The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Surprise! Millennial Women Are Tuning Out the Russia Investigation

People gather for the Women’s March in Washington U.S., January 21, 2017. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Millennial women tune out the Russia investigation, a late-night triumph for the Trump administration, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell focuses on judges, and a reminder of a never-quite-adequately answered question.

Millennial Women Think the Russia Investigation Is ‘One Big Mess’

Live by the media firehose of relentless news, dubious scoops, and frantic speculation, die by the media firehose of relentless news, dubious scoops, and frantic speculation.

According to new data gathered by the Hive, theSkimm, and SurveyMonkey as part of Millennial Takeover 2018, our year-long editorial project in advance of the midterm elections, at least one group is relatively tuned out when it comes to Trump and Russia and the accompanying intrigue: millennial women.

That’s not to say millennial women don’t care about dirty politics — when asked, 67 percent said that they’re concerned about corruption. But when it comes to Russia specifically, their interest drops off: only 26 percent of millennial women said they were following news of the Mueller investigation “extremely” or “very” closely, compared to 41 percent of respondents overall, though 39 percent say it concerns them. In a survey conducted by theSkimm, one woman cited confusion on the issue, stoked by conflicting media reports. “It’s all turned into one big mess,” she said, “and I don’t know who or what to believe anymore.” Others, like the president, expressed the wish that the issue would disappear entirely: “They haven’t found anything,” another Skimm reader said. “Let’s move on. We have bigger issues to focus on.”

If you are interested in following news of the Russia investigation very closely, where should you turn your attention? Robert Mueller’s investigation is reportedly very tight-lipped, but the New York Times and the Washington Post write about seemingly new developments every day. Discussion of the investigation fills hours upon hours on MSNBC and CNN each week. Surely you should tune in for every interview with Adam Schiff, ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, right? And when Congressman Ted Lieu says there’s a “cloud of treason” around the White House, he must know something we don’t know, right?

Harvard professor Lawrence Tribe teaches at one of the most prestigious schools in the country, he must be reliable, right? Louise Mensch? Well, she’s written an op-ed in the New York Times about Russian hacking, and Senator Ed Markey cited her as a source. Claude Taylor? He’s got more than 200,000 Twitter followers, he must have some credibility, right?

If you follow all of those sources, you probably feel like you’re constantly watching Geraldo Rivera open up Al Capone’s vault over and over again, or waiting for Karl Rove to get indicted as TruthOut infamously reported back in 2006. According to the rumor mill, we’re always on the verge of explosive new information being released that will lead directly to President Trump’s impeachment. But that catharsis never quite arrives. It’s just a seemingly endless cavalcade of ominous-sounding developments citing unnamed sources and vehement denials from the White House.

The reason some voters think the Russia investigation is a foggy mess, full of hype with few established facts yet, is because it is a foggy mess, full of hype with few established facts yet.

At some point, Robert Mueller will unveil a report on something. (Apparently, Godot may arrive first.) We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of Rod Rosenstein’s letter authorizing Mueller to begin an investigation. He presumably has enjoyed access to everything the FBI, CIA, NSA, and other law-enforcement and intelligence agencies would have on Russian efforts to influence American elections. One would think that if he came across evidence of Trump colluding with the Russians or “treason,” he would be popping out indictments like a Pez dispenser over that, rather than merely charging Trump associates with lying to investigators. Mueller may very well find evidence of crimes, but it’s hard to believe he’s just waiting for the right time to tell the American people that their president conspired with Vladimir Putin.

I think one of the emerging “rules” of the modern media world is that it is now much more difficult for leaders, parties, and institutions to send clear, unifying messages. There are just too many people with too many platforms, with their own perspective and agenda, blurring the lines and adding to the cacophony, throwing out wild conspiracy theories, baseless charges, and tying developments to their own pet issues. The signal-to-noise ratio is worsening.

Behold, Three Men from the East

Every once in a while, President Trump’s reality-show instincts generate an authentically moving and pleasantly shocking moment.

Staging a made-for-TV, still-of-the-night arrival ceremony, President Donald Trump welcomed home three Americans freed by North Korea and declared their release a sign of promise toward his goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

Speaking early Thursday on an air base tarmac with the former detainees by his side, Trump called it a “great honor” to welcome the men to the U.S., but said “the true honor is going to be if we have a victory in getting rid of nuclear weapons.”

Trump also thanked North Korea’s Kim Jong Un for releasing the Americans and said he believes Kim wants to reach an agreement on denuclearization at their upcoming summit. “I really think he wants to do something,” the president said.

First lady Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other top officials joined Trump to celebrate the occasion at Joint Base Andrews near Washington. The men — Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak Song and Tony Kim — had been released Wednesday amid a warming of relations between the longtime adversaries.

Shortly before 3 a.m. the president and first lady boarded the medical plane on which the men had traveled and spent several minutes meeting with them privately. The group then emerged at top of the airplane stairway, where the men held up their arms in an exuberant display.

Yesterday, upon news of the hostages’ release, I wrote on Twitter, “If this is just a North Korean feint at good behavior, hoping to score a better deal at the summit, they’re really leaning into it.”

Because Twitter is a nonstop howling festival of barely-coherent rage and eager appetite to take offense, some misinterpreted that remark as poo-pooing the release. My point is that instead of merely offering happy-talk words, North Korea is starting to take modest but tangible actions to build goodwill — no new missile launches, no new nuke tests, a meeting with South Korean leaders, and now this hostage release.

Almost all those moves are reversible, of course. If at some point they begin to think bad behavior would bring more concessions, Pyongyang can test-launch new ICBMs, do more tests (assuming their test site isn’t now an unusable pile of radioactive rubble), and take more Americans in North Korea hostage. As of mid 2017, roughly 200 Americans lived in North Korea. The State Department barred Americans from traveling to North Korea as tourists and is discouraging journalists and aid workers.

Mitch McConnell’s Priority for the Rest of 2018

There are times when Mitch McConnell can irritate conservatives. He’s open to a rescission package to claw back some of the omnibus spending — presuming the House passes one — but he doesn’t sound like it’s much of a priority. He could have pushed for a faster confirmation process for some of Trump’s administration appointees. Funding for the wall is coming in dribs and drabs. (It’s probably frustrating enough to make some McConnell critics ask, “What, is he on cocaine or something?”)

But McConnell may have calculated what action the GOP Senate majority can take that will have the most lasting effect on American governance, and there’s a pretty broad consensus about what is most consequential: judicial confirmations. “It’s a top priority for me. I don’t think there’s anything we can do in the United States Senate that’s more important for America than confirming judges as rapidly as we get them,” he told Hugh Hewitt.

Axios: “The Senate has confirmed 17 Trump nominees for federal district courts, most of whom replaced Democratic appointees. Trump has also filled 16 vacancies on federal appeals courts (the last stop before the Supreme Court). Six of those appointees replaced judges who were nominated by Democratic presidents.”

This week, six more federal appeals-court judges are expected to get confirmation votes.

ADDENDA: Your periodic reminder: They’ve released the body-cam footage of police responding to the Las Vegas shooter . . . but we still have no clue on motive.

This leaves us with two possibilities. The first is that the shooter was that rare combination of meticulous, clever, and completely insane, with no motive that would ever make sense to sane people. The second is that there’s some sort of marginal evidence of a politically inconvenient narrative — say, he targeted the country-music concert out of hating Trump or conservatives or whatever — that is being, if not covered up, deemphasized, like the copy of Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance that was reportedly found in the Unabomber’s cabin.

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