TPM News

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is joining in on the viral debate over whether people hear the names “Laurel” or “Yanny” in a much-shared audio clip.

The White House on Thursday released a video featuring various members of the staff weighing in.

Senior adviser Ivanka Trump says, “So clearly Laurel.” Strategic-communications director Mercedes Schlapp says, “Yanny’s the winner, Laurel’s the loser.”

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway pokes fun at her endless willingness to spin and bend the truth for the president, saying, “It’s Laurel. But I could deflect and divert to Yanny if you need me to.”

Vice President Mike Pence wants to know: “Who’s Yanny?”

The video ends with President Donald Trump deadpanning, “I hear covfefe” — a reference to a botched tweet he wrote last year that was never explained.

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NEW YORK (AP) — Cambridge Analytica, the beleaguered data collection agency that worked for President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign, is liquidating operations.

The British firm filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection late Thursday. It said in a New York court filing that its assets totaled $100,001 to $500,000. Its liabilities are between $1 million and $10 million and it has between one and 49 creditors.

The filing is signed by Jennifer and Rebekah, sisters who are majority shareholders of Cambridge Analytica. The Mercer family is led by billionaire Robert Mercer, a Republican mega-donor with close ties to Trump. He sold his personal stake in the pro-Trump website Breitbart News to his daughters in late 2017.

Cambridge Analytica has come under scrutiny for possible links to the federal probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 president election and fallen into the crosshairs of special counsel Robert Mueller.

Cambridge Analytica filed papers to begin insolvency proceedings in the U.K. earlier this month. At the time, it blamed “unfairly negative media coverage” and said it had been “vilified” for actions it said were both legal and widely accepted as part of online advertising.

Cambridge Analytica has insisted that none of the Facebook data it acquired from an academic researcher was used in the Trump campaign. The company was able to amass the database quickly with the help of an app that purported to be a personality test. The app collected data on tens of millions of people and their Facebook friends, even those who did not download the app themselves.

Facebook has since tightened its privacy restrictions, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress in two days of hearings. Facebook also has suspended other companies for using similar tactics. One is Cubeyou, which makes personality quizzes. That company has said it did nothing wrong and is seeking reinstatement.

Cambridge Analytica suspended CEO Alexander Nix in March pending an investigation after Nix boasted of various services to an undercover reporter for Britain’s Channel 4 News. Channel 4 News broadcast clips that showed Nix saying his data-mining firm played a major role in securing Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential elections.

Acting CEO Alexander Tayler also stepped down in April and returned to his previous post as chief data officer.

On Thursday British lawmakers investigating the use of Facebook users’ data in political campaigns said that Nix accepted a summons to appear before Parliament’s media committee. He will appear on June 6.

Separately, it was announced that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will meet with leaders of the European Parliament in a closed-door meeting Tuesday about the data protection scandal that has engulfed his company.

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SANTA FE, Texas — At least nine students and one teacher were killed and 10 others are injured after a 17-year-old male student opened fire at a Houston-area high school Friday morning, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott confirmed.

The suspected shooter is in custody and a second person of interest has been detained, the local sheriff said. The suspected shooter — who attacked the school using a shotgun and 38 revolver — willingly surrendered to police, Abbott said.

Possible explosive devices were found on and off the high school campus, the school district and the local chief of police and Abbott confirmed on Friday. During a press conference, Santa Fe Police Chief Walter Braun warned residents to report any suspicious objects seen around the community.

At least 10 people were injured, Abbott said during a press conference, including a police officer, but the extent of the officer’s injuries is unknown, Braun said.

State police and FBI agents were surrounding a Santa Fe home believed to be the residence of the alleged shooter Friday afternoon, an NBC affiliate reported.

The incident began just around 7:45 a.m. and the school, Santa Fe High School, went on lockdown around 8 a.m. Friday, officials said.

It was the nation’s deadliest school shooting since the February attack in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and re-energized the gun-control movement after surviving teens launched a campaign for reform.

During a press conference Friday afternoon, Abbott said he would begin round table discussions with all stakeholders next week to begin to address the issue.

The school district confirmed an unspecified number of injuries but said it would not immediately release further details.

“We hope the worst is over, and I really can’t say any more about that because it would be pure speculation,” Assistant Principal Cris Richardson told reporters at the scene.

School officials said law enforcement officers were working to secure the building “and initiate all emergency management protocols to release and move students to another location.” Students from the high school were being transported to another location to reunite with their parents.

One student told Houston television station KTRK in a telephone interview that a gunman came into her first-period art class and started shooting. The student said she saw one girl with blood on her leg as the class evacuated the room.

“We thought it was a fire drill at first but really, the teacher said, ‘Start running,'” the student told the television station.

The student said she didn’t get a good look at the shooter because she was running away. She said students escaped through a door at the back of the classroom. Authorities have not yet confirmed that report.

Aerial footage from the scene showed students standing in a grassy field and three life-flight helicopters landing at the school in Santa Fe, a city of about 13,000 residents roughly 30 miles (48 kilometers) southeast of Houston.

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said it was responding to a shooting at the school.

There was a large law enforcement response to the same school in February when it was placed on lockdown after students and teachers said they heard “popping sounds.” Santa Fe police swept the campus but found no threat.

At the start of a prison reform event at the White House on Friday, President Donald Trump offered his condolences to the families of the victims and said school shootings have been “going on for too long in our country.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) spoke during a press conference Friday afternoon, saying “Texas has seen too much of this” gun violence, before saying “we need to be doing everything humanly possible to stop this from happening again.”

In the aftermath of the Feb. 14 attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, survivors pulled all-nighters, petitioned city councils and state lawmakers, and organized protests in a grass-roots movement.

Within weeks, state lawmakers adopted changes, including new weapons restrictions. The move cemented the gun-friendly state’s break with the National Rifle Association. The NRA fought back with a lawsuit.

In late March, the teens spearheaded one of the largest student protest marches since Vietnam in Washington and inspired hundreds of other marches from California to Japan.


Associated Press writers David Warren, Jamie Stengle, Nomaan Merchant and Diana Heidgerd in Dallas, and Will Weissert and Paul Weber in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.

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During a 45 minute interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, President Donald Trump’s outside lawyer Rudy Giuliani sounded off on topics ranging from the Trump-Russia probe to Martha Stewart’s indictment.

Three moments in the conversation were particularly notable:

1.) On FBI Director Chris Wray’s assertion that the Mueller probe is not a witch hunt: “He’s wrong,” Giuliani said. “I know more about the case than he does.”

Giuliani added that Wray should “disassociate himself from Comey’s misdeeds” and that Wray should only be involved in the investigation to “get the information” and “plug up the leaks in the FBI.”

On Wednesday, in an appearance before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Wray reiterated his stance that the probe is not a witch hunt, steadfastly sticking to a position in stark opposition to Trump’s.

2.) On the FBI informant who reportedly met with Trump campaign officials in the run-up to the 2016 election: “I don’t know for sure, nor does the President, that there really was [an informant],” Giuliani said. “We’re told that.”

This admission of uncertainty comes as Trump is doubling down on smoking out the informant, causing the FBI to cobble together protection measures for the source, should he or she be compromised by Trump’s efforts.

3.) On Trump’s old accusation that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower: “At one point, the President thought there was a wiretap,” said Giuliani. “We were never notified that he was on a tap,” he added, admitting that there has never been any proof of that claim.

This is the first time that anyone on Trump’s team has admitted that Trump’s often-repeated smear of Obama was specious.   

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President Donald Trump on Friday continued his constant tirade against the media, claiming news outlets got his reference to undocumented immigrants as “animals” “purposely wrong” and said the media was “begrudgingly forced to withdraw their stories.”

Trump also tried to clarify his comments on Thursday and said he was referring to members of the MS-13 gang, not all undocumented immigrants.

“When the MS-13 comes in, when the other gang members come into our country, I refer to them as animals. And guess what, I always will,” he told a reporter while he met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

But, as TPM has reported, Trump did not specify in his original remark during a “California Sanctuary State Roundtable” on Wednesday that he was talking about violent gang members.

While Trump has continuously attacked the media for years, he tends to pick and choose when he believes media reports. Since the New York Times reported Wednesday that a government informant met with members of his campaign, Trump and Republican allies have seized on the story as evidence that special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe is illegitimate.

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After a junior White House aide’s morbid comments about Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) were leaked to the press two weeks ago, the White House has reportedly replaced its daily communications meetings with something smaller and is mulling shrinking the size of the communications teams, according to reports from The New York Times and CNN.

According to several former and current West Wing aides who spoke with the Times, Trump has become increasing vexed with his communications team in recent months and has complained that he has “the biggest team, and yet gets ‘the worst press.'”

That frustration came to a head when it was leaked that White House special assistant Kelly Sadler, who works on the communications team, mocked McCain for “dying.” The divulgence prompted officials to reduce the number of staff who attend daily communications meetings and further sowed suspicion and distrust within the White House, according to the Times.

The reduction in staff at communications meetings was one of several precautionary measures taken to combat President Donald Trump’s feeling of being undermined by his staff, according to a senior official who spoke with the Times. White House staff are not allowed to bring their personal cellphones into the West Wing and hall monitors have begun scanning the hallways and offices for prohibited phones.

In one recent incident, officials clamped down on staffers after it was revealed that an aide was recording his conversations with Trump to impress friends, several people familiar with the incident told the Times.

According to two officials with knowledge of the matter who spoke with CNN, the plans to reduce the size of the communications team should happen in coming weeks. Staffers won’t be fired outright, but rather pushed out slowly or reassigned to other departments, CNN reported. The move was prompted by the Sadler leak and the objective is to reduce the number of leaks coming from the communications team and restructure the press shop.

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President Donald Trump is responding to continued criticism of his “animals” comment by scolding the press for taking his comment out of context.

On Wednesday, Trump himself did not specify that he was only talking about only gang members when he made the comment during a roundtable about sanctuary cities, saying “these aren’t people, these are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before.”

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President Donald Trump’s outside lawyer Rudy Giuliani has confirmed that prep sessions for a potential interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller are sprinkled throughout Trump’s summer schedule, according to a Thursday Politico report.

Giuliani reportedly specified that the briefings will happen over many weeks during off-hours at the White House or at Trump golf courses, after the North Korea summit on June 12.

“I think of it as the way we prepared him for debates,” Giuliani told Politico. “He never liked to be sitting down for long stretches. We’d do an hour here, two hours there. We’d end up doing 15, 16 hours of preparation, particularly for the first debate. But we’d do it here and there. We have to do it over the course of two or three weeks. Maybe at nights, maybe in the morning.”

Giuliani reportedly added that a couple of recent interactions with Mueller’s team has made the possibility that Trump sits down with Mueller more likely.

First, Trump’s legal team has recently been in contact with Mueller’s to negotiate the scope of the interview questions, and both parties have agreed that a stenographer and audio recorder would be present in the room. Giuliani indicated his willingness for the audio from the interview to be publicly released, but per Politico, that decision will not ultimately be made by him.

Second, Giuliani said that he has received assurances from an unnamed deputy that Mueller would not indict Trump. “I don’t see Mueller in a million years doing an indictment,” Giuliani told Politico. “It’s almost a given that the head of state is immune from criminal process. In banana republics they don’t do it. Certainly not in civilized countries with a rule of law.”

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As President Donald Trump and his Republican allies, both in the media and on Capitol Hill, swell their efforts to unveil the identity of an unnamed FBI source who reportedly met with Trump campaign officials as a government informant in 2016, the FBI is taking steps to protect that person if their identity is revealed, The Washington Post reported.

According to unnamed sources familiar with intelligence operations, in the past two weeks the FBI has worked to protect other investigations that person has worked on and is attempting to shield associates of the informant if his or her identity is revealed.

The FBI source is reportedly a U.S. citizen who has provided the FBI and the CIA with information in the past. The person has reportedly helped with the Russia investigation both before and after special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to probe the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the election, according to the Post.

Members of Trump’s inner circle and conservatives in the media have seized on reports of the informant — first reported by the New York Times on Wednesday — as evidence of a baseless claim that the former administration attempted to “spy” on Trump’s campaign. Trump tweeted on Thursday that if the reports turned out to be true, it would divulge a level of corruption “bigger than Watergate.”

Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani told the Post that the revelations make Mueller’s probe “completely illegitimate.” Other Trump allies claim unveiling details about the informant and his or her work for the FBI could help them get rid of Mueller or deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

“The prior government did it, but the present government, for some reason I can’t figure out, is covering it up,” he told the Post.

The reports follow weeks long efforts by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) to get information about the FBI source, as well as the basis and scope of the Russia probe. FBI officials have refused to divulge certain information in order to protect the person’s safety.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican leaders have discussed scheduling House votes on two immigration bills, two GOP lawmakers said Thursday, a move they hope would resolve an internal battle over an issue that threatens to worsen party divisions as the election season heats up.

Under the still-evolving idea, one bill would resemble legislation strongly backed by conservatives that would curb legal immigration and open the door to building President Donald Trump’s prized wall with Mexico. Conservatives have been demanding a vote on that measure, which GOP leaders say would be defeated.

The second bill would be more narrowly aimed at providing young “Dreamer” immigrants a chance to stay in the U.S. permanently, a goal of many moderate Republicans as well as Democrats. It would also contain provisions strengthening border security in an effort to win GOP votes, one of the lawmakers said.

The aim is to defuse a battle that has seen a group of GOP moderates try forcing House votes on four bills, over the objections of Republican leaders and conservative lawmakers.

The moderates’ plan would seem likeliest to produce legislation that would be backed by virtually all Democrats and a handful of Republicans but would have no chance of winning Trump’s signature. GOP leaders and conservatives have denounced the moderates’ effort and are trying to block it.

The lawmakers said details of the measures suggested by leadership remained in flux and a third, unspecified bill was possible. The Republicans, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe confidential conversations, said it could take a week or two to reach a final agreement.

Top Republicans have been trying for months to craft a bill that could clear a divided Congress, backed by most Republicans, and become law, an ambition that has so far eluded them. It was unclear what the leaders would do this time that would help achieve that aspiration.

Earlier Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said it would be “futile” for moderates to force immigration votes because Trump wouldn’t sign the legislation it would produce. He conceded that so far, leaders have been unable to craft an immigration bill that could pass the House without Democratic support.

“The question is, could we have a bill that has a vast majority of Republicans that some Democrats would support? What’s the combination?” he told reporters.

Top Republicans have been meeting with moderates and conservatives in recent days in hopes of finding middle ground.

Asked about the plan, a GOP leadership aide said no deal had yet been reached among Republicans.

The dispute has spilled over to a farm bill Republicans are trying to push through the House. Some conservatives have threatened to oppose it unless leaders allow a vote on the hard-line immigration legislation that conservatives favor.

The Senate rejected several bills earlier this year aimed at helping young immigrants protected from deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.

Hundreds of thousands of Dreamers who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children have been temporarily shielded by that program. Trump has ended DACA, which President Barack Obama instituted, but federal courts have forced the administration to continue providing its protections as a legal battle over it continues.

Moderate Republicans from districts with many Hispanic, suburban or agriculture-industry voters have fought to protect the Dreamers, while conservatives consider DACA a program that has provided amnesty to people in the U.S. illegally.

The moderates have leverage because of a rarely utilized procedure that can force votes if 218 lawmakers — a House majority — sign a petition. Twenty Republicans have signed so far, just shy of the 25 who would be needed if all 193 Democrats add their names, as expected.

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