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Vox Sentences: Mike America Flynn Again

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Michael Flynn might’ve scuttled a military operation to help Turkey (which used to pay him), and that’s just the start of things today.


The Flynn effect

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
  • It sure looks like newly appointed special counsel Robert Mueller is going to have a, uh, busy docket — especially as regards disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
  • First, the New York Times reported last night that Flynn informed the Trump transition team on January 4, ahead of inauguration, that he was under FBI investigation. They let him become national security adviser anyway. Keep in mind that the head of the transition was Mike Pence. [NYT / Matthew Rosenberg and Mark Mazzetti]
  • Then McClatchy revealed that Flynn halted an Obama administration plan to use Kurdish fighters to retake Raqqa from ISIS. Given that we know Flynn took money to lobby for the Turkish government, and the Turkish government opposed this operation, that looks … suspicious. [McClatchy / Vera Bergengruen]
  • So is President Trump disturbed by his former aide's behavior? Apparently not. The president apparently sent a message to Flynn telling him to "stay strong." [Yahoo! / Michael Isikoff]
  • Multiple White House sources told the Daily Beast that Trump wants to rehire Flynn, that he "feels really, really, really bad about firing him, and he genuinely thinks if the investigation is over Flynn can come back." [The Daily Beast / Lachlan Markay, Asawin Suebsaeng, Kimberly Dozier, and Jana Winter]
  • Trump was also vocally frustrated publicly, saying on Twitter, "This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” [NYT / Mark Landler and Glenn Thrush]
  • Seth Moulton, the Congress member from Salem, Massachusetts, disputed this claim. [Seth Moulton]
  • The people investigating Trump are also shifting. Jason Chaffetz, the head of the House Oversight Committee, announced that he's resigning from Congress at the end of June, and he could be replaced with a markedly less aggressive member of Congress. [Vox / Tara Golshan]
  • And Trump is getting close to picking a new FBI director, and the frontrunner appears to be … Joe Lieberman. Who, in addition to being a loathed turncoat by most Democratic rank and file, who watered down Obamacare and endorsed McCain in 2008, is currently working at a law firm representing Trump. [Vox / Matthew Yglesias]
  • It makes sense that Trump would want someone friendly to him in federal law enforcement. Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who wrote the memo explaining the reasons why FBI Director James Comey was fired, apparently told senators that Trump decided to fire Comey before Rosenstein wrote the memo. Since FBI directors are only supposed to be fired for cause, that’s … bad. [NYT / Matthew Rosenberg and Rebecca Ruiz​]

Temerity!

Brazilian President Temer Addresses Alleged Obstruction Of Justice Charges Photo by Igo Estrela/Getty Images
  • On Wednesday night, the Brazilian newspaper O Globo reported that President Michael Temer had been caught on tape encouraging a businessman to keep paying hush money to a jailed politician. [The Economist]
  • The politician in question, Eduardo Cunha, is the former speaker of the lower house of the Brazilian assembly — who helped mastermind the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff last year (leading to Temer’s ascension to the presidency) before being expelled from the body over accusations of stealing $1.3 million from the state oil company Petrobras and laundering millions more. [The Guardian / Jonathan Watts]
  • The thing about Cunha, though, is that he has dirt on everyone else in Brazil too (he’s been called the “Frank Underwood” of Brazilian politics). So there might be an incentive for someone to keep him quiet — particularly someone, like Temer, who has managed to avoid being personally implicated in scandal even while members of his cabinet have been forced to resign. [The Atlantic / J. Weston Phippen]
  • The source of the alleged Temer tape: a pair of brothers who run the country’s largest meatpacking company. They’ve been charged with bribery themselves, but are reportedly working on a plea bargain that involves tapes of “incriminating conversations” with several politicians. [The Guardian / Jonathan Watts]
  • Temer denies any involvement in paying anyone hush money. And he’s made it clear he won’t resign over the allegations. [Reuters / Anthony Boadle and Ricardo Brito]
  • But it’s not like he has a huge cushion of popularity to begin with. His approval rating has been in the single digits, with the combination of corruption scandals, the barely-sputtering-to-life Brazilian economy, and Temer’s aggressive proposals for economic austerity sparking in-the-street protests even before the latest allegations came out. [The Guardian / Jonathan Watts]
  • To investors, this is the problem. The idea that Temer might be ousted caused Brazil’s markets to tank so badly that trading had to be halted temporarily Thursday to stop a free fall. [BBC]
  • Even if Temer manages to stay in power, traders are worried that his austerity agenda is now DOA — which means the country’s risk of default this year is higher. In this logic, the austerity measures that have helped tank Temer’s popularity so far are the only hope for the economic recovery that would save it. [FT / Joe Leahy and Andres Schipani]
  • But for Temer’s critics, the new revelations simply show what they’ve been saying all along: that there’s a tight link between austerity and corruption, and the politicians claiming to protect the country’s integrity are in fact doing the most to undermine it. [The Intercept / Glenn Greenwald​]

What Ailes us

Fox News Founder Roger Ailes Dies At 77 Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images
  • Roger Ailes, the former Republican operative who built Fox News into a dominant force in both TV news and national politics, has died at age 77. [NYT / Clyde Haberman]
  • Ailes resigned in disgrace last year after at least 20 women accused him of sexual harassment, including Fox hosts Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly; Carlson filed a lawsuit against him, which led to a flood of similar stories from women working at Fox. [Vox / Emily Crockett]
  • It's important to read the victims' stories. Laurie Luhn, a former director of booking at Fox News, told Gabriel Sherman (who has done the best reporting of anyone on Ailes) that Ailes forced her to dance suggestively, filmed the dancing as blackmail, and pressured her into an ongoing sexual relationship where he'd say things like, "What are you, Laurie? Are you Roger's whore?" He demanded she "engage in sadomasochistic sex with another woman while he watched" on three occasions. [NY Mag / Gabriel Sherman]
  • After being forced out, Sherman said on TV, Ailes "end[ed] the final chapter of his life totally alone." [Mediaite / Jon Levine]
  • The two remaining sexual harassment lawsuits against Ailes will continue to move forward, against his estate. [NY Mag / Lisa Ryan]
  • The US attorney's office for Southern New York told Sherman they will continue their investigation… [Gabriel Sherman]
  • …which focuses on Ailes’s history of sexual harassment and Fox News’s efforts to cover it up. [NYT / Jim Dwyer and William K. Rashbaum]
  • And Ailes died as the network he created started to lose the primetime ratings war, partly because of Bill O'Reilly leaving the network due to similar charges and partly because Trump's scandals have buoyed MSNBC and CNN. This week, Fox News is the No. 3 network in primetime, though it still leads in total viewers. [CNN / Brian Stelter]
  • But Ailes left a formidable legacy nonetheless. He informally advised Trump during the campaign and pioneered race-baiting ads for George H.W. Bush in 1988, and his brand of white male identity-centric, liberal- and PC-bashing conservatism helped create the conservative base that enabled Trump's rise. [Huffington Post / Emily Peck]
  • To get a sense of the personal pettiness and yearning for control that drove him, you could do worse than reading about his efforts to control the media industry in the small town of Cold Spring, New York. [New Yorker / Peter Boyer]
  • Isaac Chotiner puts it bluntly: "Ailes leaves behind one of the largest legacies of any media figure of the past century: He made our country nastier, stupider, cruder, and more bigoted. Even as the memory of Ailes the man fades, we will always be able to look back on what he built." [Slate / Isaac Chotiner​]

Miscellaneous


Verbatim

  • “People love to talk about themselves, and they were given a platform and no rules.” [Silvia Killingsworth to New Yorker / Jia Tolentino]
  • “She established the company, she said, after hearing one too many times, ‘You’re an opera singer? Black opera singers? I don’t know any black opera singers.’” [New Yorker / Lucy Caplan]
  • “Mr Biggles (also known as Lord Bigglesworth) is an utter utter utter bastard. … Mr Biggles is a despot and dictator, he will let you know he is not happy, which is often because things are often just not up to his high standards.” [Cats of Melbourne via Huffington Post / Rebecca Shapiro]
  • “At 11, Samantha is just over 5 feet tall and has wavy black hair and a steady gaze. She flashes a smile when I ask about her favorite subject (history), and grimaces when I ask about her least favorite (math). … But when we steer into uncomfortable territory — the events that led her to this juvenile-treatment facility nearly 2,000 miles from her family — Samantha hesitates and looks down at her hands. ‘I wanted the whole world to myself,’ she says. ‘So I made a whole entire book about how to hurt people.’” [The Atlantic / Barbara Bradley Hagerty]
  • “[Your experience] was significant enough for you to say ‘I don’t want anything to do with that school again.’ I would ask you personally to come back. Please come back. I’m inviting you out. Because it’s not like that anymore." [Raymond Cattaneo to Slate / Daniel Summers]

Watch this: Why the world is worried about Turkey

How Trump made it harder for the US to fight terrorism. [Vox / Liz Scheltens, Estelle Caswell, Hosu Lee, Mac Schneider]


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