News & Politics

The Morning Briefing: NYC's New Normal, Tech Overlords, Vegas Update and Much, Much More

Police tape rests on a damaged Home Depot truck sits after a motorist drove onto a bike path near the World Trade Center memorial, striking and killing several people Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Good Wednesday morning.

Here is what’s on the president’s agenda today:

  • In the morning, President Donald J. Trump will receive his daily intelligence briefing.
  • The president will then hold a cabinet meeting.
  • In the afternoon, the president will sign the National Veterans and Military Families Month Proclamation.
  • The president will then have lunch with Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
  • Later in the afternoon, the president will meet with the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee.
  • The president will then sign H.J. Res. 111 – Disapproving of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Arbitration Agreements Rule.

Welcome to the new normal

A freak pledging allegiance to ISIS mowed down a bunch of cyclists and pedestrians in New York City, leaving 8 dead and 11 injured. Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov is an Uzbek national. Numerous sources reported Saipov ran out of his rented truck and shouted “Allahu akbar.” How did this monster get into the U.S.?

He entered the United States in 2010 through the so-called Diversity Visa Lottery, a special program started in 1995 that according to the State Department hands out about 55,000 visas per year to applicants, most of them from countries that don’t send many émigrés to the United States.

He has since become a legal permanent resident and has lived in Cincinnati; Tampa, Florida; and, most recently, Paterson, New Jersey, where he lived with his wife and three children, according to a law enforcement official. He rented the vehicle used in the attack at a nearby Home Depot.

He held business licenses for a pair of Ohio-based trucking companies — Sayf Motors Inc. in Cincinnati, and Bright Auto LLC in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio -– and also worked as an Uber driver. In a statement sent to ABC News, the company confirmed that Saipov was an active driver who passed a background check and recorded over 1400 trips in six months. The company is assisting law enforcement with the investigation.

The NYPD has been surveilling Saipov’s mosque since 2005. New York Governor Cuomo thinks Saipov was a lone wolf. President Trump has ordered DHS to step up its “extreme vetting.”

More to come.

Mueller investigation update

Some more filings from the special counsel’s office were released yesterday that provide additional background on indictees Paul Manafort and his buddy Rick Gates. Manafort “keeps three U.S. passports with different identification numbers and submitted 10 passport applications in as many years, the office of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III disclosed in a new court filing Tuesday arguing that Manafort poses a significant flight risk.”

“Manafort’s financial holdings are substantial, if difficult to quantify precisely because of his varying representations. . . . The full extent of [his assets] is unclear,” they said. Manafort, for instance, reported $42 million in assets in March 2016; $136 million that May; and $28 million and $63 million that August, in two separate financial applications, the government said.

Gates listed his and his wife’s net worth as $30 million in a February 2016 application for a line of credit, but just $2.6 million in a March 2016 residential loan application.

Prosecutors also said that Manafort registered a phone and an email account under an alias in May and traveled with it to Mexico in June, to China on May 23 and to Ecuador on May 9.

We also learned that Manafort’s attorney was forced to testify against him.

Still no word on what Manafort plotted with the RUSSIANS to influence the election and sway people to vote for Trump instead of Hillary.

Our tech overlords testify before Senate Judiciary Committee

Yesterday, representatives from Facebook, Google, and Twitter testified about the way in which advertisements purchased on their mediums were used to influence the 2016 election.

I don’t really think this is as big of a deal as some do. Are they going to shut down those horrible, deceptive click bait ads about THIS ONE THING that will get rid of your belly fat too? (I clicked and I still have belly fat! I’m a victim!) There are plenty of misleading marketing ads on the internet. We know that foreign countries try to influence America just like America tries to influence other nations around the world. Besides, did we ever find out what the RUSSIANS did on social media that effectively influenced the election results?

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said that his staff reviewed the 3,000 Facebook ads, and said the ads “do not support a specific candidate, either Republican or Democrat,” and were meant to sow division and discord over social issues.

“These ads are clearly intended to worsen racial tensions and possibly violence in those cities. It might be true that these ads were intended to influence elections but it’s important to be clear that the nature of the ads,” he said.

Facebook’s Stretch said 90 percent of the ads were issue based, leaving 10 percent on specific candidates. Additionally 75 percent of the ads targeted the U.S. as a whole, and 25 percent targeted specific states.

Sow division and discord over social issues“? Well that sounds just like the mainstream media…

Other things we learned during the hearing: Facebook didn’t stop ads from being purchased in a foreign currency. One senator asked if Facebook was able to determine if these Russian accounts had help from the Trump campaign a national group for their ad targeting.

Another member of the subcommittee, Senator Richard Blumenthal, asked Stretch if he knew whether any other parties, like a political campaign, helped the Russian-affiliated Internet Research Agency target the posts that Facebook estimated to have reached 126 million Americans.

“We’re not able to essentially see behind the accounts,” said Stretch. “All we’re able to get is the targeting information, which we’ve provided to the committee.”

Since Facebook disclosed in September that fake, Russia-linked accounts purchased ads on its platform, reports have shown how Russia-backed operatives used the social network to spread fake news, sow divisiveness, and even organize real-world political protests.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La) asked the most important question in the hearing: “Do you have a profile on me?” he directed at the tech overlords. Yes, yes they do Senator Kennedy.

Yesterday, we didn’t learn any more about what RUSSIAN advertisements forced voters to choose Trump over Clinton, which is the narrative the Democrats and Clinton campaign are peddling.  There are more Hill hearings scheduled for the social media giants.

Las Vegas update

We haven’t heard much from law enforcement regarding the massacre in Las Vegas that took place at the beginning of October. The more we learn, the weirder it gets.

A Metropolitan Police Department officer accidentally discharged his weapon inside the Mandalay Bay gunman’s suite the night of the Oct. 1 shooting, the Clark County sheriff confirmed Monday.

The police firearm went off inside the suite sometime after officers made entry, Sheriff Joe Lombardo said. But the round or rounds were not fired in the same room where gunman Stephen Paddock was found dead with what has been described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

“It happened, and we’re investigating it, just like we do with any officer-involved use of force,” Lombardo told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Nobody was struck.”

Another piece of information we learned was that the cameras were pointed in the direction of the elevators but not toward the hallway or the rooms so there’s no footage of who was coming and going from the gunman’s suite.

Picture of the day:

[IF YOU BELIEVE THIS AD YOU ARE TOO STUPID TO VOTE.] Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., speaks next to a poster depicting an online ad that attempted to suppress voters as Facebook’s General Counsel Colin Stretch, Twitter’s Acting General Counsel Sean Edgett, and Google’s Law Enforcement and Information Security Director Richard Salgado, testifies before a Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017, on more signs from tech companies of Russian election activity. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Other morsels:

Political correctness is ruining America, poll says

U.S. nuclear arsenal to cost $1.2 trillion over next 30 years: CBO

California insurance agency: wildfires losses at $3.3 billion, rising

Obama seeks to spark U.S. civic activism with Chicago event

Brady confirms GOP tax bill delayed until Thursday

Pruitt guts EPA science panels, will appoint new members

Democratic National Committee manager doesn’t want ‘straight white males’ recruited for jobs: report

Family of 10 swarmed in assault by violent juveniles at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor

Arrested for cursing: Six officers take down liberal reporter for profane language

Black Student Activists Want Columbia To Defund College Republicans

Having ‘white nuclear family’ promotes white supremacy, says New York professor, report says

Parent Holds Teacher Hostage For 6 Hours In California Classroom

Northam Donations Are Pouring In From National Organizations

Polling techniques may account for erratic predictions in Virginia

Political attack ad showing kids running from Republican pickup truck driver is pulled after New York terror attack

Trump to meet GOP senators on DACA fix

Nurse forcibly arrested for doing her job gets $500K settlement

NPR’s Michael Oreskes placed on leave amid sexual harassment accusations

The Latest: Beverly Hills police investigating Weinstein

‘House of Cards’ shuts down production after Kevin Spacey sexual misconduct allegation

Jeremy Piven accused of sexual assault by reality star Ariane Bellamar

Thanksgiving flights: Expect record crowds at U.S. airports this year

Vermont clown accused of cocaine possession, sleeping in stranger’s bedroom, cops say

Texas GOP Congressman Hensarling announces retirement after eight terms

Breeding dogs to have muscular dystrophy for medical research sparks outcry

Gunman wanted in deadly University of Utah shooting caught after 15-hour manhunt

California to tax pot as much as 45%

And that’s all I’ve got, now go beat back the angry mob!