Shots Are Fired, and Bots Swarm

Tuesday, February 20, 2018Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 12.21.47 PM

Good Tuesday morning,
Here are some of the stories making news in Washington and politics today:
  • Before the world had even absorbed the reality of the school shooting in Florida, hundreds of Twitter accounts thought to have Russian ties jumped into the gun control debate. The bots focus on anything that is divisive for Americans, said one disinformation expert. Almost systematically.

  • Amid a growing national outcry over gun restrictions, led by the teenagers who survived the school shooting last week, President Trump signaled that he was willing to join the discussion.
  • Mr. Trump’s efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act have widened the gap between those who get government aid and those who don’t, deepening resentments.
  • More than 15 months after a general election that was stained by covert Russian interference, the chief election officials of some states say they are still not getting the information they need from federal intelligence and security experts to safeguard the vote.

  • Rob Porter, the White House aide who resigned in a domestic abuse scandal that engulfed the White House, was known for his ambition at Harvard and on Capitol Hill.
— The First Draft Team

The Propaganda Tools Used by Russians to Influence the 2016 Election

By ALICIA PARLAPIANO AND JASMINE C. LEE
Thirteen Russian citizens have been charged with illegally trying to disrupt the American political process, according to an indictment filed by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Here are the tools the Russians used.
Read more >>
President Trump in the Oval Office last month. Many policies that he has approved are downright ordinary by the standards of modern Republican administrations.

At Least on Policy, Trump Is Taking a Conventional Republican Approach

By JEREMY W. PETERS

For all the ways President Trump has flouted the norms of his office, on policy he comes closer to other modern Republican presidents.

Representative Beto O’Rourke arrived for a Town Hall event in Lufkin, Texas, last week.

The Lone Star Long Shot Who Wants to Topple Cruz

By MICHAEL TACKETT AND TAMIR KALIFA

Representative Beto O’Rourke is making a long-shot bid to defeat Senator Ted Cruz and become the first Democrat in Texas to win a statewide office since 1994.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, center, with President Trump and Judge Neil M. Gorsuch at the White House in April during Judge Gorsuch’s swearing-in as a Supreme Court justice. If the moderate Justice Kennedy retires, Mr. Trump would be likely to replace him with a committed conservative like Justice Gorsuch.
SIDEBAR

Will Justice Kennedy Retire? What Influences a Decision

By ADAM LIPTAK

Rumors that Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, 81, may retire are sweeping Washington. Among the factors other justices have weighed are party loyalty, judicial legacy and the next presidential election.

John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, in Florida last week with emergency workers after a gunman killed 17 people at a high school. Mr. Kelly is also facing a crisis in the West Wing after an aide resigned amid spousal abuse allegations.
WHITE HOUSE MEMO

White House Seeks to Move On From Abuse Scandal. But What Did It Learn?

By MAGGIE HABERMAN AND JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS

A better-not-to-know approach in the White House allowed the Rob Porter problem to fester and raises questions about whether officials are capable of creating a better system.

Colleen Doering runs a small facilities maintenance business in Florida. “My paycheck has increased, and if I see it in my paycheck, then I know my employees are seeing it in theirs,” she said of the new tax law.

Tax Overhaul Gains Public Support, Buoying Republicans

By BEN CASSELMAN AND JIM TANKERSLEY

The upturn follows an aggressive advertising campaign by the party and coincides with an eroding Democratic lead in polls gauging midterm election prospects.

President Trump cited tweets by Rob Goldman as proof that Russia’s disinformation campaign was about something other than giving him an election victory.

Fact-Checking a Facebook Executive’s Comments on Russian Interference

By SHEERA FRENKEL

Rob Goldman, Facebook vice president for ads, tweeted about Russia’s disinformation effort. Mr. Trump then cited him. We fact-checked Mr. Goldman.

Facebook posts were an important tool for Russians trying to subvert the 2016 presidential election, federal prosectors said last week.
THE SHIFT

On Russia, Facebook Sends a Message It Wishes It Hadn’t

By KEVIN ROOSE

Some Facebook executives still seem more interested in defending themselves from criticism than owning their mistakes related to the 2016 election.

The New Pennsylvania House Districts Are In. We Review the Choices.

By NATE COHN, MATTHEW BLOCH AND KEVIN QUEALY

Democrats couldn’t have asked for much more from the new map.

Kenneth C. Frazier, the chief executive of Merck, speaking at the company’s headquarters in Kenilworth, N.J., last week.

The C.E.O. Who Stood Up to Trump: Ken Frazier Speaks Out

By DAVID GELLES

The head of Merck quit Mr. Trump’s business council after racial violence in Virginia, saying “as a matter of my own personal conscience, I could not remain.”

Voting in Spring City, Pa., in 2016. Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court approved new boundaries for the state’s Congressional districts on Monday, altering the political landscape for the midterm elections.

Court-Drawn Map in Pennsylvania May Lift Democrats’ House Chances

By TRIP GABRIEL AND JESS BIDGOOD

The State Supreme Court released new congressional districts on Monday for this year’s midterms, replacing a Republican-drawn map it had found unconstitutional.

Right and Left: Partisan Writing You Shouldn’t Miss
Read about how the other side thinks. We have collected political writing from around the web and across ideologies.
From the Right
Steve Deace in USA Today:
“If you want gun owners to listen to what you believe are reasonable ideas and you’re not just a gun grabber, be informed and reasonable.”
Mr. Deace, a “staunch advocate of the God-given right to self-defense” and a conservative radio host, laments the fact that, so often, the conversation around gun control has partisans retreating to their rigid ideological corners without really listening to the other side. He poses a number of questions that he says would move the conversation forward, including, “Should our schools be secured like our airports?” and “How come stories of private gun ownership actually saving lives rarely get sustained national attention?” Read more »
From the Left
George Zornick in The Nation:
“Trump’s proposed massive federal-spending cuts have led many federal departments and agencies to look at scuttling noncontroversial programs aimed at preventing massacres like the one in Parkland.”
Forget legislation regulating gun magazines and automatic weapons, Mr. Zornick writes. President Trump and Republicans in Congress are not even willing to “put their money where their mouth is” when it comes to preventing people with mental illness from acquiring guns, or funding federal programs aimed at treating those people. Need proof? Just take a look at the president’s proposed budget. Read more »
More selections »