Facebook suspends ‘disinformation network’ linked to Brazilian president

Facebook has suspended accounts they say have been using fake personas and other types of “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” to spread misinformation by employees of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and two of his sons (who are also politicians).

Reuters: Facebook suspends disinformation network tied to staff of Brazil’s Bolsonaro

Facebook on Wednesday suspended a network of social media accounts it said were used to spread divisive political messages online by employees of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and two of his sons.

The company said that despite efforts to disguise who was behind the activity, it had found links to the staff of two Brazilian lawmakers, as well as the president and his sons, Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro and Senator Flavio Bolsonaro.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, said the accounts were removed for using fake personas and other types of “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” which violated the company’s rules.

He said there was no evidence the politicians themselves had operated the accounts.

“What we can prove is that employees of those offices are engaged on our platforms in this type of behaviour,” he told Reuters ahead of the announcement on the company’s blog.

The allegations by Facebook add to a burgeoning political crisis in Brazil, where Bolsonaro’s sons and supporters have been accused of running a coordinated online campaign to smear the president’s opponents.

The accusations have spurred a congressional inquiry and a separate Supreme Court investigation into so-called “fake news attacks” on the country’s judiciary, which led to police raids in May on the homes and offices of Bolsonaro allies.

Bolsonaro, who is also under mounting criticism over his handling of the coronavirus outbreak, has said the court’s investigation is unconstitutional and risks establishing censorship in Brazil by policing what people can say online.

Sounds similar to Donald Trump.

Facebook said it has also suspended three other networks on Wednesday, including one it attributed to Roger Stone, a longtime friend and adviser of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Facebook has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks to better police how political groups use its platform. Hundreds of advertisers have joined a boycott aimed at forcing the company to block hate speech on its site, and multiple employees walked out last month over CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s decision not to challenge inflammatory posts Trump.

Gleicher said his team had identified and suspended more than 80 accounts on Facebook and its photo-sharing site, Instagram, as part of the Brazilian network. The accounts had amassed 1.8 million followers, he said, and some dated back to 2018.

Researchers at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, who spent a week analysing the activity identified by Facebook, said they had found five current and former political staffers who registered and operated the accounts.

Some of those accounts posed as fake Brazilians and news outlets to spread “hyper-partisan views” supporting Bolsonaro and attacking his critics, said researcher Luiza Bandeira. Their targets included opposition lawmakers, former ministers and members of Brazil’s Supreme Court.

More recently, the accounts also amplified Bolsonaro’s claims that the risks of the coronavirus pandemic are exaggerated. The disease has killed more than 66,000 people in Brazil and Bolsonaro himself tested positive this week.

“We have known for a long time that when people disagree with Bolsonaro they are targeted by this machine that uses online disinformation to mock and discredit them,” said Bandeira.

Also sounds similar to how Trump operates.

And from Al Jazeera: Bolsonaro taking dubious drug after testing positive for COVID-19

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has continued to tout an unproven anti-malarial drug as a treatment for the new coronavirus after testing positive for COVID-19.

After months of downplaying the virus’s severity, the 65-year-old far-right leader announced on Tuesday he had been diagnosed with the highly infectious respiratory disease but already felt better thanks to hydroxychloroquine.

Hours later, the former army captain shared a video of himself gulping down what he said was his third dose.

“I trust hydroxychloroquine,” Bolsonaro said, smiling. “And you?”

On Wednesday, he was again extolling the drug’s benefits and claimed his political opponents were rooting against it.

“To those who cheer against hydroxychloroquine, but have no alternatives, I regret to inform you that I am very well with its use and, with the grace of God, I will live for a long time,” Bolsonaro wrote on his Facebook page.

Natalia Pasternak, a research fellow at the Institute of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Sao Paulo, said Bolsonaro was setting a “bad example”.

That’s nothing new.

Meanwhile, Trump is complaining about court proceedings against him in the US.

He followed that with a string of tweet rants.

CNN: Trump loses battle on financial records, but Supreme Court ruling buys him time

The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked House Democrats from accessing President Donald Trump’s financial records, but ruled that the President is not immune from a subpoena for his financial documents from a New York prosecutor.

The cases were sent back to lower courts for further review, all but ensuring that Trump’s financial documents, which he has long sought to protect, will not be handed over before the November presidential election.

Chief Justice John Roberts penned the 7-2 opinion in the New York prosecutor case, and was joined by Trump’s two nominees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito filed dissenting opinions.

“(W)e cannot conclude that absolute immunity is necessary or appropriate under Article II or the Supremacy Clause. Our dissenting colleagues agree,” the chief wrote, noting that the court is unanimous that there is no absolute immunity.

He added: “We reaffirm that principle today and hold that the President is neither absolutely immune from state criminal subpoenas seeking his private papers nor entitled to a heightened standard of need.”

So no absolute immunity for the president, but Trump seems a bit unhappy about it:

We have a totally corrupt previous Administration, including a President and Vice President who spied on my campaign, AND GOT CAUGHT…and nothing happens to them. This crime was taking place even before my election, everyone knows it, and yet all are frozen stiff with fear…

No Republican Senate Judiciary response, NO “JUSTICE”, NO FBI, NO NOTHING. Major horror show REPORTS on Comey & McCabe, guilty as hell, nothing happens. Catch Obama & Biden cold, nothing. A 3 year, $45,000,000 Mueller HOAX, failed – investigated everything…

Won all against the Federal Government and the Democrats send everything to politically corrupt New York, which is falling apart with everyone leaving, to give it a second, third and fourth try. Now the Supreme Court gives a delay ruling that they would never have given for another President.

This is about PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT. We catch the other side SPYING on my campaign, the biggest political crime and scandal in U.S. history, and NOTHING HAPPENS. But despite this, I have done more than any President in history in first 3 1/2 years!

This is a now familiar ‘poor me but I’m still great’ spiel.

 

Fauci on Covid in US – “It could get very bad”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert at the US National Institutes of Health, has told the US Congress he is “quite concerned” about the surge in Covid cases in a number of states and new case numbers may more than double if it isn’t contained.

USA Today: Dr. Anthony Fauci tells Congress new coronavirus cases could reach 100,000 a day without changes

New coronavirus infections could increase to 100,000 a day if the nation doesn’t get its surge of cases under control, Dr. Anthony Fauci told Congress Tuesday.

“We’ve really got to do something about that and we need to deal with it quickly,” he testified. “It could get very bad.”

 said the surge has been caused both by some areas reopening too quickly and by people not following guidelines.

“We’ve got to get that message out that we are all in this together,” Fauci told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “And if we are going to contain this, we’ve got to contain it together.”

Fauci, said he’s “quite concerned” about what’s happening in many states.

Asked what’s going wrong, he said several states may have moved “too quickly” and skipped over some of the checkpoints laid out for a safe reopening.

But even in areas where state and local officials followed the federal guidelines, people acted as if all restrictions had been lifted, he said.

“What we saw were a lot of people who maybe felt that because they think they are invulnerable, and we know many young people are not because they’re getting serious disease, that therefore they’re getting infected has nothing at all to do with anyone else, when in fact it does,” Fauci said.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., opened the hearing on the state of the coronavirus pandemic by reupping his past recommendation that President Donald Trump wear a mask to reduce the political divide on that health recommendation.

But Trump thinks that people wear masks to”signal disapproval” of him, and Trump ‘eager’ for more rallies despite Fauci ‘plea’ that people avoid crowds

President Trump’s campaign said he wanted to hold more rallies, even as states wrestle with a surge in the number of new coronavirus cases.

“President Trump is eager to keep hitting the campaign trail and holding more rallies to speak directly to the American people,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said in a statement to the Washington Examiner.

“Even though many people, for a variety of reasons, do not listen to the, not suggestion, but plea to not congregate in crowds, some people are going to do that anyway,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a committee hearing last week.

“If you do, please wear a mask,” he said.

Trump has been seen wearing a mask publicly only once and said last week he believed some people wore masks to “signal disapproval” of him.

More from yesterday’s hearing:

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., opened the hearing on the state of the coronavirus pandemic by reupping his past recommendation that President Donald Trump wear a mask to reduce the political divide on that health recommendation.

“The president has plenty of admirers,” Alexander said. “They would follow his lead.”

Except Trump isn’t leading, he’s flailing and floundering, and polls suggest the number of admirers is rapidly shrinking see RCP average 55.4% unfavourable (-14.6%), and FiveThirtyEight 56.4% Disapprove (-16%).

Washington Sen. Patty Murray, top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee, tore into Trump in her opening comments.

“We’ve seen a leadership crisis raging in the White House as the president proves time after time he cares less about how this pandemic is impacting families and communities and more about how it makes him look,” she said.

His latest tweets don’t make him look very good:

Who is ‘they’? Those trying to protect Americans from Covid?

The White House has often presented a rosier picture of the pandemic than what health officials describe.

Asked Monday about Azar’s warning, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president is encouraged that there has been a decline in fatality rates and an increase in effective treatments.

“These things make us uniquely equipped to handle the increase in cases that we’ve seen,” McEnany said.

“I’m not satisfied with what’s going on,” Fauci said, “because we’re going in the wrong direction.”

Case numbers are certainly surging in the wrong direction in the US. It’s too soon to tell whether the death rate follows suit, but it is bad enough as it is despite dropping from peaking in April-May.

US Supreme Court rules against tough abortion restrictions

NBC News: Supreme Court, in 5-4 ruling, strikes down restrictive Louisiana abortion law

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that Louisiana’s tough restriction on abortions violates the Constitution, a surprising victory for abortion rights advocates from an increasingly conservative court.

The 5-4 decision, in which Chief Justice John Roberts joined with the court’s four more liberal justices, struck down a law passed by the Louisiana Legislature in 2014 that required any doctor offering abortion services to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. Its enforcement had been blocked by a protracted legal battle.

Two Louisiana doctors and a medical clinic sued to get the law overturned. They said it would leave only one doctor at a single clinic to provide services for nearly 10,000 women who seek abortions in the state each year.

The challengers said the requirement was identical to a Texas law the Supreme Court struck down in 2016. With the vote of then-Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court ruled that Texas imposed an obstacle on women seeking access to abortion services without providing any medical benefits. Kennedy was succeeded by the more conservative Brett Kavanaugh, appointed by President Donald Trump, who was among the four dissenters Monday.

Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote the Texas decision, also wrote Monday’s ruling. The law poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking an abortion, offers no significant health benefits, “and therefore imposes an undue burden on a woman’s constitutional right to choose to have an abortion.”

Roberts said he thought the court was wrong to strike down the Texas law, but he voted with the majority because that was the binding precedent. “The Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law, for the same reasons. Therefore Louisiana’s law cannot stand under our precedents.”

So it isn’t just a matter of appointing conservative judges, they (some of them) are still bound by precedents.

What the Supreme Court’s Abortion Decision Means

Trump crumbling under stress

The United States is under severe health and economic stress. President Donald Trump also looks to be under stress, attacking and dividing as badly as he ever has (which is detrimental to the stresses the country is under). But his tweeting and flailing looks unlikely to change. Trump needs to start to take notice of advice, not something he has been good at.

MSN: Trump Gets Trumpier Under Stress

If Donald Trump loses reelection, it will be because the country changed and he did not. Over the past several months, the United States has witnessed a once-in-a-century pandemic, the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, and some of the largest protests since the 1960s. Public opinion has swung hard in favor of scientific expertise, a functioning welfare state, and greater racial justice. Yet Donald Trump has responded by becoming an even more cartoonish version of himself.

On Tuesday in The New York Times, Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin puzzled over Trump’s refusal to adapt to the moment. In the face of polling showing that a majority of “somewhat conservative” voters approve of the Black Lives Matter movement, the two Times journalists wrote, Trump has become even more “inflammatory on race.” They added, “No matter how much his advisers and lawmakers nudge him to project unity and bigness, he keeps bingeing on the political equivalent of comfort food.” In trying to explain Trump’s behavior, Haberman and Martin rhetorically throw up their hands. “As political strategy goes,” they write, “it’s confounding.”

But Trump became president by confounding normal political strategy, and has continued to confound.

As political strategy, perhaps, but not as human psychology. Everything that the public knows about Trump suggests that the prospect of being humiliated by events outside his control is causing him enormous stress. And everything that scientists know about stress suggests that it leads people to fall back into old habits. Stress makes it hard for people to change, even when they need to most.

A huge problem for the US is that despite the reality of the Covid pandemic Trump has been promoting a return to life as normal and business as normal for months. Remember his claim of a beautiful Easter Sunday nearly three months ago? He insisted on having a political rally last weekend and that was a bit of a flop politically, and also helped spread Covid some more.

To actually seriously address the Covid problems facing his country Trump would have to admit he adulating himself.

When a country really needs a leader to step up and lead from the front, Trump is crumbling. That’s sad and bad for the US, but that was a risk taken by choosing a divisive non-political non-leader for president.

Fox News: Pence postpones Florida, Arizona campaign events amid increase in coronavirus cases there

Vice President Mike Pence has postponed his “Faith in America” tour events in Florida and Arizona amid rapidly rising coronavirus cases in both states.

“Vice President Pence will no longer participate in campaign events in Arizona and Florida this week,” a spokesman close to Pence told Fox News Saturday. “This is related to coronavirus numbers increasing in those states.”

Pence will still be traveling to Florida, Arizona and Texas next week Fox News confirmed, to meet with governors and evaluate the situation on the ground in those states seeing spikes in coronavirus cases.

Oh wow, he is going to put the health of the country ahead of his faith campaign.

Fox News: Trump in trouble? Poll numbers have some conservatives nervous

The release of the surveys – from Fox News, New York Times/Siena College, NPR/PBS/Marist, Quinnipiac University, and Marquette Law School – appear to spell trouble right now for the president as he fights for another four years in the White House.

But it’s not just in the expected battleground states where Trump is losing ground. Fox News polls released Thursday show Biden with a slight edge in Texas and Georgia, two once reliably red states that were not considered up for grabs at the beginning of the 2020 presidential cycle.

An opinion piece posted Thursday evening by the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board stressed that “President Trump may soon need a new nickname for ‘Sleepy Joe’ Biden. How does President-elect sound? On present trend that’s exactly what Mr. Biden will be on Nov. 4, as Mr. Trump heads for what could be an historic repudiation that would take the Republican Senate down with him.”

The conservative editorial board pointed to the president’s approval rating – which currently stands at 42.1 percent according to a Real Clear Politics average of the latest polls – and said that Trump is nearing what they called “George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter territory.” The elder Bush and Carter are the last two presidents who failed to win reelection.

Senior Fox News political analyst and former longtime D.C. anchor Brit Hume – tweeting a link to the Journal’s editorial piece – called it an “Unflinching analysis of Trump’s reelection prospects: He’s in trouble, headed for defeat unless he changes course.”

But Trump seems unable to change course.

Sure, polls had difficulties figuring the Trump phenomenon out in 2016. But things are much different this year. The public is seeing how inept and divisive Trump is as president. And Covid.

 

On “‘Slow the testing down” Trump says “I don’t kid”

Trumps remarks about testing fewer people to get fewer Covid cases at his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma were excused as ‘joking’ by the White House and loyal repeaters, but Trump now says “I don’t kid”.

In his speech he said:

“When you do testing to that extent you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find cases. So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.’ They test and they test. We got tests for people who don’t know what’s going on.”

CBS News: Trump says he wasn’t joking about testing slowdown: “I don’t kid”

President Trump doubled down on his recent comments about ordering his administration to slow down coronavirus testing, contradicting several White House officials who defended his remarks by claiming they were made in jest.

A White House official argued to CBS News after the rally that Mr. Trump’s comments were “in jest,” and Vice President Mike Pence told the nation’s governors in a call Monday that the president was making a “passing observation.” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said Sunday that Mr. Trump’s remarks were “tongue-in-cheek.” Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf told “Face the Nation” he knew of no directive from the president to slow down testing.

But when asked by CBS News’ Weijia Jiang on Tuesday if he was kidding when he made those remarks, Mr. Trump replied, “I don’t kid.”

“One way, it shows you have cases, and in another way you find out where the cases are and you do a good job,” the president said.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters Tuesday afternoon that Mr. Trump was making a “serious point.”

“He was making was a serious point, and that’s why he said ‘I don’t kid.’ He was making a serious point, but he was using sarcasm to do that at the rally,” McEnany said. “But the serious point he was making is that when you test more people you identify more cases. Cases should not be indicative of the progress we’ve made.”

So he was kidding but he wasn’t until he says he is or he isn’t.

Blaming the ‘Fake News’ is getting a bit repetitive and futile as he makes a fool of himself via Twitter and at his rallies.

And he has had another tweet slapped with a violation message:

This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about abusive behavior. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible. Learn more
The tweet:

Threatening protesters with more violence shows that Trump hasn’t learnt from the last embarrassment in Washington.

Trump versus judges, courts and attorneys

If it hadn’t been clear in the past it is becoming more obvious now – Donald Trump thinks that judges and courts should be acting in his interests regardless of the laws. And it seems that his Attorney General William Barr is on trump’s side rather than the side of the law.

Two Supreme Court jugdments have gone against Trump in the last week, and his reaction is to criticise the judges and promote new ‘conservative’ judges – he really means judges who will ignore the law and do what he wants.

And Barr is also stepping in, trying to dump a New York US Attorney who has investigated associates of Trump.

Politico:  After week of Supreme Court defeats, Trump says he’ll release new shortlist of potential justices

President Donald Trump on Thursday pledged to unveil a new list of potential Supreme Court nominees ahead of November’s general election, reprising a campaign tactic that helped him shore up conservative support during his 2016 White House run.

The announcement came hours after the high court dealt the president his second major defeat this week, rejecting his administration’s attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program’s protections for roughly 650,000 immigrants — most of whom entered the U.S. illegally as children more than a decade ago.

Since assuming office, Trump has routinely touted his presidency’s rapid rate of judicial confirmations — including the hard-won installations of Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the high court — to energize his base in public remarks and at political rallies.

But the fruits of those efforts to remake the federal judiciary were not evident earlier this week, after Gorsuch and Chief Justice John Roberts sided Monday with the Supreme Court’s Democratic appointees in a landmark anti-discrimination case.

What he means is vote for him to get judges who will favour Trump over the laws of the US.

Do you get the impression that Trump doesn’t like it when the Supreme Court doesn’t do whatever he wants?

Yeah, right. Trump has always acted in what he thinks are his own best interests.

And he seems to have an ally in Attorney General Barr. Fox News: Trump nominates SEC Chairman Jay Clayton to replace Geoffrey Berman as US attorney in New York

President Trump nominated the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Jay Clayton, to replace Geoffrey Berman as the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, late Friday night in what appears to be political shakeup.

It is sometimes hard to separate politics and justice in the US, especially with Trump in charge.

“For the past three years, Jay has been an extraordinarily successful SEC Chairman, overseeing efforts to modernize regulation of the capital markets, protect Main Street investors, enhance American competitiveness, and address challenges ranging from cybersecurity issues to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Attorney General William Barr said in a statement.

Shortly after the announcement by the Department of Justice, ABC News reported via Twitter that Berman was fired after declining other positions within the department.

Berman responded:

He has no choice but to ‘step down’ if dumped. But this could be a contentious dumping.

Jerry Nadler heads the House Judiciary Committtee.

Lindsey Graham, Republican Chair of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, is also not jumping in on trump’s behalf.

Fox News: Graham says he won’t advance Trump nominee for SDNY prosecutor without Schumer, Gillibrand consent

Sen. Lindsey Graham said Saturday he will not take up President Trump’s nomination for a new U.S. attorney for Manhattan unless New York’s Democratic senators sign off.

Graham, a Republican from South Carolina who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he will honor the “blue slip” tradition and require the consent of home state senators to proceed — in this case, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Graham’s statement signals an uphill climb for Trump to get a new Senate-confirmed federal prosecutor in one of the nation’s most high-profile districts.

Graham’s committee is the first stop for Senate confirmation of the nominee.

Graham said in a statement:

“According to Attorney General Barr, the Trump Administration intends to nominate Mr. Jay Clayton to be U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, I have not been contacted by the Administration in this regard. However, I know Mr. Clayton and believe him to be a fine man and accomplished lawyer.”

“As to processing U.S. Attorney nominations, it has always been the policy of the Judiciary Committee to receive blue slips from the home state senators before proceeding to the nomination. As chairman, I have honored that policy and will continue to do so.”

A statement from Gillibrand:

“I will not be complicit in helping President Trump and Attorney General Barr fire a U.S. attorney who is reportedly investigating corruption in this administration. Jay Clayton should withdraw his name from consideration immediately and remove himself from this sham. President Trump cannot be allowed to desecrate our nominations process further.”

Maybe the political and judicial systems are a bit stronger at standing up to Trump than he would like.


Meanwhile conflicting claims about the Bolton book.

Trump claims that Bolton’s book is fake and lies, but that he is publishing classified information.  But:

More from Fox News:  Judge allows Bolton book to be released, but says he ‘gambled’ with national security

A federal judge on Saturday allowed the forthcoming publication of John Bolton’s memoir to go ahead next week despite concerns it contains classified information – but tore into the former national security adviser for having “gambled” with national security.

“Defendant Bolton has gambled with the national security of the United States. He has exposed his country to harm and himself to civil (and potentially criminal) liability,” Judge Royce Lamberth said in a ruling.  “But these facts do not control the motion before the Court. The government has failed to establish that an injunction will prevent irreparable harm.”

Another failed court action.

But Bolton’s team has claimed that the administration is just trying to suppress embarrassing information about President Trump’s conduct.

“We are grateful that the Court  has vindicated the strong First Amendment protections against censorship and prior restraint of publication,” Adam Rothberg, Simon & Schuster’s senior vice president of corporate communications, said in a statement. “We are very pleased that the public will now have the opportunity to read Ambassador Bolton’s account of his time as National Security Advisor.”

It’s hard to see anything exposing the US to harm more than Trump.

But Trump sees this failure as a win.

 

Trump tries to block Bolton book as bits revealed

Donald Trump has complained about what he calls threats to his free speech on social media to the extent of signing an executive order, but that has been seen as a threat to free speech itself – Donald Trump’s attacks on social media threaten the free speech rights of all Americans:

…his feud with Twitter is another example of the ways in which the president has routinely distorted the principles of the First Amendment in order to undermine the very freedoms he claims to be championing – as well as American democracy more broadly.

Trump is also not keen on free speech for his former national security adviser John Bolton, who is due to launch a book next week about his White House experiences. Trump obviously doesn’t think he will get much praise in the book.

Trump administration seeks emergency order to block Bolton’s memoir

The Trump administration has made an aggressive last-ditch attempt to block the release of John Bolton’s bombshell book, in which the former national security adviser writes that the US president offered favors to dictators and asked China to help him with his 2020 re-election.

On Wednesday night, the justice department sought an emergency order from a judge to block Bolton’s memoir, after explosive excerpts were printed by various news organizations.

This latest move comes after the administration filed a civil suit against Bolton on Tuesday. The emergency temporary restraining order filed Wednesday, which seeks to stop the release of his book on 23 June, is unlikely to succeed, legal experts said, especially since copies had already been distributed to booksellers and journalists.

In a statement, Bolton’s publisher Simon & Schuster called the restraining order “a frivolous, politically motivated exercise in futility. Hundreds of thousands of copies have already been distributed around the country and the world. The injunction as requested by the government would accomplish nothing.’’

Details from the book have already been published – John Bolton’s bombshell Trump book: eight of its most stunning claims

Donald Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton has made a series of explosive claims about the US president in his new book The Room Where It Happened, according to numerous news reports and an excerpt.

1. Trump pleaded with China to help win the 2020 election

According to the excerpt of Bolton’s book published by the Wall Street Journal, Trump asked China to use its economic power to help him win a second election.

In one instance, Trump and President Xi Jinping were discussing hostility to China in the US. “Trump then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming US presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability and pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win,” Bolton writes.

“He stressed the importance of farmers and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome. I would print Trump’s exact words, but the government’s prepublication review process has decided otherwise.”

2. Trump suggested he was open to serving more than two terms

…published in the Wall Street Journal, Trump also seems to support Xi’s idea of eliminating presidential term limits. “Xi said he wanted to work with Trump for six more years, and Trump replied that people were saying that the two-term constitutional limit on presidents should be repealed for him. Xi said the US had too many elections, because he didn’t want to switch away from Trump, who nodded approvingly.”

The first does seem like a big deal, the second is quite ho-hum.

3. Trump offered favors to dictators

One incident published in the Washington Post includes a 2018 discussion with the Turkish president, Recep Erdoğan. Bolton says Erdoğan gave Trump a memo claiming that a Turkish firm under investigation in the US was innocent. “Trump then told Erdoğan he would take care of things, explaining that the southern district prosecutors were not his people, but were Obama people, a problem that would be fixed when they were replaced by his people.”

4. Trump praised Xi for China’s internment camps

According to Bolton, Trump was also approving when Xi defended China’s internment of Uighur Muslims in detention camps. “According to our interpreter,” Bolton writes, “Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do.”

5. Trump defended Saudi Arabia to distract from a story about Ivanka

Trump made headlines in November 2018 when he released a bizarre statement defending the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. It included lines such as “The world is a very dangerous place!” and “maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”

According to Bolton’s book, making headlines was the point. A story about his daughter Ivanka using her personal email for government business was also in the news at the time. After waging war on Hilary Clinton during the 2016 campaign for doing the same thing, Trump need a distraction.

“This will divert from Ivanka,” Trump reportedly said. “If I read the statement in person, that will take over the Ivanka thing.”

Again not a great surprise, one of Trump’s primary strategies seems to be media/social media diversions.

6. Trump’s top staff mocked him behind his back

From what has been reported, it sounds like Bolton’s book provides one of the clearest insights into the despair of Trump’s top officials behind the scenes.

In one example given by the New York Times, Bolton claims he received a note from the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, after Trump’s 2018 meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, simply saying, “He is so full of shit.” On top of this, Pompeo also allegedly said a month later that Trump’s diplomatic efforts with North Korea had “zero probability of success”.

Criticism and lack of respect has already been revealed, this is hardly a revelation. “He is so full of shit” won’t shock many people who seem Trump just like that. Even supporters and defenders of grump agree that he is full of shit (‘but gets things done’, which to an extent is correct).

7. Trump thought Finland was part of Russia

Bolton’s book reportedly details some giant holes in Trump’s knowledge. In one instance, Bolton says Trump didn’t seem to know basic knowledge about the UK, asking its former prime minister Theresa May: “Oh, are you a nuclear power?”. On top of this, he also alleges that Trump once asked if Finland was part of Russia, and repeatedly mixed up the current and former presidents of Afghanistan.

Trump’s ignorance of international basics is also not a surprise.

8. Trump thought it would be ‘cool’ to invade Venezuela

According to the Washington Post, Bolton claims Trump said invading Venezuela would be “cool”, and that the country was “really part of the United States”.

More unsurprising ignorance plus a bit of normal idle bluster.

There is not much here that will change many minds about Trump’s behaviour and competence. Of these only the China could be a problem.

New York Times: China Slams Trump Over Uighur Law Amid Bolton Accusations

China lashed out at the United States on Thursday after President Trump signed into law a bill that would allow him to impose sanctions on Chinese officials involved in the mass incarceration of more than one million Uighurs and members of other largely Muslim minorities in the western region of Xinjiang.

The rebuke came after China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, held an unusual meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Hawaii that underscored the depth of discord between the two countries.

China’s incarceration of members of minority groups in Xinjiang has become another increasingly contentious, if complicated, issue between the two countries. New accusations by John Bolton, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, have muddied the issue even further.

New York Times Five takeaways from John Bolton’s book (paywall)

Expect plenty of attempted diversion from Trump when the book hits the bookshelves. He is already doing his usual attacking:

And retweeting this:

Dumping on the messenger is as unsurprising as the book revelations. It’s hard to be shocked by trump any more, but his attacks also look like same old.

Bolton has been criticised for staying silent through the impeachment trial of Trump, holding back information until his book launch.

Trump attempted to use military aid to pressure Ukraine on political investigations, Bolton says

For months, as the nation was convulsed by the impeachment of President Donald Trump, his critics held out hope that the congressional proceedings would unearth a high-level witness with first-person testimony about Trump’s efforts to use his office to try to pressure Ukraine to launch investigations that could bolster him politically.

Now, more than four months after Trump was acquitted by a Republican-led Senate, former Trump national security adviser John Bolton has emerged with just such an account in his new book, “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir.”

In it, Bolton asserts that the delay in releasing $400 million in security assistance for Ukraine last summer was an attempt by the president to get the foreign country to provide damaging material about former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and former vice president Joe Biden.

The former national security adviser cites personal conversations in which he describes a quid pro quo that Trump long denied, including an August meeting in which Bolton alleges that Trump made the bargain explicit.

“He said he wasn’t in favor of sending them anything until all Russia-investigation material related to Clinton and Biden had been turned over,” Bolton writes.

Bolton seems as self-interested as Trump.

Hydroxychloroquine no longer authorised by FDA to treat Covid-19

Hydroxychloroquine has received a lot of attention as a possible treatment for Covid-19, particularly due to Donald Trump promoting it and using it.

But the US Food and Drug Administration has revoked approval for its use for Covid.

Financial Times: US regulator ends emergency use of hydroxychloroquine for virus

The US regulator has revoked its emergency approval for hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug that was lauded by US president Donald Trump and has been used to treat Covid-19 patients across the world.

Shortly after the pandemic engulfed the US, Mr Trump hailed hydroxychloroquine as a “game-changer” and played down its risks, saying at a press conference: “What do you have to lose?”

Later, he said he had taken the drug himself, trying it as a potential preventive measure to stop him developing Covid-19 after several White House officials had contracted the infection.

The Food and Drug Administration said new data from trials showed the drug did not improve the condition of patients or have an antiviral effect, so the benefits did not outweigh the risks.

Denise Hinton, chief scientist of the FDA, said that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, a similar drug, were no longer authorised to treat Covid-19 patients, as of Monday.

“The FDA always underpins its decision-making with the most trustworthy, high-quality, up-to-date evidence available. We will continue to examine all of the emergency use authorizations the FDA has issued and make changes, as appropriate, based on emerging evidence,” she said in a statement.

In a letter to the director of medical countermeasures at another branch of the health department, she wrote that earlier observations that it decreased the shedding of the virus had not been consistently replicated — and recent data from a randomised clinical trial showed no difference between hydroxychloroquine and the “standard of care”: drugs usually used to treat hospitalised patients, such as those administered in intensive care.

It always seemed a long shot that hydroxychloroquine may be some sort of miracle treatment or cure. It may still be found to have some benefits, but I think that rushing into using unproven drug treatments is fairly silly and risky. Even drugs that work well usually have adverse side effects.

Meanwhile the worldwide number of Covid cases continues to increase, and while the death rate seems to have slowed total official deaths are now at 438,000 and likely to be under-reported.

And in the US relaxing lockdowns is still a contentious issue as case numbers surge in some states. See:

And while Trump Campaign Touts 1 Million Ticket Requests for Tulsa Rally the number of cases is also increasing there – see https://coronavirus.health.ok.gov/

Anti and anti-anti-racism protests in London, Paris

While anti-racism protesters clashed with French police in Paris it was far right activists causing problems in London.

BBC – French police clash with anti-racism activists in Paris

French police have clashed with activists protesting in Paris against racism and alleged police brutality.

About 15,000 anti-racism protesters gathered on the Place de la République in central Paris early on Saturday afternoon.

They chanted slogans such as “No justice, no peace”. Some climbed on the the statue of Marianne, the symbol of the French Republic.

Police used tear gas against stone-throwing protesters who tried to hold a march that was banned.

The rally is part is a worldwide movement inspired by America’s Black Lives Matter protests.

It was organised under the banner “Justice for Adama”, after Adama Traoré, a young black man who died in French police custody in 2016.

BBC – London protests: Demonstrators clash with police

Groups including some far-right activists congregated in the capital, claiming they were protecting statues from anti-racism activists.

Some anti-racism protests also took place in London and across the UK.

Various groups from around the country, including some far-right activists, said they had come to London to protect symbols of British history.

Hundreds of mostly white men gathered around the Cenotaph war memorial in Whitehall and the boarded-up statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square.

There were a number of clashes with police in riot gear as crowds – chanting “England” and raising their arms – surged towards lines of officers.

CNN: Europeans forced to re-examine their colonial histories

The police killing of George Floyd in the US last month has galvanized a global anti-racism movement. Now it is forcing Europeans to re-examine their colonial histories and even question their national identities.
Few Europeans will explicitly defend their country’s historical use of slavery, yet challenging the celebration of the very leaders and merchants who profited from slavery and the horrors of colonialism is proving a less comfortable conversation.

And in the US protests continue.

Fox News:  Seattle police chief and mayor at loggerheads over how to handle zone seized by demonstrators

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and police chief Carmen Best are at odds over the city’s handling of the self-declared autonomous zone set up by protesters spanning several blocks surrounding a police precinct.

Best has accused the mayor of shirking her responsibilities as an elected official and allowing protesters to oust police officers from a precinct located inside the 6-block radius now deemed a “cop free zone.”

Demonstraters inside the perimeter of the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” – or “CHAZ” – have battened down for almost a week decrying police brutality after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and are demanding the city abolish the Seattle Police Department.

CNN: These are the confederate statues coming down

The death of George Floyd is leading to the removal — by protesters in some cases and city leaders in others — of contentious statues that have riled some residents for decades, if not longer.

Controversial monuments, especially Confederate monuments, have been the subject of nationwide debate, particularly since Dylann Roof killed nine African Americans in a Charleston, South Carolina, church in 2015 in an effort to “start a race war.”
And it flared up again after white nationalists marched in 2017 to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a counterprotester was killed amid violent clashes between demonstrators.
Some say they mark history and honor heritage. Others argue they are racist symbols of America’s dark legacy of slavery. While some cities have already made efforts to remove them, others have passed laws to protect them.

It looks like an issue that is going to linger.

Meanwhile Donald Trump has backed off what was seen as provocative rally: Trump Reschedules Rally After Criticism of Juneteenth Overlap

The rally would have fallen on Juneteenth, a day that memorializes the end of slavery. The site of the rally, Tulsa, was home to a notorious instance of racial violence in which hundreds of black people were massacred 99 years ago.

“Tulsa was the site of the worst racist violence in American history. The president’s speech there on Juneteenth is a message to every Black American: more of the same,” Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) tweeted.

Trump and his allies defended the timing of the rally. The president told Fox News the date was not intentional.

“Think about it as a celebration. They’re always a celebration,” Trump said. “In the history of politics, I think I can say there’s never been any group or any person that’s had rallies like I do.”

But:

The Federalist: Trump Addresses Protests And Riots: ‘Toughness Sometimes Is The Most Compassionate’

“Toughness sometimes is the most compassionate,” Trump said when asked if he intends to be both a law and order leader and a consoler. “When you look at the damage, and the travesties, and the small businesses, and the death. When you act soft and weak you end up not being compassionate.”

Trump and compassion usually appear to be as divided as the US is divided over race and politics.

Trump worse than usual versus Martin Gugino

One thing that Donald Trump manages to keep doing is defy claims that nothing he can do can shock any more.

The US President has handled the Covid-19 pandemic poorly, and he has been even worse dealing with the death of George Floyd and the resulting demonstrations and riots.

But he has sunk to a new conspiracy theory blame diverting low, via Twitter of course.

That’s just nuts, even by Trump’s standards.

It was referring to this widely shown pushing of a protester by police:

Even Fox are critical: Trump takes heat for suggesting man shoved by Buffalo police may be ‘ANTIFA provocateur’

President Trump on Tuesday questioned the motives of the elderly protester who was shoved by Buffalo police officers last week and hospitalized after he hit his head in the resulting fall — drawing severe backlash from both sides of the aisle.

Officers Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski pleaded not guilty to second-degree assault after they were caught on camera shoving Martin Gugino, who is 75, to the ground during protests in the city over the death of George Floyd. The officers have been suspended without pay and an internal affairs investigation was launched into the men. District Attorney John Flynn said the officers “crossed a line.”

The backlash to Trump’s tweet was swift, including from Gugino’s lawyer, Kelly Zarcone, who slammed the president in a statement to Fox News.

“Martin is out of ICU but still hospitalized and truly needs to rest,” she said. “Martin has always been a PEACEFUL protestor because he cares about today’s society. He is also a typical Western New Yorker who loves his family. No one from law enforcement has even suggested anything otherwise so we are at a loss to understand why the President of the United States would make such dark, dangerous, and untrue accusations against him.”

Media personalities on the left and right also ripped Trump’s post.

“My God this is a bad tweet,” Chuck Ross of the Daily Caller posted. “There’s no evidence to support this and the guy looked like he fell as hard as he was pushed.”

Conservative radio host Erick Erickson simply tweeted “[p]lease stop.” Kassy Dillon, a former personality at the right-leaning Daily Wire and founder of Lone Conservative, a group for conservative college students, said, “I’m just going to go back to bed.”

CNN White House correspondent John Harwood chimed in, saying that Trump is “repeating OANN kookery presented by a person who has also worked for Kremlin propaganda outlet, is disconnected from reality, humanity and common sense.”

The OANN report Trump apparently was citing was based on a post from the site Conservative Treehouse saying that Gugino was an activist, which is true. But the report does not actually provide evidence that Gugino is associated with Antifa. Further, it claims, without evidence, that Gugino was attempting to use a “police tracker” on his phone to scan police communications and apparently black them out.

Zarcone said Tuesday that Gugino had his cell phone in his hand in the video, and that “[t]here was no black out equipment or attempt or anything like that.”

After an initial improvement in approval ratings after Covid struck Trump is tanking in polls.

https://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/other/president_trump_job_approval-6179.html

https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/trump-approval-ratings/