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Are There Any Bullets Left In McConnell’s Gun?

[ 157 ] July 18, 2017 |

McConnell makes it official that, at least for now, he’s giving up on BCRA:

Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, conceded Monday night that “the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful.” He outlined plans to vote now on a measure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, with it taking effect later. That has almost no chance to pass, however, since it could leave millions without insurance and leave insurance markets in turmoil.

But President Trump was not ready to give up. He immediately took to Twitter to say: “Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in!”

Evidently, this is enormously unlikely to work. It’s worth considering that a repeal bill that could pass under the Byrd Rule (i.e. a repeal of the Medicaid expansion and the tax credits but not the regulations) would be far worse than BCRA:

Its findings aren’t pretty. CBO estimates that, compared to what’s already projected to happen under current law:

  • 18 million more people would become uninsured in the first full year after the bill’s enactment — rising to 32 million more people by 2026;

  • premiums in the individual insurance marketplaces would soar — they’d go up 20 to 25 percent above currently projected increases in the first full year after repeal, and “would about double by 2026”;

  • and access to coverage on the individual markets would plummet — about half of the US population would live in areas “that would have no insurer participating” in the individual market, CBO projects.

If McConnell brings this to a vote it would almost certainly be to call the bluffs of Trump and the recalitrant senators; it’s very hard to see this passing if BCRA couldn’t. The only thing that gives me pause about BCRA is that except for Collins the bullshit-moderate is remaining silent. Until there are at least two nays from Capito/Heller/Portman/Murkowski/Flake, the possibility of an AHCA ressurection (as Erik implies below) is there. Not very strong, but there.

It also should be obvious that the stalling of the BCRA is not part of some masterful 11th-dimensional chess strategy to guarantee the failure of an unpopular bill. If that was the case, they just would have let the AHCA drop after it was pulled the first time — nobody gets primaried based on a vote that doesn’t happen. Republicans wanted to gut the ACA, and McConnell was playing to win all the way. They’re now likely to fail this Congress, but major healthcare policy changes are an extremely hard lift. They came a lot closer than, say, Bush did to gutting Social Security, and they’re not going to give up on the goal. The fight will continue — but an important battle was won tonight, and countless Americans who made their voices heard deserve a lot of credit.

 

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What We Know Now Is a Major Scandal, And the Truth is Probably Much Worse

[ 146 ] July 17, 2017 |

I have a piece at the Week perpetuating the McCarythite Birtherist witch hunt against the Trump campaign, whose serial lying about contacts with Russia surely has an innocent explanation:

The story of Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections in favor of Donald Trump and the Republican party continues to become more tragic and more farcical. On Friday, it was revealed that the meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and top Trump campaign operatives Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner was also attended by Rinat Akhmetshin, an American citizen and accused spy who is connected to the Kremlin. Then, on Sunday, the Secret Service denied having vetted the meeting, a claim made earlier in the day by President Trump’s legal team.

As more details of the meeting continue emerge, and the lies by Trump Jr. and the Trump team keep piling up, it’s looking more and more likely that there was significant collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian state, and it is now beyond dispute that the Trump campaign wanted to collude with the Russians. This alone is already a huge political scandal, and things are likely to keep looking worse for Trump than better.

One thing that’s remarkable about this is that the focus on “collusion” is in large measure the result of goalpost-moving by the Trump administration and its apologists. It was never necessary for collusion to be proven for this to be a major scandal. There is overwhelming evidence that Russia used illegal, privacy-invading hacks to help skew the election in the favor of Trump and congressional Republicans — which, particularly in a presidential election decided by fewer than 100,000 votes in three states, is a huge deal. And we also know that Trump and other campaign associates openly invited and cheered the hacks and their release by WikiLeaks, and we also know that Trump isn’t interested in punishing the Russians for their interference in the election. All of this is really bad. Talking about collusion was a way of changing the subject that was valuable for Trump in part because collusion would apparently be much harder to prove.

The problem is that Trump’s associates are so corrupt and incompetent that the tactic has backfired. Earlier this year, Trump Jr. denied that the meeting Akhmetshin attended even took place. This week, his lies kept unravelling as he admitted to what had been proven, while making further claims which would immediately be disproven. In short order, Trump Jr. admitted that the meeting with a Russian official took place but said it was about adoptions, and then admitted that actually, the Trump campaign was seeking dirt on Clinton from the Russians, but only after leaked emails gave him no choice. Revealing that Akhmetshin was at the meeting constitutes a lie by omission at best.

Still, I support a full investigation!

“Neoliberalism” and the Democratic Party

[ 260 ] July 17, 2017 |

President Clinton prepares to sign legislation in the Rose Garden of the White House Thursday, Aug. 22, 1996, overhauling America’s welfare system. Visible, from left, are former welfare recipients Lillie Harden, of Little Rock, Ark., and Janet Ferrel, of West Virginia, Vice President Gore, West Virginia Gov. Gaston Caperton, Sen. John Breaux, D-La., and former welfare recipient Penelope Howard, of Delaware. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

I found more to agree with in Chait’s big “neoliberalism” essay than Erik apparently did, but I agree that it has some major flaws that undermine its central point. I don’t mean to preempt Erik’s analysis, but since I’ll mostly be on the road tomorrow I thought I’d briefly pinpoint what I agreed with and didn’t. (I’m guessing Erik and I won’t be that far off, but obviously I’ll let him speak for himself. And, hey, at least I don’t study military history!)

Where I agree with Chait:

  • Left critics of the Democratic Party have a bizarre tendency to romanticize the New Deal/Great Society Democratic Party. Even during their brief peaks of progressive legislation, these coalitions were heavily compromised by the fact that the liberal faction of the party needed the support of Southern segregationists and marginal Republicans, respectively. And FDR’s first term and LBJ before the 1966 midterms were anomalous — during most of the period associated with the New Deal Congress was controlled de facto by a coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats. (The whole Taft-Hartley passing with veto-proof majorities conveniently vanishes from these accounts, although this statute had far more to do with Trump winning than Hillary Clinton’s campaign tactics.)
  • “Neoliberalism” has increasingly become little more than an attempt to win an argument through the use of a pejorative term.
  • Worse than that, the “neoliberal” label is too often used to minimize the massive and growing gulf between the Democratic and Republican parties.

Where I disagree:

  • The term “neoliberal” is at least potentially valuable, describing a fetish for market-based solutions irrespective of the merit. One problem with indiscriminate usage of the “neoliberal” term is that it equates, say, the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of public insurance and much more stringent industry regulations with, say, Rahm Emmanuel’s regime passimOne reason not to conflate “liberalism” with “neoliberalism” is that the latter describes a real thing.
  • Chait is wrong to handwave away the obvious right turn in the Democratic Party in the 80s and 90s. I agree that the party has shifted left in the last decade, and Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievements — the ACA, ARRA, Dodd-Frank — are well within the New Deal/Great Society tradition in terms of both their achievements and compromises. But the four years of unified Democratic control under Carter were bereft of similar achievements, and the Democrats under Clinton failed on the one hand to pass comprehensive healthcare reform on the one hand while Clinton signed multiple conservative bills, including a welfare “reform” bill that if BCRA fails will be the worst welfare-state retrenchment in American history.

TL;DR: the tendency to conflate “liberalism” and “neoliberalism” is bad and irritating, but it’s bad in part because neoliberalism used carefully is a useful description.

A Horrible Bill Delayed

[ 117 ] July 16, 2017 |

Mitch McConnell won’t be able to hold a vote on his bill to take health insurance away from tens of millions of people to pay for present and future tax cuts next week because John McCain is a principled maverick sick.

The 35% cut to Medicaid is, of course, in itself sufficient to make the bill not merely not worth voting for but monstrous. But we should remember that everything about the bill is terrible:

The measure kills the birth control and women’s health screening requirements. The Affordable Care Act advanced women’s healthcare rights immensely by mandating that health plans cover contraceptives, as well as a range of preventive screenings, without deductibles or co-pays. Conservatives have been trying to roll back those guarantees since the ACA’s enactment. The new Senate bill eliminates them.

That action is part of the Cruz Amendment, on which more below. It allows states to authorize the sale of health plans that don’t include the women’s health provisions. Observes Dawn Laguens of Planned Parenthood, “Insurance companies would once again be allowed to refuse to cover basic preventive healthcare, as well as charge women co-pays for birth control, immunizations and cancer screenings.” She calls this “a major step backward for women.”

[…]

That action is part of the Cruz Amendment, on which more below. It allows states to authorize the sale of health plans that don’t include the women’s health provisions. Observes Dawn Laguens of Planned Parenthood, “Insurance companies would once again be allowed to refuse to cover basic preventive healthcare, as well as charge women co-pays for birth control, immunizations and cancer screenings.” She calls this “a major step backward for women.”

There’s more where this came from, and another week to disseminate this information as widely as possible.

“I probably like Ted Cruz more than most of my other colleagues like Ted Cruz, and I hate Ted Cruz”

[ 56 ] July 15, 2017 |

The Cruz amendment has caused the one major medical-industry interest who could live with BCRA into staunch opponents:

Two organizations representing the U.S. health insurance industry just called a new provision of the Senate Republicans’ health care proposal “simply unworkable in any form” and warned that it would cause major hardship, especially for middle-class people with serious medical problems.

The organizations, America’s Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, speak for the businesses that would be responsible for making the new system work ― or at least attempting to do so.

That may help explain why, with a vote on the bill planned for next week, they are letting loose with what, by Washington lobbying standards, sounds like a primal scream.

In a publicly posted letter to Senate leaders, the two groups focused their attention on an amendment that would undermine the Affordable Care Act’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

The amendment, crafted by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), would allow insurers to resume sales of policies that leave out key benefits, such as prescription drugs or mental health. More important, it would allow insurers to discriminate among customers based on medical status, charging higher premiums or denying policies altogether to people with existing medical problems ― from the severe, like cancer, to the relatively mild, like allergies.

Krugman had a good column about the naked fraud behind TrumpCare, most notably promises to protect Medicaid turning into a bill that cuts it 35%. But in a way the fraud behind the Cruz Amendment is even more telling. Obviously, the Republican conference want to end the ACA’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions. But the public hates the idea, and there are a few “moderate”* Republican senators who need to convince themselves that they’re not ending these protections. So Ted Cruz came up with an idea: effectively end protections for pre-existing conditions, and indeed essentially ending any insurance being made available on the individual market that isn’t a massive fraud, but in an direct, chickenshit way. Worse, many consumers will buy into the fraud and probably won’t realize, for example, that buying junk insurance won’t count as maintaining continuous coverage. It’s just unbelievably disgusting. It may not work with the public, but the real target is “moderate”* Republicans, and what’s scary is that it might work.

While we’re here, shorter Erica Greider: “People say Ted Cruz is bad, but he created an amendment that means that the BCRA will destroy not just Medicaid but insurance exchanges too! And he makes this bill that will take insurance from more than 20 million people and make insurance for people who have it to pay for present and future upper-class tax cuts worse-to-useless more likely to pass. Where’s his parade?” I rate this take 100 Baylesses on a scale of 1 to 5.

*”Moderate” Republicans, an illustration:

Little Donald Is Probably Still Lying

[ 170 ] July 15, 2017 |

The raspberry road that led to Abu Ghraib was paved with bland assumptions that people who had repeatedly proved their untrustworthiness, could be trusted. There is much made by people who long for the days of their fourth form debating society about the fallacy of “argumentum ad hominem”. There is, as I have mentioned in the past, no fancy Latin term for the fallacy of “giving known liars the benefit of the doubt”, but it is in my view a much greater source of avoidable error in the world. Audit is meant to protect us from this, which is why audit is so important.

There has been a consistent pattern in which Little Donald denies something, the truth is revealed, and then he admits to what has been proven while making more easily disprovable lies. Has the pattern now stopped? As Yglesias says, anyone who believes this has probably already paid the $100,000 nonrefundable charge for a Ph.D from Trump University:

But there is still such a thing as common sense. I don’t believe Trump Jr.’s account, and neither should you. He’s a man with negative credibility on this matter, and despite his father’s talismanic invocation of the word “transparency,” he’s been anything but transparent about it.

It’s certainly conceivable that he’s telling the truth and no valuable information changed hands. But when you are caught lying over and over again about a meeting — first by saying it never happened and then slowly being caught out in lie after lie — a reasonable observer is going to doubt you when you claim that this time you’ve fully come clean.

Until Trump Jr. answers a lot more questions and produces a lot more information, there’s no reason to assume good faith on his part. The benefit of the doubt is a valuable commodity, and it’s one that those at the highest levels of Trumpland have squandered.

[…]

But as the old saying says, fool me twice, shame on me. Trump Jr. has already tried to fool us four or five times about this meeting, and there’s absolutely no reason we should trust him. Fox News, tellingly, has in part already moved on to justifying collusion, showing little faith from Trumpworld that the denials of collusion will hold up over the long run. Those of us who aren’t in the tank ought to muster at least the same level of skepticism.

As a couple of commenters has observed, the most likely Trump endgame is “sure, we collaborated with the Russians to beat Crooked Hillary, we won, fuck you.” The fact that Fox News is already there is pretty telling.

As a counterpoint from an anti-anti Trump “left” that is considerably slower on the uptake than Fox & Friends, let’s consider this particularly derpy illustration of the “Hitchens Pinciple” — that is, when someone preemptively describes their argument as being “contrarian” there is a 95% chance this means “idiotic”:

This is risible from soup to nuts, obviously, but I especially like the chickenshit qualifying “the Russian ratfucking scandal is like Birtherism” line with “not with his claims of his foreign birth.” Since the analogy is intelligence-insultingly false if it has any actual content, back away just enough so that if anyone calls you on it you didn’t really mean it. And the “actually Trump collaborating with the Russians is excellent political news for the Republican Party” punchline — perfect.

The Possibility Exists That Donald Trump Jr. May Not Have Been Telling the Whole Truth

[ 119 ] July 14, 2017 |

Finnish national football team players carry a goal during a training session at the Puskas stadium in Budapest on October 10, 2011 on the eve of their EURO 2012 qualifying football game Hungary. AFP PHOTO/ ATTILA KISBENEDEK (Photo credit should read ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images)

Here’s more details about the meeting Little Donald, that adorable young scamp, and other top Trump operatives had in which they hoped to get damaging information about Hillary Clinton from the Russians:

The Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. and others on the Trump team after a promise of compromising material on Hillary Clinton was accompanied by a Russian-American lobbyist — a former Soviet counterintelligence officer who is suspected by some U.S. officials of having ongoing ties to Russian intelligence, NBC News has learned.

The lobbyist, Rinat Akhmetshin, denies any current ties to Russian spy agencies. He accompanied the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, to the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower attended by Donald Trump Jr.; Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law; and Paul Manafort, former chairman of the Trump campaign.

The Russian-born American lobbyist served in the Soviet military and emigrated to the U.S., where he holds dual citizenship.

Nevertheless, any suggestion that the Russian state attempted to influence the 2016 elections or that the fine, upstanding gentlemen running the Trump campaign may have actively sought their assistance is surely McCarthyism of the worst order. Although of course I support a full investigation.

Seriously, as Scocca observed recently, “[s]kepticism is fine but at this point ‘Trump didn’t collaborate with Russia’ requires a more convoluted explanation than the alternative does.” Hence, this truly epic goalposts-shifting by Kellyanne Conway.

McConnell’s Utter Contempt For Republican “Moderates” May Well Be Justified

[ 113 ] July 14, 2017 |

Above: “Why so glum, chum? My health insurance is going to be fine!”

With Collins and Rand Paul having claimed their golden tickets, the remaining marginal votes in the Republican conference — several of whom declared the massive Medicaid cuts in BCRA unacceptable — have enormous leverage. As we discussed yesterday, in his revised bill McConnell offered them…nothing on their most important ask. McConnell, apparently, assumes they can be bought off for pennies on the dollar with some piddlyshit pork from the slush fund he created by keeping some of the ACA’s tax increases.

The problem for the country is that he may well be right:

When the Senate Republican leadership unveiled its latest plan to roll back Obamacare, senators Rand Paul and Susan Collins quickly announced opposition. With the two free passes to vote no claimed, the next Republican to oppose the bill would deny it a majority. That Republican would apparently be Nevada’s Dean Heller, who had denounced in unequivocal terms the plan’s enormous Medicaid cuts, which are unchanged in the latest bill. But Heller has remained curiously silent.
Ominously, Mike Allen reports, “Republicans keep telling me Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, a third apparent ‘nay,’ will be ‘bought off.’” If Republicans can manage to buy off Senator Geary — I mean, Heller — then they stand a decent chance of working the remaining senators who have expressed concern about the bill.

One of the key dynamics of this legislative saga is that Republican objections to the bill, however strong or unambiguous, tend to melt away in the face of partisan pressure. Senator Bill Cassidy had once articulated the strongest opposition to Trumpcare, arguing that coverage gains in Obamacare should actually be expanded rather than rolled back. Cassidy endorsed the “Jimmy Kimmel test,” saying he would not support any bill that makes medical care unaffordable for an American with preexisting conditions. His new version of the Kimmel Test seems to be that he will not vote for anything unless it satisfies the following conditions: (1) It is a piece of legislation (2) that Republicans want to pass.

Meanwhile, even as of a few days ago, reports indicated that an outright majority of Republican senators rejected Ted Cruz’s amendment to allow insurers to sell plans that don’t protect preexisting conditions. Now that resistance is “melting away,” reports Caitlin Owens, because, as a GOP aide tells her, “No one wants to be bad guy.” (You might think “bad guy” means a person who denies medical care to sick people, but in this context, it indicates precisely the opposite.)

We are on the verge of a rollback of a major welfare benefit that is unprecedented in scope, one that would have utterly devastating consequences. People across the country, and especially Nevadans and West Virginians, need to make their voices heard. I’ve never understood people who were confident that the Trump administration would be a Carter-like dead-end in policy terms, and the high level of danger the still-robust Reagan coalition poses to the country has never been more evident.

Lovable Little Scamp Can’t Resist Putting Election-Rigging Conspiracies in Writing

[ 48 ] July 14, 2017 |

Why won’t somebody cut young Donald Trump Jr. a break? He’s just a kid!

All children, except two, grow up: Peter Pan and Donald Trump Jr.

“He’s a good boy,” President Trump said of his scandal-engulfed son, in remarks that started off the record and then became on the record, apparently because he liked them so much. “He’s a good kid. And he had a meeting. Nothing happened.”

Here I was thinking that he was a 39-year-old man with children of his own, but I apologize for the error. I was wrong. He is still a very promising young man. (Most white men accused of wrongdoing mysteriously turn out to be promising, a vague quality that adheres the moment someone accuses you of sexual assault and does not vanish until the moment it is revealed that you were the Zodiac Killer. Sometimes not even then.) I owe him an apology for assuming that he was an adult capable of conducting himself through the world.

He is not.

He is still very, very young. Getting younger all the time. It’s even in his name. Junior.

It wasn’t just Dorian Gray, it turns out. Any promising young white man rich enough to theoretically afford a giant oil painting of himself gets to remain young and innocent forever, and none of his actions have any consequences, whether there is magic involved or not.

Petri is a major part of the Post‘s renaissance — repeatedly pulling of satire that is both meaningful and consistently funny is incredibly difficult, not to mention more than ever.

The New Senate Bill Is Still Unimaginably Horrible Legislation

[ 52 ] July 13, 2017 |

“Senator Collins Heller, I also expect you to put up the money for my next re-election campaign personally.”

The “new” Senate bill might have replaced the bologna with sopressetta in the shit-and-cyanide sandwich, but don’t be fooled:

The new Senate Republican health care bill is out. It’s basically the same as the old one.

New legislative language unveiled by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Thursday does include some notable changes, including leaving in place Affordable Care Act taxes on wealthy individuals and giving in to conservative demands that health insurance be further deregulated, according to a summary.

At its core, however, the revised version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act ― which McConnell pulled two weeks ago because too few Republican senators planned to vote for it ― remains a vehicle for massive cuts to Medicaid, less financial assistance for people who buy private health insurance, and the return of skimpy junk insurance policies and discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions. Taxes on the rich would remain, but health care companies would enjoy a major tax cut.

A few remarks:

  • Maintaining the ACA’s tax on investment income just fixes a really dumb political blunder. In addition to what Young mentions, the new version of TrumpCare substantially expands Health Savings Accounts, which are a massive tax giveaway to the wealthy.  And, of course, the richest Americans will be getting an equivalent tax cut later in the year anyway.  This is still a huge cut in social spending to pay for huge tax cuts for the rich — it’s just that some of the details and sequencing has changed.
  • The Cruz Amendment is a big deal*, and would essentially end the ACA’s regulation of private insurance markets. Under the ACA, insurance companies had to make money by actually providing insurance that covered things to all comers. Under BCRA, insurance companies could go back to making money by selling people useless insurance and effectively locking people with pre-existing conditions out of the market. Admittedly, the ACA’s salutary regulatory reforms were undermined by its insufficiently generous subsidies, but needless to say BCRA makes this problem much worse and will require people to pay much more for equivalent coverage.
  • The massive Medicaid cuts are still there, and don’t believe McConnell’s bullshit about how they’re meaningless because they’re phased in later. A lower baseline is a big deal even if you assume that the Dems take power in 2021, repair the cuts and get the statute approved by the Supreme Court — and you’d be crazy to assume that all of this will necessarily happen.
  • So, assuming Rand actually votes “no,” the only way this pass can pass is if no more than one Republican “moderate” has so little self-respect that they’ll cave and vote for a literal death-political suicide pact even though McConnell is offering absolutely nothing on their key ask but a feeble “my fingers are crossed” wink. [Update: Collins is a “no,” so that’s the one.] Wait — there’s a really good chance we’re screwed, aren’t we?

*

The Russian Blackmail Problem

[ 132 ] July 13, 2017 |

Yglesias pinpoints the fundamental problem:

But the basic problem she identified persists. Unlike the public, the media, the Congress, the FBI, or the special counsel’s office, Russian intelligence services know exactly what went down between their government and the Trump campaign. Their knowledge of the facts, paired with Trumpworld’s relentless dishonesty and the high consequences of seeing that dishonesty revealed, means a potentially large swath of Trump’s inner circle has been (and may still be) exposed to blackmail.

And that, in turn, makes it hard for the country — and our allies — to trust that American policy toward Russia is being made in service of American interests rather than in service of keeping Trump’s team out of legal and political trouble.

This might be easy to ignore if Trump’s attitude and policies toward Russia were typical for an American politician. But from his contempt for NATO to his unwillingness to punish Moscow for election meddling, they’re not.

[…]

By having repeatedly committed itself in public to false narratives about interactions with the Russian government, Trump and his aides have repeatedly put themselves under the thumb of the Russians. To let the president and his top aides have that kind of threat hanging over their heads would, under any normal circumstances, be considered completely intolerable.

These are, of course, unusual times. And having decided that they can tolerate a confessed sexual predator in the White House and accommodate his desire to run his businesses in a way that makes it easy to bribe him, congressional Republicans can no doubt rationalize the bribery issue away, too. After all, McMaster and Jim Mattis will be along to babysit the commander in chief. Except when he leaves them out of key summit meetings, unexpectedly drops text from a major speech, or otherwise needs to respond in real-time to a crisis.

Beyond the implications for Trump personally, his administration, or the 2018 midterms, this is an uncomfortable situation for America’s allies and a downright catastrophic one for American foreign policy. Part of what makes it so disastrous is that nobody really has any idea about the extent of the exposure and what kind of pro-Putin policies Trump might pursue in the future.

Worst of all, the Republican majorities that control Congress seem to have decided that they would just as soon not know, treating the Trump-Russia story as essentially an endless series of annoying White House gaffes rather than the potentially crippling security vulnerability it is.

Let’s be clear: the Republican Congress fully owns every bad thing that Trump does and all of the resulting consequences. As Dan says, they know what he is, and they’re all-in on him.

“Also, Walter Duranty Assures Us That the Holodomor Is a Myth”

[ 118 ] July 12, 2017 |

To unite a couple of recent themes, it’s profoundly embarrassing that the Nation keeps publishing this crap:



No matter how imperative, and no matter how important to the US national interest, the new Trump-Putin détente partnership faces unprecedented obstacles in Washington. Above all, “Russiagate” allegations that Trump or his associates “colluded” with Putin’s “hijacking of American democracy” during the 2016 presidential campaign continue to grow despite the lack of any actual evidence for either accusation, indeed despite several allegations having been disproved. (For example, “17 US intelligence agencies” did not agree that Putin hacked and disseminated DNC emails on behalf of Trump; the FBI having admitted it never examined the DNC computers, there is not even any verified forensic evidence as to who hacked them or even that they were hacked; and allegations that Putin also hacked French and German elections, to further make this case against him, have been denied by security authorities in those countries.) For the first time in American history, a president risks being crippled, if not threatened with impeachment, as he initiates a necessary détente relationship with Russia. In this context, Trump demonstrated considerable determination in meeting privately with Putin in Hamburg. But whether he has enough determination, skill, or political support to be a reliable détente partner is a very open question. (This is why Cohen thinks Putin himself had to raise the “Russiagate” question in order to ascertain whether or not Trump could actually implement their agreements in the face of opposition, even sabotage, in Washington—a question that skeptics in Putin’s own inner circle are pressing on the Russian leader.)

[…]

 Neither Cohen nor Batchelor is unduly optimistic about the prospects of the Trump-Putin détente. Major political problems exist on both sides, but particularly in Washington. Cohen points out that if, as some informed commentators think, “Russiagate” is mainly the product of some US intelligence agencies and their allies in the mainstream media and in Congress, outright attempts to undermine any détente are likely. Was it merely coincidence, he asks, that new “Russiagate” leaks to media appeared on the eve of the Trump-Putin meeting and immediately after it?

Lemieux thinks it was cunning indeed of the Deep State (TM) to force the Trump campaign to put its collusion with the Russian state with the express purpose of ratfucking the election in writing. Lemieux, like Hayes, also wonders if this evidence won’t convince you, what possibly could? Of course, Lemieux is probably just saying that because of Lemieux’s longstanding desire to launch nuclear misses at Vladivostok.

[In case you’re wondering, this was published earlier today]

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