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‘The Mueller effect’: How the special counsel might be ‘draining the swamp’ better than Trump ever could

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Special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment in May to investigate Russia’s interference in the American presidential election and potential collusion with Donald Trump’s campaign may already have achieved an unintended consequence — “draining the swamp” of lobbyists working on behalf of foreign interests. The Washington Post‘s Rosalind Helderman calls this phenomenon “the Mueller effect.”

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According to The Post, Mueller’s probe has so far resulted in a massive uptick of individuals and firms who work for foreign interests to either file or amend foreign agent registrations. The report even claims that there are more people registering as foreign agents now than in the same amount of time over each of the last 20 years.

Mueller seems to have already claimed his first victim: Tony Podesta, whose lobbying firm was shuttered following revelations that he worked for Ukranian interests close to Russia — and for Trump’s now-indicted campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Mueller’s 12-count indictment of Manafort alleges that the former Trump campaign chairman hired The Podesta Group along with another lobbying firm to work on behalf of a pro-Russia Ukranian party under the guise of representing Ukraine’s government.

Joe Sandler, an ethics and lobbying lawyer who specializes in Foreign Agents Registration Act compliance told the Post that in the aftermath of the Podesta revelation at the end of October, “my colleagues are being contacted by waves of clients concerned about this.” As the report notes, failure to register under FARA is a felony and can result in a five-year sentence.

Since Mueller’s appointment and subsequent interest on suspected foreign agents like Manafort and Michael Flynn, Thomas J. Pulak, a partner at the King & Spalding international law firm, said more people have contacted him asking if they have to register under FARA than in the previous administration.

“I think it all goes back to Mueller — this is of acute concern after Manafort and Podesta — and my sense is that it’s going to continue that way for some time,” Spulak told the Post. “If there’s a new normal for foreign agents, it’s going to be to pay a lot more attention to it.”

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Trump White House hammered for covering up their own economic projections as jobs vanish

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The Trump White House has decided against releasing midyear economic projections this summer, breaking precedent at a time when unemployment is expected to top 20 percent.

The Washington Post reports that the administration is not releasing updated economic projections that "would almost certainly codify an administration assessment that the coronavirus pandemic has led to a severe economic downturn" with massive job losses that have topped 36 million in just two months.

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Joe Scarborough can sue for defamation — and ‘it could require Mr. Trump to pay substantial punitive damages’: Legal expert

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MSNBC's Joe Scarborough may have a defamation case against President Donald Trump, according to one legal expert.

Peter Schuck, an emeritus professor of law at Yale and visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley, laid out the case against the president in a new column for the New York Times.

"Trump’s wantonly cruel tweets about the tragic death in 2001 of Lori Klausutis are distinctive," Schuck writes. "They may constitute intentional torts for which a civil jury could award punitive damages against him."

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New study links Fox News viewership to higher non-compliance with stay-at-home orders

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Researchers at Columbia University and the University of Chicago linked Fox News viewership with reduced compliance with states' stay-at-home orders in a new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The study, which has not been peer-reviewed, found that a 1% increase in Fox News viewership in a zip code "reduces the propensity to stay at home by 8.9 percentage points compared to the pre-pandemic average."

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