October 31, 2017

Facebook will tell Congress this week that its current "best estimate is that approximately 126 million people may have been served" at least one story posted by the Kremlin-linked troll farm the Internet Research Agency (IRA) between June 2015 and August 2017, according to copies of the prepared testimony of Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch obtained by CNNMoney and Axios. Facebook has 213 million monthly active users in the U.S., so that would suggest Russian ads hit more than half of U.S. Facebook users during the 2016 election.

Facebook says those posts were "a tiny fraction of the overall content on Facebook," but as CNN's Dylan Byers points out, it's also a big uptick from Facebook's earlier estimates.

Stretch says the IRA served content directly to 29 million users, but those users shared it, broadening its reach to 126 million. Similarly, an estimated 11.4 million people saw ads purchased by the IRA. Stretch says the Russian ads are "deeply disturbing," and "seemingly intended to amplify societal divisions and pit groups of people against each other." Facebook says it does not know how many of the 126 million people actually saw the Russian content they were served.

Twitter and Google will also testify that the Russian trolls used social media to reach more of the electorate than previously acknowledged. Google will say that it has evidence that Russian operatives uploaded at least 1,108 videos to YouTube with 43 hours of content, and paid at least $4,700 for search and display ads, The Washington Post reports. Twitter will acknowledge that 2,752 accounts controlled by Russian operatives, not just the IRA, and 36,000 Russian bots tweeted 1.4 million election-related tweets, reaching 288 million Twitter users. Peter Weber

11:34 a.m. ET
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Snowy weather in the nation's capital has inspired some unconventional meteorology.

Washington D.C. councilman Trayon White Sr. apologized for posting a video in which he pushed a conspiracy theory that the Rothschild family, a prominent Jewish business dynasty, controls the weather. White, a Democrat, took to Facebook on Friday when flakes began to fall, posting a video to his official page that insisted the flurry was more than it appeared, reports The Washington Post.

"Man, it just started snowing out of nowhere this morning, man. Y'all better pay attention to this climate control, man, this climate manipulation," White said in the video. "And D.C. keep talking about, 'We a resilient city.' And that's a model based off the Rothschilds controlling the climate to create natural disasters they can pay for to own the cities, man. Be careful."

The Rothschilds have been the subject of a number of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, the Post reports, many of which claim that the billionaire family, along with other Jews, manipulate world events to gain control. White apologized for the video in a statement to the Post.

"I work hard everyday to combat racism and prejudices of all kinds. I want to apologize to the Jewish Community and anyone I have offended," he said. "The Jewish community have been allies with me in my journey to help people. I did not intend to be anti-Semitic, and I see I should not have said that after learning from my colleagues."

Read the full report at The Washington Post. Summer Meza

11:09 a.m. ET

Following weekend revelations that Facebook was exploited by data firm Cambridge Analytica in order to harvest 50 million Americans' profiles, founder Mark Zuckerberg saw his fortune drop by $3.8 billion Monday morning, Bloomberg Technology reports.

Facebook stock had plummeted 6 percent by 10:50 a.m. ET, a change of around 12 points, with the S&P 500 tugged down almost 1 percent with the social media giant as its worst performer. That drop means the company has lost around $25 billion in market value, The Independent adds.

"The FANG internet giant hasn't been a market leader for months, unlike fellow FANGs Netflix, and Amazon and, to a lesser extent, Alphabet," writes Investor's Business Daily, adding: "Facebook's growth story may be winding down."

Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research, added to CNBC: "We think this episode is another indication of systemic problems at Facebook … We see enhanced risks for the company, but no near-term tangible impact on its business." Jeva Lange

10:47 a.m. ET
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Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is surprised by how many Republicans have been willing to "carry water" for President Trump, he told Politico, as his presidency careens through Washington. Particularly in the face of the ongoing probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, Schiff criticized Republicans for failing to speak out against the president:

"I think one of the really sad realizations over the last year is not what kind of a president Donald Trump turns out to be — I think it was all too predictable — but rather, how many members of Congress would be unwilling to stand up to him, and more than that, would be completely willing to carry water for him. That is a very sad realization," Schiff told Politico. "I did not expect that. I thought there would be more Jeff Flakes, more John McCains, more Bob Corkers — people who would defend our system of checks and balances, would speak out for decency, who would defend the First Amendment." [Politico]

Schiff has frequently criticized Trump and called for support for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the investigation into Russian election interference. The congressman also called out House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) directly, saying Ryan is "complicit in all this" because he has failed to adequately push back against the president.

As ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Schiff has often touted the importance of investigating Russian meddling. In response, Trump has slammed Schiff on Twitter, calling him a "liar and leaker" and dubbing him "Little Adam Schiff." Read the full interview at Politico. Summer Meza

10:36 a.m. ET
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After 423 days in office, President Trump has gotten rid of more Cabinet officials (three, in Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson) than most presidents lose in their first two years on the job. In fact, NPR reports, no other "elected first-term president in the past 100 years has had this much Cabinet turnover this early in his presidency."

Most presidents since Woodrow Wilson have replaced just one Cabinet member in the first 14 months, and several have kept the same Cabinet throughout that time. Only three — Warren G. Harding, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan — have swapped more than two in the first two years of office, and Trump is easily on pace to exceed Reagan's four Cabinet departures in that span.

Kelly, for his part, was reassigned to be Trump's chief of staff. But if Trump continues swapping Cabinet secretaries at the current rate, Trump will replace 10 Cabinet members by the time his first term is complete. There are 16 members of the Cabinet, including the vice president. Bonnie Kristian

10:20 a.m. ET
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It is getting easier to evade tax payments, FiveThirtyEight reports, and though anti-tax fervor is usually found among the GOP, for this shift Americans can thank Republicans and Democrats alike.

Specifically, we can thank their bitter partisanship. Following the passage of the GOP tax reform bill, blue states like California, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York are considering classifying some state or local taxes as charitable donations or a payroll tax that can be deducted from federal payments. The goal, as Connecticut's state revenue commissioner put it, is "a bit of payback for what I think was the utter disregard of the Congress for the impact of [the bill] on [these] states."

More broadly, studies have shown Americans are more likely to pay their full tax bill when they like the party in power in Washington, so President Trump's consistently low approval ratings probably aren't great for revenue.

And beyond partisanship, FiveThirtyEight highlights the reduced staff and budget at the IRS, which means the agency conducts fewer audits. Likewise, small businesses, including mom-and-pop shops and independent contractors, tend to under-report their tax liabilities by as much as two-thirds, and the new tax law is expected to facilitate this habit.

Read the full FiveThirtyEight report here. Bonnie Kristian

10:00 a.m. ET
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A majority of Americans believe the U.S. government is engaged in mass surveillance of the general public and is influenced by the "deep state," a "group of unelected government and military officials who secretly manipulate or direct national policy," a new Monmouth University poll published Monday reports.

Asked whether the "U.S. government currently monitors or spies on the activities of American citizens," 82 percent of respondents said yes, with 53 percent affirming that such surveillance is "widespread" and 29 percent believing it happens less often. When such surveillance does occur, just 18 percent believe it is "usually justified," while 8 in 10 said it is only sometimes or rarely legitimate.

On the subject of the deep state, three-quarters of survey participants said it "definitely" or "probably" exists. Fully 63 percent were not familiar with the term before it was explained by pollsters, but "there's an ominous feeling by Democrats and Republicans alike that a 'Deep State' of unelected operatives are pulling the levers of power," said Monmouth University Polling Institute Director Patrick Murray.

The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 percent. Read The Week's Marc Ambinder on the deep state here. Bonnie Kristian

9:51 a.m. ET

Conservative commentator Erick Erickson alleged in a blog post Monday that Fox News removed him from air in 2014 at the request of Elaine Chao, who didn't like Erickson's criticisms of her husband, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Chao held an influential position on the Newscorp board of directors at the time, and former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes reportedly told Erickson that she was "riding [his] a--" about Erickson's unfavorable coverage of McConnell. Now the Senate majority leader, McConnell at the time was running a primary against Matt Bevin in Kentucky, and Erickson supported the latter candidate.

Roger felt the need to apologize, but told me that as long as I was writing about McConnell at RedState that I would find my appearances on Fox limited. I kept writing about McConnell. To his credit, Roger later called me and said he appreciated that I was willing to give up air time to keep doing what I believed in. He said most people would have shut up to be on TV. [The Resurgent]

Erickson adds: "I had long dismissed the idea that Fox really was tied in some way to the GOP," although clearly he has his suspicions now. Today, Chao serves as President Trump's transportation secretary. Read Erickson's entire post at The Resurgent. Jeva Lange

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