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Trump administration signals change in policy for transgender students
The Washington Post
By Sandhya Somashekhar and Moriah Balingit February 11 at 11:15 AM
The Trump administration signaled Friday that it was changing course on the previous administration’s efforts to expand transgender rights, submitting a legal brief withdrawing the government’s objections to an injunction that had blocked guidance requiring that transgender students be allowed to use restrooms that match their gender identity.
The move by the Justice Department does not immediately change the situation for the nation’s public schools, as a federal judge had already put a temporary hold on the guidance as a lawsuit by a dozen states moved through the courts.
But it suggests that the Trump administration will take a different approach on the hotly contested issue of transgender rights, which many conservatives thought went too far under the Obama administration.
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Chaffetz Said He Believes Town Hall Protestors Were Paid, Not From Utah
By Kristin Salaky
Published February 11, 2017
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) said that the thousands of protestors who swarmed his town hall on Thursday night were not actually from his state and were "paid" to protest, the Deseret News reported Friday.
Chaffetz told the paper that he was sure that the protestors, who chanted "shame!" and grilled him on investigating President Donald Trump, were Democrats and that they were trying to cause "chaos" because they don't like Trump and are upset about the results of the 2016 election.
"You could see it online a couple days before, a concerted effort in part to just cause chaos," he said, according to the Deseret News. "Democrats are in disbelief that they have nothing but flailing and screaming to deal with this."
Chaffetz said that he is sure that protestors were paid to demonstrate at and disrupt his town hall, telling the paper that one speaker made it a point to make clear that he was not being paid by the Democrats.
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South Dakota lawmaker blocks workplace protection for pregnant workers: "It's not prison. You can quit."
Boing Boing | Cory Doctorow | Sat Feb 11, 2017
South Dakota state Rep. Wayne H Steinhauer [R-9] (Phone: 605-526-4269/ 605-773-3851/ 605-359-6298); Email: Wayne.Steinhauer@sdlegislature.gov, never-used Twitter account) was part of a group of eight male, GOP reps who killed a bill that would have guaranteed workplace accommodations to pregnant South Dakotans. During the hearing, Rep Steinhauer told women "It’s not prison. You can quit."
Rep Steinhauer expanded on this view, saying that pregnant people shouldn't want to work for employers who wouldn't accommodate their pregnancies, and thus the state was doing them a favor by failing to require employers to treat workers with fairness and dignity.
Rep Steinhauer's official state bio lists his occupation as "business owner."
The law -- which parallels legislation in 18 states and DC -- would have required employers to provide pregnant workers with water, a stool to sit on, and bathroom breaks.
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Republicans Are Using Big Tobacco’s Secret Science Playbook to Gut Health Rules
The Intercept | 2017-02-05
Much of the country has been watching in horror as Donald Trump has made good on his promises to eviscerate the Environmental Protection Agency — delaying 30 regulations, severely limiting the information staffers can release, and installing Scott Pruitt as the agency’s administrator to destroy the agency from within. But even those keeping their eyes on the EPA may have missed a quieter attack on environmental protections now being launched in Congress.
On Tuesday, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology is expected to hold a hearing on a bill to undermine health regulations that is based on a strategy cooked up by tobacco industry strategists more than two decades ago. At what Republicans on the committee have dubbed the “Making EPA Great Again” hearing, lawmakers are likely to discuss the Secret Science Reform Act, a bill that would limit the EPA to using only data that can be replicated or made available for “independent analysis.”
The proposal may sound reasonable enough at first. But because health research often contains confidential personal information that is illegal to share, the bill would prevent the EPA from using many of the best scientific studies. It would also prohibit using studies of one-time events, such as the Gulf oil spill or the effect of a partial ban of chlorpyrifos on children, which fueled the EPA’s decision to eliminate all agricultural uses of the pesticide, because these events — and thus the studies of them — can’t be repeated. Although it is nominally about transparency, the bill leaves intact protections that allow industry to keep much of its own inner workings and skewed research secret from the public, while delegitimizing studies done by researchers with no vested interest in their outcome.
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Proposed bill deems children born through artificial insemination illegitimate children
By Amelia Carlson - 10 February 2017
NASHVILLE, TN (WMC) - WMC Action News 5
A proposed bill in the Tennessee General Assembly seeks to classify children born through artificial insemination as illegitimate children.
Representative Terry Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster) proposed HB 1406, which is intended to repeal the current statute regarding children born through artificial insemination.
...the bill proposed by Weaver, with the Senate equivalent (SB 1153) proposed by Senator Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald), would ... label the child as illegitimate despite the couple being married and both consenting.
[Bill text: https://legiscan.com/TN/bill/HB1406/201
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Website for disabled kids disappears as DeVos takes office
Washington senators Murray, Cantwell demand Trump education chief restore site
BY JOEL CONNELLY, SEATTLEPI.COM STAFF
Updated 5:25 pm, Saturday, February 11, 2017
A U.S. Department of Education website, empowering families of students with disabilities, has disappeared -- and already embattled Trump education chief Betsy DeVos may be to blame.
U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell want to know what happened to the vanished website, and have asked Education Secretary DeVos to put it back up.
The website was set up under President George W. Bush so educators, advocates and parents could get a "one-stop" explanation on the federal Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), as well as know their rights under the disability law.
The resource has been inexplicably taken away. In a letter to DeVos -- whose confirmation both senators vocally opposed -- Cantwell and Murray explained:
"We are deeply concerned that prior to your confirmation and arrival at the Department, the centralized resource website for the IDEA became inaccessible to the public for more than a week, and is now redirecting people to a site for the Office of Special Education Programs.
The new website "lacks much of the information previously available," the senators wrote.
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Town hall erupts in jeers after GOP official lies about ACA ‘death panels’
Constituents weren’t having it.
Think Progress -
11 February 2017
Politifact’s 2009 “Lie of the Year” was brought back from the dead during a Saturday town hall hosted by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) — and the mostly pro-ACA crowd wasn’t having any of it.
Bill Akins — chair of Pasco County, Florida’s Republican Party — told the roughly 250 people in attendance that his problem with the Affordable Care Act is that “there is a provision in there that anyone over the age of 74 has to go before what is effectively a death panel.”
As soon as the words “death panel” left Akins’ mouth, the crowd erupted in boos, jeers, and chants of “liar, liar.”
“It’s in there folks. You’re wrong!” Akins replied, falsely, as Bilirakis tried to restore order. Akins then calls the angry crowd “children.”
Another opponent of the ACA, Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA), recently said he doesn’t want to hold town halls because “since Obamacare and these issues have come up, the women are in my grill no matter where I go.”
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If you care about our public schools and our democracy, beware of Betsy DeVos and her vouchers
Los Angeles Times | Op-Ed
Barbara Miner - 9 February 2017
The confirmation hearings for Betsy DeVos provided an inordinate amount of drama: guns and grizzlies, an all-night talkathon on the Senate floor, and Vice President Mike Pence’s tie-breaking vote — and with good reason.
DeVos, now confirmed as secretary of Education, is not just another inexperienced member of the president’s Cabinet. She is an ideologue with a singular educational passion — replacing our system of democratically controlled public schools with a universal voucher program that privileges private and religious ones.
If you care about our public schools and our democracy, you should be worried.
Every state constitution enshrines the right to a free education for all children, and the U.S. Supreme Court has long upheld this right. In its landmark decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, the high court noted that “education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments.” It went on to recognize its role in a democratic society, calling education “the very foundation of good citizenship.”
Given the controversy surrounding DeVos, Republicans initially may go easy in pushing school vouchers. But beware the bait and switch, the seemingly reasonable initiative that disguises radical change.
For more than a quarter-century, I have reported on the voucher program in Milwaukee: the country’s first contemporary voucher initiative and a model for other cities and state programs, from Cleveland to New Orleans, Florida to Indiana.
Milwaukee’s program began in 1990, when the state Legislature passed a bill allowing 300 students in seven nonsectarian private schools to receive taxpayer-funded tuition vouchers. It was billed as a small, low-cost experiment to help poor black children, and had a five-year sunset clause.
That was the bait. The first “switch” came a few weeks later, when the Republican governor eliminated the sunset clause. Ever since, vouchers have been a divisive yet permanent fixture in Wisconsin.
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Election commissioner to Trump: Show evidence of voter fraud
By Mark Hensch - 02/10/17 07:42 PM EST
A commissioner on the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) called on President Trump to give proof of voter fraud, after he reportedly made further claims in a meeting with senators.
Trump reportedly blamed voter fraud for why both he and former Sen. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) lost in New Hampshire last November during a recent meeting with a bipartisan group of senators.
“The scheme the President of the United States alleges would constitute thousands of felony criminal offenses under New Hampshire law,” Commissioner Ellen Weintraub said in a statement Friday.
“The President has issued an extraordinarily serious and specific charge,” added Weintraub, who is a Democrat but was appointed by former President George W. Bush in 2002. "Allegations of this magnitude cannot be ignored.” “I therefore call upon President Trump to immediately share his evidence with the public and with the appropriate law-enforcement authorities so that his allegations may be investigated promptly and thoroughly.”
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A US-born NASA scientist was detained at the border until he unlocked his phone
by Loren Grush - Feb 12, 2017, 12:37pm EST
Two weeks ago, Sidd Bikkannavar flew back into the United States after spending a few weeks abroad in South America. An employee of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Bikkannavar had been on a personal trip, pursuing his hobby of racing solar-powered cars. He had recently joined a Chilean team, and spent the last weeks of January at a race in Patagonia.
Bikkannavar is a seasoned international traveller — but his return home to the US this time around was anything but routine. Bikkannavar left for South America on January 15th, under the Obama Administration. He flew back from Santiago, Chile to the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas on Monday, January 30th, just over a week into the Trump Administration.
Bikkannavar says he was detained by US Customs and Border Patrol and pressured to give the CBP agents his phone and access PIN. Since the phone was issued by NASA, it may have contained sensitive material that wasn’t supposed to be shared. Bikkannavar’s phone was returned to him after it was searched by CBP, but he doesn’t know exactly what information officials might have taken from the device.
Seemingly, Bikkannavar’s reentry into the country should not have raised any flags. Not only is he a natural-born US citizen, but he’s also enrolled in Global Entry — a program through CBP that allows individuals who have undergone background checks to have expedited entry into the country. He hasn’t visited the countries listed in the immigration ban and he has worked at JPL — a major center at a US federal agency — for 10 years. There, he works on “wavefront sensing and control,” a type of optics technology that will be used on the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope.
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Pre-clearance bill would give U.S. border agents in Canada new powers
Bill to expand border co-operation could also see permanent residents denied re-entry to Canada
By Evan Dyer, CBC News Posted: Feb 12, 2017 5:00 AM ET
U.S. border guards would get new powers to question, search and even detain Canadian citizens on Canadian soil under a bill proposed by the Liberal government.
Legal experts say Bill C-23, introduced by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, and likely to pass in the current sitting of Parliament, could also erode the standing of Canadian permanent residents by threatening their automatic right to enter Canada.
The bill would enshrine in law a reciprocal agreement for customs and immigration pre-clearance signed by the governments of Stephen Harper and Barack Obama in 2015. Both houses of Congress passed the U.S. version of the bill in December.
Michael Greene, an immigration lawyer in Calgary, says C-23 takes away an important right found in the existing law.
"A Canadian going to the U.S. through a pre-clearance area [on Canadian soil] can say: 'I don't like the way [an interview is] going and I've chosen not to visit your country.' And they can just turn around and walk out.
"Under the new proposed bill, they wouldn't be able to walk out. They can be held and forced to answer questions, first to identify themselves, which is not so offensive, but secondly, to explain the reasons for leaving, and to explain their reasons for wanting to withdraw," said Greene, who is national chair of the Canadian Bar Association's citizenship and immigration section.
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The Spy Revolt Against Trump Begins
Intelligence Community pushes back against a White House it considers leaky, untruthful and penetrated by the Kremlin
By John R. Schindler • 02/12/17 10:00am
[I consider John Schindler a questionable source. And at the same time, I consider The Observer to be _just about the least likely source on the planet for this story outside the Trump White House itself_. It endorsed Trump in the primaries. It was just digested by his son-and-law, Jared Kushner, when said son-in-law became a senior advisor in the Trump administration. Seriously, SOMETHING IS GOING ON HERE. But what the hell is it?]
In a recent column, I explained how the still-forming Trump administration is already doing serious harm to America’s longstanding global intelligence partnerships. In particular, fears that the White House is too friendly to Moscow are causing close allies to curtail some of their espionage relationships with Washington—a development with grave implications for international security, particularly in the all-important realm of counterterrorism.
Now those concerns are causing problems much closer to home—in fact, inside the Beltway itself. Our Intelligence Community is so worried by the unprecedented problems of the Trump administration—not only do senior officials possess troubling ties to the Kremlin, there are nagging questions about basic competence regarding Team Trump—that it is beginning to withhold intelligence from a White House which our spies do not trust.
That the IC has ample grounds for concern is demonstrated by almost daily revelations of major problems inside the White House, a mere three weeks after the inauguration. The president has repeatedly gone out of his way to antagonize our spies, mocking them and demeaning their work, and Trump’s personal national security guru can’t seem to keep his story straight on vital issues.
That’s Mike Flynn, the retired Army three-star general who now heads the National Security Council. Widely disliked in Washington for his brash personality and preference for conspiracy-theorizing over intelligence facts, Flynn was fired as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency for managerial incompetence and poor judgment—flaws he has brought to the far more powerful and political NSC.
Flynn’s problems with the truth have been laid bare by the growing scandal about his dealings with Moscow. Strange ties to the Kremlin, including Vladimir Putin himself, have dogged Flynn since he left DIA, and concerns about his judgment have risen considerably since it was revealed that after the November 8 election, Flynn repeatedly called the Russian embassy in Washington to discuss the transition. The White House has denied that anything substantive came up in conversations between Flynn and Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador.
That was a lie, as confirmed by an extensively sourced bombshell report in The Washington Post, which makes clear that Flynn grossly misrepresented his numerous conversations with Kislyak—which turn out to have happened before the election too, part of a regular dialogue with the Russian embassy. To call such an arrangement highly unusual in American politics would be very charitable.
What’s going on was explained lucidly by a senior Pentagon intelligence official, who stated that “since January 20, we’ve assumed that the Kremlin has ears inside the SITROOM,” meaning the White House Situation Room, the 5,500 square-foot conference room in the West Wing where the president and his top staffers get intelligence briefings. “There’s not much the Russians don’t know at this point,” the official added in wry frustration.
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AL-05 Mo Brooks Appears At “Canceled” Town Hall Meeting
February 9, 2017 By countrycat 3 Comments
AL-05’s most famous chicken, Congressman Mo Brooks, just got burned. He showed the world tonight that he really can’t take the heat. Barely 24 hours after his office in DC, his district office in Huntsville, and the local Tea Party group announced that the planned public town hall had been canceled…. Brooks showed up anyway. His “canceled” meeting got canceled again when members of the actual public showed up to participate.
But not “on time.” Those suspicious individuals who attended “just in case” were told that Brooks’ appearance had been canceled. Fortunately, they stayed long enough to send out a confirmed sighting of our district’s most famous chicken.
Earlier in the evening, the Tea Party folks made a great show of complaining about how many extra hot dogs they had, and waved off the hired police presence, since “no protests” were expected.
Once the coast was clear (he thought), Rep. Brooks strolled casually into his native habitat: a Tea Party meeting hosted in a Baptist church. Oh, but word quickly went forth. Fortuitously, Madison County Democrats were meeting just a few miles away, and they quickly headed for the Tea Party event.
Amazingly. it ended as soon as they arrived and began trying to ask questions.
Madison County Democratic Executive Committee member (and one of the Alabama state coordinators for the Women’s March) Deborah Barros-Smith captured part of the meeting via Facebook live. At about 3 minutes into this video, you see an “unapproved” person dare ask a question.
The response? SHUT IT DOWN!
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Turmoil at the National Security Council, From the Top Down
By DAVID E. SANGER, ERIC SCHMITT and PETER BAKER
The New York Times - FEB. 12, 2017
WASHINGTON — These are chaotic and anxious days inside the National Security Council, the traditional center of management for a president’s dealings with an uncertain world.
Three weeks into the Trump administration, council staff members get up in the morning, read President Trump’s Twitter posts and struggle to make policy to fit them. Most are kept in the dark about what Mr. Trump tells foreign leaders in his phone calls. Some staff members have turned to encrypted communications to talk with their colleagues, after hearing that Mr. Trump’s top advisers are considering an “insider threat” program that could result in monitoring cellphones and emails for leaks.
The national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, has hunkered down since investigators began looking into what, exactly, he told the Russian ambassador to the United States about the lifting of sanctions imposed in the last days of the Obama administration, and whether he misled Vice President Mike Pence about those conversations. His survival in the job may hang in the balance.
“It’s so far a very dysfunctional N.S.C.,” Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a telephone interview.
A number of staff members who did not want to work for Mr. Trump have returned to their regular agencies, leaving a larger-than-usual hole in the experienced bureaucracy. Many of those who remain, who see themselves as apolitical civil servants, have been disturbed by displays of overt partisanship. At an all-hands meeting about two weeks into the new administration, Ms. McFarland told the group it needed to “make America great again,” numerous staff members who were there said.
But the ship was in international waters in the Arabian Sea, according to two officials. Mr. Mattis ultimately decided to set the operation aside, at least for now. White House officials said that was because news of the impending operation leaked, a threat to security that has helped fuel the move for the insider threat program. But others doubt whether there was enough basis in international law, and wondered what would happen if, in the early days of an administration that has already seen one botched military action in Yemen, American forces were suddenly in a firefight with the Iranian Navy.
Still, Mr. Flynn presents additional complications beyond his conversations with the Russian ambassador. His aides say he is insecure about whether his unfettered access to Mr. Trump during the campaign is being scaled back and about a shadow council created by Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s top strategist, who was invited to attend meetings of the “principals committee” of the council two weeks ago. For his part, Mr. Bannon sees the United States as headed toward an inevitable confrontation with two adversaries — China and Iran.
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WH Sr. Policy Adviser Stephen Miller: "The powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned"
Face the Nation
12 February 2017
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As Flynn falls under growing pressure over Russia contacts, Trump remains silent
By Philip Rucker, Adam Entous and Ed O'Keefe February 12 at 8:11 PM
White House national security adviser Michael Flynn is under increasing political pressure and risks losing the confidence of some colleagues following reports that he misled senior administration officials about his discussion of sanctions with a Russian envoy shortly before President Trump took office.
As White House aides scramble to get their stories straight about the exact nature of those communications and as Democrats call for Flynn’s security clearance to be suspended or revoked, neither Trump nor his advisers have publicly defended Flynn or stated unequivocally that he has the president’s confidence.
Privately, some administration officials said that Flynn’s position has weakened and support for him has eroded largely because of a belief that he was disingenuous about Russia and therefore could not be fully trusted going forward.
“The knives are out for Flynn,” said one administration official who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly.
On Sunday, the top White House aide dispatched to represent the administration on the political talk shows pointedly declined to defend Flynn.
Asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” whether the president had confidence in Flynn, senior policy adviser Stephen Miller said he did not know.
“It’s not for me to tell you what’s in the president’s mind,” Miller told moderator Chuck Todd. He added that his colleagues at the White House “did not give me anything to say” about Flynn.
When ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos asked Miller about Flynn’s interactions with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Miller said, “I don’t have any news to make . . . today on this point.”
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Trump reviews top White House staff after tumultuous start
Michael Flynn is under fire, but he’s not the only one about whom Trump is voicing his doubts.
By Josh Dawsey and Alex Isenstadt
02/12/17 07:55 PM EST
President Donald Trump, frustrated over his administration’s rocky start, is complaining to friends and allies about some of his most senior aides — leading to questions about whether he is mulling an early staff shakeup.
Trump has told several people that he is particularly displeased with national security adviser Michael Flynn over reports that he had top-secret discussions with Russian officials about and lied about it. The president, who spent part of the weekend dealing with the Flynn controversy, has been alarmed by reports from top aides that they don't trust Flynn. "He thinks he's a problem," said one person familiar with the president’s thinking. "I would be worried if I was General Flynn."
Yet Trump’s concern goes beyond his embattled national security adviser, according to conversations with more than a dozen people who have spoken to Trump or his top aides. He has mused aloud about press secretary Sean Spicer, asking specific questions to confidants about how they think he’s doing behind the podium. During conversations with Spicer, the president has occasionally expressed unhappiness with how his press secretary is talking about some matters — sometimes pointing out even small things he’s doing that he doesn’t like.
Others who’ve talked with the president have begun to wonder about the future of Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Several Trump campaign aides have begun to draft lists of possible Priebus replacements, with senior White House aides Kellyanne Conway and Rick Dearborn and lobbyist David Urban among those mentioned. Gary Cohn, a Trump economic adviser who is close with senior adviser Jared Kushner, has has also been the subject of chatter.
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When a Pillar of the Fourth Estate Rests on a Trump-Murdoch Axis
Jim Rutenberg | The New York Times
12 February 2017
The ties that bind the most powerful media mogul in the world to the leader of the free world just keep getting stronger. Or, more precisely, we keep learning just how strong they are.
The question is where that leaves the rest of the world when they’re done divvying it up.
They are Rupert Murdoch — the founder of the corporate news media giants 21st Century Fox and the News Corporation — and President Trump.
The Financial Times reported the latest example of their closeness last week: that Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka was a trustee of the nearly $300 million fortune Mr. Murdoch set aside for the two children he had with his third wife, Wendi, who arranged the trusteeship.
Ms. Trump gave up that oversight role in December, before her father’s inauguration but well after Election Day.
Continue reading the main story
That means the whole time that Mr. Murdoch’s highly influential news organizations were covering Mr. Trump’s campaign and transition, their executive chairman was entangled in a financial arrangement of the most personal sort — tied to his children’s financial (very) well being — along with the president’s daughter.
Referring to her only as the president’s “daughter” fails to capture her true role. She is Mr. Trump’s most trusted confidante. And she is married to a key presidential adviser, Jared Kushner, who, as it happens, is so close with Mr. Murdoch that he even helped Mr. Murdoch set up his bachelor pad after his last divorce, The New Yorker reported.
The latest news about the Murdoch-Trump axis is acutely problematic for the leadership at The Wall Street Journal — owned by News Corp. — as it seeks to quell a rebellion by a group of staff members who believe that the paper has held them back from more aggressively covering Mr. Trump, they suspect, under pressure from Mr. Murdoch. (As Joe Pompeo of Politico first reported last week, a meeting to discuss their grievances is to take place at The Journal on Monday.)
But the relationship between the president and Mr. Murdoch has implications well beyond The Journal, given the global breadth of Mr. Murdoch’s media holdings, his history of putting them to use for political leaders who then help him with his own business needs and Mr. Trump’s own reactivity to the news media.