Republicans Have Neither Tapes Of Trump/Comey Meetings Or A Viable Health Care Plan

Today we found that Donald Trump does not have any secretly recorded tapes of James Comey and the previously secret Senate Republican health care plan has been released. Neither was a surprise. If Trump had any tapes proving he was telling the truth, he would have already released them, and if there happened to be tapes which showed he was lying, he would never admit to having them. Also, as expected, the Senate plan includes deep cuts to Medicaid, decreases subside for lower income individuals, and increases costs for those who are older.

Barack Obama described the plan:

Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.

I hope our Senators ask themselves – what will happen to the Americans grappling with opioid addiction who suddenly lose their coverage? What will happen to pregnant mothers, children with disabilities, poor adults and seniors who need long-term care once they can no longer count on Medicaid? What will happen if you have a medical emergency when insurance companies are once again allowed to exclude the benefits you need, send you unlimited bills, or set unaffordable deductibles? What impossible choices will working parents be forced to make if their child’s cancer treatment costs them more than their life savings?

To put the American people through that pain – while giving billionaires and corporations a massive tax cut in return – that’s tough to fathom. But it’s what’s at stake right now. So it remains my fervent hope that we step back and try to deliver on what the American people need.

It is far from certain that the Republicans can even pass this plan, despite using reconciliation so that they only need fifty votes. They can only afford to lose two votes, but four conservatives have already expressed reservations. From NPR:

Senate Republicans’ health care bill may already be on life support, with four key lawmakers announcing their opposition just hours after the GOP’s latest effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act was released.

“Currently, for a variety of reasons, we are not ready to vote for this bill, but we are open to negotiation and obtaining more information before it is brought to the floor,” Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky.; Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Mike Lee, R-Utah; and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

They cannot easily move further to the right to appease the conservatives as some more moderate Republicans already have their own objections:

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who faces a competitive re-election race in 2018, says he has “serious concerns about the bill’s impact on the Nevadans who depend on Medicaid.”

“As I have consistently stated, if the bill is good for Nevada, I’ll vote for it and if it’s not — I won’t,” Heller said.

Annie Clark, a spokeswoman for Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the centrist has some misgivings about the bills as well.

Whether or not it passes, Republicans will now be able to tell their constituents that they have attempted to keep their promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. If their plan fails, the blame could be placed on Democrats and whichever Republicans vote against it, as opposed to the party as a whole. If that doesn’t work, McConnell could always take something from the Clinton playbook and blame Russia.

Centrist Democrats Lose Again In Georgia Special Election

Yesterday’s loss by Jon Ossoff has Democrats now wondering if opposition to Donald Trump is enough to enable them to retake control of the House. It remains to be seen if special elections in traditionally safe Republican seats provide a meaningful indicator, but Democrats did more poorly than expected in the Georgia race. This is causing some to question the strategy and messaging utilized by the Democrats.

Molly Ball has a rather boring description of Ossoff and his campaign:

Just as Handel aspired to be as generic a Republican as possible, Ossoff hoped be, as much as possible, a blank slate, a nice young man in whom disgruntled voters of all stripes could see the alternative they wanted. His campaign slogan proclaimed him “Humble. Kind. Ready to Fight”—a positionless vessel of 2017’s cross-cutting political angst. It was a decision many would second-guess after the results were in. For this district, at least, Ossoff believed it was the only way he could possibly win.

David Adkins thinks Democrats are making a mistake in trying to attract Romney voters:

In July of 2016, Senator Chuck Schumer made a statement that will go down as one of the greatest political miscalculations in modern history: “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.

This strategy undergirded every decision of the doomed Clinton campaign, from ignoring the white working class in her Rust Belt firewall, to chasing suburban Republican women in Missouri and the South. It is a strategy that establishment Democratic operatives continue to pursue to this day…

In GA-06, Jon Ossoff ran a deliberately anti-ideological campaign. Centrist think tank Third Way bragged that Ossoff used a “centrist message aimed at attracting disillusioned Republican voters.” South Carolina’s Parnell, despite his Goldman Sachs background, ran a much more hard-charging campaign of Democratic values

In the end, Steve Kornacki told the tale, referencing not only Parnell’s surprisingly strong showing, but also the strong performances of other populist Democrats around the country: In specials so far, Dems have seen double-digit improvement in HRC’s ’16 # in KS-4, MT and now SC-5. In GA-6, Ossoff may not improve at all.

The lesson of the special elections around the country is clear: Democratic House candidates can dramatically outperform Clinton in deep red rural areas by running ideological, populist campaigns rooted in progressive areas. Poorer working class voters who pulled the lever for Trump can be swayed back to the left in surprisingly large numbers—perhaps not enough to win in places like Kansas, Montana and South Carolina, but certainly in other more welcoming climes. Nor is there a need to subvert Democratic principles of social justice in order to accomplish this: none of the Democrats who overperformed Clinton’s numbers in these districts curried favor with bigots in order to accomplish it.

But candidates like Clinton and Ossoff who try to run inoffensive and anti-ideological campaigns in an attempt to win over supposedly sensible, wealthier, bourgeois suburban David-Brooks-reading Republican Romney voters will find that they lose by surprisingly wide margins. There is no Democrat so seemingly non-partisan that Romney Republicans will be tempted to cross the aisle in enough numbers to make a difference.

The way forward for Democrats lies to the left, and with the working classes. It lies with a firm ideological commitment to progressive values, and in winning back the Obama voters Democrats lost to Trump in 2016 without giving ground on commitments to social justice. It does not lie in the wealthy suburbs that voted for Romney over Obama in 2012, or in ideological self-effacement on core economic concerns.

I agree that centrism doesn’t work, but the need for a message extends beyond economics. Shaun King had a better analysis last week when looking at the Virginia primaries, and tying it to the presidential election:

The Democratic Party has shifted to the right. It’s not anti-war. It’s not strong on the environment. It’s not strong on civil and human rights. It’s not for universal health care. It’s not strong on cracking down on Wall Street and big banks or corporate fraud. Ralph Northam was and is weak on all of those core principles of the progressive left, but we’re expected to get behind him, and candidates like him, as if we’re just a few small details away from seeing eye to eye with him. We aren’t. He’s not a progressive. He’s not a liberal. He’s hardly even a Democrat.

Millions of us who ultimately voted for Hillary Clinton felt the very same way about her. On issues ranging from war, to corporate fraud, to campaign finance, to universal health care, and so much more, her positions were not discernibly different from the most basic Republican talking points.

Was she better than Trump? Of course she was. But I’d literally rather have a Kardashian sister or Curious George be President of the United States over Trump. Someone being better than Trump cannot be our key metric for choosing candidates.

I’m hearing more and more of my progressive friends talk seriously about the need for us to form our own political party. I get it. At the very best we are slightly tolerated guests in the Democratic Party. We are as different from establishment Democrats as those establishment Democrats are from everyday Republicans.

Being begrudgingly tolerated is a terrible feeling. We are an enthusiastic, organized bunch, but I certainly don’t feel welcomed.

MSNBC’s Joy Reid all but confirmed as much in a widely shared tweet earlier this week in which she said, “Bernie and his followers are like that college friend who stays at your place for weeks, pays $0, eats your food & trashes your aesthetic.”

That Reid, who makes a living as a political commentator, came to this conclusion about Bernie Sanders and his millions of followers was deeply disappointing, but revealing. Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in America. He has done far more for the Democratic Party than it has for him.

When the new head of the Democratic Party, Tom Perez, went on a speaking tour recently with Bernie, the enthusiastic crowds of thousands didn’t show up at every single venue to hear Tom — they were there for Bernie. Tom didn’t do Bernie a favor, Bernie did Tom a favor. Bernie got behind Hillary Clinton and campaigned for her all over the country and asked his supporters to follow his lead.

I was one of those people who did just that. I’ve been a Democrat all of my life and have campaigned for and donated to so many Democratic candidates across the years. That the millions of us who support Bernie and his values have been reduced to bad guests who don’t pay our way, eat up all the food, and trash the place, is a terrible insult rooted in something other than reality.

Democrats lost the House, the Senate, the presidency, the Supreme Court, and the strong majority of state houses and governorships across the country. I agree that it sure does look like somebody trashed the place, but it damn sure wasn’t Bernie and his followers. Anybody saying that is delusional.

King accurately describes how many on the left feel about the Democratic Party–including both those who held their nose and voted for Clinton, along with others who would not do this out of principle. These days it seems like the major difference between the parties is that the Republicans pander to fear of Muslims while Democrats spread hysteria about Russia. The great paradox of American politics is that we have hyperpartisanship in Washington, yet both parties promote essentially the same policies. Both parties support similar economic policies and continuation of the warfare/surveillance state.

When Republicans lost in a landslide in 1964 under Barry Goldwater, conservatives did not give up. It takes time to spread a message and build a party around it. Democrats mistakenly thought they had a winning strategy when Bill Clinton won, but his success was probably more due to his personal charisma than overly conservative policies. They squandered what could have been an advantage with the unpopularity of George W. Bush by moving to the right and ultimately adopting much of his agenda.

White House Plans Announcement On Whether Comey Tapes Really Exist

Donald Trump and James Comey have given a different account of what happened when the two met. Trump has suggested that he has tapes to verify his side of the story while Comey has said, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes” when the topic came up during his Congressional testimony.

This is just one aspect of the Russia investigations which have raised comparisons to Watergate.

The White House has been vague as to whether such tapes actually exist, but I noted this item from the Associated Press earlier today:

The White House says President Donald Trump is expected to make an announcement this week on whether any recordings exist of his private conversations with former FBI Director James Comey.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer says he expects an announcement “this week” on the possibility of tapes. Trump fired Comey in May and has suggested — but refused to confirm — that he may have tapes of his discussions with Comey. The FBI was investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible contacts with Trump campaign associates.

The House Intelligence Committee has asked White House counsel Don McGahn to provide an answer to the ongoing question about tapes by Friday.

It is hard to believe that the White House would actually release any tapes if incriminating, and risk suffering the same fate as Richard Nixon. In the unlikely event that there are tapes showing that it is Comey who was lying, I would expect Trump to be rushing to release them. At this time there is no evidence of collision between Trump and Russia to affect the election but there is considerable suggestion of obstruction of justice on his part. Tapes which were to show that Trump was telling the truth would take a lot of wind out of the investigations, but it is rather doubtful that this will be the case.

Republican Health Plan Might Be Even Meaner Than House Plan

Mitch McConnell is aiming for a vote on the Senate health care plan before July 4. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Failure to take a vote before either the July 4 recess or the longer break later in the summer also could open Republican lawmakers up to pressure from constituents either concerned about losing their health coverage or expecting Republicans to follow through on pledges to repeal the law known as Obamacare. Some town-hall meetings during the spring, when the House was considering its legislation, saw lawmakers greeted by boisterous crowds.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the House bill passed in May would leave 23 million fewer Americans with health coverage in 2026 versus current law.

GOP aides and others familiar with the negotiations said they anticipate the Senate bill’s text will be released later this week. The CBO is expected to release its estimate of the Senate bill’s impact on the federal budget and insurance coverage early next week, and a vote could potentially be held next Thursday, before lawmakers scatter.

As “mean” as the House plan was (to quote the inconsistent Donald Trump), reportedly the Senate plan might cut Medicaid spending even more. The Wall Street Journal notes that this “is likely to draw opposition from Republicans in states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA, including Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Dean Heller of Nevada and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia.”

Democrats, lacking the votes to stop the bill, are planning on using stalling tactics to attempt to slow down Senate business, but this is not likely to be sufficient to stop passage if the Republicans have the votes.

Polling has shown that voters are concerned about the cuts in health care benefits and the manner in which the bill is being drafted in secrecy, with voters preferring Obamacare to the Republican plan. Hopefully this will result in pressure on  more vulnerable Republican Senators to vote against the bill.

Wednesday is also the deadline for insurance companies to decide upon whether they will participate in the exchanges under the Affordable Care Act and decide upon their rates. The uncertainty caused by the Republicans working in secrecy to change the law could scare more companies off and destabilize the plan regardless of whether Republicans succeed in repealing it.

Members of Presidential Advisory Council On HIV/AIDS Resign In Protest Over Policies Of Trump Administration

Six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) have resigned in protest over the lack of concern by the Trump administration for treating HIV. They have publicly announced their decision in an open letter published in Newsweek.  The letter notes that, “It is indisputable that the Affordable Care Act has benefitted people living with HIV and supported efforts to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic.” It notes that, in contrast, provisions of the American Health Care Act which reduce access to health care “would be particularly devastating for people living with HIV.”

Following is the text of the letter:

Five of my colleagues and I resigned this week from the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA).

As advocates for people living with HIV, we have dedicated our lives to combating this disease and no longer feel we can do so effectively within the confines of an advisory body to a president who simply does not care.

The Trump Administration has no strategy to address the on-going HIV/AIDS epidemic, seeks zero input from experts to formulate HIV policy, and—most concerning—pushes legislation that will harm people living with HIV and halt or reverse important gains made in the fight against this disease.

Created in 1995, PACHA provides advice, information, and recommendations to the Secretary of Health and Human Services regarding programs, policies, and research to promote effective treatment, prevention, and an eventual cure for HIV.

Members, appointed by the President, currently include public health officials, researchers, health care providers, faith leaders, HIV advocates, and people living with HIV. PACHA also monitors and provides recommendations to effectively implement the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which was created by the White House Office of National AIDS Policy in 2010 and revised in 2015.

The decision to resign from government service is not one that any of us take lightly. However, we cannot ignore the many signs that the Trump Administration does not take the on-going epidemic or the needs of people living with HIV seriously.

While many members of the public are unaware of the significant impact that HIV/AIDS continues to have in many communities— or that only 40 percent of people living with HIV in the United States are able to access the life-saving medications that have been available for more than 20 years—it is not acceptable for the U.S. President to be unaware of these realities, to set up a government that deprioritizes fighting the epidemic and its causes, or to implement policies and support legislation that will reverse the gains made in recent years.

Signs of President Trump’s lack of understanding and concern regarding this important public health issue were apparent when he was a candidate. While Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders both met with HIV advocates during the primaries, candidate Trump refused. Whatever the politics of that decision, Mr. Trump missed an opportunity to learn—from the experts—about the contours of today’s epidemic and the most pressing issues currently affecting people living with HIV.

In keeping with candidate Trump’s lack of regard for this community, President Trump took down the Office of National AIDS Policy website the day he took office and there has been no replacement for this website 132 days into his administration.

More important, President Trump has not appointed anyone to lead the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, a post that held a seat on the Domestic Policy Council under President Obama. This means no one is tasked with regularly bringing salient issues regarding this ongoing public health crisis to the attention of the President and his closest advisers.

By comparison, President Obama appointed a director to this office just 36 days into his administration. Within 18 months, that new director and his staff crafted the first comprehensive U.S. HIV/AIDS strategy. By contrast, President Trump appears to have no plan at all…

We believe he should embrace the important work accomplished by the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. Public health is not a partisan issue, and this important document could easily be ratified by the Trump Administration. If the President is not going to engage on the subject of HIV/AIDS, he should at least continue policies that support people living with and at higher risk for HIV and have begun to curtail the epidemic.

While these actions and others are gravely worrisome to us as HIV advocates, the final straw for us—more like a two-by-four than a straw—is President Trump’s handling of health care reform.

It is indisputable that the Affordable Care Act has benefitted people living with HIV and supported efforts to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Gains in the percentage of people with HIV who know their status, the percentage engaged in care, the percentage receiving successful treatment, and a decrease in new cases of HIV were seen in Massachusetts under Romneycare. We are beginning to see similar effects on a national level under Obamacare.

People living with HIV know how broken the pre-ACA system was. Those without employer-based insurance were priced out of the market because of pre-existing condition exclusions. And “high risk pools” simply segregated people living with HIV and other health conditions into expensive plans with inferior coverage and underfunded subsidies—subsidies advocates had to fight for tooth-and-nail in every budgetary session.

Because more than 40 percent of people with HIV receive care through Medicaid, proposed cuts to that program would be extremely harmful. Prior to Medicaid expansion under ACA, a person had to be both very low income and disabled to be eligible for Medicaid.

For people living with HIV, that usually meant an AIDS diagnosis—making the disease more difficult and expensive to bring under control—before becoming eligible.

Between reinstating that paradox by defunding Medicaid expansion, imposing per-person caps on benefits, and/or block granting the program, the changes to Medicaid contemplated by the American Health Care Act would be particularly devastating for people living with HIV.

And we know who the biggest losers will be if states are given the option of eliminating essential health benefits or allowing insurers to charge people with HIV substantially more than others.

It will be people—many of them people of color—across the South and in rural and underserved areas across the country, the regions and communities now at the epicenter of the U.S. HIV/AIDS epidemic.

It will be young gay and bisexual men; it will be women of color; it will be transgender women; it will be low-income people.

It will be people who become newly infected in an uncontrolled epidemic, new cases that could be prevented by appropriate care for those already living with the disease.

While we are in agreement that the ACA needs to be strengthened to lower premiums, improve competition, and increase access to care, it makes no sense to dismiss gains made under the ACA just to score political points.

Experts with real facts, grounded in science, must be in the room when healthcare policy decisions are made. Those decisions affect real people and real lives. If we do not ensure that U.S. leadership at the executive and legislative levels are informed by experience and expertise, real people will be hurt and some will even die.

Because we do not believe the Trump Administration is listening to—or cares—about the communities we serve as members of PACHA, we have decided it is time to step down.

We will be more effective from the outside, advocating for change and protesting policies that will hurt the health of the communities we serve and the country as a whole if this administration continues down the current path.

We hope the members of Congress who have the power to affect healthcare reform will engage with us and other advocates in a way that the Trump Administration apparently will not.

Scott A. Schoettes is Counsel and HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal . He resigned from the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS on June 13, along with Lucy Bradley-Springer, Gina Brown, Ulysses W. Burley III, Michelle Ogle, and Grissel Granados.

Trump Supporter Roger Stone Forming Coalition To Push For Legalizing Marijuana

As has been the case with other issues, Donald Trump has been inconsistent in his statements and actions related to marijuana. One longtime adviser, Roger Stone, plans to work with people of various political ideologies to push for legalization of marijuana. Another goal is to have marijuana rescheduled to Schedule I so that it can be prescribed by doctors. Business Insider reports:

Longtime Trump adviser and staunch conservative Roger Stone has a new mission: legalizing marijuana nationwide.

Stone announced on Friday at the Cannabis World Congress and Business Expo in New York the formation of the bipartisan United States Cannabis Coalition, an advocacy group with the express purpose of protecting state’s rights to legalize and regulate marijuana…

“I am going to be working with a coalition of Republicans and Democrats, progressives and libertarians, liberals, and conservatives to persuade the president to keep his campaign pledge,” Stone said in a talk on Friday, “and to remind the president that he took a strong and forthright position on this issue in the election.”

Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura will join Stone in the advocacy group, as well as a host of both Republican and Democrat political strategists.

Stone pointed to the decreased rates of incarceration for low-level drug offenses and opioid-related overdoses in states that have legalized marijuana, along with the boon in tax revenue and job creation.

During the campaign, Trump told The Washington Post that legalizing marijuana should be a “state issue,” and he expressed “100%” support for medical marijuana in an interview with Bill O’Reilly in 2016…

Trump hasn’t been friendly to marijuana since he took office. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a noted opponent of marijuana legalization, and he asked Congress in recent days to roll back federal protections for medical marijuana.

The protections in question, the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, directs the Department of Justice to refrain from spending money to enforce federal medicinal marijuana laws.

Sessions has also called for a review of a 2013 directive from the Obama Administration, known as the Cole Memo, which stipulates that the Justice Department place “low priority” on enforcing marijuana laws against businesses and organizations that comply with state law.

“In all honesty it’s time for [President Trump] to tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions to cut the shit,” Stone added.

Stone also called out Homeland Secretary John Kelly, who has called for a federal crackdown on legal marijuana.

Geek.com has more, but prefaced this with a look at Stone’s record:

Roger Stone is bad. This is known.

The depths of the veteran Republican strategist’s consummate shittiness are like a rotting onion. Layer upon layer of dirty political tricks and cons from a conspiracy theorist and serial liar who has found his way behind the scenes into most of the major political controversies and scandals of the past 40-plus years. The Nixon acolyte been allegedly involved in everything from Watergate and the 2000 Florida recount to the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal and of course, his decades-long friendship and association with President Donald Trump (and alleged back-channel involvement with WikiLeaks in the current Russian hacking scandal).

Stone has routinely made racist, sexist, and Islamophobic statements in public and on Twitter, which led to a ban from appearing as a commentator on CNN and MSNBC. Stone showed up to President Trump’s inauguration in an outfit that can only be described as 19th-century robber baron Mr. Peanut meets Oswald Cobblepot. He has a website called the Stone Zone. These trifles alone are irrevocable proof of his objective shittiness.

Nonetheless, Roger Stone may be one of our best hopes for marijuana legalization in this the Year Of Our Lord 2017…at least while Donald Trump is still running the show.

This is an issue which crosses party lines, as Stone himself noted when he praised Bernie Sanders and chastised Hillary Clinton, who has also been a hard line opponent of ending marijuana prohibition and was the most conservative candidate on the issue during the last presidential campaign:

“I’ve looked, I can’t find Hillary Clinton ever coming out for the legalization of cannabis, and this astounds me. I salute Bernie Sanders because he had the courage to say it. I salute Gary Johnson and Dr. Jill Stein; they had the courage to say it. Donald Trump had the courage to stand up for medical marijuana on a states’ rights basis. Where was Hillary?”

While Stone was right that Clinton was too conservative on this (along with other social/cultural issues), Donald Trump has not done any better in turning the matter over to others who are conservative on the issue. It is unknown whether Stone has enough influence on Trump to change this. His description of the political spectrum is also flawed:

“The essence of old-fashioned Barry Goldwater-style conservatism is I don’t want the government telling me what I can smoke,” said Stone. “To me, when the government tells you how to live, what you can ingest, well that’s the essence of big government liberalism, which I oppose.”

His claim of “big government liberalism” being on the other side of the issue might apply to some liberals, but in general polls have shown that liberals are more likely than conservatives to support legalization. Fortunately Stone does understand this enough to be forming an alliance with liberals along with conservatives and libertarians.

Trump Can No Longer Claim He Is Not Under Investigation

Donald Trump has now been forced to stop repeating his claim that “I’m not under investigation” and instead complain about being the subject of a “witch hunt.” The status changed with the report from The Washington Post yesterday that  Robert Mueller is now investigating Trump for obstruction of justice:

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…

The obstruction-of-justice investigation of the president began days after Comey was fired on May 9, according to people familiar with the matter. Mueller’s office has taken up that work, and the preliminary interviews scheduled with intelligence officials indicate that his team is actively pursuing potential witnesses inside and outside the government…

Accounts by Comey and other officials of their conversations with the president could become central pieces of evidence if Mueller decides to pursue an obstruction case.

Investigators will also look for any statements the president may have made publicly and privately to people outside the government about his reasons for firing Comey and his concerns about the Russia probe and other related investigations, people familiar with the matter said.

Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week that he was certain his firing was due to the president’s concerns about the Russia probe, rather than over his handling of a now-closed FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state, as the White House had initially asserted. “It’s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation,” Comey said. “I was fired, in some way, to change — or the endeavor was to change the way the Russia investigation was being conducted.”

There is significant cause to investigate Trump for obstruction of justice, but it remains unclear as to the actual crimes committed. There has not been any evidence presented of actual collusion between Trump and Russia to meddle in the election results. While I am waiting to see the results of the ongoing investigations, I have suspected that such claims might not hold up. This has often been raised by supporters of Hillary Clinton who do not accept her role in her failed campaign, with Shattered revealing that Clinton devised the strategy of blaming her loss on Russia and others within twenty-four hours of her loss.

My suspicion has been that any obstruction of justice involves a combination of covering for members of campaign and financial dealings with Russia. Along these lines,  The New York Times does report:

A former senior official said Mr. Mueller’s investigation was looking at money laundering by Trump associates. The suspicion is that any cooperation with Russian officials would most likely have been in exchange for some kind of financial payoff, and that there would have been an effort to hide the payments, probably by routing them through offshore banking centers.

Regardless of the specifics of the investigation, the news that Mueller is investigating Trump makes it much riskier for Trump to fire Mueller. There were reports earlier this week that Trump was contemplating this, replicating the infamous Saturday Night Massacre when Richard Nixon fired Archibald Cox during the Watergate investigations. Such a move would increase the chances that even Republicans might consider impeachment to replace Trump with Mike Pence. Pence, incidentally, has now hired outside counsel himself to handle Russia probe inquires.

Fox Changes From One Dishonest Slogan To Another

The biggest joke in news was for Fox to call itself Fair & Balanced. They are now dropping this dishonest slogan, with two different reasons given.  From The New Yorker:

As Fox News moves further into the post–Roger Ailes era, the network is shedding one of its most iconic elements. According to network executives, Fox News has abandoned the marketing slogan “Fair & Balanced.” The decision was made last August after Ailes’s ouster by Fox News co-president Jack Abernethy, because the phrase had “been mocked,” one insider said. Another executive explained that the tagline was “too closely associated with Roger.” Fox executives have been instructed by management to market the network by its other tagline: “Most Watched. Most Trusted.”

It is hard to overstate the significance of what shedding “Fair & Balanced” means for Fox News. (It would be like the New York Times giving up “All the News That’s Fit to Print.”) Ailes invented the slogan when he launched the network in 1996, and over the years it became a quasi-religious doctrine among Fox’s anchors and viewers…

In the annals of modern advertising, “Fair & Balanced” will be considered a classic. The slogan was Ailes’s cynical genius at its most successful. While liberals mocked the tagline, it allowed Ailes to give viewers the appearance of both sides being heard, when in fact he made sure producers staged segments so that the conservative viewpoint always won.

A Fox News spokesperson confirmed that the network is dropping the slogan but said the branding change won’t affect programming or editorial decisions.

The new slogan, “Most Watched. Most Trusted,” at least doesn’t claim that Fox is not biased, but it is still rather dishonest. Fox is neither most watched nor most trusted.

Fox has led among cable news viewership in the past, but that is starting to change as more people are looking for news unfavorable to Donald Trump. Plus the viewership for cable news is well below that of the network news shows.

Theoretically a show could be putting out false and biased information and still be most trusted if enough people believed it.  However, while Fox is highly trusted by many conservatives, it is distrusted by liberals, reducing its overall ranking. Here is a ranking of trust levels of news sources, with Fox falling below the BBC, NPR, PBS, ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, CNN, MSNBC, as well as below multiple print and internet news sources:

Rosanne To Return To Tackle Trump Era

The election of Donald Trump has had a major impact on late night television, with the more political Stephen Colbert moving ahead of The Tonight Show, which had previously dominated the time slot regardless of host. Saturday Night Live, along with other late night shows, have also benefited. Now this might extend into prime time with the return of Rosanne for an eight episode run. The Hollywood Reporter says  ABC’s ‘Roseanne’ to Tackle Trump Era in Sitcom Revival:

Expect comedian Roseanne Barr to tackle Donald Trump and the current reality of ordinary Americans when a revival of her popular family sitcom debuts on ABC mid-season.

ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey just isn’t certain Barr will personally identify the U.S. president. “I don’t know whether Roseanne (Barr) will speak about Trump by name. But she’s going to speak very honestly,” Dungey told the Banff World Media Festival on Monday during a keynote address.

“We’re going to be tackling some of the topics that are in the conversation today. I’ll leave it that,” she added. Original castmembers Roseanne Barr, John Goodman, Sara Gilbert, Laurie Metcalf, Michael Fishman and Lecy Goranson will return 30 years after the original Roseanne comedy debuted, this time with new kids and grandchildren thrown into the mix for new story-telling.

The show will now have an additional generation, but as the story goes on it sounds like not everyone in the family, or at least on the show, will have the same political ideas:

“Now we will have three generations — Roseanne, her kids and her kids have kids who are teenagers. So we’ll bring back a point-of-view that has really been missing on the air,” Dungey said. By that, the ABC Entertainment boss is talking about a push by her network to deliver TV shows that speak to U.S. audiences as a whole, including those that elected Donald Trump as the U.S. president, and not just to the coasts…

Dungey said ABC as a broadcaster by nature tries to appeal to a broad audience, but that need has never been more acute than after the recent U.S. election. “What the election revealed was that there’s parts of our country that didn’t feel heard, that they didn’t have a voice. When you look at how the polling data went in the run-up to the election, it was kind of big surprise to many people that the election turned out as it did,” she recalled.

If this does well, we might see more politically oriented shows in prime time.

Update/Correction: Posting quickly while traveling has its hazards. In this case I posted when I had time, and didn’t go back until later to review Rosanne’s previous comments on Trump to find that she has been defending him. She is not someone I have ever paid much attention to,but from reading more on her recent political comments it sounds increasingly like the show could have a pro-Trump view. Hopefully it will at least present both sides.

More Legal Problems For Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s failure to follow the Constitution is causing him further legal problems. He is now facing a lawsuit for violating the emoluments clauses of the Constitution in accepting payments from foreign governments. The Washington Post reports:

Attorneys general for the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland sued President Trump on Monday, alleging that he has violated anti-corruption clauses in the Constitution by accepting millions in payments and benefits from foreign governments since moving into the White House.

The lawsuit, the first of its kind brought by government entities, centers on the fact that Trump chose to retain ownership of his company when he became president. Trump said in January that he was shifting his business assets into a trust managed by his sons to eliminate potential conflicts of interests.

The lawsuit, a signed copy of which Racine and Frosh provided to The Washington Post on Sunday night, alleges “unprecedented constitutional violations” by Trump. The suit says Trump’s continued ownership of a global business empire has rendered the president “deeply enmeshed with a legion of foreign and domestic government actors” and has undermined the integrity of the U.S. political system.