Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Last Call For Russian To Judgment

The Senate investigation grows deeper as the focus shifts to former Trump national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn and now we learn from NBC News that this focus includes Flynn's son, Michael Jr. as well.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has requested documents and testimony from Michael G. Flynn, the son of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, but has not received a response, three sources familiar with the matter told NBC News. 
The committee, which is investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, is interested in Flynn’s work as his father’s aide and travel companion with Flynn Intel Group, the consulting firm retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn formed after he left government service, the sources said. 
Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, the intelligence committee chairman, and Sen. Mark Warner, of Virginia the ranking Democrat, declined to comment when asked about the matter Monday by NBC News. 
Michael G. Flynn’s lawyer, Barry Coburn, declined to comment. 
The younger Flynn, 34, accompanied his father on a 2015 trip to Moscow, where the elder Flynn sat next to Vladimir Putin at a dinner to celebrate Russia’s state-funded media network, RT. The younger Flynn can be seen in video from an associated event. 
Ultimately, the committee could issue a subpoena to Flynn if he doesn’t comply, but he could assert his right against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 
NBC News reported last month that the younger Flynn is a subject of the criminal and counterintelligence investigation being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is also interested in Flynn’s work with his father’s consulting business. 
Flynn responded on Twitter to the NBC News report, tweeting on Sept. 14: “I’m not the sub of any federal investigation.”

Mini Moscow Mike was already in Mueller's crosshairs, now the Senate wants him too.  The Flynns are neck deep in Putin's dirty business at this point and the only question in my mind, as with Paul Manafort, is how much damage they do to Trump before they go to prison.

I know, I know, that's when the pardons start coming in hot and heavy, but that leads to the Nixon road, and down that path is the end the of the GOP and a lot of unhappy billionaire donors.  We'll see where this goes but it's a race now to see who gets indicted first, the Flynns or Manafort.

Broken Bad, Or That's Not How Drug Czars Work

Over the weekend, both the Washington Post and CBS's 60 Minutes laid into Trump's nominee for drug czar, Rep. Tom Marino, for essentially writing a bill that made the DEA's job of tracking opioids and stopping massive shipments from drug companies impossible.

In April 2016, at the height of the deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. history, Congress effectively stripped the Drug Enforcement Administration of its most potent weapon against large drug companies suspected of spilling prescription narcotics onto the nation’s streets. 
By then, the opioid war had claimed 200,000 lives, more than three times the number of U.S. military deaths in the Vietnam War. Overdose deaths continue to rise. There is no end in sight. 
A handful of members of Congress, allied with the nation’s major drug distributors, prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to a more industry-friendly law, undermining efforts to stanch the flow of pain pills, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and “60 Minutes.” The DEA had opposed the effort for years. 
The law was the crowning achievement of a multifaceted campaign by the drug industry to weaken aggressive DEA enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies that were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market. The industry worked behind the scenes with lobbyists and key members of Congress, pouring more than a million dollars into their election campaigns
The chief advocate of the law that hobbled the DEA was Rep. Tom Marino,a Pennsylvania Republican who is now President Trump’s nominee to become the nation’s next drug czar. Marino spent years trying to move the law through Congress. It passed after Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) negotiated a final version with the DEA.

That was late Friday, followed with a devastating 60 Minutes piece on Sunday.  A DEA agent named Joe Rannazzisi who was fired from the DEA for criticizing Marino's bill as a deliberate effort to sink the DEA to help drug company profits blew the whistle on the department, in an interview with CBS's Bill Whitaker.

JOE RANNAZZISI: Addiction rate was still increasing. The amount of people seeking treatment was still increasing. It was all increasing. Still, the amount of prescriptions were increasing. And we started slowing down. 
As cases nearly ground to a halt at DEA, the drug industry began lobbying Congress for legislation that would destroy DEA's enforcement powers. That part of the story when we return. 
In 2013, Joe Rannazzisi and his DEA investigators were trying to crack down on big drug distributors that ship drugs to pharmacies across the country. He accused them of turning a blind eye as millions of prescription pain pills ended up on the black market. Then, a new threat surfaced on Capitol Hill. With the help of members of Congress, the drug industry began to quietly pave the way for legislation that essentially would strip the DEA of its most potent tool in fighting the spread of dangerous narcotics.

JOE RANNAZZISI: If I was gonna write a book about how to harm the United States with pharmaceuticals, the only thing I could think of that would immediately harm is to take the authority away from the investigative agency that is trying to enforce the Controlled Substances Act and the regulations implemented under the act. And that's what this bill did. 
The bill, introduced in the House by Pennsylvania Congressman Tom Marino and Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, was promoted as a way to ensure that patients had access to the pain medication they needed. 
Jonathan Novak, who worked in the DEA's legal office, says what the bill really did was strip the agency of its ability to immediately freeze suspicious shipments of prescription narcotics to keep drugs off U.S. streets -- what the DEA calls diversion.

That was Sunday. So now, Marino is out as the nation's direction of drug policy today, his nomination pulled.

Rep. Tom Marino has withdrawn from consideration as the White House’s pick for drug czar following a bombshell report that he championed a bill that hindered federal agents from going after the Big Pharma firms that flooded the country with addictive opioids. 
President Donald Trump made the announcement Tuesday morning on Twitter. 
“Rep.Tom Marino has informed me that he is withdrawing his name from consideration as drug czar,” Trump wrote. “Tom is a fine man and a great Congressman!”

Sure he's great.  But when Eric Holder warned that Marino's bill would make the opioid epidemic exponentially worse?

Obama did sign the bill but there was no debate in Congress.

Besides the sponsors and co-sponsors of the bill, few lawmakers knew the true impact the law would have. It sailed through Congress without debate and was passed by unanimous consent, a parliamentary procedure reserved for bills considered to be noncontroversial. The White House was equally unaware of the bill’s import when President Barack Obama signed it into law, according to interviews with former senior administration officials.

Marino pulled a fast one...and note that his partner in crime is Marsha Blackburn, running for retiring Tennessee Senator Bob Corker's seat.  Suddenly that race got a whole lot more interesting.

Trump's Uncaring Reality

If you had any doubts that Trump is operating in a zone where reality simply doesn't exist anymore, read John Marshall's transcript of Trump's remarks on Obamacare from Monday.

Health care is moving along. That was a subsidy to the insurance companies and a gift that was what they gave the insurance companies. Take a look at where their stock was when Obamacare was originally approved and what it is today. You will see numbers that if you invested in the stocks, you would be extremely happy. They have given them a total gift. They have given them — you can almost call it a pay off. It’s a disgrace. That money goes to the insurance companies. We want to take care of poor people and people that need help with health care.

I’m never going to get campaign contributions from the insurance companies, but take a look at how much money has been spent by the Democrats and by the health companies on politicians generally, but take a look at the coffers of the Democrats.

The CSR payments have actually brought Republicans and Democrats together. We got calls, emergency calls from the Democrats and I think probably the Republicans were also calling them saying let’s come up with at least a short-term fix of health care in this country. And the gravy train ended the day I knocked the insurance companies’ money. Which was last week. Hundred of millions of dollars handed to the insurance companies for very little reason. Believe me. I want the money to go to the people, to poor people that need it. Not to insurance companies which is where it’s going, as of last week I ended that. We have a lot of interesting things to do. I’m meeting with Mitch McConnell for lunch and we will say a few words after that.

We need health care. We’re going to get the health care done. In my opinion what’s happening is as we meet Republicans are meeting with Democrats because of what I did with the CSR. I cutoff the gravy train. If I didn’t cut the CSRs, they wouldn’t be meeting. They would be having lunch and enjoying themselves. They are right now having emergency meetings to get a short-term fix of health care. Where premiums don’t have to double and triple every year like they’ve been doing under Obamacare. Because Obamacare is finished. It’s dead. It’s gone. You shouldn’t even mention it. It’s gone. There is no such thing as Obamacare anymore. I said this years ago. It’s a concept that couldn’t have worked. In its best days it couldn’t have worked.

Donald Trump believes he is saving the country from mean ol' insurance companies and that he will be celebrated as one of the greatest presidents in history for saving America from Obamacare. He considers it dead, he considers the battle won, that we'll shower him with praise for unraveling the insurance markets by ending CSR subsidies.

He's bonkers. As Ezra Klein notes, Trump couldn't be doing a better job of sabotaging himself.

President Donald Trump's cancellation of Obamacare’s cost-sharing reduction paymentswill increase premiums by 20 percent, cost the government $194 billion in higher subsidy payments, widen the deficit, destabilize insurance markets, increase the number of uninsured Americans, and cause chaos in health markets in the runup to the 2018 election. There is literally nothing in the health care system it makes better; it's pure policy nihilism. So why did Trump do it?

One theory goes that Trump does not believe the payments are constitutional when made in the absence of congressional authorization. This is a widely held view among Republicans, and it has received some affirmation from the courts. But coming in a week when Trump called freedom of the press “disgusting” and mused about yanking NBC’s broadcasting license in retaliation for a story he didn’t like, it has been a hard argument for advocates to make with a straight face. The other problem with this view is that Trump is not pushing Congress to authorize the payments and end any doubt over their legality — he is simply canceling them.

Which brings us to the second theory, which comes from Trump himself and is more plausible. Trump has long held the view that if he can inflict sufficient damage to the Affordable Care Act, Democrats will have no choice but to cut a deal — on Trump’s terms — to save it.

Except as a whole hell of a lot of people have pointed out Trump doesn't need the Democrats to do a damn thing to repeal Obamacare.  He needs Mitch McConnell, not Chuck Schumer, and the GOP still can't get that done.

So now Trump is convinced that in order to stop Trump from destroying health care coverage for millions of Americans, Democrats will help him and vote to take health care coverage away from tens of millions of people, because this is all the fault of Democrats.

Like I said, bonkers.


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