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Citing No Evidence, Trump Claims Google Search Results Are ‘Rigged’ Against Him, Repeats Debunked Claim First Made In Russian State Media

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WASHINGTON, August 28, 2018 — President Donald Trump on Tuesday accused Google’s search engine of suppressing conservative news stories and other “fair” news stories about him, repeating a discredited claim first made in a debunked Russian propaganda article.

“Google search results for “Trump News” shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake New Media. In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD. Fake CNN is prominent. Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out. Illegal?” the president wrote.

A short time later, he added: “96% of results on “Trump News” are from National Left-Wing Media, very dangerous. Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good. They are controlling what we can & cannot see. This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!”

Google reacts to Trump statement

In a statement on Tuesday, a Google spokesperson flatly denied the president’s claims, citing the company’s goal of making sure users “receive the most relevant answers” to their queries “in a matter of seconds.”

“Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology. Every year, we issue hundreds of improvements to our algorithms to ensure they surface high-quality content in response to users’ queries. We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.”

Frequent criticism of big tech and social media giants

Mr. Trump and other Republicans have frequently accused Google, Facebook, Twitter and other large technology companies of deliberately acting to censor or suppress content targeted at conservatives. Such accusations are beginning to become more common in conservative media.

In July, he accused Twitter of “shadow-banning” prominent conservatives. After Facebook and other platforms banned conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, Trump tweeted that “Social Media is totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices.”

Republican members of Congress have also frequently complained about so-called “censorship” by social media companies, usually in the form of banning or suspending users for content that violates their terms of service.

Diamond and Silk weigh in on alleged censorship on Facebook

When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified about Russian interference in the 2016 election before the House and Senate earlier this year, many Republicans in both chambers used the opportunity to question him about claims by Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, YouTube personalities better known as Diamond and Silk.

Hardaway and Richardson claimed Facebook employees had censored their Facebook page for being “unsafe to the community,” but the duo has never produced any documentary evidence to support that claim.

Another frequent target for these attacks has been Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who is expected to face similar accusations to Zuckerberg when he appears before Congress next month.

Trump accused Google of favoring Clinton during the 2016 campaign

Tuesday’s twitter eruption was not the first time Trump has accused Google of manipulating search results to his detriment. At a September 2016 campaign rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin, he alleged that Google’s search results were biased in favor of Hillary Clinton.

Graphic for the discredited Sputnik story accusing Google of manipulating searches against Trump, which he first cited in the closing months of the 2016 campaign.

Graphic for the discredited Sputnik story accusing Google of manipulating searches against Trump, which he first cited in the closing months of the 2016 campaign.

Trump told rally attendees that “Google search engine was suppressing the bad news about Hillary Clinton.”

That claim appears to be based on a widely-debunked story published by Sputnik, a Russian state-owned media outlet. Although the Russian government says Sputnik is no different from Voice of America, Al Jazeera or other state-owned news organizations, American intelligence officials found the outlet played a major role in Russia’s campaign to influence the 2016 election.

The story cited a video which accused Google of manipulating its autocomplete function to suggest positive search queries about Mrs. Clinton and negative ones about Mr. Trump. However, the choices presented in Google’s auto-complete function are based on the most popular searches made by users and not on any input from the company.

Trump administration apparently considering action against Google

Regardless of whether Trump’s claims of censorship are without merit, it appears he has ordered action to be taken against Google. National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told reporters that the Trump administration is looking into the search giant.

“We’ll let you know, we’re taking a look at it,” Kudlow said Tuesday while speaking near the White House’s North Lawn.

“We’re just going to do some investigation and analysis,” he added later when asked to clarify what “taking a look at it” meant.

Asked whether he was aware that Trump’s accusations appeared to be rooted in a discredited Russian propaganda story, Kudlow said that particular issue “is above [his] pay grade.”

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Andrew Feinberg is the Managing Editor and lead Washington Correspondent for Breakfast Media, and covers the White House, Capitol Hill, courts and regulatory agencies for BeltwayBreakfast and BroadbandBreakfast.com. He has written about policy and politics in the nation's capital since 2007.

Tech

Trump Threatens Google, Twitter and Facebook — Says Tech Companies ‘Treading On Very, Very Troubled Territory And They Have To Be Careful’

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WASHINGTON, August 28, 2018 — President Donald Trump on Tuesday directly threatened three of the largest technology and social media companies in the United States for allegedly working to censor conservatives despite a lack of verifiable evidence that any such censorship is taking place.

“I think Google is really taking advantage of a lot of people, and I think that’s a very serious thing and a very serious charge. I think what Google and others are doing, if you look at what’s going on at Twitter, what’s going on on Facebook, they better be careful because you can’t do that to people, you can’t do it,” Trump said during an Oval Office meeting with FIFA President Gianni Infantino.

“I think that Google and Twitter and Facebook are really treading on very very troubled territory and they have to be careful, it’s not fair to large portions of the population,” he added, claiming “we have literally thousands of complaints coming in” on the subject.

Trump’s remarks come less than a day after he took to Twitter to accuse Google of “rigging” search results to suppress positive news stories about him.

Google search results for “Trump News” shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake New Media. In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD. Fake CNN is prominent. Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out. Illegal?” the president wrote.

A short time later, he added: “96% of results on “Trump News” are from National Left-Wing Media, very dangerous. Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good. They are controlling what we can & cannot see. This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!”

Shortly after the president’s tweets were posted, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told reporters that the Trump administration is “looking into” Google’s operations.

Mr. Trump and other Republicans have frequently accused Google, Facebook, Twitter and other large technology companies of deliberately acting to censor or suppress content targeted at conservatives. Such accusations are beginning to become more common in conservative media.

In July, he accused Twitter of “shadow-banning” prominent conservatives. After Facebook and other platforms banned conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, Trump tweeted that “Social Media is totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices.”

Republican members of Congress have also frequently complained about so-called “censorship” by social media companies, usually in the form of banning or suspending users for content that violates their terms of service.

While Tuesday’s claims appear to be centered around allegations made in a right-wing blog post he saw discussed by Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs, this is not the first time Trump has cited a fringe media outlet when accusing Google of bias against him.

In September 2016, Trump told attendees at a Waukesha, Wisconsin rally that“Google search engine was suppressing the bad news about Hillary Clinton.”

That claim appeared to have been based on a widely-debunked story, which cited a YouTube video alleging that Google manipulated its search engine’s auto-complete function to bolster Hillary Clinton. The story was first published by Sputnik, a Russian state-owned news outlet which American officials say was part of Russia’s campaign to influence the 2016 election.

In a statement on Tuesday, a Google spokesperson flatly denied the president’s claims, citing the company’s goal of making sure users “receive the most relevant answers” to their queries “in a matter of seconds.”

“Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology. Every year, we issue hundreds of improvements to our algorithms to ensure they surface high-quality content in response to users’ queries. We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.”

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The Russia Investigation

Trump Attempts To Downplay Associates’ Criminal Conduct, Judiciary Committee Dem Says POTUS ‘Brings The Ethics Of A Mob Boss To All Of The Criminality Around Him’

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WASHINGTON, August 22, 2018 — In a series of tweets coming less than 24 hours after two of his closest associates from the 2016 campaign became convicted felons, President Trump praised one for refusing to cooperate with prosecutors while simultaneously downplaying the seriousness of the other’s crimes and attacking him for taking a plea deal.

“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. ‘Justice’ took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to “break” – make up stories in order to get a “deal.” Such respect for a brave man!” Trump wrote early Wednesday, shortly after tweeting out a suggestion that those looking for “a good lawyer” not retain Cohen’s services.

Trump’s morning “Executive Time” tweet storm came the day after what some have described as the worst day of Trump’s presidency. But if Trump thought Tuesday was bleak after Manafort — his former campaign chairman — was convicted of eight counts of fraud and tax evasion in the first of two criminal trials he is facing at the hands of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team, things got even bleaker when Cohen, his longtime attorney and fixer pleaded guilty to charges of bank fraud and campaign finance violations.

It is not known whether Cohen will cooperate with prosecutors, though his attorney, Lanny Davis, suggested in an interview on MSNBC that the former Trump lawyer had information to offer on the Russian government’s 2016 cyberattack against the Democratic National Committee.

Cohen charges result of ‘hush money’ payments

The charges against Cohen stemmed from his efforts to pay several women with whom Trump had had affairs in order to keep them from upending his electoral changes by going public. Cohen initially claimed he’d paid them with his own money until it was revealed that he’d accepted reimbursement from the Trump Organization.

Cohen, who once famously said he’d take a bullet for the president, took the deliberate step of implicating Trump directly during his plea hearing by reading a prepared statement in which he told U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood that he’d made the illegal payments “in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office.”

Trump pointed to Obama’s 2008 campaign as proof that Cohen had been treated unfairly, but experts don’t agree

Continuing to tweet Wednesday morning, Trump attempted to downplay the significance of Cohen’s transgressions and deflect attention to a familiar scapegoat — his predecessor.

“Michael Cohen plead guilty to two counts of campaign finance violations that are not a crime. President Obama had a big campaign finance violation and it was easily settled!” Trump wrote, referring to a $375,000 fine the Federal Election Commission levied in 2013 against then-President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. The fine was for failing to file so-called “48-hour notices” for $1.8 million worth of contributions over $1,000 received during the last 20 days of the 2008 campaign.

In an interview with BeltwayBreakfast, House Judiciary Committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., scoffed at the notion that Cohen’s crimes were in any way comparable to the violations the FEC settled with the Obama campaign.

“The halfhearted gesture at a technical campaign finance violation is an irrelevant distraction from whats going on here. Everybody agrees that technical violations of reporting requirements are dealt with as violations of administrative law, but deliberate violations and circumventions of material campaign finance requirements have always been treated as criminal.”

Raskin noted that the law prohibiting corporations like the Trump Organization from directly making campaign contributions — the Tillman Act — has been on the books since 1907.

It’s very clear that if the corporation is coordinating with the candidate in its contribution that it should be treated as a contribution rather than an expenditure,” he said.

Renato Mariotti, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney and onetime candidate for Illinois Attorney General, told BeltwayBreakfast that Trump’s claims that Cohen’s violations could’ve been dealt with by the FEC as a civil matter are baseless.

A federal judge would not have accepted Cohen’s plea if he was not pleading guilty to a crime,” Mariotti said in a text message, adding that Cohen’s attorneys, the Justice Department and the judge all concluded that Cohen had committed crimes and not a less serious violation of election law.

Raskin says US is in grip of ‘overwhelming political crisis’

While Raskin, who teaches constitutional law at American University, did not think Tuesday’s events had the makings of a constitutional crisis, he said the nation was in the grip of “an overwhelming political crisis that emanates from the White House.”

“This is a president who maligns and disrespects the law at every turn, it never would’ve occurred to him that there was something wrong with spending hundreds of thousands of worth of hush money on his affairs with pornographic stars and having his company pay for it,” said Raskin. “If everything Michael Cohen is saying turns out to be true, the president himself is implicated in willful campaign finance violations. Certainly, this is more than Bill Clinton telling one lie about a sexual relationship that he had.”

Raskin said that Trump — who once claimed to hire “the best people” — has developed “a staph infection that has spread entirely through his campaign and his administration,” leaving the president “up to his neck in the criminality of his associates.”

As for Trump’s continuing insistence that Manafort is “a good man,” Raskin suggested that Trump’s capacity for praise would only hold as long as his former campaign chairman refused to cooperate with prosecutors.

Raskin compared ‘The Donald’ to a Mafia Don

“The president brings the ethics of a mob boss to all of the criminality around him. If a particular operative stays putatively loyal, he will endeavor to reward them but if they tell the truth…they’re dead to him and he considers them part of the ‘rigged witch hunt and deep state conspiracy,” he said.

While Raskin observed that Trump “would certainly have no ethical scruples” about using his pardon power to reward Manafort for not helping Mueller’s team, he suggested that one of the president’s advisers might be waving him off from issuing a pardon that would obviously benefit him.

“Somebody at the White House obviously understands that the use of the pardon power in Trump’s own personal wars certainly invites demand for impeachment,” he said, “The use of the pardon for corrupt purposes would undoubtedly be seen as a high crime and misdemeanor by large numbers of people in Congress.”

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Immigration

Trump Administration Convinced Germany To Take Ex-Nazi Guard ‘On The Moral Ground’

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Jakiw Palij exits a plane in Dusseldorf on Tuesday after being deported from the US. BILD EXCLUSIVE/Sebastian Karadshow/Josef Frank Weiser

WASHINGTON, August 21, 2018 — The United States’ Ambassador to Germany on Tuesday told reporters that the Trump administration was able to deport former Nazi concentration camp guard Jakiw Palij because new German cabinet members were willing to accept him after years of previous refusals by Berlin.

Germany saw it as a moral obligation…because this individual served in the name of the former German government,” said Amb. Richard Grenell during a conference call with reporters. “It was something that the new cabinet members accepted.”

Mona Ragheb, Senior Advisor for the Human Rights Law Section of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which conducted the operation to remove Palij, said the removal operation “ensures the US will not become a safe haven for Nazis.”

She told reporters that the removal operation “was affected without incident” Monday night, and took place by way of “a specially chartered air ambulance which was appropriately staffed to address his medical needs. Palij arrived in Germany on Tuesday at roughly 8:00 a.m. local time.

The 95-year-old, born in what is now Ukraine, had been ordered deported by an immigration judge in 2004, but had remained in the United States because no country would agree to accept him.

But the empanelment of a new German cabinet changed things, Grinell said, combined with a decision by s by the Trump administration to make a moral argument for Germany accepting him rather than a legal one.

“In order to get him out of [the U.S.] it was important to…argue on the moral ground,” he added.

Grenell thanked Germany’s new foreign and interior ministers for their assistance in resolving the Palij case, which he said had been a priority of President Donald Trump.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, Grinell said, “brought a new and different energy” to the longstanding negotiations over the former Nazi guard, while Interior Minister Horst Seehofer took “a creative look” at whether to admit Palij, who longtime Justice Department Nazi hunter Eli Rosenbaum said was the last known Nazi war criminal awaiting deportation from the United States.

Previous ex-Nazis who’ve been deported from the U.S. have been prosecuted upon their return to Germany. One notable example was that of John Demjanjuk, the Ukrainian-born Red Army soldier who participated in atrocities at the Sobibor concentration camp after volunteering to serve in the German army as a way of getting out of a POW camp.

Demjanjuk, an Ohio resident during his time in the United States, was deported to Germany in 2009 after several previous attempts at deportation and trial, including one resulting in a 1988 conviction for crimes against humanity in an Israeli court (which was later overturned). In 2011, a German court convicted him of 27,900 counts of murder, but because Demjanjuk died in 2012 before his appeal was heard, he was legally a free and innocent man at his death.

Whether Palij will be tried for his alleged crimes is up to the German government, though Grinell stressed that the Trump administration did not ask Berlin to commit to any legal process.

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