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Updated: 25 min 34 sec ago

This Week in Statehouse Action: Batten Down the Hatches edition

33 min 17 sec ago

Avast ye!

This week we observe Talk Like a Pirate Day (Sept. 19).

You’re welcome.

Campaign Action

(Un)buried Treasure: Virginia’s state legislative elections loom (about a month and a half to go, folks), and with the quickened pace of fall campaign season comes a quickened pace of campaign finance reporting.

  • The most recent reports bring more good news for Old Dominion Democrats as they work to flip the two seats needed in each chamber to take outright majorities in the Virginia House and Senate.
    • In the state Senate, six out of the top 10 fundraisers for the most recent reporting period (July 1 to Aug. 31) were Democratic challengers.
      • Of the four Republicans in that batch, three are incumbents and one is vying for a Republican-held open seat.
      • But Senate Republicans still have a bit of a cash-on-hand advantage over Democratic candidates.
        • Not a shock—the GOP currently holds the majority, after all, and that status accommodates serious war-chest building in Virginia, which has no limits on fundraising.
    • On the House side, Democrats also took six of the top 10 fundraising slots for the period.

Richard who?

Fun fact! Uihlein contributed to Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore even AFTER multiple women revealed Moore had made advances when they were as young as 14.

  • Though a write-in candidate, Freitas is still an incumbent running in a bright red district (60-36 Trump), and he’s already spread the love around in the form of $5,000 checks to “several Republican candidates,” including
    • House challenger GayDonna Vandergriff,
    • Incumbent state Sen. Bryce Reeves,
    • Ousted-in-2017-but-hoping-to-take-his-seat-back challenger Rich Anderson,
    • And six more GOPers across both chambers.
      • Additionally, Freitas has redistributed Uihlien’s largesse in the form of $1,000 checks to 18 more Republicans running for state and local offices.
    • Anyway, but for that $500,000 Uihllein check, Freitas would have come in 111th in terms of cash raised this period.
  • In terms of total cash on hand among candidates running for the House of Delegates, Democrats are outpacing their GOP counterparts by almost $1 million.
    • There’s still plenty of time for Uihlein-esque checks to come in for Republicans, but this is a pretty, pretty, pretty good place for Democrats to be right now.
Categories: Politics

With SCOTUS soon to hear DACA case, Dreamers report increased fear of detention, family separation

3 hours 59 min ago

With the case around the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program going before the Supreme Court in just weeks—and an administration eager for justices to end it—young undocumented immigrants are reporting increased fears of detention, deportation, and separation from their families, including U.S. citizen children, a new survey finds.

“The legal and political uncertainty surrounding DACA continues to weigh heavily on the minds of DACA recipients,” the findings said. “For example, 56 percent of respondents reported that they think about either being detained in an immigration detention facility or deported from the United States at least once a day; and an even greater percentage, 69 percent, reported that they think about a family member being detained or deported at least once a day.”

“Fear of family separation is particularly strong among DACA recipients who are parents. Among those with children, 75 percent reported that they think about ‘being separated from [their] children because of deportation’ at least once a day, while 72 percent reported thinking about ‘not being able to see [their] children grow up because of deportation’ at least once a day.”

The survey, conducted annually by the Center for American Progress, the U.S. Immigration Policy Center at the University of California, San Diego, United We Dream, and the National Immigration Law Center, continued to find that DACA is having beneficial effects on both beneficiaries and their communities. But, “for the first time,” the survey provided data on “widespread harms” should the Supreme Court side with the Trump administration and end it.

A decision could come by June 2020, smack in the middle of the presidential election. The House of Representatives has already passed legislation that would put DACA recipients, along with Temporary Protected Status beneficiaries, onto a path to citizenship, but it’s currently being blocked in the Senate by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Donald Trump has also sabotaged bipartisan efforts, and tried to use Dreamers “as leverage to funnel more money into the deportation force,” United We Dream’s United We Dream’s Sanaa Abrar said.

Categories: Politics

Whistleblower complaint involved a 'series of actions' by Trump

4 hours 2 min ago

It's worse than you think. The New York Times is reporting that a mysterious intelligence community whistleblower complaint doesn't involve just one phone call between Donald Trump and a foreign leader, but rather a string of events in which Trump transgressed.

The intelligence community inspector general (IG) told House Intelligence Committee members Thursday that the complaint was "related to a series of actions that goes beyond any single discussion with a foreign leader," writes the Times. However, IG Michael Atkinson declined to get into specifics surrounding the whistleblower complaint because the director of national intelligence (DNI) had withheld the information from Congress and had not authorized the IG to disclose it to lawmakers. Both the White House and the Department of Justice have reportedly advised acting DNI Joseph Maguire not to share the information with Congress as is statutorily required by the Whistleblower Protection Act. In other words, the White House is running interference on behalf of the target of the complaint: the president.

In part, the complaint reportedly involves a promise or a commitment that Trump made to a foreign leader. But the new revelation that the complaint covers multiple acts raises the stakes of the episode from a disturbing incident to more of a premeditated full-fledged scandal. One slip-up, as bad as it may be, is a problem. But multiple acts suggest a pattern of misconduct. 

Although IG Atkinson didn't believe he had the authority to share details of the complaint with lawmakers, the letter he sent to House Intelligence Adam Schiff on Sept. 17 sounded a bit like he felt he was being held hostage by the DNI's handling of the complaint and Justice Department guidance not to share the information with Congress.

Atkinson notes that he strenuously disagrees with "DOJ's analysis of the facts" in the case. He also writes that the "subject matter involved in the complainant’s disclosure not only falls within the DNI’s jurisdiction, but relates to one of the most significant and important of the DNI’s responsibilities to the American people.”

In other words, it's urgent.

Categories: Politics

Donald Trump's attorneys file suit against New York, claiming he's immune to criminal investigation

4 hours 4 min ago

In July, the state of New York passed the New York TRUST Act, allowing the release of state tax returns from any elected official, including Donald Trump. On Monday, the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. subpoenaed eight years’ worth of Trump’s returns. Then, on Thursday, Trump did what he always does in response to such requests: He filed suit against the DA.

As The New York Times reports, Vance sought the returns as part of an investigation into Trump’s payment of hush money to Stormy Daniels in advance of the 2016 election. How Trump reported those payments on his taxes may show that he violated both state and federal tax regulations, as well as campaign finance law.

Trump’s suit in response doesn’t deal with the tax issue directly. Instead, it makes an astoundingly broad claim. Taking a position that the Times kindly refers to as “untested,” Trump’s legal team is arguing that the Constitution makes a sitting executive immune to all criminal inquiries. In other words, Trump is arguing that any crimes he committed, whether they happened before or after his election, are put on hold until after he leaves office. He is not “subject to criminal process, for conduct of any kind, while he is serving,” in the words of his attorneys.

This extreme view of executive immunity not only stands in stark contrast with past practice, but it’s also completely counter to the Department of Justice rules that Trump counted on to prevent his indictment. Those rules explicitly permit the investigation of criminal activities, as Robert Mueller pointed out in his testimony before Congress.

Trump’s actions in New York expand the scope of the case to the point where it is all but certain to get an express trip to the Supreme Court. Which will, hopefully, provide at least a little much-needed clarity about issues that have remained fuzzy to this point. 

And whatever crime Trump is hiding in his taxes … it must be a whopper.

Categories: Politics

House passes short-term spending bill, averting government shutdown this round, for now

4 hours 13 min ago

The House just passed a short-term spending bill, by a vote of 301-123, to take the country through until the week before Thanksgiving. By Congress' standards, this is actually kind of impressive. It's only Sept. 19, which means there's a whole two weeks before the end of the fiscal year and the government running out of money. The Senate is expected to pass it and Trump to sign it sometime next week.

It includes compromises on issues that had held up the bill, which was supposed to have been done last week. Democrats wanted both funding for Medicaid for Puerto Rico, which is subject to a block grant kind of spending mechanism and had reached a crisis point in funding, and also some restrictions or transparency on Trump's ongoing bailout for farmers. Now the Department of Agriculture is going to be required to report to Congress by the end of October on payments made to foreign-owned companies.

They left out anything related to border wall funding; that fight will have to happen later. And will, probably after a second short-term funding bill that will almost certainly follow this one, and which will last until just before Christmas. That will probably be when the big fight and shutdown threats happen. Because that's the world we now live in. But at least this is one crisis postponed.

Categories: Politics

Two years after Hurricane Maria, Trump administration continues to block Puerto Rico aid

4 hours 58 min ago

It is the second anniversary of Hurricane Maria's devastation of Puerto Rico.

Of the $8.3 billion in redevelopment funds Congress appropriated to assist Puerto Rico with recovery and redevelopment, money to be disbursed through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the administration has distributed less than $2 billion.

Two full years after the hurricane made landfall on American soil.

As The Hill notes, the Trump administration recently missed the Sept. 4 deadline to allocate those funds—while meeting the same deadlines for California, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, and the similarly impacted U.S. Virgin Islands. It's just Puerto Rico that's having that hurricane aid withheld, which suggests this is not mere administration incompetence at work.

But Puerto Rico has been waiting for two years. And counting.

Categories: Politics

Watchdog report exploding into constitutional crisis as White House and DNI move to block access

5 hours 7 min ago

On Thursday afternoon, the White House and the Department of Justice made it clear that they have stepped in to prevent a whistleblower report concerning an action by Donald Trump from being released as required by law. Sources tell CNN that the White House has claimed this allegation, which is reported to cover an action carried out by Trump in making a promise to a foreign leader, is not covered by intelligence activities, and therefore is not protected by the whistleblower law.

At the same time, a second letter from intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson to House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff makes it clear that acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire has not only acted to prevent Atkinson from releasing the report, as required by law, but has also prevented Atkinson from making any arrangements for the whistleblower to come forward.

“Although I had hoped the Acting DNI would provide direction, through me, on how the complainant can contact the congressional intelligence community directly, ‘in accordance with appropriate security practices,’” wrote Atkinson, “I have now been informed that the Acting DNI and I are at an impasse.” Not only is Maguire refusing to release the report, but he’s also refusing to allow the inspector general to carry out his obligations under the law.

Atkinson continues that “… the resulting inability for an employee, detailee, or contractor in the Intelligence Community to receive direction from the Acting DNI through the Inspector General, on how to contact the congressional intelligence community directly … on what appear to be matters of good faith and credible allegations ‘with respect to an urgent concern’, even if it is later determined by others that the alleged contact falls outside the definition of ‘urgent concern’ may itself constitute a significant problem and deficiency concerning the DNI’s responsibility ...”

That’s the Trump-appointed inspector general of the intelligence community informing Congress that the acting DNI is not just breaking the law by refusing to release the report, but he’s also failing in his obligations to help whistleblowers speak directly to Congress. 

This is a crisis that is breaking out in every direction.

Categories: Politics

Gun manufacturer says it is temporarily suspending AR-15 production for the civilian market

5 hours 28 min ago

Connecticut-based gun manufacturer Colt announced that it is suspending production of the AR-15 rifle, the preferred weapon of mass shooters, for the civilian market and will instead focus on filling military and law enforcement orders. The news is a mixed bag, because while Colt should be applauded for suspending production, the reasoning is sad. The Associated Press reports, “Colt’s chief executive officer, Dennis Veilleux, says it is not permanently ending production but believes there is already an adequate supply of sporting rifles on the market.” 

Sigh. That’s the bad news. The market is already saturated with plenty of AR-15 rifles. But at least the company is pivoting to focus on military orders, because that is where this weapon belongs, on the battlefield. It’s designed for mass carnage. That’s why the Dayton shooter was able to murder nine people in just 30 seconds before he was shot by law enforcement. AR-15-style rifles have been used in mass shootings in Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, Florida, and Sandy Hook, among a long list of other cities. 

So there might be a flood of these rifles already on the market, but this is one step from Colt that we can surely applaud. 

Update: Beto O’Rourke responded to the news on Twitter.

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Categories: Politics

Nancy Pelosi backs D.C. statehood, meaning 218 Democrats—a majority of the House—now support it

6 hours 10 min ago

In a historic moment, shortly after Democrats held a hearing Tuesday on Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton's bill to grant statehood to Washington, D.C., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi became the 218th voting member to endorse statehood, meaning a majority of the House now backs the idea. House Democrats will therefore likely approve D.C. statehood for the first time ever in a chamber of Congress.

Notably, almost no other democratic country disenfranchises its own capital. D.C.'s population of almost 700,000 is already larger than Vermont’s and Wyoming’s, and the city is projected to reach 1 million residents in the coming decades. Most critically, the U.S. Senate gives white voters vastly outsized political power relative to voters of color, so admitting D.C., with its predominantly black population, would help mitigate the chamber's considerable racial bias.

While some opponents argue that the Constitution creates obstacles to statehood, reformers have proposed a simple solution, which D.C. voters overwhelmingly approved a 2016 referendum. This proposal, which the ACLU has concluded passes constitutional muster, would shrink the federal district down to a core of important government buildings surrounding the National Mall and White House and admit the bulk of D.C. as a new state.

Republicans have so far unanimously opposed statehood, but if Democrats regain the Senate and win the presidency in 2020, they could then admit the new state of Washington, D.C., with just simple majorities by eliminating the filibuster, since the admission of new states is treated just like ordinary legislation. However, only 35 of 47 Democrats are co-sponsoring the Senate's companion bill, so getting the remaining dozen on board will be critical for ending D.C.'s unjust disenfranchisement.

Categories: Politics

Warren's 'second-choice' status makes her the candidate to beat, aka the front-runner

6 hours 19 min ago

Yesterday’s Civiqs poll for Data for Progress was (probably) the first public poll to show Elizabeth Warren leading Joe Biden, and it does so by a significant margin—30-24 (and Sanders at 14). Whether you buy these results or not—they are definitely outside the current polling consensus of a small Biden lead—there’s no doubt that Warren has been slowly and steadily creeping up into Biden’s personal space. An inflection point has been virtually inevitable, and it’s either happened or is about to happen. 

But even if the poll is 100% accurate, fact is, 30% is not exactly dominant territory. In this best-case scenario for Warren, she is still supported by less than a third of Democrats! It wasn’t impressive when Biden sat at 30%, and it’s no more impressive if Warren is there. A third won’t win you any nominations. 

Thus, we have to look deeper into the numbers to see who the real front-runner might be. And luckily for us, a new wave of polling has started digging into voters second choices. If a first choice isn’t winning, and in a field of 800, most aren’t, who will voters shift to when it’s time to cast a vote that actually matters? 

And it’s on that metric that Warren truly shines. 

Categories: Politics

William Barr's Department of Justice put the muzzle on the whistleblower complaint

6 hours 20 min ago

If the whirlwind whistleblower scandal has you a little confused, just remember this: Attorney General William Barr's Department of Justice intervened. That's why it's all screwed up.

NBC News reports that it was the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) that told the director of national intelligence (DNI) to evade the whistleblower law and withhold information from Congress about the complaint. That is unprecedented. 

"Asked whether Attorney General Bill Barr was personally involved, the official declined to comment," writes NBC. Let’s go out on a limb here and guess that Barr's paws are all over this. No one has proven more capable of bending the law to the point of breaking it than AG Barr, especially in matters directly involving Donald Trump.

That OLC guidance is what ultimately prevented the intelligence community's inspector general (IG) from sharing information about the complaint with the House Intelligence Committee during a three-plus hour closed-door session Thursday. The logic goes that the IG, Michael Atkinson, doesn't have the authority to discuss the complaint with Congress because the DNI, Joseph Maguire, hasn't shared the report with the committee yet. In other words, the IG's hands are tied because the DNI is breaking the law at the direction of the Justice Department. 

But it gets worse: House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff said Thursday that the Justice Department still has not shared the OLC opinion it wrote in support of withholding the information from the committee. So the DOJ has poured sand in the gears, but hasn't bothered to share its justification for doing that. 

Schiff also quoted IG Atkinson’s reasoning for determining the whistleblower complaint was urgent, noting that Atkinson wrote it "relates to one of the most significant and important of the DNI's responsibilities to the American people." Schiff added, "This is what's being withheld from Congress right now."

You can watch Schiff’s press conference following the closed-door session with IG Atkinson below.

Categories: Politics

Moscow Mitch capitulates, supports election security spending amendment

7 hours 25 min ago

Weeks of being called Moscow Mitch have finally caused Senate Majority Leader McConnell to break and support more money for election security. Not surprisingly, he's taking credit for the whole thing, too.

"I am proud to have helped develop this amendment and to co-sponsor it in committee," he said Thursday morning on the Senate floor. The amendment provides an additional $250 million to the Trump administration for distribution to states to improve voting systems against foreign interference. That would bring total funding for election security for 2020 to $600 million. That same essential amendment was blocked by McConnell and Republicans last year, ahead of the 2018 elections. Since then, McConnell has steadfastly refused to bring House-passed election protection legislation to the floor and has blocked every effort by Senate Democrats to force it.

He has repeatedly said that the funding wasn't necessary and that legislation the House has passed would be too restrictive of states’ ability to determine how they conduct elections. Apparently either McConnell was lying about the states having all the funding they need, or he changed his mind. Or he is trying to get people to stop calling him Moscow Mitch. Whatever the motivation, it's a welcome first start, says Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

"After months of opposing efforts by Leader Schumer and Senate Democrats to pass meaningful legislation and increase federal funding to secure our elections, Senator McConnell and Senate Republicans have finally relented and taken a step in the right direction," Schumer's office said in a statement. But, the statement continued, "To be clear, Senate Democrats believe this new funding is not a substitute for passing the comprehensive bipartisan election security legislation that experts say is desperately needed."

He's not going to stop being Moscow Mitch, especially not now that he's shown the opposition just how effective the nickname is. Pressure works. Let's keep it up.

Please give $1 to our nominee fund to help Democrats end McConnell's career as majority leader.

Categories: Politics

West Virginia's 'hidden communities' and the complicated history of the fight for LGBTQ rights

7 hours 30 min ago

by Rosemary Ketchum

Few comments demonstrate such concentrated bigotry as the ones that came out of the West Virginia legislature in 2019. It began in February, when Republican Delegate Eric Porterfield of Mercer County made remarks comparing “the LGBT” to the Ku Klux Klan, adding that he would see if his children could “swim” if he suspected they were gay or lesbian. If that wasn’t enough, when called out by his constituents and others on social media, Porterfield stated, “These vicious monsters [LGBTQ people] are proving that they are the most bigoted and discriminatory people in America.”

Four months later, during annual Pride celebrations across the state, Republican state Sen. Mike Azinger of Wood County penned an op-ed in the Sunday edition of the local paper titled The Shame of LGBTQ Pride, in which he claimed that “The LGBQT movement is not about happiness and tolerance, but about indoctrination and a forced acceptance of a perverted and non-biblical view of sexuality.”

These sentiments were later praised by the state chairperson of the West Virginia Republican Party, Melody Potter.

With comments like these, you would imagine West Virginia would be the last place an LGBTQ person would choose to live—but think again. West Virginia is home to many LGBTQ organizations and resources, including a nationally recognized LGBTQ center at West Virginia University. According to the Williams Institute, West Virginia is estimated to be home to the highest percentage of transgender teens between the ages of 13 and 17 in the country. Although scientists are still unclear about the reasons for this, the data presents a compelling case for LGBTQ justice in the Mountain State.

West Virginia has a complicated history. The counties that eventually comprised it seceded from Virginia at the beginning of the Civil War, and the new state was admitted to the Union on June 20, 1863. This perhaps set the course for the state of West Virginia’s complex future.

The political landscape of West Virginia has changed pretty dramatically over the past two decades. Bill Clinton won West Virginia by 13 points in the ‘90s, but, by stark contrast, Donald Trump won by a whopping 40-plus percentage points in 2016.

“The only perspective that I can give is that everyone needs a type of hope,” said Danielle Walker, Democratic West Virginia state Delegate. “When you have a family whose economic base has gone to nothing because of the opioid crisis and addiction has taken over their neighborhoods; when someone is there giving them hope, they will remember that person’s name.”

Categories: Politics

Watchdog report still a mystery: Intelligence inspector general refuses to provide details to House

7 hours 48 min ago

Intelligence community inspector general Michael Atkinson appeared in a closed-door session before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday morning. However, The New York Times is reporting that Atkinson has so far refused to provide any details about the substance of the complaint that was reported overnight by The Washington Post and confirmed on Thursday morning by The Wall Street Journal. That includes refusing to confirm whether the complaint directly targets Donald Trump. Atkinson was still before the committee as of 12 PM ET, an unusually long hearing.

The language that Atkinson used in describing the report in an earlier letter, calling it “an urgent matter,” has a specific meaning in regard to such reports. It would seem to indicate that this is not a policy dispute, but an accusation that Trump has committed a violation of law. The Times report seems to join the Post and Journal in confirming that the basis of the report is an action that Trump took in a phone call to a foreign leader. However, at this point no details have been released, and reports indicate that Atkinson has refused to confirm anything about the report other than his earlier opinion that it is “credible.”

Meanwhile, Trump has responded to the unfolding events in a series of tweets. Trump described the issue as just “another fake news story out there.” He then dismissed the idea that he might have said anything wrong to a foreign leader, claiming that “virtually anytime I speak on the phone to a foreign leader, I understand that there may be many people listening from various U.S. agencies.” The key word here is “virtually,” as previous reports have shown that Trump has made unscheduled calls to foreign officials, including Vladimir Putin. Trump has also pretended to make calls that never happened, such as calls to the Chinese trade delegation.

Trump isn’t the only person tweeting about this report. A former CIA officer told NBC News that filing a report of this sort is like riding a horse over a cliff with banners flying, “You can only do it once, you are finished however it turns out. So it had better be worth it. I suspect it is.”

Categories: Politics

Parts of Texas that survived Hurricane Harvey are underwater again as Imelda dumps feet of rain

8 hours 24 min ago

Imelda wasn’t a category anything. It was never a hurricane at all. It barely reached tropical storm intensity in time to collect a name before passing over land and has already disintegrated into post-storm “remnants.” However, following the predictions of many weather models describing the effects of the climate crisis, Imelda has followed a now familiar pattern and turned into a slow-moving tropical depression whose damaging effects come in the form of torrential, sustained rainfall.

Sections of Texas near Houston are expected to collect more than two feet of rainfall before the last of Imelda fades away. In addition, the storm has spawned tornadoes that tore across the region overnight. The National Weather Service continues to warn of life-threatening flash flood conditions and cautions residents in the area to avoid travel on flooded streets. Residents in four counties have been told to “shelter in place” and be prepared in case rising flood waters trap their in their homes.

Among the areas being inundated by Imelda are some of the same neighborhoods that were flooded in 2017, when Hurricane Harvey dropped similarly enormous rains on the region. The neighborhoods most at risk, then and now, are often those of the working class, in locations where the local government has not spent millions to provide protection from flooding. Some areas are suffering flooding considerably worse than that experienced during Harvey due to locally heavy rains overwhelming streams and drains.

It’s a reminder that the events following the devastating hurricane season of 2017 were far from unique. This type of storm, and this type of flooding, is likely to become ever more frequent, especially in coastal areas that are already suffering from sea level rise, the erosion of barrier islands, and the loss of coastal lowlands. 

And it’s a reminder that the idea of a “climate refugee” doesn’t have to mean someone trying to enter the United States from a distant land ravaged by the climate crisis. It’s happening to many such people who already live in America.

Categories: Politics

HHS official testifies family separation policy inflicted 'extraordinarily severe' trauma on kids

8 hours 48 min ago

A career official with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said during a House hearing on Wednesday that the traumas sustained by migrant children stolen from their parents under the Trump administration’s family separation policy “are both extraordinarily severe and they are currently ongoing—and we are part of that traumatization in the United States government.”

Jonathan White, commander of the department’s Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, had previously testified that he was never consulted about this policy, and would have opposed it due to “significant risks of traumatic psychological injury to the child.” During this week’s House Oversight Committee hearing on the mental health needs of migrant children, White reiterated the extent of this trauma, saying the damage extends far beyond the length of separation.

“Long-term, the consequences of separation for many of these children will be life-long, it will involve both behavioral and physical health harm, that all the best available evidence we have on trauma and toxic stress—including that that focuses on children separated from their parents—would suggest would be both severe, and very difficult to manage even with high levels of clinical care,” he said.

A report this month from the HHS inspector general found that the policy inflicted “fear, feelings of abandonment, and post-traumatic stress” on separated kids, some thinking their parents had abandoned them or were dead. A program director at one facility said a  boy there “was under the delusion that his father had been killed and believed that he would also be killed. This child ultimately required emergency psychiatric care to address his mental health distress.”

Categories: Politics

Pelosi introduces Medicare drug plan, exploiting Trump's campaign promises and split with Republican

9 hours 8 min ago

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has released her Medicare prescription drug plan, designed to lower soaring prices for Medicare beneficiaries and to entice Donald Trump into actually fulfilling one of his campaign promises.

The plan would allow the government to negotiate prices on as many as 250 name-brand drugs, but only requires that the government set lower prices on 25. That lower limit has worried progressives, who have been largely excluded from the development of the plan. Pelosi is meeting with the Congressional Progressive Caucus Thursday to discuss the proposal, which is designed in part to get Trump’s support and drive a wedge between him and Senate Republicans.

Sen. Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, and Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley have also introduced drug-pricing legislation. It requires rebates from drug companies if their price increases exceed inflation and also caps out-of-pocket drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries. Pelosi's proposal includes those elements as well. It's opposed by a lot of Republicans who say it's akin to government price-fixing, but it has been something Trump has talked about doing.

Trump, being Trump, has been kind of all over the place on what he wants, but there's definitely overlap with what Pelosi is proposing, including the out-of-pocket spending cap. He also endorsed the idea of government negotiating drug prices for Medicare during the 2016 campaign, an idea most Republicans staunchly oppose. Trump is the wild card here, as always. His support for the Pelosi plan could potentially force Mitch McConnell to take it up. It all depends on how much Trump thinks he needs to do something on health care to keep his promise and to distract from his attempts to destroy the Affordable Care Act. It also depends on how much sway McConnell has with him, because Moscow Mitch is not going to want to give Pelosi a win.

Pelosi's plan would cap negotiated prices on drugs at 1.2 times the average of what other countries pay. Other elements of the Pelosi plan include an excise tax on annual gross sales of companies that refuse to negotiate, starting at 65% and increasing by 10% every quarter the company continues to be out of compliance. It also limits price increases on Medicare Part D and Part B to inflation, and restructures Part D's financing.

Categories: Politics

Nancy Pelosi tells lawmakers that Corey Lewandowski should have been held in contempt during hearing

10 hours 14 min ago

At a private meeting with Democratic legislators on Wednesday evening, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared that former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski should have been held in contempt “then and there” for refusing to answer questions before the House Judiciary Committee. Unfortunately, Pelosi is making this statement after the fact, and after Lewandowski spent a day stonewalling, mocking, and generally insulting the committee while skipping away apparently scot-free. 

Though House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler opened the hearing with sharp words—making it clear that Lewandowski had never been a White House staffer, there was no reason to entertain any claim of privilege, and the campaign manager was compelled by law to answer every question—there seemed to be precious little action to support those stern warnings. Throughout the hearing, Lewandowski went made Democratic representatives cite, down to the line, where something he had said appeared in the report of special counsel Robert Mueller. Then he would pretend to read the report—even when the words being cited were referred to again just minutes later. When not pretending to read, Lewandowski openly mocked Democratic representatives, including responding to a question about whether he kept all his notes in a vault by noting that it was a large vault with “a lot of guns in there.”

Mid-hearing, after it became abundantly clear that Lewandowski was never going to deliver anything but sneers, both Rep. Eric Swalwell and Rep. David Cicilline appealed to Chairman Nadler to hold Lewandowski in contempt. But in response, Nadler only stated that he would “take it under advisement.” With that out of the way, Lewandowski seemed free to be even more insulting in his responses to Democratic representatives, and even more free to join Republicans in extended conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton and President Obama. 

It’s still possible that Nadler could issue a motion to hold Lewandowski in contempt, especially after the final session of questioning by consulting attorney Barry Berke prompted Lewandowski to open his mouth and refute his own past statements. But the overall impression left by the day-long hearing was one of weakness on the part of Democrats. Pelosi seems to be saying, Don’t blame me.

Categories: Politics

Hidden whistleblower report directly concerns Trump and a 'promise' to a foreign leader

11 hours 9 min ago

On Wednesday evening, The Washington Post reported that a mysterious whistleblower report that has been the subject of back-and-forth letters between the intelligence community and the House was directly related to an action taken by Donald Trump. The subject of the report is alleged to be an interaction between Trump and a foreign leader that included a promise so startling that someone who witnessed this act felt compelled to report it.

On Aug. 12, while Trump was busy doing his job—golfing at one of his clubs—an as yet unidentified person turned in a whistleblower report alleging a “serious or flagrant problem, abuse or violation of the law” that went to the acting director of national intelligence,  Joseph Maguire. By law, the House Intelligence Committee should have been provided with the report by Sept. 3. It was not. Instead, Maguire remained silent, not even notifying the House that a report had been filed until Sept. 9, when the inspector general for the intelligence agencies said that he was investigating a report that he found both credible and urgent. Finally, on Sept. 13, House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff issued a demand for the report. Maguire refused to produce it.

Inspector General Michael Atkinson is set to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday in a closed session. After at first refusing, Maguire has also agreed to come before the committee next week.

In the meantime, the revelations about this whistleblower report have touched off the greatest D.C. guessing game in months: Who was Trump talking to, and what did he promise that made someone on his own team so concerned that they felt compelled to file that report? Without knowing anymore details, it’s hard to know just how soon after the event the report was filed. If the person who produced the report was in the room when Trump made his promise, that report may have been filed soon after. Or it may have taken some time before the whistleblower learned of the event, or before she or he worked up enough concern to override any loyalty felt toward Trump.

Records indicate that Trump spoke with several foreign leaders in the weeks that preceded the report’s filing, and those are just the communications known to the public. But there are some potential candidates for Trump’s act that seem concerning enough for someone on his own team to turn him in.

Categories: Politics

Morning Digest: Longtime House Republican is undecided about re-election in swingy New York district

12 hours 15 sec ago

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

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NY-02: Longtime GOP Rep. Pete King told Newsday last week that he had not yet decided if he'd seek another term. The paper's question came after King's daughter and long-rumored successor, Hempstead Town Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney, announced that she wouldn't seek re-election this November and was moving to North Carolina for family reasons.

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Newsday asked King if King Sweeney's departure could impact his own 2020 plans, and he responded, "Right now, I fully intend to run for re-election," and he noted that he was about to hold a campaign fundraiser. However, the congressman continued, "This is all just part of a new world for me," and added, "I'll have to think everything over." The only definitive thing King would say is that, while he and his wife hoped to visit King Sweeney and her family as often as possible, "I'm never moving to North Carolina."

This southern Long Island seat, which is home to Babylon and most of Islip, swung from 52-47 Obama to 53-44 Trump, but it lurched back to the left last fall. While Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 60-36 statewide win was very similar to Hillary Clinton's 59-37 victory, Cuomo carried King's seat by a 51-47 margin. King himself beat Democrat Liuba Grechen Shirley 53-47, which was the first time he'd failed to win by double digits since his first campaign 26 years ago. Babylon Town Councilwoman Jackie Gordon is seeking the Democratic nod to take on King, while Grechen Shirley expressed interest in another campaign back in the spring.

Categories: Politics

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