Tuesday, July 25, 2017

New Yorker -- Donald Trump, John McCain, and the Politics of Decency

The dignity of our country, our place as a leader among nations, respect, honesty, integrity, health care for all Americans, environmental protections, public education, regulations, a free press, preserving our democracy are a just a few things that are at stake under the leadership of President Donald Trump and the Republican Party. We are a government and a nation in crisis right now.

“Donald Trump, John McCain, and the Politics of Decency” by the New Yorker’s Jeffery Frank tells of one more thing that is at stake. Although all over America there is a desperate need for decency and a need to respect others. We sorely need leadership that sets examples of best behavior and practice.

This is how Frank ends his piece, but it in its entirety is a worthwhile read:

“We’ve often heard statesmanlike views from John McCain, the Arizona senator. He’s been capable of hawkish overreach, and political missteps, but he has risen to a level of decency -- of generosity and courage -- when it was called for. One celebrated moment came in the midst of the 2008 Presidential campaign, when people in a crowd questioned Barack Obama’s legitimacy and McCain set them straight. Five years ago, after Michele Bachmann, then a congresswoman, made the baseless, and scurrilous, charge that Huma Abedin, the longtime aide to Hillary Clinton, had “ties” to the Muslim Brotherhood, McCain, on the Senate floor, said, ‘Huma Abedin represents what is best about America: the daughter of immigrants, who has risen to the highest levels of our government on the basis of her substantial personal merit and her abiding commitment to the American ideals that she embodies.’ He added, ‘I am proud to know her, and I am proud, even maybe with some presumption, to call her my friend’ -- another win for decency.

“In his autobiography, ‘Faith of My Fathers,’ published in 1999, McCain wrote that ‘nothing in life is more liberating than to fight for a cause larger than yourself, something that encompasses you but is not defined by your existence alone’—a theme that became part of his brief, joyful Presidential campaign, in 2000, and is bound to be recalled as people root for him in the wake of a brain-cancer diagnosis. The thing is, McCain really meant it. Could anyone imagine Donald Trump, or anyone in his orbit, fighting for, speaking up for, or defending any cause larger than himself? The question, alas, for all of us, answers itself.”

By Jeffrey Frank

NY Mag -- The 14 Most Inappropriate Moments From Trump’s Speech at the Boy Scout Jamboree

By Margaret Hartmann

Like usual, the President’s speech to an audience of mostly pre teen boys at the National Boy Scouts Jamboree in West Virginia on Monday was disturbing, inappropriate and an embarrassment. It was shocking, even by the Trump standards we all know and have come to expect.

Trump even told the crowd of youngsters a story about real estate developer William Levitt who he saw at a cocktail party, old and sitting by himself, saying, “it was very sad because the hottest people in New York were at this party.

He reiterated his stance regarding the “War on Christmas,” telling them that when they go shopping, they’ll “be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.

Trump encouraged the crowd to boo for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. He spoke about polling, bragged about his 2016 election, and spoke in incoherent tangents about his rich friends.

And the “Boy Scouts of America faces backlash from leaders and parents after President Trump turns their Jamboree into a political rally that may even have broken the group's rules.”

Monday, July 24, 2017

Washington Post -- Jared Kushner just threw Donald Trump Jr. under the bus. Bigly

In his statement this morning to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Jared Kushner claims

(1) he attended the notorious June meeting without having any idea why it was being held (even though Donald Jr. exulted in the email chain that “I love" the prospect of dirt on Hillary from the Russians, and even though Trump’s then-campaign chair Paul Manafort was also present,

(2) he arrived at the meeting just late enough to miss the incriminating part of the meeting, where the Russian lawyer brought up the campaign.

Here is Kushner’s statement about the meeting:

"In June 2016, my brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr. asked if I was free to stop by a meeting on June 9 at 3:00 p.m. The campaign was headquartered in the same building as his office in Trump Tower, and it was common for each of us to swing by the other’s meetings when requested. He eventually sent me his own email changing the time of the meeting to 4:00 p.m. That email was on top of a long back and forth that I did not read at the time. As I did with most emails when I was working remotely, I quickly reviewed on my iPhone the relevant message that the meeting would occur at 4:00 PM at his office. Documents confirm my memory that this was calendared as 'Meeting: Don Jr.| Jared Kushner.' No one else was mentioned.

"I arrived at the meeting a little late. When I got there, the person who has since been identified as a Russian attorney was talking about the issue of a ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children. I had no idea why that topic was being raised and quickly determined that my time was not well-spent at this meeting. Reviewing emails recently confirmed my memory that the meeting was a waste of our time and that, in looking for a polite way to leave and get back to my work, I actually emailed an assistant from the meeting after I had been there for ten or so minutes and wrote 'Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting.'

"I had not met the attorney before the meeting nor spoken with her since. I thought nothing more of this short meeting until it came to my attention recently. I did not read or recall this email exchange before it was shown to me by my lawyers when reviewing documents for submission to the committees. No part of the meeting I attended included anything about the campaign, there was no follow up to the meeting that I am aware of, I do not recall how many people were there (or their names), and I have no knowledge of any documents being offered or accepted. Finally, after seeing the email, I disclosed this meeting prior to it being reported in the press on a supplement to my security clearance form, even if that was not required as meeting the definitions of the form. After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton."

Is Kushner throwing his brother-in-law under the bus?

 By Greg Sargent

Vox -- Is Trump trying to force Jeff Sessions out so a new AG can squelch the Russia investigation?

It’s apparent that Donald Trump is putting the pressure on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign.The President is ramping up his rhetoric against Sessions so there can be no doubt that the President wants his attorney general to go. “But he doesn't do it to Sessions directly; he does it via a serious of public statements and leaks.

This morning Trump tweeted, “So why aren't the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillary's crimes & Russia relations?

In a recent interview with The New York Times, Trump said Sessions shouldn’t have recused himself from oversight of the Russia investigation, saying It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president. At the time of Sessions’ recusal, Trump was furious and said he would never have hired him if he had known that was his intention.

Trump is considering Rudy Giuliani as Attorney General, according to people close to the situation. It could only mean Trump is making plans to replace Sessions. That’s because a new Attorney General could do what Sessions could not: oversee the Russia investigation.

By Andrew Prokop

The Daily 202: Trump marginalizes experts, debases expertise

Donald Trump, the first president in American history to take office with no prior governing or military experience, has appointed someone with no professional communications experience to be White House communications director.

But that should not surprise anyone. “Elevating nonexperts who lack relevant experience into important jobs across the federal government” has been a “hallmark of the president’s first six months in power.”

Robert Reich summarizes some examples from James Hohmann’s Washington Post article:

Throughout modern history, tyrants have sought to turn the public against expertise and science. Trump is ramping up his attacks on:

1. The intelligence agencies. Making his debut on the Sunday shows, former hedge fund manager Anthony Scaramucci said yesterday Trump still doesn’t accept the consensus of professionals in the intelligence community that Russia attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election.

2. Housing experts. Last month he appointed party planner Lynne Patton, who helped plan Eric Trump’s wedding to head HUD’s office for the region that covers New York and New Jersey.

3. Agriculture scientists. Last week Trump nominated someone who is not a scientist to be the Agriculture Department’s chief scientist. Sam Clovis has described himself as “extremely skeptical” about the expert consensus on climate change.

4. Climate scientists. Trump will nominate a prominent coal lobbyist, Andrew Wheeler, to serve as the No. 2 at the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has already removed several agency websites that contained detailed climate data and scientific information, including one that for nearly two decades has explained climate change.

5. Economists. Knowing the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office's estimate of the revised Senate Republican health-care bill would be awful, Trump’s White House placed an op-ed preemptively dismissing the economist's forecast as “fake news.”

And on it goes. Trump wants no experts and no facts so the American public will believe his lies. It’s an attack on democracy.

By James Hohmann

BBC -- Charlie Gard parents end legal fight as time runs out for baby

The parents of Charlie Gard, the 11-month-old terminally ill baby at the center of a legal attempt to keep him alive, now accept that further intervention will not help him.

Connie Yates and Chris Gard had fought against a decision by Great Ormond Street Hospital in London to turn off the life support machine keeping their son, Charlie, alive.

Barrister Grant Armstrong, representing the couple, told the court that "time has now ran out for Charlie" and the family is now withdrawing their challenge.

Politico -- Trump on Twitter: Republicans 'do very little to protect their President'

Donald Trump tweeted on Sunday, "It's very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back, do very little to protect their President."

But Republicans should not protect the President from the truth, which can be nothing else but the kind of protection he is asking for.

Donald Trump is highly critical of U.S. intelligence, our federal judges, labels Democrats as “enemies,” admonishes the news media and his own party. Yet, the President of the United States has nothing but good things to say about Russia’s Vladimir Putin and the Russian government.


We will most likely find out when special counsel Robert Mueller completes his investigation. It can’t come soon enough. We need to end this circus of uncertainty once and for all.

Donald Trump is the most un-American President the United States has ever had. Who, despite all of his bluster about making America great again, acts against its interest and has managed to turn the world against our country and away from the values America has represented.

By Rebecca Morin

Sunday, July 23, 2017

AP -- Trump’s new message man deletes inconvenient tweets

President Donald Trump announced Friday that he had hired Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci as White House Communications Director to help the White House sharpen its public message.

Like in love and war, evidently all is fair in politics too. Trump’s new communications director announced Saturday that he’s deleting old tweets, saying his own views have evolved.

That’s nonsense. It’s being deceptive. It’s not because his thinking has evolved. It’s because it’s politically expedient. How will anyone believe what he says?

Trump can sharpen his public message by being honest. Hiring someone to communicate his message who will repeat the same lies is not sharpening his message.    

By the way, Anthony Scaramucci has a very appropriate nickname: Mooch.

Social media users quickly did a deep dive and recirculated past tweets by Scaramucci that were at odds with Trump’s views, including one that praised Hillary Clinton’s competence. Trump defeated Clinton for president last year and continues to criticize her, including in several tweets Saturday.

Other repurposed Scaramucci tweets expressed support for stronger gun laws, which he tweeted about in August 2012. In May 2016, he expressed displeasure with individuals who believe climate change is a hoax.

The politics of “gotcha” are over. I have a thick skin and we’re moving on to @POTUS agenda serving the American people.’

By Darlene Superville

AP -- Trump asserts all agree he has 'complete power' to pardon

Trump claimed in a Saturday morning barrage of tweets that he has “complete power to pardon.”

Reports say that Trump has inquired about the authority he has as president to pardon aides, relatives or even himself in connection with the widening investigation into Russian interference.

Apparently, Trump is giving a lot of thought to how he might handle the ongoing probe into his campaign's contacts with Russian officials.

A few days ago Trump and his legal team discussed his power to pardon aides, family members -- and even himself if it’s determined that he acted illegally.

It’s “Rubbish, comments Robert Reich. No person is above the law in the United States. No one can get away with violating the law by pardoning himself or his family members. No president has the complete power to pardon, because no president is above the law. That’s why we have a Constitution.”

In Saturday’s 10 tweets Trump commented not only about pardons, but about former presidential rival Hillary Clinton, his son Don Jr., health care, the USS Gerald Ford, the attorney general, and other issues as well.

By Darlene Superville

Saturday, July 22, 2017

USA Today -- In break with Trump, top Intel, Homeland Security officials affirm Russia's election meddling

President Trump still won't say whether he believes the Russian government meddled in the 2016 presidential election. But his top intelligence and homeland security officials this week affirmed the intelligence community's unqualified assessment that it did.

Trump’s counter-terrorism adviser Thomas Bossert said there was no reason to doubt the findings.

So why doesn’t Trump unequivocally agree with the findings of intelligence agencies? Why does Trump have such a clear affinity for Russian President Vladimir Putin, and why does he object to an investigation that will vindicate him of any wrongdoing?

Now that we have affirmation of meddling in the election, they are some of the remaining questions that need to be answered.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly

By Kevin Johnson

The Hill -- Trump’s personal lawyer resigns from top post amid legal team shakeup

President Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, will no longer lead the legal team responding to the ongoing Russian investigations. He has taken a reduced role.

Ty Cobb will now take the lead in managing the team’s response to the ongoing federal probe into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Kasowitz, who has worked with Trump since the early 2000s, had represented the president in the Trump University fraud case.

Trump’s legal team spokesman, Mark Corallo, resigned the day before. Corallo has been critical of the Trump administration in the past.

Some of Trump’s lawyers are looking at ways to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 elections.

Bloomberg reported that Mueller was looking into Trump’s past business transactions as a part of the investigation, despite Trump’s warning not to do so.

Sean Spicer, Trump’s press secretary during the last six months, resigned on Friday.

By Julia Manchester

NY Times -- Trump Aides, Seeking Leverage, Investigate Mueller’s Investigators

President Trump’s lawyers and aides are scouring the professional and political backgrounds of investigators hired by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, looking for conflicts of interest they could use to discredit the investigation — or even build a case to fire Mr. Mueller or get some members of his team recused, according to three people with knowledge of the research effort.

It may take many months for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to complete his investigation of Trump and his aides into whether they colluded with Russia in the 2016 campaign, but already Trump’s lawyers and aides are looking for conflicts of interest they could use to discredit the investigation — or even build a case to fire Mueller or get some members of his team recused.

It’s all part of Trump’s 4-part strategy to survive even if collusion is discovered:

(1) discredit Mueller’s investigation,
(2) sow distrust toward the intelligence agencies that found the evidence,
(3) undermine the credibility of the press that report the results, as “fake news,” and (4) sell the absurd idea that Vladimir Putin is really a good guy whose help we need fighting Islamic terrorism.

Trump figures he can survive even if only his core supporters believe this because they’re a majority of Republican voters --all he needs to stay in power as long as Republicans control the House and Senate.

Am I being too cynical?

By Michael S. Schmidt, Maggie Haberman, Matt Apuzzo

Vox -- Trump has no idea how much health insurance costs

President Donald Trump cites policy he has never taken the time to read. He claims numerical statistics that he doesn’t care whether or not are factual. He doesn’t even try to understand pending legislation and do the homework required to understand.

He has no idea what he's doing or what struggles American families are actually facing.

“I know a lot about health care,” President Donald Trump declared in a Wednesday interview with the New York Times.

But Trump’s answers to other questions betrayed how little he knows about health policy. As Ezra Klein wrote yesterday, this has become a major stumbling block in Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare. Trump can’t strike a deal on health care when he doesn’t understand health policy.

Trump cited numbers that don’t seem to come from any recent version of the health care debate.

From the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan, Trump told the Times.

Of course, anyone who has purchased health coverage, let alone studied the health insurance market, knows that a $12 annual premium is nonexistent -- and that premiums are typically paid in months rather than years. The numbers Trump cites seem to come from the universe of life insurance rather than that of health insurance. Life insurance premiums are significantly lower and a completely different benefit program than health coverage.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders:

I’m not sure which world he’s living in, but in this one, health insurance is a lot more than $12. In fact, the Republican health care bill in the Senate right now would take premiums that already cost hundreds of dollars and multiply them. Under their bill, someone making $26,500 a year and paying $800 for premiums today would have to pay $13,000 for a premium in 2026. $13,000!

Mr. President, you need to understand the reality that people face with the enormous costs of health insurance we have today. What this country needs is to guarantee health care to all, not to make health insurance even more unaffordable than it already is for millions of Americans.

By Sarah Kliff

Bloomberg -- Mueller Expands Probe to Trump Business Transactions

"Follow the money!"

It's the first thing you learn as a new police detective, a beginning prosecutor, or a cub reporter. And it's a lesson you dare not forget. Money is often the fuse that ties the smoke to the fire.

Stellar reporting from Bloomberg that the Special Counsel Robert Mueller is looking at a wide expanse of President Trump and his family's business dealings is a big development and one that has, and should have, Mr. Trump feeling the heat.

The more you dig into the digits, the more you are likely to find inconsistencies or much worse, especially in a freewheeling and never scrutinized family real estate empire like Mr. Trump's.

Remember how defiantly the President has refused to release his tax returns. Remember the "red line" on just this scope of inquiry that he laid out in his interview yesterday with the New York Times. Remember all the shady associations with Russian money and his descent into - and remarkable resurrection from - bankruptcy. Remember that it was just reported that former campaign manager Paul Manafort was in debt 17 million dollars to Russian interests before he took a job with the Trump campaign. (I gave you a few extra spaces after the period to let that fact sink in).

Trump has categorically denied any collusion with Russia, or even knowledge of any of the high level conversations between his family and staff and representatives of the nation that attacked our democracy. Mr. Trump's credibility right now is not exactly rock solid, but even granting this is the case, what happens when the spotlight turns to hard evidence in dollars and cents?

When you turn over a rock, you can't put back all the critters that start crawling out.

By Greg Farrell and Christian Berthelsen

Friday, July 21, 2017

Think Progress -- Trump officially nominates climate-denying conservative talk radio host as USDA’s top scientist

The Trump administration’s war on science continues apace.

Sam Clovis, a former right-wing radio host, climate change denier and now nominee to be the Department of Agriculture's top scientist. He knows about as much about science as Lassie.

Sam Clovis, a former Trump campaign adviser, and one-time conservative talk radio host has no background in the hard sciences, nor any policy experience with food or agriculture. Still, that did not stop President Donald Trump from officially nominating Clovis to the position of the United States Department of Agriculture’s undersecretary of research, education, and economics, the agency’s top science position.

In the past, the undersecretary of research, education, and economics has brought years of experience in science, public health, or food policy. Previous undersecretaries have been biochemists, plant physiologists, or food nutrition experts. The most recent undersecretary, Catherine Woteki, came to the position from Mars, Inc., where she helped manage the company’s scientific research on health, nutrition, and public safety.

Clovis, on the other hand, comes to the position after serving as national co-chair for the Trump campaign, which he joined in 2015. Before that, Clovis was a professor of economics at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa. He has a doctorate in public administration and unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 2014.

By Natasha Geiling

Obama to Republicans: I didn’t create Trump -- your hate toward me did! (VIDEO)

By Edward-Isaac Dovere
Last October, President Barack Obama highly criticized Republican leadership for their actions that lead to the presidency of Donald Trump. Obama said Republicans had been “riding this tiger for a long time’ and “feeding their base all kinds of crazy for years.”

No one who stands by Trump this year, Obama said, can claim to be serious about family values or foreign policy. And nobody can claim higher ground than Trump if they spent the last eight years pursuing an agenda he said was pure opposition, embracing a right-wing media that regularly trafficked in conspiracy theories and accepting personal attacks on him from their base.

“They stood by while this happened, and Donald Trump as he’s prone to do, he didn’t build the building himself — he just slapped his name on it and took credit for it.

Obama is right, it’s exactly what created the conditions for Donald Trump’s presidency.

Robert Reich: “Perhaps the current Senate Republican leadership considers democracy an unaffordable luxury.”

As a result of Donald Trump’s demand for a new health care plan, Senate Republicans, led by majority leader Senator Mitch McConnell, plan to debate health care next week. Among the options they have is a revised version of their most reason attempt to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a plan to repeal and replace ACA, or to present to the Senate a simple repeal of ACA.

But no one will know the plan before they vote. Senator John Cornyn said knowledge of their plan isn’t a “luxury” Republicans can afford.

At this point, no one can predict the direction health care will take. Of course, the Republicans hope to end up with one of the three Republican options. But a viable plan would need acceptance by Democrats and that would be to simply to tweak or make ACA (Obamacare) better.

Call me old-fashioned but I always thought democracy required that the Americans have an opportunity to see what’s in a bill before a vote is taken. Especially one that could affect the health coverage of tens of millions of people, and one-sixth of the entire American economy.

Perhaps the current Senate Republican leadership considers democracy an unaffordable luxury.

By Aaron Rupar

Thursday, July 20, 2017

NY Times -- Citing Recusal, Trump Says He Wouldn’t Have Hired Sessions

By Peter Baker, Michael S. Schmidt 
and Maggie Haberman

Trump said he never would have appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions had he known Mr. Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation that has dogged his presidency. He called the decision “very unfair to the president.”

Trump complained that Sessions' decision ultimately led to the appointment of a special counsel that should not have happened. “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else.

Trump's public criticism of his attorney general Jeff Sessions is getting most of the news today, but the real importance of Trump’s interview with the Times was Trump setting the ground for firing Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and Special Counsel Robert Mueller if the Russian investigation comes up with a smoking gun. Trump will characterize the investigation as part of a Democratic and establishment plot to unseat him.

1. Of Rosenstein, a former federal prosecutor from Baltimore who appointed Mueller special counsel, Trump mused “There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any.” (For the record, Rosenstein is a Republican.)

2. Of Mueller, Trump said he was running an office “rife with conflicts of interest,” and reprised his past complaints that lawyers in Mueller’s office had contributed money to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. He also criticized Mueller, saying, “there were many other conflicts that I haven’t said, but I will at some point.”

3. Asked if Mueller’s investigation would cross a red line if it expanded to look at his family’s finances beyond any relationship to Russia, Trump said, “I would say yes.”

Trump believes his insurance policy is his base, who will believe it's all a conspiracy against him.
In edited audio excerpts from an interview with New York Times reporters, President Trump discussed Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump Jr., Robert S. Mueller III and the newly disclosed conversation he had with Vladimir V. Putin.

NY Times -- Six Long Months of President Trump

We’re now six months into the Trump Presidency…and what do we have? Especially in light of the stunning new New York Times interview with Mr. Trump?

A reasonable analysis is: What we have is the weakest, most chaotic, toxic and confusing first six months of any U.S. Presidency in history. Only Abraham Lincoln got off to a worst start, with the country virulently divided over slavery and the Civil War looming. Fair to note that Lincoln went on to become one of the greatest Presidents ever, but the challenges Lincoln faced were epochal, not the self-inflicted implosion we are currently witnessing. Lincoln's successor Andrew Johnson had a rough start too. But Johnson was not an elected President; he ascended to the office upon the assassination of President Lincoln and the Civil War.

No elected President—none—has had such a tumultuous, scandal-threatened, and downright mind-boggling start, with such low public approval, as has this one. And this has happened while the President’s party controlled both Houses of Congress, now likely the Supreme Court, a majority of governorships and state legislatures—and the FBI.

It is not bias or political partisanship to conclude this. It is fact, historical and otherwise. It is those who deny this that are the ones blinded by partisanship.

With this fact—and in no small part because of it—comes a companion conclusion: that this is dangerous time. Very. No one should underestimate the potential peril. Not just for the Trump Presidency but also and more importantly for the country. Our people are troubled and divided. Friends and allies abroad are worried (as in, “what the hell has happened to America?) Enemies and competitors smell vulnerability.

In his NYT interview, Mr. Trump blasted his own appointed Attorney General, former Senator Jeff Sessions, and, in effect and not for the first time, threatened Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible crimes involving Trump family members and associates and Russia. Mr. Trump specifically demanded that Mueller avoid looking into the President’s tax returns and financial dealings. In other words, “don’t follow the money,” in regards to possible Russian dealings or anything else. Thus, raising anew the question, “what is he hiding?”

So, six months in, and on and on it goes. Where it ends no one knows.

By Frank Bruni

Huffington Post -- Republicans Have A Way Out Of Their Health Care Mess: Working With Democrats

The case for bipartisan action just got stronger.

By Jonathan Cohn
Efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act have collapsed again, although it’s difficult to tell whether Senate Republicans will keep trying to find some way of passing legislation or whether they will simply do nothing and move on ― a strategy that President Donald Trump has already said he endorses because he remains convinced that Obamacare will collapse on its own [however, Trump has shifting stances on health care].

But there’s another way to proceed. Republicans could work with Democrats on a narrow, bipartisan bill that would fix the Affordable Care Act’s very real problems while leaving the bulk of the policy edifice in place.  

Until recently, the idea has mostly been the subject of whispers ― and wistful ones at that. But perhaps the most intriguing news Tuesday was an announcement from Lamar Alexander, the GOP senator from Tennessee and chairman of the health, education, labor, and pensions committee. He said he intends to hold hearings on the Affordable Care Act’s insurance markets ― assuming that the Senate rejects the GOP repeal-and-delay bill when it comes up for a vote early next week.

Of course, as a substantive proposition, bipartisanship has always had a compelling logic. The problem has been the politics for Republicans, particularly the fear that giving up on the repeal agenda and finding common ground with Democrats would be tantamount to admitting failure.

It’s a legitimate concern. But sometimes admitting failure isn’t the worst option on the table. For Republicans, who are now staring failure squarely in the face, this would seem to be one of those times.

Senator Bernie Sanders has a simple 3-point plan to improve the Affordable Health Care Act (ACA). It’s one that Democrats would embrace and narrow enough to get bipartisan support even though Republicans will initially resist. Tweaking the ACA is what should have been done a long time ago and it should have been an ongoing process.

Sanders says, stop talking about massive cuts to Medicaid. Let’s see how we can improve ACA.

We need to do three things:

1. We need a public option.
2. Lower Medicare eligibility from 65 to 55.
3. Lower the cost of prescription drugs.

Long term we must guarantee health care to all people as a right through a much simpler system that Sanders calls “Medicare for all.”

Once we start this process, just like what should have been done a long time ago, to give it viability it must be an ongoing process of tweaking it.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Bloomberg -- GOP's Obamacare Repeal Would Cut Insured by 32 Million, CBO Says

A Republican fallback plan to repeal all of Obamacare without a replacement health program would lead to 32 million more people uninsured by 2026 than under current law, the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday.

That’s about 10 million more uninsured than the estimated 22 million people who wouldn’t be covered under a previous Senate Republican bill to replace many parts of Obamacare.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the Senate may vote on the measure as soon as next week, though support for it is uncertain.

Hoping to avoid a humiliating political defeat, President Trump on Wednesday demanded that Republican senators resume their efforts to approve a plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, insisting that lawmakers are “very close.”

“People should not leave town unless we have a health insurance plan, unless we give our people great health care,” Trump said at the beginning of a lunch with GOP senators at the White House. “We’re close, very close... We have to hammer this out and get it done.”

The president’s effort to resurrect negotiations came a day after he declared it was time to give up on the contentious process to overturn President Obama’s signature legislative achievement and “let Obamacare fail.”

By Anna Edney  and Zachary Tracer

TPM -- Former Ethics Chief: I Was ‘Horrified’ By Trump Lawyer Request

Walter Shaub, the director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE), who criticized the President for failing to relinquish ownership of his real-estate and licensing businesses, as well as on other matters, announced his resignation on July 6. He officially left his position today. Shaub's term as OGE director would have expired next year.

In 2006, he joined the Office of Government Ethics to become the attorney in charge of the Presidential nomination program and later Deputy General Counsel under President George W. Bush. In 2013, he was appointed by President Barack Obama to a five-year term as the director of the Office of Government Ethics.

When asked by CBS News if the Trump family was using the president's office to "enrich themselves," Shaub said: "I can't know what their intention is. I know that the effect is that there's an appearance that the businesses are profiting from his occupying the presidency. And appearance matters as much as reality, so even aside from whether or not that's actually happening, we need to send a message to the world that the United States is going to have the gold standard for an ethics program in government, which is what we've always had.

America should have the right to know what the motivations of its leaders are, and they need to know that financial interests, personal financial interests, aren't among them."

Shaub’s resignation means Trump is now tasked with selecting the next federal ethics watchdog, a five-year position that requires Senate confirmation.

The day after he left his post as head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, former director Walter Shaub appeared on CNN Wednesday morning, spouting off a list of ethical abnormalities he encountered working under the President Donald Trump administration.

1. Shaub said he was “horrified” by an incident in which Trump’s lawyer asked if the President could file his financial disclosure form without signing it. “It was truly the weirdest moment of my entire career. I practically had to pinch myself to make sure I was awake. I thought, ‘This is the embodiment of exactly how far we’ve departed from the ethical norms that the American people are entitled to expect their leaders to live up to,’”

2. Trump is giving the appearance (if not the reality) that he is “profiting from the presidency” by hosting foreign governmental events at his hotels.

3. Even now, the ethics office doesn't have all the information it needs. “I got to be honest with you, I don’t think we know 100 percent for sure that we understand what all of the underlying holdings are at OGE, but ... technically the conflict of interest laws don’t apply even though Presidents have always followed them,” he said.

4. Trump's disregard for ethical norms is echoed throughout the administration. “You need to set a strong ethical tone from the top. Tone is everything in government ethics,” he said. “And what your appointees do is going to follow what you do. We’ve seen a number of incidents that I’ve tried to highlight over the past several months where they’re not following the traditional ethical tone and behaving in a way government officials always behave, and that has really hurt us along the way.”

By Nicole Lafond