President Biden and first lady Jill Biden invited Obama and the former first lady back to their former home to unveil their official portraits.
Former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle returned to the White House on Wednesday for the unveiling of official portraits with a modern vibe: him standing expressionless against a white background and her seated on a sofa in the Red Room wearing a formal light blue dress.
“Barack and Michelle, welcome home,” President Joe Biden said before he invited the Obamas to the stage to unveil the portraits. Some in the audience gasped, others applauded.
“It’s great to be back,” Obama said when it was his turn to speak. He praised Biden — his vice president — as someone who became a “true partner and a true friend.”
The artist whom Barack Obama selected to paint his portrait says the “stripped down” style of his works helps create an “encounter” between the person in the painting and the person looking at it.
Robert McCurdy likes to present his subjects without any facial expression and standing against a white background, which is how America’s 44th and first Black president will be seen here for posterity, in a black suit and gray tie.
President Biden and first lady Jill Biden invited Obama and the former first lady back to their former home to unveil their official portraits. It was Mrs. Obama’s first visit since her husband’s presidency ended in January 2017. Obama himself visited in April to help celebrate the anniversary of the major health care law he signed.
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The former first lady chose artist Sharon Sprung for her portrait.
The portraits do not look like any others in the collection to which they will be added, in terms of style and substance.
McCurdy told the White House Historical Association for the latest edition of its “1600 Sessions” podcast that his style is “stripped down for a reason.” He’s also done portraits of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and the Dalai Lama, among others.
“They have plain white backgrounds, nobody gestures, nobody — there are no props because we’re not here to tell the story of the person that’s sitting for them,” McCurdy said. “We’re here to create an encounter between the viewer and the sitter.”
He compared the technique to a session with a psychiatrist in which the patient and doctor tell each other as little as possible about themselves “so that you can project onto them.”
“And we’re doing the same thing with these paintings,” McCurdy said. “We’re telling as little about the sitter as possible so that the viewer can project onto them.”
McCurdy works from a photograph of his subjects, selected from hundreds of images. He spends a year to 18 months on each portrait and said he knows he’s done “when it stops irritating me.”
Sprung, who also was interviewed for the podcast, described feeling as though she was in a “comedy sketch” when she met with the Obamas in the Oval Office.
She kept sinking into the couch she sat on while they sat on sturdier chairs. Then the president “flicked” away the printed talking points she had handed out to everyone in the room. Then she just “went still” and had to “gasp for air a little bit” when someone else in the meeting asked her why she paints. Then she started to cry.
“So who knows what put the interview over the top, but that’s how it went,” Sprung said.
She had planned on having Mrs. Obama stand in the portrait, “to give it a certain dignity,” but said the former first lady “has so much dignity that I decided to do it sitting just because … it was too much looking up at her. I’m that much shorter than her.”
Sprung worked on the portrait for eight months, day and night, the most time she’s ever spent on a single painting. She worked entirely from photographs taken in various locations on the State Floor of the White House. Getting the dress just right was the hardest part, she said.
“The color was so beautiful and I really wanted to get the strength of the color and the light,” said Sprung, who has done portraits of the late Rep. Patsy Mink, D-Hawaii, and Jeannette Rankin of Montana, the first woman elected to Congress.
Recent tradition, no matter political affiliation, has had the current president genially hosting his immediate predecessor for the unveiling — as Bill Clinton did for George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush did for Clinton and Obama did for the younger Bush.
Donald Trump, who criticized almost everything about Obama and deviated from many presidential traditions, held no ceremony for Obama. So President Biden, who was Obama’s vice president, scheduled one for his former boss.
Obama’s portrait is destined for display in the Grand Foyer of the White House, the traditional showcase for paintings of the two most recent presidents. Clinton’s and George W. Bush’s portraits currently hang there.
Mrs. Obama’s portrait likely will be placed with her predecessors along the hallway on the Ground Floor of the White House, joining Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush.
Both McCurdy and Sprung said it was hard to keep their work on the portraits secret. McCurdy said it wouldn’t have been a problem “if it had not gone on for so long.” Sprung said she had to turn the portrait to the wall whenever someone came into her studio in New York.
The White House Historical Association, a nonprofit organization that is funded through private donations and sales of books and an annual Christmas ornament, helps manage the portrait process and, since the 1960s, has paid for most of those in the collection.
Congress bought the first painting in the collection, of George Washington. Other portraits of early presidents and first ladies often came to the White House as gifts.
President Biden will be the rare president to host a former boss for the unveiling; he was Obama’s vice president.
It’s been more than a decade since President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, welcomed back George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, for the unveiling of their White House portraits, part of a beloved Washington tradition that for decades managed to transcend partisan politics.
President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, are set to revive that ritual — after an awkward and anomalous gap in the Trump years — when they host the Obamas on Wednesday for the big reveal of their portraits in front of scores of friends, family and staff.
The Obama paintings will not look like any in the White House portrait collection to which they will be added: They were America’s first Black president and first lady.
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The ceremony will also mark Michelle Obama’s first visit to the White House since Obama’s presidency ended in January 2017, and only the second visit for Barack Obama. He was at the White House in April to mark the 12th anniversary of the health care law he signed in 2010.
Portrait ceremonies often give past presidents an opportunity to showcase their comedic timing.
“I am pleased that my portrait brings an interesting symmetry to the White House collection. It now starts and ends with a George W,” Bush quipped at his ceremony in 2012.
Bill Clinton joked in 2004 that “most of the time, till you get your picture hung like this, the only artists that draw you are cartoonists.”
Recent tradition, no matter the party affiliation, has had the current president genially hosting his immediate predecessor for the unveiling — as Clinton did for George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush did for Clinton and Obama did for the younger Bush.
Then there was an unexplained pause when Donald Trump did not host Obama.
Two spokespeople for Trump did not respond to emailed requests for comment on the lack of a ceremony for Obama, and whether artists are working on portraits of Trump and former first lady Melania Trump.
The White House portrait collection starts with George Washington, America’s first president. Congress bought his portrait.
Other portraits of early presidents and first ladies often came to the White House as gifts. Since the middle of the last century, the White House Historical Association has paid for the paintings.
The first portraits financed by the association were of Lyndon Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson, and John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy, said Stewart McLaurin, president of the private, nonprofit organization established by first lady Kennedy.
Before presidents and first ladies leave office, the association explains the portrait process. The former president and first lady choose the artist or artists, and offer guidance on how they want to be portrayed.
“It really involves how that president and first lady see themselves,” McLaurin said in an interview with The Associated Press.
The collection includes an iconic, full-length portrait of Washington that adorns the East Room. It is the only item still in the White House that was in the executive mansion in November 1800 when John Adams and Abigail Adams became the first president and first lady to live in the White House.
Years later, first lady Dolley Madison saved Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of Washington from almost certain ruin. She had White House staff take it out of the city before advancing British forces burned the mansion in 1814. The painting was held in storage until the White House was rebuilt.
President and first lady portraits are seen by millions of White House visitors, though not all are on display. Some are undergoing conservation or are in storage.
Those that are on display line hallways and rooms in public areas of the mansion, such as the Ground Floor and its Vermeil and China Rooms, and the State Floor one level above, which has the famous Green, Blue and Red Rooms, the East Room and State Dining Room.
Portraits of Mamie Eisenhower, Pat Nixon, Lady Bird Johnson and Lou Henry Hoover grace the Vermeil Room, along with a full-length image of Jacqueline Kennedy. Michelle Obama’s portrait likely will join Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush along the Ground Floor hallway.
The State Floor hallway one floor above features recent presidents: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Gerald Ford’s portrait and the likeness of Richard Nixon — the only president to resign from office — are on view on the Grand Staircase leading to the private living quarters on the second floor.
Past presidents’ images move around the White House, depending on their standing with the current occupants. Ronald Reagan, for example, moved Thomas Jefferson and Harry S. Truman out of the Cabinet Room and swapped in Dwight Eisenhower and Calvin Coolidge.
In the Clinton era, portraits of Richard Nixon and Reagan, idols of the Republican Party, lost their showcase spot in the Grand Foyer and were replaced with pictures of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Truman, heroes of the Democrats. Nancy Reagan temporarily moved Eleanor Roosevelt to a place of prominence in the East Room in 1984 to mark the centennial of her birth.
One of the most prominent spots for a portrait is above the mantle in the State Dining Room and it has been occupied for decades by a painting of a seated Abraham Lincoln, hand supporting his chin. It was placed there by Franklin Roosevelt.
Bill Clinton’s and George W. Bush’s portraits hang on opposing walls in the Grand Foyer.
Clinton’s would be relocated to make room for Barack Obama’s if the White House sticks to tradition and keeps the two most recent Oval Office occupants there, McLaurin said.
“That’s up to the White House, to the curators,” he said.
The association, which is funded through private donations and the sale of books and an annual White House Christmas ornament, keeps the portrait price well below market value because of the “extraordinary honor” an artist derives from having “their work of art hanging perpetually in the White House,” McLaurin said.
Details about the Obamas’ portraits will stay under wraps until Wednesday.
President Biden will be the rare president to host a former boss for the unveiling; he was Obama’s vice president. George H.W. Bush, who held Ronald Reagan’s ceremony, was Reagan’s No. 2.
Betty Monkman, a former White House curator, said during a 2017 podcast for the White House Historical Association that the ceremony is a “statement of generosity” by the president and first lady. “It’s a very warm, lovely moment.”
The White House portraits are one of two sets of portraits of presidents and first ladies. The National Portrait Gallery, a Smithsonian museum, maintains its own collection and those portraits are unveiled before the White House pair. The Obamas unveiled their museum portraits in February 2018.
Linda St. Thomas, chief spokesperson for the Smithsonian Institution, said in an email that a $650,000 donation in July from Save America, Trump’s political action committee, was earmarked for the couple’s museum portraits. Two artists have been commissioned, one for each painting, and work has begun, St. Thomas said.
Trump’s lawyers said Wednesday night that a special master was needed for the sake of fairness.
The FBI investigation into top-secret government information discovered at Mar-a-Lago is zeroing in on the question of whether former President Donald Trump’s team criminally obstructed the probe. A new document alleges that government records had been concealed and removed and that law enforcement officials were misled about what was still there.
The allegation does not necessarily mean that Trump or anyone else will ultimately face charges. But it could pose the most direct legal threat to Trump or those in his orbit, in part because the Justice Department has historically viewed obstruction as an aggravating factor that tilts in favor of bringing charges in investigations involving the mishandling of classified information.
“It goes to the heart of trying to suborn the very integrity of our criminal justice system,” said David Laufman, who once oversaw the same Justice Department counterintelligence section now responsible for the Mar-a-Lago investigation.
The latest Justice Department motion in the case is focused less on the removal last year of classified information from the White House to Mar-a-Lago and more on the events of this past spring. That’s when law enforcement officials tried — unsuccessfully — to get all documents back and were assured, falsely, that everything had been accounted for after a “diligent search.”
The Justice Department issued a grand jury subpoena in May for the records, and officials visited Mar-a-Lago on June 3 to collect them. When they got there, Tuesday’s department document says, they were handed by a Trump lawyer a “single Redweld envelope, double-wrapped in tape” containing documents.
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A custodian for the records presented a sworn certification to the officials saying that “any and all responsive documents” to the subpoena had been located and produced. A Trump lawyer said that all records that had come from the White House had been held in one location — a storage room — and that there were none in any private space or other spot at the house.
But the FBI came to doubt the truth of those statements and obtained a search warrant to return on Aug. 8.
Officials had “developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the Storage Room and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation,” the new Justice Department filing says.
In their August search, agents found classified documents not only in the storage room but also in the former president’s office, including three classified documents in an office desk, according to the Justice Department. In some instances, the agents and attorneys conducting the review of seized documents required additional clearances since the material was so highly classified.
“That the FBI, in a matter of hours, recovered twice as many documents with classification markings as the ‘diligent search’ that the former president’s counsel and other representatives had weeks to perform calls into serious question the representations made in the June 3 certification and casts doubt on the extent of cooperation in this matter,” the document states.
In its own filing Wednesday night, Trump’s lawyers decried the search as having taken place in “the midst of the standard give-and-take” between a former president and the National Archives and Records Administration over presidential records. It said the department had “gratuitously” made public certain information, including a photograph of classified documents taken from the home.
The Justice Department has stated in court filings that, besides investigating crimes related to the mishandling of national defense information and other documents, it is also looking into whether anyone committed obstruction.
It is not clear from Tuesday’s filing how much of that inquiry might center on Trump, who has repeatedly insisted that his team was cooperative with the FBI, as opposed to any of his lawyers or representatives who were directly involved in making the representations to the department. It’s also unclear what role Trump himself had in those representations.
Obstruction matters because it’s one of the factors investigators look for in weighing whether to bring charges. For instance, in his July 2016 announcement that the FBI would not be recommending criminal charges against Hillary Clinton in an investigation involving handling of her emails, FBI Director James Comey cited the absence of obstruction as one of the reasons.
When the Justice Department charged former CIA Director David Petraeus in 2015 with sharing classified information with his biographer, it made a point of including in court documents details about false statements prosecutors said he made during an FBI interview.
It is also not the first time that an obstruction investigation has surfaced in connection with Trump. Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigated whether Trump had obstructed an inquiry into whether his 2016 presidential campaign had colluded with Russia, and though Mueller did not recommend charges against the then-sitting president, he also pointedly declined to exonerate him.
In the current case, federal investigators are likely evaluating why Trump representatives provided statements about the status of classified information at Mar-a-Lago that proved easily contradicted by the evidence, as well as which individuals were involved in removing boxes and why.
Sarah Krissoff, a New York lawyer and former federal prosecutor, said the detailed information in this week’s filing tells its own tale.
“Reading between the lines of what they were saying here, it suggests that they had very direct information from a source regarding the location of classified documents within Mar-a-Lago and essentially the concealment of, or lack of cooperation with, the prior efforts to recover those documents,” she said.
The purpose of the Tuesday night filing was to oppose a request from the Trump legal team for a special master to review the documents seized during this month’s search and to return to him certain seized property. U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon is to hear arguments on the matter Thursday.
Trump’s lawyers responded Wednesday night by saying that a special master was needed for the sake of fairness, asserting that “left unchecked, the DOJ will impugn, leak, and publicize selective aspects of their investigation.”
Cannon on Saturday said it was her “preliminary intent” to appoint such a person but also gave the Justice Department an opportunity to respond.
On Monday, the department said it had already completed its review of potentially privileged documents and identified a “limited set of materials that potentially contain attorney-client privileged information.” It said Tuesday that a special master was therefore unnecessary and that the presidential records that were taken from the home do not belong to Trump.
Most weekend mornings, Jaz Brisack gets up around 5, wills her semiconscious body into a Toyota Prius and winds her way through Buffalo, to the Starbucks on Elmwood Avenue. After a supervisor unlocks the door, she clocks in, checks herself for Covid symptoms and helps get the store ready for customers.
“I’m almost always on bar if I open,” said Ms. Brisack, who has a thrift-store aesthetic and long reddish-brown hair that she parts down the middle. “I like steaming milk, pouring lattes.”
The Starbucks door is not the only one that has been opened for her. As a University of Mississippi senior in 2018, Ms. Brisack was one of 32 Americans who won Rhodes scholarships, which fund study in Oxford, England.
in public support for unions, which last year reached its highest point since the mid-1960s, and a growing consensus among center-left experts that rising union membership could move millions of workers into the middle class.
white-collar workers has coincided with a broader enthusiasm for the labor movement.
In talking with Ms. Brisack and her fellow Rhodes scholars, it became clear that the change had even reached that rarefied group. The American Rhodes scholars I encountered from a generation earlier typically said that, while at Oxford, they had been middle-of-the-road types who believed in a modest role for government. They did not spend much time thinking about unions as students, and what they did think was likely to be skeptical.
“I was a child of the 1980s and 1990s, steeped in the centrist politics of the era,” wrote Jake Sullivan, a 1998 Rhodes scholar who is President Biden’s national security adviser and was a top aide to Hillary Clinton.
By contrast, many of Ms. Brisack’s Rhodes classmates express reservations about the market-oriented policies of the ’80s and ’90s and strong support for unions. Several told me that they were enthusiastic about Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who made reviving the labor movement a priority of their 2020 presidential campaigns.
Read More on Organized Labor in the U.S.
Even more so than other indicators, such a shift could foretell a comeback for unions, whose membership in the United States stands at its lowest percentage in roughly a century. That’s because the kinds of people who win prestigious scholarships are the kinds who later hold positions of power — who make decisions about whether to fight unions or negotiate with them, about whether the law should make it easier or harder for workers to organize.
As the recent union campaigns at companies like Starbucks, Amazon and Apple show, the terms of the fight are still largely set by corporate leaders. If these people are increasingly sympathetic to labor, then some of the key obstacles to unions may be dissolving.
suggested in April. The company has identified Ms. Brisack as one of these interlopers, noting that she draws a salary from Workers United. (Mr. Bonadonna said she was the only Starbucks employee on the union’s payroll.)
point out flaws — understaffing, insufficient training, low seniority pay, all of which they want to improve — they embrace Starbucks and its distinctive culture.
They talk up their sense of camaraderie and community — many count regular customers among their friends — and delight in their coffee expertise. On mornings when Ms. Brisack’s store isn’t busy, employees often hold tastings.
A Starbucks spokesman said that Mr. Schultz believes employees don’t need a union if they have faith in him and his motives, and the company has said that seniority-based pay increases will take effect this summer.
onetime auto plant. The National Labor Relations Board was counting ballots for an election at a Starbucks in Mesa, Ariz. — the first real test of whether the campaign was taking root nationally, and not just in a union stronghold like New York. The room was tense as the first results trickled in.
“Can you feel my heart beating?” Ms. Moore asked her colleagues.
win in a rout — the final count was 25 to 3. Everyone turned slightly punchy, as if they had all suddenly entered a dream world where unions were far more popular than they had ever imagined. One of the lawyers let out an expletive before musing, “Whoever organized down there …”
union campaign he was involved with at a nearby Nissan plant. It did not go well. The union accused the company of running a racially divisive campaign, and Ms. Brisack was disillusioned by the loss.
“Nissan never paid a consequence for what it did,” she said.(In response to charges of “scare tactics,” the company said at the time that it had sought to provide information to workers and clear up misperceptions.)
Mr. Dolan noticed that she was becoming jaded about mainstream politics. “There were times between her sophomore and junior year when I’d steer her toward something and she’d say, ‘Oh, they’re way too conservative.’ I’d send her a New York Times article and she’d say, ‘Neoliberalism is dead.’”
In England, where she arrived during the fall of 2019 at age 22, Ms. Brisack was a regular at a “solidarity” film club that screened movies about labor struggles worldwide, and wore a sweatshirt that featured a head shot of Karl Marx. She liberally reinterpreted the term “black tie” at an annual Rhodes dinner, wearing a black dress-coat over a black antifa T-shirt.
climate technology start-up, lamented that workers had too little leverage. “Labor unions may be the most effective way of implementing change going forward for a lot of people, including myself,” he told me. “I might find myself in labor organizing work.”
This is not what talking to Rhodes scholars used to sound like. At least not in my experience.
I was a Rhodes scholar in 1998, when centrist politicians like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair were ascendant, and before “neoliberalism” became such a dirty word. Though we were dimly aware of a time, decades earlier, when radicalism and pro-labor views were more common among American elites — and when, not coincidentally, the U.S. labor movement was much more powerful — those views were far less in evidence by the time I got to Oxford.
Some of my classmates were interested in issues like race and poverty, as they reminded me in interviews for this article. A few had nuanced views of labor — they had worked a blue-collar job, or had parents who belonged to a union, or had studied their Marx. Still, most of my classmates would have regarded people who talked at length about unions and class the way they would have regarded religious fundamentalists: probably earnest but slightly preachy, and clearly stuck in the past.
Kris Abrams, one of the few U.S. Rhodes Scholars in our cohort who thought a lot about the working class and labor organizing, told me recently that she felt isolated at Oxford, at least among other Americans. “Honestly, I didn’t feel like there was much room for discussion,” Ms. Abrams said.
typically minor and long in coming.
has issued complaints finding merit in such accusations. Yet the union continues to win elections — over 80 percent of the more than 175 votes in which the board has declared a winner. (Starbucks denies that it has broken the law, and a federal judge recently rejected a request to reinstate pro-union workers whom the labor board said Starbucks had forced out illegally.)
Twitter was: “We appreciate TIME magazine’s coverage of our union campaign. TIME should make sure they’re giving the same union rights and protections that we’re fighting for to the amazing journalists, photographers, and staff who make this coverage possible!”
The tweet reminded me of a story that Mr. Dolan, her scholarship adviser, had told about a reception that the University of Mississippi held in her honor in 2018. Ms. Brisack had just won a Truman scholarship, another prestigious award. She took the opportunity to urge the university’s chancellor to remove a Confederate monument from campus. The chancellor looked pained, according to several attendees.
“My boss was like, ‘Wow, you couldn’t have talked her out of doing that?’” Mr. Dolan said. “I was like, ‘That’s what made her win. If she wasn’t that person, you all wouldn’t have a Truman now.’”
(Mr. Dolan’s boss at the time did not recall this conversation, and the former chancellor did not recall any drama at the event.)
The challenge for Ms. Brisack and her colleagues is that while younger people, even younger elites, are increasingly pro-union, the shift has not yet reached many of the country’s most powerful leaders. Or, more to the point, the shift has not yet reached Mr. Schultz, the 68-year-old now in his third tour as Starbucks’s chief executive.
She recently spoke at an Aspen Institute panel on workers’ rights. She has even mused about using her Rhodes connections to make a personal appeal to Mr. Schultz, something that Mr. Bensinger has pooh-poohed but that other organizers believe she just may pull off.
“Richard has been making fun of me for thinking of asking one of the Rhodes people to broker a meeting with Howard Schultz,” Ms. Brisack said in February.
“I’m sure if you met Howard Schultz, he’d be like, ‘She’s so nice,’” responded Ms. Moore, her co-worker. “He’d be like, ‘I get it. I would want to be in a union with you, too.’”
Ms. Sandberg flirted with leaving Facebook. In 2016, she told colleagues that if Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, won the White House she would most likely assume a job in Washington, three people who spoke to her about the move at the time said. In 2018, after revelations about Cambridge Analytica and Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, she again told colleagues that she was considering leaving but did not want to do so when the company was in crisis.
Last year, Mr. Zuckerberg said his company was making a new bet and was going all in on the metaverse, which he called “the successor to the mobile internet.” In his announcement, Ms. Sandberg made only a cameo, while other executives were more prominently featured.
As Mr. Zuckerberg overhauled the company to focus on the metaverse, some of Ms. Sandberg’s responsibilities were spread among other executives. Nick Clegg, the president of global affairs and a former British deputy prime minister, became the company’s chief spokesman, a role that Ms. Sandberg had once taken. In February, Mr. Clegg was promoted to president of global affairs for Meta.
Ms. Sandberg’s profile dimmed. She concentrated on building the ads business and growing the number of small businesses on Facebook.
She was also focused on personal matters. Dave Goldberg, her husband, had died unexpectedly in 2015. (Ms. Sandberg’s second book, “Option B,” was about dealing with grief.) She later met Mr. Bernthal, and he and his three children moved to her Silicon Valley home from Southern California during the pandemic. Ms. Sandberg, who had two children with Mr. Goldberg, was focused on integrating the families and planning for her summer wedding, a person close to her said.
Meta’s transition to the metaverse has not been easy. The company has spent heavily on metaverse products while its advertising business has stumbled, partly because privacy changes made by Apple have hurt targeted advertising. In February, Meta’s market value plunged more than $230 billion, its biggest one-day wipeout, after it reported financial results that showed it was struggling to make the leap to the metaverse.
In the interview, Ms. Sandberg said Meta faced near-term challenges but would weather the storm, as it had during past challenges. “When we went public, we had no mobile ads,” Ms. Sandberg said, citing the company’s rapid transition from desktop computers to smartphones last decade. “We have done this before.”
Elon Musk had a plan to buy Twitter and undo its content moderation policies. On Tuesday, just a day after reaching his $44 billion deal to buy the company, Mr. Musk was already at work on his agenda. He tweeted that past moderation decisions by a top Twitter lawyer were “obviously incredibly inappropriate.” Later, he shared a meme mocking the lawyer, sparking a torrent of attacks from other Twitter users.
Mr. Musk’s personal critique was a rough reminder of what faces employees who create and enforce Twitter’s complex content moderation policies. His vision for the company would take it right back to where it started, employees said, and force Twitter to relive the last decade.
Twitter executives who created the rules said they had once held views about online speech that were similar to Mr. Musk’s. They believed Twitter’s policies should be limited, mimicking local laws. But more than a decade of grappling with violence, harassment and election tampering changed their minds. Now, many executives at Twitter and other social media companies view their content moderation policies as essential safeguards to protect speech.
The question is whether Mr. Musk, too, will change his mind when confronted with the darkest corners of Twitter.
The tweets must flow. That meant Twitter did little to moderate the conversations on its platform.
Twitter’s founders took their cues from Blogger, the publishing platform, owned by Google, that several of them had helped build. They believed that any reprehensible content would be countered or drowned out by other users, said three employees who worked at Twitter during that time.
“There’s a certain amount of idealistic zeal that you have: ‘If people just embrace it as a platform of self-expression, amazing things will happen,’” said Jason Goldman, who was on Twitter’s founding team and served on its board of directors. “That mission is valuable, but it blinds you to think certain bad things that happen are bugs rather than equally weighted uses of the platform.”
The company typically removed content only if it contained spam, or violated American laws forbidding child exploitation and other criminal acts.
In 2008, Twitter hired Del Harvey, its 25th employee and the first person it assigned the challenge of moderating content full time. The Arab Spring protests started in 2010, and Twitter became a megaphone for activists, reinforcing many employees’ belief that good speech would win out online. But Twitter’s power as a tool for harassment became clear in 2014 when it became the epicenter of Gamergate, a mass harassment campaign that flooded women in the video game industry with death and rape threats.
2,700 fake Twitter profiles and used them to sow discord about the upcoming presidential election between Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton.
The profiles went undiscovered for months, while complaints about harassment continued. In 2017, Jack Dorsey, the chief executive at the time, declared that policy enforcement would become the company’s top priority. Later that year, women boycotted Twitter during the #MeToo movement, and Mr. Dorsey acknowledged the company was “still not doing enough.”
He announced a list of content that the company would no longer tolerate: nude images shared without the consent of the person pictured, hate symbols and tweets that glorified violence.
Alex Jones from its service because they repeatedly violated policies.
How Elon Musk Bought Twitter
Card 1 of 6
A blockbuster deal. Elon Musk, the world’s wealthiest man, capped what seemed an improbable attempt by the famously mercurial billionaire to buy Twitter for roughly $44 billion. Here’s how the deal unfolded:
The initial offer. Mr. Musk made an unsolicited bid worth more than $40 billion for the influential social network, saying that he wanted to make Twitter a private company and that he wanted people to be able to speak more freely on the service.
The next year, Twitter rolled out new policies that were intended to prevent the spread of misinformation in future elections, banning tweets that could dissuade people from voting or mislead them about how to do so. Mr. Dorsey banned all forms of political advertising, but often left difficult moderation decisions to Ms. Gadde.
landmark legislation called the Digital Services Act, which requires social media platforms like Twitter to more aggressively police their services for hate speech, misinformation and illicit content.
The new law will require Twitter and other social media companies with more than 45 million users in the European Union to conduct annual risk assessments about the spread of harmful content on their platforms and outline plans to combat the problem. If they are not seen as doing enough, the companies can be fined up to 6 percent of their global revenue, or even be banned from the European Union for repeat offenses.
Inside Twitter, frustrations have mounted over Mr. Musk’s moderation plans, and some employees have wondered if he would really halt their work during such a critical moment, when they are set to begin moderating tweets about elections in Brazil and another national election in the United States.
All of that has raised the stakes for courting coal miners.
“Our guiding principle is the belief that we don’t have to choose between good jobs and a clean environment,” said Jason Walsh, the executive director of the BlueGreen Alliance, which has united labor and environmental groups to marshal support for initiatives like Mr. Biden’s. “But our ability to continue to articulate that belief with a straight face depends on the policy choices we make.”
The Status of U.S. Jobs
The pandemic continues to impact the U.S. economy in a multitude of ways. One key factor to keep an eye on is the job market and how it changes as the economic recovery moves forward.
“Coal miners,” he added, “are at the center of that.”
It is impossible to explain mine workers’ jaundiced view of Mr. Biden’s agenda without appreciating their heightened economic vulnerability: Unlike the carpenters and electricians who work at power plants but could apply their skills to renewable-energy projects, many miners are unlikely to find jobs on wind and solar farms that resemble their current work. (Some, like equipment operators, have more transferable skills.)
It is also difficult to overstate the political gamesmanship that has shaped the discourse on miners. In her 2016 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton proposed spending $30 billion on economic aid for coal country. But a verbal miscue — “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” she said while discussing her proposal at a town hall — allowed opponents to portray her as waging a “war on coal.”
“It is a politicized situation in which one political party that’s increasingly captured by industry benefits from the status quo by perpetuating this rhetoric,” said Matto Mildenberger, a political scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who studies the politics of climate policy.
And then there is Mr. Manchin, a complicated political figure who is among the Senate’s leading recipients of campaign money from the fossil fuel industry.
Mr. Manchin has sometimes resisted provisions favored by the miners’ union, such as wage-replacement payments to coal workers who must accept a lower-paying job. “At the end of the day, it wasn’t something he was interested in doing,” said Mr. Smith, the union’s lobbyist. A spokeswoman for Mr. Manchin declined to comment.
Yet in other ways Mr. Manchin has channeled his constituents’ feelings well, suggesting that he might be more enthusiastic about renewable-energy legislation if they were.
A yearslong dispute between a pioneering hedge fund and the Internal Revenue Service ended Thursday with an enormous bill for taxes and penalties: as much as $7 billion.
James Simons, a mathematician whose algorithmic approach has been adopted by many other investment funds, and some of his former colleagues at Renaissance Technologies have settled a decade-long dispute with the government over the tax treatment of some of their investments, the firm said in letter to investors.
The settlement, which involves 10 years’ worth of trades made by the hedge fund, could be worth as much as $7 billion, according to a person with knowledge of the agreement. It is one of the largest federal tax disputes in history.
The deal ends a standoff that led to a congressional investigation and involved two politically connected financiers: Mr. Simons, a longtime patron of Democratic candidates with an estimated net worth of $25 billion, and Robert Mercer, a former Renaissance executive whose advocacy for conservative causes included helping to found Cambridge Analytica. After Donald J. Trump won the 2016 presidential election, the now-defunct political consulting firm became embroiled in a scandal for harvesting Facebook data without users’ consent to assist his campaign.
$10 million in Breitbart News, and was a key supporter of Stephen K. Bannon, who was Breitbart’s chairman before becoming Mr. Trump’s chief strategist.
The billions in payments to the I.R.S. will be made by current and former investors in a small group of Renaissance funds, but principally its Medallion fund. Those investors include seven people who were members of the firm’s board between 2005 and 2015, as well as their spouses. Mr. Simons will make a payment of $670 million on top of his obligation as part of that group, according to the letter.
“Renaissance’s board ultimately concluded that the interests of our investors from the relevant period would be best served by agreeing to this resolution with the I.R.S., rather than risking a worse outcome, including harsher terms and penalties, that could result from litigation,” Peter Brown, the firm’s chief executive, wrote.
Renaissance is best known for pioneering a data-intensive form of stock trading called quantitative strategy, which has been adopted by many other hedge funds and trading platforms on Wall Street. The settlement centers on the firm’s Medallion fund, which manages about $15 billion, mostly for employees and former employees of the firm and their family members.
Mr. Simons founded the firm in 1982. Once the head of the math department at Stony Brook University on Long Island, he was a code-breaker for the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. He stepped down from the firm’s day-to-day operations in 2010, handing the reins to Mr. Mercer and Mr. Brown as co-chief executives.
reported that contractors and employees of Cambridge Analytica, eager to sell psychological profiles of American voters to political campaigns, acquired the private Facebook data of tens of millions of users — the largest known leak in the company’s history. Facebook eventually said as many as 87 million users — mostly in the United States — had their data harvested by the firm.
Mr. Mercer’s decision to resign as co-chief of Renaissance shortly after Mr. Trump won the presidency came about in part because of his involvement in bankrolling Cambridge Analytica. Some of the hedge fund’s investors had voiced concerns about Mr. Mercer’s political activities.
The firm’s letter on Thursday said that aside from the board members and their spouses, other investors will be required to pay additional tax and interest owed, but no penalties. Renaissance’s outside clients, who include wealthy individuals, pensions and other investors, are not expected to be affected by the settlement.
The tax dispute involved Medallion’s fast-paced options trading and how those transactions should be taxed — a major consideration given that the firm’s rapid-fire trading had a history of generating big profits.
At the time of the transactions the federal tax rate on long-term capital gains was about half what it was for short-term capital gains. The hedge fund argued that many of its trades were eligible to be taxed at the lower rate because it had converted those options trades into longer-term holdings through the use of complex financial instruments.
These instruments involved baskets of stocks put together by a bank. But Medallion didn’t buy the actual basket of stocks; it instead bought an option on that basket and sometimes gave the banks instructions on how to trade those stocks. Basket options have been criticized for having allowed hedge funds to borrow money more easily and allowing them to make bigger and potentially riskier trades.
The I.R.S. argued that the basket option trades should have been taxed at the higher rate because they were mainly the result of short-term trading.
The disagreement drew the attention of Congress, and led to rule changes. Following a report from the Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations, the I.R.S. issued new guidance in 2015 that sought to clamp down on this type of trading by making it more difficult and costly for hedge funds to buy basket options. Such investment vehicles had to be declared on the tax returns of any investor who used them, the agency said.
The I.R.S. had said its guidance on basket options would be retroactive, and applied to all transactions as far back as Jan. 1, 2011.
Still, some senators were critical of the I.R.S. for taking so long to change its rules and start investigating the trading practice, including at Renaissance.
Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who headed the Senate committee in 2014 and died in July, said the I.R.S. guidance would stop banks and hedge funds from using “dubious structured financial products” that had cost taxpayers billions.
Elise Bean, a former aide to Mr. Levin, said she wished her former boss had lived to see the settlement. “It’s good to see that, despite a yearslong, knock-down, bare-knuckles battle, the I.R.S. prevailed in compelling at least one set of billionaires to pay the taxes they owe,” she said.
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration revealed on Thursday that a business associate of Trump campaign officials in 2016 provided campaign polling data to Russian intelligence services, the strongest evidence to date that Russian spies had penetrated the inner workings of the Trump campaign.
The revelation, made public in a Treasury Department document announcing new sanctions against Russia, established for the first time that private meetings and communications between the campaign officials, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, and their business associate were a direct pipeline from the campaign to Russian spies at a time when the Kremlin was engaged in a covert effort to sabotage the 2016 presidential election.
Previous government investigations have identified the Trump aides’ associate, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, as a Russian intelligence operative, and Mr. Manafort’s decision to provide him with internal polling data was one of the mysteries that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, sought to unravel during his two-year investigation into Russia’s election meddling.
“During the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, Kilimnik provided the Russian Intelligence Services with sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy,” the Treasury Department said in a news release. “Additionally, Kilimnik sought to promote the narrative that Ukraine, not Russia, had interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”
new sanctions against Russia are in response to the Kremlin’s election interference, efforts to hack American government agencies and companies, and other acts of aggression against the United States.
The sanctions now make it extremely difficult for Mr. Kilimnik, who was indicted by the Justice Department in 2018 on charges of obstruction of justice, to engage in financial transactions that may involve the United States.
It is unclear how long American spy agencies have held the conclusion about Mr. Kilimnik. Senior Trump administration officials, fearing Mr. Trump’s wrath, repeatedly tried keep from the public any information that seemed to show Mr. Trump’s affinity for Russia or its president, Vladimir V. Putin.
that scrutinized the links between the Trump campaign and Russia — calling Mr. Kilimnik a “Russian intelligence officer.”
The report contained several significant redactions that appeared related to Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kilimnik but said that Mr. Manafort’s willingness to share the information with him “represented a grave counterintelligence threat.”
The report called the relationship between Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kilimnik “the single most direct tie between senior Trump campaign officials and the Russian intelligence services.”
The Senate report portrayed a Trump campaign stacked with businessmen and other advisers who had little government experience and “presented attractive targets for foreign influence, creating notable counterintelligence vulnerabilities.”
A New York Times article in 2017 said that there had been numerous interactions between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence during the year before the election. F.B.I. officials had disputed the report, but both the Senate report and the Treasury Department document confirm the article’s findings.
The assertion that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that sought to disrupt the 2016 election has long been both a Kremlin talking point and a claim by Mr. Trump that foreign actors tried to help his opponent, Hillary Clinton, rather than him.
is offering $250,000 for information that could lead to his arrest.
A New York State court on Tuesday dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed by the re-election campaign of Donald J. Trump against The New York Times Company, ruling that an opinion essay that argued there had been a “quid pro quo” between the candidate and Russian officials before the 2016 presidential election was protected speech.
The Times published the Op-Ed, written by Max Frankel, a former executive editor of The Times who was not named as a defendant in the suit, in March 2019 under the headline “The Real Trump-Russia Quid Pro Quo.” Mr. Frankel made the case that in “an overarching deal” before the 2016 election, Russian officials would help Mr. Trump defeat Hillary Clinton in exchange for his taking U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Russia direction.
Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign, Donald J. Trump for President Inc., filed the suit in New York State Supreme Court in February 2020, alleging defamation and accusing The Times of “extreme bias against and animosity toward” the campaign.
In his decision on Tuesday, Judge James E. d’Auguste noted three reasons for dismissal. He wrote that Mr. Frankel’s commentary was “nonactionable opinion,” meaning it was constitutionally protected speech; that the Trump campaign did not have standing to sue for defamation; and that the campaign had failed to show that The Times had published the essay with “actual malice.”
sued Gawker Media in 2012 over the publication of a sex video. That suit, secretly funded by the conservative tech investor Peter Thiel, resulted in a $140 million decision that prompted Gawker Media’s bankruptcy and sale.