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Daily Reads: James O’Keefe Sting Backfires; Donald Trump Calls Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas”

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

James O'Keefe Sting Backfires

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Two stories about one bill –> It had previously been reported that Donald Trump and his family stood to gain well over $1 billion in tax cuts from the bills Republicans are pushing through Congress, but Damian Paletta reports for The Washington Post that “last-minute changes to the Senate tax bill could personally benefit President Trump” even more than previous analyses suggested.

Meanwhile, Noam Levey reports for the Los Angeles Times that Senate Republicans’ “plan to use tax legislation to repeal the federal requirement that Americans have health coverage threatens to derail insurance markets in conservative, rural swaths of the country.”

About that mini-coup at CFPB –> We mentioned yesterday that Donald Trump had appointed his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, to serve as acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CPFB) despite the fact that the legislation creating the agency doesn’t give him the power to do so. David Dayen reports for The Intercept that Steven Engle, the lawyer who wrote the legal “memo supporting the Trump administration’s viewpoint that the president” does indeed have that authority, “represented a payday lender in front of the CFPB last year.” Dayen notes that the memo “has been criticized by academics for seeking a conclusion and working backward to justify it.”

And Jim Puzzanghera reports for the Los Angeles Times that “despite a lawsuit challenging his legitimacy… Mick Mulvaney moved swiftly on Monday to order a 30-day halt of new regulations issued by the federal watchdog agency.”

Extra-judicial –> An investigation by Reuters unearthed surveillance video that appears to show Philippine police executing three men in a “poor district” of Manila. The police claim that they shot the men in self-defense during a drug sweep, and then rushed them to the hospital where they succumbed to their injuries, but the footage shows police clearing out potential witnesses before the incident. No drug dealing is evident in the video, the men appear unarmed and police waited almost a half-hour before dragging the men’s inert bodies to the hospital. Clare Baldwin and Andrew Marshall write that “witnesses allege police are sending corpses to hospitals to disrupt crime scenes and cover up extrajudicial killings.” This is an important story, but we’d caution that the video is quite disturbing.

Entirely legal –> In 2015, Colorado’s Democratic governor, John Hickenlooper, hired a lobbyist named Doug Friednash to serve as his chief of staff. The same year, his administration hired Friednash’s old firm to lobby Washington on behalf of the state. Friednash served as the point of contact between the administration and Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, the firm’s revenues grew dramatically over the past two years, and now Friednash is returning to the firm. Josh Keefe has more at International Business Times.

Meanwhile, David Schwartz reports for Long Island’s Newsday that officials in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office paid themselves over $3 million in bonuses since 2012, and those funds came from asset forfeiture proceeds. Schwartz notes that the bonuses “did not receive legislative approval.”

This day in men behaving badly –> Another former staffer to Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) has accused the veteran lawmaker of making “unwanted sexual advances toward her, including inappropriate touching, adding to allegations by other unnamed former employees that have prompted a congressional investigation,” reports The Detroit News’ George Hunter.

California state Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra announced his immediate resignation on Monday after seven women accused him of sexual misconduct. Alexei Kosseff reports for The Sacramento Bee that Bocanegra had previously been disciplined for allegedly groping a staffer in 2009.

In what Vox’s German Lopez calls a “bizarre attempt to get ahead of sexual misconduct allegations,” Rep. Al Green (D-TX) and the former staffer who accused him of sexually assaulting her in 2007 issued a joint statement saying that all is well between them, the story is dead and they’re still the best of friends. We’re guessing that Green’s not familiar with the “Streisand Effect.”

And Lee Busby, a retired Marine colonel, announced on Monday that he is mounting a last-minute, long-shot write-in campaign for the Alabama Senate seat sought by Roy Moore. James LaPorta has that story at The Daily Beast.

A sting backfires –> It appears that right-wing provocateur James O’Keefe picked the wrong target when he sent an operative to set up the savvy investigative journalists who first reported the allegations against Moore for The Washington Post. It didn’t take them long to discover that the woman who claimed that she had been impregnated by Moore at age 15 had raised money online to “combat the lies and deceit of the liberal MSM.”

The video of reporter Stephanie McCrummen challenging the woman’s veracity is pretty remarkable.

It probably wasn’t O’Keefe’s intent to reveal how careful the paper is about fact-checking. McCrummen’s colleague, Callum Borchers, writes that the episode “represents the latest entry on a list of schemes that attempted to expose fake news in the mainstream media and wound up doing the opposite.”

Speaking of the courts… –> Yesterday, in a setback “to gun rights proponents including the National Rifle Association,” the Supreme Court refused “to hear a challenge to Maryland’s 2013 state ban on assault weapons enacted after a Connecticut school massacre.” Andrew Chung reports for Reuters that “the conservative-majority court… also declined to hear a challenge to Florida’s ban on openly carrying firearms.”

Family values –> Michael Ollove reports for Governing that “the state of Minnesota has run out of federal funds for its Children’s Health Insurance Program this month, requiring the state to contribute more of its own resources to keep the health plan in operation. It appears to be the first state to run out of federal funds for the program since Congress failed to meet a September deadline to reauthorize the program.” He adds that “other states are expected to run out of CHIP funding in the next months,” but not all of them will invest “state resources to make up for the loss of federal funds.”

And Colorado’s Department of Health Care Policy and Financing sent out letters to CHIP beneficiaries warning that if the program isn’t reauthorized, it will run out of funds to cover them by Jan. 31, and “advising them to start researching private health insurance options.”

Somewhat related –> According to the Government Accountability Office, “the Department of Veterans Affairs [VA] failed to report 90 percent of potentially dangerous medical providers in recent years to a national database designed to prevent them from crossing state lines and endangering patients elsewhere.” Donovan Slack has more on that for USA Today.

And at Foreign Policy, Thomas Ricks offers an open letter to the VA from a friend who was wounded in Iraq. After the agency informed Army Maj. D.J. Skelton that the nutrition he ingests through a feeding tube as a result of his injuries “is actually not covered,” and urged him to pay for it on his own, he wrote, “I see this as a teaching moment for both the VA and my friends. But please, we don’t need to use my case to shed light on everything that is wrong with the system. Just throw one or two problems at me at a time, OK? Thank you.”

Stay classy –> “Donald Trump made a joke about his nickname for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), ‘Pocahontas,’ during an event honoring Native Americans Monday at the White House,” writes Doha Madani for HuffPost. Madani notes that “Trump made his comments Monday while standing in front of a portrait of Andrew Jackson, the former president who signed the Indian Removal Act of 1830 that resulted in the tragic Trail of Tears.”

For the record, here’s what Warren said in 2012 about the charge that she falsely claimed Native American heritage.

A Grand Anti-Trump Coalition” –> Lawfare Editor in Chief Benjamin Wittes took to Twitter on Monday to call for “a temporary truce” between the left and right “on all… major areas of policy dispute while Americans of good faith collectively band together to face a national emergency,” namely Donald Trump. At The Daily Beast, Mike Tomasky ponders what such a truce might look like.

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



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