Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Trump’s pick for HHS secretary admitted he, not an independent financial adviser, chose to buy stock in a biotech firm.
Price’s admission that he personally chose to purchase stock in Innate Immunotherapeutics contradicts the Trump transition team’s defense of another questionable stock trade Price made. The transition team had previously said Price held a broker-operated account with Morgan Stanley and did not direct his stock trades.
“Dr. Price’s Morgan Stanley financial advisor designed his portfolio and directed all trades in the account,” read a fact sheet the transition team put out on Tuesday. “Pursuant to the arrangement with Morgan Stanley, the financial advisor, and not Dr. Price, has the discretion to decide which securities to buy and sell in his account.”
The transition team’s defense that Price did not direct his stock trades was in response to a CNN report that the congressman bought stock in Zimmer Biomet before introducing legislation specifically targeted to help the company.
Price’s testimony shows that he does indeed involve himself in the purchase and sale of his own stocks, at least when it came to Innate Immunotherapeutics. Trump transition spokesman Phillip Blando said in an email that Price asked his Morgan Stanley broker to open “an account separate from his primary broker-directed account at Morgan Stanley in order to make the purchase.” Read full story here
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) asked Betsy DeVos about how she’d enforce the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. IDEA, as the law is known, requires that public schools provide children with disabilities a “free and appropriate” education just like other students.
As DeVos danced around his questions, Kaine grew agitated, asking her point-blank if schools should have to follow federal law.
“Should all K-12 schools receiving government funding be required to meet the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act?” he asked.
“I think they already are,” DeVos responded, suggesting that no school is failing to meet the law.
“But I’m asking you a ‘should’ question,” Kaine followed up. “Should all schools that receive taxpayer funding be required to meet [the law]?”
“I think that’s a matter that’s best left to the states,” DeVos responded, essentially saying the federal government should abdicate enforcement of its own law.
Kaine pretty much lost it at that point.
“So some states might be good to kids with disabilities, other states might not be good, and then what? People can just move around the country if they don’t like [the schools]?” Read full story here
According to McClatchy, the involved agencies are the FBI, CIA, National Security Agency, Justice Department, Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, and representatives of the Director of National Intelligence.
The news is not altogether unexpected. During a hearing before a Senate panel last week, FBI director James Comey refused to answer questionsabout whether the bureau has investigated links between the Trump campaign and Russia. A day later, Trump himself dodged a reporter’s question about whether he or his campaign had any contact with Russia during the presidential campaign. And as far back as last September, news was circulating that federal agencies were looking into Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page’s meetings with high-ranking Russian officials.
Earlier this month, U.S. intelligence agencies released a declassified reportconcluding that “Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.” Read full story here
“In these final days before your inauguration, we thought it might be helpful to clarify how we see the relationship between your administration and the American press corps,” the letter starts. Before writing up the list of eight demands, Pope offered background on Trump’s relationship with the media over the course of his campaign and since winning the election.
“You’ve banned news organizations from covering you. You’ve taken to Twitter to taunt and threaten individual reporters and encouraged your supporters to do the same. You’ve advocated for looser libel laws and threatened numerous lawsuits of your own, none of which has materialized,” Pope wrote.
“But while you have every right to decide your ground rules for engaging with the press, we have some, too.”
President Trump may no longer allow journalists to have access to him, but that’s OK, Pope argued, noting, “We are very good at finding alternative ways to get information … Telling reporters that they won’t get access to something isn’t what we’d prefer, but it’s a challenge we relish.” Read full story here
"Today I filed a lawsuit against Donald Trump for defamation," Zervos said, speaking to reporters in Los Angeles. "On Nov. 11, 2016, I called on Mr. Trump to retract his statements against me calling me a liar. I also called upon him to state that what I said about his behavior towards me was true. More than two months have gone by and he has not issued that retraction."
Zervos said that Trump's refusal to retract his statements about her and several other women who accused him of inappropriately touching or kissing them has left her with "no alternative" to filing a lawsuit.
"I want Mr. Trump to know that I will still be willing to dismiss my case against him immediately, for no monetary compensation, if he would simply retract his false and defamatory statements about me and admit that I told the truth about him," Zervos concluded. Read full story here
Initially the president-elect was said to be entertaining grand inauguration plans and speaking with producer Mark Burnett (who helped him create “The Apprentice”) about Trump’s traveling by helicopter from Trump Tower to Washington and unfurling ceremonial flags as he passed his new hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, The Washington Post reported on Monday.
As recently as last week Trump bragged about how his inauguration would be “very, very special, very beautiful” with “massive crowds.” His inaugural committee even managed to raise $90 million (making President Barack Obama’s 2009 sum of $53 million look small) by reaching out to wealthy donors and corporations for donations ranging from $25,000 to $1 million.
At the same time, there are early signs that Trump’s inauguration will fall short of the mark established by the first inauguration of his predecessor, Barack Obama. Which begs the question of where that $90 million is going. Robin McClain, vice president of Destination D.C., told The Washington Post that hotel bookings are not matching those timed with Obama’s 2009 event (although they’re measuring up to those for his second inauguration in 2013). City officials have indicated that been more parking permit requests for Saturday, on the day of the Women’s March on Washington, than for the inauguration itself.
Nor are these the only ominous signs for Trump’s ego. Although Trump claimed last week that all the dress shops in Washington were sold out, Salon found that there were hundreds of available gowns in stores throughout the D.C. area. Tickets to the inaugural balls are being sold for just $50 apiece, while members of Congress are quite literally giving away inauguration tickets for free. One report is even suggesting that scalpers can’t sell tickets to inaugural events on the secondary market. Read story here
The latest example comes as Trump and his team attempt to alienate the media by shutting down the White House press room, which has been in operation since the Nixon years. Trump’s war on the press is also attracting candidates to his administration who are helping PEOTUS devise ways to make journalists’ jobs harder, including by mandating that those who cover the White House undergo biannual drug tests.
Esquire was the first to report that Trump, on the heels of his first press conference in six months—which he used to denigrate the media for occasionally doing their jobs—is mulling over the prospect of evicting the press corps from the West Wing. According to the outlet, the move would relocate the press corps to digs in the nearby White House Conference Center or the Old Executive Office Building. Read post here
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Charges of rape and sexual harassment dating back four decades dogged Trump in the months leading up to the election. Last year, a woman filed a lawsuit against the then-GOP presidential candidate alleging he violently raped her when she was 13 years old. Another woman, Jessica Leeds, said Trump fondled her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt on a flight in the 1980s. “He was like an octopus. His hands were everywhere,” she told the New York Times in October last year. “It was an assault.” Read Post here
Throughout his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump repeatedly promised he would not cut Medicare or Medicaid (or Social Security, for that matter). But with Trump’s pick to head the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), he seems prepared to violate that promise.
Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), who will go before a Senate committee on Wednesday to begin hearings on his nomination, has spent his career trying to dismantle Medicare and Medicaid —all while fighting for massive tax cutsfor the wealthy and corporations. Back in 2009, Price claimed, “Nothing has had a greater negative effect on the delivery of health care than the federal government’s intrusion into medicine through Medicare.”
Here are three ways the President-elect’s choice for Secretary of HHS plans to weaken Medicare and Medicaid:
The numbers are staggering and suggest the GOP will find it difficult to keep its promise of an “orderly transition,” unless they deviate significantly from a prototype repeal bill they passed last year.
Within the first year, the CBO predicts, 18 million people would lose insurance. In addition, premiums for people buying coverage on their own would increase, on average, by 20 to 25 percent relative to what they would be if the Affordable Care Act remained in place.
And that’s just the short-term effects that a “repeal-and-delay” strategy would have. Once Obamacare’s tax credits and Medicaid expansion expired fully, the CBO says, millions more could lose insurance and premiums would rise yet again.
Ultimately, the CBO concludes, 32 million more people would be uninsured and premiums would be twice as high ― again, relative to what they would be if Obamacare stayed on the books.
It’s a worst-case scenario that assumes Republicans can’t stabilize insurance markets during the transition. The CBO’s estimate also doesn’t consider the possibility that Republicans would replace President Barack Obama’s health care law with something else. Read full post here
On Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its estimate of how many people will become uninsured if Republicans move forward with their likely plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and the numbers are brutal. Thirty-two million people would lose their health insurance by 2026, and premiums would double in the same time frame.
Americans would also see a sharp and immediate drop in insurance rates. According to the CBO, “the number of people who are uninsured would increase by 18 million in the first new plan year following enactment of the bill.”
The CBO examined a bill pushed by Republicans in the previous Congress, the “Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act of 2015,” which would phase out provisions of the Affordable Care Act that help make health insurance affordable — including subsidies for plans purchased on Obamacare exchanges and the law’s Medicaid expansion. It would also immediately repeal provisions, such as the law’s individual mandate, which are intended to bring people into the insurance market.
At the same time, this bill would also leave in place certain regulatory reforms, such as the requirement that insurers cover people with preexisting conditions.
Such a partial repeal is necessary because current Senate rules allow the law’s fiscal provisions to be abolished with only 51 votes, but its regulatory provisions require 60 votes to overcome a filibuster threat. As Republicans control only 52 votes in Congress, full repeal is not possible under current rules absent significant and unlikely Democratic defections.
Nevertheless, partial repeal would lead to a massive expansion of the uninsurance rate. Indeed, many people would be unable to obtain insurance at any price. As CBO explains, “roughly 10 percent of the population would be living in an area that had no insurer participating in the nongroup market.”
Read full story herehttps://thinkprogress.org/congressional-budget-office-says-obamacare-repeal-would-be-a-catastrophe-3ade6480aa80#.r5u8tr1pn
On Monday night, Michael Flynn Jr. — son of and former chief of staff for President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn — tweeted out a story published on Voltaire Network entitled, “General Flynn’s Proposals to Reform Intelligence.”
The story, published last month with a Damascus dateline and authored by Thierry Meyssan — a 9/11 truther who published a book in 2002 entitled, “The Big Lie” — previews how Flynn plans to rollback “the big reforms that took place during the Bush and Obama years.”
Perhaps most significantly, the story says the “radical overhaul” Flynn is planning involves the elimination of the office of the Director of National Intelligence, an office created by President Bush in 2004, with power centralized under Flynn instead.
“The 16 agencies should no longer be accountable to the National Intelligence Director but only to the National Security Adviser,” Meyssan writes. “In other words, they will be accountable to General Flynn personally.”
The story cites anonymous sources, which some informed observers believe include Flynn Jr. himself. Last month, CNN broke news that Flynn Jr. was working in an official capacity for the Trump transition team, but the Trump team quickly distanced themselves from him after Flynn Jr.’s social media posts amplifying unfounded conspiracy theories and racist memes came under scrutiny.Read story here
Monday, January 16, 2017
WASHINGTON -- Outgoing CIA Director John Brennan ripped into Donald Trump on Sunday for "talking and tweeting" about possibly easing sanctions against Russia, saying the president-elect lacks a full understanding of the threat Moscow poses to the United States.
"I think he has to be mindful that he does not have a full appreciation and understanding of what the implications are of going down that road," Brennan said on "Fox News Sunday," a show Trump routinely watches.
"Now that he's going to have an opportunity to do something for our national security as opposed to talking and tweeting, he's going to have tremendous responsibility to make sure that U.S. and national security interests are protected," Brennan added.
Why are Republicans so hellbent on repealing Obamacare? This came up on Twitter the other day, and at first it sounds like a silly question. They've been opposed to Obamacare from the start, and they've been vocal about what they don't like.
But it's a more interesting question than it seems. After all, we no longer have to guess about its effects. We know. So let's take a look.
The Good. Obamacare has provided more than 20 million people—most of them low-income or working class—with health coverage. It has done this with no negative effects on either Medicare or the employer health insurance market. It didn't raise taxes more than a few pennies on anyone making less than six figures. It's had no effect on the willingness of companies to hire full-time workers. Health care costs under Obamacare have continued to grow at very modest rates. And it's accomplished all this under its original budget.
The Bad. Obamacare unquestionably has some problems. About 20 percent of its customers choose Bronze plans with very high deductibles. Some of the least expensive plans have narrow networks that restrict your choice of doctor. Some insurers have left the exchanges because they were losing money. And premium increases have been volatile as insurers have learned the market. But every one of these things is a result of Obamacare's reliance on private markets, something that Republicans support. Insurers are competing. They're offering plans with different features at different price points. Some of them are successful and some aren't. That's how markets work. It's messy, but eventually things settle down and provide the best set of services at the best possible price.
The Popular. Obamacare is popular unless you call it "Obamacare." If you call it Kynect, its negatives drop. If you call it the Affordable Care Act, its negatives drop. If you ask about the actual things it does, virtually every provision is popular among Democrats and Republicans alike. Even Obamacare's taxes on the rich, which are fairly modest, are popular. Aside from the individual mandate, the only truly unpopular part of Obamacare is the name "Obamacare."(And even that's only unpopular among Republicans.)
So why the continued rabid opposition to Obamacare? It's not because the government has taken over the health care market. On the contrary, Obamacare affects only a tiny part of the health insurance market and mostly relies on taking advantage of existing market forces. It's not because the benefits are too stingy. That's because Democrats kept funding at modest levels, something Republicans approve of. It's not because premiums are out of control. Republicans know perfectly well that premiums have simply caught up to CBO projections this year—and federal subsidies protect most people from increases anyway. It's not because everyone hates what Obamacare does. Even Republicans mostly like it. The GOP leadership in Congress could pass a virtually identical bill under a different name and it would be wildly popular.
Time and again Lewis was on the front line of the fight for civil rights, spat upon, insulted and vilified, while far to the north, Donald Trump was using the fortune handed him by his father to launch a real estate empire without ever getting his fingernails dirty.
Now, for daring to say that Trump cannot be “a legitimate president” because of Russia’s help in electing him, John Lewis is #1 on Trump’s hit list. Yes, Donald Trump — whose political career took off with a campaign of lies about Barack Obama’s birthplace with the intent of denying the president his legitimacy.
John Lewis needn’t be worried about what Donald Trump thinks of him; he’s faced down bullies and bigots before, tough guys with billy clubs and water hoses in the streets instead of a wannabe tinpot of no class glowering from his penthouse lair and showering loutish insults at his betters below; Trump isn’t fit to be a carbuncle on John Lewis’s posterior. Take a look at a real hero in this profile we produced of Lewis on the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. Arm-in-arm with Martin Luther King and other giants of the time, John Lewis walked right into the history books. Post
DeVos, chairman of an investment firm and wife of the heir to the Amway fortune, has spent the last few decades advocating and funding the school privatization movement. Her nomination to lead public education may seem curious, as DeVos has never worked in public education and supports diverting public funds to pay for kids to attend private, religious schools. But considering Trump's own eagerness to spend federal money on charter and private schools and DeVos and her family’s generous political donations to the GOP, the decision isn't so curious after all.
DeVos’ first Senate confirmation hearing was set for January11, but her ethics review has not yet concluded and her financial disclosures are not public. The New York Times Editorial Board called her finances “a tangle that could take weeks to investigate,” as she and her husband have investments in 250 companies registered to the same Grand Rapids, Mich. address.
Possible financial conflicts of interest
Norm Eisen and Richard Painter, former White House chief ethics lawyers who were recently named to lead the board of government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, explain why DeVos’ hearing should not occur until all of her ethics and financial documents have been vetted and made public.
Unpaid campaign finance fines
Senate Democrats have asked DeVos to explain why her political group failed to pay a $5.3 million fine for breaking campaign finance laws in Ohio. In 2008, the pro-school choice All Children Matter illegally funneled $870,000 to its Ohio affiliate when that state’s yearly cap on donations was $10,000. The group reportedly asked the state about contribution limits, was told what they were, and then proceeded to donate 87 times the maximum legal amount.
Donations to senators who will vote on her confirmation
In addition to giving nearly $200,000 to the Republican National Committee and millions more to super PACs aiding Trump and GOP senators’ campaigns—including one founded by the Koch brothers—DeVos has donated directly to the campaigns of numerous senators who will vote on her confirmation. She and her husband Dick have given $265,000 to these numerous confirming senators over the years, and additional family members have pitched in even more.
Read full article here
Trump, in an interview with the newspaper published online on Sunday, was deeply critical of previous U.S. foreign policy, describing the invasion of Iraq as possibly the gravest error in the history of the United States and akin to “throwing rocks into a beehive.”
But ahead of his inauguration on Friday as the 45th U.S. president, Trump raised the prospect of the first major step towards nuclear arms control since President Barack Obama struck a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia in 2010.
“They have sanctions on Russia - let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia,” the Republican president-elect was quoted as saying by The Times.
“For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially, that’s part of it. But Russia’s hurting very badly right now because of sanctions, but I think something can happen that a lot of people are gonna benefit.”
The United States and Russia are by far the world’s biggest nuclear powers. The United States has 1,367 nuclear warheads on deployed strategic missiles and bombers, while Russia has 1,796 such deployed warheads, according to the latest published assessment by the U.S. State Department.
Trump has vowed to improve relations with Moscow even as he faces criticism he is too eager to make an ally of Putin, a former KGB spy who rose to the top of the Kremlin in 1999.
The issue has faced renewed scrutiny after an unsubstantiated report that Russia had collected compromising information about Trump.
On NATO, Trump repeated his view that the military alliance was obsolete but added it was still very important for him.
“I took such heat, when I said NATO was obsolete,” Trump told The Times, speaking of comments during his presidential campaign. “It’s obsolete because it wasn’t taking care of terror. I took a lot of heat for two days. And then they started saying Trump is right.” Read full interview here