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  • 2020 Elections
    One of the GOPs brightest female stars is dogged by Trump in 2020
    Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst will have to outrun the president, whose trade war has damaged his standing in the state.

    ADEL, Iowa Joni Ernst had barely kicked off a town hall one recent morning when the barrage of complaints about Donald Trump began.

    One after one, constituents grilled the first-term Republican senator about the president his attacks on John McCain, his emergency declaration at the border and why Ernst hasnt stood up to him more often.

    Other senators are speaking up, criticizing Trump and defending McCain, but I have yet to hear one word from you, one man implored her. Is there no line Trump can cross that would cause you to break ranks with him?

    Ernst kept her cool as she answered the 30 people who trekked to a high school auditorium on the outskirts of Des Moines to hear her. But she was emphatic: Oh, I break ranks with President Trump quite a bit. After defending McCain, she said, So right there there you have it.

    Ernst better get used to it. At the same time she's gearing for reelection, Democratic presidential candidates are camped out in Iowa, hammering Trump at every turn. The heightened attention on the president will test the political agility of Ernst, who has generally earned high marks in the state but is having to answer for Trump whose poll numbers lag behind hers and some of his unpopular policies.

    The race for 2020 starts now. Stay in the know. Follow our presidential election coverage

    Ernst was elected to the Senate in 2014 under much different circumstances. The 48-year-old combat veteran ran as an independent-minded Republican who would slash federal spending and combat Democratic overreach. But next year shell be on the ballot with Trump, whose tariffs have hurt the states agriculture industry and whose tax cut backed by Ernst has ballooned, not reined in, the deficit.

    Ernst, known in the Senate for her easy-going demeanor and willingness to work with Democrats, is favored to hang on. Her race is a top priority for Senate Republicans, not just because theyre clinging to a narrow majority heading into 2020 but because Ernst is one of the few women in their ranks and one of their most promising prospects overall. In November, she was the first woman elected to Senate GOP leadership in eight years, and shes one of two Republican women on the Senates powerful Judiciary Committee, which until this year had no GOP women.

    But her reelection in the conservative-leaning state, which Trump carried easily in 2016, is not a foregone conclusion. Democrats flipped two GOP-held seats in Iowa last year, and Trump's approval ratings have sunk as his trade wars have stretched on. Barack Obama won the state twice and Ernsts predecessor, Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, represented the state for three decades.

    Theres only two ways to run: One is unopposed and the other is scared. So, shes got to be prepared and I think she will be, said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). Iowa, he added, is not a ruby-red state.

    Ernst projects a warm and down-to-earth demeanor: When confronted by voters, she's calm and allows them to finish their thoughts. She responds by explaining her perspective and refers to voters by their first names, as if she were talking to friends.

    During her first term, shes focused on issues affecting veterans and women, pairing with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on a bill to require sexual assault prevention training for new members of the military and teaming with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Shes also known in the Senate for her monthly "Squeal Award," which she uses to highlight federal spending she believes is wasteful.

    I like Joni. I like working with her, said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), one of the most progressive members of the Democratic Party and who sits on the Armed Services Committee with Ernst. We do have our differences, [but] I think shes thoughtful and shes focused on the things that she cares about.

    Ernsts poll numbers in Iowa have fluctuated but appear strong. In February, she had a 57 percent approval rating, according to a Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll, an increase over her 47 percent approval rating in September. Her approval rating has hovered around 50 percent the past two years, according to that poll.

    Trump, on the other hand, has seen his net approval rating plummet by 20 points in Iowa since he took office, according to Morning Consult. The February poll from the Des Moines Register found that 50 percent of Iowa voters disapproved of Trump, while 46 percent approved.

    Ernst has been a reliable vote for most of Trump's agenda. Shes backed his judicial and executive branch nominees, the GOP tax cut and repeal of the Affordable Care Act. More recently, she sided with the president on his declaration of a national emergency aimed at securing funding for a southern border wall, even as a dozen other Republicans opposed the move.

    Ernst has broken with Trump on some issues, though. She opposed the administrations ban on transgender people serving in the military and criticized his trade policies and the effect they're having on farmers. She also supported an amendment this year opposing Trump's proposed precipitous withdrawal of troops from Syria and Afghanistan.

    æ, !

    Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


    • Joni Ernst Pt 2

      Ernst has been a reliable vote for most of Trump's agenda. Shes backed his judicial and executive branch nominees, the GOP tax cut and repeal of the Affordable Care Act. More recently, she sided with the president on his declaration of a national emergency aimed at securing funding for a southern border wall, even as a dozen other Republicans opposed the move.

      Ernst has broken with Trump on some issues, though. She opposed the administrations ban on transgender people serving in the military and criticized his trade policies and the effect they're having on farmers. She also supported an amendment this year opposing Trump's proposed precipitous withdrawal of troops from Syria and Afghanistan.

      Former Democratic Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, who said recently he wouldn't run against Ernst, thinks Democrats should make the race a referendum on whether Ernst delivered on her promise to shake up Washington.

      She has essentially been an enabler of many of the Trump policies that arent particularly good for Iowa, Vilsack said in an interview.

      Democrat Rob Sand, who was recently elected state auditor and is seen as a potential challenger to Ernst, said her allegiance to the party line is her biggest vulnerability.

      "She sold herself as this Harley-wearing, gun-shooting, pig-castrating person who really would stand up and be tough and she hasnt been tough, Sand said, referring to Ernst's viral 2014 ad boasting about her history castrating pigs as a metaphor for how she'd cut government waste. Shes just taking orders from Mitch McConnell.

      Trumps trade war with China is a huge issue in Iowa. The tariffs have slammed the state's soybean industry, a big part of Iowas economy. Iowa State University last year projected the tariffs could cost the states farmers up to $2.2 billion in revenue.

      Ernst points to trade as an area where she's disagreed with Trump. She was among a group of senators who co-sponsored legislation in February that would require the Defense Department to justify tariffs issued on national security grounds.

      What hes doing with the tariffs has been really hard on our agricultural industry and so Im continually pushing on the administration 'Lets focus on getting the trade deals done; lets move lets move we want a good deal but lets move,' she said, adding that her good relationship with Trump is a boon to the state. I mean, he will take my calls.

      Ernst partly attributed Trumps sagging popularity in the state to his trade war. While she's confident the president will carry Iowa again, she warned it's going to be a lot harder if Trump doesn't strike trade deals to break the impasse with China.

      J.B. Poersch, president of the Democratic Senate Majority PAC, said the rising trade deficit could also drag down Ernst. The United States had a record trade deficit with China in 2018. Those numbers improved slightly in January, with China agreeing to increase its purchase of soybeans as part of trade negotiations.

      The budget debts, the trade deficit theyre all remarkably high and have worsened in a Republican administration clearly at a time when Republicans were running everything, Poersch said. Thats what she considered her key strategic issue.

      Ernsts race in a battleground state comes at a time when her party badly needs her.

      Republicans have struggled to recruit female candidates and appeal to female voters. The problem came to a head during the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, when a group of white Republican men on the Senate Judiciary Committee grilled Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were in high school. He denied the allegation.

      "It's pretty obvious on some of the biggest fights that we had people who look like me and not enough people look like her, Cornyn, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said.

      Fellow Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said Ernst is "solving our problems by being a good Republican senator and encouraging other women to run as a role model.

      Ernst emphasized in 2014 that she wasnt running on my gender. But she did manage to become the first woman elected to federal office from Iowa. Since then, Iowa has elected its first female state House Speaker, Linda Upmeyer, and first female governor, Kim Reynolds.

      I think it really undercuts Democratic rhetoric that somehow there is a war on women, said Jeff Kaufmann, chairman of the Iowa Republican Party. "If there is a war here in this state, we have women as our generals.

      Ernst got more personal about her own experience with sexual assault amid a public divorce.

      Its been very hard, I would say, sharing my own story, she said. It was important for me to acknowledge and hopefully be able to inspire other men and women because its not just women, there are men that are going through this as well.

      Ernst said her party can attract more suburban female voters by paying attention to issues that affect them, like the cost of pharmaceuticals.

      Upmeyer, Iowas first female House speaker, credits Ernst with being a role model for other female politicians in Iowa.

      Whether its a violence, or a divorce, or even the struggle of climbing the ladder and having the opportunity be a U.S. senator," she said, women "can relate to that."

      æ, !

      Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


      • Health Care
        Collins urges Barr not to work to kill Obamacare
        POLITICO BURGESS EVERETT 4/01/2019 12:01 AM EDT

        en. Susan Collins wants Attorney General Bill Barr to reverse the Justice Department's aggressive move seeking to obliterate the Affordable Care Act.

        In a letter to Barr sent Monday, the Maine Republican argues that if the Trump administration wants to change the health care law, it should come to Congress and ask. Otherwise Barr's department should be defending the law from a lawsuit seeking to cripple it, she says.

        "Rather than seeking to have the courts invalidate the ACA, the proper route for the administration to pursue would be to propose changes to the ACA or to once again seek its repeal. The administration should not attempt to use the courts to bypass Congress," Collins wrote to Barr, whom she supported in his confirmation vote in February.

        Collins said in an interview last week that she doesn't believe Republicans have any viable plan to replace Obamacare in a divided government, and her missive to Barr amounts to some of the harshest internal blowback yet that the Trump administration has received for supporting a lawsuit last week aimed at bringing down the law.

        President Donald Trump is using the new legal threat to Obamacare to pressure his party to come up with an alternative to Obamacare and become "the party of health care." Republican senators, Collins included, say they want to see a plan from the president before moving forward with anything.

        In general, Republicans have been reluctant to put forward new, sweeping health care legislation after failing to repeal the law in 2017, an attempt Collins opposed.

        And though she still says the law needs changes, Collins also tells Barr of her "profound disappointment" with the administration legal tactics to bring down Obamacare. The Mainer, who is up for reelection next year, said that just because Congress eliminated the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate in a 2017 tax overhaul, that doesn't mean it was lawmakers' intent to get rid of other portions of the law like protections for pre-existing conditions.

        "Congress affirmatively eliminated the penalty while leaving these and other critical consumer protections in place. If Congress had intended to eliminate these consumer protections along with the individual mandate, it could have done so. It chose not to," Collins wrote to Barr. "The administration should reconsider its decision and defend the remainder of the ACA."

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        Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


        • Remember Jared Kushners Middle East peace plan?
          THE WASHINGTON POST Adam Taylor March 28, 2019

          Appearing in front of a congressional committee on Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was asked a simple question: When is the United States going to unveil the long-awaited Israel-Palestinian peace plan being crafted by the presidents son-in-law Jared Kushner?

          I think we can say in less than 20 years, Americas top diplomat said, laughing. I prefer not to be more precise.

          The remark was intended in jest, but it highlighted an unfortunate fact: The Trump administrations peace plan has already been a long time coming, and few details have been revealed. Pompeo was smiling, but those hoping the plan may be the solution to one of the Middle Easts most intractable problems fear they may be waiting not for Kushner, but for Godot.

          President Trumps belief that his administration could potentially find a way to solve the conflict as he put it, with the deal of the century dates back to before he took office. So does his idea that Kushner, who had no government or diplomatic experience, would be the best man for the job.

          Jareds a very smart guy, Trump told the New York Times in November 2016. I would love to be able to be the one that made peace with Israel and the Palestinians.

          At a pre-inauguration event in January 2017, Trump told the Times of London that Kushner would lead the process. If you cant produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can, he said. Kushner, by then a senior adviser to the president, headed to the Middle East in June. He told a Palestinian newspaper his plan would be released soon: We are almost done.

          A couple of months later, leaked audio suggested Kushner wasnt so sure whether he had a plan at all. There may be no solution, he told White House interns in August 2017. But its one of the problem sets that the president asked us to focus on.

          Kushners private caution may have been wise. More than a year and a half after those comments, his peace plan still has not been released. This week, McClatchys Michael Wilner reported that the plan was largely complete but that it would probably not be released until after Israels April 9 election.

          To say expectations are low would be an understatement. Shalom Lipner, a fellow at the Atlantic Council who previously worked in the Israeli prime ministers office for 26 years, wrote in a recent article for Politico Magazine that Kushners efforts reminded him of Don Quixote dreaming the impossible dream in The Man of La Mancha.

          Kushners struggle to find Middle East peace is far from surprising. Those with far weightier rsums have struggled, too. The peace process was pretty much moribund in the years before Trump took office, following the collapse of a nine-month process led by the Obama administration in 2014.

          Though there were hopes in 2016 that another nation might lead renewed talks, no one is stepping up to the plate. The Palestinians have never been so weak, Israel never so hard line, and the possibilities for peace never so bleak, Sarah Helm wrote in the Financial Times on Wednesday. So the Europeans are content to watch Mr. Kushner fail.

          Why assume Kushner will fail? With Middle East peace negotiations long mired in the debates of the Oslo accords of a quarter-century ago, the Trump administration at least hopes to reinvigorate the process. I think we have some ideas that are new, fresh and different, Pompeo told the House on Wednesday.

          Yes, but different doesnt necessarily mean better or good. Kushner, a businessman by trade, initially appeared to hope economic incentives alone could spur the Palestinians to make compromises. Some reports now suggest hes using his real estate chops to add a land swap to the deal.

          Speaking in Warsaw last month, Kushner told Sky News Arabia his plan would focus on border issues. A recent book by journalist Vicky Ward said Kushner had, at one point, proposed a different idea: border changes, with Jordan giving land to the Palestinian territories, Jordan getting land from Saudi Arabia and the Saudis getting two Red Sea islands from Egypt.

          The idea was widely mocked. Understandably, the administration quickly distanced itself from it, dubbing it false info.

          What really worries people about Kushners peace plan is not the wild rumors about whats in it its what has happened outside the plan already. Since taking office, Trump has made multiple moves that appear designed to squeeze and punish the Palestinian side.

          Rep. David E. Price (D-N.C.) highlighted these actions in a question to Pompeo on Wednesday, citing the move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; the closure of a Palestinian political office in Washington and the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem that served the West Bank; and cuts to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and West Bank assistance funding.

          Can you tell me how this is supposed to work? Price asked, noting that the Palestinians were refusing to meet with U.S. officials.

          Trumps recognition of Israeli control over the Golan Heights, a strip of land seized from Syria in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, has also further complicated matters. As Todays WorldView noted earlier this week, the decision seems to have been timed to boost Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a Kushner family friend, ahead of the April 9 elections.

          The move could have an impact beyond simple electoral politics. Even Kushners allies in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have issued condemnations. Moreover, Netanyahus justification of Israels possession of the land that annexations in defensive wars were okay goes against international norms and theoretically could be a justification for Israeli control of much of the West Bank.

          That would spell the end of the two-state solution and potentially result in something very much like the state-minus plan for Palestinian territories mooted by none other than Netanyahu himself. On Wednesday, Pompeo did not answer when asked whether the United States was still promoting a two-state solution.

          Instead, he offered a vague response: It will be the peoples of those two lands who resolve this.
          Does anyone remember Kushner's peace plan? Was it moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, the Palestinian capital? Could it be stopping all aid to Palestinians? Maybe it was America's yearly donation to Israel of $3.6 billion in military aid? With actions like this, peace should break out any minute.

          æ, !

          Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


          • Russian singer who worked with Trump team on Miss Universe and Trump Tower Moscow speaks out about Mueller investigation
            Meduza 15:04, 28 march 2019

            Emin Agalarov, Donald Trump, and Araz Agalarov arrive at the 2013 Miss Universe pageant final at Crocus City Hall. Moscow, November 9, 2013
            Vyacheslav Prokofyev / TASS / Scanpix / LETA

            When the musician and entrepreneur Emin Agalarov first read about the conclusions of the so-called Mueller probe, he was pleasantly unsurprised. We were very glad, of course, Agalarov told the Russian-language investigative outlet The Bell. But, he added, we always knew that would be the result. I mean, I was the one who organized that fantastical meeting [with attorney Natalya Veselnitskaya], and I know what it was all really like.

            Agalarov, who runs the multi-industry Crocus Group along with his father, Araz, did not comment on his relationship with the Trump family while Special Counsel Robert Muellers investigation into Donald Trumps Russian connections was ongoing in the United States. However, with the probes conclusions already on paper, the singer gave an interview to The Bell. In his conversation with journalist Anastasia Stognei, the younger Agalarov discussed the Miss Universe competition that first brought him into contact with Donald Trump, Veselnitskayas alleged offer to provide compromising information about Hillary Clinton, and the planned American tour that almost made the musician himself an official witness for Muellers team.

            Lets find the most beautiful girl in the United States

            Agalarov told The Bell that he had just finished recording an album in New York when he first heard about the Miss Universe competition. In a 2012 meeting with his manager, the publicist Rob Goldstone, the singer asked where he might find the most beautiful girl in the United States to act in one of his music videos. Goldstone mentioned Miss Universe, and before long, Agalarov discovered that the same name he associated with the skyscrapers sprouting around him was in charge of the beauty pageant as well.

            After visiting the Miss America competition in Las Vegas in June of 2013, the Agalarovs hosted Miss Universe in November of that same year. The pair had recently opened a new Moscow mega-venue, Crocus City Hall, and hoped to attract partnerships and investment as a result of the partnership. While Agalarov said the result was ultimately a $2 million loss, Trumps 2013 visit to the Russian capital became an explosive point of interest in the timeline of his relationship with the Russian government.

            Naturally, when he got to Russia, Trump asked whether Putin would be there, whether we invited him, Emin Agalarov told The Bell. We said, of course, that we did. As a competition with a large global audience, Agalarov reasoned, Miss Universe merited the attention of Putin himself. However, in the two days during which the singer said he accompanied Trump around the city, Putin ultimately spent his time meeting with the king of Jordan. If Im not mistaken, Agalarov explained, my father passed an invitation along to Putin through his press secretary, and either he or someone else from the presidential administration said the president would have liked to come but couldnt. The singer said he did organize a meet and greet for Trump with employees of the state-owned Sberbank but that no business came out of it in the end. He called American media speculation about a near-run-in between Trump and Putin in 2013 some kind of conspiracy theory and said the Steele dossier describing Trumps Moscow visit was a piece of total absurdity with no foundation underneath.

            We were planning to build 14 towers. Why not name one of them after Trump?

            After the 2013 Miss Universe contest, the Agalarovs made contact with Trumps businesses to discuss the possibility of building a Trump Tower in Moscow. My father was always against it, but I was for it, the musician said. He explained that the Trump brand was not yet big enough in Russia to attract as much attention as it would today. Nonetheless, he thought to himself, We were planning to build 14 towers. Why not name one of them after Trump?

            Agalarov said he and his father signed two documents with Trump Organization representatives in 2015: a letter of intent that the singer said had no legal authority as well as a non-disclosure agreement. The relevant negotiations disintegrated over time and did not include Trump himself, Agalarov added. When Trump started running for president, they stopped altogether. It was only post facto that we found out they were also talking about building a Trump Tower with other developers, he said.
            I think political questions of some kind really could have been discussed

            By 2016, the U.S. presidential campaign was in full swing, but the relationship between the Agalarovs and the Trump conglomerate was not yet over. When Araz Agalarov asked his son to arrange a meeting with someone within the Trump team, Emin did not see anything strange in the request. He delegated the task to Rob Goldstone, and Russian attorney Natalya Veselnitskaya ultimately met with Trumps son-in-law Jared Kushner and his campaign manager Paul Manafort in Trump Tower. Agalarov said that when he asked Goldstone about the meeting after the fact, his former manager told him, This is the most ridiculous meeting I have ever attended.

            Ridiculous or not, Agalarov said, he soon forgot about the meeting. If it would have seemed important, he claimed, he would have handled it himself rather than delegating its organization to Goldstone. Now, he says that Goldstone said Veselnitskaya had offered the Trump campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton and her team just to hook Trumps aides into unrelated political discussions. I think political questions of some kind really could have been discussed during that meeting. That lady, the lawyer, she had plans that werent just about the Magnitsky list, as I understand it. When news of the meeting blew up in the American media, the Russian singer said, he stopped discussing his communications with the Trump team with anyone, including his father, on the advice of their attorneys.

            At first, Agalarov said, he was open to cooperating with Robert Muellers team as the latter investigated the possibility of collusion between Donald Trumps campaign and the Russian government. I have nothing to hide, the musician claimed. He said he planned a U.S. tour and booked concert venues in five American cities with the intention of meeting with Muellers team in the process. However, Agalarov said he discovered shortly before he was due to depart for the States that he would be permitted to testify only once Mueller issued a subpoena, at which point the singer would be obligated to remain in the U.S. until the investigation concluded. Agalarov told The Bell he decided to take a financial hit and cancel his tour. I would have had to cancel half my life, I have four kids, he explained. The musician added that tickets for the concerts he had planned sold successfully and that he hoped to make up for the monetary loss of canceling t by going on tour in the U.S. this coming fall. When asked whether he plans to renew his contacts with the Trump family as well, Agalarov responded, I dont think so.

            Original interview by Anastasia Stognei for The Bell

            æ, !

            Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


            • REUTERS April 3, 2019 / 8:40 PM / Updated 4 hours ago
              Some in Mueller's team see report as more damaging to Trump than Barr summary: NY Times

              WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Some of Special Counsel Robert Muellers investigators have told associates that the findings of their probe are more damaging for President Donald Trump than Attorney General William Barr indicated in his four-page summary, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.

              Citing government officials and others familiar with the situation, the Times said some members of Muellers team believe Barr should have included more of their material in the summary he released on March 24 of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

              The Times said the officials and other sources declined to flesh out why some of the special counsels investigators viewed their findings as potentially more damaging for the president than Barr explained.

              It was also not clear how widespread among Muellers team, which included dozens of lawyers and investigators, are concerns about differences between Barrs summary and Muellers report, the Times said.

              Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, declined to comment. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

              Barr, a Trump appointee, said in the summary that Mueller did not establish that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia during the election.

              Barr also said the special counsel did not exonerate Trump on obstruction of justice. Barr himself subsequently concluded that Muellers inquiry had not found sufficient evidence to warrant criminal obstruction charges against Trump.

              Trump and the White House have hailed the conclusions as a victory for the president, who has denied conspiring with Russians or obstructing justice.

              The attorney general has pledged to release the nearly 400-page report by mid-April with certain portions blacked out for reasons such as protecting secret grand jury information and intelligence-gathering sources and methods.

              The Democratic-led House of Representatives Judiciary Committee voted on Wednesday to enable its chairman, Jerrold Nadler, to subpoena the Justice Department to obtain Muellers unredacted report and all underlying evidence as well as documents and testimony from five former Trump aides, including political strategist Steve Bannon.

              Reporting by Eric Beech; additional reporting by Karen Freifeld and Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Leslie Adler
              Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

              æ, !

              Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


              • A key House Democrat just officially demanded Trumps tax returns
                Rep. Richard Neal invoked his authority to request the returns from the IRS.
                VOX Andrew Prokop Apr 3, 2019, 7:15pm EDT

                The congressional Democrat who has the power to get President Donald Trumps tax returns has made his move.

                On Wednesday, Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, sent a letter to the IRS commissioner demanding Trumps federal income tax returns for the past six tax years.

                Neals letter asks for the 2013-2018 federal income tax returns for the president himself and for eight entities connected to Trump (including the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust and seven Trump business entities). He also demands information about any audits connected to these returns, and administrative files for them.

                Congress, as a co-equal branch of government, has a duty to conduct oversight of departments and officials, Neal said in a statement. He framed his request not as about scrutinizing Trumps own history, but about evaluating an IRS policy to audit all presidents tax returns.

                Neal wants the returns by April 10 Wednesday of next week. But this is likely only the start of a lengthy legal battle.

                Trumps tax returns: the background

                For decades, every major party presidential nominee publicly released their tax returns, in a gesture that wasnt legally required but was a nod to transparency. Such disclosures could reveal more about how politicians have made their money, whom they might owe money to, or whether they were in fact appropriately paying their taxes.

                Very quickly, Trump a wealthy businessman with a complex, opaque financial situation was asked whether he would follow these past candidates example. He said he would. In February 2015, while Trump was considering running, he told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that if he ran, I would release tax returns. Then, after getting in the race, Trump told ABC in August 2015 at some point Ill release it.

                As the first primaries and caucuses approached the following January, Trump told NBC again that such a release was coming soon. Were working on that now. I have big returns, as you know, and I have everything all approved and very beautiful and well be working that over in the next period of time.

                But in February 2016, Trumps line suddenly changed. The problem, he said, was that he was currently being audited by the IRS. Because of that, he said, he wouldnt release his returns until whenever the audit was finished. (Sometimes Trump would go further and say that the audit meant he cant release his returns, which is false.)

                Donald J. Trump


                Tax experts throughout the media agree that no sane person would give their tax returns during an audit. After the audit, no problem!
                11:20 AM - Feb 27, 2016

                Many immediately suspected the audit excuse was somewhat less than sincere. Perhaps the best evidence this is the case is that more than three years have passed since then, and Trump still hasnt released his returns.

                Indeed, after he won the presidency, Trump shifted to arguing that he shouldnt have to release his returns because he, uh, won the presidency.

                Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump
                I did what was an almost an impossible thing to do for a Republican-easily won the Electoral College! Now Tax Returns are brought up again?
                9:07 AM - Apr 16, 2017

                Last year, the New York Times wrote a lengthy report on Trumps history of participating in suspect tax schemes, including instances of outright fraud. But the paper relied mainly on returns from the 1990s those from more recent years remained elusive. And congressional Republicans who had control of the House and Senate for Trumps first two years in office werent particularly eager to learn more.
                An obscure law lets the Ways and Means committee chair request anyones tax returns

                But the Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives in last years midterms finally provided an opportunity for Trumps returns to be brought to light.

                A law passed in 1924 gives the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee the power to request any individuals tax returns from the Treasury Department, for review in closed session. Heres the key part of the Internal Revenue Code:


                Starting this January, that chair was Rep. Richard Neal. Democrats had campaigned on among other things holding Trump and his administration accountable on a number of issues, but have been somewhat slow to confront the administration. This week, however, Neal finally invoked his authority to demand six years worth of returns from Trump, Trumps trust, and seven other core Trump business entities that control scores of other Trump operations (per the New York Times).

                Dont expect the returns to be handed over quickly Neal himself has said he expects a court battle over this matter. And even if the Treasury Department does provide Neal with the returns, theres another catch theyre supposed to be reviewed only in closed executive session, so its unclear how theyd be able to be made public.

                But Neals request is the first major step in this process. You can read his full letter below, or at this link.


                æ, !

                Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                • Health Care
                  House condemns Trump's bid to get rid of Obamacare
                  POLITICO ALICE MIRANDA OLLSTEIN Updated 04/03/2019 03:34 PM EDT

                  The House on Wednesday overwhelmingly voted to condemn the Trump administration for backing a lawsuit seeking to throw out all of Obamacare, with eight Republicans joining a near-unanimous Democratic caucus.

                  The non-binding resolution is one of is one of several steps Democrats are taking to try to link vulnerable Republicans with the administration's controversial legal strategy while touting their own work to shore up the law. The last time the GOP tried to get rid of Obamacare, it cost them control of the House and several state capitols, and Democrats are working to keep the spotlight on the issue going into the 2020 election cycle.

                  The 240-186 vote came one week after the Justice Department abandoned a narrower legal strategy and backed scrapping the entire law in the case brought by 20 GOP attorneys general that's now at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The administration had argued last year that only Obamacares popular consumer protections, including a ban on discriminating against people with preexisting conditions, should be struck down.

                  "Instead of working with Congress to pass meaningful health care reform that tackles rising costs and prescription drug prices, the Trump administration is turning its back on those who need it most," said Rep. T.J. Cox (D-Calif.).

                  Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota was the only Democrat to vote against the resolution. The mostly swing district Republicans who backed the measure were Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Denver Riggleman of Virginia, Chris Smith of New Jersey, Pete Stauber of Minnesota, Fred Upton of Michigan and John Katko, Tom Reed and Elise Stefanik, all of New York.

                  President Donald Trump last week promised a new GOP plan to replace the ACA. But after Republican lawmakers strongly pushed back at the prospect of making another election a referendum on repealing Obamacare, Trump announced on Tuesday that his administration will punt on any further action until after 2020.

                  Top Republicans on the congressional committees that set health care policy have indicated they are moving on to less divisive issues.

                  Im focused on reducing health care costs and working in a bipartisan cost to reduce prescription drug [costs], deal with surprise medical bills that show up in emergency rooms and a whole variety of other things, said Senate HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). I think we can do that together with the Democrats.

                  Some Republicans acknowledge, however, that they won't be able to avoid addressing Obamacare as the lawsuit makes its way through the courts.

                  It leaves a vulnerability here for patients, said Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who led House efforts in 2017 to get rid of the law. How do we make sure theres no gap in coverage? We need to make sure patients are covered and cared for, and I havent seen an alternative come forward that would do that from the administration.

                  Still, the vast majority of Republicans, including Walden, voted against the resolution at the urging of the White House and House GOP leadership, sources told POLITICO.

                  Republicans see this political resolution for what it is and oppose it, said a senior Republican aide, who criticized Democrats for putting up show votes on meaningless senses of the House that have no actual impact.

                  Democrats plan to continue highlighting the contrasts between the parties when it comes to health care, by teeing up votes in the coming weeks on a series of bills that would make Obamacare's subsidies more generous and restoring ACA outreach and enrollment funding that was cut by the administration.

                  The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also launched health care-themed digital ads Wednesday in 44 districts, praising the party's most vulnerable incumbents for voting to condemn Trump's backing of the lawsuit.

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                  • House Democrat Demands Six Years of Trump Tax Returns From I.R.S.
                    The move by Representative Richard E. Neal, right, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, came as other panels controlled by House Democrats were flexing their muscles.CreditTom Brenner for The New York Times
                    NY TIMES Nicholas Fandos April 3, 2019

                    WASHINGTON The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, using a little-known provision in the federal tax code, formally requested on Wednesday that the I.R.S. hand over six years of President Trumps personal and business tax returns, starting what is likely to be a momentous fight with his administration.

                    Representative Richard E. Neal, Democrat of Massachusetts, hand-delivered a two-page letter laying out the request to Charles P. Rettig, the Internal Revenue Service commissioner, ending months of speculation about when he would do so and almost certainly prompting a legal challenge from the Trump administration.

                    Responding to questions from reporters in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump suggested that he would fight the request because, he said, he was being audited.

                    I guess when you have a name, you are audited, but until such time as Im not under audit I would not be inclined to do that, he said.


                    The move by Mr. Neal came as other panels controlled by House Democrats were flexing their muscles. The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning authorized its chairman to use a subpoena to try to force the Justice Department to give Congress a full copy of the special counsels report and all of the underlying evidence used to reach his conclusions on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

                    And the chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee said that he would soon ask for a vote on a subpoena of his own to compel Mazars USA, an accounting firm tied to the president, to produce a decades worth of Mr. Trumps financial records.

                    They have told us that they will provide the information pretty much when they have a subpoena, the chairman, Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, told reporters. And well get them a subpoena.

                    Unlike the chairmen of other committees, Mr. Neal is not relying on a subpoena or standard congressional processes. Instead, he is invoking an authority enshrined in the tax code granted only to the tax-writing committees in Congress that gives the chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee the power to request tax information on any filer.

                    Mr. Neal gave the agency until April 10 to comply with the request, and if he receives the information, he will then confidentially review it with his committee staff.

                    The provision, which dates in some form to the Teapot Dome scandal of Warren G. Hardings administration, at least on its face gives the Trump administration little room to decline a request like Mr. Neals. It only says that the Treasury secretary shall furnish the information.

                    President Trump is the first president in nearly a half century to break precedent and refuse to voluntarily release his tax returns, said Representative Dan Kildee, Democrat of Michigan and a member of the Ways and Means Committee. The president is the only person who can sign bills into law, and the public deserves to know whether the presidents personal financial interests affect his public decision making.

                    The Treasury Department and the I.R.S. did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

                    But Democrats anticipate that the Trump administration will object to the request and force the matter into the courts, where its adjudication could take months or longer. Though the provision No. 6103 in the tax code is invoked frequently by the committee, there is little precedent for using it to view the returns of a president who has not invited the scrutiny.

                    Republicans have vigorously argued against the request, saying that whatever justification Democrats produce will belie their true intent: to fish for information that could embarrass the president politically.

                    Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, called the request an abuse of the tax-writing committees statutory authority.

                    Weaponizing our nations tax code by targeting political foes sets a dangerous precedent and weakens Americans privacy rights, Mr. Brady said in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. As you know, by law all Americans have a fundamental right to the privacy of the personal information found in their tax returns.

                    Defying modern presidential norms, Mr. Trump has refused since he became a candidate for president to release any of his tax returns. Democrats suspect the tax information could provide clues to wrongdoing by Mr. Trump, and they made getting the documents one of their top oversight priorities when they reclaimed control of the House in January.

                    [A New York Times investigation showed that the president engaged in suspect tax schemes as he reaped riches from his father.]

                    Mr. Neal said he was making the request as part of his committees oversight of the extent to which the I.R.S. audits and enforces the federal tax laws against a president. Under I.R.S. policy, the personal tax returns of presidents and vice presidents are supposed to be automatically audited each year. Mr. Neal said the committee was considering legislation related to the issue.

                    I take the authority to make this request very seriously, and I approach it with the utmost care and respect, Mr. Neal said in a statement. This request is about policy, not politics; my preparations were made on my own track and timeline, entirely independent of other activities in Congress and the administration.

                    He added, I trust that in this spirit, the I.R.S. will comply with federal law and furnish me with the requested documents in a timely manner.

                    In addition to Mr. Trumps personal returns for 2013 to 2018, Mr. Neal requested returns for Mr. Trumps trust and seven other core Trump business entities that control scores of other Trump operations, including his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. He also asked the I.R.S. to share any information it had related to the entities, including whether they had been audited.

                    Liberal Democrats have complained for weeks that Mr. Neal, 70 and a roll-up-your-sleeves legislator, was dragging his feet on making the request. They have organized events in his district, taken out advertisements and produced legal briefs meant to make a case that he should act and act quickly.

                    Mr. Neal said throughout that he was chiefly concerned with crafting a request, alongside the House general counsel and the Ways and Means Committee staff, that could withstand legal challenge.

                    I am certain we are within our legitimate legislative, legal and oversight rights, he said on Wednesday.

                    In the Judiciary Committee, the chairman, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, said he would not immediately issue the subpoena for the Mueller report. But the party-line vote won by Democrats who control the committee ratchets up pressure on Attorney General William P. Barr as he decides how much of the nearly 400-page report to share with lawmakers.

                    I will give him time to change his mind, Mr. Nadler said in his opening statement. But if we cannot reach an accommodation, then we will have no choice but to issue subpoenas for these materials.

                    The committee also approved subpoenas for five former White House aides who Democrats said were relevant to an investigation into possible obstruction of justice, abuse of power and corruption within the Trump administration.

                    They included Donald F. McGahn II, a former White House counsel; Stephen K. Bannon, the presidents former chief strategist; Hope Hicks, a former White House communications director; Reince Priebus, the residents first chief of staff; and Annie Donaldson, a deputy of Mr. McGahn.

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                    • Donald Trump is a pro wrestler masquerading as commander-in-chief
                      What WrestleMania says about the president and American voters'
                      THE ECONOMIST Apr 13th 2019 Lexington TrumpMania

                      Print edition | United States

                      THE FIRST time Lexington thought of Donald Trump at WrestleMania this week was when, to the fading strains of America the Beautiful, a helicopter flyover churned the night sky over the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. Was the president about to make a surprise reappearance at the annual WWE sports-entertainment extravaganza to which he owes so much of his political method? The second time, well into the seven-hour grapplefest, was as the veteran star-wrestler Triple H was ripping out his grudge-rivals nose-rings with a pair of pliers.

                      That was not only a reflection on how Mr Trump treats his cabinet. Paul Levesque, as Triple H was originally known, these days spends most of his time as a senior executive in the billion-dollar WWE business, having married into the McMahon clan that owns it. In reality-bending WWE style, he first married and divorced Stephanie McMahon, daughter of WWE founder Vince, fictitiously. This was part of a story-line in which she and her brother Shane, both WWE executives who appear in WWE productions as villainous executives and wrestlers, tried to steal their parents business. Triple H then actually married and had three children with her.

                      Those developments are now part of his wrestling character. As Triple H was mock-torturing his rival Batista this week, a WWE commentatorbroadcasting live to 180 countries and one of Americas biggest television audiencessaid mock-fearfully: Thats my boss This disorienting mix of business, dynasty and entertainmentscrambling performance and reality, ham interests and financial onesis the defining characteristic of professional wrestling and of its chief emulator, the president.

                      Mr Trump is another sometime WWE performer with close ties to the McMahons. A longtime fixture at WrestleMania, he launched a semi-scripted assault on Vince McMahon at the 2007 version. Having been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, he returned the favour by appointing Vinces wife Linda to his cabinet, as head of the Small Business Administration. She will soon leave it to run a pro-Trump Super PAC. Yet such personal links do not begin to do justice to Mr Trumps stylistic debt to spoof wrestling.

                      To appreciate that, consider why it has proved so alluring. It is not because fans think the fights are real, exactly. Testifying before the New Jersey Senate in 1989when the McMahons were trying to evade regulations on competitive sportMrs McMahon admitted they were fake. After this unprecedented flouting of kayfabe, as wrestlers call their scripted reality, some said the industry was finished. That it has instead grown hugely is chiefly owing to the power of escapism. The 80,000 WWE fans at the MetLife, typically young men with defiant slogans such as Im not dead yet mutha****er! on their T-shirts, are the heroes of their own imaginations. Many carried chunky replicas of WWE (fake) championship belts. Its like Santa Claus, not real, but thats not the point, said Jason, a banker from Manhattan with a $300 belt over his shoulder.

                      WWE has also found new ways, in its scripting and use of digital media, to buttress the fantasy. Most important, it constantly shifts between different registers of make-believe, from real to credible to absurd. Thus, for example, its use of executives as characters. Similarly, its stars appear in and out of character on social media. In a pre-WrestleMania rant Ronda Rousey, a former mixed martial arts champion, slammed WWE as not real and vowed henceforth to do whatever the hell I want. Such tricks create sufficient doubt about what is real for WWE fans to keep living their dream.

                      A blurring of the age-old distinction between faces and heels also supports this shift towards realism: Triple H, once a heel, is now considered a good guy. So does the frenetic way WWE scriptwriters distract their audience with new talking-points: while it was legal for Triple H to take a sledge hammer to Batista, did it make sense, given his (actual) torn pectoral muscle, tactically?

                      Mr Trumps success lies in applying WWE principles where the line between performance and reality is even finer. In The Apprentice he played a successful businessman. In politics he saw that the contest of ideas its participants claimed to be engaged in was really a partisan slugfest almost as contrived and absurd as the WWE. He therefore offered a more ghoulishly watchable version of what voters were already getting. Why choose Jeb Bush trying to be a pantomime bad-ass when you could have the real thing?

                      The president also employs the WWEs new stagecraft. Mixing family, business and politics infuriates sticklers for the law, but makes his fans think he is somehow more realor authenticthan his rivals. He is also a master of shifting between degrees of make-believe. Im not supposed to say this, he interjects into his speeches, but what the hell? And then there are his constantly distracting micro-dramas, breathlessly echoed by a commentariat every bit as emotionally invested in the drama as the press gallery at WrestleMania, which often erupted into spontaneous gasps or applause. How much of Mr Trumps behaviour is concocted is debatable; private Trump is also pretty pantomime. But that uncertainly merely adds, WWE style, to the reality-tumbling effect.
                      Electoral royale

                      Mr Trumps ham performance has been endangered by its own successrepresented by two years of unified Republican government. A WWE performer without an adversary would be a pitiful spectacle. It is therefore testament to the presidents genius that he was able to fill the void, not with policies, obviously, but rather a parade of new enemies: immigrant children, black football players, the late John McCain. Yet with the Democrats soon to choose a new champion, his performance may be about to get easier.

                      His opponents should be advised by this. The WWEs popularity suggests their main hope, that voters will tire of Mr Trumps grim clowning, may be wishful. More specifically, they should recognise that no professional politician can beat him in a grudge match. They would do better, where possible, to ignore him.

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                      • The Influence Business
                        Lobbying in Trumpland
                        THE ECONOMIST WASHINGTON, DC Apr 13th 2019

                        SINCE DONALD TRUMP was elected president, received wisdom has it, big business has run rampant in Washington, DC. The chief-executive-in-chief has filled his cabinet with fellow plutocrats, executives and, horrors, lobbyists. One who used to represent the coal industry runs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The acting interior secretary, David Bernhardt, risks so many potential conflicts of interest from his previous life lobbying for energy and natural-resources firms that he carries around a card listing all 22 of them. Last year businesses spent more than $3.4bn advancing their interests in the halls of government, 8.5% more than before the self-styled CEO president took office. The health-care, finance and industrial sectors each splurged over $500m.

                        Yet these sums may reflect not how easy life is for corporate America in Mr Trumps Washington, but how difficult. The Chamber of Commerce, which has had the ear of every president, has successfully championed massive corporate-tax cuts but failed to dissuade the president from imposing tariffs and curbing immigration. Big Pharma, which had managed to raise drug prices regardless of which party controlled the White House, is being pressed by Mr Trump to lower them. Big Tech has three firms among the ten biggest spenders on lobbyingAlphabet, Facebook and Amazonbut few friends in Washington, not least because Silicon Valley has been critical of the president, often vocally so.

                        An interrogation of data and, mostly on the condition of anonymity, of lobbyists from across the political spectrum confirms that advancing corporate interests in Mr Trumps Washington is no easier than under previous presidents. In some ways, it has got harder. And its results, gauged by firms stockmarket performance, are ambiguous. Tax cuts have helped fuel a bull market in equities. But health care, which spends more than any other industry, has lagged behind.

                        One reason is that there is more to lobbying than buttering up the administration. As one veteran lobbyist notes, 80% of what business cares about is in the ambit of Congress. Lawmakers, meanwhile, have grown charier of business folk. And not just left-leaning Democratic representatives swept onto Capitol Hill in Novembers mid-term elections; high drug prices have so angered ordinary Americans that even previously reliable Republican allies in Congress can no longer protect pharmaceutical firms. Tech firms are out of favour on both sides of the aisle. Gone are the days when a well-connected fixer could have a discreet word with a committee chairman and make a clients problem go away. Social media mean no more quiet issues, says Tony Fratto, a former senior official in George W. Bushs administration and now an adviser at Hamilton Place Strategies.

                        More counterintuitively, currying favour with Mr Trumps supposedly business-friendly administration is no picnic, either. Lobbyists cite four main reasons.

                        First, the president is an outsider. Trump owes nothing to us, explains one of Big Pharmas top lobbyists. Nor do many of his appointees. Mr Trump rejected experienced Republicans who had not supported his candidacy, confides a senior financial lobbyist whose paymaster is an ardent Trump supporter. As a result, his administration is full of unknown entities.

                        Many, it is true, are business-friendly, especially compared with Barack Obamas big-government-loving lieutenants. But, and this is lobbyists second headache, this must be weighed against the Trump bureaucracys inefficiency. People are promoted for fealty to Mr Trump, not competence, which puts off many Republican technocrats; two years into the presidents term, a record number of jobs across the executive branch remain unfilled. You dont take every issue to the White House, notes Thomas Donahue, the long-serving head of the Chamber of Commerce. On most, lobbyists must try to win over other officials. The top lobbyist for a big technology firm struggles to find out who is working on given issues and how to reach them to build connections. Sometimes, he says, it is difficult to tell if anyone is working on them at all. James Connaughton, a senior environmental official in George W. Bushs administration, calls Mr Trumps unceremonious rollback of environmental rules not deregulation but non-regulation. Anarchy is bad for business.

                        Third, respectable businesses promoting their legitimate interests worry about being sullied by association with Mr Trumps entourage, or his views. His campaign manager and personal lawyer have been sentenced to prison terms. The president himself is under investigation for alleged campaign-finance violations. A veteran lobbyist turned unregistered influencer is convinced that everything will be investigated at some point. She makes sure all her contacts with government are above board.

                        Mr Trumps opinions, meanwhile, do not necessarily reflect the interests of corporations. His anti-environmentalism has helped some polluters, particularly in his beloved coal industry, but provoked unease among big firms. Carmakers and large utilities both oppose laxer rules, which could backfire. A conservative lobbyist takes pains to distinguish his blue-chip clients from small-time coal firms seeking cronyistic carve-outs from the EPA. Several corporate-advisory councils to Mr Trumps administration disbanded in the wake of his refusal to condemn white supremacists. Get close to the president, sums up Mr Fratto, and you take on all of the baggage of Trump.

                        Finally, the intrigue of the Trump White House would baffle a Kremlinologist. A lobbyist for a leading private-equity firm warns that power there shifts around very quickly. Boutique lobbying shops have mushroomed, as under every new president. These claim to offer access, observes a former Republican heavyweight turned lobbyist, but lack substance. In any case, only a handful of Mr Trumps closest advisers carry any clout with their boss. Chief among them is Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, whom one lobbyist describes as the last guy to put the president to bed. Even so, Mr Trump can catch out top aides with tweets born of gut feelings. How do you lobby Trumps gut? grumbles an environmental lobbyist with experience in the Clinton administration.
                        Evolution of the swamp creatures

                        Lobbyists are not short of ideas. Some use hyper-targeted advertising to reach the president as he watches Fox News or retreats to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, according to a recent expos by the Washingtonian, a magazine. T-Mobile, a telecoms firm, recently admitted to spending $195,000 at Mr Trumps hotel near the White House, with executives reportedly sporting bright pink shirts emblazoned with the firms logo. Others advise clients to find a way to create jobs and to let the president take credit. A lobbyist for the lobbying industry warns that firms can no longer be too critical of the president, lest he unleash a withering tweet. But, he says, you can appeal to Mr Trump via Snapchat or Twitter. To reach the president, youve got to make him the hero of your story, counsels a seasoned Democratic lobbyist.

                        Some bosses, for their part, are getting more personally involved with the president, risk to reputation notwithstanding. Trump wants to hear directly from business leaders, says a former adviser to the president, whose administration he calls the most CEO-friendly ever. A Democratic operative agrees, noting the difference between Mr Trump and Mr Obamas posture of we know whats best for the American people. A Republican member of one of Mr Trumps disbanded CEO councils recalls how past administrations meetings with bosses felt perfunctory, whereas now they seem to pay attention and seek company input. When in late March Mr Trump addressed the Business Roundtable of Americasbiggest firms, Jeff Bezos, boss of Amazon, joined for the first time, even though Mr Trump had mocked him on Twitter as Jeff Bozo.

                        The swamp of Washington has not been drained, as Mr Trump implausibly pledged to do in his campaign. In some ways, concedes Anthony Scaramucci, a Trump loyalist who briefly served in his White House, it has gotten extra swampiera state of affairs he blames on both Democrats and Republicans. Unregistered strategic advisers began replacing registered lobbyists, whose number has fallen from 14,000 to 11,500 in a decade, before Mr Trump came along. Sheila Krumholz, head of the Centre for Responsive Politics, an independent watchdog that monitors lobbying trends, worries about influence-peddlers trading on only whom they know and not what they know. Disclosure requirements remain weak and poorly enforced. Hyper-partisanship in Congress makes the House Democrats sweeping anti-corruption bill, which was passed in March and, among other things, would tighten rules on lobbying, unlikely to clear the Republican-controlled Senate.

                        Swampier does not necessarily mean better for corporate America. It does, though, benefit the lobbying ecosystems endemic species, which thrive on chaos. Haley Barbour, a former governor of Mississippi, ex-chairman of the Republican National Committee and one of Washingtons most influential lobbyists, praises Mr Trumps tax cuts and deregulation efforts. Even so, he warns, the next reform might not be good for your firm, so you need somebody advocating your position to the White House. A friendly swamp creature will be there to help.

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                        • The Mueller report, explained
                          What the special counsels 448-page report reveals and conceals.
                          VOX Andrew Prokop Apr 18, 2019, 6:03pm EDT

                          Special counsel Robert Muellers 448-page report is a copiously detailed chronicle of shady conduct from Donald Trump and his associates, from the campaign through to the White House.

                          Mueller makes clear that his investigation did not establish that there was a conspiracy between Trump associates and the Russian government to interfere with the election. And the special counsel doesnt say one way or the other whether he thinks President Trump criminally obstructed justice while in office though he makes clear he thinks the evidence of that is quite concerning.

                          If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state, Mueller writes. We are unable to reach such a judgment.

                          The report makes several things clear: that the Russian government tried to help Trump win, that the Trump campaign was eager to benefit from hackings targeting Democrats, that Trumps campaign advisers had a host of ties to Russia, and that President Trump tried again and again to try to impede the Russia investigation.

                          For instance, Mueller writes that Trump repeatedly asked people associated with his campaign to find tens of thousands of emails Hillary Clinton had deleted, and that campaign adviser Michael Flynn embarked on an (unsuccessful) effort to do so. The special counsel also describes how Trumps campaign manager Paul Manafort gave a Russian associate internal polling data and stressed a focus on Midwestern states. And the reports volume on obstruction of justice lays out facts about Trumps behavior on 11 different episodes, from FBI Director James Comeys firing to his efforts to intimidate one-time Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.

                          Several loose ends remain. A good deal of material in the report is redacted including, it seems, information about just what exactly happened regarding Roger Stones efforts to get information about hacked emails from WikiLeaks. Furthermore, an appendix to the report also lays out 14 redacted matters that are still being investigated (two that Mueller was handling, and 12 that he referred elsewhere).

                          But Trumps criminal jeopardy from the Mueller probe itself is over. And some Democrats are throwing cold water on any impeachment push based on Muellers findings based on what we have seen to date, going forward on impeachment is not worthwhile at this point, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told CNN Thursday.
                          Muellers Russian interference findings and his decision not to charge Trump associates with conspiracy, explained

                          The first volume of Muellers report focuses on the Russian effort to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, and whether any Trump associates were involved in that effort. This is popularly referred to as collusion, but Mueller writes that collusion is not a criminal term and he instead relied on conspiracy law. The volume begins by describing the two major Russian government efforts to interfere with the election.

                          First, there was the social media propaganda operation the troll farm, in which Russias Internet Research Agency (funded by an oligarch known as Putins chef) created fake online accounts that favored candidate Trump and disparaged candidate Clinton, according to Mueller. The special counsel writes that his investigation has not identified evidence that any Trump Campaign official was knowingly involved in their efforts (Mueller indicted several Russian nationals and Russia-affiliated people and organizations in February 2018).

                          Second, there was what Mueller calls the Russian hacking and dumping operations. Russian intelligence officers hacked into the accounts of Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations. Some of that material was then posted online by the Russians themselves, while other material was eventually posted by WikiLeaks.

                          Mueller does not suggest any involvement from Trump officials in the hacking itself but his findings about the leaks arent so clear. A section titled Trump Campaign and the Dissemination of Hacked Materials is heavily redacted, and appears to include information about Trump associates discussions about WikiLeaks. (Some of this redacted material likely relates to Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone, who faces an upcoming trial.)


                          This section also describes how, according to Michael Flynn, Trump repeatedly asked his campaign advisers to find Hillary Clintons deleted emails. (This referred to tens of thousands of emails Clinton deleted rather than hand over to the government, with the justification that they were personal rather than work-related.) Flynn in fact tried to find those emails, contacting an elderly Republican donor who tried to obtain them on the dark web. He did not succeed.

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                          • Mueller Rpt Pt 2


                            Beyond probing whether Trump associates were involved in those two main Russian interference operations, Mueller also investigated links and contacts between Trump associates and people with ties to Russias government.

                            Per Mueller, the idea was to look into whether those contacts constituted a third avenue of Russian influence, and into whether there was a conspiracy involving Russia providing assistance to the campaign in exchange for future favorable treatment.

                            This section of the report is more than 100 pages long and explores these, among other, topics:

                            --Michael Cohens efforts to advance a project to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, and outreach to Russian government officials about it
                            --George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, getting a tip that Russia had dirt on Clinton. The tip came from a professor with ties to the Russian government.
                            --Donald Trump Jr.s meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in New York, to try and get dirt on Hillary Clinton
                            --Former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyaks contacts with Trump advisers including Jeff Sessions, Jared Kushner, and Michael Flynn
                            --Paul Manaforts longtime Russia and Ukrainian connections, and his contacts with a Russian associate during the campaign, to whom he provided Trump campaign polling data and talked Midwestern battleground states
                            --Trump associate Erik Princes secret meeting in Seychelles with a Russian financier after the election

                            In the end, though, Mueller concluded that none of these contacts added up to an agreement to commit any substantive violation of federal criminal law.

                            The special counsel also looked into whether Donald Jr.s meeting the Russian lawyer violated campaign finance law, under the theory that it involved a request for a thing of value from a foreigner whos not permitted to donate to a US political campaign. But Mueller concluded that the evidence he had, particularly regarding the parties intent to violate the law, wasnt sufficient for a likely criminal conviction.

                            An important caveat Mueller makes is that when he writes that his investigation did not establish particular facts, that does not mean that there was no evidence of those facts. But in the end, his 22-month investigation spent a great deal of time and resources probing these matters and despite all of the shady information they turned up, they didnt end up clearly documenting a Trump-Russia election interference conspiracy.
                            Muellers obstruction of justice findings, explained

                            The second volume of Muellers report is a detailed investigation of events that potentially implicate President Trump in obstruction of justice.

                            The special counsel writes that he determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment on whether Trump committed criminal obstruction of justice. The main reason he did so was because the Justice Department has held that a sitting president cant be indicted. We determined not to apply an approach that could potentially result in a judgment that the President committed crimes, he writes.

                            Oddly, though, Mueller also goes out of his way to point out that he does not have confidence that Trump did not obstruct justice and claims that, if Trump indeed clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, he would say so. The implication is that the evidence against Trump on obstruction shouldnt be dismissed lightly (even though Attorney General Bill Barr did end dismissing it rather lightly).

                            The key obstruction-related events Mueller collected facts and evidence on are:

                            1.Trump insisted that he doubted that Russia was behind the hacking of Democrats emails, and denied having any business in Russia even though his company was trying to build a skyscraper in Moscow.
                            2.Trump tried to get FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation into Michael Flynn (but Comey didnt do it).
                            3.Trump tried several times to get Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reverse his recusal from oversight of the Russia investigation or to rein in the probe.
                            4.Trump fired Comey.
                            5.Trump directed McGahn to have Mueller himself fired (but McGahn didnt carry this out).
                            6.Trump tried to prevent the disclosure of emails revealing Donald Jr.s meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer.
                            7.Trump and his legal team urged key figures in the probe (like Paul Manafort) not to flip and attacked those who did flip (like Michael Cohen).

                            Much of this seems to be clearly aimed at trying to impede the Russia investigation. And some of the details here are very juicy indeed. For instance, an administration officials notes describe Trumps reaction upon learning of Muellers appointment: Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. Im ****ed. After that, Trump spoke to his advisers about knocking out Mueller and tried unsuccessfully to have Jeff Sessions rein in the Russia investigation.

                            We also learned that, when Flynn moved toward cooperating with the government, Trumps lawyer told Flynns attorney that he interpreted this as an expression of hostility toward the president and that he planned to make Trump aware of it. And that after Paul Manafort and Rick Gates were indicted, Manafort told Gates that it would be stupid to strike a plea deal, since Trumps lawyer had made clear theyd be taken care of.

                            Mueller writes that the evidence doesnt establish that all this was designed to cover up a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia but that Trump could well have had other corrupt motives. For instance, regarding Trumps firing of Comey, Mueller writes:

                            The president had a motive to put the FBIs Russia investigation behind him... a thorough FBI investigation would uncover facts about the campaign and the President personally that the President could have understood to be crimes or that would give rise to personal and political concerns.

                            For many of these potentially obstructive incidents, Mueller includes some analysis of what the evidence shows about the three requirements for whether something can be considered criminal obstruction of justice whether it involves an obstructive act, whether it has a connection to a pending proceeding, and what Trumps intent was.

                            But, throughout, Mueller avoids coming to a conclusion on whether any of these individual acts or the combination of them qualify as criminal obstruction of justice. He does, however, occasionally to allude that another federal government body can address the matter: We concluded that Congress has authority to prohibit a Presidents corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice.

                            And toward the end of the document, the special counsel writes: The protection of the criminal justice system from corrupt acts by any person including the President accords with the fundamental principle of our government that [n]o [person] in this country is so high that he is above the law.

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                            • ADDITIONAL READS

                              The Vox guide to Robert Muellers Trump-Russia investigation

                              Confused about who's who in the Mueller report? Start here.
                              What did Don McGahn do? Who is Carter Page? Heres a quick primer.
                              VOX Jen Kirby Updated Apr 18, 2019, 12:42pm EDT

                              The Mueller reports collusion section is much worse than you think
                              The contacts with Russians documented in the report amount to a devastating indictment of Trumps approach to politics.
                              VOX Zack Beauchamp Apr 18, 2019, 2:50pm EDT

                              How to understand the redactions in the Mueller report
                              VOX Alex Ward Updated Apr 18, 2019, 1:03pm EDT

                              Does the Mueller report exonerate Trump? I asked 12 legal experts.
                              If this is what a complete and total exoneration looks like, Id hate to see a damning report.
                              VOX Sean Illing Apr 18, 2019, 4:40pm EDT

                              æ, !

                              Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                              • Twitter Is Not America
                                A new Pew study finds a gulf between the general population and Twitter users.
                                THE ATLANTIC Alexis C. Madrigal Apr 24, 2019

                                Twitter, as it turns out, is not a good model of the world.

                                Hard as that is for the Twitter-addicted to believe, it is true, and a recent Pew Research study presents new evidence about the way that the platform leans.

                                In the United States, Twitter users are statistically younger, wealthier, and more politically liberal than the general population. They are also substantially better educated, according to Pew: 42 percent of sampled users had a college degree, versus 31 percent for U.S. adults broadly. Forty-one percent reported an income of more than $75,000, too, another large difference from the country as a whole. They were far more likely (60 percent) to be Democrats or lean Democratic than to be Republicans or lean Republican (35 percent).

                                But Pews methodology was able to capture another layer of distortion: The Twitter of the platforms fanatics is very different from the norm. In other words, Media Twitter is not Median Twitter.

                                First, Pew split up the Twitter users it surveyed into two groups: the top 10 percent most active users and the bottom 90 percent. Among that less-active group, the median user had tweeted twice total and had 19 followers. Most had never tweeted about politics, not even about Twitter CEO Jack Dorseys meeting with Donald Trump.

                                Then there were the top 10 percent most active users. This group was remarkably different; its members tweeted a median of 138 times a month, and 81 percent used Twitter more than once a day. These Twitter power users were much more likely to be women: 65 percent versus 48 percent for the less-active group. They were also more likely to tweet about politics, though there were not huge attitudinal differences between heavy and light users.

                                As the platforms age, their devotees become more and more distinct from the regular person. For more than a decade now, many people in media and technology have been feeding an hour or two of Twitter into our brains every single day. Because were surrounded by people who live their lives like thisand, crucially, because so many of the journalists who write about the internet experience the internet in this wayit might feel like this is just how Twitter is, that a representative sample of America is plugged into the machine in this way.

                                But its not. Twitter is not America. And few people who work outside the information industries choose to spend their lives reading tweets, let alone writing them.

                                Twitter is a highly individual experience that works like a collective hallucination, not a community. Its probably totally fine that a good chunk of the nations elites spend so much time on it. What could go wrong?

                                æ, !

                                Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp