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Daily Reads: The Trump Budget Is a Cruel Disaster; Carl Icahn’s White House Role “a Clear Conflict of Interest”

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

The Trump Budget Is a Cruel Disaster

Armed soldiers walk with a police officer on Whitehall on May 24, 2017 in London. As many as 984 military personnel are being deployed around the country as the UK terror status is elevated to "critical" in the wake of the Manchester Arena terror attack, which took place Monday night. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

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Critical –> In the aftermath of Monday’s deadly terror attack in Manchester, UK, security officials have raised the terror threat to “critical,” meaning that “their assessment is not only that an attack remains highly likely but a further attack may be imminent.” The Guardian has the latest details.

A headline they didn’t want to see –> It is, “Brennan: Russia may have successfully recruited Trump campaign aides.” The story, by Politico’s Austin Wright, begins, “Former CIA Director John Brennan said on Tuesday that he had concerns that Russian officials may have successfully recruited aides from Donald Trump’s campaign to help in the Kremlin’s efforts to influence last year’s presidential election.” Brennan testified that he could not say for certain if the Russians had succeeded in recruiting Trump campaign staffers, but he was clear that Russia ran an “aggressive” campaign to influence the 2016 election.

Here, Brennan tells Rep. Danny Heck (D-WA) why this stuff matters…

Meanwhile, Evan Perez reports for CNN that “Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign manager, turned over more than 300 pages of documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee related to its investigation of Russian election meddling.” And the Federal Election Commission (FEC), which has been divided along partisan lines, appears to have found a rare area of agreement when it comes to foreign financing of political campaigns. Kenneth Vogel reports for Politico that “agency staff is already moving to investigate” two complaints filed “by a pair of watchdog groups against President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian government.”

Cruel and innumerate –> Robert Reich writes at AlterNet that “Budgets are overall expressions of values and priorities,” and the outline that the Trump regime released on Tuesday “is cruel and deviant.”  At New York magazine, Jonathan Chait caught a $2 trillion — that’s trillion with a “t” — math error in Trump’s numbers. He followed up with Budget Director Mick Mulvaney’s embarrassing attempt to explain away such a colossal mistake. The Hill details all 66 programs that would be cut if Trump’s budget outline ever became law. One area where Trump wants to increase spending, according to Patricia Murphy at The Daily Beast, is the “programs he personally uses, including for his own security, operations at the White House, and the vice president’s residence.”

They feared retaliation if they went through their chain of command” –> Nina Burleigh reports for Newsweek that “Donald Trump’s election has led to such a steep rise in fundamentalist Christian evangelizing and religious bigotry in the US armed forces that the matter is reaching the level of a ‘national security threat,’” according to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

They didn’t like the candidates or the issues –> Grace Sparks reports for the HuffPost that “a quarter of Americans who didn’t vote last year say they opted out because they didn’t like the candidates or campaign issues, double the percentage who gave the same reason in 2012.” Sparks bases that conclusion on a deep dive into Census data released earlier this month.

No death-spiral here –> Health Care Service Corp. (HCSC), a major player in the insurance industry, announced that it had turned a $442 million loss in the first quarter of last year into a $869 million profit over the same period this year. Why does that matter? Bob Herman writes for Axios: “The Affordable Care Act exchanges in some areas are hurting, but overall are not imploding. Many insurance companies continue to do well (like Florida Blue) or are turning things around (like HCSC). And HCSC carries a lot of weight, since it covers nearly 1.1 million people in ACA plans.”

Justin Glawe reports for The Daily Beast that “40 Republican representatives who voted for the American Health Care Act held shares in health care companies valued at” as much as $36 million, much of it in pharmaceuticals and medical devices, which would see major gains if Obamacare were repealed. And as the senate takes up that effort, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “sent a warning to staffers last week amid growing frustration at the amount of information leaking from private Republican discussions,” according to Rollcall.

Good gig if you can get it –> “Government work has paid off handsomely for billionaire Carl Icahn,” writes Bloomberg’s Mario Parker. As a “special regulatory adviser” to Trump, Icahn advocated for a change in policy that netted his oil company $60 million in savings during the first quarter of the year. Parker adds: “Icahn’s cost savings show how the Trump administration has let officials’ outside business interests influence policy decisions. Richard Painter, a University of Minnesota Law School professor and White House ethics counsel under President George W. Bush, calls Icahn’s role ‘a clear conflict of interest.’”

Trump praises a killer –> According to The Intercept, last month Donald Trump “heaped praise on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, one of the world’s most murderous heads of state,” and “offered an unqualified endorsement of Duterte’s bloody extermination campaign against suspected drug dealers and users, which has included open calls for extrajudicial murders and promises of pardons and immunity for the killers.”

Was he in his right mind? –> Stat news analysed dozens of interviews with Trump over the years and found that “his tortured syntax, mid-thought changes of subject, and apparent trouble formulating complete sentences” are problems that developed relatively recently. Sharon Begley writes that they then “asked experts in neurolinguistics and cognitive assessment, as well as psychologists and psychiatrists, to compare Trump’s speech from decades ago to that in 2017; they all agreed there had been a deterioration, and some said it could reflect changes in the health of Trump’s brain.”

On news and fake news –> Right-leaning Bloomberg columnist Megan McCardle is no fan of Trump, and she says she’s faced a lot of hostility from his supporters as a result. She writes that Trump fans outside the DC Beltway tend to dismiss negative reports about his performance as “fake news,” but right-of-center commentators in the nation’s capital don’t have that luxury because “most of them have by now heard at least one or two amazing stories attesting to the emerging conventional wisdom: that the president either can’t, or refuses to, follow any kind of policy discussion for more than a few minutes… [and] that his own hand-picked staffers ‘have no respect for him, indeed they seem to palpitate with contempt for him.’ They hear these things from conservatives, including people who were Trump supporters or at least, Trump-neutral. They know these folks. They know, to their sorrow, that these people are telling the truth.”

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

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