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Mediaite.com | News & Opinion
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    While cable news waits for the results of today’s off-year gubernatorial election in Virginia you’ll hear plenty of smart-set pundits from Manhattan and D.C. telling you (quite confidently) that this election has huge ramifications for President Donald Trump’s reelection prospects in 2020.

    You know who I’m referring to… these are the same pundits and smart-setters who told you just as confidently that there would never BE a “President Trump” and Hillary Clinton was going to win the presidency and carry the senate with her pantsuit’s coattails.

    Now, if you didn’t already learn a valuable lesson one year ago this week when all of these pundits were proven to be full of political guano, let me cut to the chase: These people get paid extraordinary sums of money to espouse their own wishful thinking shrouded in the electronic cloak of “analysis.” That’s right they’re Analysts… at least, that’s what it says on the chyron under these peoples’ names while they repeat the exact same thing every other Analyst says on every cable station at the exact same time.

    So this afternoon and tonight they’ll all put on their pancake make-up, joke with each other in the green room and then hit their mark when the red light goes on and say the same thing again: “This Virginia election is a bellwether for the 2020 presidential campaign!” (Take a shot every time you hear “Bellwether”… you’ll be sloshed by the time Steve Kornacki explains the exit polls on MSNBC while Ana Navarro shouts down a Trump supporter on CNN (are there any Trump supporters left on CNN at this point?)

    Here’s the thing: They’re full of crap.

    In 2009, one year after Barack Obama won the presidency, Virginia elected Republican Bob McDonnell. At the time, when McDonnell won, we were told by the smart-set that this was a “Bellwether” for the 2012 election. Three years later Obama won reelection in a cake walk and he won Virginia along the way.

    In 2013 Democrat Terry McAuliffe, a long-time Clinton ally, won the statehouse. Once again we were assured that this “Bellwether” moment was a sure sign Hillary would win in 2016. Yes, she won Virginia, but, well, you know… the Russians!

    How many times must the Virginia off-year gubernatorial election have pretty much nothing to do with the next presidential election before TV analysts stop claiming the two are inextricably connected?

    Let’s face it, Ed Gillespie, the Republican nominee, has more to do with Evan McMullin than he has to do with Donald Trump. I don’t mean that as a criticism (or a compliment) it’s just a fact. His policies are normative, establishment Republican-type initiatives. He has not campaigned with the president. And Trump’s endorsement has been limited to a couple of tweets.

    He just hasn’t criticized or condemned Trump as one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. So, obviously, the media and the Democrats have painted him as Trump reincarnate.

    In fact, the only people focusing on Trump is the Democratic Party’s nominee, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and his surrogates.

    Wait a second… I’ve changed my mind. Today’s Virginia election is a bellwether for national political trends, but only if the Democrats lose.

    Think about it: The Commonwealth of Virginia has elected a Democrat in every single state-wide election in the past seven years. That includes two US Senate races, two presidential elections, and a Governor’s, Lt. Governor’s and Attorney General’s race. Virginia, by every definition, is a blue state. If Gillespie can win in Virginia, a blue state, just one year after the state voted for a Democrat for president… well… that really says something, doesn’t it?

    If the Democrats win, well, that’s hardly a bellwether for Trump in 2020. He lost in Virginia last time around and still won the White House. (Hey, didn’t all those brilliant analysts tell us he couldn’t win the presidency without Virginia?) What’s the big headline if another Republican loses in Virginia after an eight year trend? That’s a “Dog Bites Man” story if there ever was one.

    Since the entire campaign strategy for the Democrats has been to run against Trump and try to link their Republican opponent with the president, if that fails, then there surely is a lesson to learn going forward for national politics: Not everything in our country or culture is a direct reflection of Donald Trump. The sooner the Democrats (and the media) realize this, the better they’ll be. So please, let’s keep this just between us.

    Larry O’Connor is a Contributing Editor at Mediaite and hosts a daily, talk radio show on WMAL in Washington DC

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    A wise somebody once said that politics makes strange bedfellows. Case in point? Steve Bannon has reportedly been urging Mark Cuban to run for president in 2020 as a Democrat. Wait, what?

    Unnamed sources told the Daily Beast that Bannon has been encouraging Cuban to make a go of it in three years, noting that his best chance at victory lay in identifying as a Democrat. Perhaps the two aren’t such strange bedfellows after all? Sure, Cuban has trolled the president a few times and campaigned on behalf of Hillary Clinton, but the ties that bond billionaires run deep (so I hear.)

    “They talk regularly,” said Sam Nunberg, a former Trump adviser who is close to Bannon. “They’re very similar. They have a lot of synergy there. Even when [Steve] went to work for Trump, Mark would be interviewed and say nice things about Steve.”

    The Dallas Mavericks owner downplayed his relationship with Bannon, telling Daily Beast that he “texted with him a few time[s]” and that none of the texts had “been more than one full sentence.” It is worth noting that the two were spotting sharing a meal together just two weeks after the 2016 election, causing some to speculate about a budding bromance. Also, Breitbart has run several favorable stories about the Shark Tank panelist.

    Bannon has expressed doubts that his former boss would even run for a second term, reportedly saying that President Donald Trump only has a 30 percent chance of finishing this term.

    Cuban, for his part, has been openly flirting with a 2020 run for quite some time, though saying he would run as a “Republican before Democrat and most likely independent.” He has also stated that he would only run if he had “solutions” for the American people.

    “It’s possible. When I have something to offer, I will,” he said.

    Hey, he couldn’t be much worse a candidate than Cuomo, right?

    [image via screenshot]

    Follow Lawrence Bonk (@sidescrollers) on Twitter

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    The FBI is investigating a series of monetary transactions between the Russian foreign ministry and its embassy in Washington D.C., with the funds passing through a Kremlin-backed bank, according to a new report from Buzzfeed.

    Federal authorities started looking into the matter when they became aware of one of these wire transfers, valued at $30,000, which had landed in the Russian embassy’s Citibank account, per Buzzfeed.

    The transaction may have fallen under the radar, if not for the memo that was attached, which read that the money was intended “to finance election campaign of 2016.”

    Yeah. You read that right. This transaction practically begged to be noticed by the FBI with a memo like that. The Russian foreign ministry must have thought “for meddling on behalf of our leader, Vladimir Putin” was a bit too conspicuous.

    Once the FBI started digging, they found dozens of similar transactions, 60 in total, amounting to over $380,000. Most of these transfers contained the same memo, or something similar that referenced the 2016 election.

    An unnamed FBI special agent suggested that there could be a perfectly logical explanation for the transactions but, given political realities and the suspicious nature of the memo line, they had to investigate.

    “How could we not investigate a suspicious financial transaction that contained a memo that said, ‘finance election campaign 2016?’ Given the climate and what was in that memo line it would be very irresponsible for us not to investigate,” the agent said. “It’s a good lead.”

    Citibank has been working with federal authorities, uncovering more than 650 other transactions attached to “suspicious activity.” These transactions, totaling $2.9 million, were sent to a series of Russian Citibank accounts operating in the United States, including the embassy and the Office of Defense, Military, Air and Naval Attaches.

    The FBI, along with congressional investigators, are taking a closer look at each of these transactions. Officials with the Russian embassy and the Russian foreign ministry have yet to comment on the matter.

    Read the full report here.

    [image via screenshot]

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    Steve Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News and former White House chief strategist, hosted a rally today supporting accused child molester Roy Moore for Senate — in which he unloaded on Senator Jeff Flake for putting “country over party.”

    In response to the Arizona senator donating a check to Moore’s Democratic opponent Doug Jones, Bannon mocked Flake for giving only $100 and attacked him as a part of the “establishment.”

    The former Goldman Sachs investor stated the following while appearing on stage in Fairhope, Alabama:

    “Let’s talk about Jeff Flake — did he sign a check today, $100, to Jones, right? What did he say, ‘Put country ahead of party?’ Come on brother, if you’re gonna’ write a check, write a check. Don’t give the man $100! Are you kidding me? Hey Flake, this is why your approval rating in your home state is like 11 percent. No, man you’re a total embarrassment… Flake has hated Donald Trump from day one, Flake has hated this movement since day 1. He wrote a book, the anti-populist, the anti-economic nationalist book. Trashed all the deplorables. Trashed all the silent majority. Trashed everyone associated with this movement.”

    Bannon went on to imply that Flake supported Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election and added that he has “done nothing but run the President of the United States down since he won.”

    “Now, he comes out at the last second and says, ‘I’m gonna’ give $100 to a Democrat.’ This tells you all you need to know,” said Bannon to cheers and shouts from the rowdy Alabama crowd.

    Bannon’s pro-Moore rally comes just after both President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee have thrown their weight behind the GOP candidate, despite the numerous women who have come forward to accuse the former Alabama Supreme Court justice of predatory behavior and other sexual misconduct.

    The special election, which was triggered after Jeff Sessions was appointed attorney general,  is just a week away.

    [image via screengrab]

    Follow the author on Twitter (@calebecarma).

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    The campaign of Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore — a man accused of child molestation — released a robocall today in which President Donald Trump can be heard enthusiastically supporting the Republican nominee.

    In the recording, Trump said the following:

    “Hi, this is President Donald Trump and I need Alabama to go vote for Roy Moore. We’re already making America great again. I’m going to make America safer and stronger and better than ever before. We need that seat. We need Roy voting for us. But we need that seat. We need Roy voting for us. I am stopping illegal immigration and crime. We’re building a stronger military and protecting the Second Amendment and our pro-life values. But if Alabama elects liberal Democrat Doug Jones all of our progress will be stopped cold.”

    Trump went on to call Moore “the guy we need to pass our Make America Great Again agenda” in the tape recorded on Saturday.

    “Roy is a conservative who will help steer this country back on track after eight years of the Obama disaster,” said the president regarding the controversial former Alabama Supreme Court justice who has been accused of sexual misconduct and predatory behavior by numerous women.

    Despite recording the robocall, the White House has stated that Trump will not visit Alabama to urge Americans to vote for Moore in the special election on Tuesday. However, he did hold a rally just across the state border in Pensacola, Florida on Friday in which he loudly endorsed the candidate.

    Listen above via Fox News.

    [image via screengrab]

    Follow the author on Twitter (@calebecarma).

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    In a 2011 radio interview, Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore can be heard saying that the removal of all constitutional amendments — including ones that abolished slavery and granted women the right to vote — after the Tenth Amendment would “eliminate many problems” in America.

    Moore, an accused child molester endorsed by President Donald Trump and funded by the RNC, made the comments while appearing on the conspiracy mongering show Aroostook Watchmen, according to CNN.

    When Moore was asked by the radio hosts about his thoughts on eliminating all constitutional amendments outside of the Bill of Rights, the GOP candidate responded, “That would eliminate many problems. You know people don’t understand how some of these amendments have completely tried to wreck the form of government that our forefathers intended.”

    This is not the first time that Moore has espoused such views, as he recently stated America was only “great” during the time that slavery was legal.

    “I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another. Our families were strong, our country had a direction,” said Moore in September of this year, per the Los Angeles Times.

    Additionally, CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski — who leads the network’s KFILE investigative team — reports Moore entertained the idea that the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks may have been a government conspiracy or a “false flag” attack:

    “In the May 2011 episode of Aroostook Watchmen, after one of the hosts asks Moore if he would be ‘interested in new hearings into what really happened on 9/11,’ Moore replies, ‘Well, I think they need to explore that, yes, but it’s something that’s already done and now we have to live with the consequences. But I know what you’re talking about. If there’s any new evidence, we always go back to the truth. If there’s anything that’s not been revealed, we need to know about it,’ he said.”

    As for the Aroostook Watchmen, the Bangor Daily News — a news source that serves rural parts of Maine — has written that the show promotes many anti-government conspiracy theories. These include claims that the federal government itself is acting illegally and has been “hijacked” — which means Americans are not required to follow their laws. They also believe that many state laws are illegitimate and “repugnant to the Constitution.”

    Listen above via CNN and KFILE.

    [image via screengrab]

    Follow the author on Twitter (@calebecarma).

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    Common sense dictates that a press event with GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore and an underage girl might be a bad idea, but a pro-Trump super PAC bucked that notion and had a 12-year-old girl interview the alleged child predator just days before Alabama’s special election.

    The America First Project sent pre-teen conservative Millie March to talk to Moore as a way of showing “that there is a wide range of people who support Judge Roy Moore” — even those in the age demographic he is accused of molesting.

    Millie rose to prominence in right-wing media after she attended CPAC this year and was featured in several viral videos espousing support for President Donald Trump and hatred toward Hillary Clinton. She later appeared on Fox & Friends and said she was interested in running for public office one day.

    It appears, however, that the 12-year-old is already proving herself to be a hypocrite in her short punditry career. Despite her support for accused sexual predator Moore, in one of Millie’s previous videos, she can be heard attacking Clinton for “defending a man who molested women” — referencing the sexual misconduct allegations that have been leveled against her husband Bill Clinton.

    The young conservative visited the Alabama GOP headquarters to sit down with the controversial candidate, and the 12-year-old took the opportunity to rail against undocumented immigrants and sanctuary cities.

    “Are you gonna’ support President Trump and help him build a wall?” demanded Millie.

    Moore, a hardline immigration hawk, appeared to let out a Freudian slip, saying, “I think the military can be used down with the border patrol and stop immigration.” He went on to clarify that “illegal immigration” is the problem, not immigration in general.

    The 12-year-old responded with resounding approval, saying: “yes because everything’s happening a lot and that poor lady and the guy who killed her wasn’t even convicted.”

    “Awesome!” added the 12-year-old — after receiving a smile and nod from Moore.

    Moore has spent the past several weeks dodging interviews with reputable news outlets and reporters in favor of softball conversations with sympathetic interviewers like 12-year-old Millie. Though, the most bizarre aspect of the meeting is the young girl’s age, considering the GOP candidate was accused of molesting Leigh Corfman when she was a 14-year-old and he was in his 30s.

    Other women have leveled similar accusations against Moore, claiming the former Alabama Supreme Court justice made sexual advances toward them when they were teenagers.

    [image via screengrab]

    Follow the author on Twitter (@calebecarma).

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    After Democrat Doug Jones managed to upset GOP Senate candidate and alleged child molester Roy Moore, Twitter erupted with relief as the wild Alabama special election finally came to an end tonight.

    While Republicans, including President Donald Trump, had handily won the notoriously red state in recent years, Jones was able to become the first Democrat to win an Alabama Senate seat in a quarter century. The win shrunk the Republican Senate majority by one seat, leaving their lead at only 51.

    Notable pundits, politicians, and journalists responded to the conclusion of the crazy Senate race — that included numerous sexual child predator allegations, references to “Jew” attorneys, and calls for banning “homosexual conduct” — with tweets of joy at Jones’ victory and snarky posts railing against Trump, the RNC, and other Moore supporters:

    [image via screengrab]

    Follow the author on Twitter (@calebecarma).

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    I see the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election as Robert Mueller slowly painting a giant mural from the edges of his canvas and working towards the center, with all of us guessing as to what the final product will reveal when he’s finally done. Through that prism, in the last few days we have gotten to see several more important brush strokes, but where it is all really going is still mostly a mystery.

    Opinion on the Russia probe has now become extremely divided, with the two basic sides entrenched in their own realities which have almost nothing in common. The left seems convinced that Mueller is the process of removing Trump from office, maybe even putting him and his family in prison, and eradicating the cancerous polyp from our collective faces that is the result of, what is to them, a catastrophic election. Trump supporters see the investigation as witch hunt designed to stage a coup against Trump while protecting the real criminal in all of this, Hillary Clinton.

    As a conservative who loathes Trump as a person, I have been wavering somewhere in the middle of these two groups. If only because their theory is far less insane, I have gravitated more towards the former group, while being VERY cautious about how many of the so-called experts who have gotten large followings on Twitter are TOTALLY invested in their preferred result of Mueller’s mural.

    Confirmation bias is both very real and dangerous. We should all be very hesitant to believe media analysis based on fragments of information which just happen to fit perfectly with the self-interest of the commentator, while giving their audience exactly what they want to hear.

    I have never doubted that Russia attempted to influence the election. It was pretty obvious to me even during the election that some HIGHLY suspicious things were happening. I have even laid out a pretty compelling case that these efforts were the difference in Wisconsin and Michigan (which, to be clear, technically did not impact the result of the election).

    What I have never been sure of was how much the Trump campaign, and Trump himself, were actually involved in this plot. Part of the hesitancy to accept that there was “collusion” is the utter insanity of the charge and brazenness of the act itself. With any other president the entire concept would just be too audacious to even seriously consider. Of course, we have already learned that when it comes to Trump, the normal boundaries of presidential behavior are simply not relevant.

    Friday’s indictment by Mueller of 13 Russians was seen by Trump and his supporters in the state-run “conservative” media as a bizarre vindication for their claims that there was no “real collusion” with Russia. When your own people are now saying that it is clear Russia meddled after you have never accepted that claim, and the indictments say your own people did “unwittingly” collude with Russia, but were just too stupid to realize what was happening, that sure doesn’t sound much like “winning.”

    But obviously the entire Trump phenomenon is a testament to the awesome power of creating extremely low expectations.

    It is quite possible that these most recent indictments are indeed completely consistent with Mueller’s mural not ultimately implicating Trump himself or concluding that there was a campaign conspiracy with Russia. I have always maintained that it is possible that the Trump team was just colossally incompetent/corrupt and that they panicked when the investigation began out of fear of the boss’s great victory being delegitimized and what might be found out about his finances.

    However, by no means is an even more nefarious narrative off the table. While Mueller has yet to publicly produce any evidence at all of “collusion” (something which should indeed concern those already invested in that conclusion), a closer look at how the Trump team has responded to this entire issue provides plenty of evidence which points to that possibility.

    Here are just some of the things for which no rational explanation has been given and which are totally consistent with the worst possible interpretation of what really happened here:

    • Trump constantly insisting that there was no evidence of Russia meddling in the election and then, just this weekend, lying about making those previous claims now that there really is no doubt.
    • Donald Trump Jr. blatantly lying numerous times, including at least once with the help of his father, about meeting with Russians, in Trump Tower when his father was in the building, offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.
    • Trump lying that he has had no financial dealings with Russia, when we know now that he was negotiating a Trump Tower in Moscow even during the campaign.
    • Multiple campaign aides, including Trump’s national security advisor, already pleading guilty to serious crimes uncovered in the probe.
    • A systematic and unwarranted attack by Trump and his state-run media on our intelligence agencies, including the asinine claim that the FBI was hindered in its investigation of the Parkland killer because they were preoccupied with Russian election meddling.
    • Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey specifically for his handling of Russia, the failed attempt to fire Mueller himself, and the repeated efforts to get those overseeing the investigation to pledge some sort of loyalty to him.
    • The highly-hyped release of the deceitful Nunes memo, which not only turned out to be a dud, but which actually further substantiated the case against Trump in some ways, while refusing to make public the Democratic response to it.
    • The extreme effort to pretend that Carter Page was not really part of the campaign, until suddenly claiming his surveillance after he left the campaign, and just weeks before Election Day, somehow was a scandal greater than Watergate.
    • Trying to muddy the waters of the most recent indictments by highlighting that they didn’t say Russian meddling impacted the results (that wasn’t their job) and that they show Russia tried to spark protests against Trump AFTER the election (so what?!).
    • The claim that Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman when Trump won the nomination, played a “very limited role” in the campaign.
    • Trump originally saying “100%” that he would speak with Mueller under oath and then backing off that claim completely later once that prospect became real.
    • Trump adding “collusion is not a crime” to his mantra that there was “no collusion.”
    • Trump never attacking Russia/Putin and refusing to fully implement the Russian sanctions his own party overwhelmingly passed.
    • Trump’s overall obsession with the topic and tendency to rage Tweet whenever there is a significant development (rather than just go on Fox News Channel and finally do an extensive interview providing his side of the topic).

    We still don’t know what really happened here and we won’t at least until Mueller’s mural is complete. Unfortunately, the evidence is overwhelming that no matter what that final painting looks like it, almost everyone will still see only what they want to.

    John Ziegler hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud or email him at johnz@mediaite.com

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    President Donald Trump unleashed a series of scathing tweets on Saturday, blasting Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation and Andrew McCabe, the former deputy director of the FBI.

    The president’s tweets were unusual — even for him — in that they arrived the same day his personal lawyer said the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election should come to an end, before walking that statement back shortly after. “The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime,” the president tweeted Saturday night. “It was based on fraudulent activities and a Fake Dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC, and improperly used in FISA COURT for surveillance of my campaign. WITCH HUNT!”

    Hours earlier, Trump defended McCabe’s firing, simultaneously dragging former FBI Director James Comey into the conversation as well.

    “The Fake News is beside themselves that McCabe was caught, called out and fired,” he wrote. “How many hundreds of thousands of dollars was given to wife’s campaign by Crooked H friend, Terry M, who was also under investigation? How many lies? How many leaks? Comey knew it all, and much more!”

    McCabe was fired from the agency earlier in the day by Attorney General Jeff Sessions just two days prior to his 50th birthday, which would have allowed him his full government pension. Sessions said an investigation found significant “misconduct” and multiple reports concluded he “lacked candor” while under oath on multiple occasions.

    The former deputy director released a statement defending his reputation and claiming Trump’s attacks are an all-out effort to discredit the Mueller investigation.

    “This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally, but to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally,” McCabe said. “It is part of this Administration’s ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the Special Counsel investigation, which continue to this day. Their persistence in this campaign only highlights the importance of the Special Counsel’s work.”

    Trump has certainly been celebrating his firing, claiming the move marked a “great day for Democracy” in an earlier tweet.

    It remains unclear whether the president will now call for Mueller’s firing as well, but it appears that could easily happen via a tweet at any moment.

    [image via screengrab]

    Follow Chris Riotta (@ChrisRiotta) on Twitter

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    A 27-year-old data scientist named Christopher Wylie revealed extraordinary information about his time working for Cambridge Analytica in an interview with The Guardian published Saturday.

    The controversial company harvested 50 million Facebook users’ personal information in an attempt to “build a psychological profile of each voter” throughout the United States, Wylie said. Among other charges, the whistleblower said the company was capable of pulling users’ private information without their consent, including status updates and direct messages.

    He also directly contradicted statements made by Alexander Nix, the chief executive of Cambridge Analytica’s parent company SCL Group, who denied the use of Facebook data in a testimony before Parliament.

    “That’s just fundamentally not true because we spent a million dollars harvesting tens of millions of Facebook profiles, and those profiles were used as the basis of the algorithms that became the foundation of Cambridge Analytica,” Wylie said. “The company was founded using Facebook data.”

    The stunning interview arrives the same day Facebook announced it was barring the data firm from using the social media platform. “We are committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people’s information,” Facebook’s Vice President Paul Grewal said in a statement. “We will take whatever steps are required to see that this happens. We will take legal action if necessary to hold them responsible and accountable for any unlawful behavior.”

    Reports also broke Saturday indicating Cambridge Analytica had ties to Russian interests, specifically relating to how it targeted U.S. voters, despite Nix’s denials the company had “any relationship with Russia or Russian individuals” during his testimony.

    Watch the revealing interview via The Guardian above.

    [image via screengrab]

    Follow Chris Riotta (@ChrisRiotta) on Twitter

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    Bosom buddies Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump had a rip-roaring time on the horn when Trump congratulated the Russian president for winning the “election.” This is according to… Donald Trump.

    After answering questions about the bombings in Austin during a joint press conference with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the White House, a reporter asked an inaudible question, to which Trump responded: “I had a call with president Putin and congratulated him on his election victory.”

    “The call had to do also with the fact that we will probably get together in the not-too-distant future so that we can discuss the arms race,” Trump continued. “As you know, he made a statement that being in an arms race is not a great thing … and we are spending $700 billion this year on our military, and a lot of it is that we are going to remain stronger than any other nation in the world by far.”

    “We had a very good call and I suspect that we’ll probably be … seeing President Putin in the not-too-distant future.”

    Trump also cryptically discussed the Iran deal.

    “You’re going to see what I do, but Iran has not been treating that part of the world or the world itself appropriately. A lot of bad things are happening in Iran. The deal is coming up in one month and you will see what happens, okay?”

    Watch above, via CNN.

    [image via screengrab]

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    President Donald Trump threw away his prepared remarks at a Thursday event in West Virginia — no, really, he literally threw them away — and brought back some of his most classic off-the-prompter statements from the 2016 campaign trail.

    Specifically, the president recalled comments he made about Mexican immigrants being drug dealers and “rapists” when announcing his bid for presidency in 2015. “Remember my opening remarks at Trump Tower when I opened? Everybody said, ‘Oh, he was so tough’ and I used the word rape,” Trump began. “And yesterday, it came out where this journey coming up, women are raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before. They don’t want to mention that. So we have to change our laws.”

    The president was seemingly referring to a caravan’s journey along the U.S.-Mexico border that has garnered media attention from TV networks. His comments indicated a deep unawareness of what’s actually happening, however: the caravan is an annual activist-led, pro-migrant trip from Honduras to the U.S.

    Journalists documenting the journey, while simultaneously monitoring Trump’s remarks on Thursday, were forced to correct the president on Twitter and across the airwaves. “I’ve been with the caravan for 12 days,” BuzzFeed News reporter Adolfo Flores wrote, “and haven’t seen or heard of anyone being ‘raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before.’”

    As networks assessed the president’s latest divisive comments with reporters on the ground in Mexico, Twitter erupted in absolute shock that Trump would claim such bizarre falsities (almost as if this hasn’t already happened).

    [image via screengrab]

    Follow Chris Riotta (@ChrisRiotta) on Twitter

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    President Donald Trump tweeted “5 for 5!” Wednesday, and people were quick to check him on it.

    Trump wrote the tweet referring to the elections which occurred Tuesday night, but two elections were too close to call as of Wednesday morning.

    Twitter didn’t miss a beat on it and conjectured that “5 for 5” may be referring to any number of other things; of course, some others merely called bs:

    [image via Getty]

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    HBO talk show host Bill Maher has donated $1 million to the Senate Majority PAC.

    The PAC is aligned with Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and is aimed at helping to get Democrats elected to the Senate.

    “Does everybody agree that this election coming up is the most important election we’ve seen?” he asked his panel, who agreed  it “absolutely” was.

    “That’s why this donation I made,” Maher said, before showing a graphic of a Hollywood Reporter article talking about his million dollar donation.

    He continued on: “In 2012, I did this, and this is different. That was for my country and i thought it was very important that the first black president get a second term. All the money in the country was going to the Republicans. This time it’s a little more personal. I’m worried about this country and really what’s going to happen to it on a very existential level including my own ass.”

    Maher then told all the rich people patting him on the back for his donation, “Not enough… this is the time to step up.”

    Watch above, via HBO.

    [image via screengrab]

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    On CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, host Jake Tapper grilled Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) about accusations of fraud and attempts to “steal” the election in Florida. Tapper repeatedly asked for specific evidence of “criminal” activity, and Gardner cited major procedural issues and questionable decisions made by Democrats, as well as the Florida courts ruling in favor of Republicans against the county boards committing those errors.

    “A statement from your organization the NRSC says of Florida, quote, ‘it’s clear the Democrats vote here is not to count every vote fairly but to steal an election’. In a tweet, President Trump accused Democrats in Florida of committing fraud. Governor Rick Scott, who is running for Senate, has made similar comments,” said Tapper. “Is there any specific evidence at all of anyone committing fraud or trying to steal the election, trying to change the outcome?”

    “Well here’s the specific evidence we have,” replied Gardner, “we have a court in Florida that has said there was a violation of the Florida Constitution. We have a court that has directed certain better behavior out of the Palm County election supervisors. We have courts that are saying follow the law that is not being followed.”

    “We know they’re not following the law. They certainly weren’t following the law,” said Gardner. “They weren’t posting when they were supposed to be about the results of ballots coming in. They weren’t providing the canvas, the total number of ballots that had been cast, and courts had agreed with us on those points. So I think there’s clear evidence that the Constitution was violated and a court in Florida has said the same.”

    “It’s true what you’re saying about transparency and about meeting deadlines,” said Tapper (which is a violation of the law). “But Florida’s Department of Law Enforcement said Friday they haven’t even received any allegations of criminal activity, of fraud, of stealing, and the Secretary of State’s office just said yesterday there is ‘no evidence of criminal activity’, so, it just seems like the rhetoric we’re hearing…”

    “Violating the constitution doesn’t rise to the level of concern in Florida?” Gardner interrupted.

    “I’m not saying that,” said Tapper. The exchange continued back and forth for some time, as Tapper continued to ask for specific evidence of criminal activity and Garnder cited the court ruling that the constitution was being violated (which is breaking the law) and various other problems with the vote.

    Tapper said that there are “legitimate areas of concern about the behavior of election officials” in Florida, but that there is a big difference between that and “fraud, and stealing, and theft of an election.” Gardner said that “every vote legally cast should be counted, and every vote legally cast should be counted the same whether it’s Miami or Pensacola.”

    Earlier in the show, Democrat Chuck Schumer was on with Tapper and they also discussed the election. Schumer said that Rick Scott and Donald Trump are “interfering” with the election to prevent Sen. Bill Nelson from winning. Schumer was not asked to provide “any specific evidence at all” to back up his own claim of trying to “steal the election or change the outcome.

    After the exchange in the above clip, Tapper asked Schumer why it isn’t understandable that people would have concerns about the integrity of the vote in Broward and Palm Beach Counties considering the many problems, to which Schumer replied that it going slowly isn’t evidence of any fraud, though Schumer did not address any of actual problems that have required intervention of the courts in Florida.

    Watch the clips above, courtesy of CNN.

    [Featured image via screengrab]

    Follow Caleb Howe (@CalebHowe) on Twitter

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    Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is now selling “Cocaine Mitch” t-shirts a year after former GOP Senate hopeful Don Blankenship tried to insult him with the nickname during his failed bid in West Virginia.

    The Senate Majority Leader officially launched his 2020 re-election campaign in April and his campaign Twitter account sent out links advertising the shirts for sale on Wednesday. The tweet references that the shirts come a year after Blankenship called out McConnell in a campaign ad using the nickname with no context. The ad later went viral.

    Blankenship focused his 2018 primary campaign on attacking the Senate Majority Leader –later telling reporters that the “Cocaine Mitch” moniker referenced old reports that drugs were once discovered on a shipping vessel owned by the family of McConnell’s wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

    McConnell’s team later posted a gloating tweet referencing the nickname after Blankenship lost his primary race. The seat was eventually won by incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) during the November 2018 general election.

    The meme was later referenced by now-retired Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who posed with shirts showing McConnell’s head onto the body of Al Pacino’s Tony Montana in the summer of 2018.

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    Fox News host Laura Ingraham offered her own election take on the Democratic wave that has swept Virginia politics, warning that the party’s successes were the result of suburban women, “millions” of dollars in campaign donations from liberal billionaire George Soros, and “demographic changes” wrought by a “foreign-born population.”

    Ingraham’s comments came a day after Democrats flipped both legislative houses in Virginia, a huge inflection point that has given that party full political control of the state and federal offices for the first time since 1994.

    “The undeniable fact is that demographic changes throughout the state, but especially in northern Virginia, have altered what was once a moderate to right-to-center state,” Ingraham said. “Virginia’s foreign-born population nearly doubled from 2000 to 2017 and these immigrants are mostly concentrated in northern Virginia: Fairfax County, Loudon County, Prince William County, outside of D.C., and they are altering the demographic makeup of the state.”

    “And since immigrants are more likely to vote Democrat, well, this, of course drags the electorate to the left, that is just a fact of life,” Ingraham added. “But the shift to the left is aided by women, especially in the suburbs, who tend also to vote Democrat. This is something Trump absolutely needs to pay attention to and not just wave it away, it’s impossible to do that.”

    Ingraham’s comments about immigration are not new. Previously, she has stoked fears about illegal immigration and “demographic changes,” favorably Tweeted an anti-immigrant post from a white supremacist website (and subsequently deleted it), and dabbled in the white supremacist “replacement theory” rhetoric, claiming that Democrats want immigrants to subsume “white conservatives” in the population.

    The Fox News host went on to target the large swaths of federal government workers who live in northern Virginia, claiming they will offer lockstep opposition to Trump’s purported “drain the swamp” pledge “because they are the swamp.”

    “Also, two weeks ago, we warned you about another factor that is important to note in this Virginia race,” Ingraham continued. “In this cycle, huge amounts of outside money flowed into Virginia’s local election. George Soros pumped millions in to elect commonwealth attorneys to radically change how you prosecute crime in the commonwealth, prioritizing so-called social justice concerns over public safety.”

    Watch the video above, via Fox News.

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    Political predictions are always precarious, especially in this modern media age when the news cycle is now approximately 47 minutes long. This is particularly the case in the Trump Era where the president has consistently defied conventional wisdom and the normal rules of political engagement.

    With that said, as 2020 fast approaches, I am compelled to try to forecast how what, at least on paper, is likely to be our craziest election campaign in modern history, will go down. For context, until 2016 (when I warned early on that Trump could be the GOP nominee, but did not believe he could win the presidency) I was actually pretty good at this exercise.

    My basic view of the race for the Democratic nomination is that it appears very much like the 2012 GOP version of their battle to pick a challenger to a controversial and charismatic incumbent president coming off of a disastrous midterm election. The biggest differences being that Barack Obama’s approval numbers were more favorable than Trump’s, but the economy is perceived to be better now.

    Similar to Republicans in 2012, Democrats have an experienced and well-known frontrunner who has a group of flawed rivals nipping at his heels. In 2012, Mitt Romney ended up winning the GOP nomination, though his journey to get there was far more precarious that most people remember. Joe Biden, who has comparable — and perhaps even more pronounced — vulnerabilities to what Romney had, will need some luck to reach the finish line.

    Reminiscent of Romney, Biden is unlikely to win Iowa, but unlike him does not have a natural firewall in New Hampshire. It is likely that South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg will win a cluttered contest in Iowa, and that New Hampshire will be a four-way struggle between him, Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.

    From there, the race will come down to how quickly and decisively the field gets whittled down. In the past, only two or three candidates ever really survived the first two contests, but thanks to the Internet and cable news television, it is far easier for candidates to remain viable without winning either Iowa or New Hampshire (especially for a “cult” candidate like Sanders).

    The biggest unknown at this point is whether it is true that Biden is more well suited for a long four-way battle, because his 35% of the Democratic national base can win four-way primaries. Or, is he better off going head-to-head with one candidate early on so that he can secure the nomination with minimal bleeding and party division (this is the plot line Trump fears most, which is exactly why the entire Ukrainian scandal started).

    My belief is that Biden needs Buttigieg, Sanders, and Warren to all stay in and be sustainable, but without anyone of the them catching fire the way that Obama did to overtake Hillary Clinton in 2008. Since Buttigieg is the only candidate with the ingredients to support such an early explosion, it may be critical for Biden, counter intuitively, for Sanders and Warren to do well but not great in both Iowa and New Hampshire. This way, gravity maintains its hold on Buttigieg, who, because of his youth and outsider status, would be the greatest threat to beat Biden one-on-one (assuming he can eventually make some progress with the black vote).

    If Buttigieg is held in check, then Biden winning Nevada and South Carolina would put him on a clear, though likely long and perilous, path to the nomination. While far from certain, this is still the most likely outcome.

    To be clear, it will not be easy for Biden. The news media, especially the progressive press, will be very incentivized to ambush Biden at every opportunity, and given his penchant for making significant verbal gaffes, and his advanced age, they will have plenty of chances to go after him. It is easy to see a scenario where the nomination comes down to Obama (and, to a lesser degree, Hillary) effectively pushing Democrats, no matter how subtly, towards either Biden or Buttigieg.

    Given all of this, as we start 2020, I put the chances of Biden winning the nomination at 50%, Buttigieg at 25%, Warren at 15%, Sanders at 5%, with a 5% chance someone else emerges out of nowhere, or via a brokered convention.

    A Biden vs Trump general election would essentially be a repeat of 2016, only with Biden positioned to out-perform Hillary in the key states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, but with Trump now having the advantage of incumbency and an economy which is perceived to be excellent. In other words, barring a legitimate “black swan” event (I am sure there will be many dramatic plot twists which will result in very little polling movement), Biden will win the popular vote fairly easily, but the Electoral College tally will be close, possibly extremely close.

    My guess is that Biden (with either Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, or Kamala Harris as his VP nominee) would win those three states, with the rest of the map staying largely the same as it was in 2016. This would give Biden a very narrow 279-259 victory.

    Under this scenario, the biggest political story of 2020 will not be the general election itself, but rather its potentially extremely tumultuous aftermath. For, if any of those three key states are even remotely close (Trump winning any one of them would mean either he is victorious, or, in the case of Wisconsin, likely ties), Trump will surely not concede, and no one in his now co-opted party or state-run media will force him to so do.

    This is what should be referred to the “nightmare scenario.” One that our Founders never fully envisioned, and for which our current political and media apparatus is dreadfully unprepared.

    But I am sure there is nothing to really worry about, and we will get through it all just fine. Happy New Year!

    John Ziegler is a senior columnist for Mediaite. He hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud  or email him at johnz@mediaite.com

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    Steven Ryan/Getty Images

    The Pentagon has confirmed that the United States is responsible for the airstrike at the Baghdad airport that took the life of top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani .

    The news has sent shockwaves through Washington, with Democratic lawmakers warning that Trump’s actions may ultimately bring the United States brink of war.

    Somewhat uncharacteristically, Trump has remained mostly mum on social media in the hours after the news broke of Soleeimani’s death, choosing only to tweet out a cryptic American flag.

    Yet, internet sleuths were quick to point out that back in 2011, Trump was tweeting and predicting that then-President Barack Obama would start a war with Iran, just to get elected.

    “In order to get elected, Barack Obama will start a war with Iran,” he wrote.

    Trump didn’t just say it once, though, he repeated his claim two years later, predicting a war just so Obama could prove how tough he was.