Hillicon Valley: Trump steps up attacks on Google | Amazon pushes back at Bernie Sanders | Sinclair files counter-lawsuit against Tribune | Republicans seize on Ohr interview | Facebook's conservative employees speak out

Hillicon Valley: Trump steps up attacks on Google | Amazon pushes back at Bernie Sanders | Sinclair files counter-lawsuit against Tribune | Republicans seize on Ohr interview | Facebook's conservative employees speak out
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Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill's newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley.

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TRUMP TELLS GOOGLE TO GET WITH IT: President TrumpDonald TrumpMeghan McCain: Democrats 'should give a little credit' to Trump for COVID-19 vaccine Trump testing czar warns lockdowns may be on table if people don't get vaccinated Overnight Health Care: CDC details Massachusetts outbreak that sparked mask update | White House says national vaccine mandate 'not under consideration at this time' MORE on Wednesday shared a video that showed Google advertising former President Obama's State of the Union speeches but not his, escalating his battle with the tech giant over what he claims is bias against conservatives.

Trump shared the video with the caption "#StopTheBias."

"For years, Google promoted President Obama's State of the Union on its homepage. When President Trump took office, Google stopped," the video reads, followed by a 25-second montage showing Google's home page the night of each State of the Union speech dating back to 2012.

Trump has in recent days taken on Google as part of broader attacks on social media companies over what he claims is anti-conservative bias.

"I think Google and Facebook and Twitter, I think they treat conservatives and Republicans very unfairly," Trump told reporters on Wednesday. He, however, demurred when asked if he would consider regulating Google and other companies. "We just want fairness. We're just going to see," Trump said. 

Read more here.



Google's explains: Google said the search engine did promote Trump's 2018 State of the Union speech on the Google homepage. The search engine acknowledged that it did not promote the speech in 2017.

"We have historically not promoted the first address to Congress by a new President, which is technically not a State of the Union address," a spokesperson told The Hill. "As a result, we didn't include a promotion on google.com for this address in either 2009 or 2017.

Senate Intel also wants answers: The Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday said that it has invited Alphabet CEO Larry Page to testify on foreign influence operations being carried out on social media ahead of November's midterms.

The panel said it had invited executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google to testify, and that only Google has failed to confirm. The statement is the latest in the back-and-forth between Senate Intelligence and Google, which is owned by Alphabet.

From a committee spox: "The purpose of this hearing is to hear from senior leadership making the decisions, not those operationalizing them; as such, the Committee declined to hear from Mr. Walker again," the spokesperson said. "As Chairman Burr has stated, if Google's senior leadership chooses not to be part of the solution to this pressing national security threat, that is their decision to make. However, it is the Committee's hope that they will decide to participate in next week's hearing."

Read more here.


EITHER, OHR: House Republicans say the closed-door testimony of Justice Department (DOJ) official Bruce Ohr on Tuesday has heightened their concerns that federal authorities abused surveillance powers during the 2016 presidential election.

GOP lawmakers, trickling in and out of the roughly eight-hour interview, claimed Ohr indicated in his testimony that FBI officials knew more information than they led on in their application to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

Ohr, whom Republicans described as cooperative in his testimony on Tuesday, has come under increasing GOP scrutiny for his contacts with intelligence firm Fusion GPS and former British spy Christopher Steele, who were behind an opposition research dossier on President Trump.

"Thus far, [Ohr] has done nothing but exacerbate my concerns that the FISA process has been abused," Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeUFOs are an intriguing science problem; Congress must act accordingly How transparency on UFOs can unite a deeply divided nation Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting MORE (R-Texas), a House Judiciary Committee member, told The Hill.

House Republicans have long questioned whether federal authorities leaned too much on the dossier assembled by Steele and Fusion GPS, a controversial document containing a series of salacious allegations on the then-GOP candidate's ties to Russia. Now, House Republicans are suggesting the FBI withheld key information in their application in order to obtain a warrant.

"Not only did the FBI know that the dossier was unverified, but they also knew there was real credibility issues or it would never end up in a courtroom because of the inherent way it was collected and the bias that was associated with that," said Rep. Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsTrump takes two punches from GOP Watchdog urges Justice to probe Trump, Meadows for attempting to 'weaponize' DOJ Washington Post calls on Democrats to subpoena Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Meadows for testimony on Jan. 6 MORE (R-N.C.), one of the fiercest DOJ critics, noting that lawmakers have to verify such claims.

The FBI used Steele as a source in their application to obtain a surveillance warrant on Page, according to the heavily redacted FISA application released by the Department of Justice last month. While the bureau noted in their application that Steele was a credible source who was likely "looking for information that could be used to discredit" Trump's campaign, they still deemed him as "reliable." The FBI continued to view Steele as reliable even after the bureau ended its relationship with him as a source over his unauthorized contacts with the press.

The Republican lawmakers declined to elaborate on the details the FBI may have omitted from the application, citing an ongoing interview that is being jointly conducted by the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the Republican assertions.

Majority and minority staff on the two committees questioned Ohr on Tuesday, though no Democratic lawmakers made an appearance for the interview. Seven Republicans attended the sit-down.

Ratcliffe indicated that he believed Ohr's testimony should be referred to John Huber, a U.S. attorney from Utah who is working with the DOJ's inspector general to probe Republican-fueled allegations of surveillance abuse at the FBI and DOJ.

Read more here.


SINCLAIR CLAPS BACK: Sinclair Broadcast Group has filed a counter-lawsuit against Tribune Media, heightening a legal battle between the two companies that erupted following the implosion of their proposed $3.9 billion merger.


Sinclair on Wednesday filed its response to Tribune's original lawsuit from earlier this month, alleging that its would-be partner reneged on their merger agreement by not doing everything possible to see that the deal closed.

The merger's chances of obtaining regulatory approval dissolved last month when Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai unexpectedly announced that he had "serious concerns" about a series of side deals that Sinclair had proposed. Those deals were intended to make sure that the companies abided by media ownership restrictions.

"We were extremely disappointed that the Tribune transaction was terminated," Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley said in a statement. "We are likewise disappointed that Tribune, through its meritless lawsuit, is seeking to capitalize on an unfavorable and unexpected reaction from the Federal Communications Commission to capture a windfall for Tribune." 

"As described in our filing, we fully complied with our obligations under the

merger agreement and worked tirelessly to close the transaction," Ripley added.  "The Company looks forward to vigorously defending against Tribune's claims and pursuing our own claim."

Read more here.



AMAZON ISN'T FEELING THE BERN: Amazon is pushing back against Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersAngst grips America's most liberal city Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Democrats say they have the votes to advance .5T budget measure MORE's (I-Vt.) attacks on how the company treats its workers.

The Vermont senator has said that he wants a special tax on Amazon and other big companies whose employees collect food stamps benefits or are on other social welfare programs.

The e-commerce behemoth says it believes that it should not be lumped into such a group, arguing on Wednesday that it offers competitive pay and benefits to workers.

On Tuesday, Sanders invited Amazon employees to share their experiences working for the online retail giant.

Amazon said that it has spoken with Sanders about potentially visiting one of their distribution centers. Sanders said on Wednesday that he plans to visit one in Chester. Va. 

Read more here.


CALIFORNIA CYBER MOVES: California Governor Jerry Brown (D) on Tuesday signed a bill that will establish the first U.S. election cyber office within the Secretary of State's office.

The U.S. office of Elections Cybersecurity (OEC) will aim to safeguard election systems in the state by boosting information sharing as well as coordination between federal agencies and other relevant parties involved in securing the election, according to a press release.

"If the President is going to remain in denial that Russia is attacking our democracy, and Congress refuses to burst his bubble, California has a duty to act," state Senate Elections Committee Chairman Henry Stern said in a statement. "California voters should rest a bit easier knowing that the state is rolling out the strongest elections security framework in the nation."

"Russia, Iran, and North Korea's increasingly sophisticated attacks on our elections demand an equally sophisticated response," said Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee Chair Marc Berman. "AB 3075 will equip state and county elections officials with resources to repel cyber-attacks and counteract misinformation designed to suppress voter turnout. By creating the first Office of Elections Cybersecurity in the country, California is taking the lead to combat nefarious tactics intended to undermine our democracy." ​


IF WE LIVED IN NORMAL TIMES...: Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDemocrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Democrats join GOP in pressuring Biden over China, virus origins Senators say they have deal on 'major issues' in infrastructure talks MORE, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said if this was a "normal White House," then the Trump administration would have had a top cyber security official overseeing cyber threats, particularly as election security becomes an increasing issue.  

"In a normal world, with a normal White House, when we have this level of national security threat... there would be a leader in the White House that would assign somebody in the White House to be that convening force," Warner said on CBS's "Intelligence Matters" podcast hosted by former acting Director of the CIA Michael Morell.

"Instead the Trump White House got rid of the top person in the position of cybersecurity -- has no one in charge in election security. You know, many of the individuals that Mr. Trump has appointed at the line level at DHS or CIA or NSA are all good folks. And they're trying to do the right thing, but because the lines are still a little blurry, nobody's drawing that together."


WHOOPSIES, GOOGLE MAPS JUMPS THE GUN: A proposal to rename a Senate office building after the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain to produce 'Don't Sweat the Small Stuff' Lifetime movie starring Heather Locklear An August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done Meghan McCain on Pelosi, McCarthy fight: 'I think they're all bad' MORE (R-Ariz.) is currently being debated among lawmakers, but if you check Google Maps, it would appear as if the decision has already been made.

A search for the "McCain Senate Office Building" directs users to the location of the Russell Senate Office Building, despite no formal decision to change the name.

Searches for "Russell Senate Office Building" also currently direct users to the same building. A Google spokesperson said that a fix for the issue was "rolling out" early Wednesday afternoon.

"We empower people to contribute their local knowledge to the map, but we recognize that there may be occasional inaccuracies or premature changes suggested by users," the spokesperson said. "When this happens, we work to address as quickly as possible. We have implemented a fix for this issue that is rolling out now."

Read more here.


FACEBOOK'S CONSERVATIVE EMPLOYEES SPEAK OUT: Over 100 Facebook employees have formed a group pushing for increased tolerance of conservative ideologies within the company, reports The New York Times.

The employees have banded together in an online group called FB'ers for Political Diversity after senior Facebook engineer Brian Amerige made a post about what he called the company's "political monoculture" on the firm's internal message board last week.

Amerige, a senior Facebook engineer, published a post on the company's internal message board titled "We Have a Problem With Political Diversity." Read more here.


A LIGHTER TWITTER CLICK: The GOP attacks on Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeO'Rourke mum on run for Texas governor Beto O'Rourke, Willie Nelson financially back Texas Democrats in elections bill fight Texans split on whether Abbott deserves reelection: poll MORE are hitting close to home.



The agency created to protect elections is broken (Yahoo)

How Google Earth led a team of scientists to discover an untouched mountaintop rainforest (The Verge)

Chinese Tesla rival launches $1.3 billion IPO. (The Wall Street Journal)

Here's what we know about Google's mysterious search engine. (The Washington Post)

Customers died. Will that be a wake-up call for China's tech scene? (The New York Times)