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Daily Reads: Trump Wants to Reduce Legal Immigration; Dems Take on Gerrymandering

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

Trump Wants to Reduce Legal Immigration

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On life support –> Dylan Scott reports for Vox that Rand Paul appears to be hardening in his opposition to the Senate repeal and replace bill, arguing that “it doesn’t do enough to unwind Obamacare and it funnels federal funding to insurance companies, creating what he has called a new Republican entitlement program.” Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell can only lose two members of his caucus, and Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Dean Heller (R-NV) appear to be hard gets as long as the bill contains deep cuts to Medicaid.

Lula –> Brazil’s former two-term president, the leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was convicted of corruption charges on Wednesday and sentenced to almost 10 years in prison. Prosecutors say he steered construction contracts to a company that refurbished his beachfront home, but his supporters are calling the charges politically motivated and his party “lashed out at the ruling, saying Lula was convicted to prevent him from running for the presidency next year,” according to Reuters. Lula’s hand-selected successor, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached last year on what most observers see as trumped-up charges. Recent polls showed Lula with a clear lead heading into next year’s presidential elections. He vowed to appeal the ruling.

Fairer maps –> Barack Obama popped up for a fundraiser this week for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which “intends to develop a ‘targeted, state-by-state strategy that ensures Democrats can produce fairer maps in the 2021 redistricting process,’” according to The Economist. The new group, headed by former Attorney General Eric Holder, is “gunning to win key elections” and “fighting court battles to nullify maps that strongly disadvantage Democratic candidates.”

What part of “legal” don’t you understand? –> Because we fancy ourselves a “nation of immigrants,” most people who are hostile towards the foreign-born for cultural or ideological reasons claim that they welcome migrants who come here legally and are only bothered by the undocumented. Trump is bringing clarity to this issue: Eliana Johnson and Josh Dawsey report for Politico that “Trump and his aides are quietly working with two conservative senators to dramatically scale back legal immigration — a move that would mark a fulfillment of one of the president’s biggest campaign promises.”

Lots of Kremlingate news –> Peter Stone and Greg Gordon report for McClatchy that “investigators at the House and Senate Intelligence committees and the Justice Department are examining whether the Trump campaign’s digital operation — overseen by Jared Kushner — helped guide Russia’s sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton in 2016.” The sleuths are “focusing on whether Trump’s campaign pointed Russian cyber operatives to certain voting jurisdictions in key states — areas where Trump’s digital team and Republican operatives were spotting unexpected weakness in voter support for Hillary Clinton.”

And Shane Goldmacher reports for The Wall Street Journal that investigators are looking back at a flurry of intercepted communications between Russian government officials discussing Trump’s associates in early 2015, before Trump declared his candidacy. Goldmacher cautions that Trump’s an international businessman and there’s no evidence they were talking about the 2016 election, “but the volume of the mentions of Trump associates by the Russians did have officials asking each other, ‘What’s going on?’ one former official said.”

Darren Samuelsohn reports for Politico that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is also looking at “the Moscow-connected Twitter bots and Facebook trolls that churned out campaign-related headlines boosting Trump’s candidacy.” He adds that while “the question of potential collusion between Trump’s aides and the invasive social media accounts is a crucial one,” proving collusion may be a challenge.

Speaking of trolls, on Wednesday, a nonprofit watchdog sued the Trump campaign and Roger Stone, alleging that they entered “into an agreement with other parties, including agents of Russia and WikiLeaks, to have information stolen from the DNC publicly disseminated” during the campaign. Talking Points Memo has a copy of the complaint.

Jenna McLaughlin reports for Foreign Policy that “Democratic congressmen on the House Judiciary Committee want to know why Attorney General Jeff Sessions abruptly settled a money laundering case in May involving the same Russian attorney who met with Donald Trump Jr. during the presidential election to offer “dirt” on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.” One would hope that Republicans would also be interested, but alas…

Vox’s Matt Yglesias writes that while “the Trump team’s habit of lying in public about its contacts with various official and unofficial emissaries of the Russian government is problematic on its own terms,” it’s “especially troubling because it raises the possibility that American foreign policy could be influenced by the fear of blackmail” by Moscow.

There’s been quite a lot of talk about whether colluding with the Russians would be a crime if it were proven. This piece by Randall Eliason, a former Assistant US Attorney who now teaches law at George Washington University, may be a few days old but is the most comprehensive look at the potential legal ramifications of the story that we’ve seen. The short version: campaign finance violations, which have dominated much of the discussion, are the very least of it.

And Trump’s attorney in the matter, Marc Kasowitz, hasn’t gotten a security clearance, and may not be able to as a result of his alleged history of alcoholism and inappropriate behavior at his law firm. Propublica’s Justin Elliott and Jesse Eisinger write that “as the spotlight on Russia intensifies with new email disclosures that [Trump’s] son, son-in-law, and then-campaign manager met in June 2016 with a Russian attorney who promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton, Kasowitz’s lack of a security clearance could hinder the president’s legal and political response to the scandal.”

And this is interesting…

Blue states –> We mentioned yesterday that red states have been advancing a variety of laws that make it harder to get an abortion but easier for protesters to harass those who do, but last week Oregon took a markedly different approach to reproductive rights. Christina Cauterucci reports for Slate that the Reproductive Health Equity Act, “if signed by the very pro-woman Gov. Kate Brown… will enshrine the right to abortion care in state law.” It also “requires insurers in the state to cover contraception, vasectomies, prenatal and postpartum care, abortion care, screenings for reproductive cancers and STIs, and counseling for survivors of domestic violence. All would be completely covered at no cost to patients, even if the ACA were repealed, with some federally mandated exceptions for churches and religious groups.”

Fighting for equality is in the job description –> Attorney General Jeff Sessions “delivered a speech to an alleged hate group at an event closed to reporters on Tuesday night, but the Department of Justice is refusing to reveal what he said,” report Pete Madden and Erin Galloway for ABC News. “Sessions addressed members of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which was designated an ‘anti-LGBT hate group’ by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2016, at the Summit on Religious Liberty.”

An old evil returns –> In 2014, Bill Moyers spoke to The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates about black America’s long history of exploitation and his case for reparations. Coates talked about the widespread promotion of “contract for deed” agreements in poor black communities throughout much of the 20th century. This, Coates wrote, was “a predatory agreement that combined all the responsibilities of homeownership with all the disadvantages of renting — while offering the benefits of neither.” African-Americans were often unable to purchase property outright, and instead were sold on these deals, but those who missed a single payment would be evicted and lose everything they’d paid into the property as well as their down payment — this was essentially the business model. At the link above, Chuck Collins writes for The American Prospect that while these arrangements are often thought of as a relic of America’s explicitly discriminatory past, they’ve made a startling comeback, but this time the predation is being driven not by small-time hustlers but by Wall Street equity firms.

Matched the description –> At The Root, Breanna Edwards tells how a 5-foot-2 black woman with cornrows “was confronted by police at gunpoint, punched in the mouth and bitten by a police dog after Bakersfield, California, police apparently mistook her for a much larger, bald black man” with a goatee. The 19-year-old woman, “arresting Officer Christopher Moore wrote in a report, ‘appeared to be a male and matched the description of the suspect.'” After the violent confrontation, “the teen was arrested on suspicion of resisting or delaying an officer and aggravated assault on an officer.”

And a pair of officers in Orlando, Florida, may have pulled over the wrong African-American woman in an alleged case of racial profiling. It turned out that the driver was Aramis Ayala, Florida’s first black elected state attorney. In a video that has since gone viral, the officers struggle to explain the reason for the stop and Ayala ends up asking them for their identification. Michael Van Sickler writes for The Tampa Bay Times that “Ayala is no stranger to racially charged insults,” having received a noose in the mail back in April.

The people’s work –> Some members of the far-right “House Freedom Caucus” have signaled that they would shut down the government if the next budget doesn’t fund the construction of Trump’s border wall. Yesterday Rep Steve King (R-IA), one of the more extreme members of the House, took that a step further, telling CNN that instead of making Mexico pay for it, he’d take the money “right out of Planned Parenthood’s budget. And the rest of it could come out of food stamps and the entitlements that are being spread out for people who have not worked in three generations.” Studies show that, aside from the severely disabled, most people who use public assistance only do so for short periods. A poll taken in April found that Americans opposed spending additional funds on the wall by a 58-28 margin.

Monkey see, monkey sue –> “A curious monkey with a toothy grin and a knack for pressing a camera button was back in the spotlight Wednesday as a federal appeals court heard arguments on whether an animal can hold a copyright to selfie photos,” reports the AP’s Linda Wang. “A free-living crested macaque… snapped perfectly framed selfies in 2011 that would make even the Kardashians proud,” but PETA is suing a company that published them, arguing that it infringed on the monkey’s intellectual property rights.

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

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