Monthly Archives: May 2018

Nearly 50% of teens in the US say they’re now online ‘almost constantly,’ according to new research

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Drew Angerer/Getty Images

  • A new study from Pew Research Center found that one out of two teens reports being online “almost constantly.”
  • The study found that another 44% say they go online multiple times each day.
  • The time teens spend online has gone up significantly since Pew’s 2014-2015 study. Back then, only 24% of teens reported being online constantly.

Nearly half of US teens report being online on a near constant basis, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center.

The report, titled “Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018,” surveyed teens and their parents about their internet and social media usage.

The survey found that teens are spending more time online than ever before. In fact, 45% of the teens surveyed said they use the internet “almost constantly.” Another 44% said they go online several times every day.

But it wasn’t an even split along gender lines. Pew found that half of teenage girls fall into the group of constant internet users, while 39% of teenage boys said they fell into that group. Hispanic teens also reported higher levels of internet usage, with 54% saying they use the internet on a near-constant basis.

Blame it on the phone

smartphone

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Cole Bennetts/Stringer/Getty Images

The time teens spend online has gone up significantly since Pew’s 2014-2015 study. Back then, only 24% of teens reported being online constantly, which means teen internet usage has nearly doubled in the last 3-4 years. Pew estimates that the drastic increase is related to the increased access to smartphones.

Pew’s findings come at a time when the tech world has started taking measures to scale back so-called “smartphone addiction.”

During May’s Google I/O event – the search giant’s annual developer conference – Google unveiled a “Digital Wellbeing” initiative that it claims is aimed at curbing the phenomenon. The initiative is aimed at helping users track how much time they’re spending online, and offers tools to help people avoid distractions and look at their phones less frequently.

According to a report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, Apple is working on a similar project called “Digital Health.” The feature will include tools to help people monitor how much time they’re spending on their device, and how frequently they’re using certain apps.

NBA Finals 2018: The best bets to make Cavaliers-Warriors round 4 as entertaining as possible

The Warriors defeating the Cavaliers to win their second straight title might already feel like a forgone conclusion, but there's still plenty of bets to be placed to help make the NBA Finals compelling for sports fans looking for an extra incentive to watch.

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The Warriors defeating the Cavaliers to win their second straight title might already feel like a forgone conclusion, but there’s still plenty of bets to be placed to help make the NBA Finals compelling for sports fans looking for an extra incentive to watch.
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Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The NBA Finals are upon us, with the Golden State Warriors facing off against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers for the fourth straight year.

Despite the heroic effort of James to get the Cavaliers to the Finals, the outcome feels like a foregone conclusion. ESPN asked 24 analysts for their prediction on the series, and all 24 picked the Warriors to prevail, and just two of them projected the series to even make it to seven games.

This should come as no surprise to anyone who has watched basketball this season. Cleveland has been the LeBron show more than ever, so much so that “The Other Cavaliers” earned a skit on “Saturday Night Live” earlier in the postseason. Meanwhile, Golden State employs two of the best five basketball players on the planet and four of the top 20. Unless a radioactive basketball bites Jeff Green and JR Smith in the next three days, it doesn’t feel like the Cavs have much of a chance.

That said, there are still plenty of reasons to watch the NBA Finals! First and foremost, it’s always a delight to watch the best in the world excel, and the Warriors will undoubtedly put on a show on their way to the title. And if LeBron somehow pulls off the upset, he’ll cement his legacy as the Greatest of All Time even further than he already had.

Also, there’s money to be made! Plenty of good bets are available for anyone looking to invest a bit of their finances to keep them engaged in the series. Take a look below at our best bets to make before tip-off of the NBA Finals.

All lines come courtesy of Sportsbook.ag.


Warriors to win the NBA Finals (-1100)

The Warriors defeating the Cavaliers to win their second straight title might already feel like a forgone conclusion, but there's still plenty of bets to be placed to help make the NBA Finals compelling for sports fans looking for an extra incentive to watch.

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Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

A Warriors win may feel like it’s predestined, but if you’re willing to put your money where your mouth is, there’s a good chance for brave bettors to score a payday.

At -1100, Golden State are the biggest Finals favorites in 16 years – you have to bet $1,100 on them to win the series to win $100. While that may feel like too significant a risk for the potential reward, there’s plenty of other money-making endeavors that would rejoice at the prospect of a 10% return on investment in just a week’s time.

If you have faith that the Cavaliers find a way to win, there’s plenty of money to be made for you as well – Cleveland is +700 on the series, meaning a $100 bet will earn you $700.


Warriors to win the NBA Finals in five games (+160)

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Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Thankfully, there are plenty more ways to bet the final two weeks of the basketball season than picking a team to win the best-of-seven series, and the more specific you get, the better your odds become.

If you feel like the Warriors are taking this series but don’t want to lay the -1000 odds, you can instead pick the exact result of the series for a much better price – Warriors in 5 (+160) and Warriors in 4 (+215) are the two heavy favorites.

While it’s certainly a harder bet to hit, it’s a good chance to get positive odds on a Warriors win.


Stephen Curry wins NBA Finals MVP (+160)

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Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Finals MVP is a fun bet for anyone who loves following the narratives of the NBA.

There are plenty of good candidates for the award this year. Reigning Finals MVP Kevin Durant (-150) is the favorite, and if you have faith in LeBron James (+625) to take the series to seven games, he’s a nice value to win the honor that he’s already taken home three times in his career.

That said, I think this year Stephen Curry (+160) is the clear bet to win Finals MVP. The Warriors have already won two titles with Curry as the face of the franchise, but the star shooter missed out on the award after Andre Iguodala impressed with his defense in 2015 and Kevin Durant went wild last year.

Look for Curry to be a leading scorer throughout the series, left generously open by a Cleveland defense that doesn’t go too deep beyond James.


Game 1: Warriors (-12.5) over Cavaliers

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Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Taking this big a favorite is rarely a “sharp” play in Las Vegas, but the Warriors have a tendency to start with their foot on the gas, and the Cavaliers can sometimes start out a series asleep at the wheel.

Golden State took Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals 119-106 over the Rockets in Houston, so covering the hefty spread isn’t too unreasonable an ask. The Cavaliers dropped Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Celtics 108-83 in a game that was never close.

If you’re looking for action on tonight’s game, look for the Warriors to pour it on at home.


Game 1: Cavaliers under 101 points

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Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

You could take the total over/under for the game, but the Warriors can go off on any given night, and the Cavaliers haven’t scored over 100 points on the road this postseason against any team besides the Raptors. It feels like a safer bet to keep your under money strictly on Cleveland.


Stephen Curry hits first three of Game 1 (+400)

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Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

This is just a “for the thrill of it” bet, but Stephen Curry to hit the first three at 4/1 feels pretty good in your head right?

Golden State will want to get the game started out right, and there’s no better way to get the Oracle crowd rocking than with a splash from Curry early. If you’re only planning on watching the first few minutes, this is an easy way to get invested.


More NBA Playoffs:

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Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

More NBA playoffs coverage:

Protesters in San Francisco dumped a huge pile of scooters in the street and blocked 11 tech buses — and then things got tense

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Katie Canales/Business Insider

  • Anti-tech demonstrators in San Francisco blocked tech buses with piles of electric scooters.
  • They told Business Insider they were protesting tech companies’ using city streets to experiment and city officials’ increasing use of sweeps to force homeless people off the streets.
  • In total, a full intersection, 11 buses, and several cars were blocked for about two hours.

Anti-tech demonstrators in San Francisco on Thursday used piles of electric scooters to block shuttles ferrying Google and other tech company employees to work. The blockade was to protest what they see as the failure of the tech industry and lawmakers to address the city’s income inequality and sizable homeless population.

“What you’re seeing here is that scooters have more rights than people,” Chirag Bhakta told Business Insider. “Our priorities shouldn’t be people first, scooters second. We’re tired of being seen as an experimental playground for the tech industry.”

The deluge of dockless electric scooters that have cropped up in San Francisco and other cities in recent months have drawn criticism from officials who say they were given little to no warning about their presence, as well as from activists who say the scooters are a prime example of tech companies entering public spaces without getting input from residents or permission from regulators.

Business Insider was on the scene. Here’s what the scooter protest looked like:


At about 8:45 a.m., protesters carried scooters to an intersection in San Francisco’s Mission District with the intention of blocking shuttles carrying Google employees.

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Katie Canales/Business Insider

Activists piled scooters in front of buses and unfurled signs that said “Techsploitation is toxic.”

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Katie Canales/Business Insider

San Francisco’s controversial scooter invasion has been spearheaded by three venture-backed companies, Bird, LimeBike, and Spin. These services allow people to reserve a nearby scooter via a smartphone app, ride around on it for a small fee, and at the end of the journey leave it anywhere to be claimed by the next rider.


To make their point that big tech is toxic, protesters dressed in white hazmat suits and masks.

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Katie Canales/Business Insider

The protest blocked an entire intersection.

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Katie Canales/Business Insider

Both the piles of scooters and the protest in the middle of the intersection stalled traffic for about two hours.

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Katie Canales/Business Insider

While Google doesn’t have any scooters in San Francisco, demonstrators told Business Insider they were also protesting both Google’s plans to expand in San Jose and the broader tech industry that they say is partly responsible to the housing crisis the city is facing.

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Katie Canales/Business Insider

Kelley Cutler, a human-rights organizer at the Coalition of Homelessness, told Business Insider that sweeps, in which authorities force homeless people off the streets, should be a priority for lawmakers — not scooters.

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Katie Canales/Business Insider

Within weeks of the arrival of the scooters in San Francisco, the city swiftly voted to regulate them. Under the new rules, only five companies with 500 scooters each will be allowed to operate in the city, and they must show they are making an effort to educate people on how to ride them.

But to activists, the quick action from lawmakers reflects the misplaced priorities of city officials.


The protesters see San Francisco’s pilot program to regulate scooters as hypocritical. The city, they said, is rewarding bad behavior from scooter companies that entered the market without permission while punishing homeless people with sweeps.

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Katie Canales/Business Insider

They say the fact that a solution for scooters on sidewalks was so quickly implemented – and that they will be allowed on sidewalks – is a slap in the face to the city’s homeless people who are being subjected to inhumane sweeps forcing them off the streets.


Just after the protest started, a man got out of one of the buses and started to remove scooters to clear the street. “It’s not fair,” he said. “You’re punishing the wrong people.”

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Katie Canales/Business Insider

He was confronted by protesters who quickly moved each scooter he pulled away back into the pile.

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Katie Canales/Business Insider

Police officers eventually told the man to stay inside the bus while the protest continued.

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Katie Canales/Business Insider

Employees stayed in the buses, which have WiFi, and captured the moment on their phones.

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Katie Canales/Business Insider

Someone spray-painted some choice words on one of the buses as employees sat inside.

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Katie Canales/Business Insider

In total, 11 buses and several cars were stalled at the intersection. Bhakta said the protest wasn’t meant as a personal attack on the employees going to work, but an outcry from residents who no longer can afford to live in the city.

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Katie Canales/Business Insider

“I just want people to understand why their workday is being disrupted and why we’re here,” Bhakta said. “We understand that it’s an inconvenience, but it’s not a personal attack. An inconvenience for you is an outcry from the people. I just want them to show some solidarity and empathy.”

Melinda Gates has sharp words for the VC industry: Enough with your love for ‘the white guy in a hoodie’

Melinda Gates

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Melinda Gates
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Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

  • Melinda Gates has a plan to fix the endless not-enough-women-in-tech problem.
  • She’s become a power-player investor but not in the classic style. She’s using her money to put pressure on the whole VC industry in two significant ways.
  • And she has some harsh criticisms for status-quo VCs, kicking at their love for “white guys in hoodies”and treatment of women, from a lack of partnerships to sexual harassment.

Melinda Gates has been putting her money where her mouth is when it comes to championing women in tech.

She’s become a power-player investor through her somewhat secretive investment firm Pivotal Ventures. But she’s not just investing directly into startups, like a classic venture investor. She’s also become a limited partner (LP), investing in other VC funds with a strategy that has far bigger implications, she told Fortune’s Polina Marinova.

First, she’s doing what you would expect, contributing to funds that invest in a lot of women run startups, as well as startups run by minorities or others that fall into the “diverse” category.

But more importantly, she’s investing in funds that are run by female venture capitalists. And that’s because women are grossly under-represented in the male-dominated venture finance industry, making up a mere 8% of partnerships among the top 100 funds as of 2017, according to Crunchbase.

Gates is trying to pressure the real power players in the VC game to clean up their industry, rife with accusations of sexism and sexual harassment.

“I can put money where I think there are levers. And I think the LP community is one of the levers,” Gates said. “When you see the LPs starting to move, that’s when I think you’ll start seeing pretty disruptive change, perhaps sometime in the next three to five years.”

The LPs are typically the rich people, foundation fund managers, and pension fund managers that supply the money that VCs use to invest in startups. And by “move,” Gates means having the LPs demand that their funds invest in more diverse startups and that their venture capital firms end the kind of sexism and sexual harassment practices that landed the industry in the press during much of 2017.

There’s already grass roots movements to help female financiers get seats at the table like an uprising of networks of women VCs who are helping each other, as well as young funds run by women like Aspect Ventures, Female Founders Fund, Cowboy Ventures.

But there’s no question that more needs to be done to change the industry because a female VC recently told Business Insider that the #metoo movement has in some ways backfired on the woman in the industry it was supposed to help.

“Guys in finance only hire who they can fire easily. Young men they can fire without a problem,” one female VC told us. “The unfortunate thing that happened in the #metoo movement is that men don’t want to ride the elevator with women who could pitch them for fear they would accuse them, let alone mentor that person alone,” this woman said.

Female VCs still feel a lot of pressure to keep their mouths shut about any sexism or sexual harassment they witness or experience. “It’s a weird dynamic with a lot of these limited partners,” this VC told us, because female VCs still fear any rocking of the boat could cause the LPs to pull their money from them. “They don’t want to lose their allocations.”

Gates is ready to be the Pied Piper towards those funds

Make no mistake, Gates’ plan involves pure capitalism. She expects to make big returns on her investment strategy because, Gates says, the white guys are overlooking a lot of great business ideas.

“These big firms often believe in the white guy in a hoodie disrupting a whole industry. So we’re going to disrupt it by making sure we’re indexing for women and minorities because they’ve got great ideas,” she says.

Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Melinda Gates makes remarks during a panel discussion on investing in adolescents to improve nutrition, education, etc as part of the IMF and World Bank's 2017 Annual Spring Meetings, in Washington, U.S., April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Theiler

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Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Melinda Gates makes remarks during a panel discussion on investing in adolescents to improve nutrition, education, etc as part of the IMF and World Bank’s 2017 Annual Spring Meetings, in Washington, U.S., April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Theiler
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REUTERS/Mike Theiler

And the only way to do that is make sure a lot of women are in the loop.

“Many of them [traditional VCs] think if they have one female at the table, they’ve done their job,” she said. But that’s just an “excuse” to maintain the status quo, because when the firm only has a single woman, that woman is under pressure to assimilate into the boy’s club world, not free to change it.

“You put several women on a board and the questions asked of the business become different. So I think the VC firms haven’t quite woken up to that,” Gates said.

“They don’t know what investing in these areas looks like until they get several women who are partners in their firm … If they’re not seeing the latest innovative, disruptive technology because they don’t understand it or they don’t understand some things that women are spending money on, I think they’re not making great investments,” Gates said.

And that’s how she’ll change the VC industry. As these companies make money, those female VCs will gain power and other VC firms will start wooing LPs by adding more diversity to their ranks, too.

This map shows how much the iPhone 8 costs around the world

In many ways, the iPhone 8 represents the best parts of Apple’s past smartphone designs and its future ones.

From the outside, the iPhone 8 is the natural evolution of Apple’s iPhone 6, iPhone 6S, and iPhone 7 designs. On the inside, however, the iPhone 8 has the same brains and power as the futuristic iPhone X, which costs $300 more to start. It even has better battery life than the iPhone X.

The iPhone 8 checks several boxes for prospective iPhone buyers, but it doesn’t come cheap. In the US, before taxes and other fees, the iPhone 8 costs $699 for 64 GB of storage, or $849 for 256 GB. (The larger iPhone 8 Plus starts at $799 and $949 for the same storage options.) It’s only more expensive in other countries.

Notably, the iPhone 8 costs over $250 more in countries like the United Kingdom and Italy, but it’s most expensive in Brazil, where the phone costs a whopping $450 more than it does in the US. Brazil has long been the most expensive place in the world to buy an iPhone – mainly because the country applies a high flat import tax on most manufactured retail goods.

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Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

Comedian Samantha Bee apologizes to Ivanka Trump for using an ‘inappropriate and inexcusable’ word to describe her

Television host Samantha Bee poses at the 2017 Creative Arts Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, California on September 9, 2017.

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Television host Samantha Bee poses at the 2017 Creative Arts Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, California on September 9, 2017.
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Danny Moloshok/Reuters

  • Comedian Samantha Bee apologized to Ivanka Trump on Thursday for calling her a “feckless c—” on her show “Full Frontal” the day prior, stating she “deeply” regrets the language she used.
  • Bee was criticizing Ivanka over her silence on President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
  • The White House described Bee’s language as “vile and vicious.”

Comedian Samantha Bee apologized to Ivanka Trump on Thursday for calling the first daughter a “feckless c—“ on her show “Full Frontal” the day prior, stating she “deeply” regrets the language she used.

“I would like to sincerely apologize to Ivanka Trump and to my viewers for using an expletive on my show to describe her last night,” Bee said in a statement. “It was inappropriate and inexcusable. I crossed a line, and I deeply regret it.”

The White House described Bee’s language as “vile and vicious.”

“Her disgusting comments and show are not fit for broadcast, and executives at Time Warner and TBS must demonstrate that such explicit profanity about female members of this administration will not be condoned on its network,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

Bee was criticizing Ivanka over her silence on President Donald Trump’s immigration policies and the administration’s position on separating unauthorized immigrant children from their parents.

This policy has come under rampant criticism and in this context Bee seems to have felt a recent tweet from Ivanka of her and her child was somewhat tone deaf.

“You know, Ivanka, that’s a beautiful photo of you and your child, but let me just say, one mother to another, do something about your dad’s immigration practices, you feckless c—!” Bee said Wednesday.

Business Insider reached out to the White House asking if it wished to respond to Bee’s apology but did not receive an immediate response.

Trump has blamed Democrats for the separation of migrant children from their parents, despite vocal support for the policy from members of his administration.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently said, “If you cross the border unlawfully… we will prosecute you.”

“If you’re smuggling a child, then we’re going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you, probably, as required by law. If you don’t want your child separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally,” Sessions added.

Trump’s net worth just dropped to the lowest level since Bloomberg started tracking it

Donald Trump points at the NFL star Herschel Walker while talking to his daughter Ivanka Trump at the White House on Wednesday.

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Donald Trump points at the NFL star Herschel Walker while talking to his daughter Ivanka Trump at the White House on Wednesday.
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Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

  • President Donald Trump’s net worth dropped to $2.8 billion over the past year, according to Bloomberg.
  • That’s Trump’s lowest net worth since Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index started tracking his wealth in 2015.
  • The $100 million drop in Trump’s net worth can be tied to revenue falling at Trump Tower in Manhattan and at his golf courses.

President Donald Trump’s net worth dropped by $100 million in the past year, Bloomberg reported Thursday, putting it at the lowest level since his presidential campaign in 2015, when Bloomberg began tracking his wealth.

Bloomberg’s Billionaire’s Index estimated that Trump’s net worth is now $2.8 billion following revenue dips at Trump Tower in Manhattan and several of his golf courses.

A plethora of reports have detailed decreased occupancy and room rates at Trump’s hotels and properties since he took office, as his polarizing policies have kept some patrons away. A few resorts have also cut ties and removed the Trump name.

Trump’s 16 golf courses and resorts – including Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida – dropped in value by $70 million over the past year, to about $650 million, according to Bloomberg.

Despite Trump’s overall net-worth drop, the Trump Organization had some areas of success over the past year.

The Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, a property that has served as a lightning rod for Trump critics, made $40 million in revenue in its inaugural year, according to Trump’s 2018 financial disclosure form. Bloomberg now values the hotel at $100 million.

The Trump Organization also saw revenue jump at its properties in Ireland and Scotland. Office towers in New York and San Francisco that Trump co-owns also grew in value over the past year.

Trump’s companies now have $30 million less in debt, lowering the total to at least $520 million, according to Bloomberg. The drop came from paying down bonds on a property at 6 E. 57th St. and loans for various retail and office spaces in New York.

Trump’s pardons are a show of weakness to his allies, not solidarity

President Donald Trump with Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

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President Donald Trump with Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
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Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

  • President Donald Trump’s pardons feel like a wink and nudge that he’ll pardon his associates if they’re convicted.
  • But even Trump’s explicit promises are unreliable.
  • Trump has shown time and time again that he won’t spend political capital unless there’s something in it for himself.

President Donald Trump feels he can’t fire the attorney general he hates, so he whines about him on Twitter. And he feels he can’t pardon his associates in legal trouble, so he pardons figures from scandals gone by.

Among other purposes, these pardons serve as a wink and a nudge that he’ll be there with a pardon for his associates if they get convicted. But are those associates likely to believe his implicit promise?

Even Trump’s explicit promises are unreliable.

If the president wanted to send a really strong signal to his associates that they were in the clear, he could do that by pardoning them now. He could pardon Mike Flynn today. He’s not doing that. In fact, he won’t even give Roseanne Barr a certificate of non-racistness on Twitter. Instead, he has used Barr’s troubles to make a point about the way the media has mistreated himme me me me me.

What the Roseanne episode reminds you is Trump won’t expend an ounce of political capital to help his political allies when they’re in trouble unless he sees an advantage for himself. This is consistent with the reputation Trump has developed over decades, as a man for whom loyalty is a one-way street, who will renege on contracts if he sees an advantage.

What we can tell by Trump’s choice, so far, not to pardon Flynn or Paul Manafort or other associates who could conceivably “flip” on him, is that he thinks the costs of pardons for them would exceed the benefits.

Such a move could trigger key resignations at the Department of Justice or in the White House. It could hurt Republican electoral fortunes. Maybe it would even arouse Republican congressional oversight.

Of course, you may not feel like any of those institutions are standing up to Trump, but if Trump wasn’t afraid that they would, wouldn’t he have issued the pardons already? He hates this investigation and feels boxed in. If he felt like he could just pardon his way out, he would do it yesterday.

So, if you were Flynn, would you want to rely on hope that Trump’s political calculus will change in the future?

What if there never comes a time where Trump finds pardoning him to be politically advantageous? Plus, even if you think you’re going to get a pardon eventually, fighting the charges against you can still deplete your life savings in the meantime.

I’m not saying Trump will never pardon his associates. Joe Arpaio, who had been a campaign surrogate, was a Trump associate of sorts. But Trump will do so only if there’s something that’s in it for him, as with the Arpaio pardon that so emboldened hard-right immigration opponents and triggered the libs.

A Flynn or Manafort pardon provides less upside and much more downside.

So Flynn has good reason to believe that he’s going to end up like Trump’s chandelier guy – and therefore good reason to keep talking.

Michael Avenatti escalates his battle with Michael Cohen and his lawyers over the tapes Avenatti claims were leaked to the press

Michael Avenatti.

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Michael Avenatti.
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Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

  • Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for porn star Stormy Daniels, escalated his battle with President Donald Trump’s longtime attorney Michael Cohen over tapes seized by the FBI during April raids on Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room.
  • On Thursday, Avenatti sent a letter to Cohen asking them to turn over to him all tapes of conversations between Cohen and Keith Davidson, Daniels’s initial attorney for the hush-money deal meant to stifle her allegations of an affair with Trump.
  • The letter followedAvenatti’sWednesday court appearance, where he expanded on his allegation that Cohen’s side had selectively leaked the audio recordings to the media.
  • Cohen is under criminal investigation in the Southern District of New York. He has not been charged with a crime.

Michael Avenatti, the attorney for porn star Stormy Daniels, escalated his battle with President Donald Trump’s longtime attorney Michael Cohen over tapes seized by the FBI during April raids on Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room.

On Thursday, Avenatti sent a letter to Cohen and Stephen Ryan, his lead attorney, asking them to turn over to him all tapes of conversations between Cohen and Keith Davidson, Daniels’s initial attorney for the nondisclosure deal meant to stifle her allegations of an affair with Trump, in which Daniels’s matter was discussed.

The letter followed Avenatti’s Wednesday court appearance, in which he expanded on his allegation that Cohen’s side had selectively leaked the audio recordings to the media, withholding other tapes such as ones Avenatti claims exist of conversations between Cohen and Trump. Avenatti then went on a media blitz following his court appearance in which he continued to hammer away at the subject, demanding that Cohen’s side release publicly all the recordings they have.

Cohen, who facilitated Daniels’s hush money agreement, is the focus of a criminal investigation in the Southern District of New York centered around whether he violated campaign-finance laws or committed bank fraud. He has not been charged with a crime.

Avenatti’s client, Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is suing Cohen and Trump in California, seeking to get out of the deal that paid her $130,000 for her silence about the alleged 2006 affair with Trump. Cohen facilitated that agreement just prior to the 2016 presidential election, and Trump recently admitted to reimbursing Cohen for that expenditure via his recently filed financial disclosure.

Michael Cohen.

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Michael Cohen.
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Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Last week, Avenatti first made this allegation about the recordings. It was not clear to what exactly Avenatti was referring. The attorney did not point to any specific media reports, and none appeared to be based off such leaks in the days that followed.

But during the latest hearing in Cohen’s criminal case, Avenatti told US District Judge Kimba Wood that he was recently contacted by a reporter who said he had a recording that he believed was made by Cohen.

“From what I understood there were audio recordings” between Cohen and Davidson, “regarding attorney-client privilege,” Avenatti said.

Ryan did not deny that such tapes existed when he responded in court, but said he was “unaware” of any that were released to the media. Ryan said such recordings were guarded by his law firm “under lock and key.”

“If we had released the audiotape to a reporter, it would have been the biggest story in America,” Ryan said.

Avenatti argued that the existence of such tapes, which he said contain privileged communications involving his client, is reason for Daniels to intervene in the case.

“Just like the Nixon tapes years ago we now have what I will refer to as the Trump Tapes,” Avenatti told reporters outside the lower Manhattan courthouse as he called for other recordings to be released publicly.

In his letter to Cohen and Ryan, Avenatti called Ryan’s comments about the recordings “astonishing.”

“This is a very serious matter causing immense prejudice to my client,” he said, demanding the tapes as well as all privileged material related to Daniels that is in their possession.

Trump’s pardon of Dinesh D’Souza has nothing to do with Dinesh D’Souza

Conservative commentator and best-selling author Dinesh D'Souza exits the Manhattan Federal Courthouse after pleading guilty in New York

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Conservative commentator and best-selling author Dinesh D’Souza exits the Manhattan Federal Courthouse after pleading guilty in New York
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Thomson Reuters

  • With his pardon of Dinesh D’Souza, President Donald Trump is sending a clear message to the people around him.
  • D’Souza’s tweets are more abhorrent than his crime, but neither are relevant to the story of his pardon.
  • In pardoning D’Souza, Trump is making a calculated, self-serving move.

President Donald Trump’s pardon of Dinesh D’Souza has little to do with protecting D’Souza and everything to do with protecting the man he cares most about – Donald Trump.

In 2014, D’Souza pleaded guilty to making illegal campaign donations through straw donors. But the outrage over the news of his pardon seems to be unrelated to his crime, and has instead focused on his character – or lack thereof.

Twitter has rocketed around old, abhorrent D’Souza tweets which underscore his racism, cruelty, and absolute absurdity. Those are all more than fair accusations. But let’s forget about D’Souza. Even in the story of his own pardon, he is not the protagonist but an irrelevant – albeit lucky – pawn.

Presidential pardons have a mixed history. They can be utilized for selfless purposes, serving justice to a person who was wrongfully convicted or convicted too harshly. They can also fulfill selfish goals – throwing a bone to a supporter or donor.

The Week had a good recap of some of the more controversial pardons in our nation’s history:

“Thomas Jefferson was widely criticized for pardoning allies convicted under the Alien and Sedition Acts. More than a century later, President Warren G. Harding was accused of selling pardons for contributions, and gave one to a mob enforcer suspected in 60 murders. Franklin D. Roosevelt pardoned Conrad Mann – convicted of running an illegal lottery – mainly because he was a close associate of Kansas City’s notorious Democratic boss Tom Pendergast. In 1971, Richard M. Nixon granted clemency to Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa, who was doing 15 years for jury tampering and fraud; in 1972, the powerful Hoffa threw the union’s support to Nixon’s re-election bid.”

And then, obviously, there was President Gerald Ford’s pardon of Nixon.

But Trump’s pardon of D’Souza differs from the examples above in key ways. Jefferson may have been looking out for his allies, Harding may have been profiting from his pardons, FDR may have been trying to please power players, and Nixon may have been trying to make new friends. Trump is doing something much more calculated, and much more self-serving.

Laurence Tribe, the Harvard Law School professor, put it best on Twitter: “Trump’s Dinesh D’Souza pardon today, on top of his pardons of Scooter Libby and Joe Arpaio, make sense only as an elephant-whistle to Michael Cohen & all who know damning things about Trump: protect me & I’ll have your back. Turn on me & your goose is cooked. More obstruction!”

D’Souza is a divisive figure. But ultimately, he’s irrelevant to the larger story. The details of his crime and of his long record of holding abhorrent opinions are a distraction from the more glaring reality: Trump knows that there are people within his inner circle who have the knowledge and the power to do him real harm, and he is doing everything in his power to prove to them that hurting him is not in their best interest.