Morning Update: All The President's Mess

Chaos inside the Trump White House, using Facebook to fuel a drug war, Amazon crosses the $1 trillion mark. Your BuzzFeed News newsletter, September 5.

A new book details Trump’s “total clown car” White House, raising questions about how long top staff can last

For President Donald Trump, it’s damaging books season. The latest comes from veteran reporter Bob Woodward and is called Fear: Trump in the White House.

The book details the chaos inside the administration to an extent not previously reported. Whatever turmoil you might imagine, Woodward’s book seems to confirm it.

What’s in the book? An excerpt tells how Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelly told other aides of Trump: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here.”

According to the book, Trump said his press conference after the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville was “the biggest fucking mistake,” and he called his own appointed attorney general “mentally retarded.” (Trump denies this.)

Here’s why this matters: Palace intrigue books are an American political tradition as old as time. However, books that spill inner tensions take on new significance for this White House, while it tries desperately to project unity. And yes, there are more juicy excerpts.

Don’t miss Tarini Parti’s analysis of the story — one source tells her that, given that many Trump loyalists are frustrated by the chief of staff, “people are going to start calling for Kelly's head.”

How Duterte used Facebook to fuel the Philippine drug war

The world changes far faster than you think. It was only in 2013 that Facebook began aggressively expanding in the Philippines.

In the short period since, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has exploited the platform’s algorithms to fuel his rise to power and support his deadly drug war.

This blockbuster report on the ways Duterte has used Facebook to make propaganda ubiquitous — and in the process, destroy lives — is so good.

A taste: “If you want to know what happens to a country that has opened itself entirely to Facebook, look to the Philippines. What happened there — what continues to happen there — is both an origin story for the weaponization of social media and a peek at its dystopian future.”

This story is about the Philippines, sure, but it’s also about this moment in the ethics of information. One former Facebook employee put it best: “I don’t think anyone had the foresight to ask, ‘What happens to a place when a lot of people only get their news and information from Facebook?’”


In a new email, Elon Musk accused a cave rescuer of being a “child rapist” and said he “hopes” there’s a lawsuit. A few weeks back, Musk called Vernon Unsworth, a British diver who was involved in rescuing a soccer team from a cave in Thailand, a “pedo.” He then apologized for that accusation. Now, in a series of emails to BuzzFeed News, Musk has repeated his original attacks — and made new claims, lambasting the rescuer as a “child rapist” who had moved to Thailand to take a child bride. Unsworth denied Musk's accusations through his attorney. It is unclear why Musk believes the allegations against Unsworth or what evidence he has to support them.

NBC has ordered a new Law & Order series focused on hate crimes. The 13-episode run from executive producer Dick Wolf will be based on New York City’s Hate Crimes Task Force. The Law & Order franchise is aiming to reflect the increase in hate crimes in large US cities. Dun dun.

Most fraternities are banning hard alcohol in response to drinking-related deaths. The new rules, announced by a national governing association, mean the majority of US frats will no longer allow drinks like tequila, vodka, and whiskey unless they are served by a licensed third-party vendor. The North-American Interfraternity Conference said the decision was reached “in a near unanimous vote,” and will affect 6,100 fraternity chapters on 800 campuses.

The Economist emailed #MeToo panelists to defend inviting Steve Bannon to its festival. Shortly after the New Yorker magazine disinvited the former Trump strategist from its own festival, the Economist took the initiative to email speakers to say it’s keeping Bannon on the bill, and that the booking was about “inviting views from all sides” to debate. When news of Bannon’s impending attendance was circulated widely, British journalist Laurie Penny and activist Ally Fogg — both scheduled to discuss the #MeToo movement — tweeted that they'd be boycotting the event.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop will pay $145,000 in a lawsuit over its misleading claims about jade vagina eggs. I’m put in the unusual position of explaining that Goop had advertised eggs made of rose quartz and jade, instructing women to stick them up their vaginas to help “increase sexual energy” and tone “vagina muscles.” The products and their claimed benefits prompted doctors to beg women not to follow that advice. Now, Goop has agreed to pay $145,000 in civil penalties in a consumer protection lawsuit over the claims. The company agreed to refund customers and to stop advertising the products as a remedy for health ailments. Goop said that though it disagreed with the prosecutors' arguments, and has admitted no wrongdoing, it entered the settlement in order to resolve the suit “quickly and amicably.”

Amazon just became the second public US company to hit $1 trillion

Buzz Aldrin was the second man to walk on the moon, and that’s not quite the first, but it’s still really cool. I don’t think he’s mad about it.

I imagine that’s how Amazon feels today: The online retail giant briefly crossed the $1 trillion in value mark, after Apple became the first public US company to hit the milestone last month.

Describing Amazon as “an online retail giant” is a bit of a shortcut: In the last few years, the company has acquired a string of online businesses from Audible to Zappos, and more recently Whole Foods.

It's also honing its logistics business with a last-mile delivery solution called Amazon Logistics, and it's competing with Facebook and Google in online advertising.

Not bad for a company that started as an online bookseller out of Jeff Bezos’s garage.

A Cosby Show actor celebrated the dignity of work after photos of him working at Trader Joe’s appeared online

Geoffrey Owens played Dr. Huxtable’s son-in-law Elvin Tibideaux on the long-running sitcom. Earlier this week, photos of him working at Trader Joe’s went viral.

Yesterday on Good Morning America, Owens said that, at first, he was devastated. Then something happened: He started receiving an overwhelming show of support from people online, including actors.

Celebrities and fans tweeted their messages for Owens, with many sharing their own stories about working additional jobs to support their careers.

People like Terry Crews (“I swept floors AFTER the NFL. If need be, I’d do it again.”), Pamela Adlon (“It’s about the work. Work gives you pride and purpose.”), and Tyler Perry (“I have so much respect for people who hustle between gigs.”) came to Owens’ defense.

Owens added that he knows the viral moment is going to pass, but “I hope what doesn’t pass is this idea that people are now thinking, this rethinking of what it means to work, the honor of the working person and the dignity of work.”