Politics Trump’s draft executive order targeting social media companies sparks battle inside the White House by Jon Ward, Christopher Wilson and Hunter Walker
•Trump says he would delete his Twitter account if it weren’t for ‘fake news ’WASHINGTON — The Trump White House has been embroiled in a vigorous internal debate over whether to issue an executive order aimed at punishing social media companies for perceived political bias, with opposition to the order coming from some of the most conservative parts of the administration. White House sources tell Yahoo News that the office of Vice President Mike Pence, National Economic Council Chairman Larry Kudlow and others are making the argument that it will set a bad precedent to signal that the federal government can go after private companies and seek to penalize them for purely political reasons. Even though the draft of the order that leaked to the public on Thursday would be limited in its impact, the signal it would send is the most significant thing, according to its opponents. The push comes as the coronavirus death toll in the United States has surpassed 100,000.“There is pushback from a lot of people” inside the White House, an administration official told Yahoo News, saying there is “a lot of frustration” among advisers who are often some of the president’s most loyal backers. The push for the order has come primarily from White House counsel Pat Cipollone, two White House sources said. One source said that Dan Scavino, White House director of social media, is also supportive. Cipollone and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.President Trump and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: AP, Joshua Roberts/Reuters)Trump signed the executive order late Thursday afternoon in the Oval Office, saying, “We’re here today to defend free speech from one of the greatest dangers.” When asked by a reporter why he hasn’t deleted his Twitter account, Trump replied, “If you weren’t fake, I’d do it in a heartbeat.”The concern from opponents of the executive order is that Trump’s anger over being fact-checked by Twitter for the first time this week might have led him to make public statements promising retribution that are hard to walk back.
Concerns from conservatives about Trump’s threatened order have also been voiced publicly outside the White House. “The freedom of the press to do its job, the freedom of companies to make their own statements (and policies) and the freedom of Americans to speak their mind are all protected rights for everyone,” wrote Ashley Pratte, a conservative political consultant who is on the board of Republican Women for Progress. “Trump’s dangerous crusade to use the government to limit or even censor free speech should be called out for what it is: tyrannical.”A similar executive order was shelved last summer after officials from the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission expressed concerns that it would create a government “speech police.”The latest order would start the process of potentially removing protections that tech giants have under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which says they are not liable for the content posted to their platforms. Eliminating that protection would potentially open them up to lawsuits.
There is skepticism about how effective the proposed changes would be without an act of Congress, which is unlikely to come this year as the legislative body deals with the pandemic and as Democrats control the House.
The executive order comes after Twitter added fact-check language to two of Trump’s posts earlier this week that claimed mail-in ballots would lead to widespread voter fraud, though there is no evidence this is true.
“Get the facts about mail-in ballots,” read a message from Twitter below the tweets, linking to a fact-check page populated by links and summaries of news articles debunking the assertion. In a statement, Twitter said Trump’s vote-by-mail tweets “contain potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labeled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots.”
“We’ll continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally,” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted late Wednesday. “This does not make us an ‘arbiter of truth.’ Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took another stance, telling Fox News his platform has “a different policy, I think, than Twitter on this. I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online.”
Last year, Facebook said it wouldn’t remove an ad from the Trump campaign that contained false information about former Vice President Joe Biden and Ukraine. The previous month, Zuckerberg and Trump had a surprise meeting at the White House, which the president referred to as “nice.”
Facebook announced a change in policy five days later: It would not fact-check or remove content by politicians even if the posts violated the company’s rules.
Twitter has previously flagged tweets conveying misinformation about the coronavirus, but it has never before put warnings on tweets for any other reason. As numerous officials push for increased vote-by-mail ahead of November’s election due to fears that polling places could be dangerous during the pandemic, Trump has insisted the results would be illegitimate, despite the fact that many states already use the method.
However, the company refused to remove posts in which the president suggested an investigation of MSNBC host Joe Scarborough’s role in the death of a young woman who died in his office in 2001. Lori Klausutis’s death was ruled an accident, and there is no evidence implicating Scarborough, who was a Florida congressman at the time.
Her husband, Timothy Klausutis, wrote to Dorsey protesting Trump’s tweets, saying the president had “perverted” the memory of his late wife for political gain. Twitter said it was “deeply sorry” but that it would not remove the posts, and it has not posted a fact check or disclaimer in reply.
The executive order is the latest targeting of Big Tech by Trump. Last year, his Justice Department opened a broad antitrust investigation into the companies and threatened to expand the investigation “to any harms caused by online platforms that partially or completely fall outside the antitrust laws.”The initial investigation followed complaints by Trump against Dorsey that his @realDonaldTrump account had been losing Twitter followers.In March, Politico reported that Attorney General William Barr, widely viewed as a staunch Trump loyalist, was taking personal direction of the antitrust probes of social media companies.Alexander Nazaryan contributed reporting to this story.
Trump and his allies have politicized wearing masks, but the vast majority of Americans say they cover their faces to prevent the spread of COVID-19
- President Donald Trump and many of his allies have politicized the issue of wearing masks or face-coverings, a practice that helps prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- In over half a dozen recent national surveys, however, overwhelmingly majorities of Americans, Republicans, and those who support Trump, say they always or regularly wear masks in public.
- Trump has generally refused to wear a mask in public, going against the advice of his own administration.
- Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, on Wednesday strongly urged Americans to wear masks as a public health measure and as a sign of respect.
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President Donald Trump and many of his allies have politicized the issue of wearing masks or face-coverings, a practice that helps prevent the spread of COVID-19, but polling has repeatedly shown that most Americans — including Republicans and Trump’s supporters — are in favor of the practice.
Americans across the political spectrum overwhelmingly report regularly wearing masks:
- An exhaustive nationwide survey of over 22,000 Americans in all 50 states conducted from April 17-26 by a team of researchers from Harvard, Northeastern, and Rutgers found that 75% of Americans and 70% of Republicans said they somewhat closely or very closely follow government guidelines to wear masks outside their homes.
- In a national survey of over 2,220 Americans conducted April 14-21 by political scientists Gabriel Sanchez and Edward Vargas with the online polling firm Lucid, 73% of Democrats and 59% of Republicans said they had worn a mask or face-covering in public to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- A Fox News national poll of 1,200 registered voters conducted from May 17-20 found that 72% of all Americans, 60% of Republicans, and 61% of those who voted for Trump in 2016 said they wear masks in public all or most of the time.
- A Democracy Fund and UCLA Nationscape survey of 4,576 registered voters conducted May 7-14 found that 84% of all Americans and 81% of Republicans say they have worn a mask in public in response to the coronavirus crisis.
- A Politico/Morning Consult national tracking poll of 1,986 registered voters conducted May 22-26 found that 81% of all Americans and 71% of those who say they strongly approve of Trump’s job performance said they are very or somewhat likely to wear a mask in public spaces.
- In a CBS News and YouGov poll of 2,000 Americans conducted May 11-13, 69% of Americans said they wear a mask or face covering all or most of the time they leave their homes.
- A Huffington Post/YouGov poll conducted May 14-16 found that 69% of Americans and 66% of Republicans say they wear a mask in public places around other people, like in grocery stores, all or most of the time.
- The same poll also found that 83% of Americans and 76% of Republicans say they believe wearing a mask in public is not a sign of weakness.
- Sixty-nine percent of Americans and 58% of Republicans said they believe wearing a mask is a sign of respectfulness.
Trump and some of his allies have implied that wearing a mask in a sign of weakness
Though members of the US public say they regularly cover their faces, the rhetoric emanating from the president and some of his allies on this topic makes the issue seem far more divided along political lines than it is in reality.
Trump has generally refused to wear a mask in public, going against the advice of his own administration. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges the US public to cover their mouth and nose „with a cloth face cover when around others.”
„Everyone should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities,” the CDC’s website states.
But Trump, who is extremely image-conscious, seemingly views mask-wearing as a sign of weakness.
Earlier this month, the Associated Press reported that Trump is worried that wearing a mask in public would hurt his re-election chances. And in a May 21 visit to a Ford Motors plant in Michigan, Trump only wore a mask in a private tour of the factory with a few of the company’s executives, but took it off when being photographed and taking questions from the press.
In recent days, Trump has mocked his 2020 opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, for wearing a mask in public on Memorial Day. On Tuesday, Trump mocked Reuters White House correspondent Jeff Mason for wearing a mask during a press conference in the Rose Garden, accusing the reporter of attempting to be „politically correct” by covering his face.
And Trump on Thursday shared a tweet from the right-wing publication The Federalist which suggested masks are not about public health but „social control” and that they represent „silence, slavery, and social death.”
Meanwhile, Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, who often defends the Trump administration on her show, has repeatedly sought to sow doubt about the efficacy of masks, painting the call for people to cover their faces as a media plot designed to spread fear.
Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University and staunch Trump supporter, on Wednesday said he’ll only wear a mask if it features an image of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam in blackface.
Not all of Trump’s allies are pushing against mask-wearing, however, as Fox News’ Sean Hannity recently chastised people in Missouri for partying without social distancing or masks over Memorial Day weekend.
Responding to footage of the partygoers in the Midwestern state that was widely shared on social media, Hannity said, „There’s no mask-wearing here that I see … I see no social distancing. But if they get the virus and they’re in contact with older, more vulnerable Americans, that could be a disaster for others … If you can’t social distance, please wear the mask for your mom, dad, grandma, grandpa. My humble advice.”
Medical experts say wearing a face covering drastically reduces the risk of transmission
Public health experts have emphasized the importance of wearing masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, which is easily transmitted by asymptomatic carriers who aren’t aware they have the disease. The CDC estimates that as many as 35% of those infected show no symptoms.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, on Wednesday strongly urged Americans to wear masks for public health purposes and as a sign of respect.
„I want to protect myself and protect others, and also because I want to make it be a symbol for people to see that that’s the kind of thing you should be doing,” Fauci said during a CNN interview.
Though experts are still debating how effective masks are in mitigating the spread of the virus, research has shown that it can drastically reduce infections.
Researchers in Hong Kong, for example, recently conducted experiments that found that the transmission rate of coronavirus via respiratory droplets or airborne particles dropped by roughly 75% when masks were used.
„The findings implied to the world and the public is that the effectiveness of mask-wearing against the coronavirus pandemic is huge,” Dr. Yuen Kwok-yung, a top microbiologist at Hong Kong University, said regarding the study’s findings.
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Bad weather thwarted the much-anticipated launch of SpaceX’s first astronaut crew Wednesday, a flight that would have marked the return of human spaceflight from U.S. soil for the first time in nearly a decade.
Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley had been scheduled to lift off aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule from Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the International Space Station at 4:33 p.m. ET, but cloudy conditions forced launch operators to stand down with less than 20 minutes to go in the countdown.
The Air Force’s 45th Space Wing, which oversees space launch operations from the East Coast, had been closely monitoring weather reports at the launch site after Tropical Storm Bertha formed early Wednesday off South Carolina. SpaceX and NASA will now attempt the test flight at 3:22 p.m. ET Saturday.
The historic launch will be the first time that NASA astronauts have flown to the orbiting lab in a commercially built spacecraft. It will also be the first time that human passengers are launched into orbit from the U.S. since NASA retired its space shuttle fleet in 2011.
„Our country has been through a lot,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Tuesday at a news briefing. „But this is a unique moment when all of America can take a moment and look at our country do something stunning again, and that is to launch American astronauts on an American rocket from American soil to the space station.”
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Shortly before 3 p.m. ET, President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrived at Kennedy Space Center, flying past the launchpad aboard Air Force One. According to NASA, the last time a sitting president flew to Florida to witness a crewed launch in person was in October 1998, when Bill Clinton watched the space shuttle Discovery blast off.
If the Crew Dragon capsule lifts off on Saturday, Behnken and Hurley will spend around 19 hours orbiting the Earth before their capsule makes its rendezvous with the space station.
The test flight is the last milestone for SpaceX under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which was designed to foster partnerships with private companies to develop spacecraft for routine trips to the space station.
After NASA shuttered its space shuttle program, the agency was forced to buy rides to the space station aboard Russian capsules and rockets. If SpaceX’s launch is successful, American astronauts may soon have a new way to travel to and from the orbiting outpost.
SpaceX has spent the past six years building and testing its Crew Dragon capsule. For years, the company has used an uncrewed version of the spacecraft to ferry supplies to the space station, but this will be SpaceX’s first launch with humans onboard.
The company received more than $3 billion from NASA to develop the capsule under the Commercial Crew Program. NASA also awarded more than $4.5 billion to Boeing to design a rival capsule known as the CST-100 Starliner. The idea is to allow NASA to contract out standard flights to the space station while the agency focuses on other science and exploration goals.
If it is successful, the test flight could bolster the nascent private spaceflight industry and help pave the way for other commercial ventures, including missions to the moon or Mars.
„The goal is for NASA to be a customer,” Bridenstine said this month in a news briefing. „We want a very robust commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit.”
MINNEAPOLIS — A second day of protests, unrest and looting Thursday in the wake of the death of George Floyd shut down mass transit in the Twin Cities as lawmakers pleaded for peace.
By late Thurdsay, protesters in Minneapolis had focused their attention on Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct, the base of four officers who were fired after Floyd’s death in their custody Monday.
A fire burned at one corner of the structure.
Fires also burned on both sides of the police station as demonstrators pushed down temporary fencing and occupied property at the precinct. Officers fired tear gas from the ground and a rooftop.
Multiple blazes also burned on nearby blocks.
Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order Thursday activating the Minnesota National Guard. A statement from the governor’s office said the order was needed after „extensive damage to private property occurred and peaceful protests evolved into a dangerous situation for protesters and first responders.”
Businesses across the Twin Cities were boarding up their windows and doors Thursday in an effort to prevent looting.
Looters on Thursday broke into a Target on University Avenue in St. Paul before police arrived, sending the raiders scrambling.
But as police circled the store and faced off with an angry crowd, looters broke into a T.J. Maxx close by and made off with whatever they could carry. That store was later reported to be on fire.
„Officers continue to be hit with rocks and bottles thrown by people who are also breaking into buildings, looting and destroying property,” St. Paul police said on Twitter.
Target, headquartered in Minneapolis, later said it was temporarily closing 24 stores in Minnesota.
An unoccupied St. Paul police cruiser in the area also appeared to have been vandalized.
„Please stay home. Please do not come here to protest,” St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said in a statement late Thursday afternoon.
„Please keep the focus on George Floyd, on advancing our movement, and on preventing this from ever happening again. We can all be in that fight together.”
By early evening, the windows of more than a dozen stores were smashed, and firefighters were putting out a handful of small blazes. City spokesman Steve Linders said authorities were dealing with unrest in roughly 20 different areas.
In South Minneapolis protesters gathered near the Police Department’s 3rd Precinct. Rocks were thrown at officers, who deployed tear gas as they moved through a crowd to get to a stabbing victim, said witness and City Council candidate A.J. Awed.
Police were later seen using a cart to roll a few civilians out of the area.
Metro Transit, which operates light rail and buses in Minneapolis and St. Paul, shut down almost all services through Sunday. An airport shuttle and its Northstar commuter line were all that remained operational.
„Out of concern for the safety of riders and employees, Metro Transit bus and light rail service will be suspended,” the transit agency announced at about 2:30 p.m.
Rosedale Center, a mall in nearby Roseville, said in Twitter it was asked by authorities to shut down.
In announcing store closures Target said in a statement, „We are heartbroken by the death of George Floyd and the pain it is causing our community. At this time, we have made the decision to close a number of our stores until further notice.”
Demonstrations also took place across the nation.
In New York City, at least 40 people were arrested as protesters took to the streets near Union Square and in Lower Manhattan, police said.
One officer was hit by a garbage can hurled at him, and another was punched in the face, according to the New York Police Department. Suspects in those incidents were among those arrested, the department said.
In Los Angeles, demonstrators gathered outside police headquarters downtown, a peaceful contrast to Wednesday’s event, during which protesters blocked traffic on the 101 freeway and damaged California Highway Patrol vehicles.
In Denver, shots were fired near the Capitol, where a protest was taking place. But police spokesman Kurt Barnes said it wasn’t immediately clear if the gunfire was related. No injuries were reported and no one was in custody, he said
In Oakland, California about 20 protesters briefly occupied an intersection, according to NBC Bay Area.
In, Minneapolis, leaders were calling for peace: Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo all pleaded for calm.
“We must restore the peace so we can do this hard work together,” Frey said.
Jenkins said protesters should be angry about Floyd’s death in police custody, but they have no right to „perpetrate violence and harm on the very communities that you say you are standing up for.”
„We need peace and calm in our streets, and I am begging you for that calm,” she added.
National Fraternal Order of Police President Patrick Yoes said Thursday that authorities must ensure justice is served in Floyd’s death, „whatever the consequences.”
„The fact that he was a suspect in custody is immaterial — police officers should at all times render aid to those who need it,” Yoes said. „Police officers need to treat all of our citizens with respect and understanding and should be held to the very highest standards for their conduct.”
Local and federal authorities spoke at a joint press conference on Thursday, which was delayed for two hours after reports of charges possibly being announced, but no such announcement came.
Representatives from the U.S. Department of Justice, FBI, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, along with Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman, offered no significant updates other that to promise a swift and thorough investigation of the officers involved in the Floyd case.
U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota Erica MacDonald said it was imperative the community understood how seriously the department was taking the investigation for Floyd’s death.
“It breaks my heart to see what is happening in our streets in Minneapolis and St. Paul and in some of our suburbs,” MacDonald said. “And I am pleading, I am pleading with individuals to stay calm and to let us conduct this investigation.”
This is a developing story, refresh here for updates.
Gabe Gutierrez reported from Minneapolis and St. Paul, David K. Li from New York and Dennis Romero reported from San Diego.
Wisconsin saw a record number of new coronavirus cases and deaths reported in a single day on Wednesday, two weeks after the state’s Supreme Court struck down its statewide stay-at-home order.
The state reported 599 new known COVID-19 cases on Wednesday with 22 known deaths, according to Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services, the highest recorded daily rise since the pandemic began there. As of Wednesday, the state had more than 16,460 known cases and 539 known deaths, according to the department.
The previous record in new coronavirus cases was 528 the week prior.
Wisconsin also issued a record number of test results Wednesday, with more than 10,300 tests conducted, according to the department.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers spoke of the importance of wearing a mask in public Wednesday in order to keep others safe from the virus.
„One of the most important things you can do to help others is to wear a mask or other face-covering in public,” he said. „Wearing a mask shouldn’t be a political statement. It isn’t controversial, and it’s not hard to do.”
On May 13, Wisconsin’s Supreme Court struck down the state’s stay-at-home order during the pandemic as „unlawful, invalid, and unenforceable” after finding that the state’s health secretary exceeded her authority.
The order had put Evers at odds with the state’s Republic-controlled legislature.
Some local officials, including those in Milwaukee and Madison, have since instituted their own regulations.
In a 4-3 ruling, the court called Health Services Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm’s directive a „vast seizure of power.”
The order directed all people in the state to stay at home or at their places of residence, subject only to exceptions allowed by Palm, the ruling said. The order, which had been set to run until May 26, also restricted travel and business, along with threatening jail time or fines for those who don’t comply.
“Republican legislators have convinced four justices to throw our state into chaos,” Evers said in a statement at the time.
„We cannot let today’s ruling undo all the work we have done and all the sacrifices Wisconsinites have made over these past few months,” he said in the mid-May statement. „I am disappointed in the decision today, but our top priority has been and will remain doing what we can and what we have to do to protect the health and safety of the people of our state.”
Shortly after the ruling, the Tavern League of Wisconsin, an industry group, posted a message on social media saying that as a result of the decision, businesses could reopen „immediately.”
Just hours after the order, several bars in West Allis reopened for business, according to NBC affiliate WTMJ.
At Limanski’s Pub, customers were greeted by a sign reading „please sanitize your hands upon entering” and „remain 2 bar stools apart unless from same household.”
More than a dozen customers had gathered in the bar shortly after the reopening, the station reported.
Customer Katie Koutski told WTMJ the outing was much needed relief.
“I have a toddler at home and I’m a full-time nurse so it’s been very stressful and hard to not be able to go out and be with my friends and family at the bars,” Koutski said.
Kathy Goedde, the bar’s owner, said she reopened soon after hearing the news of the ruling.
“I was watching the news, and I saw the order was overturned, so I was pretty happy about that, and then I just waited for the Tavern League to send out information and as soon as we got that, I mean, it was awesome,” she said.
Koutski later issued a statement apologizing for not wearing a mask while visiting her sister’s bar.
„While my priority was to support my sister and her attempt to restart her business which has been devastated by this pandemic, I’d like to express my regret for not wearing a mask or practicing social distancing while there,” she said in a statement, according to WTMJ. „It was a lapse in judgment on my part to not ensure I had my mask prior to leaving my house and to not maintain social distancing — even during the interview requested by the reporter.”
Koutski said while she did not have any COVID-19 symptoms, out of an abundance of caution, she was going to voluntarily quarantine for seven days and per standard practice, undergo screening before returning to work.