Democrats need to focus on both the God-King’s corruption and the GOP tax cut masquerading as health care…. (More)

“We need to walk and chew gum at the same time,” the mail room clerk explained as she walked and blew a bubble.

I nodded and tapped at my Blewberry: “So, umm, why are you in the middle of a small, square desert? Just askin’.”

She shrugged. “Coz the Grafix Department didn’t want to fiddle with a whole set for a quick visual joke?”

That seemed reasonable enough to me, so I dove into the news dumpster.

“Informed in an email that the material was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s candidacy”

Today the New York Times reports that the God-Prince’s claim of ignorance about Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya:

Before arranging a meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer he believed would offer him compromising information about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Jr. was informed in an email that the material was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s candidacy, according to three people with knowledge of the email.

The email to the younger Mr. Trump was sent by Rob Goldstone, a publicist and former British tabloid reporter who helped broker the June 2016 meeting. In a statement on Sunday, Mr. Trump acknowledged that he was interested in receiving damaging information about Mrs. Clinton, but gave no indication that he thought the lawyer might have been a Kremlin proxy.

Mr. Goldstone’s message, as described to The New York Times by the three people, indicates that the Russian government was the source of the potentially damaging information. It does not elaborate on the wider effort by Moscow to help the Trump campaign.

Vox’s Andrew Prokop explains:

Trump Jr. has claimed in a statement that he was given no useful information at the meeting and that the matter went no further. Yet previous accounts he’s given of the meeting keep leaving out relevant details that emerge later on. (This is the Times’ third scoop in three days about the meeting, with each one adding new and more damaging information.) The White House has said the president himself first heard of this meeting just days ago.

Overall, this story provides our first real solid evidence that high-level people on Trump’s team attempted to work with people tied to the Russian government to get information that could impact the campaign and hurt Clinton’s chances. And while Trump Jr. appears to have had the lead role in arranging the meeting, Kushner and Manafort’s roles also deserve serious examination.

However, there is still no outright proof that these efforts progressed beyond initial inquiries and resulted in some type of mutual coordination or collaboration. And the role of Donald Trump himself remains unclear.

The God-Prince claims Veselnitskaya hoped to discuss U.S. parents waiting to adopt Russian children, but the TimesAmanda Taub unspins that:

President Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. initially defended his meeting with a Russian lawyer connected to the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential campaign by saying that it was primarily about adoption – a seemingly innocent humanitarian issue.

Reinstating American adoptions of Russian orphans certainly seems like a far less serious matter than a meeting about, say, the removal of United States sanctions on certain Russian officials.

But from the Russian perspective, whether the younger Mr. Trump and his associates knew it at the time or not, the issues of adoptions and sanctions are so inextricably linked as to be practically synonymous.

The real issue, Taub explains, is whether the U.S. will punish human rights abuses in Russia:

The context is the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 American law that freezes the assets held in the United States by Russian officials responsible for human rights abuses. The law also bars these officials from receiving American visas. It was named after Sergei Magnitsky, a young Russian lawyer who died in pretrial detention after exposing a $230 million tax-theft scam perpetrated by Russian officials.

To the law’s backers, the Magnitsky Act was a way to strike a blow for justice. But to Mr. Putin, it seemed like an intolerable attack by the United States government against the stability of his own presidency.

Oh, and Talking Points Memo’s Sam Thielman notes that Veselnitskaya is neck-deep in Russian money-laundering:

In fact, Veselnitskaya was already a key figure for the defense in one of the most notorious money-laundering scandals in recent memory, encompassing $230 million in public funds allegedly stolen from the Russians by a network of corrupt bureaucrats and routed into real estate sales, including some in Manhattan, through ironclad Swiss bank accounts. And she was accused of lobbying U.S. officials for a Russian NGO that sought to overturn the Russian ban on U.S. adoptions, according to a complaint filed with the U.S. Justice Department and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA).
[…]
The legal proceedings in which Veselnitskaya was enmeshed contain a spy novel’s-worth of twists, turns and tragic, suspicious accidents. Sergei Magnitsky, a whistleblowing accountant who called attention to Russian bureaucrats’ alleged widespread embezzlement, was arrested and detained without trial for nearly a year until his death in 2009 from what prison staff described as “pancreonecrosis, ruptured abdominal membrane and toxic shock,” according to the U.S. government’s suit against Prevezon. The Russian Interior Ministry later revised the cause of death to heart failure. When Magnitsky’s family examined his body, they found bruises and that his fingers had been broken, according to an early draft of a report by then-president Dmitry Medvedev’s own investigative committee.

Meanwhile, TPM’s Matt Shuham reports that the God-Prince has hired a mob lawyer to defend him:

Donald Trump Jr. hired criminal defense attorney Alan Futerfas on Monday to represent him in connection with the ongoing probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, TPM has confirmed.
[…]
Cursory research reveals Futerfas’ colorful client list, from a woman whose family trafficked cocaine out of their Corona, Queens pizzeria to an investment broker who sold NFL and NBA players millions of dollars of worthless unregistered promissory notes. Futerfas has represented multiple alleged associates of various of the notorious “Five Families” of organized crime in New York City.

Yes, everyone’s entitled to a legal defense and criminal defense lawyers are almost never parties to the crimes for which their clients are charged. On the other hand, this is starting to read like an episode from Cопрано. That would be Russian for The Sopranos.

+++++

“A beautiful new HealthCare bill”

Meanwhile, New York Magazine’s Ed Kilgore reports that Senate Republican leaders are buying out cosmetics departments to get enough lipstick for their Wealthcare Act pig:

It is now pretty clear why Majority Leader Mitch McConnell really wanted a vote on the Senate’s version of Trumpcare before the July 4 recess: Republicans have returned to Washington in a state of more visible disarray on this legislation than ever before. At least ten Republican senators are thought to be “no” votes on the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, and the number could rise after the lawmakers reflect on the sour public assessments of the bill they heard back home and read about in the media over the recess. Senators John McCain of Arizona and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana offered negative assessments of BCRA’s chances of enactment on Sunday shows. Senators Chuck Grassley and Ted Cruz – of Iowa and Texas – are sniping at each other over the latter’s proposed amendment to let insurers offer cheaper health plans with less coverage and its impact on people with preexisting conditions.

Worse yet from a morale point of view, Republicans are now openly sparring over what to do if BCRA fails.

Hardliners insist that, if they can’t reach a deal, Senate Republicans should just repeal Obamacare and figure out how to replace it later. But McConnell has said he may have to change tacks and instead negotiate with Senate Democrats to fix, rather than scrap, the ACA. And the God-King is getting testy:

Kilgore thinks some of the ‘disagreement’ is shadow theatre, and much of it may come down to spinning the CBO’s scores on the lipstick-smeared Wealthcare Act:

“Fully approved and ready to go” suggests Senate passage of BCRA and then a quick rubber-stamping by the House — all by July 29, when Congress is due to go on recess until after Labor Day.

That seems very unlikely at the moment, but don’t count out McConnell just yet. His game all along has been to keep everyone focused on positive comparisons of the bill finally voted on with earlier versions of the legislation. So from his point of view the current negativity could just represent that final darkness before the dawn. If both moderates and conservatives in the Senate GOP find just enough in the revisions and the CBO score to justify a claim that they’ve “won” various demands, Trumpcare could yet become law this year.

All this while more and more Democrats coalesce around single-payer, including a proposal to introduce it through employer-sponsored plans and more pragmatic discussions on how to win the messaging battle.

So to those who say Democrats should focus on the God-King’s corruption and possible collusion with Russia – or those who say Democrats should laser in on health care and other working class issues – I’ll go with the mail room clerk’s advice. Learn to walk and chew gum at the same time.

+++++

Image Credit: Crissie Brown (BPICampus.com)

+++++

Good day and good nuts