Today in OpenGov: The report is in.
In today's edition, Robert Mueller shares his report on the Russian investigation with the Justice Department, foreign owned companies are funneling millions into US elections, exploring Brazilian news deserts, and more.
Robert S. Mueller III. Image credit: James Ledbetter.
- Special counsel Robert Mueller delivered his final report to the Justice Department, reportedly finding no evidence that President Trump or his inner circle colluded with Russia. "The investigation led by Robert S. Mueller III found no evidence that President Trump or any of his aides coordinated with the Russian government’s 2016 election interference, according to a summary of the special counsel’s key findings made public on Sunday by Attorney General William P. Barr." (New York Times)
- …The report offered no conclusion as to whether or not President Trump obstructed justice, but Attorney General William Barr publicly cleared him of doing so, setting up a potential political fight. (New York Times)
- In a new poll, 68% of voters want the full report to be released to the public. "Voters overwhelmingly think the report delivered Friday by Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating foreign interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign, should be made public by the Justice Department, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll. More than two-thirds of voters surveyed, 68 percent, say the report — which has gone to Attorney General William Barr and other DOJ officials — should be made public. Only 10 percent say it shouldn’t be made public, and 22 percent are undecided." (POLITICO)
- Despite the results of the special counsel investigation, President Trump is still facing legal pressure thanks to an investigation into his business interests in New York (Bloomberg) and court battles over his refusal to give up business interests as president… (The Atlantic) …Trump's presidency has also created a seemingly never ending stream of conflicts of interest, as evidence by Lynn Walsh's continued series on the Sunlight blog.
The Washington Monument and National Mall. Image via the National Parks Service.
- Two firms file as foreign agents working on behalf of Chinese telecom giant Huawei. "China’s Huawei has launched a multi-part strategy to reshape the embattled Chinese telecom giant’s image through litigation, lobbying and public relations efforts. The company has signed contracts with two public relations firms, Racepoint Global and Burson Cohn and Wolfe (BCW), to head its U.S. foreign influence campaign, according to Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) filings identified by the Center for Responsive Politics’ Foreign Lobby Watch tool." (Open Secrets)
- Foreign owned corporations or their US subsidiaries have funneled millions of dollars into US elections since Citizens United. "After the FEC hit the Jeb Bush-affiliated Right to Rise super PAC with a record fine for illegally soliciting donations from foreign donors, focus has shifted to how many foreign-owned companies actually participate in American elections. The answer? Quite a few. Foreign-based corporations or U.S. subsidiaries of foreign-based corporations have contributed millions of dollars to super PACs and hybrid PACs following Citizens United v. FEC, the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that opened up federal elections to direct corporate contributions." (Open Secrets)
- While the Supreme Court prepares to consider partisan gerrymandering, a number of states have already stepped in to push back on the practice. A referendum "made Michigan one of five states in 2018 — Ohio, Colorado, Missouri and Utah the others — where voters reined in partisan gerrymandering. It is an issue that has vexed the Supreme Court, and it returns to the justices this week in cases from North Carolina and Maryland. The court has never found that a state’s redistricting plan was so skewed by politics that it violated the constitutional rights of voters, and again last term it passed up the opportunity. Referendums in 2018 showed that voters are tired of waiting." (Washington Post)
- The FCC is going to pay a $43,000 settlement after refusing to hand over documents related to fake net neutrality comments. "The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this week agreed to pay a journalist $43,000 to settle a lawsuit over the agency's decision to withhold records about fake comments posted to its website. The FCC on Wednesday settled the lawsuit with freelance reporter Jason Prechtel, who sued two years ago after the FCC did not fulfill his documents request…Prechtel obtained the information he was seeking through the lawsuit, and the FCC data formed the basis of his Gizmodo article last month that said investigators were looking, among other places, at the owner of a Washington, D.C., publication with an advocacy arm as part of the probe into who posted the fake comments." (The Hill)
around the world
Image: Magno Borges/Agência Mural via Global Voices.
- 30 million Brazilians live in quasi-desserts for news. "…the latest Atlas da Notícia (“News Atlas”), a study that measures the number of media outlets in Brazilian cities. The study, conducted by Projor (Institute for the Development of Journalism), has published reports since 2017. Last year, it revealed that over 30 million people in Brazil have no local media coverage. In addition, it identified cities where there are few information outlets: the “quasi-deserts”. Brazil's population is of 209 million. Greater São Paulo, the wider region around São Paulo city which includes 39 cities, has a population of 21,5 million." (Global Voices)
- Bulgaria's justice minister resigned amid an emerging real estate scandal. "Bulgarian Justice Minister Tsetska Tsacheva resigned after a real-estate deal raised questions about possible conflicts of interest. The Balkan country’s anti-corruption commission opened an inquiry Friday after several media investigations alleged Tsacheva and other ruling party officials, including caucus leader Tsvetan Tsvetanov and former Culture Minister Vezhdi Rashidov, bought apartments in the capital Sofia below market prices. They have denied wrongdoing." (Bloomberg)
- Some Ukrainian students are learning how to better assess what they see, read, and hear for propaganda and hate speech. "About five years since the war in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russian-backed separatists began, triggering a surge in propaganda and disinformation, some students in four cities across the country are learning how to better assess what they're reading, seeing and hearing. A report released Friday by global education organization IREX says that students in 8th and 9th grades were better able to identify false information and hate speech after teachers integrated the organization's media literacy techniques into their lessons." (NPR)
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