Klanmaster General Jeff Sessions got caught with his hand in Russia’s cookie jar. Plus … lots of stuff…. (More)

“I did not have communications with the Russians”

That’s what Sessions said under oath in his confirmation hearings, and he was lying:

Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Justice Department officials said, encounters he did not disclose when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow during Sessions’s confirmation hearing to become attorney general.

One of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.

But somehow it’s never lying when Republicans do it:

At his Jan. 10 Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Sessions was asked by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) what he would do if he learned of any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of the 2016 campaign.

“I’m not aware of any of those activities,” he responded. He added: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”

Officials said Sessions did not consider the conversations relevant to the lawmakers’ questions and did not remember in detail what he discussed with Kislyak.

“There was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer,” said Sarah Isgur Flores, Sessions’s spokeswoman.

In January, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) asked Sessions for answers to written questions. “Several of the President-elect’s nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?” Leahy wrote.

Sessions responded with one word: “No.”

In a statement issued Wednesday night, Sessions said he “never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”

It seems he thinks perjury is A Very Big Deal for Democrats, but merely a trivial misunderstanding for himself. But Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) wasn’t convinced, saying Sessions must recuse himself from the DOJ investigation of the God-King’s Russia ties, and Democrats are calling for his resignation.

“Maybe we shouldn’t believe what they say”

Meanwhile, CNN’s John King noticed that huge bright light in the sky and wondered if it’s an every-day thing:

CNN reported Wednesday on a senior administration official admitting that the White House intentionally misled reporters ahead of President Donald Trump‘s congressional address in order to get generate positive press coverage as part of a “misdirection play.”

Multiple reports Tuesday indicated that Trump would embrace a more moderate tone on immigration and would announce that he was willing to negotiate granting millions of illegal immigrants legal status. Most of those reports, cited to a “senior administration official,” came immediately after anchors lunched with Trump. Some of those outlets then just attributed the claim to the president himself.

But when it was time for Trump to actually give the speech, he said nothing of the sort.
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Host John King wondered why reporters should even trust the White House going forward. “It does make you wonder; so we’re not supposed to believe what the senior-most official at the lunch says — who then they allowed it to be the president’s name says — we’re not supposed to believe what they say?” he asked. “Maybe we shouldn’t believe what they say.”

Gee. Ya think?

“There is apparently less capacity for living and learning in political journalism than there is in elementary school; less object permanence than in nursery school.”

Here’s The New Republic’s Brian Beutler explaining the problem:

Trump’s moral and ethical failings are legion. He is the villain of all his own triumphant and disgraceful sagas. But the plot of this chapter is about a political press corps (not the investigators slowly piecing together the unseemly details of Trump’s foreign entanglements, but the ones who cover day-to-day news and theater) that is outmatched and completely maladapted for the challenge he poses.

Many of the same people now tasked with communicating what matters about Trump’s presidency to the public also covered Trump’s campaign, where they returned serially to the storyline of the pivot, the softening, wherein simply reading a scripted and not-entirely-unhinged speech from beginning to end marked a new beginning for him.

There is apparently less capacity for living and learning in political journalism than there is in elementary school; less object permanence than in nursery school.

You should read Beutler’s entire, unsparing critique of Beltway pundits who seem surprised every time the sun comes up.

“A basement room of an office building that adjoins the Capitol”

And you can read Beutler’s article. Unlike, say, House Republicans’ health care plan:

Yesterday, House Speaker Paul Ryan boasted that his party would follow a deliberate, transparent process to repeal and replace Obamacare. “This is how the legislative process is supposed to be designed,” he told the Today show. “We’re not hatching some bill in a backroom and plopping it on the American people’s front door.” Today, House Republicans made it known that they will release their plan tomorrow and that it will only be made available to House Republicans. Representative Chris Collins tells the Washington Examiner the plan “would be made available Thursday morning to Republicans in a basement room of an office building that adjoins the Capitol.”

It is not clear what distinction Ryan draws between a “backroom” and a “basement room” only members of his party may access.

Bloomberg’s Billy House and Arit John have more details:

The document is being treated a bit like a top-secret surveillance intercept. It is expected to be available to members and staffers on the House Energy and Commerce panel starting Thursday, but only in a dedicated reading room, one Republican lawmaker and a committee aide said. Nobody will be given copies to take with them.

The unusual secrecy is a reflection of the sensitivity – and the stakes – surrounding the GOP effort to rewrite the Affordable Care Act, a top priority of President Donald Trump, who has yet to offer his own plan.

Republican leaders are trying to avoid a repeat of what happened last time. When an outdated draft leaked last week, it was quickly panned by conservatives.

They also plan to vote on it before the Congressional Budget Office can score it, per the Jonathan Chait link above:

Republicans say the real version of their plan will differ in some regard from the discussion draft, but they have not yet said how. The Congressional Budget Office will officially estimate the bill’s effects on insurance coverage and the deficit. Alas, Collins also tells the Hill newspaper that the committee will vote on the bill before CBO releases its score, so exactly who will get hurt will not be known precisely. “It looks like unfortunately, based on the delays, we may be marking this up and voting on it before we have a score,” Collins said.

Unfortunately. But it’s not like the House Republicans have any control over things like when they schedule their votes on major social legislation.

The Kaiser Family Foundation has tried to score the leaked proposals, and it’s not pretty:

Under the ACA in 2020, we project that a typical 40-year-old making $20,000 per year would be eligible for $4,143 in premium tax credits (not including the additional cost-sharing subsidies to lower his or her deductibles and copayments), while under the House Discussion Draft or Price bill, this person would be eligible $3,000 or $2,250, respectively. For context, we project that the average ACA premium for a 40-year-old in 2020 would be $5,101 annually (meaning the tax credit in the ACA would cover 81% of the total premium) for a benchmark silver plan with comprehensive benefits and reduced cost-sharing. A $3,000 tax credit for this same individual under the House Discussion Draft would represent 59% of the average 40-year-old benchmark silver premium under the ACA, and the Price bill tax credit of $2,250 for a 40-year-old would represent 44% of the ACA benchmark. Under the House Discussion Draft and Price bill, premiums could be lower if fewer benefits are covered (though out-of-pocket costs would therefore be higher for people who use health care services).

And you can bet Republicans will stop whining about high deductibles and out-of-pocket costs … once they’ve passed a bill that pushes even higher deductibles and out-of-pocket costs. Then we won’t hear howls about “insurance that’s only an insurance card.” Instead, we’ll hear boasts about “skin in the game.”

“You can kind of tell”

And it wouldn’t be a day ending in -y without a Republican going Full Racist Stupid. In today’s edition, I offer New York City Community Board member Ann Pfoser Darby:

Veteran CB4 member Ann Pfoser Darby, who has a history of making controversial comments in her 30 years on the board, told those present at Community Board 4’s transportation meeting that proposed changes to 111th Street to add a bike lane were moot.

“Once Trump removes all the illegals from Corona there won’t be anybody to ride bike lanes,” Pfoser Darby said, according to a member of the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives and a spokeswoman for City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, both of whom were present at the meeting.

She even found room in her mouth for her other foot:

Pfoser Darby doubled down on the comments when reached by phone Wednesday, saying she was sharing her observations with the community over bike lanes already installed on Queens Boulevard.

“I see who goes by and who doesn’t, and there was a lot of people going by to work early in the morning and like about 90 percent of them are gone,” she said – adding that she took it as a sign that these people have been “picked up by ICE [Immigrations Customs Enforcement.]”

“It looks like they were illegal aliens, I don’t know, I didn’t speak to them,” she added.

When asked how she could tell someone’s immigration status from afar, she said it’s “observation and logic.”

“You can kind of tell, especially sometimes the way they dress,” she said, adding later that it’s obvious if “someone speaks only Chinese.”

And I can kind of tell she’s an ignorant racist. It’s pretty obvious if someone speaks only Bigotese.

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Photo Credit: Kevin Lamarque (Reuters)

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Good day and good nuts