Politics

Palestinian Basic Rights ‘not on the agenda’ for Trump (VIDEOS)

by Farah Najjar – As US President Donald Trump arrives in Israel, analysts say efforts to revive peace talks are a ‘charade’. US President Donald Trump has arrived in Israel as part of his first foreign trip since taking office in January, but critics have already dismissed as lip service his vows to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. The trip will include bilateral meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, who was in Washington earlier this month to pledge his support to a renewed peace process. But experts note that the Trump administration’s “unwavering support” for the state of Israel will render any potential negotiations futile. “They will fall over themselves loving Israel to get elected, come to their senses a bit when in office, then pay lip service to peace while serving the strategic alliance between the US and Israel by blindly supporting Israel,” Sam...

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Supreme Court Strikes Down North Carolina’s Racially Gerrymandered Congressional Maps

by Ian Millhiser – A small victory, but better than the alternative. The Supreme Court held Monday that North Carolina’s congressional maps — or, at least, those of two congressional districts — are unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. In an unusual move, Justice Clarence Thomas joined with the Court’s liberal bloc to produce a 5–3 decision. Yet, while Cooper v. Harris is a victory for voters who don’t want lawmakers manipulating districts to determine electoral outcomes, it is a small victory. And there is much in Justice Elena Kagan’s opinion for the Court that highlights how fundamentally broken the law governing gerrymandering will continue to be even after Monday’s decision. Harris involved two congressional districts, the First and the 12th, which the state’s Republican-controlled legislature packed with additional black voters — despite the fact that these districts routinely elected the candidate preferred by African-Americans. By cramming more black voters into district that already elected black-preferred candidates, the legislature prevented...

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Days After Administration Promised not to Touch Food Stamps, Trump Budget Reportedly Will Cut Them

by Alan Pyke – Expect big cuts to SNAP, WIC, and food bank subsidies systems. “As far as I’m concerned we have no proposed changes” to the food stamps program, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue told congressmen last Wednesday. “You don’t try to fix things that aren’t broken.” Perdue’s comments, delivering during a Wednesday House Agriculture Committee hearing, seemed to signal that President Donald Trump would not seek to shrink America’s efforts to help low-income families feed themselves. Yet just five days later, a leaked budget document seems to show the White House is going back on Perdue’s commitment — contemplating some combination of policy changes and outright budget cuts for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps) and other key food supports for the poor. The leaked spreadsheet lists proposed budget requests for thousands of different government line items, without any of the accompanying policy information that would...

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Is Michael Flynn Trying to Confess?

by ReasonaBill – Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, reportedly will exercise a perfectly valid legal right today to not incriminate himself following his rejection of a subpoena issued by the Senate Intelligence Committee.  Flynn previously sought immunity from the same committee for his testimony.  Did I miss something, did Michael Flynn just confess to a crime?  He told us in his own words, “when you are given immunity, that means you have probably committed a crime.” I guess it is foolish for me to point out the rampant hypocrisy of the current White House staff both current and former.  The head of this merry little band of hypocrites is the emperor with no clothes, Donald Trump. The tweeting thumb thug, or John Miller or John Barron or whatever name he is using to spread propaganda these days is facing truth and is scared http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-spokesman-impersonation_us_5735e7e9e4b08f96c182eedd.  Trump, one of the pioneers of...

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OOPS: Trump Accidentally Confirms Source of Classified Intel He Gave to Russians

by Aaron Rupar – He did so while mischaracterizing media reports about his Oval Office meeting with top Russian diplomats. During a photo opportunity with President Trump on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was asked if he’s concerned about Trump sharing highly sensitive counterterrorism intelligence with Russian officials on May 10 — information that reportedly came from an Israeli source. Trump responded by telling reporters that he never mentioned the word “Israel” during that meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. “Just so you understand — I never mentioned the word or the name ‘Israel,’” Trump said. “I never mentioned it during that conversation.” Gesturing to reporters, Trump added, “They were all saying I did. So you had another story wrong. Never mentioned the word ‘Israel.’” “Intelligence cooperation is terrific,” Netanyahu said. President Trump says he “never mentioned the word Israel” in his Oval Office meeting with...

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Newt Gingrich Pushes Discredited Conspiracy Theory About Death of DNC Staffer

by Kiley Kroh – Gingrich quickly pivoted from the investigation into Trump’s Russia ties to a conspiracy theory Seth Rich’s murder. Former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich joined Fox and Friends on Sunday to discuss the day’s major news stories — or in Gingrich’s case, to pivot from the deepening investigation into President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia to baseless conspiracy theories about the death of former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich. After Gingrich and the hosts bemoaned the media’s “presumption of guilt” toward Trump, Gingrich was asked whether Robert Mueller, appointed this week as special counsel overseeing the investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, might shed some light on the truth. Gingrich, a staunch Trump supporter, replied that it would depend on the scope of the investigation before quickly shifting gears to the unsolved murder of Rich, claiming without evidence that he was “assassinated.” “At the...

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US and Saudi Arabia Sign Arms Deals Worth Almost $110bn

US Secretary of State says the arms agreements will help Saudi Arabia deal with ‘malign Iranian influence’. The US and Saudi Arabia signed arms deals worth almost $110bn on Saturday, the first day of President Donald Trump’s visit to the traditional US ally. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the arms agreements will help Saudi Arabia deal with “malign Iranian influence”. “The package of defence equipment and services supports the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the entire Gulf region,” Tillerson told reporters in Riyadh on Saturday. This is “in particular in the face of malign Iranian influence and Iranian-related threats which exist on Saudi Arabia’s borders on all sides,” Tillerson told reporters in Riyadh. Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from Riyadh, said that the arms deal would be seen by both signatories as a “win-win”, especially as the deal involved arms that Obama was not prepared to sell...

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View From the Left: Better Lawyer Up Team Trump

by Kerry Eleveld – Donald Trump gave us a glimpse into where the administration’s future is headed Thursday when he drew a clear distinction between himself and his campaign in regard to the FBI investigation into the Russia scandal. “There is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign—but I can always speak for myself and the Russians, zero,” he said during a joint press conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. On paper that quote looks a little muddy, but to the ear it was clear that he meant he could “only” speak for himself. In other words, I can’t defend what the rest of my campaign did, nor will I. It’s the third time in two weeks actually that Trump has made overt efforts to separate his actions from that of his campaign. In his letter dismissing FBI director James Comey, Trump famously made sure to reference the “three separate occasions” on which Comey purportedly...

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Should We Treat Big Pharma as a Public Utility?

by Fran Quigley, Truthout | Op-Ed – Drug prices are skyrocketing in the US, and eye-watering Big Pharma profits are rising right along with them. With millions of Americans skipping medicine doses due to cost, widespread public frustration has spurred lawmakers to propose some good ideas for addressing the crisis. Lifting the ban on Medicare negotiating the price it pays for drugs and allowing prescription drugs to be imported from other countries would be helpful. So would the US government overriding patents and licensing generic manufacture of drugs that were discovered with taxpayer funding. Another popular idea, featured in pending Congressional legislation and more than a dozen state proposals, is forcing pharma corporations to open up their black box on drug pricing and research costs. At first glance, so-called transparency legislation, which is already the law in Vermont and has passed the Maryland legislature, can seem a bit tame. After all, what difference will it really make, as long as companies remain free to hike up their prices, with the limited...

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Trump Administration Announces Its NAFTA Renegotiation Concerns

by Brian Doherty – Many of them echo old labor union and Democratic Party complaints about freer trade. Donald Trump’s rhetorical hostility to free trade and his apparent desire to manage U.S. companies’ investment decisions over an obsession with “balance of trade” has been one of his most alarming characteristics to some libertarians. Letters from Trump’s U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to various congressional leaders sent this week set forth the current contours of the Trump administration’s concerns over renegotiating NAFTA, which can be summed up as, to quote the letter: new provisions to address intellectual property rights, regulatory practices, state-owned enterprises, services, customs procedures, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, labor, environment, and small and medium enterprises. It also notes they want “aggressive enforcement of…commitments made by our trading partners.” And they start with the nerve-wracking declaration that a prime goal in trade deal renegotiating will be to “support higher-paying jobs in...

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‘Unconscionable’ Arms Deal Inked, Trump Delivers Remarks in Saudi Arabia

by Andrea Germanos – Trump says “We are not here to lecture” a day after he finalized a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia that critics say will fuel possible war crimes. A day after finalizing an “unconscionable” $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, President Donald Trump on Sunday gave a speech in Riyadh to leaders of dozens of Muslim-majority countries—a “vast congress of dictators and cut-throat autocrats,” as one analyst put it—in which he called on them to “drive out the terrorists and extremists” and isolate Iran. Trump—who previously declared, “We’re having problems with the Muslims” and pushed for a Muslim ban—spoke of “shared interests” and stamping out terrorism. “To the leaders and citizens of every country assembled here today, I want you to know that the United States is eager to form closer bonds of friendship, security, culture and commerce,” he said. Of the weapons sale, described as...

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Hassan Rouhani Wins Iran’s Presidential Election (VIDEOS)

Final results show incumbent president emphatically beating rival Ebrahim Raisi to extend his time in office. Iran’s reformist President Hassan Rouhani has decisively won the country’s presidential election, according to official results, fending off a challenge by principlist rival, Ebrahim Raisi. With all of votes in Friday’s poll counted, Rouhani was re-elected with 57 percent, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmanifazli said on Saturday. “Of some 41.2 million total votes cast, Rouhani got 23.5 … and won the election,” Rahmanifazli said in remarks carried live by state TV. PROFILE: Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani Raisi, Rouhani’s closest rival, got 15.8 million votes, he added. A big turnout on Friday led to the vote being extended by several hours to deal with long queues. Campaign pledges The election was seen by many as a verdict on Rouhani’s policy of opening up Iran to the world and his efforts to rebuild its stagnant economy....

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Mike Pence Is Becoming A Legend For the Frequency & Magnitude Of His Lies

by ursulafaw – Abraham Lincoln said, “No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.” In Mike Pence’s case he must be keeping a catalog of his lies by now. If he’s not, he’s the only one. The Washington Post recently examined a few of Pence’s whoppers and his equally fantastic excuses.This is the exchange between Bret Baier and Mike Pence when Mike Flynn was fired in January, 2017. BAIER: The story today that former national security adviser Michael Flynn has filed with the Department of Justice as a foreign agent for making more than $500,000 as a lobbyist, essentially, for Turkey. Your reaction to that, given that, doesn’t that mean, Mr. Vice President, that even if he didn’t lie to you about what the Russian ambassador said or didn’t say, that you would have had to fire him anyway? PENCE: Well, let me say, hearing that story today was the...

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Republican Congressman: ‘Donald Trump is Done. There is no Question About That’

by Egberto Willies – A Republican with a spine appeared on the 11th Hour with Brian Williams and had a striking statement about the Donald Trump’s presidency. And he went much further as he described possible outcomes in this excerpted video. Are we at Trump’s twilight? Former Congressman David Jolly (R-FL) did not mince his words about the state of the Donald Trump presidency. It is over. “It is remarkable Brian tonight how many Republicans support a special counsel once the decision has been made,” said David Jolly. “And I think we’ve watched that. Listen, view this thru the short lens. The short lens, this is actually win-win. Democrats get the investigation that they think is right for the country. Republicans have an opportunity to put the investigation over here in this lane and then say okay now we get back to legislating.” Jolly then said the following with a dark...

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It’s Tougher Than it Should be to Impeach Donald Trump

by Ian Millhiser – Trump isn’t the disease. He’s the symptom. “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,” Donald Trump declared last year. He’s spent his entire time in the White House putting this theory of his enduring political popularity to the test — and so far, he’s proving himself mostly correct. Trump backed a health care bill that would strip coverage from 24 million people. He’s turned his top aides into punchlines who tout obvious falsehoods and are often immediately contradicted by Trump himself. He briefly removed the deeply damaging story of his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey from the headlines by replacing it with the even more damaging news that he’d leaked highly sensitive information to the Russians. And yet Trump’s numbers are remarkably constant among his core supporters. Although a Public Policy Polling poll released on Tuesday finds that...

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Why Sheriff Clarke Will be a Disaster in His New Job, According to His Predecessor

by Esther Yu Hsi Lee – ‘Just plain awful’ Sheriff David Clarke Jr.— a controversial law enforcement official known for his outlandish remarks and fatal detention practices — announced Wednesday that he would be appointed as an Assistant Secretary within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in June. According to various media outlets, former DHS personnel, and Clarke himself, Clarke will oversee the Office of Partnership and Engagement, which functions as a liaison between the Department of Homeland Secretary and state and local officials. The official DHS Twitter handle, however, tweeted out that no official decisions have been announced. After news broke of Clarke’s new role, former DHS officials — who held the position he will soon take — strongly condemned the decision. Phil McNamara, who was appointed to the position between April 2013 until President Donald Trump took office on January 20, 2017, called Clarke’s potential appointment “just plain awful.” As the former assistant secretary of the...

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Israeli Source That Trump Outed Was ‘the most valuable source’ on ISIS

by Mark Sumner – Donald Trump didn’t just spill any source to Russia in his effort to show what a big man he is. He pilled a source that was key to dealing with ISIS. These officials, who are privy to intelligence about the terrorist group’s efforts, said the source of information was particularly valuable for tracking Islamic State’s attempts to place explosive devices on commercial airplanes. The most valuable source on ISIS, one that has the inside knowledge and connections to understand how that terrorist group is trying to strike out against travelers around the world. It was information from this source that caused the international alert about carrying laptops and other electronic devices earlier this year. And how did Donald Trump’s loose lip affect this ship? One official said now that the Russians are aware of the source, there is greater risk the source could be compromised in some...

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Trump Told Russians “Nut Job” Comey Was Fired to Ease Pressure: Report

by Common Dreams staff – “What’s worse: President admitting Comey was fired over Russia, or Spicer justifying it?” President Donald Trump characterized former FBI director James Comey, whom the president had fired just a day earlier, as a “nut job” to top Russian government officials during a recent Oval Office meeting, the New York Times reports on Friday citing an anonymous U.S. official who read from an internal document that purportedly summarized the exchange. Trump was meeting with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the White House on May 10 when, according to the account reported by the Times, he made the derisive statements about Comey and also indicated possible motivations behind the director’s ouster. “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the readout of the document provided to the Times. “I faced great...

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Notre Dame Students are Protesting the Vice President’s Commencement Speech

by Casey Quinlan – Students say they deserve a commencement that respects LGBTQ and undocumented graduates. Notre Dame seniors will stage a walkout to protest Vice President Mike Pence’s commencement speech at the Indiana university on Sunday. Students say they are expressing solidarity with LGBTQ, undocumented, low-income, and female students affected by Pence’s policies. Students plan to stand up when Pence begins speaking and quietly leave the ceremony. Fifty to 100 people could walk out on Sunday, student organizers say. Protesters are using the hashtag #WalkOutND to bring attention to the protest on social media. “During his time as governor of the state of Indiana and now as a Vice-President, Pence has targeted the civil rights protections of members of LBGT+ community, rejected the Syrian refugee resettlement program, supported an unconstitutional ban of religious minorities, and fought against sanctuary cities,” said the student activist group organizing the protest, We StaND For,...

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‘Wrong, Wrong, Wrong’: An Expert Assessment of Joe Lieberman as FBI Director

by Alan Pyke – “Why in the name of all the saints and stars would you appoint a politician to a 10-year statutory term in a post that is supposed to be above politics?” Just 10 days after he fired James Comey as Director of the FBI, Donald Trump reportedly views former Senator Joe Lieberman as the frontrunner to replace the man he fired for investigating Russia’s influence in the 2016 election too vigorously. Lieberman would be a concerning choice. He would break decades of precedent that FBI directors should come from the criminal justice realm. He holds Bill of Rights protections for American citizens in low regard. And his late-career embrace of the American political right — complete with a move into Trump’s own professional locker room after leaving the Senate — would make for a polarizing and potentially caustic tenure at the embattled domestic security agency. Lieberman has been a professional politician almost...

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Donald Trump’s Middle East Visit: What to Expect (VIDEOS)

by William Roberts – Saudi Arabia arms deal, Syria’s war and Arab-Israeli peace set to top agenda of Trump’s first foreign trip as president. Donald Trump heads to Saudi Arabia on Friday on his first foreign trip as president to repair relations with the United States’ closest Arab ally, restart the Arab-Israeli peace process and, potentially, reassert the US security role in the region. Going to Saudi Arabia first is a highly symbolic move for President Trump who is struggling with political troubles at home, but is drawing optimism from Arab leaders despite his deep unpopularity in Arab public opinion for his anti-Muslim commentary during the 2016 US election campaign. The president will hold a series of meetings starting on Saturday with Saudi rulers, including King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Saudis want more US help confronting Iran and armed groups, as well as private...

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The Birth of the Living Constitution

by Damon Root – Should we interpret the Constitution as a living document? What’s the proper method for interpreting the U.S. Constitution? Should it be viewed according to its original meaning? Or should the document be viewed in the light of contemporary conditions? If you answered no to the second question and yes to the third, you may be a living constitutionalist. As Georgetown law professor Larry Solum explains in a fascinating new article at his Legal Theory Blog, “living constitutionalism is the view that the legal content of constitutional doctrine does and should change in response to changing circumstances and values.” This view has been around for a long time. According to Solum, the phrase itself apparently dates back to a 1927 book titled The Living Constitution, though it was the influential progressive historian Charles Beard who first took the phrase and really ran with it. “Since most of the...

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Is Ignorance Trump’s Excuse for Obstructing Justice?

by Jacob Sullum – Maybe the president doesn’t know enough to break the law. The claim that Donald Trump is guilty of obstructing justice suddenly looks more plausible in light of the report that the president asked then-FBI Director James Comey to drop his investigation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. But it still would be hard to make that charge stick in federal court (although it would be easier in impeachment proceedings, where Congress decides how much evidence is enough). The chief obstacle might be that Trump is too ignorant to be guilty. The U.S. Code includes more than 20 provisions dealing with obstruction of justice. The most appropriate one in this context seems to be 18 USC 1505, which makes it a felony to “influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law,” either “corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter...

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A New Meth Surge Gathers Momentum

by Christine Vestal – The opioid epidemic has killed tens of thousands over the last two years and driven major reforms in state and local law enforcement and public health policies for people with addiction. But another deadly but popular drug, methamphetamine, also has been surging in many parts of the country. And federal officials say that, based on what they learned as opioids swept the U.S., methamphetamine is likely to spread even further. “The beginning of the opioid epidemic was 2000 and we thought it was just localized,” said Kimberly Johnson, director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). “Now we know that drug outbreaks aren’t likely to stay localized so we can start addressing them sooner and letting other states know of the potential for it spreading.” From Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma to Montana, Wisconsin and Minnesota and...

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Republicans: It’s Time to Decide — Party or Country?

by ROBERT REICH – The question is no longer whether there are grounds to impeach Donald Trump. It is when enough Republicans will put their loyalty to America ahead of their loyalty to their party. The question is no longer whether there are grounds to impeach Donald Trump. It is when enough Republicans will put their loyalty to America ahead of their loyalty to their party. Trump’s statements last week about his firing of former FBI director James Comey provide ample evidence that Trump engaged in an obstruction of justice — a major charge in impeachment proceedings brought against Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton. It’s worth recalling that the illegality underlying Nixon’s impeachment was a burglary at the Watergate complex, while the illegality underlying Clinton’s was lying to a grand jury about sex with an intern in the White House. Trump’s obstruction is potentially far more serious. It involves an...

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Jordanian Spies Provided ISIL Bomb Intel: Officials

by Ali Younes – Reported Israeli intelligence on plane-bomb plan came from Jordanian spies inside ISIL, officials tell Al Jazeera. Intelligence on an ISIL airliner bomb plot given by US President Donald Trump to Russian officials originated in part with Jordanian spies, not Israelis,veteran Jordanian intelligence officials told Al Jazeera. According to several US media reports, Trump’s disclosure of sensitive intelligence to the Russians may have endangered an Israeli spy inside Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. ABC News reported on Tuesday “the life of the spy is now at risk”. But several Jordanian sources who spoke on condition of anonymity doubted this assertion. They said they don’t believe Israel has any high level spies inside ISIL and depends instead on “intelligence sharing with Arab spy services partners”. “When it comes to ISIL, unlike Jordan, Israel relies on its electronic surveillance collection and its intelligence sharing-arrangement with its Arab partners,”...

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Single Payer Success in NY as Medicare-for-All Bill Passes State Assembly

by Deirdre Fulton – ‘The New York State Assembly is leading the way with the only kind of healthcare bill that will put people before profits.’ As the momentum behind Medicare-for-All continues to grow nationwide, New York’s State Assembly on Tuesday was expected to pass a single-payer healthcare bill that puts the state light years ahead of the regressive GOP in Washington, D.C. The New York Health Act would afford all state residents access to comprehensive inpatient and outpatient care, primary and preventative care, prescription drugs, behavioral health services, laboratory testing, and rehabilitative care, as well as dental, vision, and hearing coverage. There would be no premiums, deductibles, or co-pays; the plan would be funded through progressively raised taxes, including a surcharge that would be split 80/20 between employers and employees. As Salon‘s Amanda Marcotte wrote earlier this month, the legislation’s lead sponsor, Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, says “‘almost all New Yorkers...

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What’s In the Transcript? There’s a Way to Find Out What Trump Told Russia

by Deirdre Fulton – Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday morning demanded the White House release an “unedited transcript” of Trump’s meeting with Russians. Among the revelations in Monday evening’s bombshell Washington Post report on President Donald Trump disclosing classified information to Russian diplomats is the fact that one U.S. counterterrorism official “called for the problematic portion of Trump’s discussion to be stricken from internal memos and for the full transcript to be limited to a small circle of recipients, efforts to prevent sensitive details from being disseminated further or leaked.” Now, amid outrage, calls are growing for that transcript to be released—if not to the public at-large, than at least “to Congress for investigative purposes,” as National Memo editor-in-chief Joe Conason wrote Tuesday. “he House and Senate intelligence committees should request—or if necessary, subpoena—the transcripts of Trump’s meeting with the Russians, to see who is telling the truth,” Conason...

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Louisiana Lawmakers Vote to Make it Harder to Remove Confederate Monuments

by Aviva Shen – “This is the worst thing I’ve ever seen done in this building.” They’ve lost in state, federal, and civil court. Two New Orleans statues have already been removed. But now, Confederate monument champions are escalating their appeals to the more conservative state government to intervene. On Monday, the Louisiana House passed a bill that would require an election before any war memorial is removed or even altered. The legislation was approved by a House committee earlier this month, after the first Confederate monument in New Orleans came down. The fraught debate over the bill quickly turned to its authors’ conception of Civil War history, or the “War Between the States,” as the bill calls it. After being questioned by Rep. Sam Jones (D), Rep. Thomas Carmody (R) said he did not believe slavery was the reason for the Civil War, and that the South had a legal...

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Donald Trump Has Destroyed the Credibility of the Presidency

by Peter Suderman – There is no longer any reason to trust anything the president or his surrogates say. Shortly after multiple outlets published reports last night that President Donald Trump had shared highly sensitive, classified information about an ISIS plot with Russian officials in an Oval Office meeting last week, White House officials stepped up to respond with denials. The denials were hard to believe because Trump has destroyed the credibility of his office. The most extensive denial came from national security advisor General H.R. McMaster. “The story that came out tonight, as reported, is false,” he said. “At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.” One reason the denial is difficult to completely buy is because it is so precisely worded. McMcaster does not actually deny the core of the initial report in The Washington...

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How I Always Win the Abortion Argument

by SemDem – This past Friday, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed the deceptively named “Tennessee Infants Protection Act,” a bill that does nothing for infants but prohibits physicians from performing abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. Tennessee Republicans blocked all efforts from Democrats to include exceptions for incest, mental health, or even rape. (After all, if a woman is raped, GOP lawmakers say it must be God’s will.) The “pro-life” movement has never been about “life,” it has, and always will, be about control. Control over a woman’s reproduction—taken from the individual and given to GOP legislators, like Republican Billy Long.  The entire movement has been a scam from its inception: it all began with a single disingenuous conference call to come up with ways to gin up support for segregationist Bible colleges. Up until that point, churches didn’t have any problem with it. Why should they? The Bible says nothing about it. Even though abortion was practiced way back in...

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As Trump’s Poll Numbers Fall, Republicans are Eyeing the Exits—but Still Afraid to Act

by Mark Sumner – While the United States has bounced through the pinball machine of scandals both big and bigger— including a national security adviser ousted for connections to Russia and an FBI director fired for looking into connections to Russia—one of the consistent factors has been Republican cowardice. No matter if Trump was showing off the nuclear football at Mar-a-Lago or inviting murderous autocratic dictators to the White House, you could always count on House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell to deliver a round of ringing silence or soupy support. Because, until now at least, Republicans have weighed their odds and decided that going along with Trump was their best route to the GOP holy grail: tax breaks for billionaires. After all, a few randomly fired missiles, a threat of nuclear war here, a little wrecking of national policy in exchange for some ego boost (or building permits, or trademarks,...

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Trump Nixes Nixon: Where Watergate Goes to Die

by William Rivers Pitt, Truthout | Op-Ed – Let’s you and I take a moment to square a few dented circles before we get so far down the rabbit hole that we start seeing invisible cats smiling at us in the dark. The corporate “news” media loves to create false narratives if doing so allows them to avoid working for a living, and the current “This is just like Watergate!” milieu we are enduring after the firing of FBI Director James Comey is a perfect example of the phenomenon. This is nothing like Watergate; it is its own pan-dimensional thing and must be dealt with on its own very specific terms, lest we veer off into a gibberish festival where potato is Fred because a vest has no sleeves. Nail this to your wall and festoon it with bunting: James Comey is no Archibald Cox. Archie Cox was a...

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We’re Demanding Records on Comey’s Dismissal. Here’s Why

by Patrick Toomey, Staff Attorney, ACLU National Security Project – The ACLU on Monday submitted a request to the Department of Justice and the FBI asking for the release of all documents relating to President Donald Trump’s decision to remove FBI Director James Comey from office. The cloud of uncertainty swirling over Comey’s dismissal, along with indications that the president may have gravely abused his power, demands a public accounting. At the time of his dismissal, FBI Director Comey was responsible for overseeing an ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election and possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and the Russian government. According to initial White House statements — by most accounts hastily assembled with little coordination — the president dismissed Comey on the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The two, we learned, had prepared a pair of memoranda asserting...

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‘Comey Memo’: Trump Impeachment Could Rest on Obstruction of Justice

by Jon Queally – “Donald Trump wanted to stop the FBI investigation, which is the definition of obstruction of justice,” says Sen. Bernie Sanders. The possible existence of memorandum penned by former FBI Director James Comey in the immediate wake of a dinner he had with President Donald Trump earlier this year is being treated Tuesday night as an explosive development if its version of events, specifically that the president asked the chief of the bureau to drop the investigation into national security adviser Michael Flynn, is verified. “I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. First reported by the New York Times, the memo—which journalist Michael S. Schmidt did not see himself but which a source, identified as a “one of Mr. Comey’s associates,” read aloud selected portions—is Comey’s account of the dinner meeting with Trump just a day after Flynn’s resignation in...

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Rev. Barber: America Needs a New Poor People’s Campaign

by William J. Barber, II – The future of our democracy depends on us completing the work of a Third Reconstruction. In a spectacle of religious hypocrisy last week, preachers who say so much about what God says so little — and so little about what God says so much — stood in the Rose Garden as a backdrop for President Donald Trump’s executive order on “religious liberty.” As they celebrated this administration’s willingness to let them use religious freedom as an excuse to force their “values” on someone else, Trump pointed to the legacy of the African-American church as an example of faith in public life. In every con, there’s a grain of truth, whether the person who is speaking knows it or now. I know the prophetic African American church tradition that grew up on the edges of plantations and spoke clearly for the first time into this nation’s public life when Harriet...

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Rollback of Environmental Rules Will Fail to Bring Back Coal, Report Says

by Mark Hand – ‘Responsible policymakers should be honest about what’s going on in the coal sector.’ “Can Coal Make a Comeback?” asks a new report by Columbia University researchers. Spoiler alert: In its first few pages, the report states that President Donald Trump will almost certainly fail to bring jobs back to coal country or dramatically boost coal production. Rolling back environmental regulations, as the Trump administration frantically sought to do during its first 100 days, will not “materially improve” economic conditions in the nation’s coal communities, according to the report. During Trump’s presidential campaign, he repeatedly vowed to end a “war on coal” allegedly waged by the Obama administration. But as long as natural gas prices remain at or near current levels, U.S. coal consumption will continue to decline despite the Trump administration’s plans to roll back Obama-era regulations, the report says. “Responsible policymakers should be honest about what’s going...

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The End of Trump

by Robert Reich – The question is no longer whether there are grounds to impeach Donald Trump. It is when enough Republicans will put their loyalty to America ahead of their loyalty to their party. Trump’s statements last week about his firing of former FBI director James Comey provide ample evidence that Trump engaged in an obstruction of justice – a major charge in impeachment proceedings brought against Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton. It’s worth recalling that the illegality underlying Nixon’s impeachment was a burglary at the Watergate complex, while the illegality underlying Clinton’s was lying to a grand jury about sex with an intern in the White House. Trump’s obstruction is potentially far more serious. It involves an investigation about whether Trump or his aides colluded with Russia in rigging a presidential election – the most direct assault on American democracy in history, Last Thursday, in an interview with...

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What Kind of FBI Do We Want After Comey?

by Richard Eskow – The firing of James Comey as Director of the FBI gives the nation more evidence of Donald Trump’s lack of fitness for the presidency. Whatever you thought of Comey, his removal showed the nation that Trump is impulsive, vindictive, and given to abuses of power. But it’s also important to reflect right now on some of the more fundamental issues raised by Comey’s firing. Why do we have a federal police agency? How should its mission be defined? And, what kind of person should run it? The Birth of the FBI First, some background. President Theodore Roosevelt and Attorney General Charles Joseph Bonaparte created the “Special Agents Force,” the forerunner to the FBI, in 1908, to enforce federal law. Both Roosevelt and Bonaparte were progressives who believed that government positions should not be exploited for partisan political purposes. Before this force was assembled, the only...

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Trump Escalates Attack on Healthcare, Women With Rebranded and Expanded Global Gag Rule

by Andrea Germanos – “The Global Gag Rule doesn’t protect lives; it destroys them.” President Donald Trump spent part of his first Monday in office following in the footsteps of other Republican presidents by reinstating the Global Gag Rule, officially known as the Mexico City Policy. The Reagan-era rule bars U.S. aid from going to international NGOs that offer abortion services or even provide information about it as an option—even when they use non-U.S. funds to do so. It’s been criticized for devastating not only reproductive healthcare services but primary healthcare services as well, as clinics, faced with budget shortfalls, are forced to cut back or shut down completely. And it was made clear, from that January memorandum, that Trump’s order would mark an expansion of the rule, as it directed the Secretary of State “to implement a plan to extend the requirements of the reinstated Memorandum to global health assistance...

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New York Times: Intelligence Trump Leaked to Russians Came From Israel

by Joan McCarter – The rapidly unraveling story of popular vote loser Donald Trump leaking classified intelligence to Russian diplomats, as the result of an order from Vladimir Putin, just gets worse. Directly on the heels of the admission from National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster that Trump didn’t even know where the intelligence came from, we found out where the intelligence came from: Israel, according to The New York Times. Israel is one of the United States’ most important allies and a major intelligence collector in the Middle East. The revelation that Mr. Trump boasted about some of Israel’s most sensitive information to the Russians could damage the relationship between the two countries. It also raises the possibility that the information could be passed to Iran, Russia’s close ally and Israel’s main threat in the Middle East. In the meeting with the Russian ambassador and foreign minister, Mr. Trump disclosed...

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Paul Ryan’s Next Move is an Attempt to Privatize Medicare

by Casey Quinlan – Ryan hasn’t stopped dreaming of a Medicare overhaul that could hike premiums and cost many elderly people their insurance. Giddy from his recent health care win, House Speaker Paul Ryan said he looks forward to tackling an overhaul of Medicare, which would leave many seniors without coverage or with higher premiums. On Friday, Speaker Ryan told the conservative radio host, Vicki McKenna, that he would like to see a plan for overhauling Medicare this year. He said the plan is part of an “ongoing conversation” with the Trump administration. Last month, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney commented on a possible Medicare overhaul by saying the administration could “talk about it,” and that absolute resistance to the idea was “not a really conducive way to sort of maintain a relationship between the executive and the administrative branch.” Speaker Ryan has been interested in making dramatic...

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NATO Allies Prepare for the Arrival of Lil’ Donny Tantrum

by Hunter – There’s a NATO meeting coming up, which means 27 other countries are now scrambling to put plastic caps over the electrical outlets and childproofing the cupboard doors. Because Little Donny Tantrum is comin’ to town. NATO is scrambling to tailor its upcoming meeting to avoid taxing President Donald Trump’s notoriously short attention span. The alliance is telling heads of state to limit talks to two to four minutes at a time during the discussion, several sources inside NATO and former senior U.S. officials tell Foreign Policy. Strengthening the security of the free world: important. Coming up with ways to do it that you can fully convey before the egg timer in Trump’s head dings; very important. Four months in office, and our nation’s leader is already so notoriously dim that allies are reshaping multinational meetings in order to cope with his obvious, ahem, limitations. “It’s kind of ridiculous...

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Trump Reportedly Divulged Classified Information to Russian Diplomats

by Ned Resnikoff – A source told the Post Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.” U.S. news outlets were more than a little surprised last week to discover that President Donald Trump had invited Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak — a central figure in the allegations that members of Trump’s campaign worked with Russian intelligence during the 2016 election — to join him in the Oval Office during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. But the bigger surprise was yet to come. On Monday, the Washington Post dropped some leaked details of Trump’s discussion with Sergei and Sergey. Citing “current and former U.S. officials,” the Post said that Trump had divulged “highly classified information” to the two Russian officials, and thereby “jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.” One source told the Post that Trump had “revealed more information to the Russian...

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Experts Resign From EPA Subcommittee to Protest Trump’s War on Science

by Deirdre Fulton – “These scientists are putting their feet down in the face of Trump and Pruitt’s total disdain for science, reality, and the very foundations of our government.” Protesting the Trump administration’s “continued obfuscation of scientific evidence and the research enterprise,” two scientists resigned Friday from an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advisory subcommittee focused on public health and pollution. Specifically, Drs. Carlos Martín and Peter Meyer cited the EPA’s recent decision to not renew the terms of Drs. Courtney Flint and Robert Richardson on the agency’s Board of Scientific Counselors. News outlets reported this week that the EPA was considering replacing up to a dozen such scientists with representatives of the very industries the agency is tasked with policing. Board members Flint and Richard were co-chairs of the Sustainable and Healthy Communities Subcommittee, on which Martin and Meyer both served. The subcommittee “looked at how to improve environmental health...

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America’s Worst Voter Suppression Law Dies in the Supreme Court

by Ian Millhiser – Sometimes, democracy wins. The most aggressive voter suppression law in the nation — possibly the most aggressive such law since Jim Crow — is dead. The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would not hear North Carolina v. North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, a challenge to North Carolina’s omnibus voter suppression law. As the law was struck down by the lower court, that means this law is finally staked, dead, and buried. So that’s the good news for supporters of voting rights. The bad news is that Chief Justice John Roberts wrote a brief opinion strongly implying that laws like this one could survive review before the Republican-controlled Supreme Court. Indeed, it is likely that the only reason why North Carolina’s law lies in the ground today is because the states’ voters elected a Democratic governor and a Democratic attorney general who maneuvered to kill this appeal to...

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Sorry, Folks, but Donald Trump is Everything We Deserve

by David Macaray – We pretend we don’t, but we do. The main reason (besides the grinding repetition) why I can’t bear to watch comedians do their self-congratulatory Donald Trump shtick is that their phony indignation is based on the premise that this guy is somehow unworthy of being our president, which is ludicrous.  Trump is not only worthy of being president, he’s perfect for it. Consider:  The U.S. is, first and foremost, a nation of dedicated consumers.  The world knows this, we know this, and Trump knows this.  Indeed, there’s nothing we Americans won’t consume if it’s properly advertised and promoted.  And say what you will about Trump, but the man is, first and foremost, an accomplished salesman and promoter. Consider:  We Americans don’t form long queues outside of poetry or literature readings.  There’s no shame in that.  We simply aren’t a nation of poetry lovers.   But we do form...

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Krugman: Yes, Republicans are Perfectly Willing to Betray This Country

by Dartagnan – It is difficult to say which is more appalling—the thoroughly bizarre, flailing behavior of the current Occupant of the White House in attempting to justify this week’s shocking actions, or the stone-cold silence of the political Party that is backing him. Paul Krugman in today’s New York Times has some choice words about the Republican members of the Congress and Senate who have chosen to stand mute while an unbalanced, self-styled tyrant attempts to tear down our country’s institutions with his agitated Twitter fingers.  Krugman specifically singles out Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, both of whom actually rose to defend Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey to thwart the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia, a collusion that may have determined the outcome of last year’s Presidential election: Everyone understands that Mr. Comey was fired not because of his misdeeds during the campaign — misdeeds...

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Is America Dying or is it Being Born Again? (VIDEOS)

by Hamid Dabashi – Behind the vulgarity and racism of Trump’s America, a different vision of what it means to be an ‘American’ is rising. In a characteristically timely and insightful essay for The New York Times, Pankaj Mishra has recently mapped out the tortuous passage of the United States from exceptionalism to what he now sees as a turn towards nihilism. He rightly identifies that “extravagant promises by ruling elites, and their unexamined assumptions, are at least partly to blame for this moral breakdown in the world’s most powerful country”. Mishra shrewdly narrows in on the moment when the eminent American public intellectual “Walter Lippmann worried that the promise of private wealth creation was a weak moral basis for a national community. For many mid-century thinkers, nihilism, a catastrophic breakdown of faith in national ideology and institutions that had occurred in Europe, was also a possibility in America”. Mishra’s conclusion...

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Michelle Obama Offers Great Question To Ask Trump: ‘What Is Wrong With You?’ (VIDEO)

by Jon Queally – After seeing one of her signature efforts go backwards under new Republican administration, former First Lady wants to know, ‘Why don’t you want our kids to have good food at school?’ With her focus on nutritious foods and making sure access to them was expanded to all children in the nation during her time in the White House, former first lady Michelle Obama is asking some serious questions now that President Donald Trump has moved to go backwards on efforts designed to promote healthier school lunches and reduce childhood obesity. Just months after former president Barack Obama left office, as Common Dreams reported earlier this month, the Trump administration issued orders that weakened standards set by the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act,” which Ms. Obama championed and her husband signed into law in 2010. The Obama-era statute repealed by Trump had set guidelines and added funding that would...

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20 AGs Demand Immediate Appointment of Special Prosecutor for Russia Probe

by Andrea Germanos – ‘We urge you to consider the damage to our democratic system of any attempts by the administration to derail and delegitimize the investigations,’ group writes. Following President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey, 20 state attorneys general have added their voices to the chorus and called for an independent special prosecutor to probe alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The letter (pdf), dated May 11 and addressed to U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (as Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself), refers to Comey’s dismissal “in the middle of his investigation” of such interference “a violation of the public trust.” The letter reads: As the chief law enforcement officers of our respective states, we view the President’s firing of FBI Director James Comey in the middle of his investigation of Russian interference in the presidential election as a violation of the public trust....

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Fired and Smeared by Trump, Comey Wants to Talk Under Oath… and ‘In Public’

by Jon Queally – What consequences await the U.S. president if ousted FBI director gets ‘day in front of the entire political world to tell his story under oath in front of a congressional committee’? Though James Comey, the former director of the FBI whose firing by President Donald Trump sparked political uproar this week, has reportedly declined an invitation to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee behind closed doors about his controversial ouster, he is reportedly willing to answer lawmakers’ questions in open session if given the opportunity. The New York Times on Saturday, citing a close associate of Comey, reports the former director “is willing to testify, but wants it to be in public.” Comey’s version of events when it comes to meetings and conversations he had with Trump have now taken on new significance after the White House’s shifting narrative on the reason for his firing was compounded...

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Five Truths About Voter Suppression

by Connor Maxwell and Danielle Root – The United States has a troubled history of voter suppression. Prior to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, many states used policies such as poll taxes and literacy tests to prevent African-Americans from voting. Even after the voting barriers of the Jim Crow era were removed more than 50 years ago, some lawmakers continue to pursue policies that would undermine our nation’s progress. Under the guise of tackling voter fraud, 14 states adopted measures to restrict voting ahead of the 2016 election. These measures, including strict voter ID requirements and reductions in early voting opportunities and polling places, created barriers for tens of thousands of low-income citizens and citizens of color. Alarmingly, five of the 14 states have a history of racial discrimination in voting and previously had to seek federal approval before changing their voting laws and procedures. Even though...

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Trump Wants Anti-immigrant Hardliner Kris Kobach to Prove His Lies About ‘Voter Fraud’

by Alan Pyke – He’s forming a commission to “investigate” his claim that he really won the popular vote because 3 million ballots were fraudulent. The notorious anti-immigration vote-suppression specialist Kris Kobach will join the President Donald Trumps’s new commission on election integrity, White House staff announced Thursday. The Kansas Secretary of State and longtime immigration consigliere to national Republicans will be second to Vice President Mike Pence, the panel’s official chairman. Trump has promised for months to create a standing body that will investigate his oft-repeated lie that 3 million people voted illegally in the 2016 election. The exact shape of that body and the identities of its members — save for Pence — have been a mystery until today. For a president bent on finding some kind of proof for his absurd, innumerate claims about voter fraud, Kobach is both a natural choice and a doomed one. Kobach has made similar claims himself,...

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National Pro-Choice Defenders ‘Terrified’ of This Latest Ploy to Attack Planned Parenthood

by Nika Knight – “We’re all terrified. This is really huge, if they let Texas do this.” Texas is moving forward with an unprecedented and bold request to the federal government: the state wants federal money to help it strip all public funding from Planned Parenthood. If Texas is successful, other states are likely to follow suit. “We’re all terrified,” Elizabeth Nash, senior state issue manager at the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute, told the Guardian. “This is really huge, if they let Texas do this.” The state is requesting funds for its “Healthy Texas Women” program, a state-run health program created after the Obama administration withdrew federal family planning funds from Texas for its efforts to illegally block federal Medicaid funds from Planned Parenthood. Healthy Texas Women is a family planning program that doesn’t provide abortions, and critics have charged that it inadequately replaces other Planned Parenthood services as well. The Guardian...

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Did Donald Trump Just Write His Own Articles of Impeachment? (VIDEO)

by Judd Legum – A moment of radical honesty. President Donald Trump had the legal authority to fire FBI director James Comey. But if Trump’s intention in so doing was to impede the investigation into his campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia then it could constitute obstruction of justice, an impeachable offense, legal experts told ThinkProgress earlier this week. But establishing that Comey’s firing was obstruction of justice involves proving Trump’s state of mind. That’s very difficult to do. If, as Trump claimed in his letter, he fired Comey because of his misconduct during the Clinton email investigation, that would be perfectly legal. If Trump really was trying to protect himself or his allies, that would be a “corrupt purpose.” That’s why Trump’s interview with NBC’s Lester Holt is so extraordinary. Trump told Holt that “when I decided to do it, I said to myself… this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is...

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Time Interview With Donald Trump Isn’t Just Revealing—it’s Horrifying

by Mark Sumner – Warning: Readers who already looked at portions of Donald Trump’s The Economist interview may have reached or exceeded their gibberish exposure level for the day. If that’s the case … oh, read this anyway. It’s too late for all of us. What follows are 100 percent real excerpts from Donald Trump’s conversation with Time magazine reporters Nancy Gibbs, Michael Sherer, and Zeke Miller on the subject of “what it means to be president.” Trump: I find the job very natural for me. I find–it’s a very big job obviously, there’s no job big like this. No job is important like this. But I think some of the–I just think it’s something that works for me, it feels very natural to me. And all I said, the job, it is, it’s a difficult job but it’s a job that I find to be–I love doing it. I love helping people. Mike...

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James Clapper Destroys Trump’s Favorite Talking Point About the Russia Investigation

by Aaron Rupar – Correcting the record, once and for all. On Friday morning, as President Trump faced withering scrutiny for his decision to fire the FBI director while his campaign is under FBI investigation, Trump took to Twitter to reiterate the talking point he deploys whenever the topic of his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia comes up. Donald J. Trump  ✔@realDonaldTrump When James Clapper himself, and virtually everyone else with knowledge of the witch hunt, says there is no collusion, when does it end? 8:54 AM – 12 May 2017 This talking point — that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said there was “no evidence” of Trump campaign-Russia collusion — was debunked during a Senate hearing on Monday featuring testimony from Clapper and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates. Trump should’ve known better by Friday. But early Friday afternoon, MSNBC had Clapper on to explain, once and for all, why Trump’s tweet is...

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In a Time of Madness, Sally Yates Is a Profile in Courage

by MICHAEL WINSHIP – The fired acting attorney general proved this week that there are still a few in Washington who believe in truth and the law. Let us now praise a class act. Amidst the turmoil of another chaotic week in Trump world, the Comey firing and a pandemic of Washington spinelessness, there was a certain righteous symmetry that occurred Sunday night and Monday afternoon. On Sunday, former President Barack Obama received the 2017 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award from the Kennedy Presidential Library Foundation. In his acceptance speech, Obama reflected on those public servants who, in the face of opposition, hold onto their principles and somehow keep alive their resolve, he said: “… To maintain a reputation for integrity that is stronger than a desire to maintain office, a conscience, personal standard of ethics, integrity, morality that is stronger than the pressures of public disapproval or party...

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Are We Monsters?

by NEAL GABLER – We are a failed country because we have lost our compassion and sense of community. Warner Brothers and Universal have both been dusting off an inventory of classic monsters — King Kong, Godzilla, The Mummy, The Wolf Man, etc. — which prompted New York Times film critics Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott to speculate whether this was a reaction to a contemporary America, where monstrousness now seems to run rampant. When you add a film like the mega hit Get Out, about human monsters, you get the feeling that maybe Hollywood is onto something. Monster films have always dealt with anxieties — the Depression in the ‘30s, the Soviet threat and nuclear threat in the ’50s, technological change in the ‘60s and ’70s. But today, the  danger is different. Today the danger is us. Are we monsters? I know it is a distinctly odd question to ask, the...

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Sessions Strips Federal Prosecutors of Flexibility, Demands Harshest Sentences in All Drug Cases

by Alan Pyke – The move puts prosecutors back in a straitjacket they had only just begun to loosen. Federal prosecutors should resume the old practice of pursuing the sternest possible charges and longest available sentences for all drug crime suspects, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered on Friday. The new instructions reverse a memo issued in 2013 by then-Attorney General Eric Holder which sought to radically change America’s prison problem through simple changes to prosecutor behavior. Holder had ordered U.S. attorneys to drop the across-the-board tough-guy act Sessions is reviving and instead reserve the harshest sentencing enhancements and multi-layered indictments available in the law for offenders with clear links to violent crime and organized criminal syndicates. The aim was to end a common absurdity in American law enforcement: small-time drug busts that lead to decades-long prison terms for people who do not fit the profile of a dangerous, hardened criminal. The old...

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Deputy Attorney General Pissed; Trump Ordered Him To Find Reason To Fire Comey

by Sarah – Just when you think you’re starting to figure out what happened with James Comey getting fired from the FBI, another tidbit of information comes out and turns the whole thing on its head once again. In a new twist, Donald Trump knew that Comey reported directly to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. So, in an effort to move things along with Comey, he had them come to the White House. According to The Washington Post: “The president already had decided to fire Comey, according to this person. But in the meeting, several White House officials said Trump gave Sessions and Rosenstein a directive: to explain in writing the case against Comey.” And we all know what happened next. The memos were written by all parties and made public pretty fast. Faster than Comey could even become aware he was fired. Here’s the...

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Vermont Legislature Becomes First in Nation to Legalize Recreational Marijuana

by Mike Riggs – Bill now heads to Gov. Phil Scott. The Vermont House passed legislation today that would remove all criminal and civil penalties for adults over 21 who possess one ounce or less of marijuana, making Vermont the first state in the nation to pass a legalization measure through its legislature rather than by ballot initiative. The law, passed by the Vermont Senate earlier this month, would also allow adults to grow their own plants. It does not allow for taxation and regulation, which means no selling and no buying. If Vermont Gov. Phil Scott signs the legislation, a prohibition on public consumption would also remain in place. “I’ll take a look at the bill, but I’ve been pretty clear I’d like to see some improvements to ensure a structure in place to protect public safety in Vermont,” Scott told MyNBC5. He also said the bill is not “a...

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Comey’s Dismissal Shows Trump Is Really Bad at Cover-Ups

by Jacob Sullum – The president’s ham-handed efforts to stifle interest in Russia’s election meddling have only drawn more attention to it. Donald Trump’s official reason for dismissing FBI Director James Comey is transparently phony, and there is strong circumstantial evidence that the real reason had something to do with the FBI’s investigation of Russian attempts to influence the presidential election. That likelihood should trouble anyone who values the rule of law, since it looks like Trump is trying to impede an investigation that could prove embarrassing, politically damaging, or even legally perilous for him. But talk of a “constitutional crisis” is more than a little premature. So far Trump has acted within his legal authority, albeit with questionable motives, and he cannot unilaterally block inquiries into Russia’s election meddling. To the contrary, he has only succeeded at stimulating interest in the issue. Based on the accounts of unnamed administration insiders...

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States Have Green Light to Drug Test the Unemployed

by Bryce Covert – An Obama-era rule that restricted drug testing for unemployment insurance is now history. Since the 1960s, federal law has banned states from drug testing jobless people who apply for unemployment benefits. After the recession, however, Republicans wanted to allow states to institute tests for the benefits. They’ve gotten their wish. On Wednesday, the Department of Labor (DOL) officially did away with a regulation it had issued under President Obama that sharply limited states’ ability to implement drug tests. Earlier this year, Congress voted to use the Congressional Review Act to undo the rule issued by the Obama administration in 2012 that kept any potential drug testing of those who apply for unemployment insurance very narrow. President Trump signed Congress’ repeal measure into law in March, and the final step was the DOL removing it from public record. Now Congress is free to either write its own rule or...

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Sessions’ History Proves Corruption, Chaos—and That He Shouldn’t be Allowed Anywhere Near the DOJ

by Kelly Macias – If what he did in Alabama is any indication of the future, we should all be really and truly terrified about what Attorney General Jeff Sessions is about to do at the Department of Justice. We already know that when he was a U.S. attorney, he brought a case against the “Marion Three,” black activists that he charged with election fraud for assisting elderly black citizens with absentee voting ballots—along with trying to impose a sentence for that “crime” of nearly 200 years in prison. And we also know that he fought against equitable school funding for poor school children. And then, of course, there’s his obvious racism and blatant disdain for anything related to civil rights. But evidence also demonstrates that he’s also incredibly unethical and corrupt—and completely unapologetic about it. Sessions presented himself as a crusader against graft, frequently prosecuting Mobile officials, often Democrats, who were still dominant in the 1980s.  But the flimsy...

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A Shameless GOP and the Moral Travesty of Trumpcare

by Robert Reich – Shame on every one of the 217 Republicans who last Thursday voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and substitute basically nothing. Trumpcare isn’t a replacement of the Affordable Care Act. It’s a transfer from the sick and poor to the rich and healthy. The losers are some 24 million Americans who under the Affordable Care Act get subsidies to afford health insurance coverage, including millions of people with pre-existing conditions and poor people who had access to Medicaid, who may not be able to afford insurance in the future. The winners are wealthy Americans who will now get a tax cut because they won’t have to pay to fund the Affordable Care Act, and healthy people who won’t have to buy health insurance to subsidize the sick. House Republicans say they have protected people with pre-existing health problems. Baloney. Sick people could be charged premiums so...

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Dan Rather: Future Generations May Mark Today as One of the Darkest Days in American History

by Leslie Salzillo – Legendary journalist, author and newsman Dan Rather covered former President Richard Nixon’s resignation during the Watergate scandal back in the 70s. Over the last couple of years, Rather has become quite vocal on social media, specifically on Facebook. Once reality show host Donald Trump cast himself as a Republican presidential candidate, Rather became even more prolific in his commentary and in voicing his apprehension about the dangers he saw in Trump. Rather has often expressed the belief that the American people are now witnessing another political scandal with Trump that could very well supersede Nixon/Watergate. After Tuesday afternoon’s announcement by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, stating the FBI Director James Comey had been fired by Trump, there has been great speculation about the motives behind the action, especially given that James Comey was heavily investigating Donald Trump for Russian collusion and corruption during the 2016 election year. The question now is, where will that investigation...

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The 2020 Census is in Big Trouble

by Bryce Covert – The Census Bureau’s leader just stepped down just as it faces a huge funding crunch. The Census Bureau now has no leader after John Thompson resigned from his position as director on Tuesday. His resignation comes at a critical time as the agency gears up to conduct the 2020 Census — and was already facing big funding problems. The Census counts every person in the country, data that is used to allocate government resources to different states and localities, offer insight to businesses deciding on where to invest, and redraw congressional districts. The effects of unreliable or incomplete data could be devastating. Thompson had been Census director since 2013 and had 27 years of previous experience working in the bureau before that. His term expired at the end of last year but he was given a one-year extension to oversee preparations for the 2020 Census. The kind of experience he...

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We Must Have a Special Prosecutor

by Bill Moyers, Michael Winship – The firing of FBI Director James Comey makes an independent investigation of Trump and Russia more important than ever. So Donald Trump fired James Comey because the FBI director mistreated Hillary Clinton last summer over her use of private emails. Stop laughing. Trump takes us for chumps. The Republic is nothing to him but a crap game. And he loads the dice. In this case, he signs the letter dismissing Comey and hands it to his personal bodyguard to take over to the FBI office. But Comey isn’t there. He’s in Los Angeles, where he will hear on television that he has been dumped — and at first think it’s a practical joke. We are not making this up. Hardly 24 hours has passed since Sally Q. Yates, the former acting attorney general who in late January also was fired by Trump, testified before a...

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“Corruption, Plain and Simple”: Kushner Visa Scandal Snowballs

by Lauren McCauley – While the White House hides behind more alternative facts, the outrage has seemingly multiplied. The latest White House scandal over the president’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner benefiting from the recent extension of the so-called “golden visa” program continues to dog the administration, despite its best efforts to brush it aside. The New York Times on Monday revealed that buried deep (pdf) into the spending package signed by U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday was “one sentence that brought a potential benefit to the president’s extended family: renewal of a program offering permanent residence in the United States to affluent foreigners investing money in real estate projects here.” The EB-5 immigrant investor visa program, also known as the “golden visa,” was part of the controversial sales pitch made by Kushner’s family over the weekend to Chinese business people, who were asked to invest $500,000 in the...

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Reporter Arrested for Asking Tom Price if Domestic Violence is a Pre-existing Condition

by Alan Pyke – A $5,000 bond and potential six-month jail term await, just like the First Amendment says. A reporter has been arrested for pressing Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to say whether or not the Trump health care bill would make it harder for domestic violence survivors to obtain insurance. West Virginia police arrested Dan Heyman at the state capitol Tuesday as he walked with Price and White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, holding a recorder out and asking Price repeatedly about claims that insurers could refuse to serve survivors of familial abuse. That claim is based on inference from the bill’s provision allowing states to abandon consumer protections from Obamacare with federal permission. Heyman had sought out Price on his way into the capitol. “At some point, I think decided I was too persistent in asking this question and trying to do my job, so they...

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Turkey Condemns US Move to Arm Syrian Kurdish Fighters

Officials criticise Trump’s decision to arm YPG units in battle for Raqqa against ISIL as US tries to reassure Ankara. Turkey’s top officials have sharply criticised a decision by the United States to arm Kurdish fighters battling ISIL in Syria – with Washington responding that it will address Ankara’s security concerns. Dana White, the Pentagon’s chief spokeswoman, said in a written statement on Tuesday that President   Donald Trump decided to “equip Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as necessary to ensure a clear victory” against ISIL in Raqqa, the group’s self-declared capital in Syria. Turkey views the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG), a central part of SDF, as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought the state in the southeast of Turkey since 1984 and is considered a “terrorist group” by the US and EU. Turkish President  Recep Tayyip Erdogan said...

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The Two Things You Need to Know About the Comey Firing

by Ian Millhiser – Trump is an authoritarian. But Comey is a rank incompetent. There are two things you need to know about Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey. The first is that Trump has authoritarian tendencies and little regard for the Constitution or for constitutional governance in general. His stated reasons for firing Comey are almost certainly a pretext. Trump is now likely to name a replacement who will shut down the FBI’s investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia. The other thing you need to know is that Comey was an egregiously incompetent FBI Director. The official chain of events that led to Comey’s firing are that, sometime on Tuesday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein sent a memo to Attorney General Jeff Sessions laying out the case against the former FBI Director. Sessions then wrote Trump endorsing Rosenstein’s conclusions and recommending Comey’s removal. Trump then sent...

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Time for a Trump Carnage Index

by Betsy Hartmann – In his book Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic, psychiatrist James Gilligan describes structural violence as “the increased rates of death and disability suffered by those who occupy the bottom rungs of society, as contrasted with the relatively lower death rates experienced by those who are above them.” By that definition, the Republican repeal and replace of Obamacare in the House of Representatives on Thursday was an act of violence. The victors’ gloating made the spectacle all the more hideous. The House bill sets in motion the gutting of Medicaid, on which 74 million poor, disabled and elderly people depend, the demise of guaranteed coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, and the retrenchment of insurance subsidies for needy individuals and families. It allows states to ditch the requirement that insurers cover essential services such as maternity care. In a further attack on poor women, it defunds Planned...

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