What We're Reading

Daily Reads: The FBI Chief Fact-Checks the President’s Tweets; Will Trump’s Trade Policies Decimate Pence’s Hometown?

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

The FBI Chief Fact-Checks the President's Tweets

Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Comey arrives to testify in front of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, March 20, 2017. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

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On the record –> In testimony before Congress yesterday, FBI Director James Comey said his agency is investigating Russia’s interference in the presidential election and whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia’s efforts. “We will follow the facts wherever they lead,” he said. The investigation has been going on since July.

Although the FBI seldom talks about ongoing investigations, Comey made an exception last October when he discussed the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server. He made another exception yesterday, saying that doing so was in the public interest.

Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers also said that they did not have information to support Trump’s claim that Obama tapped Trump’s phones, or his claim that British intelligence had been spying on him at Obama’s behest.

Before the hearings even began yesterday, Trump tweeted, “This story is FAKE NEWS and everyone knows it!” He then live-tweeted the testimony, which lead to the bizarre phenomenon of Comey fact-checking the president in real time, Gabrielle Bluestone reports for Vice.

Hidden hand –> “Operatives for Russia appear to have strategically timed the computer commands, known as ‘bots,’ to blitz social media with links to the pro-Trump stories at times when the billionaire businessman was on the defensive in his race against Democrat Hillary Clinton,” Peter Stone and Greg Gordon report for McClatchy Newspapers’ Washington Bureau, citing FBI sources.

More travel restrictions –> A new Homeland Security directive bars passengers traveling to the United States on foreign airlines from ten airports spread across eight Muslim-majority countries from carrying electronic devices larger than a cell phone, Ron Nixon reports for The New York Times.

Questions begin –> The ghost of Merrick Garland, who was never given a hearing, loomed large on day one of Neil Gorsuch’s hearings, Dahlia Lithwick writes for Slate. After a day of opening statements, Gorsuch will face questions today from his opponents. Republicans, writes Lithwick, “are angry that their nominee — who was picked by the president with promises about how he would vote in abortion and gun cases — will surely be asked about how he will vote in abortion and gun cases.” The hearing will be aired live on C-SPAN 3.

In search of Wayne Tracker –> The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, as well as lawyers for 21 teens who are suing the Trump administration to force it to confront climate change, demanded that ExxonMobil turn over any emails sent by “Wayne Tracker,” the alias that former CEO and current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson used while at the company. “It’s possible that Rex Tillerson was communicating with people in government related to climate and energy policy using that email address,” Julia Olson, a lawyer for the young plaintiffs, told Reuters. Exxon may have deleted the emails, Buzzfeed reports.

Waiting for his moment –> While Congress debates the Republican health care law, Paul Ryan is pushing a far more radical proposal that would end Medicaid, which provides health care to the poorest Americans. Ryan Grim has the details at The Huffington Post: “Ryan has been salivating about targeting Medicaid most of his life… When he’s speaking with conservative audiences, Ryan is upfront about the goal. ‘We’ve been dreaming of this since I’ve been around — since you and I were drinking at a keg,’ he recently told keg-party buddy Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review.”

Hitting home? –> A recent report by the Brookings Institution finds that Vice President Mike Pence’s hometown of Columbus, Indiana would be more vulnerable than any other American city to the Trump administration’s trade policies. “A staggering 50.6 percent of the town’s GDP is generated from exports, mainly of vehicle engines, by far the most nationwide,” Saahil Desai writes for Washington Monthly. “…The cities most reliant on trade are the ones most likely to be hurt if America’s trading partners retaliate against ‘America First’ protectionism.”

Another gift to the oil and gas industry –> The Trump administration is planning to revoke an Obama-era rule that would have limited fracking on public and tribal lands, Nika Knight reports for Common Dreams. Although environmentalists didn’t think it went far enough, the rule would have been the first to limit fracking on public and tribal lands. “Currently, 90 percent of oil wells on public lands are fracked,” Knight writes.

Holding a grudge –> Is Trump’s desire to eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting at all related to Sesame Street’s many years of satirizing him? Avi Selk explores for The Washington Post. It seems that a character named Donald Grump appeared in only three episodes over the years, but each was a morality tale about bad manners and greed. Some people and puppets have long memories.

Daily Reads was compiled by John Light and edited by Kristin Miller.



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