Monday, March 20, 2017

Last Call For Russian To Judgment, Con't

Today's House Intelligence Committee hearing with FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers did not disappoint.  The five big takeaways:

  1. Comey and Rogers both ended any credibility of Trump's claims he was wiretapped by Obama.  Both men straight up said that Trump Tower was not wiretapped, and Rogers confirmed that the Brits were definitely not brought on board to spy on Trump.  It also means Trump is an inveterate liar, and the whiff of outright panic is beginning to emanate from the White House at this point.
  2. Comey confirmed that the Russians influenced the 2016 elections towards Trump in order to hurt Clinton. Again, this wasn't vote-flipping and hacking, but rather disinformation and leaks.  This investigation is still ongoing, but at this point Comey feels comfortable enough to say outright that Russia was not only anti-Clinton, but pro-Trump.  And that leads us to the big one:
  3. Comey admitted that there is an investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.  That's the big one folks, treason is a nasty crime and the FBI is indeed looking into whether or not people in the Trump camp were playing footsie with Vlad Putin and the Russians.  There are certainly a lot of suspects: Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, but don't forget Trump himself, who has a decades-long relationship with Russia and its oligarchs.
  4. Republicans at the hearing ignored the Trump/Russia story in favor of grilling Comey and Rogers over leaks.  Rep. Devin Nunes, the GOP chair of the House Intel Committee, made a point of saying that while the FBI is investigating possible crimes, actual crimes of leaks have been committed, and all the Republicans wanted answers on that rather than the, you know, possible treason.
  5. Trey Gowdy went as far as accusing several Obama aides of being the leakers. Previous committee chair Rep. Trey Gowdy (of Benghazi! fame) directly asked Comey and Rogers if either thought a number of Obama aides had access to intelligence community reports on FISA suspects, i.e. any Russians that the NSA might have been looking into.  Mostly it was "I don't know" but the tactics were clearly trying to attack both the leaks themselves and the reporting of the leaks as an Obama conspiracy to undermine Trump.  (Why? Trump's doing an amazing job of undermining himself.)

So that's where things stand.  Frankly, Trump is in a lot of trouble right now, and he knows it. Republicans are running interference, but it's clear that trying to pull the fire alarm when the republic is in fact on fire isn't a crime. 

More on this from Reuters, CNN, Politico, NY Times, and WaPo.

Rand Betting On A Disaster

Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul tells the Lexington Herald-Leader that he'll not only skip tonight's Trump rally in Lexington to sell the AHCA, but that he expects the Trumpcare bill won't even pass the House, let alone the Senate, and that then the "real negotiations" will get underway.

Paul, R-Bowling Green, spoke to the St. Matthews Chamber of Commerce several hours before President Donald Trump was scheduled to tout the GOP plan to replace Obamacare Monday night in nearby Freedom Hall. 
Paul said he would not attend Trump’s rally, which is his first visit to Kentucky as president. 
“I have work to do in Washington,” Paul told reporters. In contrast, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is scheduled to welcome the president to Louisville. 
Paul has been at the forefront of opposition to the House GOP plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, calling the proposal “Obamacare lite.” 
The major problem with the House plan, Paul said, is its continued reliance on an individual insurance market. 
He said President Barack Obama tried to fix the individual insurance market by mandating insurance coverage, but not enough young people bought insurance.
“I want it gone,” Paul said of the individual market. 
In its place, Paul envisions a network of associations that individuals could join to get insurance coverage. 
“I would legalize the ability for you to join an association,” Paul said, noting that the St. Matthews Chamber of Commerce has an association health plan. 
“I would like to legalize that you could join with other chambers, national chambers and have an insurance association,” he said, predicting more people would have insurance at lower costs. 
Paul also advocated more use of health savings accounts, arguing they would also help lower costs. 
An audience member asked Paul if he would want to keep the popular provision in the Affordable Care Act that says people with pre-existing health conditions could not be denied health insurance. The GOP health plan contains the same protection. 
Paul responded by saying that joining an insurance group would take care of the problem. If a person does not do that, he said, Medicaid could be a back-up. 
“It’s capitalism that will bring down health care costs,” he said.

Of course Rand Paul is predicting that the bill won't get past the House, he really doesn't want to take a vote on this bill. It's why he's doing everything he can to rile up the House GOP Freedom Caucus to reject the bill before he's forced to vote on taking Medicaid away from 10% of Kentucky, or defying Trump in a state that he won by 16 points.

I'm not sure why Rand is in panic mode, he literally just won re-election in November and won't be up again until 2022 (and by then Trump will hopefully be long gone.)   But hey, the bill is pretty awful, and he knows it.

The stuff he's talking about replacing Obamacare with?  It has no chance, but clearly he thinks it will after the bill dies screaming in the House.

We'll see how true that is.

Read more here:

Not Just Kentucky, But Ohio Too

I know we've read a lot of stories about Obamacare here in Kentucky, where 440,000 stand to lose health coverage under the GOP bill.  But the story in Ohio is even worse, where a million people could end up with no coverage  John Kasich went with Medicaid expansion through an overwhelmingly GOP state legislature (and Lord knows they did everything they could to try to stop it) but now the reality of Obamacare repeal in this newly-minted Midwest Trump state is hitting home.

James Waltimire, a police officer on unpaid medical leave, has been going to the hospital in this small city twice a week for physical therapy after leg surgery, all of it paid for by Medicaid.

Mr. Waltimire, 54, was able to sign up for the government health insurance program last year because Ohio expanded it to cover more than 700,000 low-income adults under the Affordable Care Act. He voted for President Trump — in part because of Mr. Trump’s support for law enforcement — but is now worried about the Republican plan to effectively end the Medicaid expansion through legislation to repeal the health care law.

“Originally the president said he wasn’t going to do nothing to Medicaid,” Mr. Waltimire said the other day after a rehab session. “Now they say he wants to take $880 billion out of Medicaid. That’s going to affect a lot of people who can’t afford to get insurance.”

As Republicans in Washington grapple with how to meet their promise of undoing the greatest expansion of health care coverage since the Great Society, they are struggling with what may be an irreconcilable problem: bridging the vast gulf between the expectations of blue-collar voters like Mr. Waltimire who propelled Mr. Trump to the presidency, and longstanding party orthodoxy that it is not the federal government’s role to provide benefits to a wide swath of society.

If they push forward the House-drafted health bill, which could come to a vote as early as this coming week, Republicans may honor their vow to repeal what they derided as Obamacare, but also risk doing disproportionate harm to the older, working-class white voters who are increasingly vital to their electoral coalition.

Many of those voters live in small Midwestern cities like Defiance and neighboring Bryan, home of a candy company that makes Dum Dum lollipops but has moved many of its jobs to Mexico. Though unemployment is low in the region, where farmland stretches for miles between towns, the slow erosion of manufacturing has taken a toll, and “what’s left in our communities are lower-paying jobs,” said Dr. Neeraj Kanwal, the president of Defiance Regional Hospital.

The region has voted Republican in presidential contests for decades, but its support for Mr. Trump — he took 64 percent of the vote in Defiance County and an even larger share in most of the surrounding counties — was more resounding than for any candidate since Ronald Reagan. Yet many people here tend to have conflicting values that make repeal of the health law appealing on its face but ultimately hard to swallow.

“People in this community are very conservative. They struggle with the federal budget deficit, and they like the idea of personal responsibility,” said Phil Ennen, the president and chief executive of Community Hospitals and Wellness Centers, which has a 75-bed hospital in Bryan. “But at the same time, we have a lot of friends and family and neighbors who just don’t have a lot going for them. There is a population out there that needs Medicaid. That’s the dilemma.”

And yet most of the people who voted for Trump, if not every single one of them, bought the promise that Trump would never take Medicaid away from them, personally. 

But here we are.

Oh I don't feel sorry for them.  They gladly voted to take health care coverage away from those people who "didn't deserve it", anyone black or brown.  They knew what Trump was selling.  They just figured he wouldn't screw them over this early.

But again, here we are.  

Only now are people like Jim Waltmire asking questions. Only now are they showing up at town halls.  Only now are they worried about losing what Obama gave them.  Only now.  And the rest? They think Trump will fix it all for them.

When that doesn't happen, then what?


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