What We're Reading

Morning Reads: Donald Trump Prepares to Dismantle Banking Regs; New CIA Deputy Director Oversaw Torture

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

Morning Reads: Donald Trump Prepares to Dismantle Banking Regs

The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). The Trump White House is to begin a review of the Dodd-Frank Act that legislated reforms of the financial industry following the 2008 economic meltdown. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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The “big number” begins –> President Trump promised to “do a big number” on the Dodd-Frank financial reforms which passed a Democratic-led Senate following the 2008 financial meltdown. The reforms aimed to rein in some of the excesses of the financial institutions that triggered the international recession. With an executive order today, Trump will begin a review of the law, Bloomberg Politics reports. He also will immediately undo Obama’s fiduciary rule, which requires advisers on retirement accounts to work in the best interest of their clients rather than recommending investments that will increase the advisers’ fees. (For more on this Obama rule, see Ariel Stulberg’s explainer for Vox.) After years of lobbying against Washington’s mild reforms, Trump’s banker-stocked administration looks poised to give financial institutions what they want.

Alarming resume –> Gina Haspel, the new deputy director of the CIA, appointed by new CIA chief Mike Pompeo, previously ran a secret prison in Thailand — a CIA “black site” — and in 2002 even oversaw the torture of two of its detainees, Matthew Rosenberg reports for The New York Times. During the period that the prison was under Haspel’s direction, one detainee, Rosenberg writes, “was waterboarded 83 times in a single month, had his head repeatedly slammed into walls and endured other harsh methods before interrogators decided he had no useful information to provide.” Under the Trump administration, Rosenberg writes, the CIA “is being led by officials who appear to take a far kinder view of one of its darker chapters than their immediate predecessors.”

You soon can dump coal waste in the water –> Brad Plumer at Vox: “With everything that Republicans want to do — repeal Obamacare, overhaul the tax code — it might seem odd that one of Congress’ very first acts would be to kill an obscure Obama-era regulation that restricts coal companies from dumping mining waste into streams and waterways. But that is indeed what’s going on. On Thursday, the Senate voted 54-45 to repeal the so-called ‘stream protection rule’ — using a regulation-killing tool known as the Congressional Review Act. The House took a similar vote yesterday, and if President Trump agrees, the stream protection rule will be dead. Coal companies will now have a freer hand in dumping mining debris in streams.”

Republicans push Pruitt through –> After Democrats protested Donald Trump’s EPA nominee Scott Pruitt for the second day by skipping his committee vote, Republicans again suspended Senate rules requiring both parties be in attendance and voted him through, David Henry and Timothy Cama report for The Hill.

Fossil fuel groups and environmental activists are spending big to steel their congressional allies’ spines in the Pruitt battle, Cama reports in another Hill article: “Outside groups are spending millions in the Senate battle over confirming Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). More than $3 million in spending and other actions on both sides are coming from nonprofit organizations that do not have to disclose their donors. The Environmental Defense Action Fund has spent $1 million opposing Pruitt, while NextGen Climate Action, the group founded by billionaire activist Tom Steyer, says its ad bill is seven figures. The National Association of Manufacturers is the biggest spender in favor of Pruitt with a seven-figure ad campaign of its own.”

ICYMI, check out Bill Moyers’ video on Pruitt’s environmental record.

The full picture on Russian meddling –> We still don’t have it. Some downplay Russia’s role in the election, others blame Putin’s efforts for electing the current president. Voters won’t be able to move beyond speculation, or to know whether the intelligence community is investigating these issues adequately, until more information is made public. At Mother Jones, David Corn profiles the senator who is pushing hardest for that, Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden: “Wyden has a difficult task: to ensure that a highly sensitive intelligence committee investigation is done right and that the public learns as much as possible about the Russian operation to affect the US election and about possible ties between the president’s inner circle and Russia. ‘What’s important,’ he said, ‘is to get the facts out. Even if the politics have some consequences, there are a lot more damaging consequences to stonewall all this and push it aside.'”

Uber and out –> Eric Newcomer at Bloomberg: “Uber Technologies Inc. Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick is stepping down from President Donald Trump’s business advisory council after criticism from customers and drivers. Kalanick’s participation on the council, along with more than a dozen other US executives, prompted blowback on social media after Trump’s controversial executive order on immigration. It snowballed into a #DeleteUber campaign that benefited rival Lyft Inc.

“Uber’s CEO wrote in an e-mail to employees that he had spoken briefly Thursday with the president about his concerns with Trump’s ban of immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries. Kalanick, 40, told the president that he would no longer be involved with the advisory council, he wrote in the e-mail obtained by Bloomberg.”

State remains in the swamp –> Until three months ago, South Dakota was the only state that allowed lobbyists to spend unlimited amounts of money on gifts for politicians without telling the public. In November, citizens voted to change that. But their effort only lasted three months. Earlier this week, the South Dakota state Senate voted 28-7 to overrule the citizens’ referendum and reinstate unlimited lobbyist giving. Peter Overby reports for NPR that the state voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump, showing that campaign finance reform is a bipartisan priority — the only people who oppose it are the politicians and lobbyists who benefit.

Morning Reads was compiled by John Light and edited by Michael Winship. See a story that you think should be included in Morning Reads? Tell us in the comments!



We produce this news digest every weekday. You can sign up to receive these updates as an email newsletter each morning.