What We're Reading

Daily Reads: 196 Dem Lawmakers File Emoluments Suit; Trump Says GOP Health Bill Is “Mean, Mean, Mean”

A roundup of stories we're reading at BillMoyers.com HQ...

Daily Reads: Trump Says GOP Health Bill Is "Mean, Mean, Mean"

President Donald Trump speaks about health care after arriving at General Mitchell International Airport on June 13, 2017 in Milwaukee. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

We produce this news digest every weekday. You can sign up to receive these updates as an email newsletter each morning.



Breaking –> CNN is reporting that “Rep. Steve Scalise, a congressional staffer and members of the congressional police force were shot Wednesday morning in Alexandria, Virginia, in what sources are calling an apparent ‘deliberate attack.'” The shooting took place during a baseball practice attended by a number of Republican members. A suspect is in custody. Stay tuned to the link above for further details.

Emoluments –> 196 congressional Democrats are filing a lawsuit against Donald Trump today, alleging that he’s in violation of the Foreign Emoluments Clause of the constitution, which requires that POTUS get permission from Congress before receiving any gift or profit from foreign entities. They’re asking the courts to order Trump to comply with the law. The case probably isn’t difficult to argue on the merits but it’s unclear whether the lawmakers, who are in the minority, have standing to bring the suit. The Washington Post’s Tom Hamburger and Karen Tumulty have more details.

The Democrats say they would welcome any Republican who wants to join the action, but none have signed on. University of Minnesota legal scholar Richard Painter, who served as George W. Bush’s top ethics attorney, weighed in on Twitter

Meanwhile, an investigation by USA Today’s Nick Penzenstadler, Steve Reilly and John Kelly found that, “since President Trump won the Republican nomination, the majority of his companies’ real estate sales are to secretive shell companies that obscure the buyers’ identities.” They note that “the clear post-nomination shift since last year to more shell-company purchases is unique to sales by Trump’s companies.” And because the president refused to divest, “profits from sales of those properties flow through a trust run by Trump’s sons” and “the president is the sole beneficiary of the trust and can withdraw cash any time.” This, they write, represents “an extraordinary and unprecedented potential for people, corporations or foreign interests to try to influence a president.”

Red alert –> Politico’s Jennifer Haberkorn and Burgess Everett report that “Senate Democrats are preparing an all-out war to try to save the Affordable Care Act” but have “limited tools at their disposal.” That’s especially true given the GOP’s apparent strategy of not releasing a bill until the last possible moment.

Political scientist Scott Lemieux, calling the AHCA a “political and humanitarian crisis,” writes for the Los Angeles Times that “there is no recent precedent for anything like this closed process for such a major bill.” He adds that “Democrats cannot act as if it’s business as usual in the Senate. Republicans want to move quickly because time and transparency are their enemy; Democrats need to slow everything down to draw attention to both the bill and the process behind it.”

And it’s good that whiplash isn’t a pre-existing condition because after praising the AHCA as a “great” and “very incredibly well-crafted” plan — and celebrating its passage through the House in a Rose Garden ceremony — Donald Trump told a group of Republican senators on Tuesday that the bill is “mean, mean, mean” and added: “We need to be more generous, more kind.” Trump offered no specifics and the senators were reportedly unmoved; as Caroline Bankoff writes at New York Magazine, “It’s probably easy to tune out that kind of noise when you’re this close to hundreds of billions of dollars of tax cuts for the rich.”

Meanwhile, Suzanne Woolley reports for Bloomberg that nearly half of the money raised by GoFundMe during one recent study period went to campaigns to cover people’s health care costs. Woolley writes that crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe “have turned sympathy for Americans drowning in medical expenses into a cottage industry. Now Republican efforts in Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare could swell the ranks of the uninsured and spur the business of helping people raise donations online to pay for health care.”

Why, I nevuh! –> Attorney General Jeff Sessions seemed to take offense at some of the questions posed to him during his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday. At the same time, The Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff, Andrew Desiderio and Spencer Ackerman write that his refusal to answer most of the committee’s questions “left Democrats seething.” As to those he did answer, they note that “not all of them squared with the public record about the sprawling Russia probe and his recusal from that investigation.”

Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum picked up on an important moment from the hearing, writing that “Sessions never heard Trump show any interest in Russian hacking before the inauguration. James Comey never heard Trump show any interest in Russian hacking after the inauguration. If Donald Trump ever showed the slightest interest in a hostile state actor trying to subvert an American election, not a single person seems to remember it.”

Something unspeakable happened in Allende” –> A must-read report by Propublica and National Geographic details how American DEA agents shared crucial intelligence they had gleaned from an informant with a “Mexican federal police unit that has long had problems with leaks,” and the result was the massacre of as many as 150 people in 2011 as the Zeta Cartel “set out to exact vengeance against the presumed snitches, their families and anyone remotely connected to them.” A summary can’t do this troubling story justice; read the whole thing at the link.

Economic anxiety? –> While most voters were guided by their partisan preferences in the 2016 election, a new study finds that “white voters who switched from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016 were motivated by their views on immigration, blacks and Muslims — and, to a lesser extent, by their views of the economy and their own financial circumstances.” A key finding: these voters had already moved away from the Dems before Trump rode down that golden escalator, which throws several popular narratives of the race into question. Steven Shepard has the details at Politico.

Impeach? –> On Tuesday, a weekly meeting of House Democrats “erupted over stark disagreements about how the party should fight President Trump,” according to The Hill’s Mike Lillis. Several members of the caucus believe Donald Trump should be impeached, but “Democratic leaders and their allies have been incensed by the move toward impeachment, arguing that the facts don’t sufficiently support such a weighty tactic — yet — and warning that lawmakers should await more details in the ongoing investigations before launching such an aggressive attack.”

Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was one of those leaders. She predicted that Trump would “self-impeach,” meaning that if they give him enough rope he would eventually do something so egregious that the GOP-controlled Congress would have no choice but to act. Heather Caygle and John Bresnahan have that story for Politico.

A Public Policy Polling report released this week found that Americans favor impeachment by a 47-43 margin, a higher number than were in favor of removing Richard Nixon from office in early 1974.

Ultimately, unless the balance of power shifts during the next midterm elections, reining in Trump is a matter for the GOP. The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin, a connected conservative, investigates why congressional Republicans have shown so little inclination to exercise their oversight powers when, “from a self-serving perspective, continual defense of him seems downright nutty.”

And Rubin’s colleague, Greg Sargent, asks an important question: “If President Trump took the drastic step of trying to remove special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, would congressional Republicans step up and act to constrain him?” Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told Sargent, “My expectation would be that this would be the last straw for Republicans — that they would finally have to stand up to the president…Of course, that expectation has proved illusory in the past.”

America is treating Iran disgracefully” –> That’s the headline on a persuasive piece by Ryan Cooper at The Week. Cooper writes that, “at a time when Iran has been, on balance, behaving with relative moderation and decency, America has responded with vile callousness and additional sanctions.” He adds: “The worst, of course, comes from President Trump, who responded to a terrorist attack in Iran by blaming it on them for their support of terrorism. But Senate Democrats, who voted overwhelmingly to impose additional sanctions on Iran, mainly to hit Russia, are nearly as bad.”

Where’s our spy chief? –> Jenna McLaughlin and Elias Groll report for Foreign Policy that “the top spy in Washington, Dan Coats, has been spending a lot of time in and around the White House lately — so much so that current employees and veterans of the intelligence community are wondering whether the former Indiana senator is being kept on a tight leash by the administration.” By largely being AWOL, “Coats risks alienating his office’s approximately 2,000 employees, many of whom are ill at ease with a president who has leveled repeated attacks on the intelligence community. So far, Coats hasn’t won their loyalty and seems unsure how to steer the more than $50 billion enterprise of American espionage.”

Not-so-blind justice –> A new report by Demos finds that working people lose more money to wage theft than retailers lose to shoplifters, but one key difference is that when employers who steal from their workers are caught, criminal charges are exceedingly rare. Amy Taub writes that this disparity highlights “one way the American justice system is skewed in favor of power and privilege, treating the crimes of the powerful, such as stealing from employees’ paychecks, far more leniently than crimes committed by those with less power, such as shoplifting.”

Just not up to the job –> Police in Queensland, Australia tried their best to make a tough K-9 cop out of a puppy named Gavel, but the young German Shepard flunked out of his training program because, as the BBC reported, “instead of tackling hardened criminals, [Gavel] liked to meet strangers, and police in Australia felt he ‘did not display the necessary aptitude for a life on the front line.'”

Fortunately, Gavel found a gig that seems far better suited to his temperament… he’s now the Vice-Regal Dog at Government House in Queensland.

Daily Reads was compiled by BillMoyers.com staff and edited by Kristin Miller.



We produce this news digest every weekday. You can sign up to receive these updates as an email.