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Washington Report June 23, 2017
23 Jun 2017

Washington Report June 23, 2017

Winners and Losers This Week … It’s About Healthcare Stupid … Gerrymandering & the Supremes … Show Me The Money … Deep Dive On Russian Hacking Timeline … Georgia On My Mind And Off …. and other news of the week.

Joyce Rubenstein
Capstone National Partners



theSkimm “Yesterday, GOP senators said ‘ta da’ and released the first draft of their healthcare bill. For years, the GOP’s been trying to repeal and replace Obamacare. Now, they have control of Congress and the White House. Last month, the House passed its version of the bill and sent it to the Senate. Ever since, a small group of senators have been taking a red pen to it. Yesterday was the first time everyone got a good look at their work.
WHAT’S IN IT? Lots of things. Here are the highlights: the bill would cap federal funding for Medicaid – the program that helps low-income Americans pay for healthcare. And scrap the ‘individual mandate’ that requires everyone buy health insurance. It also rolls back some tax credits that help lower and middle-income people pay for coverage. And gets rid of taxes on high-income Americans that helped pay for Obamacare.
The Congressional Budget Office – a nonpartisan group that estimates the impact of new bills – will grade it. Then the Senate will make some edits before voting on the bill before July 4th. Next up, the House has to agree before it goes to the president’s inbox. When the House passed its version, GOP senators signaled they were going to start fresh and make it their own. Instead we got a bill that looks a lot like the first one.


“THE WINNERS: The wealthy … The young and healthy … GOP governors who fought Obamacare … Some health industry groups … THE LOSERS: Poorer, older insurance consumers … People struggling with addiction … Children … Planned Parenthood and its clients … Public health agencies.”



Politico “He wants a vote on the health-care bill next week no matter what. Don’t expect the Kentucky Republican to drag this process out like leadership did in the House — he wants to put senators on the record, and move on. MCCONNELL’S GAME: “Right now, McConnell is far from having a commitment for the 50 votes needed for passage, according to senators who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal politics of the 52-member caucus. But no one on Capitol Hill seems to be betting against the wily majority leader as he plans for one of the most critical roll call votes of his career next week. … “McConnell’s strategy has been a slow burn, allowing his members to vent in private party discussions while gradually writing a bill that takes in their considerations over the past six weeks. He’s had more than 30 meetings with his members about taking down the 2010 health law, intended to give his members more input and get them comfortable with the product.”


” … We didn’t fight for the Affordable Care Act for more than a year in the public square for any personal or political gain – we fought for it because we knew it would save lives, prevent financial misery, and ultimately set this country we love on a better, healthier course.”
– Barack Obama

WashPo “The bill Senate Republicans released Thursday cuts subsidies that lower-income Americans use to purchase health insurance through online Obamacare marketplaces. It also makes deep cuts to Medicaid, the federal government’s health-care program for low income Americans. Meanwhile, it funds a substantial tax cut for the wealthy and the health-care industry, Republicans say, in an effort to spur economic growth.

The [so-called] “health-care bill” that Republicans are trying to pass in the Senate, like the one approved by the GOP majority in the House, isn’t really about health care at all. Fundamentally, what Republicans in both chambers want to do is cut nearly $1 trillion over the next decade from the Medicaid program, which serves almost 70 million people. Medicaid provides health care not just for the indigent and disabled but also for the working poor — low-wage employees who cannot afford health insurance, even the plans offered through their jobs. Additionally, about 20% of Medicaid spending goes to provide nursing home care, including for middle-class seniors whose savings have been exhausted. Roughly two-thirds of those in nursing homes have their care paid by Medicaid.”

WHAT THIS IS REALLY ABOUT “Philosophically … erase the central concept that the ACA established: that health care is a fundamental right, not a privilege depending on one’s income.”



Politico “The Senate health care bill might not be the only blockbuster piece of legislation this year written behind closed doors by an elite few. Both senior administration officials and congressional leaders are already telegraphing that the tax reform measure they hope to move this fall will largely be shaped among themselves in private meetings. While many griped about the secrecy surrounding the health legislation, few rank-and-file Republicans seem to be objecting to that approach on tax reform, which has the potential to remake a federal tax system that brings in more than $3 trillion a year.”



Politico “The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) plans to mark up annual defense policy legislation under a $640 billion topline, Chairman Mac Thornberry said [Thursday] … the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act would authorize $640 billion for the Pentagon base budget and related national security programs. The bill also will authorize an extra $65 billion in war funding.” PRIORITIES: Filling readiness gaps, boosting missile defense research, adding more soldiers in the Army and a higher military pay top the Texas Republican’s highlights of the NDAA. ME TOO “The House Appropriations Committee plans to consider a fiscal 2018 defense spending bill assuming a $640 billion topline for national defense programs, Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen said [Thursday]. … “the higher topline is $37 billion more than the level proposed by the Trump administration. The Defense Appropriations Subcommittee marks up its bill next week in closed session.”.



The Fix “The Supreme Court … on Monday morning announced that they would take up a case out of Wisconsin that could result in a ruling on the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering. [Define ‘gerrymandering’ – manipulate the boundaries of (an electoral constituency) so as to favor one party or class.]

Supreme Court authority Robert Barnes explains the significance: “The justices regularly are called to invalidate state electoral maps that have been illegally drawn to reduce the influence of racial minorities by depressing the impact of their votes. But the Supreme Court has never found a plan unconstitutional because of partisan gerrymandering. If it does, it would have a revolutionary impact on the reapportionment that comes after the 2020 election and could come at the expense of Republicans, who control the process in the majority of states. The court accepted a case from Wisconsin, where a divided panel of three federal judges last year ruled last year that the state’s Republican leadership in 2011 pushed through a plan so partisan that it violated the Constitution’s First Amendment and equal rights protections.

In other words, the fact that the justices are even going to hear this case suggests that it could result in a ruling on the constitutionality question.


WashPo “In recent years, Republicans have enjoyed a very large edge when it comes to control of the redistricting process throughout the United States. The GOP won a huge wave election in the 2010 contests, which happened to come just before the once-per-decade census and before state legislatures in most states across the country redrew their congressional and state legislative maps. THE RESULT … very GOP-friendly maps in big swing states and even some blue-leaning states like Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. And in large part because of those state legislative maps, they retain historic control through today, including complete control of state government in 25 out of 50 states, compared to just seven for Democrats. And that, in turn, would mean they get to draw many of these maps again. It’s a vicious cycle for Democrats.



“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
– the president tweeted 3 days after he fired Comey, who was leading an investigation into potential collusion between Trump associates and Russia to influence the 2016 election.

“I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings,”
– Trump stated in a pair of tweets yesterday, a day before the deadline for the White House to produce any such tapes.

ANOTHER SELF INFLICTED LEGAL WOUND “The original tweet was in my view an important piece of evidence in the pattern of Trump’s possible obstruction of justice and witness intimidation,” says ethics guru Norman Eisen. “The fact that Trump has now admitted it was misleading adds to that evidence.” He explains, “Remember, obstruction is a crime of corrupt intent. Dishonesty of this kind further documents that intent. Moreover, today’s admission eliminates more benign explanations, such as that Trump really believed Comey was lying and had evidence to prove it. By process of elimination, what is left is the intent to impede the investigation by harassing the main witness against Trump.” He concludes: “Bottom line: Another tweet has landed in Mueller’s exhibit file, which is already bulging with them.”


RUSSIAN TIME LINE … Deep Dive but a must read

“When it came to disclosing Russian hacking during the 2016 election, President Barack Obama took his customary no-drama approach. But the drama has found him. The WashPo reported Friday morning that the CIA told the White House as early as August 2016 that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered interference in the 2016 election with the express purpose of helping elect Donald Trump. And this intelligence … was based on Putin’s “specific instructions” from “sourcing deep inside the Russian government. The administration wouldn’t even say Russia was behind the hacking until Oct. 7. And it wasn’t until December — after Trump was elected president — that The WashPo first reported on intelligence that indicated Putin was specifically trying to aid Trump. That emerging timeline is liable to give plenty of Democrats heartburn. And indeed, the second-guessing of Obama’s decisions is already underway.”

1960 Russian have been trying to influence outcomes and perceptions of U.S. elections since around this time, say intelligence experts today.

July 2016: Nearly 20,000 election-year emails from Democratic National Committee staff members are published by WikiLeaks, on the eve the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) resigns as chairwoman over some of the emails. Some intelligence Democrats point the finger at Russia.

Middle of summer 2016: Top Democrats in Congress say they realized the extent of the hacking, and that it was from Russia. “… it became apparent that the Russian were doing more than gathering foreign intelligence — that they were in fact dumping it in a way designed to potentially influence outcomes, not by affecting the vote machines, necessarily, but by affecting American public opinion with the dumping of these emails,” recalled Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, in a recent committee hearing.

Late July: The U.S. government makes a concerted effort to investigate Russia meddling in the election. As former CIA director John Brennan recalled to Congress in June 2017: “When it became clear to me last summer that Russia was engaged in a very aggressive and wide-ranging effort to interfere in one of the key pillars of our democracy, we pulled together experts from CIA, NSA and FBI in late July to focus on the issue, drawing in multiple perspectives and subject matter experts with broad expertise to assess Russian attempts to interfere in the U.S. presidential election.” July 27: Trump calls on Russia to hack Clinton’s emails to see if she didn’t turn any over to the FBI that she should have. July 27: Schiff and Sen. Feinstein (D-Calif.), who are among the eight members of Congress who get regular classified briefings by intelligence officials, write to President Obama “urging that the administration declassify and release any intelligence community assessments related to the DNC hack, and develop a swift and powerful response.”

Early August: WashPo reports that Obama received an “eyes only” envelope by courier from the CIA that “detailed Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race” and to help Trump win. “An intelligence bombshell,” The Post called it. August 2016: The Obama administration discovers some entity trying to break into voter registration systems across states. Also August: Then-Republican nominee Trump starts saying the election is rigged. Also August: Then-CIA director John Brennan calls his counterpart in Russia and tells them to knock it off. August 15: DHS issues a statement warning state governments that some kind of entity was trying to hack into states’ voter registration systems. Then-DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson would go on to issue several other statements over the next few months. “In the late summer, fall … he encouraged the states to come in and seek our assistance,” he told Congress in June 2017. “And I’m glad that most of them, red and blue, did.”

September 2016: Obama directly confronted Putin at a world leaders meeting in China, telling him to stop — or else, according to Post reporting. September: Top members of Congress get a secret briefing by the intelligence community that Russia is interfering in the election, but to what end, they aren’t sure. The intelligence community privately says agencies are conducting a broad investigation. The WashPo reports that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voiced doubts about the accuracy of this in those secret meetings. Sept. 22: Frustrated that the Obama administration still had not made a public statement about the extent of Russian hacking, Schiff and Feinstein, the top Democrats on Congress’s intelligence committees, take matters into their own hands and issue a rare public statement attributing the hack to Russia and senior levels of the Russian government. Sept. 28: McConnell and the other top three congressional leaders write a letter urging states to use the federal government’s help to prevent hacking into their voter registration systems. It makes no mention of Russia.

Oct. 7: DNI James Clapper and DHS Sec. Johnson … conclude “… the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations.” This marks the first public U.S. acknowledgment that the Russian government interfered in the election. Also Oct. 7: WashPo publishes an Access Hollywood video of then-candidate Trump bragging about grabbing women’s private parts, burying the intelligence community’s announcement about Russia.

November-December 2016: Seven Democratic senators send a short letter to Obama to ask him to declassify details of Russian meddling. “We believe there is additional information concerning the Russian Government and the U.S. election that should be declassified and released to the public,” they say. Dec. 6: Top Democrats send another letter to President Obama asking him to brief “all members of Congress on Russian interference in the U.S. election.” Dec. 9: WashPo reports on a secret CIA assessment that concludes Russian intervened in the U.S. election to try to help Trump win the presidency, rather than with the sole goal of undermining Americans’ confidence in their electoral systems. Obama orders a comprehensive review of what happened, going back to 2008, with plans to make it public, Dec. 29: Obama announces sanctions on Russia for election meddling, kicking out 35 Russian expected to play a role in the hacking and taking over two Russia compounds in the U.S.

December-January: President-elect Trump repeatedly refuses to acknowledge the intelligence community’s public assessments — and private briefings to him — that Russia hacked in the election to help him win. “It could have been China,” he said as recently as May 2017. Jan. 6: …” the intelligence agencies release a declassified report saying that Putin ordered the hacking and elevation of fake news in the U.S to help Trump win. It determines: Russia “developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump” and repeatedly sought to artificially boost his election chances.

May and June 2017: Former Obama intelligence officials go before Congress to assert that Russia interfered in the election.

June 2017: Former Obama intelligence officials defend waiting until October to announce what they had known for several months, that Russia was interfering in the election.”



Politico “Behind all the theater of ‘Tech Week,’ Trump’s budget makes deeper cuts to research and development than any White House in modern history: There’s a political logic to Trump’s innovation policy heresies. Two thirds of R&D spending goes to blue states, and most of it tends to cluster in large cities and college towns rather than farm country or the Rust Belt, one reason these issues have more resonance for cosmopolitan technocrats than for Trump voters.”



The most closely watched House race ever is over, and Republican Karen Handel came out the victor over Democrat Jon Ossoff. Over $50 Million was spent in the most expensive House race in history.
And now we know the GOP margin in ’17 … + 4

The Republicans have held Georgia’s 6th Congressional District since the late 1970s and, really, since the political realignment of the South. They were at risk of losing it to a 30-year-old who had no prior political experience.

THAT SAID … LOST A BATTLE, NOT THE WAR The Fix ” … according to a former Senate Republican campaign staffer and head of legislative and political affairs for a trade association. “The majority won’t suddenly be safe just because Republicans hold Georgia’s 6th District. …

Yup, you read that right. Democrats just lost their fourth special election in a row. And control of the House of Representatives could still be in play in the 2018 midterm elections. As the map stands now, Democrats arguably didn’t need to win in Georgia to take back control of the House for the first time since 2010. And yet, they came close.

Earlier this year, Democrats had a list of some 60 House races they hoped to make competitive; Georgia 6th wasn’t even on the list. As of right now, nonpartisan Cook Political Report ranks some 70 House seats that could be more competitive than this suburban Atlanta district. That includes 24 seats Republicans won in November that Hillary Clinton also won. Democrats need to net 24 seats to win back the House. In fact, in all four special elections — including a surprisingly close race in South Carolina also on Tuesday — Democrats outperformed Hillary Clinton in 2016, and they really only tried hard in one of them (Georgia). The November elections are 16 months away. Just saying.



A Pew Research Center survey of nearly 4,000 Americans released Thursday found a substantial 44% of Americans saying they know someone who had been shot by a gun, either accidentally or intentionally. The survey also asked respondents their opinion on gun laws, with 52 percent of adults overall saying gun laws should be “more strict” than they are today, 18 percent “less strict” and 30 percent saying they are “about right.” More Detail.


Otto Warmbier

… the University of Virginia student died Monday afternoon, days after he returned home in a coma after 17 months in captivity in North Korea. He suffered from irreversible brain damage while in detention. Overwhelmingly sad. RIP.

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