What We're Reading

Daily Reads: Dems Follow the Money; Trump’s Driving Up Obamacare Premiums

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

Dems Now Following the Money

Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Comey testifies in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee during an oversight hearing on the FBI on Capitol Hill May 3, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

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Loyalty –>  Benjamin Wittes, editor of the Lawfare blog, is a friend of former FBI Director James Comey and was the central source for a New York Times report about Comey’s sometimes awkward attempts to maintain some distance between himself and a president who he felt was trying to get his FBI chief to be a team player. At his blog, Wittes offers a more detailed account of what Comey relayed to him than what appeared in the Times piece.

Speaking of loyalty, several White House sources told The Daily Beast that not only did Donald Trump “pressure” former national security adviser Michael Flynn to take the job despite the fact that Flynn was being investigated at the time, but he has also “expressed his hopes that a resolution of the FBI’s investigation in Flynn’s favor might allow Flynn to rejoin the White House in some capacity — a scenario some of Trump’s closest advisers in and outside the West Wing have assured him absolutely should not happen.”

And in an interview with Rachel Maddow, Dan Rather says the appointment of a special counsel to investigate possible ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government shows that we’re still a nation of laws…

Health care sabotage? –> In a report for the Los Angeles Times, Noam Levey writes that “health insurers across the country are making plans to dramatically raise Obamacare premiums or exit marketplaces amid growing exasperation with the Trump administration’s erratic management, inconsistent guidance and seeming lack of understanding of basic health care issues.” This undercuts “a key White House claim that Obamacare insurance marketplaces are collapsing on their own,” writes Levey. Rather, “it is the Trump administration that is driving much of the current instability by refusing to commit to steps to keep markets running.”

And somewhat buried in the story is this eye-opening revelation: “Seema Verma, whom Trump picked to oversee the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs, stunned insurance industry officials by suggesting a bargain: The administration would fund [cost-sharing reductions seen as crucial for Obamacare markets’ stability] if insurers supported the House Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.”

Speaking of which, Billy House reports for Bloomberg that “Republicans barely managed to pass their Obamacare repeal bill earlier this month, and they now face the possibility of having to vote again on their controversial health measure.” GOP leaders rushed the bill through the House before the Congressional Budget Office had evaluated its impact, and now they may have to change it once that process is completed next week.

The early stages of an unstoppable disintegration –> The New York Times sent a team to Antarctica to “understand how changes to its vast ice sheet might affect the world.” The first of a three-part series includes some stunning visualizations of the continent’s rapidly changing coastline.

This is not to say that the new strategy is exactly clear –> At Slate, Joshua Keating tries to get a handle on Syria, where US forces struck ground troops loyal to the Assad regime yesterday.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) took to Twitter to condemn the attack…

Earlier this year, The Hill reported that “the threat of impeachment ‘was a factor’ in Obama’s decision not to pursue a tougher intervention policy in Syria.”

Follow the money–> Tom LoBianco reports for CNN that House investigators have gained “access to valuable data from the Treasury Department, a development that will open their doors to investigate possible connections between President Donald Trump’s business empire and Russians.”

The Wall Street Journal’ Rebecca Ballhaus writes that Donald Trump Jr., who is now running The Trump Organization, met with “a billionaire longtime business partner” in Dubai to discuss two deals that “pose a challenge to the administration’s attempts to separate from the family’s international business, ethics experts have said.” And according to Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn, Senate Dems sent a letter to The Trump Organization seeking information about Trump’s business dealings. Dems want to know if the organization is “’effectively a pass-through for income’ that repeatedly puts the president in violation of the Constitution’s ban on accepting gifts or payments from foreign government officials or the US government itself.”

Determined to shred the Bill of Rights –> According to reports, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is joining the Department of Homeland Security. The Nation’s John Nichols writes that the sheriff, who has advocated for suspending habeas corpus and predicted that the Black Lives Matter movement would join forces with ISIS to destroy America, will “arrive as an over-the-top Trump apologist who makes the president’s bluster about ‘enemy of the state’ journalism and religious targeting of refugees seem mild by comparison.”

Off the hook? –> Sweden has withdrawn its arrest warrant against Julian Assange on charges of rape, saying that prosecutors could pursue the case no further. But at The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald argues that Assange’s legal perils are not over.

“I just choose to not listen” –> Trump’s core supporters seem unfazed by the chaos swirling around his young presidency, and their loyalty to the president has left some observers bewildered. At Vox, Brian Resnick writes that this is an example of “motivated ignorance” (or motivated reasoning), a psychological instinct to block out information that we find disturbing. Resnick notes that we’re all susceptible to this tendency.

Meanwhile, Resnick’s colleague, Alvin Chang, took a look at another piece of this puzzle, writing that the “right-wing media is creating coherent alternate storylines with different characters and different context — but a narrative that competes with contextual facts that support a more accurate story. Even amid some of the most troubling presidential news in decades, a huge portion of this country is having a very different experience of these events…”

…But not a drop to drink –> At The Christian Science Monitor, Story Hinckley (which we think is a fine name for a journalist) reports from Martin County, Kentucky, “where political distrust runs high and funds are scarce,” and some residents are angry that they don’t have clean water to drink as a result of pollution from coal mining operations. But, writes Hinckley, “in a place where Big Coal holds so much sway, few are willing to publicly share their grievances.” For most of the community, “relying solely on bottled water is seen as just a way of life, not a reason to protest.”

Don’t speak ill of the dead –> It’s a good rule of thumb, but as Rick Perlstein writes of former Fox News boss Roger Ailes, who died on Thursday, “there was no one more fiendishly effective at harvesting the violently reactionary hatred that used to mostly course beneath the surface of American public life — but which, thanks to Ailes’ ascension and the apotheosis of his friend Donald Trump, has become the rotten keystone of our political age.” [Via Vice]

The wisdom of crowds –> The dollar rose and stocks spiked briefly on Thursday as a video purporting to show former FBI Director James Comey vindicating Donald Trump in the Russian probe circulated among traders. According to CNBC, it turns out that the video, which had been promoted by WorldNetDaily, Breitbart and other pro-Trump conservative websites, had been misleadingly edited.

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



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