July 15, 2019

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who have made no secret of their disdain for the industry, are continuing to go after tech companies.

The two lawmakers on Monday sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission demanding the agency investigate how Facebook, Google, and Twitter decide what content appears on their social media platforms, Bloomberg reports.

"They control the ads we see, the news we read, and the information we digest," the Republicans wrote in the letter. "And they actively censor some content and amplify other content based on algorithms and intentional decisions that are completely nontransparent."

The request is reportedly significant, but not earth-shattering.

Still, the two senators are feeling the heat, especially from libertarians, for the letter, as Cruz has in the past. The senators' stance remains caught in what feels like a strange middle ground for the Republican party, as they're choosing between increasing regulations on business and championing free speech for conservatives — though its clear Cruz and Hawley prioritize the latter, especially at a crucial political moment.

A Senate panel will hold a hearing on social media bias on Tuesday that will feature testimony from a top Google executive. Tim O'Donnell

4:24 a.m.

The Justice Department revealed in a court filing Sunday that former Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not make either Donald Trump Jr. or former White House Counsel Don McGahn testify before a grand jury he used for his Russia investigation. The filing was in response to U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell's ruling Thursday that the Justice Department was withholding too much information from the House Judiciary Committee in its ongoing wrangling with Attorney General William Barr over Mueller's evidence.

Howell appeared perplexed by Mueller's decision. "The Special Counsel's reasons remain unknown," she wrote in her opinion. "The reason is not that the individuals were insignificant to the investigation. To the contrary, both of the non-testifying individuals named in paragraph four figured in key events examined in the Mueller Report."

McGahn's lawyer offered one explanation, telling Politico that because McGahn "voluntarily agreed to be interviewed" for about 30 hours at Mueller's office, "there was no need for a grand jury subpoena." Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti found that explanation plausible. "If a witness agrees to be interviewed by FBI agents, as McGahn did, typically prosecutors won't put him in the grand jury to testify unless there's a concern that he will later change his story," he tweeted. "As for Trump Jr., this suggests to me that his lawyers said he would take the Fifth."

Lawyers for some of Mueller's other witnesses have said they believe Trump Jr. told Mueller's prosecutors he would assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination before the grand jury, and Mueller's team decided not to compel his testimony with a promise of immunity, Politico reports. Howell also noted in her ruling last week that Mueller declined to subpoena President Trump for an interview or grand jury testimony despite being dissatisfied with the president's written responses to his prosecutors' questions.

The upshot of Sunday's filing is that is strengthens the House Judiciary Committee's case "that Barr redacted the Mueller [Report] itself improperly," journalist Marcy Wheeler argues, because it hides the "non-testimony" of Trump and his son "behind frivolous redactions." Peter Weber

2:49 a.m.

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney went on Fox News Sunday in part to clean up a press conference Thursday in which he described President Trump's actions with Ukraine as a quid pro quo, trading military aid for an investigation of Democrats. Instead, Mulvaney created a new mess while trying to defend Trump's since-reversed decision to host next year's G7 summit at his own for-profit golf resort.

"At the end of the day, he still considers himself to be in the hospitality business," Mulvaney said of Trump, prompting Fox News anchor Chris Wallace to remind him: "He's the president of the United States."

"The bookended performances over the span of a few days were panned by the president's allies and cast doubt on Mulvaney's job security at the White House," The Associated Press reports. "Mulvaney's interview did not play well among Trump allies and advisers, with one calling it a 'self-immolation,'" Politico adds. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined to defend Mulvaney's Ukraine comments on Sunday, telling ABC News This Week, "I will leave to the chief of staff to explain what it is he said and what he intended."

On Fox News, Mulvaney said there is "absolutely, positively not" any consideration of his resignation, and a person close to Mulvaney told AP that Trump has expressed support for his acting chief of staff and Mulvaney is not aware of any effort to replace him. He may be right.

"Several White House aides and Trump allies presume Mulvaney's job is safe during the impeachment proceedings," partly because "no one else would want the chief of staff job right now and partly because Mulvaney is too much at the center of the Ukraine scandal for Trump to unceremoniously dump him," Politico reports. Mulvaney "was on thin ice, with diminished status in the White House," even before the Ukraine scandal hit, AP reports, citing nine staffers and outside advisers. And Mulvaney's job security isn't unique to him, AP adds. "The shortage of viable replacements has kept other officials in their posts months after [Trump] soured on them." Peter Weber

1:08 a.m.

The Atlantic published a profile of Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Sunday in which reporter McKay Coppins explained that "in the nine years I’ve been covering Romney, I’ve never seen him quite so liberated." At Slate, Ashley Feinberg appeared generally underwhelmed by Romney's apparent "effort to set himself up as the noble Republican foil to an out-of-control president," but she did find one interesting bit of news in the profile: "About midway through, the usually guarded senator revealed that, just like fellow lone-voice-of reason-haver James Comey, he was the owner of a secret Twitter account."

Romney told Coppins that he wasn't bothered by President Trump's Twitter attacks on him, explaining that he uses a secret Twitter account as "a lurker" to keep tabs on the political conversation. "I won't give you the name of it," Romney told Coppins, but he dropped enough clues — including that he follows Conan O'Brien but not Trump, because "he tweets so much," like his niece on Instagram: "I love her, but it's like, Ah, it's too much" — that Feinberg pretty quickly introduced the world to Pierre Delecto, @qaws9876.

Coppins called Romney after Slate published Feinberg's article. "C'est moi," Romney confirmed. Romney then took his secret account private, but Feinberg posted screenshots of some of Pierre's handful of tweets — usually, pro-Romney replies to other tweets — and intriguing catalog of likes, including several tweets from noted Trump critic George Conway and another tweet appearing to support invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. There is one mystery Feinberg couldn't uncover, though: Pierre Delecto?

"'Pierre' certainly does seem like a name a Mitt Romney-type looking for an alias might choose, though the 'Delecto' is less clear," Feinberg wrote. Maybe it has something to do with his time as Mormon missionary in France. Read Coppins' profile of Romney at The Atlantic and Feinberg's unmaking of @qaws9876 at Slate. Peter Weber

October 20, 2019

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said Sunday that she will release a plan to pay for her Medicare-for-all goal "in the next few weeks." Democratic presidential rivals have been attacking Warren on her refusal to specify how she proposes to fund the plan, and reporters continue to ask her if she would raise taxes, not just lower total health care costs, for the middle class.

"The cheapest possible way to make sure that everyone gets health care is Medicare-for-all," Warren said at the end of a town hall in Indianola, Indiana. "Right now, the cost estimates on Medicare-for-all vary by trillions and trillions of dollars. And the different revenue streams for how to fund it — there are a lot of them," she added. "So this is something I've been working on for months and months and it's got just a little more work until it's finished."

Warren has mostly embraced the Medicare-for-all legislation introduced by fellow presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and the bill does not specify how it would be financed. The price tag for universal single-payer health care is usually put at about $30 trillion over 10 years, and supporters for such a plan argue that Americans and U.S. companies already bear that financial burden, at least, through health insurance and other medical costs.

Many of Warren's rivals favor a plan that would offer Medicare to any American who wants it. If every American wants it, they would, of course, have to find a way to pay for that. Peter Weber

October 20, 2019

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) are still going after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in a continuation of the most recent Democratic presidential debate.

Both candidates appeared on CNN's State of the Union on Sunday, where they maintained their support for a public option in their health-care plans. Neither were satisfied with the Warren campaign's efforts to clarify how the senator plans to pay for Medicare-for-all, either. Both Buttigieg and Klobuchar reiterated they are wary of any plan that would kick people off their private insurance.

Klobuchar, for her part, also said her plan, which also includes a non-profit public option, would "build" rather than "trash" ObamaCare. Tim O'Donnell

October 20, 2019

Is President Trump still in the hospitality business or is he the president of the United States? Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney says it's a bit of both.

While Mulvaney on Sunday was not indicating that Trump was looking to profit off the 2020 Group of Seven Summit by hosting it at the Trump National Doral Miami resort near Miami, Florida, he did tell host Chris Wallace during an appearance on Fox News Sunday that Trump wanted to put on the "absolute best show" he could for other world leaders because he "still considers himself to be in the hospitality business."

That comment gave Wallace pause since he, like most people, thought Trump was now in the business of running the U.S. government's executive branch. Mulvaney elaborated, explaining that it's a holdover from Trump's pre-Oval Office life, implying that the original choice was a natural reaction, rather than an an actual business opportunity.

After receiving intense backlash from across the political spectrum, Trump announced he's no longer planning to hold the event there, though he wasn't happy about. Mulvaney said he believed it was the right decision to find another site, in the end. Tim O'Donnell

October 20, 2019

We're almost at the midway point for the NFL season. Here are four games to watch for Week 7:

Indianapolis Colts vs. Houston Texans, 1 p.m. E.T. on CBS — The Texans are playing at a high level behind quarterback DeShaun Watson. They're coming off a victory last week in Kansas City, which may be one of the biggest wins of the entire season. Watson and company face another big test this week in Indianapolis, and this time the stakes are even higher as the two teams race for the AFC South title.

Chicago Bears vs. New Orleans Saints, 4:25 p.m. E.T. on Fox — Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky will reportedly return to action this week as Chicago looks to stay afloat in the competitive NFC North. The Saints, who are already without quarterback Drew Brees, will be without their versatile star running back, Alvin Kamara, and tight end Jared Cook. But the 5-1 Saints have shown a lot of resilience so far this year, so don't expect them to fold.

Seattle Seahawks vs. Baltimore Ravens, 4:25 p.m. E.T. on Fox — Any game with Russell Wilson is worth watching right now. The Seahawks quarterback has been one of the best players in the league all season, and he'll look to keep Seattle rolling along against a talented, but inconsistent Ravens team. Ravens safety Earl Thomas will make his return to Seattle, where he starred for several years as the centerpiece of one of the most dominant secondaries in NFL history.

Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles, 8:20 p.m. E.T. on NBC — It's been a weird season for these longtime rivals, who will face off during primetime Sunday evening. Dallas got off to a hot start against bad competition, but has now lost three in a row, while the Eagles have been up and down all season en route to their own 3-3 record. The winner should emerge as the favorite in a weak NFC East. Tim O'Donnell

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