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.

WASHINGTON ― Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services, admitted on Wednesday that he decided to buy stock in an Australian biotech firm after receiving information from Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), a board member of that company.

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 

Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Education Pick, Seems Unfamiliar With A Major Federal Education Law

Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary appeared stumped by senators when they asked her about a federal education law related to discrimination during her confirmation hearing Tuesday night.

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 

Report: 6 federal agencies investigating possible Kremlin financial support of Trump

On Wednesday, the McClatchy Washington Bureau, citing multiple unnamed sources, broke news that “the FBI and five other law enforcement and intelligence agencies have collaborated for months in an investigation into Russian attempts to influence the November election, including whether money from the Kremlin covertly aided President-elect Donald Trump.”

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 

US press corps fights back with open letter to Trump: You won’t set the rules for us

Kyle Pope, the editor in chief and publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review penned an open letter to President-elect Donald Trump on behalf of the U.S. Press Corps setting some clear ground rules moving forward.

“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 

'Apprentice' Contestant Who Alleged Trump Groped Her Sues For Defamation

Former “Apprentice" contestant Summer Zervos announced during a Tuesday press conference with high-profile attorney Gloria Allred that she filed a defamation lawsuit against President-elect Donald Trump.

"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 

Donald Trump’s inauguration probably won’t be as exciting as he’s making it out to be

Although Donald Trump is micromanaging his inauguration, according to news reports, it seems like the event will shape up to be rather underwhelming in popularity.

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 

Trump’s New Press Tactics Follow The Old-School Authoritarian Model

Donald Trump is fulfilling the role of an authoritarian demagogue so thoroughly that if this whole disaster were a movie, it would be criticized for being formulaic and cliched. His frequently expressed hostility toward the media comes right out of a well-worn copy of the Dictator’s Playbook, and he has repeatedly revealed himself to be an enemy of a free press.

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 

Watch GOP congresswoman get shouted down by angry crowd chanting ‘save our health care’

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Trump Sexual Assault Accuser Going Ahead With Lawsuit

One of the 13 women who accused Donald Trump of sexual abuse will pursue the case through legal channels, according to attorney Gloria Allred. The Daily Beast reports that Allred told the outlet that she will be filing papers against Trump in court today on behalf of her client. She also announced that she will hold a press conference about the case Tuesday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. ET / 11:30 a.m. PT to answer questions about the litigation.

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 

Trump’s HHS pick would take away health care from vulnerable seniors

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:

1. Privatize Medicare and convert it into a voucher.

Price has long been a supporter of privatizing Medicare. In addition to his own proposals as House Budget Chair, Price was a vocal supporter of a 2012 Medicare privatization proposal championed by now-Speaker Ryan. Read full story here 

CBO Predicts 18 Million Uninsured, Higher Premiums In First Year After Obamacare Repeal And Delay

The Congressional Budget Office just issued a report on the likely effects of a Republican effort to repeal Obamacare immediately but keep some elements of the coverage expansion in place for two years.

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 

Poll: Trump Transition Approval Plummets

According to a new CNN/ORC poll, Donald Trump will take office Friday with the lowest approval ratings for any recent president and his transition efforts. The president-elect will be sworn in while his approal rating is 44 percentage points below outgoing President Barack Obama’s; and while approval ratings for his transition efforts are more than 20 percentage points below Obama’s, George W. Bush’s, and Bill Clinton’s. 

Across the board, approval ratings for various aspects of Trump’s transition have plummeted since November. Nearly 53 percent of Americans surveyed now say Trump’s handling of his transition since Election Day has made them less confident in his ability to handle the highest office in the land—a 10 percentage-point increase in disapproval since November. Additionally, the disapproval of his handling of transition efforts has climbed 7 percentage points to 52 percent, and the percentage of those who think Trump will be a good president dropped 5 points since the election.  

Full report here

Trump Inauguration as 'Twilight Zone' Television Listing Goes Viral


Offering a glimpse into how the international community perceives the pending inauguration of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, a Scottish newspaper's satirical take on the event, which it casts as a return episode of the "The Twilight Zone," has gone viral in recent days.

Amid the weekly television listings published Sunday, The Herald writer Damien Love described the Trump presidency as an "ambitious, expensive...interactive virtual reality project, which will unfold on TV, in the press, and on Twitter over the next four years."

"The story begins in a nightmarish version of 2017 in which huge sections of the US electorate have somehow been duped into voting to make Donald Trump president," Love writes, noting that the production offers "a disturbing glimpse of the horrors we could stumble into, if we're not careful."

It reads in full:

After a long absence, The Twilight Zone returns with one of the most ambitious, expensive and controversial productions in broadcast history. Sci-fi writers have dabbled often with alternative history stories—among the most common is the "What If The Nazis Had Won The Second World War" setting—but this huge interactive virtual reality project, which will unfold on TV, in the press, and on Twitter over the next four years, sets out to build an ongoing alternative present. The story begins in a nightmarish version of 2017 in which huge sections of the U.S. electorate have somehow been duped into voting to make Donald Trump president. It sounds far-fetched, and it is, but as it goes on it becomes more and more chillingly plausible. Today's feature-length opener concentrates on the gaudy inauguration of President Trump, and the stirrings of protest and despair surrounding the ceremony, while pundits speculate gravely on what lies ahead. It's a flawed piece, but a disturbing glimpse of the horrors we could stumble into, if we're not careful.

That take on Friday's U.S. presidential inauguration had readers worldwide "in stitches," the newspaper later observed, as the listing won scores of accolades and appeared on the list of items trending on Twitter in the United States that following day.  

Full post here

CIA Director fires back in ongoing war with Trump, calls unpresidented elect 'repugnant'

Never say Donald Trump can’t multitask. In the same day he can hone his racism in tweets aimed at John Lewis and double down on The War Against Intelligence by swatting at the CIA director. Trump has a talent for hating.

But CIA Director John Brennan is not going down quietly and he’s particularly peeved by Trump comparing the agency to the Nazis.

“Tell the families of those 117 CIA officers who are forever memorialized on our wall of honor that their loved ones who gave their lives were akin to Nazis,” he continued. “Tell the CIA officers who are serving in harm’s way right now and their families who are worried about them that they are akin to Nazi Germany. I found that to be very repugnant, and I will forever stand up for the integrity and patriotism of my officers who have done much over the years to sacrifice for their fellow citizens.”

Brennan made it clear that he was not the one who leaked the kompromat dossier containing, among other things, Trump’s unusual shower preferences. In fact, he noted that bringing up the dossier at the briefing was an attempt to help Trump.

“There was an interest on the part of the bureau to make sure that the president-elect was aware of and informed of” the dossier, Brennan told the Journal. “The feeling was wanting to make sure that given the very salacious nature of it, the president-elect was at least aware of it so he could take it into account and do what needs to be done.”

The dossier has floated between many hands over the months since it was compiled. That it would spill into the public seems inevitable. 


Congressional Budget Office says Obamacare repeal would be a catastrophe

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 here

Disturbing report on Trump’s national security adviser emerges on pro-Putin website

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

CIA head on Trump's tweeting: Spontaneity 'not something that protects national security'

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.

Read full post here

Why Do Republicans Hate Obamacare?

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.

Full post here

It's official: Clinton swamps Trump in popular vote

(CNN)More Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than any other losing presidential candidate in US history.

The Democrat outpaced President-elect Donald Trump by almost 2.9 million votes, with 65,844,954 (48.2%) to his 62,979,879 (46.1%), according to revised and certified final election results from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. 
    Clinton's 2.1% margin ranks third among defeated candidates, according to statistics from US Elections Atlas. Andrew Jackson won by more than 10% in 1824 but was denied the presidency, which went to John Quincy Adams. In 1876, Samuel Tilden received 3% more votes than Rutherford B. Hayes, who eventually triumphed by one electoral vote.  
    Read full post here with elections chart

    John Lewis Is a True American Profile in Courage

    High from his gilded throne room in midtown Manhattan — like Zeus from Mt. Olympus — Donald Trump has been hurling tweeted spitballs at Rep. John Lewis of Georgia. He’s a man of “no action,” typed Trump with his tiny (manicured) fingers, of one of America’s true heroes of the modern age — a man so brutally assaulted by state troopers during the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery that he nearly died from a fractured skull.

    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 

    Questions and Conflicts Surround GOP Mega-Donor Who May Become Our Next Education Secretary

    Preparing for a packed first week of confirmation hearings for Donald Trump’s numerous controversial cabinet picks, Democratic politicians and advocacy groups had to decide which nominees they would focus their energy on opposing. With so many distasteful characters, several of whom have attacked the very agencies they’ve been nominated to lead, opposing all of them could spread resources too thin. Billionaire Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Education, is clearly one of the worst.

    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

    Nationwide Day Of Rallies In Defense Of Obamacare

    Join Bernie Sanders and Democratic members of Congress in Warren, Michigan to tell Republicans loudly and clearly: we won't let you throw nearly 30 million people off of health insurance, make massive cuts to Medicaid and defund Planned Parenthood.

    Trump Wants To Cut Russia Sanctions -NATO obsolete

    LONDON, Jan 15 (Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Donald Trump will propose offering to end sanctions imposed on Russia for its annexation of Crimea in return for a nuclear arms reduction deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he told The Times of London.

    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

    Israeli spies: Trump ‘golden showers’ dossier only one of many troubling reports being investigated

    Intelligence agencies from around the world are investigating multiple reports that allege some connection between President-elect Donald Trump and the Russian government, according to Israeli intelligence officers who spoke to BuzzFeed.

    Last week, BuzzFeed published an unverified dossier that claimed the Russian government had material that could be used to blackmail Trump. The dossier claimed Russia had recordings of Trump’s “personal obsessions and sexual perversion.” It was later revealed that the dossier had been compiled by Christopher Steele, a former member of the British intelligence agency MI6.

    Intelligence agencies have reportedly been circulating several other reports regarding Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.

    “There have been various reports about Trump’s ties to Russia,” an intelligence officer told BuzzFeed. “The dossier is one of them, but there are others, they make other allegations. Some are more specific, and some are less. You can trust me that many intelligence agencies are trying to evaluate the extent to which Trump might have ties, or a weakness of some type, to Russia.”

    Steele, who was hired by Trump’s political foes during last year’s campaign season, had become so worried by the allegations he uncovered that he sent his report to the FBI, according to The Independent. However, Steele “came to believe there was a cover-up, that a cabal within the Bureau blocked a thorough inquiry” of Trump, the paper reported.

    BuzzFeed said they were trying to verify the allegations contained in Steele’s dossier, but have so far been unsuccessful.

    Trump and his transition team have forcefully denied the allegations contained in the report, castigating them as “fake news.”

    Israeli intelligence officers were recently warned by U.S. spies not to share intelligence with the Trump administration until they could be sure the former reality TV star hadn’t been compromised by Russia, reported the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth.

    “The Israelis who attended the meeting said that the Americans advised them not to expose any sensitive sources to members of the Trump administration, lest that information reach Iranian hands, until it becomes clear that Trump does not have a compromised relationship with Russia and is not vulnerable to extortion,” the report claimed.  

    Read full story here

    Sunday, January 15, 2017

    A Firestorm of Protests Will Take Aim at Donald Trump's Inauguration

    On Friday, president-elect Donald Trump will be inaugurated into office. The day will begin with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Arlington National Cemetery followed by several celebrations, including galas and inaugural balls, throughout the weekend.
    But if Trump's critics have anything to do with it, the inauguration won't entirely be festive: Dozens of groups have announced rallies and protests leading up to the historic event, including the Women's March on Washington, which is expected to draw as many as 200,000 attendees. Washington, DC officials say they're preparing for at least a million visitors to the city for the inauguration and protests. And it's not just the capital that's bracing for January 20. Hundreds of cities expect local rallies to take place.
    Here are some of the major events planned across the country over the next few weeks:
    January 14: March for Immigrants and Refugees
    Organized as part of the We Are Here to Stay campaign, immigrant and refugee rights groups plan to organize on this day to show solidarity for immigrants and other vulnerable communities and to stand up against hateful rhetoric against immigrants. The grassroots campaign, led by United We Dream, a youth-led immigrant justice group, and other immigrant justice groups, urges local groups to start their own chapters to protest Trump's immigration proposals, and events are slated to take place in numerous cities, including TucsonAlbuquerqueChicago, and Houston.
    January 14: We Shall Not Be Moved March on Washington
    Reverend Al Sharpton's National Action Network says it will hold a march on Washington to call for Trump to continue protecting civil rights. "Protecting the civil rights of citizens and the voting rights of people that have been excluded, providing health care for all Americans and equal opportunity should supersede any of the beltway partisan fights that we are inevitably headed into," says the group.
    January 15: Our First Stand: Save Health Care 
    Led by Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Democratic members of Congress and other health care groups will protest the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act by holding rallies across the country. House leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will hold an event in San Francisco, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) will be in Los Angeles, and Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), along with Mayor Marty Walsh will be in Boston, Massachusetts. Sanders made headlines recently when he brought a giant banner of a Trump tweet to Congress (Trump tweeted last May that he would not make cuts to social security, Medicare, and Medicaid).
    January 15: Writers Resist rallies
    Launched by poet Erin Belieu, Writer's Resist calls itself a national network of writers "driven to defend the ideals of a free, just and compassionate democratic society." The group has asked writers to independently organize local events where writers will read from historic and contemporary texts on democracy and free expression. More than 75 events have been planned, including in Seattle, Portland, Omaha, London and Hong Kong, according to its website. The flagship event will be held in New York City, where writers will gather at the steps to the New York Public Library for readings, performances, and a pledge to defend the First Amendment.
    January 19: Reclaim Our Schools Day of Action
    Several teachers unions and education groups, including the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, have organized under a newly-formed group called the National Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools. They plan to stage a national day of action to "defend" schools from Donald Trump and his calls to dismantle the public education system. Educators have called Trump and his secretary of education pick, Betsy DeVos, an "existential threat to public schools." 
    January 19: Busboys and Poets Peace Ball
    Described as an alternative to anti-Trump protests, the Busboys and Poets Peace Ball will be a "gathering to celebrate the accomplishments and successes of the past four years" at the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Notable attendees include celebrities, authors, and organizers such as Solange, Alice Walker, Amy Goodman and Alicia Garza. The event had room for more than 3,000 people and has already sold out, founder Andy Shallal told ThinkProgress
    January 20: #InaugurateTheResistance
    The Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) Coalition secured a permit to stage a "mass protest" against Donald Trump, starting at 7 a.m. at DC's Freedom Plaza. Other groups holding marches include the Occupy Movement, the Democratic Socialists of America, and #DisruptJ20, a group which says it wants to shut down the inauguration.
    Separately, the DCMJ, a lobbying group focused on marijuana legislation, says it will distribute free joints to celebrate pot legalization in D.C.
    January 20: Student walkouts 
    College students across the country are planning campus walkouts, organized by groups including Socialist Students and Students for a Democratic Society.
    January 21: Women's March
    The Women's March on Washington, which started as a Facebook page after the election, will be by far one of the biggest events after the inauguration. The march's organizers say up to 200,000 people could attend, and the event has drawn such enthusiasm and support that additional Facebook pages have been set up for parents who are bringing their children, as well as a "MarchBnb" website for people in need of housing.

    Other marches inspired by the Women's March are also being held in other cities in the US and worldwide. A full list can be found here.