Let's go straight to Russia and the GOP. First: "RNC paid intel firm for Clinton dirt." So what, right? Well, they lied about it, a lot, and the firm lied about it, but now they're not, and the intelligence firm has ties to Russia and employs ex-KGB. So it's AND WE'RE OFF!
As for the investigation: "Nunes is asked if he got the info he briefed the White House on from the White House. He doesn't dismiss it." Because he says he can't comment. Except when he does. To Mr. Trump. And the press. Sometimes. Which leads into "Former counsel for the House intel committee explains just how screwed up Nunes' actions were today," by which I mean he is genuinely boggled. "Birth of the Biggest Lie" talks about Trump's attempts to claim He's The Real Victim Here. "FBI’s Russian-influence probe includes a look at Breitbart, InfoWars news sites" - to suggest that there isn't an international, co-linked movement to build ultra-rightist governments is nonsense; you can go watch it talk to itself on places like /pol/. It's right there, just like the attempt by the American fundamentalists to internationalise their anti-LGBT movement. But the question is how much money is involved where, of course.
Meanwhile, "Gunman in Ukraine kills Putin foe in attack denounced as ‘state terrorism’."
In other lies, "Read President Trump's Interview With TIME on Truth and Falsehoods," which prompted this quick response, "Donald Trump said 14 false things in an interview about how he says false things."
HEALTH CARE! What a clusterfuck. They're literally to a place where "Fewer Americans Would Be Insured With G.O.P. Plan Than With Simple Repeal." See also: "CBO releases new score for ObamaCare repeal bill" Spoilers: much less deficit reduction; no additional coverage. That's how badly they've screwed this up. "Late G.O.P. Proposal Could Mean Plans That Cover Aromatherapy but Not Chemotherapy" is pretty hilarious, by which I mean sad. "The AHCA Would Force New Moms on Medicaid to Find Work 60 Days After Labor" is sad, by which I mean just mean. "Trump pledged not to cut Medicaid. Is he keeping that promise?" HAHAHAHAHAHA no.
And, of course, he's going all-in: "Trump delivers ultimatum to House Republicans: Pass health-care measure on Friday or he’ll move on." The approval rate for their replacement is 17% and falling, and the last two times the Feds tried to change how health care worked, the ruling party took it in the shorts. Is this some kind of loyalty test? We'll see.
"The Life and Death Issue Ignored at Judge Gorsuch’s Confirmation Hearings" speaks for itself.
In corruption: "Mr. Trump Goes After Consumer Financial Protection Bureau" - he wants to fire the head and presumably not replace. Or replace, eventually. Or replace, by somebody who won't do anything. And today, "US Senate votes to let internet providers share your web browsing history without permission," which literally no one wants except the ISPs selling the data.
In cultural warfare news, "Rick Perry challenges election of Texas A&M’s first gay student body president, says it was ‘stolen’ in ‘name of diversity’". Sure. Cabinet members should be spending their time talking about student elections. That's important! But it is where FAGS are involved, I guess. Meanwhile, in Oklahoma? "Oklahoma Republican Says God Can Use Rape And Incest To 'Bring Beauty From Ashes'." Isn't that nice. I hope he's crushed by his own truck.
Good luck out there. This isn't even their final form.
----- 1 -----
Rick Perry challenges election of Texas A&M’s first gay student body president, says it was ‘stolen’ in ‘name of diversity’
By Katie Mettler | March 23 2017 | The Washington Post
Bobby Brooks, a junior at Texas A&M, made history this month when he
was elected as the university’s first openly gay student body
Nearly two decades prior, Rick Perry, also an A&M alumnus, made his own
bit of university history when he became the first Aggie to serve as
governor of Texas.
But for their shared school pride, these men and their accomplishments
had nothing to do with each other.
That changed Wednesday, when Perry, the country’s current energy
secretary, chose to plunge into campus politics, claiming publicly that
Brooks stole the election from another student.
That student, Robert McIntosh, is the son of a prominent Republican
fundraiser in Dallas who campaigned for Donald Trump during his
Perry’s accusation drew astounded responses from the university, Texas
lawmakers and a professor, who said it was “extraordinary” that a
federal official would involve himself in an issue as hyperlocal as
student government elections.
“Honestly, we were just surprised to see that the secretary of energy
would take the time to weigh in in detail,” Amy Smith, the school’s
senior vice president of marketing and communications, told the Texas
Tribune, “and we respectfully disagree with his assessment of what
Perry wrote in a lengthy commentary for the Houston Chronicle that he
was “deeply troubled” by the actions of A&M’s administration and
Student Government Association for overseeing what he viewed as an
engineered election that awarded victory to Brooks in a “quest for
McIntosh clinched the popular vote by 750 votes, but was disqualified
by the student election commissioner after accusations of voter
intimidation surfaced, reported the Battalion.
A&M’s judicial court — the university’s version of a student supreme
court — overturned McIntosh’s disqualification, ruling there wasn’t
sufficient evidence to prove he intimidated voters. But another charge,
that he failed to disclose financial information for glow sticks
briefly featured in a campaign video, was unanimously upheld, so his
disqualified status did not change.
Brooks, who came in second place in the election, was named the victor.
With a tone that resembled the same fury over “political correctness”
that boosted Trump, Perry insinuated in his commentary that McIntosh
was unfairly disqualified because his opponent was gay.
----- 2 -----
Read President Trump's Interview With TIME on Truth and Falsehoods
Interview by Michael Scherer | Transcription and edits, TIME Staff
23 March 2017 | 6:20 AM ET
[This is mostly to verify the "I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president, and you’re not" line]
President Trump spoke with TIME Washington Bureau Chief Michael Scherer on March 22 for a cover story about the way he has handled truth and falsehood in his career.
This is a transcript of the exchange, with some minor edits. The transcript does not include requests he made of his staff during the interview, or a comment he made after asking to go off the record.
I’m not saying—no, I’m not blaming. First of all, I put Mike Pompeo in. I put Senator Dan Coats in. These are great people. I think they are great people and they are going to, I have a lot of confidence in them. So hopefully things will straighten out. But I inherited a mess, I inherited a mess in so many ways. I inherited a mess in the Middle East, and a mess with North Korea, I inherited a mess with jobs, despite the statistics, you know, my statistics are even better, but they are not the real statistics because you have millions of people that can’t get a job, ok. And I inherited a mess on trade. I mean we have many, you can go up and down the ladder. But that’s the story. Hey look, in the mean time, I guess, I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president, and you’re not. You know. Say hello to everybody OK?
----- 3 -----
Late G.O.P. Proposal Could Mean Plans That Cover Aromatherapy but Not Chemotherapy
Margot Sanger-Katz | The New York Times | MARCH 23, 2017
Most Republicans in Congress prefer the type of health insurance market in which everyone could “choose the plan that’s right for them.”
Why should a 60-year-old man have to buy a plan that includes maternity benefits he’ll never use? (This is an example that comes up a lot.) In contrast, the Affordable Care Act includes a list of benefits that have to be in every plan, a reality that makes insurance comprehensive, but often costly.
Now, a group of conservative House members is trying to cut a deal to get those benefit requirements eliminated as part of the bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act moving through Congress. (The vote in the House is expected later today.)
But there are two main problems with stripping away minimum benefit rules. One is that the meaning of “health insurance” can start to become a little murky. The second is that, in a world in which no one has to offer maternity coverage, no insurance company wants to be the only one that offers it.
Mark Pauly, a professor of health care management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, who tends to favor market solutions in health care, said that while the Obamacare rules are “paternalistic,” it would be problematic to offer subsidies without standards. “If they’re going to offer a tax credit for people who are buying insurance, well, what is insurance?” he said, noting that you might end up with the government paying for plans that covered aromatherapy but not hospital care. “You have to specify what’s included.”
A proliferation of $1,995 plans that covered mostly aromatherapy could end up costing the federal government a lot more money than the current G.O.P. plan, since far more people would take advantage of tax credits to buy cheap products, even if they weren’t very valuable.
----- 4 -----
The AHCA Would Force New Moms on Medicaid to Find Work 60 Days After Labor
By Christina Cauterucci | Slate | March 22 2017
On Monday night, Paul Ryan attempted to lure more of his far-right Republican compadres on board with the GOP’s proposed health care plan with a set of changes to the bill. The so-called “manager’s amendment” makes the American Health Care Act a significantly more conservative proposal that would mean severe cuts to coverage for the poorest Americans.
The AHCA, which would replace the Affordable Care Act, already represented a sweeping rollback of women’s health care coverage—it effectively dismantles all insurance coverage for abortion; eliminates requirements of essential services to be covered under Medicaid; and defunds Planned Parenthood, a move 75 percent of Americans oppose. Monday’s amendment goes even further to restrict women’s access to lifesaving care, particularly if they’re unemployed. Health Affairs has a good, detailed description of how the amendment slashes coverage standards for people on Medicaid in general and children in particular, who make up a disproportionate chunk of Medicaid enrollees.
The worst provision in the manager’s amendment is a Medicaid work requirement that would allow states to revoke Medicaid coverage from new mothers who haven’t found a job within two months after giving birth. Medicaid currently offers essential resources for low-income women and their children, including screenings for postpartum depression, in-home educational visits, and check-ups, all of which help babies survive and mothers thrive. Forcing women to job hunt in the weeks immediately following her baby’s delivery—a crucial period for infant care and physical recovery—would be both shockingly cruel and counterproductive as public health policy. Even if Republicans don’t believe that every person deserves basic health care, regardless of income, they should recognize that the government has an interest in keeping children healthy. Healthy children become good students, responsible citizens, and productive workers. Cutting off health benefits from a mother in the first several weeks of her infant’s life sets both the mother and the infant up for a cascading set of impediments to physical and financial health.
----- 5 -----
Nunes is asked if he got the info he briefed the White House on from the White House. He doesn't dismiss it.
23 Mar 2017 | MSNBC | seen on the twitter account of justin kanew
----- 6 -----
Donald Trump said 14 false things in an interview about how he says false things
U.S. President Donald Trump spoke with TIME on Wednesday for a cover story on his penchant for falsehoods. He said a lot of falsehoods.
By Daniel Dale | Thu., March 23, 2017 The Toronto Star
U.S. President Donald Trump did an interview with TIME magazine on Wednesday to discuss the subject of his untruthfulness. In the interview, he vigorously denied that he is untruthful — and said at least 14 false things. (We’ll allow him some rhetorical license on a few others. For the Star’s complete list of his false claims as president, visit thestar.com/trumpcheck.)
----- 7 -----
The Life and Death Issue Ignored at Judge Gorsuch’s Confirmation Hearings
Liliana Segura | The Intercept | 2017-03-23
As Donald Trump stood in the East Room of the White House on January 31, congratulating himself for delivering “the very best judge in the country” for the U.S. Supreme Court, a man in Missouri was lying on a gurney, with lethal injection drugs entering his veins. The man, 37-year-old Mark Christeson, was declared dead minutes later, at 7:05 Central time. In Washington, Trump continued to speak, with Judge Neil Gorsuch and his wife now standing behind him. With much of the country tuned in to watch Trump’s much-hyped announcement that night, the execution in Missouri flew under the radar.
Convicted of a brutal rape and triple murder committed in 1998, Christeson was not someone likely to inspire widespread concern on any given evening. Yet his execution was a reminder of the kinds of cases Gorsuch would review if confirmed to the Supreme Court. Christeson — a lifelong victim of sexual abuse whose IQ hovered as low as 74 — was abandoned by his own post-conviction attorneys, who missed a crucial deadline to file his federal habeas appeal in 2005. When outside lawyers tried to step in to correct their gross neglect, courts blocked them at every turn. As Christeson’s execution approached, a group of former state and federal judges raised alarm about his case, filing multiple amicus briefs to his petitions before the Supreme Court. They warned that Christeson had received no “meaningful federal review” of his sentence. “When the stakes are this high, such failures unacceptably threaten the legitimacy of the judicial process,” the judges wrote. Christeson won a last-minute stay of execution in 2014, with the justices remanding his case back to the lower court. But the reprieve was fleeting. As with many on death row who turn to the Supreme Court for relief, Christeson was ultimately executed, the deep flaws with his case barely addressed, let alone corrected.
Yet Gorsuch seeks to join the Supreme Court at a time when the death penalty is in a state of chaos and decline. The issue has sparked some of the most contentious public moments on the bench in recent memory, and with good reason. For all the layers of legal precedent enveloping capital punishment, it is a tradition that has become increasingly hard to uphold, at least in any intellectually honest way. The Supreme Court’s most recent ruling on lethal injection, Glossip v. Gross, was simply embarrassing: After a heated oral argument in which the Oklahoma brazenly misled the justices, the 5-4 decision upheld an execution protocol that is the sloppiest of inventions, rooted in junk science, and peddled by a state notorious at the time for having recently carried out a dramatically botched execution. Glossip’s legacy has been short but grim. Oklahoma’s incompetence and deceit has been further exposed. Botched executions have continued apace. More surreal, the ruling has put people challenging their upcoming execution by lethal injection in the perverse position of having to propose better ways for the state to kill them, from the firing squad to the gas chamber. Add to this the fact that the named plaintiff in the case, Richard Glossip, is almost certainly an innocent man, and the result is a perfectly hideous portrait of our modern-day death penalty system. It was Glossip that inspired Justice Stephen Breyer’s extraordinary dissent listing the myriad the death penalty itself is constitutionally intolerable. More recently, Justice Sonia Sotomayor has questioned whether lethal injection is “our most cruel experiment yet.”
Glossip came up just once during Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing, in a brief question from Republican Sen. Jeff Flake. Does Glossip deserve the respect of precedent, he asked? “It does,” Gorsuch said, and that was it. That no senator thought to probe any further was a missed opportunity. In his 10 years serving on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Gorsuch presided over cases that embodied the pitfalls of capital punishment, and even helped pave the way for Glossip. A recent report by the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund highlighted two particular areas of concern. One is his complicity in upholding Oklahoma’s disastrous lethal injection regimen, which became the law of the land in Glossip. And the other is complicity in a more systemic problem throughout the criminal justice system: a pattern of favoring finality over fairness. Gorsuch, the LDF warns, has proven all too willing to apply the most rigid barriers for those seeking to challenge unfair sentences, including in capital cases. “Winning federal habeas relief from any judge is a challenge,” the LDF report notes. “Winning federal habeas relief from Judge Gorsuch is a near impossibility.”
----- 8 -----
Trump pledged not to cut Medicaid. Is he keeping that promise?
Dylan Scott @dylanlscott | STAT | March 23, 2017
WASHINGTON — It’s among his most famous campaign promises: Donald Trump pledged he would not cut Medicaid as president.
But the legislation that Trump has aggressively promoted, and that Congress is expected to vote on Thursday, appears to do exactly that. It would reduce Medicaid spending by hundreds of billions of dollars over 10 years, compared with current law, while dramatically altering the financing of a program that covers 70 million Americans.
Two outside experts — one critical of the GOP plan, another from a right-leaning think tank — sided with the CBO. This is a cut to Medicaid.
“The CBO analysis makes clear it is a cut,” Joan Alker, who studies Medicaid at Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families, said in an email.
Joe Antos, who studies Medicaid for the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, said it was pretty plainly a spending cut.
“By slowing Medicaid spending down, putting on the budget hat, it is a cut. They’re projecting some savings,” he told STAT. “It’s hard to deny that.”
----- 9 -----
Former counsel for the House intel committee explains just how screwed up Nunes' actions were today
22 March 2017 | MSNBC | Video posted on Judd Legum's twitter account
[A "complete breakdown of the oversight process"]
----- 10 -----
Oklahoma Republican Says God Can Use Rape And Incest To 'Bring Beauty From Ashes'
"The Lord uses all circumstances."
By Ed Mazza | Huffington Post | 03/23/2017
A Republican lawmaker in Oklahoma defending an anti-abortion bill claimed that rape and incest could be part of God’s will.
The bill by state Rep. George Faught would ban abortion due to genetic abnormalities or Down syndrome, with no exceptions for cases of rape and incest.
Democrats challenged him on that in a debate on the floor of the state’s House of Representatives.
“Is rape the will of God?” asked Rep. Cory Williams.
“If you read the Bible, there’s actually a couple circumstances where that happened and the Lord uses all circumstances,” Faught replied. “I mean, you can go down that path, but it’s a reality, unfortunately.”
“Is incest the will of God?” Williams asked.
“Same answer,” Faught replied. “Doesn’t deal with this bill.”
Williams fired back that his questions did deal with the bill.
“You won’t make any exceptions for rape, you won’t make any exceptions for incest in this and you are proffering divine intervention as the reason why you won’t do that,” he said. “I think it is very important. This body wants to know, myself personally, whether you believe rape and incest are actually the will of God.”
----- 11 -----
Mr. Trump Goes After Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD | The New York Times | MARCH 22, 2017
Shortly after Inauguration Day, the Trump camp indicated it had no immediate plan to fire Richard Cordray, the Obama-appointed director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, whose term runs until July 2018. The administration’s restraint was a welcome contrast to congressional Republicans’ unrelenting efforts to weaken the bureau, including calls to get rid of Mr. Cordray, an effective leader, on the ground that he had become a dictator.
Last week, however, the administration signaled it wanted to fire Mr. Cordray. Specifically, the Justice Department weighed in on a pending case in federal court that will decide how much power a president has to fire the bureau’s director. In its filing, the Justice Department has asserted that the director should be removable at the president’s will. That stance is consistent with an earlier 2-to-1 ruling by a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, but it is inconsistent with the Dodd-Frank financial reform law that created the bureau in 2010 and that says the director can be fired only for cause, defined as “inefficiency, neglect of duty or malfeasance.”
None of those criteria remotely describe Mr. Cordray’s work or the consumer bureau he helped to build. In the past five years, the bureau’s investigations and enforcement actions against banks and other lenders have returned nearly $12 billion to homeowners, students, servicemen and servicewomen, car buyers, credit card holders and other borrowers who were subject to abusive, deceptive or predatory practices. The bureau is now working on ways to regulate payday lending, where loans often end up impoverishing borrowers.
Mr. Cordray and the bureau have been doing what President Trump pledged to do in the campaign: protecting Americans from a system that has “robbed our working class.” So why would he want to fire Mr. Cordray? For one, Mr. Trump, despite his populist claims, has promised to dismantle the Dodd-Frank law, with the consumer bureau arguably the law’s most visible accomplishment. Second, the move may be part of a bigger power play.
----- 12 -----
Fewer Americans Would Be Insured With G.O.P. Plan Than With Simple Repeal
Margot Sanger-Katz | MARCH 21, 2017 | The New York Times
The Congressional Budget Office recently said that around 24 million fewer Americans would have health insurance in 2026 under the Republican repeal plan than if the current law stayed in place.
That loss was bigger than most experts anticipated, and led to a round of predictable laments from congressional Democrats — and less predictable ones from Republican senators, including Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and John Thune of South Dakota, who told reporters that the bill needed to be “more helpful” to low-income people who wanted insurance.
But one piece of context has gone little noticed: The Republican bill would actually result in more people being uninsured than if Obamacare were simply repealed. Getting rid of the major coverage provisions and regulations of Obamacare would cost 23 million Americans their health insurance, according to another recent C.B.O. report. In other words, one million more Americans would have health insurance with a clean repeal than with the Republican replacement plan, according to C.B.O. estimates.
----- 13 -----
Birth of the Biggest Lie
Charles M. Blow | Opinion | The New York Times | MARCH 23, 2017
A few things are clear after the congressional testimony of James Comey, the F.B.I. director, this week:
First, Donald Trump owes Barack Obama and the American people an apology for his vituperative lie that Obama committed a felony by wiretapping Trump Tower. It was specious, libelous and reckless, regardless of the weak revelations of “incidental collection” that the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and Trump transition team member Devin Nunes outrageously made public, briefing the president without first briefing his fellow committee members. Nunes’s announcement was a bombshell with no bomb, just enough mud in the water to obscure the blood in the water for those too willfully blind to discern the difference.
Second, Donald Trump will never apologize. Trump’s strategy for dealing with being caught in a lie is often to tell a bigger lie. He seems constitutionally incapable of registering what others would: shame, embarrassment, contrition. Something is broken in the man — definitely morally and possibly psychologically.
Third, and to me this is the biggest, Comey confirmed that the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to the Russians who tampered with our election is not “fake news” manufactured by Democrats stewing over a bitter loss but a legitimate investigation that has been underway for months and has no end in sight.
Individuals who were associated with the president of the United States’ winning campaign are under criminal investigation. That is an extraordinary sentence and one that no American can allow to be swallowed up by other news or dismissed by ideologues.
Depending on the outcome of this investigation, we could be facing a constitutional crisis. Oddly, it is likely that the reason Trump is even in the Oval Office is Comey’s original, extraordinarily inappropriate and unprecedented action. The Trump machinery then used that action to scare Americans about Clinton, in one of the most astonishing acts of deflection and hypocrisy in American history.
----- 14 -----
FBI’s Russian-influence probe includes a look at Breitbart, InfoWars news sites
By Peter Stone and Greg Gordon | March 20, 2017 | McClatchy
Federal investigators are examining whether far-right news sites played any role last year in a Russian cyber operation that dramatically widened the reach of news stories — some fictional — that favored Donald Trump’s presidential bid, two people familiar with the inquiry say.
Operatives for Russia appear to have strategically timed the computer commands, known as “bots,” to blitz social media with links to the pro-Trump stories at times when the billionaire businessman was on the defensive in his race against Democrat Hillary Clinton, these sources said.
The bots’ end products were largely millions of Twitter and Facebook posts carrying links to stories on conservative internet sites such as Breitbart News and InfoWars, as well as on the Kremlin-backed RT News and Sputnik News, the sources said. Some of the stories were false or mixed fact and fiction, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the bot attacks are part of an FBI-led investigation into a multifaceted Russian operation to influence last year’s elections.
Investigators examining the bot attacks are exploring whether the far-right news operations took any actions to assist Russia’s operatives. Their participation, however, wasn’t necessary for the bots to amplify their news through Twitter and Facebook.
----- 15 -----
US Senate votes to let internet providers share your web browsing history without permission
Just what no consumer asked for
by Jacob Kastrenakes | The Verge | Mar 23, 2017
The US Senate has voted to overturn consumer-friendly internet privacy rules that would have prevented internet providers from sharing your web browsing history without permission.
The privacy rules, passed last year by the FCC, required internet providers like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T to get each customer’s permission before sharing personal information like which websites they visit. But internet providers want to be able to sell that data and use it to target ads, so they’ve been vocal about opposing the rules since around the time President Trump took office.
This vote uses the Congressional Review Act, which lets Congress strike down recently passed rules by federal agencies, to block the FCC’s action. It now heads to the House, where it’ll need another vote before the rules are wiped out.
“This resolution is a direct attack on consumer rights, on privacy, on rules that afford basic protection against intrusive and illegal interference with consumers' use of social media sites and websites that often they talk for granted,” Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said in the Senate today ahead of the vote.
What makes this reversal particularly damaging is that it won’t just undo these privacy rules, but it’ll prevent the FCC from passing similar privacy rules in the future. That means that the FCC won’t be able to pass strict privacy rules again, even if opinions change in Congress.
----- 16 -----
Gunman in Ukraine kills Putin foe in attack denounced as ‘state terrorism’
By Andrew Roth and Natalie Gryvnak | March 23, 2017 | Washington Post
KIEV — A former Russian member of parliament who defected to Ukraine
and began sharply criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin was
gunned down Thursday in downtown Kiev in an apparent contract killing.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called the murder of Denis
Voronenkov, a former member of Russia’s Communist Party who fled to
Kiev in October 2016, an “act of state terrorism by Russia.”
A suspected assailant was arrested after Voronenkov was shot twice in
the head, dying on the spot. The suspect’s identity or other details
were not immediately made public. In Moscow, a Kremlin spokesman denied
Russian involvement in the killing.
But Russia’s critics were likely to draw parallels between the slaying
and the deaths of other Putin foes. It also will probably raise further
alarm in Washington, where Russia has come under scrutiny for allegedly
trying to influence the presidential election to aid Donald Trump.
In an interview with The Washington Post on Tuesday evening — less than
72 hours before his death — Voronenkov complained about anonymous
threats against him and his wife, Maria Maksakova, a former member of
the United Russia party founded by Putin, with whom he fled to Kiev
----- 17 -----
CBO releases new score for ObamaCare repeal bill
By Peter Sullivan - 03/23/17 - The Hill
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on Thursday released a new score for a revised plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare that Republican leaders are struggling to pass in the House.
The CBO found that this version of the healthcare plan contains significantly less deficit reduction than the original but would lead to essentially the same levels of coverage losses and premium increases.
The legislation would reduce the deficit by $150 billion over 10 years, down from $337 billion in the original legislation, the report said. The plan would still result in 24 million more people being uninsured in 2026, a finding that has been a rallying cry for Democrats.
Premiums would still initially rise by 15 percent to 20 percent before eventually becoming 10 percent lower, the CBO said.
GOP leaders had pledged that they would wait for the CBO's new score before holding a floor vote on the legislation. That vote could happen as early as Friday.
----- 18 -----
RNC paid intel firm for Clinton dirt
Firm started by ex-CIA officers initially denied probing Democratic presidential candidate.
By Kenneth P. Vogel and Eli Stokols | Politico | 03/23/17
As the general election was taking shape last summer, the Republican National Committee initiated a series of payments to a low-profile firm started by retired Central Intelligence Agency officers that worked closely with an ex-Russian spy.
The payments attracted attention in political and intelligence circles, largely because the Virginia-based firm, Hamilton Trading Group, had particular expertise in Russia, which was emerging as a major campaign issue at the time.
RNC officials and the president and co-founder of Hamilton Trading Group, an ex-CIA officer named Ben Wickham, insisted the payments, which eventually totaled $41,500, had nothing to do with Russia.
Instead, they initially claimed the payments were entirely for an assessment by Hamilton Trading Group of building security concerns at the RNC’s Capitol Hill headquarters.
But RNC officials now acknowledge that most of the cash — $34,100 — went towards intelligence-style reports that sought to prove conflicts of interest between Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State and her family’s foundation.
Adding to the intrigue are the firm’s intelligence connections in Russia, where it was known to perform background checks and provide security services for American officials and companies.
That work was handled by a former KGB agent named Gennady Vasilenko, a Cold War adversary-turned-friend of Wickham’s co-founder, Jack Platt, a retired CIA officer who passed away in January.
----- 19 -----
Trump delivers ultimatum to House Republicans: Pass health-care measure on Friday or he’ll move on
By Mike DeBonis and Juliet Eilperin | The Washington Post | March 23, 2017
President Trump delivered an ultimatum to House Republicans on Thursday night: Vote to approve the measure to overhaul the nation’s health-care system on the House floor Friday, or reject it and the president will move on to his other legislative priorities.
The president, through his aides in a closed-door meeting, signaled that the time for negotiations was over with rank-and-file Republicans who were meeting late at night on Capitol Hill to try to find common ground on the embattled package crafted by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.).
The move was a high-risk gamble for the president and the speaker, who have invested significant political capital in passing legislation that would replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act. For Trump, who campaigned as a skilled negotiator capable of forging a good deal on behalf of Americans, it could either vindicate or undercut one of his signature claims. If the measure fails, it would be a defeat for Trump in his first effort to help pass major legislation and it may also jeopardize other items on his wish list, including a tax overhaul and infrastructure spending.