The Controversial Company That Put President Trump Back Online

Good morning! It’s time to get up!

After a few days of special reports on the killing of Andrew Brown Jr. in North Carolina, welcome back to your regularly scheduled newsletter.

FLORIDA MAN: Facebook’s independent Oversight Board announced this morning that former President Donald Trump will remain banned from the social media platform — for now.

The decision was expected to be final, but the board punted and said the company should review the issue and make a final call in six months. Trump was initially banned from both that site and his beloved Twitter after he encouraged the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Facebook asked the 20 member board, which was created by the company and includes a Nobel laureate and former prime minister of Denmark, to evaluate its Trump ban amid ongoing debate on whether deplatforming controversial political figures constitutes censorship or a necessary step to prevent further violence. 

Whatever happens with Facebook, Trump has found a way to get his messages to supporters — and baseless conspiracy theories about his election loss to President Biden — back online. And he’s doing it with the help of another tech company. 

On Tuesday, Trump launched a new website, “From The Desk Of Donald J. Trump,” with the help of his on-again, off-again political adviser Brad Parscale. The site, which many observers have noted is essentially a blog, features videos and the tweet-style musings that Trump had been emailing to reporters in the wake of his removal from social media. Those missives from the ex-president include false claims about the election. 

American Greatness Fund, a PAC started by Parscale in March, also launched a new site on Wednesday morning. The PAC’s “Election Integrity Alliance” is aimed at questioning “the integrity of the election in key states.” It is led by a board featuring a who’s who of Trumpworld figures including attorney Jenna Ellis and former White House adviser Seb Gorka. The alliance comes on the heels of Trump’s White House voter fraud commission, which he disbanded in 2018 after it found no evidence of fraud in the 2016 election. Arizona Republicans are also conducting a partisan and opaque audit of last year’s presidential election in that state, which cannot be overturned as it has already been certified by Congress. 

Despite claims by Trump and his allies, officials in all fifty states and from Trump’s own administration have confirmed there was absolutely no legitimate evidence of widespread fraud in last year’s election.

Trump’s personal site and the “Election Integrity Alliance” are both apparently hosted by Cloudflare, a web infrastructure and security company. Cloudflare has previously come under fire for hosting neo Nazi websites, providing security for pages linked to terrorist organizations, and hosting the forum that played a key role in spreading debunked QAnon conspiracy theories. The company’s CEO, Matt Prince, has described himself as “almost a free-speech absolutist,” and said he hopes to create a space that’s immune from “pressure” to police content.

Both Parscale and Cloudflare did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Uprising. 

GOTHAM: New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer is still trying to turn a third place campaign that was rocked by sexual harassment allegations into a first place campaign that was rocked by sexual harassment allegations. Despite losing a slew of key endorsers, Stringer is fighting to stay in the race ahead of the decisive Democratic primary on June 22. 

According to a woman named Jean Kim, Stringer groped her and made unwanted advances when she worked as an “unpaid intern” on his 2001 campaign for public advocate. Stringer has said his relationship with Kim was consensual and vehemently denied her claims. His team has fought back in recent days by saying Kim was “working” for one of his opponents, frontrunner Andrew Yang, earlier this year. Kim has denied this, but the Stringer campaign distributed petitions she filed to help Yang get on the ballot. The Intercept also published a report on Tuesday detailing evidence that calls some of Kim’s story into question. Kim’s attorney, Patricia Pastor, has essentially admitted it may have been inaccurate to describe her as an unpaid intern.

On Tuesday evening, Jonathan Boucher, the chief of staff to City Councilman Steve Levin, who has backed another mayoral candidate, Maya Wiley, tweeted out a poll he received that seemed to test some of the defensive messages Stringer and his allies might use to keep him afloat. 

“Scott Stringer says he has been falsely accused and isn’t getting to tell his side of the story. His opponents are demanding Stringer apologize, but he doesn’t know how to apologize for something he didn’t do,” the poll said, later adding: “After reading this statement, does Scott Stringer’s response reduce the concerns you may have about these sexual harassment allegations a lot, somewhat, a little, or not at all?”

Boucher told The Uprising he received the poll via a cell phone text message. The message and the site — which was only accessible to the initial recipient — did not indicate who put out the survey. Boucher provided screengrabs of the polls, which asked readers to rank various candidates before a series of questions about the scandal. Some of the queries highlighted evidence that allegedly calls Kim’s claims into question including that she, “wrote a master’s thesis two years ago in which she said she had never experienced anything like this.” 

Stringer’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Multiple veteran strategists have told The Uprising that sending out a survey widely via text message would be a questionable move for the Stringer campaign, if it did indeed come from his team.

“In today’s world, you should always be prepared for the details of a survey to leak,” one New York City pollster said. “For a subject as sensitive as this, forgoing a telephone survey in favor of something in favor of something that’s easily screen-captured? That’s playing with fire.” 

911: I have returned to The Uprising Headquarters in D.C., but I still plan to continue covering the killing of Andrew Brown Jr. in North Carolina. Today, there’s another new update on two key aspects of the case. 

Attorneys for Brown’s family have accused the sheriff’s deputies who shot Brown, a Black man, of acting “recklessly” when they opened fire while attempting to serve a felony drug warrant at his home on April 21. An independent autopsy conducted by the Brown family’s legal team concluded he was shot five times, including once in the back of the head, and a neighbor claimed a stray bullet cut through his home across the street. 

Famed civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is a member of Brown’s team, told The Uprising he wants to know whether the local police in Elizabeth City, North Carolina were notified that the Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies were planning to send a SWAT-style tactical team to Brown’s residential street. The sheriff’s department has said this was justified because Brown “was a convicted felon” who “has been arrested previously on multiple occasions for resisting arrest.”Crump has argued that would add to the need for support from the local police department. 

Elizabeth City Police Chief Eddie Buffaloe told the Uprising that his department was not notified that a warrant was being served at Brown’s home.

Brown’s attorneys are pressing local authorities to release body camera footage of the shooting. There were also Ring doorbell cameras in Brown’s home that have gone missing since his arrest. Buffaloe said his officers did not take those cameras — or any other evidence — from the scene. The sheriff’s department did not respond to requests for comment about whether it is in possession of the cameras. 

According to the Brown family’s legal team, North Carolina’s State Bureau of Investigations has contacted Ring to see if the company has footage stored from the cameras. The SBI has declined to comment on the case, citing the ongoing investigation. Ring, which has a controversial history of partnering with police departments, has not responded to questions about the case.

FUN FACT: There is a local legend in Elizabeth City that the pirate Blackbeard frequented a brick house in the town where he kidnapped and killed local women. That bit of local lore is almost certainly not true. But the pirate did have an extensive history in the region including the epic final battle in 1718 where he was killed by the British Navy near an island in North Carolina’s Outer Banks.