[guest post by Dana]
[Ed. I just realized that it’s only Thursday, not Friday, so Early Weekend Open Thread…]
First news item
CNN, fully knowing how things would go, nonetheless gave former president Donald Trump, the corrupt, twice-impeached compulsive liar and narcissist, whom a jury just found liable for sexual assault, a platform from which to double down on his lies and peddle misinformation to a friendly audience with ineffectual pushback from the host. When all was said and done, the cable network was compelled to factcheck the former president’s claims.
So why did CNN decide to host Trump’s “rally” in the first place? I asked and answered the question two days ago:
Does CNN rethink hosting its Trump forum tomorrow night in light of the leading Republican candidate, who has already been proven unfit for office, and now found liable for sexual abuse, or do they stay the course for ratings gold? Pretty sure we already know the answer.
In other words, it appears that nothing at CNN has changed since former network president Jeff Zuker opted to air numerous Trump rallies in pursuit of higher ratings. And Trump knows it. What an exclusive welcome from the cable network to their favorite ratings son and the leading 2024 Republican candidate! What a receptive welcome from the audience who laughed at the former president mocking a sexual abuse victim! Winners all around!
How did CNN employees react to the townhall:
Chris Licht begins CNN’s 9am editorial call by praising @kaitlancollins for a “masterful performance last night.” He says “I couldn’t be more proud of her” and the whole team in NH. Then he says he’s aware of the backlash…
“You do not have to like the former president’s answers, but you can’t say that we didn’t get them,” Licht tells staffers, many of whom are angry about the town hall. “Kaitlan pressed him again and again and made news. Made a LOT of news.” And “that is our job.”
“While we all may have been uncomfortable hearing people clapping, that was also an important part of the story,” Licht adds, because those folks represent “a large swath of America,” and the media screwed up by missing that part of the story in 2015/16.
Covering Trump is “tricky and messy,” Licht says, and it will “continue to be messy and tricky, but it’s our job.” He confidently says “America was served very well by what we did last night.” Many CNN employees strongly disagree.
From Jake Tapper:
Jake Tapper: "The falsehoods kept coming fast and furious" (this is the issue with doing this sort of event with Trump!) pic.twitter.com/iQ3B353dTF
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 11, 2023
CNN’s Oliver Darcy writes that “It’s hard to see how America was served by the spectacle of lies that aired on CNN Wednesday evening,” and documents the internal criticism over the townhall debacle coming from within CNN.
Second news item
While border crossings topped 10,000 daily the last three days (before Title 42 expires) and President Biden said that “the border is going to be chaotic for a while,” Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas offered these comments at a presser yesterday:
The Department of Homeland Security is assigning hundreds of asylum officers to the border to sort through the region’s recent surge in humanitarian needs, Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Wednesday.
“Short-term solutions” are needed to address the “decades-old problem” of a “broken immigration system,” Mayorkas said in explaining the surge. We are clear-eyed about the challenges we are likely to face in the days and weeks ahead. … We are taking this approach within the constraints of a broken immigration system that Congress has not fixed for more than two decades and without the resources we need: personnel, facilities, transportation and others that we have requested of Congress and that we were not given,” he said.
Asked about reports that Customs and Border Protection is releasing migrants due to capacity issues, Mayorkas said those migrants are still required to meet strict conditions and report back to authorities, adding those releases only occur in limited circumstances.
“Like other administrations, when we release individuals, we release them on conditions — and their compliance with those conditions is absolutely necessary. And if they fail to comply, we will seek to apprehend them and remove them,” he said.
Fact check of Mayorkas press conference lies.
Title 8 does not = removal, it = RELEASE.
March-no more than 42% of arrestees held for removal or removed. All others RELEASED.
April-No more than 31% of arrestees held for removal or removed. All others RELEASED.
Do the math.
— Border Patrol Union – NBPC (@BPUnion) May 11, 2023
Third news item
The United Kingdom has delivered multiple “Storm Shadow” cruise missiles to Ukraine, giving the nation a new long-range strike capability in advance of a highly anticipated counteroffensive against Russian forces, multiple senior Western officials told CNN.
UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, calling the donation Ukraine’s “best chance to defend themselves against Russia’s continued brutality,” confirmed the transaction on Thursday after CNN exclusively reported the deal.
The Storm Shadow is a long-range cruise missile with stealth capabilities, jointly developed by the UK and France, which is typically launched from the air. With a firing range in excess of 250km, or 155 miles, it is just short of the 185-mile range capability of the US-made surface-to-surface Army Tactical Missile Systems, or ATACMS, that Ukraine has long asked for.
The French parliament has called on the EU to formally label the Russian mercenary group Wagner as terrorists, as the UK reportedly prepares to do the same.
France’s parliament unanimously passed a non-binding resolution aimed at encouraging the 27 members of the EU to put Wagner on its official list of terrorist organisations.
“Wherever they work, Wagner members spread instability and violence,” MP Benjamin Haddad told parliament on Tuesday. “They kill and torture. They massacre and pillage. They intimidate and manipulate with almost total impunity.”
Being listed as a terrorist organisation means EU members could freeze assets of the Wagner group and its members, with European companies and citizens barred from dealing with the group.
Fourth news item
House Republicans on Wednesday showed their cards on a sprawling investigation into the Biden family — sans a smoking gun that directly links President Joe Biden.
The rollout by Oversight Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) and GOP members of his panel marks the biggest public swing that Republicans have taken since November in a probe they’ve put at the center of investigations they hope will help them both keep their majority in 2024 and win the White House.
But the highly anticipated press conference also raised fresh questions about their ability to ultimately capture their white whale: the president himself. And Comer’s already faced plenty of doubt, including from some within his own party, that he can back up his promises to show Biden’s connection to family business dealings.
No link has publicly emerged, and that didn’t change at Wednesday’s press conference.
Fifth news item
A 13-count federal indictment unsealed Wednesday in New York accuses U.S. Rep. George Santos of embezzling money from his campaign, falsely receiving unemployment funds and lying to Congress about his finances.
The following are the counts Santos faces as they are described in the indictment, and the maximum sentences as spelled out in the U.S. criminal code:
COUNTS 1-5: “Wire Fraud — Fraudulent Political Contribution Solicitation Scheme”
COUNTS 6-8: “Unlawful Monetary Transactions Over $10,000”
COUNT 9: “Theft of Public Money”
COUNTS 10-11: “Wire Fraud — Fraudulent Application for and Receipt of Unemployment Benefit”
COUNT 12: “False Statements — 2020 House Disclosure Reports”
COUNT 13: “False Statements— 2022 House Disclosure Reports”
Sixth news item
A better question is this: Is it credible to bet on investors agreeing to buy $114 trillion in debt over the next 30 years? China and Japan have already reduced their holdings of American bonds, while the Fed already holds 25 percent of our debt. It’s unclear that domestic investors will step up to the plate. What happens then? Taxes can only be raised so much. Under the current tax system, on average, the United States has raised about 18 percent of GDP in tax revenue. But in 30 years, spending will be 30 percent of GDP.
My hope is that if you’ve read this far, you now understand that Congress should start working diligently to stop our debt from growing. No side is going to like what’s required, but it must be done. And the longer we wait, the more painful it will be.
Seventh news item
But Carroll did. She did exactly what Trump’s defenders demanded. She went to court, faced cross-examination, looked the jury in the eye and made her claims. She provided witnesses who supported her story, under oath. The court gave Trump a chance to answer, to do the same thing — to look the jury in the eye and state his case. He declined.
The jury’s verdict echoes beyond politics. It implicates our nation’s moral core. Trump had his day in court. He lost. Now the GOP faces a very different kind of trial, one conducted not before a jury, but before a watching nation. It’s a test of decency, integrity and respect, and it is a great tragedy of our time that no one can presume that it’s a test the party will pass.
Eighth news item
Today’s Russia issues an unending stream of nuclear threats. In the West today, unlike during the Cold War, these are discussed in psychological rather than strategic terms. How does Mr. Putin feel? How do we feel?
Americans’ fear of escalation delayed the supply of weapons that could have allowed Ukraine to win last year. One after the other, the weapons systems deemed escalatory have now been delivered, with no negative consequences. But the cost of delay can be observed in the Ukrainian territories that Russia still controls: the death pits, the torture chambers and the empty homes of kidnapped children. Tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides have unnecessarily died.
In nearly 15 months of war, despite Russian nuclear propaganda and Western anxiety, there has been no use of nuclear weapons. This is an absence worthy of an explanation. Those who predicted escalation if Ukrainians resisted, if the West supplied weapons or if Russia suffered defeat have thus far been wrong. Strategic thinkers point to deterrence and note that nuclear use would not in fact bring a Russian victory. It would ensure a dramatic Western response and make Russian leaders pariahs. But there is a deeper explanation: Russia’s nuclear talk is itself the weapon.
Read the whole thing.
Have a great weekend.