Monday, May 22, 2017

Last Call For Russian To Judgment

So apparently fired FBI Director James Comey was not the only intelligence chief Trump went after in order to kill the Russia story, he asked Director of Intelligence Dan Coats and NSA head Adm. Mike Rogers as well to interfere.

President Trump asked two of the nation’s top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, according to current and former officials.

Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.

Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the requests, which they both deemed to be inappropriate, according to two current and two former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private communications with the president.

Trump sought the assistance of Coats and Rogers after FBI Director James B. Comey told the House Intelligence Committee on March 20 that the FBI was investigating “the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”

Trump’s conversation with Rogers was documented contemporaneously in an internal memo written by a senior NSA official, according to the officials. It is unclear if a similar memo was prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to document Trump’s conversation with Coats. Officials said such memos could be made available to both the special counsel now overseeing the Russia investigation and congressional investigators, who might explore whether Trump sought to impede the FBI’s work.

So yes, Trump asked both Coats and Rogers to lie for him, and they said "no".  From a legal standpoint, that's not good for him.  And speaking of Comey's memos by the way, those not only exist, but are in the hands of Russia probe special counsel Robert Mueller.

Robert Mueller -- the former FBI director now overseeing the Department of Justice's investigation into Russia's election-year meddling and contact with the Trump campaign -- has been briefed on the contents of some of the memos that former FBI Director James Comey kept to document his conversations with President Donald Trump, according to a person familiar with the matter.  
Additionally, he has already visited FBI headquarters, where he met with the counterintelligence agents who have been working on the case since last July, according to two people familiar with the matter. 
In one memo, Comey wrote that Trump asked him to end the FBI probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to a person familiar with the matter. 
One source added that part of Mueller's investigation is expected to focus on obstruction of justice. In that case, Comey would be a witness and Mueller will likely interview him as part of the probe.

Ahh, but it gets worse: Paul Manafort and Roger Stone are cooperating with the FBI. And Mike Flynn?  He's not.

Two former associates of President Trump — Paul Manafort and Roger Stone — have turned over documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee in its Russia investigation, a congressional source with direct knowledge told NBC News.

Earlier this month, the committee sent document requests to Manafort and Stone, as well as Carter Page and Mike Flynn, officials said previously. The requests sought information pertaining to dealings with Russia. Page has not yet complied, the congressional source said, and Flynn plans to assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination as a reason not to comply with a committee subpoena, a source close to him has said.

And all this is just another Monday in Trumpland.

Texas Does The Bathroom Bill

Apparently incapable of learning from the NC GOP's multi-billion dollar mistake, Texas Republicans are playing "hold my beer and watch this" with their last-minute efforts to specifically legalize discrimination against transgender kids in public schools.

The Texas House voted late Sunday on a bill that will keep transgender public school children from using the restroom that matches their gender identity.

The measure, a Republican deal on the “bathroom bill,” passed the GOP-dominated chamber by a vote of 91-50. It needs one more vote to officially pass the House. If the Senate agrees to the measure, and Gov. Greg Abbott doesn’t veto it, Texas will become the second state in the nation to pass such legislation.

Debate was emotional and divisive, with Democrats likening it to a Jim Crow-era attack on defenseless kids and Republicans insisting the measure did not single out or target anyone.

“America has long recognized that separate but equal is not equal at all,” said Rep. Senfronia Thompson, a Houston Democrat who has served in the House since 1972. “What’s wrong with treating kids with equality and not making them feel like they are second-class citizens?”

The measure would keep transgender kids from using multi-occupancy school bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity, unless no one else is present. If other children are around, they’d have to use a different, single-use restroom elsewhere in the school.

Currently, school districts and charter schools in Texas draw up their own plans for accommodating transgender students. Many tackle the issue on a case-by-case basis. After the vote Sunday, the Texas Association of School Boards called the measure a "a common-sense solution."

"The language captures in law a solution many districts already use locally, seeking a balance between ensuring privacy and security for all students and respecting the dignity of all students," TASB Assistant Director of Government Relations Dax González said in a prepared statement.

The bathroom language was amended onto another public school bill, one that requires schools to draw up natural disaster and emergency preparedness plans. Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, authored the amendment.

“There is absolutely no intent, and I would argue nothing in this language discriminates against anybody,” said Paddie. “We want to make sure we provide definitive guidance to our school districts.”

The fight over lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights this year has been particularly divisive in Texas. Lt. Gov Dan Patrick, who heads the Senate, began pushing a bathroom bill last year, but House Speaker Joe Straus has called the effort unnecessary and damaging to business.

With the session winding to a close May 29, Patrick threatened to hold the state budget and another must-pass bill hostage if the bathroom bill wasn't approved in the House. The bathroom measure that passed Sunday was the product of that ultimatum, a proposal more limited than Patrick wanted, but palatable enough to receive the backing of a majority of House Republicans.

Imagine being a state lawmaker holding an entire state budget just to get legislation to force transgender schoolkids to use the wrong bathroom.  That's the hill you choose to die on politically.  That's how much you hate transgender kids, in order to force the government to legalize and codify that hatred, an abuse of power over which bathroom kids use in schools.

Never come at me again with "big government keeps interfering in our lives", Texas Republicans.


Trump Gets Out The Budget Chainsaw

As has long been rumored Donald Trump's proposed 2018 budget is a fiscal bloodbath that will all but dismantle the country's social safety net with a staggering $1.7 trillion in spending cuts over ten years, nearly half of that to Medicaid alone.

President Trump’s first major budget proposal on Tuesday will include massive cuts to Medicaid and call for changes to anti-poverty programs that would give states new power to limit a range of benefits, people familiar with the planning said, despite growing unease in Congress about cutting the safety net.

For Medicaid, the state-federal program that provides health care to low-income Americans, Trump’s budget plan would follow through on a bill passed by House Republicans to cut more than $800 billion over 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that this could cut off Medicaid benefits for about 10 million people over the next decade.

The White House also will call for giving states more flexibility to impose work requirements for people in different kinds of anti-poverty programs, people familiar with the budget plan said, potentially leading to a flood of changes in states led by conservative governors. Many anti-poverty programs have elements that are run by both the states and federal government, and a federal order allowing states to stiffen work requirements “for able-bodied Americans” could have a broad impact in terms of limiting who can access anti-poverty payments — and for how long.

Numerous social-welfare programs grew after the financial crisis, leading to complaints from many Republicans that more should be done to shift people out of these programs and back into the workforce. Shortly after he was sworn in, Trump said, “We want to get our people off welfare and back to work. . . . It’s out of control.”

Trump’s decision to include the Medicaid cuts is significant because it shows he is rejecting calls from a number of Senate Republicans not to reverse the expansion of Medicaid that President Barack Obama achieved as part of the Affordable Care Act. The House has voted to cut the Medicaid funding, but Senate Republicans have signaled they are likely to start from scratch.

Ahh, but the other $900 billion in cuts will be coming from annihilating federal programs that Trump voters know, love, and use, especially in red states already facing budget shortfalls from state-level GOP austerity cuts.

The proposed changes include the big cuts to Medicaid. The White House also is expected to propose changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, though precise details couldn’t be learned. SNAP is the modern version of food stamps, and it swelled following the financial crisis as the Obama administration eased policies to make it easier for people to qualify for benefits. As the economy has improved, enrollment in the program hasn’t changed as much as many had forecast.

An average of 44 million people received SNAP benefits in 2016, down from a peak of 47 million in 2013. Just 28 million people received the benefits in 2008.

SNAP could be one of numerous programs impacted by changes in work requirements.

Josh Archambault, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability, a conservative think tank, said that giving states the flexibility to impose work requirements could lead to a raft of changes to programs ranging from Medicaid to public housing assistance.

“One of the encouraging things about putting this in the budget is that states will see if it works,” he said. “States will try it.”

Oh yes, states will try it. Imagine Kansas's budget crisis only with tens of billions more in federal cuts over the same two-year budget period to have to make up.  By shifting the austerity burden to states, which by law have to balance their budgets, Republicans in DC are targeting high-population blue states like California, New York and Illinois for the deepest cuts, but also big red states like Texas and Florida will be hurt too, along with Medicaid-expanding Ohio.

Trump is siding with the House GOP austerity caucus.  What the Senate will actually pass, and whether Trump will still sign it if he doesn't get everything he wants, is anyone's guess.


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