February 13, 2018

You know that phrase you start to hear all the time on TV in the fall, something like "I'm Angus and I approve this message" or "This ad was paid for by Canines for a Better America?" The Federal Election Commission clarified in an opinion in December that such a disclaimer needs to be visible on ads on websites like Facebook too — only it doesn't seem like anyone is actually obeying. A ProPublica investigation found that of 300 political ads that have run on Facebook, fewer than 40 actually met the FEC's disclaimer laws.

Ads lacking the proper FEC language include ones paid for by the Democratic National Committee and President Trump's 2020 campaign. Fines for "knowing and willful" violations of the law can be over $1,000.

The regulations are under particular scrutiny now, as it has become increasingly clear that Russian agents used Facebook to promote their agenda during the 2016 election. "Foreign contributions to campaigns for U.S. federal office are illegal," ProPublica notes. "Online, advertisers can target ads to relatively small groups of people. Once the marketing campaign is over, the ads disappear. This makes it difficult for the public to scrutinize them."

The FEC's rules have changed as the nature of online advertising has, too. In 2011, when ads on Facebook were limited to small thumbnails and short text, the FEC agreed that the disclaimer could appear after clicking through the ad. "The functionality and capabilities of today's Facebook Video and Image ads can accommodate the information without the same constrictions imposed by the character-limited ads that Facebook presented to the Commission in 2011," the commission wrote in December.

Read more about the law, and who is and is not complying with it, at ProPublica. Jeva Lange

January 16, 2018

Republican Sen. Joni Ernst faced open ridicule by her constituents at an "otherwise friendly" event in Red Oak, Iowa, on Sunday after she fumbled an answer about which foreign countries President Trump is "standing up for," Shareblue Media writes. The awkward moment followed a question by Stanton resident Barb Melson, who asked if Ernst is "taking a stand or doing something about the damage Trump is doing to our neighbors around the world with his white supremacy talk."

Ernst initially deflected the question, saying she would rather talk about things that are important to Iowa specifically, but then suggested Trump is "standing up for a lot of the countries." She was interrupted by a shouted demand to "name a few."

"Norway," Ernst said, drawing open laughs.

Norway is one of the least ethnically diverse countries in the world, with 83 percent of residents being Norwegian and another 8 percent being from somewhere else in Europe. The country was reportedly offered by Trump as an alternative to "shithole" places like Haiti, El Salvador, and unspecified African nations during a meeting with lawmakers last week.

In Boone, Iowa, on Monday, Ernst drew further "groans from the crowd" when she told voters that she doesn't believe Trump is a racist "deep inside," the Des Moines Register writes. "I think he's brash and he says things that are on his mind, but I don't truly believe that he's a racist," Ernst said. Watch Ernst speak in Red Oak below. Jeva Lange

January 11, 2018

President Trump on Thursday appeared bewildered by his own administration's goals, tweeting out his disapproval of a House bill reauthorizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) — a contradiction of the White House's official position — before tacking his support back onto it an hour and a half later.

As Jonathan Chait observed at New York, Trump's initial tweet was apparently a response to Fox News judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano, who advised Trump on TV against the reauthorization of the bill. "The president's alarm was unfortunate, since the Trump administration strongly supports reauthorization of this law," Chait writes. "It has sent its highest-ranking security officials to lobby Congress for reauthorization, and reiterated its endorsement of the law as recently as last night."

Someone in the White House perhaps intercepted Trump before he could do more damage, as the president tweeted this later in the morning:

At least a few Republicans were relieved by the correction. "The House should pass the #FISA HPSCI compromise bill as is," tweeted Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). "This program is about stopping terrorists and keeping the U.S. safe, and it protects the privacy of American citizens." Jeva Lange

January 8, 2018

NBC made itself an easy target for supporters of President Trump on Sunday night when it crowned Oprah Winfrey "OUR future president." The tweet came in response to a joke by Golden Globes host Seth Meyers, who said: "In 2011, I told some jokes about our current president at the White House Correspondents Dinner. Jokes about how he was unqualified to be president. Some have said that night convinced him to run. So if that's true, I just want to say: Oprah, you will never be president! You do not have what it takes!”

"In case anyone had any doubts about where the media stands, this should take care of it," tweeted Donald Trump Jr. afterwards. "The bias against @realDonaldTrump is now so obvious they have simply given up hiding it."

While NBC is separate from its news arm, NBC News, it wasn't just Trump supporters who found the tweet disturbing. "Call me old fashioned but a major network saying this, no matter how you feel about Oprah, bothers me a lot," tweeted Anthony De Rosa, the digital production manager of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Others noted the irony of the tweet coming from the NBC account:

Even former President George W. Bush's press secretary, Ari Fleischer, weighed in. "This tweet puts every reporter at NBC in a bad spot," he tweeted. "Foolish thing for them to do. But at least now they are open about their bias." Jeva Lange

Update 10:41 a.m.: NBC removed the tweet and released the following statement:

September 27, 2017
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

When it comes to filling out paperwork, you might say Jared Kushner has some difficulties. The president's son-in-law was forced to fill out his government disclosure form multiple times after initially claiming that he had no foreign contacts, incorrectly stating the dates of his graduate degrees, and getting President Trump's address wrong. Kushner blamed his office for submitting the form before it was complete, but his second attempt at the paperwork excluded his meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Kushner finally — apparently — got it right on the third try by the end of June.

Now Wired has learned that Kushner botched another form: his New York voter registration. "According to the records held by the New York State Board of Elections, Jared Corey Kushner is a woman," Wired writes. Kushner seemingly checked the wrong box.

Brad Bainum, a spokesperson for American Bridge, the liberal research group that discovered the mistake, stressed that the implications of Kushner's goofs are more than just that he gets flustered by papers. "Kushner can't even fill out the most basic paperwork without screwing it up, so it's a mystery why anyone thinks he's somehow going to bring peace to the Middle East," Bainum told Wired.

Kushner, though, likely can't be charged with voter fraud for being counted as a woman in New York. "There has to be an intent to give the false information" in order to be charged, Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt explained. "If he (for some reason) knowingly registered as a woman — for what purpose, I could not guess — that might be described as voter fraud, though it would have negligible effect on the determination of his eligibility, and so wouldn't amount to much anyway." Read more about Kushner's strange mistake at Wired. Jeva Lange

July 11, 2017

Donald Trump Jr.'s attempt to be "totally transparent" may have just confirmed the existence of "a back-channel" between President Trump and the Russian government, the New Republic's Brian Beutler noted in a tweet shortly after Trump Jr. on Tuesday released his email chain setting up his meeting in June 2016 with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer. In the emails, publicist Rob Goldstone says he has incriminating information about Hillary Clinton that's "part of Russia and its government's support for [President] Trump" and offers to send it to President Trump "via Rhona."

Rhona Graff, per Politico's report in March, has been "the gatekeeper at Trump Tower for a quarter century." The president has reportedly kept her around now that he's at the White House "for those who want to quietly offer advice, make personnel suggestions, or get on the president's calendar when he's at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida." Politico reported that Trump associate Roger Stone described Graff as the "favored point of contact for 'anyone who thinks the system in Washington will block their access.'" Becca Stanek

June 26, 2017

Either a plane headed to Nevada got terribly lost in West Virginia on Monday, or someone got their senators mixed up. Spotted flying above West Virginia's state capital was a plane toting a banner urging Nevada Sen. Dean Heller (R): "Keep your word. Vote no on TrumpCare."

If West Virginians were trying to urge their Republican senator to vote no on TrumpCare, aka the Better Care Reconciliation Act, the person to talk to would be Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.). Heller, who represents a state more than 2,200 miles away from Charleston, has already announced his opposition to the Senate's plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare. Becca Stanek

May 24, 2017

President Trump very nearly became the first American president since World War II to forgo an audience with the pope, The New York Times reports.

Former President George W. Bush's ambassador to the Vatican, James Nicholson, helped set up the meeting between Trump and Pope Francis when he realized Trump's advisers were waiting for an invitation to the Vatican — apparently unaware that it was their responsibility to request the audience.

"They hadn't gotten an invitation, and I said, 'You'll never get an invitation,'" Nicholson said. He added that the historic significance of Trump missing an audience with the pope was "a data point that I was pretty persistent on." Read more dispatches from Trump's visit to the Vatican on Wednesday at The New York Times. Jeva Lange

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