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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Trump administration sought to block Sally Yates from testifying to Congress on Russia - The Washington Post

"The Trump administration sought to block former acting attorney general Sally Yates from testifying in the House investigation of possible links between Russian officials and Donald Trump’s campaign, according to letters provided to The Washington Post. The effort to keep Yates from testifying has further angered Democrats, who have accused Republicans of trying to damage the inquiry.

According to the letters, the Justice Department notified Yates earlier this month that the administration considers her possible testimony — including on the ouster of former national security adviser Michael Flynn for his contacts with the Russian ambassador — to be off-limits in a congressional hearing because the topics are covered by attorney-client privilege or the presidential communication privilege."

(Via.). Trump administration sought to block Sally Yates from testifying to Congress on Russia - The Washington Post:

Devin Nunes Says He Will Continue to Lead Russia Inquiry - The New York Times The coverup continues. #LiarInChief #ManchurianPresident #ImpeachTrump #ResistanceIsNotFutile

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Devin Nunes Says He Will Continue to Lead Russia Inquiry - The New York Times: ""

(Via.)

Donald Trump Claims U.S. Constitution Bars 'Apprentice' Star's Defamation Suit While in Office | Hollywood Reporter

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"In 1997, the high court came back with its answer that a president can't escape private litigation.

'Indeed, if the Framers of the Constitution had thought it necessary to protect the President from the burdens of private litigation, we think it far more likely that they would have adopted a categorical rule than a rule that required the President to litigate the question whether a specific case belonged in the 'exceptional case' subcategory,' wrote Justice John Paul Stevens at the time. 'In all events, the question whether a specific case should receive exceptional treatment is more appropriately the subject of the exercise of judicial discretion than an interpretation of the Constitution.'"

(Via.).  Donald Trump Claims U.S. Constitution Bars 'Apprentice' Star's Defamation Suit While in Office | Hollywood Reporter:

Jared Kushner Tempted by Russia’s Bank of Spies - The Daily Beast

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“Trump’s son-in-law and top aide didn’t just meet with the head of a sanctioned Russian bank. He was meeting with a former spy and Putin crony.

MICHAEL WEISS

03.28.17 2:51 PM ET Not every bank lists a convicted spy serving 30 months in an Ohio prison as its active deputy representative in New York. But then, not every bank is headed by a former spy, much less one found to have spent time with Jared Kushner during a ‘roadshow’ last year, when Donald Trump’s son-in-law was then just a top campaign advisor and not a likely witness about to testify before a Senate committee on Russia’s meddling in U.S. democracy. In those charmed days before the director of the FBI raised in an open session of Congress the very real possibility that some of the president’s men might be working on behalf of a hostile foreign power, there was the curious case of a Wall Street analyst who was handcuffed in his Bronx neighborhood in late Jan. 2015 after going out for groceries. His crime wasn’t peddling junk sub-primes to trusting pensioners but working for Moscow Center. Evgeny Buryakov, a former tax inspector turned officer of the Sluzhba vneshney razvedki, or SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service, had arrived in the U.S. just weeks after the feds executed Operation Ghost Stories and brought down ten out of an 11-person spy ring of Russian ‘illegals,’ without whom Anna Chapman’s clothing line and The Americans would now be impossible. A member of the SVR’s Directorate ER, the division tasked with gathering economic intelligence, Buryakov was paid $200,000 to pump his fellow Wall Streeters on information ultimately beneficial to Russia’s GDP, or at least harmful to the nation’s marketplace competitors. His biggest coup, evidently, was helping Rostek, the state-owned defense manufacturer, nearly come away with a handsome contract with Bombardier, the Canadian aerospace firm. Buryakov’s day job was as the second most senior executive in New York for Vnesheconobank, or VEB, the Russian state-owned development bank, and therefore a convenient cover for calling in sick to cultivate agents in Manhattan. Not that the bank was terribly concerned about its quarterly P&L. VEB has was sanctioned by both the U.S. Treasury Department and the European Union in 2014 for its role in underwriting the ongoing war in Ukraine, a penalty the bank has said would have ‘no effect’ on its operations. This was months after the debut of its biggest ‘investment,’ lending the majority of the $50 billion that went into hosting the Sochi Olympics, an event described by Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov as a winter sporting event in the sub-tropics..."

(Via.).  Jared Kushner Tempted by Russia’s Bank of Spies - The Daily Beast:

Chris Hayes "A Colony In A Nation" Frantz Fanon and my awakening



Immigrant protected under 'Dreamer' program to remain detained - CNNPolitics.com





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DACA dreamers are being illegally held by local police and ICE for no legal reason. This is happening around the country including in Georgia where I live. We who are American citizens have a moral responsibility to protest this government action. Young DACA protesters cannot do this because we know bigoted cops will trump up charges of felony obstruction or resisting arrest to insure a legal basis for their deportation. We citizens must protest and engage in civil disobedience to stop this illegal and immoral state action. As Martin Luther King said "If one of us is not free none of us is free,". If we citizens must go to jail to protect these young people we must gladly do it. Call your Congressperson, your Senators, call the ACLU. We must be active. We must fight back. #ResistanceIsNotFutiele .


Immigrant protected under 'Dreamer' program to remain detained - CNNPolitics.com

Paul Ryan, Brought Down to Size - The New York Times







































“Look, I’m a policy guy.”

That was Paul Ryan’s line before last Friday, when the health care bill he designed in secret went down without a vote, his own party showing what they thought of his policy.

Time and again when he was asked about President Trump’s attacks on immigrants or the courts, his ties to Russia or his claims of massive election fraud, the speaker of the House would say he was too busy working on his agenda, “A Better Way,” to think about all that nasty stuff.

That Mr. Ryan failed on the policy promise that Republicans have been running on for eight years makes it clear that if he is the policy wonk of the Republican Party, then the Republican Party has no policy. And with a health care plan that would have stripped 24 million Americans of basic care and drastically hiked premiums for people over 60, it seems that they don’t much care what Americans need or want.

The discrepancy between promise and reality should be no surprise to anyone who has looked at Mr. Ryan’s proposals over the years. Mr. Ryan has been rolling out grand pronouncements in bound volumes with fancy covers and snappy names, but the main message never changed: America‘s “path to prosperity” (remember that one? 2011) lies in tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, and slashing social programs and regulations.

Three years ago, a House Republican leader said his report on antipoverty programs showed that “Paul Ryan remains our big-ideas guy.” We called it “a high-minded excuse” to “eviscerate programs like Medicaid, Head Start and food stamps.”

After Mitt Romney, with Mr. Ryan as his running mate, lost the presidential election in 2012, Republicans commissioned an “autopsy” that called for a realignment of the party.

“We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people,” the report’s authors warned.

Mr. Ryan responded by repackaging the same agenda for the 2016 election, even though working-class Americans were demonstrating fury at his establishment orthodoxy. They didn’t want Social Security cut and they wanted the “health care for everybody” that Mr. Trump promised.

Mr. Ryan swallowed Mr. Trump’s insults and offenses, in the name of passing his agenda. After seven years and 60 failed Republican efforts to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, Mr. Ryan finally got his moment, and blew it."

Paul Ryan, Brought Down to Size - The New York Times

Pushing Obamacare Over the Cliff - The New York Times







"After Republicans pulled their legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act last Friday, President Trump told The Washington Post, “The best thing politically is to let Obamacare explode.”



Or he could light a match. Republicans may have conceded defeat in their legislative effort to get rid of Obamacare, but their guerrilla war to achieve its demise remains underway.



The stealth battle began on Inauguration Day, when Mr. Trump signed an executive order giving his agencies wide latitude to weaken the law.



Almost immediately, the Department of Health and Human Services scaled back advertising aimed at encouraging people to enroll in a health insurance plan by the Jan. 31 deadline for 2017.



No surprise, then, that sign-ups for this year came in a bit short of expectations.



Next, the Internal Revenue Service announced that it would continue to allow taxpayers to file their returns without indicating whether they had complied with the mandate to have insurance. Assertions to the contrary notwithstanding, this was quickly interpreted to mean that those failing to comply with the health care act’s insurance requirement would not be assessed penalties.





President Trump with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, arriving on Capitol Hill last week for a meeting on healthcare with Republicans. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

Photo by: Doug Mills/The New York Times

These may sound like small potatoes, but the requirement that all Americans have insurance is at the heart of Obamacare. Without maximum participation of healthy, young Americans in the insurance exchanges, insurers cannot afford the cost of covering older, less healthy individuals.



That’s the essence of why companies have been dropping out of the marketplace, creating the risk that counties in states like Tennessee and Arizona may have no insurers participating.



Much more seems on the horizon. This month, Tom Price, the secretary of the Health and Human Services Department, tweeted: “There are 1,442 citations in the #ACA where it says. ‘The secretary shall …’ or ‘The secretary may …’ @HHSGov, we’ll look at every single one.”



Through that pathway, the Trump administration can chip away at other parts of Obamacare, notably the expansion of Medicaid.



While Medicaid expansion can’t collapse the way that the exchanges could, Mr. Price could diminish it by taking steps like allowing states to impose a work requirement on enrollees or to limit lifetime benefits. He could also water down the 10 essential benefits required for all policies by the law, like maternity care and mental health coverage.



Even if my worries are misplaced, remember that Obamacare worked, in part, because it had the active support of the entire executive branch.



It’s no surprise that, like every huge new social program, the A.C.A. needs some tuneups.



For example, the well-intentioned decision to limit the size of the premiums that can be charged to older people to three times what can be charged to younger people has resulted in higher premiums for younger Americans, which has in turn discouraged sign-ups.



Raising that limit (as Republicans have proposed) would be a plus if coupled with higher subsidies for deserving older people, as would be increasing the penalties on those who opt out. At present, those fees are far less than the cost of insurance..."





Pushing Obamacare Over the Cliff - The New York Times

The King of Crash and Burn - The New York Times. Charles Blow

"In the movie ‘Iron Man 2’ (yes, superhero films are my guilty pleasure, so just bear with me) the villain, a rogue Russian scientist, informs the hero, Iron Man, of his theory on how easily he could be brought down:

‘If you could make God bleed, people will cease to believe in Him. There will be blood in the water, and the sharks will come. All I have to do is sit here and watch, as the world will consume you.’

The point is clear: Invincibility is an illusion constructed by false assurances. Puncture the fantasy, expose the mortal, and the dispirited faithful will destroy the false deity.

Last week, the House Freedom Caucus made the fabricated God of Chaos bleed.

Trump was a weak president further weakened. He was already unpopular on a historic scale. He was already being proven to be a complete liar and hypocrite. He was already being exposed as a blustery failure.

But the one thing that he could hold on to was the long-maintained mirage of personal success and deal-making. He was the master of tough with the Midas touch.

Trump, as is his wont, did what Trump does: Let someone else do the work — in this case Paul Ryan — and then swoop in at the end to endorse, brand and promote the project, and of course claim it as another of his own successes.

But legislation isn’t the same as luxury rental. Legislators are not the same as an obedient board.

You don’t simply have to sell yourself to brand-thirsty aspirants; you must also sell a plan to everyday people for whom the belt you notch could become their noose. For these people, the choices aren’t about a life of luxury, but about life and death.

You have to sell the plan to the members of Congress who represent these people, members whose inclination toward philosophical dogma and impulse for self-preservation sours them to sweet talk.

The loss is likely also the downside of Republican gerrymandering.

In the redrawing of districts following the 2010 census, Republicans created incredibly safe, ideologically pure districts with fewer dissenters. This protected more seats, but it also meant that the people who hold those seats have little to no incentive to ever compromise.

Republicans created hard-line districts that produced hard-line congressmen: obstructionist absolutists are gerrymandering’s political offspring.

These people weren’t elected to govern, but to impede governance. Their mandate isn’t to generate ideas and solve problems by the effective exercise of government. Their singular crusade is that government is ineffective and the solution is to forever see government itself as the problem. Ideas for them are anathema.

"For years they railed against the A.C.A. and the president who pushed it through, promising America that they would repeal and replace it with something better. Trump jumped on that train during his run for the White House, promising even more than anyone could ever deliver.

But when you are the controlling party, single-minded obstruction is insufficient. You move from the hissing audience to the withering, sweltering spotlight. You have to create and perform.

When the Republicans actually had their opening to present and pass their own idea, America found it severely deficient, because it was severely deficient. Not only that, but they tried to ram it through without doing the work to promote it. It was all a comedy of errors.

The Republicans were not ready for prime time. They are not cohesive and coherent.

Trump’s incompetence ran headlong into this impossibility.

He couldn’t dictate or strong-arm. He couldn’t charm or cajole. He was embarrassingly rebuffed. The self-proclaimed winner took a monumental loss.

It was the latest loss in a string of losses. Indeed, this president in his first two months in office is proving to be the king of crash and burn.

Now, the finger-pointing has commenced. People in the White House are trying desperately to hang this loss on Ryan (and the Democrats) and keep it away from Trump.

Trump even took the oddly-timed step of using his Twitter account to direct Americans to tune in to Jeanine Pirro’s show on Fox News, his administration’s propaganda arm, where Pirro pilloried Ryan, scolding that he ‘needs to step down as speaker of the House. The reason? He failed to deliver the votes on his health care bill.’

Maybe it was mere coincidence — yet another one — or maybe it was maleficent stratagem. If the bill had passed, he would have basked in the glory. But when it failed, he wanted to deflect the damage.

However, in the end, this may well be a disastrous move. You don’t throw under the bus one of the only people who would stand between you and members of your own party who may one day be asked to impeach you.

A wounded Ryan might well sit back and watch, as the world consumes Trump."