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Daily Reads: Sen. Corker on the Hot Seat for Tax Bill Reversal; Bill Will ‘Turbocharge’ Inequality in US

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

Daily Reads: Sen. Corker on the Hot Seat for Tax Bill Reversal

Editor’s Note: Tomorrow will be the last day for our Daily Reads post and newsletter. BillMoyers.com will be going into archive mode due to Bill’s retirement. Read more about that here.


On the hot seat –> This morning, it’s Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who voted against the Senate version of the tax bill and then changed his mind on Friday, saying he would support the final version that was hammered out by House and Senate negotiators. Corker’s problem is that a last-minute provision inserted into the bill would provide a massive windfall to his own business interests. Majority Whip Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) admitted that the measure was added in order to “cobble together the votes we needed to get this bill passed.” Corker claims he hasn’t read the bill and can’t offer any explanation for his reversal other than what appears to be bribery. David Sirota has the whole sordid story at International Business Times.

At The New York Times, David Leonhardt offers three charts that reveal how “the Republican tax bill is an audacious attempt to accelerate the economic trends of the last half-century,” including spiraling levels of inequality.

Matthew Rozsa reports for Salon that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) returned to Arizona last night to recover from the effects of radiation treatment and is not planning to be in DC for the tax bill vote this week. The GOP could afford to miss his “yes” vote if Corker rides out the storm, but if he defects then all eyes will fall on Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

They didn’t succeed, but… –>  At Pacific Standard magazine, Brentin Mock details the many different ways that Alabama Republicans worked to suppress the black vote during last week’s special election.

An assault on the rule of law –> Columbia Journalism Review’s Pete Vernon writes that “Fox News’s anti-Mueller rhetoric reached a fever pitch over the weekend, with a banner during Jesse Watters’ Saturday interview with Kellyanne Conway, reading ‘A COUP IN AMERICA?’ Jeanine Pirro referred to Mueller and those investigating ties between the Trump team and Russian officials as ‘a criminal cabal’ who should be taken out ‘in cuffs.’”

The latest development in the right’s sprawling conspiracy theory is the claim that Mueller’s team obtained thousands of emails from Trump’s transition team illegally, but Buzzfeed spoke to a senior lawyer with the General Services Administration — the agency tasked with “providing the presidential transition with office space, supplies like phones and laptops, and ‘ptt.gov’ emails” — who said that Trump’s “transition team members were informed that materials ‘would not be held back in any law enforcement’ actions,” and signed agreements acknowledging that fact.

CNN’s Brian Stelter says this is part of a “feedback loop” in the conservative media. “The right-wing commentary and President Trump’s criticism of the FBI are part of a vicious circle,” he writes. “The TV hosts encourage Trump, then Trump supplies sound bites for their shows, and then the hosts are even more emboldened.”

And whenever Trump tunes into Fox, he hears that Mueller’s probe is a baseless “witch hunt.” CNN’s Jeremy Diamond, Sara Murray and Manu Raju report that Trump is telling advisers that he’ll soon be exonerated by the investigation, and his allies are worried that if that scenario doesn’t come to pass, it may make Trump “more prone to rash behavior than ever before, including potentially firing Mueller,” a move that many of Trump’s allies have warned “could be a fatal blow to his presidency.”

In somewhat related news, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are being sued for omitting information from their public financial disclosure forms. Jacqueline Thompsen reports for The Hill that the suit “claims they both didn’t include assets from 30 investment funds they are a part of,” and “also alleges they both didn’t identify the income they received from two other investment groups.”

Trump Doctrine –> This week, “Donald Trump is poised to outline a new national security strategy that envisions nations in a perpetual state of competition, reverses Obama-era warnings on climate change, and de-emphasizes multinational agreements that have dominated the United States’ foreign policy since the Cold War,” according to the Associated Press. It’s a sharp break from decades of bipartisan, post-World War II policy emphasizing the benefits of multilateralism and robust international institutions.

Toluse Olorunnipa reports for Bloomberg that Trump is expected to “declare China a ‘strategic competitor’ to the US,” and “outline potential economic actions that could target China, officials said, signaling a shift from the more conciliatory approach Trump has taken with Chinese President Xi Jinping since being elected a year ago.”

A rumor has Capitol Hill on pins and needles –> For weeks, rumors have been swirling around DC about a blockbuster story in the works that will allege that dozens of lawmakers are guilty of sexual harassment. Margaret Hartmann reports for New York magazine that “nothing… about the rumor is consistent. Sometimes Politico is the major outlet working on the story, and other times it’s CNN or The New York Times. The exposé will name around two dozen members, or perhaps as many as 50.” She adds that, while the buzz is leading to quite a bit of paranoia among lawmakers and their staffs, “for all we know the report may be a joke that got twisted as it was passed around.”

The next storm –> Matthew Goldstein reports for The New York Times that “Puerto Rico is bracing for another blow: a housing meltdown that could far surpass the worst of the foreclosure crisis that devastated Phoenix, Las Vegas, Southern California and South Florida in the past decade.”

Goldstein’s colleague Patricia Mazzei reports that while the official death toll from Hurricane Maria stands at 64, there’s growing evidence suggesting that the actual number of deaths is exponentially higher. This morning, Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló “ordered that every death on the island since the calamitous storm be reviewed.”

And Georgetown’s Jeremy Konyndyk, an expert in humanitarian field operations, writes at The Washington Post that “the picture that emerges is fairly damning,” with a huge number of excess deaths resulting from “a federal response effort that has failed to address basic needs that the international response system would — and does — address as a matter of course.” 

Seven years before Russia hacked the election” –> Rebecca Leber and AJ Vicens report for Mother Jones that the “Climategate scandal” in 2009 foretold what would occur during last year’s elections. Climategate was a story about emails — some admittedly embarrassing or poorly phrased — that were dumped online with the intent of altering a crucial global event,” they write. “WikiLeaks republished the scientists’ emails. Talk radio and Fox News had a field day. Politicians soon followed. Mainstream reporters amplified out-of-context quotes. And the victims of the hack — especially [climatologist Michael] Mann and the University of East Anglia’s Phil Jones — were not prepared for the deluge of investigations, personal attacks, and even death threats that followed.”

Staffing up –> “At a time when the Border Patrol is struggling to meet minimum staffing levels mandated by Congress and is losing more agents per year than it hires,” Greg Moran reports for the Los Angeles Times that the government is paying a private contractor “$297 million to help hire 5,000 Border Patrol agents,” which works out to almost $40,000 per agent. That figure is about equal to what each agent would earn in his or her first year on the job.

Somewhat related –> Tim Hume reports for Vice that “anti-Islam Dutch politician Geert Wilders called on European countries to adopt Trump-style Muslim travel bans and to build border walls to reduce Muslim immigration at a far-right conference this weekend.”

The truth is out there –> On Saturday, The New York Times ran a very staid, matter-of-fact account of two Navy airmen playing cat-and-mouse off the coast of San Diego with an unidentified flying object that, according to one pilot, “had no plumes, wings or rotors and outran our F-18s.”

That 2004 account was unearthed in a covert Pentagon program to investigate “unidentified aerial phenomena.” It looked at “scores of unexplained sightings by Navy pilots and other observers of aircraft with capabilities far beyond what is currently considered aerodynamically possible.” Bryan Bender reports for Politico that the program, which was the brainchild of former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), ran from 2009 to 2012.

Daily Reads was compiled by BillMoyers.com staff and edited by Theresa Riley.



Editor’s Note: Tomorrow will be the last day for our Daily Reads post and newsletter. BillMoyers.com will be going into archive mode due to Bill’s retirement. Read more about that here.