Open Thread

The Open Thread for July 14, 2017

MUSLIM BAN HALTED AGAIN: A federal court judge late Thursday agreed once again to partially halt the ban of certain foreign nationals from six predominately Muslim countries on a nationwide basis — a direct rebuke of the government’s attempt to limit the close family members allowed in the US.  Most specifically, the decision means that “grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins of persons in the United States” will now count as sufficiently close family relationships to gain entry into the country.

The Supreme Court ruled late last month that the administration could employ the travel ban against foreign nationals who lack any “bona fide” relationship to a person or entity in the US, but the state of Hawaii said the administration had wrongfully interpreted that to exclude close family, such as grandparents.  The countries affected are Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia.

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WHAT AND WHEN DID THE PRESIDENT KNOW: “President Trump’s legal team was informed more than three weeks ago about the email chain showing that his son Donald Jr. met with a Kremlin-connected lawyer last June,” Yahoo News reports.   Trump has said that he learned just “a couple of days ago”… but the sources said that Marc Kasowitz, the president’s chief lawyer in the Russia investigation, and Alan Garten, chief legal officer of the Trump Organization, “were both informed about the emails in the third week of June, after they were discovered by lawyers for Kushner.”

Yesterday Trump had this to say about his campaign staff meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya: “On Wednesday afternoon, Trump told Reuters that “No. That I didn’t know. Until a couple of days ago, when I heard about this. No I didn’t know about that,” referring to the meeting between Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort.”  I’m guessing that not too long after he said that, the White House learned that someone has proof that he did, in fact, know about it. Because he’s already changed his tune.    “In fact maybe it was mentioned at some point,” referring to the meeting.

Remember, Trump lies about Everything.   Every word out of his mouth is a lie. When he says “the,” that is a lie.

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THE NEW NEW NEW NEW TRUMPCARE BILL.   This is version 4.0, if my math is correct. Senate Republicans on Thursday released a revised version of their bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, with changes aimed at placating more members to ensure the bill’s passage. From the New York Times:

“Republicans said the revised bill would provide roughly $70 billion in additional funds that states could use to help reduce premiums, hold down out-of-pocket costs and otherwise make health care more affordable. The bill already included more than $100 billion for such purposes. The new bill, like earlier versions, would convert Medicaid from an open-ended entitlement to a system of fixed payments to states. But in the event of a public health emergency, state Medicaid spending in a particular part of a state would not be counted toward the spending limits, known as per capita caps.

In a departure from current law, the bill would allow insurers, under certain conditions, to offer health plans that did not comply with standards in the Affordable Care Act. Under that law, insurers sell regulated health plans through a public insurance exchange in each state.”

The last paragraph refers to provisions proposed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has pushed for allowing individuals to purchase cheaper insurance plans that cover less than Obamacare requires. That concession and the inclusion of provisions allowing the use of Health Savings Accounts to pay for premiums may win over conservatives starting with Cruz himself. The bill also includesconcessions aimed at winning over moderates including $45 billion in funding to address opioid addiction, the preservation of Obamacare taxes on wealthy Americans, and $70 billion in additional funding for states trying to stabilize premiums and out-of-pocket costs.

The CBO is expected to release a score for the revised bill on Monday or Tuesday.

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THE POLAR PAYOFF AND TWO NO VOTES ALREADY:  Bloomberg: “Changes made to the Republican legislation to repeal large parts of Obamacare would send hundreds of millions of extra federal dollars to Alaska, whose Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski has been holding off from giving her much-needed vote to the bill. Under formulas in the revised legislation, only Alaska appears to qualify for the extra money.”

“The money comes from the legislation’s $182 billion in funding meant to help stabilize insurance markets and help states provide coverage. Under the formulas, states — in this case just Alaska — with disproportionately higher premiums would get extra funds from that account.

Meanwhile, Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Rand Paul (R-KY) “will both be voting no on the revised Senate health bill,” Axios reports.  “This comes after Mitch McConnell unveiled his new health care bill Thursday, which would let insurers sell skimpy policies that are low-cost but which adds money for combating the opioid epidemic.”  If true, McConnell cannot afford to lose another Republican vote.

And Dean Heller seems to be an impossible get.

Politico: “GOP leaders are putting immense pressure on about half a dozen other Republican senators not to join them and topple the entire effort. Another ‘no’ is enough to kill the bill, and would also likely lead to mass defections.”

Axios: “If the Senate’s health care bill dies, moderate Republicans will likely be the ones who kill it. And the changes released yesterday won’t do much to allay their biggest concerns.”

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TRUMP’S INCOMPETENCE: James Hohmann: “Perhaps the biggest conceit of Donald Sr.’s rationale for seeking the presidency was his competence as a manager. Many voters assumed that because he is rich and once hosted a successful reality-television show, Trump could effectively lead an organization. The more details that emerge about how his campaign really operated behind the scenes — and how paralyzed his White House is now — the clearer it becomes that the president is in way over his head.”

“Even more than in normal organizations, the person at the top of any campaign or White House sets the tone that everyone else follows. When the leader plays fast and loose with the rules and the truth, it creates a problematic culture.”

Dana Millbank: “There have been enough rookie errors to send this whole team back to Double-A ball. The longer this goes on — we’re now six months into Trump’s term — the less it looks like growing pains than incompetence and mismanagement aggravated by nepotism and dishonesty.”

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NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR POLL: A new Monmouth poll in New Jersey finds Phil Murphy (D) with a daunting 27 point lead over Kim Guadagno (R) in the race for governor, 53% to 26%.  Said pollster Patrick Murray: “Party labels are the primary driver behind this early reading of the race since very few voters really know much about either candidate. It is not clear whether Guadagno’s fortunes will improve as voters learn more about her current role as lieutenant governor considering how unpopular Chris Christie is right now.”

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The video shows the future President Donald Trump attending a dinner with an Azerbaijani-Russian family who became Trump’s business partners in Las Vegas in June 2013. It also shows their publicist, Rob Goldstone, who would later send Donald Trump Jr. the emails that have brought the eldest Trump son to the center of the controversy over possible collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russia.

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KUSHNER MORE EXPOSED THAN DONNY BOY: Jeffrey Toobin: “In some respects, the person most exposed by the released e-mails is not Trump, Jr., but Jared Kushner, who continues to serve as a high-ranking White House adviser. More to the point, under penalty of law, Kushner filed an application to receive a security clearance, which was supposed to list all his foreign contacts. He did not initially disclose the June meeting, and congressional Democrats have been calling for his security clearance to be revoked. Inadvertence and bad memory are valid defenses in false-statement cases, but could Kushner seriously contend that a meeting set up with an e-mail heading ‘Russian – Clinton – private and confidential’ simply slipped his mind?”

“Shortly after the election, Kushner, a novice in government, allegedly set up a back channel to communicate with the Russian government, using communication facilities operated by the Putin regime. At a minimum, this is deeply naïve on Kushner’s part; whether something more sinister was afoot is worthy of investigation.”

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GOP RUSSIA COLLUDER KILLS HIMSELF.  “A Republican donorand operative [Peter W. Smith] from Chicago’s North Shore who said he had tried to obtain Hillary Clinton’s missing emails from Russian hackers killed himself in a Minnesota hotel room days after talking to The Wall Street Journal about his efforts,” the Chicago Tribune reports.

Jonathan Chait says it’s suspicious.  No shit.

Don’t remember who Peter Smith is?   Two weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal reported the early threads of a story that looked to be a potential blockbuster in the making: Peter Smith, a longtime GOP operative and private equity executive out of Chicago, in September 2016, two months before Election Day, had been shopping around in the dark corners of the web for thousands of deleted emails belonging to Hillary Clinton. During the search, in emails and on the phone, he presented himself as working with top Trump adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as he solicited Clinton emails from hackers he assumed to be affiliated with the Russian government. The Journal knew all of this because Smith, himself, said so in an interview with the paper the first week of May.

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THEY DON’T GET IT:   Matt Bai: “I wasn’t right about a lot of things during last year’s campaign, but I was dead right when I warned that Trump would run the government the way he had run his business — as a family enterprise, the plaything of his children. To me, this is the single greatest threat his presidency poses. They strike me as careless people. They know as much about consequence as I do about handbags.”

Josh Marshall: “Trump has skidded on the edge of legality for decades. He at least worked with and took money from crooks and organized crime figures for decades. Other than having to settle a few lawsuits, he’s never paid any price.”

A big federal investigation like this is like a broad lava flow. It moves slowly but it is unstoppable. It burns and crushes things in its wake. And things too big or unburnable it just covers over. The little antics and PR gambits mainly do not matter. Key players in this mix don’t seem to appreciate that.”

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TIME TO GO UNDER OATH, DONNY BOY: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) told NPR that he has sent a letter to Donald J. Trump Jr. saying that he wants him to testify in an open session of the committee as early as next week and will subpoena him if necessary.

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HE NEEDS A GREAT BIG BEAUTIFUL WALL: Politico: “Trump’s legal team is attempting to separate the president from Donald Trump Jr. and the son’s legal team on Russia matters, as well from Jared Kushner and his legal team, over concerns that the blurred lines could create unnecessary problems, according to these sources. They have tried to block Trump’s warring band of aides from joining meetings with his lawyers, warning that they could become witnesses or be forced to hire lawyers if they attend.”

“Similar to his freewheeling governing style, Trump wants many people in the room for meetings and will sometimes ask lawyers for advice about people they do not represent, two West Wing aides said. At the same time, most West Wing aides don’t have lawyers yet and have sometimes asked lawyers not representing them for guidance.”

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DESPITE ANGRY THREATS, TRUMP IS A NO SHOW IN TRUMPCARE PUSH: Rick Klein: “It may be fitting that Senate Republicans are meeting today to discuss the latest version of their health care bill while President Trump is six time zones away. His appearance in Paris is a reminder that the president hasn’t held a public event on U.S. soil since before his last foreign trip. And it speaks to something larger: The president is both everywhere and nowhere right now. For as much as the president has dominated Washington and national news cycles through nearly six months in office, the new normal has him strikingly beside the point when it comes to big legislative pushes.”

“It’s not only that he’s not involved in health care negotiations, it’s that he’s barely offered a single public or even private comment about what specifically he wants in it. Asked about the consequences of inaction on health care Wednesday, he said Congress runs the risk … of making him mad: ‘I don’t even want to talk about it because I think it would be very bad. I will be very angry about it and a lot of people will be very upset.’”

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WHAT TRUMP OWES THE RUSSIA MOB: New Republic: “The very nature of Trump’s businesses—all of which are privately held, with few reporting requirements—makes it difficult to root out the truth about his financial deals. And the world of Russian oligarchs and organized crime, by design, is shadowy and labyrinthine.”

“But even without an investigation by Congress or a special prosecutor, there is much we already know about the president’s debt to Russia. A review of the public record reveals a clear and disturbing pattern: Trump owes much of his business success, and by extension his presidency, to a flow of highly suspicious money from Russia.”

“Over the past three decades, at least 13 people with known or alleged links to Russian mobsters or oligarchs have owned, lived in, and even run criminal activities out of Trump Tower and other Trump properties. Many used his apartments and casinos to launder untold millions in dirty money. Some ran a worldwide high-stakes gambling ring out of Trump Tower—in a unit directly below one owned by Trump. Others provided Trump with lucrative branding deals that required no investment on his part. Taken together, the flow of money from Russia provided Trump with a crucial infusion of financing that helped rescue his empire from ruin, burnish his image, and launch his career in television and politics.”

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Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

8 comments on “The Open Thread for July 14, 2017

  1. cassandram

    The revised Senate Bill for healthcare counts pots of money multiple times.

    Which is another reminder of why you really do not want to trust the GOP with your money.

  2. Or the Democrats!

    • True, yet they’re not equal. The Republicans are out of power in Delaware because of the crony capitalism. Have Delawareans already forgotten the ironically named Kermit Justice?

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