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Live Coverage of the Montana Special Election

By The Editors

Polls in the special election for Montana’s congressional seat close at 8 p.m. MT, or 10 p.m. eastern. Recent elections in the state suggest it may be some time before most returns are available. While you’re waiting for results, catch up on some of our past coverage of this race.

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Via:: The Atlantic



The FBI Turns Its Attention to Jared Kushner

By Aria Bendix

Last week marked a a new high in Jared Kushner’s brief political career. President Trump’s tour of Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Vatican, which Kushner had arranged and planned, went off without a major hitch. This week portends to be a more trying one for Kushner, as he returns to Washington to be greeted by the news that he is now a focus of the FBI’s Russia investigation.

On Thursday, NBC News and The Washington Post reported that investigators are looking into meetings Kushner held in December with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., and Sergey Gorkov, the head of Vnesheconombank (VEB), a state-owned Russian bank that previously financed a deal with Trump’s former business partner. An array of other outlets quickly confirmed those reports.

Although the reports did not specify why those meetings provoked FBI concern, news of the investigation comes as little surprise. Last week, the Post reported that FBI investigators had focused in on a senior White House aide with close ties to Trump. As Trump’s son-in-law and a senior adviser to the president, Kushner’s name was floated as a potential person of interest. Trump’s top strategist, Steve Bannon, has also fueled speculation about Kushner’s alleged Russian. “Mr. Bannon has told confidants that he believes Mr. Kushner’s contact with Russians, and his expected testimony before Congress on the subject, will become a major distraction,” The New York Times reported in April.

While investigators believe that Kushner possesses key information related to the FBI probe, he is reportedly not currently the target of any criminal investigation. In fact, unlike former Trump aides Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, Kushner is not considered a formal subject of a probe, and has not been subpoenaed by a grand jury. The reports do not suggest …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Republicans Reckon With a Rushed Health-Care Vote

By Russell Berman

House Republicans can’t say they weren’t warned.

As party leaders rushed to pass their American Health Care Act earlier this month, they ignored a chorus of calls—from Democrats, yes, but also from independent analysts and some in their own party—to wait for a final assessment from the Congressional Budget Office, a customary step before voting on any major legislation. The nonpartisan fiscal scorekeeper had run the numbers on two previous versions of the bill, but it had not had time to examine the impact of two late amendments. One would weaken Obamacare’s protections for people with preexisting conditions by allowing states to opt out of federal mandates, and the other sought to plug a hole that change could create by setting aside $8 billion to help cover costs for the affected population.

Critics sounded an immediate alarm, warning that $8 billion over five years, even when added to a $130 billion “stability fund” already in the legislation, would be woefully short of the amount needed to protect medically-expensive people who could be priced out of insurance as a result. Republicans went ahead anyway. House Speaker Paul Ryan had finally locked up the votes he needed, and with a 10-day House recess looming, he did not want to take a chance by waiting.

On Wednesday, the CBO confirmed what Republicans didn’t want to hear: Their changes to the bill had made only modest improvements to the number of people who could lose coverage (23 million instead of 24 million) and to the average cost of premiums, but they had made insurance all but unaffordable for people with preexisting conditions in states that wriggled out of Obamacare’s requirements. “Less healthy people would face extremely high premiums, despite the additional funding that would be available under H.R. 1628 to help reduce premiums,” …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Indefinite Article

By Elaine Godfrey

Today in 5 Lines

During a speech at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, President Trump spoke of “the commitments that bind us together as one,” but stopped short of explicitly endorsing Article 5, which says that, when invoked, NATO allies must aid a fellow ally under attack. In a statement, Trump condemned “leaks of sensitive information,” after the British government shared concerns that U.S. intelligence officers were disclosing confidential details of the investigation into the Manchester attack. A federal appeals court upheld a lower-court’s injunction blocking Trump’s travel ban against six Muslim-majority countries. Montanans are heading to the polls to vote in a special election to fill the House seat vacated by Ryan Zinke, who was sworn in as interior secretary in March. Earlier in the day, a local sheriff cited the Republican candidate, Greg Gianforte, for misdemeanor assault.

Today on The Atlantic

  • What Happens Now?: Thursday’s highly anticipated special election in Montana was thrown into question after a Montana sheriff’s office cited Republican candidate Greg Gianforte for misdemeanor assault. (Clare Foran)

  • Trump’s Defender: President Trump tapped a longtime ally to represent him in the federal probe into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election: New York attorney Marc Kasowitz. (Matt Ford)

  • The ‘Deserving’ Poor: Maine has become a bellwether for states considering adding working requirements to safety-net programs, reports Annie Lowrey. And the requirements “leave many individuals and families in extreme poverty, without anywhere to turn.”

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Via:: <a href=http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/AtlanticPoliticsChannel/~3/HxvB5d2Ukok/ class="colorbox" title="The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Indefinite Article” rel=nofollow>The Atlantic



Only the Supreme Court Can Save Trump’s Travel Ban Now

By Matt Ford

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals largely upheld a lower court’s injunction that blocks the Trump administration from enforcing a key provision of the controversial travel ban on Thursday, handing the president a major legal defeat on his signature national-security policy.

Writing for the majority in International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump, Chief Judge Roger Gregory said the president’s executive order violated the religious-freedom protections enshrined in the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause by unjustifiably targeting Muslims for discrimination.

“The question for this Court, distilled to its essential form, is whether the Constitution, as the Supreme Court declared in Ex parte Milligan, remains ‘a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace,’” Gregory wrote. “And if so, whether it protects Plaintiffs’ right to challenge an Executive Order that in text speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination.”

The 10-3 ruling deals a crucial blow to the Trump administration’s hopes of enforcing the executive order in full. Because the case was heard by a full sitting of the Fourth Circuit’s bench—10 out of the 13 participating judges sided with the majority—only the U.S. Supreme Court can review and possibly overturn the decision. And because the lower court’s preliminary injunction applied nationwide, it would block the travel ban’s enforcement even if other federal appeals courts ruled in its favor.

The Justice Department has not yet commented on the Fourth Circuit’s ruling. If the administration decides not to seek Supreme Court review, as it did when the previous version of the travel ban was blocked in February, it faces three options. First, the White House could again rewrite the order in another attempt to gain judicial approval. Second, it could continue the legal fight in the lower courts and seek a ruling in their favor …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Who Is Marc Kasowitz?

By Matt Ford

President Trump is turning to a longtime ally to represent him in the federal probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election: Marc Kasowitz, a prominent New York corporate attorney who’s acted as an off-and-on legal fixer of sorts for the president for almost two decades.

The appointment prompted former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, whom Trump described last week as a frontrunner to replace former FBI Director James Comey, to withdraw himself from consideration on Thursday. (Some news outlets reported earlier this week that the White House had already decided to pass over the former legislator and start the process anew.)

“With your selection of Marc Kasowitz to represent you in the various investigations that have begun, I do believe it would be best to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest, given my role as a senior counsel in the law firm of which Marc is the senior partner,” Lieberman wrote in his letter.

Trump tapped Kasowitz to join a team that’ll function as his private counsel during the Russia investigation. His role will be distinct from that of Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney and a former Trump Organization counsel. Kasowitz and the other lawyers on the team will instead focus on representing Trump personally in matters specifically related to the inquiry. They’ll also act independently of White House Counsel Don McGahn, who represents the office of the presidency and not Trump himself.

The selection of Kasowitz comes amid growing legal trouble for Trump over the Russia investigation and his controversial ouster of Comey. After his removal, The New York Times reported Comey kept contemporaneous notes about conversations with Trump in which the president allegedly asked him to drop the investigation into his former national-security adviser, Michael Flynn. Those memos, as well as other public remarks by Trump about …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Trump Declines to Affirm NATO’s Article 5

By Rosie Gray

BRUSSELS — President Trump did not explicitly endorse the mutual-aid clause of the North Atlantic Treaty at the NATO summit on Thursday despite previous indications that he was planning to do so, keeping in place the cloud of ambiguity hanging over the relationship between the United States and the alliance.

Speaking in front of a 9/11 and Article 5 Memorial at the new NATO headquarters, Trump praised NATO’s response to the 9/11 attacks and spoke of “the commitments that bind us together as one.”

But he did not specifically commit to honor Article 5, which stipulates that other NATO allies must come to the aid of an ally under attack if it is invoked.

The only time in history that Article 5 has been invoked was after the September 11 attacks, a fact that Trump mentioned. The memorial Trump was dedicating is a piece of steel from the North Tower that fell during the attacks.

“We remember and mourn those nearly 3,000 people who were brutally murdered by terrorists on September 11, 2001,” Trump said. “Our NATO allies responded swiftly and decisively, invoking for the first time in its history the Article 5 collective-defense commitment.”

Trump did refer to “commitments,” saying of the memorial, “[t]his twisted mass of metal reminds us not only what we’ve lost, but forever what endures: the courage of our people, the strength of our resolve, and the commitments that bind us together as one. We will never forsake the friends who stood by our side. And we will never waver in our determination to defeat terrorism and to achieve lasting prosperity and peace.”

The New York Times reported on Wednesday evening that Trump would use the speech to finally endorse Article 5. Though top members of his administration, …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The Muted Republican Reaction to Greg Gianforte’s Assault Charge

By Clare Foran

Montana Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte lost three newspaper endorsements over his altercation with a Guardian reporter who asked Gianforte about the controversial GOP health-care bill, and a Montana sheriff cited Gianforte with misdemeanor assault early Thursday morning. But the reaction from the candidate’s would-be Republican colleagues in Congress has been far more muted.

On Capitol Hill, Republican lawmakers have reacted to the news with a mixture of evasion and defensiveness. That was in stark contrast to the Montana newspapers that un-endorsed Gianforte, one of which, the Billings Gazette, called the incident “shocking, disturbing and without precedent.”

At a Thursday morning press conference, House Republican Leader Paul Ryan said a “physical altercation” with a reporter “should not have happened,” and that Gianforte should apologize. But Ryan would not say that Gianforte should withdraw from the race or be barred from Congress. “If he wins, he has been chosen by the people of Montana, who their congressman’s going to be. I’m going to let the people of Montana decide who they want as their representative,” he said.

Republican Representative Steve Stivers, the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a statement that based on what he knows of Gianforte, “this was totally out of character, but we all make mistakes.” He added that the election “is bigger than any one person; it’s about the views of all Montanans.”

Montana Republican Senator Steve Daines said in a statement that he does “not condone violence in any way,” but did not explicitly voice criticism of Gianforte, saying instead that he would leave “questions and answers to local law enforcement.”

Republican Representative Trent Franks told MSNBC that he “reject[ed] any kind of thing where we use physical violence in a situation like that, it should not have happened,” but not …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Jeff Sessions’s Agenda for the Civil-Rights Division

By Adam Serwer

President Trump’s proposed budget assumes a major reduction of staff in the civil-rights division, the section of the Justice Department charged with enforcing laws against discrimination and protecting the right to vote.

“This is especially troubling as communities continue to be hit hard by issues such as voter suppression, hate crimes, police shootings of unarmed civilians and other problems that call for a strong and robust civil rights enforcement agenda,” said Kristen Clarke, a former civil-rights division attorney who now runs the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.

Funding for the division remains virtually flat, with an increase of only $168,000 to its $148 million dollar budget. The proposal projects the civil-rights division would see a loss of more than 121 staff positions, including 14 attorney positions.

Vanita Gupta, who ran the civil-rights division from 2014 until 2017, and is now president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, cautioned against reading too much into the budget proposal, but said the Trump administration had shown its hand in other ways.

“I don’t think that public can know enough based on this,” said Gupta. “I think what is more revealing is the actions taken by Jeff Sessions on LGBT rights, and police reform, and voting rights.”

Since taking office, Sessions has rescinded Obama-era guidance on discrimination against trans students and announced his intention to end the civil-rights division’s aggressive oversight of police departments, even seeking to rescind a court-monitoring agreement overseeing police in Baltimore.

Even without details however, the budget proposal also outlines priorities for the division, clearly reorienting it further towards Sessions’s policy preferences, particularly on immigration. The budget proposal also makes no mention at all of fighting discrimination against people with disabilities, a notable change from the Obama-era 2016 request, which described it as a major priority.

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Via:: The Atlantic


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