What We're Reading

Daily Reads: A Compromised Flynn Got Sensitive Intel; Mueller Probing “Suspicious Financial Activity”

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

Daily Reads: Mueller Probing "Suspicious Financial Activity"

National security adviser Michael Flynn at a joint press conference by President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the White House on Feb. 10, 2017. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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Wait, the people writing it haven’t seen it? –> We’re not even sure how this works, but Laura Litvan reports for Bloomberg that “one of the Senate Republicans charged with negotiating an Obamacare replacement expressed frustration Tuesday with the secret process, saying that even he hasn’t seen the proposal set to be released in two days for a possible floor vote next week.” She was referring to Utah Sen. Mike Lee, who said that the bill is “apparently being written by a small handful of staffers for members of the Republican leadership.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday that he hopes to have a “discussion draft” ready by Thursday and hopes to hold a vote before the July 4 recess, but Lee says that’s not enough time to consider such consequential legislation.

And the Republican Study Committee — a group of House hardliners — sent Mitch McConnell a letter warning that efforts to soften the bill that passed the House “may jeopardize final passage in the House.” The GOP’s challenge has always been coming up with a bill that both the ultra-conservative wing and those representing swing districts or purple states can sign onto. Rachel Roubein has that story for The Hill.

Spy versus common sense –> From the department of “you’ve got to be kidding”: Matt Apuzzo, Matthew Rosenberg and Adam Goldman report for The New York Times that even as “senior officials across the government,” including at the CIA, concluded that former national security adviser Michael Flynn “had become vulnerable to Russian blackmail,” CIA director Mike Pompeo continued to share “the nation’s most sensitive intelligence” with him.

And Kevin Collier reports for The Daily Beast that “despite assurances from the US intelligence community that Russian hacking only influenced the 2016 US election — and didn’t change vote tallies — there was never actually a formal federal audit of those systems.” Collier adds: “While there is no known evidence of foreign attempts to change a US vote count, intelligence officials have repeatedly warned the public that Russia’s success in 2016 will encourage it to go even further in the future.”

37 seconds –> That was the amount of time that passed between when police officer Jeronimo Yanez first made contact with Philando Castile and when he shot him to death as Castile repeatedly assured him that he wasn’t pulling his legal firearm. Yanez was acquitted of all charges last week. Dashcam video of the incident was made available on Tuesday. WARNING: The video is important to understanding what transpired, but it is graphic and very disturbing.

Meanwhile, a wrongful death suit filed by Michael Brown’s family was “settled in secret,” according to Robert Patrick at The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The defendants were the city of Ferguson, former Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson and former police officer Darren Wilson, who shot Brown in 2014. Normally, such settlements are public records under Missouri law, but the judge sealed the case, ruling that “disclosure of the terms of the settlement agreement could jeopardize the safety of individuals involved in this matter, whether as witnesses, parties, or investigators.”

The president is going to have to do something” –> NBC’s Erik Ortiz and Ali Vitali write that the death of Otto Warmbier after being imprisoned in North Korea may force Trump to take action against the rogue state. Military options are limited, given North Korea’s ability to rain artillery down on South Korea, and this piece looks at some of the diplomatic moves that may be available to the White House.

On Tuesday, US supersonic bombers flew over the Korean Peninsula in what was widely seen as a show of force, according to the Associated Press.

And North Korea accused US officials of “mugging” a diplomatic delegation when it landed in New York to attend a UN conference. Homeland Security officials say they did confront three North Koreans, but they had no diplomatic credentials. Brad Lendon has more at CNN.

And Jeffrey Lewis writes at Foreign Policy that “the scariest thing about the death of Otto Warmbier is that the Kim regime doesn’t feel even an ounce of remorse.”

This is what kleptocracy looks like –> Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is looking at “suspicious financial activity” involving “Russian operatives.” Bloomberg’s Timothy L. O’Brien reports that the other shoe to drop may involve “a troubling history of Trump’s dealings with Russians exists outside of Russia: in a dormant real-estate development firm, the Bayrock Group, which once operated just two floors beneath the president’s own office in Trump Tower.” O’Brien writes that “one of Bayrock’s principals was a career criminal named Felix Sater who had ties to Russian and American organized crime groups. Before linking up with the company and with Trump, he had worked as a mob informant for the US government, fled to Moscow to avoid criminal charges while boasting of his KGB and Kremlin contacts there, and had gone to prison for slashing apart another man’s face with a broken cocktail glass.” Lots of other shady details at the link.

Shawn Boburg reports for The Washington Post that “Trump’s budget calls for sharply reducing funding for programs that shelter the poor and combat homelessness — with a notable exception: It leaves intact a type of federal housing subsidy that is paid directly to private landlords. One of those landlords is Trump himself, who earns millions of dollars each year as a part-owner of Starrett City, the nation’s largest subsidized housing complex.” Trump’s stake in the property, according to Boburg, “earned him at least $5 million between January of last year and April 15, according to his recent financial disclosure.”

And according to Bloomberg the Chinese government has invited Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump for a quasi-state visit that may pave the way for a presidential visit at a later date. The story notes that “Kushner’s family business, the Kushner Cos., has been criticized over its use of a visa program to woo wealthy Chinese with green cards in exchange for investing in US projects. The real estate company has seen talks for three major projects quashed, including negotiations with China’s Anbang Insurance Group Co. to refinance the family’s marquee Manhattan office tower.”

Until you can drown it in a bathtub –> According to the Washington Post’s Brady Dennis, “the Environmental Protection Agency plans on shedding more than 1,200 employees by early September through buyouts and early retirements, as part of a broader push by the Trump administration to shrink a government entity the president once promised to eliminate ‘in almost every form.’”

A safe space for science deniers –> Emily Atkin reports for The New Republic that “CNBC’s Squawk Box has become the go-to show for officials like Rick Perry and Scott Pruitt to spout falsehoods about global warming.” She notes that co-host Joe Kernen is driving the discussion, and he happens to be “a fervent denier of mainstream climate science [and] believes those who accept that science are part of a ‘cult‘ who have succumbed to ‘groupthink.’”

The root of it –> David Leonhardt writes at The New York Times that “if liberals voted at the same rate as conservatives, Hillary Clinton would be president,” the Democrats would control the Senate and the US would be doing a lot more to tackle climate change.

They need to be permanent” –> House Speaker Paul Ryan supported George W. Bush’s “temporary” tax cuts, most of which were made permanent in the 2012 debt crisis deal, but is now urging Trump to go much further. Russel Berman reports for The Atlantic that Ryan’s “goal now is not merely cutting taxes (although that remains central to his goal). He wants instead to revamp the tax code entirely, reducing rates for individuals and businesses while also eliminating many of the deductions and exemptions that make filing taxes such a complex and often expensive undertaking. Most crucially, Ryan has no interest in a temporary tax cut.”

The line between protests and harassment –> New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman “announced a federal lawsuit today against a number of anti-abortion groups who have been threatening and menacing patients and staff members at an abortion clinic in Jamaica, Queens.” Rebecca Fishbein reports for Gothamist that the anti-choicers’ tactics have escalated in the past year, and include “following and harassing patients at the clinic’s entrance, causing damage to the clinic’s building, shouting at patients, harassing children accompanying patients, calling patients and staffers ‘murderers,’ and forcing anti-abortion literature on patients.”

Authorities reinforce stigma and encourage homophobia” –> In “a sharply worded rebuke to the Kremlin,” the European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday that Russia’s “gay propaganda law” is discriminatory, according to The Guardian’s Jennifer Rankin. The law “is widely thought to have made life harder for gay Russians, who were already battling deep social prejudices,” writes Rankin.

That’ll show ’em –> Amid rising tensions, Saudi Arabia has deported 15,000 Qatari camels. Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian reports for Foreign Policy that “after the deportation order was handed down, thousands of camels were trapped at the border for days with little food or water.”

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