Comey Has The Nerve To Call Trump A Mob Boss. FBI/DOJ, Most Corrupt Organizations In The World.

Robert Massimi.

James,(Hollywood) Comey during his interview with ultra left wing commentator, George,(The Midget) Stephanopoulos, that Trump runs his white house like a mob boss. This is so amusing coming from an organization like the FBI that intimidates, does illegal things to get convictions, lies, cheats and steals. For Comey and the DOJ to criticize anyone is temerity at worst and comical at best. Think about it, Comey had his conclusion about Hilary Clinton before the investigation was over. Loretta Lynch told Comey to call it an incident and not an investigation. Lynch, while head of the DOJ ,met  with slick Willy Clinton on a tarmac while an investigation was on going. That is call obstruction of justice, that is a minimum one year prison sentence. For Lynch to tell the American people that they were talking about grand kids is really ballsy. The lady never belonged running the DOJ to begin with.

  Comey wrote a book and has put himself and his former agency at risk. Like Mueller, clearly Comey is biased against Trump and the Republicans. Mueller was appointed the head of the FBI under Bill Clinton, he should not have been appointed as special prosecutor in the Russia investigation. Mueller as special council now has the broad, unlimited power to investigate any and everything regarding Trump. Like Warren Buffet once said, if a cop follows you for 50 miles, he will eventually get you on something.
   How Hilary Clinton is not in jail is an insult to the American people; how Mueller is able to raid Trumps lawyers office is a travesty on justice. How we let this feeble has been as special council is a joke, to boot, you have liberal Republicans like John Mc Cain endorsing it. I am starting to wonder if Mc Cain lost his mind at the Hanoi Hilton back in the 60’s.
  I hope Comey says something on 20/20 that lands him in hot water. He can’t say something that will land him in jail because it now appears that government officials never end up there, regardless of there crimes. Comey and company are worse then the mob, scum bags who can do whatever they want and get away with it. Cowards who talk tough, but hid behind that curtain where no one can see them, nor get at them. They make back room deals that the public has no idea about, they go after innocent people for political gain.
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ABC: Comey compares Trump to mob boss

A source present at the taping says James Comey’s interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, airing Sunday at 10 p.m. as a “20/20” special, is “going to shock the president and his team.”

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The source said Comey’s comments, in his first interview since being fired by President Trump last May, will generate headlines and “certainly add more meat to the charges swirling around Trump.”

According to the source:

  • The Comey interview left people in the room stunned — he told George things that he’s never said before.
  • Some described the experience as surreal. The question will be how to fit it all into a one-hour show.
  • Comey answered every question.
  • If anyone wonders if Comey will go there, he goes there.

What’s next: Comey’s book,A Higher Loyalty,” is out next Tuesday. He taped the interview Monday at his Washington-area home.

Get more stories like this by signing up for our daily morning newsletter, Axios AM. 

Notable names out:

  • Orin Hatch (UT), Chairman of Senate Finance Committee, assumed position in 2015, member of Congress since 1977.
  • Gregg Harper (MS), Chairman of House Administration Committee, assumed position in 2017, member since 2009.
  • Diane Black (TN), Chairwoman of Budget Committee, assumed position in 2017, member since 2011.
  • Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ), Chairman of Appropriations Committee, assumed position in 2017, member since 1995.
  • Bob Goodlatte (VA), Chairman ofJudiciary Committee, assumed position in 2013, member since 1993.
  • Trey Gowdy (SC), Chairman of Oversight Committee, assumed position in 2017, member since 2011.
  • Jeb Hensarling (TX), Chairman of Financial Services Committee, assumed position in 2013, member since 2003.
  • Ed Royce (CA), Chairman of Foreign Affairs Committee, assumed position in 2013, member since 1993.
  • Bill Shuster (PA), Chairman of Transportation Committee, assumed position in 2013, member since 2001.
  • Lamar Smith (TX), Chairman of Science, Space, and Technology Committee, assumed position in 2013, member since 1987.

A majority of retiring committee members have a result of term-limits, as Republican rules limit House chairmen to six years. However, it’s difficult to say whether these members would have run again had they had the option to do so.

Between the lines: As Axios’ Mike Allen has previously reported, losing the House could have big implications for the White House. “If Dems take the House and there’s a Speaker Pelosi, President Trump faces endless subpoenas and perhaps impeachment proceedings,” he writes.

Steve LeVine 1 hour ago
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Featured

China takes the lead in pioneering retail

A shopping cart with a bar code looking like the Chinese flag
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

In January, Amazon attracted intense attention when it opened Go, its cashless convenience store in Seattle. And it’s poised to open six more of them on the U.S. west coast, according to Recode. But that still leaves the e-commerce giant far behind its Chinese rivals, which are already staking out new ground in retail.

Why it matters: The future of retail in the world’s leading economies is increasingly expected to be not online shopping, but a melding of e-commerce and physical stores. And Chinese Big Tech appears to be in the vanguard of how to pull this off. The research firm Sanford Bernstein calls it the “digitization of retail.”

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What’s happening: Go arrived about five months after the appearance of such stores in China, where tens of thousands of shoppers have already tried them out. They are part of a dizzying transformation in which Chinese internet giants led by Alibaba are becoming online-offline behemoths, investing in or acquiring some 30 physical retailers in the nation since the fall, according to Sanford Bernstein.

“It would be like Amazon buying a stake in every major offline retailer in the U.S.,” Bernstein’s Bhavtosh Vajpayee tells Axios.

“Whoever gets their online and offline stories right will become a gravitational black hole sucking up everybody else.”
Vajpayee
  • Walmart and Amazon are the leading contenders to play this role in the U.S.
  • In Europe, it’s not clear who has the inside track.

Driving the news: Like Americans, a majority of Chinese people shop in physical stores. About 850 million Chinese, or 60% of the population, shop in stores, according to a note to clients last month by Wells Fargo. E-commerce comprises just 16% of total Chinese retail sales.

Hence, Alibaba reckons it will grow the fastest and largest by merging with those stores. That’s why it has spent $6.7b on brick and mortar since the end of 2016.

  • It has focused on groceries, with its Hema fresh food stores, Sun Art, Sanjiang, Lianhua and the online grocery Yiguo.com.
  • Alibaba has also invested in Easyhome, a home improvement chain, and InTime, a department store operator.
  • This month, Alibaba bought out the remaining shares of Ele.me, a food delivery company.

JD.com has invested $1.5 billion in physical groceries, including 7FRESH, Better Life and Yonghui. It is a partner with Walmart in both China and the U.S. In China, they operate more than 400 stores.

Go deeper: Alibaba and Tencent vie to dominate Chinese supermarkets

Sara Fischer 1 hour ago
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Privacy literacy questions dog Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg testifying in front of a big-screen TV that also shows him testifying
Zuckerberg testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee Wednesday. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Average users of Facebook’s platform have a hard time understanding how Facebook uses its data, according to a new Omnibus study commissioned by Digital Content Next.

Why it matters: Privacy literacy proved to be a major topic of discussion during Senate and House Facebook hearings this week, with lawmakers telling CEO Mark Zuckerberg he needs to put questions about access to data in “pedestrian language.”

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  • Less than half (47%) of respondents say they expect Facebook to track a person’s browsing across the web in order to make ads more targeted, according to the study.
  • A little more than half (56%) of respondents expect Facebook to collect data about a person’s activities on Facebook.
  • Roughly a third (39%) of respondents expect Facebook to track a person’s usage of apps that Facebook does not own in order to make ads more targeted.

Members of Congress zeroed in on this idea, grilling Zuckerberg about how hard it is to find, understand and adjust privacy settings on the platform.

  • “Right now I am not convinced that Facebook’s users have the information that they need to make meaningful choices,” said Sen. John Thune (R-SD).
  • Events like the Cambridge Analytica scandal have “exposed that consumers may not fully understand or appreciate the extent to which their data is collected, protected, transferred, used and misused,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA).
  • “You have to inform people in pedestrian language what you have to do with your data,” said Rep. Anne Eshoo (D-CA).

Facebook has recently taken steps to make their privacy settings more understandable.

  • It updated its terms of service two weeks ago — the first significant update since 2015 — to make its commitment to user privacy more explicit.
  • It also announced an overhaul of its data policy to better define what data it collects and how it is used, as well as making the privacy tools easier to find.

Privacy literacy is not just a Facebook problem. According to the latest privacy study by Pew Research Center, some 86% of internet users have taken steps online to remove or mask their digital footprints, but “many say they would like to do more or are unaware of tools they could use.”

Go deeper: So how does one become more privacy literate? Mozilla’s Internet Health Report provides some good starting points in “pedestrian language.”

David McCabe 2 hours ago
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Lawmakers turn up the heat on Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg testifies on Capitol Hill. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Lawmakers in the House forced Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg into several awkward moments on Wednesday as they aggressively pressed him to answer critiques of the social giant.

Why it matters: Zuckerberg got out of his Tuesday Senate hearing unscathed, but Wednesday’s House session has proven more challenging. Still, there haven’t been any dramatic moments that will sink Zuckerberg or signal that real regulation is fast-approaching.

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What we’ve learned:

  • Zuckerberg said he was among the 87 million people whose data was illicitly gathered by Cambridge Analytica.
  • Zuckerberg avoided committing to several potential changes that lawmakers asked him about, including tweaking settings, its business model and adding an African American member to its leadership team.
  • Zuckerberg admitted that the company “sometimes” learns of major data abuses from press reports instead of its own accountability measures. That includes the Cambridge Analytica data breach.

What they’re saying:

  • Lawmakers’ early critiques of Facebook were pointed. “While Facebook has certainly grown, I worry that it may not have matured,” said committee Chairman Greg Walden.
  • On Facebook’s privacy policies: “Let me just add that it is a minefield. In order to do that, and you have to make it transparent, clear, in pedestrian language, just once,” said Rep. Anna Eshoo, after Zuckerberg explains how users consent to having their data used by third parties.
  • On its business model: Rep. Bobby Rush (D) asked Zuckerberg what the difference was between the methods of Facebook and J. Edgar Hoover.
    • Eshoo asked Zuckerberg whether the company would change its business model to protect individual privacy. “Congresswoman, I’m not sure what that means,” he responded.
  • Data collection: Top House Energy and Commerce Committee Democrat Rep. Frank Pallone asked Zuckerberg if the company would change users’ default settings to minimize data collection. The CEO wouldn’t commit. “Congressman, this is a complex issue that I think deserves more than a one-word answer,” he said.
  • On pro-Trump YouTubers: Several Republican members asked about allegations that Facebook limited the reach of videos from pro-Trump bloggers Diamond and Silk. Facebook has said that was a mistake, and Zuckerberg reiterated that.
  • Conservative censorship: House Whip Steve Scalise brought up the prospect of a broader bias against conservative views at the company. “There is absolutely no directive in any of the changes that we make to have a bias” in Facebook’s work, Zuckerberg said.
  • On diversity at Facebook: Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D), who is chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, asked Zuckerberg whether he would commit to adding an African-American member to his senior leadership team. He didn’t give a definitive answer: “Congressman, we will certainly work with you. This is an important issue.”

Go deeper: Here’s what he didn’t say on Tuesday, and a look at his Senate performance.

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The open House seats in the 2018 midterm elections

New today: House Speaker Paul Ryan won’t run for re-election, a decision whose timing was first reported by Axios’ Jonathan Swan. Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) is also retiring, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

By time the midterm elections roll around, there will be at least 58 vacated House seats up for grabs — two-thirds of those are currently held by Republicans. The openings are significant because incumbents have outperformed non-incumbents of the same party in similar districts by about seven points in the last decade or so, per the New York Times.

Caitlin Owens 2 hours ago
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Ryan tells GOP he’ll remain House Speaker through elections

Paul Ryan looks down
Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

House Speaker Paul Ryan told members of the GOP conference he’ll remain in the job through the November midterm elections, per a source in the room, and there was “zero conversation” about his replacement, per a second source. A source familiar confirmed Ryan will serve his full term as speaker.

Why it matters: Some are already skeptical about the effectiveness of a retiring speaker. And his announcement has already put his seat at risk of flipping.

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Most of the discussion at this morning’s conference was about thanking Ryan, with individual members praising him.

What they said, per a source in the room:

  • “The theme…is that PDR will be leaving the speakership the exact same man he was when he started the job.”
  • “Members are telling stories about times the Speaker helped them, sharing stories about their families and applauding the Speaker’s commitment to his family.”
  • Tax reform topped the list of Ryan’s accomplishments brought up by members, and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Majority Whip Steve Scalise, and Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers all spoke.

Ina Fried 3 hours ago
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Critics: Facebook’s ad model stops self-regulation

Tristan Harris, speaking at TED
Tristan Harris, speaking at TED 2016. Photo: TED

The seeming disjointedness of the Facebook hearings reflects just how much of our society Facebook now impacts, according to noted critic Tristan Harris.

Why it matters: “It actually speaks to the unprecedented level of power Facebook has,” Harris told Axios on the sidelines of the TED conference in Vancouver on Tuesday.

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I had a chance to catch up with Harris at the conference, and he pointed to Facebook’s growing influence, as seen in the many issues it needs to address, from discrimination to hate speech to privacy and the integrity of elections. He said:

“Each of these things are influenced by one global actor.”

And, Facebook’s track record shows we can’t trust the company to police itself, he said, adding:

“Their actual business interests incentivizes collecting more data over time and offering better and better tools to advertising over time to reach a larger and larger audience over time.”

Of note: Harris has been one of the driving forces behind the Center for Humane Technology, which advocates a critical lens on how technology is impacting society.

Separately: VR pioneer Jaron Lanier, in a very timely TED talk, said Facebook and Google need to be paid-for services. The ad-based model has turned the companies into “social manipulation empires,” he said.

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Sprint and T-Mobile restart merger talks

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Wireless carriers Sprint and T-Mobile are in merger negotiations. Again.

Why it’s a big deal: Because the third time might be the charm, as it’s hard to imagine the two sides would even be talking if there wasn’t some sort of possible breakthrough on the issue of combined company control.

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Calendar context: The last round of negotiations ended just weeks before U.S. regulators sued to block AT&T’s proposed purchase of Time Warner.

Bottom line: The combined company would leapfrog AT&T in size and come in just behind Verizon as the second-largest U.S. wireless carrier. Regulatory approval is the obvious wildcard, but the wireless market is seen as more nationally competitive than cable. Even though Sprint/T-Mobile would remove a wireless competitor, the current FCC shows no signs of wanting to stand in the way.

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What Mark Zuckerberg didn’t say

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Mark Zuckerberg’s Senate testimony included few revelations, and he often had to explain the mechanics of Facebook’s platform in answering lawmakers’ questions — so there was plenty of ground that Zuckerberg was able to avoid.

Our take: The majority of the 44 lawmakers questioning Zuckerberg in the joint Senate hearing were not well versed in the workings of Facebook or how data is shared between platforms, developers and advertisers. The questions generally focused on what Facebook was capable of doing, allowing Zuckerberg to stay in a safe zone of providing the basics.

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What we didn’t learn

What we learned: Facebook’s CEO said he’d handle the Cambridge Analytica data leak differently if he had a do-over, confirmed Facebook staffers are cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, affirmed he’d “welcome the right regulation,” and (unsurprisingly) asserted that he doesn’t think Facebook is a monopoly.

What we didn’t learn: Here are the questions that remain unanswered.

Exactly what kind of privacy regulation is Facebook open to?

  • Zuckerberg carefully avoided committing to any specific privacy rules. He did offer some vague suggestions, like requiring simpler language to explain how data is used, but didn’t get into specifics.
  • He said an “opt-in” requirement (i.e., Facebook would have to get users’ consent before sharing their data) “makes sense to discuss,” but added that “the details around this matter a lot.”
  • He said web platforms like Facebook shouldn’t be subject to the same rules as the “pipes” run by internet service providers. “In general, the expectations people have for the pipes are different than for the platform.”
  • He said a potential rule of notifying affected users within 72 hours of a breach “makes sense to me.” (Key distinction: Facebook says the Cambridge Analytica situation was not a data breach.)

Will Facebook truly be able to monitor the troves of content on its site for harmful material and misinformation?

  • Zuckerberg said the safety monitoring team would be expanded to 20,000 people, and artificial intelligence would help weed out fake news.
  • But he was unable to guarantee that, for example, the site was free from propaganda such as material Russians placed during the 2016 election. “As long as there are people sitting in Russia whose job it is to interfere with elections around the world, this is going to be an ongoing conflict.”

Has Facebook removed left-leaning groups or pages from the site?

  • Sen. Ted Cruz peppered him with questions about Facebook’s role in political speech and asked if Facebook has removed pages or content from left-leaning groups the way it previously removed some right-leaning pages.
  • Zuckerberg said he was “not aware” of such instances but assured Cruz that content takedowns had not happened because of an employee’s political views. He also insisted a job candidates’ political leanings don’t matter during the hiring process.

How long does Facebook store data after a user deletes their profile?

  • Zuckerberg said he wasn’t sure and would ask his team to get back to the committee.

When did he personally first find out about Cambridge Analytica’s inappropriate data use?

  • Facebook discovered that the firm had the data in December 2015. But it is unclear if Zuckerberg personally knew anything earlier than that, or exactly how Zuckerberg was informed of the breach.

Should Facebook allow users to be paid for data?

  • Zuckerberg was asked by Sen. Ron Johnson about ideas to let users monetize their own data. “I’m not sure exactly how it would work to be monetized by the person directly,” he said, adding that an ad-supported business model was the best one for the company.

What’s next: Zuckerberg testifies in the House Wednesday morning, where members have the chance to revisit questions. But so far, Zuckerberg has emerged mostly unscathed.

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Paul Ryan won’t run for re-election

Paul Ryan, who sources told us is not running for reelection
Paul Ryan has told confidants he won’t run for re-election. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Speaker Paul Ryan told House Republicans this morning that he will not run for re-election in November.

Why it matters: House Republicans were already in a very tough spot for the midterms, with many endangered members and the good chance that Democrats could win the majority.

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One of Washington’s best-wired Republicans said:

“This is a Titanic, tectonic shift. … This is going to make every Republican donor believe the House can’t be held.” The announcement will help Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in his fundraising because “the Senate becomes the last bastion,” the Republican said.

Statement from Brendan Buck, counselor to Speaker Ryan:

“This morning Speaker Ryan shared with his colleagues that this will be his last year as a member of the House. He will serve out his full term, run through the tape, and then retire in January. After nearly twenty years in the House, the speaker is proud of all that has been accomplished and is ready to devote more of his time to being a husband and a father. While he did not seek the position, he told his colleagues that serving as speaker has been the professional honor of his life, and he thanked them for the trust they placed in him. He will discuss his decision at a press conference immediately following the member meeting.”

Background:

  • This decision was foreshadowed when Politico’s Tim Alberta and Rachel Bade wrote in December that he saw his “wild Washington journey coming to an end,” but his final deliberations were held extremely closely.
  • Ryan, 48, was the Republican vice presidential nominee in 2012, and has long harbored presidential ambitions. Friends say he could make another run in the future.
  • Friends say that after Ryan passed tax reform, his longtime dream, he was ready to step out of a job that has become endlessly frustrating, in part because of President Trump.
  • Friends say Ryan was contemplating a minority or slim majority and decided that there was no good time to leave — it was time for at least a stint in private life.

What comes next: The two most likely to replace him are Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise, though Scalise has said he won’t run against McCarthy, who appears to have first bite at the apple.

Get more stories like this by signing up for our weekly political lookahead newsletter, Axios Sneak Peek. 

Dave Lawler 5 hours ago
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Trump taunts Russia on Syria strikes, but calls for end to arms race

After days of hinting at military action in response to a chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syria, President Trump made that threat explicit on Wednesday morning in a message aimed at Russia:

Why it matters: Trump is denouncing Russia in a way he never has previously — and foreshadowing possible military action on Twitter.

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Yes, but: In a follow-up tweet, he wrote: “Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War.” But he also offered a carrot: the U.S. could help Russia economically if Russia would help in foreign policy. “Stop the arms race?” he added.

Between the lines: Russia has said it will retaliate against any strike that risks Russian lives, so the biggest remaining question is whether Trump limits his response to Assad regime targets or hits all three actors he has said share responsibility for the attack — Assad, Iran and Russia.

3 options for striking in Syria

  1. Pinprick strikes on the Assad regime, like those he ordered last April after a previous chemical attack. The downside: Those strikes failed to deter Assad.
  2. More damaging strikes targeted at the Assad regime, for example striking “numerous regime airfields and military bases, and warning the Russians in advance,” says Jennifer Cafarella of the Institute for the Study of War. The downside: “It will not harm Assad’s backers and therefore is unlikely to weaken his resolve.”
  3. Strikes that would affect all three actors Trump named, hitting targets like joint Russian-Iranian bases or command and control centers. The downside: Russia has said it will retaliate to strikes that endanger Russian troops.

The bottom line: Cafarella says if Trump chooses option number 3, Russia, Iran, and Assad might limit their response to attempting to shoot down the U.S. missiles or aircraft. More dangerous is the possibility of a counter attack, perhaps on a U.S. warship in the Mediterranean.

An improvised “vow”?

Meduza provides the context behind President Trump’s tweet:

  • “Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon has unveiled what appears to be a major policy shift: Moscow will shoot down any U.S. missiles fired at Syria (not just the missiles fired at Russian soldiers) and it will target the launch sites. The escalated threat may have been unintentionally improvised, per The Guardian.”
  • “How is Zasypkin’s rhetoric different? On March 13, Valery Gerasimov, the head of Russia’s General Staff, said, ‘Russia’s armed forces will take retaliatory measures against the missiles and launchers used” in attacks that pose “a threat to the lives of our servicemen.’”

Trump’s new tone

As Axios’ Jonathan Swan notes, Trump still believes the U.S. and Russia have plenty of shared interests and has long believed it would be important to have a warm personal relationship with Vladimir Putin.

Even as he declares a new low in relations, Trump is trying to keep that possibility alive: “There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together,” he writes.

  • Last month, Trump invited Putin to meet to discuss the arms race. Russia has recently tested what it calls an “unstoppable” nuclear-capable ballistic missile.

Worth noting: As a candidate, Trump repeatedly mocked Barack Obama for telegraphing his moves in the Middle East.

Sign up for the Axios World newsletter to get more stories like this.

Jonathan Swan 6 hours ago
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Inside the West Wing: Trump at “breaking point” on Mueller

President Trump at the White House
President Trump at the White House. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

It’s as if the post-election presidential transition to power never ended for Donald Trump. Or never began. Everything in this White House is in flux — and in play.

Why it matters: Some officials tell us it’s like Jan. 20, 2017, every day — with different characters and different plots, but the same maddening improviser, with the same maddening tricks:

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  • No one knows — or even bothers claiming to know — what Trump will do next.
  • Few feel secure in their role or power.
  • Important jobs remain open; important confirmations pending.
  • The process has broken down, and White House chief of staff John Kelly has lost the steering wheel at critical moments.
  • Many days, it’s governing by winging it.

Here’s what’s happening inside:

  • Trump’s own psyche in flux: Sources close to the president genuinely fear special counsel Robert Mueller has passed a “breaking point” for Trump. More than one person has used that phrase to us. They worry the president will fire Mueller. A former senior White House official said to me: “I just hope [inside lawyer] Ty [Cobb] and [White House counsel] Don [McGahn] can talk him down.”
    • But in the next sentence, this former officialsighed and acknowledged how much Trump finds McGahn irritating and has turned against him.
  • Personnel in flux: A number of senior staff are leaving or planning to leave.
    • Larry Kudlow will likely lose a good deal of talent he wants to keep at the National Economic Council — with Shahira Knight, the tax expert who was the star of Gary Cohn’s staff, at the top of the list.
    • John Bolton has taken charge of the National Security Council, and will be installing his own people.
    • Yesterday, homeland security adviser Tom Bossert resigned (though the White House has not pushed back on the suggestion he was pushed out.)
    • On Sunday, it was NSC spokesman (and early Trump supporter) Michael Anton. Lists of additional “targets” are circulating among Bolton’s allies.
  • Policy uncertainty: Nobody in the White House or on Capitol Hill claims to know what’s going to happen on trade. The business community and the markets are stressed about the threat of a global trade war, or a more intense one with China. Wall Street and K Street are rooting for Trump and Xi to find an exit ramp that allows both men to save face and claim victories, with minimal disruptions to the markets.
  • Decision-making has been haphazard and processes have broken down. Exhibit A: Our inside account of the $100 billion tariffs threat last week. Even John Kelly was taken by surprise at the speed of the announcement.

Be smart: The result of all of this is a White House that often feels like madness, even to those present for opening night, and still in the cast today.

Get more stories like this by signing up for our weekly political lookahead newsletter, Axios Sneak Peek. 

Alayna Treene 7 hours ago
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Report: 500 affected by Syria chemical attack

Two Syrian children apparently suffering from nerve gas attack in a clinic
Syrian children receiving treatment at a makeshift clinic outside Damascus for a suspected chemical attack that happened in February 2018. Photo: Hamza Al-Ajweh/AFP/Getty Images

The World Health Organization announced Wednesday that 500 people have been affected by the latest chemical attack in Douma, Syria, on April 7 and more than 70 people have died, per the BBC.

What’s next: WHO is demanding “unhindered access” to the city to follow up on the reports from the embattled nation.

Lazaro Gamio 7 hours ago
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Map: The groups that control Syria

This map shows which groups dominate different parts of Syria, including the areas controlled by the Syrian government and the areas held by opposition groups, according to analysts at IHS Markit’s Conflict Monitor.

The big picture: This gives the latest look at the conflict zones as President Trump considers military action in response to a suspected chemical attack on Douma, a town northeast of Damascus that’s dominated by rebel groups.


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Mark Zuckerberg outwits Congress

Illustration: Sarah Grillo / Axios

Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday morphed from a shy tech nerd into a confident business executive who ran circles around lawmakers.

Why it matters: Zuckerberg’s performance stoked investor confidence and made it less likely that this Congress will stringently regulate tech giants like Facebook.

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Zuckerberg was well prepared, but he also benefited from redundant questioning that rarely included smart follow-ups.

  • Many senators either tried to clumsily show off for the cameras, blatantly suck up to Zuckerberg, or ask long, cringe-worthy questions that sounded like grandparents checking out their first flip phone.
  • Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), for example, didn’t seem to understand what it meant for Facebook’s messaging app, Whatsapp, to be encrypted.
  • Senator after senator asked about Facebook “selling data,” allowing Zuckerberg to run time off the clock by repeatedly explaining that its business model doesn’t technically work that way.
  • While Zuckerberg explained some of his own perspectives — such as denying that Facebook is a monopoly and accepting responsibility for content on its platform — he mostly sidestepped sticky situations by calmly offering to have his “team” follow up with details at a later time.

By the end, some lawmakers were making jokes and asking Zuckerberg for his help. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) even asked if Zuckerberg would help build more rural fiber cable to service her constituency.

  • Zuckerberg also benefited from what happened outside the chamber, with the Trump vs. Mueller battle royale sucking up an enormous amount of D.C. media oxygen.
  • The only exception was Fox News, which often framed the Facebook issue as more about censorship of conservative voices than about privacy. That might get Trump’s attention, but also could force Democrats into the unlikely role of Facebook defenders.

Bottom line: Congress might adopt some minor regulations on political advertising, but the idea of this group of senators regulating digital data right now seems far-fetched. The danger to Facebook and others isn’t quick cuts — it’s a long, slow bleed that forces Congress into action after some future data-breach or platform-manipulation crisis.

Zuckerberg and Facebook won by default, or forfeit.

Ina Fried 15 hours ago
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Tech pioneer: Facebook and Google should make users pay

Jaron Lanier
Jaron Lanier. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

Technology pioneer Jaron Lanier delivered a blistering indictment of the ad-supported Internet model on Tuesday, calling for a paid model to support Facebook and Google.

Why it matters: Lanier’s talk comes just as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is testifying before Congress.

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The companies aren’t social networks, he said, but rather “behavior modification empires.”

Lanier, considered one of the founders of virtual reality, said that the fundamental problems we are dealing with today stem from a decision made in the 1990s that the Internet technologies were so important that it would be wrong to charge for them.

While understandable, Lanier said that decision ignored other alternatives. Books, he noted were also important, but we have libraries rather than making them free.

Placing blame: Lanier said he thinks most of the people at the companies are well-intentioned.

“I think this is a matter of a globally tragic, astoundingly ridiculous mistake rather than a wave of evil,” he said during his TED talk, part of the weeklong conference’s opening session.

But, but but: He said society itself is at risk unless we make the painful and likely time consuming choice to go back and revisit that early decision.

” I don’t believe our species can survive unless we fix this,” he said.

As an alternative, he recommended most users pay a Netflix-like monthly fee while the lowest income people have their search and social network services subsidized.

Stef W. Kight 15 hours ago
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DOJ temporarily ends legal service program for immigrants

Photo: Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

The Department of Justice has temporarily ended the Vera Institute’s Legal Orientation Program and immigrant “help desk” in order to investigate the program’s cost-effectiveness, the Washington Post’s Maria Sacchetti reported and has since been confirmed by Axios.

The impact: Vera Institute’s program works with 18 nonprofit legal service providers and reached 53,000 immigrants through information sessions last year. The “help desk” offers tips to immigrants who have not yet been detained, but are facing possible deportation in Chicago, Miami, New York, Los Angeles and San Antonio.

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Big picture: This move follows the DOJ putting pressure on immigration judges to clear out the backlog of immigration cases, by introducing quotas, as well as suing California over their sanctuary cities policies.

  • Key quote: “This is a blatant attempt by the administration to strip detained immigrants of even the pretense of due process rights,” Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director of the National Immigrant Justice Center which participates in Vera Institute’s program, told the Washington Post.

DOJ’s response via an Executive Office for Immigration Review official: “Two out of five legal orientation programs have been paused in order to conduct an audit of effectiveness, which has never occurred for one program and has not occurred in six years for the other.”

Kia Kokalitcheva 17 hours ago
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Reddit found more than 900 accounts linked to Russian internet influencer

Huffman delivers remarks on “Redesigning Reddit” during the third day of Web Summit. Photo: Horacio Villalobos – Corbis/Getty Images

Reddit has found 944 user accounts on its service it believes were linked to Russia’s Internet Research Agency that made about 14,000 posts, CEO Steve Huffman said on Tuesday.

Yes, but: As Huffman said last month, most of those accounts were banned prior to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, largely in 2015. Only 7 with a minimal level of influence were discovered after the election. As Huffman had pointed out in March, most of the propaganda dissemination happened through real American users who unwittingly shared the content.

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Author: nobullwithragingrobert

Was a drama critic at Manhattan College. Wrote professionally for Bergen News, Sun Bulletin . Alpha Sigma Lambda, Beta Theta. Has seen over 600 shows worldwide, has published both on Theater and Politics. Avid reader on many subjects and writers. Chief Drama critic for Metropolitan magazine. Writes for Jerrick media, American conservative, The City Journal and Reason magazine. Has produced shows both on and off Broadway.

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