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Outflanking General Flynn

By Matt Ford

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s leaders ramped up their efforts on Tuesday to obtain Russia-related documents from former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, telling reporters the committee is subpoenaing materials from two of Flynn’s businesses.

The announcement comes one day after Flynn informed the committee he wouldn’t comply with a previous subpoena issued to him personally, invoking his Fifth Amendment protections against compelled testimony that could be used to prosecute him. By targeting the businesses, the committee’s leaders hope to circumvent the Fifth Amendment issues at stake.

“While we disagree with General Flynn’s lawyers’ interpretation of taking the Fifth, it is even more clear that a business does not have a right to take a Fifth if it’s a corporation,” Virginia Senator Mark Warner, the committee’s ranking Democratic member, told reporters. “So those subpoenas—one has been served, one is in the process of being served. And we keep all options on the table.”

Warner and the committee’s Republican chairman, North Carolina Senator Richard Burr, issued a subpoena to Flynn earlier this month, requesting any Russia-related documents he may have as part of its probe into Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Flynn was a prominent member of now-President Trump’s inner circle and worked as a foreign-policy surrogate during the campaign. Trump named him as his pick for the national-security adviser post in November.

But Flynn, a retired lieutenant general, lasted less than a month in the position. The president fired him in February after multiple news outlets reported he’d lied about multiple conversations he had with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, on the same day in December when the Obama administration announced sanctions against the Russian government.

Since his ouster, Flynn has become a focal point in the sprawling federal investigation into Russian interference. That inquiry, now supervised …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Trump’s Wish List

By Elaine Godfrey

Today in 5 Lines

President Trump condemned a terrorist attack that killed 22 people at a concert in Britain’s Manchester Arena, calling those responsible “evil losers” and encouraging countries to work together to “obliterate this evil ideology.” Police identified the bomber as Salman Abedi, a 22-year-old British citizen. The Senate Intelligence Committee issued two new subpoenas directed at a pair of former National-Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s businesses. The White House released Trump’s budget proposal, which includes significant domestic-spending cuts and an increase in defense spending. Former CIA Director John Brennan told the House Intelligence Committee that he was concerned about interactions between people associated with the Trump campaign and Russian officials “because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals.”

Today on The Atlantic

  • ‘Evil Losers’: Uri Friedman explains why President Trump’s use of a classic put-down is a compelling strategy against ISIS.

  • Pretty Vague: While in Israel, President Trump declared that Palestinians “are ready to reach for peace.” But, writes Rosie Gray, he left the country without elaborating on the exact parameters of that deal.

  • Why They Came Down: Last Friday, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu gave a speech explaining why the city removed four monuments commemorating the Lost Cause and the Confederacy. “These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy,” he said, “ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.” Read it here.

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Via:: <a href= class="colorbox" title="The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Trump’s Wish List” rel=nofollow>The Atlantic



What Trump’s Ideal Justice Department Would Look Like

By Matt Ford

President Trump’s proposed budget would steer the Justice Department toward his administration’s austere vision of federal law enforcement, setting aside hundreds of millions of dollars to swell the ranks of federal prosecutors and immigration judges while cutting overall funding by $1.1 billion.

The spending plan for the 2018 fiscal year, which was released on Tuesday, outlines $27.7 billion in funding for the department, about 4 percent less than what Congress previously allocated. The overall budget isn’t likely to become law—not without significant revisions from the Republican-led Congress, at least.

Legislators in both parties previously panned Trump’s initial draft, released in March, and GOP leaders said they’d write their own version. Tuesday’s release didn’t change their course: Texas Senator John Cornyn, a top Republican lawmaker, declared the administration’s proposal “dead on arrival” on Tuesday.

But the document still serves as a map of the Trump administration’s vision for the federal bureaucracy. It envisions substantial boosts to the Defense and Homeland Security departments, reflecting Trump’s focus on national security and international terrorism. Federal agencies and departments further from the administration’s core interests would receive significant cuts: The Environmental Protection Agency, for example, would see its budget reduced by one-third.

The Justice Department fared better overall than most other parts of the federal government, but only through programs that fit the president’s areas of interest. The administration’s plan would allocate $26 million for the hiring of 300 new assistant U.S. attorneys, who are more commonly known as federal prosecutors, “to prosecute violent criminals and ensure our neighborhoods are freed from their threat.” Trump frequently invoked the specter of rising crime on the campaign trail, pitching himself as a “law and order” president who would end what he described as “this American carnage” in his inaugural address.

Trump’s choice to lead the department echoed those themes. “The Department …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



How Trump’s Budget Would Weaken Public Health

By Vann R. Newkirk II

First things first: The White House’s budget is not law, nor will its latest iteration likely become law. President Trump’s proposal, released to the public Tuesday, is instead a signaling of his administration’s priorities—which congressional Republicans will likely ignore or heavily edit when they negotiate their own figures.  

Still, as has been said ad nauseam since Trump’s initial funding blueprint came out in March, the budget is a moral document. The White House’s plan to trim $3.6 trillion in federal spending over 10 years indicates how the executive branch sees the missions and roles of the various agencies under its purview. And it’s clear from the details that public health is not close to being a top focus under Trump.

Much of the health safety net in the United States is formed by federal departments and agencies. There’s the Department of Health and Human Services, under which fall the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, among several other critical public-health structures. There are also some crucial health-related components outside of HHS, including much of the Environmental Protection Agency, the lead-testing program under the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly referred to as food stamps. With few exceptions, the Trump budget would slash these.

HHS would see many of the cuts. The proposed 2018 budget for the department includes plans to trim its funding by over $600 billion over the next decade. Much of that strategy seems designed to compensate for the net effects of Obamacare repeal. The budget presumes Congress will follow through on complete reform, and in the process will slash somewhere in the ballpark of $800 billion from the Medicaid …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The Questions About Obstruction Now Spread to White House Staff

By Adam Serwer

The Washington Post report that White House staffers were involved in President Trump’s alleged effort to shut down the FBI’s investigation into ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn increases the legal and political peril for the administration as Robert Mueller’s inquiry moves forward.

On Monday, the Post reported that Trump had asked Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Director Mike Rogers to push back on the testimony of the March then-FBI Director Jim Comey that Trump campaign associates were being scrutinized as a part of the investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election. Both officials reportedly refused.

“This is very close to what Nixon tried to do in drawing in the CIA to short circuit the FBI investigation during Watergate,” said a former high-ranking Justice Department official. “His advisers could be very much at risk if they played a role in the alleged interference.”  The Post did not mention whether Trump-appointed CIA Director Mike Pompeo received a similar request.

Trump was already facing accusations from Democrats that he engaged in obstruction of justice for firing Comey after asking him to shut down the investigation into Flynn, lying about the reasons why Comey was pushed out, and then acknowledging that the Russia inquiry had been a factor. The New York Times reported last week that Trump told Russian officials during an Oval Office visit that firing Comey had “taken off” pressure caused by the Russia investigation.

Legal experts are divided over whether a sitting president can face obstruction charges; it’s possible that impeachment would be the only remedy for a president still in office committing a crime. Obstruction and related charges are also difficult to prove, because they necessarily turn on an individual’s state of mind.

Monday’s report indicates that Trump attempted to enlist …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



It’s Too Late for Fox to Retract Its Seth Rich Story

By Megan Garber

On Thursday of last week, the day The Washington Post published its bombshell about President Trump’s Oval Office divulgences to Sergey Lavrov and Sergei Kisliyak, Sean Hannity took to the air at the Fox News Channel to discuss a murdered man named Seth Rich. Rich, a 27-year-old staffer at the Democratic National Committee, had been been gunned down in Washington, DC, in July, seemingly the victim of a violent crime. Earlier that day, however, a local Fox TV station had reported—in a claim that would quickly be debunked—that Rich had ties to WikiLeaks, and that his death was, rather than the tragic result of random violence, instead evidence of a deeper conspiracy.

In the six days since, that idea has leapt to life in the conservative areas of the media—an easy symbol, in the minds of many, of the “mainstream” media’s stubborn and partisan refusal to report on a story that would put the DNC in a negative light. (“Silence from Establishment Media over Seth Rich WikiLeaks Report,” Breitbart seethed.) And so, as many members of the nation’s press corps set out to further the Post’s reporting on the White House, the Rich story became a chorus-like feature on conservative-learning media—and not just in Hannity’s extra-bombastic corner of Fox News. The Rich story hit Drudge. It exploded on social media. “NOT RUSSIA, BUT AN INSIDE JOB?” Breitbart asked, provocatively. The site added that, “if proven, the report has the potential to be one of the biggest cover-ups in American political history, dispelling the widespread claim that the Russians were behind hacks on the DNC.”

The problem was that the story was never proven. In fact, it had already fallen apart. Which is why, on Tuesday afternoon, nearly a week after its initial publication, Fox News retracted the article speculating about Rich’s …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Sessions’s Climbdown on Sanctuary Cities

By Priscilla Alvarez

Attorney General Jeff Sessions pulled back on President Trump’s January executive order cracking down on “sanctuary cities” on Monday, releasing a memo that represents a significant retreat from the order’s original goal of punishing jurisdictions that limit collaboration between local authorities and federal immigration agents.

The memo narrowly defines sanctuary cities to “refer only to jurisdictions that ‘willfully refuse to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373.’” Section 1373, which was signed into law in 1996, prohibits jurisdictions from preventing any government entity or local official from exchanging information on an individual’s immigration status with federal immigration agents. There’s no clear definition for sanctuary cities. Sessions’s latest memo, which comes after a federal court in California blocked the president’s threat against sanctuary cities, concedes that using Section 1373 as the administration’s definition is perhaps the most legally sound approach.

The problem for the administration’s immigration crackdown is that definition of “sanctuary city” exempts all but a few jurisdictions, as most found ways around that criteria years ago.

“If sanctuary just means violation of 1373, that law has been around since 1996 and for the most part… most major cities have dealt with this, most legal departments in major cities have dealt with this [and] have already written around 1373,” said Rick Su, a law professor at the University at Buffalo who has researched immigration and local government. Su noted that Section 1373 is a “don’t-tell policy,” so to work around it, some localities changed it to a “don’t-ask policy” or a “don’t-use-municipal-resources” policy. In doing so, it became difficult to differentiate who is and isn’t in compliance with Section 1373, since some localities simply don’t collect information on an individual’s immigration status in the first place and therefore don’t have anything to share with federal immigration officials.

Last year, …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



What Progressives Miss About Arms Sales

By Andrew Exum

Whew! For once, one of my predictions was correct: Donald Trump had a great visit to Saudi Arabia. It was a great visit for him, it was a great visit for the Saudis and the other Arab Gulf states, and—last but not least—it was a great visit for magical, glowing orbs.

I want to spend a little time talking about one of the reasons why the trip went so well. I’ll warn you: This is a somewhat taboo subject for progressive foreign-policy types. The subject, friends, is arms sales. Progressives don’t like arms sales very much, but they need to pay attention to them, because they’re one big way Republicans are fighting for—and winning—the votes of working-class Americans who have traditionally voted for Democrats.

While the president was in Saudi Arabia, the Trump administration announced $110 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia—with an additional $240 billion committed over a 10-year period. If you’ve ever worked in government, you know this is what is called a “deliverable,” the clunky management-consultantese term for a tangible outcome of a visit or meeting. When Donald Trump is asked to justify his trip to Saudi Arabia, he’ll cite that $110 billion in arms sales.

There are a few interesting things about these sales. The first is that many of these sales were already in the works. The Obama administration spent eight years quietly selling a lot of arms to Saudi Arabia: When President Obama left office, for example, the United States still had $100 billion in the foreign military sales pipeline with Saudi Arabia and, in 2011, had inked what was previously the largest arms sale in U.S. history with the Kingdom—a $29 billion deal to sell F-15s to the Saudis.

Obama-era sales to Saudi Arabia were in keeping with sales to other …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The 18 Independent Agencies Trump Wants to Eliminate

By Elaine Godfrey

On Tuesday, the White House released President Trump’s proposal for the 2018 federal budget, outlining his spending priorities for Congress and the country. The budget seeks $1.4 trillion in savings with significant cuts to many domestic programs. But for 18 independent agencies, it goes a step further—and proposes eliminating their funding entirely.

The budget is dubbed “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” and Trump’s proposed route to making America great again will involve a substantial increase in defense spending, offset with deep cuts to safety-net programs and agencies like the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Since releasing his preliminary “skinny budget” proposal in March, Trump has made it clear that he wants to fatten one thing: the Department of Defense. He’ll increase the department’s budget by $54 billion, a move he says sends “a message of American strength and resolve” to the world.

To do that, Trump plans to shrink the budget for the State Department and USAID by 29 percent and outlines a 31 percent cut in funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, discontinuing all funds for the Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs and research, and for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Chesapeake Bay Program.

In the budget, Trump proposes a reduction in funding and eventual elimination of 18 independent agencies—those that exist outside of federal departments headed by a Cabinet secretary. One of those agencies is the Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal-state partnership focused on economic development in a region encompassing all of West Virginia and parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Its inclusion is notable, because it serves a region that largely supported Trump, and which he has promised to revive economically.

Another is the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Trump’s Cuts to SNAP and Social Security Would Hit the Rust Belt Hard

By Ronald Brownstein

In the key Rustbelt states that tipped the 2016 election to President Trump, blue-collar white voters at the core of his constituency represent a majority of those receiving benefits from the federal income-support programs he has targeted for large cutbacks in his budget, according a new analysis conducted for The Atlantic.

Whites without a four-year college degree constitute most of those receiving assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Social Security’s Supplemental Security Income program, and Social Security’s disability program in each of the five Rustbelt states that flipped from Barack Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016: Iowa, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. They also represent a majority of the programs’ beneficiaries in other heavily working-class interior states—from Arkansas and Kentucky through Missouri and Montana—that are central to GOP fortunes in upcoming elections.

Trump’s budget, released Tuesday morning, looks to protect the older whites vital to his electoral coalition by exempting both Medicare and the principal Social Security retirement program from any cuts: About 80 percent of today’s seniors are white, and Trump carried about three-fifths of white seniors in last fall’s election. In stark contrast, the budget focuses large reductions on domestic discretionary-spending programs that invest in the productivity of future generations, including scientific research, education, student loans, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. In those ways, the budget displays a clear preference for the predominantly white senior population over the rapidly diversifying youth population: As I’ve written, it strongly favors the “gray” over the “brown.”

But because Trump extends his budget cuts so deeply and broadly through income-support programs, the reductions still inevitably reach many of the lower-income and less-educated whites that have emerged as the cornerstone of the modern Republican coalition. The large number of GOP-leaning voters who rely on programs Trump would retrench underscores the difficulty …read more

Via:: The Atlantic


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