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    Report: Donald Trump Rigged Phones at Florida Estate To Eavesdrop On Guests
    Trump in Mar-A-Lago: AP

    Would a theoretical Donald Trump White House be the most ruthlessly paranoid and slimiest administration since probably Richard Nixon? Intuitively I think we would all say “Yes,” and new evidence suggests: “Yes!!!!”

    BuzzFeed has a new and great report about Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago compound. You remember Mar-A-Lago from this photo of 15-year-old Ivanka Trump caressing her father’s face as they sit on two concrete parrots, and also from having employed a butler who advocated hanging Barack Obama. Mar-A-Lago is an enormous mansion with hundreds of rooms that Trump rents out to guests, but his family keeps a residence on the grounds as well.

    According to BuzzFeed’s sources, Trump kept what was essentially a switchboard in his bedroom that allowed him to tap into phone calls made by any of the hundred or so people staying at Mar-A-Lago:

    BuzzFeed News spoke with six former employees familiar with the phone system at the estate.

    Four of them — speaking on condition of anonymity because they signed nondisclosure agreements — said that Trump listened in on phone calls at the club during the mid-2000s. They did not know if he eavesdropped more recently.

    They said he listened in on calls between club employees or, in some cases, between staff and guests. None of them knew of Trump eavesdropping on guests or members talking on private calls with people who were not employees of Mar-a-Lago. They also said that Trump could eavesdrop only on calls made on the club’s landlines and not on calls made from guests’ cell phones.

    The existence of the switchboard was confirmed even by BuzzFeed sources who maintain that Trump did not use it for nefarious purposes, but I’m having a hard time thinking of someone who I would trust less with the power to choose to eavesdrop on his guests than Donald Trump.

    If Republicans aren’t able to prevent Trump from winning their nomination and then the presidency my guess is that they would at least have ample opportunities to eventually impeach him.

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    Even Fucking Exxon Knows We Need a Carbon Tax
    Photo: AP

    Carbon emissions are causing global warming that will amount to a worldwide disaster unless we immediately bring it under control. The best tool for this is a carbon tax. How clear is this fact? Even Exxon is supporting it.

    The Wall Street Journal reports that ExxonMobil, the biggest publicly traded oil company on earth, is now actively lobbying for a carbon tax in America.

    Top Exxon officials have been more vocal about their support for a carbon tax and have met with Capitol Hill offices about related legislation, according to the company’s recent lobby disclosure forms.

    For the past six months, Exxon has been asserting its position more in meetings within trade associations, including the American Petroleum Institute and American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, according to multiple reports from people who have attended meetings with Exxon officials.

    Why would ExxonMobil be lobbying for an enormous tax on its main products? Because when you get to as large as ExxonMobil, you realize that you have a very important institutional stake in the continued well-being and stability of the world in which you conduct your profitable business. Rationality, in other words, compels institutions like Exxon or The Pentagon to try to intelligently address the danger of climate change. Whereas more minor idiots, frauds, and hustlers can try to ignore climate change or just try to get as much money as they can before it all goes to hell, a $385 billion company has nowhere to hide. Global catastrophe is bad for business. Therefore, carbon tax.

    (A caveat: Exxon is advocating for a “revenue neutral” carbon tax, meaning that other taxes would be cut in order to offset the tax increases of a carbon tax. This is rather less patriotic and heroic, since it would presumably not increase the company’s overall tax bill. But if revenue neutral is the only way we can get a carbon tax passed, then fuck it. We should still do it. Discouraging carbon emissions is worth a corporate tax cut.)

    At this year’s Fourth of July celebrations, why not talk to your friends and acquaintances about the need for a carbon tax? I know I will.

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    Andrew Cuomo's Display of Solidarity Much Bigger Than Bill de Blasio's
    Photo: AP

    On Thursday morning, the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio sent a press release announcing that City Hall would be lit orange to mark the final day of National Gun Violence Awareness Month. Not to be outdone, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced, an hour later, that 1 World Trade Center would also be lit orange.

    “As National Gun Violence Awareness Month comes to a close, we will light City Hall orange in honor of those we have lost to senseless gun violence,” the mayor said in his release, sent at 10:54 am. “By lighting City Hall orange, we reiterate our pledge to combat gun violence and promote common-sense legislation that will save lives throughout this city and this nation.”

    At 12:04 pm, the governor chimed in. “Tonight, in recognition of Gun Violence Awareness Month, I am directing One World Trade Center be lit orange as a tribute to the victims lost in Orlando and all those around the world who have been affected by gun violence,” read his email.

    Might this be the latest development in the ongoing feud between the two politicians?

    “We made the decision yesterday,” Cuomo spokesman John Kelly told Gawker in an email. The governor’s office coordinated with the Port Authority and the Durst Organization, which manage 1WTC. The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about when they made their decision to light City Hall orange.

    We can only applaud the governor and the mayor for setting aside their differences to engage in this bilateral display of solidarity. Very big of you both.

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    Why in the World Might Donald Trump Assume People Are Listening in on His Calls?
    Image: AP

    At least twice, Donald Trump has publicly insisted that he assumes a third party is listening in each and every time he picks up the phone. Also, multiple employees claim that Trump used to listen in on the calls of his staff and guests at his Mar-A-Lago resort. Might the steak man’s paranoia and his alleged eavesdropping somehow, perhaps, be related?

    Six workers at Trump’s pricey Palm Beach compound recently told BuzzFeed that their boss maintained a virtual switchboard in his bedroom that allowed him to tap into phone calls between employees, and sometimes between employees and guests. The Trump camp, predictably, has flatly denied these claims.

    One of these two sides is lying. We may never know which. What we do know is that Trump, for whatever reason, is pretty paranoid about his own calls being monitored.

    Here is speaking about his fear at an event in California earlier this month.

    Assume everybody’s listening to you. I always do. Every time I pick up a phone, I assume people are listening, you know. You sue their ass off if they are. If you can find them, you drop a little lawsuit on them, and you make them pay, big league.

    And here is talking about it on the Hugh Hewitt show in December of last year.

    I tend to err on the side of security, I must tell you. And I’ve been there for longer than you would think. You know, when you have people that are beheading our—if you’re a Christian, and frankly for lots of other reasons—when you have the world looking at us, and would like to destroy us as quickly as possible—I err on the side of security. And so that’s the way it is. That’s the way I’ve been, and some people like that, frankly, and some people don’t like that...

    ...and I’m not just saying that since Paris. I’m saying for quite some time. I assume, when I pick up my telephone, people are listening to my conversations anyway, if you want to know the truth. It’s a pretty sad commentary.

    Maybe Trump is afraid of the NSA, or maybe he is justifiably spooked about his phone being hacked. But maybe, just maybe, the fear reveals something deeper than that. I’ll leave you with a quote from Hermann Hesse, or else something some other armchair philosopher made up and attributed to him on Goodreads: “If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.

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    The Westside Rifle & Pistol Range, not far from the Flatiron Building, looks like some dire conservative prophecy come to life—America’s gun-lovers stripped of all rights, forced to target-shoot in windowless bunkers. To the range’s regulars, that’s sometimes how it feels. While their brethren in Texas or Florida roam free, idly polishing pistols in line at the grocery store, Manhattan’s gun owners are confined to a drop-ceilinged basement, where exposed pipes, peeling rolly chairs, and thrifty fluorescent lighting bring to mind a repurposed boiler room.

    If you can’t afford to bribe the NYPD, acquiring a gun license in New York can be a costly and time-consuming exercise, but as long as your record is clean, you can probably get one. Even with one, though, you can’t do much with your gun unless you have the much harder-to-obtain concealed carry license, granted only to the rare few who require a “special need for protection,” such as business owners who transport large sums of cash, or esteemed tropical salsa singer Marc Anthony.

    So the majority of New York City’s licensed gun owners can’t hunt, can’t walk around looking for bad guys to frighten, can’t even play guns in the privacy of fellow gun owner’s apartment. Pretty much all they can do is sit at home and wait for a burglar to show up to shoot. Or, if that gets boring, haul their piece over to the Westside, the last range left in Manhattan.

    This arrangement works just fine for Darren Leung, the Westside’s owner, who runs the place like a small-town family restaurant—back-slapping, ballbusting, ‘How are the kids,’ ‘Get back to work before I shoot you in the ass,’ etc. He’s been working at the range for 23 years. “We’re a necessary evil,” Leung said. “As long as you continue to give out permits, you need to have people go to a range.”

    Glenn Herman, who teaches at the range, hates the city’s restrictive laws, and the “libtards” who enforce them. Herman also runs, a kind of arms-focused Drudge Report with original headlines (“Turd-Like DeBlasio Circling the Bowl”) and a long-running podcast, NYC Guns Radio, whose opening insists that “If freedom and guns are not your cup of tea, please feel free to eat shit and die.” Herman’s efforts have earned him national recognition, or whatever you’d call an expert slot on John Stossel’s Fox News show, on which Herman railed against his city’s byzantine gun-license application laws.

    Herman said he has long despaired over Obama’s “radical homosexual agenda,” but lately has found occasion for hope. Mark his words: “When Donald Trump becomes president, he’s going to do the same thing for guns that Obama did for gays. And if the people of New York think they can escape that somehow, ask all those people in Alabama who don’t want to do the gay weddings how that’s working out for them,” he said.

    Leung, on the other hand, is unbothered by the laws. “A guy like Glen will say that everyone should have a carry permit,” he said. “The person who doesn’t have one is gonna be the most vocal: ‘Why can’t I have one? Why can’t we all have one?’”

    I got to talking with one of Leung’s employees, John, a laconic, extensively-tattooed Westside lifer, who was working the desk. Another man, wiry and older, in a U.S. Navy cap, was unhurriedly sweeping the floor; earlier I’d seen him scanning for busywork, strolling the room with a hand on his holster like a vacationing sheriff.

    “What’s that guy’s job?” I asked.

    “Oh, he doesn’t work here,” John said.

    This, it turned out, was Gil, a retired elevator constructor from the Lower East Side. The pro-bono dustwork was just his way of giving back; without the Westside’s shelter from liberals he’d have left New York a long time ago. “I tell ya, if things get any worse around here, I’m gonna pick my ass up and move to Florida,” he said. The range has become, in his retirement, a second home; never has he made so many friends, let alone friends who grasp the raging hypocrisies of New York’s gun laws, which force law-abiding Vietnam vets like himself to walk the streets without even a small gun for protection.

    “The Westside is like a clubhouse,” added Vinny, hands clasped across his belly. Vinny’s a big bald dude with a handlebar mustache who lives on Staten Island and sells plumbing supplies in East New York. He was sitting on at one of the lounge’s wooden tables with his wife, Linda, who joins him there every Saturday. His commitment to the Westside might be slightly more intense than Gil’s, at least in the sense that Gil did not visibly have the Westside’s logo tattooed anywhere on his body, whereas Vinny did, right there on his broad left biceps, where it served as just one part of a larger, more complex heraldic motif depicting Stewie from Family Guy brandishing two pistols while standing on top of a rough wooden coffin. The range logo was on the coffin.

    But Vinny and Linda are dilettantes and newcomers, compared to Mr. Brown, their tablemate, a supremely cheerful corrections officer on the cusp of retirement (“Not yet—it’s comin’!”) who has been traveling down from the Bronx to the Westside since 1971, back when the city was itself a kind of open-air gun range. It was at the Westside that Travis Bickle practiced shooting his guns in Taxi Driver, and a framed still from the film hangs on the wall, like a Super Size Me poster in a McDonald’s.

    I asked Mr. Brown if that made him the most-senior member of the club.

    He turned to a very old man in khakis, “Arnie, when’d you start coming here?” he asked.

    “When did Lincoln die?” said Gil.

    “We should use a sundial,” said Vinny.

    Vinny started talking about how a gun license forces you to be a good person, because if you aren’t a good person—if you, let’s say, use your gun to kill someone, or several someones—you might get your license revoked, and the process of getting it back is a huge pain in the ass.

    “Why aren’t we carrying on about the manufacturers of knives? Nobody talks about that,” Vinny said.

    “Don’t go there. ’Cause next it’ll be forks,” Mr. Brown said.

    Gil, paging through a Road & Track on a nearby stool, got up with a start and switched the channel from Fox News to a rerun of Gunsmoke.

    “How in the hell do they make jail cells?” Vinny asked.

    “Now see, you keep asking all these intricate questions. Why don’t you just watch the show?” Mr. Brown said.

    “In those days, you just put a chain around the bars, pulled it with a horse, the whole wall’d come out,” said Arnie, referring either to the conventions of 1950s television or personal experience.

    Into this heavily armed retirement community came Alex, a young security guard on his lunch break. His parents moved him to New York from Texas at a young age, and he’s never fully recovered. “In the North, people get concerned about what offends them and what doesn’t,” he said. “The Westside’s the only place I fit in around here.”

    Away from the safe space of Westside these guys feel persecuted, oppressed. Alex doesn’t personally give a shit if some college punk laughs at his Make America Great Again hat. But the media’s disdain feels different, at least to Herman. Herman is a hateful troll, and proud of it, but there was real hurt in his voice as he spoke of the mainstream media’s supposed mistreatment of gun owners.

    “The bottom line is, we’re the minority. It’s them against us, no matter how you look at it,” Leung said.

    “Them,” at the range, often means “him,” i.e. Michael Bloomberg, who, despite having left the mayor’s office almost three years ago, remains the subject of countless tirades and conspiracy theories. Herman contends that his whole anti-gun vendetta springs from the raw shame of having once simultaneously shat and pissed himself in front of all his colleagues at the sound of nearby gunfire. (The incident hasn’t been documented or attested to anywhere, but Herman believes in it truly and fervently.) But what really gets Gil is the hypocrisy. “He’s so anti-gun, but he surrounds himself with armed personnel!” he said. “Matter of fact, one of the members saw him just the other day—he’s going to some event, and he’s surrounded by cops.”

    That sort of irony goes both ways. Vitally important as guns are to the people in this windowless underground clubhouse, nobody seems particularly interested in using one. “Look behind you,” Vinny said, more than once, pointing to the shooting range proper. “Who do you see? Anybody in there? Where is everybody?” He paused. “They’re all out here, socializing.”

    Daniel Kolitz is a writer based in Brooklyn.

    Top image: Jim Cooke; photos: Daniel Kolitz, Shutterstock.

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    U.S. Military Removes Ban on Transgender Troops Serving Openly 
    Image: AP

    The Pentagon will no longer ban transgender people from serving openly in the U.S. military, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced this afternoon.

    The news is the latest in a string of similar removals of blockades to military service over the last several years. In 2011, President Barack Obama announced the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the policy that denied gay people the right to serve openly, and last year, the Pentagon opened all combat roles to women, who had previously been restricted from serving on the front lines.

    “We don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman or marine who can best accomplish the mission. We have to have access to 100% of America’s population,” Carter said at a press conference at the Pentagon.

    “Although relatively few in number, we’re talking about talented and trained Americans who are serving their country with honor and distinction. We want to take the opportunity to retain people whose talent we’ve invested in and who’ve proven themselves,” he added.

    At least 11,000 trans people currently serve in active duty, according to a Pentagon estimate, but until now, they’ve been required to identify and maintain uniform standards that correspond to their biological sex, the Atlantic notes. Under the previous rules, openly identifying as trans was grounds for discharge.

    The reversal takes place immediately for troops who are currently serving, meaning the threat of discharge is no longer in place. For newly enlisting service members, the new rules will take effect in a year, NBC reports.

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    Senator on Tight Reelection Race Sat on Board of College That Thinks Feminism Could Turn Girls Gay

    The presidential election isn’t the only nightmare awaiting us in November. Welcome to Congressional Cacophony, a new feature on The Slot about House and Senate races that really, really matter. Suggestions? Pitches? Email us.

    Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, a Tea Party Republican, is polling at a statistical dead heat with Katie McGinty, the Democrat who’s challenging his seat. That would be interesting enough, even without all the other stuff the two are feuding about: Hillary Clinton, gun rights, and why Toomey once sat on the board of an odd conservative for-profit school, one that teaches that “gender studies” classes will transform your daughter into an angry lesbian.

    Toomey has held the junior senator’s spot since 2011; he’s an anti-abortion conservative Republican who was excited about defunding Planned Parenthood and not excited about same-sex marriage (although he does distinguish himself from other Tea Party politicians by at least nominally supporting anti-discrimination measures like repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.) He’s also one of the cadre of Republicans refusing to look at or even consider Obama Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. He shows streaks of moderateness in other ways: he signed onto a gun control bill after Sandy Hook, for example. (McGinty has since accused him of “disavowing” that bill; Politifact rated McGinty’s statement “mostly false.”)

    McGinty is about as diametrically opposed to Toomey as you can get: she served as an environmental policy advisor in the Clinton administration, worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and ran unsuccessfully for Governor in 2014. If elected, she would be the first woman to become Senator in the state. This morning her campaign is visibly delighted about a report from The Huffington Post that Toomey sat on the board of Yorktown University, a real weird place:

    HuffPo’s Laura Bassett reported that Toomey served on the board of Yorktown from 2007-2009, invested in it and appeared in promos for the school, which was founded, she writes, “as a conservative counterweight to mainstream schools” and which “offered courses that railed against political correctness, feminism, egalitarianism and multiculturalism.”

    Bassett describes some of Yorktown’s offerings and philosophical underpinnings as “unconventional,” which, yeah:

    One online lecture Yorktown promoted in 2012 warned parents of the “dangers” of gender studies programs at other universities.

    “Your daughter will reject the religious and moral codes you raised her with,” a press release for the lecture warned. “Your daughter will distance herself from family and friends. Your daughter will change her appearance, and may even change her sexual orientation. Your daughter will end up hating you (her father) and pitying you(her mother). After your daughter has completed her reeducation, you will certainly be out tens of thousands of dollars and very possibly lose your daughter.”

    While Yorktown’s faculty included some credible scholars, the school also offered a free lecture criticizing art history and a class that described popular music, modern art and psychology as “signs of serious cultural disturbance.” Another lecture defined political correctness as an attempt to limit free thought “by intimidation, force and other forms of coercion.”

    Toomey’s campaign spokesperson told Time a few days ago that he was never involved in the school’s day-to-day, but in a year of Trump University, it could still make a sizable difference.

    The polls continue to show that Toomey and McGinty are closely tied, unless he’d be willing to change his stance on holding an appointment hearing for Merrick Garland. For now, he’s just one point ahead of McGinty in most polls; it’s too soon to tell whether his support for Yorktown and its weird thoughts about women will do anything to change that.

    Photos via AP

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    The Writing Men Want You To Know They've Been Very, Very Bad Boys
    Illustration by Jim Cooke.

    As you know, men be writin’.

    Men have been writing all over the place, even on this particular website, which you probably gathered from the logo at the top of the page. Given that the aim of this site is to help men become more adequate, we’ve taken a keen interest in how men choose to write about themselves on the internet. Mostly, they are bad at it, and an exercise that is supposed to bring self-improvement through the unpacking and critical examination of feelings instead becomes a practice of crafting vague hypotheticals and stringing them together. Perhaps this is because most men’s lives are inherently uninteresting, or maybe it is because they consider their problems to be too precious and heavy to be addressed head-on.

    If you read enough essays written by men, you are guaranteed to come across passages like this:

    I flew to Roswell in early spring, the day before Easter. That whole winter I’d been thinking about the desert. Partly this was because of everything that had gone wrong in my own mind. For months, I’d found myself driving too fast and sleeping too little and lying too much, lying almost all the time, really, and mostly to people I loved. I’ve never been great at communication. Now the gradual disaster of my own choices had left me without even the illusion that I understood myself; I seemed to look out at the world from the other side of a large, bright blank, a space I could navigate only by means of symbols and codes and gestures that made no sense to anyone else. I hurt people I cared about. I cut myself off from the person who best understood me. I was a secret league of one, only with no sense of how to read the directions on whatever inner map was supposed to be my guide to the conspiracy.

    There’s a word that shows up in old country songs: astray. That was how I felt. Not just lost. Like I’d fallen out of my real life and into some eccentric parallel from which I couldn’t find a way back.

    This comes near the beginning of Grantland alum and current MTV News writer Brian Phillips’s first longform feature for the site—it’s a story about aliens, belief systems, and the peculiar history of the American southwest. It’s a good story that I enjoyed reading, filled with the kind of writing that has made Phillips a successful feature writer on the internet.

    But there is that passage, a piece of bad writing—not bad because it is a bit purple or self-absorbed, but because it is dishonest and obscurantist. It uses the forms of confession and introspection to do the opposite, to gesture vaguely at something even as it labors to conceal it. The passage spreads a fog over all the rest of Phillips’ ocean of observational storytelling: He is on a journey to find answers, but he cannot even bring himself to think about the questions. An editor could have tossed that bit, which purports to be the heart of the story, into the trash can and the reader would have been none the wiser.

    As he enters his journey into the desert, Phillips tells us that he did A Bad Thing, but doesn’t bother to tell us exactly what that Thing is. “Now the gradual disaster of my own choices had left me without even the illusion that I understood myself,” he says, managing to evade addressing those “choices” while mirroring an abstract sense of self, or a man in crisis. This is a neat trick, as it allows him to project all the earnest sizzle of confessional writing without having to suffer from any of the potential burns. By presenting us with the shambles of his personal life in only the vaguest possible terms, he muscles writerly heft to the story—our writer is now a broken man looking for answers in the desert, like so many who have come before him—without having to spend any time in the story wrestling with the transgression itself. It’s the literary equivalent of the bad boy in the leather jacket locking his smoldering eyes on a beautiful woman and growling, “Run away from me, doll. I’m bad news.” And then they kiss.

    This is a common tactic deployed by prominently positioned male writers who want to try their hand at the personal essay. As it turns out, calling down the gods on your squalid and banal fuckups is an easy way to give your story unearned command. Here is a piece of writing that appeared on New York Magazine’s short-lived pop-up blog, Beta Male, under the headline “What We Mean When We Say, ‘I Love You Man’”:

    This fear was initially pinned to the sudden appearance of significant others, but that was a smokescreen. What really happened was everyone was in various stages of experimenting with being a subpar man. Being a shitty guy has a way of warping the understanding of what it means to be manly. As in, the worse you are — rude, dishonest, uncaring, downright scoundrelly — the more of a real man you are. Our friendship had been the reason we’d been able to get back up when we fell, stay afloat, even to learn how to grow up, for so many years. But here, both geographically and figuratively, separation within the group was at its high point, communication at an all-time low. No one seemed to trust themselves in relationships, and for good reason. You begin to feel like an impostor when people know you, but only the good side of you. We were designated as “good guys,” but we were no longer as good as it seemed. There’s an extent to which you know your leash is longer, that more chances are available, less trouble awaits you, when people think you’re one of the good ones.

    Here is another bit from Beta Male, under the headline “Epilogue: I’m Not In Love”:

    Hi, it’s me again. I promise I’m not angry.

    There are things you wish you didn’t love in life because of what they do to you. But if you really love these things you’ll take them as-is. A cheeseburger comes with lettuce, tomato, and onions. If you want ketchup or mayonnaise or relish, add it yourself. It’s not the cheeseburger’s job to know the condiments you fancy. You ordered a cheeseburger, not Susan Miller on a sesame-seed bun.

    We should have known from the beginning it was going to end like this. We didn’t care because we figured one of us would stop. One of us was supposed to love the other enough to change so that one of us could stay the same, and in the end the only thing I can say for certain is that we’re both fucking assholes.

    One wonders what this form of writing is meant to accomplish. It certainly doesn’t give readers any better understanding of who these men are, and those who have been wronged are reduced to faceless abstractions—perhaps even a literal cheeseburger. The closest this stuff gets to honest-to-God confession is performative, targeted guilt disguised as self-flagellation.

    Some men go even further than wispy writing that only looks heavy, and graft their personal transgressions onto an imaginary stand-in. The New York Times’ David Brooks is a master of this form. Remember this column?

    Instant communication creates a new sort of challenge. How do you gracefully change your communication patterns when one person legitimately wants to step back or is entering another life phase?

    The paradox is that the person doing the leaving controls the situation, but greater heroism is demanded of the one being left behind. The person left in the vapor trail is hurt and probably craves contact. It’s amazing how much pain there is when what was once intimate conversation turns into unnaturally casual banter, emotional distance or just a void.

    The person left behind also probably thinks that the leaver is making a big mistake. She probably thinks that it’s stupid to leave or change the bond; that the other person is driven by selfishness, shortsightedness or popularity.

    Who is David Brooks talking about in this column? It could be anyone, you see! Anyone at all. That’s what makes the ideas in it so profound.

    The problem with all of the examples cited above is that the profundity and writerly mystique tends to evaporate once the actual truth is pulled out into the light. It’s easy to imagine the pensive twists in those MTV News and Beta Male paragraphs being replaced with flat declarations of what exactly these men did. But it’s much harder to imagine “I [did a specifically detailed bad thing]” achieving the result that interests men who write this way. That is, a personal essay that manages to be simultaneously revealing and obscuring; just enough of the former to convey the outline of a meaning and earn the author a badge for honesty, and just enough of the latter to protect his reputation from any real scrutiny.

    As Genius editor Leah Finnegan points out, this is a specifically male phenomenon. The personal essay format demands that women reveal everything, often to the point of absurdity, while also allowing men to get away with vague metaphors and platitudes. On one end of the spectrum you have “I’m Glad My Friend Killed Herself,” and on the other end you have “I Did Some Bad Shit, But All You Need To Know Is That I’m Dealing With It, Manfully”

    The irony is that the gendered moral values—those that ask women writers to speak out to the extreme and men writers to be discreet—eventually lead both to a place in which their work is actively undermined by the contortions that went into producing it. It’s possible to write about the bad things you have done in a useful and thought-provoking way. Throwing every selfish and self-absorbed thought you’ve ever had onto the page isn’t the way to do it, and neither writing about your life as if it takes place in a fragrance commercial. Those approaches don’t leave much room for honest self-reflection, which is, you know, kind of the point of a personal essay.

    Of course, there is and always will be one big difference separating the female personal essay and male personal essay. The women who misstep while writing about the gory details of their personal lives will continue to face unceasing and often deserved criticism when they do so. As for the men who mine their fuckups for literary effect while actively keeping the details of those fuckups hidden? They’re in line for some slaps on the back.

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    Father of Boy Killed in Church Beating Cites Scripture: "Blows That Hurt Drive Off Evil"
    Photo: AP

    The father of two boys beaten and whipped in a group counseling session last year testified on Wednesday that his sons were attacked by members of their church because they had been suspected of sexually molesting their sister and their half-sister’s children. “Blows that hurt drive off evil,” Bruce Leonard told the court, by way of explanation.

    He was apparently referencing Proverbs 20:30 (NIV), which reads, “Blows and wounds scrub away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being.”

    Leonard’s 19-year-old son, Lucas, died of injuries sustained during the beating, which was allegedly organized by the church’s pastor, Tiffanie Irwin. If he had been taken to a hospital sooner, a medical examiner testified on Wednesday, he would have survived. Leonard’s surviving son, 17-year-old Christopher, testified earlier this week that he and Lucas had indeed molested their sister Grace, as well as their half-sister Sarah Ferguson’s children.

    Bruce Leanord was set to stand trial with Ferguson, his daughter, but he took a plea deal last week, just before proceedings began. Instead, he testified against Sarah Ferguson, his sons’ half-sister, on Wednesday. reports:

    The beatings started with a punch and a slap and progressed to whipping Lucas Leonard with an electrical cord, Bruce Leonard said. Christopher Leonard started to bleed from the nose after being hit, he said.

    The pastor told the two boys to stand and the whipping started when the cord was handed to their father, Bruce Leonard said. He estimated he whipped his sons about 20 times each with the cord.

    They were whipped “so (they) would understand the hurt that they caused,” and to discipline and punish them, Bruce Leonard said.

    Bruce Leonard said he handed the cord to his daughter, Sarah Ferguson, and she started the whip them, saying how could you. She was hitting them all over including in their groins, he said.

    “I was letting it happen,” Leonard testified. It got “too big, too crazy.” He asked the church members to stop when he saw Lucas bleeding from his groin.

    Both Leonard and his wife Deborah also participated in the beating. (Deborah also took a plea deal.) Ferguson is facing charges of second-degree murder, first- and second-degree manslaughter, two counts of first-degree assault, and two counts of first-degree gang assault.

    The boys’ sister, Grace Leonard, testified that Lucas and Christopher had touched her inappropriately, beginning when she was 4 or 5 years old, until she was 13 years old.

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    Internet Commenters Able to Detect Political Themes in Seemingly Random Events
    Image via FB

    It is a mistake to read too much into internet comments; then again, it is a mistake to read nothing into internet comments. They offer a view into the psyche of a large subset of the population—a view that cannot be found anywhere else outside of court records.

    For the stereotypical American Internet Commenter, #content on the internet is less important for what it is than for its ability to serve as a canvas upon which to draw, in BRIGHT RED COLORS, a picture of said commenter’s view of the world. There are two primary rules for internet commenters:

    1. Anything can be linked back to your personal pet themes or grievances, no matter how absurd the connection might appear to be. And,
    2. Everything is evidence for your personal beliefs.

    Here we have a Facebook video of an angry shirtless man running around downtown Denver, attacking various bystanders with a large stick. The random, uncontrollable acts of a mentally disturbed individual? Not for The American Internet Commenter, it’s not. You have to see what’s really going on. This is not a lone tragic incident. It is...


    Internet Commenters Able to Detect Political Themes in Seemingly Random Events


    Internet Commenters Able to Detect Political Themes in Seemingly Random Events


    Internet Commenters Able to Detect Political Themes in Seemingly Random Events
    Internet Commenters Able to Detect Political Themes in Seemingly Random Events
    Internet Commenters Able to Detect Political Themes in Seemingly Random Events


    Internet Commenters Able to Detect Political Themes in Seemingly Random Events

    Video of a violent crime, video of a sports highlight, video of a famous person, same internet comments.

    What does it all mean? (That we need guns.)

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    Dave Holmes's Party of One Is the Latest Great Gay American Book

    Last year, author Garth Greenwell suggested that Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life could be the great gay novel that contemporary culture was waiting for. A few months later, Greenwell produced his own contender for that title when his acclaimed What Belongs To Us was released. Around the same time, Alexander Chee’s novel Queen of the Night was released. Thatt’s another beloved book that’s widely regarded to be gay—if not in subject matter, then in sensibility.

    Gay books are, in short, a thing right now. And while former MTV VJ and current editor-at-large at Dave Holmes’s new book is so consistently hilarious that it might deceive you into thinking it’s a lighter, less serious read than the aforementioned literature-with-a-capital-L, do not be fooled: Party of One is every bit as deserving to be considered in this new wave of essential, unmissable gay writing.

    In Party of One, pop culture references flow like that white-water river that Meryl Streep shot Kevin Bacon on over two decades ago. Holmes writes of his obsession with entertainment, especially music, that bloomed at an early age, not as separate from his developing sexuality but as intertwined with it. “Each day, I became more aware that I was both different and different, and each day, I turned to music to ease the discomfort,” Holmes writes. Without ever signaling as much, Holmes cogently illustrates why owning and announcing one’s queer identity is relevant to situations where it initially may not seem so, situations that seemingly have nothing to do with sex or love.

    Holmes efficiently describes the deep confusion gay and pre-gay boys feel when interfacing with the narrow conceptions of masculinity (or at least, those conceptions as they existed for a white kid in St. Louis coming of age in the ‘80s). Of his experience wherein the most minor of quirk could get you “called a faggot as an American thirteen-year-old boy in 1984,” Holmes writes:

    In this environment, if you do not fit into the narrow, ever-shifting definition of what is masculine and therefore acceptable, life becomes a constant, exhausting effort to stay on what you are told is the right side of the cool/gay divide. You study older, more secure-looking boys for cues on how to talk, how to walk, how to yawn and cough and laugh, so that you will be acceptable. You make a hundred thousand micro-decisions about your behavior before lunch. You never exactly get it—you can’t wear coolness and masculinity as effortlessly as the boys who are born with it—but you can fool some people. And when you can’t, when you hear things like “man up” or “quit being such a faggot,” you don’t recognize these comments as bullying, you take them as you would notes on a performance. I should be better at not being me, you think. Thanks for the reminder.

    Earlier this week, Holmes visited the Gawker office to talk to me about his book. The entirety of our conversation was broadcast on Facebook Live, and you can watch it below. When I asked Holmes his reaction to the labeling of Party of One as a gay book, he didn’t disagree but he did go back and forth a bit as he ruminated on the descriptor. His initial response was:

    I don’t think that’s limiting necessarily anymore. There’s a lot of gay content in [Party of One]. But I think if you grow up gay, it’s a very pointed exercise in learning how to be different. You can’t deny it. If you want to live happily you have to engage with it in some way. And I think everybody feels a little different in some way. This culture will still shame you for being different. We talk a good game about diversity and accepting each other and everybody’s Number 1 and all that, but if you’re different, if you stand out at all, someone will make you feel ashamed for it. So if you are gay then you have to go through that process of coming out, which is a very specific thing. There’s a before and an after, and your life is a little bit different after. But if you’re too if you have a big doll collection or something, whatever, if there’s some dumb thing that you have that’s yours that makes you feel a little bit strange, you have to engage with that in some way. I think I speak to that. I wanted to speak to that experience.

    As we continued our conversation, he came around to suggesting that, “It’s not a gay book,” and considered the other side in this way:

    Looking back, there are things like that that the larger world needs to know about. You do shame people when you make those sorts of comments about people. It’s deep shaming. It’s not just, “I don’t like your shirt.” It goes real, real deep.

    But ultimately:

    The experience of coming out does define me and it does define the book. So it is, but I think we’re past the point where a straight person would be like, “Oh, it’s a gay book. I don’t want to read it.” I mean, I am bracing myself for those kinds of comments, but there are eight other reasons why that person wouldn’t like the book. So fuck it.

    To Holmes’s point, pop culture does not have to be relatable to the viewer to be worth viewing. There are universal truths throughout Party of One, but they radiate from one man’s specific experience of growing up gay, and that’s vividly relayed here. So much of Party of One’s wisdom and sensibility rang true to me and my experience. I see a huge part of my own story here, and Holmes tells it with such insight and wit. I don’t think you have to relate to appreciate Party of One, but if you do relate, you will probably be floored.

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    Nancy Grace's Show Won't Be Missed, But Her Hashtags Will
    Image: YouTube

    Nancy Grace will leave HLN when her contract expires in October, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Grace, a former Georgia prosecutor, has made her name on television by yelling about open cases involving children, murder, or both. Normally, when there’s not enough detail, she’ll demand answers. From whom, exactly? It’s unclear.

    Grace might be leaving behind her show at HLN—she doesn’t say if she has a job lined up yet—but her Twitter account’s hashtags will live forever in my memory. The TV host acknowledged her tendency to boil down a horrifying news story into a couple of pithy words, and said it helps her remember the stories as well as make them memorable to others:

    Grace, who comes up with the nicknames herself, first starting employing them in law school to help keep track of the many cases she was studying. She says the habit has “really helped” the homicide and violent-crime suspects she focuses on stick in the public consciousness.

    Think of the purpose of a Twitter hashtag. Ideally, it’s a utility to categorize a certain topic for users who want to join or read the conversation. A helpful tool, in theory. Here’s how Nancy Grace’s Twitter uses a hashtag:

    These erratic screams to no one in particular are intended to complement her show. Again, ideally, a viewer of Nancy Grace’s show could participate in a second-screen experience by watching a segment about a box of infants, turning on their phone or computer, and joining the conversation with the #BoxOfInfants tag.

    Here’s another one:

    At a certain point, the hashtags petered out. Maybe Grace’s show hired a new social media manager, or someone felt weird about the practice. The account will still use the occasionally hashtag, and tweet #GoodnightFriend, but it hasn’t been the same. With Grace leaving, here are some of the best hashtags, in no particular order:

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    The First Fatal Crash In A Self-Driving Car Has Happened; NHTSA Investigating Tesla
    The view of a Tesla Model S in its self-driving mode on the highway. Photo credit: Raphael Orlove.

    One person died in a May crash in Florida involving a Tesla Model S cruising on its semi-autonomous Autopilot mode, as Tesla has officially confirmed. NHTSA is currently investigating the wreck.

    It was in a Model S last month, and only now are details of the crash public, thanks to a statement from Tesla and an investigation from NHTSA.

    The crash, as reported by Tesla itself, happened when neither the driver nor the car’s sensors could see a tractor trailer pulling across the highway. The Tesla crashed into its high side, the trailer breaking right into the windshield of the car.

    Here’s Tesla’s full statement, titled “A Tragic Loss.”

    We learned yesterday evening that NHTSA is opening a preliminary evaluation into the performance of Autopilot during a recent fatal crash that occurred in a Model S. This is the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles where Autopilot was activated. Among all vehicles in the US, there is a fatality every 94 million miles. Worldwide, there is a fatality approximately every 60 million miles. It is important to emphasize that the NHTSA action is simply a preliminary evaluation to determine whether the system worked according to expectations.

    Following our standard practice, Tesla informed NHTSA about the incident immediately after it occurred. What we know is that the vehicle was on a divided highway with Autopilot engaged when a tractor trailer drove across the highway perpendicular to the Model S. Neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied.

    The high ride height of the trailer combined with its positioning across the road and the extremely rare circumstances of the impact caused the Model S to pass under the trailer, with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S. Had the Model S impacted the front or rear of the trailer, even at high speed, its advanced crash safety system would likely have prevented serious injury as it has in numerous other similar incidents.

    It is important to note that Tesla disables Autopilot by default and requires explicit acknowledgement that the system is new technology and still in a public beta phase before it can be enabled. When drivers activate Autopilot, the acknowledgment box explains, among other things, that Autopilot “is an assist feature that requires you to keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times,” and that “you need to maintain control and responsibility for your vehicle” while using it. Additionally, every time that Autopilot is engaged, the car reminds the driver to “Always keep your hands on the wheel. Be prepared to take over at any time.” The system also makes frequent checks to ensure that the driver’s hands remain on the wheel and provides visual and audible alerts if hands-on is not detected. It then gradually slows down the car until hands-on is detected again.

    We do this to ensure that every time the feature is used, it is used as safely as possible. As more real-world miles accumulate and the software logic accounts for increasingly rare events, the probability of injury will keep decreasing. Autopilot is getting better all the time, but it is not perfect and still requires the driver to remain alert. Nonetheless, when used in conjunction with driver oversight, the data is unequivocal that Autopilot reduces driver workload and results in a statistically significant improvement in safety when compared to purely manual driving.

    The customer who died in this crash had a loving family and we are beyond saddened by their loss. He was a friend to Tesla and the broader EV community, a person who spent his life focused on innovation and the promise of technology and who believed strongly in Tesla’s mission. We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to his family and friends.

    The crash, as mentioned, is currently under investigation by NHTSA, as Reuters and others report.

    UPDATE: The Verge, Reuters, and the New York Times have more details on the crash. It happened on a divided highway in Williston, Florida, not far from Gainesville and about a hundred miles north of Orlando.

    At the wheel was 45-year-old Ohio resident Joshua Brown, who was killed when the tractor-trailer made a left in front of him. NHTSA said this in an official statement:

    Preliminary reports indicate the vehicle crash occurred when a tractor-trailer made a left turn in front of the Tesla at an intersection on a noncontrolled access highway. The driver of the Tesla died due to injuries sustained in the crash.

    The Times notes that NHTSA found out about the crash from Tesla, and that NHTSA sent an investigative team to the site of the wreck.

    UPDATE 2: Joshua Brown’s obituary here notes that he was a Navy SEAL, created his own tech company, Nexu Innovations Inc., and worked in tactical electronics.

    The Verge also notes that Tesla referred to Brown as a friend of the company, and that he recorded a somewhat viral video of his Model S nicknamed ‘Tessy’ having a near crash earlier. He said he had not been watching the road and that his car saved his life.

    UPDATE: The Levy County Journal, the local newspaper in Florida, describes the horrific crash thusly:

    The top of Joshua Brown’s 2015 Tesla Model S vehicle was torn off by the force of the collision. The truck driver, Frank Baressi, 62, Tampa was not injured in the crash.

    The FHP said the tractor-trailer was traveling west on US 27A in the left turn lane toward 140th Court. Brown’s car was headed east in the outside lane of U.S. 27A.

    When the truck made a left turn onto NE 140th Court in front of the car, the car’s roof struck the underside of the trailer as it passed under the trailer. The car continued to travel east on U.S. 27A until it left the roadway on the south shoulder and struck a fence. The car smashed through two fences and struck a power pole. The car rotated counter-clockwise while sliding to its final resting place about 100 feet south of the highway. Brown died at the scene.

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    Donald Trump is in Manchester, New Hampshire today, working to collect the state’s four electoral votes, which will surely propel him over Hillary Clinton and into the White House. At his rally, he took questions from attendees, including a woman named Cathy, who is New Hampshire’s Legislative Chairman, VFW Auxiliary.

    First, before asking her question, Cathy thanked Trump for “everything you’ve done for the veterans,” such as promising to donate to several veterans charities but only doing so after the Washington Post exposed him for not actually having done it. “We all in the VFW know what you’ve done even if you don’t come out in say it,” Cathy continues, and, well, it doesn’t seem like she knows what she’s talking about.

    In a related note, her actual question:

    Homeland security and jobs: Why aren’t we putting our retirees—our military retirees—on that border or in TSA? Get rid of all these heebiejabis they wear at TSA. I’ve seen them myself. We need the veterans back in there. They’ve fought for this country and defended it. They’ll still do it.

    As Cathy finishes her question you can hear Trump mutter a resigned, regret-soaked “okay,” which, I think, betrays the grand bluster of his campaign, if even for one moment.

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    Donald Trump Points to the Heavens, Warns of Mexican Attack Planes
    Photo: AP

    One of Donald Trump’s primary campaign promises has been the construction of a big, free wall, but on Thursday, he revealed a grave new threat from across the border that even his enormous, possibly CGI barrier is incapable of stopping.

    While discussing trade with Mexico at a rally in New Hampshire, Trump took a moment to comment on a plane buzzing overhead, saying, “That could be a Mexican plane up there — they’re getting ready to attack,” Politico reports.

    Clearly the presumptive Republican nominee was just joking, but when you’re Donald Trump, even your comedy bits end up sounding a lot like the plot of Red Dawn.

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    Journalist Gay Talese Trashes Own Book Days Before Publication

    The Voyeur’s Motel, Gay Talese’s book-length profile of alleged peeping tom and hotelier Gerald Foos, comes out in less than two weeks, but according to The Washington Post, Talese has “disavowed” the book after being confronted with new doubts about the truthfulness of its subject.

    “I should not have believed a word he said,” Talese told the Post. “I’m not going to promote this book. How dare I promote it when its credibility is down the toilet?”

    Foos claimed to have spied on hotel guests for decades after buying the Manor House Motel in suburban Denver in the 1960s, but the Post reports discovering problems with Foos’ narrative while conducting routine fact-checking:

    Talese does note in “The Voyeur’s Motel” that he found discrepancies in Foos’s accounts. Foos’s earliest journal entries, for example, were dated 1966. But the author subsequently learned from county property records that Foos didn’t buy the Manor House Motel until 1969 — three years after he said he started watching his guests from the catwalk. “I cannot vouch for every detail that he recounts in his manuscript,” Talese writes in the book.

    But property records also show a series of sales and purchases of the motel from 1980 to 1988, none of which Talese said he knew about. In a series of interviews, he expressed surprise, disappointment and anger to learn about the transactions. He said he had not been aware of them until a reporter asked him about it on Wednesday.

    “The source of my book, Gerald Foos, is certifiably unreliable,” said Talese. “He’s a dishonorable man, totally dishonorable... I know that... I did the best I could on this book, but maybe it wasn’t good enough.”

    Earlier this year, Talese and The New Yorker (which published an except from The Voyeur’s Motel in April) faced criticism over the legal and ethical questions raised by working with Foos, who, among other transgressions, claims to have not come forward as a witness after reporting a murder he may have provoked.

    Distancing himself from the book over accuracy may be a convenient way for Talese to sidestep the moral implications of collaborating with an allegedly prolific predator. Just easily, however, Talese could be courting the controversy as a promotional tactic itself.

    For their part, publisher Grove Atlantic apparently still plans to go forward with The Voyeur’s Motel, but is considering “appending an author’s note or footnotes in subsequent printings to account for errors or missing information.”

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    I Can No Longer Recommend Raw Cookie Dough in Good Conscience
    Photo: Shutterstock

    Yesterday, I planned to write a blistering takedown of the FDA’s latest consumer update, a document bearing the laughable title “Raw Dough’s a Raw Deal and Could Make You Sick.” I even had two working headlines, “FDA Warns Against Raw Cookie Dough But Life is Short Go Hard” and “Chickenshit FDA Issues Raw Cookie Dough ‘Warning.” Alas, I can no longer go forward.

    The advisory itself was issued after an E. coli outbreak connected to tainted flour sickened 38 people, giving them symptoms ranging from stomach cramps to bloody diarrhea. Weighed against the joy raw cookie dough blesses upon tens of millions each year, a few dozen souls banished to bathroom hell seemed like a classic case of acceptable risk.

    And yet.

    Over the course of my research, I came across the story of Linda Rivera, an otherwise healthy Las Vegas mother who was hospitalized after eating “a few bites” of contaminated cookie dough in 2009, eventually suffering brain injury and having much of her large intestines removed.

    “Don’t take a chance with it,” Rivera told CNN in 2010. “It’s not worth it. You give up your life, you lose everything.”

    After battling medical complications for three more painful years, Rivera died.

    Raw cookie dough is delicious and compared to say, driving a car every day, not especially risky. Still, it’s probably “not worth it” as Rivera said, given the potential severity of illness. With that it mind, take care when handling raw flour products like cookie dough, only consuming them after they’re cooked and washing your hands after contact. If you want some cookie dough, is an actual cookie so bad?

    According to the FDA, commercially-made cookie dough ice cream is treated to kill bacteria and also probably cool.

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  • 07/01/16--04:20: 129 Days and a Wake Up
  • 129 Days and a Wake Up
    Boris Johnson wearing a cool “rucksack” on his commute. Photo: Getty

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    Attorney General Loretta Lynch Will Follow FBI and DOJ's Lead in Clinton Email Investigation: Official 
    Photo: AP

    Attorney General Loretta Lynch will accept whatever recommendation career prosecutors and the FBI director make in the Hillary Clinton email server investigation, a Justice Department official told the Associated Press Friday. The move assuages concerns that Lynch, a political appointee and a Democrat, might have overruled investigators.

    “The Attorney General expects to receive and accept the determinations and findings of the Department’s career prosecutors and investigators, as well as the FBI Director,” the official said. According to the AP, Lynch is expected to address the matter further at the Aspen Ideas Summit on Friday.

    The decision comes amid controversy surrounding Lynch’s private meeting with President Bill Clinton earlier this week. The New York Times reports:

    Ms. Lynch said that the meeting with Mr. Clinton was unplanned, largely social and did not touch on the email investigation. She suggested that he walked uninvited from his plane to her government plane, both of which were parked on a tarmac at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

    “He did come over and say hello, and speak to my husband and myself, and talk about his grandchildren and his travels and things like that,” Ms. Lynch said at a news conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday, where she was promoting community policing. “That was the extent of that. And no discussions were held into any cases or things like that.”

    Nevertheless, Republican lawmakers like Texas senator John Cornyn, a member of the Judiciary Committee, took the opportunity to raise questions about the integrity of the Justice Department’s investigation. “In light of the apparent conflicts of interest, I have called repeatedly on Attorney General Lynch to appoint a special counsel to ensure the investigation is as far from politics as possible,” he said in a statement.

    Federal investigators have already interviewed top Clinton aides Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin, the AP reports, although they have not questioned Clinton herself. FBI Director James Comey has said there is no timeline for concluding the investigation.

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