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Morning Reads: Trump’s Voter Fraud Probe Moves Forward, Despite Facts; Mexico Slams Border Tax Idea

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Morning Reads: Trump's Bogus Voter Fraud Probe Moves Forward

Insisting that he would not have lost the popular vote count were it not for illegal voting, Donald Trump is demanding an investigation of voter fraud even though, beyond a tiny handful of instances, there is no evidence of widespread cheating. (Photo by Max Whittaker/Getty Images)

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Bogus voter fraud investigation –> Ben Jacobs and Sam Levin write for The Guardian: “Trump has pledged an investigation of voter fraud in the wake of his unfounded claims that between 3 million and 5 million fraudulent votes were cast in the 2016 election. In response to a question from Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, who described Trump as being ‘spot on’ on the issue, [Vice President Mike] Pence described the investigation that the administration is planning on undertaking. The vice president, who focused on a Pew Research Center report often cited by Trump that referenced issues with faulty voter registrations, pledged to members of Congress: ‘We’ll be looking at ways to work with you and follow the facts and see where the facts go.'”

Of course, this massive voter fraud didn’t happen. The author of the Pew study that Trump constantly cites has repeatedly spoken out, saying he and the report have been misinterpreted. Will the “facts” lead Trump’s investigators to a different conclusion?

Mexico –> “The White House on Thursday floated the idea of imposing a 20 percent tax on goods from Mexico to pay for a wall at the southern US border, sending the peso tumbling and deepening a crisis between the two neighbors,” Steve Holland and Miguel Gutierrez report for Reuters. “… [Trump press secretary Sean] Spicer gave few details, but his comments resembled an existing idea, known as a border adjustment tax, that the Republican-led US House of Representatives is considering as part of a broad tax overhaul. The White House said later its proposal was in the early stages. Asked if Trump favored a border adjustment tax, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said such a tax would be ‘one way’ of paying for the border wall.”

The proposal seemed to come in response to Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto canceling a meeting with Trump. Nieto continues to say that Mexico will never pay for the wall, despite Trump’s insistence. And Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray denounced the idea of a duty: “A tax on Mexican imports to the United States is not a way to make Mexico pay for the wall,” he said, “but to way to make the North American consumer pay for it through more expensive avocados, washing machines, televisions.”

Hot seat –> On Saturday, the day after the inauguration, Trump directed his ire about low turnout at the head of the National Park Service. The Washington Post reports that in a phone call, he “personally ordered [acting NPS director Michael T. Reynolds] to produce additional photographs of the previous day’s crowds on the Mall, according to three individuals who have knowledge of the conversation. The president believed that the photos might prove that the media had lied in reporting that attendance had been no better than average. Trump also expressed anger over a retweet sent from the agency’s account, in which side-by-side photographs showed far fewer people at his swearing-in than had shown up to see Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009.”

Talk of abolishing the EPA –> Myron Ebell, who headed Trump’s transition team for the EPA, gave an interview to Greenwire yesterday. “President Trump during the campaign identified the EPA as a major obstacle to economic recovery and growth and he said that he wanted to either abolish it or leave a little bit,” Ebell said. “He’s not going to abolish it in a year; he’s going to take a while or leave a little bit. The first thing that’s going to need to be done is to start downsizing the agency.” Ebell said the initial goal would be to cut the agency’s staff from 15,000 down to 5,000.

Meanwhile, Sharon Lerner reports for The Intercept that over the last few days, as the Trump administration has issued a series of pronouncements downplaying the threat of climate change and attempting to muzzle government researchers, a group of the scientsists were meeting at a climate change conference. Lerner spoke to a few of them: “The directives have left scientists fearing reprisal for merely mentioning the global crisis that has been at the center of their professional lives for years,” she writes. “It’s the topic ‘whose name cannot be uttered,’ as one Forest Service employee put it to me. A nearby USDA employee offered a series of euphemisms — ‘extreme weather events, very unusual patterns,’ he riffed — before turning serious. ‘I’m actually scared to talk to you,’ he said, turning his hanging name tag inward and backing away from me.”

Doomsday clock –> For decades, The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has maintained its “doomsday clock,” a vivid representation of how close they feel the world is to destruction. Yesterday, for the first time since the worst of the Cold War, they advanced the hands on the clock, bringing the world within two minutes of  a fatal “midnight.” Bryan Schatz at Mother Jones has more.

The Bulletin’s science and security board members explained their reasons for moving the hands closer to destruction: “a rise in strident nationalism worldwide in 2016, including in a US presidential campaign during which the eventual victor, Donald Trump, made disturbing comments about the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons and expressed disbelief in the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change.”

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.