Oct 3, 2019

Trump's new No. 1 enemy.

Trump's new No. 1 enemy.

Plus, some distressing Facebook news and why Mayor Pete is getting on everyone's nerves.

Today’s read: 7 minutes.

Trump’s No. 1 enemy Adam Schiff, why Mayor Pete is suddenly “annoying” and an important Facebook story.

A ‘wow’ moment.

Yesterday, I told you about Amber Guyger, the white police officer who shot and killed Botham Jean, an unarmed black man, in his own home. She was convicted yesterday, and today sentenced to 10 years in prison. At her sentencing hearing, Botham’s brother told Guyger that he forgives her, that he loves her, and asked to give her a hug. While some criticized the “fetishizing” of forgiveness, video of their interaction quickly went viral across the internet.

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What D.C. is talking about.

Adam Schiff. The California representative is the new focus of President Donald Trump’s ire, and his involvement in the whistleblower complaint against Trump is a hot topic amongst both Democrats and Republicans. Yesterday, The New York Times reported that Schiff, who is the head of the House Intelligence Committee responsible for investigating Trump, learned about the “outlines” of the whistleblower complaint days before it was officially filed. When the White House tried to block the public from seeing the complaint, Schiff forcefully pushed for its release, apparently having at least a vague idea of what it contained. The report comes after a bizarre moment during testimony from Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire in which Schiff read a dramatic, parody reading of Trump’s phone call with the president. While Schiff acknowledged that the reading was meant to display the true intent of the call, many spectators felt it was misleading and inappropriate.

What Republicans are saying.

A lot. Few Democratic lawmakers draw the kind of vitriol that Schiff does. Yesterday, President Trump claimed that Schiff helped the whistleblower write his complaint (with no evidence) and accused him of “fraud.” The day before, Trump said Schiff should resign and accused him of treason. President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani said they were considering suing Schiff for his “provable false statements.” On Sean Hannity’s show last night, Donald Trump Jr. said, “Schiff is basically the Jussie Smollet of Congress on steroids. I’ve never seen anything so ridiculous.” Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, a staunch Trump ally, also shared a 2017 recording of Schiff taking a phone call from a Ukranian prankster he believes is a legitimate Ukrainian official. In it, Schiff asks the official to turn over any “kompromat” he has on Trump (Schiff later claimed he knew the call was fake from the beginning, though there were reportedly follow-up emails sent from his staff). Republicans are also accusing Schiff of lying after he went on MSNBC before the New York Times story broke and claimed, “we have not spoken directly with the whistleblower.”

All this comes after Schiff, who the president calls “Liddle’ Schiff” or “Shifty Schiff,” was the face of the much-maligned Trump-Russia investigation. Trump and his allies in the conservative media are trying to make Schiff the center of attention in this whole mess, elevating every lie or dishonest moment he’s had as a politician.

What Democrats are saying.

This isn’t about Schiff. And even if it were, everything is above board. Left-leaning media outlets like MSNBC have echoed Schiff’s talking point, saying he “should have been much more clear” about whether his office has heard from the whistleblower. But they’re also pointing out that there is nothing irregular about what went down. Whistleblowers who want to alert the government are instructed to do exactly what this whistleblower did. The specific guidance says they can present information to a “congressional intelligence committee,” which includes aides on the House Intelligence Committee. According to The Times reporting, the aide advised the whistleblower to get a lawyer and file a formal complaint. Which he did. Democrats are also noting that the New York Times does not say Schiff spoke directly to the whistleblower, which many conservatives are now claiming. The exact reporting says the CIA officer “approached a House Intelligence Committee aide with his concerns about Mr. Trump only after he had a colleague first convey them to the CIA’s top lawyer.”

My take.

The agenda on both sides here is pretty obvious, but I generally agree with the sentiment that making this about Schiff — or the whistleblower — is absurd. As far as I can tell, the whistleblower did everything by the book. Everyone, from the Trump-appointed Director of National Intelligence to Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, seems to agree about that. No conservative has successfully landed a punch on the whistleblower for doing anything improper, though some have argued that the merits of his claims amount to rumors and heresy.

Schiff, on the other hand, is an easy target. He’s a “swamp creature,” as a Trump supporter might put it: a deeply political politician who has mastered an ability to give half-answers, dodge questions, speak in vague terms or sensationalize news that is damaging to the opposition party. If you’re looking for a straight answer or a straight shooter, Rep. Schiff would not be the place I sent you in Congress. That’s not to say he isn’t qualified or intelligent; he’s the head of the House Intelligence Committee, one of the most coveted positions in Congress, for a reason. But it’s totally legitimate to call him out for being misleading on MSNBC or whatever other television show he’s been on recently. I defended Schiff on Twitter yesterday, noting that calling him a “liar” could be an overreach given that his denial was about him or anyone on his team having direct contact with the whistleblower, which could still be true. Schiff said yesterday he did not know the whistleblower who contacted a House aide was the same whistleblower who filed the complaint, which would take a seriously generous read of Schiff to believe.

But, again, this story isn’t about Schiff or the whistleblower. As far as I can tell, neither of them did anything in this instance that crossed a line or broke a rule. The real story, and the one that needs to continue being explored, is how far the president went (and how far he will go) to pressure a foreign leader into investigating his political rival. This morning, amidst an impeachment inquiry about pressuring Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, Trump spoke to reporters and said both Ukraine and China should be investigating the Bidens.

Your questions, answered.

Tangle is about answering reader questions and making sure you don’t have to wade through the news to find the information you want. If you have a question you want answered, simply reply to this email and write in!

Q: Why does it seem like Mayor Pete is suddenly annoying everyone?

- Tim, Sacramento, CA

Tangle: When Pete Buttigieg entered this race, I noted how it (on paper) it looked like he’d been created in a lab. He is a young, average looking, extremely intelligent, small-town Mayor with a blend of all sorts of identities and backgrounds. Rustbelt, LGTBQ, progressive, military. He seemingly speaks 100 languages. He can play the piano and discuss the intricacies of hard liquor. He’s good on stage and good on social media. And, in a lot of ways, he’s a moderate. He prides himself on being able to talk across the aisle and propose “reasonable” policies, as opposed to many of his peers who are proudly pushing radical overhauls.

Now, as the race tightens and candidates drop out, Buttigieg’s place in the polls has remained relatively steady. That’s left him with a simple but obvious choice: try to distinguish himself from other candidates. So far, it looks like he’s going to do that by tactfully criticizing everyone around him. In Las Vegas last night, he took a hard pass on supporting Sen. Kamala Harris’s suggestion that Twitter ban President Trump. "I'm less worried about the president’s access to Twitter than his access to the nuclear codes,” he said.

Speaking to Bloomberg News, Buttigieg said Elizabeth Warren was more interested in fighting while he was interested in outcomes. He also noted that she was “extremely evasive” about whether her Medicare-for-All plan would raise taxes on middle-class Americans. One fundraising email seemingly took a pot-shot at Sen. Cory Booker, saying they didn’t need to raise “$1.5 million by 11:59pm tonight” to avoid shutting down. That sounded a lot like a Booker campaign email asking for $1.7 million or else they wouldn’t have a path forward. Buttigieg also distanced himself from Beto O’Rourke, saying comments like “We’re going to take your AR-15” was only helping the other side.

All these comments earned Buttigieg this headline in The Daily Beast: Mayor Pete Is Starting to Annoy Almost Everyone Else in the 2020 Race, which lists each of the grievances above. In the article, several aides to other 2020 Democrats went off the record to trash Buttigieg as desperate or otherwise making himself look stupid. The Daily Beast reporter, Hanna Trudo, also noted that Buttigieg hasn’t attacked Biden, a move many suspect is part of a long-term play to court Biden voters once it’s clear the former vice president is out of the race.

Anyway, it’s been those attacks — and his specific criticisms toward Warren and Sanders — that have drawn the ire of the left. The knock on Buttigieg has always been that he’s all about himself and “not a real progressive.” But the polls, and his team’s effectiveness, mean a lot more than disgruntled campaign aides. Buttigieg brought in $19 million from 580,000 donors in Q3, an astounding number for a guy nobody heard of a year ago. The last Quinnipiac poll had him at 7 percent, in fourth place behind Warren, Biden and Sanders for the Democratic nomination. Those two numbers alone will keep Mayor Pete in the race for at least the next few months.

A story that matters.

Yesterday, Jedd Leggum — who writes the Popular Info newsletter on Substack — reported that Facebook “quietly changed the language of its advertising policies to make it easier for politicians to lie in ads.” Tuesday, the Trump campaign launched an ad on Facebook that was deemed false by third-party fact-checkers approved by Facebook. But the ad won’t be taken down because Facebook recently amended its policies on misinformation to make it acceptable in basically any political ad. It’s a stunning turnaround for a company that has been selling the public on its effort to stop the spread of misinformation. You can read more here.

Rut roh.

“The federal government has dramatically expanded its exposure to risky mortgages, as federal officials over the past four years took steps that cleared the way for companies to issue loans that many borrowers might not be able to repay.” That’s the lede from this Washington Post article, which has a lot of people’s stomachs turning. Loads of high-risk mortgages will become a huge problem if the economy goes into a recession, which lots of financial experts are predicting in the next year. That’ll mean those people can’t pay the mortgages and the housing market could tank again, which is part of what caused the 2008 financial crisis.

Trade war.

A number of foreign companies say thay are reconsidering their place in the U.S., according to Axios. Some are worried about dealing with “America First” policies while others are delaying projects as global trade tensions play out. If foreign companies start pulling out of the U.S., that’d be very bad news. About one fifth of all manufacturing jobs in the U.S. come from foreign companies who open factories here to be surrounded by the American market.

Some numbers.

  • 52-21. That’s the margin that Americans think asking Ukraine to investigate Biden is an abuse of power in a recent USA Today poll.
  • 90 percent. That’s how much China’s investment in the U.S. dropped between 2016 ($46 billion) to 2018 ($5 billion).
  • 346. That’s how many people died in two Boeing plane crashes in the last year, accidents that apparently could have been prevented. A Boeing engineer claims the company rejected a proposed safety system to cut costs that would have stopped both crashes.
  • $7.5 billion. That’s the amount of EU goods the U.S. is entitled to tariff, according to a recent ruling by the World Trade Organization. Potentially on the list: French wine, Italian cheese and Scotch whisky.
  • 44-35. The percentage of Americans who approve-disapprove of the Senate convicting Trump and removing him from office, according to USA Today.

Have a nice day.

A local group of metal fishermen in Washington has successfully pulled 11,000 pounds of metal out of the Spokane River. Included in the haul are cell phones, manholes covers, even an antique pistol. The group has been metal fishing since Father’s Day, and the 11,000 pounds could be a new world record for a metal fishing club. The group plans to donate the value of the scrap metal to SOAR, a care provider for kids with autism and special needs, according to KXLY in Spokane. You can read more here.

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