What Fresh Hell Is This?

June 23, 2017

Thanks, Senator Toomey! This Is YOUR Draft Legislation.

As much as I love to write about how Trump lied (or is still lying) about the "Comey tapes" I think a more important issue is how the GOP in the Senate plans to "fix" Obamacare.

From ConsumerReports, there's an analysis.  Under the headline there's this one sentence summary:
The Better Care Act would roll out more slowly than the House proposal, but funding cuts could be even more severe
And then they begin:
Republicans moved closer to their goal of replacing the Affordable Care Act Thursday, with Senate Republicans issuing a plan that significantly restricts access to Medicaid and eliminates billions of dollars in taxes for companies and higher-income people.

The plan was hatched in a matter of weeks by a small group of senators meeting in secret. In many key ways, it's similar to the American Health Care Act, passed by the House in May after several failed attempts.

Thursday’s legislation, dubbed the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, gives the public—as well as senators who weren’t in on the discussions—the first detailed look at how the Senate proposes to amend the AHCA.
One of that "small group of senators" was Pennsylvania's own Pat Toomey. And yes, that's a pun, of sorts. He owns this. This is his work.  Back to what Toomey's work:
Medicaid expansion is phased out more slowly. Under the ACA, the Medicaid expansion brought health insurance to 14 million Americans who didn't previously qualify. The Senate pledges to continue to fund the expansion through 2021 and phase it out over three years. The House bill would have phased out and then stopped funding in 2020.

But funding for Medicaid is cut more drastically. Beyond the expansion, both the House and Senate legislation make fundamental changes to how the federal government pays for Medicaid, changes that have nothing to do with ACA provisions. But the Senate proposal would make even deeper cuts than the House plan. It would shrink the annual growth rate in federal funding to state Medicaid programs to align with consumer inflation—not medical inflation, which grows faster. [Bolding in original.]
And then there's this from President Obama:
The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else. Those with private insurance will experience higher premiums and higher deductibles, with lower tax credits to help working families cover the costs, even as their plans might no longer cover pregnancy, mental health care, or expensive prescriptions.
Cutting Medicaid. Tax cuts for the wealthy. Lotsa people will suffer while a few will have more money for a second luxury car.

It's mean and it's cruel and it came from the pen of Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey.

Thanks, Pat!  We'll remember this day.

June 22, 2017

The Latest On Trump's (Alleged) Obstruction Of Justice

From Politico:
In an interview with POLITICO Wednesday in his Capitol office, [Republican senator Chuck] Grassley was the most definitive yet that his committee’s probe will examine issues of obstruction of justice.

“I don’t want to say for sure. But I don’t know how you can avoid it,” Grassley said regarding questions of obstruction of justice in his investigation. “Because the FBI was investigating it before there was a special counsel.”

The Iowa senator, who took charge of the Judiciary panel two years ago, has been hammering out the parameters of an investigation with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on probing Comey’s dismissal, as well as potential political interference at the Justice Department under the Obama administration.

Grassley and Feinstein, along with two other key senators in the Russia probe, met with special counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday.
Amber Phillips over at the Washington Post has a "cheat sheet" for the current Trump investigations:
  • A special counsel on Russia 
  • The FBI Investigation
  • Various congressional committees
Of that last point, she writes:
The House and Senate intelligence committees, which deal with some of the nation’s most well-kept secrets, are investigating Russia’s attempt to influence the U.S. presidential election and Trump associates’ connections to Russia.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which oversees the federal government, is asking the FBI for Comey’s memos. So is the Senate Judiciary Committee.
How many days has the little-handed pussy-grabber been in office, anyway?

June 21, 2017

Meanwhile Outside...

From NOAA (the Climate Scientists left working for the science denier Trump):
Averaged as a whole, the global land and ocean temperature for May 2017 was 0.83°C (1.49°F) above the 20th century average of 14.8°C (58.6°F) and the third highest May in the 138-year global records, behind 2016 (+0.89°C / +1.60°F) and 2015 (+0.86°C / +1.55°F). This was also the coolest monthly temperature departure from average since December 2016 (0.80°C / 1.44°F) and tied with April 2010, November 2013, and December 2014 as the 26th highest monthly global land and ocean temperature departure from average in the 1,649-monthly records. May 2017 also marks the 389th consecutive month with globally-average temperature nominally above the 20th century average. December 1984 was the last time a monthly temperature was below the 20th century average at -0.09°C (-0.16°F).
And:
Globally, the average land and ocean surface temperature for March–May 2017 was the second highest such period since global temperature records began in 1880 at 0.92°C (1.66°F) above the 20th century average of 13.7°C (56.7°F) and behind 2016 by 0.15°C (0.27°F).
Meanwhile, from the White House, according to NYMag:
“For some reason or another,” says Vice-President Mike Pence, “this issue of climate change has emerged as a paramount issue for the left in this country and around the world.” Might that reason be … a global scientific consensus that greenhouse-gas emissions pose a dire risk to humanity? Pence does not pause to consider it, instead moving on to the “burden” of Paris and how “refreshing” it is to finally have a president who stands up for American interests.

The Trump administration has been conspicuously silent on the question of climate science. When George Stephanopoulos asked Kellyanne Conway about Trump’s stance on climate change, she replied, “He believes in clean air, clean water, a clean environment.” Press Secretary Sean Spicer, asked whether the president still dismisses climate science as a Chinese hoax, said, “Honestly, I haven’t asked him.” EPA Director Scott Pruitt, himself a confirmed skeptic, refused to answer whether Trump believes in climate change. A White House official deflected the question by insisting, “I have not talked to the president about his personal views,” and then shut down follow-up questions as “off topic.”
Nevertheless, let me persist in saying that it's still getting warmer out there and that human activity significantly contributes to that warming - something, by the way, Senator Pat Toomey voted against..

June 20, 2017

My EIGHTEENTH Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

I'll be dropping this letter to Senator Pat Toomey in the mail today:
Dear Senator Toomey:

It's me, again. Your constituent who also writes for the local Pittsburgh-based political blog, "2 Political Junkies."

I need to ask you again about the GOP's plans to appeal and replace Obamacare. Last week, I asked you why we, your constituents (and members of the American public), couldn't see the draft of the replacement you're working on. It seems that you and your party are planning on sliding it in for a vote with little or no public discussion.

This week, however, I'd like to draw your attention to some recent poll data by Kaiser Health. When they asked in May 2017, "As you may know, a health reform bill was signed into law in 2010. Given what you know about the health reform law, do you have a generally favorable or generally unfavorable opinion of it?" 49% of those polled (if I am reading it correctly) said they approved of the ACA with 42% opposed. Those numbers are more or less in line with the current (June 2017) data at Real Clear Politics.

Given that the public approves of Obamacare more than it opposes it, I'll ask it again, why are you drafting its replacement in secret?

I await your response.
And I will be posting whatever response I get from him or his office.

Follow-up: 

June 19, 2017

JUNETEENTH

By the President of the United States of America:

A Proclamation.

Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

"That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States."

Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:

Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.

And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.

And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.

And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-seventh.

By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN

June 15, 2017

And So It Begins...Mueller Is Investigating Trump For Obstruction Of Justice

From The Washington Post:
The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said.

The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said.
And:
Officials said one of the exchanges of potential interest to Mueller took place on March 22, less than a week after Coats was confirmed by the Senate to serve as the nation’s top intelligence official.

Coats was attending a briefing at the White House with officials from several other government agencies. When the briefing ended, as The Washington Post previously reported, Trump asked everyone to leave the room except for Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Coats told associates that Trump had asked him whether Coats could intervene with Comey to get the bureau to back off its focus on former national security adviser Michael Flynn in its Russia probe, according to officials. Coats later told lawmakers that he never felt pressured to intervene.

A day or two after the March 22 meeting, Trump telephoned Coats and Rogers to separately ask them to issue public statements denying the existence of any evidence of coordination between his campaign and the Russian government.

Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the president’s requests, officials said.
If this wasn't serious before, it's certainly serious now.  From Paul Rosenzweig over at Lawfare:
What's the worst thing that happened to Donald Trump this week? It was NOT Director Comey's testimony. Rather, it must be the late Friday news that Robert Mueller has hired Michael Dreeben, on a part-time basis, to help with his investigation. Dreeben, a deputy in the Office of the Solicitor General, has argued more than 100 cases before the Supreme Court. His specialty has, for the last 20 years, been criminal matters and he has an encyclopedic knowledge of criminal law. I once saw him argue a Supreme Court matter without a single note. In short, he is quite possibly the best criminal appellate lawyer in America (at least on the government's side). That Mueller has sought his assistance attests both to the seriousness of his effort and the depth of the intellectual bench he is building.
Rosenzweig is a Visiting Fellow at the Heritage Foundation so you know he's a lyin' lib'rul.

Also on Mueller's team, as reported by The Washington Post:
Mueller’s team includes Jeannie Rhee, a former deputy assistant attorney general and a partner in the investigations practice at WilmerHale, and Andrew Weissmann, the chief of the Justice Department’s fraud section who oversaw corruption investigations including the probe into cheating by Volkswagen on diesel emissions tests.

Mueller, who is working with a team of FBI agents, has also brought on Aaron Zebley, who was Mueller’s chief of staff when Mueller was FBI director, and James Quarles, who worked as an assistant special prosecutor on the Watergate Special Prosecution Force and was also an attorney at WilmerHale.
And then Wired has this:
Also, while the Special Counsel’s office has yet to make any formal announcements about Mueller’s team, it appears he has recruited an experienced Justice Department trial attorney, Lisa Page, a little-known figure outside the halls of Main Justice but one whose résumé boasts intriguing hints about where Mueller’s Russia investigation might lead. Page has deep experience with money laundering and organized crime cases, including investigations where she’s partnered with an FBI task force in Budapest, Hungary, that focuses on eastern European organized crime. That Budapest task force helped put together the still-unfolding money laundering case against Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash, a one-time business partner of [Paul] Manafort.
And just think, it was only yesterday that we read that Senator Pat Toomey said of Donald Trump:
That's because nobody has found any evidence that suggests that he should be the subject of an investigation. So, yeah, this is just wildly overblown and fortunately most of us are not paying any attention.
My advice to you Senator, is that you probably can' say things like this anymore.

June 14, 2017

Senator Pat Toomey In The News - He's Covering For Donald Trump And It's REALLY Disappointing.

From CNN:
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey said Tuesday called the investigation into possible collusion between members of Donald Trump's presidential campaign and Russia "overblown" and said he isn't paying much attention to it.

"I have seen that (Sen.) Dianne Feinstein has stated to her credit -- liberal Democrat who has been on the intelligence committee for I don't know, for decades I think -- she has acknowledged that there is absolutely no evidence of any collusion anywhere," Toomey said on the Chris Stigall Show on WPHT radio. "(Sen.) Mark Warner has said, the Democrat from Virginia, has said the exact same thing. (Former FBI Director) James Comey told us at the hearing that the President himself is not the subject of investigation.

"That's because nobody has found any evidence that suggests that he should be the subject of an investigation. So, yeah, this is just wildly overblown and fortunately most of us are not paying any attention."
This is not exactly what one could call "accurate" is it?  Let's take the Senator Feinstein part first.

Senator Toomey says that she "acknowledged that there is absolutely no evidence of any collusion anywhere" but that's not exactly what she said.  She said on CNN that she hasn't seen any evidence that would establish collusion.  Not that there "absolutely isn't any." She's also depending on the Mueller investigation to find whatever is there.

In logical terms, Senator, that's a far cry from acknowledging that there "is absolutely no evidence...anywhere" doncha think?

So that's a lie, isn't it?

But is the Comey similarly innacurate?

Why yes, yes it is.  Take a look at this from Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine:
It is true that Comey told Trump that the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation was not targeting him personally at the time. But many portions of Comey’s testimony also indicated just how precarious that assurance was. Comey explained that his leadership team did not agree on whether they could even give Trump this assurance at all.
And Chait quotes this from Comey's testimony:
Wasn’t unanimous. One of the members of the leadership team had a view you that although it was technically true we did not have a counter-intelligence file case open on then President-elect Trump. His concern was because we’re looking at the potential, again, that’s the subject of the investigation, coordination between the campaign and Russia, because it was President Trump, President-elect Trump’s campaign, this person’s view was inevitably his behavior, his conduct will fall within the scope of that work. And so he was reluctant to make the statement. I disagreed. I thought it was fair to say what was literally true.
And then Comey's expansion of the above:
And the leader had that view that didn’t change. His view was still that it was probably although literally true, his concern was it could be misleading, because the nature of the investigation was such that it might well touch, obviously it would touch, the campaign, and the person that headed the campaign would be the candidate, and so that was his view throughout.
Chait explains:
Comey used the word “technically” once, and “literally” twice, to describe the non-investigation of Trump. And he explained the reason for these caveats: The FBI was investigating the Trump campaign. Since Trump ran the Trump campaign, it seemed highly plausible that the investigation could and would eventually lead to Trump himself. [Italics in original.]
The "we're not investigating you" part was about the Steele dossier. Back to Comey's testimony:
I was briefing him about salacious and unverified material. It was in a context of that that he had a strong and defensive reaction about that not being true. My reading of it was it was important for me to assure him we were not person investigating him. So the context then was actually narrower, focused on what I just talked to him about. It was very important because it was, first, true, and second, I was worried very much about being in kind of a J. Edgar Hoover-type situation. I didn’t want him thinking I was briefing him on this to sort of hang it over him in some way.
Look at all that's gone missing from Senator Pat Toomey's deceptive "Comey told us at the hearing that the President himself is not the subject of investigation."

The biggest part of Toomey's Trump cover?

It's this.  When Senator Cotton asked one very simple question:
Cotton: Do you think Donald Trump colluded with Russia?

Comey: That’s a question I don’t think I should answer in an opening setting. As I said, when I left, we did not have an investigation focused on President Trump. But that’s a question that will be answered by the investigation, I think.
Hey, isn't that basically was Senator Feinstein said? 

In any event, if the answer was a simple "no" why didn't he just say "no"? If the answer was "there's absolutely evidence of any collusion anywhere" why didn't he just say that instead of "I don’t think I should answer in an opening setting."?

Senator Pat Toomey is giving political cover to the little-handed pussy-grabber.

How disappointing, Senator.