What We're Reading

Daily Reads: Mueller Looking at Kushner’s Business Deals; Can Dems Effectively Filibuster the AHCA?

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

Daily Reads: Mueller Looking at Kushner's Business Deals

Jared Kushner arrives in the Rose Garden of the White House to attend a press conference following the House of Representative vote on the health care bill on May 4, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

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Sunlight is a disinfectant –> As you probably know, Republican leaders in the Senate are trying to fundamentally transform the American health care system without any hearings or committee markups. Thomas Kaplan and Robert Pear report for The New York Times that they “evidently think their back-room approach gives them the best chance to devise a health care bill that can squeak through the Senate, given their narrow majority and the policy differences in their conference,” but the secrecy “has created an air of distrust and concern — on and off Capitol Hill, with Democrats but also with Republicans.”

And while Republicans are trying to pass their bill through reconciliation, a budgetary process that only requires 51 votes, the Indivisible team notes that the same process allows for an unlimited number of amendments to be offered. This means that Democrats can effectively filibuster the bill by filing a slew of amendments and then calling them up for a floor vote during a so-called “vote-a-rama.” Indivisible says that “Democratic senators can and should plan thousands of amendments and keep them going until Republicans agree to have public hearings on the bill.” If you like the idea — or hate it — there are tips for talking about the issue with your senator at Indivisible Guide.

We mentioned that Donald Trump told a group of Republican senators that the version of the AHCA that passed through the House is “mean, mean, mean.” There are few things that anger House members more than taking a politically dangerous vote for nothing, and  Jonathan Swan reports for Axios that the comment “is having a lingering, and potentially devastating, effect on [Trump’s] credibility among House Republicans. Members are still talking about [it], and their frustration that he’d throw them under the bus is likely to damage his ability to negotiate on major items like infrastructure and tax reform.”

Deadlocked –> On Thursday, jurors in the sexual assault trial of Bill Cosby told the judge presiding over the case that after some 30 hours of deliberation, they had not been able to come to an agreement on any of the charges before them. The judge ordered them to keep working. At Variety, Ted Johnson games out what may happen with the case now.

Whom didn’t he ask? –> Graham Lanktree reports for Newsweek on details of a “recent National Security Agency memo [that] documents a phone call in which US President Donald Trump pressures agency chief Adm. Mike Rogers to state publicly that there is no evidence of collusion between his campaign and Russia.” Special counsel Robert Mueller will interview the former NSA deputy director who authored the memo. (The memo was first mentioned in a Washington Post story last month.)

Meanwhile — and this may prove to be the bigger story — Sari Horwitz, Matt Zapotosky and Adam Entous report for The Washington Post that Mueller “is investigating the finances and business dealings of Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, as part of the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.”

When the news rains, it pours, and The Guardian’s Stephanie Kirchgaessner reports that “an American lobbyist for Russian interests who helped craft an important foreign policy speech for Donald Trump has confirmed that he attended two dinners hosted by Jeff Sessions during the 2016 campaign, apparently contradicting the attorney general’s sworn testimony given this week.” Setting aside the implications for Sessions, we’d note that it’s not normal for a lobbyist “for Russian interests” to be writing an “important foreign policy speech.”

And Vice President Mike Pence is lawyering up, according to Zoe Tillman at Buzzfeed.

Backtracking –> Donald Trump is expected to announce in Miami today that he’s rolling back some of Obama’s moves to normalize relations with Cuba. The Trump administration cites human rights concerns as the reason, but we’d note that hasn’t been much of a barrier for Trump as he’s forged closer ties to Saudi Arabia. Matt Spetalnick and Steve Holland have the details at Reuters.

The Washington Post’s Drew Harwell and Jonathan O’Connell report that “as the owner of a real estate company with a big stake in hotels and resorts, Trump brings an added element to an issue that is unique to his presidency — the ability, through his official actions, to undermine a growth area for his industry rivals who have raced in recent years to establish a foothold in a lucrative new market.”

And Politico’s Marc Caputo looks “inside Marco Rubio’s campaign to shape Trump’s Cuba crackdown.”

Sanctimonious” –> Republicans and the conservative media are shamelessly blaming Democrats and the resistance for inciting the man who shot Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and three others on Tuesday, and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is not amused. “If the president says, ‘I can shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and nobody would care,’ when you have somebody say, ‘Beat them up and I’ll pay their legal fees,’ when you have all the assaults that are made on Hillary Clinton… For them to be so sanctimonious is something.” She failed to mention that three people have been brutally murdered by white supremacists in the past month.

We bare our souls to Google –> “People tell Google things that they don’t tell to possibly anybody else, things they might not tell to family members, friends, anonymous surveys or doctors,” says economist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, author of Everybody Lies, in an interview with Sean Illing from Vox. Stephens-Davidowitz found that looking at Google trends. “The idea,” writes Illing, “was that you could get far better real-time information about what people are thinking by looking at Google Trends data than you could through polls or some other survey device.”

Last of nine lives? –> The BBC reports that “Russia’s defense ministry is investigating whether one of its air strikes in Syria killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on May 28. Russian officials say al-Baghdadi may have been among as many as 330 militants killed in the strike on “a meeting of the [ISIS] military council in the group’s de-facto capital of Raqqa, in northern Syria,” but the report cautions that “there have been a number of previous reports of Baghdadi’s death.”

Personnel is policy –> “President Trump has appointed longtime loyalist Lynne Patton — who has zero housing experience and claims a law degree the school says she never earned — to run the office that oversees federal housing programs in New York,” according to Greg Smith at The New York Daily News. To be fair, she did arrange Eric Trump’s wedding.

Imagine all the profits –> The National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) announced that it would give Yoko Ono a credit for co-writing “Imagine.” In a 1980 interview, John Lennon told the BBC, “That should be credited as a Lennon-Ono song because a lot of it — the lyric and the concept — came from Yoko. But those days I was a bit more selfish, a bit more macho, and I sort of omitted to mention her contribution.” It’ a happy story, but Elias Leight’s write-up at Rolling Stone omits a key fact: By adding Ono to the song’s credits, NMPA will reset the 70-year clock until the iconic song enters the public domain and can be played royalty-free.

Here’s a rare acoustic performance from 1971…


Burying the lede –> After The Washington Post reported that 7 percent of Americans think chocolate milk comes from brown cows, Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum asked a good question: “Why did the National Dairy Council commission a survey about whether chocolate milk comes from brown cows?”
Daily Reads was compiled by BillMoyers.com staff and edited by Kristin Miller.

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