What We're Reading

Daily Reads: Saudis Get Massive Weapons Deal; Trump Blocks Ethics Inquiry — “Unprecedented and Extremely Troubling”

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

Saudis Get Massive Weapons Deal and Trump Blocks Ethics Inquiry

Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (left), President Donald Trump, Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (center), King Abdullah II bin al-Hussein of Jordan (second right) and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (right) pose for a photo during the Arabic Islamic American Summit at King Abdul Aziz International Conference Center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on May 21, 2017. (Photo by Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Kingdom Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

We produce this news digest every weekday. You can sign up to receive these updates as an email newsletter each morning.


A low bar –> Expectations were modest in advance of Trump’s first trip abroad, and he appears to have cleared the bar on his first stop in Saudi Arabia. At The Atlantic, Uri Friedman and Emma Green offer an annotated transcript of the big speech on Islam and terror that Trump delivered on Sunday to an assembly of Muslim leaders.

Buzzfeed’s Hannah Allam writes that American Muslims found the speech “remarkable mainly for its blandness,” but “also noted a glaring omission in the half-hour speech: themselves. There was no acknowledgment of the contributions of the athletes, doctors, actors and tech entrepreneurs who are among more than 3.3 million Muslims living in the United States.” And The Guardian’s Peter Beaumont reports from Israel on the latest in “a series of controversies to hit the planned visit of the US president, which officials in Israel have privately characterised as often haphazard.” And in “The Trump Effect Goes International,” Digby notes that, “It appears that Trump is quite a disappointment to the Israeli right.”

Trump’s “big win” was the announcement of a massive arms deal with the Saudis. Joby Warrick reports for The Washington Post that as Trump, who ran on being uniquely capable of defeating ISIS, prepared for his trip, the Saudis “helped block a Trump administration proposal to impose sanctions against a Saudi branch of the terrorist group.” At Vox, Alex Ward writes that the move “paints a vivid picture” of “an administration that is willing to bend over backwards to make deals with important friends, that doesn’t let human rights concerns get in the way of doing business, and where personal relationships with those closest to the president can prove highly lucrative.”

Speaking of highly lucrative relationships –> According to The Washington Post’s Amy Brittain and Jonathan O’Connell, Jared Kushner “is keeping nearly 90 percent of his vast real estate holdings even after resigning from the family business and pledging a clear divide between his private interests and public duties.” They add that “the value of his retained real estate interests is between $132 million and $407 million and could leave him in a position to financially benefit from his family’s business.”

Unprecedented and extremely troubling” –> “In a significant escalation of its clash with the government’s top ethics watchdog,” a href=”https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/22/us/politics/trump-white-house-government-ethics-lobbyists.html”target=_”blank”>Eric Lipton reports at The New York Times that the Trump White House, “has moved to block an effort to disclose the names of former lobbyists who have been granted waivers to work in the White House or federal agencies.” Lipton reports that “dozens of former lobbyists and industry lawyers are working in the Trump administration, which has hired them at a much higher rate than the previous administration. Keeping the waivers confidential would make it impossible to know whether any such officials are violating federal ethics rules or have been given a pass to ignore them.” So much for draining the swamp.

How Trump would finance high-end tax-cuts –> Damian Paletta reports for The Washington Post, “Trump’s first major budget proposal on Tuesday will include massive cuts to Medicaid and call for changes to anti-poverty programs that would give states new power to limit a range of benefits, people familiar with the planning said, despite growing unease in Congress about cutting the safety net.”

Speaking of budgets, at Axios, Jonathan Swan reports that Trump hated the stop-gap funding measure he signed earlier this month that he wanted to veto it, which would have led to a government shutdown. According to Swan, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus got former Speaker of the House John Boehner to talk Trump out of the idea.

Will the GOP go “nuclear” on blue slips? –> Senators’ use of so-called “blue slips” to block judicial nominees has been a custom in the Senate since early in the last century. It’s not a formal rule, and there are good reasons to oppose the norm on procedural grounds. But Democrats are outraged that some Republicans are considering doing away with the custom so that Donald Trump can fill 20 circuit court vacancies with conservatives because Republicans used them to block 17 Obama nominees, including some who would have filled some of those vacancies. Lydia Wheeler has the story for The Hill.

What about black working-class voters? –> A journalist has defied the convention of asking white working-class Trump supporters if they still approve of the president and asked some struggling African-Americans what they thought of the Trump presidency so far. It’s unfortunate that it took a Canadian reporter to come up with the assignment, but Daniel Dale offers an interesting perspective for The Toronto Star.

Fake news, real consequences –> David Weigel writes about the conspiracy theories swirling around the tragic shooting death last year of Seth Rich, a young DNC staffer. “The reemergence of the conspiracy theory this week,” writes Weigel, “revealed plenty about the fake news ecosystem (or to use BuzzFeed’s useful phrase, “the upside-down media”) in the Trump era. It also happened to cause untold pain for the Rich family, which has sent a cease-and-desist letter to the so-called private investigator who led this dive back into the fever swamp.”

Some small-town scandals are just adorable –> Big, stressful Washington news stories have been coming at us fast. Why not take a break and read a terrific account of how a guy looking for a quiet spot to enjoy a sandwich in upstate New York led to the great “Zimmerman Boulevard submarine sandwich standoff” of 2017. [via: The Buffalo News]

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



We produce this news digest every weekday. You can sign up to receive these updates as an email.