What We're Reading

Daily Reads: Trump’s DHS Is Defunding Groups That Fight Right-Wing Extremism; Russia Recalls Kislyak

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

Daily Reads: Trump DHS Defunds Groups That Fight Right-Wing Extremism

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak. (Photo by Alexander ShcherbakTASS via Getty Images)

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Still the big story –> Happy Monday. We’re still watching the GOP’s push to pass a huge package of high-end tax cuts financed by stripping health insurance from millions of Americans. The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent writes that “Republicans have gone to enormous lengths to obscure the plan’s profoundly regressive features,” and perhaps as a result, a new “Kaiser poll finds that only 38 percent of Americans know that the GOP plan makes ‘major reductions’ in Medicaid spending.” But even if much of the public doesn’t have a grasp of the details, the poll found that only 35 percent approve of it.

Speaking of Medicaid, The New York Times’ Jordan Rau notes that deep cuts to the program “may force retirees out of nursing homes.” Donald Trump won among voters aged 65 and over by 7 points.

The Kaiser Family Foundation offers a tool that allows you to determine how your own premiums and subsidies might change under the Senate bill.

Last week, we noted that the health care industry wasn’t putting up much fight, in part because they feared retribution and in part because they wanted a seat at the table when the time comes to craft changes in the tax code and on regulatory issues. But Vox’s Sarah Kliff obtained an email that shows that at least one large insurer is quietly expressing concern over a provision in the bill that would, according to the email, “cause most small employers’ premiums to go up” and “leave consumers at risk.”

Robert Pear and Thomas Kaplan report for The Washington Post that “Senate Republican leaders scrambled Sunday to rally support for their health care bill even as opposition continued to build outside Congress and two Republican senators questioned whether the bill would be approved this week.” According to Steve Peoples at AP, “Chief lieutenants in the Koch brothers’ political network lashed out at the Senate Republican health care bill on Saturday as not conservative enough,” but Kyle Cheney and Rachel Bade report for Politico that the House’s ultra-right “Freedom Caucus” has been unusually reserved, and “may be open to compromise if it means gutting the health law.” And Norm Ornstein writes at The Atlantic that he fears it’s all a bit of Kabuki theater: “Normally, a bill this unpopular wouldn’t stand a chance. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s health-care bill seems designed to let reluctant senators amend it, and claim victory.”

Meanwhile, Axios’ Jonathan Swan reports that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the bill should be out today. He also writes that Mitch McConnell “needs to pass the bill before the July 4 recess. No senator I’ve spoken to thinks a bit of extra time spent with angry voters will make them more likely to support this bill.”

And on Sunday, Sarah Kliff lamented the media’s focus on process rather than coverage of what the bill actually does in an interview with Brian Stelter…

Brutal –> We hope all of our LGBT friends and allies had a great Pride weekend. The fight for equality in this country is by no means won, but we’ve come a long way when one considers the kind of state-sponsored oppression that the community faces elsewhere; Buzzfeed’s Nidhi Prakash reported yesterday that “police in Istanbul, Turkey, are using plastic bullets, dogs, and some type of smoke to disperse people trying to gather for the city’s annual pride parade.”

Washington’s most radioactive diplomat is headed home” –> John Hudson reports for Buzzfeed that “the Kremlin has decided to recall its ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak,” thus “ending one the most turbulent tenures of a Washington-based ambassador in recent memory.”

And Dana Priest and Michael Birnbaum write at The Washington Post that “as the United States grapples with the implications of Kremlin interference in American politics, European countries are deploying a variety of bold tactics and tools to expose Russian attempts to sway voters and weaken European unity.”

And in a very ‘THIS IS NOT NORMAL’ move, The Great America Alliance, a PAC co-chaired by Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani, are running ads attacking Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Kremlingate. Lisa Mascaro has more at the Los Angeles Times.

Meanwhile, Jared Kushner’s real estate company received a $285 million loan from Deutsche Bank a month before the election that he didn’t list in his financial disclosure. Michael Kranish reports for The Washington Post that at the time of the loan, Deutsche Bank “was negotiating to settle a federal mortgage fraud case and charges from New York state regulators that it aided a possible Russian money-laundering scheme. The cases were settled in December and January.” He adds that “Kushner’s association with Deutsche Bank is among a number of financial matters that could come under focus as his business activities are reviewed by” Mueller.

Right-wing terror –> Josh Harkinson reports for Mother Jones that Trump’s DHS released a list of homeland security grantees last week “that includes groups that combat al-Qaida and ISIS and leaves out organizations primarily focused on countering white supremacists and other far-right hate groups. Perhaps this should come as no surprise because, as Reuters reported in February, Trump transition officials as far back as December were debating changing the focus and name of the program from ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ to ‘Countering Islamic Extremism’ or ‘Countering Radical Islamic Extremism.’”

“The defendant’s deceptive conduct and lack of candor warrant the imposition of sanctions” –> Kris Kobach, the architect of multiple states’ voter suppression laws and vice-chair of Donald Trump’s “election integrity”commission, was fined $1,000 by a federal magistrate, along with his attorneys, “for presenting misleading arguments in a voting-related lawsuit.” Josh Gerstein reports for Politico.

Authoritarianism and anti-intellectualism go hand-in-hand –> Kareem Shaheen and Gözde Hatunoğlu report for The Guardian that “Evolution will no longer be taught in Turkish schools, a senior education official has said, in a move likely to raise the ire of the country’s secular opposition. Alpaslan Durmuş, who chairs the board of education, said evolution was debatable, controversial and too complicated for students.”

Always during dinner –> In 2014, Mike Huckabee recorded robocalls that promoted “‘Last Ounce of Courage,’ a movie about the ‘War on Christmas’ that has a zero percent on Rotten Tomatoes” to 4 million people, and according to Ben Collins and Gideon Resnick at The Daily Beast, they’re now eligible to take part in a class action suit alleging that the film’s producers violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, “which stipulates that unsolicited messages with commercial content via telephone is unlawful.”

Scarcity –> Canada is poised to become the first country to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. But Josh Wingrove and Jen Skerritt report for Bloomberg that “the biggest challenge for Justin Trudeau’s forthcoming legal recreational marijuana market is a shortage of pot.” The goal of the law is to wipe out the black market and deprive criminals of revenues from selling weed, and officials worry that inadequate supplies of pot through legal channels will keep at least a portion of that black market alive.

Little kids are a tough audience –> Last year, This Week in Blackness host Elon James White and his wife had an adorable little baby girl. He writes at HuffPost that despite plenty of “unsolicited advice offered to me since my wife and I announced she was with child,” nobody told him that small children can accidentally cause some serious damage to unwary parents. “My amazing and adorable 13.5-month-old child has at this point punched me in the face no less than 30 times,” writes White.

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