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Mark Zuckerberg testimony live blog: Facebook CEO to testify before Congress



Welcome to the Mark Zuckerberg Congressional Testimony Liveblog Extravaganza from NBC News!

We’re here to keep track of what should be a long day of testimony Tuesday while also providing you with some context, fact checking, and just a bit of levity.

The basics: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is testifying before a joint session of two Senate committees: Judiciary and Commerce. That will mean a total of 44 senators, all of whom are allotted four minutes each for questions and answers. That means we could be here allllllll day.

They’ll likely ask about the company’s handling of user data, particularly as it pertains to the scandal surrounding how data analysis firm Cambridge Analytics was able to target ads based off the Facebook data of around 87 million users. It’s also likely that Zuckerberg will face questions over how the company missed that Russia-linked accounts were using Facebook to spread divisive political messages.

It’s a seminal moment for Zuckerberg — who is facing Congress for the first time — and the U.S. government, both of which have been slow to respond to the issues posed by Facebook.

On Monday, Zuckerberg released his prepared statement for his testimony, issuing an apology and taking responsibility for its indiscretions.

“We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake,” he wrote. “It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”

Zuckerberg wrote that he now realizes that the company stated goal of connecting people had been short sighted.

“It’s not enough to just connect people, we have to make sure those connections are positive,” Zuckerberg wrote in his statement. “It’s not enough to just give people a voice, we have to make sure people aren’t using it to hurt people or spread misinformation.”

Read more. 

In an interview Monday with MSNBC’s Ali Velshi, Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak said Mark Zuckerberg won’t do anything to fix Facebook.

“He could but he won’t,” Wozniak said. “Personalities don’t change.”

“I’m going to trick you out a little and pretend to do little light things, but nothing that is going to cost me money over your privacy,” he added of Zuckerberg. 

Wozniak recently announced that he is deleting his Facebook account in light of the company’s data privacy issues. He explained to MSNBC’s Ali Velshi he’s for the “little guys, the users,” and challenged Facebook for making the user their product, a critique similar to one recently made by current Apple CEO, Tim Cook  on MSNBC.

Facebook’s recent crisis is just one of many privacy issues that company has had to deal with in its relatively short existence.

Taking a step back to look at Facebook’s pattern of privacy issues provides an important perspective on just how many times the company has faced serious criticism. 

Go here for a rundown of the biggest privacy issues Facebook has faced to date.

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Supreme Court justices chastise Vermont on the limits of police power in ‘deer jacking’ case



Three U.S. Supreme Court justices took the highest court in Vermont to task Monday for ruling that game wardens had a legal right to wander around the land of a homeowner suspected of illegally hunting at night.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, one of the court’s conservatives, joined by liberals Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, said the Vermont Supreme Court missed the mark in applying the law that governs law enforcement intrusion on private property.

The game wardens suspected Clyde Bovat of unlawfully hunting a deer at night, an offense Vermonters call “deer jacking.” Without a search warrant, they entered his private land, walked around, and looked through a window into his garage, where they saw what they thought might be deer hair on the tailgate of his truck.

They returned with a search warrant based on what they saw through the window.

The Vermont Supreme Court said the officers acted properly, because the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches does not require an officer to ignore what can plainly be seen by passersby.

“But that doctrine applies only when an officer finds himself in a place he is lawfully permitted to occupy,” Gorsuch wrote.

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court said the area around a home, known as the curtilage, is just as much protected by the Fourth Amendment as the home itself. A police officer needs a warrant, some kind of emergency, or a landowner’s consent to enter it.

Gorsuch emphasized that there are no semi-private areas around a homed “where governmental agents may roam from edge to edge … collecting as much evidence as possible.”

While the Vermont court got the law wrong, Gorsuch said, he understood why the full U.S. Supreme Court declined to take the case. It’s unclear, he said, that the message of the 2013 ruling “about the protections due a home’s curtilage has so badly eluded other state or federal courts.”

There’s reason to hope, he said, that while Vermont failed to apply those protections properly in the deer-jacking case, “its oversight will prove a stray mistake.”

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First lady Melania Trump returning to campaign trail after lengthy absence



WASHINGTON — While President Donald Trump returned to the campaign trail last week with a flurry of appearances and his family members have fanned out to events across the country, one of his key surrogates has been notably absent: first lady Melania Trump.

On Tuesday, she will attend her first rally in more than a year, accompanying her husband to Erie, Pennsylvania, according to the White House.

Since March, Melania Trump has played a very limited public role as the incumbent first lady, opting to stay away from the political events the president has dedicated most of his time to in the final months of the election.

Her campaigning has been hampered, in part, by the coronavirus pandemic. In the spring, she was planning to headline a series of high-profile fundraisers for her husband’s re-election effort, her first major foray into the 2020 presidential race. Those were scrapped when in-person campaigning was postponed for several months and the first lady did not opt to participate in any virtual events, which the president was also hesitant to embrace initially but eventually did.

Both the president and the first lady tested positive for Covid-19 in early October, sidelining them from any travel for 10 days. Since then, the president has held about a dozen rallies, with many more planned for the days ahead. Melania Trump is expected to join additional ones in the last push, though the schedule is still being finalized.

Apart from her Rose Garden speech at the Republican National Convention in August, Melania Trump has focused much of her public messaging on the health crisis and less so on the case for another four years in the White House.

She has repeatedly encouraged Americans to practice social distancing and wear masks: two health and safety precautions rarely seen enforced at her husband’s campaign events. Months before the president sported a face covering and called it “patriotic,” she tweeted a photo of herself in one and urged people to use them to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

She didn’t wear a mask, however, at the indoor and outdoor gatherings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination, which infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci later labeled as a “superspreader” event.

And though Melania Trump was the only member of the Trump family to keep a mask on for a short period of time in the hall at the first general election debate in Cleveland last month, she eventually removed it, violating the venue’s safety protocols for the indoor space.

Apart from that trip, the first lady been off the trail this cycle. The last Trump rally she attended took place 16 months ago, when the president formally launched his bid for a second term in Orlando last June.

In 2016, she occasionally accompanied her husband to campaign events, but she mostly dedicated her time to taking care of their son, Barron, who was then 10 years old, in New York City.

Her rare participation in the political operation comes in stark contrast to the former first lady Michelle Obama, who was a regular fixture on the campaign trail in 2012 and a huge draw for Democratic voters. President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign locked down her commitments early in the cycle. She held solo rallies, headlined fundraisers, recorded robocalls and appeared at events alongside her husband. The president’s advisers called her “the closer.”

“She had a unique vantage point on how her husband conducted himself as president,” Valerie Jarrett, a former senior White House adviser and a longtime friend of the Obamas, said. “She appreciated what an extraordinary first term he had, so she was very enthusiastic about sharing that with the American people.”

First ladies, while not seen as overly influential in elections, tend to have higher approval ratings than their husbands, which has typically made them valuable surrogates.

Melania Trump’s favorability rating is higher than her husband’s — 47 percent to 41 percent — according to a Gallup poll last month. She slightly trailed Jill Biden’s favorability rating, which was 49 percent, in the same poll. But the first lady had a much higher unfavorable rating in the poll, 43 percent to Jill Biden’s 27 percent.

Her scant appearances on the campaign trail stand apart from that of her predecessors.

“Is the absence from the first lady from the campaign trail unusual? Yes, it is,” presidential historian Michael Beschloss said. “First ladies are almost always such an asset that there must be a very good reason for a first lady not to be out there campaigning, because usually a first lady helps so much.”

They have been a fixture in presidential campaigns for 80 years. Eleanor Roosevelt was the first presidential spouse to speak at a national convention in 1940. Since then, first ladies have campaigned with and independently of their husbands. Lady Bird Johnson did a train tour of southern states for her husband’s re-election effort to try to win over voters who were hostile to him over his position on civil rights.

Jackie Kennedy became more popular than her husband, who asked her to make appearances with him when he was suffering in the polls. First lady Betty Ford also was more popular than her husband, incumbent President Gerald Ford, during his 1976 campaign and was a regular fixture on the campaign trail, as was Barbara Bush in 1992. Nancy Reagan stuck close to President Ronald Reagan during his re-election bid in 1984 because she felt his morale was better when she was there.

Hillary Clinton was an exception as first lady. With her favorability as first lady polling below her husband’s, she was used more carefully in President Bill Clinton’s re-election effort in 1996.

Laura Bush was sometimes referred to as George W. Bush’s “secret weapon” in 2004. While her husband’s standing among Americans sank, she remained broadly popular.

Jill Biden, for her part, has kept a very robust schedule for the last year, stumping in both battleground states and places her husband hasn’t traveled to this year, such as Texas and Georgia. At the height of the pandemic, she often participated in daily virtual events. Since then, she’s been on the trail as former Vice President Joe Biden’s most active surrogate.

Though the candidate’s spouse is usually the most high-profile surrogate, in both 2016 and 2020, it’s the adult Trump children who are doing the most frequent travel and appearances on behalf of their father.

Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump have all canvassed the country in recent weeks, with dozens more events expected in the home stretch.

During that time, the first lady has penned several blog posts, detailing her experience with the coronavirus and revealing that Barron also was positive but never had any symptoms and has since tested negative.

“I was very fortunate as my diagnosis came with minimal symptoms, though they hit me all at once and it seemed to be a roller coaster of symptoms in the days after,” she wrote online. “For me personally, the most impactful part of my recovery was the opportunity to reflect on many things — family, friendships, my work, and staying true to who you are.”

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Ratcliffe says no proof foreign actors tied to ‘Biden’ laptop, but officials say FBI is probing



The first Post story highlighted what it called a “smoking gun email” that suggested a meeting between Biden and a representative of a Ukrainian company that once paid Hunter Biden. The Biden campaign denies that the meeting happened, and the story was greeted with widespread skepticism.

George Mesires, attorney for Hunter Biden, said in a statement, “We have no idea where this came from, and certainly cannot credit anything that Rudy Giuliani provided to the New York Post, but what I do know for certain is that this purported meeting never happened.”

Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said, “We have reviewed Joe Biden’s official schedules from the time and no meeting, as alleged by the New York Post, ever took place.”

Since the stories have been published, conspiracy web sites have promulgated allegations that the laptop materials link Hunter Biden to criminal behavior. None of the allegations have been substantiated.

Questions have swirled around the Post’s account of how it obtained the emails and other materials. The newspaper said they were found on a laptop left in a Delaware repair shop in April 2019 and never claimed. The repair shop owner then took it upon himself to access the private material, the Post said.

The Post said the shop owner, who has been identified as John Paul Mac Isaac, called the FBI, and also called a Giuliani associate. The shop owner said he believed the laptop was among equipment left by Hunter Biden, because a sticker on the laptop bore the name of the Beau Biden Foundation, a charity named after his late brother.

“Before turning over the gear, the shop owner says, he made a copy of the hard drive and later gave it to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert Costello,” the Post said. “Steve Bannon, former adviser to President Trump, told The Post about the existence of the hard drive in late September and Giuliani provided The Post with a copy of it on Sunday.”

It remains unclear whether the emails cited by the Post are authentic or have been doctored.

Giuliani, who acknowledged helping bring the material to light, has in the past sought to unearth information damaging to Biden with the help of a man identified by the U.S. government as a Russian intelligence officer.

Questions about the provenance of the emails led Facebook and Twitter to limit sharing of the story, prompting fierce criticism from Republicans.

In an interview published by the Daily Beast, Issac, the repair shop owner, provided shifting answers to key questions.

“Throughout the interview, Mac Isaac switched back and forth from saying he reached out to law enforcement after viewing the files in the laptop to saying that it was actually the FBI that contacted him,” the Beast wrote. NBC News has reached out to Isaac but has not heard back.

The Post published a grand jury subpoena for the laptop and hard drive. The subpoena had been issued by a federal prosecutor who already had the serial numbers of the devices when they were ordered to be handed over in early December 2019, indicating federal law enforcement was aware of the specific devices they want to examine.

“Other material extracted from the computer,” the Post said, “includes a raunchy, 12-minute video that appears to show Hunter, who’s admitted struggling with addiction problems, smoking crack while engaged in a sex act with an unidentified woman, as well as numerous other sexually explicit images.”

Many commentators have speculated that the material could have been hacked from Hunter Biden’s accounts and put on the laptop as a cover story to offer a plausible explanation of how the material became public.

Frank Figliuzzi, an NBC News contributor and former FBI counterintelligence chief, said it’s possible the laptop was the product of a political dirty trick by domestic actors.

“We have to be careful about saying this is absolutely a Russian operation, because there’s a sloppiness here that almost seems too sloppy for Russian intelligence,” he said.

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