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Lawyer Lisa Bloom Paid Women to Accuse President Trump of Sexual Assault?

Readers were confused by a story reporting Bloom offered financial assistance to clients, even though she never denied it.

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On 15 December 2017, The Hill, a web site devoted to Capitol Hill news and commentary, posted an article reporting that prominent Los Angeles-based women’s rights attorney Lisa Bloom had offered money to women who were considering going public with accusations against President Donald Trump regarding sexual harassment and assault:

California lawyer Lisa Bloom’s efforts included offering to sell alleged victims’ stories to TV outlets in return for a commission for herself, arranging a donor to pay off one Trump accuser’s mortgage and attempting to secure a six-figure payment for another woman who ultimately declined to come forward after being offered as much as $750,000, the clients told The Hill.

The women’s accounts were chronicled in contemporaneous contractual documents, emails and text messages reviewed by The Hill, including an exchange of texts between one woman and Bloom that suggested political action committees supporting Hillary Clinton were contacted during the effort.

That story was aggregated and reported widely across a range of conservative web sites and news outlets, from the influential Fox News cable channel to clickbait sites such as ConservativeFiringLine.com. For roughly two weeks, however, legacy news organizations steered clear of of the story — until 31 December 2017, when the New York Times reported that partisans from both sides of the political spectrum were offering money in exchange for career-ending accusations of sexual misconduct against their rivals. At the time, women (and some men) were engaged in the #MeToo movement and were outing powerful men such as Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and NBC News anchor Matt Lauer as predators. Multiple legislators were pressured by allegations of sexual misconduct to resign or retire, including two prominent Democrats, Rep. John Conyers and Sen. Al Franken.

Neither Bloom nor her client Jill Harth (the only Trump accuser named in the story) denied that money was paid. Both sent statements to TheHill.com confirming that Bloom set up a GoFundMe for Harth and facilitated a donation that paid off the mortgage on Harth’s apartment in Queens. They also accused The Hill of launching a partisan attack against them on behalf of President Trump.

Apparently nonplussed by the dramatic back-and-forth and deeply politicized nature of the story, readers wrote to us asking whether the allegations were true, as exemplified by this e-mail we received on 18 December 2017:

Supposedly Lisa Bloom, daughter of attorney Gloria Allred, has been trying to pay women to make false claims of sexual assaults against President Trump. Any truth to this?

The claim was true (and Bloom is indeed famed women’s rights lawyer Gloria Allred’s daughter), but Vince Gonzales, journalism professor at the University of Southern California (USC), told us the story caused confusion because readers were unsure what to believe in light of the revelation:

What they’re asking is, if this is true does it then call the accuser’s account into question? The answer is no, but the sad part is they’re not wrong in asking those questions. That’s the place where your mind goes — is this person doing this because they feel it’s important or because they feel it’s an opportunity for personal gain?

Gonzales pointed to a 9 November 2017 article from the Washington Post in which multiple women accused then-Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore of either molesting them or coming on to them sexually when he was in his thirties and they were but teens. Moore, a Republican, lost that election in an upset victory for his Democratic rival. Gonzales said the reason the Post story was powerful was because although Moore supporters tried to trick Alabama voters into thinking the women were paid to come forward, no credible proof ever surfaced that was the case:

To this day no one can say any of those accusers were given anything for telling their story and that’s what made it so hard to refute in a deep red state where Moore was so well respected.

You want the people who speak out to be white knights, to have only the public’s interest in mind when coming forward. As soon as there’s any money changing hands and it turns out there are major donors or political actors in play, whether it impacted their statements or not, it calls it into question.

Attorney and Chapman University School of Law professor Ron Rotunda told us it is not ethical for attorneys to make financial arrangements offering clients money because it creates the perception that a witness has been paid off to testify (in a manner contrary to the truth):

These victims have serious stories to tell and we have to get justice for them. But we undercut that when people are paid money for their testimony. It taints it. If this were a jury trial, you’d have to ask [a witness], “You got x-thousand dollars to say this?” and from there it’s not hard to connect the dots when there are only two dots.

The problem is, if a real victim accepts a payoff it undercuts their story. That’s just a fact of life.

But Jill Harth told us she didn’t net any personal gain from the fact that her story became public. She highlighted the pain she suffered after her 1997 lawsuit accusing Trump of forcing her into a bedroom at Mar-a-Lago and attempting to rape her came to light during the 2016 campaign cycle:

I lost jobs for the whole year of 2016. I was so upset I couldn’t focus. I lost friends, clients — that donation helped me to survive. They are making it sound like this was all a plot for money. That is not true.

Harth told us the fact that Bloom set up a GoFundMe account that raised $2,317 on her behalf and arranged for a donor to pay off her mortgage does not affect the veracity of her story. She pointed out she was never given a choice about going public: she was identified by reporters amid the tumultuous campaign who dug up her old lawsuit (which she had dropped so that her then-husband could settle a separate lawsuit against Trump).

Harth told us she was angry and felt betrayed by The Hill’s reporting, which she described as “tabloidesque” and “a hit piece,” saying that “They’re definitely making it harder for anyone to come forward [with sexual abuse allegations] because look what they’re putting me through. This was retaliation and a direct way to discredit me.”

Harth pointed to a follow-up article that described an email she sent to then-candidate Trump in 2015 offering to do his makeup, noting that story had already been reported by the Guardiana year earlier. Harth said she felt the story had no news value and was intended to make her look bad:

[In 2015] I was older wiser, stronger, smarter. I didn’t think [Trump] would ever mess with me again, especially since he was a married man, and older. I thought he would have calmed down. To me, I was over it. I was thinking as a businesswoman and taking a page out of his book— think big.

Obviously it was a bad idea because they used it all against me. It is Infuriating and hurtful and a malicious attempt to discredit me.

We called The Hill’s managing editor Bob Cusack and left a message noting we wanted to ask about Harth’s comments, but in response we received only a call from a third-party public relations firm. High Ten Media’s Lisa Dallas gave us the following statement: “The Hill stands by its story completely.”

Bloom sent us a statement saying that donors offered the money to ensure the safety of women she was representing:

Most people do not get paid for interviews. But some shows will offer a few thousand dollars to license photos, or for an appearance fee. When my client is a single mother, unemployed, in dire need of therapy, on the verge of bankruptcy or all of the above, she may choose to do an interview with the outlet that will compensate her. A few thousand dollars hardly levels the playing field against a billionaire like Donald Trump, but it helps a little, and I leave that decision to my client, after she’s been fully vetted for veracity.

Due to an unexpected turn of events, donors also reached out to help some of my clients last year.

That “unexpected turn of events” was a 2 November 2016 press conference at Bloom’s Los Angeles office, in which a woman accusing Trump of raping her when she was 13 years old was a no-show. Bloom said the woman backed out abruptly because of death and rape threats:

The cancelled press conference was widely reported. Multiple donors then contacted me out of the blue with offers to ensure the safety of women who might still come forward. I can say unequivocally that we did not communicate with Hillary Clinton nor anyone from her campaign. As an attorney I was obligated to relay those offers of funds for relocation to a safer community and round the clock security, and I was happy to do it. And I offered what people come to me for — my opinion and advice. My clients wanted to tell their stories, and now here was a safer way to do it.

Two weeks after the story was published, the New York Times followed it up with a report about the infusion of big donor money as political operatives worked to leverage the #MeToo movement in an effort to thwart enemies:

Gloria Allred, a high-profile women’s rights lawyer and Democratic donor, is raising money to fund a lawsuit against Mr. Trump by a woman who says he sexually assaulted her. The woman, Summer Zervos, has filed a defamation suit against the president that could force Mr. Trump to respond to sexual misconduct accusations made in the closing weeks of the campaign by a raft of women.

And a nonprofit group founded by the Democratic activist David Brock, which people familiar with the arrangements say secretly spent $200,000 on an unsuccessful effort to bring forward accusations of sexual misconduct against Mr. Trump before Election Day, is considering creating a fund to encourage victims to bring forward similar claims against Republican politicians.

Activists on the right are also involved. In November, the Trump-backing social media agitator Mike Cernovich offered to pay $10,000 for details of any congressional sexual harassment settlements, and said on Twitter that he would cover the expenses of “any VICTIM of a Congressman who wants to come forward to tell her story.” Shortly before posting that offer, a source provided Mr. Cernovich with a copy of a sexual harassment settlement that led in December to the resignation of Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, until then the longest-serving member of the House.

Both Gonzales and Rotunda cautioned that spending large sums of money in an effort to coax potential accusers to come forward can lead to a toxic political arena that discredits real victims, while creating a mentality that anything goes so long as one brings down their opponent. Rotunda told us that:

My concern is, we have a lot of legitimate victims and we want to reform the system and to the extent this draws out other people with fake stories, that hurts real victims. We want to try and clean this up — we don’t want this to be just a way to get at a particular politician.

Gonzales said that political operatives who insert themselves into stories take the focus away from the abuse a victim suffered, negating the social value of the story:

It’s a zero-sum game, but it’s a very short term gain. If you’re a political donor who gets involved and if the story is true, you become the story. You become the political motivation behind the story and then people no longer have to focus on the allegations. That’s the danger.

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9 Crazy Facts About Larry Ellison’s Hawaiian Island

lanai island hawaii

Oracle cofounder Larry Ellison — who stepped down from his position as CEO on Sept. 18 — bought a 97% stake in the Hawaiian island of Lanai in 2012. The reported sale price was a jaw-dropping $300 million.

The transition of ownership has been controversial among residents, as the island has played a number of roles in a fascinating history stretching hundreds of years.

We’ve rounded up some of the most interesting facts you may not have known about this tiny Hawaiian island.

1. Lanai is known as the “Pineapple Island” because it once was home to a plantation that produced 75% of the world’s pineapples.

In 1922, pineapple tycoon James Drummond Dole purchased most of the island of Lanai for $1.1 million, an enormous sum of money for the time. He plowed the fields, created a harbor, and laid out a small town in the island’s center to house Dole employees. According to the New York Times, the island was exporting 65,000 tons of pineapples a year by 1930.

Production ended in 1992, a few years after ownership of the island had transferred to David Murdock, who had acquired Castle & Cooke and Dole Foods’ holdings in Lanai. Much of Lanai City has retained the vintage feel it acquired when Dole created his company town.

lanaiDis N’ Dat sells Hawaiian jewelry in Lanai City.Atelier Teee / Flickr

2. Before that, it was owned by sheep-farming Mormons.

Mormons started settling on Lanai in the 1860s, led by a controversial figurehead named Walter Murray Gibson. He built a Mormon colony in the interior of the island, fraudulently paying for the land with the church’s money though he put the titles in his own name. Gibson was later excommunicated, and many Mormons moved to Lai’e, where they built a still-thriving community.

3. According to local Hawaiian legend, Lanai was ruled by the god of nightmares for thousands of years.

lanaiThe Garden of the Gods, a popular attraction in Lanai.Andy Beal Photography / Flickr

Legend has it that a teenage chief from Maui was sent to Lanai to be punished for his bad behavior. In retaliation, he killed the nightmare god who ruled Lanai. Then he lit a fire, which the people in Maui saw and interpreted as a signal that it was safe to come to Lanai.

One of the most popular tourist attractions on Lanai is the Garden of the Gods, an interesting red lava formation in the northern part of the island. Hawaiian legend says that the formations were created by gods who had dropped rocks from the sky while tending their gardens.

4. Lanai is the sixth-largest of the Hawaiian islands, but only about 3,200 people live there.

lanai roadStarr Environmental / Flickr

Most of the population lives in Lanai City, a small collection of buildings in the center of the island. Lanai City is really the only area of the island that can be classified as a town, and many of the island’s businesses are centered around the town square. There’s only one school, Lanai High and Elementary School, where residents attend kindergarten through 12th grade.

5. There are no traffic lights anywhere on the island.

Lanai is, for the most part, 141 square miles of  rocky coasts and barren scrub. There’s only a total of 30 miles of roads, and not a single traffic light on the entire island.

6. There are few natural predators on the island, so some animal populations grow unchecked.

lanai catsFeral cats find a home at the Lanai Animal Rescue Center.travelswithtwo / Flickr

In one memorable example from an upcoming low-budget documentary on Lanai, French-Canadian filmmaker Henry Jolicoeur visits an animal-rescue shelter that houses up to 380 feral cats. According to an employee at the shelter, the cats have no natural predators on Lanai, so they continue to multiply.

7. Ellison owns a third of all the houses and apartments on the island.four seasons lanaiThe Four Seasons at Manele Bay, which Ellison owns.Courtesy of Four Seasons

When Ellison bought 97% of the island in 2012, he took over pretty much everything. That includes small, local businesses — restaurants, shops, galleries, and markets — and large businesses like the two Four Seasons hotels on the island. He owns two golf courses, the community swimming pool, the water company, and a cemetery. He also owns nearly a third of all of the island’s housing. The rest is owned by the government.

8. All public transportation is supplied by the island’s hotels.

Lanai is small enough that there’s no established public transportation system. There’s a ferry that can shuttle visitors between the island and Maui, located just eight miles to the east, but otherwise guests have to rely on cars or hotel vans to get around.

9. Ellison reportedly bought out fellow tech billionaire Bill Gates.

Ellison isn’t the only tech billionaire to have an interest in the island. Bill and Melinda Gates got married here on New Year’s Day in 1994, reportedly during a ceremony that took place on the 17th hole of the Four Seasons’ golf course, which looks out over the Pacific Ocean. The ceremony was so secretive that the couple booked all of the rooms at the hotel to keep reporters from coming. Gates had reportedly expressed interest in purchasing Lanai before Ellison snatched it up.

 

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Out Orrin? Who’s vying for Hatch’s Senate seat in Utah?

The inevitable has happened.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, announced his retirement on Tuesday to kick off the new year and giving up his pro tempore status as the third in line for the presidency.

 “Every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves,” Hatch said in a video on Tuesday afternoon. “For me, that is soon approaching.”

Hatch’s retirement was up in the air for some time. Before his announcement, there was chatter within Republican circles that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who is a resident of Holladay, Utah — a detail that was added to his Twitter bio Tuesday afternoon — would certainly throw his hat into the race if Hatch stepped aside. Looks like his window is open. He hasn’t announced that he’s officially running, but he released a statement thanking Hatch for his service.

If Romney runs, he would be the obvious favorite in the state he won by almost 48 points during the 2012 presidential election against former President Barack Obama. As of December 2017, Romney held a 69 percent approval rating. He’s liked by 81 percent of Republicans, 50 percent of Democrats, and 61 percent of Independents.

But there are more people than just Romney who plan to run for Hatch’s seat.

Of all the possible candidates, only one Republican, Chris Forbush, and two Democrats, businessman Mitchell Viceand Salt Lake City Councilwoman Jenny Wilson, have either declared they’re running or announced they’re seeking an exploratory committee in preparation for running.

If Romney does run, he’ll have to worry about the possible candidacy of Dan Liljenquist, who ran against Hatch in the 2012 Republican primaries. Liljenquist, who served in the Utah state Senate, has actually posed the strongest challenge to Hatch, winning over 40 percent of the delegate vote in the state convention.

Others like former Rep. Jason Chaffetz and former 2016 presidential candidate Evan McMullin — who’s already endorsed Romney — have dismissed they’ll run in 2018. However, U.S. Ambassador to Russia and former Republican Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman as well as Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, could be a thorn in Romney’s side should they decide to run as well.

But, for now, it would be Romney’s race to lose, should he want to run — which he most definitely does. If it turns out that Romney becomes the next sitting senator from Utah, expect him to exact his revenge on President Trump for passing him over as secretary of state with some grandstanding and obstruction on important pieces of legislation should Republicans maintain control of the Senate beyond the 2018 midterms.

 

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Frank Gore opens up on time with 49ers, ‘I never wanted to leave’

gore-us.jpg
USATSI

Frank Gore, at 34 years old, has one game left in his 13th season in the NFL. He becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year.

After spending the first 10 years of his career with the 49ers, the running back has kept on gaining yards on the ground for the Colts over the past three seasons, totaling 861 this year.

On Christmas, Peter King of the Monday Morning Quarterbackpublished a long sit-down conversation with Gore where the two talked about his college days at Miami, falling in the draft with a bag full of injuries, his time with the 49ers, how he has stayed productive in his later years, and much more. Gore said the following about the 49ers:

When [Jim] Harbaugh came to the Niners [in 2011], everything changed. His attitude basically was, We don’t give a F about anyone. Players, we loved that. Scot McCloughan basically built that team [as personnel director/GM for five years, starting in 2005], and it was a team of tough MF-ers. I respect coach Harbaugh a lot. We had a bunch of guys who loved football. Like at Miami.

[In 2011], we started 2-1 and went to Philly to play the Dream Team. I didn’t even know I’d play that game. I hurt my ankle against Cincinnati [the previous week] and I couldn’t practice. I rehabbed, rehabbed, rehabbed. I went out there to see if I could go before the game. I got in the game, but it was a struggle. Down 17-3 at halftime, I think. Me and Patrick Willis looking around, trying to figure out what would happen. We’re in trouble, man. Coach Harbaugh didn’t think it was trouble. He just said, We gotta make adjustments. We will make adjustments. Strike fast. Change things up. We will win this game. So we went out there, scored right away. I was making some big runs. I made the winning run.

We go on in ’13 to beat Atlanta in the NFC Championship Game and make the Super Bowl. Best years of my life. I loved that team. Harbaugh, man, straightforward guy. If he thought you were full of s—, he’d tell you, and you’re not going to be on his team.

I have loved it here [Indianapolis]. I miss San Francisco. I never wanted to leave.

The 49ers selected Gore No. 65 overall in the 2005 NFL Draft. Five other running backs were picked ahead of him that year. In 10 years with 49ers, Gore rushed for 11,073 yards on 2,442 carries to average 4.5 yards per carried. He totaled 75 touchdowns with the 49ers.

Over his 13-year career, Gore has rushed for 13,926 yards, good for fifth all time.

 

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How To Create A Culture Of Gratitude In The Workplace

With the holidays in full swing, it’s easy to think of reasons you’re grateful. But what happens when the lights come down, the Christmas trees sit discarded on the side of the road, and the New Year’s resolutions diets begin? Suddenly, it’s not so easy anymore. Instead, you’ve got an office full of employees with post-vacation blues.

Here at Lucid, we’ve tried to foster gratitude in the workplace, regardless of the time of year. And not just one-off displays of gratitude here and there but an ongoing culture. According to UC Davis psychology professor and author Robert Emmons, gratitude is a basic human requirement—and since we spend most of our waking hours at the office, giving and receiving thanks at work becomes pretty important. And don’t forget the science-backed benefits of gratitude—it increases productivity, job satisfaction, and physical and mental health.

Here’s a quick look at what I’ve learned along Lucid’s journey to a culture of gratitude—and hopefully other executive teams can use our journey as an example to help shape their own cultures.

1. Lead by example: A culture of gratitude starts from the top. If leadership takes the time to recognize the modest acts that can so easily go unnoticed throughout the company, it encourages others to do the same. People might feel uncomfortable calling out the sometimes seemingly insignificant things people do. But it’s a snowball effect—the more you express gratitude, the more natural and almost subconscious it becomes.

2. Make it specific: Try to avoid blanket expressions of gratitude—say thank you for something specific.  Here at Lucid, we are big fans of diagrams. This year, we created a company-wide gratitude flowchart as a gift for employees. It contains a personal note of gratitude for every single employee from their manager. Each note contains specifics on what that employee contributes to Lucid. Calling out the specifics means so much more.

Gratitude FlowchartLucid

This holiday, each employee received a copy of our gratitude flowchart.

3. Do it daily: Gratitude needs to be authentic. If you stand up at the company meeting once a quarter and rattle off a scripted thank you, your employees will see right through that half-hearted attempt, and it’s not going to mean much. So instead make it a daily habit. Set a goal to thank someone for something specific each day.  When you take the time to go out of your way to do so, people will know you are genuine, and you’ll see significant improvements to company morale.

4. Look for humility: “Teamwork Over Ego” is painted on a wall at our new building.  Teamwork over ego is one of our core values, and it means our employees always acknowledge that the success they achieve is never something they accomplish alone.   It comes down to humility, and that is a trait I look for when recruiting and hiring. We want our employees to consistently recognize and thank those who play a part in their achievements. Teamwork over ego is crucial to our culture here at Lucid and is something we have consciously fostered and are proud of.

Teamwork over egoLucid

We value teamwork over ego.

5. Give back: We try and provide ample opportunities for employees to give back in order to express gratitude for the privileges we enjoy as a company. Some of our employees give up their lunch breaks to participate in the Meals on Wheels program. Others are heavily involved in STEM initiatives, such as Code for Success. Each year we participate in the Silicon Slopes Startup Santa program.

In addition to these formal programs, we try to let employees come up with their own initiatives. When Hurricane Harvey hit, one of our employees put together a fundraiser for the families of employees who had been impacted. Lucid matched the donations, raising over $20K.  A culture of gratitude helps people realize how truly fortunate they are and instills a desire to pay that forward.

6. Recognize the big and small: It’s easy to take note of new product features or the latest closed deals, but it’s much harder to pick out the employee who took on an extra project for a sick co-worker or the office manager who spent her weekend hand-cutting Halloween decorations to put up Monday morning. But all of the above should be recognized. Be aware that gratitude for the smaller actions often needs to be encouraged at the team level. We ask our managers to constantly be aware of how they can recognize the behind-the-scenes actions—one strategy we have found helpful is providing gift cards that managers can distribute to team members.

7. Have the conversation: You have to start somewhere, and sometimes that means just having the conversation at your organization to highlight that a shift in culture is needed. I give full credit to our People Operations team for getting the ball rolling at Lucid. They came to me and suggested that we thank people more for the big and small acts, and from there, we started developing ways to make this possible. The progress we have made towards our culture of gratitude is because of their decision to bring it to attention.

8. Provide avenues for gratitude: A culture of gratitude isn’t built in a day. But you can help it gain traction by making it easy for employees to express their thanks. They can be simple gestures—our office managers keep thank you cards available at the front desk for anyone to use (because a handwritten note means worlds more than an email). We send cards for birthdays, weddings, and other life events—demonstrating that you care about an employee’s personal life indicates your gratitude for them in the workplace.

Our People Ops team created a Slack channel called “Fist Bumps” where employees can publicly call out co-workers’ demonstrations of hard work, teamwork, etc., and once a month, we have a fist bump winner who receives a gift card. The channel encourages employees to pay attention to what goes on around them as they look for specific actions to recognize. Participation in the channel continues to grow.

At the larger level, we have our “Lucidite of the Quarter” program. Employees nominate individuals who they feel exhibit our core values, and executives pick one Lucidite per quarter to receive the traveling trophy and cash bonus at company update. When our office manager won, she received a standing ovation. I know it helped everyone realize just how much she does to keep the company running behind the scenes—all the early mornings, late nights, and weekends. The award helps employees to take a moment to stop and reflect on whom they are grateful for and why.

9. Don’t just recognize, but thank: Let people take ownership of projects, but don’t forget about the follow-up. And although it might seem obvious, don’t just recognize someone for what they accomplished—actually express gratitude for all the work they put into it.

10. Take time to reflect: Sometimes the key to being grateful is simply slowing down. Stop running around long enough to think about how you got to where you are. As soon as you do so, you’ll realize pretty quickly all the help you’ve had. It’s easy to lose sight of that when you get caught up in the day-to-day grind.

Get a jumpstart on your culture of gratitude now—while there’s still ample gingerbread, candy canes, and Mariah Carey to go around. That way, even after the holiday hype fades, you can keep it going, one thank you at a time.

 

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Opinion: Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt Sails Off Before the Storm

Eric Schmidt is sailing off before a storm. The Alphabet executive chairman is leaving his post as the $740 billion parent of search and advertising giant Google heads towards a showdown with European regulators. Hiring a strong, independent chairwoman would reflect well on co-founders and controlling shareholders Larry Page and Sergey Brin in more ways than one.

Schmidt is the former Sun Microsystems executive who joined Google in 2001 before it became a household verb for searching on the web. Page and Brin were greenhorns who wisely realized they needed an adult in the room to steer the firm toward public life. While Schmidt was their man, Page and Brin managed to keep an iron grip on Alphabet with super-voting shares, setting a new standard for Silicon Valley’s 21st century upstarts.

Alphabet today dominates search, digital advertising, and mobile through its Android operating system, to such an extent it has drawn the ire of the European Commission. Under Margrethe Vestager, the competition commissioner, watchdogs slapped Alphabet with a $2.8 billion fine in the summer for favoring its own shopping price comparison service over rivals.

More can be expected, especially as new rules concerning privacy come into effect next year that will hamstring Google, Facebook and others from using consumer data without consent. Similarly, Brussels is trying to determine whether Android is giving Google another portal to unfairly push its own businesses, squelching potential rivals.

Schmidt, who will continue to serve as an advisor, said he plans to spend more time on science and technology issues and philanthropy. Upcoming regulatory challenges, the elevation of Sundar Pichai as Google’s CEO – squeezing four into a triumvirate – could have been a factor. Still, the timing of the announcement in the early evening a few days before Christmas raised eyebrows.

Either way, Page and Brin now have an opportunity. There are few females in U.S. corporate leadership positions, especially at technology companies. Pichai sent out an awkward memo about gender stereotypes earlier this year. Nominating a woman to replace Schmidt would allow the Google founders to provide Silicon Valley with a new blueprint – and a formidable counterparty to Vestager.

On Twitter https://twitter.com/jennifersaba

 

CONTEXT NEWS

– Alphabet said on Dec. 21 that Eric Schmidt is stepping down as executive chairman at its next board meeting in January 2018. He will become a technical advisor to the company while continuing to serve on the board.

– “In recent years, I’ve been spending a lot of my time on science and technology issues, and philanthropy, and I plan to expand that work,” Schmidt said in a statement. He has been with the company since 2001.

– For previous columns by the author, Reuters customers can click on

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(Editing by Rob Cox and Katrina Hamlin)

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Robert Mueller just pulled an ace from his sleeve, and Donald Trump’s team just flinched

What, you thought Special Counsel Robert Mueller was just going to sit back and risk the possibility that Donald Trump might try to fire him? Mueller dropped a bomb on Trump’s entire team on Saturday night, and he did it in public. It came largely in the form of a warning: back off or you’re all immediately going down, because I have far more dirt on all of you than you know. Less than an hour later, the Trump team indeed predictably flinched in equally public fashion.

It all began around around 5pm on Saturday when Axios reported that Mueller has been sitting on fifty thousand emails from the Trump transition team all along (link). Mueller had kept this a secret, and had tricked Trump’s people into a false sense of security by requesting copies of the emails that he already had. Trump’s people only turned over the non-incriminating emails, and thought they were covered. This means he has a whole lot of people nailed for various crimes. If Trump tries to make a move, Mueller can begin arresting them all before Trump can complete the complicated process of trying to fire him.

Mueller was sending a message that if Trump tried to get him fired, he would immediately make a move on everyone involved in those emails. In the process, Mueller was also hinting that he’s been sitting on incriminating evidence against pretty much everyone involved, likely including Trump’s current White House advisers. It was a tacit demand that Trump’s people find a way to make sure he doesn’t fire Mueller. As Palmer Report explained at the time (link), this move left Trump’s team with only one option: back down, and quickly.

Sure enough, less than an hour later, Donald Trump’s team made an announcement that Trump has no intention of firing Robert Mueller, according to a CNN report (link). This reads like a clear attempt on the part of Trump’s team to signal to Mueller that they can indeed keep Trump under control, and that there’s no need for Mueller to release the proverbial kraken on them. If Trump and his people do end up making any further threatening gestures in Mueller’s direction, look for even more leaks about the other aces Mueller has up his sleeve. He’ll keep taking increasingly damaging warning shots until they back down and let him do his job.

 

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