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Kellyanne Conway Edges Toward Accepting the Job of Communications Director

By Elaina Plott

Kellyanne Conway is moving closer to accepting President Donald Trump’s offer for her to succeed Hope Hicks as White House communications director, if only on an interim basis, according to multiple sources who have spoken with her.

“It’s becoming increasingly difficult for her to say no,” says one senior White House official. The official said that First Lady Melania Trump and Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff have both encouraged her over the last few days to reconsider Trump’s offer. Conway declined to speak on the record for this story.

When Hicks announced her resignation earlier this month, Conway said in a Fox News segment that she wasn’t interested in the job. But Trump has continued to urge her to change her mind, as have many rank-and-file White House communications staffers, some of whom see Conway as a mentor. “He’s basically told her she’s no longer allowed to say no,” joked another senior White House official. Like others who spoke for this story, these officials did so on condition of anonymity, in order to discuss private conversations.

In recent days, Conway and Trump have discussed a potential compromise: Conway would take over the post on an interim basis. Once a permanent replacement was found, she would then carve out her own role in the communications shop. Similar to Karen Hughes in the George W. Bush administration, she would serve as an executive of sorts, overseeing both the communications and press shops.

Part of Trump’s insistence draws from conversations with Hicks, who, while supporting Conway for the role has, perhaps more crucially, urged him against selecting Mercedes Schlapp. Schlapp, currently the strategic communications director and an alum of Bush’s White House, has the support of Chief of Staff John Kelly. Shortly after Hicks publicized her plans to leave, Kelly, …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Omnibust?

By Elaine Godfrey

Today in 5 Lines

  • Congress is expected to unveil a $1.3 trillion spending bill to keep the government funded until September. Lawmakers have until Friday at midnight to pass the bill before the government shuts down, but President Trump is already threatening to veto it.

  • The man suspected in a series of recent bombings in Austin, Texas, died after blowing himself up Wednesday morning. Authorities identified him as 23-year-old Mark Anthony Conditt of Pflugerville, Texas.

  • A year before being fired, Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe reportedly oversaw an investigation into whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions lacked candor when questioned about his contacts with Russian operatives.

  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologized for what he called a “breach of trust” after it was reported that Cambridge Analytica, a data firm with ties to the Trump campaign, accessed information from 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge.

  • The Federal Reserve raised interest rates to the highest level in a decade. The central bank is expected to hike rates three more times this year, as the U.S. economy continues to strengthen.

Today on The Atlantic

  • A New Hope?: Elaina Plott reports that Kellyanne Conway, who currently serves as counselor to President Trump, is now considering replacing Hope Hicks on an interim basis.

  • Illinois’s Marquee Race: Democrats nationwide have spent the year attacking a billionaire president and railing against his conflicts of interest. But on Tuesday, Democrats in Illinois nominated a billionaire of their own to run against Republican Governor Bruce Rauner. (Russell Berman)

  • What Is the Cambridge Analytica Debacle?: Robinson Meyer explains the scandal in three quick paragraphs.

  • Mark Zuckerberg Is Wrong: The Cambridge Analytica scandal proves that the time has arrived for the U.S. to create a Data Protection Authority. (Franklin Foer)

Follow stories throughout the day with our Politics & Policy …read more

Via:: <a href= class="colorbox" title="The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Omnibust?” rel=nofollow>The Atlantic



The Strange Tale of Trump’s Phone Call to Putin

By David A. Graham


That was the instruction that President Donald Trump received on briefing materials before he called Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday to discuss Putin’s victory in a reelection widely regarded as corrupt.

But Trump did congratulate Putin, and he also declined to bring up the recent poisoning of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter in London, a crime that the British government blames on the Kremlin. As I wrote on Tuesday, Trump’s reaction was somewhat out of the mainstream of American reaction when autocratic rulers, but not entirely apart. Barack Obama called Putin following his 2012 election victory, but waited several days before doing so, while the U.S. government criticized election regularities.

The difference can be partly explained by Trump’s disdain for this type of subtle diplomatic dig, and his partiality to grand gestures. But given Trump’s history with Russia, the statement sticks out. That history includes the president’s long history of complimentary statements about Putin; his notable reluctance to attribute electoral interference to Russia; Press Secretary Sarah Sanders’s tortured avoidance of statements critical of Russia, including her refusal Tuesday to say that the election was not free and fair; and of course the ongoing investigations into interference in the election, including the admissions by former Trump aides that they lied about conversations with the Russians.

One of the enduring characteristics of Donald Trump’s short but high-flying political career has been his ability to put behind him stories that would have sunk any other candidate. A news item that would dominate headlines for months in any other presidency can barely last through a day or two before it gets subsumed. (Case in point: Remember that time that Trump told Russian officials that firing “that nut job [James] Comey” took pressure off him? It’s largely forgotten, less than …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Trump Vents His Anger Over Border Wall Funding

By Elaina Plott

President Donald Trump is threatening to veto a massive government spending package over border wall funding measures, a senior White House official and two senior House Republican aides told The Atlantic. The president is also “upset” that the bill lacks a measure to defund sanctuary cities, both sources added.

“He certainly wants the wall money,” the senior White House official said. “And he knows the ink is not dry yet on the bill.”

Another White House official told The Atlantic that Trump’s comments about the border wall in particular indicate the president’s broader dissatisfaction with congressional leaders, who he believes have been stagnant on moving ahead with his core campaign promise.

All four officials spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitive nature of the negotiations.

The $1.3 trillion omnibus bill currently includes $1.6 billion for “border security” measures, including more border agents and funding for the construction of wall prototypes, and just $641 million for the wall itself—far shy of the $25 billion Trump requested.

House conservatives have groused in recent days that Republican leaders have all but abandoned efforts to follow through on Trump’s core campaign promises related to immigration. “They don’t even pretend anymore to want it,” said one senior aide to a conservative member about the border wall, who requested anonymity to talk about private discussions.

Trump met at the White House on Wednesday afternoon with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“The speaker met with the president this afternoon to discuss the emerging funding bill. They had a good conversation about the wins delivered for the president, and he is supportive of the bill,” said AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Ryan. In a statement, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the three had discussed, “their shared priorities secured in the …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Democrats Bet on a Billionaire in Illinois

By Russell Berman

Democrats have for more than a year gone to bat against a billionaire president and his Cabinet full of wealthy executives, railing against their conflicts of interest and accusing them of satisfying their lavish tastes on the taxpayers’ dime.

But in their quest to reclaim the governorship of the nation’s third-largest blue state, Democrats in Illinois have turned to a billionaire of their own to match up against the Republican multimillionaire in office, Bruce Rauner.

J.B. Pritzker, an entrepreneur, investor, and longtime Democratic donor, on Tuesday night easily defeated a son of Robert F. Kennedy and a liberal state senator to capture the party’s nomination ahead of a general-election campaign that’s expected to be the most expensive in state history. Pritzker won 45.4 percent of the vote to 26.5 percent for state Senator Daniel Biss and 24.2 percent for Chris Kennedy, who could not translate his family name into electoral success as a first-time candidate.

Pritzker will now face Rauner, whose status as the most vulnerable Republican in the country was laid bare by the fact that he nearly lost renomination for a second term to state Representative Jeanne Ives. With most precincts reporting, Rauner was up by just three points, 51.5 percent to 48.5 percent. Bolstering Democrats’ confidence heading into the fall, nearly twice as many people voted in their gubernatorial primary as for either Rauner or Ives.

“I’m J.B. Pritzker, and I’m going to beat Bruce Rauner,” the newly-minted Democratic nominee declared jauntily in the first words of his victory speech on Tuesday night.

Across statewide, federal, and local races on Tuesday, the Illinois campaigns featured a bit of everything.

There was Pritzker, the establishment-aligned billionaire, trying to hold off both a Kennedy scion and Biss, a younger liberal running under the Bernie Sanders banner. There was Rauner, the wounded Republican governor who nearly …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



It’s Time to Regulate the Internet

By Franklin Foer

It will be fantastically satisfying to see the boy-genius flayed. All the politicians—ironically, in search of a viral moment—will lash Mark Zuckerberg from across the hearing room. They will corner Facebook’s founding bro, seeking to pin all manner of sin on him. This will make for scrumptious spectacle, but spectacle is a vacuous substitute for policy.

As Facebook’s scandals have unfolded, the backlash against Big Tech has accelerated at a dizzying pace. Anger, however, has outpaced thinking. The most fully-drawn and enthusiastically-backed proposal now circulating through Congress would regulate political ads that can appear on the platform, a law that hardly curbs the company’s power or profits. And it should be said, a law that does nothing to attack the core of the problem: the absence of governmental protections for personal data.

The defining fact of digital life is that the internet was created in the libertarian frenzy of the 1990s. As we privatized the net, releasing it from the hands of the government agencies that cultivated it, we suspended our inherited civic instincts. Instead of treating the web like the financial system or aviation or agriculture, we refrained from creating the robust rules that would ensure safety and enforce our constitutional values.

This weakness has long been apparent to activists toiling on the fringes of debate—and the dangers might even have been apparent to most users of Facebook. But it’s one thing to abstractly understand the rampant exploitation of data, it’s another to graphically see how our data can be weaponized against us. And that’s the awakening occasioned by the rolling revelation of Facebook’s complicity in the debacle of the last presidential campaign. The fact that Facebook seems unwilling to fully own up to its role casts further suspicion on its motives and methods. And in the course …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Freedom Ain’t Free

By Clint Smith

Editor’s Note: Read The Atlantic’s

Since 1992, judges in Washington, D.C., generally have not required money to post bond but instead assess a defendant’s flight risk and the danger he poses to the community when they decide between jail and freedom before trial. This seems to have worked. More than 85 percent of the defendants released from 2012 to 2017 weren’t arrested again before their court cases were settled, according to the city’s Pretrial Services Agency; of the few who got in trouble again, only 2 percent were charged with a violent crime. In more and more states, including Arizona, Kentucky, New Jersey, and parts of Alabama, judges now may evaluate a defendant’s risk of fleeing, by looking at previous arrests, prosecutions, and convictions.

Activists worry that these sorts of assessments may exacerbate racial imbalances among prisoners, unless they take into account that people of color already face discrimination in the judicial system. Even so, the prevailing practice of relying on money to make sure people charged with a crime appear in court doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Bail, after all, is intended to keep the public safe: Decisions about whether to release defendants who don’t represent any danger to the public shouldn’t depend on how much money they can raise. And people who do represent a threat to public safety shouldn’t be released simply because they can afford an expensive bond. As King wrote before he was bailed out of Birmingham Jail: “An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself.”

…read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Secretary of Interior Design

By Elaine Godfrey

Today in 5 Lines

  • Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday to be released from a 2016 agreement requiring her to stay quiet about her alleged affair with Donald Trump. And a New York court ruled that a defamation lawsuit filed against Trump by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on The Apprentice, may go forward.

  • In a press conference, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, “should be allowed to finish his job.”

  • A package thought to be Austin-bound exploded at a FedEx facility in Texas. Officials said they believe the blast is connected to the other recent explosions in the Austin area.

  • Two students were injured after being shot by a gunman at Great Mills High School in southeast Maryland. Authorities identified the shooter as 17-year-old Austin Wyatt Rollins.

  • During a congressional hearing, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson defended his purchase of a $31,000 dining set. “I left it to my wife, you know, to choose something,” Carson said.

The Race We’re Watching

Voters in Illinois are headed to the polls to cast their ballots in primary elections across the state. They’ll choose candidates for November’s gubernatorial race, which is turning out to be one of the most expensive in U.S. history. A host of Democrats, including former Governor Pat Quinn, is vying for Illinois’s open attorney general’s seat.

We’re also keeping an eye on the Democratic primary in Illinois’s 3rd congressional district, where seven-term Representative Dan Lipinski, a conservative Democrat, is being challenged by the much more progressive political newbie Marie Newman. The GOP primary in the state’s 16th district could also prove interesting: Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger has spoken out against Trump and as a result, …read more

Via:: <a href= class="colorbox" title="The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Secretary of Interior Design” rel=nofollow>The Atlantic



Why Won’t the White House Call Russian Elections Corrupt?

By David A. Graham

The White House again offered a puzzling response to foreign policy regarding Russia on Tuesday, refusing to criticize the voting that reelected Vladimir Putin by a landslide on Sunday.

Asked whether the White House deemed the election “free and fair,” Press Secretary Sarah Sanders offered this deflection:

In terms of the election, there we’re focused on our elections. We don’t get to dictate how other countries operate. What we do know that is that Putin has been elected in their country, and that’s not something that we can dictate to them how to operate. We can only focus on the freeness and fairness of our elections, something we 100 percent fully support, and something we’re going to continue to do everything we can to protect to make sure bad actors don’t have the opportunity to impact them in any way.

This statement is misleading where it isn’t simply beside the point, and confusing in both cases. The question is not whether the U.S. has the ability to dictate to other countries how to run their elections (though there is a certain irony in Sanders making this comment 15 years to the day after the U.S. invaded Iraq to install democracy, in a war the president supported). The question is whether the U.S. can and should label unfair and repressive government when it sees it.

There’s little question that the Russian election was not free and fair. The government barred Putin’s leading opponent from running. Putin’s margin of victory—nearly 77 percent—is practically unheard of in contested elections, and apparent ballot-stuffing was caught on video in multiple places. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe concluded that the election “took place in an overly controlled legal and political environment marked by continued pressure on critical voices” and that “restrictions on …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Not Even Cambridge Analytica Believed Its Hype

By David A. Graham

One can be forgiven for not being quite sure what to think about Channel 4’s expose on Cambridge Analytica, the political-consulting firm linked to Donald Trump and others. On Monday, the British news channel released a story based on hidden-camera videos they took during meetings with CA higher-ups, in which the officials discuss a range of skullduggery, including bribes and sexual entrapment.

That story followed paired scoops in The New York Times and the British Observer, which focused on how CA’s much-hyped system of targeting voters was premised on data that, according to a whistleblower, was obtained surreptitiously through Facebook. As the Times put it, CA had made big promises about what it could do, “but it did not have the data to make its new products work.” Instead, it allegedly obtained extensive data from a researcher who had gotten it from Facebook on the premise that the information was for academic purposes. The revelation has placed Facebook in a deeply uncomfortable position, especially since the company knew about the misuse of the data but did not acknowledge it. Facebook and CA are now under new regulatory scrutiny in both the U.S. and Britain.

It’s hard to know what to make of the specifics of the Channel 4 story. CA predictably denies any wrongdoing, and the video’s editing makes it hard to determine the context for the things that CEO Alexander Nix and others said. But even if one takes CA’s denials at face value, the conversations caught on tape creates the strong impression that the company cannot produce the “psychometric” alchemy it has promised to clients. In that respect, CA joins a long line of political consultants who have promised they have bottled a new, magical trick, only to be revealed to be selling old wine …read more

Via:: The Atlantic