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    Former Donald Trump Aides Are on the Ground in Wisconsin Trying to Defeat Paul Ryan
    Photo: AP

    A group of former Donald Trump aides have reportedly flocked to Wisconsin with the sole goal of overthrowing Paul Ryan, the current House Speaker who made the mistake of halfheartedly endorsing Trump earlier this summer.

    Yesterday, Trump gave an interview declining to endorse Ryan, who is facing a primary challenge for his congressional seat. Using the same language Ryan did when he was stalling for time this spring, Trump said he was “not quite there yet,” on deciding whether Ryan is the best candidate.

    And like a hydra, Trump’s wrath has more than one slimy front. According to The Politico, “more than half a dozen of Trump’s former campaign staff members or leading volunteer organizers from around the country — and many more local volunteers” have joined the campaign of one Paul Nehlen, a long-shot businessman challenging Ryan in the primary.

    It’s an interesting if slightly misleading report in that it suggests that Trump has the ability to mobilize some kind of ground game. In fact, The Politico reports, many of them were laid off from the Trump campaign and joined Nehlen’s on their own accord for the same reasons that drew them to work for Trump in the first place: the “continuation of the bitter fight Trump waged against the GOP establishment.”

    And what does Nehlen think about all of it? It’s hard to say—his aides hid him in an RV promising he’d be right out and then drove the RV away from inquiring reporters.

    Fritsch escorted Nehlen into a campaign RV parked nearby and emblazoned with the words “Dump Paul Ryan,” explaining that the candidate would be “right back out” to resume the interview after the campaign verified the candidate’s door-knocking route.

    But 10 minutes later, Fritsch emerged from the RV alone, and it drove away with the candidate still inside. “You know what, we have another interview,” Fritsch said. “We have a very, very busy schedule.”

    Can’t help but feel this is a metaphor for something...

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    Mississippi Official Explores Dark Underpinnings of American Wealth
    Image: Library of Congress

    Happy 300th birthday to the city of Natchez, Mississippi! To celebrate, Mississippi Development Authority executive director Glenn McCullough Jr. noted on Twitter that Natchez had the most millionaires per capita of an U.S. city before the Civil War. That’s a lot of millionaires—where do you think they got all their money?

    They got it from slavery, as the historian and sportswriter Curtis Harris helpfully pointed out to McCullough after the fact. According to U.S. Census data from 1860, Adams County, where Natchez is located, had a population that was 71.7 percent enslaved that year.

    Before the Civil War, any prosperity in Mississippi—and all of the U.S., really—was had thanks to the violent subjugation of black people. If Natchez had a lot of millionaires, it’s because they didn’t have to pay for labor.

    McCullough has since deleted the millionaires tweet and replaced it with a much friendlier sentiment.

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    Microsoft Keeps Dossiers on Journalists and Sent Us One By Accident
    Image: Gizmodo

    Email can be a slippery beast, and one thread of messages Gizmodo recently received—seemingly by mistake—has given us a window into how Microsoft prepares its employees for the apparently terrifying prospect of talking to the press.

    The emails, which were sent to Gizmodo Tuesday afternoon, appear to show several high-level Microsoft executives discussing how they plan to roll out a new Skype bot announcement today—and more specifically, how they intend to incorporate a reporter into these plans.

    Here’s a taste:

    Microsoft Keeps Dossiers on Journalists and Sent Us One By Accident

    Among other things, the email thread features a one-and-a-half page dossier on Mark Sullivan, a senior writer for Fast Company. According to the emails, Microsoft had apparently initially pitched an interview with Gurdeep Singh Pall, a corporate vice president who focuses on Skype, to Wired, but the outlet “passed due to scheduling,” so the company went with TechCrunch and Fast Company instead. Congratulations, everyone.

    The writeup on Sullivan is both illuminating and entertaining—insofar as a corporate dossier can be “entertaining.” It includes Sullivan’s areas of coverage, details on his “writing style,” and his thoughts on Microsoft’s bot competitors, including Alexa and Siri. (According to the dossier, he has “mixed feelings” on the Amazon’s bot, while he has an “overall positive opinion” on Apple’s.) In a bit of PR person-as-Sherpa maneuvering, the rundown notes that Sullivan doesn’t cover Skype news regularly, “so will be important to make sure you’re setting enough context to bring him along on the journey.”

    Oh, and then there’s this tidbit: “Off the record, he finds Facebook bots to be boring and not very smart.” Better luck next time, Zuck.

    The thread, which carries the subject line, “RE: UPDATE: Skype Bots Announce,” includes big-name Microsoft employees, including Kim Stocks, director of corporate public relations, Frank X. Shaw, corporate vice president of corporate communications, and Gurdeep Singh Pall. It also includes employees from WE Communications, including the person who apparently sent the emails to Gizmodo by mistake. (WE Communications helps handle press for Microsoft.)

    Besides the dossier, the emails contain your standard corporate communications goings-on: There’s some back and forth on the wording of the blog posts announcing the news, a bit of discussion on the broader purpose of the releases, and some details on the timing.

    It’s certainly not unusual for a major company to keep a detailed description of a reporter—and some of the tidbits look to have come directly from Sullivan’s own bio—but these things are never supposed to see the light of day, and they’re certainly not supposed to land in the inbox of another reporter. Also, having Sullivan’s photo on there is kind of creepy. (When reached by email, Sullivan was remarkably chill about the entire thing.)

    When asked for comment, a Microsoft spokesperson sent over the following statement:

    “As you might expect, we work to make sure all of our spokespeople come into any interview prepared. This includes being clear about what the interview is about, as well as giving them context on who they will be talking to. It also includes reminding them about previous interactions with the reporter, a synopsis of recent coverage and relevant information the reporter might have shared via other public sites like Twitter. We do this to ensure the interview is a good use of time for both parties.”

    The person who sent the errant email declined to comment further, and referred us to Microsoft’s statement.

    Now, of course, we can’t help but wonder: What’s in Microsoft’s dossier for Gizmodo?

    Update: Incredibly, this isn’t Microsoft’s first time at the dossier rodeo. As Erik Malinowski points out on Twitter, the company made a similar mistake in 2007—and Wired promptly wrote it up.

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    Senior Aides Reportedly Planning an Intervention Over Donald Trump's Descent into Madness
    Photo: AP

    Donald Trump’s rapid descent into madness this week has apparently alarmed his senior aides so much that they’re reportedly planning an intervention to beg Trump to be a different person, at least until the election is over.

    According to NBC, “key Republicans” including RNC chair Reince Priebus, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and almost-VP Newt Gingrich, plan to sit Trump down to discuss some of the choices he’s made of late, which include attacks on the father of a dead soldier; attacks on two separate fire marshals doing their jobs; attacks on a baby; attacks on two senior Republicans who endorsed him; and the bizarre claim that his daughter would never allow herself to be sexually harassed at work, notwithstanding the fact that she still works for him. They’re hoping for a “dramatic reset,” to which I say—good luck.

    The plan, NBC reports, is still in its early stages and the participating advisors reportedly hope to enlist the help of Trump’s children, who seem to be the only people he listens to—campaign advisor Paul Manafort is reportedly “mailing it in” at this point, while his staff feels “suicidal.” Sources tell NBC the current climate within the campaign is “Crazytown” and “worse than ever.”

    In the meantime, members of Trump’s senior staff called in together to CNN this morning to claim they’re not frustrated, as sure a sign as any that things are very bad.

    Chris Christie, NBC’s Katy Tur reports, will not be participating in the intervention because he is still bitter he wasn’t selected as Trump’s vice president. Probably for the best.…

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    GOP Gubernatorial Candidate's Latest Ad Is Just Him Shooting a Machine Gun for 20 Seconds

    Good people of Missouri, former Navy SEAL (and former Democrat) Eric Greitens would like to be your next Governor. Now please watch him fire off a Gatling-style machine gun for 20 seconds.

    Greitens won the Missouri primary just days ago, positioning himself as an “outsider” who will “take aim at politics as usual.”

    Greitens isn’t a single issue candidate by any means, though. He also released an ad where he shoots this gun:

    In addition to Missouri voters, Greitens has also garnered the attention of conservative billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who donated $200,000 to Greitens’ campaign.

    So, Eric, how are you feeling on the heels of your big win?

    GOP Gubernatorial Candidate's Latest Ad Is Just Him Shooting a Machine Gun for 20 Seconds

    We bet.

    [h/t @shadihamid]

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    Donald Trump Had No Idea Where He Was Yesterday
    Trump in Ashburn: AP

    A lot happened at Donald Trump’s rally in Ashburn, Va. yesterday. Trump was gifted a Purple Heart, leading him to say that he “always wanted to get the Purple Heart” but “this was much easier.” He later kicked a screaming baby out of the rally. But that Trump is a shortcutting egotist who will lower himself to the level of a screaming child isn’t exactly a surprise. More telling is that Trump’s speech at the rally revealed a complete lack of knowledge about where he was.

    The Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff has a great report from Ashburn, which is located in Virginia’s Loudoun County. As Woodruff explains, Loudoun County is a crucial one for Trump. It’s a prosperous exurb of Washington D.C., populated by families that have gotten rich off the largesse of the military industrial complex. It has voted with the presidential winner in every election since 2000.

    Trump heralded the importance of Loudoun County in his speech, and as such you would have expected him to at least tailor his typically off-the-cuff ranting for the crowd he was speaking to. But! Via Woodruff:

    Loudoun is the richest county in America. That’s due in part to the enormous amount of money the federal government spent on the War on Terror in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The place is replete with defense contractors, engineers, and rocket scientists. And it’s recession-proof; while the rest of the country struggled through the Great Recession, Loudoun kept sprouting up neighborhoods of McMansions, seemingly with a swimming pool in every backyard.

    But Trump seems to think it’s part of the Rust Belt. Toward the end of his speech—to an atypically preppy, professional, clean-cut audience—the candidate bashed the county economy.

    “You’re doing lousy over here, by the way, I hate to tell you,” he said.

    That is empirically false.

    He then listed a number of factory closures, including Ball Corp., which was five hours away in Bristol, as far from Loudoun as you can get without leaving the state. And he mentioned the closure of a Smithfield Foods Inc.

    “Anybody used to work for Smithfield?” he asked the crowd.

    It’s almost certain none of them did. The Smithfield plant that closed was in Hampton Roads, Virginia—three hours from Ashburn, in the southeast corner of the state.

    He went on:

    “Stanley Furniture closed its plant,” he continued.

    Stanley Furniture did indeed recently close a plant, in 2014. That plant was in North Carolina.

    He also mentioned the closure of a plant owned by Invista, a Koch Industries company that produces fabric and carpeting. That plant was two hours from Ashburn, and it closed eight years ago.

    Right. So, what does Donald Trump know about a county vital to his chances of being president? Draw your own conclusions from the following back-and-forth, pulled from an interview Trump gave to the Washington Post just after the Ashburn rally:

    RUCKER: Did you see Tim Kaine’s speech?

    TRUMP: I thought it, yeah —

    RUCKER: He tried to impersonate you.

    TRUMP: Yeah, I thought he was terrible. I thought his speech was terrible. Although he’s not popular here. You know, this is Loudoun County. Loudoun County’s a big deal.

    RUCKER: Whoever wins Loudoun wins the election.

    TRUMP: Is that what you think?

    RUCKER: It’s one of the swing counties, yeah.

    TRUMP: Hey, George! Come here. He just said whoever wins Loudoun wins the election. This is Loudoun.

    GEORGE GIGICOS, Trump campaign aide: We’re in Loudoun County now.

    TRUMP: You got 800 acres in Loudoun.

    RUCKER: Loudoun, Fairfax —

    TRUMP: What about Fairfax? Same thing?

    What does Donald Trump know about... anything?

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    Thomas Friedman Has Read a Children's Coloring Book Called "Capitalism"
    Two of America’s Greatest: Getty

    Thomas Friedman is a true American success story: a man who without any writing talent or deep understanding of any issue, managed to marry an heiress and now lives in a huge mansion. It’s called “capitalism,” folks.

    (I’m incredibly envious of him.)

    Tom Friedman appears to have spent a few solid hours before deadline last night with his thinking cap upon his head and his nose buried deep in a kindergarten-level primer on “Capitalism.” From this analysis he has determined that what Hillary Clinton needs to do to win this thing is to embrace a little something that Thomas Friedman likes to call: “Capitalism.”

    And that leads to my second reason for pushing Clinton to inject some capitalism into her economic plan: The coalition she could lead. If there is one thing that is not going to revive growth right now, it is an anti-trade, regulatory heavy, socialist-lite agenda the Democratic Party has drifted to under the sway of Bernie Sanders. Socialism is the greatest system ever invented for making people equally poor. Capitalism makes people unequally rich, but I would much rather grow our pie bigger and faster and better adjust the slices than redivide a shrinking one.

    Yes, who has ever heard of a prosperous social democracy? Absurd.

    Tom Friedman, in fact, explicitly advocates in his column that Hillary Clinton embrace an agenda of “deregulation,” a concept with a sterling modern track record. To top it off, he reveals the secret “pivot” that Hillary must now undertake:

    I get that she had to lean toward Sanders and his voters to win the nomination; their concerns with fairness and inequality are honorable. But those concerns can be addressed only with economic growth; the rising anti-immigration sentiments in the country can be defused only with economic growth; the general anxiety feeding Trumpism can be eased only with economic growth.

    Wow... economic growth. None of the world’s great economists have any proven ideas about to overcome our period of ongoing secular stagnation, but—thankfully—Thomas Friedman does. (By saying you are for “growth.”)

    [One economist weighs in]

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    Workers at the Carl Icahn-owned Trump Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City have been on strike for a month. Today, the casino announced it is shutting down. About 3,000 jobs will be lost.…

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    Alex Jones: Screaming Baby at Trump Rally Was "Probably a Plant"
    Image: AP

    By now, you suckers have probably heard all about the supposed “controversy” involving a screaming baby at a Donald Trump campaign event in Virginia. You’ve probably slurped up all the mainstream media’s glop about the baby, and are ready to pass judgement on Donald Trump. But Alex Jones has the real truth: That baby was a crisis actor.

    Jones revealed the globalist infant’s identity on his radio program today (embed via Media Matters):

    And then, of course, we’ve got the other controversy. Somebody’s got a screaming baby—probably a plant—right up in the front, howling like it’s the end of the world. And Trump’s just real. He says, “Hey, get that screaming baby out of here.” Just like when they say we’re not doing the star-spangled banner, he says, “We’re doing it.” Or when somebody starts a fight, to distract everybody, he says, “Take ‘em out of here, stop being so easy on ‘em when somebody’s punching people.” That’s why they’re scared of Trump: he’s real. They’ve been tapping his phones for years. They’ve got dossiers on him.

    Think about it. Remember the guy who caught a homer at a Diamondbacks game while holding a baby earlier this year? Have you ever seen that baby and screaming Trump baby in the same room? How about the baby born with the creepily thick head of hair in March? Imagine that baby screaming and crying—doesn’t it sound a lot like screaming Trump baby? Remember the baby in a pope hat that charmed the actual pope when he visited Philly in 2015? Do I really have to continue spelling this out for you?

    Alex Jones says a lot of silly things, but when he’s right, he’s right.

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    That $400 Million Secret Payment to Iran Isn't Quite What You Think It Is
    Photo credit: Corey Barnes

    The Drudge Report, Fox News, Donald Trump, and a host of other right-wing institutions are in a tizzy today over a report in the Wall Street Journal that the United States government sent a secret plane stuffed with $400 million in Swiss francs and euros directly to Tehran back in January, at precisely the same time Iran agreed to release four American detainees. “Obama Paid $400M ‘Ransom’ to Iran,” is how the New York Post is playing the story. Trump himself is calling it a “scandal.” What people seem to be missing is the fact that, while the Journal is the first to report that the payment was made in cash, literally everything else about the story—the money, the prisoner release, the quid pro quo allegations—was reported back in January.

    First, a little backstory to explain how we got to this point: Earlier this year, the United States entered into an agreement with the Iranian government aimed at freezing Iran’s nuclear weapons program. As part of a whole bunch of peripheral issues surrounding that deal, there was a matter of four American citizens that were being detained in Iran on rather dubious charges, as well as $1.7 billion that Iran was demanding from the U.S. in restitution for an arms deal that went south back in the 1970s.

    Back then, the U.S. and the government of the Shah agreed on a $400 million deal for fighter jets. The Shah delivered the money, but then he was deposed in the Iranian Revolution of 1979, so the Americans never delivered the jets. The American government did, however, hang on to the cash.

    Ever since, the Iranian government has been trying to re-claim the payment in international courts, along with $1.3 billion in interest that’s accumulated over that time. As one of those peripheral issues, the U.S. agreed to pay the money back. This was pretty well known among people paying close attention, because President Obama said as much when it was all announced back in January. The New York Times reported at the time:

    Mr. Obama also announced the resolution of another argument between Tehran and Washington that dates to the Iranian revolution, this one over $400 million in payments for military equipment that the United States sold to the shah of Iran and never delivered when he was overthrown. The Iranians got their money back, with $1.3 billion in interest that had accumulated over 37 years.

    On or about the same day that the initial payment of $400 million was made, the four Americans were released, with three on a Swiss Air Force plane headed to Geneva, and one headed back to the United States.

    At the time, there was speculation from U.S. Speaker Paul Ryan and others that the payment amounted to a ransom for the four Americans. White House press secretary Josh Earnest attempted to deflect those charges in press conference on January 19, 2016:

    Q: [O]n Sunday, we learned that the United States made a payment to the government of Iran of $1.7 billion. Was this tied to the deal that led to the freedom of the Americans that were being held in Iran?

    MR. EARNEST: Jon, this is actually the result of a long-running claims process that had been at The Hague. In 1979, there was obviously an Iranian revolution that abruptly severed relations between our two countries. And prior to that revolution, the U.S. government had entered into an agreement with the then-Iranian government to transfer about $400 million in military equipment to the Iranian government. Once the revolution took place, obviously that equipment was not transferred, but we also didn’t return Iran’s money either.... And for more than 30 years now, the Iranians have been using this claims process at The Hague to try to recover that $400 million....

    Q: Okay, but as I understand it, the Department of State announced this payment of $1.7 billion to the government of Iran just before the plane carrying the freed Americans landed in Geneva. You’re really telling me that this is an absolute coincidence that this payment just happened to coincide with the precise moment when the American prisoners were flying to freedom?

    MR. EARNEST: Jon, I think we’ve made pretty clear that this is not a coincidence. The fact is, these kinds of diplomatic opportunities—

    Q: [B]ecause Paul Ryan has suggested this was a ransom payment. You saw his statement.

    MR. EARNEST: He’s wrong about that.

    Of course, it’s tough to take those denials without a large grain of salt. A deal was signed, a payment was made, four Americans were released, the U.S. released seven Iranians on its own—things like that happen coincidentally every day. But whether you believe it or not, the issue of whether the $400 million payment to the Iranians was ransom was very publicly discussed seven months ago.

    You wouldn’t know that to read the Journal story, though, which opens with the news that the payment took the form of a cash airlift:

    The Obama administration secretly organized an airlift of $400 million worth of cash to Iran that coincided with the January release of four Americans detained in Tehran, according to U.S. and European officials and congressional staff briefed on the operation afterward.

    The story makes no reference, aside from single a link to the Journal’s prior coverage of the deal, to the fact that the payment was a matter of public record. The cash bit was indeed secret, but reasonable (and unreasonable!) readers are interpreting the story as a scoop about a previously unreported payoff.

    Politico, for example, covered Trump’s attack over the deal by saying “the previously unreported $400 million sent in January was the first installment of the White House’s $1.7 billion settlement with Iran.” Foreign Policy wrote that “Republican lawmakers are fuming Wednesday over a report that the U.S. government secretly sent the equivalent of $400 million to Iran last January.”

    As for the quid pro quo allegations, the Journal story also brings nothing new to the table. It helpfully relays that, while the White House denied that the payment was related to the detainee release, the Iranian government boasted of precisely the opposite:

    Revolutionary Guard commanders boasted at the time that the Americans had succumbed to Iranian pressure. “Taking this much money back was in return for the release of the American spies,” said Gen. Mohammad Reza Naghdi, commander of the Guard’s Basij militia, on state media.

    But those claims were made at the time, in public, back in January.

    The Journal’s overreach is unfortunate, because the details on how the cash made its way to Tehran are interesting, to say the least:

    President Obama approved the shipment of the $400 million. But accumulating so much cash presented a logistical and security challenge, said U.S. and European officials. One person briefed on the operation joked: “You can’t just withdraw that much money from ATMs.”

    Mr. Kerry and the State and Treasury departments sought the cooperation of the Swiss and Dutch governments. Ultimately, the Obama administration transferred the equivalent of $400 million to their central banks. It was then converted into other currencies, stacked onto the wooden pallets and sent to Iran on board a cargo plane.

    The cash was made up of Swiss francs, euros, and other non-dollar currencies and was loaded aboard the unmarked cargo plane which landed in Iran. Because apparently electronic wire transfers aren’t good enough anymore, or something, and we want our diplomatic payments to be made in as untraceable manner as possible.

    (As an aside, countries do maintain gold and foreign currency reserves as a matter of due course, so the fact that governments have any cash at all isn’t so strange.)

    No, there’s no real way to prevent any government from spending money how it pleases. But when Iran is propping up Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime and funding terrorists the world over, making a cash payment out of Swiss bank accounts probably wasn’t the best idea.

    Nor is it a good idea to misleadingly frame a good little scoop about a cash delivery as a blockbuster revelation of a $400 million payment. Some readers aren’t smart enough to tell the difference.

    The Wall Street Journal did not respond to a request for comment.

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  • 08/03/16--13:38: Hedge Funds Lose Again 
  • Hedge Funds Lose Again 
    Photo: AP

    The realization that the retirement money of middle-class workers should not be invested in crazy expensive hedge funds is now hardening into conventional wisdom.…

    Today, the people who manage the public pensions for New Jersey announced that they’re cutting back their hedge fund investments by 52%—a move that the activist group Hedge Clippers calculates is a divestment of about $4.5 billion from the hedge fund industry.

    The expensive fees charged by hedge funds—and the fact that they generally fail to pay for those fees in improved performance—cost pension funds and retirees billions of dollars, both in New Jersey and across America. New Jersey’s pensions join public pensions in California and New York City in publicly cutting back on hedge fund investments.

    Pensions are fucked enough as it is without donating zillions of dollars to hedge fund managers.

    Every other public pension system in America should do this too!

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    Donald Trump Has Been a Long Time Coming

    Once upon a time, Americans were confronted with two nightmarish scenarios: The untimely and apparently unavoidable collapse of a world economy—an economy that had inexplicably come to rely upon a precarious global network called “the Internet” and a seemingly infinite series of overvalued companies peddling nothing but buzzwords like some horrible late capitalist Matryoshka doll—and a Donald Trump presidency.

    This was in 1999, when Trump was mulling a bid for the White House—not as a Democrat, Republican, or even an independent, but rather as a member of the Reform Party, and specifically as a member of the affiliated Independence Party of New York. In November of that year, Trump’s longtime advisor and operative Roger Stone appeared as a surrogate on the C-SPAN program “Washington Journal” to promote his friend’s political ambitions.

    Stone had been involved in eight presidential campaigns up until that point—all Republicans. (When he was 19, he played a small role in the Watergate scandal, sending campaign contributions to Richard Nixon’s primary challenger in the name of the Young Socialist Alliance. Stone, famously, has a tattoo of Nixon across his back.) But on C-SPAN, he defended his break with the GOP by repudiating its increasingly regressive social policies.

    “If the party demonstrates some tolerance for a broader spectrum of views in the area of social policy, I could very easily remain a Republican,” Stone said. “I don’t want to be part of a party that bashes immigrants, that bashes gays, or bashes African Americans, or who takes extreme positions of intolerance on questions of social policy. I want a party that’s economically and fiscally conservative, a party that’s conservative on defense issues, but which is more I think tolerant on some of these other issues of immigration and civil rights.”

    Later in the appearance, Stone described Trump’s proposal for a one-time net worth tax on individuals worth more than $10 million to reduce the national debt. (The “Robin Hood Plan” also would repeal inheritance tax.) “I’m not sure that the rules for wealthy people should be different than the rules for everybody else,” Stone said.

    One concerned caller asked whether Trump would support the Reform party’s nominee if it were someone other than him. Stone said that Trump would—unless it was Pat Buchanan. He’d be reluctant to support the paleoconservative, “given the things that Mr. Buchanan has written about Jews, and blacks, and Mexicans, and his revisionist views about World War Two.” Stone said that Trump would be comfortable with Ross Perot, however.

    Stone, of course, is a notoriously slimy political operative who is liable to say or do just about anything on behalf of his chosen candidate. (Lobbying disclosures show that the Trump Organization paid Stone’s firm, IKON Public Affairs, $125,250 in 1999 and 2000.) Recently, he recalled for the New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin how he and Trump came to know each other:

    It started in 1979, when Stone was a twenty-six-year-old aide in Ronald Reagan’s Presidential campaign. Michael Deaver, a more senior campaign official, instructed Stone to start fund-raising in New York. “Mike gave me a recipe box full of index cards, supposedly Reagan’s contacts in New York,” Stone said. “Half the people on the cards were dead. A lot of the others were show-business people, but there was one name I recognized—Roy Cohn.” So Stone presented himself at the brownstone office of Cohn, the notorious lawyer and fixer.

    “I go into Roy’s office,” Stone continued, “and he’s sitting there in his silk bathrobe, and he’s finishing up a meeting with Fat Tony Salerno,” the boss of the Genovese crime family. Stone went on, “So Tony says, ‘Roy here says we’re going with Ree-gun this time.’ That’s how he said it—‘Ree-gun.’ Roy told him yes, we’re with Reagan. Then I said to Roy that we needed to put together a finance committee, and Roy said, ‘You need Donald and Fred Trump.’ He said Fred, Donald’s father, had been big for Goldwater in ’64. I went to see Donald, and he helped to get us office space for the Reagan campaign, and that’s when we became friends.”

    Things were not always so cordial: “Roger is a stone-cold loser,” Trump told Toobin in 2008. “He always tries taking credit for things he never did.” Despite being ousted from the Trump campaign last summer, Stone is still working on the Republican candidate’s behalf coordinating a small, pro-Trump super PAC.

    There is something uncanny in Stone’s 1999 appearance on C-SPAN, though—much of what he has to say about Trump sounds eerily familiar, as when he describes the real estate developer’s skepticism of trade deals, but especially when he speaks to Trump’s character and people’s perception of it. “Trump has a certain resilience,” he claimed. “He faced financial disaster. He was nine hundred million dollars in debt personally. He was nine billion dollars in debt if you looked at his companies. All of that caused by a government-created crisis in the real estate industry.”

    “I think people respect somebody who came to the edge of disaster—didn’t quit, didn’t walk away, didn’t go bankrupt like so many others in this industry, who came back and rebuilt their business bigger and better than ever,” he continued. (Actually, Trump has declared bankruptcy—multiple times.) “He is not claiming to be anything that he is not,” Stone said. “He is not claiming anything other than the facts.”

    These are all bald-faced lies—they were then, and they are now. But calling them lies, and even pointing out the absurdity of a Trump campaign that “demonstrates some tolerance for a broader spectrum of views in the area of social policy,” misses what makes Trump so popular. Stone was on to something: Trump does have “a certain resilience.” If the past year has shown us nothing else, it’s shown us that.

    Trump’s strength is not his wealth or his charisma—neither of which does he actually possess in any great quantity. Trump’s strength is in revealing the artifice of assumed political truths to an angry and frustrated people. “My entire life, I’ve watched politicians bragging about how poor they are, how they came from nothing, how poor their parents and grandparents were,” he told Maureen Dowd, a month after Stone’s C-SPAN appearance. “And I said to myself, if they can stay so poor for so many generations, maybe this isn’t the kind of person we want to be electing to higher office. How smart can they be? They’re morons. There’s a perception that voters like poverty. I don’t like poverty. Usually, there’s a reason for poverty. Do you want someone who gets to be president and that’s literally the highest paying job he’s ever had?”

    Trump’s supporters don’t care whether or not he’s worth $500 million, $1 billion, or $10 billion—it doesn’t matter. What matters is that he says he’s rich, and doesn’t feel the need to apologize for it. In fact, he doesn’t feel the need to apologize for anything, and resents any implication that he might. One “Washington Journal” caller was uncomfortable with how Trump introduced his then-girlfriend Melania at a rally—not by name, but as “his supermodel.” “He’s not going to take any coaching. He’s not going to change his approach,” Stone responded. “That’s just not Trump. He is outspoken. He is brash. He is unvarnished. All those things are true. We shall see what the American people think.”

    “In the age of mass communication, all our politics are changing,” Stone proclaimed. “Here’s the fundamental question: Is the pop culture in this country now more influential than its institutions?” Maybe! Or maybe pop culture is but one institution in this country among many, and the fundamental question is not whether one institution is more influential than another but rather what happens after a candidate like Donald Trump emerges, like a tangerine kaiju from the deepest trenches of the white American id, to demolish them all—that is to say: What comes next?

    [H/T John Herrman]

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    Today's Best Deals: USB-C Gear, Solar Charger, Mentos Gum, Free Gas

    Anker USB-C gear, an affordable solar charger, and a free tank of gas lead off Wednesday’s best deals.…

    Bookmark Kinja Deals and follow us on Twitter to never miss a deal. Commerce Content is independent of Editorial and Advertising, and if you buy something through our posts, we may get a small share of the sale. Click here to learn more, and don’t forget to sign up for our email newsletter.

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    Today's Best Deals: USB-C Gear, Solar Charger, Mentos Gum, Free Gas

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  • 08/03/16--15:05: Congress Honors Trump
  • Congress Honors Trump

    As unearthed by The Hollywood Reporter, there exists a (supposed) genuine Donald Trump handprint, at Madame Tussaud’s in New York. They have helpfully mocked up a life-sized printable replica. It now hangs in a bathroom inside the Rayburn House Office Building, as you can see in this photograph provided to Gawker by a Congressional staffer who works in the building.

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    Donald Trump Endorses Mike Pence Endorsing Paul Ryan for Congress
    Photo: AP

    Just one day after Donald Trump savagely owned the Speaker of the House even harder than that baby, running mate Mike Pence endorsed Paul Ryan for reelection, reportedly with Trump’s blessing.…

    “I strongly support Paul Ryan, strongly endorse his reelection,” Pence told Fox News on Wednesday, according to The Hill. “He’s a longtime friend, he’s a strong conservative leader. I believe we need Paul Ryan in leadership in the Congress of the United States to rebuild our military, to strengthen our economy and to ensure that we have the kind of leadership in this country that will make America great again.”

    During the same phone interview, Pence said that Trump “strongly encouraged” him to endorse Ryan after the running mates discussed Pence and Ryan’s lasting friendship.

    Citing an unnamed source close to the campaign, CNN reports that Trump “has given Pence wide latitude to speak his mind and has personally encouraged him to stay true to his own ideas, believing Pence is loyal to the campaign.”

    For Pence, who maybe wasn’t allowed to have anything to say in the past, it’s probably nice just to talk at all.

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    Exclusive: FBI Comments on Murder of Harambe

    LAS VEGAS– For the first time, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has commented on the murder of Harambe the Ape, who was killed earlier this year.

    In a brief interview at the Blackhat cybersecurity conference, an FBI employee played coy to any involvement the Bureau may have had with the murder of Harambe, which some allege was an inside job.

    Read our exclusive interview with some dude guy in the FBI booth:

    Gizmodo: Do you think the FBI had any role on the killing of Harambe the Ape?

    FBI: Who?

    Gizmodo: Harambe the Ape, from the Cincinnati zoo.

    FBI: I have no clue, man.

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    Keeping track of Donald Trump’s seemingly endless stream of fuck-ups and “fuck yous” can be challenging for even the most dogged reporter, so it was as a great public service on Wednesday that Trump recalled some of his greatest hits at a rally in Florida—while additionally claiming he could have stopped 9/11.

    “And those commercials were so false just like Hillary’s commercials,” said Trump, according to CBS News’ Sopan Deb, before summarizing several of his opponent’s attack ads for the crowd. “Like she’s got the one with the blood coming out of the eyes. And I meant her nose or her ears or her mouth but these people are perverted and they thought it was another location.”…

    “We had a story where I was talking about people dancing in the street,” Trump continued. “Or dancing on the rooftops, you remember. Now in all fairness throughout the world they were dancing but I said in New Jersey they were dancing. And no, I said—when the World Trade Center came down.”…

    “By the way,” Trump added, “those people that knocked down the World Trade Center most likely under the Trump policy wouldn’t have been here to knock down the World Trade Center, just so you understand.”…

    “Then they put a reporter on me and nobody’s better to people with disabilities than me,” Trump said at another point in the speech. “But the reporter, all of a sudden, remembered it totally different from the story. And he was groveling. I won’t make the motions because if I do, they’ll say something, you know.”…

    Trump, of course, had already said it all himself.

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    Nude Photos Raise Legal Questions About Melania Trump's Early Immigration Status
    Photo: AP

    According to an investigative report from Politico, recently published nude photos of Melania Trump have revealed, among other things, inconsistencies in her statements about when she first arrived in the United States and under what circumstances.…

    “It never crossed my mind to stay here without papers. That is just the person you are,” Melania told Harper’s Bazaar in January. “You follow the rules. You follow the law. Every few months you need to fly back to Europe and stamp your visa. After a few visas, I applied for a green card and got it in 2001.” She repeated that version of events to Mika Brzezinski the following month: “I never thought to stay here without papers. I had visa. I travel every few months back to the country to Slovenia to stamp the visa. I came back. I applied for the green card. I applied for the citizenship later on.”

    But if Melania was in the United States on an H-1B work visa (as has been reported) she would not have needed to return to Slovenia to “stamp the visa,” given than H-1B visas can be valid up to three years. From Politico:

    Instead, Trump’s description of her periodic renewals in Europe are more consistent with someone traveling on a B-1 Temporary Business Visitor or B-2 Tourist Visa, which typically last only up to six months and do not permit employment.

    If someone were to enter the United States on one of those visas with the intention of working, it could constitute visa fraud, according to Andrew Greenfield, a partner at the Washington office of Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, a firm that specializes in immigration law.

    “It’s quintessential,” he said. “If you enter the United States with the intention of working without authorization and you present yourself to a border agent at an airport or a seaport or a manned border and request a visa, even if there is not a Q&A — knowing that you are coming to work — you are implicitly, if not explicitly, manifesting that you intend to comply with the parameters of the visa classification for which you sought entry and were granted entry.”

    Melania told Mika Brzezinski that she came to New York City in 1996. (Her now-defunct website gave the same year.) But the nude photo shoot, photographs from which were recently published by the New York Post, took place in 1995. If Melania were on an H-1B, she would have been permitted to participate in the shoot; if she were not, she would have been participating in the shoot illegally.

    During a primary debate, Trump admitted to abusing the H-1B visa program to bring in cheap foreign labor for his development projects—this, he said, is how he knows that it is something that should be abolished. In March, Trump said that he would “end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program. No exceptions.”

    Paolo Zampolli, the Italian businessman who was a partner in the modeling agency Melania was working for at the time, told Politico that everything the agency did was above board. “Every model we represented, we did a visa,” he said. “It’s just part of the rules.”

    In a statement to Politico, Trump campaign spokeswoman said that “Melania followed all applicable laws and is now a proud citizen of the United States.”

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