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Media captionAttorney General Barr defends his summary of the Mueller report
US Attorney General William Barr has refused to testify to the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee on his handling of the Russia inquiry.Mr Barr had previously objected to a plan for lawyers to ask questions at Thursday’s hearing.Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler accused the White House of a “complete stonewalling of Congress”.The standoff raises the prospect that Mr Barr, America’s top legal official, could be held in contempt of Congress.On Wednesday, Mr Barr was grilled by a Senate panel about his decision to clear President Donald Trump of obstruction of justice.His defence of his actions before the Republican-led Senate Justice Committee came after Special Counsel Robert Mueller – who led the investigative hunt for links between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia – expressed frustration over the report summary.Mr Mueller is expected to testify to Congress later this month.Why won’t Barr testify?A Department of Justice statement said Mr Nadler had placed conditions on the House Judiciary Committee hearing that were “unprecedented and unnecessary”. The department said that the planned move to have attorneys question Mr Barr was unnecessary because most of the committee members were themselves lawyers.However, Mr Nadler told reporters he believed that Mr Barr was afraid to testify on Thursday given “how dishonest he has been”.”We plan on subpoenaing him if he decides not to show up. He can run but he can’t hide,” he said.”I hope and expect that the attorney general will think overnight and will be there as well,” he added.What did Barr tell the Senate?He testified for the first time on Wednesday since the release of Mr Mueller’s 448-page report.The special counsel did not establish any collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign.However, the report did not exonerate the president of obstruction of justice. It concluded the Republican president had repeatedly intervened with an inquiry that he feared would doom his presidency. Mr Barr, who was appointed by Mr Trump, told the Senate Judiciary Committee he was “frankly surprised” Mr Mueller did not reach a conclusion on whether the president had tried to obstruct justice. The attorney general added that he was “absolutely” confident in his own judgment that Mr Trump did not unlawfully attempt to impede the investigation.”I think that if he felt that he shouldn’t go down the path of making a traditional prosecutorial decision, then he shouldn’t have investigated,” he said.Mueller ‘frustrated’ with Barr summaryMr Barr’s testimony came after a letter he had received from Mr Mueller was made public. In the document, the special counsel stated that Mr Barr’s summary “did not fully capture the context, nature and substance” of his report’s findings, and caused “public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation”.The letter, dated 27 March, expressed Mr Mueller’s frustration that Mr Barr had not released the executive summaries prepared by the special counsel’s team. During the hearing, Mr Barr said that Mr Mueller was not concerned with the accuracy of the summary, but with how it was being reported by media.”My understanding was his concern was not the accuracy of the statement of the findings in my letter, but that he wanted more out there to provide additional context to explain his reasoning and why he didn’t reach a decision on obstruction,” he said.
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Media captionThe Mueller report – in 60 seconds
Mr Barr argued that the objections to his summary should be nullified by the release of the report itself, calling the controversy surrounding the summary, and the consequent hearings, “mind-bendingly bizarre”.”I made clear from the beginning that I was putting out the report, as much of the report as I could, and it was clear it was going to take three weeks or so, maybe four, to do that,” Mr Barr said.
We asked Trump supporters to show us their Facebook feeds – CNN Video
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Trump’s use of false content is often defended as humor. But his supporters aren’t always in on the joke
Bemidji, Minnesota (CNN)At a Trump rally in Bemidji, Minnesota, last Friday, grievances against social media platforms Twitter and Facebook were a common refrain. Many of the President’s supporters told CNN that they felt the platforms’ fact-checking processes were biased against conservative viewpoints. Others discussed social media posts that contained manipulated media as if they were…
Bemidji, Minnesota (CNN)At a Trump rally in Bemidji, Minnesota, last Friday, grievances against social media platforms Twitter and Facebook were a common refrain. Many of the President’s supporters told CNN that they felt the platforms’ fact-checking processes were biased against conservative viewpoints. Others discussed social media posts that contained manipulated media as if they were real. “Like when Joe Biden fell asleep during a live interview on television,” one supporter recalled, describing a video that went viral only a few weeks prior to the rally. The video — which appears to show Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden sleeping as a TV news anchor repeats, “Wake up!” — was shared on Twitter by White House social media director Dan Scavino. It was achieved by splicing together real footage of a 2011 interview between journalist Leyla Santiago, now of CNN, and entertainer and activist Harry Belafonte with footage of Biden looking down, his eyes appearing at least partially closed, to make it appear as if he were snoozing. An audio track of loud snoring was placed on the video to complete the effect. When the video was fact-checked by news outlets, including CNN, and eventually labeled as “manipulated media” by Twitter, prominent Trump supporters complained that it was an obvious joke and a meme. Asked last week why Trump shares fake videos and baseless conspiracy theories about Biden, Tim Murtaugh, Trump campaign communications director, invoked a meme defense. “You call it a fake video. What it is is an internet meme,” he said. “Those are very frequently done to make a political point.” The joke was lost on Chris, the Trump supporter in Bemidji, who apparently believed the video was real footage. He acknowledged, “I missed that one,” when he was shown how the video had been manipulated. But the fact the video was faked didn’t change his impression of Biden because he believed something like that could happen, Chris said. Chris said he did not want to share his last name. The dissemination of misleading videos about Biden by the Trump campaign in an effort to make the Democratic presidential nominee seem confused or senile has happened repeatedly. On Tuesday, the campaign posted an eight-second video on Facebook that it titled “Joe Biden completely botches the Pledge of Allegiance.” But Biden was not trying to recite the entire Pledge of Allegiance as the full version of the video shows. Facebook did not take any action against the video. Despite promises from Silicon Valley to tackle election misinformation, videos that contain manipulated media often go unchecked and are viewed millions of times without context. Last week, Trump retweeted a video that was manipulated to make it appear as if Biden was dancing to the NWA song “F**k tha Police.” He wasn’t. When false claims and doctored videos are fact-checked by Facebook or labeled as manipulated by Twitter, it is possible that they have already been viewed and shared for days. And many of the Trump supporters who spoke to CNN in Bemidji said they simply do not trust the fact-checks that are deployed by Facebook. Facebook works with a number of organizations, including the Associated Press and Reuters, in the US to fact-check on its platform, all of which have signed up to a code of principles to be nonpartisan. One rally attendee, Mary Parsons, claimed her posts about the President were often removed by Facebook. While Parsons feels she is treated unfairly by Facebook’s fact-checkers, who she views as overly zealous, some Democrats think Facebook is not doing enough fact-checking. Either way, Parson says, the fact-checks do not sway her opinion.
Obama urges voters to focus on down-ballot races to combat gerrymandering
The video represents the latest attempt by top Democrats to focus attention on down-ballot races, like those for state legislatures across the country. The party hopes that they can take control of a handful of state legislatures in November, wins that could be key because the state bodies elected in 2020 will play major roles…
“You’ve heard a lot about the presidential race, maybe too much,” Obama says in a video for NowThis News, “but there is a lot more that will be on the ballot this fall.”
Obama adds: “In this election, the state leaders we elect will help redraw electoral districts all across the country.”
Obama is not new to the fight over redistricting and has focused a portion of his post-presidency work on the issue, including by folding his Organizing for Action group into the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a group run by his former attorney general, Eric Holder, that looks to link Democratic issues with the need to take on gerrymandering.
“President Obama has said this is an all hands on deck moment, and one of the main drivers is redistricting that will happen based on November’s results,” Eric Schultz, an Obama adviser, said. “Now more than ever, we need to elect Democrats up and down the ballot. The Presidential campaign generally gets most of the attention, but President Obama believes these other races are mission-critical.”
The former president says in the video that he doesn’t think people “completely appreciate how much gerrymandering affects the outcome” of elections. The video then notes how Republicans swept into control in key states during the 2010 elections, allowing them to redraw maps in places like Georgia, Louisiana, Texas and Ohio.
Obama argues that many priorities of his presidency, including immigration reform and gun control measures, were thwarted, in part, because of gerrymandered districts electing Republicans to Congress.
“Those maps will stand for 10 years, that could mean a decade of fairly drawn districts where folks have an equal voice in their government, or it could mean a decade of unfair partisan gerrymandering,” Obama says in the video.
The video was made with NowThis News, a progressive mobile news outlet.
Democrats, emboldened by considerable excitement among their party’s key voters, hope they can flip at least one legislative body in Texas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona and Minnesota. And the party hopes it can make substantial inroads in states like Ohio, Wisconsin, Kansas, Georgia and Florida.
Groups like the National Democratic Redistricting Committee and Forward Majority, a super PAC that aims to pour millions into key state legislative races, have been leading the fight to focus Democratic attention to these races.
Forward Majority announced earlier this month that they would direct $15 million into state legislative races in Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Arizona, so-called Sun Belt states where Democrats believe President Donald Trump could lead voters to reject Republicans in November.
“Without having a seat at the table next year, we will likely see an unprecedented level of gerrymandering,” said Forward Majority co-founder Vicky Hausman, who argued that these four states “represent the most powerful points of leverage in our democracy.”
The is partly a newfound focus for Democrats on down-ballot races like state legislatures. Republicans spent millions to control the legislative bodies over the last decades, leading Democrats to lose control of several state legislatures during Obama’s presidency.
But Democratic groups have been making the case, like Obama does in the video, that these local officials wield notable power on everything from how a state responds to something like the coronavirus pandemic to how they deal with issues of police brutality.
“This year, educate yourself on the candidates at every level on your ballot,” Obama says. “They can make a profound impact on your community and our country.”