Tag Archives: republican

Reality Begins to Set in on Obamacare—For Both Sides

Mother Jones

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Reality is setting in:

For seven years, few issues have animated conservative voters as much as the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. But with President Barack Obama out of office, the debate over “Obamacare” is becoming less about “Obama” and more about “care” — greatly complicating the issue for Republican lawmakers.

….As liberals overwhelm congressional town hall-style meetings and deluge the Capitol phone system with pleas to protect the health law, there is no similar clamor for dismantling it, Mr. Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment. From deeply conservative districts in the South and the West to the more moderate parts of the Northeast, Republicans in Congress say there is significantly less intensity among opponents of the law than when Mr. Obama was in office.

Intensity is the key word here, since actual opinions about Obamacare don’t seem to have changed more than a eyelash over the past seven years:

But the intensity of opinion has changed. With Obama out of office, the Republican base doesn’t care as much. Hating Obamacare was mostly just a way of hating Obama. Likewise, the Democratic base cares more. They spent the past seven years griping about how weak Obamacare was—no public option, too friendly to insurance companies, subsidies too low, blah blah blah—under the apparent assumption that it didn’t matter that practically no one was passionately defending the law. With Trump in office, Democrats have finally figured out that it matters, and congressional phones are now ringing off the hook.

So reality has set in for everyone. The Republican rank-and-file has finally figured out they never really cared all that much about taxing the rich an extra three points to provide health care for everyone. The Democratic rank-and-file has finally figured out that Obamacare is a pretty good program and it’s worth fighting for.

But did we really have to elect Donald Trump to figure this out?

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Reality Begins to Set in on Obamacare—For Both Sides

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Here Are Your Highlights of Today’s Trump Press Meltdown

Mother Jones

Donald Trump went full Sarah Palin today at his press conference. It was glorious. I think you have to watch it to really get the full effect, but here are a few highlights.

First off, the word of the day is mess:

To be honest, I inherited a mess. It’s a mess. At home and abroad, a mess….I just want to let you know, I inherited a mess….ISIS has spread like cancer — another mess I inherited….And you look at Schumer and the mess that he’s got over there and they have nothing going.

Fact check: Delusional. Trump inherited an economy in pretty good shape. Crime has steadily decreased over the past decade. ISIS is losing ground and close to defeat. Illegal immigration has been stable for many years. Test scores for schoolkids are up. Fewer than a dozen American soldiers have died in combat in the past year. Obamacare has cut the number of people without health insurance almost in half. The budget deficit is down to 3 percent of GDP. After years of stagnation, wages are finally starting to go up. Unemployment and inflation are both low.

I put it out before the American people, got 306 electoral college votes….270 which you need, that was laughable. We got 306 because people came out and voted like they’ve never seen before so that’s the way it goes. I guess it was the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan.

Fact check: Also delusionial. He got 304 electoral votes, and Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, and Obama all did better.

We’ve begun preparing to repeal and replace Obamacare….I know you can say, oh, Obamacare. I mean, they fill up our rallies with people that you wonder how they get there, but they are not the Republican people our that representatives are representing.

Fact check: Plausible! Trump and the Republicans in Congress probably do think they represent only Republicans.

The leaks are real. You’re the one that wrote about them and reported them, I mean the leaks are real. You know what they said, you saw it and the leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake.

Fact check: Huh?

If the information coming from those leaks is real, then how can the stories be fake?

The reporting is fake. Look, look…You know what it is? Here’s the thing. The public isn’t — you know, they read newspapers, they see television, they watch. They don’t know if it’s true or false because they’re not involved. I’m involved. I’ve been involved with this stuff all my life. But I’m involved. So I know when you’re telling the truth or when you’re not. I just see many, many untruthful things.

Fact check: True. Trump almost certainly does see many, many untruthful things.

I mean, I watch CNN, it’s so much anger and hatred and just the hatred. I don’t watch it any more….Well, you look at your show that goes on at 10 o’clock in the evening. You just take a look at that show. That is a constant hit….Now, I will say this. I watch it. I see it. I’m amazed by it.

Fact check: Schrödinger’s cat. Trump both watches and doesn’t watch CNN.

We had Hillary Clinton try and do a reset. We had Hillary Clinton give Russia 20 percent of the uranium in our country. You know what uranium is, right? This thing called nuclear weapons like lots of things are done with uranium including some bad things.

Fact check: Half true. No, Hillary Clinton didn’t give Russia any uranium. (She was one of many who approved a deal for the Russian atomic energy agency to buy a Canadian company that controls 20 percent of the US uranium reserves. But none of it can exported outside the US.) However, it is true that bad things can be done with uranium.

QUESTION: Let’s talk about some serious issues that have come up in the last week that you have had to deal with as president of the United States. You mentioned the vessel — the spy vessel off the coast of the United States.

TRUMP: Not good.

QUESTION: There was a ballistic missile test that many interpret as a violation of an agreement between the two countries; and a Russian plane buzzed a U.S. destroyer.

TRUMP: Not good.

….QUESTION: So when you say they’re not good, do you mean that they are…

TRUMP: Who did I say is not good?

QUESTION: No, I read off the three things that have recently happened. Each one of them you said they’re not good.

TRUMP: No, it’s not good, but they happened.

QUESTION: But do they damage the relationship? Do they undermine…

TRUMP: They all happened recently.

Fact check: True. These are all things that happened recently.

JAKE TURX, A REPORTER FOR A SMALL ULTRA-ORTHODOX JEWISH PUBLICATION: Despite what some of my colleagues may have been reporting, I haven’t seen anybody in my community accuse either yourself or anyone on your staff of being anti-Semitic. We understand that you have Jewish grandchildren. You are their zaidy. However, what we are concerned about, and what we haven’t really heard being addressed, is an uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take care of it… There has been a report out that 48 bomb threats have been made against Jewish centers all across the country in the last couple of weeks. There are people who are committing anti-Semitic acts or threatening to…

TRUMP: he said he was gonna ask a very simple, easy question. And it’s not, its not, not — not a simple question, not a fair question. OK sit down, I understand the rest of your question.

So here’s the story, folks. Number one, I am the least anti- Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. Number two, racism, the least racist person….See, he lied about — he was gonna get up and ask a very straight, simple question, so you know, welcome to the world of the media. But let me just tell you something, that I hate the charge, I find it repulsive.

I hate even the question because people that know me and you heard the prime minister, you heard Ben Netanyahu yesterday, did you hear him, Bibi? He said, I’ve known Donald Trump for a long time and then he said, forget it. So you should take that instead of having to get up and ask a very insulting question like that.

Fact check: Incoherent. Turx explicitly tried to assure Trump that nobody thought he was anti-Semitic, but Trump’s skin is so thin that he immediately decided Turx was calling him a racist and an anti-Semite. I wonder why?

By the way, the entire point of this press conference seemed to be directed at one thing: accusing the press of being horrible and dishonest. This came up in nearly every Trump answer. This is a great strategy for shoring up his base, of course. As near as I can tell, conservatives all thought this dumpster fire of a press conference was a terrific performance.

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Here Are Your Highlights of Today’s Trump Press Meltdown

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Trump’s New Labor Nominee Oversaw Politicized Hiring at Justice Department

Mother Jones

At a press conference Thursday afternoon, President Donald Trump announced Florida International University College of Law Dean R. Alexander Acosta as his next nominee to oversee the US Department of Labor. The decision comes after a slew of scandals and mounting pressure from Republicans derailed Trump’s previous pick, fast-food executive Andrew Puzder, who withdrew his name from contention on Wednesday, a day before his confirmation hearing was scheduled.

Trump lauded Acosta’s credentials as a Harvard Law School graduate, a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, and a member of the National Labor Relations Board, emphasizing that Acosta had previously been confirmed by the Senate three times. “I’ve wished him the best,” Trump told reporters. “I think he’ll be a tremendous secretary of labor.” If confirmed, Acosta would be the only Latino in Trump’s Cabinet.

But Trump didn’t mention one of Acosta’s less admirable roles. Acosta served as assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division from 2003 to 2005 under President George W. Bush—the first Latino in that role—and was at the center of a scandal over hiring practices. During Acosta’s tenure, Brad Schlozman, a deputy assistant attorney general, “improperly considered political and ideological affiliations” when he hired attorneys to work at the Civil Rights Division, according to a Justice Department inspector general report written in 2008. “Attorneys hired by Schlozman were more than twice as likely to be Republican or conservative than those attorneys Scholzman was not involved in hiring,” the report found. That consideration, the report concluded, violated the Civil Service Reform Act and department policy that bars discrimination in hiring based on political and ideological affiliations.

The agency concluded that Acosta and other Civil Rights Division managers failed to “exercise sufficient oversight to ensure that Schlozman did not engage in inappropriate hiring and personnel practices.” Specifically, Acosta and Deputy Attorney General Wan Kim “failed to ensure that Schlozman’s hiring and personnel decisions were based on proper considerations,” the report noted.

When Acosta first took over as law school dean in 2009, H. T. Smith, director of FIU’s trial advocacy program, told the Miami New Times that Acosta’s stint at the Civil Rights Division “caused a rift with the black community,” adding that the former Miami prosecutor needed to meet with faculty members to heal that divide. The NAACP’s Miami-Dade branch expressed concern, telling the Miami Herald at the time of Acosta’s hire that his “lack of diversity in hiring and promotion while serving as U.S. attorney gives cause for concern for his consideration as dean of FIU’s College of Law.”

Kristen Clarke, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, condemned the “egregious conduct” that played out during Acosta’s time at the Justice Department. “It is hard to believe that Mr. Acosta would now be nominated to lead a federal agency tasked with promoting lawful hiring practices and safe workplaces,” Clarke said in a statement released after Trump’s announcement.

Read the full 2008 inspector general report:

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Justice Department Inspector General Report Acosta Hiring Practices (PDF)

Justice Department Inspector General Report Acosta Hiring Practices (Text)

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Trump’s New Labor Nominee Oversaw Politicized Hiring at Justice Department

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Why Trump Can’t Come Clean on Russia

Mother Jones

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There is an old chestnut that gets tossed out whenever a scandal hits: It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up. The saying traces back to Watergate. Sen. Howard Baker, the top Republican on the Senate Watergate committee, once noted, “It is almost always the cover-up rather than the event that causes trouble.” This week, following the resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn, NBC News’ Chuck Todd was one of many who quipped, “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.” And that was certainly a significant element of the Flynn imbroglio: Flynn had lied about his December conversation with the Russian ambassador, concealing the fact that they had discussed the sanctions President Barack Obama had just levied on Russia as punishment for its covert efforts to swing the 2016 election to Trump. But in this case the bigger scandal at hand is not a cover-up. It is the thing itself: the connections between the Trump camp and Moscow during the campaign, when Vladimir Putin was trying to subvert American democracy.

Certainly, the Trump campaign has strived mightily to smother this potentially explosive scandal. Here’s a partial account.

* Days after the election, Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said in an interview that “there were contacts” between the Trump team and the Kremlin. He noted, “Obviously, we know most of the people from his entourage.” Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks immediately said the campaign had “no contact with Russian officials” before the election.

* At Trump’s January 11 press conference, a reporter asked him, “Can you stand here today, once and for all, and say that no one connected to you or your campaign had any contact with Russia leading up to or during the presidential campaign?” Trump did not reply. But after the press conference ended and Trump was leaving, he did answer that query with a firm “no.”

* On January 15, on Face the Nation, John Dickerson asked incoming Vice President Mike Pence, “Did any adviser or anybody in the Trump campaign have any contact with the Russians who were trying to meddle in the election?” Pence declared, “Of course not. And I think to suggest that is to give credence to some of these bizarre rumors that have swirled around the candidacy.”

* On February 14, at the daily White House briefing, ABC News’ Jonathan Karl asked press secretary Sean Spicer whether any Trump associates were in touch with the Russian government prior to the election. Spicer replied, “There’s nothing that would conclude me that anything different has changed with respect to that time period.” That contorted statement was clearly meant as a no.

The drift is clear. Whenever queried about this highly sensitive matter, Trump and his minions have said there were no contacts between anyone in his crew and the Putin regime during the 2016 campaign. This is a cover-up.

There is evidence that Trump associates did interact with Russian officials during the campaign. The Washington Post story that broke open the Flynn affair a few days ago also reported that the Russian ambassador had told the newspaper he had been communicating with Flynn during the campaign. At that point, Flynn was Trump’s senior national security adviser. (As such, Flynn attended in mid-August the first briefing Trump received as the GOP nominee from the US intelligence community, during which Trump and Flynn were told that US intelligence agencies had concluded Russia was behind the hacking and leaking that targeted Democrats.) And on Tuesday night, the New York Times reported that intelligence intercepts indicated that several Trump associates had “repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.”

In late October, I reported that a former foreign counterintelligence officer had sent memos to the FBI indicating that the “Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting TRUMP for at least 5 years” and that Trump “and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals.” The memos also claimed that Russian intelligence had “compromised” Trump during his visits to Moscow and could “blackmail him,” and that Russian intelligence had compiled a dossier on Hillary Clinton based on “bugged conversations she had on various visits to Russia and intercepted phone calls.”

On Tuesday, I bumped into a prominent Republican consultant, and he said that Trump had to “get out in front of” the burgeoning scandal and disclose all the facts because “the cover-up is always worse.” The Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza offered similar advice to the president on Wednesday morning: “What is really needed at this point is a full and complete debrief for the American people from Trump himself. Why was his campaign in ‘constant’ contact with Russian officials? Who in the campaign—or the broader Trump organization—was involved? Are they still with the campaign or the business? What was discussed on these calls?…Why is Trump so reluctant to condemn Russia and Vladimir Putin in particular?”

But the cover-up here may not be worse than the actions being covered up.

At a minimum, it seems that Trump associates—at least Flynn—were secretly interacting with the Putin regime as it was plotting to subvert American democracy to help Trump win the White House. A key question is obvious: What did they discuss? The darkest possibility is that they talked about the Kremlin assault on the US election. Short of that, might Flynn or others have encouraged Putin’s clandestine operation by signaling that Moscow would have an easier time with a Trump administration than with a Clinton administration? Were there any winks or nods? After all, in late July, Trump called on Russia to hack Clinton. Whatever was discussed, any Trump associate who spoke with Russian officials during the summer or fall of the campaign had reason to know that he or she was interacting with a member of a regime that was actively attempting to undermine the election in a manner beneficial to Trump.

How can Trump and his crew concede that they were hobnobbing with a foreign government that was waging political warfare against the United States? The “full and complete debrief” that Cillizza advocates would require Trump to acknowledge that he and his team have covered up these contacts and explain why. This “full and complete debrief” could well show that Trump’s camp cozied up to a repressive government that was seeking to destabilize US politics to help Trump. It could reveal that Trump associates directly or indirectly encouraged Putin’s attack on the 2016 election.

Trump would lose all legitimacy as president were he to admit that anything of this sort transpired. There are some deeds that cannot be acknowledged. Expecting Trump and his lieutenants to confess that his campaign or business associates were networking with the Kremlin or Russian intelligence is not realistic—especially after their months of denial. (Trump also for months refused to accept the US intelligence assessment that Russia was behind the hacking and leaking aimed at Democratic targets, and when he finally bent on this point, he downplayed Moscow’s meddling in the election.) Trump cannot continue to present himself as the triumphant winner of a fair election if it turns out his own people were palling around with Moscow.

Another famous line is this: You can’t handle the truth. Further revelations about contacts between the Trump camp and Russia could pose an existential threat to the Trump White House. The clear choice for him and his gang is to deny, to stonewall, to distract, to lie. Trump doesn’t explain the pre-election contacts; he complains about leaks. He casts all interest in this controversy as merely the revenge of the Clinton losers. He calls reporting on the Russia connection “fake news” and slams journalists pursuing the Flynn story as “fake media.” This is not shocking. He might not be able to survive a full accounting. The poison of the cover-up may be less deadly than the poison of the event itself. Only Trump and the people involved can know for sure. But investigations of the Russian contacts now being conducted by the FBI and the congressional intelligence committees—if they are mounted effectively and yield public results—may eventually allow us to see the full calculation. In the meantime, the public can justifiably conclude that when it comes to Trump-Russia connections during the campaign, the Trump team has been covering up for very good reasons.

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Why Trump Can’t Come Clean on Russia

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Kellyanne Conway’s White Nationalist Retweet Is No Mistake

Mother Jones

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Late Monday, coming off a long evening of responding to Gen. Mike Flynn’s resignation as national security adviser, senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway found solace in a tweet from a user named Lib Hypocrisy:

Conway not only retweeted the message but also wrote, “Love you back,” and wished her “Hapless Haters” a happy Valentine’s Day.

But there was just one problem: Lib Hypocrisy is an explicit promoter of white nationalism and other bigotry. This is evident from the account’s profile, which includes the hashtags “#WhiteIdentity” and “#Nationalist.” It features a cartoon image connoting Pepe the Frog, the adopted mascot of the racist “alt-right” movement, and a shout-out to Geert Wilders, the far-right Dutch politician who wants to shut down mosques.

These are some of Lib Hypocrisy’s recent tweets and retweets:

Asked about her retweet of Lib Hypocisy by BuzzFeed on Tuesday, Conway implied that she hadn’t been in control of her account at the time. She said she “obviously” had no idea who Lib Hypocrisy was, adding, “I denounce whoever it is.” The tweets were soon deleted.

Conway’s move continues a long-standing pattern of Trump and his inner circle engaging with white nationalists and then claiming ignorance when confronted about it—as Mother Jones documented in multiple investigations since last summer. Other such “mistakes” include:

Trump failing to disavow support from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke when asked about it repeatedly on CNN, and then blaming a “bad earpiece.”
Trump appointing a white nationalist leader as a delegate to the Republican National Convention, and then blaming a “database error” for the move.
Trump tweeting an image of himself superimposed over a picture of WWII-era Waffen-SS soldiers, and then blaming a mistake by an intern.
Gen. Michael Flynn sharing a #NeverHillary tweet that said, “Not anymore, Jews. Not anymore,” and then claiming it was a mistake.

Those are just the cases in which Trump and his backers have backpedaled. There are many other similar instances in which they haven’t even bothered to explain or apologize:

Trump twice retweeting @WhiteGenocideTM
Trump retweeting @EustaceFash, whose header image at the time also included the term “White Genocide.”
Trump tweeting an image of himself as Pepe the frog
Trump tweeting an image of “Crooked Hillary” superimposed over a pile of cash and the Star of David
Donald Trump Jr.’s infamous Skittles tweet
Trump tweeting blatantly false and racially inflammatory crime statistics

The most charitable interpretation of this behavior is ineptitude. Regardless, the result is clear: According to one study of 10,000 Twitter accounts that followed Trump, more than a third also followed the account of at least one prominent booster of white nationalism—a movement now widely regarded as having a direct line into the Oval Office.

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Kellyanne Conway’s White Nationalist Retweet Is No Mistake

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