Donald Trump

Trump's Own Attorney General Says Indictment Is 'Very, Very Damning'

Plus: Mark Zuckerberg reacts to the Twitter Files, CNN's lockdown hypocrisy, and more...


Virtually all Republican senators and members of the House are defending former President Donald Trump, who was indicted on 37 counts relating to his storage of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. (One exception: Mitt Romney, who said that Trump "brought these charges on himself.") So too are many of Trump's rivals for the 2024 nomination; shedding crocodile tears, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis condemned the weaponization of federal law enforcement, while tech entrepreneur and long-shot candidate Vivek Ramaswamy vowed to pardon Trump if he wins the presidency.

But Trump's own attorney general, Bill Barr, thinks the indictment is "very, very damning." During an interview on Fox News Sunday, Barr said that he was shocked "by the degree of sensitivity of these documents, and how many there were, frankly." He said that federal authorities had every right to recover the documents, which included national security briefings prepared by government officials.

Barr conceded that Democrats had unfairly target Trump in the past, but he said it's different this time.

"Yes, he's been a victim in the past, and yes, his adversaries have obsessively pursued him with phony claims, and I've been at his side defending him when he is a victim," said Barr. "But this is much different. He is not a victim here. He was totally wrong that he had the right to have those documents."

Trump also could have easily avoided the current situation by simply returning the documents when asked. Even some of his most ardent backers in the Republican Party are frustrated that he would put himself in this position—and force them on the defensive—so incautiously. But the dynamics of the conservative movement are such that defending Trump at all costs is simply what the base demands.

Some commentators who have little personal love for Trump are nevertheless concerned at the thought of prosecuting him under the Espionage Act. Former Rep. Justin Amash (L–Mich.) tweeted that the Espionage Act has a history being abused by law enforcement. Writing for The Free Press, Eli Lake notes that the law "does not distinguish between actual spies—people who give or sell state secrets to a foreign power—and those who seek to inform the American people about their government's excesses and abuses."

"In this respect, the law is a loaded gun against modern journalism," Lake writes.


Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared on Lex Fridman's podcast last week, fielding questions about artificial intelligence, free speech, and the impact of the Twitter Files. Zuckerberg tried—and seems to have failed—to reassure Fridman that social media companies rather than the government were ultimately in the driver's seat when it comes to moderating content.

"There's so much pressure from all sides that any specific thing that someone says isn't really adding that much more to the mix," said Zuckerberg. "There's obviously a lot of people who think that we should be censoring more content. There are a lot of people who think we should be censoring less content. There are all kinds of groups involved in these debates. There are elected officials, the agencies, the medias, activist groups."

The fact that different interest groups—both within the federal government and outside it—are all attempting to exert influence on the platforms means that they aren't captured by a specific entity, in Zuckerberg's view. But for people who worry about the pressure on the companies in general, regardless of which direction it's coming from, Zuckerberg's comments were hardly encouraging.

Zuckerberg also accused the government health officials of losing the trust of the American people by prematurely shutting off debate on COVID-19 topics—an implicit suggestion that the CEO perhaps regrets some of his company's moderation decisions.

"Just take some of the stuff around COVID earlier in the pandemic where there were real health implications, but there hadn't been time to fully vet a bunch of the scientific assumptions," said Zuckerberg. "Unfortunately, I think a lot of the kind of establishment on that kind of waffled on a bunch of facts and asked for a bunch of things to be censored that, in retrospect, ended up being more debatable or true. That stuff is really tough, right? It really undermines trust."


Throughout the pandemic, CNN's on-air talent largely defended COVID-19 lockdowns as necessary for health and safety. But behind the scenes, a top executive at the network allegedly asked then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo to meet with an executive at CNN's parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, about reopening movie theaters.

That's according to Semafor's Maxwell Tani, who reports that the legal dispute between CNN and former news anchor Chris Cuomo, the Democratic governor's brother, has produced revealing text messages. Editorially, CNN eagerly embraced the idea that opening up the economy was reckless in the face of COVID-19. But network executive Allison Gollust—herself involved in a secret romance with former CNN boss Jeff Zucker—sent the governor a message on September 22, 2020, asking him about movie theaters.

At the time, WarnerMedia was hoping for a big hit with the Christopher Nolan film, Tenet. Tani writes:

The September 22, 2020 texts are between Governor Cuomo and CNN's then-chief marketing officer, Allison Gollust. She had left his office years earlier for CNN but kept in frequent touch, helping to arrange appearances on CNN shows and smoothing over bumps when the governor was double-booked on other networks.

But while Gollust was assisting the network's programming side, that day she crossed over into advocating for the business interests of CNN's parent company, texting a request that the governor speak to WarnerMedia's studio chief, Ann Sarnoff.

"She's bummed you don't open theaters in NY, but perhaps you can hear her out," Gollust said in the message, which was read to Semafor by a person with firsthand access to the exchange.

The next day, Cuomo heeded Gollust's request and called Sarnoff, who lobbied the governor to loosen restrictions on movie theaters, according to a person familiar with the exchange.

Chris Cuomo has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against CNN for $125 million.


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  • In National Review, Ajit Pai looks back at the end of net neutrality and notes that the internet is still here.
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