Here Are 7 Bombshells From the NYT’s Devastating Report of Trump’s ‘War’ on the Investigations Into Him
For more than two years, the public has known of serious allegations that President Donald Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia as it carried out an allegedly criminal operation to influence the 2016 American election. And for much of that time, Trump himself had unrelentingly attacked those raising questions about the matter and any investigators who dare probe the issue.
And as the investigations around Trump have multiplied, the president has likewise expanded his attacks.
In a new in-depth report Tuesday on Trump’s efforts to intimidate and defame the investigators, The New York Times documented many new and revealing details of this campaign. While some of the information has been made public before, its narrative account gives new life to both familiar and previously unknown facts that may one day provide the basis for an obstruction of justice charge against the president.
Here are 7 key claims from the report:
1. Trump pressured Whitaker to install a crony to oversee the SDNY investigation.
The Times reported that after installing Matthew Whitaker as the acting Attorney General, Trump asked him to put a political appointee, Geoffrey Berman, in charge of the investigation into him and his campaign at the Southern District of New York. Whitaker refused, according to the report, because Berman was already recused from the case, infuriating Trump.
2. Attorneys for the president dangled pardons to both Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn.
The Times reported:
One of Mr. Trump’s lawyers also reached out that summer to the attorneys for two of his former aides — Paul J. Manafort and Mr. Flynn — to discuss possible pardons. The discussions raised questions about whether the president was willing to offer pardons to influence their decisions about whether to plead guilty and cooperate in the Mueller investigation.
Reports have previously indicated that Trump’s attorney may have floated the possibility of a pardon to his former aides. But it is particularly significant and yet curiously ignored, given that many experts believe using the possibility of a pardon to silence a witness could potentially be seen as obstruction of justice.
3. Even though Michael Flynn resigned voluntarily, Trump pushed the falsehood that he asked for Flynn’s resignation.
In a somewhat confusing passage, the Times indicated that after Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, resigned in light of the revelation that he lied about his contacts with the Russian ambassador, the president decided to falsely claim that he asked for Flynn’s resignation. Trump’s supposed termination of Flynn has been widely reported as fact, but, according to the report, it appears to be false.
4. White House lawyers warned about Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s spreading of misinformation.
Spicer did damage control for the White House after Flynn left, which included spreading the apparent lie about his resignation. And according to the report, White House lawyers were concerned about Spicer’s spreading of misinformation, including the false claim that an investigation had exonerated Flynn from any legal wrongdoing. (Flynn later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.) The lawyers reportedly compiled Spicer’s false statements in a memo.
5. Trump claims Rod Rosenstein told him the Michael Cohen investigation had nothing to do with him.
According to the report, when Cohen’s properties were raided as a part of the investigation that ultimately led to his conviction on multiple counts, Trump told his advisers that the deputy attorney general had assured him the case had nothing to do with him. Since it has been revealed that prosecutors believe the president directed Cohen to carry out a campaign finance crime and that he lied to Congress about the Trump Organization’s dealings with Russia, Trump now reportedly believes Rosenstein may have deliberately misled him.
6. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and other Trump allies decided in July 2017 to actively undermine Mueller.
Many of Trump’s most fervent political allies in Congress have consistently tried to run interference for the president as investigations encircle him, often trying to paint the FBI as the bad guys. The Times reported that this effort began as an explicit plan by Gaetz.
“He called Representative Jim Jordan, a conservative Republican from Ohio, and told him the party needed ‘to go play offense,’ Mr. Gaetz recalled in an interview,” the report said. “The two men believed that Republican leaders, who publicly praised the appointment of Mr. Mueller, had been beaten into a defensive crouch by the unending chaos and were leaving Democrats unchecked to ‘pistol whip’ the president with constant accusations about his campaign and Russia.
7. Trump has gone after Mueller and the Russia investigation more than 1,100 times in public.
While any American paying attention to the news will know that Trump has repeatedly attacked Mueller and his investigation, the Times documented in rigorous detail the scale of the extent of the effort. It also showed clearly that, on average, these attacks have been increasing over time.
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Image by U.S. Department of State via Flickr and a CC license
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Evangelical Pastor With Ties to DeSantis Denies He’s Endorsing Biblical Call for Death to Gays
A Florida pastor with ties to GOP Governor Ron DeSantis insists his recent remarks attacking U.S. Senator Ted Cruz should not be viewed as an endorsement of the biblical call for gay people to be executed. But he’s not saying he is opposed to it either.
As The Daily Beast first reported, Tom Ascol, the senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida, blasted the Texas Republican Senator, who surprised many when he called Uganda’s new “Kill the Gays” law “horrific & wrong.”
“Any law criminalizing homosexuality or imposing the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’ is grotesque & an abomination. ALL civilized nations should join together in condemning this human rights abuse,” Cruz actually tweeted.
That would be the same Ted Cruz who in 2015 claimed gay people were waging a “jihad” against Christians.
Pastor Ascol, who delivered the invocation at Governor DeSantis’ second inauguration, has been called the man who could bring evangelicals from Donald Trump and deliver them to Ron DeSantis.
On Tuesday Ascol tweeted, “Tell it to God, Ted.”
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He then quoted the Book of Leviticus, writing: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”
“Was this law God gave to His old covenant people ‘horrific and wrong’?” Ascol asked.
Ascol two hours later tweeted, “Amazing how many professing Christians, even self-designated ‘conservative’ ones, are embarrassed by God’s Word. Just quote some unpopular words of God & watch what happens. Many so-called Christians react the same way that unashamed unbelievers do. It’s a commentary.”
Cruz did not reply, but some others did.
David Smith, whose Twitter bio reads, “25 yrs trusting Jesus!” replied: “We no longer live under the Levitical laws @tomascol.”
“If so, we would have to apply the same standard to adultery. (Leviticus 20:10) I agree that all of these things are sin, but where does grace come in? Jesus was clearly in no hurry to condemn in John 8:1-11.”
Pastor Ascol apparently liked the reply from Steven Hasty, which reads: “Many of you are missing the point. If you’re understanding this Tweet to mean Pastor Tom thinks we should start executing homosexuals, you’re missing it. Instead, he’s challenging the standards of Cruz. Where does Cruz derive his standards?”
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Apparently whether or not it’s acceptable to execute LGBTQ people isn’t an issue (except it is, since the entire “debate” its based on Uganda’s new “Kill the Gays” law.)
“Pastor Tom” told Hasty, “You are exactly right. Some people don’t read carefully. Others, evidently, don’t reason well. Thanks for clarifying & accurately expressing what I *actually* wrote. Keep pressing on.”
Ascol didn’t say whether or not he supports the execution of LGBTQ people, he’s merely debating, as Hasty put it, “standards.”
The Daily Beast also reports, “Ascol’s tweet…certainly seemed to suggest that the execution of gay people had a biblical blessing,” and notes that “even on careful reading, most reasonable people would assume Ascol was suggesting that Uganda’s anti-gay law is not intrinsically ‘horrific and wrong.'”
Ascol, The Beast adds, “has repeatedly called for homicide charges against any woman who has an abortion for whatever reason. He has compared choosing to terminate a pregnancy to retaining a killer for hire.”
“’It’s like saying if I don’t murder someone, but I just contracted a murderer to murder someone, I’m not culpable,’ Ascol said on a Christian radio show in 2022.”
The tweet posted to the top of Ascol’s Twitter page says, “If your commitment to the authority of Scripture is limited by cultural sensitivities then it’s not really Scripture’s authority to which you are committed.”
Supporting or opposing the execution of LGBTQ people isn’t about “cultural sensitivities.”
‘Leaning Into Weird’: DeSantis Presidential Launch Panned Before It Starts Because Who Even Knows What Twitter Spaces Is?
Some time this evening Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to finally announce he is running for president, an announcement that has been seen for years as all but inevitable. NBC News broke the story Tuesday afternoon that not only would the far-right authoritarian, anti-LGBTQ, anti-woke, anti-social justice warrior finally throw his hat into the ring, he would do it with Big Tech billionaire Elon Musk in a Twitter Spaces chat.
While some saw it as an interesting move initially, 24 hours later the decision to announce in a Twitter Spaces chat is being widely panned, for many reasons including that even regular, active users of Twitter have little to no idea what Twitter Spaces is, or how to access it.
More importantly, most Americans don’t use Twitter, so they will not bother to tune in. Nor – since Twitter Spaces is audio – is there expected to be video, and certainly not live video.
Former Republican and former U.S. Congressman from DeSantis’ home state of Florida, David Jolly, sums up what many seem to be thinking.
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“The DeSantis decision to announce with Musk is a serious miscalculation. A launch with three missteps,” he tweets. “1. He’s leaning into the ‘weird’. 2. He’s doubling down on being the candidate who needs a safe space. 3. He’s promoting his association with regressive ideology.”
“Dumb move,” he concludes.
Political strategist and Lincoln Project senior advisor Jeff Timmer agrees with Jolly.
“Every single thing about the DeSantis campaign has been a stupid not-ready-for-primetime misstep,” he writes. “Every. Single. Thing. The paper tiger has feet of clay and a glass jaw. The most overrated stock in the history of POTUS campaigns.”
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So why Twitter Spaces?
The Atlantic’s David Frum, the Bush 43 speechwriter who reportedly came up with the 2002 State of the Union phrase “axis of evil,” served up an on-target take not even mentioning the Twitter Spaces event.
Criticizing a DeSantis pre-launch video (below), Frum wrote: “Fascinating how every DeSantis message raises some barrier between the candidate and the target audience. In previous ads, the candidate’s face was mediated through screens; here, somebody else’s voice is substituted for the candidate’s own. He himself is always missing.”
America is worth the fight… Every. Single. Time. pic.twitter.com/lWNQ3DIXgp
— Casey DeSantis (@CaseyDeSantis) May 23, 2023
That’s a good description of how it will likely be on Twitter Spaces.
Attorney, former Republican, former DeSantis administration official, former federal prosecutor Ron Filipkowski mockingly tweeted, “With a couple of dynamic personalities like Musk and Desantis, the audio-only announcement tonight should be real compelling.”
There’s been a lot of criticism, from Democrats, independents, and yes, Republicans.
“This announcement is a symptom of thinking random conservative Twitter personalities are the GOP base,” a Republican strategist who is “working with a rival campaign” told the website Semafor.
Another told them, “I couldn’t think of a more terrible way to spend my time than watching two socially awkward introverts talk about themselves.”
As it turns out, according to this two-year-old Twitter “how to” on Spaces, it is only available on iOS – Apple’s iPhone and iPad platform – so if DeSantis was hoping for a massive draw, he’s unlikely to get that. (Turns out Twitter didn’t update that How To — it’s also available on Android and in a web browser.)
There’s also been remarkably little effort via Twitter or the DeSantis campaign to promote the event. If you are a Twitter user you may not have even seen anything about it.
Even scrolling on my Twitter app, I see absolutely nothing about the event.
Earlier today I tweeted, “I’m not a marketing expert, but I am on Twitter a lot, and I have no idea what time Elon Musk and Ron DeSantis [are] going to be on Twitter ‘Spaces,’ I have no idea how to access it, and I’ve seen nothing telling me about it, other than it’s supposedly happening.”
Two people responded, one of them later pointing me to a USA Today article apparently originally titled, “How to watch: Gov. Ron DeSantis announces presidential bid on Twitter.” The current title, since it’s audio, reads: “Elon Musk will host Ron DeSantis on Twitter Spaces. How to listen on iPhone, tablets or desktop PC.”
Oh, and it is slated to start at 6 PM ET.
After I complained it was “just bad execution from Musk, as usual here,” the other person who responded wrote, “It’s such loser behavior all around.”
Watch the video above or at this link.
Twitter’s New CEO Sure Seems a Bit Like Elon Musk
Back in December, amid tremendous outrage from users over how the social media platform’s new owner was managing Twitter, Elon Musk posted a poll asking if he should step down as CEO and hire a replacement. The results were overwhelming: 57% of the 17.5 million users who responded said “Yes,” with some begging him to go away entirely.
The man who scraped together $44 billion to purchase and take private what is arguably the most impactful and influential place on the internet was not about to quit – as owner or CEO. It took six months, but on Thursday he tweeted an announcement.
“Excited to announce that I’ve hired a new CEO for X/Twitter. She will be starting in ~6 weeks!”
“X” is now Twitter’s parent company, one of several owned by the disruptive 51-year old South Africa native who until recently was the richest person on the planet.
Musk, by his own admission, has crashed Twitter’s value. If it was worth $44 billion when he bought it, it no longer is. Musk recently admitted Twitter – which he gutted, allegedly to cut costs –is now worth less than half of what he paid: a mere $20 billion.
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Experts can argue why the man who is the head of Tesla, the Texas-based electric vehicle and energy storage company, and SpaceX, the spacecraft and satellite company, can’t seem to just keep the social media platform running smoothly. In addition to losing more than half its value, it’s lost users and advertisers.
“Twitter lost more than 1.3 million users in the week after Elon Musk bought it,” a USA Today headline from November read.
Last month The Washington Post reported, “Twitter has been dramatically transformed under Musk and few — even among some in the billionaire’s corner — say the changes have been for the better.”
“Advertisers have fled in droves over Musk’s policy changes and erratic behavior on the site, causing advertising revenue to recently drop by as much as 75 percent, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share sensitive internal information,” The Post reports. “Rounds of layoffs have left Twitter operating with a skeleton staff of 1,500 — an 80 percent reduction — and so riddled with bugs and glitches that the site goes down for hours at a time.”
So Musk has finally hired, he says, a new CEO.
Not surprisingly, someone who appears to have similar – right wing – tastes.
“NBCUniversal’s head of advertising, Linda Yaccarino, is in talks to become the new chief executive of Twitter, according to people familiar with the situation. NBCU said Friday morning that Ms. Yaccarino was leaving the company, effective immediately,” The Wall Street Journal reports.
Musk (just as this article was being published) confirmed it is Yaccarino.
Journalist Yashar Ali puts it this way: “In Linda Yaccarino, Elon Musk gets a CEO who is a seasoned ad executive who generally shares his political leanings. But she’s also the Chairman of a World Economic Forum task force so she can comfortably liaise with Twitter’s current investors and advertisers around the world.”
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CNBC reported the news on-air.
NBCUniversal global advertising chief Linda Yaccarino resigns as sources say she’s in talks to be the new CEO of Twitter. @JBoorstin reports. https://t.co/6yUqcoe8fW pic.twitter.com/HMF1qUSF12
— CNBC (@CNBC) May 12, 2023
So who is Linda Yaccarino? Twitter users were quick to want to know.
When the Yaccarino rumor started Thursday evening, as usual, Twitter users went to work.
What they found is someone who appears to “like” and “follow” arguably some of the worst yet popular, right-wing elements on Twitter. Some who Musk seems to have embraced.
Max Berger, a liberal activist whose bio says he co-founded two organizations, did some digging.
(A tweet from May of 2022 that Berger pinned to the top of his account reads: “Elon Musk is really doing an incredible job educating the public about how capitalists end up aligning with fascists to maintain their wealth and limit the power of the working classes.”)
“Linda Yaccarino,” Berger wrote Thursday night, “the woman who is reportedly the new CEO of Twitter, follows: – Chaya Raichik – Jesse Watters – Michael Shellenberger – Ron DeSantis – The Babylon Bee – Giorgia Meloni – Maye Musk – Catturd – Vivek Ramaswamy – Tulsi Gabbard – Bari Weiss.”
“New Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino seems like a certified MAGA supporter,” he adds. “She also follows: – Sidney Powell – Lin Wood – Jack Posobiec – Libs of TikTok – Ian Miles Cheung – Andrew Sullivan – Richard Grenell – Tim Scott – Mike Pompeo.”
Columnist and former Obama administration official Brandon Friedman writes: “This long list barely scratches the surface. There’s a lot more. She’s ingesting a fire hose of content from the absolute worst people in the world every time she opens the app. And, as Max notes, she’s a former Trump appointee.”
Many of those names are likely familiar, but some are not.
For those who don’t know, Chaya Raichik is the founder of the far-right extremist social media account Libs of TikTok.
“Libs of TikTok reposts a steady stream of TikTok videos and social media posts, primarily from LGBTQ+ people, often including incendiary framing designed to generate outrage,” The Washington Post last year reported “Videos shared from the account quickly find their way to the most influential names in right-wing media. The account has emerged as a powerful force on the Internet, shaping right-wing media, impacting anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and influencing millions by posting viral videos aimed at inciting outrage among the right.”
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More recently, the suspected Allen, Texas mass shooter who slaughtered eight people, reportedly wrote one of his posts on a Russian social media site was “inspired by Libs of TikTok.”
Jesse Watters is a far-right, incendiary, misogynistic Fox News propagandist deemed a “Racist, Sexist Frat Boy.” He’s also rumored to be in the running to replace the now-fired white nationalist Tucker Carlson.
“Catturd” is the anonymous pro-Trump pro-Musk Twitter account with 1.7 million followers that Rolling Stone calls “the Sh-tposting King of MAGA Twitter” – and who “Elon Musk likes to talk to on Twitter.”
Vivek Ramaswamy? An “anti-woke” GOP presidential candidate whose tweets (or, at least one tweet) Yaccarino has “liked.”
Yaccarino also follows a lot of right-wing media people, including Sean Hannity, Ben Shapiro, Dan Bongino, Sebastian Gorka, and Michelle Malkin.
And she follows Franklin Graham.
But she also follows Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Marc Benioff.
Some may say it’s unfair to judge someone by their Twitter likes and the folks they follow on social media. That depends.
(If you look at mine you’ll probably see a lot of right-wingers who I follow because I often write about the extreme right. And because in the days of early Twitter I used an auto-follow bot that followed anyone who followed me.)
But there are patterns and looking at these landmarks at least offers insight into who and what they are looking at and interacting with.
And what’s clear is Yaccarino certainly seems to be all-in on Musk. She’s retweeted posts about Tesla, and even interviewed the billionaire earlier this year, an interview coincidentally posted to NBC Universal’s website.
So why does all this matter? Because what happens on Twitter directly influences what people who are and are not on Twitter see, read, hear, and ultimately think. It is an influencing platform. And it’s important to know that the person (rumored) to be the incoming head of arguably the greatest influence platform in the world is following the right.
This article has been updated to reflect Musk’s confirmation Yaccarino will be the new Twitter CEO
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