Friday, April 06, 2018

Checking With The Reporters On A Couple Of Amazing Claims They Made

There were two lines in the Anchorage Daily News today that caught my attention.  "Really?  How do they know that?"

The first was a line in Erica Martinson's story about Alaska's two US Senators' relationship with the President.  It talked about how they didn't support him, but they are getting policies that help Alaska. (Of course, what helps Alaska is open to interpretation and to whether one is looking short term or long term.)

Martinson wrote:
"More than 500 days have passed since Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. Alaska's Republican senators didn't vote for him . . ."
Wow!  They didn't vote for the presidential candidate in their own party.  (I have to say that it was a safe bet in Alaska, where their two votes were not going to swing the state to Clinton.)  But to tell people?  I assumed that Martinson had evidence, so I emailed her asking if she meant in the November election (which is what the sentence would seem to say) and if yes, how she knew this.

I got a quick response:

"I meant in the Nov. 2016 election.
I wasn't in the voting booth, but that's what they told me and others at the time. Sullivan said he was going to write in Mike Pence's name. Murkowski said she was going to write in a name, but she never did say who, at least to me. both resigned their positions on the Alaska Republican Party's central committee until after the election because they would not support Trump: sure if it made it into a story that day (I think we ran a day-of blog?), but I spoke to both Senators about it on or around election day and they had not changed their plans."
I guess during the election coverage I missed this or forgot it.  Had I read the story on-line instead of in print, I'd have seen the link, but I didn't do that until I was getting the link for this post.
The second line that jumped out at me was from an article by Marc Fisher, also in the ADN, reprinted from the Washington Post, about Trump's campaign against Jeffrey Bezos - the Amazon head and owner of the Washington Post.
"But others who have heard Trump rail against Amazon as a “monopoly” say his central complaint is based more on a cultural gap than a financial one, deriving from the fact that the president has never been known to shop online and does not use a computer — and has therefore never experienced what has drawn so many Americans from local storefronts to Amazon and other online retailers." [emphasis aded]
That jumped right out at me.  The president doesn't use a computer!  I remember the uproar when George H. W. Bush expressed amazement at a demonstration of supermarket scanners.that checkers use.  (This Snopes assessment suggests the New York Times played up that story to Bush's detriment.)  I was thinking that the US president doesn't necessarily get too much time going to the supermarket and he'd been VP for the eight years before he became president.

But in 2018 it seems remarkable that the US president doesn't use a computer.  And if he doesn't, how can he tweet every day.  So I emailed Marc Fisher my questions - did he mean by 'computer' a laptop or desktop?  Surely Trump uses a smart phone or he wouldn't be able to tweet.  Before I sent the email I googled the topic and found quotes about Trump feeling no computer was secure to use.

I also got a quick reply from Marc Fisher:
"Yes, Trump uses a phone, primarily for voice calls and for tweeting, which he does only on his phone or by dictating to his digital politics advisor. What he does not and has not ever used is a desktop or laptop computer. He has, for example, never used email. As for his reasons, when he’s been asked about his avoidance of computers, he says he doesn’t have the time. Not a terribly enlightening answer, but there it is."
Given that a smart phone today is a mini-computer with access to the internet, I guess it isn't as shocking as it originally sounded.

What is shocking - and would seem to be illegal - is the possibility that Trump is intentionally using the office of the presidency to damage someone because he's offended by what Bezos' newspaper writes about him.  (Fisher cites several WP people who say Bezos plays no role in the content of the paper.)
"Later in the campaign, Trump complained that “every hour, we’re getting calls from reporters from The Washington Post asking ridiculous questions, and I will tell you, this is owned as a toy by Jeff Bezos.” Trump said Amazon was using The Post “as a tool for political power against me. . . . We can’t let him get away with it.”
"Amazon’s stock value declined by more than 5 percent after the president’s recent attacks but has gained ground this week."
"A Wells Fargo analysis concluded that although 'the arguments made by the president against Amazon have been undermined by third-party fact checkers . . . the president’s actions [could stir] additional scrutiny of Amazon beyond the federal government.'” 
"But Politico media critic Jack Shafer argues that Trump is right to connect Amazon, Bezos and The Post, because the retailer’s wealth made Bezos’s purchase of the paper possible. “If Amazon didn’t exist, it’s unlikely the Washington Post would exist in its current form,” wrote Shafer, whose wife, Nicole Arthur, is The Post’s travel editor. Shafer rejected the notion that The Post is lobbying on behalf of Amazon but said that by linking The Post to Amazon and driving down Amazon’s stock price, Trump had found a way to try to punish a news organization that he otherwise couldn’t harm."  [emphasis added]
 If a company is misbehaving, the president of the United States can say something about that.  and even call for an investigation.  But he's got to be careful not to bias that investigation.  But if the reason for the president's attack on a company is criticism in a newspaper whose owner also owns the other company, it seems to me there are real First Amendment issues being raised.

In any case, I was pleased that both these reporters were quick to respond to my questions and to have information to back up what they wrote.  Fisher clarified what using a computer meant, but didn't say how he knew about the president's computer use.  But when I looked back at my original email, I didn't ask that of him.  And it should be pointed out that Fisher works for the Washington Post, which is the target of the president's attacks.


  1. Jack Shafer's comments don't hold water for me. "If Amazon didn’t exist, it’s unlikely the Washington Post would exist in its current form” -- and how does he know that? Maybe if Bezos hadn't bought the Post, Sergey Brin or Bill Gates would have.

    And I am really chopped at the remark -- which I read as approving or at least explanatory -- that "Trump had found a way to try to punish a news organization that he otherwise couldn’t harm." Under what interpretation of the Constitution is it OK for the president to try to punish a news organization?

    1. I do think that's pretty clear abuse of powers and grounds for impeachment if it could be proven.

  2. Drumpf has certainly, imho, injected himself in all kinds of court cases and on the surface trying to poison juries against mostly judges he doesn't like because they don't rule in his favor.

    The 9th circuit court of appeals has taken any number of cheap shots from the potus. So had the judge in his Drumpf University scam where he was found guilty and fined bigly.My humblest apologies as my short term memory is not fully functioning atb the moment.


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