Aug 3, 2023

A special note from Isaac

The Tangle team hard at work!
The Tangle team hard at work!

Plus, the Trump indictment, Fitch rating, and Facebook files.

I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, nonpartisan, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.”

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Today's read: 5 minutes.

A special note about tonight, a "skinny" newsletter on today's big stories, a new YouTube video, and some ways to stay updated.

A special note.

Dear readers,

Four years ago, we picked a fight with partisan media in the United States. Nearly every weekday since, we've published news with an eye toward elevating debate, broadening people's perspectives, and bringing balance back to the media landscape.

Tonight, for the first time ever, the Tangle community will be gathering in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In an effort to bring the experience of the newsletter live to the stage, I'll be moderating a conversation between Anastasia Boden, Mark Joseph Stern, and Henry Olsen on the latest Supreme Court term. Three guests, three very different worldviews, and one night for them to make their cases to a live audience.

As anyone who has ever put on a live event knows, bringing something to an audience in person requires a great deal of preparation, focus, and work. To that end, we're going to be publishing a "skinny" newsletter today, as the entire Tangle team is busy running around Philadelphia getting ready for the big night. We'll also be off tomorrow, as I plan to take my team out after the event tonight to celebrate this milestone together, four years of Tangle, and all the hard work we've been putting in.

Appropriately, our event comes just as some pretty significant news is breaking: Another Donald Trump indictment, the "Facebook files," and the downgrading of our nation's credit rating. On a normal day, any of these stories would be worthy of an entire newsletter. Today, we're going to cover them in brief and point you to some pieces you can read for more information on those stories, then we'll give them the full Tangle treatment next week.

Thank you all so much for your support. If you are still considering coming to the event, we have a few tickets left for sale. You can buy them here.

P.S. If you are coming to the event tonight, please note that doors open at 6 p.m. EST for VIP ticket holders and 7 p.m. EST for general admission ticket holders. At 6 p.m. EST, Brooklyn Bowl opens its full-service Blue Ribbon restaurant downstairs, and we encourage all guests to stop by early to eat and have a few drinks. We want to support this amazing venue! Take a peek at the FULL MENU

— Isaac & the Tangle team

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If you can't make it to the live event tonight, we'll be posting updates on our Instagram channel. You can follow along here!

Quick hits.

Clarification: Yesterday, we covered the Department of Energy’s new regulation that lightbulbs must have a minimum brightness of 45 lumens. This was 45 lumens per watt, as a few readers pointed out — a detail our quick hit lacked.

  1. Gas prices rose by 15 cents in the past week after a heat wave in Texas and Louisiana slowed processing at oil refineries. (The prices)
  2. The gunman in the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018 was sentenced to death. (The sentence)
  3. The IRS announced plans for a "paperless processing" initiative in the 2024 tax filing season. (The plan)
  4. Former President Trump is expected to appear in court in Washington, D.C., this afternoon to face federal charges over his alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. (The arraignment)
  5. The State Department announced the evacuation of non-emergency embassy personnel from Niger after soldiers staged a coup in the West African nation last week. (The evacuation)

The Trump indictment.

The story: In the latest of his legal troubles, former President Donald Trump was indicted by a Washington D.C. grand jury in connection with his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. The indictment, filed by special counsel Jack Smith, accuses Trump of conspiring to defraud the United States, obstructing an official government proceeding (tallying the Electoral College vote), and depriving people of a civil right (the right to have their votes counted). Six co-conspirators were referenced, and though they are not named or charged, details suggest two are Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman. More from The Wall Street Journal.

  • If you're looking for a view from the left, Charles Blow wrote about the "must-read" Trump indictment for The New York Times. “The indictment is the harrowing, true-life story of how a former president pushed our democracy perilously close to the edge and remains a threat to push it over,” Blow said.
  • If you're looking for a view from the right, National Review's editors wrote about why this indictment shouldn't stand. “Now, through a special counsel it appointed for this precise purpose, the Biden Justice Department is attempting to use the criminal process as a do-over for a failed impeachment,” the editors said.

Credit rating downgraded.

The story: On Tuesday, the credit rating agency Fitch downgraded the U.S. government's top credit rating from AAA to AA+, drawing an angry response from the White House and a temporary stock market dip. Fitch cited fiscal deterioration in the United States and the growing debt burden of the U.S. government, as well as a "steady deterioration in standards of governance over the last 20 years," citing multiple down-to-the-wire debt ceiling negotiations. The White House said it "defies reality to downgrade the United States at a moment when President Biden has delivered the strongest recovery of any major economy in the world." More from Reuters.

  • If you're looking for a view from the right, The Wall Street Journal editorial board asked why anyone was surprised. “The downgrade to AA+ from AAA may even be an overly optimistic assessment of the U.S. fiscal outlook, and it ought to be a warning to the political class, which will ignore it,” the board said.
  • If you're looking for a view from the left, The Washington Post editorial board called it a weird downgrade, “Yes, the United States has a long-term debt problem, but the situation has improved slightly in recent months after President Biden and House Republicans struck a deal to avert a debt ceiling crisis, and the U.S. economy has performed better than expected,” the board said.

The Facebook files.

The story: Last week, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) shared what he called "smoking gun evidence" that the Biden administration attempted to censor Americans. Then, on Wednesday, Fox News published an article about White House officials pressing Facebook for special access to tools for targeting vaccine-hesitant users. The documents released by Jordan and Fox News show a wide-reaching effort by the Biden White House to press Facebook to more actively target posts on its platform that spread misinformation or encouraged skepticism about the vaccines. More from Fox News.

  • For an opinion from the left, you can read Oliver Darcy's piece in CNN about Jim Jordan. "The hyper-partisan Ohio Republican, still on an unsuccessful years-long journey to dishonestly portray Silicon Valley as unfairly censoring American conservatives, is now wielding the power of the federal government in his quest to besmirch Meta," Darcy said.
  • For an opinion from the right, you can read Jonathan Turley's piece in The Hill. "The newly released ‘Facebook Files’ revealed a concerted effort by the Biden administration to censor not just false information, but also true information, along with jokes that its functionaries simply found annoying,” Turley said.

The extras.

  • One year ago today we covered the burn pits bill.
  • The most clicked link in yesterday's newsletter was the lightbulb restriction.
  • Time for a change: 659 Tangle readers answered our poll asking if universities should end legacy admissions and if doing so would benefit students, with 81% saying it should end, and 53% saying it would benefit students. Of the four poll options, the most popular was “yes, and doing so would benefit students,” at 52% of respondents. 29% said yes, but it wouldn't really benefit students. 8% said no, and it wouldn't really benefit students. 1% said no, but it would benefit students. 7% said it wouldn't matter, and 4% were unsure or had no opinion. "Legacy admissions or no, wealthy donors will find a way to get their kids into great schools," one respondent said.
  • Nothing to do with politics: A visualization of the urban heat island effect.
  • Take the poll. Would you attend a Tangle live event near you? Let us know!

Have a nice day.

In 1983, teenagers Julie Kelly, an American citizen, and a man surnamed Cheng from Singapore began exchanging letters as part of a pen-pal program. The two hit it off through mail and remained in regular contact throughout high school, forging a close friendship; but their correspondence became more sporadic after Cheng joined the Singaporean National Service and Kelly went off to college. Decades later, Kelly decided to search for Cheng, reaching out to the Singaporean English-language news organization, Mothership, for help. Mothership correspondent Ashley Tan went to work and eventually found Cheng, getting them in contact once again. When Tan told Kelly the news, she said she was "beyond excited." Ashley Tan wrote about her efforts in reconnecting a friendship separated by thousands of miles and dozens of years. Mothership has that story.

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Isaac Saul
I'm a politics reporter who grew up in Bucks County, PA — one of the most politically divided counties in America. I'm trying to fix the way we consume political news.