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National Enquirer Sees Falling Circulation

The National Enquirer has long explained its support for Donald Trump as a business decision based on the president’s popularity among its readers. But private financial documents and circulation figures obtained by The Associated Press show that the tabloid’s business was declining even as it published stories attacking Trump’s political foes and, prosecutors claim, helped suppress stories about his alleged sexual affairs.

The Enquirer’s privately held parent company, American Media Inc., lost $72 million for the year ending in March, the records obtained by the AP show. And despite AMI chairman David Pecker’s claims that the Enquirer’s heavy focus on Trump sells papers, the documents show that the Enquirer’s average weekly circulation fell by 18 percent to 265,000 in its 2018 fiscal year from the same period the year before, the greatest percentage loss of any AMI-owned publication. The slide follows the Enquirer’s 15 percent circulation loss for the previous 12 months, a span that included the presidential election.

More broadly, the documents obtained by the AP show that American Media isn’t making enough money to cover the interest accruing on its $882 million in long-term debt and that the company expects “continued declines in circulation and advertising revenues” in the current year. That leaves AMI reliant on debt to keep its operations afloat and finance a string of recent acquisitions that are transforming the tabloid news industry.

New Jersey creditors

That creditor backstopping AMI is a New Jersey investment fund called Chatham Asset Management. Its top executive dined with Pecker and Trump at the White House last year, and the fund has both a history of Republican political donations and ties to the administration of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, which awarded it hundreds of millions of dollars in state retirement funds to manage.

AMI’s current debts stem from the declining fortunes of the magazine industry and a series of acquisitions. Chatham has kept this number from ballooning further by converting some of the debt it is owed into shares in the company.

Hush money allegations

The publisher’s precarious financials and reliance on Chatham are a backdrop to the publisher’s growing entanglement in a federal investigation of allegations of hush money payments and violations of campaign finance laws.

Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty last week to criminal violations of campaign laws, accepting prosecutors’ claim that he, Trump and the National Enquirer were involved in buying the silence of an adult-film actress and a former Playboy model who claim to have had affairs with Trump. Pecker and his top editorial deputy, Dylan Howard, have received immunity in exchange for their cooperation. Along with Cohen, they are among the latest longtime Trump loyalists to be swept up in the federal investigations engulfing the president and his inner circle.

Neither AMI nor company officials have been charged in the case.

AMI did not provide an on-the-record response to detailed questions from the AP sent to Howard, Pecker and its outside spokesman. But a confidential financial document obtained by the AP argues that investors should focus on its current cash flows and not its profitability. Over the last two years, it has generated a combined $12 million cash flow from operations even as it has posted $160 million in overall losses.

AMI also recently announced efforts to refinance as much as $450 million in debt. Despite the company’s recent purchases of US Weekly and rival gossip publisher Bauer Media, revenue from AMI’s existing publications continues to drop, the financial report obtained by the AP shows.

Trump’s ‘a personal friend of mine’

Pecker has long maintained an aura of absolute control over the Enquirer and its sister publications, boasting of his willingness to spend AMI’s money to benefit Trump.

“The guy’s a personal friend of mine,” he told The New Yorker magazine last summer, explaining why AMI paid former Playmate Karen McDougal $150,000 in a deal that prevented her from going public with her claim that she’d had an affair with Trump.

Owned by management firm

But Pecker owns only a small fraction of AMI, around 8 percent, according to the company. More than 80 percent of AMI, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars of its debt, belongs to Chatham Asset Management, with billionaire investor Leon Cooperman owning an additional 7 percent.

Chatham declined to address questions about the Enquirer’s relationship with Trump or the future of its investment in AMI. But the firm released a statement saying Chatham “has no involvement in the editorial process or the day-to-day business decisions of the company.”

Among Chatham’s largest investors, according to public records, is New Jersey’s public pension fund. Chatham manages investment decisions for more than $300 million in pension holdings for the state.

Asked about AMI’s alleged involvement with campaign finance law violations and hush money payments, state Treasury spokeswoman Jennifer Sciortino told the AP that “we expect our investment partners to invest in good businesses with strong management teams that follow all applicable laws.” She declined to say whether New Jersey had discussed AMI with Chatham, but said, “We are in regular contact with our investment partners regarding underlying portfolio companies and we provide feedback when appropriate.”

The confidential financial document obtained by the AP states that AMI’s $882 million in long-term debt owed to creditors as of March is a competitive disadvantage that may compromise its ability to launch new projects, borrow additional money or even pay for “general corporate requirements.”

​Trump concern

While the details of AMI’s financial difficulties described in the confidential document haven’t been previously reported, the prospect that Pecker and AMI might not protect Trump’s secrets forever has long been a concern. Trump and Cohen even discussed the possibility that the ties between Trump and the National Enquirer might someday unravel.

In July, Cohen released an audio recording in which the men discussed plans to buy McDougal’s story of an affair with Trump from the National Enquirer. Such a purchase was necessary, they suggested, to prevent Trump from having to permanently rely on a tight relationship with the tabloid.

“You never know where that company — you never know what he’s gonna be,” Cohen says.

“David gets hit by a truck,” Trump says.

“Correct,” Cohen replies. “So, I’m all over that.”

According to the documents accompanying Cohen’s guilty plea last week, Trump’s purchase of McDougal’s story never occurred.

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National Enquirer Sees Falling Circulation

The National Enquirer has long explained its support for Donald Trump as a business decision based on the president’s popularity among its readers. But private financial documents and circulation figures obtained by The Associated Press show that the tabloid’s business was declining even as it published stories attacking Trump’s political foes and, prosecutors claim, helped suppress stories about his alleged sexual affairs.

The Enquirer’s privately held parent company, American Media Inc., lost $72 million for the year ending in March, the records obtained by the AP show. And despite AMI chairman David Pecker’s claims that the Enquirer’s heavy focus on Trump sells papers, the documents show that the Enquirer’s average weekly circulation fell by 18 percent to 265,000 in its 2018 fiscal year from the same period the year before, the greatest percentage loss of any AMI-owned publication. The slide follows the Enquirer’s 15 percent circulation loss for the previous 12 months, a span that included the presidential election.

More broadly, the documents obtained by the AP show that American Media isn’t making enough money to cover the interest accruing on its $882 million in long-term debt and that the company expects “continued declines in circulation and advertising revenues” in the current year. That leaves AMI reliant on debt to keep its operations afloat and finance a string of recent acquisitions that are transforming the tabloid news industry.

New Jersey creditors

That creditor backstopping AMI is a New Jersey investment fund called Chatham Asset Management. Its top executive dined with Pecker and Trump at the White House last year, and the fund has both a history of Republican political donations and ties to the administration of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, which awarded it hundreds of millions of dollars in state retirement funds to manage.

AMI’s current debts stem from the declining fortunes of the magazine industry and a series of acquisitions. Chatham has kept this number from ballooning further by converting some of the debt it is owed into shares in the company.

Hush money allegations

The publisher’s precarious financials and reliance on Chatham are a backdrop to the publisher’s growing entanglement in a federal investigation of allegations of hush money payments and violations of campaign finance laws.

Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty last week to criminal violations of campaign laws, accepting prosecutors’ claim that he, Trump and the National Enquirer were involved in buying the silence of an adult-film actress and a former Playboy model who claim to have had affairs with Trump. Pecker and his top editorial deputy, Dylan Howard, have received immunity in exchange for their cooperation. Along with Cohen, they are among the latest longtime Trump loyalists to be swept up in the federal investigations engulfing the president and his inner circle.

Neither AMI nor company officials have been charged in the case.

AMI did not provide an on-the-record response to detailed questions from the AP sent to Howard, Pecker and its outside spokesman. But a confidential financial document obtained by the AP argues that investors should focus on its current cash flows and not its profitability. Over the last two years, it has generated a combined $12 million cash flow from operations even as it has posted $160 million in overall losses.

AMI also recently announced efforts to refinance as much as $450 million in debt. Despite the company’s recent purchases of US Weekly and rival gossip publisher Bauer Media, revenue from AMI’s existing publications continues to drop, the financial report obtained by the AP shows.

Trump’s ‘a personal friend of mine’

Pecker has long maintained an aura of absolute control over the Enquirer and its sister publications, boasting of his willingness to spend AMI’s money to benefit Trump.

“The guy’s a personal friend of mine,” he told The New Yorker magazine last summer, explaining why AMI paid former Playmate Karen McDougal $150,000 in a deal that prevented her from going public with her claim that she’d had an affair with Trump.

Owned by management firm

But Pecker owns only a small fraction of AMI, around 8 percent, according to the company. More than 80 percent of AMI, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars of its debt, belongs to Chatham Asset Management, with billionaire investor Leon Cooperman owning an additional 7 percent.

Chatham declined to address questions about the Enquirer’s relationship with Trump or the future of its investment in AMI. But the firm released a statement saying Chatham “has no involvement in the editorial process or the day-to-day business decisions of the company.”

Among Chatham’s largest investors, according to public records, is New Jersey’s public pension fund. Chatham manages investment decisions for more than $300 million in pension holdings for the state.

Asked about AMI’s alleged involvement with campaign finance law violations and hush money payments, state Treasury spokeswoman Jennifer Sciortino told the AP that “we expect our investment partners to invest in good businesses with strong management teams that follow all applicable laws.” She declined to say whether New Jersey had discussed AMI with Chatham, but said, “We are in regular contact with our investment partners regarding underlying portfolio companies and we provide feedback when appropriate.”

The confidential financial document obtained by the AP states that AMI’s $882 million in long-term debt owed to creditors as of March is a competitive disadvantage that may compromise its ability to launch new projects, borrow additional money or even pay for “general corporate requirements.”

​Trump concern

While the details of AMI’s financial difficulties described in the confidential document haven’t been previously reported, the prospect that Pecker and AMI might not protect Trump’s secrets forever has long been a concern. Trump and Cohen even discussed the possibility that the ties between Trump and the National Enquirer might someday unravel.

In July, Cohen released an audio recording in which the men discussed plans to buy McDougal’s story of an affair with Trump from the National Enquirer. Such a purchase was necessary, they suggested, to prevent Trump from having to permanently rely on a tight relationship with the tabloid.

“You never know where that company — you never know what he’s gonna be,” Cohen says.

“David gets hit by a truck,” Trump says.

“Correct,” Cohen replies. “So, I’m all over that.”

According to the documents accompanying Cohen’s guilty plea last week, Trump’s purchase of McDougal’s story never occurred.

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White House Counsel Don McGahn to Depart

White House counsel Don McGahn, criticized by allies of President Donald Trump for extensively cooperating with the special counsel, will soon leave his job after months of speculation that he was on his way out.

Trump announced the development on Twitter.

Trump said McGahn will oversee the inside Washington campaign to win Senate confirmation next month of federal appellate court judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

McGahn has been shepherding Kavanaugh to senators’ offices in recent weeks for lengthy introductory meetings with the lawmakers ahead of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings that start next Tuesday. The White House is hopeful the Senate will confirm Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination in time for him to join the court when its new term starts October 1.

Wednesday’s announcement comes amid reported tension between Trump and McGahn, who is said to have been interviewed several times by investigators working for special counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller is seeking to determine whether the president obstructed justice in the probe of ties between Trump’s election campaign and Russia.

Reports said McGahn answered questions about many of the inside-the-White House events related to actions that Trump has taken, although McGahn’s lawyer said he did not implicate the president in wrongdoing.

Exasperation with Trump’s temper prompted McGahn to nickname the president “King Kong,” according to a recent article in The New York Times.

“McGahn’s relationship with the president has been strained for quite a while due to the ongoing Russia probe,” Bradley Moss, a national security lawyer, told VOA.

“His likely successor, Emmet Flood, is far better suited experience-wise to lead the legal response” to the special counsel’s requests, said Moss, the deputy executive director of the James Madison Project.

McGahn has been viewed inside the White House and among conservatives as a critical member of Trump’s team, leading the successful effort to put like-minded judges on federal benches and cutting government regulation.

McGahn “has been very effective at implementing the president’s priority of appointing highly qualified judges who have a traditional, modest understanding of their role in our system of government,” according to Thomas Jipping, deputy director for legal and judicial studies at the Heritage Foundation.

“That process has a lot of moving parts and political volatility, but Don has stayed on target and kept it moving,” Jipping told VOA.

The White House counsel was asked by the president in June of 2017 to fire Mueller. According to media reports McGahn, who had been the Trump campaign and transition team top lawyer, refused and threatened to resign.

The 50-year-old former chair of the Federal Election Commission would become the latest in a long line of officials who have left Trump’s 19-month presidency, either officials who have been fired, pushed out or voluntarily departed.

His departure will come as the White House prepares for a likely onslaught of congressional investigations if the Democrats retake the House of Representatives in the November midterm election.

VOA’s Ken Bredemeier contributed to this report.

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White House Counsel Don McGahn to Depart

White House counsel Don McGahn, criticized by allies of President Donald Trump for extensively cooperating with the special counsel, will soon leave his job after months of speculation that he was on his way out.

Trump announced the development on Twitter.

Trump said McGahn will oversee the inside Washington campaign to win Senate confirmation next month of federal appellate court judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

McGahn has been shepherding Kavanaugh to senators’ offices in recent weeks for lengthy introductory meetings with the lawmakers ahead of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings that start next Tuesday. The White House is hopeful the Senate will confirm Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination in time for him to join the court when its new term starts October 1.

Wednesday’s announcement comes amid reported tension between Trump and McGahn, who is said to have been interviewed several times by investigators working for special counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller is seeking to determine whether the president obstructed justice in the probe of ties between Trump’s election campaign and Russia.

Reports said McGahn answered questions about many of the inside-the-White House events related to actions that Trump has taken, although McGahn’s lawyer said he did not implicate the president in wrongdoing.

Exasperation with Trump’s temper prompted McGahn to nickname the president “King Kong,” according to a recent article in The New York Times.

“McGahn’s relationship with the president has been strained for quite a while due to the ongoing Russia probe,” Bradley Moss, a national security lawyer, told VOA.

“His likely successor, Emmet Flood, is far better suited experience-wise to lead the legal response” to the special counsel’s requests, said Moss, the deputy executive director of the James Madison Project.

McGahn has been viewed inside the White House and among conservatives as a critical member of Trump’s team, leading the successful effort to put like-minded judges on federal benches and cutting government regulation.

McGahn “has been very effective at implementing the president’s priority of appointing highly qualified judges who have a traditional, modest understanding of their role in our system of government,” according to Thomas Jipping, deputy director for legal and judicial studies at the Heritage Foundation.

“That process has a lot of moving parts and political volatility, but Don has stayed on target and kept it moving,” Jipping told VOA.

The White House counsel was asked by the president in June of 2017 to fire Mueller. According to media reports McGahn, who had been the Trump campaign and transition team top lawyer, refused and threatened to resign.

The 50-year-old former chair of the Federal Election Commission would become the latest in a long line of officials who have left Trump’s 19-month presidency, either officials who have been fired, pushed out or voluntarily departed.

His departure will come as the White House prepares for a likely onslaught of congressional investigations if the Democrats retake the House of Representatives in the November midterm election.

VOA’s Ken Bredemeier contributed to this report.

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Florida Governor’s Race: Trump Supporter Vs. Mayor Who Wants President Impeached

A Florida congressman with strong backing from U.S. President Donald Trump and an African-American mayor who thinks Trump ought to be impeached are set to square off in the November election for the Florida governorship in the key political battleground state.

The coming political contest between Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis, who has Trump’s staunch support, and Democrat Andrew Gillum, now mayor of the state capital of Tallahassee, was set Tuesday when both won their parties’ primary elections.

DeSantis had been expected to win the Republican gubernatorial nomination, but Gillum pulled an upset, marshaling the support of minority voters to surge past better-financed Democratic opponents after trailing them in pre-election political surveys of voters. Bernie Sanders, the self-described democratic socialist who unsuccessfully sought the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, had endorsed Gillum’s candidacy.

The DeSantis-Gillum race is likely to be one of the most closely watched elections in the Nov. 6 voting for what it might portend about the 2020 presidential election when Trump seeks another term in the White House.

Trump won the southeastern state of Florida in 2016, but it is a politically divided state that both Republican and Democratic contenders have won in recent elections. The outcome of the governor’s race could give a hint whether Trump’s political fortunes have changed.

Trump wasted no time assailing Gillum, saying Wednesday on Twitter that he has “allowed crime & many other problems to flourish in his city.”

Even before the voting ended the night before, Trump said, “Such a fantastic win for Ron DeSantis and the people of the Great State of Florida. Ron will be a fantastic Governor. On to November!”

DeSantis paid tribute to Trump at his victory party, saying, “I’m not always the most popular guy in D.C., but I did have support from someone in Washington. If you walk down Pennsylvania, he lives in the white house with the pillars in front of it. I was able to talk to the president, and I want to thank him for his support.”

Gillum, who would become Florida’s first black governor, has criticized Trump as far back as last December.

“This president is wrong for Florida on almost every issue, and as governor, I will fight against each and every one of his wrong-headed, racist and sexist policies,” Gillum said in a video. “The Donald Trump presidency shouldn’t even make it through 2018. He should be impeached now.”

Arizona race

Trump also weighed in with strong support for Congresswoman Martha McSally, who won a three-way Republican primary for a Senate nomination in the southwestern state of Arizona. McSally aligned herself with Trump as she defeated two other conservatives who also voiced support for the president.

McSally now will face Democratic Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema, who has been running a centrist campaign, to replace incumbent Republican Senator Jeff Flake. Flake declined to seek re-election after losing support, largely because many Arizona Republicans disapproved of his attacks on Trump.

Sinema has taken a small, early lead in voter surveys over McSally, but University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato told CNN that the Arizona contest will be “very, very competitive. It’ll go right down to the wire.”

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Florida Governor’s Race: Trump Supporter Vs. Mayor Who Wants President Impeached

A Florida congressman with strong backing from U.S. President Donald Trump and an African-American mayor who thinks Trump ought to be impeached are set to square off in the November election for the Florida governorship in the key political battleground state.

The coming political contest between Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis, who has Trump’s staunch support, and Democrat Andrew Gillum, now mayor of the state capital of Tallahassee, was set Tuesday when both won their parties’ primary elections.

DeSantis had been expected to win the Republican gubernatorial nomination, but Gillum pulled an upset, marshaling the support of minority voters to surge past better-financed Democratic opponents after trailing them in pre-election political surveys of voters. Bernie Sanders, the self-described democratic socialist who unsuccessfully sought the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, had endorsed Gillum’s candidacy.

The DeSantis-Gillum race is likely to be one of the most closely watched elections in the Nov. 6 voting for what it might portend about the 2020 presidential election when Trump seeks another term in the White House.

Trump won the southeastern state of Florida in 2016, but it is a politically divided state that both Republican and Democratic contenders have won in recent elections. The outcome of the governor’s race could give a hint whether Trump’s political fortunes have changed.

Trump wasted no time assailing Gillum, saying Wednesday on Twitter that he has “allowed crime & many other problems to flourish in his city.”

Even before the voting ended the night before, Trump said, “Such a fantastic win for Ron DeSantis and the people of the Great State of Florida. Ron will be a fantastic Governor. On to November!”

DeSantis paid tribute to Trump at his victory party, saying, “I’m not always the most popular guy in D.C., but I did have support from someone in Washington. If you walk down Pennsylvania, he lives in the white house with the pillars in front of it. I was able to talk to the president, and I want to thank him for his support.”

Gillum, who would become Florida’s first black governor, has criticized Trump as far back as last December.

“This president is wrong for Florida on almost every issue, and as governor, I will fight against each and every one of his wrong-headed, racist and sexist policies,” Gillum said in a video. “The Donald Trump presidency shouldn’t even make it through 2018. He should be impeached now.”

Arizona race

Trump also weighed in with strong support for Congresswoman Martha McSally, who won a three-way Republican primary for a Senate nomination in the southwestern state of Arizona. McSally aligned herself with Trump as she defeated two other conservatives who also voiced support for the president.

McSally now will face Democratic Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema, who has been running a centrist campaign, to replace incumbent Republican Senator Jeff Flake. Flake declined to seek re-election after losing support, largely because many Arizona Republicans disapproved of his attacks on Trump.

Sinema has taken a small, early lead in voter surveys over McSally, but University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato told CNN that the Arizona contest will be “very, very competitive. It’ll go right down to the wire.”

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News Media Hesitate to Use ‘Lie’ for Trump’s Misstatements

President Donald Trump has been accused of dishonesty, spreading falsehoods, misrepresenting facts, distorting news, passing on inaccuracies and being loose with the truth. But does he lie?

It’s a loaded word, and some Trump critics believe major news organizations are too timid to use it. The Washington Post, which has documented more than 4,000 false or misleading claims by the president, declared for the first time last week that a Trump misstatement was a “lie.”

Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s plea deal provided “indisputable evidence that Trump and his allies have been deliberately dishonest” about hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler wrote. The Post put Kessler’s assessment on its front page, and it was the newspaper’s most-read story online.

Not only was it the first time the Post said Trump had lied, it was the first time the newspaper used the word for any politician since Kessler began his fact-checking operation in 2011.

Many news organizations resist using the word because of the question of intent. Editors feel it’s important to establish whether someone is spreading false information knowingly, intending to deceive, and it’s hard to get inside a person’s head.

While Kessler’s team has found 98 instances where Trump falsely claimed responsibility for the largest tax cut in U.S. history, the president may sincerely believe it, Kessler said.

At The Associated Press, “we feel it’s better to say what the facts are, say what the person said and let the audience make the decision whether or not it’s an intentional lie,” said John Daniszewski, the news cooperative’s standards editor.

Several readers told Kessler, in effect, that it’s about time. One critic, Paul Blest of the website Splinter, wrote, “Can you imagine any other politician being held to this comically low standard?” The Post’s milestone represents an abject failure, he wrote.

“It’s sort of a cover-up for those in power when you don’t call it a lie,” said Jeff Cohen, a just-retired journalism professor and a producer of the documentary “All Governments Lie: Truth, Deception and the Spirit of I.F. Stone,” about the late journalist. He said journalists need to cut through the fog, and the word “lie” is an effective tool.

Yet one prominent editor wonders whether the whole discussion misses the point.

“I hate the fact that the debate and discussion over the word lie' has obscured a larger truth, if you will," Dean Baquet, executive editor of The New York Times, told CNN earlier this month. "Does it matter if The New York Times or The Washington Post uses the wordlie’ three times, seven times, 10 times, 20 times? Or does it matter more that the fact-checker has found 4,229 misleading statements?”

Trump’s birther movement questioning former President Barack Obama’s citizenship led both the Times and AP to use the word “lie.” In January 2017, the Times headlined a story “Trump repeats lie about popular vote in meeting with lawmakers,” to refer to his claim that immigrants illegally voting prevented him from receiving more of the popular vote than Hillary Clinton. While “lie” was in the headline, it wasn’t in the body of the story.

CNN’s “New Day” anchor John Berman said on the air that Trump had lied about his policy of separating families at the U.S. border. Stories surrounding the pre-election meeting between the president’s son and Russians about information damaging to the Clinton campaign were “a writhing hydra of dishonesty. You chop off one lie, and two emerge in its place,” Berman said.

Cohen said the Post’s decision to use the word last week could influence others in the media to do so more often. The night the story appeared, CNN’s Chris Cuomo pressed Trump aide Kellyanne Conway to admit the administration lied and that’s why people didn’t trust Trump. Not surprisingly, Conway demurred.

Kessler urged caution.

“It just seems like a moment,” he said. “It’s not something we plan to do on a regular basis. You can’t speak too soon, but I’d be surprised if it was more than a once-in-a-presidency case.”

Using “lie” casually or imprecisely could strike readers more as opinion than fact, said the AP’s Daniszewski.

That’s a major consideration when Trump rails against the “fake news” media. He has called fact-checkers “dishonest scum” and “crooked as hell” and this month referred to the Post’s “Pinocchio” scale measuring the egregiousness of misstatements. “If I’m right, or if I’m 97.3 percent right, they will say, He's got a Pinocchio' orHe’s lying,”‘ Trump said. “They are bad people.”

The result is fact-checkers are as concerned about an erosion of public trust in fact-checking as the media in general are about their coverage. The independent Politifact has tried to build trust among Trump voters by fact-checking politicians in West Virginia, Alabama and Oklahoma, said Aaron Sharockman, the organization’s executive editor.

Politifact avoids the use of “lie,” though it does proclaim a “lie of the year.” Trump “won” in 2015 and 2017. Its rating for the worse misstatements — “pants on fire” — certainly implies the word. Trump has been awarded a total of 85 “pants on fire” designations.

“It doesn’t benefit Politifact to call someone a liar,” Sharockman said, “because it’s not our aim to play `gotcha.”‘

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News Media Hesitate to Use ‘Lie’ for Trump’s Misstatements

President Donald Trump has been accused of dishonesty, spreading falsehoods, misrepresenting facts, distorting news, passing on inaccuracies and being loose with the truth. But does he lie?

It’s a loaded word, and some Trump critics believe major news organizations are too timid to use it. The Washington Post, which has documented more than 4,000 false or misleading claims by the president, declared for the first time last week that a Trump misstatement was a “lie.”

Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s plea deal provided “indisputable evidence that Trump and his allies have been deliberately dishonest” about hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler wrote. The Post put Kessler’s assessment on its front page, and it was the newspaper’s most-read story online.

Not only was it the first time the Post said Trump had lied, it was the first time the newspaper used the word for any politician since Kessler began his fact-checking operation in 2011.

Many news organizations resist using the word because of the question of intent. Editors feel it’s important to establish whether someone is spreading false information knowingly, intending to deceive, and it’s hard to get inside a person’s head.

While Kessler’s team has found 98 instances where Trump falsely claimed responsibility for the largest tax cut in U.S. history, the president may sincerely believe it, Kessler said.

At The Associated Press, “we feel it’s better to say what the facts are, say what the person said and let the audience make the decision whether or not it’s an intentional lie,” said John Daniszewski, the news cooperative’s standards editor.

Several readers told Kessler, in effect, that it’s about time. One critic, Paul Blest of the website Splinter, wrote, “Can you imagine any other politician being held to this comically low standard?” The Post’s milestone represents an abject failure, he wrote.

“It’s sort of a cover-up for those in power when you don’t call it a lie,” said Jeff Cohen, a just-retired journalism professor and a producer of the documentary “All Governments Lie: Truth, Deception and the Spirit of I.F. Stone,” about the late journalist. He said journalists need to cut through the fog, and the word “lie” is an effective tool.

Yet one prominent editor wonders whether the whole discussion misses the point.

“I hate the fact that the debate and discussion over the word lie' has obscured a larger truth, if you will," Dean Baquet, executive editor of The New York Times, told CNN earlier this month. "Does it matter if The New York Times or The Washington Post uses the wordlie’ three times, seven times, 10 times, 20 times? Or does it matter more that the fact-checker has found 4,229 misleading statements?”

Trump’s birther movement questioning former President Barack Obama’s citizenship led both the Times and AP to use the word “lie.” In January 2017, the Times headlined a story “Trump repeats lie about popular vote in meeting with lawmakers,” to refer to his claim that immigrants illegally voting prevented him from receiving more of the popular vote than Hillary Clinton. While “lie” was in the headline, it wasn’t in the body of the story.

CNN’s “New Day” anchor John Berman said on the air that Trump had lied about his policy of separating families at the U.S. border. Stories surrounding the pre-election meeting between the president’s son and Russians about information damaging to the Clinton campaign were “a writhing hydra of dishonesty. You chop off one lie, and two emerge in its place,” Berman said.

Cohen said the Post’s decision to use the word last week could influence others in the media to do so more often. The night the story appeared, CNN’s Chris Cuomo pressed Trump aide Kellyanne Conway to admit the administration lied and that’s why people didn’t trust Trump. Not surprisingly, Conway demurred.

Kessler urged caution.

“It just seems like a moment,” he said. “It’s not something we plan to do on a regular basis. You can’t speak too soon, but I’d be surprised if it was more than a once-in-a-presidency case.”

Using “lie” casually or imprecisely could strike readers more as opinion than fact, said the AP’s Daniszewski.

That’s a major consideration when Trump rails against the “fake news” media. He has called fact-checkers “dishonest scum” and “crooked as hell” and this month referred to the Post’s “Pinocchio” scale measuring the egregiousness of misstatements. “If I’m right, or if I’m 97.3 percent right, they will say, He's got a Pinocchio' orHe’s lying,”‘ Trump said. “They are bad people.”

The result is fact-checkers are as concerned about an erosion of public trust in fact-checking as the media in general are about their coverage. The independent Politifact has tried to build trust among Trump voters by fact-checking politicians in West Virginia, Alabama and Oklahoma, said Aaron Sharockman, the organization’s executive editor.

Politifact avoids the use of “lie,” though it does proclaim a “lie of the year.” Trump “won” in 2015 and 2017. Its rating for the worse misstatements — “pants on fire” — certainly implies the word. Trump has been awarded a total of 85 “pants on fire” designations.

“It doesn’t benefit Politifact to call someone a liar,” Sharockman said, “because it’s not our aim to play `gotcha.”‘

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With Trump’s Support, Republican DeSantis Wins Primary for Florida Governor

Conservative U.S. Representative Ron DeSantis easily won the Republican primary for governor in Florida on Tuesday after a campaign in which he highlighted his enthusiastic loyalty to President Donald Trump.

DeSantis, who was endorsed by Trump, beat state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam for the Republican nomination for governor, the Associated Press projected. He led by nearly 20 percentage points with about 85 percent of votes counted.

Trump, who captured the battleground state of Florida by just more than 1 percentage point in the 2016 White House race, tweeted his congratulations to DeSantis after the victory and said he would be “a fantastic governor.”

DeSantis made his allegiance to Trump the central theme of his race, airing a campaign ad in which he urged his toddler daughter to “build that wall” with toy blocks.

In the Democratic primary for Florida governor, progressive favorite Andrew Gillum narrowly led moderate former U.S. Representative Gwen Graham by nearly 2 percentage points with 85 percent of the vote counted.

Graham, the daughter of Bob Graham, a former Florida governor and U.S. senator, had led in polls heading into primary day, but Gillum surged in the late stages of the race.

Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, had been endorsed by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. He would be the first African-American governor of Florida.

Florida also will host one of the country’s top U.S. Senate races between term-limited Republican Governor Rick Scott, who won the Senate nomination against token opposition, and incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson. Nelson ran unopposed for the nomination.

Voters in Arizona also picked candidates for the November elections, when Democrats will try to pick up 23 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and two seats in the Senate to gain majorities and slam the brakes on Trump’s legislative agenda.

Republican establishment favorite U.S. Representative Martha McSally has led consistently in opinion polls over former state Senator Kelli Ward and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in a three-way battle to prove which candidate is most loyal to Trump, who won Arizona by 4 percentage points in 2016.

The contest could be critical to the balance of power in the Senate in November. The Arizona seat of retiring Republican Jeff Flake, a Trump critic, is considered one of the two top takeover targets for Democrats, along with Nevada.

McSally is seen as a stronger general election candidate than either Ward or Arpaio, both hard-line conservatives.

McSally has already launched advertising aimed at her likely Democratic opponent in November, U.S. Representative Kyrsten Sinema.

The primaries in Arizona and Florida on Tuesday are the last big day of state primaries before November’s elections. After Tuesday’s primaries, only five states remain to pick candidates before full attention turns to the November election, when all 435 House seats and 35 of the 100 Senate seats will be at stake.

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With Trump’s Support, Republican DeSantis Wins Primary for Florida Governor

Conservative U.S. Representative Ron DeSantis easily won the Republican primary for governor in Florida on Tuesday after a campaign in which he highlighted his enthusiastic loyalty to President Donald Trump.

DeSantis, who was endorsed by Trump, beat state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam for the Republican nomination for governor, the Associated Press projected. He led by nearly 20 percentage points with about 85 percent of votes counted.

Trump, who captured the battleground state of Florida by just more than 1 percentage point in the 2016 White House race, tweeted his congratulations to DeSantis after the victory and said he would be “a fantastic governor.”

DeSantis made his allegiance to Trump the central theme of his race, airing a campaign ad in which he urged his toddler daughter to “build that wall” with toy blocks.

In the Democratic primary for Florida governor, progressive favorite Andrew Gillum narrowly led moderate former U.S. Representative Gwen Graham by nearly 2 percentage points with 85 percent of the vote counted.

Graham, the daughter of Bob Graham, a former Florida governor and U.S. senator, had led in polls heading into primary day, but Gillum surged in the late stages of the race.

Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, had been endorsed by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. He would be the first African-American governor of Florida.

Florida also will host one of the country’s top U.S. Senate races between term-limited Republican Governor Rick Scott, who won the Senate nomination against token opposition, and incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson. Nelson ran unopposed for the nomination.

Voters in Arizona also picked candidates for the November elections, when Democrats will try to pick up 23 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and two seats in the Senate to gain majorities and slam the brakes on Trump’s legislative agenda.

Republican establishment favorite U.S. Representative Martha McSally has led consistently in opinion polls over former state Senator Kelli Ward and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in a three-way battle to prove which candidate is most loyal to Trump, who won Arizona by 4 percentage points in 2016.

The contest could be critical to the balance of power in the Senate in November. The Arizona seat of retiring Republican Jeff Flake, a Trump critic, is considered one of the two top takeover targets for Democrats, along with Nevada.

McSally is seen as a stronger general election candidate than either Ward or Arpaio, both hard-line conservatives.

McSally has already launched advertising aimed at her likely Democratic opponent in November, U.S. Representative Kyrsten Sinema.

The primaries in Arizona and Florida on Tuesday are the last big day of state primaries before November’s elections. After Tuesday’s primaries, only five states remain to pick candidates before full attention turns to the November election, when all 435 House seats and 35 of the 100 Senate seats will be at stake.

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