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The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Phone a Fox & Friend

By Elaine Godfrey

Today in 5 Lines

  • In a freewheeling interview on Fox & Friends, President Trump appeared to confirm that his lawyer, Michael Cohen, represented him in a matter with adult-film star Stormy Daniels. He also defended White House physician Ronny Jackson and accused former FBI Director James Comey of committing crimes.

  • Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, withdrew his name from consideration amid a series of misconduct allegations.

  • It was a busy day on Capitol Hill: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt told lawmakers that he had some knowledge of raises awarded to two of his closest aides, contradicting his earlier statements; and conservative social-media personalities Diamond and Silk alleged that they were silenced by Facebook in a House Judiciary Committee hearing.

  • The Senate confirmed former CIA Director Mike Pompeo to be the next secretary of state.

  • Comedian Bill Cosby was found guilty of drugging and assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004 and could face up to 30 years in prison. Cosby’s attorney said he plans to appeal.

Today on The Atlantic

  • Embracing Trump, Rejecting Trumpism: While offering nothing groundbreaking, French President Emmanuel Macron’s speech before a joint session of Congress on Wednesday “was a primer in how to clean the floor with your host,” writes Rachel Donadio.

  • What Is Terrorism?: Two mass murders happened within two days this week. Here’s why one was terrorism, and one was not. (J.M. Berger)

  • On Second Chances: Rumors of a comeback for journalist Charlie Rose and several other men accused of sexual misconduct prompt an important question: Who deserves redemption? (Megan Garber)

  • A Bromance Begins: Here’s what happened between Trump and Kanye on Wednesday—and why it makes perfect sense. (Vann R. Newkirk II)


President Trump poses with children of staff and press in the Oval Office of …read more

Via:: <a href= class="colorbox" title="The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Phone a Fox & Friend” rel=nofollow>The Atlantic



Scott Pruitt and the Trump White House’s Serial Scandals

By Elaina Plott

In the hierarchy of Donald Trump-era scandals, from the brazen to the boorish, pay raises in a low-level agency shouldn’t crack the top quartile. But on Thursday, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt managed to spin his hiring practices into a cobweb beyond his control—leaving some reporters to question whether a low-stakes snafu could now be the “end of the line.”

In his hearing before the House energy panel, Pruitt struggled to answer questions about salary hikes given to two of Pruitt’s closest aides. As The Atlantic first reported earlier this month, Pruitt bypassed the White House to give raises of 33 percent and 52 percent to Millan Hupp and Sarah Greenwalt, respectively, both of whom had worked for Pruitt while he was attorney general of Oklahoma. At the time, Pruitt denied any knowledge of the raises, telling Fox News’s Ed Henry that he didn’t know who on his staff had authorized them. Democratic lawmakers quickly questioned Pruitt’s account, prompting the agency’s inspector general to start digging. Pruitt has also been under scrutiny for leasing a condo from the wife of a lobbyist and for spending more than $40,000 for a soundproof booth around his office.

Democratic Representative Paul Tonko’s question was simple: Did Pruitt authorize his chief of staff to grant those raises?

Pruitt, sticking carefully to the passive voice, conceded that the raises were “delegated” to his chief. “So you did authorize him, then … ?” Tonko pressed. “There were delegations given to him with that authority,” Pruitt responded.

“So,” Tonko concluded, “that’s a yes.”

The exchange put to rest the nearly month-long dance between EPA officials and reporters, with Pruitt acknowledging that he had, in fact, overseen the salary hikes. A few seconds later, an EPA official texted me. “It’s incredible that he admitted that,” said the official, who requested anonymity …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



‘The Reinvention of America’: Two Views from the Prairie

By James Fallows

The new issue of The Atlantic has a long piece by me called “The Reinvention of America.” It’s different from, but tied to, the publication in two weeks of a book by my wife, Deb, and me called Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America.

The main contention of the Atlantic piece is that at a time of genuinely serious problems for the country, from economic polarization to the opioid disaster, and of near-historic crisis in national-level government (“near” historic because this is still not 1861-1865), city-by-city across the country many Americans feel as if they direction of personal, economic, and public life is positive rather than backward.

A flood of response has come in, which I’ll begin sampling from over the next few days. To start off, here are two related notes, from the Great Plains states. The first is from a man I also quoted last year, about locally based efforts at land conservation (at a time when national policy is headed in the opposite direction). He is William Whitney, of the Prairie Plains Resource Institute in Aurora, Nebraska. Aurora is a small town in south central Nebraska, about 20 miles east of the Grand Island. Deb and I were in Grand Island several times during our travels; we’ve not yet been to Aurora, but hope to go soon.

William Whitney writes:

I can attest to what you say in your article on localization in America.

It is happening in Aurora, Nebraska, my home town to which my wife and I returned 40 years ago. And across the Great Plains in various ways.

I think the so-called millennials have an energizing effect. Life is still hard for people, and improvising is a critical ingredient, but the rural Nebraska towns and small cities, such as Aurora (pop. 4,500) …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The Difference Between a Killer and a Terrorist

By J.M. Berger

Two mass murders took place within 48 hours this week. Both attackers were adherents of extremist ideologies. Both terrorized people. But one of these two attacks was clearly terrorism, and one was apparently not. What’s the difference?

Early Sunday morning, Travis Reinking walked into a Tennessee Waffle House wearing nothing but a jacket and started shooting, killing four and wounding several more. Early reporting indicates that Reinking had a history of apparent mental illness. But Reinking also identified himself as a sovereign citizen, an antigovernment movement associated with more than 100 acts of violence and dozens of deaths over the last decade and a half.

On Monday afternoon, 25-year-old Alek Minassian drove a rented van into dozens of Toronto pedestrians, killing 10 and wounding 13. It soon emerged that he was an adherent of the so-called “incel” movement, short for “involuntarily celibate,” a term co-opted by online adherents of an anti-woman ideology whose primary grievance is that women aren’t having sex with them. Minassian posted on Facebook moments before starting his rampage:

Private (Recruit) Minassian Infantry 00010, wishing to speak to Sgt 4chan please. C23249161. The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger.

(All signs point to the post being authentic, but the reference to 4chan, the origin point of many online hoaxes, has been a red flag for some analysts.)

The place to start, in distinguishing between these attacks, is by defining terrorism. The word has been politicized like few others, used as a rhetorical tool to demonize society’s villains du jour. Even within academic and policy circles, there is dispute over its precise meaning. Within the U.S. government, terrorism is a word usually, and improperly, reserved for jihadist …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Donald From D.C. Calls in to Fox and Friends

By David A. Graham

President Trump isn’t great at avoiding trouble. On Thursday alone, his nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, Ronny Jackson, withdrew amid allegations of misconduct; his EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, is set to be grilled about allegations of misconduct on Capitol Hill; and his long-time fixer, Michael Cohen, was set to appear at a court hearing in Manhattan, a day after saying he’d invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in a suit in California.

But if Trump can’t avoid problems, when they crop up, he can at least try to grab the spotlight himself. That’s what the president did during a wide-ranging and characteristically bizarre call-in to Fox and Friends Thursday morning. It was the president’s first television interview in some time—he called in to another Fox show two months ago—and he didn’t hesitate to make news, if not sense. The hosts seemed shellshocked when it was over.

“I think he was awake and had a lot to say,” Steve Doocy said.

“He is a morning person,” Brian Kilmeade replied.

Summarizing the interview would be impossible, but there were a number of moments that stood out. Trump appeared to contradict earlier denials, saying that Michael Cohen had represented him in a matter with Stormy Daniels, who has alleged an affair. He defended Jackson, saying the allegations against him were false. He repeatedly threatened to intervene in the Justice Department, and accused former FBI Director James Comey of crimes. He appeared to endorse the popular vote over the Electoral College. He disclosed new details of talks with North Korea. For good measure, he complained about Hillary Clinton and Democratic primary debates two years ago.

Trump defended Jackson, saying, “These are all false accusations. These are false. They are trying to destroy a man.” He predicted that Senator Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat who …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



‘Chinaperson’ and the Sanitization of a Racial Slur

By Ben Zimmer

In a radio interview earlier this week, Don Blankenship, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in West Virginia, accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of having foreign-policy conflicts of interest, based on McConnell’s marriage to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. But Blankenship’s comments attracted attention not just for what he had to say—intimating that McConnell’s wife and her family has some insidious influence on him—but how he said it.

“I have an issue when the father-in-law is a wealthy Chinaperson and there’s a lot of connections to some of the brass, if you will, in China,” Blankenship said.

Chinaperson? Blankenship’s characterization of Chao’s Chinese American father, the businessman James S.C. Chao, was something of a linguistic feat: simultaneously evoking the old slur of Chinaman and ham-handedly attempting to sanitize it. One can almost hear Blankenship hit the edit button halfway through the word, thinking he’d avoid a political faux pas by switching to the gender-neutral –person.

Of course, the problem with Chinaman was never that it was gendered—the word was, and is, a racial epithet. But Blankenship’s on-the-fly coinage, as tone-deaf and inept as it may be, reveals something about where the country is these days when it comes to language and expressions of identity.

First, it’s worth remembering how Chinaman became a slur in the first place. As Benjamin Bergen notes in his recent book, What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves, Chinaman falls into a class of slurs that originally had a more-or-less neutral tone. “Chinaman was as benign as Englishman or Frenchman, which are still used without negative connotation,” Bergen writes.

That changed in the latter half of the 19th century thanks to how the word was weaponized against people of Chinese origin in the United States and …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The Donald Trump Cabinet Tracker

By Russell Berman

Updated on April 26 at 8:53 a.m. ET

President Trump’s bid to install his personal physician as the secretary of veterans affairs has failed.

Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson on Thursday morning withdrew his nomination to lead the federal government’s second-largest department amid a series of misconduct allegations relating to his work as the White House physician. He was accused of improperly distributing prescription medications, including Percocet, on overseas trips, and a new report Wednesday evening from Democrats on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee alleged that Jackson got drunk and “wrecked a government vehicle” at a Secret Service goodbye party.

In a statement, Jackson decried the accusations as “completely false and fabricated.” But with senators in both parties withholding their support, his nomination was doomed.

“Unfortunately, because of how Washington works, these false allegations have become a distraction for this president and the important issue we must be addressing—how we give the best care to our nation’s heroes,” Jackson said. “While I will forever be grateful for the trust and confidence President Trump has placed in me by giving me this opportunity, I am regretfully withdrawing my nomination to be secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

The White House said he would resume his role in the White House physician’s office, where he has worked under Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump. In an interview Thursday morning on “Fox & Friends,” Trump lashed out at Jackson’s treatment by Democrats and warned that Senator Jon Tester of Montana, the ranking member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, would suffer in his reelection bid this fall as a result.

“He would have done a great job. Tremendous heart,” the president said. “These are all false accusations. These are false. They are trying to destroy a man.”

Jackson was on the rocks in the Senate even before the misconduct allegations came out. …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The Democratic Push for a ‘Public Option on Steroids’

By Ronald Brownstein

After beating back the repeated Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Democrats, for the first time in years, are taking the offense on health care. While the flashiest proposal—for an entirely government-run system—remains a distant aspiration, Democrats are again looking for new ways to expand Washington’s role in shaping the health-care system.

Their ideas include new plans to expand coverage, restrain drug prices, and create a public competitor to private health-insurance companies. Encouraging all of these efforts are polls showing that support for the ACA clearly increased during the long legislative struggle over its future.

“People are increasingly happy with the Affordable Care Act, but they are increasingly unhappy with the health-care system writ large,” said Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut who has co-authored one of the most ambitious proposals. “I think there is a greater willingness to accept a bigger role for public programs in repairing the health-care system.”

The most sweeping Democratic proposal is the plan from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders to create a national health-care system in which government would become the “single payer” for all medical services, eliminating private insurance. But while that long-standing liberal goal has newly galvanized many activists, most Democratic officials and policy experts still consider single-payer plans politically unrealistic because they are too costly and provide government too much control over health-care delivery.

The more relevant movement among Democrats is the revival of ideas to create a government-run insurance option to compete with private insurers on the ACA exchanges. That so-called “public option” was a top liberal priority during the initial debate over the ACA. Then, as now, proponents argued that a public insurance competitor—because it would not need to generate a profit—could offer a less expensive alternative and pressure private insurers to cut their premiums. Back in 2009, …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Can Puerto Rico Recover From Maria Before the Next Storm Hits?

By Vann R. Newkirk II

Puerto Rico still doesn’t know how many people died from Hurricane Maria. The official death toll of people drowned in floods, killed by landslides, caught in collapsed houses, or who perished from environmental or health problems in the immediate aftermath of the storm seven months ago sits at 64. By just about all accounts, that is an undercount by at least an order of magnitude. A New York Times review of daily mortality rates found just over 1,000 more people died during and after the storm than expected. Additional analyses suggests similar figures. Governor Ricardo Rosselló is expected to release a full review of the island’s death toll next month.

One difficulty in making these grisly calculations is that Puerto Ricans are still dying from Hurricane Maria. The storm erased the island’s power grid and crushed critical health-care infrastructure, and then the tepid disaster recovery response allowed infectious disease and mental-health issues to fester for months. There are still plenty of significant health-care challenges on the island that stem from Maria. And even as recovery stretches on, the bodies are counted, and the public-health system scrambles to avoid capsizing, the next hurricane season looms just a couple months away.

Puerto Rico was in the grip of a public-health crisis well before Maria barreled ashore in September. Zika had become endemic in the humid, tropical climate over a year before, and like many of the illnesses emerging on the island, it took advantage of a health-care system that lay in shambles. The major—and ongoing—financial and energy crunch that forced Congress to pass a bailout bill in early 2016 also hamstrung many health-care facilities. During his visit to Puerto Rico in May of that year, then-Treasury Secretary Jack Lew toured a major hospital with leaking ceilings, faltering electricity, supply delays …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Congress May Finally Be Feeling the Shamefulness of Unpaid Hill Internships

By Michelle Cottle

Congress failed to grapple with many, many important issues in this year’s legislative battles. But when lawmakers at last rammed through the $1.3-trillion budget-busting omnibus last month, they did manage to tuck in a little extra something for themselves. Specifically, the agreement included a 9 percent bump in funding for Senators’ office expenses (staff, travel, mail, office equipment, etc.).

Now, as senators would be the first to tell you, senators are very important people with a mound of very important responsibilities on their plates. No doubt, they can think of countless pressing needs on which to spend the additional cash. But one scrappy, not-quite-two-year-old non-profit group, called Pay Our Interns, has popped up to crusade for a very specific usage: paying congressional interns.

Don’t roll your eyes! Unpaid Hill internships are not some niche problem burdening only well-heeled, well-connected, sedulously careerist 18-to-24-year-old Mitch McConnell wannabes. Reeking of congressional entitlement and hypocrisy, the current system is a broad-spectrum outrage.

For starters, it is fundamentally elitist. Washington, DC has one of the nation’s highest costs of living. What kind of young person can swing a multi-month internship here with zero financial compensation? Hint: not ones whose families hail from the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum. This equal-opportunity argument is, in fact, central to Pay Our Interns’ campaign. (Its founder, Carlos Mark Vera, is himself a former Hill intern.) Congressional internships open doors for young people interested in a political career. Surely those advantages should extend beyond affluent kids already drowning in advantages. As Pay Our Interns notes on its website: “A student’s socioeconomic status should not be a barrier to getting real-world work experience.” Translation: Lawmakers can yammer on about the value of diversity and about their desire to help Americans from all backgrounds, but until they stop treating interns like feudal …read more

Via:: The Atlantic