Sunday, March 26, 2017

New Bill Aims to Unmask Visitors at Trump's Alternative White Houses

Amid reports Saturday that President Donald Trump would spend his afternoon "holding meetings" at a golf course he owns in Virginia, grassroots support is growing for a new bill introduced late this week that would force the president to provide visitor logs for Trump-owned properties where he conducts official government business.
"The American people need to know who has access to the White House if we're going to ‘drain the swamp'. So far, all we've seen from the President is murk." —Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)As The Hill reported, it was "not immediately clear from pool reports who the president was planning to meet" during his afternoon at the Trump International Golf Club outside Washington, D.C., but it was pointed out by others that this is the eighth weekend in a row in which Trump has visited one of the luxury properties owned by his company. Since his inauguration on January 20, Trump has spent more than half his weekends at Mar-a-Lago, the resort estate he owns in Florida and which his administration has frequently referred to as the "Winter White House" or the "Southern White House."
On Friday, Democrats in both the House and Senate introduced a bill that would force the Trump administration to maintain logs for Mar-a-Lago and other venues as a way to compel the level of transparency that is mandated for visitors at the White House. The cleverness of an acronym helps make the point, with the lawmakers calling their proposed law the "Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness Act" or "MAR-A-LAGO Act."  Read full story here 

Sources say Mike Flynn may have turned on Trump and become a witness for the FBI

As of Saturday evening, rumors are swirling that Pres. Donald Trump’s ousted national security adviser Mike Flynn has cut a deal with the FBI and is now informing on his old boss, the president.

CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem discussed the possibility in a panel discussion on Friday night when she said that former Trump foreign policy consultant Carter Page, ex-campaign manager Paul Manafort and longtime Trump ally Roger Stone will all testify before the House Intelligence Committee regarding their ties to Russia. Read post here

Graham Spars With Raucous Town Hall Over Support Of Trump's SCOTUS Pick

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) faced boos Saturday when he said he supported President Donald Trump's supreme court nominee Neil Gorsuch and said those who don't believe he's qualified are "not listening."

Graham sang Judge Gorsuch's praises during a tense town hall in his home state of South Carolina, calling Gorsuch "one of the finest people" Trump could have picked.

“Judge Gorsuch was one of the finest people, I think, President Trump could’ve chosen," he said. "I am going to enthusiastically support him, and if the Democrats try to filibuster him, they will be making a huge mistake.”

As the crowd began to boo, Graham tried to list off his reasons for supporting Gorsuch. But as they continued to boo, Graham said that the crowd was not persuading him and that if they don't believe Gorsuch is qualified then they're "not listening."

“To everybody that boos Judge Gorsuch, you’re not persuading me at all,” he said. “As a matter of fact, if you can’t understand that he is a qualified nominee, then you’re not listening. If you don’t understand that elections matter, then you don’t understand America.”

"If you think only liberals only can get their nominees and conservatives can't, then you don't understand American," he said. "I don't think that the Constitution was written so that you get everything you want and I get nothing."

Graham has been a vocal supporter of Gorsuch, even threatening to use the "nuclear option" if Democrats choose to filibuster him. But at the town hall, he said a filibuster would "turn the country upside down."  

https://www.facebook.com/NBCPolitics/videos/1356956121063832/

A Handful of Trump Voters Are Coming to the Painful Realization That They've Been Had

A quick glance at FiveThirtyEight suggests that Donald Trump is as unpopular as he's been at any point in his brief, turbulent presidency. The website, which takes a weighted average of polls from the American Research Group to YouGov, finds his unfavorables stand at 50.6 percent against 44.4 percent favorables amongst likely or registered voters. That split widens to 52.4/41.5 for all American adults, and none of these numbers account for this week's stunning collapse of the American Health Care Act, the GOP's replacement for Obamacare.

What these numbers don't reveal, and what will likely keep the president in power for the foreseeable future, is that Trump remains broadly popular with the Republican base. After attempting to strip 14 million people of their insurance next year and hollow out the very social health care program he pledged to preserve, stocking his cabinet with former Goldman Sachs employees and proposing a budget that would slash funding for transportation and education, he still enjoys an 81 percent approval rating with his party, according to Quinnipiac. A recent Mood of the Nation poll found as few as 3 percent of Trump voters would recast their ballot if given the chance.

While the regretful Trump voter is mostly a myth, a small and increasingly vocal minority are proving exceptions to the rule. They are grief-stricken dads and ingenuous wives, Iowa electricians and Georgia farmers. Their stories are baffling, infuriating and occasionally tragic, sometimes all at once. While they may not deserve your sympathy, they at least demand your empathy.  Read full post 

Judge Jeanine Calls For Paul Ryan To Quit — Hours After Trump Plugged Her Show!

Former prosecutor Jeanine Pirro opened her Fox News show Saturday by calling for Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to step down as Speaker of the House — hours after President Donald Trump posted a tweet telling his followers to tune in.

The host of “Justice with Judge Jeanine” launched the blistering attack in the wake of the failure of the Obamacare repeal bill, known as the American Health Care Act, which was withdrawn by Republican leaders ahead of its scheduled vote Friday on the floor of the House.

But on Saturday, many on Twitter found it curious that Trump promoted Pirro’s show hours before she vehemently demanded Ryan resign.

During her rant, Pirro insisted that she “certainly” hadn’t spoken to the president “about any of this,” despite Trump’s earlier tweet.  Read full story 

Trump ‘Didn’t Have Sufficient Command Of Policy Details To Negotiate

Donald Trump had heard enough about policy and process. It was Thursday afternoon and members of the House Freedom Caucus were peppering the president with wonkish concerns about the American Health Care Act—the language that would leave Obamacare’s “essential health benefits” in place, the community rating provision that limited what insurers could charge certain patients, and whether the next two steps of Speaker Paul Ryan’s master plan were even feasible—when Trump decided to cut them off.

"Forget about the little shit," Trump said, according to multiple sources in the room. "Let's focus on the big picture here."

The group of roughly 30 House conservatives, gathered around a mammoth, oval-shaped conference table in the Cabinet Room of the White House, exchanged disapproving looks. Trump wanted to emphasize the political ramifications of the bill's defeat; specifically, he said, it would derail his first-term agenda and imperil his prospects for reelection in 2020. The lawmakers nodded and said they understood. And yet they were disturbed by his dismissiveness. For many of the members, the "little shit" meant the policy details that could make or break their support for the bill—and have far-reaching implications for their constituents and the country.

"We’re talking about one-fifth of our economy," a member told me afterward.

Ultimately, the meeting failed to move any votes. Two Freedom Caucus members—Brian Babin and Ted Poe, both of Texas—told the president that they had switched to yes, but their decisions had already been registered with White House vote-counters prior to sitting down with Trump. (Their colleagues didn't appreciate the gesture, feeling that Babin and Poe were trying to score points with the president at their expense.) Upon returning to Capitol Hill, the Freedom Caucus gathered in a meeting room inside the Rayburn office building, discussed Trump's admonitions to them and took another vote. The tally had not changed: Of the group’s roughly three dozen members, two-thirds remained opposed, with only five or six of those saying they were "soft" in that stance.

The president had been working on many of them individually in recent days, typically with what members described as "colorful" phone calls, littered with exaggerations and foul language and hilariously off-topic anecdotes. In some cases, the pressure worked. Jim Bridenstine, a Freedom Caucus member and longtime problem for the Republican leadership, agreed to back the bill after conversations with Trump and other administration officials. (It wasn't necessary to remind Bridenstine that he was a leading candidate to become NASA administrator, and would likely hurt his chances by voting against the president.)  Read full story here 

Trump announces 20,000 jobs that were planned a year and a half before his election

After a meeting at the White House with Charter Communications CEO Thomas Rutledge, President Trump announced that the company told him it will hire 20,000 more people and invest $25 billion in the U.S.

“Today I am thrilled to announce that Charter Communications has just committed to investing $25 billion…here in the United States and has committed further to hiring 20,000 American workers over the next four years,” Trump bragged on Friday. He also noted that Charter committed to close all its offshore call centers.

But Trump was bragging about something that was in the works long before he took office. Charter made this hiring goal public in the spring of 2015.

Charter announced its plans to acquire Time Warner Cable in May of 2015 and then spent a year trying to get it approved by regulators. To sweeten the deal, as early as June 2015 the company pledged to hire 20,000 more Americans if it went through.
The FCC explicitly mentioned this promise when it approved the merger in May of 2016. “The Applicants commit to increase customer care through domestic investment and in-sourced jobs, and claim that New Charter would bring thousands of overseas Time Warner Cable jobs back to the United States,” the agency wrote. “They explain that many, if not most of the overseas jobs would be brought in-house, where the Applicants would provide significant training, benefits, and opportunities for advancement, which would add to the skill level and economic fabric of local communities.”

When asked if this was the same as the announcement made today, a Charter spokesperson told ThinkProgress, “We have spoken about our plans to hire 20k before but it wasn’t a commitment. Today we committed to a time frame of four years for those hires.”  Read full story 

Donald Trump Doesn't Win Anymore

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump, who wrote a book about his preternatural ability to get deals done, lost in his highest-stakes negotiation yet. Trump failed to get House Republicans behind a badly battered health care bill backed by Speaker Paul Ryan, and the bill was pulled at the last minute on Friday afternoon at the president's request.

Trump, who barnstormed the country blasting leaders who he said had damaged the United States and promising that he would win so much that Americans would get tired of it, is decidedly on a losing streak, facing fresh questions over when and where he will find a signature victory for his young but stumbling administration.

The major health care defeat follows an injunction against a travel ban from Muslim-majority countries that itself had to be rewritten because the original executive order faced such steep legal challenges. Both of those setbacks came amid the cloud of investigations and allegations into ties between Trump's campaign and Russian officials that led to the resignation of his national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Trump isn't even winning in polls, which he used to frequently cite during the campaign. According to a new Quinnipiac national poll released this week, his approval rating is at 37% just two months into his presidency, when presidents have historically had high approval ratings.     Read full post 

Biden: I regret not being president



Saturday, March 25, 2017

Schumer: GOP health bill failed because of Trump incompetence, broken promises

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer blamed President Donald Trump and his administration's "incompetence" for Friday's failure of a Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Schumer, D-N.Y., the Senate Democratic leader, had to this to say about Trump's first significant legislative defeat:

"Ultimately, the TrumpCare bill failed because of two traits that have plagued the Trump presidency since he took office: incompetence and broken promises. In my life, I have never seen an administration as incompetent as the one occupying the White House today.

"They can't write policy that actually makes sense, they can't implement the policies they do manage to write, they can't get their stories straight, and today we've learned that they can't close a deal, and they can't count votes.

"So much for the Art of the Deal.

"I also have never seen a president break as many promises to working people as this President has done in just over two months. President Trump said we're going to have health insurance for everyone that's going to cost less. TrumpCare would have done exactly the opposite. This bill would have been a boon for the wealthy, providing a huge tax cut for Americans making over $250,000, while causing premiums to rise by more than $12,000 for lower income seniors.

‘I sense panic at the White House’: Journalist Louise Mensch explains how the Russia-Trump probe is coming to a head

On Friday’s episode of “Real Time with Bill Maher,” English author and independent journalist Louise Mensch appeared to discuss her work investigating Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.

Her first order of business as the investigation progresses, she said, is to get Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) off of the intelligence committee, because he obviously cannot be trusted. She said that the Democrats on the committee are doing a decent enough job but have yet to call out Nunes and say “he’s got to go.”

“You’ve got to say, ‘He’s got to go now!’ I don’t care if he’s your mate. I don’t care if he’s your buddy. He’s got to go,” she said.

American horror author and screenwriter Max Brooks wants to see liberals and Democrats “get our FDR balls back” and suit up for a fight against the GOP.

Mensch argued that going after Nunes would bring the fight to the GOP and force them to be tied to Trump, who may very well be engaged in treason.  Read full story here 

Trump’s Russia Ties a Full-Blown Crisis for U.S. Democracy

If the United States Congress were doing its job, right now nearly all business before the House and Senate would grind to a halt as leaders addressed a rapidly-unfolding crisis: whether the current administration is acting in the interests of the nation whose Constitution its members have sworn to defend. The nomination hearings of a new Supreme Court justice would be forestalled while national law enforcement and intelligence agencies investigated the current administration’s ties to a foreign government that attempted to sway the 2016 presidential election in favor of the president who appointed that nominee. An independent select committee would be quickly convened.
A congressional leadership with a shred of patriotism would take a break from trying to revoke health care from everyday Americans to take up an all-hands-on-deck approach to the question of just which nation the current administration works for. Instead, Republicans are more concerned with who leaked damning information about the administration’s interactions with Russian officials.

It appears today that the U.S. government is headed by a team with no regard for the interests of the American people, but with plenty of regard for those of a foreign adversary. In a week that began with an announcement of a criminal investigation involving associates of the president regarding possible ties to Russia-backed entities that tried to tilt the table toward Donald J. Trump during the presidential election, Wednesday brought word of a peculiar relationship between Trump’s one-time campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and a Russian oligarch said to be a member of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.

In a March 22 story, the Associated Press reported that Manafort collected as much as $10 million per year between 2006-2009 for work done on behalf of Oleg Deripaska, an oligarch believed to be worth more than $5 billion, and owner of one of the world’s largest aluminum companies. The revelations come just two days after FBI Director James Comey confirmed at a House Intelligence Committee Hearing that his bureau has been conducting, since July, an investigation of Russian attempts to undermine the candidacy of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton—and the possible involvement of Trump campaign associates in the scheme.  Read full post 

Joy goes off on GOP pundit blaming Democrats: Remember 'I alone can fix it?' WATCH

Inspector General Probing Donald Trump Move To Pull Obamacare Enrollment Ads

The Department of Health and Human Services inspector general has launched an investigation into the Trump administration’s decision to pull ads encouraging people to sign up for the Affordable Care Act during the enrollment period. By shutting down such outreach, the action could be seen as a stealth way to starve the health plan without legislative authority, critics say.

President Donald Trump’s administration said the ads were a waste of money, but Democrats have characterized the action as sabotage.

In response to a request to investigate the actions from Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the inspector general said his office is conducting a “fact-finding” review, the Hill reported.

The office will examine exactly what was done and when by the administration, and its effect on enrollment in the health plan, according to a letter written to the senators Thursday. Dwindling numbers of consumers enrolled in any insurance undermines an affordable risk pool.

“We will conduct a fact-finding review of HHS’s decision related to halting (and resuming, as applicable) paid advertisements, email, social media, and other outreach efforts related to marketplace enrollment in 2017,” HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson wrote in the letter to the senators  Read full story here 

Why the Republicans' Bizarre and Failed Efforts to Repeal Obamacare Is a Major Defeat for Trump and the GOP

President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan have stunningly failed their first major legislative test, as a bill to repeal Obamacare and defund Medicaid was pulled from House debate just before voting was to begin. A chorus of “No” erupted before its live video link went dead.

Ryan’s effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act and gut Medicaid was a risky gamble. It showed that the right-wing ideology of ending government programs under the guise of cutting spending and spreading personal freedom was more fantasy than reality, especially when the GOP faced undermining millions of lives.

Even though Republicans have been pledging to dismantle Obamacare for years, Ryan’s bill arrogantly went beyond Trump’s oft-repeated campaign pledge to repeal and replace the ACA by tying it to the first major defunding of Medicaid, an anti-poverty program that has served tens of millions for half a century. Across the country, tens of thousands of people attended rallies protesting the proposed healthcare cuts and unexpectedly deluged town meetings convened by Republicans in their home districts.

At a press conference after the bill was pulled, Ryan darkly predicted Obamacare would collapse under its own weight yet the government’s role in providing health coverage is here to stay. "Obamacare is the law of the land. It’s gonna remain the law of the land until it’s replaced," he said. "We did not have quite the votes to replace this law.”  Read full post here 

Trump Blames Obamacare Defeat On Democrats Whom He Never Asked For Help

In the moments after it was announced that his health care bill was dead and pulled from consideration, President Donald Trump had pinpointed the culprit. Democrats, he explained, were to blame for the failure because they refused to provide him with any of their votes.

“We had no Democrat support. We had no votes from the Democrats,” Trump explained. “With no Democrats on board, we couldn’t quite get there.”

“When you get no votes from the other side ― meaning the Democrats ― it is a very difficult situation,” he said elsewhere.

Trump is right in noting that there was no bipartisan appetite for his health care proposal. And certainly, when you start without any support from the other side of the aisle, it is hard to pass much of anything.

But if the lack of Democratic support was to blame for this governing debacle, Trump has no one to blame but himself.

During the course of putting together the repeal-and-replace process for Obamacare, Trump never once reached out to a member of the Democratic leadership to discuss policy matters or vote counts. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office confirmed as much. So too did Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office.     Read full story 

Trump Budget Horrifies Majority of Voters, Poll Finds

Most Americans don't want Elmo to get fired.
They also don't want enormous funding cuts to medical research, after-school and summer programs, new road and transit projects, climate change research, and a program to help low income people heat their homes.
Those cuts—and many more—comprise the "morally obscene" budget put together by the Trump administration, and a new Quinnipiac poll published Friday demonstrates that those proposals are deeply unpopular with most Americans.
The numbers showing widespread disapproval of President Donald Trump's budget are out just as public figures call for a "total shutdown" of government over the president's alleged ties to Russia, and as Trump grapples with the apparent collapse of his attempt to pass a cruel and unpopular healthcare bill.
This latest poll also comes on the heels of other recent surveys that show tanking public support for the president and his policies.
Trump's proposed severe funding cuts face disapproval by huge margins. The budget's slashing of public funding for medical research, for example, faces a whopping 87 percent disapproval, with only ten percent of respondents voicing approval.
"By wide margins," Quinnipiac notes, "American voters say other proposed cuts are a 'bad idea:'"
  • 84 - 13 percent against cutting funding for new road and transit projects;
  • 67 - 31 percent against cuts to scientific research on the environment and climate change;
  • 83 - 14 percent against cutting funding for after-school and summer school programs;
  • 66 - 27 percent against eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities;
  • 79 - 17 percent against eliminating the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
President Donald Trump's oft-repeated campaign promise to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border is also a "bad idea," 64 percent of respondents said. Only 35 percent approved of the wall.  Read full story here 

Dan Rather Just Gave A Priceless Response To Trumpcare’s Implosion

The Republican Party’s seven-year effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act just died a humiliating death before it even reached the floor of the House. “Obamacare is now the law of the land” admitted House Speaker Paul Ryan a few moments ago.

It’s an astonishing turn of events and it’s hard to see how the rollout of this bill could have been handled worse.

Legendary journalist Dan Rather just took to Facebook to share his thoughts on the Republican Party’s colossal defeat at the hands of their own extremism:

Stunning. A complete defeat that I don’t think anyone would have predicted in the manner that took place. 
Donald Trump promised to repeal and replace Obamacare on day one of his presidency. He promised a health care nirvana of lower premiums, choice and better care. The GOP have been demonizing the Affordable Care Act for 7 years and yet here we are. The Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land. Who knew healthcare was hard?
The morass of blame is only beginning. As he just told New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, this is “the Democrats fault.” We’ll see how that plays with the public and with history. Mr. Trump is wounded and he will try to do his usual two step of taking credit for everything and blame for nothing. It is a dance that I think was already old for a majority of Americans. And if recent polls are to be believed even some of his voters are getting weary. And let’s remember we are just over two months into his presidency.
I have never seen such a staggering loss so early in a term. We have long left charted waters with this administration. And our ship of state bobs amidst ominous waves. 
The damage isn’t limited to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Many Democrats never understood Paul Ryan’s golden boy wonk status. But that aura has also been deeply and perhaps irrevocably tarnished by this health care failure. And the difficulty was expected to be in the Senate.
Meanwhile, the Russian shadow continues to darken.

Read full story here  





CNN panel on the scope of Trump’s failure: ‘Let’s just step back and look at what a disaster this is’

CNN’s political panel didn’t hold back their blame for President Donald Trump and the decision to pull the bill.

“Let’s just step back for a minute and look at what a disaster this is for the president,” Gloria Borger said. “I mean, this isn’t even his first hundred days. He wanted to get this through and clearly, he has already said to us, ‘you know, well, maybe I should have done tax reform.'”

“Except they need the money from the repeal of Obamacare to do tax reform,” host Jake Tapper noted.

Borger agreed, saying that if one looks back on the past few months, Trump has had one failure after another. The health care law hasn’t happened, the travel ban was held up in courts and he didn’t rip up the Iran nuclear peace deal. At the same time, the wall on the US-Mexico border isn’t going to be paid for by Mexico.

“And, by the way, the administration itself is under a cloud with the FBI director appearing before Congress and saying that there was an ongoing investigation about whether there was cooperation between Trump operatives and the Russians,” Borger noted.  Read full story here 

Congressman: Classified reports have ‘damning evidence’ of Trump campaign’s coordination with Russia

“There are things that I know,” Pocan said, according to Towleroad.com, “just that I’ve read in classified reports that I’m sure will still come out that will continue to be damning evidence when it comes to this relationship between the Russians trying to influence our elections and ultimately I think the Trump campaign’s potential coordination on it.” 

“Some of it is in the classified version of the report,” he said, “and some of that hasn’t come out yet.”

He lauded “great journalism” that is bringing the details of this story to light and said “you’re going to keep seeing things come out.”

Pocan made headlines in February when he called for Pres. Trump’s impeachment over his anti-Muslim travel ban.  Read full story here 

Friday, March 24, 2017

'The Bill Is Over' House GOP Pulls Health Care Bill Before Sure Defeat

Late Friday afternoon, minutes before they were supposed to fulfill eight years of promises to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Republicans choked and pulled their bill amid resistance from both the party’s conservative and moderate wings and fears a floor vote would go down in flames.

President Donald Trump, after demanding a Friday vote less than 24 hours previously, agreed with House Speaker Paul Ryan that the bill be pulled.

The prospects for the legislation's passage were already looking dim when House Speaker Paul Ryan made an unscheduled trip to the White House earlier Friday. Later, about a half-an-hour before the vote was expected to begin, the House was abruptly called into recess and House Republicans were summoned to the Capitol basement in for conference meeting.

Members poured down the narrow, windowless hallway to the conference room unsure what was going on.

"Hell if I know!" Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) told TPM, throwing his hands in the air when asked for the status of the bill.

Mere minutes later, the Republican lawmakers came streaming back out—saying they were told very little other than that the bill had been pulled because it lacked the votes to pass. Some expressed optimism that they would be able to find a way forward on health care reform, while others characterized Friday as a moment of defeat.  Read full post here 

Trump Pulls Obamacare Repeal Bill In Devastating Setback

House Republican leaders on Friday pulled their bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, signaling defeat on what was supposed to be a major legislative accomplishment for President Donald Trump.

The news was first reported by Robert Costa of The Washington Post, who spoke to the president directly, following a meeting between Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

Trump said he agreed to pulling the bill once Ryan made it clear the legislation lacked the votes to pass.

In subsequent remarks, both Trump and Ryan indicated they were ready to move on from health care to other issues.

The failure to pass the bill represents a devastating defeat for Trump and Ryan ― and throws into doubt a crusade that has defined Republican politics for over seven years.

“We came really close today, but we came up short,” Ryan said at a press conference. “This is a disappointing day for us.”  Full story here 

March 23, 2017 - U.S. Voters Oppose GOP Health Plan 3-1, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; Big Opposition To Cuts To Medicaid, Planned Parenthood

American voters disapprove 56 - 17 percent, with 26 percent undecided, of the Republican health care plan to replace Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. Support among Republicans is a lackluster 41 - 24 percent. Post 

Dem Accuses GOP Chair Of ‘Attempt To Choke Off Public Info’ On Russia Probe

WASHINGTON ― The Republican leader of the House Intelligence Committee called off a public hearing scheduled for Tuesday on possible ties between President Donald Trump’s associates and the Russian government, saying the group will hold a closed-door meeting first.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the highest ranking Democrat on the committee, called the decision by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) “a dodge” and an “attempt to choke off public info.”

While Nunes characterized the change as a postponement, Schiff called it a cancellation.  Full story 

AP Exclusive: US probe of ex-Trump aide extends to Cyprus

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. government investigation of President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, crossed the Atlantic earlier this year to the Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus, once known as a haven for money laundering by Russian billionaires.
Treasury agents in recent months obtained information connected to Manafort's transactions from Cypriot authorities, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to speak publicly. The request was part of a federal anti-corruption probe into Manafort's work in Eastern Europe. The Cyprus attorney general, one of the country's top law enforcement officers, was also aware of the American request.
Manafort was Trump's unpaid campaign chairman from March until August last year, during the critical run-up to the Republican National Convention. He's been a leading focus of the U.S. investigation into whether Trump associates coordinated with Moscow to meddle in the 2016 presidential campaign.  Read full story 

The Truth Of Trump’s “I Alone Can Fix It” Canard

CBO: 24 Million Still Lose Insurance Under Revised O'Care (Trumo Care) Repeal Bill

Amid the chaos on Capitol Hill Thursday as GOP leaders failed to muster the votes for their bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Congressional Budget Office released its assessment of the most recent revision of the bill. The CBO had little good news for Republicans: 24 million people would still lose insurance over 10 years under the revised legislation, and it would do far less than the original bill to reduce the federal deficit. 
The original bill was slated to reduce the deficit by $337 billion over a decade, but amendments proposed to win over the votes of moderate Republicans nervous about the bill's impact on their lower-income and elderly constituents would cost the government an additional $186 billion.  Read full story here 

CNN calls out Sean Spicer with brutal split-screen as he tries to explain cuts to maternity care

Joe Scarborough Blisters GOP Congressman for Trying to Sabotage FBI Investigation Into Trump

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes defended President Trump's wiretapping claimsin a press conference on Wednesday, leaving the "Morning Joe" team in shock.

"This is one of the most staggering things I've seen," remarked co-host Joe Scarborough. "Donald Trump tweets something outrageous about Barack Obama... He said he was sick, he basically committed a felony, he tapped Trump Tower... And it was illegal."

Politico reports that the White House has repeatedly attempted to "recast" Trump’s original tweets "as a general reference to all possible surveillance of Trump aides," rather than a direct hit on Trump's predecessor. The fallout has been unprecedented.

"[He] trashed Barack Obama, he trashed Great Britain... now he's trashed the House intel community, because you heard the House intel committee saying that Obama didn't tap Donald Trump. What was intercepted is what we've all been saying could have happened now for three weeks — incidental collection," Scarborough hammered.

"Now, any hope of an independent investigation has been blown up," he added. "Nunes blew himself up."

MSNBC analyst Mark Halperin admitted he'd never seen anything like this.

"For the chairman to have these two high-profile press conferences, make a big show of briefing the president on executive branch intelligence information... It's inexplicable," he remarked.

"Not only does it harm the House intelligence community, but it undermines people's confidence in the entire process," he told Scarborough. "Everyone I've talked to from both parties [is] stunned by what he did."  Read full story 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Kochs pledge millions to GOPers in 2018 -- if they vote no on health care bill

Washington (CNN)In a last-minute effort to sink the Republican health care bill, a powerful network of conservative donors said Wednesday it would create a new fund for Republican 2018 reelection races -- but they'll only open it up to GOPers who vote against the bill.

The advocacy groups helmed by Charles and David Koch have unveiled a new pool of money for advertisements, field programs and mailings that would exclude those who vote for the health care bill they oppose on Thursday. The effort, which they described as worth millions of dollars, is an explicit warning to on-the-fence Republicans from one of the most influential players in electoral politics not to cross them.
The Koch-aligned networks oppose the bill because they think it does not do enough to scale back former President Barack Obama's health care policies.
    "We want to make certain that lawmakers understand the policy consequences of voting for a law that keeps Obamacare intact," Americans for Prosperity president Tim Phillips said. "We have a history of following up and holding politicians accountable, but we will also be there to support and thank the champions who stand strong and keep their promise."  
    Read full story.

    Obamacare Repeal Vote Postponed

    WASHINGTON ― With conservatives unable to find a deal and leadership unable to find the votes, House Republicans are reportedly pulling their health care bill from the floor and delaying a vote that had been scheduled for Thursday.

    “No vote tonight,” said a GOP leadership aide.

    Conservatives have teetered between strongly opposing the GOP health care bill and looming support. The House Freedom Caucus has negotiated with the White House on potentially eliminating Essential Health Benefits and some unknown provisions in Title I of the Affordable Care Act. That expansive section of the 2010 health care law Republicans are trying to repeal includes provisions requiring coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and allowing young adults to remain under a parent’s plan until they’re 26 years old.

    The last-minute renegotiation of the bill spooked moderates, whose trickle of opposition became a steady stream throughout Thursday. Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) ― the head of the Tuesday Group, which is made up of roughly 50 moderate House Republicans ― announced his own opposition.

    While not the floor defeat that the Freedom Caucus and reluctant moderates had been promising, it’s still a huge loss for congressional leaders like House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), as well as for President Donald Trump.  Read full story 

    GOP Health Care Bill Is More Unpopular Than Obamacare Ever Was

    President Barack Obama’s health care law hasn’t always been beloved by the public. But it’s never been as unpopular as the Republican bill now intended to destroy it, according to the latest polling.

    When the Affordable Care Act was signed in March 2010, after months of debate, about 42 percent of the public approved, according to HuffPost Pollster’s aggregate, with about 50 percent disapproving ― a level of discontent that proved to be bad news for Democrats and for Obama. At the law’s lowest ebb, in 2013, support fell to about 38 percent.  Read full story 

    Top Intel Dem: Evidence of Trump team collusion with Russia 'more than circumstantial'

    The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said Wednesday that there is "more than circumstantial" evidence pointing to collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

    In an interview with "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd, Rep. Adam Schiff(D-Calif.) said evidence suggesting that members of President Trump's campaign conspired with the Kremlin to influence the presidential election in Trump's favor was "more than circumstantial," and needed to be thoroughly probed.

    "I can tell you that the case is more than that," Schiff said. "And I can't go into the particulars, but there is more than circumstantial evidence now."  

    Read full story

    Star Witness In Treason Trial Involving Trump’s Campaign Chair Was Just Shot Dead

    Yesterday, documents surfaced showing that former Trump Campaign Chair Paul Manafort had received at least $750,000 in illegal payments from former Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych, who is about to be tried for treason in absentia in Ukraine.

    Today, Denis Voronenkov was shot to death in the streets of Kiev in broad daylight, just a few weeks after he said he would testify against Yanukovych and his cohorts — Manafort included.

    This is only the latest in a list of Russian dissidents to be murdered or die under mysterious circumstances since the U.S. Election. The timing of Voronenkov’s murder in conjunction with the latest revelations about Manafort — a man he was likely to incriminate — makes this latest tragedy all the more suspect. Read full story 

    GOP's Planned Cuts to Medicaid Will Impoverish and Imperil Millions of Aging Baby Boomers and Seniors

    The House Republican leadership’s Obamacare repeal bill will not only cause upwards of 24 million people to lose their healthcare coverage over the next decade, as the Congressional Budget Office has said. It will push millions of seniors already on the financial edge into deep and harsh poverty.

    That time bomb would result from the law’s imposition of per capita spending limits on Medicaid recipients and its ripple effects. Currently, there are no caps on federal subsidies to that state-run program, which provides healthcare coverage for 70 million poor Americans—including one-in-five people on Medicare. (Medicaid is the federal healthcare program for low-income people of all ages, including, importantly, children; Medicare is the federal healthcare program for those age 65 and older).

    Currently, states do not ration care under Medicaid, although some red states have imposed draconian requirements to deter enrollments. But if the House GOP leadership bill imposing per capita spending limits and turning Medicaid into a block grant passes into law, the resulting funding cuts and rationing of care could impoverish millions of aging Americans. This ambush comes in two waves. Read full story 

    Secret Service Can’t Afford The Trump Family’s Lifestyle

    President Donald Trump’s frequent travel, large family and unusual living situation are apparently weighing heavily on the Secret Service’s budget.

    The agency recently requested an additional $60 million in spending for fiscal year 2018, according to a Washington Post report on Tuesday. Nearly $27 million of that was to be earmarked for security at the president’s private residence at Trump Tower in New York, where first lady Melania Trump lives with their 11-year-old son. The Secret Service also said it needed another $33 million to cover travel costs incurred by “the president, vice president and other visiting heads of state.”

    The Office of Management and Budget rejected the request, a source told the Post, which could potentially force the Secret Service to scale back on other operations, like investigations into cyber hacking, counterfeit currency, financial crimes or missing and exploited minors.

    The Post report comes amid questions about the president’s regular weekend jaunts to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. Trump has made at least five trips to the “Southern White House” since his inauguration, each time costing taxpayers an estimated $3 million or more.  Read full story here 

    New York State Senate to act on 15 bills aimed at boosting agriculture industry

    The state Senate on Wednesday is expecting to take up a package of 15 bills aimed at strengthening and preserving agriculture as one of the state’s leading industries.

    More than 36,000 farms in New York generate about $4.7 billion in statewide economic activity each year. The bipartisan bills unveiled Wednesday would help support farm workforce retention and expansion and create new tax credits for preserving more farmland. Other bills would help farmers transition to organic certification, promote the use of local produce in schools and help prepare new farmers for successful careers.

    Senator Patty Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, is chair of the Senate’s Agriculture Committee and sponsor of many of the bills going to the floor on Wednesday. Ritchie says her conference has helped restore $55 million in proposed agriculture funding cuts since 2011.

    Among the legislation on the calendar for Wednesday — National Agriculture Day — is a bill that would double the existing Farm Workforce Retention Credit (S.2905). Sponsored by Ritchie, the bill would help farmers meet consumer demands with a strong and steady workforce. The bill increases the Farm Workforce Retention Credit to $500 per eligible employee this year, and $1,200 per employee when fully effective, saving farmers an estimated $60 million when fully implemented. Full story 

    FEC Commissioner Refuses To Let Trump Slide On Voter Fraud Claim

    Ellen Weintraub, a federal election commissioner, is renewing her demand that President Donald Trump release evidence to support his claim that there was widespread voter fraud in New Hampshire during last year’s presidential election.

    Trump has made the claim since November, though he’s released no evidence to support that assertion. New Hampshire officials have refuted that there was widespread voter fraud in the state.

    Weintraub wrote a letter to Trump on Wednesday saying that the claim undermined America’s democratic process. In February, Trump claimed that he would have won New Hampshire in the election if thousands hadn’t been bused in. Weintraub argued that the claim fell within the purview of the FEC because if busing did occur no campaign had filed an expense for busing with the agency. Weintraub made a similar call for Trump to release proof of voter fraud in February.

    “This allegation of a vast conspiracy, involving thousands of people committing felony criminal acts aimed at stealing the election, has deeply disturbed citizens throughout America. I have heard from many of them, including proud and patriotic New Englanders who are shocked by the allegation and feel that it impugns their historic role in our democracy,” she wrote in her Wednesday letter.  Read full story 

    Conservatives Vow To Vote Down GOP Health Care Bill Without Changes

    WASHINGTON ― After most members of the House Freedom Caucus met with Vice President Mike Pence in his office on Wednesday ― and a smaller group of them met with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office ― conservatives in the hard-right group reassembled on Capitol Hill and promised to vote down the GOP’s health care bill, should it come up for a vote.

    “They don’t have the votes to pass this tomorrow,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) told reporters on Wednesday. “We believe that they need to start over and do a bill that actually reduces premiums.”

    The Freedom Caucus had gone to the White House hoping to negotiate a last-minute deal that would allow the roughly three-dozen member group ― or at least some members of it ― to support the health care bill that’s up for a vote on Thursday. Read full story 

    Wednesday, March 22, 2017

    Stefanik Won't Say How She'll Vote On Trumpcare

    Repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act - that was one of President Trump's biggest campaign promises and a major vote will decide that promise's fate.

    "Unfortunately, Obamacare is making it much harder for all of the doctors and nurses and other health care professionals – men and women alike – to do their jobs," said President Trump.

    The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the American Health Care Act Thursday. 

    CBS News says at least 24 House Republicans oppose the bill, including Syracuse Congressman John Katko. 

    North country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik hasn't said which way she will vote, but a spokesperson tells 7 News that "she believes the American Health Care Act is a starting point that will be improved." 

    Read full story

    Tenney, after meetings with Trump, leans toward vote for Obamacare repeal

    WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney said today she's still leaning toward voting for the Republican plan to repeal Obamacare after taking part in two GOP conference meetings Tuesday with President Donald Trump.

    But Tenney, R-New Hartford, said she would like to find a way to make a last-minute change that will take away some flexibility on how states spend their federal Medicaid reimbursements. 

    Under the GOP plan, states like New York that expanded Medicaid to 800,000 people under Obamacare will be able to keep their program in place with full federal funding through 2019 before cutbacks begin.

    An amendment from Upstate New York Republican Reps. Chris Collins and John Faso, included in the larger bill this week, would single out New York and prevent the state from collecting a $2.3 billion share of its Medicaid costs from 57 of the state's counties. The state would have to make up the difference.  

    Read post

    ‘A credible investigation cannot be conducted this way’: Schiff slams Nunes for tipping off Trump

    House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes met with President Donald Trump on Wednesday at the White House, briefing him on information collected as part of the committee’s investigation into surveillance of the Trump team between Election Day and Inauguration Day.

    Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) — a top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee — released a statement Wednesday afternoon expressing “grave concerns” that “a credible investigation cannot be conducted” after the Chairman provided information to the White House.

    FULL SCHIFF STATEMENT: pic.twitter.com/pWe9otRwPj

    Some ‘question your impartiality’: Jake Tapper grills Devin Nunes in contentious CNN interview



    Trump sends lawyers after teen for site where kittens can punch POTUS

    17-year-old is the target of legal attention by President Donald Trump’s general counsel over a site where kitten paws bat around images of President Trump’s face, according to a report from the New York Observer.
    As the Observer reports, the site’s creator, named only as Lucy, initially made the site as a way to practice her coding skills. But after a few weeks, the site received a cease and desist letter from President Trump’s general counsel in New York. The cease and desist letter, which the Observer confirmed, mentions that “as I’m sure you’re aware, the Trump name is internationally known and famous.  Read full post here 

    The Only True Surprise? Trump’s an Idiot | The Resistance with Keith Olbermann |

    Al Franken scolds Gorsuch: ‘I had a career in identifying absurdity and I know it when I see it’

    Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) called out Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, on Tuesday for what he said was a “absurd” ruling against a truck driver who was fired after nearly freezing due to malfunctioning equipment.

    At a Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Franken reminded Gorsuch that he had ruled to uphold the firing of a truck driver who abandoned his malfunctioning trailer because he was freezing while waiting for hours for his company to provide assistance.

    Franken pointed out that Gorsuch had come to his conclusion using the “plain meaning rule” without considering another standard that said courts should depart from the rules when it created an “absurd result.”

    “It is absurd to say [the company] in its rights to fire him because he made the choice of possibly dying from freezing to death or cause other people to die possible by driving an unsafe vehicle,” Franken said. “That’s absurd. Now, I had a career in identifying absurdity. And I know it when I see it. And it makes me question your judgement.”

    The Minnesota Democrat also admonished Gorsuch for refusing to condemn the way Senate Republicans treated President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court Nominee, Merrick Garland, who was not afforded a hearing. Read full story here 

    Trump owes $300 million to bank involved in global money laundering scheme led by Russian criminals

    Deutsche Bank, the German bank that loaned $300 million to Donald Trump, was part of a global money laundering scheme (dubbed “the Global Laundromat”) led by Russian criminals, the Guardian reports.

    Between 2010 and 2014, Deutsche Bank and dozens of financial institutions processed “at least $20 billion … in money of ‘criminal origin’ from Russia” by making fake loans to each other “underwritten by Russian businesses,” which would subsequently default on these debts. As the Guardian notes, courts would enforce judgments against the companies, effectively green lighting massive, legal transfers of funds to the Latvian bank Trasta Komercsbadka (TKB).

    Deutsche Bank acted as a “correspondent bank” for TKB, offering services for the Latvian bank’s “non-resident Russian clients,” allowing the money to transfer out of Latvia to banks throughout the world, the Guardian repots. The bank stopped offering correspondent services to TKB in 2015.

    Maija Treija, Latvia’s deputy finance minister, told the Guardian the money that made its way through the TKB was “either stolen or with criminal origin.” and was used to get money from the former Soviet Union “into the EU financial system.”

    Deutsche Bank’s connection to criminal money from Russia is further complicated by news that the German bank loaned about $300 million to Trump. A secret internal internal review by the bank looked at potential connections between multiple loans made to the president and those close to him with financial ties to the bank—including Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and Kushner’s mother, Seryl Stadtmauer.  Read full story here 

    Gorsuch Defends His 'Unkind' Opinion In So-Called Frozen Trucker Case

    Gorsuch defended his dissent in what has become known as the "frozen trucker" case, an opinion that Gorush critics have pointed to as proof that the judge has a tendency to prioritize the interests of CEOs over the working class, but also one that has brought Gorsuch praise from those who support his approach the law.

    Gorsuch said at his confirmation hearing Tuesday that his opinion may have been an "unkind" one, but that it got at "what my job is, and what it isn't."

    The case, which came before Gorsuch as a member of a three-judge appeals panel, concerned a trucker who had been fired from his job because he had unhooked and left his trailer on the side of the road after its brakes had become frozen. A dispatcher had told him to stay with the trailer until a repairman arrived, but in his unheated truck cab in the below-freezing temperatures the trucker became numb and feared for his safety. Gorsuch had disagreed with the rest of panel, which ruled that the trucker was protected by a law the bars truck companies from firing drivers who refuse to operate their vehicles out of fears for their safety.  Read full story 

    FBI Reportedly Looking At Breitbart, InfoWars As Part Of Russia Probe

    The FBI’s Counterintelligence Division is looking into the role far-right news sites including Breitbart, InfoWars and the Kremlin-backed RT might have played in Russia’s influence campaign during the U.S. presidential election, McClatchy reportedMonday.

    Automated computer bots strategically deployed unabashedly pro-Trump articles, which often contained falsehoods, from those sites on social media at moments when Trump’s campaign was flagging, anonymous FBI sources told McClatchy. The probe reportedly is looking at whether those publications willingly coordinated with Russian operatives in promoting their stories.

    The inquiry is part of the FBI’s comprehensive investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, which Director James Comey confirmed Monday is also looking into any potential ties between Trump’s campaign staffers and Russian officials.

    The White House, Breitbart and the FBI declined McClatchy’s requests for comment.  Read full story 

    Tuesday, March 21, 2017

    REVEALED: FBI wiretapped Trump Tower in 2013 to bust Russian mobsters headquartered inside

    It turns out that the FBI did once place a wiretap inside Trump Tower — but it happened back in 2013, and it wasn’t targeted at President Donald Trump or any member of his family.

    Via Daily KosABC News reports that the FBI obtained a warrant to eavesdrop on “a sophisticated Russian organized crime money laundering network that operated out of unit 63A in Trump Tower” starting in 2011 and ending in 2013.

    ABC News notes that the FBI’s investigation into the mobsters led “to a federal grand jury indictment of more than 30 people, including one of the world’s most notorious Russian mafia bosses, Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov.” Despite the fact that the scheme was being run out of Trump Tower, Trump himself was not implicated in the FBI’s indictment.

    Although Tokhtakhounov evaded arrest in the early part of 2013, he did manage to publicly resurface later that year when he appeared at the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in November — where he was spotted near Donald Trump in the VIP section.  Read full story here http://www.rawstory.com/2017/03/revealed-fbi-wiretapped-trump-tower-in-2013-to-bust-russian-mobsters-headquartered-inside/

    Nixon counsel during Watergate: Trump WH 'in cover-up mode'

    The former White House counsel to President Nixon who was charged for helping cover up the Watergate scandal says he thinks President Trump's White House is "in cover-up mode."

    "In fact [the White House] is in cover-up mode," John Dean told MSNBC's Chris Hayes on Monday night when asked about the administration's response to ongoing investigations of Russian ties and Trump's wiretapping accusations.

    FBI Director James Comey earlier Monday testified that his agency is investigating links between Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government.   Read full story here. http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/324940-nixon-wh-counsel-during-watergate-trump-wh-in-cover-up-mode

    Is Rex Tillerson the weakest secretary of state of all time?

    The audio transcript of Tillerson’s first sit-down interview since becoming secretary of state, with a reporter from the conservative news agency the Independent Journal Review, makes for uncomfortable listening. 

    The interview, which took place last week during Tillerson’s first overseas trip, to Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing, began with a discussion over why the secretary of state did not dine with a South Korean delegation in Seoul. 

    “You had dinner last night. With who? Your staff. OK,” the journalist asked, to which Tillerson replied: “We don’t, we don’t, the host country decides whether we are going to do things or not. We didn’t decide that.” Later, Tillerson admitted to being blindsided by a tweet from Donald Trump about China and North Korea.  Read full story here https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/21/is-rex-tillerson-the-weakest-secretary-of-state-of-all-time

    ‘They can’t defend the indefensible’: Morning Joe calls on GOP leadership to abandon Trump over Russia

    MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski were astounded by FBI Director James Comey’s revelations that President Donald Trump and his campaign were under investigation for their alleged ties to Russia.

    The “Morning Joe” host, a former Republican congressman, warned GOP lawmakers that defending the president from investigators could cost them in the next election.

    “Republicans have to understand right now, if this continues, and this is awfully early to say this, but if this continues, at least in the House, and there were a lot of Senate seats, they are going to be shocks Election Night if they don’t take care of themselves,” Scarborough said.

    Scarborough and Brzezinski agreed that Monday’s hearing, which featured testimony from both Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers, would not have happened if Trump had not accused his predecessor of wiretapping his campaign — which both officials found no evidence to support.

    “If the Republican Party doesn’t start taking care of itself and stop making fools of themselves for a guy who is going to keep tweeting lies and nonsense — they can’t chase that around,” Scarborough said. “They can’t defend the indefensible.”