search algorithms are still a black box, and we'd prefer if Google gave users more information and control over the factors that influence search results."

In a statement, Google said that ideological factors do not play a role in its algorithms.

"When users type queries into the Google Search bar, our goal is to make sure they receive the most relevant answers in a matter of seconds," the statement said.  "Search is not used to set a political agenda, and we don't bias our results toward any political ideology.  Every year, we issue hundreds of improvements to our algorithms to ensure they surface high-quality content in response to users' queries.  We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment."

Even if one considers Google’s algorithmic factors to be "biases," that doesn’t necessarily mean they are ideological biases.  Searches, for instance, are widely believed to favor newer content and original sources rather than aggregations.

At the very least, there should be a fair amount of variability in search results over time.  A study made during one snapshot in time, such as the one published in PJ Media, will not produce the same results a few hours later, as new articles come online.

Bolyard, in an email interview with PolitiFact, noted that she mentioned some of the caveats in her article.  In the article, she cautioned that "factors such as the relevance of the topic, the design of the website, internal and external links, and the way articles are written and formatted all can affect a site's Google traffic.  Google is constantly tweaking their algorithm, and a website's traffic prospects can rise or fall depending on the changes."

However, Trump made no indication in his tweets that the findings could be chalked up to anything beyond ideological bias.

Rating news outlets’ ideology

A more problematic aspect of the study is the metric used to label websites.

To determine "left" and "right," Bolyard used a chart of media outlets assembled by Sharyl Attkisson, a former CBS correspondent who hosts the Sunday morning program "Full Measure" for Sinclair Broadcasting, a network of local stations that has taken a pro-Trump editorial stance.

Here’s the version of the chart Bolyard linked to:

The chart is not neutral evidence supporting Trump’s point, and it labels anything not overtly conservative as "left.  In the "left" category are such rigorously mainstream outlets as the Associated Press and Reuters.  The three big broadcast networks — ABC, NBC, CBS — are considered "left," as are the Washington Post and the New York Times.  Other media outlets that produce a large amount of content every day, including CNN, NPR, Politico, USA Today, and CNBC, are labeled "left."

This means that most of media entities that produce large amounts of widely read and cited news content -- factors that might well give them a leg up in the Google algorithm -- are defined by the chart, and thus by the PJ Media study, as "left-wing."  So, by its design, the study guarantees that an enormous percentage of Trump news coverage would falls into what the chart defines as "left."

Full disclosure:  PolitiFact and its owner, the Poynter Institute, are both listed on the chart as left of center.  We actually consider ourselves not to have an ideological leaning.

"It’s a ‘study’ designed to come up with the outcome it came up with, and it did just that," Chip Stewart, a professor at Texas Christian University’s Bob Schieffer College of Communication.

Moreover, the "left" category lumps these large-staffed, comprehensive news outlets in with genuinely liberal-to-left outlets, such as the Daily Kos, Salon, the Nation, Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, and Media Matters.

A more revealing comparison would be to compare search results of truly left-wing sites vs. truly right-wing sites.

In a written description of the chart, Attkisson acknowledged that the graphic is "subjective" and writes that "position on the chart doesn’t necessarily imply credibility or lack thereof.  Sources on far right and far left have, in many instances, produced excellent, factually correct information at times."

Bolyard agreed that "any chart that attempts to quantify media bias is going to be inherently subjective."  But she added that "while it may be fair to quibble with Attkisson's assertion about how far left-of-center some major media outlets are, I think it's entirely fair to say that outlets like NBC, the New York Times, and CNN skew to the left, especially in their coverage of the President."

Stewart, however, rejected the notion that the algorithm has ideological bias.

"A far more plausible explanation is that the items that drive the algorithm — links, shares, etc. — are more common among the so-called liberal publications, which have a long track record of credible journalism and try to cater to a wider audience," he said.

Either way, Trump used the 96 percent figure without taking into account any of these methodological concerns.

Our ruling

Trump tweeted that "96 percent of (Google News) results on ‘Trump News’ are from National Left-Wing Media."

This figure is based on a non-scientific study from a conservative website that categorized any media outlet not expressly conservative as being part of the "left."  These outlets include wire services, broadcast networks and most major newspapers and collectively account for a large percentage of original news reports produced in the United States.  The methodology essentially preordains that a large percentage of coverage captured by Google will be what the study defines as "left," which is wrong.

We rate the statement False.

Monday, August 27, 2018

AMERICA MOURNS - John McCain 8/29/1936 - 8/25/2018

John McCain Dies at 81

"Honoring John McCain’s lifetime of public service, America mourns" PBS NewsHour 8/26/2018


SUMMARY:  The country’s top leaders mourned on Sunday news that Sen. John McCain, Republican leader and two-time presidential candidate, died at his home in Arizona on Saturday.  From the former director of the CIA David Petraeus to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, they talked about his legacy of public service and commitment to values.  Hari Sreenivasan reports.

"A personal look at John McCain’s political impact" PBS NewsHour 8/26/2018


SUMMARY:  The death of Sen. John McCain, has brought recognition and mourning from all corners of American political life.  NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield points to a contrast between McCain’s close relationships with people on both sides of the political aisle and a current, divisive political environment.  He joins Hari Sreenivasan for more on McCain's legacy.

OPINION - Brooks and Klein 8/24/2018

"Brooks and Klein on Trump’s ‘moral affront’ and the rule of law" PBS NewsHour 8/24/2018


SUMMARY:  It’s been a dramatic week for President Trump and some of his former associates.  New York Times columnist David Brooks and Ezra Klein from Vox join Judy Woodruff to discuss the President's legal and moral standing, emerging patterns among the circle of Trump intimates, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the rule of law, and the final episodes of 'great man' John McCain.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  But first to the analysis of Brooks and Klein.

That is New York Times columnist David Brooks and Ezra Klein of  Mark Shields is away.

Hello to both of you.

It’s Friday.  And I say this every week.  What a week.  But it really is what a week.

David, this week, we saw the President’s former campaign chairman, manager being found guilty of some very serious charges, a number of felonies.  We saw the President’s personal lawyer, former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleading guilty to a number of serious crimes.

Where does this leave the President?

David Brooks, New York Times:  I think hurt.

But the debate a lot of my friends are having, is this the unraveling moment?  And I personally do not think it is.  It may lead to the unraveling moment.

But the Manafort conviction is on matters that were scarcely related to Donald Trump.  The Cohen conviction is about a campaign finance law.  I mean, to me, one of the things — weird things about our culture is, the President of the United States paid off two porn stars to keep them silent from an affair, and we’re talking about campaign finance.

To me, the moral affront is so gigantic.  The legal affront seems to me less.  And so I don’t think that’s the kind of — whether the — whether Michael Cohen fronted him some money to pay off the hush money, that doesn’t strike me as the sort of thing that really alters a presidency.

It does open up a lot of legal avenues.  And as the prosecution grants people immunity, the thing about these special prosecutors is, you don’t know where they’re going.  And so they may start out with Russia collusions, they may wind up with Stormy Daniels, and then they’re off to the races.

And so, assuming Donald Trump did something else in his life, it seems to me a lot more likely they’re going to find that.

Judy Woodruff:  So, Ezra, I mean, just the fact, though, that these two people who are — had such a prominent role for — working for the President in his campaign for presidency, the campaign, and then the person who was his personal — they called him fixer, lawyer, whatever you want to call it, somebody close to him, Michael Cohen.

Ezra Klein,  Yes, it does seem like a tremendous coincidence that there was so much criminality and thuggish behavior all around Trump.

I think the thing that is important here is twofold.  Number one is what we’re actually seeing is tolerated around Donald Trump.  David’s right that I don’t think we know where any of this ends.  And I’m not sure that the things we have found out so far are going to lead to the unraveling or lead to impeachment.

But we only know what we know.  And what we also know is, there’s a huge amount we don’t know about the Donald Trump Organization, about the connections with Russia.  We know that Bob Mueller knows a lot more than we know.

And so, as we see different things come out, as you see what kind of behavior was tolerated, and even encouraged, right — the Michael Cohen behavior appears to have been directed by Donald Trump within the Trump Organization — that should change our estimation of what is going on in the things we don’t know.

The second thing that I just think is interesting and telling this week is Donald Trump coming out and saying that he thinks it ought to be illegal or potentially ought to be illegal, for low-level criminals to flip on their bosses, coming out and saying that what he really hates is rats.

We have a sort of President now saying that what he doesn’t like is snitches.  And people who don’t think they have a lot to hide don’t come out with principled objections to that kind of prosecutorial pressure.

Judy Woodruff:  Well, I don’t know whether we’re calling them flip — people who flip or not, David, but you have got the man we have been talking about tonight, Allen Weisselberg, who’s the man with the knowledge of the money inside the Trump business organization, on top of his good friend, a man named David Pecker, who runs the company that runs The National Enquirer.

They’re both cooperating.  They have been given immunity.

David Brooks:  And Cohen and, before that, Omarosa.

Judy Woodruff:  Right.

David Brooks:  I mean, one thing we have learned about Donald Trump is that he does't inspire a lot of lifelong personal loyalty, that, if you’re working with Trump, it’s not personal, it’s business.

And he turns on people like a dime.  And, as a result, people turn on him like a dime.  And so you have a lot of people who are loyal for pragmatic reasons right now in the White House and in the Republican Party, but it’s not because of any affection.

And so the lesson is, if things turn, they will probably turn all at once.  If it’s no longer useful to pretend you like Donald Trump, people are going to stop liking Donald Trump.  And so when something — if there is something big out there — and I want to caution us, we don’t know.

Judy Woodruff:  That’s true.


David Brooks:  But if there is something big out there, you will see a turn all at once, because there’s just not a lot of love there holding people to loyalty.

Judy Woodruff:  But is the President already weakened by this, Ezra, or do we just wait and watch and withhold judgment?

Ezra Klein:  I mean, I do think he’s weakened.  The question is weakened in what and in what way.

Long term, I think people underestimate how important Donald Trump’s drain the swamp, anti-corruption plank was to his 2016 victory.  It was a very close election.  And if you look at the final polls — there was a Washington Post/ABC News poll from just a couple days before the election.

The single category on which Trump led Hillary Clinton was corruption.  He was tied on the economy.  He was behind on immigration and national security and other things.  But people believed in him to clean up Washington, or at least believed in him more than they believed in her to do that.

Donald Trump has now had multiple Cabinet secretaries resign for corruption.  He’s had key people around him go to jail.  He’s under constant investigation.  Things around his family are very strange.

To give up that is going to be rough for the Republicans in 2018.  That’s already becoming an issue for the Democrats.  But, in 2020, I do think people underestimate how much more difficult it is going to be for him to run as the person who is now a paragon of Washington corruption, as opposed to its key enemy.

Judy Woodruff:  Well, how do you see that, David?

David Brooks:  It could be.

I mean, if you look at the polling — Ezra would know this better than me, but I saw in AP today where he was down to 38, so maybe there is some slippage.

I would just say, from my personal experience — I was with a lot of — some Trump people this week in North and South Carolina.  First of all, we didn’t talk about it.  We talked about politics and life in general.  But these scandals were just off the radar screen.

I certainly didn’t detect anybody who was a Trump supporter not being a Trump supporter.  So, as long as he has a death grip on the Republican Party, and as long as that death grip — or the loyalty is to Trump himself and not to the party, not to any position, which I think it is, he’s where he has been, with a very solid party really wrapped around his finger right now.

Judy Woodruff:  But, Ezra, this does seem to be giving pause to at least some of the Republicans.  They’re not abandoning him yet, but, in their language, in the way they’re talking about this, you sense a — I don’t know, a discomfort, at the very least.

Ezra Klein:  I think has been — I think there’s a lot of discomfort lurking very, very close to the surface.


Ezra Klein:  But, in general, I think this something that we always need to be careful with.

I think the media has a tendency to think about Trump’s support as this one kind of thing.  And so we will go and talk to very die-hard Trump supporters and say, OK, do you still support Donald Trump?  And they will say, of course I do.

Donald Trump clearly has a base of support, and it’s big.  It looks to be around 30-ish percentage points in the polls.  There’s a Morning Consult that — this is way too early to do, but matched Donald Trump up against every Democrat they could think of.

And what was surprising was that the support for Democrats varied a lot, from people like Joe Biden, who people knew, to Montana Governor Bullock, who they didn’t.  But what didn’t change was Trump supporters, always right around 30 percent.

The key for Trump is not strong Republicans who support him.  The question is that sort of 5, 10 percentage points that pushed them over the edge.  That’s the people who he can’t lose.  And while they’re probably not paying a huge amount of in-and-out attention — a lot of these folks might be less attached to politics than, say, the people in this room — they’re also not die-hard Trump supporters.

And if they begin to think he is part of the problem, that’s where things get very dangerous for him, because his margins have been small.  And, also, the coming election is 2018.  And Republicans, they don’t have his personal charisma.

NEWSHOUR SHARES - Four-Legged Mowing System

"How a four-legged mowing system keeps solar farms producing energy" PBS NewsHour 8/24/2018


SUMMARY:  Despite the advantages they offer in terms of leveraging renewable resources, solar farms also bring with them special challenges.  Among these is controlling vegetation growth around the panels--essential for ensuring a consistent, stable power source, but a laborious and time-consuming task.  While some facilities use traditional or automated lawn mowers, others are taking a four-legged approach.

AMERICAN CREATORS - Rural Oregon Theater

"In rural Oregon, regional theater sparks a creative revival" PBS NewsHour 8/24/2018


SUMMARY:  A remote area of the Pacific Northwest might not sound like a top theater destination.  But as Jeffrey Brown reports, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival has sparked a wave of creative and economic growth in rural Ashland.  One of the country’s most important regional theater companies, OSF is acclaimed for provocative show content, community engagement and unusually diverse casting.

MAKING SEN$E - Taking Stock

"Why recent stock market gains might not benefit the economy" PBS NewsHour 8/23/2018


SUMMARY:  This week has marked the longest uninterrupted stock market gains in U.S. history, thanks in part to a steady economic recovery now nine years old.  But another driver is the growth of stock buybacks: companies purchasing their own shares.  Whether this practice benefits the larger economy is very much in question.  Economics correspondent Paul Solman has more in his weekly series, Making Sense.

SUPREME COURT - Kavanaugh on Abortion

"Despite reference to settled law, ‘all bets are off’ for Kavanaugh on abortion" PBS NewsHour 8/23/2018


SUMMARY:  In just 12 days, President Trump's Supreme Court pick will face contentious hearings before the U.S. Senate.  Where does nominee Brett Kavanaugh stand on key issues?  Lisa Desjardins, and CNN Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic, join Judy Woodruff to analyze Kavanaugh’s judicial record and recent statements on the politically charged topic of abortion, including whether Roe v. Wade is 'settled law.'

TRUMP TRADE WAR - Made in China

"Where China’s plan to be a global tech leader collides with Trump’s trade war" PBS NewsHour 8/23/2018


SUMMARY:  President Trump's trade war with China escalated Thursday as the U.S. imposed a 25-percent tariff on nearly 300 more Chinese goods, including the high-tech products China is seeking to grow as part of its "Made in China 2025" initiative.  As special correspondent Katrina Yu reports, critics of the Chinese plan say it harms American companies – and the international market.

TRUMP - In Legal Cross-Hairs

"What we know about Don McGahn’s cooperation with the Mueller probe" PBS NewsHour 8/20/2018


SUMMARY:  Another member of President Trump's team has been working with special counsel Robert Mueller, according to the New York TimesWhite House Counsel Don McGahn has reportedly shared detailed accounts about events at the heart of the investigation.  Amna Nawaz reports, and Judy Woodruff talks with former deputy independent counsel Solomon Wisenberg, and former White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler.

"What does Michael Cohen’s guilty plea mean for Trump?" PBS NewsHour 8/21/2018


SUMMARY:  President Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty on Tuesday to charges including campaign finance violations for paying off women at Trump's direction, bank fraud and more than $4 million in tax evasion.  The deal could result in prison time.  Judy Woodruff learns more from Jessica Roth of Yeshiva University Cardozo School of Law, [and] Andrea Bernstein of WNYC.

"How Paul Manafort’s conviction could affect the Russia probe" PBS NewsHour 8/21/2018


SUMMARY:  A jury found President Trump's 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort guilty on eight counts of bank and tax fraud, and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts.  A mistrial was declared on 10 other counts.  Judy Woodruff learns more from William Brangham and Jessica Roth of Yeshiva University Cardozo School of Law.

"How are Republicans and Democrats reacting to Cohen and Manafort charges?" PBS NewsHour 8/22/2018


SUMMARY:  Fallout continued today after a guilty plea and a guilty verdict for two men with close ties to President Trump in federal court on a combined 16 counts, ranging from tax fraud to campaign finance violations.  Yamiche Alcindor, Lisa Desjardins, and Larry Noble a campaign finance expert and former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission, join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest developments.

"Does Cohen plea have legal implications for the President?" PBS NewsHour 8/22/2018


SUMMARY:  Lanny Davis is one of two attorneys representing Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer.  Davis joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the legal implications of Cohen’s guilty plea, whether he plans to share information with the Mueller investigation and his desire to go forward with truth in his new life.

"Former AG Mukasey: there’s ‘not really’ an election law problem with Cohen" PBS NewsHour 8/22/2018


SUMMARY:  For another perspective on Michael Cohen’s guilty plea, Judy Woodruff is joined by a former attorney general under President George W. Bush, Michael Mukasey.  According to Mukasey, the payment in question would have violated campaign finance law only if its sole purpose was to influence the outcome of an election, which Mukasey says was not the case.

"Cohen crimes ‘totally unrelated to the campaign,’ says Trump" PBS NewsHour 8/23/2018


SUMMARY:  President Trump today reiterated his belief that he is not implicated by the guilty pleas of his former lawyer, Michael Cohen.  The President expressed frustration that he should be associated with Cohen’s crimes, saying they were “totally unrelated to the campaign.”  Also, another longtime Trump friend is reportedly preparing to share additional information about the hush money payments Cohen made.

"A second top Trump associate receives legal immunity" PBS NewsHour 8/24/2018


SUMMARY:  In exchange for immunity, the Trump Organization's chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, will reportedly talk to investigators about the reimbursements he helped arrange to Michael Cohen.  Judy Woodruff gets analysis from Renato Mariotti a former federal prosecutor experienced in trying white-collar crime, and Caleb Melby who covers business and the Trump Organization for Bloomberg News.

CYBERSECURITY - Offense & Defense

What do you expect?  The hacking got Trump in the White House and Republicans in the driver seat.  'They' are not really going to stop that.

"Playing offense and defense in the face of cybersecurity threats" PBS NewsHour 8/22/2018


SUMMARY:  In the past 48 hours, findings have been released regarding attempts by hackers to influence the midterm elections.  Now, the Democratic National Committee has reportedly asked the FBI to investigate an attempt to infiltrate its voter database.  Nick Schifrin joins Amna Nawaz to discuss what groups might be responsible for hacking and what preventive measures are being deployed.


"Why our culture is a seed, not a treasure" PBS NewsHour 8/20/2018


SUMMARY:  Our culture and heritage is part of who we are.  But if we treat it as something that can't change, if we feel threatened by other cultures, says award-winning children's books author Grace Lin, "we make our lives smaller."  Lin shares her humble opinion on the importance of allowing culture to change.

2018 MIDTERMS - Nevada Senate

"Immigration is on voters’ minds in key Nevada Senate race" PBS NewsHour 8/20/2018


SUMMARY:  Many consider Nevada's Sen. Dean Heller the most vulnerable Republican in the Senate this fall.  President Trump has loomed large in the race, but public support for Trump there has been sliding, and the state went for the Democrat in the last three presidential elections.  Yamiche Alcindor talks with voters about why immigration is their number one issue heading into the midterm elections.

CLOSER LOOK - Manafort and Cohen

My answer to headline, arrogance.

"Why Manafort and Cohen Thought They’d Get Away With It" by Jesse Eisinge, ProPublica 8/24/2018

It takes a special counsel to actually catch white-collar criminals.

This article was co-published with The New York Times.

Oh, the audacity of dopes.  The crimes of Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen are notable not just for how blatant they were but also for their lack of sophistication.  The two men did little to hide their lying to banks and the Internal Revenue Service.  One can almost sympathize with them: If it wasn’t for their decision to attach themselves to the most unlikely President in modern history, there’s every reason to think they might be still working their frauds today.

But how anomalous are Mssrs. Manafort and Cohen?  Are there legions of K Street big shots working for foreign despots and parking their riches in Cypriot bank accounts to avoid the IRS?  Are many political campaigns walking felonies waiting to be exposed?  What about the world of luxury residential building in which Cohen plied his trade with the Trump Organization?

The answer is more disturbing than the questions: We don’t know.  We don’t know because the cops aren’t on the beat.  Resources have been stripped from white-collar enforcement.  The FBI shifted agents to work on international terror in the wake of 9/11.  White-collar cases made up about one-tenth of the Justice Department’s cases in recent years, compared with one-fifth in the early 1990s.  The IRS’ criminal enforcement capabilities have been decimated by years of budget cuts and attrition.  The Federal Election Commission is a toothless organization that is widely flouted.

No wonder Cohen and Manafort were so brazen.  They must have felt they had impunity.

How could they not?  Any person in any bar in America can tell you who was held accountable for the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, which peaked 10 years ago next month: No one.  No top officer from any major bank went to prison.

But the problem goes beyond big banks.  The Department of Justice — in both Democratic and Republican administrations — has lost the will and ability to prosecute top executives across corporate America, at large industrial firms, tech giants, retailers, drug makers and so on.  Instead the Department of Justice reaches settlements with corporations, which pay in dollars instead of the liberty of their top officers and directors.

Beginning with a charge to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election, special counsel Robert Mueller has fallen upon a rash of other crimes.  In doing so, he has exposed how widespread and serious our white-collar fraud problem really is, and how lax enforcement has been for years.

At least he is also showing a way out of the problem.  He and his team are demonstrating that the proper attention, resources, technique and experience can go a long way to rectify the white-collar prosecution crisis.

What’s Mueller’s secret?  For one thing, he has a focus.  He and his team have sufficient resources to go after a discrete set of investigations.  In the early 2000s, the Justice Department had similar success setting up the Enron Task Force, a special SWAT team of government lawyers that prosecuted top executives of the failed Texas energy trader.  That contrasts with the financial crisis, when the Justice Department never created a similar task force.  No single department official was responsible for the prosecutions of bankers after the global meltdown.

The investigation’s techniques are also instructive.  The Southern District of New York, which was referred the Cohen case by Mueller, raided President Trump’s former attorney’s offices and fought for access to the materials, even as Cohen asserted attorney-client privilege.  When federal prosecutors investigate large companies, out of custom and deference they rarely use such aggressive tactics.  They place few wiretaps, conduct almost no undercover operations and do almost no raids.  Instead government attorneys reach carefully negotiated agreements about which documents they can review, the product of many hours of discussion with high-powered law firms on behalf of their clients.  All the battles over privileged materials happen behind closed doors and without the benefit of a disinterested special master, as the Cohen case had.

Indeed it’s worse than that.  The government has essentially privatized corporate law enforcement.  The government effectively outsources the investigations to the companies themselves.  The companies, typically trying to appear cooperative or to forestall government action, hire law firms to do internal investigations.  Imagine if Mueller relied on Trump to investigate whether he colluded with the Russians or violated any other laws, and Trump hired Rudy Giuliani’s firm to do the probe.

The aggressive Mueller techniques have yielded the most crucial element for white-collar cases: flippers; i.e., wrongdoers who agree to testify against their co-conspirators.  Rick Gates, the Manafort protégé, helped tighten his mentor’s noose.  We are going to see in the next few months how many people flip and what they will say.  No wonder President Trump mused that flipping “almost ought to be illegal.”

Mueller’s experience has given him the courage to take cases to trial, where juries are mercurial and the federal bench has turned hostile.  Mueller’s prosecutors tried a “thin case” against Manafort, as the expression goes, boiling their evidence down to a few elements that the jury could absorb easily.  They even managed to overcome the open hostility of U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis.  Good prosecutors are used to that in white-collar cases.  Judges and justices have not looked favorably upon white-collar prosecutions for more than a decade now, overturning verdicts and narrowing statutes.  But with well-marshaled evidence and clear presentation, prosecutors can surmount the difficulties.

Moreover, Mueller isn’t looking to go soft in order to preserve his professional viability.  I’m assuming that at age 74, he’s not going to go through the revolving door after this.  That hasn’t been true for most top Justice Department officials in recent years.  Many of them come from the defense bar and when they leave government they go back to defending large corporations.  The same goes with the younger prosecutors who negotiate those corporate settlements.  Almost all go on to become corporate defense attorneys.  In those negotiations, they are auditioning for their next jobs, wanting to display their dazzling smarts but also eventually needing to appear like reasonable people and avoid being depicted by the white-collar bar as cowboys unworthy of a prestigious partnership.

Of course, we don’t know whether Mueller can go all the way to the top.  The big issue in white-collar crime is whether the Justice Department can prosecute CEOs.  Sure, it occasionally brings charges against lower-level executives of major corporations, but hasn’t held the chief of a Fortune 500 company accountable in more than a decade.  While most observers believe Mueller will adhere to policy and not indict the President, will his report to Congress implicate the chief executive of the United States, if the evidence warrants it?

One man cannot fix the large problem on his own, however.  “For these individual episodic financial crimes, the government can muster the capacity and courage to investigate and prosecute,” says Paul Pelletier, a former federal prosecutor who recently ran for Congress in a Democratic primary.  “The real question is whether, in the context of a national economic crisis, the Department of Justice has sufficient experience, resources and leadership to effectively tackle it.  I’d argue that it’s pretty obvious it does not.”

For that, the Justice Department requires more resources and bodies than the government devotes to white-collar crime today, and probably some changes in the law.

Nevertheless, this should be a moment of reflection for white-collar prosecutors.  It should not take a special counsel to uncover millions in bank fraud, money laundering and tax evasion.  Using proper techniques, prioritizing crimes that can harm millions of people and stiffening their obsequious posture toward corporate executives will go a ways to remedying the situation.

Here’s the bad news, which will be the least surprising thing you’ll read today: the Trump administration is moving in the opposite direction.  Its law enforcement agencies are engaged in something of a regulatory strike, especially when it comes to white-collar enforcement.  Regulators are not policing companies or industries and are not referring cases to the Justice Department.  The number of white-collar cases filed against individuals is lower than at any time in more than 20 years, according to research done by Syracuse University.  The Justice Department’s fines against companies fell 90 percent during Trump’s first year in office, compared with in Obama’s last year in office, according to Public Citizen.

That must be sweet music to not just to other Manaforts and Cohens but also any corporate malefactors out there.

Friday, August 24, 2018

TRUMP - The Hush Money

"Donald Trump and hush money: Is it legal?  Is it any worse than jaywalking?" by Jon Greenberg, PolitiFact 8/23/2018

Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard law school professor emeritus who often throws cold water on the dreams of anti-Trumpers, downplayed the significance of the latest revelations from Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer.

Cohen told a federal judge Aug. 21 that Trump had directed him to pay two women $150,000 and $130,000 respectively to stay silent about their alleged affairs with Trump.  In a federal court filing, Cohen said this was done to "influence the 2016 Presidential election."

Dershowitz said even if true, this hardly amounts to an impeachable offense.

"Any candidate has the right to pay hush money to somebody to influence the outcome of the election," he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Aug. 21.  "The next question is whether it has to be reported, and is that a technical violation?  When you think how many technical violations the Obama campaign committed and every other campaign committed, failure to report a contribution by the candidate itself is essentially jaywalking."

Assessing the legality of paying hush money comes down to a matter of legal opinion, not a fact-check.  But one possibility is clear: On a legal basis, what Cohen described implicates Trump in something much more serious than a failure to fill out paperwork.

To recap the basics, Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model, and Stormy Daniels, the stage name of Stephanie Clifford, who directs and acts in pornographic films, have said they had sex with Trump.  Trump has denied their stories.  They had plans to go public.  Both woman have said they were paid to keep quiet in the months leading up to election day 2016.

Personal or campaign expenses

The key divide among legal scholars is whether the payments should be seen as essentially personal.

Federal election law says something is personal if a candidate would have incurred the cost regardless of the campaign.  The technical language is an expense that would "exist irrespective of the candidate’s election campaign."

So painting your house to make it look good in a campaign commercial wouldn’t be a campaign expense because sooner or later, every house needs a paint job.

"Paying blackmail for activities unrelated to the campaign is simply not a campaign expense," said Bradley Smith, former chair of the Federal Election Commission and law professor at Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio.  "It is certainly legal for a candidate to pay hush money from other funds — other than campaign funds — even though it may benefit him as a candidate."

Smith said Trump could have had a couple good reasons to pay McDougal and Daniels, including "family harmony and commercial viability."  Both considerations existed outside of Trump running for President.

If the payments weren’t strictly for the Trump campaign, then federal election law doesn’t apply.

It can, however, prove tricky to separate the personal from the campaign.  Former Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards faced charges that he made sure funds went to a mistress to hide their relationship.  But prosecutors were unable to prove that the friends of Edwards who provided the money did so to further his campaign rather than protect his terminally ill wife from hearing such painful news.

Trump’s liberal use of his own money to finance his campaign makes it harder to separate the personal from the campaign.  Candidates face no contribution limits, and he spent over $60 million to get himself elected.

Trump himself told Fox News Aug. 22 that it wasn’t a campaign expense, because he paid it himself.

But at the end of the day, the personal vs. campaign test isn’t based on the account the money came from, but whether the cost would have come regardless of Trump running for office.

If it were for the campaign

For Jerry Goldfeder, an attorney and author of a key law school text on election law, Cohen’s statement opens the door to some serious legal risks.

"I can recall no instance of a candidate paying ‘hush money,’ and cannot imagine the Federal Election Commission finding the Trump-Cohen payment to be a legal use of campaign funds," said Goldfeder, who is special counsel at 'Stroock & Stroock & Lavan.'

In the court filings, Cohen admitted that he "knowingly and willfully made and caused to be made a contribution to Individual-1 (identified as ‘a person who became President of the United States’) ... and his authorized political committee in excess of the limits of the Election Act ... and did so by making and causing to be made an expenditure, in cooperation, consultation, and concert with, and at the request and suggestion of one or more members of the campaign."

Cohen specifically said that the payments were "to ensure" that the two women "did not publicize damaging allegations before the 2016 Presidential election."  He said all this was to influence the election.  That in itself, though, wouldn’t necessarily make them illegal.

In a post on the Harvard Law Review blog, Harvard Law School lecturer Thomas Frampton cited a couple of Federal Election Commission rulings that said campaigns can spend money to fend off unfavorable publicity.  For example, former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey was allowed to hire a public relations firm after the New York Times reported his possible ties to the massacre of civilians in Vietnam.  If Kerrey hadn’t been a senator, the story might never have been investigated.

"Trump’s efforts to head-off the PR disaster that would have been Daniels’ press tour might count as a valid use of campaign resources," Frampton wrote Jan. 29.

Beyond technical lapses

Dershowitz put the legal hazard on par with jaywalking.  A failure to tell the Federal Election Commission about a legal expenditure would hardly be the crime of the century.

But Northwestern University election law professor Michael Kang sees more.

"I think the differences here from the typical technical violations of campaign finance law are the size of the payments, which are far larger than the usual routine campaign finance violations, and the level of intentionality that we’re discovering," Kang said.

Intentionality is key.

Cohen described a careful process to pay McDougal and Daniels in ways that would fly beneath the radar.  He created two shell companies to hide the source of the funds.  He fronted the money, then submitted invoices for legal work he never did to get repaid by Trump.

And this is where the real legal hazard comes in.

That effort could run afoul of federal election law’s "knowing and willful" standard.  While most reporting violations involve systemic accounting lapses that draw fines, a conscious scheme to keep activities hidden can trigger criminal penalties with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Trump tweeted Aug. 22, "President Obama had a big campaign finance violation and it was easily settled!"

The 2008 Obama campaign did pay a $375,000 fine for failing to file 48-hour reports on about 1,300 late arriving contributions worth about $1.8 million.  But the Federal Election Commission treated that as an administrative infraction, not a ploy to deceive the public.

If Trump were in the dark about the payments, Frampton wrote, he would be on safe ground.  But "if he was involved in orchestrating the pay-off," he could face charges.

Cohen says Trump was fully aware. 

The case for Trump may turn on whether he actually was.

Monday, August 20, 2018

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 8/17/2018

"Shields and Brooks on ‘reality show’ rules and midterm prospects" PBS NewsHour 8/17/2018


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including how President Trump has "politicized" security clearances, the rules of a reality TV White House and why diversity and loyalty to the administration will be two top issues in November’s elections.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  And now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Hello, gentlemen.

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  Judy.

Judy Woodruff:  It’s good to see you both.

So, let’s start with the President and security clearances.

He is moving, David, this week to take away the security clearance — he did — of former CIA Director John Brennan, says he doesn’t like what he’s been saying and doing.  He’s threatening to take away another one from a sitting, a current Justice Department official.

And he says this has been well-received, but what we’re seeing is, frankly, a flood of criticism, disagreement from the intelligence community, and including a letter from 15 top-ranking officials yesterday, 60 more tonight.

The Navy admiral, retired, who ran the Osama bin Laden raid, put out his own statement, call — defending John Brennan, whose clearance was taken away, and offering to have his own security clearance, give that up for the President.

What has Donald Trump accomplished by doing this?

David Brooks, New York Times:  Well, I mean, he’s politicized something that probably shouldn’t be politicized.

But I confess I have trouble getting my knickers in a twist about this one.  A lot of us don’t have security clearances.  It doesn’t seem to be a problem in life.  The reason they keep people on security clearance after their time in office is so they can offer advice.

And I think, frankly, it’s a little of a vanity thing, that people get to say, I still have my security clearance.  And so, when it’s taken away — but John Brennan wasn’t giving the Trump administration advice anyway.

And so the idea they have to live without security clearance after they have been out of office doesn’t strike me as one of Donald Trump’s most massive transgressions in office.  It doesn’t strike me particularly as a free speech issue.

John Brennan, the rest of us without security clearance are perfectly free to have our speech.  And I guess there is some disadvantage, career disadvantage, to people who may be younger, but of the top 5,000 Trump transgressions, I wouldn’t put this high on the charts.

Judy Woodruff:  Not a massive transgression, Mark?

Mark Shields:  I disagree with David.

I begin with William McRaven, the former commander of the U.S. Special Command, who did lead the raid that took out Osama bin Laden in 2011, who is a retired admiral, who is not, let it be noted, talking head on television, never has been.  He’s not somebody who comments.

He has been the chancellor of the University of Texas.  He was known as Bull Frog, because that’s the senior member of the Navy SEALs, and he was the senior member of the Navy SEALs.  He was a thoroughgoing professional.

And he emerged.  And HE not only defended John Brennan, whom Donald Trump made it quite clear he’s attacking, he’s attacking because of the Russian investigation.  He blames him, just as he got rid of James Comey, which he admitted, simply because he wanted to get rid of him and because he feared him, not because of the Rod Rosenstein memo on Comey’s dispassionate — less-than-dispassionate activity in the Hillary Clinton matter.

So what you have is somebody, McRaven, saying the following, “Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children.  You have humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, you have divided us as a country.”

Nobody has a right to a security clearance, but what Donald Trump has done is, he’s politicized it.  And he has — this has never been done before.  Security clearances are lost because of alcoholism, because of drug use, because of behavior that compromises your position with that kind of information.

There was no leaking of confidential information.  If there had been, Donald Trump, who’s not very careful about his charges — remember the birther dispute — certainly would have raised that.

Judy Woodruff:  So, David, what about Mark’s point, politicization, a chilling effect, which is a point that others have made?

David Brooks:  Yes.  No, I agree.  I said it right at the beginning, that I think he’s politicizing something.

And the whole ethos of the whole Trump administration has been, it’s like a family business, and the norms and standards of our government are things they walk all over in pursuit of their own, Donald Trump’s own perpetual feuding, whoever he happens to be feuding with.

So I don’t want to emerge as the great defender of Donald Trump on this.  I agree with the statements that have been made against him, but it just strikes me as — you know, it’s — will it have a chilling effect?  I can’t imagine anybody of conscience, which I take Brennan to be, would inhibit his own statement of the truth because he’s going to — as a retiree, he’s getting his security clearance taken away.

And so I just — again, I don’t want to seem like I’m defending Trump.  I just don’t think — it doesn’t rise to me to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors.

Judy Woodruff:  Mark, the other person the President is attacking this week, on a different — from a different direction, is a woman who was very close to him, worked for him as an associate going back to the days of “The Apprentice,” the reality TV show he did for many years, goes back, I guess, 15 years, Omarosa Manigault-Newman.

She’s written a book.  It’s very — it’s harshly critical of the President.  A lot of people have questioned her credibility, but now she’s produced audio recordings to back up what is in the book.  And we have learned now that there are video recordings as well.

She — when I interviewed her this week, she talked about it being a multimedia show.

Does either side of this story come out?  Do we learn something, I guess, is the question, from this new exchange between the President and somebody who until just, what, earlier this year was a good friend of his?

Mark Shields:  Yes.

I mean, in a White House where most of the people are recent acquaintances of the President, she goes back longer than anybody, except the President’s daughter.  She goes back 15 years.  She is a Donald Trump protege and product.

Her record for integrity is spotty at best.  When Donald Trump made his famous announcement, the race-baiting announcement for President, she said, this will go down in history as the greatest announcement for President in the history of American politics.

And when asked about Donald Trump’s baiting of Mexican Americans, she said, that’s just Donald being Donald.

But what she does, obviously, like Elizabeth Warren, she gets under Donald Trump’s skin.  And she has said things that, you know, may be subject to fact-check, but the reality is, she has tape.  She has tape of Donald Trump groveling before her, pretending that he didn’t know that John Kelly had the day before brought her to the Situation Room, and say, this isn’t — I can’t — I’m just surprised, which therefore confirms the suspicion widely held that Donald Trump doesn’t have the stomach for confronting people who work for him, that he lies.

And you can see that he obviously is absolutely upset by her, and she’s got everybody in the White House, every male, quaking in his Guccis about those tapes.  I can tell you that.

Judy Woodruff:  So she’s gotten under his skin, David.  And where do we go from here with this?  We’re waiting to see what else she has.

David Brooks:  Well, what’s interesting about her is, she plays by reality show rules.  She plays by Trump rules.

And most people who go against Trump don’t quite play by his rules.  And she plays by his rules, which is no rules, that do whatever you can, it doesn’t matter what the norms and standards are.

And taping somebody in the Situation Room is a rather serious offense and, to me, a pretty great betrayal of any — how any White House should work.

Judy Woodruff:  The room where she was fired.

David Brooks:  Right.

I mean, if we’re walking around each other in the hallway taping each other, just think about doing that.  That’s just a betrayal of how normal life should happen.

Mark Shields:  Is this being taped?

David Brooks:  Yes.


David Brooks:  This actually is being taped.


And so she said, they’re going to lie about me, they’re going to screw me, so I’m ready.

Mark Shields:  She did.

David Brooks:  And she played by their rules.

And so we’re getting a lesson in what reality TV morality looks like.  And it is turning into just a reality TV show.  The serious part — so I think they all look bad, frankly.

The serious part is that it’s — and especially the allegation, which she says with great conviction, that he used the N-word on a videotape back in “Apprentice” days — and if, as she says, is going to be used as an October surprise, then that puts race at the center of our electoral politics.

And all sorts of signs are pointing in this direction, that we’re going to wind up with an election where our political divides completely overlap — well, not completely, but largely overlap about racial divides.

And that’s just a ruinous prospect, that people are basically going to be voting, when race is a hot button issue, with a man who has a history of bigoted comments, and then voting along those lines.

UNITED KINGDOM - Brexit, Major Disruptions?

IMHO:  Brexit, sorry to say, was the biggest mistake the British voter made.

"Leaving EU without a Brexit deal could cause major disruptions in UK" PBS NewsHour 8/17/2018


SUMMARY:  Two years ago, British voters decided in a bitter referendum to quit the European Union.  Now the country's imminent departure, possibly without an agreement between the two bodies, could cause chaos.  Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports on how Brexit has divided Britain and how some are preparing for a potentially difficult economic fallout.

MEMORIAM - Aretha Franklin

"Remembering Aretha Franklin, the soulful voice of our time" PBS NewsHour 8/16/2018


SUMMARY:  A legend is gone.  Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul,” died Thursday at age 76 in Detroit from pancreatic cancer.  One of the best-selling musical artists of all times, she defined a generation of music with countless hits like “Think” and “Respect.” Judy Woodruff gets remembrances from Chris Richards of the Washington Post, and opera singer Grace Bumbry.

ORGAN TRANSPLANTS - Kidney Donor Market

"The economic principle that powers this kidney donor market" PBS NewsHour 8/16/2018


SUMMARY:  A hundred thousand Americans are on a waiting list for a kidney from a deceased donor.  But another option is the paired-organ exchange [UNOS], which allows living kidney donors who are not a match with their intended recipient to network with others who are.  Economics correspondent Paul Solman reports.

TRUMP AGENDA - 'I Can Do No Wrong' Campaign

"Trump using his unique power to punish and intimidate critics, former CIA official says" PBS NewsHour 8/16/2018


SUMMARY:  President Trump's move to revoke John Brennan's security clearance rippled across Washington, and the former CIA director cast it as a disturbing power play.  And Brennan might not be the only former intelligence or national security official to have his clearance taken away; the President has threatened others as well.  Judy Woodruff gets reaction from former CIA official John McLaughlin.

"Newspapers speak up about Trump’s repeated attacks" PBS NewsHour 8/16/2018


SUMMARY:  A free press is central to our democracy and journalists are not the enemy of the state.  That was the message shared by more than 300 newspaper editorial boards in an extraordinary step Thursday, sparked by a call-out from the Boston Globe.  Judy Woodruff talks with Mike Clark, editorial page editor for the Florida Times-Union, about President Trump’s attacks on the media.

"Journalists Are Not the Enemy" by Editorial Board, Boston Globe 8/16/2018

U.S. MILITARY - Pentagon in the Valley

"How the Pentagon joins forces with Silicon Valley startups" PBS NewsHour 8/15/2018


SUMMARY:  The U.S. military has been closely connected with Silicon Valley since it "started-up" in the 1960s.  More recently, the Defense Department has set up an innovation base [DIUx] of sorts to get closer to the new technology companies they need to help with strategic and tactical needs.  Special correspondent Michael Cerre reports.

AFGHANISTAN - Confidence in Government

"Afghan confidence in government undermined by fresh attacks" PBS NewsHour 8/15/2018


SUMMARY:  Shia teenagers were killed by a suicide bomber at an education center in Kabul on Wednesday.  Meanwhile, residents of the city of Ghazni began to pick up the pieces after a five-day siege between the Taliban and the Afghan Army.  Nick Schifrin discusses the attacks and Taliban tactics with Sultan Faizy, Kabul bureau chief for IHA Network, and former Defense Department official David Sedney.

THE MANAFORT TRIAL - Closing Arguments

The only credibility in question is Trump's.

"How lawyers summed up the Paul Manafort trial in closing arguments" PBS NewsHour 8/15/2018


SUMMARY:  The trial against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was filled with detailed accounting records and a star witness whose credibility is in question.  Prosecutors argue documents prove that Manafort willfully committed bank and tax fraud.  The defense never called a witness, claiming the evidence points to clerical mistakes.  William Brangham joins Amna Nawaz to break it down.

Humm.....Trump pardon promised?

POLITICS IN AMERICA - Breaking Ground, Vote 2018

"Tuesday’s winning Democratic pioneers broke ground and talked policy" PBS NewsHour 8/15/2018


SUMMARY:  It was a night of political firsts for Democrats.  Christine Hallquist is the first openly transgender person to win a major party's nomination for governor.  Jahana Hayes could become the first black woman in Congress from New England.  And Ilhan Omar, a former refugee, is poised to be Congress’ first Somali-American.  Judy Woodruff talks with Lisa Desjardins and Stuart Rothenberg about the results.

PUSHING THE LIMITS - Coaching, is Players' Health Secure?

"Maryland football player’s heatstroke death raises scrutiny of coaching" PBS NewsHour 8/14/2018


SUMMARY:  University of Maryland football player Jordan McNair, 19, was hospitalized in May after he had trouble breathing and standing upright during practice.  His death two weeks later sent shockwaves through the college football world and raised questions about the coaching staff's response.  Amna Nawaz sits down with sports writer and author John Feinstein.

KINDERTARDEN - Sneak Preview

"This kindergarten sneak preview helps families hit the ground running" PBS NewsHour 8/14/2018


SUMMARY:  For three weeks in the summer, children who are entering kindergarten in Portland, Oregon, get ready and get excited to start school.  While it’s no substitute for pre-K, getting a preview helps ease the transition for kids, and offers parents a sense of connection.  Special correspondent Lisa Stark of Education Week reports.

AMERICA ADDICTED - Opioid Crisis Update

"A festering opioid crisis, worn-out families and ‘so much pain to process’" PBS NewsHour 8/14/2018


SUMMARY:  In “Dopesick,” journalist and author Beth Macy takes readers to the front lines of the opioid epidemic in Roanoke, Virginia, and other nearby communities, telling the story of grieving families, exhausted medical workers and convicted heroin dealers.  Jeffrey Brown reports as part of our ongoing series, America Addicted.

Jeffrey Brown (NewsHour):  Two years ago, journalist and author Beth Macy, a fellow Roanoke resident, met Patricia and Tess.  Macy tells their story, and that of many others, in a harrowing account that traces two decades of one of the worst drug crises in American history.  It’s called “Dopesick.”

Beth Macy, author:  I heard it over and over from people who were struggling with opioid addiction.

Jeffrey Brown:  You heard that phrase?

Beth Macy:  That is the word they used.  Man, I’m dope-sick, or, man, I was dopesick when that happened.

What does it mean?  That means, like, excruciating withdrawal.  They have sweats, diarrhea, chills, vomiting.  And as somebody early on in the book says, at the end of your journey, you’re not doing it to get high.  You’re just doing it to keep from being dopesick.

TRUMP WHITE HOUSE - The Omarosa Scandal

"Omarosa: I never signed that ‘draconian’ White House nondisclosure agreement" PBS NewsHour 8/14/2018


SUMMARY:  Former White House adviser Omarosa Manigault Newman refuted President Donald Trump’s claim Monday that she signed a nondisclosure agreement, saying she never agreed to keep quiet about her work as a senior administration official.

Trump tweeted Monday that Manigault Newman, who is promoting her new book “Unhinged: An Insider Account of the Trump White House,” which is highly critical of the president, signed a nondisclosure agreement though he didn’t specify when.

Manigault Newman said Monday she signed a nondisclosure agreement, known as an NDA during her time starring alongside Trump on the reality television show “The Apprentice” in 2003, and again when she worked for Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.  But Manigault Newman, who was fired from the White House last year, said she did not agree to sign a nondisclosure agreement after Trump took office.

“I never signed that draconian NDA that they presented to me when I walked into the White House,” Newman told the PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff.

"Nondisclosure agreements are rare in government.  Here’s why" PBS NewsHour 8/14/2018

NDA:  In the case of the Trump White House, means 'keep the truth hidden from the American people or lawyers.'  This is not a national security issue.  It is a 'Trump scared sh**less issue.'


SUMMARY:  The Trump campaign is suing former staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman for allegedly violating a nondisclosure agreement she signed when she joined the campaign.  The Trump administration has also reportedly tried to get White House staff to sign similar agreements.  What is an NDA and how are they used in the federal government?  William Brangham gets analysis from attorney Mark Zaid.


"‘Secret archives’ detailed priests’ child sex abuse and cover-ups, PA. attorney general says" PBS NewsHour 8/14/2018

Shocked?  But remember, first and foremost, Priests are only human beings.  It is our fault for placing them on a pedestal and thinking them saints.  Think about it, what positions would attract pedophiles: easy access to children, where they could gain the trust of children, and sometimes be protected.


SUMMARY:  A scathing new grand jury report in Pennsylvania describes decades of sexual abuse by Catholic priests.  At least 1,000 children were molested by more than 300 clergy, the panel found, which also claims a conspiracy of silence extended all the way to the Vatican.  Judy Woodruff sits down with Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Fr. Thomas Reese of Religion News Service.