Reason Roundup

NBC Forced to Backtrack on Story About Feds Wiretapping Michael Cohen: Reason Roundup

Plus: More campus madness, and sex robots for all



NBC originally reported that federal authorities had listened in on at least one phone call between Donald Trump and his former attorney, Michael Cohen. If that were true, it would be a potentially game-changing development in the legal fracas involving Trump, Cohen, and porn actress Stormy Daniels.

But the news network had to revise its scoop after three senior officials disputed its account. The feds had merely monitored a log of calls that Cohen made to various people; they had not tapped the calls themselves. According to NBC's corrected story:

The calls are logged by a machine called a pen register, which records the number of the phone that made the call and the number that received it, but does not record the contents of any conversation.

NBC News originally reported that Cohen's phone lines had been wiretapped, meaning a judge had given investigators approval to listen to phone calls. Three senior U.S. officials now dispute that, saying the monitoring of the calls was limited to a log of calls.

At least one phone call between a phone line associated with Cohen and the White House was logged, the person said.

It is much easier for investigators to obtain pen registers than it is for them to obtain wiretaps, which means the story isn't anywhere as explosive as it initially seemed.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who recently joined Trump's legal team, has instructed the president never to call Cohen again. Giuliani may have made a colossal mistake of his own, however, in contradicting Trump's story that he never reimbursed Cohen for a payment to Stormy Daniels.


A recent free speech event at the University of New Hampshire hosted by Turning Points USA and featuring commentator Dave Rubin went about as well as you might have expected. Protesters formed a blockade in an attempt to prevent attendees from entering the event. One activist, Nooran Alhamdan, argued with Rubin about hate speech, asking: "What will it take to be hate speech, and when will I actually become the victim? When I'm dead?" according to The New Hampshire. Rubin countered that the Supreme Court has never identified or defined a hate speech exception to the First Amendment.

The event proceeded as planned, though hecklers continuously interrupted. These disruptions call to mind recent incidents at CUNY and Duke.


Everybody is still talking about—and to a great degree, profoundly misreading—this Ross Douthat column about incels and "the redistribution of sex" (itself a response to this post by Robin Hanson of George Mason University). As Conor Friedersdorf pointed out on Twitter, Douthat wasn't actually endorsing the thing the column was about:

Reason, I should note, is more optimistic than Douthat about the good that sex robots could do.


  • The younger brother of Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz has filed suit against several Broward County officials who he claims "tortured" him during a recent jail stint. Zachary Cruz, who was held for driving without a license, says he was effectively punished for his brother's crimes.
  • Twitter says that all 336 million users should change their passwords.
  • Former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao sent a tweet warning text companies of "incels"—men angry about their inability to find sexual partners—in their midst. She also challenged them to do something about this, though employers asking workers intimate details about their sex lives seems like it could run afoul of anti-harassment law.
  • The Kilauea volcano in Hawaii erupts.
  • A sex abuse scandal forces the Nobel Prize panel to cancel the 2018 prize for literature.
  • The Atlantic held an in-house conversation between Jeffrey Goldberg and Ta-Nehisi Coates about the Kevin Williamson firing. Read it here.
  • Justin Amash, international man of mystery: