Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Last Call For Russian To Judgment, Con't

The Trump/Russia story is rapidly becoming the Trump/Russia cover-up, and the guy at the heart of the attempt to stonewall on evidence is once again GOP Rep. Devin Nunes, the current House Intelligence Committee chair.  Last week, Nunes abruptly canceled Intel committee hearings scheduled for today that were supposed to include testimony from, among other witnesses, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates.  Now we find out the Trump Regime may very well have directed Nunes to cancel those hearings as a last ditch effort to keep Yates from public testimony.

There was supposed to be a public hearing on Tuesday that could have shed important light on Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, including whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian operatives.

But House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) abruptly cancelled the hearing — which was scheduled to include former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, former DNI James Clapper, and former CIA Director John Brennan — late last week. Ranking member Adam Schiff (D-CA) called it an “attempt to choke off public info.”

Now, thanks to letters between Yates and the Justice Department reviewed by the Washington Post, it appears the Trump administration tried to prevent Yates from testifying about links between Russia and the Trump campaign.

The letters, sent earlier this month, said Yates could not testify at a congressional hearing about Trump’s potential association with Russia because the topics “are likely covered by the presidential communications privilege.” Justice Department officials recommended she consult with the White House when deciding what details to disclose to the Intelligence Committee.

The White House called the Post’s story “entirely false” in an unsigned statement.

Yates, while still acting attorney general, played a central role in the investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s discussions with the Russian ambassador, and his withholding of information from the Trump administration, before Trump asked for his resignation.

The White House is trying to pretend that it didn't take action to stop Yates from testifying about Trump/Russia connections she discovered, in particular involving recently fired National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.  Nevertheless, the same day that Yates's lawyer wrote back to the White House stating Yates's intent to testify, the hearing was cancelled by Nunes.

Democrats are continuing to blast Nunes and are calling for his resignation as House Intel Committee chair.

House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes’ announcement last week that officials from the transition team of President Donald Trump had been inadvertently surveilled by the U.S. intelligence community came at the behest of the White House, Rep. Eric Swalwell said Tuesday morning.

Nunes (R-Calif.) confirmed Monday that he had traveled to the White House to meet with his still-unnamed source on the day before he made his announcement but denied that the public disclosure was coordinated in any way with Trump administration officials. The White House, Nunes said in a CNN interview, simply served as a secure location for reviewing classified information and “I’m quite sure that I think people in the West Wing had no idea that I was there.”

But Swalwell (D-Calif.), also a member of the House Intelligence Committee, disputed the chairman’s argument Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “It’s not an internet cafe. You can’t just walk in and receive classified information,” Swalwell said of the White House, adding that when a member of Congress visits, “everyone in the building knows that you’re there in the building.”

This is done because the White House wanted it to be done,” the California Democrat said. “And this is what a cover-up to a crime looks like. We are watching it play out right now.”

If Nunes wanted to view classified materials, Swalwell said, there are secure facilities for doing so at the Capital, making a trip to the White House unnecessary. “If this was done the proper way, they could have brought it over, shared it with both parties of the committee,” he said.

Swalwell also wondered aloud why Nunes has been unwilling to share the source of his information when committee members have “always been on the same team up until now.”

That this looks bad for Nunes is a massive understatement, especially now that later this afternoon, Nunes declared that he would not be sharing his sources with the rest of the committee.

It really won't be too much longer I'd think.

Rolling Coal Rolling Over You

The Trump regime is putting an end to nearly all Obama-era climate measures today, and in the stroke of a pen, the United States becomes the largest single threat to the planet. We should be treated as such by the rest of the world, and for what benefit to the American economy?  Coal jobs are never coming back.

President Trump is expected to sign an executive order on Tuesday to roll back most of President Barack Obama’s climate change legacy, celebrating the move as a way to increase the nation’s “energy independence” and to restore thousands of lost coal mining jobs.

But energy economists say the expected order falls short of both of those goals — in part because the United States already largely relies on domestic sources for the coal and natural gas that fires most of the nation’s power plants.

“We don’t import coal,” said Robert Stavins, an energy economist at Harvard University. “So in terms of the Clean Power Plan, this has nothing to do with so-called energy independence whatsoever.”

Administration officials said the new order would direct the Environmental Protection Agency to start the legal process of withdrawing and rewriting the Clean Power Plan, Mr. Obama’s climate change policy. Scott Pruitt, the E.P.A. administrator, said in an interview on ABC News on Sunday that it will help the United States “be both pro-jobs and pro-environment” and described it as the “energy independence executive order.”

Yet, coal miners also should not assume their jobs will return if Trump’s regulations take effect.

The new order would mean that older coal plants that had been marked for closings would probably stay open, said Robert W. Godby, an energy economist at the University of Wyoming. That would extend the market demand for coal for up to a decade.

But even so, “the mines that are staying open are using more mechanization,” he said. “They’re not hiring people.”

So even if we saw an increase in coal production, we could see a decrease in coal jobs,” he said.

Of course, this administration doesn't give a damn about the environment, and given the massive cuts in regulatory ability to keep food, water, and the air safe under this regime, the damage will almost certainly be irreversible.

I suspect the rest of the world will not stand idly by.

Cause Of Death: Neglect

As the Trump regime has broadly hinted at since last week's epic meltdown of the Trumpcare bill in the House, Greg Sargent notes that Trump could very well let existing Obamacare provisions collapse through simple refusal to enforce them.

Now that the GOP plan to wipe out Obamacare lies in smoking ruins, President Trump is mulling a new and fiendishly clever scheme: allow the law to collapse, or even further undermine it through executive action, and pin the blame for the resulting human toll on Democrats. As it happens, Trump does have the tools to inflict immense damage on the Affordable Care Act and hurt a lot of people in the process.

But once you subject this strategy to a moment’s scrutiny, it becomes obvious that it will not bring about the result Trump wants. Indeed, the thinking here reflects a resolute refusal to appreciate an important reason the repeal effort melted down in the first place.

Over the weekend, Trump tweeted: “ObamaCare will explode and we will all get together and piece together a great healthcare plan for THE PEOPLE.” This reaffirmed what he’d said on Friday, which is that the law will soon “cease to exist” — that Democrats will own the fallout and will be desperate to deal. As many quickly pointed out, this suggested Trump may go further than merely standing by as the law supposedly implodes, as he had previously contemplated doing, and may seek to actively harm the law. On “Fox News Sunday,” Reince Priebus declined to divulge the strategy.

If Trump wants, he can unleash serious damage by undermining the individual markets in three ways. Insurers currently making decisions will closely scrutinize signs from the administration to gauge those markets’ long-term viability. His administration can weaken the individual mandate through various mechanisms, which would mean fewer younger and healthier people and higher premiums. It can pull back on all forms of outreach designed to get people to enroll on the marketplaces. Or it can stop paying “cost-sharing reductions” to insurance companies, which enable them to reduce out-of-pocket costs for lower-income enrollees, which may encourage insurers to flee the markets

But Sargent says that won't work.

One of the hidden morals of the Great Republican Health Care Crackup of 2017 is that the American people flatly rejected replacing the ACA with something substantially more regressive. The GOP plan would have cut Medicaid spending by $800 billion, leaving 14 million fewer people with Medicaid coverage, while delivering an enormous tax cut to the rich. Americans clearly disapproved of this outcome. A recent Quinnipiac poll found that a majority opposed the GOP plan, but more to the point, 74 percent of voters, including 54 percent of Republicans, opposed cutting Medicaid. The public broadly opposed the GOP plan’s most prominent mechanism for rolling back spending to cover poor people.

The rejection of the GOP plan is an important historical marker in our interminable health-care debate. The American people were presented with the first genuine effort at a GOP consensus ideological alternative to Obamacare — one that would do away with the ACA’s effort to guarantee free or affordable coverage through government spending and regulations — and decided they preferred sticking with the latter. The Quinnipiac poll also found that 51 percent oppose repeal and 61 percent disapprove of Trump’s handling of the issue. As Jonathan Cohn puts it, the ACA “has shifted the expectations of what government should do ― and of what a decent society looks like.” There are zero indications that Trump and GOP leaders are capable of acknowledging this possibility.

Where we go from here is up to Trump and the GOP still, but we now know that they, not the Democrats, will own the outcome.
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