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The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Sue Me!

By Elaine Godfrey

Written by Elaine Godfrey (@elainejgodfrey), Madeleine Carlisle (@maddiecarlisle2), and Olivia Paschal (@oliviacpaschal)

Today in 5 Lines

  • Amid calls from Democrats to “abolish ICE,” the White House hosted an event honoring what it termed the “heroes” of Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

  • President Trump tweeted that he hopes former CIA Director John Brennan goes to court over the revocation of his security clearance, saying that it would make it easier to show “the poor job he did” as CIA director.

  • First Lady Melania Trump advocated against cyberbullying as part of her Be Best campaign, while Trump insulted Brennan on Twitter.

  • In an open letter, Pope Francis responded to last week’s Pennsylvania grand jury report concluding that more than 1,000 victims had been abused by 300 Catholic priests across the state. “We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them,” he wrote.

  • Jury deliberations continued for a third day in the fraud trial of former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

Today on The Atlantic

  • Addicted to Pot? As marijuana legalization rolls forward, some Americans are smoking pot daily—leading to addictive behavior and health problems that nobody seems to be talking about. (Annie Lowrey)

  • Multiple Messages: Democrats don’t need one united message; they need hundreds of messages tailored to each candidate, writes former New York Representative Steve Israel.

  • Concentrated Poverty: In Fresno, California’s poorest large city, a legacy of discrimination has lasting effects on its residents. (Reis Thebault)

  • Legal Challenges: President Trump’s biggest headache in the ongoing special counsel investigation might come from an unexpected source—his lawyers. (David A. Graham)


President Trump greets Customs and Border Patrol agent Adrian Anzaldua during an event to salute U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in the East Room …read more

Via:: <a href= class="colorbox" title="The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Sue Me!” rel=nofollow>The Atlantic



Are Trump’s Lawyers an Asset or a Liability?

By David A. Graham

It was like clockwork: On Sunday morning, Rudy Giuliani appeared on Meet the Press and, as he seems to do every time he gives a televised interview, delivered a head-slapping remark.

“Truth isn’t truth,” President Trump’s attorney told Chuck Todd in the midst of a heated back-and-forth. As Giuliani later explained, he wasn’t making a metaphysical point but simply saying sometimes the law hinges on he-said, she-said problems. One flaw is that in the example Giuliani cited, the president either spoke with former FBI Director James Comey about Michael Flynn or he didn’t. There is a reality, and if Trump is confident his is true, it’s remains unclear why Giuliani doesn’t want his client to say so in an interview with the special counsel.

Yet as problems with attorneys go, Giuliani’s cringeworthy soundbite is the least of the president’s troubles at the moment. Trump faces serious threats from testimony that two lawyers, Michael Cohen and Don McGahn, have given or might offer. The risks have been exacerbated or created by the haphazard maneuvering of the president’s own mercurial and often-changing legal defense team. For a man with nearly unparalleled experience in dealing with attorneys, it’s a strange predicament: Lawyers have long defended and aided Trump, but now they pose a potentially existential threat to his presidency.

In New York, prosecutors are reportedly investigating Trump’s former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen with tax and bank fraud in connection with $20 million in loans. According to The New York Times, charges could come as soon as this month. The fraud in question appears to deal with Cohen’s taxicab business, but it’s a big problem for Trump anyway, because Cohen has been all but shouting from Manhattan rooftops that he’s willing to testify against Trump in order to mitigate his own legal …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The Sunday Shows Have a Renewed Sense of Purpose, Thanks to Trump

By Scott Nover

“I think, without any question, this is the biggest moment of the Trump presidency.”

It was the day in June when Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the Supreme Court, and Chris Wallace was on Fox News explaining to viewers the gravity of the Court’s swing vote stepping down.

I’d been interviewing Wallace when the Kennedy news broke, and he’d politely excused himself from our call and hopped on the air. Within a few moments after he finished up his five-minute spot, he called me back.

It’s moments like this Wallace credits for reinforcing the importance of his primary news format: the political talk show broadcast from Washington, D.C., every Sunday morning. A stalwart of network television since the late 1970s, Wallace has hosted Fox News Sunday since 2003 and is the face of Fox’s hard-news division. “I think that the Sunday shows are more relevant and more important than ever in the Trump era,” Wallace explained during our interview. “And the reason I say that is because the velocity of news and the amount of news in a week is so much greater than we’ve ever seen before, and I’ve been doing Sunday talk shows since Reagan was president.” (Wallace also hosted Meet the Press from 1987 to 1988.)

Wallace’s superlatives are the subject of much debate among the chattering class in Washington. While there’s no question that Sunday morning retains an important place in the spin cycle, these iconic shows are fast evolving—as is just about everything else—in Donald Trump’s Washington. An important new focus: helping viewers fight through the partisan noise and tell truth from lies.

The Sunday shows also often now help define the news of the week—and set the next week’s agenda—when the velocity of breaking events and controversy threatens to spin out of control. Part …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Senator Burr’s Shortcomings Are Showing

By Conor Friedersdorf

Senator Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, leads the only credible congressional investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

It is getting harder to have confidence in his leadership.

Last week, The New York Times published an op-ed by John Brennan, the Obama administration national-security official who presided over extrajudicial drone killings and made false statements to Congress about CIA spying on its congressional overseers during his tenure.

Lately, he has been criticizing President Trump, who decided to revoke his ability to view classified information. Brennan claimed that the decision to do so was politically motivated. But that wasn’t the focus of his op-ed.

Mostly, he criticizes Donald Trump for the July 2016 news conference where he encouraged Russia to find the emails of his opponent Hillary Clinton.

Candidate Trump’s exact words:

“I will tell you this: Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens. That’ll be next.”

In Brennan’s telling, “Mr. Trump was not only encouraging a foreign nation to collect intelligence against a United States citizen,”—so far, so good—“but also openly authorizing his followers to work with our primary global adversary against his political opponent.” Does that follow?  

I don’t think so.

“Such a public clarion call certainly makes one wonder what Mr. Trump privately encouraged his advisers to do—and what they actually did—to win the election,” Brennan continues, returning to sound argument.

Finally, Brennan says that he follows the news, and that there are many suspicious interactions between Trump’s associates and Russians. He questions whether or not “the collusion”—that is, Team Trump’s known attempts to benefit from Russian help on campaign matters—ever crossed the line into not just immoral, but illegal, behavior:

While I had deep …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Fresno’s Mason-Dixon Line

By Reis Thebault

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series exploring the vast racial and economic inequality in Fresno, the poorest major city in California. These stories were reported by students at the University of California at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

James Helming knew every corner in Fresno. He knew which roads were paved and he knew which way the smoke from nearby factories blew. He knew the houses, and he knew who lived in them. It was his job, after all, to assess every neighborhood in the city for “desirability.” The year was 1936, and Helming, a junior field agent from a federal agency formed under the New Deal, was charged with making sense of Fresno’s shifting demographics.

Armenian, Russian, and Italian residents were moving north, and the black and Hispanic populations were growing and expanding in their place. And Helming’s agency, the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, drew color-coded maps to determine who would get the credit necessary to buy houses.

The Home Owners’ Loan Corporation used this redlining map to preserve segregation in Fresno. The areas shaded red were home to an “undesirable” population. (Courtesy of T-RACES, University of Maryland)

White neighborhoods were shaded green, and white buyers in these areas were generally approved  for loans. Neighborhoods with large minority populations were shaded red, denied mortgages, and labeled undesirable. Fresno’s west side was red, and in his report, Helming noted the “almost exclusive concentration of colored races” present there. He noted that in more affluent neighborhoods, like Fig Garden, “residence lots were sold under careful deed restrictions as to race.” If a neighborhood didn’t have these restrictions, Helming noted they were at risk of an “infiltration of a lower grade population.” These deed restrictions, known as racially restrictive covenants, were another mechanism that prevented people of …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



America’s Invisible Pot Addicts

By Annie Lowrey

The proliferation of retail boutiques in California did not really bother him, Evan told me, but the billboards did. Advertisements for delivery, advertisements promoting the substance for relaxation, for fun, for health. “Shop. It’s legal.” “Hello marijuana, goodbye hangover.” “It’s not a trigger,” he told me. “But it is in your face.”

When we spoke, he had been sober for a hard-fought seven weeks: seven weeks of sleepless nights, intermittent nausea, irritability, trouble focusing, and psychological turmoil. There were upsides, he said, in terms of reduced mental fog, a fatter wallet, and a growing sense of confidence that he could quit. “I don’t think it’s a ‘can’ as much as a ‘must,’” he said.

Evan, asked that his full name not be used for fear of the professional repercussions, has a self-described cannabis-use disorder. If not necessarily because of legalization, but alongside legalization, such problems are becoming more common: The share of adults with one has doubled since the early aughts, as the share of cannabis users who consume it daily or near-daily has jumped nearly 50 percent—all “in the context of increasingly permissive cannabis legislation, attitudes, and lower risk perception,” as the National Institutes of Health put it.

Public-health experts worry about the increasingly potent options available, and the striking number of constant users. “Cannabis is potentially a real public-health problem,” said Mark A. R. Kleiman, a professor of public policy at New York University. “It wasn’t obvious to me 25 years ago, when 9 percent of self-reported cannabis users over the last month reported daily or near-daily use. I always was prepared to say, ‘No, it’s not a very abusable drug. Nine percent of anybody will do something stupid.’ But that number is now [something like] 40 percent.” They argue that state and …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The New Enemies List

By Julian E. Zelizer

Reacting to The New York Times story that White House Counsel Don McGahn has been speaking with Robert Mueller’s team, President Trump tweeted out that McGahn is not a “John Dean type ‘RAT,’” and that the story was fake news.

It’s odd that Trump should bring up John Dean this weekend, for it was just this week that we also learned Trump has an Enemies List, just like Richard Nixon. Unlike Nixon, though, the president is hiding nothing—using security clearances and his Twitter account as the chief weapons to go after his opponents.

This is a dangerous move.

Nixon’s Enemies List, officially called his “Opponents List,” was a document that was initially compiled by presidential advisor George T. Bell for Charles Colson, the infamous “hatchet man.” Colson turned over the list to White House Counsel John Dean on September 9, 1971. The list, which at first included 20 names, was a compilation of figures from all walks of life, ranging from the actor Paul Newman (“Radic-Lib causes . . . Heavy McCarthy involvement ‘68”) to journalists such as Mary McGrory and Daniel Schorr (a “real media enemy”) to politicians like the African American legislators Ron Dellums and John Conyers (“a leading black anti-Nixon spokesman”), to the labor leader Leonard Woodstock, president of the United Auto Workers. The New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath even made the made it onto the document.

The goal of the Enemies List was to highlight and target some of the president’s most pesky critics. The document described “how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political opponents.” The White House attempted to use numerous tactics to go after these figures. The Internal Revenue Service turned to audits as a method of harassment while federal contracts became a tool to punish other perceived enemies of the state. …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Democrats Don’t Need a National Message

By Steve Israel

On an early morning in June, I joined several dozen Democratic donors in a plush residence on the 64th floor of Trump World Tower to support the reelection of a Democratic congressman. The irony that we were raising money in the president’s building escaped no one, and the congressman took some questions from the audience about Trump’s tweets and Robert Mueller’s investigation.

But most in the crowd wanted to know one thing: What’s the Democratic message?

There, in a building staffed with uniformed doormen, standing on floors so fine that we’d been asked to remove our shoes, the donors demanded to know why their party had no unifying theme. Or, more precisely, why wasn’t the message the specific message that they wanted messaged?

These questions have come up at Democratic gatherings across the country this year, from grassroots fundraisers to posh weekend retreats. Late last month, House Democrats introduced what they hope will be the answer: “For the People,” their new slogan for the midterms. One top Democratic aide told me it’s meant to capture the innate sense among voters that “Democrats are for the people and Republicans are for special interests.” But my fellow Democrats have it wrong that they need a national message template in the first place. Past elections have shown that the most effective messaging is local and specific to each district.

To really understand how we got here, it’s useful to attend a weekly Democratic caucus meeting in Room HC-7 of the Capitol building, as I regularly did when I served for eight terms as a congressman from New York. Sitting on cheap plastic chairs, balancing plates of breakfast foods on their laps, Democrats hash out the weekly agenda. But they all have different ideas on what that agenda should look …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Trump’s Implicit Defense of Alex Jones Is an Echo of Birtherism

By Adrienne LaFrance

The news cameras showed up, like they always do, and Donald Trump was ready for them. He emerged from a helicopter with TRUMP stamped across the side. He grinned. Then he took one of the most absurd victory laps in modern American politics.

With every tweetstorm of his presidency, this is the moment—April 27, 2011, on a tarmac in New Hampshire—that should flicker across the national memory.

Trump’s story that day was about the birth certificate of the man who was president at the time, the man whom Trump would eventually replace in the Oval Office. After years of badgering Barack Obama about his birthplace, after relentless attempts to discredit the legitimacy of Obama’s presidency by falsely claiming Obama wasn’t really born in the United States, Trump had succeeded in getting the White House to release the president’s long-form birth certificate. And there in Portsmouth, Trump took credit for settling the matter—a frenzy of his own creation.

“I’m very proud of myself because I’ve accomplished something that nobody else has been able to accomplish,” Trump said at the time. “I am really honored, frankly, to have played such a big role in hopefully, hopefully, getting rid of this issue.” And then, leaving open the possibility of additional drama, as always: “I want to look at [the birth certificate], but I hope it’s true.”

I hope it’s true! There may be no utterance more quintessential in understanding Trump’s relationship with the truth. His penchant for repeating exaggerations and fabrications is explained away with self-affirmation and hope. (“An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud,” Trump tweeted in August 2012, more than a year after that fateful New Hampshire press conference.)

Politicians are infamously casual with facts, …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



An Admiral Speaks Out

By Susan Hennessey

This week, retired Admiral William McRaven published an unsparing open letter to President Trump requesting that, in the wake of the president’s decision to strip former CIA Director John Brennan of a security clearance, the president grant him the same honor. It is a startling intervention by a luminary of military leadership—the man responsible for the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden—who has not previously publicly criticized this president, nor any other for that matter.

To understand the meaning of McRaven’s intervention, one must recognize the ongoing challenge faced by former national security officials and military officers regarding appropriate responses to this president. National security is supposed to exist apart from politics—the identity of the president might change the list of national intelligence priorities or military objectives, but the job stays the same. This is a realm in which everyone is supposed to be on the same team; permitting cracks in that foundation leads to rapid erosion. Even after retirement, former military officers and similarly situated national security officials typically refrain from overt political participation: What is a formal rule during the period of service transforms into a powerful norm of silence upon return to civilian life. The candidacy and presidency of Donald Trump has upended this tradition.

The president’s detractors are simultaneously applauding McRaven’s statement and lamenting that it will have no impact. They are correct that McRaven’s op-ed is unlikely to change any minds among the president’s base. It will not embolden congressional Republicans finally to take a stand. Certainly it will not shame Trump into ceasing his relentless campaign against any and all who would dare oppose him. But the letter isn’t designed to do any of those things.

McRaven’s intended audience is not the general public, nor the president to whom this letter is addressed. Rather, McRaven is speaking …read more

Via:: The Atlantic