Vox: “The Senate GOP health bill in one sentence: poor people pay more for worse insurance”

This is the single most important issue for many Americans today. The Russian interference into our elections is bad, but this could be imminently devastating to anyone who needs their health care to actually function. Ezra Klein:

If all this sounds a bit in the weeds, here’s the bottom line: Low-income Americans get less money to buy crummier insurance. In the GOP bill, the measure of what is affordable has gone up and the definition of what counts as decent insurance has gone down.

Gene B. Sperling and Michael Shapiro go over how this version of the health bill could destroy coverage for pre-existing conditions in The Atlantic:

As they argue for the bill, Republicans are going to claim that it will not allow insurance plans to discriminate against people because they have a pre-existing condition. But that just isn’t the case. The Republican plan may not allow insurers to discriminate against a pre-existing condition through the front door, but they’ve created a backdoor way in.

Call your senators.

The Times’ Catalog of Dear Leader’s Lies

David Leonhardt and Stuart A. Thompson:

Many Americans have become accustomed to President Trump’s lies. But as regular as they have become, the country should not allow itself to become numb to them. So we have catalogued nearly every outright lie he has told publicly since taking the oath of office.

[…]

There is simply no precedent for an American president to spend so much time telling untruths. Every president has shaded the truth or told occasional whoppers. No other president — of either party — has behaved as Trump is behaving. He is trying to create an atmosphere in which reality is irrelevant.

Great work, I’d love to see everything from the campaign as well but I’m very happy to see a major news organization calling the Liar-in-Chief a liar instead of using mealy-mouthed words to pretend that it isn’t intentional.

Trump Stole Money Donated For Kids Fighting Cancer

Dan Alexander with Forbes:

 The best part about all this, according to Eric Trump, is the charity’s efficiency: Because he can get his family’s golf course for free and have most of the other costs donated, virtually all the money contributed will go toward helping kids with cancer. “We get to use our assets 100% free of charge,” Trump tells Forbes.

That’s not the case. In reviewing filings from the Eric Trump Foundation and other charities, it’s clear that the course wasn’t free–that the Trump Organization received payments for its use, part of more than $1.2 million that has no documented recipients past the Trump Organization. Golf charity experts say the listed expenses defy any reasonable cost justification for a one-day golf tournament.

Additionally, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which has come under previous scrutiny for self-dealing and advancing the interests of its namesake rather than those of charity, apparently used the Eric Trump Foundation to funnel $100,000 in donations into revenue for the Trump Organization.

And while donors to the Eric Trump Foundation were told their money was going to help sick kids, more than $500,000 was re-donated to other charities, many of which were connected to Trump family members or interests, including at least four groups that subsequently paid to hold golf tournaments at Trump courses.

A Direct Line to Compromise

Our days aren’t complete without the latest aside in the ongoing disaster. This time it’s a secret phone line that Trump’s son-in-law wanted to set up between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin using Russia’s technology. Ellen Nakashima, Adam Entous, and Greg Miller for the Washington Post:

Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.

Ambassador Sergei Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, son-in-law and confidant to then-President-elect Trump, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.

The meeting also was attended by Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser.

The Post’s Robert Costa also has the scoop on the Senate Intelligence Committee’s request for “…all documents, emails and phone records going back to his campaign’s launch…” from the Trump campaign:

The request to Trump’s political operatives represents the first time that Trump’s official campaign structure has been drawn into the Senate committee’s ongoing bipartisan investigation. That investigation is separate from the federal probe being led by the Justice Department’s special counsel, former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III.

“Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, did not dispute the account.”

Matt Apuzzo, Maggie Haberman, and Matthew Rosenberg for the Times:

President Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office this month that firing the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, had relieved “great pressure” on him, according to a document summarizing the meeting.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Mr. Trump added, “I’m not under investigation.”

It Gets Worse

This morning, the Times’ Michael S. Schmidt reported that Comey left a fantastic paper trail before he was fired:

President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.

“I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.

The existence of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia.

Mr. Comey wrote the memo detailing his conversation with the president immediately after the meeting, which took place the day after Mr. Flynn resigned, according to two people who read the memo. The memo was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation. An F.B.I. agent’s contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations.

There’s also this incredible buried lede:

Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.

An Idiot’s Guide to Mishandling Classified Information

Absolutely insane series of events.

Yesterday the Washington Post’s Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe reported that Trump gave classified information to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in front of the Russian press during their jovial meeting at the White House:

The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.

The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump’s decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. After Trump’s meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency.

“This is code-word information,” said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, using terminology that refers to one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”

This isn’t the first time the embarrassment has mishandled classified information, but the follow-up was so flawed.

The LA Times’ Michael A. Memoli and Noah Bierman quoting the national security advisor:

McMaster said Trump “wasn’t even aware” of the source of the information and again called “the premise” of a Washington Post report that Trump had improperly shared highly classified intelligence “false.”

This morning, the embarrassment confirmed the original article:

That isn’t how that works. The president casually gave classified information to a foreign adversary in front of their state media.

National Embarrassment Threatens Former FBI Director With Blackmail

After lying about his predecessor recording his calls, Trump has threatened to release secret recordings of his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey:

If the White House records something it can be subpoenaed as Nixon’s recordings were during Watergate.

More Details About Comey

The WSJ’s Shane Harris and Carol E. Lee:

Mr. Comey started receiving daily instead of weekly updates on the investigation, beginning at least three weeks ago, according to people with knowledge of the matter and the progress of the Federal Bureau of Investigation probe. Mr. Comey was concerned by information showing possible evidence of collusion, according to these people.

The collusion might be entirely overstated, but the cover-up is amazing.

 

Who Do You Meet With After Firing The FBI Director Investigating Your Collusion With Russia?

David E. Sanger and Neil MacFarquhar for the Times:

Only hours after dismissing James B. Comey as director of the F.B.I., amid an investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russian officials, the president met with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, at the White House. The Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey I. Kislyak — best known to many Americans as the man who discussed lifting sanctions on Russia with Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser — was also in the Oval Office for the meeting.

The world’s only glimpse of this session came from the Russian news agency Tass, which distributed photos of the meeting, with a grinning Mr. Trump shaking hands with the two visitors. No reporters were allowed in to ask questions — though they were ushered in minutes later for Mr. Trump’s session with Henry A. Kissinger, the former secretary of state.

Breaking here to note how insane it is that journalists weren’t allowed to  witness the meeting with Trump and the Russian kleptocrats. Very reassuring.

And, at the State Department, there was no briefing on an earlier meeting between Mr. Lavrov and Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson. Mr. Tillerson is famously reluctant to talk with the press. So that left the field clear for Mr. Lavrov, who has now sat opposite four American secretaries of state and knows how to work the news media well, to describe the conversations.