By Robert A. Vella
Ahead of this week’s important impeachment proceedings in the House Judiciary Committee, we kickoff this Monday with three stories involving President Trump and one story involving your personal privacy.
In yet another sign of GOP concern about next year’s elections, the Republican governor of Georgia is defying Trump by appointing his own replacement for retiring senator Johnny Isakson. Georgia has long been deeply conservative and reliably Republican, but demographic shifts and the nationwide political backlash against Trump among women and suburban voters has made the state competitive for Democrats. Last year, for example, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams barely lost to Brian Kemp in a controversial result marred by reports of voter suppression and election fraud. Likewise, this year’s elections in other southern states (i.e. Virginia, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi) marked significant and even stunning GOP losses. For readers interested in forecasting the 2020 presidential election, I highly recommend weighing various indicators according to their intrinsic merit. Individual polls are less reliable than an aggregate assessment of multiple polls. Anecdotal reports (e.g. the recent one in Wisconsin suggesting that there are considerable numbers of Trump-supporting Democrats moving towards the GOP) should be met with a heavy dose of skepticism. Rhetorical spin and partisan propaganda should be substantively ignored; and, instead, often times the best way to assess what’s really happening is by examining actual political behavior (e.g. this case).
Current negotiations intended to ease the economically damaging trade war between the U.S. and China took a step backwards over the weekend after China announced additional sanctions in retaliation for American support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. Google and YouTube, under pressure to do something about political disinformation campaigns like Twitter recently did, have taken down hundreds of pro-Trump ads. A technology company in Texas is under fire for exposing millions of text messages containing sensitive information about private citizens.
Georgia governor defies Trump
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) has told Republican officials that he intends to go against President Trump’s wishes when it comes to selecting who should take over the state’s soon-to-be vacant Senate seat.
According to a Politico report Sunday, three sources said that Kemp plans to appoint businesswoman Kelly Loeffler to replace retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), which goes against Trump’s preference for Kemp to choose Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) — a staunch ally to the President and ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee.
An aide to a House Republican from Georgia told Politico that Kemp gave members of Georgia’s Republican congressional delegation a heads up on his decision over the weekend. It is currently unclear when Kemp will make his announcement, but party officials have begun preparing a public rollout, according to Politico.
Last week, Politico reported that Kemp believes that Loeffler can help staunch the flow of suburban and female voters fleeing the party.
The choice could face serious backlash from conservatives. President Donald Trump has told Kemp he favors GOP Rep. Doug Collins, a staunch ally and the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, for the appointment. Kemp took Loeffler to the White House late last month to meet with the president. But the meeting did not go as planned: Trump raised pointed concerns about whether Loeffler — who has never run for elected office before — is seasoned enough in politics to receive the nod.
Trump also noted during the sit-down that Loeffler was not an original backer of his 2016 campaign. He said he couldn’t be sure how his supporters would respond to her selection.
A handful of right-of-center groups have also come out against Loeffler, saying she lacks conservative credentials. Some party officials worry that her appointment could lead to a messy 2020 electoral fight, with other Republicans challenging her for the party’s nomination. Collins has said he is considering waging a primary campaign in the event he isn’t picked.
China suspended US warship visits and sanctioned American NGOs on Monday in retaliation for the passage of a bill backing pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
Trump ads taken down
In an interview on 60 Minutes, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said the controversial Trump/Biden ad does not violate their policy.
60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl asked Wojcicki, “Have you taken down any of President Trump’s ads at all?” YouTube’s CEO responded, “There are ads of President Trump that were not approved to run on Google or YouTube.” When pressed for an example, Wojcicki added, “Well, they’re available in our transparency report.”
In response to concerns raised after the 2016 election cycle, Google and YouTube, like Facebook, keep a searchable archive of political ads that have run on the site.
60 Minutes reviewed the archive to learn more about President Trump’s problematic political ads. We found that over 300 video ads were taken down by Google and YouTube, mostly over the summer, for violating company policy. But the archive doesn’t detail what policy was violated. Was it copyright violation? A lie or extreme inaccuracy? Faulty grammar? Bad punctuation? It’s unclear. The ads determined to be offending are not available to be screened. We found very little transparency in the transparency report.
Some of your text messages may have been left exposed on the internet for the world to see.
A database housing millions of private SMS text messages was left open online for an extended period of time, a team of researchers at the online privacy company vpnMentor said Sunday. The Texas-based text messaging firm TrueDialog is thought to be responsible for the leak, the cybersecurity experts said.
The database contained access information to online medical services along with passwords and usernames to websites such as Google and Facebook.