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Bill Browder’s Testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee

By Rosie Gray

The financier Bill Browder has emerged as an unlikely central player in the ongoing investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Sergei Magnitsky, an attorney Browder hired to investigate official corruption, died in Russian custody in 2009. Congress subsequently imposed sanctions on the officials it held responsible for his death, passing the Magnitsky Act in 2012. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government retaliated, among other ways, by suspending American adoptions of Russian children.

Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who secured a meeting with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, was engaged in a campaign for the repeal of the Magnitsky Act, and raised the subject of adoptions in that meeting. That’s put the spotlight back on Browder’s long campaign for Kremlin accountability, and against corruption—a campaign whose success has irritated Putin and those around him.

Browder will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday; what follows are the prepared remarks he submitted to the committee.


Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Feinstein, and members of the committee, thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify today on the Russian government’s attempts to repeal the Magnitsky Act in Washington in 2016, and the enablers who conducted this campaign in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, by not disclosing their roles as agents for foreign interests.

Before I get into the actions of the agents who conducted the anti-Magnitsky campaign in Washington for the benefit of the Russian state, let me share a bit of background about Sergei Magnitsky and myself.

I am the founder and CEO of Hermitage Capital Management. I grew up in Chicago, but for the last 28 years I’ve lived in Moscow and London, and am now a British citizen. From 1996 to 2005, my firm, Hermitage Capital, was one of the largest investment advisers in Russia with …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: The Votes Are In

By Elaine Godfrey

Today in 5 Lines

Vice President Mike Pence provided the tie-breaking vote in the Senate’s motion to begin debate on repealing the Affordable Care Act. Arizona Senator John McCain voted to proceed, but in a speech on the Senate floor, he added that he “will not vote for this bill as it is today.” During a joint news conference with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, President Trump praised the Senate for moving forward, and thanked McCain, who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer, for returning to the Capitol for the vote. Trump also added that he is “disappointed in the attorney general,” after lashing out at Jeff Sessions on Twitter Tuesday morning. The Senate Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena for Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, to appear before the panel on Wednesday.


Today on The Atlantic

  • Paying Up for Health Care: Annie Lowrey points out the ripple effects that proposed GOP health-care cuts could have on the personal finances of insured and newly-uninsured individuals.

  • ‘Why Hasn’t ISIS Nuked America Yet?’: If they were able to safely make and deploy a dirty bomb, there’s plenty of reason to be confident that they would. (Graeme Wood)

  • Firing Mueller: Peter Beinart argues that it may be in the president’s favor to fire the special counsel sooner rather than later, considering that Mueller’s investigation is still young and that many Republicans are still on Trump’s side.

Follow stories throughout the day with our )

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John McCain’s Incongruous Speech

By David A. Graham

It was a day of contradictions for John McCain: Returning from his own sickbed, he flew into Washington to vote to open debate on a bill that could strip others of their coverage. Met with a standing ovation on the Senate floor, he was also denounced fiercely for his vote in favor of debate, which allowed the bill to move forward after Vice President Pence broke a 50-50 tie.

And then there was the speech he delivered immediately after the vote. It was a surreal moment: a stemwinder denouncing fight-for-every-inch gamesmanship, hasty procedures, closed-door wrangling, and legislation that puts partisan gain over helping citizens, delivered moments after McCain cast the deciding vote to forward a bill that embodied every one of those tendencies.

Divorced from its context, the message McCain brought was an emotional, if common, one: The Senate is broken, having lost the ability to work together, to get anything done, or to act as half of a co-equal branch of government to the president. He recalled times when the body was ruled by comity and compromise.

“It is our responsibility to preserve that, even when it requires us to do something less satisfying than winning, even when we must give a little to get a little,” he said. “Even when our efforts manage just three yards and a cloud of dust, while critics on both sides denounce us for timidity, for our failure to ‘triumph.’”

The choice of words there, and the air quotes he put around it as he spoke, seemed like a rebuke of President Trump—but also of many in the Republican Party. (Two of his GOP colleagues, Susan Collins and Lisa …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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Senate Republicans Clear Key Health-Care Hurdle

By Russell Berman

Senate Republicans have voted to begin debate on legislation to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, clearing a key procedural hurdle even as it remains unclear what—if any—legislation the party might ultimately pass.

The vote was as narrow as it gets: With two of the 52 Republicans opposing Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s motion to proceed on Tuesday afternoon, Vice President Mike Pence broke a 50-50 tie to formally launch deliberations that had taken place almost entirely in private for two months. The vote was briefly delayed as Senate officials removed protesters shouting “Kill the Bill! Kill the Bill!” from the balcony of the chamber.

As recently as 24 hours before the vote, Senate aides were predicting it would fail, delivering yet another blow to the GOP’s hopes of at least partially repealing and replacing Obamacare after seven years of campaign promises. But the return of Senator John McCain of Arizona after a brain-cancer diagnosis and McConnell’s success in wooing his fellow Kentucky hardliner, Senator Rand Paul, gave the motion some late momentum. In a dramatic moment, McCain entered the chamber long after most Republicans had voted to cast a crucial vote to begin debate. But even with McCain’s support, McConnell still had to persuade Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who has criticized his handling of the issue, to vote with the party. After a lengthy one-on-one discussion with the majority leader, Johnson cast the 50th vote after McCain had entered the chamber to a round of bipartisan applause.

All 48 Democrats protested the move by initially abstaining from the vote before they all voted no. Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska were the only two Republicans to oppose the motion.

“Obviously we can’t get an outcome if we don’t start debate, and that’s what this motion to proceed is all about,” …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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Why an Effort to Thwart Some Boycotts of Israel Fails the Free-Speech Test

By Conor Friedersdorf

Like disputes over abortion, the death penalty, and drug prohibition, the conflict between Israel and Palestine divides Americans into polarized camps of mutual distrust. If any consensus is possible on those issues, it is that there is nothing like a consensus, and that the attendant conflict is better handled through politics than violence.

Yet dozens of members of Congress have backed confusingly worded legislation that would impose new restrictions on American citizens who want to participate in boycotts against Israel, if they originate with an international organization like the UN or the EU. The bill thus seems to risk excluding some would-be boycotters from normal politics by criminalizing some expressions of dissent as a serious felony.

One needn’t favor “Boycott, Divest, Sanctions,” the most prominent boycott campaign targeting Israel, to believe that criminalizing boycotts is deeply illiberal.

Say that BDS is the best path to securing equitable peace in the Middle East. Or say that targeting Israel for a boycott, alone among countries that abuse human rights, is inconsistent, wrongheaded, and unlikely to help Palestinians. The merits don’t matter here. Americans have a right to adopt even mistaken positions, to engage in even ill-advised activism, and to stop dealing with even laudable entities.

Just how bad the new proposal is depends on how its least-clear language is interpreted. Domestically conceived boycotts of Israel would definitely remain legal.

But according to the ACLU, the law “would punish individuals for no reason other than their political beliefs” by expanding the Export Administration Act of 1979 and the Export-Import  Bank Act of 1945, which “prohibit  U.S. persons from complying with a foreign government’s request to boycott a country  friendly to the U.S.”

The ACLU analysis argues that:

the bill would amend those laws to bar U.S. persons from supporting boycotts against Israel, including its settlements in the Palestinian Occupied …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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Mitch McConnell’s Latest Obamacare Gambit: ‘Skinny Repeal’

By Russell Berman

Senate Republicans may be dramatically scaling back their ambitions for repealing the Affordable Care Act as they struggle to find the votes necessary to pass any legislation dismantling the 2010 law.

Ahead of a crucial procedural vote on Tuesday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Senator Rand Paul that if the Senate could not pass either McConnell’s proposed replacement for Obamacare or a broad repeal of the law, he would try to pass a bill that merely scrapped Obamacare’s insurance mandates and some of its taxes. The goal would be to find the lowest-common denominator of what at least 50 Republican senators could report, and it would set up a conference committee with the House on a final health-care bill.

A sharp critic of McConnell’s replacement bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, Paul has called for the Senate instead to simply repeal the ACA and force Democrats into negotiations on a new health-care law. In a series of tweets Tuesday morning, Paul said McConnell’s assurances on what the Senate would vote on were enough to win his support for the motion to proceed to debate, the key first vote that will be held in the afternoon.

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Paul’s support for the procedural vote moves McConnell closer to the 50 votes he needs for it to advance, along with a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence. Paul had said he’d only vote for the …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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The Strange, Slow-Motion Defenestration of Jeff Sessions

By David A. Graham

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III has spent much of his career making enemies. The Alabaman’s strident views have won him plenty of detractors, from civil-rights activists to fellow members of the Senate. But in Donald Trump, Sessions believed he had finally found a champion and fellow traveler. Instead, it seems Sessions has found his most formidable enemy yet.

Trump is now on his second consecutive day of publicly humiliating the attorney general on Twitter, following an interview with The New York Times last week in which he said he wished he’d never appointed Sessions. The attorney general’s decision to recuse himself from investigation into Russian interference in the election infuriated Trump, who has repeatedly tried to end the investigation, including by firing FBI Director James Comey. Instead, Comey’s firing resulted in the appointment of a special counsel to take the case. Here’s Trump’s latest broadside against Sessions:

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Not since Andrew Johnson fired Edwin Stanton in 1867, triggering his own impeachment, has a president feuded so openly and bitterly with one of his own cabinet officials. Yet this is even stranger, since Stanton was a Lincoln appointee who was at political odds with Johnson; Sessions, however, is about as simpatico politically with Trump as anyone, and in fact provided much of the policy blueprint for the Trump administration.

The situation is stranger still because, as I wrote yesterday, Trump has the power to fire Sessions whenever he likes. …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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Manafort Subpoenaed

By Krishnadev Calamur

The Senate Judiciary Committee has issued a subpoena for Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, to appear Wednesday before the panel that is holding a hearing on attempts to influence the U.S. elections. Manafort’s extensive ties to Russian officials have made him a figure of scrutiny in Russia-related scandals plaguing the White House.

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The Senate panel’s action comes a day after Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, spoke in a closed-door session before the Senate Intelligence Committee about his own contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“Let me be very clear: I did not collude with Russia, nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so,” Kushner said after he spoke to Senate investigators.

Russian interference in the 2016 election has emerged as the dominant theme following Trump’s election. U.S. intelligence agencies say Russia’s goal was to aid Trump, though it’s unclear if Moscow’s attempt was successful. The matter is being investigated by both the Justice Department and various congressional panels, including the committee Kushner appeared before on Monday.  

Kushner detailed four meetings he had with Russian officials during the campaign and immediately after the election. Manafort attended one of those meetings, which also involved Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer who had set up the meeting promising to provide information about Hillary Clinton, Trump’s rival in the 2016 election. Trump Jr. has said the meeting did not yield the promised information; Kushner said in a prepared statement Monday that he did not know the reason for the meeting and soon determined it was not of use to …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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A Looming Financial Crisis for America’s Sick

By Annie Lowrey

Senate Republicans are working to pass legislation scaling back government support for health coverage, with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calling for a vote on Tuesday to begin debate on a bill whose precise contents remain unknown. “Every Republican running for office promised immediate relief from this disastrous law,” President Trump said on Monday, referring to Obamacare. “But so far, Senate Republicans have not done their job in ending the Obamacare nightmare.”

Even without more specifics on the details of the legislation, one thing is clear: The options under consideration would increase the number of uninsured by 15 to 30 million over the next 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated. A consequence of this will be not only a loss of access to medical services, but an increase in financial crises for millions of American families. Insurance, after all, is also a financial product, protecting people from economic ruin.

Take, for example, the story of Kathy Mosby. In early 2014, Mosby went through the most painful, calamitous period in her life. In January, her mother died of an aneurism. In February, a neighbor’s tree crushed part of her house. “I wasn’t feeling right, and I started having excruciating pain when I ate,” she told me. She figured it was a stress-induced ulcer. But a doctor performed a CAT scan and found tumors pressing on her bowel. In March, she was diagnosed with lymphoma, later determined to be Burkitt lymphoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer that is quickly fatal if left untreated.

The Affordable Care Act saved her not just from cancer, but from financial ruin, Mosby told me. Her employer, a small Lake Tahoe resort, did not offer insurance. “I’d tried to get it personally and was knocked down,” she told me. “You had migraines? Pre-existing …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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Why Trump Might Fire Robert Mueller

By Peter Beinart

Why do Donald Trump and his advisors keep floating the possibility of firing Robert Mueller, an act that would spark the greatest constitutional crisis since Watergate, perhaps the greatest in modern American history?

Partly, it’s simple rage. Mueller threatens Trump. And when Trump sees someone as a threat, he tries to discredit and destroy them—conventional norms of propriety, decency and legality be damned.

But there’s another, more calculated, reason. Trump and his advisors may genuinely believe that firing Mueller is a smart move. And if you put morality aside, and see the question in nakedly political terms, they may be right.

The chances that Mueller will uncover something damning seem very high. Trump has already admitted to firing former FBI Director James Comey over the Russia investigation. Donald Trump Jr. has already admitted to welcoming the opportunity to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from people he believed were representatives of the Russian government. Even if Mueller doesn’t accuse anyone of a crime, he’s likely to paint a brutal picture. And that’s just on the question of election collusion and obstruction of justice. If Mueller uses Russia to segue into Trump’s business dealings, who knows what he might find. An all-star team of legal and financial sleuths, with unlimited time and money, and the ability to subpoena documents and people, have been let loose on the affairs of a man whose own autobiographer called him a “sociopath.” No wonder Trump is scared.  

For Trump, therefore, the key question is: Is it better to force a crisis by firing Mueller now, or wait for the crisis that hits when Mueller releases his findings? In narrowly political terms, he might think there’s an advantage to acting now.

First, and most obviously, Mueller won’t have laid out …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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