And yet Mr. Trump has signaled his desire to see it made public, unredacted. He clearly sees the memo as a weapon of political warfare — a way to rid himself of Mr. Rosenstein, who oversees both the F.B.I. and the special prosecutor investigating the White House, Robert Mueller. Mr. Rosenstein has made it clear that he will not fire Mr. Mueller at the president’s whim — which, to the president, means he needs to go.
.. Mr. Trump has been transparent in his antagonism. It is not a disinterested belief that the bureau is corrupt and in need of reform. He’d been in office for only four days when F.B.I. agents came to the White House to interview the national security adviser, Mike Flynn, who’d engaged in skulduggery with Russia. Mr. Flynn lied to the F.B.I.
.. Nixon’s willing executioner back in the October 1973 was the No. 3 man at Justice, the solicitor general Robert Bork. At the end of that fateful night, Nixon promised him the next seat on the Supreme Court
.. As the bloodhounds close in on the Oval Office, he may sharpen his blade and place the prosecutor’s head on a pike. If so, he’ll have to confront the Constitution. And he’ll lose again.
Facebook Only Cares About Facebook
Whatever Mark Zuckerberg says about human community or his legacy, his company is acting in its own interests—and against the public good.
Facebook’s crushing blow to independent media arrived last fall in Slovakia, Cambodia, Guatemala, and three other nations.The social giant removed stories by these publishers from users’ news feeds, hiding them in a new, hard-to-find stream. These independent publishers reported that they lost as much as 80 percent of their audience during this experiment.Facebook doesn’t care. At least, it usually seems that way… the company is now going ahead with similar changes to its news feed globally. These changes will likely de-prioritize stories from professional publishers, and instead favor dispatches published by a user’s friends and family. .. Many American news organizations will see the sharp traffic declines their brethren in other nations experienced last year—unless they pay Facebook to include their stories in readers’ feeds.
.. People say they’re interested in a broad range of news from different political preferences, but Facebook knows they really want angry, outraged articles that confirm political prejudices... Publishers in Slovakia and in the United States may warn of damage to democracy if Facebook readers receive less news, but Facebook knows people will be perfectly happy—perfectly engaged—with more posts from friends and families instead... I pledge to go to the gym more in 2018, but every morning when I wake up, my partner presents me with a plate of donuts and urges me to stay in bed and eat them. My revealed preferences show that I’m more interested in eating donuts than in exercising. But it’s pretty perverse that my partner is working to give me what I really crave, ignoring what I’ve clearly stated I aspire to... When people choose to subscribe to reliable news sources, they’re asking to go to the gym. With these newsfeed changes, Facebook threw out your gym shoes and subscribed you to a donut delivery service. Why do 2 billion people put up with a service that patronizingly reminds them that it’s designed for their well being, while it studiously ignores our stated preferences?.. I think the only way Facebook will listen to people’s expressed preferences is if people start building better alternatives... Right now, Facebook chooses what stories should top your news feed, optimizing for “engagement” and “time well spent.”..Instead of telling Facebook what it should do, people should build tools that let them view the world the way they choose. If regulators force Facebook and other platforms to police news quality, they’ll give more control to a platform that’s already demonstrated its disinterest editorial judgment. A better path would be to force all platforms to adopt two simple rules:
- Users own their own data, including the content they create and the web of relationships they’ve built online. And they can take this data with them from one platform to another, or delete it from an existing platform.
- Users can view platforms like Facebook through an aggregator, a tool that lets you read social media through your own filters, like Gobo... it either needs to learn to listen to its users stated desires, or it needs to make room for platforms that do.
Steve Bannon believed in Trumpism. Donald Trump doesn’t.
Trump is losing control of his administration, and he likes it that way.
As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump praised autocrats and exhibited strongman tendencies. But as president of the United States, Trump is proving to be one of the weakest, most disinterested executives in memory. He seems happy — even eager — to be both operationally and ideologically marginalized inside his own administration.
.. White House staff, congressional Republicans, military leaders, and executive branch officials are increasingly confident simply ignoring President Trump.
- After Trump tweeted that he wanted the military to ban transgender service members from serving, for instance, the Pentagon quickly said that it had not received an official order and was going to carry on with business as usual until it did.
- .. Similarly, after Trump tweeted his threats at North Korea, the key organs of American foreign policymaking — the State Department, the Defense Department, and so on — were quick to declare that nothing had changed, there was no military buildup or new red lines, and everyone should just ignore the commander in chief’s morning outburst.
- Senate Republicans are ignoring the president’s demand to keep holding votes on health reform.
- The National Economic Council, the Office of Management and Budget, the Treasury Department, and the Department of Health and Human Services are ignoring Trump’s campaign promises to raise taxes on the rich and protect Social Security and Medicaid from cuts.
- Attorney General Jeff Sessions — one of the few executive branch officials who seems to ideologically align with Trump — is ignoring Trump’s clear desire that he resign, or at least take a more aggressive hand overseeing Bob Mueller.
As CNBC’s John Harwood concluded in a recent overview, “fresh evidence arrives every day of the government treating the man elected to lead it as someone talking mostly to himself.”
Trump could react to all this with fury. He could elevate aides, like Bannon, who are committed to his ideological agenda and invested in reshaping the federal government around his vision, and fire Cabinet officials and top staffers who seem to be using his administration to drive their agendas. But he isn’t.
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes outlined a theory as to why. He argued that it’s wrong to see this as the government defying the president. This, he thinks, is exactly how Trump wants it:
I don’t think the president wants to be in charge. I think he wants to sit on his couch and yell at his TV screen and tweet things, but he’s almost happy to be able to kind of get it out of his system and not have anyone listen to him. I think his optimal equilibrium is hectoring Jeff Sessions but Jeff Sessions not quitting, or tweeting out the thing about transgender service members and the military ignoring him, or tweeting out threats to North Korea and not actually changing American posture.
I think that that we have arrived at a new equilibrium in which both
- the interior members of his staff,
- the actual federal bureaucracy,
- the US Congress,
- the US public,
- the global public, and
- global leaders
all basically understand the president is fundamentally a bullshit artist and you just shouldn’t listen to what he says.
There are two ways a president can make sure the federal policy roughly tracks his wishes. One way is to insist on it himself, but Trump has no interest in doing that. Another way is to outsource ideological enforcement to committed, empowered lieutenants.
.. Bannon was the closest thing Trump had to a lieutenant like that: He was the true believer running around the federal government trying to force various agencies and officials to align their work with Trump’s campaign promises
.. The problem is that Bannon could only win those fights if Trump wanted him to win those fights — and now we see Trump didn’t.
.. Instead, Trump has systematically elevated outsiders to his campaign and operation like John Kelly and Gary Cohn while alienating or firing allies like Bannon and Reince Priebus.
.. we’re watching a president who wants to comment on his own presidency without actually driving its agenda or being held accountable for anything he says.
.. The presidency Trump wants is one in which he can say whatever he likes but other people do the work and ignore him when necessary. Chief of Staff John Kelly seems to understand that:
.. The president of the United States is clearly unfit for the job, but the good news, to the extent that there is good news, is that everyone around him knows it, and he is willing to be sidelined as long as no one takes away his phone. Whether he is being marginalized by his own administration or choosing to marginalize himself I don’t know, but Bannon’s ouster is another piece of evidence that Trump is interested in Twitter, not Trumpism.