Posts tagged with "NBC News"

Obama aides say Beto is ‘heir’ to Barack

December 4, 2018

It’s “déjà vu all over again,” for President Barack Obama’s former aides—who are saying that Beto O’Rourke’s campaign against Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in the midterms gave them flashbacks to their own candidate’s precocious political rise, according to a December 2 report by NBC News.

Indeed, according to the network news outlet, the closely fought campaign by the charismatic and youthful Democratic white congressman—who serves Texas’ 16th District— has catapulted him to the position of unlikely heir to the first black president’s “hope and change” mantle.

Obama, himself, said as much, CNN reported, at an event in Chicago in late November, noting, “What I like most about his race was that it didn’t feel constantly poll-tested. It felt as if he based his statements and his positions on what he believed. And that, you’d like to think, is normally how things work. Sadly, it’s not.”

Already, some of #44’s former political lieutenants have been publicly encouraging O’Rourke to consider a 2020 presidential bid; while privately counseling him on what to expect, should he jump in.

And it looks as if he’s willing: O’Rourke said on November 26  that he would prefer to finish his congressional term January 3 before deciding what’s next. But that’s a far cry from repeatedly saying during the Senate campaign that he had no White House aspirations whatsoever.

In O’Rourke, NBC News reported, Obama veterans see not only an inspiring political celebrity, but, like Obama, a tactical innovator who eschewed the political industrial complex of pollsters and consultants; and used technology in new ways to connect directly with supporters and multiply the force of his fundraising and ground game.

“The reason I was able to make a connection with a sizable portion of the country was because people had a sense that I said what I meant,” Obama told his former strategist David Axelrod during an interview last week, adding that O’Rourke has that same quality.

O’Rourke has received invitations to speak to Democratic groups in early presidential states like Iowa and New Hampshire, but has yet to accept them,  a former senior adviser to his campaign told the network.

“We’ve had a lot of former Obama alumni saying: ‘If we can be helpful as you think about this, let us know. If you want our perspective on what it’s like to run a national campaign, let us know,'” said the former O’Rourke aide, who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity.

And a new group, co-founded by a former Obama field organizer, has been created to attempt to draft O’Rourke into the presidential race. “Beto has a special ability—like President Obama did—to make people believe in the best version of America,” Lauren Pardi, who worked on Obama’s campaign in New Hampshire, told the network news outlet.

It may not be reaching too far to predict that, along with having the same initials in their names—Barack O’Bama, Beto O’Rourke—they may enjoy the same political destiny.

Research contact: @aseitzwald

Trump boasts about ‘Big Victory’ in midterms

November 8, 2018

You win some; you lose some—that is, unless you are U.S. President Donald Trump. Never one to admit defeat, even in the face of a major setback, The New York Times reported that the president “wasted little time on Wednesday morning trying to frame his party’s election losses as a win,” even though Democrats had seized control of the House of Representatives.

In a string of tweets on November 7—this one, at 6:21 a.m.—the POTUS was self-congratulatory and smug about his prospects, saying, “Received so many Congratulations from so many on our Big Victory last night, including from foreign nations (friends) that were waiting me out, and hoping, on Trade Deals. Now we can all get back to work and get things done!”

At the same time, President Trump quickly went on offense against the newly elected Democratic House–threatening to retaliate if the opposition uses its new subpoena power to investigate him for corruption and obstruction of justice—in what the Times characterized as “an early foreshadowing of the bitter partisan warfare that could dominate the next two years.”

At 8:04 a.m., he tweeted: “If the Democrats think they are going to waste Taxpayer Money investigating us at the House level, then we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all of the leaks of Classified Information, and much else, at the Senate level. Two can play that game!”

He touted the GOP victory in the Senate, where Republicans defeated three Democratic incumbents  (in Indiana, North Dakota and Missouri) and were leading in Florida and Montana, while losing only one of their own seats in Nevada. If they hold on to their current leads, the Times reported, Republicans will increase their majority in the upper chamber from 51 seats to 55, giving them far more maneuvering room as they confirm judges and other appointments”by the president.

However, the loss of the House represents a major blow to the president and his supporters: As of Wednesday morning, Democrats had picked up 26 seats with 23 races still to be called—giving them the subpoena power that Trump dreads, as well as the opportunity to refuse to proffer any resources for a wall on the southern border.

Among other things, the Times reported, “Democrats likely will demand the release of tax returns that he has kept secret, look into his business dealings, and reopen the House investigation into any ties between Mr. Trump’s team and Russia during the 2016 presidential election.”

“We’ll fill in the gaps on the Russia investigations,” Representative Eric Swalwell, a Democrat from California and member of the House Intelligence Committee, said on NBC News on Wednesday morning. “The American people will see his tax returns, not because of any voyeuristic interest, but because they should know if he is corrupt. And we will look at the cashing in of access to the Oval Office and that has been concerning and his financial entanglements overseas.”

Even more dangerous to the president, a Democratic House has the power to impeach him—even if legislators cannot muster the two-thirds vote required for conviction in the Senate.

Research contact: @peterbakernyt

FBI investigates what seems to be a smear against Robert Mueller

November 1, 2018

Special Counsel Robert Mueller last week asked the FBI to investigate a possible scam in which a woman threatened to allege he was guilty of sexual misconduct and harassment, according to an October 30 NBC News report.

The request came after several political reporters were contacted about doing a story on Mueller’s purported bad behavior.

Multiple reporters were contacted over the past few weeks by a woman, who said she had been offered money to claim she had been harassed by Mueller, who is heading up a  probe into possible conspiracy between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia in 2016.

After investigating, the Hill Reporter said, the journalists each independently determined that the allegations of misconduct and harassment were likely a hoax and that it was unclear if the woman had been offered money to make the claim. The reporters then contacted the special counsel’s office to divulge that they had been approached about the scheme, the network news outlet reported.

“When we learned last week of allegations that women were offered money to make false claims about the special counsel, we immediately referred the matter to the FBI for investigation,” said Peter Carr, spokesperson for the special counsel. 

While investigating the possibility of a hoax, the Hill Reporter’s Ed Krassenstein, who was one of the journalists contacted, revealed on October 30 that he had received threats, including a text message reading, “You’re in over your head…. Drop this” which included his and another editor’s home addresses.

Around the same time reporters began to be contacted about the misconduct allegations, Jack Burkman, a Republican lobbyist and radio host, began promoting, via his Facebook page, that he is investigating sexual misconduct and alcohol-related allegations against Mueller. On October 30, he tweeted that he would hold a press conference two days later to “reveal the first of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s sex assault victims.”

Over the past two years, NBC News reported, Burkman has peddled a separate, evolving conspiracy theory that has blamed several different wild plots forthe death of Democratic staffer Seth Rich, who was shot on a Washington street in 2016 during an apparent botched robbery.

Krassenstein told NBC News he reached out to the special counsel’s office on Tuesday telling them what he knew about the scheme.  He also gave NBC News the phone numbers used by the woman alleging she was offered money to make the allegations, which were both disconnected.

Since then, Burkman has posted several more tweets, including one at 9:14 a.m. on October 31:” The woman to whom we allegedly offered payment—Lorraine Parsons—does not exist. The allegations are an outright joke. This entire backstory is a hoax designed to distract the nation from my press conference on Thursday, which is where all eyes need to be.”

Research contact: @brandyzadrozny

As China continues to ‘go low’ on shipping rates, Trump moves the bar higher

October 22, 2018

President Donald Trump is threatening to intensify the trade war between the United States and China by ordering the U.S. Postal Service to withdraw from a treaty that has set shipping rates among 192 member nations for 144 years.

The Universal Postal Union—established in 1874 and adopted as a body of the United Nations in 1948—has enabled developing countries to pay lower rates when shipping packages internationally; often putting some of the cost of delivering packages on the postal services of wealthier countries.

Indeed, according to an October 17 report by Politico, the policy initially was intended to spur economic growth in poorer countries by connecting them with global markets.

But now that some of those countries—including China—have become exporting giants, the Trump administration hopes to use its withdrawal as leverage to negotiate more favorable terms for historically wealthy countries, like the United States.

Reaction has been mixed. A senior administration official told Politico that  the administration would prefer to stay within the union and that a full withdrawal takes a year to implement. Therefore, he said, he hopes that America can negotiate more favorable terms within that time frame.

“You could have something shipped from Indiana to New York and it would be more expensive than having it shipped from China because of price distortion introduced through the [old] rates,” Professor Rick Geddes, a postal service expert and Director of the Cornell Program in Infrastructure Policy at Cornell University, told NBC News for an October 19 story.

Companies such as Amazon and FedEx have long taken issue with the treaty, the network said—both citing what they believe are unfairly discounted shipping rates for foreign shippers.

However, on the plus side, American manufacturers, believe that withdrawing from the agreement would level what they see as an unfair playing field.

Indeed, Jayme Smaldone, CEO of the New Jersey–based company, Mighty Mug, wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal last February, noting that his firm paid $6.30 to ship by regular mail; but a Chinese company that sold a knock-off version could ship it to the same location from 8,000 miles away for just $1.40.

Jay Timmons, CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, told

NBC News that the administration was making a positive move. “Manufacturers and manufacturing workers in the United States will greatly benefit from a modernized and far more fair arrangement with China,” he said.

American consumers had for years benefited from lower e-commerce prices on sites like Amazon and eBay when buying lower-priced Chinese goods. Without the discount, those sellers could evaporate and U.S. online shoppers would have to pay higher prices.

“Chinese sellers on eBay and other platforms may disappear, or at the very least they will not find it so easy to sell to Americans anymore,” Gary Huang, chairman of the Supply Chain Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghaitold Bloomberg.

He added, “American consumers will have less access to that really cheap stuff.”.

Research contact: @matthewchoi2018

Ford prepares for major layoffs following $1B Trump tariff loss

October 11, 2018

The Ford Motor Company is preparing for major layoffs—reportedly, as many as 200,000 worldwide—after suffering a blow to profits of at least $1 billion due to tariffs enacted by President Donald Trump.

Layoffs will affect Ford’s 70,000-strong white-collar workforce as part of what the company is calling a “redesign” of its staff in an ongoing $22.5 billion reorganization, according to an NBC News report on October 8.

Ford CEO Jim Hackett told Bloomberg in September that tariffs on imported aluminum and steel, alone, were enough to knock the company on its heels.

From Ford’s perspective the metals tariffs took about $1 billion in profit from us,” Hackett said. “The irony of which is we source most of that in the U.S. If it goes on any longer, it will do more damage.”

As a result of the ongoing trade war, the automaker now intends to cut back on production—almost exclusively manufacturing its popular and profitable SUVs and trucks. Its only passenger car will remain the popular Mustang, but production of the iconic brand could also be hurt if profits continue to fall.

One high-profile casualty of the cutbacks will be the new Focus crossover, which, the automaker already has said will not be offered in U.S. dealerships. The Ford Focus Active is manufactured in China. Because of the U.S.’s new tariffs on imported cars, it’s no longer profitable for the company to sell it in America, officials said.

“This is the first of potentially many vehicles that will disappear from the U.S. market” due to the trade war, Kristin Dziczek of the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Center for Automotive Research told The Detroit Free Press.

Research contact: @Ford

Trump denies reports that he is limiting the FBI’s Kavanaugh probe

October 2, 2018

Following a compromise deal made on September 28 by the Senate Judiciary Committee in response to a request by Republican Senator Jeff Flake (R), the Federal Bureau of Investigation has reopened its background investigation of SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Already limited to a one-week period, the probe has been further circumscribed by instructions from U.S. President Donald Trump, according to a report by the Huffington Post.

Although the FBI will be permitted to interview Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford, who testified before the Judiciary Committee last week—as well as  a second accuser, Kavanaugh’s Yale classmate Denise Ramirez— the agency will reportedly leave the nominee’s third accuser alone upon request from the White House.

In addition, according to an NBC News report, the FBI will specifically not be able to question Kavanaugh’s Yale classmates about his drinking habits, even though alcohol plays a role in all three accusers’ claims about the nominee, who denies ever drinking to the point of not remembering certain events.

Ranking Member of the committee Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California.) lashed out on Twitter at the possibility that constraints had been placed on the investigation

Trump tweeted late Saturday night that he was not limiting the FBI in its investigation and that NBC News had got the story wrong. He said, “NBC News incorrectly reported (as usual) that I was limiting the FBI investigation of Judge Kavanaugh, and witnesses, only to certain people. Actually, I want them to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion. Please correct your reporting!

Trump told reporters on Saturday that the agency has “free rein” to do “whatever they have to do, whatever it is they do.”

“They’ll be doing things that we have never even thought of,” Trump said. “And hopefully at the conclusion everything will be fine.”

Research contactsara.boboltz@huffingtonpost.com

Trump’s new limo is a road warrior

September 27, 2018

James Bond would be jealous: His tricked-out Aston Martin had nothing on President Donald Trump’s new set of wheels, nicknamed The Beast by the Secret Service.

Intended to look like a stretched version of a Cadillac XT6 sedan, NBC News reported on September 25,  the $1.5 million limo was rolled out for the first time to take the POTUS from his New York City Trump Tower home base to the United Nations, where he delivered speeches to the General Assembly and the Security Council earlier this week.

It’s one of a dozen that make up a contract initially estimated at $15.8 million and designed to protect the commander-in-chief from virtually every form of attack, the network news outlet said. And, if the president is injured, the Beast has an extensive range of medical supplies on board, including a refrigerator full of the president’s own blood type.

Protecting a president is never easy, especially in a modern era when POTUS could face any manner of threat, from handguns to rocket-propelled grenades. The latest version of the Beast, which was commissioned by the Secret Service in 2014, is believed to combine a variety of different technologies, starting out with an extensively modified platform from a Chevrolet Kodiak, a heavy-duty General Motors truck. And we do mean heavy: The truck weighs in at somewhere near 20,000 pounds.

The Beast is sealed against biochemical attacks, and equipped with run-flat tires inside extra-large wheel wells so it can keep going in an emergency. In addition, the bells and whistles include a night vision system , and the ability to eject a smokescreen, fire tear gas, and lay down an oil slick to send vehicles chasing it out of control. Even the door handles can be electrified to shock those who might try to get inside.

The “Trumpmobile” also contains an expansive array of communications technologies including, among other things, the ability to dispatch the codes necessary to fire nuclear weapons.

The president reportedly showed off the outgoing presidential limo to North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un during their summit meeting in Singapore. Kim, himself, got his “street cred” from a decade-old, luxurious, and heavily armored Mercedes Pullman Guard, NBC News said.

Research contact: @DetroitBureau

Bigger isn’t better: Why a smaller engagement ring may signify a longer marriage

September 21, 2018

When you are trying to “size up” a woman’s relationship, don’t calculate in the size of her diamond ring. Recent research shows that couples who spend shrewdly and realistically on their engagement ring and wedding reception are more likely to have long-lasting marriages, according to a report by NBC News.

The ‘“A Diamond Is Forever’ and Other Fairy Tales” study—co-authored by Andrew Francis-Tan, a visiting associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore and Hugo M. Mialon, associate professor and director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Economics at Emory University— examined the association between wedding spending and marriage duration using data from a survey of over 3,000 “ever-married adults” in the United States.

The researchers said that their goal was to establish whether spending a fortune on a ring and a wedding, (as we’re frequently inclined to do, often to our own regret) impacts the longevity of a marriage.

“Wedding industry advertising has fueled the norm that spending large amounts on the engagement ring and wedding is an indication of commitment or is helpful for a marriage to be successful,” Mialon told NBC News. “In either case, the general message [put out by the wedding industry and eagerly accepted by couples worldwide] is that wedding spending and marriage duration are positively correlated.”

But that’s not the case. In fact, there’s a sweet spot for how much a ring should—or shouldn’t—cost.  Through their research, Francis-Tan and Mialon found that men who spent between $2,000 and $4,000 on an engagement ring had a higher rate of divorce (of about 1.3 times) than men who spent between $500 and $2,000.

But the pendulum swings the other way, too. Spending less than $500 on an engagement ring was found to be associated with higher divorce rates in the sample of women surveyed.

However, the academics assert that these findings  “[do]not prove that high expenses on the engagement ring and wedding ceremony cause divorce;  only that high expenses on the engagement ring and wedding ceremony are positively correlated with divorce, holding constant a number of demographic and relationship characteristics, including income.

Their overall recommendation: It’s not about the price tag; it’s about what you can afford, NBC News reports. Do not spend your whole bank account on one day in your life, no matter how special. Your focus should be on the long-term health and vitality of your relationship.

“What could explain the observed negative association between wedding expenses and marriage duration? Perhaps those couples who tend to have lavish weddings are simply those couples who tend not to be the best match for each other,” Mialon told NBC.

“On the other hand,” he points out, “it is also possible that having an expensive wedding burdens [a couple] financially in a way that may later strain their marriage”

Research contact:  sppamft@nus.edu.sg

Saying Trump is creating an ‘economic emergency,’ China retaliates against new U.S. tariffs

September 19, 2018

Following an announcement by U.S. President Donald Trump late on September 17 that he intended to impose a 10% tax on a $200 billion list of Chinese imports, ranging from consumer goods to manufacturing materials, the People’s Republic now has retaliated in the ongoing trade war.

The Chinese Finance Ministry announced on September 18 it would go ahead with plans announced in August to tax 5,207 types of American-made goods—a $60 billion list, ranging from coffee to farm machinery. The smaller, mismatched dollar amount reflects the fact that China is running out of American goods to tax, due to its trade imbalance, NBC News reported..

The new round of tariffs is aimed at curbing “trade friction” and the “unilateralism and protectionism of the United States,” the ministry said on its website.

The new tariffs, levied at a rate of 5% and 10%, will come into effect on September 24. NBC said — the date Trump targeted for his latest round of punitive tariffs. Trump also has stated that the new tariffs will rise to 25% by January 1.

According to the network news source, Trump has repeatedly said his goal is to force partners to the table to renegotiate current trade deals that he and his supporters view as unfair to American economic and security interests. Foreign businesses have long complained that China’s protectionist policies are pushing them out of promising economic opportunities.

The Chinese Commerce Ministry said that it had been forced to react because the U.S. was creating an “economic emergency.”

Economists have warned that the escalating battle could knock up to 0.5 percentage points off global economic growth through 2020.

Research contact: @lbayly_nbcT

Dems draw up an emergency plan to protect Mueller

August 24, 2018

Following a week during which the Russia investigation raised the level of rage and resistance at the White House, Congressional Democrats have drafted a wide-ranging contingency plan, should Special Counsel Robert Mueller be fired—or should President Donald Trump take other steps to quash the inquiry, such as firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein or pardoning key witnesses, NBC News reported on August 22.

It would start within minutes of Special Counsel Robert Mueller being axed—a cascade of activity emanating through the halls of Congress and over television airwaves, as well as citizen protests being prepped from the Virgin Islands to Alaska, the news outlet said.

Of top concern within the first 24 hours after such a move would be preventing Mueller’s documents from being destroyed and his team disbanded, according to the network’s interviews with nearly a dozen lawmakers, congressional aides, Democratic operatives, and attorneys involved in the planning.

Almost immediately, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer would consult with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, while Democrats would demand a floor vote on a bill retroactively protecting Mueller and protecting his materials.

In both the Senate and House, rank-and-file Democrats would contact a list of sympathetic Republicans who have signaled privately that they’d be willing to act, should Trump pull the trigger, NBC said.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations about how exactly and who and when and where,” Senator Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat who sits on the Judiciary Committee, told NBC News. “There have been several moments when it seemed imminent.”

And in cities across the country, rallies would be hastily scheduled for 5 p.m., if Mueller is fired before 2 p.m. on any given day. If he’s fired in the late afternoon or evening, the protests would be set for noon the following day.

The Democratic group MoveOn.org has been organizing 933 such rallies, NBC reported, with locations picked out and sponsors enlisted to handle logistics. The list includes rallies in big cities like Los Angeles, along with protests in more remote areas, such as the federal buildings in Bismarck, North Dakota, and Hilo, Hawaii.

Any success in protecting Mueller would depend heavily on a sudden change of heart by Republicans and their leaders, who have largely defended Trump and, to date, have clapped back, refusing to allow a full Senate vote on legislation to protect the investigation.

Still, Democrats are hoping that a Mueller firing would be considered so egregious that even Trump’s fellow Republicans would be pushed past a tipping point.

To speed up the response, congressional aides said language has been drafted for letters that House Democratic leaders would send to committee chairmen demanding hearings; to inspectors general demanding investigations; and to White House Counsel Don McGahn and the Justice Department demanding information about their communications before the firing.

Different Democrats have laid out different red lines for what actions by Trump would trigger a full-blown crisis response, NBC detailed. In December, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Trump would be breaching a red line if he removed Mueller from his job, pardoned key witnesses or shut down the investigation. MoveOn has added replacing Rosenstein or repealing the special counsel regulations to the list, but notes that firing Sessions—who remains recused from the Russia probe—would “be one step short of the break glass moment.”

The most likely legislative vehicle for trying to protect Mueller after the fact would be a compromise bill co-sponsored by Senators Chris Coons and Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), along with GOP Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. That bill would put in statute that the special counsel could challenge his firing in U.S. District Court, and would require his “personnel, documents and materials” to be preserved in the meantime.

The bill specifically states that it’s retroactive — meaning that it could be passed after Mueller was fired and still protect him.

A poll of registered voters released by Fox News on August 23 shows approval of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian intervention in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is at 59%, up 11 points from July.What’s more, 40% expect the probe will find President Donald Trump committed criminal or impeachable offenses.

Research contact: @foxnewspoll