Posts Tagged ‘journalists’

FBI investigating ties between Russia and Trump campaign

March 20, 2017

AFP and The Associated Press

© Nicholas Kamm, AFP | FBI Director James Comey (pictured left) and NSA Director Mike Rogers on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. on March 20, 2017

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-03-20

FBI Director James Comey confirmed Monday that the bureau is investigating possible links and coordination between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump as part of a probe of Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.

The extraordinary revelation came at the outset of Comey’s opening statement in a congressional hearing examining Russian meddling and possible connections between Moscow and Trump‘s campaign. He acknowledged that the FBI does not ordinarily discuss ongoing investigations, but said he’d been authorized to do so given the extreme public interest in this case.

“This work is very complex, and there is no way for me to give you a timetable for when it will be done,” Comey told the House Intelligence Committee.

Earlier in the hearing, the chairman of the committee contradicted an assertion from Trump by saying that there had been no wiretap of Trump Tower. But Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican whose committee is one of several investigating, said that other forms of surveillance of Trump and his associates have not been ruled out.

Comey was testifying at Monday’s hearing along with National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers.

Trump, who recently accused President Barack Obama of wiretapping his New York skyscraper during the campaign, took to Twitter before the hearing began, accusing Democrats of making up allegations about his campaign associates’ contact with Russia during the election. He said Congress and the FBI should be going after media leaks and maybe even Hillary Clinton instead.

“The real story that Congress, the FBI and others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!” Trump tweeted early Monday as news coverage on the Russia allegations dominated the morning’s cable news.

Trump also suggested, without evidence, that Clinton’s campaign was in contact with Russia and had possibly thwarted a federal investigation. U.S. intelligence officials have not publicly raised the possibility of contacts between the Clintons and Moscow. Officials investigating the matter have said they believe Moscow had hacked into Democrats’ computers in a bid to help Trump’s election bid.

The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!

Monday’s hearing, one of several by congressional panels probing allegations of Russian meddling, could allow for the greatest public accounting to date of investigations that have shadowed the Trump administration in its first two months.

The top two lawmakers on the committee said Sunday that documents the Justice Department and FBI delivered late last week offered no evidence that the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump Tower, the president’s New York City headquarters. But the panel’s ranking Democrat said the material offered circumstantial evidence that American citizens colluded with Russians in Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the presidential election.

“There was circumstantial evidence of collusion; there is direct evidence, I think, of deception,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”There’s certainly enough for us to conduct an investigation.”

The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign. Big advantage in Electoral College & lost!

Nunes said: “For the first time the American people, and all the political parties now, are paying attention to the threat that Russia poses.”

“We know that the Russians were trying to get involved in our campaign, like they have for many decades. They’re also trying to get involved in campaigns around the globe and over in Europe,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee has scheduled a similar hearing for later in the month.

It is not clear how much new information will emerge Monday, and the hearing’s open setting unquestionably puts Comey in a difficult situation if he’s asked to discuss an ongoing investigation tied to the campaign of the president.

At a hearing in January, Comey refused to confirm or deny the existence of any investigation exploring possible connections between Trump associates and Russia, consistent with the FBI’s longstanding policy of not publicly discussing its work. His appearances on Capitol Hill since then have occurred in classified settings, often with small groups of lawmakers, and he has made no public statements connected to the Trump campaign or Russia.

Any lack of detail from Comey on Monday would likely be contrasted with public comments he made last year when closing out an investigation into Clinton’s email practices and then, shortly before Election Day, announcing that the probe would be revived following the discovery of additional emails.

(AP)

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FBI Director Comey: Justice Dept. has no information that supports President Trump’s tweets alleging he was wiretapped by Obama

March 20, 2017

James Comey. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images (File Photo)

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The Washington Post
March 20 at 11:27 AM
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FBI Director James B. Comey acknowledged on Monday the existence of a counterintelligence investigation into the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, and said that probe extends to the nature of any links between Trump campaign associates and the Russian government.
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Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, Comey said the investigation is also exploring whether there was any coordination between the campaign and the Kremlin, and “whether any crimes were committed.”
.The acknowledgment was an unusual move, given that the FBI’s practice is not to confirm the existence of ongoing investigations. “But in unusual circumstances, where it is in the public interest,” Comey said, “it may be appropriate to do so.”

Comey said he had been authorized by the Justice Department to confirm the wide-ranging probe’s existence.

He spoke at the first intelligence committee public hearing on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, along with National Security Agency head Michael S. Rogers.

Comey: No information to support Trump’s wiretapping tweets

FBI Director James B. Comey said at a House Intelligence Committee hearing that he has no information that Trump Tower was wiretapped by former president Barack Obama. (Reuters)

The hearing comes amid the controversy fired up by President Trump two weeks ago when he tweeted, without providing evidence, that President Barack Obama ordered his phones tapped at Trump Tower.

Comey says there is “no information’’ that supports Trump’s claims that his predecessor Barack Obama ordered surveillance of Trump Tower during the election campaign.

“I have no information that supports those tweets,’’ said Comey. “We have looked carefully inside the FBI,’’ and agents found nothing to support those claims, he said. He added the Justice Department had asked him to also tell the committee that that agency has no such information, either.

Under questioning from the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif,), Comey said no president could order such surveillance.

Committee chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said in his opening statement, “The fact that Russia hacked U.S. election-related databases comes as no shock to this committee. We have been closely monitoring Russia’s aggressions for years…However, while the indications of Russian measures targeting the U.S. presidential election are deeply troubling, one benefit is already clear – it has focused wide attention on the pressing threats posed by the Russian autocrat. In recent years, Committee members have issued repeated and forceful pleas for stronger action against Russian belligerence. But the Obama administration was committed to the notion, against all evidence, that we could ‘reset’ relations with Putin, and it routinely ignored our warnings.”

Nunes said he hoped the hearing would focus on several key questions, including what actions Russia undertook against the United States during the 2016 election and did anyone from a political campaign conspire in these activities? He also wants to know if the communications of any campaign officials or associates were subject to any improper surveillance.

“Let me be clear,” he said. “We know there was not a wiretap on Trump Tower. However, it’s still possible that other surveillance activities were used against President Trump and his associates.”

Finally, Nunes said he is focused on leaks of classified information to the media. “We aim to determine who has leaked or facilitated leaks of classified information so these individuals can be brought to justice,” he said.

In his opening statement, Schiff said, “We will never know whether the Russian intervention was determinative in such a close election. Indeed it is unknowable in a campaign in which so many small changes could have dictated a different result. More importantly, and for the purposes of our investigation, it simply does not matter. What does matter is this: the Russians successfully meddled in our democracy, and our intelligence agencies have concluded that they will do so again.”

He added: “Most important, we do not yet know whether the Russians had the help of U.S. citizens, including people associated with the Trump campaign. Many of Trump’s campaign personnel, including the president himself, have ties to Russia and Russian interests. This is, of course, no crime. On the other hand, if the Trump campaign, or anybody associated with it, aided or abetted the Russians, it would not only be a serious crime, it would also represent one of the most shocking betrayals of our democracy in history.”

Just hours before the start of the hearing, Trump posted a series of tweets claiming Democrats “made up” the allegations of Russian contacts in an attempt to discredit the GOP during the presidential campaign. Trump also urged federal investigators to shift their focus to probe disclosures of classified material.

“The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information,” Trump wrote early Monday. “Must find leaker now!”

Republican members pressed hard on the subject of leaks to the media that resulted in news stories about contacts between Russian officials and the Trump campaign or administration officials. Nunes sought an admission from the officials that the leaks were illegal under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court act, the law that governs foreign intelligence-gathering on U.S. soil or of U.S. persons overseas.

“Yes,” Comey answered. “In addition to being a breach of our trust with the FISA court.”

One story in particular that apparently upset the Republicans was a Feb. 9 story by The Washington Post reporting that Trump’s national security advisor, Michael Flynn, discussed the subject of sanctions with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, in the month before Trump took office. The Post reported that the discussions were monitored under routine, court-approved monitoring of Kislyak’s calls.

Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) pressed Rogers to clarify under what circumstances it would be legitimate for Americans caught on tape speaking with people under surveillance to have their identities disclosed publicly, and whether leaking those identities would “hurt or help” intelligence collection.

“Hurt,” Rogers noted.

Rogers stressed that the identities of U.S. persons picked up through “incidental collection” – that being the way intelligence officials picked up on Flynn’s phone calls with Kislyak – are disclosed only on a “valid, need to know” basis, and usually only when there is a criminal activity or potential threat to the United States at play.

Rogers added that there are a total of 20 people in the NSA he has delegated to make decisions about when someone’s identity can be unmasked.

The FBI probe combines an investigation into hacking operations by Russian spy agencies with efforts to understand how the Kremlin sought to manipulate public opinion and influence the election’s outcome.

In January, the intelligence community released a report concluding that Russian President Vladi­mir Putin wanted to not only undermine the legitimacy of the election process but also harm the campaign of Hillary Clinton and boost Trump’s chances of winning.

Hackers working for Russian spy agencies penetrated the computers of the Democratic National Committee in 2015 and 2016 as well as the email accounts of Democratic officials, intelligence official said in the report. The material was relayed to WikiLeaks, the officials said, and the anti-secrecy group began a series of damaging email releases just before the Democratic National Convention that continued through the fall.

On Friday, the Justice Department delivered documents to the committee in response to a request for copies of intelligence and criminal wiretap orders and applications. Nunes, speaking Sunday, said the material provided “no evidence of collusion” to sway the election toward Trump and repeated previous statements that there is no credible proof of any active coordination.

But Schiff, also speaking Sunday, said there was “circumstantial evidence of collusion” at the outset of the congressional investigations into purported Russian election meddling, as well as “direct evidence” that Trump campaign figures sought to deceive the public about their interactions with Russian figures.

The concerns about Moscow’s meddling are also being felt in Europe, where France and Germany hold elections this year. “Our allies,” Schiff said, “are facing the same Russian onslaught.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/fbi-director-to-testify-on-russian-interference-in-the-presidential-election/2017/03/20/cdea86ca-0ce2-11e7-9d5a-a83e627dc120_story.html?utm_term=.2b44421224ec

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The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – FBI Director James Comey confirmed Monday that the bureau is investigating possible links and coordination between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump as part of a broader probe of Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.

The extraordinary revelation came at the outset of Comey’s opening statement in a congressional hearing examining Russian meddling and possible connections between Moscow and Trump’s campaign. He acknowledged that the FBI does not ordinarily discuss ongoing investigations, but said he’d been authorized to do so given the extreme public interest in this case.

“This work is very complex, and there is no way for me to give you a timetable for when it will be done,” Comey told the House Intelligence Committee.

Earlier in the hearing, the chairman of the committee contradicted an assertion from Trump by saying that there had been no wiretap of Trump Tower. But Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican whose committee is one of several investigating, said that other forms of surveillance of Trump and his associates have not been ruled out.

Comey was testifying at Monday’s hearing along with National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers.

Trump, who recently accused President Barack Obama of wiretapping his New York skyscraper during the campaign, took to Twitter before the hearing began, accusing Democrats of making up allegations about his campaign associates’ contact with Russia during the election. He said Congress and the FBI should be going after media leaks and maybe even Hillary Clinton instead.

“The real story that Congress, the FBI and others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!” Trump tweeted early Monday as news coverage on the Russia allegations dominated the morning’s cable news.

Trump also suggested, without evidence, that Clinton’s campaign was in contact with Russia and had possibly thwarted a federal investigation. U.S. intelligence officials have not publicly raised the possibility of contacts between the Clintons and Moscow. Officials investigating the matter have said they believe Moscow had hacked into Democrats’ computers in a bid to help Trump’s election bid.

Monday’s hearing, one of several by congressional panels probing allegations of Russian meddling, could allow for the greatest public accounting to date of investigations that have shadowed the Trump administration in its first two months.

The top two lawmakers on the committee said Sunday that documents the Justice Department and FBI delivered late last week offered no evidence that the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump Tower, the president’s New York City headquarters. But the panel’s ranking Democrat said the material offered circumstantial evidence that American citizens colluded with Russians in Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the presidential election.

“There was circumstantial evidence of collusion; there is direct evidence, I think, of deception,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” `’There’s certainly enough for us to conduct an investigation.”

Nunes said: “For the first time the American people, and all the political parties now, are paying attention to the threat that Russia poses.”

“We know that the Russians were trying to get involved in our campaign, like they have for many decades. They’re also trying to get involved in campaigns around the globe and over in Europe,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee has scheduled a similar hearing for later in the month.

It is not clear how much new information will emerge Monday, and the hearing’s open setting unquestionably puts Comey in a difficult situation if he’s asked to discuss an ongoing investigation tied to the campaign of the president.

At a hearing in January, Comey refused to confirm or deny the existence of any investigation exploring possible connections between Trump associates and Russia, consistent with the FBI’s longstanding policy of not publicly discussing its work. His appearances on Capitol Hill since then have occurred in classified settings, often with small groups of lawmakers, and he has made no public statements connected to the Trump campaign or Russia.

Any lack of detail from Comey on Monday would likely be contrasted with public comments he made last year when closing out an investigation into Clinton’s email practices and then, shortly before Election Day, announcing that the probe would be revived following the discovery of additional emails.


PUBLISHED: MARCH 20, 2017, 8:01 A.M. 

Pakistan: Government tries to silence media with threats pf “blasphemy” — which is punishable by death in Pakistan — “They should be scared.”

March 18, 2017

The Associated Press

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Ahmad Waqas Goraya couldn’t see anything through the black hood, but he could hear the screams.

A Pakistani blogger with a penchant for criticizing Pakistan’s powerful military and taking the government to task, Goraya was kidnapped in January along with four other bloggers.

“I could hear the screams of torture,” he said, struggling for words as the memories flooded back. “I don’t even want to think about what they did.”

But that wasn’t the worst of it, he said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. More terrifying was the accusation of blasphemy __ punishable by death in Pakistan __ hurled at him and his fellow bloggers. They were held in what Goraya called a “black site” on the edge of Lahore that some say is run by Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency.

Analysts and social media monitors say the blasphemy law is a powerful tool to silence critics. Some say it is being used by extremists to silence moderates at a time when Pakistanis are increasingly speaking out against violence and extremism, and voicing support for a government crackdown on Islamic militants.

In Pakistan, even the suggestion of blasphemy can be tantamount to a death sentence. It has incited extremists to take the law into their own hands and kill alleged perpetrators, often forcing people to flee the country, as Goraya and the other bloggers have.

Pakistan’s government heightened concerns earlier this week when it said it had asked Facebook and Twitter to ferret out Pakistanis posting religiously offensive material, promising to seek their extradition if they are out of the country and prosecute them on blasphemy charges if they are in Pakistan.

In one high-profile case six years ago, Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer was gunned down by one of his guards, who accused him of blasphemy because he criticized the law and defended a Christian woman sentenced to death for allegedly insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

Image may contain: 3 people, beard, closeup and outdoor

Mumtaz Qadri, the killer of Salman Taseer. Reuters photo

“Right now they have made sure I cannot come back to Pakistan by introducing blasphemy charges,” Goraya said.

The lawyer who is arguing the case against the bloggers, Tariq Asad, has openly called for their deaths, while praising outlawed Sunni militant groups who want the country’s minority Shiites declared non-Muslims.

“They should have been killed,” Asad told the AP in an interview this week. “If I had the opportunity I would have killed them.”

Asad smiled at the suggestion that invoking the blasphemy law subdues the media and frightens social media activists.

“They should be scared,” he said.

The blasphemy charges against the bloggers being heard in Islamabad’s High Court were filed by Salman Shahid, who has ties to Pakistan’s Red Mosque, a hotbed of Islamic militancy where hundreds were killed in 2007 after security forces ended a months-long standoff with militants holed up inside. Asad is Shahid’s lawyer.

Zahid Hussain, a defense analyst and author of several books on militancy in the region, said invoking the blasphemy law is a form of “pushback” against the proliferation of news outlets and social media that amplify moderate voices.

Extremists “are trying to reassert themselves with this ideological battle and the easiest thing for them to use is the blasphemy law,” he said.

Hamid Mir, a popular Pakistani news anchor, says both media owners and journalists operate under a cloud of fear. Threats come from a variety of quarters in Pakistan, including the powerful spy agencies, but the most frightening are from those who would use the blasphemy law, he said.

Mir was shot six times in a drive-by shooting in Karachi three years ago. The culprits were later said to have been killed, but Mir pointedly accused Pakistan’s intelligence agency at the time.

“I am not afraid of bullets or bombs,” he said in an interview this week in his office in Islamabad. Even with three of the six bullets still in his body, he has refused to leave Pakistan.

But now he is having second thoughts. Last year, he was charged with blasphemy after writing a column condemning those who would kill in the name of honor following the burning death of a young girl.

“It broke me,” he said. “Here I had done nothing wrong and for four months I faced this blasphemy charge. Then I thought I should leave my country.”

Asad, the attorney prosecuting the bloggers, also argued the case against Mir.

A group of senior lawyers in Pakistan told Mir there was only one lawyer who could defend him, Rizwan Abbasi, who was defending the seven militants accused in the deadly 2008 multi-pronged assault in Mumbai, India, which killed 127 people. Abbasi had also defended Hafiz Saeed, the founder of the outlawed Lashkar-e-Taiba group and one of India’s most wanted men.

“I thought if the judge saw him by my side he would think ‘if he is with him then I won’t get into trouble if I free him,'” said Mir, explaining that judges and lawyers fear retaliation from militants if they exonerate someone of blasphemy.

But even Abbasi needed help. He had Mir send his column to five of the country’s top clerics to ask if it contained anything blasphemous. They all rejected the charge and it was dropped, but Mir says his approach to journalism has changed.

“I don’t talk about human rights any more. . . You become selective in your criticism,” he said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists and Amnesty International have spoken out against the abduction of the bloggers and expressed concerns about growing fears within Pakistan’s journalist community brought about by the use of the blasphemy law.

“It’s not the elected government that is putting pressure on the media, but journalists express fear of offending religious and militant groups, and the military and intelligence organizations,” said Steven Butler, the CPJ’s Asia program director. “The latest fear is of being labeled as ‘blasphemer’ and that this could lead to attacks.”

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did nothing to allay fears earlier this week when he demanded a review of social media to seek out offensive content, and when his interior minister said the government had reached out to Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook said it reviews all government requests carefully, “with the goal of protecting the privacy and rights of our users.” Twitter declined to comment.

In the past, Pakistan has banned YouTube after the circulation of videos deemed offensive to Islam.

“Our argument has never been about the law, but what is most dangerous is how it is used in Pakistan,” to stifle critics and muffle moderate voices, said Haroon Baloch with the Islamabad-based internet advocacy group Bytesforall. He said radical religious groups use social media to attack moderate views, but there have been no restrictions imposed on them.

In an open letter to Pakistan’s interior minister, Amnesty International earlier this month asked that the government “protect journalists, bloggers, civil society and other human rights activists who are facing constant harassment, intimidation, threats and violent attacks in the country.”

Goraya, the blogger, is still haunted by his three weeks of captivity at the black site, where he said several cells were overcrowded with men both young and old, many of them in chains. One of his eardrums is damaged and he no longer has feeling in one hand.

“I was tortured beyond limits, beatings, different equipment used, psychological torture,” he said.

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Breitbart: New York Times Trashes Its Own Reporting on Obama Admin Wiretapping

March 6, 2017

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People walk past an electronic board displaying an advertisement by the New York Times, in New York on February 27, 2017. 
 / AFP / Jewel SAMAD        (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

 The New York Times has inadvertently attacked the credibility of its own reporting on the Obama Administration’s investigation of Russia and now-President Donald Trump.

Times reporters Michael Schmidt and Michael Shear write that Trump believes the “deep state” intelligence community, staffed with holdovers from the Obama Administration, wiretapped several of his campaign associates because of a spurious article from Breitbart News:

On Sunday, the president demanded a congressional inquiry into whether Mr. Obama had abused the power of federal law enforcement agencies before the 2016 presidential election. In a statement from his spokesman, Mr. Trump called “reports” about the wiretapping “very troubling” and said that Congress should examine them as part of its investigations into Russia’s meddling in the election.

Mr. Trump’s demand for a congressional investigation appears to be based, at least in part, on unproved claims by Breitbart News and conservative talk radio hosts that secret warrants were issued authorizing the tapping of the phones of Mr. Trump and his aides at Trump Tower in New York.

The Breitbart article in question (which Schmidt and Shear do not link to) cites the Times’ own reporting on the intelligence community. Their January 19th article, “Intercepted Russian Communications Part of Inquiry Into Trump Associates,” also bore Schmidt’s byline.

An editorial note at this link reveals that the print version of this article was headlined: “Wiretapped Data Used in Inquiry of Trump Aides.”

It quotes an anonymous source who says that “wiretapped communications had been provided to the White House” as part of an investigation into “the business dealings that some of the president-elect’s past and present advisers have had with Russia.”

At the end of the article, the Times‘ reporters fret that then-Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions would “for a time be the only person in the government authorized to seek foreign intelligence wiretaps on American soil.”

http://www.breitbart.com/big-journalism/2017/03/05/new-york-times-trashes-its-own-reporting-on-obama-admin-wiretapping/

Philippines: Duterte public attacks has chilling effect on free speech — US State Department

March 5, 2017
For the US State Department, President Rodrigo Duterte’s public attacks on those who criticized his policies had a “chilling effect” on free speech. PPD/Karl Norman Alonzo,file

MANILA, Philippines — The US State Department in a report said President Rodrigo Duterte’s public attacks against critics of his policies had a “chilling effect” on free speech.

In its annual human rights report released on its website Friday, the US State Department said that individuals could criticize the government publicly or privately and even discuss matters of general public interest. However, Duterte’s “public attacks on individuals and international bodies who have criticized his policies had a chilling effect on free speech and expression.”

The US State Department cited as an example Duterte’s public accusations against Sen. Leila De Lima. The accusations were already thrown even before a formal government investigations occurred.

It said that the Department of Justice (DOJ) only launched a probe after the president claimed De Lima received benefits from the drug trade during her term as commissioner of human rights and justice secretary. Due to this, the US State Department questioned the timeliness of Duterte’s claims against De Lima.

“Duterte’s allegations came at the same time that De Lima began hearings into alleged extrajudicial killings in the government’s anti-drug campaign as chairperson of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human rights,” the report read.

The report also cited that De Lima was ousted as the chairperson of the Senate committee after she called as a witness self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato to testify regarding Duterte’s direct involvement in alleged extrajudicial killings during his tenure as Davao City mayor. It noted that the senator was replaced by someone considered as Duterte’s ally, Sen. Richard Gordon.

Last October, however, Gordon denied that he is an ally of Duterte.

“Why do you keep on saying I’m an ally of the president? Am I PDP-laban (ruling political party)? Am I?” Gordon was quoted by reports.

The US State Department said that when Gordon led the hearings into drug-related killings, he concluded that there was no proof that Duterte had personal involvement in extrajudicial killings. It added that as of November 21, “the DOJ continued to investigate De Lima’s alleged ties to illegal narcotics but has not found sufficient evidence to file a criminal indictment.”

De Lima, nevertheless, was recently detained. She was accused by the DOJ of violating Section 5 (sale) in relation to Section 3 (jj trading), Section 26 (b) and Section 28 or the criminal liability of government officials and employees under the Republic Act 9165 also known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 for allegedly allowing the proliferation of the drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison during her stint as justice secretary.

‘Journalists also face harassment, threats’

Like De Lima, the US State Department report noted that journalists also “faced harassment and threats of violence, including from politicians and government authorities critical of their reporting.” It cited that in April 2016, Duterte, then a presidential candidate, threatened that journalists could be assassinated if they were corrupt.

“In April then candidate Duterte drew widespread criticism after he told the media that journalists should enjoy no special protections and could be ‘assassinated’ if they were ‘corrupt’ and took money from politicians. Human rights NGOs frequently criticized the government for failing to protect journalists,” the report read.

The US State Department added that several journalists reported an “uptick” in online threats, including threats of violence and harassment, in response to articles posted online that were critical of the government.

“Journalists critical of the government reported that they did not yet feel that threats to their personal safety were credible but they were concerned about losing access to the president and presidential palace if they were seen as overly critical,” it said.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016” demonstrate the United States’ unwavering commitment to advancing liberty, human dignity and global prosperity.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/03/05/1678210/duterte-public-attacks-has-chilling-effect-free-speech-us-state

Donald Trump’s combative press conference: the six most significant moments and then some as media explodes

February 17, 2017

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Image may contain: 1 person, standing and suit

Donald Trump during a press conference on February 16, 2017 at the White House in Washington, DC. Nicholas Kamm – AFP – Getty Images

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Donald Trump insisted that he had “inherited a mess” in his most vociferous defence of his presidency to date during a wide-ranging 75 minute impromptu press conference on Thursday.

Mr Trump claimed his administration was operating like a “fine-tuned machine” and railed against claims to the contrary during a conference initially intended as an introduction for his new cabinet nominee.

He jolted from anger, to humour to defiance, saying that while he knew the headlines would read that he had “ranted and raved” he was actually enjoying himself throughout the unorthodox performance.

Trump
Donald Trump speaks at a press conference CREDIT: AP

1: Russia

Mr Trump claimed reports that his senior campaign aides had been in contact with Russian intelligence officials were a “ruse” designed to undermine his presidency.

He twice declined to say whether the reports were accurate, though, until finally clarifying that “nobody that I know of” had held conversations with Russian agents.

“The good thing is it’s starting to turn. People are starting to focus on the illegal giving out classified information,” he said.

He also declined to criticise Vladimir Putin for stepping up his aggression toward the US, saying he believed negative media coverage had convinced Mr Putin that a potential “deal” was off.

Trump Putin
CREDIT: AFP/GETTY

2: Michael Flynn

Mr Trump said he was not concerned that Michael Flynn, until recently his national security adviser, had discussed sanctions to be handed down by Barack Obama with the Russian ambassador last year despite a law against negotiating with foreign powers.

“Mike was doing his job,” Mr Trump said, adding that he “would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn’t doing it.”

Mr Trump said the reason he demanded Mr Flynn’s resignation was that the retired general had not recounted the conversations accurately to Mike Pence, the vice-president.

Flynn
Michael Flynn CREDIT: GETTY

3: Electoral College

Mr Trump repeated a false claim that his had been “the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan.”

In fact, Mr Obama’s wins in 2008 and 2012 had both been by significantly larger margins than Mr Trump’s.

Indeed, Bill Clinton’s margins of victory in 1992 and 1996 were both far larger, and in 1988 George HW Bush won a whopping 426 electoral college votes, compared to 304 for Mr Trump.

When confronted with those facts Mr Trump gave a stuttering reply, saying he had been “given that information” and suggesting that he could not be held responsible for any inaccuracies.

“Well, I don’t know, I was given that information. I was given, I actually I’ve seen that information around. But it was a very substantial victory, do you agree with that?” he asked.

Reagan
Ronald Reagan

4: Travel ban

Mr Trump said the introduction of his controversial immigration and refugee ban had been “very smooth”, and that a “bad court” had made the wrong ruling in blocking it.

He said he would issue a new executive order next week to protect the American people to lessen the effects of that “bad decision”.

5: The media

Mr Trump returned to his favourite territory of attacking the media, describing the BBC once again, with deep sarcasm, as “another beauty” and berating the astonished journalists, only to tell them: “I’d be a good reporter.”

“I don’t mind bad stories. I can handle a bad story better than anybody as long as it’s true,” he said.

“But I’m not OK when it is fake. I mean, I watch CNN, it’s so much anger and hatred and just the hatred.”

He continued: “I see tone. You know the word ‘tone’. The tone is such hatred. I’m really not a bad person, by the way. No, but the tone is such – I do get good ratings, you have to admit that – the tone is such hatred.”

When a black reporter asked him whether he would meet with the Congressional Black Caucus, he suggested she set up a meeting.

“Are they friends of yours?” he asked.

6: Melania

Mr Trump launched a strident defence of his wife, insisting that Melania Trump was “a fantastic person” who would embrace the role of first lady.

“I’ve known her a long time,” he said, speaking of his wife of 11 years.

The 46-year-old, whose absence in the first three weeks of her husband’s presidency has raised eyebrows, would soon begin to work on “women’s issues”, he said.

Melania
CREDIT: REUTERS

“A funny thing happens,” said Mr Trump. “She gets so unfairly maligned. The things they say.

“She would go home at night and wouldn’t even want to go out with people. She was a very private person. She was always the highest quality that you will ever find.

“The things they say are so unfair,” he said.

 

.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/16/donald-trumps-combative-press-conference-six-significant-moments/

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ABC News

Trump press conference fact-check: What the president got wrong and right

By MARYALICE PARKS, RILEY BEGGIN RYAN STRUYK

President Donald Trump held a press conference at the White House Thursday to announce his new pick for labor secretary, Alexander Acosta, but once he began taking questions from reporters, the focus shifted away from Acosta to a slew of other topics: Allegations of his campaign’s contact with Russians, General Flynn’s resignation, anti-Semitism in the U.S., and a popular go-to topic for the president, his disdain for the mainstream media.

Below are more than a dozen false, questionable or misleading claims Trump made over the course of the 75-minute press conference — as well as a few that are backed up by the facts.

TRUMP: “I guess it was the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan.”

FACT: Trump guessed wrong: His electoral college margin was smaller than President Obama’s in 2012. When a reporter questioned Trump’s claim, he later said, “I don’t know. I was just given that information — it was a big margin.”

TRUMP: “I think we’re setting a record, or close to a record, in the time of approval of a cabinet.”

FACT: Not true. Trump has more unconfirmed Cabinet nominees at the four-week mark than any another other President in history. But, here’s a point of reference: President Obama’s cabinet was not complete until April 28, 2009, when his pick for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, was confirmed.

TRUMP: “I can’t get my cabinet approved, and they’re outstanding people. Like SenatorDan Coats, who is there, one of the most respected men in the senate. He can’t get approved … I’ve also worked to install a cabinet over the delays and obstruction of Senate Democrats.”

FACT: Not quite. A Senate intelligence aide says the committee does not have all of his paperwork yet, but that the committee is “eager to get his hearing scheduled.” Committee Chair Sen. Richard Burr told The Hill that “some of that’s out of our control. It’s FBI security, background checks,” telling the paper Coats himself filed everything he needs to. In fact, the committee received some of the necessary disclosures just hours after the press conference.

Pres. Trump: “This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine, despite the fact that I can’t get my cabinet approved.”

TRUMP: “Drugs are becoming cheaper than candy bars.”

FACT: Well, most chocolate bars retail for about one dollar. And according to crowdsourced street drug pricing sites like streetRx, it is possible — albeit rare — to find a single pill of some prescription drugs for that price. But illegal drugs like marijuana, cocaine, heroin and meth, which Trump was referring to, cost significantly more than one dollar.

TRUMP: “Jobs are pouring out of the country.”

FACT: Here are the stats: The number of jobs in the U.S. has increased every month since October 2010, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Still, the U.S. has lost nearly 5 million manufacturing jobs over the last two decades, according to BLS data.

TRUMP: “Hillary Clinton gave [Russia] 20 percent of our uranium.”

FACT: Trump was referring to Russia’s nuclear power agency buying a Toronto-based company that operates on land worth roughly 20 percent of U.S. uranium production capacity — not actual uranium, according to Politifact. Clinton, who was Secretary of State at the time, couldn’t approve or block the deal. Politifact rated it “Mostly False.”

TRUMP: “We had to go quicker than we thought because of the bad decision we received from a circuit that has been overturned at a record number. I’ve heard 80 percent. I find that hard to believe. That’s just a number I heard, that they’re overturned 80 percent of the time.”

FACT: According to a 2010 study published in Landslide, the 9th Circuit had an 80 percent reversal rate from 1999 to 2008. It was the top spot for a regional circuit court. A recent analysis of cases from 2010 to 2015 by SCOTUSBlog concluded that the 9th Circuit also has an 80 percent reversal rate, but that was third place — behind the 6th Circuit with 87 percent and 11th Circuit with 85 percent.

TRUMP: “People came out and voted like they’ve never seen before.”

FACT: Again, this isn’t correct. Around 60 percent of eligible Americans turned out to vote in 2016, according to estimates from the University of Florida’s U.S. Elections Project. According to researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara, the highest voter turnout in American history was the election of 1876 with a voter turnout rate of nearly 82 percent.

TRUMP: “There has been a tremendous surge of optimism in the business world.”

FACT: Perhaps a bit of an overstatement. Data from the Conference Board shows the consumer confidence index climbing from 107.1 in the end of October to 113.3 by the end of December. It fell slightly to 111.8 in January.

Pres. Trump: Stock market has hit record numbers, there’s been a surge of optimism in the business world, factories coming back to the U.S.

TRUMP: “People [addressing reporters], you have a lower approval rate than congress, I think that’s right … I heard lower than Congress.”

FACT: Not true. A Gallup poll last September found that only 32 percent of Americans say they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media — a new low. But according to Gallup poll conducted in January, Congress has a 19 percent approval rating.

TRUMP: “I got 306 electoral college votes.”

FACT: Not the case. Trump received 304 votes in the Electoral College. Two electors who were projected to go to him went rogue and voted for other candidates.

TRUMP: “The press — the public doesn’t believe you people anymore.”

FACT: Again, the aforementioned Gallup found that only 32 percent of Americans say they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media — a new low. That includes 51 percent of Democrats, 30 percent of independents and only 14 percent of Republicans.

TRUMP: “We have made incredible progress. I don’t think there’s ever been a president elected, who in this short period of time has done what we’ve done … Again, I say it, there has never been a presidency that’s done so much in such a short period of time.”

FACT: Another overstatement. At this point in his presidency, Trump has signed 12 executive orders vs. 15 executive orders for Obama. Granted, Obama had signed three bills into law, while Trump has signed four. However, one of Trump’s was a necessary rule change for his pick for Secretary of Defense. But one of Obama’s major achievements came on Feb. 17 when he signed his broad economic stimulus law.

Pres. Trump: “I don’t think there’s ever been a president elected who, in this short period of time, has done what we’ve done.”

TRUMP: “He [Alexander Acosta] is a member and has been a member of the National Labor Relations Board and has been through Senate confirmation three times.”

FACT: Acosta is not currently a member of the National Labor Relations Board. He served as a member from 2002 to 2003.

TRUMP: “Since my election, Ford announced it will abandon its plans to build a new factory in Mexico and will instead invest $700 million in Michigan creating many, many jobs. Fiat Chrysler announced it will invest $1 billion in Ohio and Michigan, creating 2,000 new American jobs.”

FACT: In early January, Ford and Fiat did announce plans to expand and invest in U.S. manufacturing. Fiat Chrysler made a point of saying the decision was not the result of conversations with the incoming White House. Instead many economics and analysts cite that fact that both car companies had long planned to invest in electric cars, which are easier to build in the U.S. and had received tax incentives in previous years to invest in fuel-economy technology.

Includes video:

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/trump-press-conference-fact-check-president-wrong/story?id=45548271

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See also:

9 Confounding Things Donald Trump Uttered at His ‘Wild’ Press Conference

The White House and the media at war

January 23, 2017

  • Reince Priebus got into a heated exchange defending inauguration crowd claims
  • White House chief of staff asked about dubious claims by anchor Chris Wallace
  • Priebus argued media is trying to ‘delegitimize’ Trump but they will fight back
  • He repeated press secretary Sean Spicer’s assertion at a conference on Saturday that Trump’s inauguration crowd was largest ever
  • Priebus said media chose to focus on crowd sizes instead of of Trump’s speech
  • Trump himself raised issue of crowd attendance during a visit to CIA on Saturday
  • Reuters editor claims aerial photo of Trump crowd was taken at 12.01pm on Friday and not earlier like some have claimed
  • Spicer will front the media again on Monday at first official Trump press briefing

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus has hit out the media saying they are trying to ‘delegitimize’ Trump after he was confronted with doubts about claims made by Trump’s team over attendance at his inauguration.

Priebus got into a heated exchange with Fox News anchor Chris Wallace on Sunday when he was asked about the claims made by the president and his press secretary Sean Spicer regarding the size of the inauguration crowd.

‘The point is not the crowd size. There’s an obsession by the media to delegitimize this President,’ Priebus said.

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus hit out the media in an interview on Sunday saying they are trying to 'delegitimize' Trump

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus hit out the media in an interview on Sunday saying they are trying to ‘delegitimize’ Trump

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‘We are not going to sit around and let it happen. We are going to fight back, tooth and nail every day and twice on Sunday.’

He repeated Spicer’s assertions made during a press conference on Saturday that the media manipulated photographs of the National Mall to make the crowds on Friday look smaller than they really were.

Aerial photographs showed the crowds were significantly smaller than when Barack Obama took over as president in 2009.

Spicer’s assertion that ‘this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration – period’ was widely challenged in media reports.

Wallace confronted Trump’s Chief of Staff asking him to look at the aerial photos side by side and say which one had the bigger crowd.

‘You’re also not saying that that picture was taken before (Trump) was even speaking,’ Priebus said as he defended the comments.

Wallace interjected: ‘I was there, I was there on the mall.’

Priebus got into a heated exchange with Fox News anchor Chris Wallace when he was asked about the incorrect claims made by Trump team regarding the size of the inauguration crowd

Priebus got into a heated exchange with Fox News anchor Chris Wallace when he was asked about the incorrect claims made by Trump team regarding the size of the inauguration crowd

.

Aerial photographs showed the crowds at Trump's inauguration on Friday (left) were significantly smaller than when Barack Obama took over as president in 2009 (right). Priebus argued that this photo failed to note that it was taken before Trump's speech

Aerial photographs showed the crowds at Trump’s inauguration on Friday (left) were significantly smaller than when Barack Obama took over as president in 2009 (right). Priebus argued that this photo failed to note that it was taken before Trump’s speech

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White House press secretary Sean Spicer made the dubious claim that the crowd on Friday 'was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration - period'

White House press secretary Sean Spicer made the dubious claim that the crowd on Friday ‘was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration – period’

Spicer came out swinging in his first media briefing on Saturday and is set to face journalists again in the first official Trump press briefing on Monday

Spicer came out swinging in his first media briefing on Saturday and is set to face journalists again in the first official Trump press briefing on Monday

The anchor called the conversation ‘ridiculous’ and asked for the photos to be put up again when Priebus insisted the crowds went back to the Washington Monument.

‘You can keep putting the picture up, wait a second. I could take an aerial picture right now, Chris, and I can say, ‘Look at the difference. If you’re not comparing apples to apples, it doesn’t matter,’ Priebus said.

The Chief of Staff argued that the media chose to focus on comparing the crowd sizes instead of the substance of Trump’s inaugural speech.

Wallace hit back saying Trump and his team were responsible for the attendance row given the president’s decision to make it his main theme during his first visit to the CIA.

‘(Trump) could’ve given a news conference yesterday, talked about the agenda, talked about the executive actions he’s going to sign. He talks about crowd sizes,’ Wallace said.

Wallace (pictured) confronted Trump's Chief of Staff asking him to look at the aerial photos side by side and say which one had the bigger crowd

Wallace (pictured) confronted Trump’s Chief of Staff asking him to look at the aerial photos side by side and say which one had the bigger crowd

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Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States by Chief Justice John Roberts on Friday morning

Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States by Chief Justice John Roberts on Friday morning

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The new president spoke at CIA headquarters on Saturday about how many people watched his inauguration as he hit back at media reports

The new president spoke at CIA headquarters on Saturday about how many people watched his inauguration as he hit back at media reports

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The new president launched his own attack on the ‘dishonest’ media earlier Saturday at CIA headquarters, telling employees of the spy agency that reported attendance numbers for his swearing-in dramatically undershot the truth.

There have been claims that the aerial photo that has been used to compare Trump’s inauguration attendance to Obama’s in 2009 may have shot long before the ceremony began.

But Reuters editor Jim Bourg hit back on Sunday saying the photo was taken at exactly 12:01:18pm on Friday during Trump’s inauguration.

‘Only one news organization had a still photographer atop the Washington monument for the inauguration and I assigned him to be there,’ he wrote on Facebook.

‘This photo by Reuters News Pictures staff photographer Lucas Jackson was taken at 12:01:18 p.m. on Friday and not much earlier as many people are trying to claim.’

Trump (pictured leaving the CIA) launched his own attack on the 'dishonest' media on Saturday at CIA headquarters

Trump (pictured leaving the CIA) launched his own attack on the ‘dishonest’ media on Saturday at CIA headquarters

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Reuters editor Jim Bourg hit back on Sunday saying this photo was taken at exactly 12:01:18pm on Friday during Trump's inauguration. Some have claimed it was taken earlier in the day, which is why the crowd appeared less than Obama's inauguration in 2009

Reuters editor Jim Bourg hit back on Sunday saying this photo was taken at exactly 12:01:18pm on Friday during Trump’s inauguration. Some have claimed it was taken earlier in the day, which is why the crowd appeared less than Obama’s inauguration in 2009

Trump and his senior team sparring with the media has dominated his first weekend in office, eclipsing debate over policy and Cabinet appointments.

It comes as Spicer is set to face the media again on Monday at the first official Trump administration press briefing.

Spicer came out swinging in his first media briefing on Saturday when he accused journalists of ‘deliberately false reporting’ on Trump’s inauguration.

But in the five minute tongue-lashing he gave reporters on Saturday, Spicer himself used several pieces of false information as he blasted the media for comparing the crowd size to Barack Obama’s inauguration.

The inaccurate information centered around the number of Metro riders on inauguration day, security measures, floor coverings and the number of viewers.

Obama: At Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration, attendance at the National Mall was filled with hundreds of thousands of people gathered to witness America's first African-American president being sworn in

Obama: At Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration, attendance at the National Mall was filled with hundreds of thousands of people gathered to witness America’s first African-American president being sworn in

Trump: This was the view towards the Washington Monument, taken from a platform a few hundred yards from the East Portico of the Capitol during Trump's inauguration

Trump: This was the view towards the Washington Monument, taken from a platform a few hundred yards from the East Portico of the Capitol during Trump’s inauguration

Sean Spicer calls Trump’s tweets ‘very, very strategic’
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SEAN SPICER’S INACCURACIES AS HE CRITICIZED THE MEDIA:

METRO RIDERS 

Spicer said: ‘We know that 420,000 people used the D.C. Metro public transit yesterday, which actually compares to 317,000 that used it for President Obama’s last inaugural.’

Full day Metro ridership for Trump’s inauguration day was 571,000 and for Obama’s 2013 inauguration it was 782,000, according to the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority.

The 317,000 figure Spicer quoted for Obama is the ridership until 11am. The comparable figure for Trump is 193,000 trips.

The figures Spicer used don’t make for an exact comparison between Obama and Trump’s inauguration days.

It is not clear where Spicer’s 420,000 figure came from. Full day ridership for Obama’s inauguration day in 2009 was 1.1 million.

EMPTY CROWD SPACE

Spicer said: ‘And from the media tent to the Washington Monument, another 250,000 people. All of this space was full when the President took the oath of office.’

Reuters photo editor Jim Bourg says a photo taken at the top of the Washington Monument that has been widely circulated was taken at 12:01:18 p.m. on Friday.

At the time Trump was being sworn in as president.

‘Only one news organization had a still photographer atop the Washington monument for the inauguration and I assigned him to be there,’ Bourg said.

‘This photo by Reuters News Pictures staff photographer Lucas Jackson was taken at 12:01:18 p.m. on Friday and not much earlier as many people are trying to claim.’

FLOOR COVERINGS

Spicer said: ‘This was the first time in our nation’s history that floor coverings have been used to protect the grass on the Mall. That had the effect of highlighting any areas where people were not standing, while in years past the grass eliminated this visual.’

Photographs from Obama’s inauguration in 2013 clearly show workers laying mats to protect the lawn on the National Mall.

It refutes Spicer’s claim that ‘floor coverings’ seen on Friday were a new phenomenon.

LARGEST AUDIENCE

Spicer said: ‘This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration – period – both in person and around the globe.’

Global TV audiences are extremely hard to measure, but domestic TV ratings figures show fewer people watched Trump’s inauguration than Obama’s in 2009.

Nielson ratings, an information company that tracks the television viewing audience of all inaugurations, released its final numbers on Donald Trump’s White House induction – at 30.9 million domestic viewers.

The 31 million figure is seven million fewer eyeballs than Obama received in 2009.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4146622/Priebus-says-media-deligitamize-Trump.html#ixzz4WZZuua3V
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Related:

Trump’s Enemy Number One: The Media — White House press secretary Sean Spicer accuses the media of deliberately false reporting

January 23, 2017

By Paul McGeough

Sydney Morning Herald

Washington: Donald Trump’s ego might dwarf Uluru, but he’s exceedingly thin-skinned.

However, it would be a mistake to think that drove his bludgeoning of the news media for their accurate reporting on the puny crowd that turned out for his inauguration – maybe just a third of those who poured into the streets of the capital for Saturday’s women’s protest against his election.

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Sean Spicer admonishes press on coverage

We’re familiar with the new President’s obsession about any numbers that speak to his sense of his own greatness – rally crowds, polling and TV ratings. And his bilious contempt for those that don’t.

Trump does not respond well to the words “smaller than” and “Trump” appearing in the same sentence.

RELATED CONTENT

Lower turnout and protests usher in Trump’s divided state of America

.

Sean Spicer’s denial of the truth gives birth to #SpicerFacts meme

But there’s enough data now to state unambiguously that his inauguration crowd was markedly smaller than either of those for Barack Obama – in 2009 and in 2013.

Photographs and video analysis by crowd size experts, reported by The New York Times, suggests Trump’s inauguration crowd was 160,000 – just a fraction of Trump’s estimate of up to 1.5 million.

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The experts estimate the 470,000 participated in the women’s march in DC. And when attendance at similar marches in other US states are thrown in, the total protest is estimated to have included from one million to 2.6 million people.

That makes them the biggest protests since the Vietnam War; and in anyone’s language, a passionate pushback to a new presidency.

The DC metro service said on Sunday that Saturday’s women’s march was the second busiest day in its history – more than 1 million passenger trips. It fell just short of the 1.1 million trips taken on the day of Obama’s first inauguration in 2009.

Figures reported by Politifact make the Trump inauguration the most poorly attended in more than 20 years. Here are the figures:

  • Obama 2009 – 1.8 million
  • Obama 2013 – 1 million
  • Bush 2001 – 300,000
  • Bush 2005 – 400,000
  • Clinton 1993 – 800,000
  • Clinton 1997 – 250,000.

Trump can’t pretend to be surprised. He knew that he lost the popular vote by a good 3 million votes; that he squeaked through the Electoral College thanks to just a handful of votes in three states; and that, historically, he’s the least popular incoming president ever.

And he can’t erase the facts that the Russian hacking and the FBI’s weird intervention late in the campaign took some of the wind out of Hillary Clinton’s campaign sails, thereby leaving many questioning the legitimacy of his “greatest win ever”.

A smart man, after the inauguration, might have sucked it all up and rolled up his sleeves to get to work making America great again. For months, Trump has been belting us around the ears with his Day One “to-do” list and his First 100 Days agenda; and, last week, aides claimed breathlessly that he had stockpiled 200 executive orders that were good to go – all they needed was Trump’s signature.

It was a given that he would be peeved about the crowd reports. But instead of Trump getting it out of his system with an early hours Twitterstorm, the manner in which key members of his team jumped into the trenches to maul the media suggests a pre-planned barrage intended to damage media integrity.

Trump himself was barking at the moon at the CIA’s Langley headquarters on Saturday.

Utterly insensitive to the fact that his backdrop was a memorial to CIA agents who had died in the line of duty, he rambled, from assuring his audience their new commander-in-chief was the full quid: “Trust me, I’m, like, a smart person”; to his fame – he had made the cover of Time magazine 15 times, but football star Tom Brady had made it just once.

Openly stating that he was “at war” with the media, he gave his take on Friday’s crowd: “We had a massive field of people. You saw that. Packed.

“I get up this morning. I turn on one of the networks and they show an empty field. I say: ‘Wait a minute. I made a speech. I looked out. The field was … It looked like a million, a million and a half people.’ … And they said: ‘Donald Trump did not draw well.’ ”

That’s what you’d expect from Trump. But later his newly minted presidential spokesman Sean Spicer harangued reporters in a briefing. It’s worth recalling here that, on being appointed earlier this month, Spicer assured reporters: “I’ve never lied … if you lose the respect and trust of the press corps, you’ve got nothing.”

Spicer told the briefing: “Yesterday, at a time when our nation and the world was watching the peaceful transition of power and, as the President said, the transition and the balance of power from Washington to the citizens of the United States, some members of the media were engaged in deliberately false reporting.

“This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration – period – both in person and around the globe. These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm for the inauguration are shameful and wrong.”

It brought to mind Saddam Hussein’s hapless spokesman Comical Ali, who bizarrely insisted to reporters that Baghdad was safely in the hands of the dictator in 2003 – even as live TV pictures showed that the city had been captured.

Spicer lied demonstrably about the size of the crowd; the numbers that rode the DC metro; the use of magnetometers in security checks which he claimed had stopped people getting in; in claiming that this was the first time that floor covering had been used, which he said accentuated empty space (the coverings were used at Obama’s 2013 inauguration).

It was an inauspicious start for a spokesman who claims to not lie and it earned him four Pinocchios from Glenn Kessler, The Washington Post’s fact checker.

Next into the fray was Trump’s White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, who accused the press of attempting to delegitimise Trump. “It’s really not about crowd size. It’s really about honesty in the media,” he told Fox News.

But what Priebus really meant became clear when Trump’s former campaign manager and White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway was interviewed on NBC on Sunday morning.

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Tackling her on Spicer’s loony performance the previous day, host Chuck Todd wanted her to explain the absurdity of Spicer being sent before the cameras to argue what Todd said were “provable falsehoods”.

At first Conway deflected: “I don’t think presidents are judged by crowd sizes, they’re judged by accomplishments.”

Todd: “Fair enough, so why lie?”

Conway: “You’re saying it’s a falsehood, and Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts.”

Todd, clearly flabbergasted: “Alternative fact are not facts. They’re falsehoods.”

So on top of fake news, we now have alternative facts.

George Orwell didn’t know the half of it, did he? But with Obama and Clinton off his radar, Trump is making very clear that the media is his next biggest enemy – and it must be discredited, if not destroyed.

Conway was on the same page as Trump surrogate Scottie Nell Hughes who, during the campaign, made this breathtaking statement on National Public Radio: “One thing that’s been interesting this campaign season to watch is that people that say facts are facts — they’re not really facts. Everybody has a way – it’s kind of like looking at ratings or looking at a glass of half-full water. Everybody has a way of interpreting them to be the truth or not true. There’s no such thing, unfortunately anymore, of facts.”

Evan McMullin, who ran for the presidency as a conservative candidate, put it this way: “[Trump’s attacks are] intended to destroy the media’s ability to hold him accountable.”

These are dangerous days for the mainstream media. Many have struggled since the advent of the internet, which wrecked their traditional business model, and to the extent that they survive financially, budgets are hopelessly tight. Now there is a new existential crisis as the integrity of their reporting comes under a new and relentless attack from social media, led by the President of the United States.

Yes, Trump won the election. But if a million or more Americans took to the streets of cities across the country on Saturday, it might mean that he has a bigger fight on his hands – if he does want to destroy the American news media.

http://www.smh.com.au/world/alternative-facts-fake-news-and-trumps-war-on-mainstream-media-20170122-gtwmdl.html

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Bahrain Lifts Ban Preventing Newspaper From Posting Online

January 19, 2017

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Bahraini authorities have lifted a ban preventing independent newspaper Al-Wasat from publishing online.

The official Bahrain News Agency said Thursday that the newspaper would be allowed to post material following a decision by the Ministry of Information.

It gave no details for the move, but warned that all media outlets must avoid “posting anything that incites divisions or discord within the community, undermines national unity or disturbs peace.”

Authorities issued the ban Monday, following a spike in anti-government protests led by the country’s Shiite majority against the Sunni monarchy.

Al-Wasat is widely seen as the only independent newspaper in Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. The paper has been ordered shut twice since an Arab Spring-inspired uprising erupted in 2011.

Daily Mail pulls out of talks to create a new joint advertising sales operation for the struggling UK national newspaper industry

January 18, 2017

Image may contain: 1 person

JANUARY 16, 2017

By David Bond, Media Correspondent
Financial Times (FT)

The parent company of the Daily Mail has pulled out of talks to create a new joint advertising sales operation for the struggling UK national newspaper industry, dealing a major blow to Fleet Street’s efforts to combat structural decline.

The initiative, known to newspaper executives as ‘Project Juno’, was launched last summer as media groups looked for new ideas to address an alarming fall in print advertising that has wiped millions of pounds from newspaper revenues. Discussions between the major publishers, including Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, Trinity Mirror and Telegraph Media Group, were extended at the end of October. Although there were concerns that the idea could run into problems with the competition authorities, executives were hopeful that a deal could be struck early this year.

The decision by DMG Media, one of the UK’s most commercially powerful publishers, to step back from the venture is a significant setback for an industry battling severe decline as audiences and advertisers switch to online rivals such as Google and Facebook. The Daily Mail is the second-biggest selling daily newspaper in Britain, with sales of 1.5m.

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UK press regulation Financial Times opposes new UK press law Section 40 carries threat of full liability for legal costs UK newspaper industry Trinity Mirror confirms talks over Express stake

In a statement, DMG Media said that, following the completion of the latest phase of research on the project, it had “stepped back” to pursue its own “broader commercial priorities” in 2017. “Although not participating at this time, DMG Media wishes its industry partners well and remains supportive of their ongoing efforts,” the statement added.

The company said it remained committed to working closely with rival newspaper groups on other initiatives including “defending the freedom of the press by opposing state-sanctioned regulation and punitive legislation such as Section 40”.

Newspapers, including the Financial Times, have called on the government to repeal section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, which could see news organisations that are not members of a state-approved regulator forced to pay the legal costs of both sides in libel and privacy cases even if they win. Despite the loss of DMG Media, the remaining members of the Fleet Street coalition insist they will press ahead with the joint advertising venture.

“The project companies remain committed to finding greater scale for advertisers through our digital and print channels,” said a spokesperson for the remaining newspaper groups.

“Whilst we are disappointed that DMG have withdrawn from the next phase of the project, they will be kept abreast of developments should they wish to rejoin at a later date.” News of the setback to Project Juno comes a week after Trinity Mirror, publisher of the Daily Mirror and the UK’s biggest local newspaper group, confirmed that it was in talks with Richard Desmond about a potential sale of a minority stake in his Express and Star newspapers.

https://www.ft.com/content/8252e15c-dc0f-11e6-9d7c-be108f1c1dce