Majority Finds Media Coverage Of Trump Is “Too Critical, Exaggerated”: WSJ/NBC Poll

Three weeks after a poll found that the Trump administration was seen as more “truthful” than the news media, a new WSJ/NBC News poll has found that according to a majority of Americans, the media’s coverage of President Donald Trump has been too critical, although the margin is narrow and the split is once again largely down party lines. While 51% rate the media as too critical of Trump since the presidential election, 41% say the coverage has been fair and objective, while 6% say the media hasn’t been critical enough.

Furthermore, a majority of those polled, some 53%, also believes that the news media have exaggerated problems in the Trump administration. 45% say that is not the case.

79% of those whose primary news source is Fox News agreed with the statement that “the news media and other elites are exaggerating the problems of the Trump administration, because they are uncomfortable and threatened by the kind of change that Trump represents.” Even large numbers of more-liberal MSNBC audience, 40%, thought that the media had overstated the problems.

The poll failed to provide insight into whether the escalating feud between Trump and the press is working in Trump’s, or the media’s favor: as the WSJ notes, “it isn’t clear what role Mr. Trump’s barrage of attacks on the fairness and credibility of the press has played in shaping the majority’s opinion that coverage of his administration has been too negative.”

Trump’s most recent attack on the mainstream media took place at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, when he bashed the media’s use of unnamed government sources and called on reporters to stop the common journalistic practice of reporting news gathered from anonymous sources.

That said, the survey respondents offered strong reactions, both positive and negative, to the president’s outspoken critiques of the media. “I think his views about the press being fake news is horrible and I think it is a fascist viewpoint,” said one respondent.

Others disagreed, and said Trump’s assault of the media has been warranted due its “one-sided” coverage. Another person said Trump, in critiques such as calling some mainstream news organizations ”fake,” is doing what he said he would do during his campaign. After covering President Barack Obama for eight years, the media “don’t know what to do with someone who has a different opinion, which is half the country,” the respondent said.

Separately, in the same poll, Trump’s job approval rating stood at just 44 percent, a record low for a newly inaugurated commander-in-chief, and half of Americans say that his early challenges suggest unique and systemic problems with his administration. The new rating comes two days before Trump is set to address a joint session of Congress, a State of the Union-style speech in which new presidents typically lay out their vision for the country.

To be expected, Trump’s approval split was vast between republicans and democrats. The president’s personal favorability rating sootd at 85% positive among Republicans, compared to just 34% positive among independents and nine% among Democrats.

While only 30 percent of those polled overall say that Trump is off to a “great start,” 63 percent of Republicans agree. A similar share of Democrats – 58 percent – say that Trump’s lack of policy knowledge and his temperament demonstrate that he is not up to the job of being president. In the poll, conducted February 18-22, 48% of Americans said they disapprove of Trump’s performance as president and 32% said that his first month in office demonstrates that he is not up to the job. Asked about early challenges in the first month of his presidency, 52% called the issues “real problems” that are specific to his administration, while 43 percent of Americans attributed them to typical “growing pains” for any new president.

Some details from the poll:

Trump retains net positive scores on his decisiveness (net positive 29 percent), his ability to “get things done,” (net positive 12 percent) and his fitness to deal with the economy (net positive 11 percent). Six-in-ten Americans said they are hopeful and optimistic about the future of the country, including an overwhelming 87 percent of Republicans (but just 37 percent of Democrats). And a majority of respondents to the poll – 57 percent – also said that Trump is likely to “bring real change in the direction of the country.” Among those who think Trump is likely to bring change, 63 percent believe those changes will be positive, while 30 percent disagree. On the other hand, Trump continues to register particularly dismal ratings when it comes to his temperament, with just 18 percent giving his demeanor a thumbs up compared to 55 percent who rank it as poor.

In short: democrats hate Trump, republicans (still) think Trump is great. Hardly surprising.

So how does Trump’s approval rating compare to the media? A survey from last September found that Americans’ trust in the mass media dropped to its lowest level in Gallup polling history. Just 32% said they had a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media, compared with 53% in 1997. In other words, even at his “record low” 44% approval rating, Americans still seem to have more faith in the president than the media, even as both are engaged in a brutal feud with each other.

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Two German archaeologists kidnapped in Nigeria freed

Agence France Presse
Sun, 2017-02-26

BERLIN: Two German archaeologists who were kidnapped while working at a dig site in northern Nigeria last week have been released and are doing well, the German foreign ministry said Sunday.
“The two archaeologists from the Goethe University in Frankfurt are free. They are in the care of the German embassy in Abuja,” a source at the ministry told AFP.
“They are doing well under the circumstances,” the source added, without providing further details.
The pair, who were working with Nigeria’s National Commission for Museum and Monuments, were abducted on Wednesday as they were working at an excavation site in Kaduna state, looking into ancient Nok culture.
Federal police chief Ibrahim K. Idris said on Thursday that the men had been assigned security personnel for their own protection but that they did not go with them to the dig site.
A local resident who asked not to be named told AFP that the pair were seized by abductors wielding gun and machetes, but they did not take the men’s two female German colleagues with them.
Two locals were killed during the abduction, he added, a toll confirmed by police.
The kidnapping took place off the main road linking Kaduna airport, to the north of the state capital, Kaduna city, with the national capital, Abuja, 220 kilometers (137 miles) away.
Safety on the road has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks since the federal government announced the closure of Abuja’s only airport for essential runway repairs.
The kidnapping of the two Germans added to security concerns in a region that has seen an uptick in violence.
Kidnapping for ransom was previously almost exclusively seen in Nigeria’s oil-rich south, where criminal gangs singled out the wealthy and expatriate workers in targeted or opportunistic attacks.
But it has gradually spread northwards as Nigeria’s oil-dependent economy imploded, to the extent that the Control Risks consultancy has said it is now “entrenched” countrywide.
In the first half of 2016, Nigeria was the fourth riskiest place for kidnappings in the world, the risk management firm said in September last year.
In the north, a government crackdown on cattle rustling has also been blamed for a rise in abductions.

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White House does not rule out Sessions recusal on Russia probes

Sun, 2017-02-26

WASHINGTON: The White House on Sunday did not rule out that Attorney General Jeff Sessions may recuse himself from Justice Department investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a deputy White House press secretary, said congressional investigations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election would have to run their course before Sessions, who was a top campaign adviser to Trump, needed to decide whether to step aside from the FBI investigations.
“I wasn’t saying that he shouldn’t recuse himself or that he should,” Sanders told ABC’s “This Week.” “My point is I don’t think we’re there yet. Let’s work through this process.”
Democrats have been pushing for an independent investigation of links between the Trump campaign team and Russian officials.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and US intelligence agencies are looking into Russian espionage operations in the United States. They are also looking at contacts in Russia between Russian intelligence officers or others with ties to President Vladimir Putin’s government and people connected to Trump or his campaign.
Republican Representative Darrel Issa said in an interview late Friday he believed Sessions and his deputy, also a political appointee, needed to separate themselves from the FBI probes related to Trump.
Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned three weeks into the new administration after revelations surfaced that he had discussed US sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador to the United States before Trump took office and misled Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations.
“The attorney general must recuse himself,” House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said on ABC.
She cited news reports that White House officials had asked the FBI to dispute a New York Times story on Feb. 14 indicating regular contacts between senior Russian intelligence agents and members of Trump’s team during the 2016 presidential campaign.
On Saturday, The Washington Post reported the Trump administration tried to enlist intelligence officials and lawmakers to rebut the stories on Russian contacts.
“You have seen a flurry of activities that are completely inappropriate, encouraging lawmakers, encouraging intelligence officials to say that something is one way or another,” Pelosi said. “Let’s have the investigation and find out the truth.”

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“There Must Not Be A Bail In”: Germany Vows “No Debt Relief For Greece”

The standoff over the Greek debt crisis was nowhere closer to an amicable resolution on Sunday, when Germany’s deputy finance minister Jens Spahn said in an interview with German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk that Greece must not be granted a “bail in” that would involve creditors taking a loss on their loans, reiterating the German government’s opposition to debt relief for Athens, and confirming that when it comes to Europe’s recently adopted “bail-in” protocols, they “work” in theory, but certainly not in practice (see the latest taxpayer funded bailout of Monte Paschi for another recent example).

“There must not be a bail-in,” Jens Spahn said quoted by Reuters, adding that “we think it is very, very likely that we will come to an agreement with the International Monetary Fund that does not require a haircut,” he said, referring to losses that Greece’s creditors would have to take if debt was written off.

As everyone is aware by now, the IMF – which recently admitted its bailout policy vis-a-vis Greece has been a disaster perpetuating the Greek depression to unprecedented levels – has repeatedly called for Greece to be granted substantial debt relief, but this is opposed by both Germany, which makes the largest contribution to the budget of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the euro zone’s bailout fund, and the ECB, whose Greek bond holdings would be impaired should a haircut on official Greek bonds be implemented.

In a positive sign over the recent impasse, last Monday Greece and its creditors agreed to further reforms by Athens to ease a logjam in talks with creditors that has held up additional funding for the troubled euro zone country. As a result, inspectors from the Troika are due to return to Athens this week where they will hardly be greeted with a warm reception.

Spahn, a senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, said Greece’s problem was a lack of growth rather than debt and said that giving Athens debt relief would upset other euro zone countries such as Spain that had to deliver tough reforms.

“Our Spanish friends, for example, say: ‘Hang on – that wouldn’t be fair: we carry out reforms and get no haircut and now you’re talking about giving Greece one?!'”

Spahn said Germany was campaigning hard to keep the IMF on board in Greece’s bailout because of its expertise in helping countries that need to deliver reforms in return for aid.

Yet while Spahn is not wrong that Greece is in dire need of more growth, especially since “less” growth seems almost mathematically impossible at this point…


… the German has a clear political agenda in pushing for more Greek growth, which would likely be funded with even more debt, and against a haircut since the real problem facing Europe remains an insurmountable debt load. And as the third Greek bailout case study showed, Germany is willing to risk a Grexit rather than give a greenlight to the rest of Europe’s periphery that they, too, can come asking for debt haircuts and similar concessions.

Meanwhile, despite recent progress over stalled Greek bailout talks, Manfred Weber, who leads the conservative bloc in the European Parliament, said this month that if the IMF insisted on debt relief for Greece, it should no longer participate in the bailout, breaking ranks with Berlin’s official line that the program would end if the IMF pulled out.

A survey published on Friday showed around half of people in Germany are against granting debt relief to Greece.

Today’s news will hardly be welcome in Athens, where the increasingly more unpopular Syriza party has been promising a debt haircut, despite Germany making it abundantly clear such an action would not take place. In any event, we expect no real progress over the latest Greek “situation” for at least another 5 months, when Greece faces €6 billion in bond payments on July 17 and 20, at which point the can will once again be kicked, even if it means more unsustainable debt for the insolvent nation.

Finally, as laid out earlier this month, here is the timeline of near-term events for Greece, via Credit Suisse:

There is an immediate set of events (in February) that could resolve the issues and make the programme progress swiftly. If not in February, there are several intermediate dates that could still deliver an agreement, although at a later stage, most likely around the scheduled Eurogroup meetings – although an extraordinary gathering to approve the bailout happened in the past and cannot be discarded. July 17 – or 20 – would be the “hard” deadline, as Greece would be, same as in July 2015, unable to repay those amounts without additional support under the EU/IMF programme. There are earlier relatively large redemptions, notably in late February and in April – but we believe there is probably room in Greece’s public finances  to fulfill those commitments.

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