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Daily Reads: Legal Scholar Says US Democracy is Under Siege; Islamophobia in the Age of Trump

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

Legal Scholar Says US Democracy is Under Siege

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Plot, foiled –> Last week, we mentioned that Republican leaders in the Senate were once again trying to force a vote on their ACA repeal bill before the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) had an opportunity to produce an analysis of its impact. But Sen. John McCain underwent a surgical procedure to remove a blood clot in his brain on Friday, and is expected to recover at his Arizona home for at least a week. With Sens. Rand Paul and Susan Collins against moving to a vote on the bill, that deprives Republicans of a 50th vote. Looking beyond the politics, Denise Grady and Robert Pear report for The New York Times that the blood clot may be more serious than early reports suggested, and the procedure may require more than a week of recuperation. They add that such clots are rarely discovered during routine check-ups — usually they’re detected when people start to show some symptoms — and recall that back in June, McCain’s “somewhat confused questioning of James B. Comey… led to concerns about his mental status, which he later jokingly dismissed by saying he had stayed up too late watching baseball the night before.”

We wish the senator well. In the meantime, opponents of the bill will now have more time to campaign against it — and a CBO score that is widely expected to be awful.

And HHS Secretary Tom Price gets points for honesty after he told ABC that if repeal goes through, insurers just “have to… dust off how they did business before Obamacare.” The HuffPost’s Igor Bobic writes that “Republicans do not usually speak as candidly as Price about returning the nation’s health care system to its pre-Obamacare period, a period marked by egregious insurance company abuses. Protections for pre-existing conditions remain highly popular around the country, and GOP lawmakers are loath to admit their policies would weaken them. Prior to Obamacare, 79 million — more than 1 in 4 Americans — either lacked health insurance or were underinsured.”

Our democracy is at stake –> So says UC Irvine professor of law and political science Rick Hasen, who had an op-ed in The New York Times on Sunday laying out all the stresses that are currently testing our democratic institutions and warning that “the worst may be yet to come.”

Relatedly, “on Election Day alone, there were nearly 150,000 attempts to penetrate [South Carolina’s] voter-registration system,” according to Alexa Corse at The Wall Street Journal. Corse notes that “South Carolina wasn’t even a competitive state. If hackers were that persistent against a state that President Donald Trump won comfortably, with 54.9 percent of the vote, it suggests they may have targeted political swing states even more.”

Flooded –> Jennifer Gray reports for CNN that a new study predicts that “hundreds of US cities, large and small… may not make it through the next 20, 50 or 80 years due to sea level rise.” She adds that “the study isn’t a doomsday scenario, as the parameters are pretty conservative.”

Mysterious circumstances” –> Police in Minneapolis shot and killed a 40-year-old Australian woman named Justine Damond after she called 911 to report a possible crime in an alley behind her home. According to Pat Pheifer at the Star-Tribune, “three sources with knowledge of the incident said Sunday that two officers in one squad car, responding to the 911 call, pulled into the alley. Damond, in her pajamas, went to the driver’s side door and was talking to the driver. The officer in the passenger seat pulled his gun and shot Damond through the driver’s side door, sources said. No weapon was found at the scene.” The department has required officers to use body cameras since the shooting of Philando Castille, and police officials did not say why the officers’ were turned off.

We don’t need no stinking badges –> At Forbes, Stan Collender laments the fact that “the Trump White House and GOP Congress are showing a consistent and dangerous pattern of going around existing rules, precedents and procedures to enact their preferred policies.” Collender writes that while “their highly novel interpretations and uses of the policymaking process haven’t been illegal,” they appear to be “designed to prevent House and Senate Democrats and even dissident Republicans from having any impact on the outcome.”

Ready for Change the Subject Week? –> The regime’s ham-fisted attempts to use a series of themed weeks to get people to talk about anything but Kremlingate have been laughably unsuccessful so far. But maybe Made in America Week will be different. After all, it’s only just begun and The Washinton Post’s Matea Gold, Drew Harwell, Maher Sattar and Simon Denyer are already writing about how “Ivanka Trump’s company relies exclusively on foreign factories in countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia and China, where low-wage laborers have limited ability to advocate for themselves.”

Speaking of Kremlingate –> Yashar Ali reports for The HuffPost that “Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign committee… paid a $50,000 retainer to criminal defense attorney Alan S. Futerfas who represents the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. The timing of the payment is certainly raising eyebrows. Trump claimed he found out about the controversial meeting his son held with a Kremlin-linked lawyer around the time The New York Times first reported it, but the payment to Trump Jr.’s lawyer was made 11 days before.” Ali thinks the fact that “a family worth billions is using campaign committee funds to pay personal legal bills is not something that is likely to go over well with Trump’s base in the long-run,” but recent history suggests he’s wrong about that.

We now know that Donald Trump Jr. wasn’t truthful when he said that there was nobody else in the meeting between himself, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and a translator. There were three other people in the room, including Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian lobbyist and suspected spy. At The New York Times, Andrew Higgins and Andrew Kramer report that Akhmetshin is a “master of the dark arts” who specializes in a type of opposition research known as “chyorny PR,” which is “often focused on pilfering private information through hacking and physical intrusion into offices and filing cabinets.”

And Slate’s Jamelle Bouie asks, “How long can Republicans risk everything to pretend Russia is no big deal?

Islamophobia in the age of Trump –> That’s the headline on an important longform report by Reed Richardson at Talking Points Memo. Richardson writes that, “fueled by the president’s nativist agenda and a new alliance with the alt-right, the professional anti-Muslim industry has never been stronger — or more dangerous.”

Speaking of nativist agendas, the Pentagon cancelled the contracts of 1,800 foreign-born recruits who had been promised citizenship in exchange for their service. Alex Horton reports for The Washington Post that 1,000 of them have since fallen out of legal status and, fearing deportation, some are fleeing to other countries. Horton notes that “the recruits, who have already sworn allegiance to the United States in their oaths of enlistment, could potentially face harsh interrogations or jail time if they are deported to countries such as China or Russia.”

Another Trump Effect –> At Politico, Carla Marinucci and Matt Friedman write that, “fueled by antipathy toward President Donald Trump and high expectations about their party’s fortunes in the 2018 midterms, Democrats are lining up to run for House seats, creating crowded primary fields in some of the most competitive races in the country.”

And… since Mondays are tough, we’ll leave you with an adorable French puppy…

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