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Democrats are running a staggering number of candidates in state-level offices this year, especially in conservative areas the party once wrote off.

It’s a testament to the massive outpouring of grassroots energy spurred by the Trump era.

In Texas, Democrats are contesting 14 of 15 state Senate seats up this year, as well as 133 of 150 state House seats—an almost 50 percent boost from 2016. For the first time in years, almost all of the 170 state legislative races in North Carolina will feature both a Republican and Democratic candidate. Pennsylvania Democrats have filed to get on the ballot in 180 of the state House’s 203 districts—the most they’ve engaged in since 2000.

A string of Democratic successes in special election races, some in districts President Trump resoundingly won, has upended expectations of which of those seats are in play. Conor Lamb eked out a victory in a deep-red pocket of Pennsylvania, while Doug Jones became the first Democrat in a quarter century to represent Alabama in the U.S. Senate.

Rather than focusing just on flippable seats or purple states, Democrats, particularly on the state legislative level, are giving it a go pretty much everywhere.

The goal of this “flood-the-zone” approach isn’t just to win midterm races or regain control of the redistricting process, grassroots progressive organizations tell TPM. It is instead a concerted effort to channel the base’s current enthusiasm into local politics—a long overdue effort to get the Democratic Party engaged on the ground looking towards 2020 and beyond.

“It’s about rebuilding the Democratic bench from the ground up,” Amanda Litman, co-founder of Run for Something, told TPM. “It isn’t about a short term win. We don’t expect to take back the Oklahoma state senate in a year, or flip the Kansas state legislature. What we do hope is to make ground and take steps forward.”

Litman suggested that a Democratic candidate now running in those states could run for Congress or governor a few years down the line.

“We don’t get there unless we invest in it now,” she said. “It’s a long game we have to play with that in mind, and measure our success accordingly.”

While Trump’s election may have been the wellspring for the current torrent of progressive energy, plenty of Democratic candidates running hyper-local campaigns focused on what they describe as extreme policies pushed by Republicans in their state governments.

“Forced fetal funeral bills, ‘bathroom bills,’ ‘arm-your-teacher’ bills, bills that ban public schools from teaching kids about climate change — things just way, way beyond the mainstream,” said Forward Majority communications director Ben Wexler-Waite by way of example.

In Kansas, it’s the failed tax cut experiment pushed by Gov. Sam Brownback (R). In Oklahoma, it’s the four-day school week enacted to allow economically struggling teachers to pursue second jobs.

In the surprising Virginia legislative elections last November, in which Democrats flipped 15 seats in the House of Delegates, it got even more local than that.

“Danica Roem ran on fixing Route 28!” said Nicole Hobbs, co-founder of Every District, a group focused on investing in Democrats at the state legislative level. “That resonates with voters.”

Roem, the first openly transgender person elected in any U.S. state legislature, became the face of the kind of progressive wins possible in this climate after she defeated Republican incumbent Bob Marshall. Marshall — who sponsored one of the so-called “bathroom bills” aimed at forcing transgender people to use the bathroom of their birth gender — had held his seat for 25 years.

Forward Majority is focused on targeting these sorts of long-sitting state-level incumbents who have faced few or no real challengers, said Wexler-Waite. To account for the decline of local media, the group plans to conduct opposition research and run targeted ad campaigns highlighting the voting records and gaffes of particularly out-there candidates.

“There has just been no one holding them accountable in any way,” he said.

This strategy is easier in states like Virginia, which have lax campaign finance laws. While the institutional Democratic party concentrated on the most winnable, flippable seats, outside groups flooded the state with advertising, volunteers, and money, providing crucial support for candidates in lower-profile races. Other states have stricter regulations that make it harder for outside groups to have as much influence.

That’s deterred some national Democratic groups from getting involved in local elections, according to Run for Something’s Litman. Republicans, meanwhile, were “willing to make the investment in it and figure it out anyway,” she said. “They’ve bought into local races being important for a lot longer than we have.”

Groups like the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) have spent well over a decade cultivating candidates for local races. Though the RSLC is responding to the newfound energy and coordination on the Democratic side by channeling tens of millions more dollars into local races, the group says they’re not fazed by the sheer quantity of Democrats running this year.

“Flipping nearly 1,000 seats in the past decade for Republicans, on map lines largely drawn by Democrats, took having the right candidate with the right message and the right policies,” RSLC spokesman David James told TPM in an email. “During that same time period, liberals touted the quantity of candidates they had filed, which have usually been more than Republicans, with far fewer actual victories.”

Even if Democrats can pull off a blue wave in 2018, the GOP margins are so large in so many states — and districts are currently so gerrymandered in their favor — that Republicans are likely to retain control of the majority of state legislatures.

Progressive groups say they’re well aware of the constraints they’re up against. But they say any victories are steps in the right direction, and those are only possible if candidates are actually registered.

“I have really bought into the idea that if we don’t run, we can’t win,” Lisa Goodgame, board president at Indivisible Austin, told TPM.

Pointing to the dozens of contested races in play in Texas, Goodgame added: “It’s never too late. And thank God it’s happening now.”

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John Bolton, the former ambassador to the United Nations and a fierce foreign policy hawk, will replace current National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster in that role, the New York Times first reported Thursday.

“H.R. McMaster has served his country with distinction for more than 30 years. He has won many battles and his bravery and toughness are legendary,” President Donald Trump told the paper. “General McMaster’s leadership of the National Security Council staff has helped my administration accomplish great things to bolster America’s national security.”

Trump confirmed the news in a tweet:

The move is the latest in a string of staff changes for Trump. On March 13, he fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and announced the man he wanted to replace him, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, in a tweet. Tillerson was reportedly blindsided by his firing.

The Times cited unnamed White House officials who claimed McMaster’s resignation was a “mutual decision and amicable,” in the paper’s words, a contrast from Tillerson’s ouster.

The same officials said McMaster had spoken with Trump about leaving for weeks, and that McMaster had moved his departure forward because “questions about his status,” the paper said, “were casting a shadow over his conversations with foreign officials.”

McMaster replaced Michael Flynn, who resigned after revelations that he had misled the White House about his pre-inaugural contacts with Russia’s ambassador, as national security adviser.

Importantly for Bolton, who’s long advocated for the United States to take an aggressive stance toward the rest of the world, he does not need Senate confirmation to become the President’s top adviser on national security matters.

President George W. Bush made Bolton U.N. ambassador via a recess appointment — meaning the Senate did not confirm him for the role — in August 2005.

He resigned as ambassador in December 2006 facing near impossible odds at Senate confirmation, his time as a recess appointee having run out. Senators of both parties had blocked a confirmation vote for Bolton several times over the previous year and a half.

Bolton will bring a hawkishness to the White House that many have long feared would end up whispered in Trump’s ear: the neoconservative has called for pre-emptive military attacks against North Korea and Iran, Vox noted, and he famously once joked that the United Nations building in New York City could lose 10 stories without anyone noticing.

And for all of Trump’s talk — during the 2016 campaign and as President — about opposing the War in Iraq, Bolton was one of the Bush administration’s loudest cheerleaders for that war, and one of the strongest holdouts, years later, in asserting that invading Iraq and removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right move.

In 2002, as the Bush administration’s under secretary of state for arms control and international security, Bolton incorrectly claimed “We are confident that Saddam Hussein has hidden weapons of mass destruction and production facilities in Iraq.”

In 2015, he told the Washington Examiner: “I still think the decision to overthrow Saddam was correct.”

For years, as several outlets noted Thursday, Bolton has aligned himself with anti-Islam groups on the fringe of mainstream politics: In 2012, according to a BuzzFeed News report flagged by HuffPost, Bolton appeared on the well known anti-Islam conspiracist Frank Gaffney’s radio show.

Asked about the conspiracy theory that the Muslim Brotherhood had infiltrated the U.S. government, Bolton replied: “What is wrong with raising the question?”

The same report noted an August 2016 speech Bolton gave at an event called “Islam and Western Civilization: Can They Coexist?” hosted by a group called American Freedom Alliance.

King Abdullah II of Jordan, Bolton snarked during the speech, “is not simply the Muslim king of a Muslim country, unlike our President.”

And in 2010, he wrote the forward for a book by two well-known anti-Islam crusaders, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer.

Bolton appeared on Fox News, where he is a contributor, around 50 minutes after the Times — and the President — reported his next job. The network’s Martha MacCallum asked him what he thought about the move.

“Well, I think I still am a Fox News contributor,” Bolton said, adding: “I didn’t really expect an announcement this afternoon.”

“It came to a conclusion this afternoon,” he said later of Trump’s job offer, after MacCallum noted he’d been at the White House earlier in the day.

Eventually, MacCallum turned her conversation with Bolton to “the topic that we originally brought you on to talk about tonight,” one which Bolton will likely never again personally confront as perhaps the most powerful un-elected, un-confirmed official in the entire government: the Senate’s nominations backlog.

This post has been updated. 

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The Republican chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court lashed out Thursday at an effort by a group of GOP state lawmakers to impeach four Democratic justices over their rulings in a congressional redistricting case, calling it “an attack upon an independent judiciary.”

Chief Justice Thomas Saylor issued a two-sentence statement on the impeachment drive by 12 Republicans in the state House of Representatives.

“I am very concerned by the reported filing of impeachment resolutions against justices of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania related to the court’s decision about congressional redistricting,” Saylor said. “Threats of impeachment directed against justices because of their decision in a particular case are an attack upon an independent judiciary, which is an essential component of our constitutional plan of government.”

Last month, Pennsylvania’s highest court imposed a new congressional map for the state’s 2018 elections after finding the old GOP-crafted map was unconstitutionally drawn. Democrats are hopeful the new district lines will let them flip several seats as part of their effort to reclaim the majority in the U.S. House.

The old map produced three straight election cycles in which Republican candidates won 13 of 18 congressional races, even though Democrats have a 5-4 statewide registration edge and prevailed in 18 of 24 statewide elections during the same period.

The 12 state representatives behind a series of impeachment resolutions, announced Tuesday, are among the 203-member House’s more conservative members.

Their prime sponsor, Rep. Cris Dush of rural Jefferson County, denied the effort was an attack on an independent judiciary.

“When the judicial branch fails to follow the constitution, the constitutional answer is impeachment,” Dush said. “I believe this action would fulfill our constitutional responsibilities and oaths.”

The House Republican leader, however, went on the record in opposition to impeachment.

State Rep. Dave Reed said the Supreme Court was wrong to implement its own map but that “disagreement over the outcome of any particular case should not be grounds for impeachment.”

The resolutions seek the impeachment of justices David Wecht, Debra Todd, Christine Donohue and Kevin Dougherty.

Democrats on the elected court hold a 5-2 majority.

After throwing out the old map, the justices gave lawmakers three weeks to enact a replacement that Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf would support. When that didn’t happen, the four Democratic justices being targeted for possible impeachment voted to impose their own map.

Saylor and the other Republican on the court voted against throwing out the old map and making the court’s own new map the law.

Republican leaders in the Legislature and eight incumbent Republican congressmen turned to federal courts to try to block the use of the new map in this year’s elections. But on Monday, both a federal three-judge panel and the U.S. Supreme Court turned down separate requests to put it on hold.

Wolf has called the impeachment effort “an unprecedented and undemocratic attempt to retaliate against the judicial branch.”

Lawmakers in at least a half-dozen states have sought in recent years to impeach or otherwise remove judges as a result of controversial decisions — including in some instances over same-sex marriage rulings — but without success, according to the National Center for State Courts.

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Over the last two weeks, TPM has published a number of stories about the Trump administration targeting career civil servants at federal agencies for political reasons. First, House Democrats sounded the alarm about an employee who was reassigned at the State Department because of her work on the Obama administration’s Iran deal. The officials who reassigned her, we discovered, also oversee the the formal dissent channel at the State Department. Then, an administration plot to oust the head of the board that oversees state-funded media, such as Voice of America, came to light.

Meanwhile, bills in Congress, described in an article by TPM’s Alice Ollstein, would weaken protections designed to keep employees of federal agencies from being fired for political reasons. They are following in the wake of a 2017 law that made it easier for employees of the scandal-plagued Department of Veterans Affairs to be dismissed. That lead to a purge of rank-and-file employees, while much of the Department’s leadership stayed in place.

TPM plans to devote more of our resources to pursuing these kinds of under-the-radar, politicization-of-personnel stories in 2018. They can be complex, but they’re important; government agencies are where the Trump administration’s policies get put into action, and taking political considerations into account when hiring and firing the staff of these agencies is illegal.

So, for some insight on where this story might take us, TPM put in a call to Liz Hempowicz, director of public policy at the Project on Government Oversight. POGO is a non-profit government watchdog group that provides support to government employees who want to blow the whistle on abuse of power, and has been tracking these issues for decades.

Our conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.



TPM: Can you give us a sense of how much more common these kind of politicized personnel decisions are under the Trump administration, as opposed to prevous administrations?

Liz Hempowicz: My perception is that it has definitely increased now. One thing that set the stage for it was that the president ran on the platform of “draining the swamp,” and it was sufficiently vague what that term meant that now it’s being applied to draining the career civil service out of government.

TPM: Can you explain who civil servants are?

Hempowicz: Thats a really great question. One of the big problems with this “drain the swamp” message being used against career civil servants is that it seizes on this distrust of DC that is really a distrust of Congress and of people in political positions that have been either elected or appointed. It is not a distrust of these civil service employees. They are the people who are making sure that social security checks are going out. Your neighbor who works at the post office is a civil service employee. When you go on vacation and you go to a national park, the park ranger you speak to in the park is a civil service employee. There’s a huge network of very diverse positions that work for the executive branch in nonpolitical positions.

TPM: To play devil’s advocate, we could say, “The President was elected. Why shouldn’t his appointees get to choose the staff that will best carry out his agenda?”

Hempowicz: The president already has pretty wide power to appoint political appointees. He is already able to fill a lot of key positions with people he has hand picked. What he and those political appointees aren’t allowed to do is clean house of nonpolitical career employees. And that’s because it is essential to the functioning of government that the majority of the civil service is not political appointees.

The civil service is made up of individuals that — regardless of the policies that they’re asked to carry out by the administration — have a responsibility to the American taxpayer and to uphold the constitution and further the mission of their office and their agency. These individuals are allowed to have political opinions as long as it doesn’t effect their work and it’s not on their official time.

TPM: Is there a historical precedent for these attacks on the civil service?

Hempowicz: The reason that we have civil service laws like we do today was in response to a misuse of government positions. Before the reforms that went into place a few decades ago there were a lot of people giving jobs in the government to those who weren’t really qualified for it because they were their friends, their family, their political supporters. It really impedes the functioning of government when you have individuals in these key positions that are responsible for the day-to-day functioning of government — not the policymaking, but the functioning — who aren’t suited for those positions.

The whole reason for the civil service laws that exist today is to make sure those positions are filled with people of merit, people who can do that job and can do it in a way that is not subject to political pressures.

You can fire somebody if they’re not doing the job. You can’t fire somebody if you don’t think they will do the job in the future. Thats what I think a lot of the rhetoric around attacking the civil service is about these days — speculation of whether or not an individual who worked for another administration will also be able to work for this administration.

TPM: So if those are the rules that are supposed to be followed, have you seen anything so far that rises to the level of being illegal with these personnel decisions?

Hempowicz: Yes. I think that any time somebody is removed from their position or retaliated against for blowing the whistle on waste, fraud, abuse or illegality within an agency, we believe that kind of acton to be against the law. We’ve seen a few instances of that.

We’ve also seen the letter that a few of the Democrats in the House — Representative Cummings and Representative Engles — sent to the White House and the State Department last week. It lays out some really troubling accusations that if true do violate civil service laws but it’s hard to say without having all the facts. I hope that the White House and the State Department cooperate with this inquiry from House Democrats.

And I am honestly shocked and kind of disappointed that this wasn’t a bipartisan effort. I think regardless of political party members of Congress have a responsibility to insure government is functioning in the way it should be functioning. That’s what I see this letter and this inquiry going after to make sure is happening. And I would have loved to see that be a bipartisan effort.

TPM: So now that we have Congress getting involved in the issue, what do you think will happen?

Hempowicz: I would love to see Congress exercising its oversight power over this executive and really keeping him in check as they were supposed to do and as was envisioned under the constitution.

We have seen success when specifically Republican members push back against this administration on some of these civil servant issues. Senator Grassley has been really great in a few instances in pushing back on the gag orders that were issued at the beginning of the administration, saying nobody in the executive branch can speak to members of Congress or to the press.

And so we have seen Congress sort of getting involved in one-off issues that pop up that effect the civil service. I would love to see more oversight and more bipartisan oversight in this area. And so I’m hopeful.

TPM: Who beyond Congress is in a position to enforce some of these rules?

Hempowicz: The Office of Special Counsel is one of the biggest that comes to mind immediately. They hear whistleblower complaints and whistleblower reprisal complaints and are also an intermediary between the civil service and the Merit Systems Protection Board which is another body that was created to enforce civil service protections. Those are two of the big ones.

TPM: And we know this is something they’re looking into.

Hempowicz: Yes.

TPM: We had a story a few days ago in which an appointee to the Broadcast Board of Governors claims he was appointed to “root out all Trump disloyalists.” What are the chances of a plot like that succeeding?

Hempowicz: The Broadcasting Board of Governors is a really interesting example. Those positions do have stronger protections than other positions that are more along the lines of what you’d see in private practice, which is at-will employment. Even the inspectors general at all these federal agencies are at-will employees. They serve at the pleasure of the president and they can be removed. The president doesn’t need cause to remove them.

That doesn’t apply to most civil servants. They have more protections in place specifically to insure that essential government functions can occur regardless of what administration is in the White House and what political policies they have in place.

The strength of these civil service protections are kind of being tested right now, but, so far and for the most part, they’ve stood strong so far.

TPM: What do you think about the bills currently in Congress that aim to weaken protections for civil service employees?

Hempowicz: First of all, we [POGO] were involved in the VA legislation that initially gave these authorities to fire employees with less due process than had been traditionally applied to civil servants in the VA context. But, having said that, we didn’t think they were perfect when they passed and we were pretty critical of these new authorities as well and have been very involved with members of Congress in continued oversight of how these programs are implemented at the VA, especially with the idea that there may then be a push from the administration to apply them to other executive agencies, which is what we’re seeing now.

And so, having said all that, we are very skeptical and concerned about the utility and necessity of this type of change to the protections in place. I actually don’t think there has been this demonstrated need to get rid of lots of employees who are bad actors. And we have continued skepticism that it’s even working well at the VA.

They do publish the levels of people who are fired under these new authorities and at the VA they’ve largely been the lower-level employees: the clerks, the cleaning staff. If you’re trying to make a systemic change at the agency I wonder why we’re not seeing more higher-level employees being suspended or reprimanded under these new authorities.

TPM: Is legislation of this kind likely to pass?

Hempowicz: Over at the VA, they are touting the changes as successful and helpful and I think that narrative does make it harder to push back against these new bills. I think it’s kind of up to members of Congress to be skeptical and watch very closely what’s happening at the VA and ask themselves if that’s what they think these agencies need to be operating better. The answer to me is no, but I’m no longer in the business of predicting what Congress is going to do. So I don’t know. But I think there is some momentum.

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NEW YORK (AP) — A former Fox News anchor filed a defamation lawsuit on Thursday over comments by Bill O’Reilly it says were meant to damage the reputations of women who have accused him of harassment.

The suit by Laurie Dhue in federal court in Manhattan accuses O’Reilly of engaging in a “smear campaign” against his accusers after the former prime-time star or Fox settled their claims for millions of dollars. At least three other women have filed similar suits.

“As part of his desperate campaign to clear his name, O’Reilly published false statements about Dhue, calling her a liar, swearing that her allegations were fabricated in an effort to obtain a settlement,” according to the suit, which seeks unspecified damages. It also accuses him of “falsely asserting that her purported claims against O’Reilly were politically motivated.”

Fox ousted O’Reilly last year after The New York Times reported that at least five women with professional ties to him had received payouts totaling $13 million to settle claims of sexual harassment and other misbehavior. The newspaper said Dhue received $1 million.

There was no immediate response on Thursday to a request for comment from one of O’Reilly’s lawyers. In court papers filed earlier this week in the suits brought by the three other women, his lawyers called the defamation claims “frivolous and wholly unsupported in law or fact.”

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The government and AT&T exchanged opening salvos in a federal trial Thursday as the U.S. seeks to block the telephone giant from absorbing Time Warner, in a case that could shape how consumers get — and how much they pay for — streaming TV and movies.

The Trump Justice Department has sued to block the $85 billion deal, saying it would hurt competition and consumers would have to pay more to watch their favorite shows, whether on a TV screen, smartphone or tablet.

The combination of the wireless, broadband and satellite giant with Time Warner — home to the CNN, HBO and TBS networks as well as coveted sports programming — would harm competition and dampen innovation, Craig Conrath, the lead Justice Department attorney in the case, insisted in opening arguments. “The evidence will show that this merger would hurt … pay TV consumers,” Conrath said, noting they number some 90 million households in the U.S.

“Time Warner is a weapon for AT&T,” he said. “Buying Time Warner would give AT&T a weapon to slow down innovation and protect its cash cow” of pay TV. AT&T owns DirecTV, which contributes a substantial percentage of its earnings.

AT&T’s strategy of discounting DirecTV Now streaming service has helped it hold on to wireless customers, according to industry analysts.

But the companies’ lead attorney in defending the merger, Daniel Petrocelli, countered that the government “cannot meet their heavy burden of proof” that deal would hurt competition in a rapidly shifting media landscape. “We’re not trying to suppress or impede this transformation. … This transformation is what makes this merger imperative,” he said.

More people are using streaming services like Netflix and Amazon. Those companies and others such as Google, Hulu and Facebook “are running away with the industry,” Petrocelli said — by offering pay TV at lower rates, selling subscriptions for on-demand programming and dominating advertising.

He rebuffed the idea that consumer prices would be pushed higher, accusing the government of relying on hypothetical economic models that don’t square with the reality of the market. In fact, consumers could end up paying less after a merger, Petrocelli suggested.

As AT&T Inc. CEO Randall Stephenson and Jeffrey Bewkes, the CEO of Time Warner Inc. looked on in the packed courtroom, the opposing attorneys outlined their cases before U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in a landmark trial that could imprint future antitrust policy. In their arguments, the attorneys journeyed through the complex, twisty dynamics of the 21st century media and entertainment landscape, with opposing spins.

The density and importance of the issue means there will be several weeks of testimony from experts, competitors of the two companies and others.

If in the end Leon decided to block the deal, a chill over media dealmaking is likely. Big internet players like Amazon or Google could decide to keep building up their own content offerings rather than growing them by acquisitions. If the companies prevailed, on the other hand, that could spur a wave of similar deals as other distributors — like major cable, satellite and phone companies — bulk up with entertainment purchases to compete against rivals born on the internet.

A middle-ground compromise is also possible if AT&T lost. The company could agree to sell off some businesses or comply with other restrictions in order to win approval of the merger.

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President Donald Trump joked on Thursday that he would advise his 25-year-old self not to run for president.

He made the remark during an interview with Charlie Kirk, the founder of Turning Points USA, a conservative campus organization financed in part by deep-pocketed Republican donors and personally supported by many members of the Trump family, including the President himself.

Kirk’s organization made headlines last year when a member of the Kent State University chapter wore a diaper to protest safe spaces, and again when a student activist at the same college quit and dubbed it a “shithole organization.”

“Your successful presidential run is something that all people, young people included, should look up to,” Kirk told Trump at an event called the “Generation Next” summit. “What advice would you give to the 25-year-old Donald Trump knowing what you know today?”

“Don’t run for president,” Trump replied, to laughter.

“But we’re glad you did,” Kirk said.

Trump said he got “the greatest publicity” until he ran for office, but that “people really do get it.”

“There is a lot of fake news out there,” he said. “Nobody had any idea. And I’m actually proud of the fact that I exposed it to a large extent, because we exposed it. It’s something. It’s an achievement.”

Trump said that while there was “some great news,” he had “shown something that a lot of people didn’t really understand. If you look at approval rating, [the media’s] approval rating is, sorry folks, it’s down the tubes. Because people have found out how dishonest it is.”

“Sometimes, they say, you add nine. Whatever Trump’s poll number is, add nine,” he added later, referring to polling during the 2016 campaign that underplayed the possibility he would be elected president.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The leaders of a key House committee declared Thursday that Facebook officials failed to answers questions about a privacy scandal involving a Trump-connected data-mining company, and they want CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify before the panel.

Reps. Greg Walden of Oregon and Frank Pallone of New Jersey said in a brief statement that the “latest revelations regarding Facebook’s use and security of user data raise many serious consumer protection concerns.”

Representatives from Facebook, who weren’t named, briefed the committee’s staff Wednesday, according to Walden and Pallone. But a spokeswoman for the committee said the session left many unanswered questions about how Facebook and third-party developers use and protect consumer data on the social media network.

Walden is chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee and Pallone is the panel’s top ranking Democrat. Their statement comes a day after Zuckerberg said during an interview on CNN that he would be “happy” to testify before Congress, but only if he was the right person to do that. He said there might be other Facebook officials better positioned to appear, depending on what Congress wanted to know.

Walden and Pallone said that as Facebook’s top executive, Zuckerberg is indeed the “right witness to provide answers to the American people.” They said they would work with Facebook and Zuckerberg to set a date and time for a hearing in the near future.

Their call represents the first official request from a congressional oversight committee for Zuckerberg’s appearance amid demands by lawmakers that Facebook explain reports that Cambridge Analytica harvested the data of more than 50 million Facebook users in order to sway elections.

The company, funded in part by Trump supporter and billionaire financier Robert Mercer, paired its vault of consumer data with voter information. The Trump campaign paid the firm nearly $6 million during the 2016 election, although it has since distanced itself. Other Republican clients of Cambridge Analytica included Sen. Ted Cruz’s failed presidential campaign and Ben Carson, the famed neurosurgeon who also ran unsuccessfully for president in 2016.

The data was gathered through a personality test app called “This Is Your Digital Life” that was downloaded by fewer than 200,000 people. But participants unknowingly gave researchers access to the profiles of their Facebook friends, allowing them to collect data from millions more users.

Republicans on the Senate Commerce Committee sent Zuckerberg a letter Monday that said the possibility that Facebook has not been transparent with consumers is troubling. They asked for responses by next week to a series of questions, including whether Facebook is aware of any other instances in which a third-party app developer used or shared Facebook user data improperly.

It’s far from certain what action, if any, the GOP-led Congress and the Trump administration might take against Facebook, but the company will almost certainly oppose any efforts to regulate it or the technology business sector more broadly.

As do most large corporations, Facebook has assembled a potent lobbying operation to advance its interests in Washington. The company spent just over $13 million on lobbying in 2017, with the bulk of the money spent on an in-house lobbying team that’s stocked with former Republican and Democratic political aides, according to disclosure records filed with the House and Senate.

The company sought to influence an array of matters that ranged from potential changes to government surveillance programs to corporate tax issues. One of the team’s newer members, Sandra Luff, was Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ national security adviser when he served in the Senate.

Facebook also employs a small army of outside lobbyists. Among them is Harbinger Strategies, which earned $240,000 last year and deployed four former Capitol Hill staffers to promote Facebook’s interests as lawmakers debated the new tax law, cyber security and online advertising issues.

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CNN President Jeff Zucker criticized the journalistic integrity of rival Fox News at a media conference Thursday.

Zucker called Fox “state-run TV” and a “pure propaganda machine,” according to The Hollywood Reporter and journalists covering the event.

There are a handful of good journalists there, but I think they are lost in what is a complete propaganda machine,” he reportedly told the audience at the Future of News conference, hosted by the Financial Times. “The idea that it’s a news channel, I think, is really not the case at all.”

Zucker also reportedly said Fox News “has nothing on” Russia’s state run program TASS Russian News Agency. He added that every cable news channel is “doing well, including Fox News.”

Spokespeople for Fox News and CNN did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment. Fox News reportedly declined an offer to attend the event, according to The Hollywood Reporter. 

Zucker has received criticism for his network’s coverage of Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign, when CNN would air Trump stump speeches at length.

In a New York Times magazine profile last year, CNN was referred to as the first “major news organization” to give President Donald Trump a platform in the early days of the Republican primaries, a move that was reportedly regularly pushed by Zucker personally.

Adweek reported last week that Fox News has ranked No. 1 in total day viewers for the past 10 weeks and was first in prime time viewership for the past nine weeks. MSNBC came in second place for both categories last week. CNN’s parent company Turner Network ranked No. 2 last week in the key 25 to 54-year-old ratings category — which is the demographic used by networks to sell advertisements — above both Fox News and MSNBC, who came in eighth and ninth place, respectively.    

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