The claim that Britain's GCHQ spied on Trump for Obama apparently started with an ex-CIA analyst on RT
Last Thursday, the White House provoked a diplomatic spat with America's closest ally, Britain, when Press Secretary Sean Spicer reiterated a claim from Fox News judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano that Britain's GCHQ spy agency had wiretapped President Trump during the presidential campaign at the behest of former President Barack Obama. By Friday, Britain and the White House were sparring over whether the Trump administration had apologized for repeating the claim, and if so, how much, and Napolitano had pointed The New York Times to one of his "intelligence sources," Larry C. Johnson.
Johnson, who was a CIA analyst before leaving the government about 30 years ago, is perhaps most famous, The Times notes, for spreading "false rumors in 2008 that Michelle Obama had been videotaped using a slur against Caucasians." On CNN Sunday, he told Brian Stelter where his information had come from and said he was actually not "knowingly" a source for Napolitano, adding that the retired judge "didn't get it right, accurate either." "I'm not saying the British GCHQ was wiretapping Trump's tower," Johnson said. Napolitano "shouldn't have used the word 'wiretap.' I call it an 'information operation' that's been directed against President Trump."
Johnson explained that the day after Trump's tweets about Obama wiretapping him, he went on RT, the Kremlin-funded news channel, and talked about how "the British through GCHQ were passing information back-channel," then shared that on a discussion board for former intelligence operatives. "Apparently one of the individuals there shared that with Judge Napolitano," he said. "I don't know what his other sources are." Johnson said two people "who were in a position to know" told him about the back-channel communications, but "this was not done at the direction of Barack Obama — let's be clear about that."
— CNN (@CNN) March 19, 2017
Napolitano is reportedly standing by his claim, but Fox News anchor Shepard Smith noted tartly on Friday that "Fox News cannot confirm Judge Napolitano's commentary" and "Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that the now-president of the United States was surveilled at any time, any way. Full stop." Peter Weber
Shep Smith: "Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that POTUS was surveilled at any time in any way, full stop." pic.twitter.com/GxKSJJGD7D
— Axios (@axios) March 17, 2017
Israeli police arrested a 19-year-old Israeli-American duel citizen on Thursday on the belief that he is responsible for a wave of threats made to Jewish community centers and institutions in the U.S. over the past several months, The Washington Post reports. Earlier, the FBI arrested journalist Juan Thompson for at least eight threats against Jewish centers, but the threats continued even after Thompson was discovered.
Israeli cyberattack police worked with the FBI to track down the suspect. The 19-year-old is allegedly responsible for a bulk of the threats, including possibly the evacuations of dozens of Jewish daycares, schools, and workplaces. The suspect is also believed to be responsible for threatening a Delta Airlines flight, resulting in the plane executing an emergency landing.
"The investigation began in several countries simultaneously after dozens of threatening calls were received at public places, events, synagogues, and community buildings that caused panic and disrupted events and activities in various organizations," Israeli police said. Jeva Lange
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) apologized to the top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), on Thursday after sharing with the White House claims that members of President Trump's transition team were monitored legally and apparently incidentally before the inauguration. On Wednesday, Schiff called it "deeply troubling" that Nunes shared his information with Trump, a subject of the investigation, rather than the committee doing the investigation.
A committee aide told Politico that Nunes apologized "for not sharing information about the documents he saw with the minority before going public." Nunes additionally "pledged to work with them on this issue."
On Monday, FBI Director James Comey said publicly for the first time that the FBI is investigating possible Trump campaign participation in Russian attempts to sway the election away from Hillary Clinton and toward Trump. Jeva Lange
The Trump administration has gone to the dogs in the best possible way. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced Thursday that his department will be the first to allow employees to bring their pups to the office. The policy, called "Doggy Days at Interior," will "launch with test runs at the agency's Washington headquarters on two Fridays in May and September," The Washington Post writes.
— Secretary Ryan Zinke (@SecretaryZinke) March 23, 2017
In a letter to the Interior Department's staff, Zinke wrote about how much his own 18-month-old Havanese, Ragnar, means to him. "Opening the door each evening and seeing him running at me is one of the highlights of my day," Zinke said. "I can't even count how many miles I've driven across Montana with [him] riding shotgun, or how many hikes and river floats [my wife] Lola and I went on with the little guy. But I can tell you it was always better to have him."
The Interior Department has 70,000 employees across the country, resulting in an unknown number of eligible dogs. Employees who might be uncomfortable with a dog-filled office, though, will have "other flexibilities" on the days when dogs are allowed, including the possibility of telework, Zinke said.
Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) officially confirmed Thursday that he will vote no on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, The Hill reports. Schumer indicated his intentions Tuesday, calling it "the height of irony" that Republicans held the seat open during President Obama's last term but "are now rushing to fill the seat for a president whose campaign is under investigation by the FBI."
Schumer confirmed Thursday that the Democrats will filibuster Gorsuch. "He will have to earn 60 votes for confirmation. My vote will be 'no' and I urge my colleagues to do the same," Schumer said, adding that Gorsuch is "not a neutral legal mind but someone with a deep-seated conservative ideology."
Gorsuch's final day of Senate hearings is Thursday. Jeva Lange
Reddit is the the fifth-most-popular website in the United States, and it is organized into subreddits, single-topic communities where like-minded users can gather by the thousands or even millions to discuss their shared interests, from news to DIY projects to grilled cheese. Among these groups is a subreddit called r/The_Donald, a 380,000-member community devoted to adoring all things Trump.
As FiveThirtyEight chronicles in a new profile of the group, r/The_Donald calls President Trump its "God Emperor," "daddy," and, naturally, "Big Daddy God Emperor." This is arguably the epicenter of the president's most enthusiastic online supporters:
Its membership has grown steadily since the 2016 presidential election, though its members were especially active during the campaign. They mobilized to comb through the hacked Democratic National Committee emails published on WikiLeaks and played a large role in spreading information and theories about those emails. More broadly, they waged the "Great Meme War": an effort to get Trump elected by bombarding the internet with social-media-ready content promoting Trump or bashing Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Some of those memes played on Clinton's campaign gaffes, such as her use of the phrase "basket of deplorables," while others involved an emerging pro-Trump iconography centered around images of Pepe the Frog — a cartoon character with a convoluted history that gained especial prominence after it was co-opted by white nationalists as a sort of unofficial mascot. [FiveThirtyEight]
The Trump campaign was aware of r/The_Donald, with staffers using it as a sort of digital focus group to keep an eye on messages that resonated among Trump fans. In July of 2016, the campaign organized within the subreddit an "Ask Me Anything" event — a Reddit tradition where famous or otherwise interesting people take questions from users for a set period of time — with then-candidate Trump. The subreddit was delighted, and more than 21,000 comments poured into that single discussion thread.
Of course, this group inevitably represents just a tiny fraction of the president's supporters, but FiveThirtyEight's analysis, which focuses on where r/The_Donald fits in Reddit's larger web of communities of widely varying quality and ethics, is intriguing context for our present political moment nonetheless. Read the full profile here. Bonnie Kristian
A study completed by the Women's Media Center (WMC) finds the Fox News website boasts the "best gender ratio" among its writers out of 20 major news outlets analyzed in the annual report. The WMC is led by feminist activists Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda, and its goal is to ensure women's representation in the press is on par with their representation in the population at large.
The Fox site achieved near-perfect parity between male and female writers, the study found, with 50.1 percent of its bylines naming men and 49.9 percent going to women. On average in the online outlets the report considered, men receive 53.9 percent of bylines to women's 46.1 percent.
Other media sectors were much further from gender parity, with broadcast media exhibiting the greatest imbalance. "Overall, men report 74.8 percent of the broadcast news; women report 25.2 percent," the WMC reports. "The study also found that men produce most stories on sports, weather, and crime and justice. Women's bylines are largely on lifestyle, health, and education news." Bonnie Kristian
One Apple engineer is using his own ingenuity to help Santa Cruz's homeless population. Ron Powers spends his evenings and weekends driving around in his mobile laundromat, a van that he outfitted with two washers and two dryers, offering to do strangers' laundry for free. For many people on the streets, Powers' "Loads of Love" initiative is a blessing. Homeless individuals, he says, often throw away socks and other clothes when they get dirty because they can't afford to pay for laundry and buy food. "I want to restore dignity to people," says Powers. "I want to improve health." Christina Colizza