Vladimir Putin had a lot to say in his annual year-end news conference. For one, he says he welcomes Trump’s Syria withdrawal (47,000+ shares), reports Andrew Kramer of The New York Times, and calls it “the right decision,” while many on Twitter are calling it “Trump’s Christmas present to Putin.” “Our allies are angry, our generals ignored, our Congress apoplectic. But, hey, at least Putin’s happy with @realDonaldTrump,” tweets Paul Begala. Or as Clyde Haberman says, “Here’s a sure way to know you’ve really made a wrong decision.” But “Russia's installation of Donald Trump in the White House has paid off big time” (for them), notes Don Morrison.
As for his thoughts on the U.K., Putin tells Theresa May to ‘fulfil will of people’ on Brexit, Andrew Roth reports at The Guardian. “Subtle,” as John Harris says. Also, “This is going to look magnificent on the side of a bus during the Second Referendum,” tweets Paul Mason. Basically, it’s “putin in full bad guy monologue mode today,” as Oliver Willis says, but as Darth Putin tweets, “Russia wants the Brexit it paid for.”
The Mueller probe
As for the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, the latest scoop from Carol Leonnig, Ellen Nakashima, Rosalind Helderman and Manuel Roig-Franzia at The Washington Post is that Mueller is seeking Roger Stone’s testimony to the House intelligence panel, suggesting the special counsel is near the end of its probe of the Trump adviser. Tweets Leonnig, “EXCLUSIVE: Signs are building Mueller may be moving to charge Roger Stone.” Abigail Tracy notes, “The House Intelligence Committee provided the Stone transcript to ODNI weeks ago, to which the SC may have had access. But Mueller would need a ‘clean’ copy directly from the committee if he wanted to bring charges based off it.”
Meanwhile, the scoop from Sadie Gurman and Aruna Viswanatha at The Wall Street Journal, Trump’s Attorney General Pick Criticized an Aspect of Mueller Probe in Memo to Justice Department. They report that William Barr said the obstruction of justice inquiry by the special counsel is “fatally misconceived.”
Everyday comes another hit
This time, Nolan Hicks is referring to the story by Rebecca Ballhaus and Joe Palazzolo of The Wall Street Journal, which reveals that Trump Testimony From Decades Ago Indicates Knowledge of Campaign-Finance Laws, and that “could be critical if investigators ever pursue a case against him over his alleged direction of hush-money payments in the 2016 campaign.”
But let’s not spend all our time on 2016. There’s another election coming up in 2020, and an investigation by the Center for Responsive Politics has found that the Trump 2020 campaign used a shell company to pay ad buyers at the center of an alleged illegal coordination scheme with the NRA. Anna Massoglia has that big scoop at Open Secrets, and Jordan Uhl calls it “A wild and incredible story.” Lachlan Markay adds, “Let’s all just pause and appreciate these ridiculously good visualizations in @annalecta’s bombshell scoop tonight.”
This is yuck
One more Russia-related story before we move on. From Scott Shane and Alan Blinder of The New York Times, we learn that a Secret Experiment in the Alabama Senate Race Imitated Russian Tactics. Tweets Shane, “You may just be horrified by Russia's social media manipulations. But political operatives are also intrigued. @alanblinder and I take a look at a secret experiment in last year's hot Alabama Senate race.” Shira Ovide’s take on the tactics: “This is yuck.” Molly McKew gets a little more in depth: “Let's be really clear: 1) psyoping other Americans is unethical. This shit isn't a joke. The cognitive impacts can be serious and lasting. 2) Americans are not the enemy. 3) Stop beta-testing your data-driven dystopian mindfuckery on real people. JFC.”
The Trump Twitter origin story
Annie Karni directs you to the aptly titled, ‘Oh, no’: The day Trump learned to tweet, by Ben Schreckinger of POLITICO. This story reveals how Trump’s social media manager Justin McConney reacted when he first realized Trump had figured out how to tweet on his own: “The moment I found out Trump could tweet himself was comparable to the moment in ‘Jurassic Park’ when Dr. Grant realized that velociraptors could open doors,” recalled McConney, who was the Trump Organization’s director of social media from 2011 to 2017. “I was like, ‘Oh no.’”
OK, we lied. But this really is the last Russia-related story we have for you today. Zoe Tillman of BuzzFeed News reports that BuzzFeed News Has Won A Lawsuit Over Its Decision To Publish The Trump Dossier. Jason Leopold calls it a “Historic victory. The judge found BuzzFeed was protected by a ‘fair report privilege’ because the article involved an official proceeding.”
Next up, “What do you do when your local rep has gone to war with the newspaper that employs you, your industry's ailing, and your work has become something that requires active shooter training? If you work for the Fresno Bee, you just keep reporting.” Zach Baron links to his new piece for GQ, The Fresno Bee and the War on Local News. Another question: “What does it feel like when you’re trying to not let the bastards grind you down? A lot like this,” says Jeff Amy.
Julie Moos says, “>@GQMagazine's @zachbaron captured the beating heart of @FresnoBee, and what I'll miss most about @mcclatchy: @josephkieta @MackenzieMays @RoryDoesPhonics and all our journalists who sacrifice so much to give their communities independent information.” Adds Oliver Darcy, “This story on the @FresnoBee is worth your time. It shows how Trump's war on the press has trickled down to local news. The story woven in of Ray Appleton (Fresno's top conservative radio host) and his son, a Fresno Bee journalist, is also fascinating.” Or just follow Jonathan Martin’s advice and “Read this.”
And then there’s this. Top Der Spiegel journalist resigns over fake interviews, as Kate Connolly reports for The Guardian. Claas Relotius was once voted Journalist of the Year by CNN. As Harry McCracken tweets, “Germany has found its Stephen Glass.” We agree with Erin Biba, who says, “I honestly can't even imagine faking a story. It actually seems like so much more work. When you do real journalism people literally just hand you all the info you need.”
CBS = cesspool
In an op-ed for The Boston Globe, Eliza Dushku responds to what happened at CBS: ‘I took a job and because I objected to being sexually harassed, I was fired’ (42,000+ shares). Tara Sullivan tweets, “Kudos to Eliza Dushku. This story is absolutely infuriating, but gives me hope she, and others like her, will be heard. CBS = cesspool.” And somehow this still needs to be said: Tweets Rachel King, “Good god, this from Eliza Duskhu about CBS. News flash: Stop using what women wear as reasons to justify whether they ‘deserved’ to be sexually assaulted/harassed or not.”
When faith comes before reason
Gabriel Arana links to the news from a “scathing report” by the Illinois Attorney General, Who Says the Catholic Church Withheld the Names of at Least 500 Accused Priests. Laurie Goodstein and Monica Davey have the details in their story for The New York Times, and Carmen Gentile points out, “Any other organization committing this much wrong towards children and Americans would demand the National Guard tear it down brick by brick and haul away the abusers.” “Wrap your head around this number and the torturous pain in its wake,” tweets Al Tompkins.
The voracious sneakiness of horizontal drilling
Charles Ornstein urges you to “Check out this extraordinary feat of reporting and visual storytelling by @Kenwardjr @A_L and @mayetaclark. Very special.” That’s Powerless, By Ken Ward Jr. of The Charleston Gazette-Mail along with ProPublica’s Al Shaw and Mayeta Clark. Tom Zeller says it’s “A truly excellent piece of journalism that's long overdue -- and one that really captures the voracious sneakiness of horizontal drilling. Kudos to @ProPublica, @Kenwardjr, et al.” If you need more convincing, Ornstein adds, “We’ve used drones, satellite images, GIS data, video, a motion-detecting camera and old-fashioned storytelling to tell the story of how natural gas drilling has changed West Virginia, and how powerless residents are in its wake. Amazing stuff.”
More stories you need to read
An AP investigation by Garance Burke and Martha Mendoza finds huge numbers of migrant kids are being held in mass shelters. They write, “The federal government has placed most of the 14,300 migrant toddlers, children and teens in its care in detention centers and residential facilities packed with hundreds, or thousands, of children,” adding, “That’s a huge shift from just three months after President Donald Trump took office, when the same federal program had 2,720 migrant youth in its care.” Tweets Tucker Higgins, “Decades after the U.S. stopped institutionalizing kids because large and crowded orphanages were causing lasting trauma, it is happening again.”
On the news that A 5-Month-Old Girl Has Been Hospitalized With Pneumonia After Being Detained By Border Patrol, as reported by Adolfo Flores of BuzzFeed News, Christopher Hayes tweets, “We need a full congressional investigation into CBP and the hieleras. And CBP *must* allow lawyers, journalists and members of congress to tour and examine the facilities.”
As Danielle Paquette and Jeff Stein of The Washington Post report, the Trump administration aims to toughen work requirements for food stamps recipients. Tweets Heather Long, “NEW today: Trump Administration just unveiled a plan to toughen work requirements for food stamp recipients. Trump is trying to use an executive order to get this done b/c Congress (including many R’s) didn’t want to do it.” On Twitter, Paquette notes, “This move could cut access to food aid for ~755,000 ppl. The public has 60 days to comment.”
Less depressing stories
Barack Obama dons a Santa hat and hands out gifts in surprise visit to D.C. children’s hospital (390,000+ shares), and Helena Andrews-Dyer of The Washington Post puts us on the scene.
At Vulture, Chris Smith had a Long Talk With Lin-Manuel Miranda, and as Lisa Fung says, “What an amazing world this would be if everyone could exude optimism + positivity the way @Lin_Manuel does in this Q+A with @chrissmithnymag.”
And finally today, read about Jason Flatt, Atlanta’s patron saint of pit bulls, who was profiled by Candice Dyer for Atlanta magazine. Tweets Bradford Pearson, “This is a fantastic story about a great man and his very, very good dogs.”