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Morning Reads: GOP Tries to Stifle Ethics Watchdog for Criticizing Trump; Key Democrats Vote Down Lower Drug Prices

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

Morning Reads: GOP Tries to Stifle Ethics Watchdog

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wants to question the head of the Office of Government Ethics. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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As we observe Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday on Monday, Morning Reads will resume on Tuesday.



Retribution –> We noted yesterday that Walter Shaub, head of the Office of Government Ethics, a federal agency, denounced Donald Trump’s plans to address conflicts of interest within his administration, calling the measures he outlined in a press conference Wednesday “meaningless.” Now Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chair of the House Oversight Committee, plans to haul Shaub in for interrogation, and subpoena him if he doesn’t comply. “House Republicans have found a subject for their opening review of conflicts of interest under Donald Trump: the federal official in charge of investigating conflicts of interest,” Darren Samuelsohn and Josh Gerstein write for Politico. “He is coming in. This is not going to be an optional exercise,” Chaffetz told them.

Ben Carson’s confirmation hearing –> The brain surgeon and former GOP primary candidate nominated to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development fielded softball questions at his hearing yesterday, Slate’s Jamelle Bouie writes. “If there was anything like a contentious exchange, it was between Carson and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who pressed the HUD nominee to promise that the agency’s budget not would financially benefit Trump or his businesses. Carson promised to ‘not play favorites,’ but wouldn’t rule it out.”

Booker, other Dems, side with the drug companies –> Democrats are already thinking ahead to 2020, assessing who on their relatively empty bench could defeat President-elect Trump. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker is often suggested as one possibility, but a vote on Wednesday could come back to haunt him. Zaid Jilani and David Dayen write for The Intercept that the senator was one of several Democrats voting to oppose allowing cheaper drug imports from Canada. Many of these drugs are made in the same facilities as American drugs, but have a lower price tag because the Canadian government controls pricing. The move to import drugs, supported by politicians in both parties, could help more Americans afford their medicine. Yet Booker has received more money than any other Democrat from the pharmaceutical industry; the other Democrats joining him in opposition to the measure also received large sums from Big Pharma. Because some Republicans voted for the measure, it would have passed had these 13 Democrats not broken ranks.

Make room for another Goldman guy –> Anthony Scaramucci, a top Trump funder and Wall Street financier will join the growing pool of Goldman Sachs alumni in the Trump administration. “In DC, Scaramucci is expected to continue doing what he did best on the campaign trail: defending Trump, his team, and the policies espoused by both,” Bess Levin writes for Vanity Fair. “While he has served as Wall Street’s biggest cheerleader since the financial crisis, having accused President Obama of treating the industry like a ‘piñata’ — and, upon the election of Trump, declaring ‘the cabal against bankers over’ — the Mooch says his new role will be about ‘the American people.'” Sure.

Not so fast, Ryan –> Steve Benen at MSNBC: “Early on in House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) town-hall event last night, the congressman fielded a question from a voter who seemed like an ally. The man, who owns a small business in a red state, explained that he had worked for the Reagan and Bush campaigns, and he opposed the Affordable Care Act.

“At least, he used to. This same man explained that he faced a life-threatening form of cancer, which was treated because he had coverage through the Affordable Care Act. ‘I want to thank President Obama from the bottom of my heart,’ the man said, ‘because I would be dead if it weren’t for him.’ It was a timely reminder that Paul Ryan’s repeal crusade, which has already run into some trouble in Washington, probably won’t be as easy as the far-right House Speaker hoped.”

Verdict –> Jason Meisner and Annie Sweeney report for the Chicago Tribune that the Justice Department today will announce that the Chicago Police Department “engaged in a pattern or practice of conduct that violated the US Constitution.” This investigation began in December 2015 after black teenager Laquan McDonald was shot and killed, and a video of the incident was eventually released that showed police officers had lied about the shooting: McDonald was shot in the back as he was walking away from police, not threatening them, and officers continued to shoot once McDonald had fallen.

Another plutocrat trying to take down critical press –> “As you may have heard, last week we were sued for $15 million by Shiva Ayyadurai, who claims to have invented email,” the technology blog TechDirt wrote in a note to readers yesterday. “We have written, at great length, about his claims and our opinion — backed up by detailed and thorough evidence — that email existed long before Ayyadurai created any software. We believe the legal claims in the lawsuit are meritless, and we intend to fight them and to win.” Ayyadurai’s lawyer, however, is a familiar name: Charles Harder, who helped Hulk Hogan shop a lawsuit against the news site Gawker around various courts until he found a jury willing to award $140 million in damages. Gawker went bankrupt. Hogan’s animus was shared by tech billionaire Peter Thiel, who funded Harder’s work. Now Harder’s making a business out of this successful strategy, and is even speaking with the Trump family.

How-to guide –> At Vox, widely respected political scientist Theda Skocpol offers her advice on how to rebuild the Democratic Party, repurposing lessons she’s learned from a career researching the right wing’s success.

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.