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Weekly News Wrap-Up 6/23 “Distractions”

Week of 6/23 “Distractions”

I started the weekly news wrap-up right after Congress started its current session because I felt a lot of important stories were not getting attention. Every week I strive to develop a report that doesn’t just recap the big stories, but shines a light on the life-altering things that are happening in the shadows. I use only top-tier media that rank as close to moderate or non-biased as possible. I tend to include the publication that first broke the story, because I think the journalists deserve the credit. And I use this top section here to share what I think the main take away of the week was.

There will be some changes coming in the next week weeks. There are people who will be helping me compile stories, and there may be some rebranding. But the purpose will be the same: Shine a light on the real story and avoid the sensational. I do not include much of what Kellyanne Conway says, or what the President tweets. You did not see anything from me on Confeve, and you won’t see anything this week on the President’s vile comments to Mika Brzezinski. These things are not news. What is news is what these issues are distracting us from.

The President lashes out with insane tweets and statements when things are happening that he doesn’t like. He does this for a few reasons, that I can decipher. The first is an unrelenting, narcissistic desire to be in control. The second reason is his equally narcissistic desire to be the center of attention. Any attention is good attention for him.

What is he trying to distract from this week? Look below to find out.

Russia Investigation:

  1. An associate working on behalf of Mike Flynn contacted Russian hackers and tried to see if they could get the 33,000 emails that Clinton claimed she deleted before handing her records over to the FBI. According to the associate, Peter W Smith, the hackers instead were able to get him the Podesta emails. Smith did not know if they were authentic, and told the hackers to give them to Wikilinks instead. (10)
  2. If you read one long article this week, this one should be it. The Washington Post’s investigative journalism team has once again provided a great amount of detail and clarity to what happened inside the Obama Administration after it became clear that Russia was trying to interfere with the election. Obama and staff had numerous meetings to discuss options and did take action, but now some of those who were a part of the process regret not going further. (11)
  3. A Russian official with a stated income of just $75,000 a year spent $5.4 million — cash — on Trump condos in South Florida in the past 5 years. He is not the only one. There have been a number of Russian oligarchs and government officials who have funneled cash into Trump properties in America. It is probably that Trump has laundering money for these officials. (18)
  4. At least 10 White House aides and officials have hired personal attorneys to help them with the ongoing investigations. Jared Kushner has two attorneys, one who worked with Robert Mueller, and the other who is a criminal defense attorney. (22)

Administration:

  1. The Trump Administration is moving to rescind an Obama era rule that required time-and-a-half overtime pay for anyone making $47,476 a year or more. This lowered the threshold of those required to receive overtime pay and was seen as a big boost to the middle class. (1)
  2. Donald Trump claimed that ‘millions’ voted for Clinton ‘illegally’ but never produced any evidence to support these claims. He created a committee to look into voter fraud, which many see as a thinly veiled attempt at disenfranchising legitimate voters through laws that make it harder for citizens to vote. Well, that committee just asked all 50 states for their voter rolls. Some of these states were wary when the Obama Administration offered to help after they learned of Russian attempts to influence the election, and overall, they do not want the feds dabbling in elections they see as a state’s issue. (5)
  3. Trump sold himself to the American people as the best negotiator and the best person to get deals done. He has been unable to close on healthcare, however. Articles this week described him as “disengaged,” “unaware” of what was in the bill, and “taking a back seat.” Vice President Pence is now leading healthcare negotiations in Trump’s place. (6)
  4. (Opinion piece) There will be more on this next week as Trump goes to Europe and news about a resolution that would remove some military authorization from Trump clearing a house committee makes it beyond the liberal rags. But here’s what you need to know now: Trump’s saber rattling in the Middle East is putting America at risk of entering another war. This is not sitting well with Republicans who are now working to restrain their president. (8)
  5. Trump’s “war with the media” continues to intensify. More and more press briefings are being held without any recordings allowed, or are canceled altogether, and media is being told more and more items are not for publication. Additionally, in his first official re-election campaign fundraiser (no that’s not a joke) at Trump International Hotel, Trump dangled the prospect of suing CNN for a story the retracted for not “meeting their editorial standards.” (15)
  6. After a Twitter tirade where Trump accused Obama of “doing nothing” to stop Russian interference in the election, Trump has done nothing to stop Russian interference in upcoming elections. Aides claim Trump is “consumed” by the Russian probe, but his concern seems to be limited only to his culpability, and not to any actual wrongdoing on the part of the Kremlin. (16)
  7. The Supreme Court has allowed a partial reinstatement of the Administration travel ban. The court is allowing people from 6 majority Muslim nations with “bonafide” connections within the US (family, job, education) to enter. The Trump administration interpreted “bonafide” to mean close family relations. Hawaii has asked for clarification, believing that this interpretation is too narrow. (19)
  8. The EPA is looking to rescind an Obama era rule that aimed to protect drinking water through regulation of smaller bodies of water than have historically been protected under the Clean Water Act. (21)
  9. Acting without informing the Pentagon, Trump threatened the Assad Regime to not conduct any more chemical weapons attacks. This type of saber rattling is exactly what has military officials and lawmakers nervous. (23)
  10. Rex Tillerson’s frustrations with the Administration led to him blowing up at senior White House staff. Tillerson does not like that the Administration is getting in the way of him staffing his agency, is making statements that conflict with his, and are not giving him the autonomy that was promised. (24)

Congress:

  1. Sausage and laws are two things you don’t want to see get done. It appears that the Trump Administration may trade H-2b visas to Maine and Alaska to win votes from two Senators on health care. (3)
  2. Democrats in the House are planning on introducing an amendment to a bill that would require the Air Force to report on the costs of Presidential leisure travel. This bill is a direct response to the President’s many expensive trips to Mar-a-Lago and other properties he owns. (4)
  3. This week, the Koch Brothers held a conference for a number of GOP lawmakers in Colorado where the message was clear: no money until Obamacare repeal and tax ‘reform.’ The libertarian Koch Brothers are driving Republicans further to the right on spending issues, putting their troves of cash over the Average American. What’s more… and I’m upset this wasn’t a bigger bombshell, Koch and other libertarian/tea party PACs have ADMITTED that they pay protesters! No wonder they think Trump protesters are paid, after all, they are! (12)
  4. Andy Biggs is working as a surrogate for Trump in his calls for Mueller to recuse himself from any investigations around Russia. Mueller’s crime in Biggs’ book? Being friendly with Comey. He also has issue with the team Mueller has assembled, which has specialities including obstruction of justice. (16)
  5. Lawmakers are home this week. Make sure to call their local offices on healthcare and the Russian probe!

State/Other:

  1. Support of Donald Trump among his base remains strong, however, support among Independents is down sharply since he took office. (2)
  2. The City of Mesa recently approved an agreement with a private jail for the holding of residents who are suspected of committing a crime. Unsurprisingly, we learned this week that those who voted yes on the deal have a cozy relationship with the private jail contractor.  (7)
  3. Arizona business leaders are trying to persuade Senators McCain and Flake, as well as Governor Ducey to NOT support the healthcare law. The business leaders point to the massive hole the loss of Medicaid expansion will blow in the state budget. At this point, Ducey has not come out in support of the bill, but has reaffirmed his commitment to “repeal and replace.” (9)
  4. More on the news about dark money being used to pay activists, former Arizona congressional aide Sean Noble was one of the people funneling millions of dollars from Koch and others into groups. (13)
  5. Both the House and Senate Healthcare bills will pull back Medicaid expansion. The bills will also cap enrollment so new families cannot apply, regardless of their health or financial condition. Arizona tried this in 2011 and it was a disaster. Emergency Rooms were flooded with people whose once under control conditions were suddenly out of control and in need of serious medical intervention. Hospitals imposed fees for those who could pay to help subsidize those who couldn’t, and many rural hospitals almost closed their doors, no longer able to pay their bills with the influx of patients who they had to care for, regardless of their ability to pay. And this was all in one year. (14)
  6. The Pentagon is considering canceling a program that allowed undocumented immigrants to serve in the military in much-needed medical and language positions in exchange for putting them on track for citizenship. About 1,000 recruits will be at risk of deportation. (20)

Resources:

  1. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/06/27/534597018/labor-department-rethinking-obama-era-overtime-pay-rule
  2. http://www.npr.org/2017/06/28/534602973/trump-fails-to-reach-beyond-base-as-independents-disapproval-grows
  3. https://www.propublica.org/article/is-trump-administration-visa-push-way-to-win-health-care-votes
  4. http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/washington/2017/06/28/arizona-lawmakers-want-pentagon-give-breakdown-trumps-travel-costs/437632001/
  5. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/06/29/534901343/white-house-panel-asks-states-for-their-voter-rolls
  6. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/27/us/health-care-bill-trump-pence.html?_r=0
  7. http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/mesa-officials-cozy-relationship-private-jail-employees-corecivic-9449283
  8. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/27/donald-trumps-bloodlust-war-middle-east-iran-chaos
  9. http://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/health/2017/06/27/senate-health-bill-affordable-care-act-obamacare-medicaid-arizona-budget/430414001/
  10. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/30/russia-hackers-clinton-emails-mike-flynn
  11. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/world/national-security/obama-putin-election-hacking/?utm_term=.0fbdd6d9db82
  12. https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2017/06/26/us/ap-us-koch-donors.html?_r=0
  13. https://www.propublica.org/article/the-dark-money-man-how-sean-noble-moved-the-kochs-cash-into-politics-and-ma
  14. http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2017/06/arizona_provides_a_bleak_preview_of_america_under_the_ahca.html
  15. http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/28/politics/donald-trump-sarah-huckabee-sanders-media/index.html
  16. http://thehill.com/homenews/house/339273-gop-congressman-calls-on-mueller-to-recuse-himself-from-russia-probe
  17. http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/elections/trump-white-house-has-taken-little-action-stop-next-election-n776116
  18. http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article157640179.html
  19. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/06/29/534947770/hawaii-asks-federal-court-for-clarification-as-travel-ban-goes-into-effect
  20. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2017/06/26/the-pentagon-promised-citizenship-to-immigrants-who-served-now-it-might-help-deport-them/?utm_term=.de06e3424bb2
  21. https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-epa-move-to-rescind-obama-administrations-clean-water-rule-1498586400
  22. https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-aides-hire-lawyers-for-probe-into-russian-election-hacking-1498573290
  23. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/26/us/politics/syria-will-pay-a-heavy-price-for-another-chemical-attack-trump-says.html
  24. http://www.politico.com/story/2017/06/28/tillerson-blows-up-at-white-house-aide-240075