Trump arrested? Putin jailed? Fake AI images spread online

Trump arrested? Putin jailed? Fake AI images spread online

Former President Donald Trump getting gang-tackled by riot-gear-clad New York City police officers. Russian President Vladimir Putin in prison grays behind the bars of a dimly lit concrete cell.

The highly detailed, sensational images have inundated Twitter and other platforms in recent days, amid news that Trump faces possible criminal charges and the International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Putin.

But neither visual is remotely real. The images — and scores of variations littering social media — were produced using increasingly sophisticated and widely accessible image generators powered by artificial intelligence.

Misinformation experts warn the images are harbingers of a new reality: waves of fake photos and videos flooding social media after major news events and further muddying fact and fiction at crucial times for society.

“It does add noise during crisis events. It also increases the cynicism level,” said Jevin West, a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle who focuses on the spread of misinformation. “You start to lose trust in the system and the information that you are getting.”

While the ability to manipulate photos and create fake images isn’t new, AI image generator tools by Midjourney, DALL-E and others are easier to use. They can quickly generate realistic images — complete with detailed backgrounds — on a mass scale with little more than a simple text prompt from users.

Some of the recent images have been driven by this month’s release of a new version of Midjourney’s text-to-image synthesis model, which can, among other things, now produce convincing images mimicking the style of news agency photos.

In one widely-circulating Twitter thread, Eliot Higgins, founder of Bellingcat, a Netherlands-based investigative journalism collective, used the latest version of the tool to conjure up scores of dramatic images of Trump’s fictional arrest.

The visuals, which have been shared and liked tens of thousands of times, showed a crowd of uniformed officers grabbing the Republican billionaire and violently pulling him down onto the pavement.

Higgins, who was also behind a set of images of Putin being arrested, put on trial and then imprisoned, says he posted the images with no ill intent. He even stated clearly in his Twitter thread that the images were AI-generated.

Still, the images were enough to get him locked out of the Midjourney server, according to Higgins. The San Francisco-based independent research lab didn’t respond to emails seeking comment.

“The Trump arrest image was really just casually showing both how good and bad Midjourney was at rendering real scenes,” Higgins wrote in an email. “The images started to form a sort of narrative as I plugged in prompts to Midjourney, so I strung them along into a narrative, and decided to finish off the story.”

He pointed out the images are far from perfect: in some, Trump is seen, oddly, wearing a police utility belt. In others, faces and hands are clearly distorted.

But it’s not enough that users like Higgins clearly state in their posts that the images are AI-generated and solely for entertainment, says Shirin Anlen, media technologist at Witness, a New York-based human rights organization that focuses on visual evidence.

Too often, the visuals are quickly reshared by others without that crucial context, she said. Indeed, an Instagram post sharing some of Higgins’ images of Trump as if they were genuine garnered more than 79,000 likes.

“You’re just seeing an image, and once you see something, you cannot unsee it,” Anlen said.

In another recent example, social media users shared a synthetic image supposedly capturing Putin kneeling and kissing the hand of Chinese leader Xi Jinping. The image, which circulated as the Russian president welcomed Xi to the Kremlin this week, quickly became a crude meme.

It’s not clear who created the image or what tool they used, but some clues gave the forgery away. The heads and shoes of the two leaders were slightly distorted, for example, and the room’s interior didn’t match the room where the actual meeting took place.

With synthetic images becoming increasingly difficult to discern from the real thing, the best way to combat visual misinformation is better public awareness and education, experts say.

“It’s just becoming so easy and it’s so cheap to make these images that we should do whatever we can to make the public aware of how good this technology has gotten,” West said.

Higgins suggests social media companies could focus on developing technology to detect AI-generated images and integrate that into their platforms.

Twitter has a policy banning “synthetic, manipulated, or out-of-context media” with the potential to deceive or harm. Annotations from Community Notes, Twitter’s crowd-sourced fact checking project, were attached to some tweets to include the context that the Trump images were AI-generated.

When reached for comment Thursday, the company emailed back only an automated response.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, declined to comment. Some of the fabricated Trump images were labeled as either “false” or “missing context” through its third-party fact-checking program, of which the AP is a participant.

Arthur Holland Michel, a fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs in New York who is focused on emerging technologies, said he worries the world isn’t ready for the impending deluge.

He wonders how deepfakes involving ordinary people — harmful fake pictures of an ex-partner or a colleague, for example — will be regulated.

“From a policy perspective, I’m not sure we’re prepared to deal with this scale of disinformation at every level of society,” Michel wrote in an email. “My sense is that it’s going to take an as-yet-unimagined technical breakthrough to definitively put a stop to this.”


Associated Press reporter David Klepper in Washington contributed to this story.

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The Hill's 12:30 Report — TikTok CEO grilled on Capitol Hill

The Hill's 12:30 Report — TikTok CEO grilled on Capitol Hill

To view past editions of The Hill’s 12:30 Report, click here: 

To receive The Hill’s 12:30 Report in your inbox, please sign up here: 

–> A midday take on what’s happening in politics and how to have a sense of humor about it.* 

*Ha. Haha. Hahah. Sniff. Haha. Sniff. Ha–breaks down crying hysterically.


Times up? TikTok CEO gets congressional thumping:

The House Energy & Commerce Committee is grilling TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew today amid concerns about consumer privacy and data security. 

The federal government (with the support of President Biden) has mulled banning the video sharing platform over concerns about parent company ByteDance’s connections to the Chinese Communist Party. 

Democrats and Republicans have voiced concern about the company’s ties to the Chinese government. 

China has objected to calls for a forced sale of the social media platform. 

During this morning’s hearing, House lawmakers pummeled Chew with questions about whether TikTok could be used to spy on American users. 

Chew largely dodged “yes or no” questions about the app to obviously skeptical lawmakers. 

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) called Chew’s assertions that the Chinese government has never sought access to the app’s data “preposterous.”  

“We do not trust TikTok will ever embrace American values,” House Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) said, calling for a ban.

Watch more from the hearing here


More on Chew’s background here from The Hill.

It’s Thursday, March 23. That means it’s almost Friday. I’m Elizabeth Crisp, filling in for Cate today, with a quick recap of the morning and what’s coming up.

Did someone forward this newsletter to you? Sign up here. Send me your tips, scoops and any other feedback to and follow me on Twitter @elizabethcrisp. 

In Congress 

Manhattan DA objects to House GOP demands:

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) says House GOP leaders’ demands that he testify about the ongoing investigation into former President Trump is an “unlawful incursion.” 

House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) has demanded that Bragg turn over documents and communications about the case. 

In a response, Bragg on Thursday called the situation “an unprecedent[ed] inquiry into a pending local prosecution.”  

“The letter only came after Donald Trump created a false expectation that he would be arrested the next day and his lawyers reportedly urged you to intervene,” he wrote. 

The Hill’s Rebecca Beitch has more on the unfolding situation


The Manhattan grand jury is not taking up Trump’s alleged hush money case today, pushing any potential indictment to Monday at the earliest.

Sinema unleashed: 

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) says he’d be open to stumping for Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) if she decides to run for reelection next year. 

Politico’s Jonathan Martin took a deep dive into the Sinema situation, noting the Democrat-turned-independent Arizona lawmaker “has used a series of Republican-dominated receptions and retreats this year to belittle her Democratic colleagues, shower her GOP allies with praise and, in one case, quite literally give the middle finger to President Biden’s White House,” Martin reports. 

Sinema also has dished on why she stopped attending Democratic caucus lunches. 

“Old dudes are eating Jell-O, everyone is talking about how great they are,” Sinema told a group of Republican lobbyists at a reception one attendee told Martin. “I don’t really need to be there for that. That’s an hour and a half twice a week that I can get back.” 

And that middle finger salute? That was for former White House chief of staff Ron Klain

Read more here via Politico

🌎 In the White House 

120 leaders invited to Biden’s democracy summit:

The Biden administration has invited 120 global leaders to take part in next week’s Summit for Democracy, The Associated Press reports based on word from an unnamed senior administration official.  

Bosnia, Gambia, Honduras, Ivory Coast, Lichtenstein, Mauritania, Mozambique and Tanzania are being invited this time around after being left out of the 2021 gathering. 

The summit will take place Wednesday and Thursday and will be co-hosted by Costa Rica, the Netherlands, South Korea and Zambia. 

More from the AP here.

🦠 White House winding down covid team:

After three years, the White House COVID-19 response team is coming to an end when the public health emergency declaration expires in May. 

The Washington Post (citing “multiple current and former officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal operations”) reports that national coordinator Ashish Jha will likely leave the Biden administration as the effort winds down. 

“As a result of this administration’s historic response to Covid-19, we as a nation are in a safer, better place than we were three years ago,” a senior administration official told WaPo. “Covid no longer disrupts our lives because of investments and our efforts to mitigate its worst impacts. Covid is not over, fighting it remains an administration priority, and transitioning out of the emergency phase is the natural evolution of the covid response.” 

Why it matters: More than 1.1 million people have died of covid in the U.S. since the pandemic began in 2020. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 2,000 people are still dying per week, but that’s significantly lower than during pandemic peaks. 

Shifting tides: The White House scale back comes as the new GOP majority in the House kicks off its own scrutiny of pandemic response and the virus origin.  

“We have a ‘war on cancer,’ and that doesn’t require a cancer czar,” Bob Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco told the Post.  

🏃 2024 

Midwest is best? Dems from there think so 

Midwestern Democrats are pressing President Biden to pick Chicago for the 2024 Democratic National Convention, NBC News reports

Governors, members of Congress and other leaders penned a letter this week calling on the White House and Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison to choose Chicago in a sign of support for the “blue wall” of states backing Democratic candidates for president. 

“Those states were taken for granted until ominous warning signs flashed on Election Day, at which point they were already lost,” the letter, which NBC got its hands on, reads. “That single exception proves the rule: When the future of the country hangs in the balance, we cannot afford to overlook the Midwest.” 

In other news 

Canceling subscriptions could get easier: 

The Federal Trade Commission is looking to make it easier to cancel free trials and subscriptions.  

The “click to cancel” proposal would require sellers to make canceling an enrollment more straightforward to battle “seemingly never-ending struggles” customers sometimes face. 

“Some businesses too often trick consumers into paying for subscriptions they no longer want or didn’t sign up for in the first place,” FTC Chair Lina Khan said in a news release. “The proposed rule would require that companies make it as easy to cancel a subscription as it is to sign up for one.”  

Under the proposed rule, sellers could still make subscription modifications to try to keep customers if they are disclosed.  

Sellers would also have to notify customers about some automatic renewals. 

More from The Hill here

🐥 Notable tweets 

In search of Trump supporters in Manhattan: 

Jordan Klepper, from “The Daily Show,” headed to downtown Manhattan this week to find Trump supporters protesting the former president’s possible indictment. See the video “The Daily Show” tweeted about what Klepper found. 

Place your bets — best political ad version: 

The folks at AdImpact Politics are running a Twitter March Madness poll in search of the best political ads of 2021-2022. Check out the latest bracket here on Twitter.   

On tap 

The House and Senate are meeting today. President Biden and Vice President Harris are in D.C. ahead of the president’s trip to Canada.  

  • 9 a.m.: The president received his daily briefing at the White House. 
  • 10 a.m.: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is taking part in a Senate Appropriations transportation subcommittee hearing.  
  • 10 a.m.: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin began testifying to the House Appropriations Committee. 
  • 1 p.m.: President Biden hosts an event marking the 13th anniversary the Affordable Care Act. 
  • 4:40 p.m.: The president and first lady depart the White House for their trip to Canada. 
  • 6:40 p.m.: The Bidens will be greeted by Canada Gov. Gen. Mary Simon and her husband, Whit Fraser
  • 8:25 p.m.: The Bidens will be greeted by and meet privately with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Trudeau
  • Note: White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security adviser Jake Sullivan will talk to reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Ottawa. 

All times Eastern. 

📺 What to watch 

  • The House Energy & Commerce Committee is hearing from TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew amid concerns about consumer privacy and data security. (Watch here
  • 1 p.m.: The president hosts an event marking the anniversary of former President Obama signing the Affordable Care Act into law 13 years ago. (Watch here

In lighter news 

Today is National Tamale Day! It’s believed that the delicious, portable food originated in Mesoamerica as early as 8000 to 5000 B.C. 

And because you made it this far, check out this video of the Cincinatti Zoo’s hippo siblings Fritz and Fiona splashing around together. 🦛 

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Grand Jury In Trump Criminal Probe Won't Decide On Possible Charges This Week

Grand Jury In Trump Criminal Probe Won't Decide On Possible Charges This Week

A Manhattan grand jury reportedly won’t decide until at least next week whether to charge former President Donald Trump with crimes related to a hush money payment his associate made to a porn actress ahead of the 2016 election.

Despite Trump suggesting he would be arrested this week, the grand jury assembled by the Manhattan district attorney’s office indicated Thursday that they would not meet about the case for the remainder of the week, multiple outlets reported.

The potential charges are connected to a $130,000 hush money payment Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, made in 2016 to Stormy Daniels, who says she had an affair with Trump a decade earlier. Cohen claims he made the payment at the behest of Trump, who reimbursed him. Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to charges related to the payment and has met with the grand jury several times.

The grand jury was scheduled to assemble Wednesday but Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg told them to stay home, though it’s still not clear why that decision was made.

On Saturday, Trump called on his supporters to protest should he get arrested.

“PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK” Trump wrote on his social media website, Truth Social.

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The ‘fixer’: How Michael Cohen’s efforts to help Donald Trump could land his ex-boss in jail

The ‘fixer’: How Michael Cohen’s efforts to help Donald Trump could land his ex-boss in jail

Former attorney Michael Cohen was once Donald Trump’s top operative: a “fixer” who handled matters both legal and otherwise for the celebrity businessman-turned-political candidate.

But as Alvin Bragg’s grand jury investigation continues in Manhattan, it’s clear that Cohen’s efforts to “fix” problems for his boss may have caused far more harm than good.

In the autumn of 2016, Cohen was still serving as an attorney and longtime colleague of the presidential hopeful he would later go on to call a racist, a con man and a fraud in sworn testimony to Congress. As part of that job, he connected with a woman named Stephanie Clifford — aka porn star Stormy Daniels — and started making a deal.

The terms of that deal were simple: Daniels would cease her efforts to shop a story of her alleged affair with Trump to journalists around the country, thereby removing a last-minute landmine for the Trump campaign already battered with the damning audio of his Access Hollywood comments about sexually harassing women, reported just weeks earlier. She’d stop talking about it to anyone, in fact, and would sign a nondisclosure agreement opening her up to arbitration if she did otherwise. In exchange? A one-time payment of $130,000.

It was the perfect plan, and to some extent it worked: Daniels signed the NDA, and in the days and weeks to come would not appear in any major news publications sharing her side of events. Fox News even killed a story on the matter, though whether that was due to Danielss’ non-cooperation or the network’s own sharp pro-Trump bent is less clear.

Donald Trump v Stormy Daniels: The story so far

But just a year after his boss would be sworn in as president, the wall of secrecy crumbled. The Wall Street Journal had the entire story, including the hush money payment, and Cohen found himself unable to say, “no comment”. Days after it comes out, he admits to making the hush payment — an admission, along with financial records of the deed itself, that would later get him thrown into prison. Another leak-prone member of the Trump legal team, Rudy Giuliani, would go on to admit on national television that Trump had not only known about the payment (at some point in time), but had reimbursed Cohen for his service.

The question then became whether Trump knew about the payment. Two options were possible: Number one, Trump both knew of his attorney’s actions as they occurred and implicitly approved of them; or number two, Trump only found out about the hush payment afterwards but still apparently approved of it and went through with reimbursing Cohen for it anyway.

Both possibilities have the potential to implicate Trump in wrongdoing, though the former clearly would show intent to violate the law. Cohen’s payment to Daniels was considered to be both unreported and excessive in its amount and nature; should prosecutors be able to prove that the contributions were made at the former president’s direction, it could be an open-and-shut case for a jury.

Spurned by his former boss, within a year of the Daniels matter going public Cohen was in front of any camera that would have him warning about the dishonesty and fraud that he now says was always part of his former boss’s operation. In testimony to the House Oversight Committee in February of 2019, he implicated the Trump Organization in a scheme to inflate or deflate the value of certain assets for the purposes of fraudulently obtaining better tax rates or more favourable loan terms; those claims are now at the core of New York state Attorney General Letitia James’s lawsuit seeking to bar the company from doing business in the Empire State.

More recently, he has offered testimony to the grand jury empaneled in January by Bragg in Manhattan to investigate the Daniels matter. Six years after the deed occurred, it may finally wind up leading to the very first criminal charges levied against a former US president in history.

But even so, his flip-flop on the issue of support for the former president — not to mention his stint in prison for lying to Congress — are issues challenging his credibility, and the strength of his testimony to investigators. A former legal adviser to the president said as much on Monday when he testified to the grand jury in Manhattan and trashed Cohen’s reliability as a witness.

A potential prosecution of Trump is far from a done deal just yet, and even less certain is Cohen’s own future. Disbarred in New York and unlikely to pick up a cable news gig like other ex-Trump campaign and administration officials, it’s unclear what futures remain open to the man who was once no 2 to one of the most powerful men in America.

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Colbert Cartoon Predicts How Donald Trump Jr. May Take Fall For His Dad

Colbert Cartoon Predicts How Donald Trump Jr. May Take Fall For His Dad

Fictional chief field correspondent James Smartwood Jr. zinged Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., amid talk as to what a possible indictment of the former president for hush money payments to Stormy Daniels may actually mean.

“The real question is will Don Jr. relent to his father’s pleas to wear his face and go to jail for him,” he noted.

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Trump lashes out at Manhattan after supporters fail to turn up to protest indictment in native city: ‘Absolute hellhole!’

Trump lashes out at Manhattan after supporters fail to turn up to protest indictment in native city: ‘Absolute hellhole!’

Donald Trump has lashed out at the “hellhole” of Manhattan after his supporters failed to turn up to protest his impending indictment in his native city.

The former president took to his Truth Social platform on Wednesday morning for his latest rant about Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s investigation into his role in hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels days before the 2016 presidential election.

“The Rogue prosecutor, who is having a hard time with the Grand Jury, especially after the powerful testimony against him by Felon Cohen’s highly respected former lawyer, is attempting to build a case that has NEVER BEEN BROUGHT BEFORE AND ACTUALLY, CAN’T BE BROUGHT,” he wrote.

“If he spent this time, effort, and money on fighting VIOLENT CRIME, which is destroying NYC, our once beautiful and safe Manhattan, which has become an absolute HELLHOLE, would be a much better place to live!”

Mr Trump’s rant about the city comes as a panel of New Yorkers will soon decide his fate – voting on whether or not he will make history as the only former or current US president to ever be indicted on criminal charges.

Manhattan prosecutors have been investigating whether Mr Trump falsified the Trump Organization’s business records when Mr Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen made a payment of $130,0000 to Ms Daniels days before the 2016 election.

Prosecutors claim that the money was used to silence Ms Daniels about an alleged affair she had with Mr Trump.

Mr Trump has long denied having an affair with the adult film star.

Mr Trump’s former fixer and personal attorney Cohen was convicted of tax evasion, lying to Congress and campaign finance violations related to the payments to Ms Daniels. He was sentenced to three years in prison.

The former president has been seeking to rally his base to protest his upcoming potential indictment and arrest in recent days.

In a characteristic full-caps rant on Saturday, he claimed that he was expecting to be arrested on Tuesday and called on his supporters to “PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK”.

Anti-Trump demonstrators protest outside the Manhattan District Attorney’s office in New York City on Tuesday

(AFP via Getty Images)


His comments instantly drew comparisons to his rhetoric in the aftermath of his 2020 presidential election loss – rhetoric that ultimately culminated in the January 6 Capitol riots.

But on Tuesday only a handful of pro-Trump supporters showed up outside the Manhattan Criminal Court and there was no reports of violence.

The small group was outnumbered by counterprotesters in support of an indictment for the former president – a Manhattan native who achieved just over 12 per cent of the vote in his former home borough in the 2020 election.

Those demonstrators called for Mr Trump’s arrest, chanting: “No one is above the law.”

It was not the type of protest Mr Trump was likely hoping for.

Over the last few days, New York officials have been bracing for potential protests or unrest if or when an indictment lands.

Barricades have been erected round the Manhattan Criminal Court where Mr Trump could appear to face charges and local, state and federal law enforcement agencies have been meeting to prepare security plans.

Donald Trump could be indicted as soon as Wednesday

(Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The grand jury had been expected to convene in Manhattan on Wednesday afternoon to hear from at least one more witness – but the hearing was reportedly cancelled just hours beforehand. As such, the indictment likely would not come until Friday (24 March) at the earliest.

If an indictment is handed down, the former president is not expected to appear in court until sometime next week after Mr Trump’s attorneys and the Secret Service make arrangements with prosecutors to turn himself in.

The investigation ramped up last week when Cohen and Ms Daniels both testified before the grand jury and Mr Trump was also invited to testify.

Though it was an invite he unsurprisingly turned down, it was a strong sign of an indictment on the way.

Then, on Monday, Mr Trump ally and Cohen foe Robert Costello gave testimony at the request of the former president’s team – in a bid to pick holes in the credibility of Cohen’s testimony.

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