US MIDTERMS – Recounts, The Florida Problem And Media Role

|JON ALLSOP, CJR|AIWA! NO!|News anchors said those words on election night in 2000, as networks reversed their early call that the Democratic presidential candidate, Al Gore, would carry the state of Florida and thus the White House. They could have been speaking this week. Florida once again finds itself in tense recount territory, with three statewide races, including crucial Senate and gubernatorial contests, yet to be called a full week after residents went to the polls. This time, doubt has been cast on apparent Republican victories: for Rick Scott in the US Senate race, and for Ron DeSantis in the battle to succeed Scott as governor.
 
GOP operatives have aggressively pushed the message that their candidates have won—just as they did in 2000. “The effort that Mr. Scott and Republican allies are waging today is strikingly similar to [the] multifront war in 2000 led by the George W. Bush campaign and an army of party consultants,” Jeremy W. Peters and Maggie Haberman write in The New York Times. Among other similarities, “surrogates for the Republican candidate are holding news conference calls with journalists and sitting for interviews on cable, blaming the Democrats for tarnishing the integrity of the electoral process.”
 
The press is used to partisan warring over recount narratives. But our current media climate is very different to 2000. In the past two years, in particular, baseless claims of widespread voter fraud have become a common right-wing trope, percolating into mainstream discourse via coordinated online campaigns. In the run-up to the midterms, hackneyed conspiracies—that Democrats would bus in illegal immigrants to vote, for instance, or that George Soros funds voting machines—swirled on social media. This past week, they’ve crystallized into more specific lies. Far-right internet personalities and trolls have claimed (with varying degrees of embellishment) that crooked Florida election officials have magicked up boxes of Democratic votes since polling day, among other dirty tricks.
 
Recounts have always posed a problem for 24-hour news cycles. They become big stories because of their uncertainty, but uncertainty means a paucity of hard facts. TV news shows, in particular, thus have to find something else to fill their airtime. Centering the spin of establishment politicians is bad enough. This time, outlets have also had to contend with the incendiary interventions of President Trump, whose tweets accusing Democrats of trying to “STEAL” the Florida elections through “massively infected” ballots themselves reflect online conspiracy theories, as BuzzFeed’s Jane Lytvynenko and Kevin Collier show.
 
As the Florida recount has ground slowly on, media organizations have done a progressively better job of using the wait time to contextualize and debunk baseless rhetoric. (Some, like BuzzFeed, have cited reputable studies showing US voter fraud in general to be “vanishingly rare.”) Nonetheless—as with so much that Trump gives a megaphone—the media as a whole has yet to find a consistent, foolproof way of reporting the president’s falsehoods and unproven allegations without lending them an air of credibility. Toronto Star Washington correspondent Daniel Dale flagged a series of headlines and tweets that gave oxygen to Trump’s charges. After ABC News tweeted Trump’s “massively infected” line, Dale responded: “Three years into the Trump era, mainstream media outlets continue to blast out his lies to millions of people without pointing out they’re not true.”
 
Below, more on the still-not-finished midterm elections:

  • Unprecedented in recent history: The Tampa Bay Times’ Kirby Wilson wraps some useful context around the Florida recounts, which experts say are unlikely to reverse the results. Of the 26 statewide elections to go to a recount since 2000, only three have flipped, and those races all involved finer margins to begin with.
     
  • Old news! Donald Trump, Jr., got in on the misinformation act in memorable fashion yesterday, tweeting an article from NBC Miami that he said showed 200,000 Florida voters may not be US citizens. A note editors appended to the original article yesterday speaks for itself: “This story was published in May 2012. The initial list of 180,000 names was whittled to 2,625, according to the Florida Department of State… An Aug. 1, 2012, state elections document showed only 85 noncitizens were ultimately removed from the rolls out of a total of about 12 million voters at that time.”
     
  • Wave new world: A week on from the midterms, commentators still can’t decide whether the results qualify as a “blue wave” or not. The AP’s Steve Peoples comes down on the “not” side; but, he writes, “a week after the voting, Democrats are riding higher than they thought on election night.”
     
  • Meanwhile, in Arizona: Democratic optimism was further fueled by yesterday’s news out of Arizona, where Kyrsten Sinema was finally confirmed as the state’s new senator, beating out Republican Martha McSally. The drawn-out count was calmer than in Florida, despite Trump’s attempts to undermine it. Over the weekend, Arizona’s Republican secretary of state even published a blog post explaining the delay.
     
  • “A dangerous problem”: The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan says the media’s rush for firm electoral conclusions does more harm than good. “By giving in to the impulse to analyze immediately, journalists and pundits feed the notion that the election should be over on election night,” she writes. “Hard as it is to do—or even consider—in our crazily speeded-up news environment, there’s only one lesson for the media from the past week: Slow the hell down.”
     
  • Doing it all again: Tonight, CNN will broadcast a second election-night special (one week after its first) to update viewers on the shifting midterms picture.

US PRESIDENT DONALD Trump’s HAIR – ‘insane’ reason HE skipped WWI ceremony on rainy day; MSNBC’s Donny Deutsch reveals

President Trump’s hair stood between him and the World War 1 ceremony on Saturday.  Apparently

Donny Deutsch (MSNBC)

|CRIMSON TAZVINZWA, AIWA! NO!| MSNBC’s Donny Deutsch isn’t buying any White House excuses for President Donald Trump skipping a visit to a World War I cemetery.

The White House claims Trump’s trip to Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial near Paris due to weather, saying military officials concluded a helicopter flight was risky in light rain, but the “Morning Joe” contributor said he knew the real reason why.

“I know this man, and I know this is going to sound insane,” he added. “You know probably the reason? His hair. This is what motivates this man. I’m not trying to be silly here. But it’s the truth. I know this man.”

Image result for trump arrives at ceremony separately
YahooTrump Arrives at Ceremony Separately from Other Leaders After Skipping Previous Event for Rain

Co-host Mika Brzezinski, who also knows Trump, said she agreed.

“Donny, I completely agree, and I know how he is about it,” she said. “I know him, too. I think it’s twofold. I think it’s that, believe it or not, but I also think that he can’t get away from the phone right now, given the potential threat he and some family members may be in.”

Trump warns he could pull other reporters’ White House access

The White House yanked CNN’s Jim Acosta’s ‘hard pass’ earlier this week.

U.S. President Donald Trump | Mark Wilson/Getty Images

|AIWA! NOWASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Friday he does not know whether CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta’s press access will be reinstated and said other reporters could have their security badges revoked too.

“As far as I’m concerned, I haven’t made that decision,” Trump said of restoring Acosta’s press pass. “But there could be others also.”

The White House yanked Acosta’s “hard pass,” a security badge that allows reporters to freely enter and exit the White House complex, following a contentious exchange with Trump during a press conference Wednesday.

“When you’re in the White House, this is a very sacred place to me, this is a very special place, you have to treat the White House with respect, you have to treat the presidency with respect,” Trump said Friday, adding that he thinks “it’s a disgrace” the way Acosta has interacted with press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Trump did not say which other reporters were at risk of losing their White House badges, a step that was virtually unheard of before Wednesday and drew an outcry from White House correspondents. Trump also criticized April Ryan, a White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, who has peppered administration officials with pointed questions.

“You talk about somebody that’s a loser,” Trump said of Ryan. “She doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing.”

Trump also defended video Sanders posted on Twitter of Acosta during the Wednesday press briefing. Sanders said Acosta’s press access was being revoked because of an interaction with a White House aide who tried to take his microphone when the reporter talked over the president. Sanders said Acosta inappropriately touched the aide. But CNN and others said the video she used to prove her point appeared to have been edited in a way that made Acosta seem more aggressive.

“No one manipulated it. Give me a break, see that’s just dishonest reporting,” Trump said. “All that is is a close-up. They made it close up, they showed it close up.”

Trump seemed to indicate, however, that the security badge was not pulled solely over that incident, which he said “wasn’t overly, you know, horrible.”

“I think Jim Acosta’s a very unprofessional man,” the president said. “Look, I don’t think he’s a smart person, but he’s got a loud voice.”

Jeff Sessions out; what does this mean for the Mueller probe?

United States – Caravan Migrants Take a Stunning Action Against President Trump – And Immediately Inspire Outrage

With the migrant caravan still more than a thousand kilometres from the U.S. border, Susan Ormiston looks at a day in the life of the migrants and finds out a little more about who is in their midst.

Caravan migrants take a stunning action against Trump – and immediately inspire outrage

Caravan migrants take a stunning action against Trump – and immediately inspire outrage
Migrants in the caravans from Honduras and other Latin American countries headed towards the U.S. border filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration alleging unconstitutional acts against them. (PEDRO PARDO/AFP/Getty Images)

Breaking: Trump makes a big announcement about how many troops are going to the border
President Donald Trump told reporters that he was considering sending as many as 15,000 troops to the border to prevent the entrance of a migrant caravan from Honduras. (OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty Images)

The complaint alleges that President Donald Trump is violating the Flores Agreement by detaining children in tents without the proper facilities as required by the law.

READ RELATED: Donald Trump suggests US soldiers could fire on migrant caravans if they throw rocks

The complaint continues to claim that because of his actions, the president also is violating the due process rights of migrants who should be allowed to legally challenge their designations as illegal aliens apart from asylum seekers.

Some 2,000 migrants traveling in two groups departed El Salvador’s capital of San Salvador hours apart Wednesday morning, heading north in the hope of reaching the US. The first caravan numbering 4,000, which has been on the road for the past two weeks, planned to rest at least a day or longer in the Mexican city of Juchitan beginning Wednesday, hoping to organize mass transport northward after days of hard walking in scorching temperatures that have left them about 900 miles from the nearest US border crossing in McAllen, Texas.

“The legal problem with Trump’s plan to stop caravan persons from entering this country is that Plaintiffs are seeking asylum, and Trump simply cannot stop them from legally doing so by using military, or anyone,” the filing read.

“How is this real?”

Many on social media could not believe that migrants were already taking legal action against the government of a country they had not even entered into yet.

“A group of people in the migrant caravan is suing the U.S. government in federal court,” said Daily Mail David Martosko, Daily Mail editor.

“None of them is a U.S. citizen or a permanant resident,” he added, “and none of them is physically in the U.S. or has ever been physically in the U.S. I give up. How is this real?”

“This is fully ridiculous.” responded California GOP committeewoman Harmeet K. Dhillon.

The lawsuit names President Trump, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security, and DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, among others, as the defendants.

Earlier Thursday, Trump made a very strong statement against illegal immigration generally and the caravan migrants specifically, and said that he would change immigration policy to prevent their entry into the United States.

SUPPORT     AIWA! NO! SHARE!

U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP gives incoherent, unhinged campaign rant — from the White House

In a desperate bid to scare voters ahead of midterms, Trump unleashed a fit of rage from inside the White House ThursdayDonald Trump

|Caroline Orr, Shareblue MEDIA|AIWA! NO!|In a presidential address that was anything but presidential, Trump on Thursday afternoon unleashed a fit of lies and anti-immigrant rage straight from the White House and onto the TV screens of millions of Americans.

The address, which was essentially a regurgitation of the same unhinged rhetoric he spews at campaign rallies, came just a day after Trump tweeted out an inflammatory video that was widely condemned as even worse than the notoriously racist Willie Horton campaign ad.

Trump kicked off the speech by stoking fears about the so-called “caravan” of asylum-seekers slowly making their way north from Central America, which has become his go-to talking point in the weeks leading up to midterms.

“Some people call it an invasion,” Trump said, referring to his own preferred terminology for the asylum-seekers.

“This isn’t an innocent group of people,” he continued, claiming without evidence that the migrants have “injured” and “attacked” scores of Mexican police officers and troops.

He then railed against our current immigration laws, blaming the so-called “crisis” on Democrats, despite the fact that Republicans control both chamber of Congress and the White House.

While the address was billed as a policy speech, Trump didn’t actually introduce any new policies as promised. Instead, he stuck by his usual script of incoherent ranting, apocalyptic fear-mongering, and unhinged conspiratorial rhetoric.

At one point, Trump floated a conspiracy theory about outside groups funding the so-called “caravan,” saying “there’s a lot of professionalism” involved in the journey. “There seems to be a lot of money passing,” he added.

That’s the same conspiracy theory that reportedly motivated the gunman who carried out the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history just five days ago.

In a particularly dark moment of the speech, Trump hinted that he may allow U.S. troops to shoot at people trying to cross the border, absurdly claiming that getting hit with a rock is just as bad as getting shot.

As usual, the entire speech was meant to stoke fear, since appealing to voters’ primal emotions is all Trump knows how to do.

With midterms just days away, Trump is more desperate than ever. And since he has no accomplishments to brag about, he is now boxed into a corner, peddling a constant stream of anti-immigrant propaganda and yelling things about “open borders,” “caravans,” “catch and release,” and “bad guys.”

For someone who claims to have the “best words,” he sure can’t seem to find many new ones.

SUPPORT     AIWA! NO! SHARE!

Saudi Arabia Court Murder Investigation Chaos As New Claims Suggest Journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s Murder ‘Conducted Via Skype’

The Turkish government commented on the matter for the first time this week, saying, that the entire operation was savagely planned, and perhaps even conducted via Skype by Saud al-Qahtani, Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s primary henchman.kh

|J. Dana Stuster, LAWFARE/AIWA! NO!|The U.S. State Department canceled the visas of 21 Saudi citizens believed to be involved in the plot to murder Jamal Khashoggi, and is discussing the possibility of sanctions with the Treasury Department, U.S. officials said last week.

Saudi handling of Khashoggi murder was 'a total fiasco', Trump says
US President Donald Trump scolded Saudi Arabia for journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder and badly executed cover-up, calling it a “total fiasco from day one,” while still hedging on condemning the Saudi government//© Reuters / Leah Millis

The visa cancellations are the first substantive punitive measure taken by the United States in response to the murder of Khashoggi, who was a U.S. permanent resident and columnist for the Washington Post. Given that at least 18 of the individuals are under arrest in Saudi Arabia, the move is largely symbolic, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested that additional steps may be forthcoming.

“These penalties will not be the last word on the matter from the United States,” he said on October 23.

“We’re making very clear that the United States does not tolerate this kind of ruthless action to silence Mr. Khashoggi, a journalist, through violence.”

Image result for CROWN PRINCE MEETS KHASHOGGI SON
Saudi king, crown prince meet Khashoggi family

Members of Congress have discussed taking additional steps, including halting arms sales or U.S. logistical support for the Saudi intervention in Yemen, but no legislative action will be taken while Congress is out of session in the run-up to the midterm elections on November 6.

Turkish investigators are pulling out all stops in probing into the mysterious disappearance and death of Saudi-origin US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who died in the Saudi consulate in Turkey. The Turkish government commented on the matter for the first time this week, saying, that the entire operation was savagely planned, and perhaps even conducted via Skype by Saud al-Qahtani, Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s primary henchman. His direct involvement in the matter would make it harder for the Saudi administration to distance Salman from the operation.

Amidst this ruckus, Khashoggi’s body, presumably mutilated, dismembered and scattered for disposal, remains missing. The same goes for his belongings, at least until Wednesday, when a team of Turkish detectives reportedly searched a vehicle suspected to carry his belongings. Turkish state media said that investigators have found three suitcases, a laptop computer and clothing inside a car belonging to the Saudi consulate, stowed away in an underground garage.

Other countries have also called for action on arms sales to Saudi Arabia in response to Khashoggi’s death. German officials have said they will not sell additional weapons to Riyadh under the circumstances, and Austria, which halted arms sales in 2015 in response to the Saudi intervention in Yemen, has called for the European Union as a whole to discontinue sales.

But some European leaders have expressed reluctance to jeopardize lucrative arms deals, echoing comments made by President Donald Trump. “I understand the connection with [arms sales and] what’s happening in Yemen, but there is no link with Mr. Khashoggi,” French President Emmanuel Macron said, also describing the advocacy for a ban as “pure demagoguery.” Canadian President Justin Trudeau has warned that the penalty for withdrawing from his country’s deal to sell light-armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia would be “in the billions of dollars.” And Spain has said it will continue to do business with Saudi Arabia to protect its shipbuilding industry.

Still, the pressure to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for its human rights violations is unprecedented. There are signs that Saudi officials are recognizing that their strategy of deliberately and obviously lying about Khashoggi’s disappearance has backfired. The Saudi government conceded last week that Khashoggi’s death was a planned operation after Turkish intelligence reportedly shared an audio recording of his murder with CIA Director Gina Haspel; Saudi officials maintain, though, that the operation was carried out without the authorization of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). The Saudi government has also lifted the travel ban on Khashoggi’s son, Salah, a U.S.-Saudi dual citizen, allowing him to fly to the United States—but not before Salah was compelled to meet with MBS for a photo op.

The crown prince addressed Khashoggi’s death in public remarks for the first time last week, at his much-hyped Future Investment Initiative conference, which took place last week despite many American and European officials and business leaders canceling their appearances. Speaking on a panel with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, MBS called Khashoggi’s death “very painful, for all Saudis.” He said that Saudi investigators are working with Turkish authorities and that the two countries “are cooperating to punish any criminal, any culprit and at the end justice will prevail.”

Saud al-Mojeb, who is leading the Saudi investigation, is in Istanbul this week and metwith the chief investigator in Turkey on Monday; Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a press conference that “responsibility of Saudi Arabia is very large here” and stressed that the Saudis should not slow-walk the investigation. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has effectively denied a request from Turkey that the suspects in Khashoggi’s murder be extradited and struck a different tone than MBS. Speaking at a security conference in Bahrain over the weekend, Jubeir called the international outcry “fairly hysterical.”

MBS appeared jovial at the conference, and even concluded his remarks by joking that the press should not “spread rumors” that Hariri, sitting two chairs away on the stage, had been “kidnapped.” The quip suggests that MBS still does not grasp foreign governments’ frustration with the reckless bullying of his governance. Less than a year ago, MBS sparked a political crisis in Lebanon when he held Hariri against his will in Saudi Arabia and forced him to resign under duress. (Hariri withdrew his resignation when he returned to Lebanon after a diplomatic intervention by France, but he has remained on working terms with MBS, who is an important patron of Hariri’s family and political fortunes.) The comment’s direction at the media also felt barbed, given that the conference was occurring under the shadow of a journalist’s murder and in a country with severe limits on free speech and reporting. One of the Saudi government’s first reactions to Khashoggi’s death was to issue a statement reminding Saudi citizens and press that “spreading rumors or fake news that might affect public order and security is considered cybercrime punishable by 5-year imprisonment.” To MBS, this recklessness and authoritarianism is still a punchline.

Though MBS stressed the importance of proceeding with his economic reforms at the conference last week, Khashoggi’s death has interfered with those plans. Bloombergnoted that most of the attendees of the Future Investment Initiative forum were Saudis, and that more Chinese and Russian investors were present this year while American and European businesses stayed home. Some analysts have suggested that businesses dropped out of the conference for show and would be back to invest later, but others have noted that MBS’ reputation for impulsive and unpredictable policies had been deterring the investment he’s been courting long before Khashoggi disappeared. Michael Hirsh, writing in Foreign Policy, noted that foreign direct investment in Saudi Arabia declined by 80 percent from 2016 to 2017. “Khashoggi’s killing at the hands of Mohammed bin Salman’s security forces—which the Saudis are now confessing was premeditated—has only brought international attention to a problem that close observers of Saudi Arabia had been aware of for more than a year,” Hirsh wrote. “The crown prince was making bad decisions and scaring a lot of influential and wealthy people away.” Karen Young, an insightful observer of the Saudi economy, argued in a recent piece for the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog that this could have unfortunate consequences for the Saudi youth that stood to benefit from a more diverse Saudi economy, and that economic instability in the kingdom could spread, with the country’s skyrocketing sovereign debt as a conduit to foreign markets. With his credibility as a reformer in doubt, MBS is relying now more than ever on “checkbook diplomacy” to retain support from his regional allies and foreign countries eager to sell arms to Riyadh, Mohamad Bazzi wrote in the New York Times on Monday. “Since Prince Mohammed’s rise to power, the Saudis have pursued a more aggressive and militarized foreign policy, but they have also fallen back on a tactic honed over decades—wielding their oil wealth to buy loyalty in the Arab world and beyond,” he wrote.

The Saudi royal court is notoriously opaque, but there have been signs of fresh intrigue in the past week. King Salman has reportedly rallied to the defense of his son and hand-picked successor, even as close allies have expressed their concern about his continued rule. “People who think there’s going to be any change in the succession are wrong,” Prince Turki al-Faisal told the Washington Post’s David Ignatius last week. Prince Turki said that the backlash to Khashoggi’s death had actually strengthened MBS’ position. But even before this past month, MBS had reportedly been concerned about threats from rivals. Western officials have suggested to the Post that he could accept an arrangement to share power with another royal to placate critics. One option for that role would be Khalid bin Faisal, the former mayor of Mecca and a son of King Faisal, who governed in the 1960s and 1970s. Another would be Prince Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz, King Salman’s brother, who has reportedly been floated by some members of the royal family for some sort of stewardship role. Prince Ahmed has been living in self-imposed exile in England since being passed over for the role of crown prince; in September, in a clip posted online, he made a rare public appearance to address to a crowd of protesters in London, saying that policies including the war in Yemen are the fault of the current Saudi leadership but not the royal family as a whole. On Tuesday, rumors were circulating online that Prince Ahmed had unexpectedly returned to Riyadh from London.

Support ‘telling truth’ to power, share  AIWA! NO! Journalism

J. Dana Stuster is the deputy foreign policy editor for Lawfare and a PhD student at Yale University. He worked previously as a policy analyst at the National Security Network and an assistant editor at Foreign Policy magazine.