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Westlake Legal Group > News Corporation (Page 61)

Andy Puzder: Desperate Dems pursue impeachment inquiry based on flimsiest of justifications

Westlake Legal Group 13f2d382-trump-pelosi Andy Puzder: Desperate Dems pursue impeachment inquiry based on flimsiest of justifications fox-news/politics/trump-impeachment-inquiry fox-news/person/nancy-pelosi fox-news/person/donald-trump fox-news/opinion fox news fnc/opinion fnc article Andy Puzder 7ab9c695-31c1-5105-a5b2-890af5504e18

It has always seemed strange to me that Democrats so readily accepted the Steele dossier’s allegations against President Trump. Perhaps this was because my personal reaction on reading the dossier was mild amusement at how very poorly it was written and how absurd the patently “salacious and unverified” allegations sounded.

In the end, what sounded like bogus claims turned out to be bogus claims.

You would think Democrats and their media allies would have learned a lesson from this nonexistent “Russia collusion” debacle. But Democrats have once again unquestioningly accepted hearsay allegations from a politically biased source in the whistleblower complaint.

GOP SEN. KEVIN CRAMER SAYS ATTACKS ON TRUMP WILL NEVER CEASE: ‘HATERS ARE GOING TO HATE’

Perhaps strangest of all in this strangest of political times, Democrats initiated an impeachment inquiry based on these allegations before even seeing either the complaint itself or a transcript of the call to which it referred.

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Though I rarely agree with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on policy, I don’t think she’s stupid. So I was puzzled by her willingness to pursue this extremely risky step without anything approaching evidence of serious wrongdoing.

I thought perhaps a combination of the pending election, the weak slate of potential Democratic presidential nominees, plus President Trump’s increasingly obvious economic success, had created political desperation so intense that Pelosi’s only choice was to take an extreme political risk.

At this point, I asked myself, what else have they got? Elizabeth Warren? A Hillary Clinton rematch? Seriously? 

But then it occurred to me that this could all make sense. People tend to believe that others will do what they themselves would do if faced with similar choices. No one wants to believe other people would make choices morally superior to their own.

This certainly explains the rush to accept the Steele dossier’s absurd claims. According to The New York Times: “Fusion GPS was hired on behalf of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign and the D.N.C. by their law firm, Perkins Coie, to compile research about Mr. Trump, his businesses and associates – including possible connections with Russia. It was at that point that Fusion GPS hired Mr. Steele, who has deep sourcing in Russia, to gather information.”

Whether you call this opposition research (meaning Democrats did it) or collusion (meaning Republicans did it), it’s certainly easy to see why Democrats incorrectly believed nominee Trump would look to Russia for information that could influence the election. It was the very conduct in which the Democrats had engaged.

How about the whistleblower’s complaint? Well, again according to The New York Times, former Vice President Joe Biden “threatened to withhold $1 billion in United States loan guarantees if Ukraine’s leaders did not dismiss the country’s top prosecutor, who had been accused of turning a blind eye to corruption.” Not coincidentally, the prosecutor “was soon voted out by the Ukrainian Parliament.”

So did anyone associated with Biden benefit from his actions? Well, Mr. Biden’s son Hunter “had a stake in the outcome” as he was “paid as much as $50,000 per month” for being “on the board of an energy company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch who had been in the sights of the fired prosecutor general.”

Whether you call this fighting corruption (meaning a Democrat did it) or an abuse of power (meaning a Republican did it), it’s once again easy to see why Democrats would so easily believe that President Trump threatened to withhold foreign aid to obtain a personal benefit. It’s exactly what Democrats did under similar circumstances.

Less than one day after Pelosi announced her impeachment inquiry, President Trump discredited the whistleblower’s allegations by releasing a rough transcript of his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

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The rough transcript shows that Trump did not condition foreign aid on any action by Zelensky. Zelensky has since confirmed that he didn’t feel any such pressure from Trump.

The transcript also shows that Zelensky, not Trump, brought up Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani visiting Ukraine to investigate corruption. And despite incredibly biased media coverage to the contrary, the only “favor” Trump requested in the call concerned investigating foreign interference in our 2016 election – a subject that used to be of great interest to Democrats.

In reality, if someone suggested withholding aid to pressure a foreign power into besmirching a political opponent, President Trump would be the first person in the room to say “No way” – or likely something far more graphic and inappropriate to repeat here.

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But much like the false “Russiagate” debacle, because of their willingness to believe President Trump would act as they would in similar circumstances, the Democrats (and their media allies) now find themselves prematurely committed to an impeachment inquiry based on the flimsiest of justifications.

I fully expect their hollow abuse of power claims to continue. They have no choice at this point. They will continue to stir up a lot of dust and when the dust settles, once again, there will be nothing there.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE BY ANDY PUZDER

Westlake Legal Group 13f2d382-trump-pelosi Andy Puzder: Desperate Dems pursue impeachment inquiry based on flimsiest of justifications fox-news/politics/trump-impeachment-inquiry fox-news/person/nancy-pelosi fox-news/person/donald-trump fox-news/opinion fox news fnc/opinion fnc article Andy Puzder 7ab9c695-31c1-5105-a5b2-890af5504e18   Westlake Legal Group 13f2d382-trump-pelosi Andy Puzder: Desperate Dems pursue impeachment inquiry based on flimsiest of justifications fox-news/politics/trump-impeachment-inquiry fox-news/person/nancy-pelosi fox-news/person/donald-trump fox-news/opinion fox news fnc/opinion fnc article Andy Puzder 7ab9c695-31c1-5105-a5b2-890af5504e18

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Adam Schiff Says Whistleblower May Not Testify, Safety ‘Primary Interest’

Westlake Legal Group 5da40c802100002a0dacd7f4 Adam Schiff Says Whistleblower May Not Testify, Safety ‘Primary Interest’

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday it may not be necessary to have the whistleblower who first filed a complaint about President Donald Trump’s call with Ukraine testify before Congress, saying there were still major concerns about the person’s safety.

Schiff, speaking to CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” told host Margaret Brennan that while his committee was initially interested in speaking with the whistleblower, who is still anonymous, he felt like lawmakers had now confirmed many of the details in from the call between Trump and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky that set off the House’s ongoing impeachment inquiry.

“Given that we already have the call record, we don’t need the whistleblower who wasn’t on the call to tell us what took place during the call,” Schiff said during the interview Sunday. “We have the best evidence of that.” 

In the complaint, which was filed after Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky, the whistleblower said they became concerned after hearing from multiple White House aides that Trump repeatedly pressured his counterpart to investigate a main political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden. The call took place shortly after the president ordered nearly $400 million in military aid that had been appropriated for Ukraine be put on hold.

The White House released a reconstruction of the call last month which showed clear instance of Trump asking for the investigation, and critics have said the demand reflected a clear quid pro quo in exchange for a political favor.

Trump has rejected those calls, however, and labeled the impeachment effort a “coup” and another “witch hunt” to overturn the 2016 election. He has demanded to know the identity of his accuser, fueling worries that the person’s identity could be leaked and their safety put in danger. 

“I think initially, before the president started threatening the whistleblower, threatening others calling them traitors and spies and suggestion that you know, we used to give them the death penalty to traitors and spies, maybe we should think about that again… Yes we were interested in having the whistleblower come forward,” Schiff said Sunday. “Our primary interest right now is making sure that that person is protected.”

The chairman leads one of three House panels spearheading the impeachment inquiry, and Democrats have already sent out a flurry of subpoenas and requests for documents related to the Ukraine call. While the White House has been stonewalling many of those efforts, some former officials have already spoken to lawmakers, including the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

“We want to make sure that we uncover the full details about the conditionality of either the military aid of that meeting with Ukraine’s president,” Schiff said Sunday. “It may not be necessary to take steps that might reveal the whistleblower’s identity to do that.”

He continued: “And we’re going to make sure we protect that whistleblower.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

How To Undermine Democracy With One Simple Trick

At first, Tom Steyer’s late bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination hardly made a ripple in Washington. The little-known billionaire threw his hat into the ring on July 9, months after a crowded lineup of other Democrats had hit the campaign trail running. He seemed to drop in out of nowhere.

But within a matter of weeks, 62-year-old Steyer was polling at an astonishing 7% in early caucus and primary states — surpassing Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke and other big-name contenders. He even managed to secure a spot on Tuesday’s Democratic debate stage, where he’ll debut his platform before an audience of millions.

Steyer told HuffPost he credits his success thus far to having a message that resonates with voters as “important, true and different.” But the environmental activist and liberal mega-donor’s stunning leap from relative obscurity to national prominence can also be traced to a controversial campaigning tactic borrowed from President Donald Trump’s playbook: Funneling big money into voter data collection and targeted digital political ads.

Since vowing to allocate at least $100 million of his own $1.6 billion fortune to his campaign, Steyer has already vastly outspent all of his competitors, and it’s paying off. So far, much of his money — more than $325,000 per day, according to The Wall Street Journal — has gone to political ads, including many that urged people to donate a single dollar to his campaign, quickly enabling him to hit the required 130,000 individual-donor mark. Millions of dollars worth of Steyer’s ads have also targeted voters in key states such as Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada. He polled well enough in those three states to get into Tuesday’s debate.

Beyond strategic geographic targeting, Steyer has invested heavily in data collection on millions of potential voters, his aides told The Atlantic, which has allowed him to target people with thousands of digital ad variations based on their individual interests.

Steyer’s team described his campaign strategy to HuffPost as being “aggressive across all digital platforms,” but critics have accused him of trying to buy his way onto the presidential ballot. And although he almost assuredly won’t win the nomination, Steyer’s ability to so effectively customize his messaging for different audiences and to excel in certain states so late in the game by bombarding them with ads is alarming and illuminating: It reveals how little progress advertising giants have made in addressing the dangers of so-called “micro-targeting” in the wake of Russian ad-targeting campaigns during the 2016 election, and just how vulnerable American democracy remains to the influence of deep-pocketed actors.

“Micro-targeting can affect election results and it can undermine democracy,” said Michela Redoano, a targeted-advertising researcher and associate professor at the University of Warwick in England. “Most voters aren’t even aware of micro-targeting. If you buy a newspaper of a certain political leaning, you know to expect bias. But if you’re on social media, people aren’t necessarily expecting bias in the ads they see.”

Westlake Legal Group 5d8537e62100003400d50de5 How To Undermine Democracy With One Simple Trick

HuffPost Visualization

How Political Advertisers Target Voters

Facebook and other platforms have profited massively by allowing ad buyers to select specific audiences and to tailor their ads accordingly. For example, you could run a custom Facebook ad campaign targeting single, college-educated, conservative-leaning women in their late twenties who live in Detroit and who are interested in yoga. The sites collect users’ data by tracking their online activity — ‘likes,’ profile information, search histories and so forth — to predict their interests, in turn giving companies and political campaigns extraordinary advantages for winning business and votes. 

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has called on Facebook and Google to ban micro-targeting for political ads — where the ad buyer’s intent may be more nefarious than selling yoga pants.

“Until the biggest tech companies can demonstrate that they have effective safeguards to prevent foreign governments weaponizing their advertising systems, I believe they should voluntarily suspend the most dangerous and least transparent types of targeting for political and issue ads,” Wyden told HuffPost. 

Micro-targeting isn’t a new practice, nor is it a tool used exclusively by foreign operatives. Political consultant Alex P. Gage, who coined the term in the early 2000s, founded a market research firm that worked with President George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign to create targeted voter lists based on various criteria pulled from voter registries and other information sources. Bush’s team then contacted those voters by mail, phone or in-person.

But micro-targeting has become increasingly powerful in the age of digital advertising, especially as the number of Facebook users has continued to skyrocket over the years. It has become so powerful that some of the people who built targeted advertising tools are warning of a Frankenstein’s monster.

U.S. democracy “is moving in a dangerous path where billionaires on both sides are investing in huge data operations, in manipulating individuals across the country through online ads,” Facebook’s former security chief, Alex Stamos, told CNN in August.

In 2013, researchers at the University of Cambridge and Stanford University conducted a study to determine just how effective artificial intelligence is at predicting people’s interests based off their digital footprints. By mining subjects’ ‘likes’ on Facebook, the researchers’ computerized system was able to assess their personality traits more accurately than the subjects’ own friends and family. Using such data to target and potentially manipulate voters can serve as a secret political weapon, allowing candidates to customize their messaging for just about any given audience for maximum impact. 

We’ve seen how this plays out before.

Westlake Legal Group 5d856bb02300003100d0cf9d How To Undermine Democracy With One Simple Trick

SAUL LOEB via Getty Images Brad Parscale relied heavily on Facebook micro-targeting while running Trump’s digital media campaign for the 2016 election. Parscale is the overall campaign manager for Trump’s 2020 reelection bid.

The ‘Facebook Election’

About a year after winning the 2016 election, Trump told Fox News: “I doubt I would be here if it weren’t for social media, to be honest with you.” He was defending his use of Twitter as a political communication tool — one he credited with helping him get into office by allowing him to engage directly with voters. But there was a deeper truth to his words. 

In the run-up to the vote, Trump’s campaign team created Project Alamo, a 220 million-person database containing information about Americans’ credit card histories, gun ownership and voter registration records, among thousands of other individual data points. Their information was reportedly obtained from the Republican National Committee and Cambridge Analytica — the firm that harvested millions of Facebook users’ data without their consent and sold it to political advertisers.

Project Alamo’s gargantuan collection of data profiles of potential voters enabled Trump’s team to launch hyper-targeted ad campaigns reportedly intended to discourage supporters of his opponent, Hillary Clinton, from voting, and to reach undecided voters in swing states.

“So now Facebook lets you get to … 15 people in the Florida Panhandle that I would never buy a TV commercial for,” Trump’s then-digital media director, Brad Parscale, told CBS News. “Twitter is how [Trump] talked to the people, Facebook was going to be how he won.”

In what has since come to be referred to as the “Facebook Election,” Russia also invested heavily in targeted political ad campaigns within the U.S., including some ads that targeted people in Michigan and Wisconsin specifically, per CNN — states pivotal to Trump’s victory. Other Russian ads were used to “encourage U.S. minority groups not to vote,” according to a federal indictment. An estimated 10 million people in the U.S. saw at least one of the thousands of political Facebook ads bought by Kremlin-linked accounts.

Trump, whose campaign spent tens of millions of dollars on Facebook ads during the 2016 election cycle, also took advantage of the platform’s “Lookalike Audiences” feature. The tool expands advertisers’ reach by identifying Facebook users who “have common qualities” and “are similar to” their existing custom audiences.

It worked. Targeted social media ads “were particularly successful” in persuading undecided voters to support Trump, and increased Republican turnout among key voter groups by as much as 10%, a 2018 study co-authored by Redoano found.

“You don’t need good policy as much now, you just need the money to run a good ad campaign,” said Redoano, who’s urging regulation surrounding micro-targeting.

Westlake Legal Group 5d8910d42300009705d6417a How To Undermine Democracy With One Simple Trick

LPETTET via Getty Images Facebook users still don’t understand the ways in which they’re being profiled and targeted on the platform.

No Real Change

Since the explosive impact of targeted ads in 2016, little has actually been done to install safeguards on major platforms. The Honest Ads Act, introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) in 2017, would require political advertisers to disclose who their ads are targeting, but it stalled in the Senate.

Google and Facebook, both under intense scrutiny, have independently taken steps to increase transparency surrounding political ad campaigns on their platforms. Google, which directed HuffPost to its blog post about ad transparency, introduced a more stringent screening process for political advertisers. It now requires them to verify their information with a government-issued piece of ID and to disclose to viewers who’s paying for each ad. 

After a Guardian investigation found that Facebook allowed advertisers to target users by their inferred, sensitive interests, such as Islam and homosexuality, the company announced it was removing “over 5,000 targeting options to help prevent misuse,” though it did not specify which options.

Facebook also now requires political advertisers in the U.S. to disclose who paid for their ads. It recently announced that it is rolling out a “confirmed organization” label for U.S. advertisers who provide government-issued ID, and is requiring all political ad clients to list their contact information. The site debuted an online library of political ads last year, too, publicly cataloging messages about social issues and politics. The library does not, however, include detailed information about the ads’ targeting criteria. 

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.

Despite the improved transparency measures, Facebook users are still generally unaware they’re being targeted by political campaigns using a very sophisticated weapon. The last presidential election was decided by 70,000 votes in three states, and similar narrow margins in 2020 would give talented purveyors of targeted advertising a tremendous opportunity to once again change the course of the election — and history.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

House Intelligence Committee Chair Says Whistleblower’s Safety Is Of ‘Primary Interest’

Westlake Legal Group 5da40c802100002a0dacd7f4 House Intelligence Committee Chair Says Whistleblower’s Safety Is Of ‘Primary Interest’

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday it may not be necessary to have the whistleblower who first filed a complaint about President Donald Trump’s call with Ukraine testify before Congress, saying there were still major concerns about the person’s safety.

Schiff, speaking to CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” told host Margaret Brennan that while his committee was initially interested in speaking with the whistleblower, who is still anonymous, he felt like lawmakers had now confirmed many of the details in from the call between Trump and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky that set off the House’s ongoing impeachment inquiry.

“Given that we already have the call record, we don’t need the whistleblower who wasn’t on the call to tell us what took place during the call,” Schiff said during the interview Sunday. “We have the best evidence of that.” 

“I think initially, before the president started threatening the whistleblower, threatening others calling them traitors and spies and suggestion that you know, we used to give them the death penalty to traitors and spies, maybe we should think about that again… Yes we were interested in having the whistleblower come forward,” Schiff said Sunday. “Our primary interest right now is making sure that that person is protected.”

In the complaint, which was filed after Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky, the whistleblower said they became concerned after hearing from multiple White House aides that Trump repeatedly pressured his counterpart to investigate a main political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden. The call took place shortly after the president ordered nearly $400 million in military aid that had been appropriated for Ukraine be put on hold.

The White House released a reconstruction of the call last month which showed clear instance of Trump asking for the investigation, and critics have said the demand reflected a clear quid pro quo in exchange for a political favor.

Trump has rejected those calls, however, and labeled the impeachment effort a “coup” and another “witch hunt” to overturn the 2016 election. He has demanded to know the identity of his accuser, fueling worries that the person’s identity could be leaked and their safety put in danger. 

Trump, in a Monday morning tweet blasting Schiff, said he wanted the whistleblower to testify. “We must determine the Whistleblower’s identity to determine WHY this was done to the USA,” the president wrote.

Trump appears to be referring to Schiff’s analysis of the phone call with Zelensky, which Schiff gave at a House hearing. “It reads like a classic organized crime shakedown,” Schiff said.

The chairman leads one of three House panels spearheading the impeachment inquiry, and Democrats have already sent out a flurry of subpoenas and requests for documents related to the Ukraine call. While the White House has been stonewalling many of those efforts, some former officials have already spoken to lawmakers, including the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

“We want to make sure that we uncover the full details about the conditionality of either the military aid of that meeting with Ukraine’s president,” Schiff said Sunday. “It may not be necessary to take steps that might reveal the whistleblower’s identity to do that.”

He continued: “And we’re going to make sure we protect that whistleblower.”

This article has been updated to include Trump’s tweets.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

As 2020 Approaches, Experts Worry Targeted Political Ads Could Be Too Powerful

At first, Tom Steyer’s late bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination hardly made a ripple in Washington. The little-known billionaire threw his hat into the ring on July 9, months after a crowded lineup of other Democrats had hit the campaign trail running. He seemed to drop in out of nowhere.

But within a matter of weeks, 62-year-old Steyer was polling at an astonishing 7% in early caucus and primary states — surpassing Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke and other big-name contenders. He even managed to secure a spot on Tuesday’s Democratic debate stage, where he’ll debut his platform before an audience of millions.

Steyer told HuffPost he credits his success thus far to having a message that resonates with voters as “important, true and different.” But the environmental activist and liberal mega-donor’s stunning leap from relative obscurity to national prominence can also be traced to a controversial campaigning tactic borrowed from President Donald Trump’s playbook: Funneling big money into voter data collection and targeted digital political ads.

Since vowing to allocate at least $100 million of his own $1.6 billion fortune to his campaign, Steyer has already vastly outspent all of his competitors, and it’s paying off. So far, much of his money — more than $325,000 per day, according to The Wall Street Journal — has gone to political ads, including many that urged people to donate a single dollar to his campaign, quickly enabling him to hit the required 130,000 individual-donor mark. Millions of dollars worth of Steyer’s ads have also targeted voters in key states such as Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada. He polled well enough in those three states to get into Tuesday’s debate.

Beyond strategic geographic targeting, Steyer has invested heavily in data collection on millions of potential voters, his aides told The Atlantic, which has allowed him to target people with thousands of digital ad variations based on their individual interests.

Steyer’s team described his campaign strategy to HuffPost as being “aggressive across all digital platforms,” but critics have accused him of trying to buy his way onto the presidential ballot. And although he almost assuredly won’t win the nomination, Steyer’s ability to so effectively customize his messaging for different audiences and to excel in certain states so late in the game by bombarding them with ads is alarming and illuminating: It reveals how little progress advertising giants have made in addressing the dangers of so-called “micro-targeting” in the wake of Russian ad-targeting campaigns during the 2016 election, and just how vulnerable American democracy remains to the influence of deep-pocketed actors.

“Micro-targeting can affect election results and it can undermine democracy,” said Michela Redoano, a targeted-advertising researcher and associate professor at the University of Warwick in England. “Most voters aren’t even aware of micro-targeting. If you buy a newspaper of a certain political leaning, you know to expect bias. But if you’re on social media, people aren’t necessarily expecting bias in the ads they see.”

Westlake Legal Group 5d8537e62100003400d50de5 As 2020 Approaches, Experts Worry Targeted Political Ads Could Be Too Powerful

HuffPost Visualization

How Political Advertisers Target Voters

Facebook and other platforms have profited massively by allowing ad buyers to select specific audiences and to tailor their ads accordingly. For example, you could run a custom Facebook ad campaign targeting single, college-educated, conservative-leaning women in their late twenties who live in Detroit and who are interested in yoga. The sites collect users’ data by tracking their online activity — ‘likes,’ profile information, search histories and so forth — to predict their interests, in turn giving companies and political campaigns extraordinary advantages for winning business and votes. 

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has called on Facebook and Google to ban micro-targeting for political ads — where the ad buyer’s intent may be more nefarious than selling yoga pants.

“Until the biggest tech companies can demonstrate that they have effective safeguards to prevent foreign governments weaponizing their advertising systems, I believe they should voluntarily suspend the most dangerous and least transparent types of targeting for political and issue ads,” Wyden told HuffPost. 

Micro-targeting isn’t a new practice, nor is it a tool used exclusively by foreign operatives. Political consultant Alex P. Gage, who coined the term in the early 2000s, founded a market research firm that worked with President George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign to create targeted voter lists based on various criteria pulled from voter registries and other information sources. Bush’s team then contacted those voters by mail, phone or in-person.

But micro-targeting has become increasingly powerful in the age of digital advertising, especially as the number of Facebook users has continued to skyrocket over the years. It has become so powerful that some of the people who built targeted advertising tools are warning of a Frankenstein’s monster.

U.S. democracy “is moving in a dangerous path where billionaires on both sides are investing in huge data operations, in manipulating individuals across the country through online ads,” Facebook’s former security chief, Alex Stamos, told CNN in August.

In 2013, researchers at the University of Cambridge and Stanford University conducted a study to determine just how effective artificial intelligence is at predicting people’s interests based off their digital footprints. By mining subjects’ ‘likes’ on Facebook, the researchers’ computerized system was able to assess their personality traits more accurately than the subjects’ own friends and family. Using such data to target and potentially manipulate voters can serve as a secret political weapon, allowing candidates to customize their messaging for just about any given audience for maximum impact. 

We’ve seen how this plays out before.

Westlake Legal Group 5d856bb02300003100d0cf9d As 2020 Approaches, Experts Worry Targeted Political Ads Could Be Too Powerful

SAUL LOEB via Getty Images Brad Parscale relied heavily on Facebook micro-targeting while running Trump’s digital media campaign for the 2016 election. Parscale is the overall campaign manager for Trump’s 2020 reelection bid.

The ‘Facebook Election’

About a year after winning the 2016 election, Trump told Fox News: “I doubt I would be here if it weren’t for social media, to be honest with you.” He was defending his use of Twitter as a political communication tool — one he credited with helping him get into office by allowing him to engage directly with voters. But there was a deeper truth to his words. 

In the run-up to the vote, Trump’s campaign team created Project Alamo, a 220 million-person database containing information about Americans’ credit card histories, gun ownership and voter registration records, among thousands of other individual data points. Their information was reportedly obtained from the Republican National Committee and Cambridge Analytica — the firm that harvested millions of Facebook users’ data without their consent and sold it to political advertisers.

Project Alamo’s gargantuan collection of data profiles of potential voters enabled Trump’s team to launch hyper-targeted ad campaigns reportedly intended to discourage supporters of his opponent, Hillary Clinton, from voting, and to reach undecided voters in swing states.

“So now Facebook lets you get to … 15 people in the Florida Panhandle that I would never buy a TV commercial for,” Trump’s then-digital media director, Brad Parscale, told CBS News. “Twitter is how [Trump] talked to the people, Facebook was going to be how he won.”

In what has since come to be referred to as the “Facebook Election,” Russia also invested heavily in targeted political ad campaigns within the U.S., including some ads that targeted people in Michigan and Wisconsin specifically, per CNN — states pivotal to Trump’s victory. Other Russian ads were used to “encourage U.S. minority groups not to vote,” according to a federal indictment. An estimated 10 million people in the U.S. saw at least one of the thousands of political Facebook ads bought by Kremlin-linked accounts.

Trump, whose campaign spent tens of millions of dollars on Facebook ads during the 2016 election cycle, also took advantage of the platform’s “Lookalike Audiences” feature. The tool expands advertisers’ reach by identifying Facebook users who “have common qualities” and “are similar to” their existing custom audiences.

It worked. Targeted social media ads “were particularly successful” in persuading undecided voters to support Trump, and increased Republican turnout among key voter groups by as much as 10%, a 2018 study co-authored by Redoano found.

“You don’t need good policy as much now, you just need the money to run a good ad campaign,” said Redoano, who’s urging regulation surrounding micro-targeting.

Westlake Legal Group 5d8910d42300009705d6417a As 2020 Approaches, Experts Worry Targeted Political Ads Could Be Too Powerful

LPETTET via Getty Images Facebook users still don’t understand the ways in which they’re being profiled and targeted on the platform.

No Real Change

Since the explosive impact of targeted ads in 2016, little has actually been done to install safeguards on major platforms. The Honest Ads Act, introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) in 2017, would require political advertisers to disclose who their ads are targeting, but it stalled in the Senate.

Google and Facebook, both under intense scrutiny, have independently taken steps to increase transparency surrounding political ad campaigns on their platforms. Google, which directed HuffPost to its blog post about ad transparency, introduced a more stringent screening process for political advertisers. It now requires them to verify their information with a government-issued piece of ID and to disclose to viewers who’s paying for each ad. 

After a Guardian investigation found that Facebook allowed advertisers to target users by their inferred, sensitive interests, such as Islam and homosexuality, the company announced it was removing “over 5,000 targeting options to help prevent misuse,” though it did not specify which options.

Facebook also now requires political advertisers in the U.S. to disclose who paid for their ads. It recently announced that it is rolling out a “confirmed organization” label for U.S. advertisers who provide government-issued ID, and is requiring all political ad clients to list their contact information. The site debuted an online library of political ads last year, too, publicly cataloging messages about social issues and politics. The library does not, however, include detailed information about the ads’ targeting criteria. 

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.

Despite the improved transparency measures, Facebook users are still generally unaware they’re being targeted by political campaigns using a very sophisticated weapon. The last presidential election was decided by 70,000 votes in three states, and similar narrow margins in 2020 would give talented purveyors of targeted advertising a tremendous opportunity to once again change the course of the election — and history.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Syria Live Updates: Assad’s Army Moves into Border Town

Here’s what you need to know:

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_162683814_d79699bc-2413-4b97-a0bf-2f200a8161b0-articleLarge Syria Live Updates: Assad’s Army Moves into Border Town United States Defense and Military Forces Turkey Syrian Democratic Forces Syria Russia Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Defense and Military Forces Assad, Bashar al-

Syrian government troops entered the strategic town of Tel Tamer on Monday.CreditDelil Souleiman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Syrian Army invaded the town of Tel Tamer in northeastern Syria, state media reported on Monday, soon after the government of President Bashar al-Assad forged an alliance with the Kurdish forces that control the region.

Tel Tamer, a strategic crossroads that connects northeastern Syria with the country’s northern hub, Aleppo, is just 20 miles from Ras al Ain, the center of the Turkish assault.

Tel Tamer was once home to hundreds of Christians before ISIS overran the territory and claimed it as part of its self-declared caliphate in 2015. Kurdish-led fighters repelled the Islamist extremists and had held the town with the backing of American troops until President Trump abruptly withdrew them from the region last week.

Syrian state television showed about half a dozen Syrian soldiers milling around a pickup truck mounted with a machine gun. They were greeted by a small crowd of local residents, some of whom carried portraits of Mr. Assad.

It has been only a week since President Trump pulled back American forces in Syria and effectively gave Turkey the green light to cross the border and pursue its own military agenda. Alliances are shifting, ISIS is reinvigorated and the lives of thousands of civilians are endangered.

Embittered at their abandonment by their American allies, Kurdish leaders adroitly moved to secure a new partner: The government of Bashar al-Assad, an avowed foe of the United States.

Late Sunday, the Syrian Democratic Forces, or S.D.F., said they had struck a deal with the Assad government that would allow government forces to enter the Kurdish-controlled northeast of Syria for the first time in years. The commander of the S.D.F. wrote an article for Foreign Policy that explained the reasoning behind the deal.

The commander, Mazloum Abdi, said in the absence of American help against the Turkish invasion, he had no option but to seek help from the Syrian Army and their Russian allies, even though “we do not trust their promises.”

“We know that we would have to make painful compromises with Moscow and Bashar al-Assad if we go down the road of working with them,” he added. “But if we have to choose between compromises and the genocide of our people, we will surely choose life for our people.”

Trump administration officials once argued that keeping Mr. Assad’s forces out of the territory was crucial to stemming Iranian and Russian influence in Syria. But with American troops on the way out, Washington has lost its leverage.

“The worst thing in military logic and comrades in the trench is betrayal,” said one official allied with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

Some American military members who had worked closely with the Kurdish militia were also appalled.

“They trusted us and we broke that trust,” said one Army officer who has worked alongside the Kurds in northern Syria. “It’s a stain on the American conscience.”

Advisers to the Turkish president said Monday morning that the Turkish Army would press on with its incursion, despite the deal brokered between Kurdish forces and the Syrian government on Sunday.

The official Turkish explanation for the offensive was to clear the area of the Kurdish-led militia that has close ties with a terrorist group that is banned in Turkey.

At the start of the invasion, Turkish officials said they respected Syrian sovereignty.

But on Monday, Yasin Aktay, an adviser to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, said on Twitter that “the fact that Syrian Army has made a deal” with the Kurdish militia “will not stop Turkey’s antiterror operation.”

A second presidential adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, later tweeted that “Turkey will not stop until we reach our goals.” Turkish officials have previously promised to create a buffer zone along the length of its border with Syria, roughly 20 miles deep.

The United States had no greater ally in driving out the Islamic State militants who claimed vast swathes of Syria in the quest for a modern-day caliphate than the coalition of fighters known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or S.D.F.

Inch by inch, the Kurdish-led militia, working with its American military partners, drove ISIS militants out of their strongholds.

But another United States ally viewed the militia much less fondly: Turkey. Its leaders looked across their southern border and saw not an ally but a threat to its territorial integrity, given the militia’s ties to Kurdish separatists in Turkey.

With Turkish-led forces now threatening the Kurds, the S.D.F. has turned its attention away from the Islamic State, including those militants captured during the war and held in detention camps. Already, some ISIS members said to have escaped, along with hundreds of their family members. A planned transfer of five dozen “high value” detainees to the United States from Syria never happened.

Between escaped ISIS members and the Islamist sleeper cells believed to have been left behind when the militants were defeated in Syria, there is concern that the world has not seen the last of the extremist group.

Where Turkish forces struck Kurdish-held areas

Westlake Legal Group syria-zoom-map-600 Syria Live Updates: Assad’s Army Moves into Border Town United States Defense and Military Forces Turkey Syrian Democratic Forces Syria Russia Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Defense and Military Forces Assad, Bashar al-

Ras al Ain

Turkey’s proposed

buffer zone

KURDISH

Control

ISIS members’ families escape from detention.

Government

Control

Turkish army AND

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KURDISH

Control

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opposition

Government

Control

Deir al-Zour

Albu Kamal

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Ras al Ain

Turkey’s proposed

buffer zone

ISIS members’ families escape from detention.

Turkish army

AND syrian

opposition

KURDISH

Control

Other

opposition

Government

Control

Westlake Legal Group syria-zoom-map-300 Syria Live Updates: Assad’s Army Moves into Border Town United States Defense and Military Forces Turkey Syrian Democratic Forces Syria Russia Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Defense and Military Forces Assad, Bashar al-

Ras al Ain

Turkey’s proposed

buffer zone

ISIS members’ families escape from detention.

Turkish army AND

syrian opposition

KURDISH

Control

Other

opposition

Government

Control

Sources: Times reporting; Control areas via Conflict Monitor by IHS Markit | By Sarah Almukhtar, Allison McCann and Anjali Singhvi

Reporting was contributed by Carlotta Gall, Ben Hubbard, Charlie Savage, Eric Schmitt, Patrick Kingsley, Hwaida Saad, Eric Nagourney and Russell Goldman.

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Kurds announce deal with Assad after US withdrawal; Trump taunts Hunter Biden

Good morning and welcome to Fox News First. Here’s what you need to know as you start your Monday …

Russia brokers deal between Kurds and Damascus to stem Turkish offensive: report; Trump seeing ‘consensus’ in new sanctions on Turkey
Nearly a week after the U.S. announced its decision to pull out troops from northern Syria to make way for a Turkish incursion, Kurdish forces in the country have reportedly agreed to a new deal with Damascus in a desperate bid to face off against Ankara’s offensive. The New York Times reported that the deal– which was announced Sunday evening– would enable President Bashar al-Assad’s forces to attempt to regain a foothold in the country’s northeast. The Washington Post reported that the deal was reached after three days of negotiations between the Kurdish forces, Russian envoys and Damascus. Click here for more on our top story.

The latest development comes as at least nine people, including five civilians, were killed Sunday in Turkish airstrikes on a convoy in the Syrian border town of Ras al-Ayn, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Syrian Kurdish officials. In an interview on Fox News Sunday, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper defended Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces and said the U.S. is urging Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to cease the aggression.

Esper said that roughly 1,000 troops will be withdrawing from the north of the country. A U.S. official told Fox News that forces will not be leaving the country altogether, but will be moving southward. Meanwhile, in a series of tweets, Trump himself denounced getting involved in “endless wars” and talked up wide support in Washington in imposing news sanctions against Turkey.

‘Where’s Hunter?’ Trump asks, as Biden’s son promises not to work with foreign companies if father wins presidency in 2020
President Trump targeted Hunter Biden Sunday morning, implying that the son of former Vice President Joe Biden has disappeared — hours after Hunter Biden’s attorney announced his client is stepping down from the board of a Chinese company and vowed that he will not work with foreign companies if his father becomes president. “Where’s Hunter? He has totally disappeared!” Trump tweeted. Trump and his own attorney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, have accused Hunter Biden of improperly benefiting from business dealings in China and Ukraine while Joe Biden was vice president.

Westlake Legal Group Caravan101419 Kurds announce deal with Assad after US withdrawal; Trump taunts Hunter Biden fox-news/columns/fox-news-first fox news fnc/us fnc article a2a5a652-03d6-5495-bfc6-86a20a46ac42

Mexico halts caravan of 2,000 migrants bound for US
A caravan of roughly 2,000 migrants bound for the United States was halted by Mexican authorities over the weekend only a few hours into their journey, according to officials. The caravan, which consisted of migrants from Africa, the Caribbean, and Central America, left before dawn Saturday from Tapachula, a town in southern Mexico near the Guatemalan border, Reuters reported. About 24 miles into their journey, federal police and national guardsmen blocked their path. The abrupt halt of the caravan stood in stark contrast to last year when waves of U.S.-bound caravans – including one of at least 7,000 people – drew widespread media coverage while immigration officials on both sides of the border struggled to stem the flow.

China’s trade with US shrinks again in September
The trade war between the U.S. and China continues to take a toll on the Chinese economy and threatens to tip the global economy into recession. China’s trade with the United States fell by double digits again in September. Exports to the United States, China’s biggest foreign market, fell 17.8 percent to $36.5 billion, a deterioration from August’s 16 percent decline, customs data showed Monday. Imports of American goods sank 20.6 percent from the year before to $10.6 billion, a slight improvement over August’s 22 percent decline.

Westlake Legal Group Sgt.-Mark-Allen Kurds announce deal with Assad after US withdrawal; Trump taunts Hunter Biden fox-news/columns/fox-news-first fox news fnc/us fnc article a2a5a652-03d6-5495-bfc6-86a20a46ac42

Master Sgt. Mark Allen dies 10 years after being shot while searching for Army deserter Bergdahl
Retired Army Master Sgt. Mark Allen died on Saturday, 10 years after he was shot while looking for a missing soldier Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan back in 2009. He was 46. Allen was unable to walk or speak since being shot in the head by a sniper in July 2009 during his attempted search for Bergdahl, who walked off his base in Afghanistan and was imprisoned by the Taliban for five years.

Bergdahl later pleaded guilty to desertion, misbehavior and endangering the lives of fellow soldiers, including Allen and was reduced in rank from sergeant to private and fined $1,000 per month over a ten-month period.
 
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#TheFlashback: CLICK HERE to find out what happened on “This Day in History.”
 
SOME PARTING WORDS

In a special “Swamp Watch” on “The Next Revolution,” Steve Hilton points out that Joe and Hunter Biden continue to dodge an investigation of the family business dealings in Ukraine while Trump faces a formal impeachment inquiry.
 
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Westlake Legal Group TurkeyKurds101419 Kurds announce deal with Assad after US withdrawal; Trump taunts Hunter Biden fox-news/columns/fox-news-first fox news fnc/us fnc article a2a5a652-03d6-5495-bfc6-86a20a46ac42   Westlake Legal Group TurkeyKurds101419 Kurds announce deal with Assad after US withdrawal; Trump taunts Hunter Biden fox-news/columns/fox-news-first fox news fnc/us fnc article a2a5a652-03d6-5495-bfc6-86a20a46ac42

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Cracker Barrel-loving family celebrates son’s first birthday at restaurant chain

The beloved country store has a new fan – and he may be the youngest yet.

Little Michael Magnotta made his Cracker Barrel debut last month in New Jersey as an early celebration for his first birthday. The tot, who turned 1 on Oct. 3, ventured out to the popular chain on Sept. 29 with his family to mark the exciting occasion.

Westlake Legal Group 578A3394 Cracker Barrel-loving family celebrates son’s first birthday at restaurant chain fox-news/lifestyle/parenting fox-news/food-drink/food/restaurants fox news fnc/food-drink fnc article Alexandra Deabler a75d2ba8-9ad0-5df2-b2f1-3e08b2f0faba

Little Michael Magnotta made his Cracker Barrel debut last month in New Jersey as an early celebration for his first birthday (Michael Magnotta / Cracker Barrel)

CRACKER BARREL SHARES ORIGINAL MENU, LITTLE-KNOWN FACTS FOR 50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION

However, his appetite for the restaurant chain was inevitable.

Michael Magnotta, father of the newest country store lover, fell in love with Cracker Barrel in April 1998 when his grandparents took him for the first time to a location in Georgia.

Westlake Legal Group 578A3490 Cracker Barrel-loving family celebrates son’s first birthday at restaurant chain fox-news/lifestyle/parenting fox-news/food-drink/food/restaurants fox news fnc/food-drink fnc article Alexandra Deabler a75d2ba8-9ad0-5df2-b2f1-3e08b2f0faba

Cracker Barrel has been such a large part of Michael and Nicole Magnotta’s life that they wanted to introduce their son to it at a young age. They hope the family tradition will continue. (Michael Magnotta / Cracker Barrel)

Since then, for the past 20 years, Michael has been visiting Cracker Barrels across the country. When he married his wife, Nicole, the love for the chain continued – the pair incorporated the restaurant into their wedding day by having Cracker Barrel cornbread on each table, and having a peg game with pegs matching their wedding colors.

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Currently, his count is up to 100 – which he celebrated by driving from New Jersey with his wife to Lebanon, Tenn., home of the first Cracker Barrel.

Westlake Legal Group 578A3454 Cracker Barrel-loving family celebrates son’s first birthday at restaurant chain fox-news/lifestyle/parenting fox-news/food-drink/food/restaurants fox news fnc/food-drink fnc article Alexandra Deabler a75d2ba8-9ad0-5df2-b2f1-3e08b2f0faba

Little Michael seemed to enjoy the experience as he was photographed in the iconic rocking chairs. He even got his own special “Rising Star” apron to wear to mark the occasion. (Michael Magnotta / Cracker Barrel)

Once the pair hit the impressive 100-store mark, the Magnottas decided to postpone visiting any more new Cracker Barrels until their son was born to start the next batch of 100 visits off right and ensure their family tradition was being passed down from the beginning, a press release shared.

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Little Michael seemed to enjoy the experience as he was photographed in the iconic rocking chairs. He even got his own special “Rising Star” apron to wear to mark the occasion.

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Though this family is definitely dedicated to carrying on the Cracker Barrel tradition, they still have a long way to go before they can catch up to Ray and Wilma Yoder – the 80-year-old couple from Indiana who has visited all 645 Cracker Barrel locations in America.

Westlake Legal Group 578A3394 Cracker Barrel-loving family celebrates son’s first birthday at restaurant chain fox-news/lifestyle/parenting fox-news/food-drink/food/restaurants fox news fnc/food-drink fnc article Alexandra Deabler a75d2ba8-9ad0-5df2-b2f1-3e08b2f0faba   Westlake Legal Group 578A3394 Cracker Barrel-loving family celebrates son’s first birthday at restaurant chain fox-news/lifestyle/parenting fox-news/food-drink/food/restaurants fox news fnc/food-drink fnc article Alexandra Deabler a75d2ba8-9ad0-5df2-b2f1-3e08b2f0faba

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Trump’s Trillion-Dollar Hit to Homeowners: By reducing deductions for real estate taxes, Trump’s 2017 tax plan has harmed millions — and helped give corporations a $680 billion gift.

Westlake Legal Group PwoFH6NUsbyvmm0e0mx7fpN1ienlmNQQydfxmicoNwA Trump’s Trillion-Dollar Hit to Homeowners: By reducing deductions for real estate taxes, Trump’s 2017 tax plan has harmed millions — and helped give corporations a $680 billion gift. r/politics

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House Intelligence Committee Chair Says Whistleblower’s Safety Is Of ‘Primary Interest’

Westlake Legal Group 5da40c802100002a0dacd7f4 House Intelligence Committee Chair Says Whistleblower’s Safety Is Of ‘Primary Interest’

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday it may not be necessary to have the whistleblower who first filed a complaint about President Donald Trump’s call with Ukraine testify before Congress, saying there were still major concerns about the person’s safety.

Schiff, speaking to CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” told host Margaret Brennan that while his committee was initially interested in speaking with the whistleblower, who is still anonymous, he felt like lawmakers had now confirmed many of the details in from the call between Trump and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky that set off the House’s ongoing impeachment inquiry.

“Given that we already have the call record, we don’t need the whistleblower who wasn’t on the call to tell us what took place during the call,” Schiff said during the interview Sunday. “We have the best evidence of that.” 

“I think initially, before the president started threatening the whistleblower, threatening others calling them traitors and spies and suggestion that you know, we used to give them the death penalty to traitors and spies, maybe we should think about that again… Yes we were interested in having the whistleblower come forward,” Schiff said Sunday. “Our primary interest right now is making sure that that person is protected.”

In the complaint, which was filed after Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky, the whistleblower said they became concerned after hearing from multiple White House aides that Trump repeatedly pressured his counterpart to investigate a main political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden. The call took place shortly after the president ordered nearly $400 million in military aid that had been appropriated for Ukraine be put on hold.

The White House released a reconstruction of the call last month which showed clear instance of Trump asking for the investigation, and critics have said the demand reflected a clear quid pro quo in exchange for a political favor.

Trump has rejected those calls, however, and labeled the impeachment effort a “coup” and another “witch hunt” to overturn the 2016 election. He has demanded to know the identity of his accuser, fueling worries that the person’s identity could be leaked and their safety put in danger. 

Trump, in a Monday morning tweet blasting Schiff, said he wanted the whistleblower to testify. “We must determine the Whistleblower’s identity to determine WHY this was done to the USA,” the president wrote.

Trump appears to be referring to Schiff’s analysis of the phone call with Zelensky, which Schiff gave at a House hearing. “It reads like a classic organized crime shakedown,” Schiff said.

The chairman leads one of three House panels spearheading the impeachment inquiry, and Democrats have already sent out a flurry of subpoenas and requests for documents related to the Ukraine call. While the White House has been stonewalling many of those efforts, some former officials have already spoken to lawmakers, including the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

“We want to make sure that we uncover the full details about the conditionality of either the military aid of that meeting with Ukraine’s president,” Schiff said Sunday. “It may not be necessary to take steps that might reveal the whistleblower’s identity to do that.”

He continued: “And we’re going to make sure we protect that whistleblower.”

This article has been updated to include Trump’s tweets.

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