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Daily Reads: Why Trump Can’t Pardon His Way Out of Kremlingate; Palin Lawsuit Thrown Out

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

Why Trump Can't Pardon His Way Out of Kremlingate

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Hardball –> “Special counsel Robert Mueller has issued subpoenas to a former lawyer for Paul Manafort and to Manafort’s current spokesman,” reports CNN’s Evan Perez, who calls it “an aggressive tactic that suggests an effort to add pressure on the former Trump campaign chairman.”

And Leonid Bershidsky writes at Bloomberg about Trump’s “comical history” of trying to do business in Russia: “Unlike many craftier US entrepreneurs and executives, the current US president never figured out how to deal with Russians.”

Corrupt purpose –> University of Michigan legal scholar Barbara McQuade writes at The Daily Beast that while the president has near-absolute power to pardon people for federal crimes, that power can’t be used for “corrupt purposes,” and she expects Mueller to take a hard look at both Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio and his reported efforts to intervene in the case before Arpaio was convicted.

Just this morning, Jennifer Rubin reported for The Washington Post that the Arpaio pardon is already in legal trouble. The judge in charge of the case asked for new briefs from both sides on the issue. And an activist group has sent “a letter to Raymond N. Hulser and John Dixon Keller of the Public Integrity Section, Criminal Division of the Justice Department, arguing that the pardon goes beyond constitutional limits.”

And at Vox, Sean Illing spoke to 10 legal experts who explain why Trump won’t be able to pardon his way out of the Kremlingate investigation.

Number-crunching vs. democracy –> In The New York Times Magazine, Emily Bazelon writes that sophisticated computer modeling has taken gerrymandering “to new extremes,” and says the courts need to catch up with these new techniques in order to protect the integrity of congressional districting.

And Jimmy Tobias reports for The Nation that Michigan “suffers from some of the most extreme gerrymandering in the country,” but a group of grass-roots activists in the Great Lakes State is trying to do something about it.

Day 6 –> As of this morning, the death toll from Hurricane Harvey stood at 30, but officials warn that number may rise dramatically once the flood waters recede. On Tuesday, two levees in the Houston suburbs overflowed and a dam was breached, according to Larry McShane at The New York Daily News.

Donald Trump seems to be enjoying his role in such a dramatic story, but his visit to Louisiana on Tuesday didn’t go over so well. Josh Dawsey reports for Politico that Trump “didn’t meet a single storm victim, see an inch of rain or get near a flooded street,” but the stop did give “the optics-obsessed president some of the visuals he wanted.”

Matt Pearce of the Los Angeles Times offers a haunting on-the-scene report from Houston, “where all the roads look like rivers.” There’s some fine writing in this piece.

At The Washington Post, Paul Waldman notes that “Republican politicians in Texas are asking for immediate federal help for their constituents in the Houston area, yet five years ago when Hurricane Sandy battered the Northeast, those very same Republicans were unwilling to help,” and says this goes well beyond hypocrisy, touching on fundamental beliefs about the role of government in society.

And his colleague, fact-checker Glenn Kessler, looks at the claim by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that he only opposed funding for Sandy relief because it was laden with spending that was unrelated to the disaster, judges it to be “wildly incorrect” and grants it three Pinocchios.

In the exercise of freedom, mistakes will be made –> So wrote Judge Jed Rakoff as he dismissed Sarah Palin’s defamation suit against The New York Times. Tom Kludt has more at CNN.

Thugs –> “A total of 19 people, including 15 identified as Turkish security officials, were indicted Tuesday by a grand jury in the US capital for attacking protesters in May 2017 during a US visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan,” reports Ashraf Khalil for the Associated Press. Two men are in custody and the rest are “still at large,” presumably in Turkey.

Cruel and pretty unusual –> Red states are increasingly pushing around blue cities, and workers in St Louis paid the price for it this week when the city became the first to lower its minimum wage from $10 to $7.70 per hour after Missouri passed a law pre-empting municipalities from raising their minimums above the state’s and applied it retroactively. David Graham has more at The Atlantic.

Speaking of awful state laws, “Republican legislators in 20 US statehouses have proposed — and six legislatures approved — new restrictions on the right to assemble and protest so far this year,” reports Heidi Przybyla for USA Today.

Personnel is policy –> Having been given the authority to implement Trump’s ban on transgender servicemen and women, Defense Secretary James Mattis kicked the can down the road by commissioning a study and announcing that the existing policy would remain in place while it’s being conducted. Dan Lamothe has the details at The Washington Post.

Meanwhile, a discretely held cellphone captured Mattis telling a group of soldiers to “hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting each other and showing it,” and Slate’s Fred Kaplan says that the rebuke was his way of saying that he’s lost faith in Trump.

Speaking of personnel –> The Trump regime appointed Wade Horn, “a controversial social-conservative activist who once defended a Baptist proclamation that a wife should ‘submit herself graciously’ to her husband’s leadership,” to a position at HUD, but according to Stephanie Mencimer at Mother Jones, the agency won’t say what his job is. Wade previously served as “marriage czar” in the George W. Bush administration.

Four-legged family members –> Today we’ll leave you with The Atlantic’s collection of photos showing pets being rescued from the floodwaters in Texas.

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)

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.