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Daily Reads: Trump Attacks His Top Judicial Officers; Congress Wants to Criminalize Speech

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

Trump Attacks His Top Judicial Officers

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ICYMI –> If you’ve been away from the news for the past 18 hours or so, the New York Times interview in which Trump rages against Jeff Sessions, Jim Comey, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and maybe the White House groundskeeper is at the link. That’s what everyone in the office is talking about.

And here are some additional excerpts, featuring gems like this one about French President Emmanuel Macron:

TRUMP: He’s a great guy. Smart. Strong. Loves holding my hand.

HABERMAN: I’ve noticed.

TRUMP: People don’t realize he loves holding my hand. And that’s good, as far as that goes. I mean, really. He’s a very good person. And a tough guy, but look, he has to be. I think he is going to be a terrific president of France. But he does love holding my hand.

During the interview, Trump warned Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating his campaign, not to delve into his family’s business dealings beyond Mueller’s focus on Russia. On MSNBC, columnist Eugene Robinson likened that to being pulled over for speeding and telling the officer, “Whatever you do, don’t look in the trunk.” And sure enough, Stephanie Kirchgaessner and Oliver Laughland report for The Guardian that “executives inside Deutsche Bank, Donald Trump’s personal bankers, are expecting that the bank will soon be receiving subpoenas or other requests for information” from Mueller. While regulators fined Deutsche Bank for laundering $10 billion in Russian money back in January, sources tell The Guardian that Mueller’s interest in the bank’s transactions with Trump are not directly related to possible collusion with the Kremlin.

The least surprising news we can remember –> The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has released its analysis of Senate Republicans’ Plan…are we up to C? Let’s say Plan C — to repeal Obamacare and then not replace right now but maybe some time in the next couple of years. And it ain’t pretty: 17 million more uninsured next year; 32 million by 2026; premiums doubling over that period. And that’s not even the worst of it — Sarah Kliff has the gory details at Vox.

And Kliff’s colleague, Dylan Matthews, writes that rather than come up with legislation that doesn’t strip coverage from millions of Americans, the GOP is instead going to “war” with the CBO.

Really sketchy –> Mike McIntire reports for The New York Times that Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, “had been in debt to pro-Russia interests by as much as $17 million before he joined” the campaign in early 2016. “The money appears to have been owed by shell companies connected to Mr. Manafort’s business activities in Ukraine when he worked as a consultant to the pro-Russia Party of Regions.”

Recall that on Monday, Michael Rothfeld reported for The Wall Street Journal that investigators are looking at $16 million in loans made to Manafort after he left the campaign by a small bank owned by an adviser to Trump. The loans raised a red flag because they represented about a quarter of the bank’s entire loan portfolio.

The Voter Purges Are Coming” –> That’s the headline on a disquieting New York Times op-ed by Vanita Gupta, who writes that “parallel efforts” by the Department of Justice under Attorney General (for now) Jeff Sessions and Trump’s “Election Integrity” Commission “show us exactly how the Trump administration will undertake its enormous voter suppression campaign: through voter purges. The voter rolls are the key. Registration is one of the main gateways to political participation. It is the difference between a small base of voters pursuing a narrow agenda and an electorate that looks like America.”

Speaking of Trump’s voting commission, it met for the first time yesterday, and Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern described it as “a horrifying parade of outright lies.”

Related –> A new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that a majority of registered voters would prefer Democrats to win control of the House next year, but overall Republicans are more likely to vote, and the most enthusiastic voters heading into the next cycle are Trump supporters.

Freedom of speech? –> Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Grim report for The Intercept that “a group of 43 senators — 29 Republicans and 14 Democrats — want to implement a law that would make it a felony for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel, which was launched in protest of that country’s decades-old occupation of Palestine.”

The dirtbag left” –> That’s how some young leftists are identifying themselves these days, and The New Republic’s Jeet Heer looks at how they’ve adopted the “dominance politics” that are often associated with the right in their internecine battles with more tradition liberals. “While it’s true that Trump ascended to the presidency with simian displays of dominance, and now leads a formidable personality cult that dominates the Republican Party, this is hardly a model that the left should emulate,” writes Heer. “Derision is useful for one half of politics — defeating the opposing party — but has nothing to say to the crucial other half of forming alliances that can govern effectively for the people.”

Busted  –> Three Baltimore police officers are under investigation after one of them accidentally recorded himself on his bodycam planting drugs on the ground to implicate a suspect. Mike Hayes has that story for Buzzfeed.

Could it happen here? –> Daniel Boffey and Christian Davies report for The Guardian that the European Union “is on the brink of taking the nuclear option of stripping Poland of its voting rights in Brussels in response to plans by its right-wing government to ‘abolish’ the independence of the country’s judiciary.” According to the report, “Poland’s ruling right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS) has been in almost constant conflict with the European commission since it was elected. In recent weeks the Polish government has proposed a series of reforms that would give ministers power over the appointment of judges and members of the country’s supreme court.”

The conventional wisdom –> At The Nation, Joshua Holland looks at a series of new studies that call into question some of the most common — and in some cases cherished — narratives about what happened during the 2016 election, and about the state of the two major parties’ coalitions.

#Kremlingate developments, because it’s a day that ends in a Y –> Former CIA Director John Brennan spoke at a conference organized by Fortune yesterday, and Erika Fry writes that he explained that “the FBI learned Russia had hacked the Democratic National Committee back in the summer of 2015. In the spring of 2016, security agencies became aware there was a broader Russian campaign to meddle in the US election. By the summer, they had determined what it looked like.” Quoting Brennan: “Their first objective was to undermine the credibility and integrity of the US electoral process. They were trying to damage Hillary Clinton… They thought she would be elected, and they wanted her bloodied by the time she was going to be inaugurated and they were also trying to promote the prospects of Mr. Trump.”

Greg Jaffe and Adam Entous report for The Washington Post that “Trump has decided to end the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, a move long sought by Russia.” To be fair, we would note that the Obama-era program has received a lot of criticism.

Vivian Salama reports for the AP that Trump’s “embrace” of Russia is making many of his top advisors uneasy. She writes that “deep divisions are increasingly apparent within the administration on the best way to approach Moscow in the midst of US investigations into Russian meddling in the American presidential election.”

And Michel Paradis, a legal scholar currently working for the Pentagon, writes at Foreign Policy that in addition to the potential campaign finance violations and charges related to conspiracy to undermine government operations discussed elsewhere, Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner could be prosecuted under the Espionage Act of 1917 if it’s proven that they colluded with the Russians.

Somewhat relatedly, Nico Hines reports for The Daily Beast that, “after being given a secret document by officials in Moscow, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher sought to alter sanctions legislation and tried to set up a virtual show trial [against a key Putin critic] on Capitol Hill.” This was arranged, says Hines, by “members of the team of Russians who secured a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner.” Rohrabacher, a California Republican, has long raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill with his cozy ties to the Kremlin.

2016 will be with us forever –> You can’t blame people for thinking that meteorologists were messing with us when they named two impending tropical storms “Don” — described as  “small,” “short-lived” and “not particularly well organized” — and “Hillary.” But HuffPost’s Carla Herreria reports that it was simply fate: “The National Hurricane Center assigns names to tropical storms and hurricanes using a predetermined list of names managed by the World Meteorological Organization. The Atlantic and Pacific oceans have six lists of names each, which are put on a six-year rotation, unless any of the names are retired following an especially damaging storm.” Of course, that’s what a bunch of meteorologists who were messing with us would say. 

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

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