Today in OpenGov: This appearance will be livestreamed


In today's edition, Donald Trump Jr. took a meeting, midterm election spending starts to mount, this gubernatorial candidate is facing a backlash for blocking his Twitter critics, Mark Zuckerberg's appearance before European lawmakers will be livestreamed, and more. 


Donald Trump Jr.
  • Donald Trump Jr. reportedly met with emissaries from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates ahead of 2016 election. "Three months before the 2016 election, a small group gathered at Trump Tower to meet with Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son. One was an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation. Another was an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes. The third was a Republican donor with a controversial past in the Middle East as a private security contractor…The meetings, which have not been reported previously, are the first indication that countries other than Russia may have offered assistance to the Trump campaign in the months before the presidential election." (New York Times)
  • State Department IG looking into potentially politically motivated staff reassignments under former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. "The State Department Inspector General is looking into why senior career officials who worked on Obama administration priorities like refugee resettlement and closing the Guantanamo Bay prison were temporarily reassigned to menial work processing Freedom of Information Act requests, the IG’s office confirmed to TPM on Thursday — reviewing whether the reassignments were politically motivated." (Talking Points Memo)
  • The Republican National Committee is helping Trump aides with legal fees to the tune of nearly $500,000. "The Republican National Committee paid nearly half a million dollars to a law firm that represents former White House communications director Hope Hicks and others in the Russia investigations, according to a new federal filing. The RNC's $451,780 payment to Trout Cacheris & Janis adds to the mounting legal fees associated with the investigations by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and several congressional committees of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign." (Washington Post)
  • As John Bolton moved to staff up his National Security Council he looked to a former lobbyist with questionable business ties for help. "As he prepared to start his job as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton relied on the advice of a longtime colleague — Matthew Freedman, a consultant and former lobbyist with decades of experience in foreign policy. But while Freedman may have been a trusted hand, he also came on with a checkered past, having worked for now-indicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and, more recently, getting fired from the Trump transition team for reportedly using his global consulting firm email for transition work." (POLITICO)

washington watch


  • Federal Election Commission filings rolled in over the weekend. Here are some highlights… "During April, millions of dollars flowed in from both the political right and left as party primary season raged and the 2018 midterm elections drew nearer. Gun rights advocates, environmentalists and most everyone across the political spectrum ponied up in hopes of influencing the outcome of federal elections across the country." (Center for Public Integrity)
  • …Meanwhile, between 2016 and 2017, a Paul Ryan aligned super PAC pulled in more than $24 million from a single anonymous donor. "American Action Network, the nonprofit group closely aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan, raised a record $41.9 million amid the GOP push to repeal Obamacare and restructure the tax code — more than half of which came from one donor, according to a tax filing obtained by POLITICO. The money raised includes $24.6 million from a single anonymous donor, according to AAN’s 2017 tax return, which covers July 2016 to June 2017 and was filed this week." (POLITICO)
  • U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley's personal Twitter account raises protocol concerns, broader questions. "Ever since she took over as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley’s personal Twitter account has been an object of fascination for the diplomatic set. On the @nikkihaley handle, the rising Republican star posts pictures of her dearest friends and showers love on her dog, Bentley. But she also denounces Russian actions in Syria and chides U.N. nations for voting against the United States…The juxtaposition of silly and serious has produced eye-rolling among U.N. diplomats. But analysts and former U.S. officials say Haley’s Twitter account — which she has used for nearly a decade — is indicative of another problem: Some U.S. diplomats are flouting State Department rules barring the use of personal social media accounts to make official statements." (POLITICO)

states and cities

Photo illustration by Rob Weychert/ProPublica.
  • The former mayor of Miami Beach blocked critics on Twitter. Now it's throwing a wrench into his Florida gubernatorial campaign. "Philip Levine blocked a Twitter critic back when he was mayor of Miami Beach and got sued. Now it’s starting to haunt the Democrat’s bid for governor of Florida and threatens to paint him as a thin-skinned bully. First, Twitter accused the city of threatening its officials as part of a legal strategy to keep Levine from being deposed during his campaign for governor. Then, Levine’s top adviser had to take the stand on his behalf this month and admit the former mayor blocked Twitter comments he didn’t like, setting the stage for a potentially precedent-setting case concerning social media and government censorship." (POLITICO) Our take? Politicians, from the President to local councilors, shouldn't be in the habit of blocking constituents and critics on social media. 
  • Finding balance and accountability in distributed disaster response. Liz Barry, Greg Bloom, Willow Brugh, and Tammy Shapiro explored the struggles of traditional disaster response efforts to deliver help, "especially in historically-marginalized communities, in which already-vulnerable people are often ignored or even dis-empowered by outside actors." New technologies are making community-led and distributed responses more viable, but "these networks are more rapid and distributed than the formal disaster response sector; however, they also lack any of the accountability, training, and resources that formal institutions (supposedly) entail. Given our experiences to date, we believe that the promise of remote digital networks needs to be realized through intentional practices, and guided by community leadership—and that without such deliberate practice, these new modes of chaotic response might yield unintentional harm." (Civicist)

around the world

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in a previous appearance before the United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
  • Mark Zuckerberg's meeting with European lawmakers, initially set to be closed-door, will be livestreamed. "Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s meeting with MEPs on Tuesday will be livestreamed, according to a tweet by European Parliament President Antonio Tajani. The decision marks a turnaround from previous plans, with Zuckerberg originally expected to hold closed-door meetings with leaders of Parliament’s political groups and selected MEPs. The secrecy of the meeting prompted widespread criticism from MEPs, policymakers and the public." (POLITICO)
  • Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro wins second term amid irregularities and boycott, possibly prompting new international sanctions. "Venezuela's leftist leader Nicolas Maduro won a new six-year term on Sunday, but his main rivals disavowed the election alleging massive irregularities in a process critics decried as a farce propping up a dictatorship. Victory for the 55-year-old former bus driver, who replaced Hugo Chavez after his death from cancer in 2013, may trigger a new round of western sanctions against the socialist government as it grapples with a ruinous economic crisis." (CNBC)
  • New parliamentary report criticizes U.K. for ignoring Russian money laundering. "The U.K. is ignoring the fact that 'dirty' Russian money is being laundered through London, undermining the government’s efforts to respond to the Kremlin’s aggressive foreign policy, according to a report released Monday by the U.K. parliament’s foreign affairs committee." (POLITICO)


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