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'We're counting on you': Mitt Romney issues an urgent plea to journalists
WASHINGTON D.C. – Facing unforeseen challenges the likes of which the United States has never confronted will require a resurgence of American journalism and an informed electorate.
That’s according to Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who delivered his remarks Monday at the Syracuse University Toner Prize dinner at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. The Toner prizes are awarded for political reporting. The award is named after Robin Toner, the late New York Times political correspondent.
“I don't recall a period during my life when there are so many black swans flying around,” the Republican party’s 2012 presidential nominee said.
“Now, the resurgence of journalism, and with a more knowledgeable and informed electorate, wouldn't be so critical if this weren't such a critical time.”
Of particular concern to Romney are China’s emergence as a military superpower, entitlements, climate change and the potential of artificial intelligence to cause catastrophic harm.
“China is on track to pass us economically geopolitically, even militarily. And yet we cannot hide from that fact, and lull ourselves into complacency.
“The actual figures a little frightening,” Romney said, noting that even though the United States vastly outspends the rest of the world on its military, only 15 percent of that money goes to equipment procurement, with the vast majority going to veterans’ salaries, housing and benefits.
“China is growing their navy, it’s going to be substantially larger than ours. So it's a much greater challenge than I think the immediacy has sunk into us.
He said interest payments alone on America’s exploding national debt will be $650 billion this year.
“Our total military budget is $750 billion,” Romney said.
“When you're spending almost as much on interest as you spend on national defense. You’ve got a problem.
“Neither party is willing to discuss an approach to solving this problem with us by the way as you know, it all stems from the fact that our entitlements which are two-thirds of spending are going faster than our economy. But neither political party or wants even talk about doing anything about entitlements.”
Romney expressed concern that both parties are dropping the ball on climate change too, noting many of his Republican colleagues are unserious about global warming. And on the other hand, he said “I'm afraid the Democratic Party on the other hand has proposed if you will virtue signaling baby steps that would have the combined effect of being expensive and ineffective.”
Romney also expressed concern about the potential impacts of artificial intelligence.
He pointed to a report that said “of the people who are developing AI on average, they believe there's a 10% chance the AI being developed will eliminate humanity.”
“You would think was something of that scale is a threat that Washington would be working to find ways to work with others around the world to make sure that something of that nature doesn't occur.”
That’s where journalists come in.
“So, if democracy dies in darkness, we're counting on you,” Romney said.
“And those that are being honored tonight and have shown us the way to help shed the light of truth on our public electorate.”
Listen to audio of some of Romney's remarks below or at this link.
Is this pro-Trump lawyer lying? The National Enquirer's former chief may have the receipts
On Monday, prosecutors in the Manhattan grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump's $130,000 hush payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels called David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer and a longtime ally of the former president, to the stand.
It's unclear immediately why Pecker, who was instrumental to bringing down Trump's former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, was called. But, wrote Jordan Rubin for MSNBC.com, a possible reason is to expose false claims by Robert Costello, a Trump-aligned lawyer who testified to the grand jury last week to try to discredit the claims made by Michael Cohen.
"Costello said he told the grand jury that Cohen acted on his own to make the payment, without Trump," wrote Rubin. "It struck me as a somewhat strange point at the time, because even if it’s true, it doesn’t necessarily negate a charge of falsifying business records, if in fact that’s a charge prosecutors are seeking. That’s because such a charge wouldn’t have to hinge on the motive for making the payment but rather the cover-up. So Trump’s knowledge ahead of time is arguably beside the point, at least for that charge."
"Yet, to the extent that the grand jurors are assessing Costello’s credibility generally, they might want to hear from Pecker about whether he has additional testimony that directly contradicts Costello’s," said the report. "One would imagine that Pecker’s direct knowledge of Trump’s role would have been brought before the grand jury the first time he testified. But it’s possible that Costello’s testimony raised specific questions that required recalling Pecker."
Pecker, who received immunity in exchange for his cooperation in the Cohen prosecution, played a role in Trump's prior hush payment schemes, setting up a "catch-and-kill" arrangement for a story on an alleged Trump affair with model and former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal.
In January, it was reported that Pecker was meeting with New York prosecutors to provide evidence to them in the hush payment case.
ALSO IN THE NEWS: How 'additional charges' may be coming for Trump
One of the young children killed at the Nashville, Tennessee private Christian school shooting on Monday was the daughter of the school's pastor, reported The Daily Beast on Monday.
Six people in total were killed in the attack, including three children aged eight and nine, and three faculty.
"The student, one of six people killed alongside the shooter at the Covenant School, was identified by police as Hallie Scruggs. Her father is Chad Scruggs, Covenant Presbyterian Church’s pastor, the Nashville Presbytery confirmed to CBS News," reported AJ McDougall and Emily Shugerman. "Hallie was the Scruggs family’s youngest child, according to a memorial post by a self-described sister church, Redeemer Presbyterian Church. The post said that Chad Scruggs had graduated from Presbyterian Church in America’s Covenant Theological Seminary with a master of divinity degree in 2007."
"According to its website, the Covenant School was founded in 2001 as a ministry of the church, and the two share an address. Chad Scruggs, who did not immediately return a request for comment by The Daily Beast, is also identified as an ex-officio member of the school’s board of trustees on the site," said the report.
"The other ex-officio member of the board listed is Katherine Koonce, the 60-year-old school head and another victim of Monday’s shooting," the report added.
The shooter involved in the attack, who was killed at the scene, has been identified as 28-year-old Audrey Hale. Initial reports identified Hale as a woman, but police have stated Hale in fact identifies as a transgender man. Hale reportedly had a "manifesto" that referenced another location as well as Covenant School.