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Daily Reads: The Details of the Tax Plan; Did Trump Confess to Obstruction?

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

The Details of the Tax Plan

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Just what’s in the tax bill? –> Reporters have been busy in the days since Republicans passed a hastily rewritten tax bill through the Senate in the early hours of Saturday morning. Jesse Drucker and Patricia Cohen report for The New York Times that “many changes expanded tax benefits for the wealthiest taxpayers, while other attempts to close loopholes fell by the wayside. The bill would add $1 trillion to deficits over the coming decade. Far from simplifying taxes, the bill opened up a whole range of tactics to lower the amount owed to the Internal Revenue Service.” The reporters add that hefty tax breaks for real estate developers, the oil industry and Wall Street were inserted into the legislation at the last minute.

Vox’s Dylan Scott and Alvin Chang explain how the bill “would make America’s income inequality worse. Maybe a lot worse.”

At Forbes, Stan “The Budget Guy” Collender writes that the bill would create sky-high deficits, and if it gets across the finish line the only question is whether Republicans will use those ballooning deficits to justify cuts to Social Security and Medicare before or after the 2018 midterms.

Rachel Cohen writes for The Intercept that “the lead author of the Senate Republican tax plan, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah, said that the federal government no longer has the money to fund the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP.” She adds: “CHIP is an $8 billion program. The Senate bill passed in the early hours of Saturday morning includes $6 trillion in tax cuts, financed by $4.5 trillion in tax hikes elsewhere.” Ten weeks have passed since Congress missed the deadline to reauthorize the program, which provides health care to 9 million low-income children.

Did Trump confess to obstruction? –> On Saturday, a number of observers flagged a Trump tweet which appeared to be an admission that he knew Michael Flynn had lied to the FBI when he asked former FBI Director James Comey to back off of his Flynn investigation. Mike Allen reports for Axios that one of Trump’s lawyers, John Dowd, now says that he’s responsible for the tweet. Some observers weren’t convinced, noting details like the fact that most lawyers would write “pleaded” rather than “pled.”

In a separate piece, Allen also reports that Dowd’s laying down the groundwork to argue that a president can’t be guilty of obstructing justice “because he is the chief law enforcement officer…and has every right to express his view of any case.” Allen adds: “Presumably, you wouldn’t pre-emptively make these arguments unless you felt there was a chance charges are coming.”

Meanwhile, Marcia Chambers and Charles Kaiser report for The Guardian that the deal Flynn cut with prosecutors “specifies that as well as answering questions and submitting to government-administered polygraph tests, Flynn’s cooperation ‘may include … participating in covert law enforcement activities.'” They write that this could mean wearing a wire or covertly recording telephone conversations with other Trump officials.

Nicholas Fandos reports for The New York Times that “a conservative operative trumpeting his close ties to the National Rifle Association and Russia told a Trump campaign adviser last year that he could arrange a back channel meeting between Donald J. Trump and Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president, according to an email sent to the Trump campaign.”

The House Intelligence Committee, which has been trying to pursue various storylines featured prominently on Fox News and other conservative outlets, is threatening to charge officials at the Department of Justice and the FBI with contempt of Congress for not cooperating. The effort is being driven by Rep. Devin Nunes, who supposedly recused himself from the matter after his involvement sparked a still-ongoing ethics investigation, and Laura Jarrett reports for CNN that the agencies have in fact been complying with the committee’s requests.

And ABC News has suspended Brian Ross for erroneously reporting that Trump asked Flynn to contact Russian officials during the campaign, when the incident in question occurred after the election.

Women behind bars –> An investigation by The Dallas Morning News finds that the number of Texas women who are being jailed awaiting trial has increased by 48 percent since 2011, despite the fact that the number of women getting arrested has dropped by 20 percent over that same period. Cary Aspinwall considers a couple of factors which might explain why that is.

Immigrants will start seeing law enforcement as deportation agents” –> A controversial program that encourages local police agencies to coordinate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “is rapidly expanding under the Trump administration,” reports Kanyakrit Vongiatkajorn for Mother Jones. He notes that “many of the police departments that have joined or expressed interest in joining 287(g) are located in towns with small populations, and three-quarters of them are located in counties that voted for Trump during the 2016 election.” Opponents of the program say it makes communities less secure by deterring undocumented immigrants to report crimes or come forward as witnesses.

“Outrageous” and “intolerable” –> The Washington Post editorial board writes about the police shooting of Bijan Ghaisar, an unarmed, 25-year-old accountant from Virginia: “It is unacceptable that the authorities have draped a veil of secrecy over the death…. It is outrageous that [law enforcement officials] have explained nothing of the alleged hit-and-run that triggered the incident — the stuff of quotidian police blotters. And it is intolerable that they have refused to say for what reason the officer or officers opened fire, and that they have not identified the officers. A man is dead, but why?”

Dangerous waters –> Amid speculation that Donald Trump will announce in a speech this week that he’s recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — which would break with longstanding bipartisan US policy of not doing so unless it’s part of a broader peace agreement — Peter Beaumont reports for The Guardian that Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas is rallying diplomatic opposition to the move. Many see it as a precursor to relocating the US embassy to the disputed city, a holy site for all three Abrahamic religions.

In the wake of reports that Jared Kushner directed Michael Flynn to seek help from the Russians to defeat a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories, Chris Riotta reports for Newsweek that Kushner failed to disclose that he had led “a foundation funding illegal Israeli settlements” for several years. As Riotta notes, the fact that he didn’t disclose this detail even as he worked as Trump’s envoy to the Middle East “follows a pattern of egregious omissions that would bar any other official from continuing to serve in the West Wing.”

The line between free speech and intimidation –> Robin Marty reports for Rewire News that thousands — the exact number is in dispute — of anti-choice protesters circled a North Carolina women’s health clinic over the weekend, an escalation of regular protests that were the subject of Rewire’s award-winning documentary, Care Into Chaos, which detailed how local police turn their backs on the threats that the facility’s staff face on a daily basis.

I’m against democracy in general” –> At The Daily Beast, Lewis Beale reviews a new documentary profiling “two of the scariest libertarian/anarchist activists you’ve ever seen —
Arkansas native Cody Wilson, who wants to destroy the whole concept of gun control by making printable 3D gun blueprints available online, and Amir Taaki, a Brit whose involvement with bitcoin and Dark Wallet, an application that could easily be used for money laundering, is an attempt to subvert the world financial order.”

He called Trump “phony” and “a fraud” –> Alex Isenstadt reports for Politico that “Trump is going all out to persuade seven-term Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch to seek re-election — a push aimed in no small part at keeping the president’s longtime nemesis, Mitt Romney, out of the Senate.” Romney and his inner circle are reportedly “furious” over the move.

Velkomin! –> Meet Katrin Jakobsdottir, Iceland’s new Prime Minister. She’s “a 41-year-old anti-war feminist, democratic socialist, who… plans to make the small island nation a world leader in fighting climate change.” We think Jakobsdottir, who is also an expert on crime fiction, sounds pretty cool. Joe Roberts has more at the UK’s Metro.

Respect your elders –> Here’s a two-minute video from The New Yorker about a very big, very old shark to start your week. You can also read an in-depth story about the finding by M.R. O’Connor.

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



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