Editor’s Blog

Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, departs Federal District Court, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Trade Sheet Says Pruitt’s Fall Was Fall Out From Rob Porter Abuse Scandal

InsideEPA, an EPA trade sheet, reports that Scott Pruitt’s downfall is the work of disgraced former White House aide Rob Porter, who leaked damaging information about Pruitt to retaliate against a former girlfriend who told White House officials about Porter’s history of domestic violence. Read More

Trump Claims ‘Rape’ By Immigrants At Level Nobody Has Seen Before

Trump claims that Central American immigration ‘caravan’ is marauding band of rapists.

In fact in many cases, they’re traveling in groups because immigrants and asylum seekers are often victims of rape and theft.

Is Facebook In More Trouble Than People Think?
SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 18:  Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote address at Facebook's F8 Developer Conference on April 18, 2017 at McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California. The conference will explore Facebook's new technology initiatives and products. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

For more than a year, Facebook has faced a rolling public relations debacle. Part of this is the American public’s shifting attitudes toward Big Tech and platforms in general. But the driving problem has been the way the platform was tied up with and perhaps implicated in Russia’s attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election. Users’ trust in the platform has been shaken, politicians are threatening scrutiny and possible regulation, and there’s even a campaign to get people to delete their Facebook accounts. All of this is widely known and we hear more about it every day. But most users, most people in tech and also Wall Street (which is the source of Facebook’s gargantuan valuation) don’t yet get the full picture. We know about Facebook’s reputational crisis. But people aren’t fully internalizing that the current crisis poses a potentially dire threat to Facebook’s core business model, its core advertising business.

Facebook is fundamentally an advertising business. Almost all of the company’s revenue comes from advertising that it targets with unparalleled efficiency to its billions of users. In a media world in which advertising rates face almost universal downward pressure, Facebook’s rates have consistently risen. Monopoly power may drive some of that growth. But the key driver is efficiency. If old-fashioned advertising shows my advertisement to 100 people for every actual buyer and other digital platforms show it to 30 people and Facebook shows it to 5 people, Facebook’s ads are just worth a lot more.

As long as the rates bear some relationship to that efficiency (those numbers above are just for illustration), I’ll be happy to pay it. Because it’s objectively worth more. Indeed, as the prices have gone up, Facebook has actually gotten more efficient. As one digital ad agency executive recently told me, even if Facebook jacked up the prices a lot more, his firm would likely keep using them just as much because on this cost to efficiency basis it’s still cheap. This is the basis of Facebook’s astronomical market capitalization which today rates at over $450 billion, even after some recent reverses. Read More

New Podcast Episode With Comedy Writer Nell Scovell

We just released a new “Extra” edition of The Josh Marshall Podcast where I talk to comedy writer Nell Scovell about #MeToo, equality in Hollywood, her new book Just the Funny Parts and what it’s like being a female comedy writer in the all dudes writers room in Late Night or Hollwood. Listen and please subscribe on iTunes or Google Play.

NDAs Ain’t What They Used to Be

It sounds like some of Bill O’Reilly’s forest of NDAs may not be long for this world.

That’s a Lot

Facebook says Cambridge Analytica may have gotten 87 million user files not 50 million.

Nasim Aghdam’s Massacre Is Part of the Crisis of Big Tech

Yesterday afternoon Nasim Aghdam, 39, walked onto the YouTube campus in San Bruno, California, fired dozens of shots, injured four people and then killed herself. Initial reports suggested the shooter might be a disgruntled former employee or friend. Aghdam’s name already has led some to jump to the conclusion that the attack is tied to Islamic fundamentalism. But that seems pretty clearly not to be the case. Aghdam’s activism was tied to animal rights and veganism. Her extensive online trail shows that she was intensely angry at YouTube itself for “demonetizing” her YouTube channels and in other ways purportedly discriminating against her. This seems clear to have been the motive behind her rampage. In other words, she was a disgruntled YouTube user.

All of Aghdam’s social media platform accounts have already been suspended. They were down shortly after her name became public last night. But her site remains on line. Here are a couple screen grabs of the site, both to give you some flavor of her world and to let you read some of her grudge. Read More

Key Read

Here’s Alice Ollstein’s look at a critical issue we’re going to be closely focused on in the months and (unfortunately) years to come: the effort to purge the federal bureaucracy of experts, non-Conservative loyalists and, today, those who are not personally loyal to Donald Trump. The story has taken on a distinct coloration today under Donald Trump since his war against the ‘deep state’ is so tightly focused on protecting himself from personal prosecution. But it has decades’ old roots. And a central player is Newt Gingrich, who was at this thirty-plus years ago and now is closely advising and egging on Donald Trump to force or in many cases simply allow purges across the board. Trump isn’t an ideologue like Gingrich. But he only understands loyalism and he will do anything to protect himself from the law. So he’s a perfect partner for Gingrich’s quest to make the federal government more corrupt, ideological, ineffectual and stupid. Give this a read; and if you’re part of the federal workforce and you see things we want to hear.

Obstruction Report Coming in June or July

WaPo reporter says Mueller team is planning on releasing a report on the obstruction part of the investigation in June or July.

Note that technically, Rod Rosenstein appears to have authorized Mueller to write such a report. In theory, he could decide to keep it confidential. In practice, that seems highly unlikely.

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 3: (AFP-OUT) President Donald Trump speaks during a luncheon with the leaders of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on April 3, 2018 at The White House in Washington, DC. The President answered questions from the media about illegal immigration from Mexico and relations with Russia. (Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images)
White House Releases Ominous Statement on Immigration

Just out from the White House.

Note the reference to the protection of ‘national security’ which may be a predicate to ignoring the restrictions of the Posse Comitatus Act which prevents the military from carrying out police actions on American soil. Read More

Collision (Collusion?) of Trump Storylines

Our Tierney Sneed was in the courtroom today for the sentencing of Alex van der Zwaan. And one bizarre, somewhat (darkly) comical part of the discussion was about the logistics of sentencing because no one in the courtroom was totally sure whether or when ICE might swoop into deport the defendant. Here’s the story (Prime access).

Can Trump Send the Military to Guard the US Border?
SAN YSIDRO, CA-FEB 7: A border patrol officer stands guard along the U.S.-Mexico border on Wednesday, February 7, 2018 in San Ysidro, California.  The rally coincides on the eve of Congress's spending bill deadline and is urging lawmakers to pass a clean Dream Act without provisions for a border wall.(Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

A short time ago President Trump said he is ordering the US military to start guarding the US-Mexico border until his wall is built. Can he do that? The short answer is: no. The longer answer is basically no but I wanted to explain the details because it’s not 100% no. Read More

Trump Says Military Will Guard US-Mex Border

Trump says he’ll have the US military guard the Mexican border “until we can have a wall.”

Nobody’s Been Tougher on Russia

Trump: “Nobody’s been tougher on Russia than I have.”

Key Trumpisms from Trump’s Tuesday Press Comments

Here are key statements from the President just moments ago in the White House on Russia, the Border, Amazon and China (selections from White House pool report) … Read More

Podcast Ep #7 with Jeff Toobin!

Episode #7 of The Josh Marshall Podcast is out. I ask The New Yorker’s Jeff Toobin the big question: Is Paul Manafort more worried about a lifetime sentence or getting nerve gassed in Northern Virginia. Listen here. And remember: please subscribe on iTunes or Google Play if you haven’t already. It really helps a lot.

Department of Hush Money

President Trump has now officially joined Michael Cohen’s shell company in arguing that Stormy Daniels should have to hash out her disagreements with the President in secret arbitration. This is the agreement President Trump and his lawyers won’t say if he is even a party to.

McCabe, Amazon and Defending the Republic from Donald Trump

Over the last three days, a GoFundMe account for fired former acting Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe has raised more than $500,000 for legal defense expenses. In response I’ve seen a number of people pillory the effort as a sort of liberal do-gooderism gone off the rails. Rather than flooding money on a guy who is at worst very solidly in the upper middle class, people should focus their charity on climate activism or poverty or cancer research. In a similar vein, Damon Linker has this column up about Donald Trump’s criticisms of Amazon. As he puts it, “Liberals find the president so morally repulsive and so transparently dishonest that they now respond to everything he says with instantaneous outrage and disgust, while presuming in each and every case that his statements are made in bad faith, concealing baser motives.” As he later concludes, “On Amazon, he’s indisputably right.” Read More

We’d Like To Hear From You

We have a very interesting reporting project we’re working on. Do you work in a business that does marketing on Facebook? Especially DTC marketing? Are you directly involved in that part of the business, advertising through the Facebook interface? If you do, we’d love to hear from you. There are a few questions we’re interested in asking. Drop us a line by email – our regular tips and comments line. All totally confidential.

Just put “Facebook” in your subject line.

Must Read

Good Lord, you’ve got to read this. In many ways, Donald Trump embodies the rot, ridiculousness and corruption the GOP has been tumbling toward for 30 years. But if Trump and Trumpism are the macrocosm, twice-former Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) is the microcosm: a crooked, ridiculous goofball extremist who got washed into Congress in the 1994 wave election but was too ridiculous even for the “Gingrich Revolution” and got tossed two years later. He made a comeback in 2012 and now he’s on trial in Texas on a 28 count felony fraud trial the charges for which are like a ‘Best in Show’ litany of comically crooked nonsense. One of the highlights is he hired James O’Keefe’s mentor to run an undercover ‘sting’ against a fellow Republican he thought might run against him. It’s Mad Magazine Spy v Spy kinda stuff. Allegra Kirkland’s got a quick and dirty run-down you’re going to want to read.

Moment of Lucidity

It sounds like the White House doctor ‘hesitated’ before agreeing to run the Department of Veterans Affairs. That sounds like a moment of lucidity. I suspect this nomination won’t even get to nomination hearings.