Home Blog Page 5

Zuckerberg insists Facebook will be impartial toward Warren

0
Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday that the company will be impartial toward Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign despite his pledge to fight her plan to break up the company if she takes the White House.

Zuckerberg came under fire this week after audio surfaced of an open meeting during which he predicted Facebook would challenge and beat back efforts by a would-be Warren administration to split up the company.

A staffer pressed the executive during a Thursday open meeting, which was streamed live after the earlier meeting leak made headlines, on whether Facebook could be expected to treat Warren’s campaign fairly given Zuckerberg’s remarks.

Zuckerberg quipped that the company would “try not to antagonize her further.” But he said he understood the concern and pledged to maintain neutrality toward the Democratic candidate.

“Even when people disagree with what I think would be good to happen in the world, I still want to give them a voice — that’s what we’re here to do,” he said. “I would rather have someone get elected even if I disagree with them on everything, which I don’t even think is the case here, than not give them the ability to say what they think.”

Zuckerberg stood by his leaked remarks, which he shared on Facebook after The Verge published audio and a transcript, calling them an “unfiltered” view into his thoughts. He said his comments on Warren were in response to a specific question and “not like an opinion on the election overall.”

Warren fired back at Zuckerberg after his earlier remarks surfaced, writing in a series of tweets, “We have to fix a corrupt system that lets giant companies like Facebook engage in illegal anticompetitive practices, stomp on consumer privacy rights, and repeatedly fumble their responsibility to protect our democracy.”

The Warren campaign later fundraised off of the tech mogul’s remarks.

“Elizabeth is committed to protecting our democracy from Silicon Valley overreach — but she needs your help to do it,” read a Warren fundraising email sent out Thursday. “Can you chip in for the first time today to help break up Big Tech?”

SCOTUS will review Louisiana abortion law, setting up blockbuster election year showdown

0
Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Friday announced it will review Louisiana abortion restrictions that could leave the state with just one abortion provider, in a case that gives the high court’s new conservative majority a chance to redefine abortion rights.

The Louisiana law would require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges to a nearby hospital. It is similar to a Texas law the Supreme Court struck down in 2016, finding it posed an undue burden on a woman’s constitutional right to access an abortion. The Justices also voted to take a related petition challenging the standing of Louisiana’s abortion clinics to bring the legal challenge on behalf of their patients.

The decision to take the case means the Supreme Court will likely weigh in on abortion amid a presidential campaign in which access to the procedure is already poised to be a top issue. The soonest the court will hear the case is early next year, with a decision likely in the summer of 2020.

Emboldened by the Supreme Court’s new conservative majority, a number of conservative-led states this year approved virtual bans on abortion, hoping to eventually trigger a Supreme Court review that could significantly narrow or abolish the right to terminate a pregnancy. The sweeping bans passed by Georgia and some other states are still working their way through lower courts, and none have taken effect. But there are other ways the high court, meeting for the start of its October term on Monday, can lay the groundwork and send a signal about the future of access to the procedure.

“For the first time in decades, it’s at least conceivable that there are five votes to overturn ,” said Andrew Bath, executive vice president of the Thomas More Society, a conservative law firm with a different abortion-related case pending before the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court has previously grappled with this Louisiana case. The Justices intervened in February in a narrow 5-4 vote to block the law from taking effect while a challenge from abortion providers was still winding through lower courts. At the time, Chief Justice John Roberts joined with four liberal justices to keep the law on hold before the court could consider whether to review the case on its merits. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, seen as a key vote on reproductive rights, dissented in that decision, saying he would have allowed the regulation to take effect.

The justices had been weighing whether to take up the Louisiana law for full review since the spring, an unusually long time that could have reflected their hesitance to take abortion cases. Chief Justice John Roberts has expressed concern about perceptions that the court has become tainted by partisanship, and the threat that poses to its reputation and credibility.

“They had somewhat of a hiatus last year from a lot of hot button issues including abortion,” said Steve Aden, the chief legal officer for the anti-abortion group Americans United for Life. “It was intentional. The chief justice wanted to give Kavanaugh in particular somewhat of a honeymoon.”

The justices in the previous term — the first with Kavanaugh on the bench — sidestepped several opportunities to tackle the issue. They voted not to take up a case over whether states could kick abortion providers out of their Medicaid programs. They ruled on a set of policies out of Indiana without holding a hearing. And they rebuffedAlabama’s petition to hear arguments about its ban on a common procedure used for second-trimester abortions. The cautious stance prompted a series of angry rebukes from Justice Clarence Thomas, who accused his colleagues of “abdicating our judicial duty” and contributing to the court’s “refusal to do its job.”

The Louisiana case, , deals with requirements for abortion providers. A state law mandating them to have the ability to admit patients to a hospital within 30 miles was upheld last year by a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is considered among the most conservative circuits in the country.

The appeals court in its 2-1 decision found the circumstances around the Louisiana law were “remarkably different” than the similar Texas law the Supreme Court overturned in 2016. The 5th Circuit found there was “no evidence” any abortion clinics would close under the Louisiana law because it was easier for doctors to obtain admitting privileges in the state. The court also said driving distances in the state are much shorter, so the law would not put an undue burden on anyone seeking an abortion.

The Supreme Court in the Texas case three years ago said the admitting privileges requirement, which other conservative states have enacted in some form, offered few if any health benefits, because abortion-related complications that require hospitalization are extremely rare. Former Justice Anthony Kennedy sided with the court’s liberals in the 5-3 decision, seen at the time as a major victory for abortion rights supporters.

The court’s makeup has changed significantly since then, with the addition of Trump appointees Neil Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.

Abortion providers represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights argued the Louisiana law would hurt the state’s residents because it would allow just one of the state’s remaining three abortion clinics stay open.

“Abortion access in Louisiana is already hanging by a thread,” said Nancy Northup, the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which will argue the case on behalf of June Medical. “The have already gone from seven in 2011 to just three today. If this law is allowed to go into effect, there will be just one abortion provider left to provide reproductive care to an estimated 1 million women of reproductive age.”

The providers also note that women experiencing a complication from an abortion can go to a hospital regardless of whether their doctor has admitting privileges, and say the law is a backdoor way of curtailing access to the procedure. Anti-abortion backers of such laws promote them as efforts to make the procedure safe, though courts have often disagreed.

The Justices now have complete discretion on whether they want to rule narrowly on the Louisiana case in a way that leaves in place the standards set by and , which states laws that place an undue burden on women seeking abortions are unconstitutional, or whether they want to revisit those decades-old precedents. Though abortion rights supporters have largely focused on the fate of , advocates are preparing to argue that may not be the main concern.

“Louisiana is trying to sneak around the right to get an abortion by using an underhanded means to shut down clinics, so that no matter if is still the law of the land, women have nowhere to get services,” Northup said.

Ukraine reviews case into company that employed Biden’s son

0
Joe Biden

ZHYTOMYR, Ukraine — Ukraine’s Prosecutor General said on Friday that his office is reviewing all the cases that were closed by his predecessors, including several related to the owner of a gas company where former Vice President Joe Biden’s son sat on the board.

Ruslan Ryaboshapka’s comments came amid an impeachment inquiry against U.S. President Donald Trump that relates to a call he made to the Ukrainian president asking him to investigate the Democratic presidential candidate and his son’s work in Ukraine.

Ryaboshapka told reporters in Kyiv that prosecutors are auditing all the cases that were closed or dismissed by former prosecutors, including several related to Mykola Zlochevsky, owner of the gas company Burisma that hired Hunter Biden in 2014, at the same time his father was leading the Obama administration’s diplomatic dealings with Kyiv.

Though the timing raised concerns among anti-corruption advocates, there has been no evidence of wrongdoing by either the former vice president or his son.

“We are now reviewing all the cases that were closed or split into several parts or were investigated before, in order to be able to rule to reverse those cases where illegal procedural steps were taken,” Ryaboshapka said.

Asked by The Associated Press about Trump’s comment Thursday that the U.S. has an “absolute right” to ask foreign leaders to investigate corruption cases, Zelenskiy said that Ukraine is “open” and that all the cases under investigation are “transparent.”

The Prosecutor General’s Office later said that among the cases they are reviewing, there are 15 where Zlochevsky is mentioned. None of the Zlochevsky-related cases has been revived yet, they said.

They did not specify how many, if any, were related to Hunter Biden’s work at Burisma.

Ryaboshapka was mentioned in the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who assured Trump that Ryaboshapka was “his man” and that he would resume investigations into Burisma.

The prosecutor general insisted on Friday that he did not feel any pressure over the Burisma case.

“Not a single foreign or Ukrainian official or politician has called me or tried to influence my decisions regarding specific criminal cases,” he said.

A whistleblower last month revealed that Trump in a phone call asked Zelenskiy to resume the probe into Joe Biden and his son. The July 25 call has since triggered an impeachment inquiry against Trump.

Trump tries out new defenses as damaging Ukraine evidence piles up

0
Donald Trump

The president claims he had an ‘obligation’ to seek out foreign leaders’ help.

President Donald Trump on Friday defended his brazen call for foreign governments to interfere in the 2020 election by launching investigations into the Bidens, repeatedly claiming he is duty-bound to encourage the probes while insisting his motivations are apolitical.

“This is not about politics. This is about corruption,” Trump told reporters outside the White House. “And if you look and you read our Constitution and many other things, I have an obligation to look at corruption. I have an actual obligation and a duty.”

The president has been road-testing such justifications on social media since declaring Thursday that China and Ukraine should pursue unfounded accusations of corruption by former Vice President Joe Biden and his son — despite facing an impeachment inquiry for urging Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to do just that during a phone call in July.

“As President I have an obligation to end CORRUPTION, even if that means requesting the help of a foreign country or countries. It is done all the time,” Trump wrote Friday morning on Twitter. “This has NOTHING to do with politics or a political campaign against the Bidens. This does have to do with their corruption!”

Trump previously asserted in a tweet Thursday night that he has “an absolute right, perhaps even a duty” as president “to investigate, or have investigated, CORRUPTION, and that would include asking, or suggesting, other Countries to help us out!”

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) responded to that post Friday, imploring his GOP colleagues to break with the president.

“It comes down to this. We’ve cut through the denials. The deflections. The nonsense,” he tweeted. “Donald Trump believes he can pressure a foreign nation to help him politically. It’s his ‘right.’ Every Republican in Congress has to decide: Is he right?”

Among Republicans in Congress, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Friday delivered the most forceful rebuke of Trump, calling the president’s appeal to the Chinese and Ukrainian governments “wrong and appalling.”

“When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China’s investigation is his political opponent in the midst of the Democratic nomination process, it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated,” Romney tweeted.

The president’s latest rationale for his behavior came as Washington awoke Friday to news of damaging text messages exchanged in recent months among top American diplomats. Those communications — which Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, provided Thursday to congressional Democrats — detailed efforts by the administration to pressure Zelensky to investigate the Bidens and alleged meddling by the Eastern European nation in the 2016 election.

The texts are certain to open a new front in the impeachment drive by Democratic lawmakers, who say the explosive messages offer clear evidence that Trump made U.S. military aid and a White House visit contingent upon Zelensky’s approval of the investigations. The president’s Republican defenders on Capitol Hill have so far argued that he proposed no such quid pro quo during his conversation over the summer with his foreign counterpart.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) warned Friday that the revelation of the texts marked an “important moment for our democracy.”

“We now know that Trump was using access to the White House to get a foreign government to help destroy his political rival,” he tweeted. “There was an explicit quid pro quo: open an investigation into my rival, and I will invite you to the White House.”

Murphy wrote in another post that while “it’s never been necessary to show an explicit quid pro quo,” the texts also “make it pretty clear the aid was being withheld until Zelensky chose to investigate.”

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) also tore into the president after the new evidence emerged. “Trump withheld $391 million in security aid for no reason. He then pressured the Ukrainian President to target an American citizen for political gain. How do you describe this extraordinary betrayal of America’s national security?” he tweeted, adding, “ABUSE OF POWER.”

U.S. jobless rate fell to 50-year low

0
Department of Labor

The U.S. unemployment rate fell in September to a new five-decade low of 3.5%, while employers added a modest 136,000 jobs.

The Labor Department says that despite the ultra-low unemployment rate, which was down from 3.7% in August, average hourly wages slipped by a penny. Hourly pay rose just 2.9% from a year earlier, lower than 3.4% at the beginning of the year.

Hiring has slowed this year as the U.S.-China trade war has intensified, global growth has slowed, and businesses have cut back on their investment spending. Still, hiring has averaged 157,000 in the past three months, enough to lower the unemployment rate over time.

The unemployment rate for Latinos fell to 3.9%, the lowest on records dating from 1973.

Is the 3D rocket boom passing the government by?

0
Rocket

Government programs designed to incubate promising new technologies can’t keep pace with the rapid growth of venture-backed space start-ups, says the CEO of Relativity Space, a small launch company that is building 3D printed rockets.

Tim Ellis, the 29-year old CEO, gave a hypothetical example: When his Los-Angeles-based firm had just 14 employees a year and a half ago, it would have been eligible to compete for a NASA contract to bring partially-developed technology at small businesses to fruition. But by the time the contract would have been awarded, because of the lengthy government contracting process, Relativity Space had grown to 110 employees with a launch pad at Cape Canaveral in Florida.

This discrepancy between the speed of government and speed of Silicon Valley means the government could miss out getting in on the ground floor of innovative technologies if the companies are moving too fast for the federal contracting process.

“The sticking point I usually see is if there’s some kind of government award or policy process that takes six to 18 months to enable, you can apply for those things or be talking about policy changes but six to 18 months later you’re an entirely different company,” said Ellis, who designed his own Lego rockets as a child and worked at Blue Origin before founding Relativity Space in 2015.

The company announced this week it has raised $140 million in late-stage, or Series C, funding to fully finance its Terran 1 rocket, which is expected to fly for the first time in early 2021. Commercial launches are also expected to begin that year at a cost of $10 million per launch, Ellis said.

Ellis, the youngest member of the National Space Council’s User Advisory Group, also spoke about how unlike traditional space launch vehicles the company’s rockets can be updated following each launch in much less time and at lower cost than in a traditional factory, as well as how the firm is working to overcome lingering resistance to the company’s innovative approach.

“You always find pockets of hesitancy for sure,” he says. “That still exists. But our biggest argument there is … the opportunity exists for Relativity to be the first [3D printed rocket,] entirely designed, built, and operated in the U.S. If we are not the first to build it, someone else will be, so that’s been our argument.”

What does it mean to complete this Series C funding?

We’ve closed $140 million in Series C funding. It’s a milestone for Relativity, because now we’re fully funded to launch Terran 1 to orbit. That’s our rocket launch vehicle for satellites and the first 3D printed rocket ever made anywhere in the world. It’s going to be not just an iconic milestone for serving the growing … small satellite launch market, but also an iconic milestone for the 3D printing industry.

What are your next steps now that you’ve received funding?

Over the past year, momentum has been growing. … We have a 220,000 square foot factory at NASA Stennis. We have a launch site secured at Cape Canaveral at Launch Complex 16. All of the infrastructure is in place to finish development of Terran 1. The next steps are finishing development of the Stargate factory, that’s the world’s largest 3D metal printing factory. We’re using that to print the first flight version of Terran 1 … with the first launch in early 2021 and commercial service also beginning in 2021.

Who are your new investors?

The new funding round is led by Bond together with Tribe Capital. Bond is really a world class venture capitalist. … The entire team at Bond has an incredible track record funding some of the largest companies in the world that are privately owned, so having their buy in to what we’re building is a huge sign of confidence in both the technology and our business case.

Other new investors include Lee Fixel on the Forbes Midas list [of top tech investors], Michael Ovits who founded Creative Artists Agency and was briefly president of Disney. Spencer Rascoff was a co-founder of [real estate website] Zillow.com, and we have [actor and tech investor] Jared Leto. … That shows we have a diversity of capital sources. It’s not just Silicon Valley venture capitalists, but it’s also people who have very significant political and financial connections in many different industries. … It shows there’s more people who are very sophisticated who believe in what we’re doing.

What is the status of the Stargate factory in Los Angeles?

The Stargate factory includes the world’s largest 3D metal printers, which were fully designed, developed and built in-house. We’re announcing the next generation of the Stargate printer … which can print metal components as large as a rocket. The next generation is twice as large as the prior version, which was already the largest in the world. … Right now we have several Stargate printers manufacturing the rocket first stage and second stage components. We have done pressure testing to show that 3D printing a rocket will work.

What about your facility at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi?

The Stennis one we’ll build out next … as an expansion factory for more mass production. … We’ll be able to iterate extremely quickly for an entire product. We can use software to reconfigure the factory to produce many different types of the rocket at the same time. It allows us to replicate factories and produce different parts of rockets in different physical locations in the U.S. That resilience in manufacturing will be very important.

Resilience in space is really important to the Pentagon, too.

We’re in conversation with different agencies. Our vice president of business development was at SpaceX for nearly a decade … so we have a lot of relationships. … Not only is resiliency important, I also think reconstitution is important. Our factory and supply chain don’t have a lot of pieces. … We can produce a lot of different products out of one machine, which makes building new factories easier and cheaper

When will first flight be?

It’s going to be out of Launch Complex 16 [at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station] in 2021. We are working on potentially having a customer on the test launch. That would be a U.S. government customer for the test launch, but nothing is signed officially yet.

Has there been resistance to this new technology in the government?

You always find pockets of hesitancy for sure. That still exists. But our biggest argument there is … the opportunity exists for Relativity to be the first [3D printed rocket,] entirely designed, built, and operated in the U.S. If we are not the first to build it, someone else will be, so that’s been our argument.

We need to be the first to build this specifically because the technology gets better and faster over time at an extremely accelerated rate. … Once the factory is operational, we can print from raw material to flight in 60 days. Then 60 days later, because there’s no fixed tooling and it’s largely automated, we can build a slightly improved version, then another slightly improved version. We’re getting to a high-metabolism, hyper-evolvable iteration cycle. Once the technology exists, we will accelerate much faster.

Are there safety concerns with always launching a slightly new rocket?

Certainly there are concerns, but we’re addressing them head on. We developed a rocket design software built for rapid iteration. … Right now we will test every single rocket to standard qualification and testing criteria, but over time we want to use data to do qualification and acceptance testing.

We’re also launching a lot of payloads [up to 1250 kilograms] that are not that valuable. That’s the benefit of distributed constellations. … We care about mission assurance quite a lot, but it is different from launching a $2 billion national asset in one launch.

Where are you looking for a polar launch site?

We’ve narrowed it down to Vandenberg [Air Force Base in California.] That is the leading site that we’re looking at. We’re planning on having something to announce by the end of this year. The reason we’re going to both Cape Canaveral Air Force Base and Vandenberg is because those are the premier launch sites in the U.S. Our customers are used to launching from there. There’s existing facilities, support systems and expertise.

You are the only representative from a venture capital-backed space company on the National Space Council User Advisory Group.

I’m also the youngest person by 20 years. I think it’s about being the voice for the next generation of people who are going to inherit a lot of what we’re building now whether it comes to policy or programs. … As far as being venture backed, I think the biggest thing is around speed and capability. I do see how quickly companies can move when they are less encumbered by traditional organizational structures. The venture capital funding model has been proven … to extremely accelerate growth. I think the sticking point I usually see is if there’s some kind of government award or policy process that takes six to 18 months to enable, you can apply for those things or be talking about policy changes, but six to 18 months later, you’re an entirely different company.

For us, 15 months ago, we had only 14 people at Relativity. Now we’re at 110. In that time, we’ve gotten the launch site agreement, the agreement with NASA Stennis, we’ve signed for public deals. Back when we had 14 people, we easily could have applied for certain programs like tipping point at NASA [intended to help get new technology at small companies over the tipping point] or any of the small launch initiatives the Defense Department is working on. Even if we had won an award, at this point, it’s so far in the future that we’re a very different company.

Tulsi Gabbard’s return sets stage for debate fireworks

0
Tulsi Gabbard

Gabbard drew attention-grabbing contrasts in her first two debates — leaving Democrats wondering who she could challenge next.

Democrats are bracing for Rep. Tulsi Gabbard to blow up the next Democratic presidential debate.

Gabbard missed the September debate and will be relegated to the side of the stage on Oct. 15 because she is polling lower than most of her rivals. But Gabbard, whose worldview on key issues diverges from other Democrats, has sharply criticized other candidates in each of her debates so far, including telling Kamala Harris that people “suffered under her reign” when Harris was California’s attorney general.

And with Gabbard and others looking to break open a campaign that has been largely static behind the front-runners, Democrats in other campaigns are buzzing over who the iconoclastic Hawaii congresswoman could target next. Gabbard’s non-interventionist foreign policy platform could mean trouble for Joe Biden. She recently questioned Elizabeth Warren’s national security experience.

She could even decide to put the whole Democratic presidential field on blast for politicizing the impeachment process, after tweeting recently that candidates fundraising off the inquiry were “undermining credibility” of House Democrats’ probes of President Donald Trump.

“She’s laid down some of the toughest attacks of all of the debates, first against [Rep. Tim] Ryan, later against Harris,” said Democratic strategist Mark Longabaugh, an adviser for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign, which Gabbard supported. “If I’m on the stage with her in this upcoming debate, I’d certainly want to be prepared to rebut or to deal with Tulsi Gabbard coming at me.”

Gabbard has begun signaling that she’s looking to create a breakout moment in the upcoming debate. Last time, she criticized Harris’ foreign policy credentials in the days before she laid into Harris on criminal justice onstage. This time around, Gabbard questioned whether Warren is “prepared to be commander-in-chief” on The Hill’s show “Rising.”

“I haven’t seen much come from her in the way of what kind of leadership and decision making that she would bring to that most important responsibility that the president has,” Gabbard said about Warren.

Gabbard’s campaign declined to comment on its debate preparations. Asked about the debates, Gabbard spokesman Cullen Tiernan wrote in an email: “We are focusing our campaign in New Hampshire and Iowa and reaching voters in those states person to person.”

Gabbard has not been afraid to set herself apart from others in the party during the primary, whether by criticizing others for supporting “regime change wars” or holding impeachment plans at arm’s length, warning that it would be a “divisive” process. That frankness has won Gabbard a core of committed fans, though she has never broken out in public polling.

“As she proved with Kamala, she’s more than willing to say the thing other people are definitely not willing to say,” said Democratic strategist Julia Barnes, the national field director for Sanders’ 2016 campaign.

“You just have to balance that with the fact that the other half of the sh– she says is so completely off message for the party and the values that she espouses to represent,” Barnes continued, noting that Gabbard was one of the last House Democrats to support an impeachment inquiry against Trump. “Coming out against impeachment? Come on. Is she really going to stand up onstage and say that? I can only imagine that that is an invitation for 100 percent of the participants just to cut her off at the knees.”

Gabbard said last week that she supported an impeachment inquiry after reviewing Trump’s comments and actions regarding Ukraine. But she has remained critical of other Democrats’ rhetoric on impeachment — especially of impeachment references in fundraising emails sent by a number of other candidates.

Those Democrats are “further dividing our already fractured country,” Gabbard tweeted. “Please stop.”

Strategists and operatives on other campaigns refused to speculate on the record about who Gabbard could criticize during this debate — or how. But privately, top officials on multiple campaigns said Warren, Harris, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar or Pete Buttigieg could end up tangling with Gabbard.

Others thought Gabbard could draw a contrast with Biden, although Gabbard has previously defended the former vice president against criticism from Harris. The two spent time talking together onstage after the last debate in which Gabbard participated. But Gabbard’s contrast with Biden’s long record on foreign policy is among the starkest policy differences in the wide Democratic primary field.

“I would watch for Tulsi to be one of the wild cards that blows up the debate,” a veteran Democratic presidential campaign strategist said. “If I were preparing for this debate with one of the other candidates, especially if I was Elizabeth Warren, I would be very wary of Tulsi Gabbard now being back on the stage.”

Kurt Ehrenberg, a veteran New Hampshire Democratic strategist and former Sanders adviser, suggested there was at least one candidate with nothing to fear from Gabbard’s sharp debating style on Oct. 15. Gabbard was one of the few elected officials who backed Sanders in 2016, and the Vermont senator and the Hawaii House member have more in common ideologically than most of the rest of the field.

“If she beats up on a kindred spirit people will just get angry at her,” Ehrenberg said. Instead, he offered: “Be a hero to the left.”

‘You’re making him a further victim’: Dems fume over DNC treatment of Biden

0
Joe Biden

The national party’s low-key role sparks frustration as Trump pummels the former vice president.

The Republican National Committee and its chair, Ronna McDaniel, have been blasting out dozens of tweets ripping Joe Biden — and Democratic impeachment efforts — for days on end. Donald Trump has been busy doing the same.

But the first tweet from the Democratic National Committee all week about accusations that Trump asked foreign countries to dig up dirt on his political opponent didn’t come until late Thursday morning. Its official Twitter feed has instead been focused on minimum wage issues, health care and immigration.

The social media disparity is just one measure of how Trump’s attacks on Biden and the impeachment inquiry are turning into a Democratic messaging quagmire, marked by almost no cover from the national party apparatus.

The DNC hasn’t been completely silent. The national party called on Facebook to take down false ads targeting the former vice president. It operates a second, more aggressive “War Room” Twitter account that has been busy whacking Trump and Republicans. But the size of its following is just a fraction of the size of the national party account.

The party’s low-key role in the recent fray is sparking a growing sense of frustration, according to interviews with nearly 20 DNC members and other prominent Democrats. There are complaints that the national party isn’t delivering a digital counter-punch, that it’s getting swamped by Republican fundraising, and doing little to combat an onslaught of incoming TV ads targeting Biden on Ukraine. And they lament that Democrats lack a prominent voice who is providing anything like the kind of sustained bombast coming from the Republican side.

“The DNC should be much more active and vigorous than they have been. It should have been and should now be more even more forceful in its condemnation of Trump,” said Don Fowler, a former DNC chair, who stressed he wasn’t criticizing the party’s current chair, Tom Perez. “They should consider at least putting out a statement pointing out that Biden has served with honor, has done nothing improper, illegal or unethical and that his record on these kinds of matters is essentially spotless and that Donald Trump is just a lying no-good son of a bitch.”

Part of the problem, defenders say, is that the DNC is working under an unusual constraint. Amid the fallout from the bitter 2016 presidential primary race — when Bernie Sanders’ supporters accused the party of rigging the process for the establishment favorite, Hillary Clinton — the DNC in 2018 adopted a strict pledge of neutrality in the next presidential primary. As a result, any attempt to defend Biden might be viewed by progressives as a violation of the pledge, and another effort to prop up a preferred candidate.

“There’s always a candidate who has a complaint about what the party is or isn’t doing,” said Kathy Sullivan, former New Hampshire Democratic Party chair. “I don’t think the party needs to do anything. Donald Trump is doing perfectly well jumping off a cliff all by himself. Nobody has to push him.”

Still, critics say that pledge, formally installed by Perez, has dictated the committee’s actions to the point of paralysis. There’s plenty of room for the party to push back on Trump on the issue of election meddling or how he’s complying with an impeachment inquiry without promoting Biden, they argue.

It’s an opinion that’s held in some quarters of the Biden campaign.

“No one on our team thinks the DNC should be out there with a giant Joe Biden sign running around town. But there are very few signs of the DNC aggressively pushing back on any of these misleading narratives from Trump,” a Biden adviser said. “This isn’t just about us. It’s about the Democratic Party and whoever the nominee is or any of the candidates are. Today, it’s Joe Biden. Tomorrow, it could be Elizabeth Warren or any of the other candidates.”

As proof of the sensitivity of the issue, relations between the DNC and the Biden campaign grew strained on Sunday when the campaign furnished a TV surrogate with a document of talking points — one of which was deemed too critical of the party by some DNC officials.

Another complaint is that the DNC is spending more time refereeing primary debates than aggressively confronting Trump. And those critics don’t think the rebuilding necessitated by the disastrous 2016 election cycle is moving quickly enough. The committee remains saddled in debt and, as of the end of August, had raised just $59.5 million this year compared to the RNC’s $141.4 million.

The national party is also lagging on the digital messaging front. The GOP has considerably larger social media followings on both Facebook and Twitter — key arenas where disinformation is spread and media coverage is influenced.

Beyond that, Republicans have already announced they would launch a $10 million TV ad campaign targeting Biden with Trump’s claim that the former vice president and his son engaged in corruption in Ukraine, accompanied by another $1 million in Facebook ads. The president’s re-election campaign is devoting $ 1 million of the anti-Biden television buy in the early nominating states alone.

“In this situation, if you don’t defend the guy by name and often and vigorously, you’re making him a further victim by the party, you’re not standing behind him,” said a DNC member who asked not to be named, referring to the attacks on Biden.

The DNC has not announced any advertising pushback.

“A lot of thinking went into not replicating the mistakes of 2016,” said Simon Rosenberg, who acted as a senior advisor to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2018. “I’m not sure as much thinking went into re-imagining the DNC’s communications responsibilities in an age of social media, disinformation and Trump.”

Some Democrats point the finger at Perez, claiming he hasn’t been visible enough in countering a massive Republican assault and the DNC hasn’t been aggressive enough in countering the president.

“We don’t have to get down in the mud. But we should be on the offensive,” said one DNC member who would only speak on the condition of anonymity. “I don’t think we’ve pushed back enough.”

Former DNC chairman Ed Rendell echoed that sentiment.

“I would like more of a response. And it doesn’t matter what candidate we’re talking about,” said the former Pennsylvania governor and Biden surrogate. “If Elizabeth Warren is in the lead in all the polls and Donald Trump levels attacks at her that are unfair, the DNC should come to her defense. Whether the DNC has the money to run a robust TV campaign in defense of the Trump TV campaign, I don’t know — and I’m not sure that they do — but they could put out a statement.”

DNC War Room spokeswoman Adrienne Watson defended the committee’s work, saying it is wisely sinking its resources into data, tech and organization in advance of the 2020 election and that each presidential campaign was briefed on how the DNC would approach the primary and “received overwhelming support for this approach.”

“Chair Perez and the DNC have spent the last three years battling Trump at every turn while rebuilding the party after a crushing loss,” Watson said. “Our job is to hold Trump accountable, define him in the battleground states, and speak directly with voters about his broken promises and abuse of power, and that’s exactly what we’ll continue to do.”

Mo Elleithee, who served as DNC spokesman under former Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, defended the committee’s approach.
“It’s an impossible job,” he said, crediting Perez with being “fairly smart in messaging against Trump.”

Former DNC Chair Howard Dean said the DNC has two jobs before a nominee is chosen: run a fair primary and a good convention.

“The DNC ought not to put its finger on the scale. Period. End of discussion.” Dean said. “It’s not the DNC’s job to attack until after we have a nominee.”

He added that Democrats would go ballistic if the DNC sprang to the defense of Warren, Sanders or Buttigieg if Trump attacked them. “Can you imagine the howling that would go on?” he said.

Neera Tanden, a former advisor to Hillary Clinton, said Perez has been right to take a back seat to members of Congress like Nancy Pelosi who are leading the impeachment inquiry because that issue is not about politics.

“Trump wants to make this a political battle between the parties,” she said. “And this is a battle about his abuse of office and the Constitution.”

Biden on Wednesday night dedicated an entire speech in Reno, Nevada to Trump’s attacks on him. Biden used the situation both to trash the president and advance the notion that Trump is scared of him.

“Joe Biden won’t let Trump get away with gaslighting this country to hide his own wrongdoing, and no Democrat should let him off the hook,” Bill Russo, a Biden spokesman said in a statement. “We’ve been pleased to see the example of officials like Sen. Booker and Rep O’Rourke, who stood up for the facts while standing up to Trump, and the DNC who demanded that Facebook take down his ridiculous, false ad. It reminds us why we’re proud to be part of a party of values.”

Pelosi: ‘I’m very worried’ about whistleblower’s safety

0
Nancy Pelosi

WESTON, Fla. — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday she is “worried” about the safety of the whistleblower who first reported that President Donald Trump tried to pressure Ukraine into investigating one of his Democratic rivals, Joe Biden.

Pelosi made the comments, echoing concerns from the whistleblower’s attorney, hours after Trump said he wanted both Ukraine as well as China to investigate the business dealings of Biden’s son Hunter.

“What happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine,” Trump said.

Pelosi said Trump essentially admitted to an impeachable crime.

“The president has confessed to his violation of his oath of office,” Pelosi told reporters when asked about Trump’s suggestion that China also investigate the Bidens.

“Our founders were very suspicious of foreign interference in our government,” Pelosi said, “and to ask a foreign government to assist in our election undermines the president’s oath of office and threatens the integrity of our electoral system, and it is wrong.”

Pelosi, who was in Florida to speak at the Bonaventure Town Center Club about the political crisis in Venezuela, said the House committee process would determine what articles of impeachment to draft, if any. But in mentioning the whistleblower’s safety, Pelosi telegraphed the possibility of a charge of obstruction or witness tampering.

“I’m very worried about the security of the whistleblower,” she said. “And I’m very ashamed of the president’s words, threatening whistleblowers or anyone who gives that information.”

“For 25 years, I’ve been in intelligence,” Pelosi said. “I was there to write the rules for whistleblowers and to protect them. Intelligence depends on whistleblowers being protected. So the president doing what he’s doing is undermining our national security as well as endangering people who speak truth to power.”