Outhouse aides and the wingnut media try to spin the God-Prince admissions, and Senate Republicans seem to really hate sick people. (More)
A reader told me that President Obama and his aides used the “walk and chew gum at the same time” line years ago and the phrase dates back to at least 1956, so I shouldn’t give the mail room clerk credit for suggesting it.
“Okay,” she said. “How about feed a squirrel and chew gum at the same time?”
I tapped at my Blewberry: “You got out of that little desert, I see. Where are you now?”
“Sitting on a bench in Willow Park,” she said.
“Where is Willow Park?” I asked. “Also, that’s an Eastern Gray Squirrel, but I’m a European Red Squirrel.”
She shrugged. “Sorry, but the Grafix Department don’t have a red squirrel model yet. As for Willow Park, that’s the Grafix Department’s latest project. It’s in Cognito.”
I nervously tapped at my Blewberry: “Where is Cognito?”
“About ten miles from Communicado,” she replied.
I could swear I heard a rim shot. Rather than go on playing Abbot to her Costello, I dove into the news dumpster:
“You can’t just really say anymore, ‘fake news’.”
President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., tweeted out a series of emails from the 2016 campaign Tuesday, showing that he agreed to a meeting with a “Russian government lawyer” who was said to have damaging information on Hillary Clinton. The offer was part of “Russia and its government’s support” for the Trump team, according to the emails.
The tweeted emails blew up on Twitter and confirmed previous reporting, particularly from the New York Times, about Trump Jr. being offered potentially compromising information about Clinton from the Russian government. Among Trump’s online base, however, the emails meant basically one thing: that the mainstream media got owned again.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller will surely be looking into the meeting between Donald Trump, Jr., and a Russian lawyer named Natalia Veselnitskaya. Part of the meeting was also attended by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and Paul Manafort, who at the time was running Trump’s campaign. It now seems clear from the emails that the Trump people went to the meeting expecting to be given dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government. The question remains, if this is all true, is it criminal?
The first issue that must be addressed by Mueller is whether any existing criminal statutes would be violated by collusion between a campaign and a foreign government, if such collusion were to be proved? Unless there is a clear violation of an existing criminal statute, there would be no crime.
Obviously if anyone conspired in advance with another to commit a crime – such as hacking the DNC – that would be criminal. But merely seeking to obtain the work product of a prior hack would be no more criminal than a newspaper publishing the work product of thefts such as the Pentagon Papers and the material stolen by Snowden and Manning. Moreover, the emails sent to Trump Jr. say that the dirt peddled by Veselnitskaya came from “official documents.” No mention is made of hacking or other illegal activities. So it is unlikely that attendance at the meeting violated any criminal statute.
But there is a federal statute that prohibits candidates from soliciting anything “money or any other thing of value” from foreign entities and professional ‘oppo research’ firms charge hundreds of dollars per hour. So yes, meeting a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer to get oppo research on your opponent is illegal.
Last night on Fox News, the God-Prince kinda-sorta admitted he screwed up:
In retrospect I probably would have done things a little differently. Again this is before the Russia mania, this is before they were building this up in the press. For me this was opposition research, they had something you know maybe concrete evidence to all the stories I’d been hearing about, probably under reported for years not just during the campaign so I think I wanted to hear it out.
Even supporters of Trump Jr. who believe he faces no legal repercussions privately acknowledged Tuesday that the story is a public relations disaster – for him as well as for the White House. One outside ally called it a “Category 5 hurricane,” while an outside adviser said a CNN graphic charting connections between the Trump team and Russians resembled the plot of the fictional Netflix series House of Cards.
Vice President Pence sought to distance himself from the controversy, with his spokesman noting that Trump Jr.’s meeting occurred before Pence joined the ticket.
Unlike prior Russia-related controversies, the White House is not minimizing the political ramifications of Trump’s eldest son’s decision to meet with the Kremlin-linked lawyer after being offered information that he was told would “incriminate” Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
But top West Wing aides are exasperated by their limited ability to steer the damage control and the risk that more damaging news has yet to emerge.
One Trump adviser said the White House was “essentially helpless” because the conduct happened during an “anything goes” campaign that had few rules.
What the core issue will be going forward, the Trump adviser said, is that the “Russia story will get worse and worse, and you can’t just really say anymore, ‘fake news’.”
Except of course you can just say “fake news,” and Republicans will …
“Sick people would be undeniably disadvantaged”
… so long as they can use the distraction to screw sick people:
The Senate health care bill could once again allow insurance companies to offer some individuals plans that cover few benefits – and, in certain policies, exclude sick people entirely.
These changes result from a little-noticed provision that lets self-employed Americans opt out of the individual market and buy into the health plans that large employers provide, which have more lax regulatory standards.
Health policy experts at the Kaiser Family Foundation and Georgetown University have recently analyzed this provision, and concluded that these “small-business health plans” could siphon off healthy consumers.
These plans could, according to one analysis, “condition membership on the health status of small businesses” – including cases where the small business is a self-employed individual.
Sicker Americans would still be able to purchase coverage on the individual market, but those plans would be expected to get more expensive as healthier people flock to the cheaper options.
The gist is that “large group” insurance plans don’t have all the same restrictions as individual ACA plans. That’s not an issue for most large employers, who tend to offer more comprehensive coverage in order to attract employees. But that incentive doesn’t apply for a “business association” of independent, self-employed plumbers or writers. In that context, the incentive will be to find the cheapest premiums, and that may include excluding people with preexisting conditions:
Under the Affordable Care Act, self-employed Americans cannot join these associations to escape insurance market rules. Most purchase coverage in the individual market, where their health status cannot be taken into account for setting their premiums. Or, if they buy coverage through associations, the plan must follow ACA market rules, including community rating of premiums.
But the Senate bill would essentially create an uneven playing field. This would advantage healthier people, who could find cheaper plans with fewer benefits. These people would likely find their premiums go down.
But sick people would be undeniably disadvantaged with these new small-business plans. Experts expect they would be denied membership to associations – or, if they joined, charged higher premiums when the association applied for insurance. These people would be unlikely to find those plans attractive in the first place; many would want the more robust benefits that the individual market would still be required to offer.
And that’s part-and-parcel of the Republican view of health care:
The small-business health plan is similar to other Republican health policies in that it tilts the playing field to advantage healthier consumers and ask those with higher medical costs to pay a bigger chunk of the tab.
In other words, Republicans want to make health insurance cheap for people who don’t need it … and out of reach for older and sicker people, or people who have sick kids. Because those parasites should just die, I guess.
So chew some gum, feed a squirrel, and keep calling your senators.
Image Credit: Crissie Brown (BPICampus.com)
Good day and good nuts