Connect with us

Politics

Peter Thiel at Center of Facebook’s Internal Divisions on Politics – The Wall Street Journal

Published

 on


Peter Thiel was the first outside investor in Facebook, and ultimately made more than $1 billion on his stake.


Photo:

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Facebook Inc.


FB -0.39%

’s senior leadership is increasingly divided over how to address criticism of the company’s effect on U.S. politics, with board member and billionaire investor

Peter Thiel

serving as an influential voice advising CEO

Mark Zuckerberg

not to bow to public pressure, according to people familiar with the matter.

One flashpoint of late: political advertisements. Mr. Thiel has argued that Facebook should stick to its controversial decision, announced in September, to continue accepting them and to not fact-check those from politicians, the people said. However, some directors and executives are pushing for changes to the policy, including possibly banning political ads altogether, they said.

Mr. Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives have said publicly that the company continues to consider potential changes related to political ads.

“Many of the decisions we’re making at Facebook come with difficult trade-offs and we’re approaching them with careful rigor at all levels of the company, from the board of directors down,” a Facebook spokesman said. “We’re fortunate to have a board with diverse experiences and perspectives so we can ensure debate that reflects a cross section of views.”

Mr. Thiel declined to comment.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

How should Facebook handle public pressure over its practices? Join the conversation below.

The reaction to Facebook’s decision on political ads, presented again in October by Mr. Zuckerberg as a commitment to free speech, largely broke along party lines. Most Republicans, including members of the Trump reelection campaign, praised the decision, while many Democrats argued the company should do more to potentially limit the spread of misinformation. In the 2016 election, political actors used tech platforms to spread misleading or false information to specific groups of people.

The tensions within Facebook’s leadership are emerging as the social-media giant grapples with mounting political challenges less than a year before the 2020 election. Facebook is the subject of several federal and state regulatory investigations, including by the Justice Department, over antitrust concerns and alleged privacy violations. Lawmakers from both parties have criticized the company for what they see as transgressions related to how it polices the site.

Facebook officials, including Mr. Zuckerberg, have vowed to fix the litany of problems confronting the company, but there is “pretty vigorous disagreement” among the leadership over how to tackle its political issues, one person familiar with the discussions said.

Some of Mr. Thiel’s views are shared by others within Facebook, including on political ads, with many current and former executives advising Mr. Zuckerberg that the company shouldn’t be in the position of deciding what claims are accurate, people familiar with the matter said. Others, including many rank-and-file employees, argue that Facebook’s decision cuts against its yearslong fight to combat misinformation, they said.

Some close to the company say Mr. Thiel is extending his influence while the company’s board and senior ranks are in flux. Over the past two years, more than a dozen senior executives have left or announced plans to leave Facebook.

This year alone, three longtime board members left, including lead independent director

Sue Desmond-Hellmann.

In April, Facebook said Netflix Inc. CEO

Reed Hastings

and former White House chief of staff

Erskine Bowles

wouldn’t stand for re-election. Both men periodically had tensions with Mr. Thiel over politics, people familiar with the relationships said. Facebook hasn’t yet named a new lead independent director.

Mr. Thiel’s outspoken conservative and libertarian views have put him out of step with the largely liberal community of Silicon Valley. Mr. Zuckerberg has long valued Mr. Thiel’s advice. Some people close to both men described their current relationship as an alliance, based in part on their long history together.

Mr. Thiel, 52 years old, was the first outside investor in Facebook, and ultimately made more than $1 billion on his stake. Early on, Mr. Thiel advised Mr. Zuckerberg, now 35, to focus on growing the Facebook platform’s user base rather than on making money, contrarian advice at the time that laid the groundwork for Facebook’s riches today. Mr. Thiel and his funds have since sold off most of their Facebook shares.

In a speech at Georgetown University, Mark Zuckerberg discussed the ways Facebook has tightened controls on who can run political ads while still preserving his commitment to freedom of speech. VIDEO: FACEBOOK / PHOTO: NICK WASS/ASSOCIATED PRESS

More recently, Mr. Thiel, a Republican who backed

Donald Trump

in his 2016 presidential campaign, has been helping Mr. Zuckerberg understand the dynamics within the Trump White House, people familiar with their relationship said. Ahead of the Facebook co-founder’s October trip to Washington, D.C., the two met and talked privately to discuss strategy, one of the people said. On that trip, Mr. Zuckerberg spoke about the political-ads issue at Georgetown University and testified on Capitol Hill. Messrs. Zuckerberg and Thiel also had a private dinner at the White House with Mr. Trump in October. NBC News previously reported the dinner.

Mr. Thiel has sat on Facebook’s board since April 2005 and is currently chair of Facebook’s compensation, nominating and governance committee, which oversees succession planning and director nominations.

Mr. Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer

Sheryl Sandberg

have said repeatedly that they value ideological diversity on the board, although that view isn’t shared by all of the company’s workforce.

“Mark is friends with Peter Thiel and a lot of Republicans,” said a former Facebook employee who worked in its political group. “It’s a reality people aren’t willing to accept.”

Last year, after it was revealed that the data of 87 million users improperly wound up with Cambridge Analytica, Facebook directors scrambled to address the political fallout from that revelation, partly because the British political consulting firm had worked for the Trump campaign. Some Facebook directors wanted to create an outside advisory group that would analyze a wide range of problems confronting Facebook and offer potential solutions to the board, people familiar with the matter said. The group would have been small and included at least one conservative, the people said.

Mr. Thiel was strongly against the idea, the people said. The board never convened the group.

Mr. Thiel’s status as the founder and chairman of Palantir Technologies Inc., a firm specializing in custom database creation and analysis, on at least one occasion raised internal worries at Facebook, a person familiar with the matter said.

Christopher Wylie,

the former Cambridge Analytica employee whose allegations of data misuse kicked off the controversy, told U.K. officials in a hearing last year that “senior Palantir employees” had worked with the wrongfully obtained Facebook data.

Palantir denied having done so, but Facebook staff were asked to look not just at Palantir’s potential role in the scandal but also Mr. Thiel’s, according to a person familiar with the review. Facebook feared that his status as a prominent Trump supporter and a board member at both companies would make any violation discovered especially damaging, the person said.

“Mark Z. and Sheryl have specifically asked for investigations team to look into Palantir,” according to contemporaneous notes taken by a person briefed on the review. Among Facebook’s options, the notes say, was to “potentially leverage relationship with Thiel to force Palantir to have conversation with FB regarding data abuse.”

Palantir said it doesn’t offer social-media data gathering to any client and only works with data obtained lawfully, adding that it had no knowledge of or involvement in Facebook’s review.

Write to Emily Glazer at emily.glazer@wsj.com, Deepa Seetharaman at Deepa.Seetharaman@wsj.com and Jeff Horwitz at Jeff.Horwitz@wsj.com

Copyright ©2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Politics

'He's just checked out of politics': Kushner disappears from Trump's inner circle – CTV News

Published

 on


As Donald Trump plotted his Conservative Political Action Conference appearance last week, and a broader, more-robust plan to return to politics as an omnipresent disruptor, one person was conspicuously absent from the confab.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, was notably not on the list of advisers assisting the former president. Kushner, who previously served as chief adviser-cum-micromanager with far-reaching responsibilities and had virtual carte blanche, has tapped out, say several people who worked closely with Kushner at the White House or are familiar with his thinking and told CNN on background in order to maintain relationships.

“Right now, he’s just checked out of politics,” says one person, echoing the mindset of Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump, who is so over the political bubble she has told friends and colleagues of late to not utter anything to do with Washington.

Given Trump’s election loss and current out-of-power position, Kushner’s absence from the aftermath follows a pattern critics have previously pointed out: being present for the wins and MIA from the losses. A person with close ties to Kushner told CNN that Trump’s son-in-law is enjoying “some much needed time with his family,” and his retreat is unrelated to the ebb and flow of the former president’s popularity.

During the administration, Kushner was more than happy to speak on behalf of the moments that turned out well for the White House — but also conveniently skip the parts embroiled in turmoil.

As far back as 2017, when Trump’s health care plan floundered and failed, Kushner and his family were on the slopes of Aspen, Colorado. In 2018, they were vacationing in Florida amid the government shutdown, even though the White House insisted Kushner was actively leading negotiations. And in 2019, when Trump was under fire for multiple issues, from background checks to comments about Jews and Democrats, the couple was having downtime in Wyoming, something even Trump noted with a tweet of a photo of them on vacation: “Two incredible people. I can’t believe they’re not working (few work harder)!”

A Trump spokeswoman did not provide an on the record response to CNN’s request for comment.

It’s not clear, however, who is instigating this — at least for now — breakup. Some who have been in contact with Kushner place it at the feet of being done with his father-in-law’s antics. Sources closer to Trump say he’s angry with his son-in-law over the election loss.

TRUMP’S REGULARS, MINUS ONE

That Kushner has now developed anathema to his father-in-law’s political appetite is questionable in its timing, an indicator that Kushner again is putting space between his image and Trump’s, in the wake of the delusional flow of falsehoods after Election Day and the deadly Trump-incited insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Yet several people told CNN that Kushner is truly — this time — effectively done with Trump’s rhetoric.

Kushner and Ivanka Trump got out of their posh Washington rental home soon after Jan. 20, the last moving trucks rolling towards their new high-rise, beachside Miami rental departing within 24 hours of President Joe Biden’s inauguration. Another person familiar with Kushner’s new chapter, says he wants closure and a fresh start, one that doesn’t include advising his father-in-law on a daily basis.

Yet two other people who spoke with CNN indicated the schism was instigated by Trump, who has been telling those in his inner circle he is angry with Kushner.

Late last week, when Trump convened what he believes is his strongest political brain trust for a meeting to discuss his political future he did not include Kushner. The group looked at the 2022 midterms and, more and more likely, say people who have spoken to Trump of late, a presidential run in 2024.

Ensconced in Trump’s private quarters at Mar-a-Lago, his club/post-White House headquarters/home in Palm Beach, the advisers consisted in part of former campaign manager Bill Stepien, adviser Jason Miller, former White House social media director Dan Scavino, Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. and another former campaign manager, Brad Parscale, who Kushner fired at Trump’s request last summer and replaced with Stepien.

On the table was a push to create a super PAC to raise money, as well as a broader discussion of who would do what as Trump determined where and when and to whom to dole his outsized influence within a fractured Republican Party.

For Kushner not to be present at a strategic roundtable struck many who know his deep involvement in every aspect of Trump’s political messaging as odd.

“That’s about as 180 a turn as he could ever make,” said a third person, who worked inside the Trump White House with Kushner. “This was a guy who for four years did everything on behalf of President Trump. He lived that job.”

Another former White House colleague expressed surprise at Kushner’s decision to walk away, adding there was nothing in the administration’s portfolio that Kushner didn’t “meddle” in, according to this person.

From domestic policy, foreign policy, staffing, speechwriting, national security, criminal justice reform, budget, COVID-19, Kushner had a hand in it all.

“He was an ‘expert’ in everything,” said the former colleague, who noted Kushner’s flitting from one topic to the next was often the bane of some senior West Wing staff’s existence.

DISTANCED RELATIONSHIP

But Kushner’s — and similarly Ivanka Trump’s — ability to manoeuvre in and out of topics, day-in and day-out, was due in part to being family.

“It’s not like Trump could fire his son-in-law, or give him a nickname and attack him on Twitter,” said the person who worked inside the Trump White House.

As such, Kushner was able to be a chief strategist and an influential voice for the then-president.

Not so much now.

Two of the people who spoke to CNN say Kushner’s relationship with Trump, son-in-law or no, has been fractured since Trump’s re-election loss.

Trump, they say, has at times in the last several weeks expressed to those close to him that he faults Kushner for losing.

A person who speaks with Kushner frequently strongly denied any contention between the two men, noting Kushner and Trump met for lunch Wednesday in Florida at Trump’s Doral property.

Kushner, however, would be a plausible surrogate, seeing it was he who orchestrated much of the administration’s response to, essentially, most things, from the economy to immigration reform and ultimately coronavirus — and who can forget Kushner’s pledge last April during an interview that the United States would be “really rocking again” by July?

“We know the boss isn’t going to blame himself” (for losing the election), said one source speaking to the nature of their relationship, highlighting Trump’s habitual avoidance of personal responsibility.

However, if it is Trump who is keeping Kushner at arm’s length, or vice versa, one thing is clear to those who have talked to Kushner in recent weeks: “He wants a break,” said a person familiar with his thinking. But the source predicted that after a cooling-off period, and if and when Trump decides to launch a 2024 campaign, Kushner would likely come back into the fold as an adviser.

For now, however, Kushner is more than willing to see Trump Jr. or even Parscale assume the role of Trump whisperer and loyal first lieutenant, though Kushner’s close associate said he keeps tabs on Stepien, Parscale and Miller, and speaks with them frequently.

Several of the people who spoke to CNN noted Kushner’s peripheral interests still include an ongoing focus on the Middle East, brokering peace deals and helping ensure they take hold.

He would also like to be part of advancing criminal justice reform, such as reviving parole in the federal prison system, something that was eliminated in 1984 and Kushner feels deserves reexamination.

“He is trying to be someone you would go to on the Republican side to put a deal together,” said the person familiar with Kushner’s potential career path.

Yet for the foreseeable future, don’t expect to spot Kushner among the former presidential advisers eagerly volunteering for a second tour.

“The drama of politics wore him down. Eventually, Trump wears everyone down,” the person said.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Politics

'Leave the politics to the politicians,' Crown lawyer urges judge in Meng case – North Shore News

Published

 on


VANCOUVER — A Crown lawyer is urging a B.C. Supreme Court judge to ignore the “geopolitical winds swirling around” Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case and focus instead on the legal context. 

Robert Frater told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes that Meng’s legal team is trying to bring the elephant into the room by introducing arguments centred on comments made by former U.S. president Donald Trump about the case. 

“With respect, we urge you to focus on the facts and the law and leave the politics to the politicians,” Frater said Thursday.

He made the comments in response to claims from Meng’s legal team that Trump’s words 10 days after her arrest at Vancouver’s airport in December 2018 represented a threat and poisoned the Canadian proceedings.

Trump was asked by media if he would intervene in the case to get a better deal in trade talks with China, and he responded that he would “certainly intervene” if he thought it was necessary. 

Meng is wanted in the United States on fraud charges that both she and Huawei deny.

Her lawyers allege Trump’s comments constitute an abuse of process and they are asking for a stay of proceedings.

It is the first of four branches of abuse of process arguments that the court will hear ahead of the actual extradition or committal hearing in May.

“Everyone in this courtroom knows that the elephant in the room in this case has always been the geopolitical winds that swirl around it,” Frater told the judge.

“We’re confident that when you look at the facts and apply the law, you will dismiss this motion.”

On Wednesday, Meng’s team sought to tie her case to a long-brewing technological race between the United States and China.

Huawei’s success in establishing 5G wireless technology worldwide represents an “existential threat” to the United States and Meng’s case is unfolding amid an effort by the U.S. government to “debilitate, if not destroy, Huawei,” her lawyer Richard Peck said. 

Peck noted that in February 2020, then-U. S. attorney general William Barr said the stakes could not be higher and likened the race to the Cold War. 

Democrat Nancy Pelosi has warned against doing business with Huawei and White House press secretary Jen Psaki has described Huawei as a “threat to the security of the U.S.,” Peck said. 

“This campaign is bipartisan and continues in full vigour today,” he said. 

Frater, representing Canada’s attorney general, sought to redirect the judge’s attention Thursday. 

There is a rigorous test to meet the threshold of an abuse of process claim that warrants a stay of proceedings and Meng’s argument doesn’t pass it, he said. 

The threshold outlined by the Supreme Court of Canada says there must be prejudice to the accused’s right to a fair trial or to the integrity of the justice system and there must be no alternative remedy. Where there is still uncertainty, the court must balance the interests of the accused and the societal interest in having the case heard, Frater said. 

In the balancing act, he argued the court should consider that the fraud charges are serious and Meng, the chief financial officer of one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world, isn’t a “powerless” person. 

Someone with “the resources to hire a battalion of lawyers, who has the full backing of a powerful state, is in a different position factually than an indigent or vulnerable individual,” Frater said. 

Another lawyer for Meng, Eric Gottardi, countered that Meng’s celebrity makes her a “higher value target” for interference, adding that a person’s resources shouldn’t affect how they are treated by the court. 

Frater told the court that comments by politicians about the case have not approached the level of threat required to compromise the legal process. And Trump’s failure to win re-election has only weakened the argument, he said. 

“This application, in our submission, was based on the thinnest of evidence. That evidence only got worse over time, there’s been material changes in circumstance that have removed the basis for it,” Frater said. 

The political commentary has in no way affected the proceedings, he said. 

“They’ve had a hearing which has observed and continues to observe the highest standards of fairness.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Politics

'Leave the politics to the politicians,' Crown lawyer urges judge in Meng case – The Tri-City News

Published

 on


VANCOUVER — A Crown lawyer is urging a B.C. Supreme Court judge to ignore the “geopolitical winds swirling around” Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case and focus instead on the legal context. 

Robert Frater told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes that Meng’s legal team is trying to bring the elephant into the room by introducing arguments centred on comments made by former U.S. president Donald Trump about the case. 

“With respect, we urge you to focus on the facts and the law and leave the politics to the politicians,” Frater said Thursday.

He made the comments in response to claims from Meng’s legal team that Trump’s words 10 days after her arrest at Vancouver’s airport in December 2018 represented a threat and poisoned the Canadian proceedings.

Trump was asked by media if he would intervene in the case to get a better deal in trade talks with China, and he responded that he would “certainly intervene” if he thought it was necessary. 

Meng is wanted in the United States on fraud charges that both she and Huawei deny.

Her lawyers allege Trump’s comments constitute an abuse of process and they are asking for a stay of proceedings.

It is the first of four branches of abuse of process arguments that the court will hear ahead of the actual extradition or committal hearing in May.

“Everyone in this courtroom knows that the elephant in the room in this case has always been the geopolitical winds that swirl around it,” Frater told the judge.

“We’re confident that when you look at the facts and apply the law, you will dismiss this motion.”

On Wednesday, Meng’s team sought to tie her case to a long-brewing technological race between the United States and China.

Huawei’s success in establishing 5G wireless technology worldwide represents an “existential threat” to the United States and Meng’s case is unfolding amid an effort by the U.S. government to “debilitate, if not destroy, Huawei,” her lawyer Richard Peck said. 

Peck noted that in February 2020, then-U. S. attorney general William Barr said the stakes could not be higher and likened the race to the Cold War. 

Democrat Nancy Pelosi has warned against doing business with Huawei and White House press secretary Jen Psaki has described Huawei as a “threat to the security of the U.S.,” Peck said. 

“This campaign is bipartisan and continues in full vigour today,” he said. 

Frater, representing Canada’s attorney general, sought to redirect the judge’s attention Thursday. 

There is a rigorous test to meet the threshold of an abuse of process claim that warrants a stay of proceedings and Meng’s argument doesn’t pass it, he said. 

The threshold outlined by the Supreme Court of Canada says there must be prejudice to the accused’s right to a fair trial or to the integrity of the justice system and there must be no alternative remedy. Where there is still uncertainty, the court must balance the interests of the accused and the societal interest in having the case heard, Frater said. 

In the balancing act, he argued the court should consider that the fraud charges are serious and Meng, the chief financial officer of one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world, isn’t a “powerless” person. 

Someone with “the resources to hire a battalion of lawyers, who has the full backing of a powerful state, is in a different position factually than an indigent or vulnerable individual,” Frater said. 

Another lawyer for Meng, Eric Gottardi, countered that Meng’s celebrity makes her a “higher value target” for interference, adding that a person’s resources shouldn’t affect how they are treated by the court. 

Frater told the court that comments by politicians about the case have not approached the level of threat required to compromise the legal process. And Trump’s failure to win re-election has only weakened the argument, he said. 

“This application, in our submission, was based on the thinnest of evidence. That evidence only got worse over time, there’s been material changes in circumstance that have removed the basis for it,” Frater said. 

The political commentary has in no way affected the proceedings, he said. 

“They’ve had a hearing which has observed and continues to observe the highest standards of fairness.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2021.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending