Shifting Dollars From Poor To Give To the Rich Is a Key Part of the Senate Health Bill

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at his office on Thursday, when the Republican health plan was made public. CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

The Affordable Care Act gave health insurance to millions of Americans by shifting resources from the wealthy to the poor and by moving oversight from states to the federal government. The Senate bill introduced Thursday pushes back forcefully on both dimensions.

The bill is aligned with long-held Republican values, advancing states’ rights and paring back growing entitlement programs, while freeing individuals from requirements that they have insurance and emphasizing personal responsibility. Obamacare raised taxes on high earners and the health care industry, and essentially redistributed that income — in the form of health insurance or insurance subsidies — to many of the groups that have fared poorly over the last few decades.

The draft Senate bill, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act, would jettison those taxes while reducing federal funding for the care of low-income Americans. The bill’s largest benefits go to the wealthiest Americans, who have the most comfortable health care arrangements, and its biggest losses fall to poorer Americans who rely on government support. The bill preserves many of the structures of Obamacare, but rejects several of its central goals.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, in the Capitol on Thursday.CreditSaul Loeb/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Like a House version of the legislation, the bill would fundamentally change the structure of Medicaid, which provides health insurance to 74 million disabled or poor Americans, including nearly 40 percent of all children. Instead of open-ended payments, the federal government would give states a maximum payment for nearly every individual enrolled in the program. The Senate version of the bill would increase that allotment every year by a formula that is expected to grow substantially more slowly than the average increase in medical costs.

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Avik Roy, the president of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, and a conservative health care analyst, cheered the bill on Twitter, saying, “If it passes, it’ll be the greatest policy achievement by a G.O.P. Congress in my lifetime.” The bill, he explained in an email, provides a mechanism for poor Americans to move from Medicaid coverage into the private market, a goal he has long championed as a way of equalizing insurance coverage across income groups.

High-income earners would get substantial tax cuts on payroll and investment income. Subsidies for those low-income Americans who buy their own insurance would decline compared with current law. Low-income Americans who currently buy their own insurance would also lose federal help in paying their deductibles and co-payments.

The bill does offer insurance subsidies to poor Americans who live in states that don’t offer them Medicaid coverage, a group without good insurance options under Obamacare. But the high-deductible plans that would become the norm might continue to leave care out of their financial reach even if they do buy insurance.

The battle over resources played into the public debate. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, said the bill was needed to “bring help to the families who have been struggling with Obamacare.” In a Facebook post, President Barack Obama, without mentioning the taxes that made his program possible, condemned the Senate bill as “a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America.”

In another expression of Republican principles, the bill would make it much easier for states to set their own rules for insurance regulation, a return to the norm before Obamacare.

Under the bill, states would be able to apply for waivers that would let them eliminate consumer protection regulations, like rules that require all health plans to cover a basic package of benefits or that prevent insurance plans from limiting how much care they will cover in a given year.

Where Senators Stand on the Health Care Bill

Senate Republican leaders unveiled their health care bill on Thursday.

States could get rid of the online marketplaces that help consumers compare similar health plans, and make a variety of other changes to the health insurance system. The standards for approval are quite permissive. Not every state would choose to eliminate such rules, of course. But several might.

“You can eliminate all those financial protections,” said Nicholas Bagley, a law professor at the University of Michigan. “That would be huge.”

Americans with pre-existing conditions would continue to enjoy protection from discrimination: In contrast with the House health bill, insurers would not be allowed to charge higher prices to customers with a history of illness, even in states that wish to loosen insurance regulations.

But patients with serious illnesses may still face skimpier, less useful coverage. States may waive benefit requirements and allow insurers to charge customers more. Someone seriously ill who buys a plan that does not cover prescription drugs, for example, may not find it very valuable.

A protester being removed from outside the office of Mitch McConnell on Thursday.CreditSaul Loeb/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

There are features that would tend to drive down the sticker price of insurance, a crucial concern of many Republican lawmakers, who have criticized high prices under Obamacare. Plans that cover fewer benefits and come with higher deductibles would cost less than more comprehensive coverage.

But because federal subsidies would also decline, only a fraction of people buying their own insurance would enjoy the benefits of lower prices. Many middle-income Americans would be expected to pay a larger share of their income to purchase health insurance that covers a smaller share of their care.

The bill also includes substantial funds to help protect insurers from losses caused by unusually expensive patients, a measure designed to lure into the market those insurance carriers that have grown skittish by losses in the early years of Obamacare. But it removes a policy dear to the insurance industry — if no one else. Without an individual mandate with penalties for Americans who remain uninsured, healthier customers may choose to opt out of the market until they need medical care, increasing costs for those who stay in.

The reforms are unlikely to drive down out-of-pocket spending, another perennial complaint of the bill’s authors, and a central critique by President Trump of the current system. He often likes to say that Obamacare plans come with deductibles so high that they are unusable. Subsidies under the bill would help middle-income consumers buy insurance that pays 58 percent of the average patient’s medical costs, down from 70 percent under Obamacare; it would also remove a different type of subsidy designed to lower deductibles further for Americans earning less than around $30,000 a year.

Out-of-pocket spending is the top concern of most voters. The insurance they would buy under the bill might seem cheap at first, but it wouldn’t be if they ended up paying more in deductibles.

Mr. McConnell was constrained by political considerations and the peculiar rules of the legislative mechanism that he chose to avoid a Democratic filibuster. Despite those limits, he managed to produce a bill that reflects some bedrock conservative values. But the bill also shows some jagged seams. It may not fix many of Obamacare’s problems — high premiums, high deductibles, declining competition — that he has railed against in promoting the new bill’s passage.

Police Searches Drop Dramatically in States that Legalized Marijuana

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

Police Searches Drop Dramatically in States that Legalized Marijuana

Traffic searches by highway patrols in Colorado and Washington dropped by nearly half after the two states legalized marijuana in 2012. That also reduced the racial disparities in the stops, according to a new analysis of police data, but not by much. Blacks and Hispanics are still searched at higher rates than whites.

Highway stops have long been a tool in the war on drugs, and remain a charged issue amid a furious national debate about police treatment of minorities. Last week, protests erupted over the acquittal of a Minnesota police officer who shot to death Philando Castile after pulling him over for a broken tail light.

Sam Petulla

The overuse of traffic stops can damage the public trust in police, particularly when searches disproportionately involve black and Hispanic drivers.

“Searches where you don’t find something are really negative towards a community,” said Jack McDevitt, director of Northeastern University’s Institute on Race and Justice in Boston. “Have a police officer search your car is really like, ‘Why are they doing this to me?’ And you get more pissed off. If you’re trying to do relationship building, it’s not a good thing to do a lot of searches.”

Sam Petulla

The analysis comes from data crunched by the Stanford Open Policing Project, a team of researchers and statisticians that collected more than 60 million records of traffic stops and searches by highway patrol officers in 22 states. By sharing the data, the group aims to promote a deeper understanding of the patterns and motivations behind the most common interaction Americans have with police.

The data compiled by the Stanford group is limited in that it is not uniform across states. Each of the country’s law enforcement agencies track traffic stops differently, and some don’t release the data publicly. In the end, the group compiled data from 20 states that was deep enough to allow a rigorous analysis. Colorado and Washington were compared against 12 of these states to arrive at the conclusion that marijuana legalization likely had an effect on search rates.

In both states, marijuana legalization eliminated one of the major justifications used by police officers to stop motorists, cutting searches by more than 40 percent after legalization. In Colorado, the change occurred gradually, with searches dropping initially by 30 percent, and then flatting out to a more than 50-percent drop within a year.

In Washington, there was a drop of more than 50 percent in searches within three months of legalization. The search rate remained low thereafter. The 12 states in the Stanford study that did not pass marijuana decriminalization legislation during the period did not experience significant drops.

The biggest finding ─ and one that mirrors the results of investigations in individual states and jurisdictions ─ is that minorities are still stopped and searched at higher rates than white drivers. The threshold before a search is performed is also lower for minority drivers than it is for whites, according to the researchers at Stanford behind the Open Policing Project.

Those differences remained in Colorado and Washington even after searchers dropped following pot legalization.

Jack Glaser, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, said that although the disparities persisted, the overall drop in searches means that fewer minorities would be unfairly targeted.

“As long as police officers (like the rest of us) hold implicit or explicit stereotypes associating minorities with crime, they will perceive minorities as more suspicious,” Glaser wrote in an email.

In both states, the analysis excludes searches incident to an arrest. Those searches are not a good barometer for the searches officers conduct after making a stop at their own discretion, the researchers said.

Kansas: Christian Woman Ordered by Cops to Stop Praying in Her Home Loses in Court

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

Christian Woman Ordered by Cops to Stop Praying in Her Home Loses in Court

Jun 23, 2017 | 7:31 AM

(Photo: First Liberty Institute)Mary Anne Sause

The United States Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against a Kansas Catholic woman who claims that she was ordered by police to stop praying in her own home.

On Tuesday, the three-judge panel voted to uphold a judge’s dismissal of Mary Anne Sause’s lawsuit against two Louisburg officers, who she said demanded to be allowed into her home and wouldn’t tell her why they were there. She alleged that when she began praying, the officers, who were there because of a noise complaint, ordered her to stop.

An opinion written by Judge Nancy Moritz states that the court assumes that “the defendants violated Sause’s rights under the First Amendment” by repeatedly mocking her, ordering her to stop praying “so they could harass her,” insisting that she reveal scars from a double mastectomy and threatening her with arrest.

“But this assumption doesn’t entitle Sause to relief. Instead, Sause must demonstrate that any reasonable officer would have known this behavior violated the First Amendment,” the judge argued, citing the 2011 Supreme Court ruling in Ashcroft v. al–Kidd, which asserts that the former U.S. attorney general could not be personally sued for the jailing of a U.S. citizen after the events of September 11, 2001.

“But while the conduct alleged in this case may be obviously unprofessional, we can’t say that it’s ‘obviously unlawful,'” the judge added. “It certainly wouldn’t be obvious to a reasonable officer that, in the midst of a legitimate investigation, the First Amendment would prohibit him or her from ordering the subject of that investigation to stand up and direct his or her attention to the officer — even if the subject of the investigation is involved in religiously-motivated conduct at the time, and even if what the officers say or do immediately after issuing that command does nothing to further their investigation.”

First Liberty Institute Deputy General Counsel Jeremy Dys, who represents Sause, said in a statement that the court’s “harsh criticism of the officers’ conduct in this case supports our First Amendment claim.”

“No one should face the prospect of being arrested for praying in their own home,” Dys said.

The First Liberty Institute said in a press release that the government defended the police officers by arguing that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment only “protects an individual’s right to choose a religion.” Sause’s attorneys argued that the government’s argument misconstrues the fact that the First Amendment protects the right to exercise faith.

“While Ms. Sause’s appeal was ultimately unsuccessful, the court stated clearly that Sause’s First Amendment rights may have been violated, but the legal doctrine of qualified immunity shields the officers from any liability,” First Liberty Institute stated. “The concurring opinion condemned the police officers’ ‘extraordinary contempt of a law abiding citizen.'”

No indication was given if Sause will file an appeal with the Supreme Court.

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Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of a Mississippi law that protects people who oppose gay marriage

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of a Mississippi law that protects people who oppose gay marriage on religious grounds from being sued.

(Photo: Reuters/Mike Blake)Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant arrives to attend B.B. King’s funeral in Indianola, Mississippi, May 30, 2015.

In a unanimous decision issued Thursday, the panel concluded that the plaintiffs lacked the standing to sue the state over House Bill 1523, also called the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, reversing a lower court’s decision.

“The governor of Mississippi and the executive director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services appeal a preliminary injunction. Because the plaintiffs do not have standing, we reverse the injunction and render a judgment of dismissal,” wrote Circuit Judge Jerry Smith on behalf of the panel.

In April 2016, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed HB 1523 into law, which prohibits the state from compelling businesses and individuals from supporting or servicing gay weddings.

(Photo: Reuters/David McNew)A same-sex wedding cake topper is seen outside the East Los Angeles County Recorder’s Office on Valentine’s Day during a news event for National Freedom to Marry Week in Los Angeles, Calif., Feb. 14, 2012.

“The sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions protected by this act are the belief or conviction that: (a) Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman; (b) Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage; and (c) Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth,” reads HB 1523 in part.

LGBT groups and their allies denounced the legislation and sued to have it struck down. For his part, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order last year banning non-essential state travel to Mississippi.

“[I]t is the policy of the state of New York to promote fairness, protect the welfare of the citizens of the state of New York, and combat discrimination,” read Cuomo’s 2016 order.

“All agencies, departments, boards, authorities and commissions [will] review all requests for state funded or state sponsored travel to the state of Mississippi so long as there is law in effect there that permits and enshrines discrimination against LGBT citizens and unmarried individuals …” Cuomo’s order added.

Last summer, Judge Carlton W. Reeves blocked Mississippi’s law from taking effect, concluding that it was “a vehicle for state-sanctioned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said in a statement Thursday that he commended the panel’s ruling on the “commonsense law.”

“No person should be punished by the government with crippling fines or face disqualification for simply believing what President Obama believed until five years ago, that marriage is the union of a man and a woman,” said Perkins.

“Today’s ruling leaves us more confident that the courts will uphold the ability of elected officials to protect the freedom of their citizens to believe and live according to those beliefs”

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Supreme Court narrows grounds for revoking citizenship of naturalized citizens

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Supreme Court narrows grounds for revoking citizenship of naturalized citizens

The US Supreme Court is seen in Washington, DC, on January 31, 2017.

Story highlights

  • The case concerned a naturalized citizen who was deported after lying on her naturalization application
  • The ruling will come as relief to advocates of immigrant rights groups

Washington (CNN) The Supreme Court on Thursday narrowed the grounds on which naturalized citizens can have their citizenship revoked.

The case concerned Divan Maslenjak, a naturalized citizen who was deported after lying on her naturalization application. Maslenjak, an ethnic Serb who was born in a Serb village in what is today Bosnia and Herzegovina, arrived in the United States in 2000 as a refugee and was ultimately granted naturalization in 2007.
In 2013, however, a jury found her guilty of making false statements on her application for naturalization and she was stripped of her citizenship.
The court unanimously ruled in favor of Maslenjak, holding that the offense had to be materially related to the decision to grant naturalization.
“If whatever illegal conduct occurring within the naturalization process was a causal dead-end — if, so to speak, the ripples from that act could not have reached the decision to award citizenship — then the act cannot support a charge that the applicant obtained naturalization illegally,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote.
Newly appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch issued his first separate opinion in the case, which concurred with the judgment.
The ruling will come as relief to advocates of immigrant rights groups who feared that the lower court opinion that went against Maslenjak would give the government the power to take away citizenship and jail people based on any minor misstatement in their citizenship application.
The decision also comes at a time of concern in the human rights community that the Trump administration will aggressively seek to strip citizenship, said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor of law at the University of Texas School of Law.
Kagan said the government’s position, “wholly unmooring the revocation of citizenship from its award” would open the door to a “world of disquieting consequences — which would need far stronger textual support to believe Congress intended.”
Maslenjak’s lawyers challenged the jury instruction in the case because the jury was told it could convict her even if the false statement at issue did not influence the government’s decision to approve her naturalization.
The government argued that it could strip citizenship from an individual who lied during the naturalization process — without having to prove that the lie was significant to the decision to grant naturalization.
Lower courts were split on the issue of whether the government must prove that the offense was material to the decision to grant naturalization.
In court, Christopher Landau, a lawyer for Maslenjak, conceded that she had lied. But he said the jury instruction in the case “didn’t require the government to prove that the underlying violation of law had any effect whatsoever on the naturalization decision.” He argued that his client should be able to go back to court to argue the material question before the jury, and he acknowledged that even then she would have a “tough row to hoe.”
During arguments for the case, Roberts had a memorable moment when he reviewed a naturalization form used by the government and was concerned about how broad the questions were and of the impact the government’s position could have if someone did not fully answer every single question. He launched his own line of inquiry.
He noted that one question asks whether the applicant has ever attempted to commit a crime for which he was not arrested.
“Some time ago, outside the statute of limitations, I drove 60 miles an hour in a 55-mile-an-hour zone. … I was not arrested,” he said, as the audience laughed.
“Now you say,” Roberts continued, that if he had failed to note the offense on the form “20 years after I was naturalized as a citizen, you could knock on my door and say, ‘guess what, you’re not an American citizen after all?'”
Roberts later said he thought the government’s position could lead to a problem of “prosecutor abuse.”

Kushner Is Said to Be Reconsidering His Legal Team

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Abbe Lowell, right, a prominent trial lawyer, in 2014. Mr. Lowell was said to have been recently contacted about joining Jared Kushner’s legal team. CreditWin McNamee/Getty Images

Representatives of Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, have quietly contacted high-powered criminal lawyers about potentially representing him in the wide-ranging investigation into Russia’s influence on the 2016 election, according to three people briefed on the matter.

Some of Mr. Kushner’s allies have raised questions about the link between his current lawyer, Jamie S. Gorelick, and Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel appointed to investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, according to one of the people who spoke on condition of anonymity. Before the Justice Department named him to the special counsel post, Mr. Mueller was a law partner with Ms. Gorelick at the Washington firm of Wilmer Hale.

Such connections are common in Washington legal circles and are often resolved by an acknowledgment from the client of the possible conflict. In this case, Ms. Gorelick urged Mr. Kushner to consider other representation first.

In recent days, Mr. Kushner has had discussions with at least one prominent trial lawyer, one of the people said. And if Mr. Kushner chooses to hire a new lawyer, this person may either supplement or replace Ms. Gorelick’s team.

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So far, Mr. Kushner’s legal team remains unchanged. Ms. Gorelick, who has repeatedly said Mr. Kushner will cooperate with all Russia-related inquiries, is preparing him for a meeting with investigators for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Mr. Kushner also provided a statement on Sunday from Ms. Gorelick describing the recent discussions with other lawyers as seeking advice as opposed to replacing or adding to his legal team.

“After the appointment of our former partner Robert Mueller as special counsel, we advised Mr. Kushner to obtain the independent advice of a lawyer with appropriate experience as to whether he should continue with us as his counsel,” the statement from Ms. Gorelick said.

The outreach to other lawyers began last month, the people briefed on the matter said, when news reports revealed that at a meeting with Russia’s ambassador in December, Mr. Kushner had reportedly discussed establishing a secret communication channel between the Trump transition team and Moscow. Mr. Mueller’s investigators are examining Mr. Kushner’s contacts with Russian officials as part of a broader investigation into whether any Trump advisers colluded in Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

 

Video

Meet the Connection Between Jared Kushner and Putin

Jared Kushner is now under congressional and F.B.I. scrutiny after his meeting with a close ally of Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. Here’s how the Russian banker Sergey N. Gorkov could benefit from meeting President Trump’s senior adviser.

By NATALIA V. OSIPOVA and MARK SCHEFFLER on Publish Date June 5, 2017. Photo by Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters…Watch in Times Video »

Mr. Trump has denounced Mr. Mueller’s investigation, describing it on Twitter on Thursday as a “witch hunt” led by “some very bad and conflicted people.”

Given the president’s sentiments, he might view any link to Mr. Mueller with suspicion, including Ms. Gorelick’s representation of Mr. Kushner, according to one person who has been contacted about the matter. An official close to the president disputed that, saying Mr. Trump is pleased with Ms. Gorelick’s representation of his son-in-law.

Although Ms. Gorelick is a well-known lawyer who has often handled complex cases involving government investigations — and some of her colleagues on her team are noted courtroom litigators — she is also not primarily a trial lawyer.

In contrast, people within Mr. Kushner’s circle recently reached out to some courtroom litigators about possibly joining his legal team. Among the lawyers contacted, one person said, was Abbe D. Lowell, a prominent trial lawyer whose previous clients include Jack Abramoff, the powerful Republican lobbyist, in a corruption scandal that shook Washington in 2005. Mr. Lowell is currently defending Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, against federal corruption charges.

Mr. Lowell declined to comment.

The outreach has come as a number of White House officials have mulled whether to hire personal lawyers. An aide to Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday that Mr. Pence had retained Richard Cullen. Other White House officials are also considering hiring lawyers, and on Friday, the president added a well-known litigator, John M. Dowd, to his legal team.

Investigators have been interested for months in Mr. Kushner’s meetings with Russian officials during the presidential transition. The meetings included a session with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak.

The White House has noted that transition teams typically meet with foreign officials, and that Mr. Kushner at the time was serving as a liaison to foreign governments and officials. He reportedly met with dozens of officials from a number of countries.

At Mr. Kislyak’s request, Mr. Kushner also met with Sergey N. Gorkov, the head of the state-owned development bank Vnesheconombank. The bank is wholly owned by the Russian state and is intertwined with Russian intelligence.

F.B.I. and congressional investigators are scrutinizing whether Mr. Kushner may have met with Mr. Gorkov to help establish a direct line to Mr. Putin, or for reasons not cited by the White House.

Tensions are building inside the Justice Department

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Tensions are building inside the Justice Department as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein contemplates whether he will become a witness in the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 US elections.

Rosenstein, in office for less than two months, is the top Justice official overseeing the probe because Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself.
But Rosenstein could end up recusing himself, too, Justice officials say, in part because he played a role in President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. The Comey dismissal could become part of a widening investigation into whether the President tried to interfere with the ongoing Russia probe.
Officials familiar with the matter describe friction on the Justice Department’s fourth and fifth floors, home to the suite of offices belonging to the deputy attorney general and the attorney general, respectively, in part because of Rosenstein’s handling of the Russia matter.
Rosenstein was among those who advised Sessions to recuse himself, according to officials briefed on the matter. But then Rosenstein made the surprise move to appoint Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead the Russia investigation, a development that people close to Sessions and Trump believe has worsened matters for everyone involved.
Sessions learned of the Mueller appointment at about the same time that the press was told, according to people briefed on the matter. The attorney general was at a White House meeting when the notification came from Rosenstein, prompting the enraged President to scold the attorney general for the turn of events. Trump had viewed Sessions’ recusal as unnecessary, even though Justice Department regulations made it almost impossible to avoid.
The focus on Rosenstein sharpened Friday because the President attacked the deputy attorney general in a tweet, blaming him for what he terms a “witch hunt.”
“I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt,” the President tweeted.
The President’s tweet — seeming to confirm the probe based on news reports — came as a surprise to the President’s own legal team, according to a person briefed on the matter.
Mueller continues to hire a team of lawyers, and with FBI investigators is gathering information that is widely expected to lead to a formal investigation into whether President Trump attempted to interfere in the investigation. Comey’s firing likely will be part of that probe.

Special counsel members donated to Dems

Special counsel members donated to Dems 02:26
Rosenstein told the Associated Press earlier this month that when he hired Mueller he discussed the possibility of having recuse himself “if anything that I did winds up being relevant to his investigation” and if recusal is necessary.
The strain on Rosenstein has increasingly become visible in recent weeks, according to Justice officials.
At a ceremony last month to welcome Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, the Justice Department’s third-ranking official, Rosenstein joked awkwardly about being at the center of criticism since taking office, according to people who were in the room.
If Rosenstein recuses himself, Brand, a Trump appointee, would become the top Justice official overseeing Mueller’s work.
On Thursday night, he issued a statement lashing out at news stories sourced to anonymous officials and that he believes are causing the President and Republicans to attack the Justice Department, the FBI and Mueller for alleged leaks.
Rosenstein’s unusual statement, which he issued over the objections of some advisers, said in part: “Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous ‘officials.'”
A Justice official said Rosenstein was motivated in part because of frustration that recent news stories have unfairly brought on a torrent of “leak” accusations against the FBI and Mueller’s team.

Nevada Governor Signs Marijuana Bills As Adult-Use Sales Cleared For Early Start

 

MPP Blog


Nevada Governor Signs Marijuana Bills as Adult-Use Sales Cleared for Early Start

Posted: 16 Jun 2017 12:51 PM PDT

Nevada is moving toward well-regulated and accessible medical and recreation marijuana programs – Governor Sandoval signed marijuana-related bills into law and the state has approved early-start recreational sales!

Of the bills, the first, SB344, requires marijuana edibles be in unattractive, childproof packaging; the second, AB422, lowers medical marijuana patient fees; and the third, SB487, imposes a 10% tax on recreational marijuana sales – adding the revenue to the state’s rainy day fund and regulating limited access of the fund until 2019.

Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed AB259, a bill that would have expunged criminal records of those convicted of possessing one ounce or less of marijuana or violating any provision of law involving marijuana that is now legal.

The approved bills will join four bills signed into law this session providing a framework for Nevada’s new recreational marijuana industry, while preserving the state’s medical marijuana program.

Additionally, Nevada’s adult-use marijuana industry could begin adult-use sales by July 1. The Department of Taxation approved temporary regulations and applications have already been accepted. However, adult-use sales could be delayed by a legal challenge from alcohol distributors. MPP is monitoring closely and will be working to avoid any delay.

The post Nevada Governor Signs Marijuana Bills as Adult-Use Sales Cleared for Early Start appeared first on MPP Blog.

Trump keeps creating his own personal hell—Because He Is To Ignorant And Stupid To Shut Up

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Trump keeps creating his own personal hell

June 15 
Special counsel investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice
The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials to determine whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said. (Patrick Martin,McKenna Ewen/The Washington Post)

Last month President Trump apparently told the Russians he fired FBI director James B. Comey to relieve pressure on him. Except, in firing Comey, Trump has upped the pressure cooker he’s in by a factor of 10.

“I’m not under investigation,” Trump then told the Russian foreign minister in the Oval Office, according to the New York Times.

Now, it appears he is.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice, related to Comey’s testimony alleging that Trump tried to interfere in some of the FBI’s Russia investigations.

Until recently, the FBI’s investigation had focused on Russia meddling in the presidential campaign and whether Trump’s campaign helped. We knew the investigation was looking into Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, but we had no idea how much higher it would go. Now, that investigation has branched out into obstruction into its first investigation. And the spotlight on the obstruction case is entirely on the president himself.

This is the great irony for Trump, an irony he doesn’t seem to have comprehended: When he feels backed into a corner, he lashes out in politically inadvisable ways that often makes his life much more difficult. But he can’t seem to stop doing it.

As a candidate behind in the polls, Trump lurched at Hillary Clinton in a way that gave her supporters leverage to claim Trump wasn’t supportive of women. As a president who watched health-care legislation stall in the House of Representatives, he blamed conservatives in a way that fractured his delicate relationship with Congress. When he tweeted about an impending court decision on his travel ban, a federal court used that against him.

Some of that still worked out for him, some of it hasn’t.

But when Trump feels encroached by a serious and multipronged legal investigation, lashing out attracts a different set of consequences for the president: Legal ones that directly threaten him.

You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history – led by some very bad and conflicted people!

 

Jacobovitz doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that, last week, a friend of the president said Trump was considering firing Mueller. (A consideration the White House didn’t deny: They later said Trump has “no intention” of firing Mueller.)

A few days later, sources with knowledge of the closed-door special counsel investigation leaked to The Post that Trump himself is under investigation. That’s a shocking development.

But making the scope public is like a buffer for Mueller’s job security — and it could act as a buffer to try to save the president from himself.

“Now it’s clear that he’s being investigated, it makes it even more difficult to fire Mueller,” Jacobovitz said, “because it looks like he’s trying to terminate an investigation against himself. … It would be political suicide.”

If Trump were to follow through on his natural instinct to lash out and fire Mueller, he would have little support. Pretty much everyone who’s anyone in Washington has made clear they think it’d be a terrible, terrible idea for Trump to sack Mueller.

“I think the best advice is to let Robert Mueller do his job,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters on Tuesday.

For how Trump could, feasibly, fire Mueller, here’s a flow chart by Washington Post’s Philip Bump, who explains the process in detail here:

That doesn’t mean Trump will keep his head down. Especially since things could get even worse for him on the legal front.

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Attorneys general for Maryland and the District of Columbia have filed a lawsuit against the president, alleging he’s violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution by not fully separating himself from his business. (He retains an ownership stake in the business his sons run.) So has a government watchdog advocacy group. And nearly 200 Democratic members of Congress will soon file a similar lawsuit.

If any one of those gets traction in the courts (and Jacobovitz thinks one will), Trump could be investigated for his personal finances as well as his actions as president. Oh, and Mueller’s investigation is also reportedly looking into unexplained “broad financial crimes.”

Add it all up and you have a president who could soon be under attack on multiple legal fronts. Trump’s go-to move when he feels under attack is to respond in a way that exacerbates the situation. That’s why there’s an obstruction of justice investigation in the first place.

At this point, the president has boxed himself into a corner where following his instincts could make his life exponentially worse.

Senate Intelligence Committee: AG Sessions Flip-Flops And Lies His Way Throughout

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions tried to have his cake and eat it too when it came to his explanations during congressional testimony Tuesday for the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

On the one hand, Sessions didn’t feel like he needed to stay in the Oval Office on February 14 when President Trump said he wanted to speak privately with Comey. And he didn’t feel the need to do anything following a meeting the two men had in the days that followed in which Comey expressed his discomfort with these one-on-one conversations with the president.
Sessions’ justification in both instances was that Comey was a total pro, that he knew his stuff and that Sessions trusted him to handle his business.
“I felt (Comey), so long in the department — former deputy attorney general, as I recall — knew those policies probably a good deal better than I did,” said Sessions at one point. At another, Sessions said: “Our Department of Justice rules on proper communications between the department and the White House have been in place for years. Mr. Comey well knew them, I thought and assumed, correctly, that he complied with them.”
On the other hand, Sessions told the Senate intelligence committee that he and deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had discussed removing Comey as FBI director and agreed that it was time for a “fresh start” at the bureau before either man was confirmed to their current positions.
Huh?
Either Comey was the ultimate pro who could be trusted to handle his business or he was someone who Sessions had decided months before needed to go because he had badly mismanaged his role in the 2016 election. Comey can’t simultaneously be highly competent and a bungling, bumbling fool depending on what image suits Sessions’ needs at the moment.
But, time and again, Sessions tried to hold those totally oppositional thoughts in his head — and insisted that they weren’t at all contradictory.
As Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, noted in Tuesday’s hearing, in July and again in October — following Comey’s initial announcement that Hillary Clinton had been “extremely careless” in her handling of her private email server and his decision to re-open the case in October — Sessions praised the then FBI director.
This exchange between Reed and Sessions is telling:
REED: So, in July and November, Director Comey was doing exactly the right thing. You had no criticism of him. You felt that in fact he was a skilled professional prosecutor. You felt that his last statement in October was fully justified. So how can you go from those statements to agreeing with Mr. Rosenstein and then asking the President, or recommending he be fired?
SESSIONS: I think, in retrospect, as all of us begin to look at that clearly and talk about it, as perspectives of the Department of Justice, once the director had first got involved and embroiled in a public discussion of this investigation, which would have been better never to have been discussed publicly, and said he — it was over. Then when he found new evidence that came up, I think he probably was required to tell Congress that it wasn’t over, that new evidence had been developed.
Uh, what?
If you get what Sessions is driving at in his response to Reed, you are a better — and smarter — person than me.
(Also worth noting: Comey testified, under oath, that Trump called him several times in the first part of this year to tell him how great a job he was doing.)
Then there was the fact, revealed in Sessions’ testimony yesterday, that he had never met with Comey to discuss what he took to be his poor performance.
This back and forth with Mark Warner, D-Virginia, the vice chairman of the intelligence committee, gets at that oddity:
WARNER: So you were his — his superior, and there were some fairly harsh things said about Director Comey. You never thought it was appropriate to raise those concerns before he was actually terminated by the President?
SESSIONS: I did not do so. A memorandum was prepared by the deputy attorney general, who evaluated his performance and noted some serious problems with it.
Take one giant step back. We know, because Donald Trump told us, that the real reason he fired Comey was because of the former FBI director’s approach to the Russia investigation. Trump said that after his administration had tried to sell the same case Sessions was selling on Tuesday: That Comey was removed because of a memo from Rosenstein.
That’s the fact. Everything else — including Sessions’ attempts to spin his views on Comey and the circumstances surrounding his firing — are simply post-action spin.

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