Flooding the Zone

Hulk Hogan/Peter Thiel's attorney sues TechDirt's Mike Masnick for Shiva Ayyadurai; keeping tabs on Trump; and more.


  • Senior Russian officials, including some believed to have been involved in efforts to influence the 2016 election, celebrated Donald Trump’s victory, according to communications intercepted by U.S. intelligence agencies, Adam Entous and Greg Miller report for the Washington Post.

  • Get ready for traffic problems: Bill Stepien, the former director of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s political operation, has been hired as Trump’s White House political director, Josh Dawsey, Ryan Hutchins, and Alex Isenstadt report for Politico. As they detail in their story, the mastermind of the Bridgegate traffic closures, David Wildstein, testified that Stepien was told in advance about the plan to punish the Fort Lee mayor who had refused to endorse Christie. Stepien denied the allegation and was never charged, but Christie still cut ties with him.

  • Brad Parscale, Trump’s former digital director, is going to be president of a new independent 501c4 political group being launched to drive outside support for the new administration’s policies, Shane Goldmacher and Alex Isenstadt report for Politico. As a c4, the group won’t have to reveal its contributors or limit the size of their donations.

  • House Republicans have revived a century-old procedural rule that would allow lawmakers to slash the pay of individual, specific federal workers, Jenna Portnoy and Lisa Rein report for the Washington Post.

  • This headline of Michelle Celarier’s story in New York magazine is sufficient: “Trump Advisor Carl Icahn is a Blinding Supernova of Conflicts of Interest.”

  • How to explain the Right’s embrace of WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange? Former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson writes in the Washington Post, “It is the triumph of political tribalism over, well, every other principle and commitment.”

  • Next Wednesday the Senate will hold hearings on six Trump cabinet nominees at the same time that the president-elect holds his first press conference since last July. Talk about flooding the zone. The six are Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson, CIA director pick Mike Pompeo, Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos, Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions, Department of Homeland Security nominee John Kelly, and Transportation Secretary nominee Elaine Chao. As James Hohmann of the Washington Post notes, “On a quiet day, most of the aforementioned hearings would have the potential to transform into get-your-popcorn-ready blockbusters that could lead the news and spark a national dialogue about hugely consequential topics, from the future of public education to race relations, America’s role in the world, the moral hazards of Trump’s support for torture or the virtue of a trillion-dollar infrastructure package. But the flurry of simultaneous activity will make it vastly easier for his allies to jam these secretaries through without any of these debates breaking through.” He adds, “It is inconceivable that Trump and his team did not have the Senate schedule in mind when they rescheduled their press conference for the 11th.”

  • Here are three great new resources for tracking Donald Trump’s record of past statements, promises and tweets: Factba.se (which emphasizes word search), TrumpTracker (which focuses on his promises), and the Trump Archive (which focuses on his broadcast TV news appearance, built by the Internet Archive).

  • And there’s a new app that will notify you whenever Trump tweets about a stock you may be tracking, as Nathan McAlone reports for Business Insider.

  • The Administration Will Be A/B Tested? Columbia University’s Emily Bell just posted a pithy series of tweets that explain Trump as the first president who is, himself, a media organization. Reorganized slightly, here’s her argument: “We’ve been talking for a decade, glibly, about how ‘all organizations are media organizations’. Well, here it is. Trump has also swallowed to digital media playbook -‘authenticity’, engagement, merging online presence w/offline events, personal brand. He is ratings-driven in all respects, (as someone who is actually a tv star would be ). He a/b tests all policies/statements/cabinet. Bannon is important as a head of strategy because actually what Trump needs is not actual political strategy but an editor-in-chief.”

  • Media matters: Attorney Charles Harder, who last sued Gawker into oblivion on behalf of Hulk Hogan (and Peter Thiel), is now suing TechDirt and our friend Mike Masnick on behalf of Shiva Ayyadurai for $15 million, as Eriq Gardner reports for The Hollywood Reporter. Ayyadurai claims to have invented email; when he sued Gawker over that claim, the site settled for $750,000. Masnick, who is an expert on tech policy and a noted advocate for net neutrality, has run a series of posts critical of Ayyadurai’s claim.

  • A joint letter from Access Now and Witness to the major U.S. mobile carriers asking them to boost their internet capacity during the presidential inauguration weekend, to accommodate increased demand from people attending and/or protesting, has gotten a positive response, they report.

  • This is civic tech: BetaNYC’s Noel Hidalgo offers a detailed look back at the group’s seventh year leading the city’s civic tech community and ponders some of the challenges in the year ahead.

  • Oakland City Council’s privacy committee has unanimously recommended a tough surveillance technology ordinance that, if embraced by the council, could set a strong standard for communities (h/t Cyrus Farivar).