President Trump urged the Senate Intelligence Committee to switch its focus from Russian meddling in the 2016 election to investigating “fake news” in the U.S.
“Why Isn’t the Senate Intel Committee looking into the Fake News Networks in OUR country to see why so much of our news is just made up-FAKE!” Trump wrote on Twitter Thursday morning. “Rex Tillerson never threatened to resign. This is Fake News put out by @NBCNews. Low news and reporting standards. No verification from me,” he added.
The president was referring to two events from Wednesday: An NBC News report saying Secretary of State Rex Tillerson considered resigning, and a press conference by the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee discussing Russian efforts to influence the election.
Those leaders — Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. — held a press briefing to discuss their investigation into Russia buying ads on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter in an apparent effort to influence the results of the 2016 election. CNN reported Wednesday that Russia had geo-targeted ads to Wisconsin and Michigan, two states Trump won by narrow margins.
Burr said during the statement that the committee would continue to investigate any potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. This statement and reports from intelligence agencies run counter to the president’s stance that no one knows whether Russia tampered with the 2016 election.
“No, not investigating news organizations,” said Burr Thursday morning when asked whether his committee would be following the president’s suggestion.
Warner is a co-sponsor of legislation that would require digital platforms to disclose more information about any entities that buy political ads on their networks.
“If you see an ad on a social media site, Americans should know whether the source of that ad was a foreign entity,” said Warner, “and if you see something trending, you should know whether that trending is generated by real individuals or bots or falsely identified accounts.”
Trump was also angry about the NBC News report from Wednesday morning that Tillerson had called him a “moron” and thought about quitting the position earlier this year. Tillerson gave a statement after the report circulated refuting the idea that he had ever considered quitting and complimenting Trump’s intelligence, but declined to elaborate on whether or not he had insulted the president.
NBC News later reported that Tillerson had actually called Trump a “f***ing moron,” while CNN confirmed the “moron” comment through its sources. The State Department issued a clarification later Wednesday saying that Tillerson hadn’t called the president a moron and that he doesn’t use that kind of language.
Trump spent his flight to Las Vegas — where he was meeting with victims of and first responders to Sunday night’s mass shooting — tweeting about supposedly “fake news” and demanding an apology from NBC.
One potential barrier to Trump’s request of legislators investigating and regulating the press is the First Amendment, which explicitly states: “Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”
(Cover tile photo: Yahoo News photo illustration; photos: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP, Win McNamee/Getty Images, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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