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Daily News Digest July 27, 2018

This Week's Headlines: 

When one dissects the publicly available information on Putin’s state-sanctioned campaign to elect Donald Trump, the same evidence that supports the intelligence community’s assertion that Russia wanted to elect Donald Trump also points to the inescapable fact Soviet actors most likely changed votes.

Meadows, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus and fierce DOJ critic, said his decision to table impeachment comes after he had "very good, good conversations with the leadership team [and] with Chairman [of the Judiciary Committee Rep. Bob] Goodlatte [R-Va.] on a path forward."

This, he added, would be the DOJ's and FBI's "one last chance to comply."

“Trade and inventories together are contributing around 2.2 percent to headline GDP — nearly half of the growth we are estimating,” Morgan Stanley analysts wrote in a note to clients this week. “We find evidence that the hefty contributions from these two categories is likely a reflection of stockpiling ahead of the implementation of trade tariffs, and so they are likely to subtract from growth in the following quarters.”

The revelations of the attempted hack of McCaskill staffers comes just weeks after Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers, accusing them of orchestrating cyberattacks that targeted the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Clinton’s campaign in 2016.

To Rohrabacher’s critics, these repeated interactions with a woman now jailed on suspicion of mounting an influence campaign at the behest of the Russian government, have added more fuel to longstanding questions about his Kremlin connections. This past weekend, anti-Putin crusader and businessman Bill Browder told a room of national security experts gathered in Aspen that he believes Rohrabacher is "on the payroll of Russia."

Daily News Digest July 26, 2018

This Week's Headlines: 

The practice of shackling women was uncommon until the Trump administration imposed its zero-tolerance border crossing policy, Clark said, in part because women were not regularly detained prior to that. 

The amendment would still allow the use of shackling in extreme circumstances, such as for women who pose a clear flight risk or a danger to themselves or others.

The Adidas soccer ball Russian President Vladimir Putin gave to President Trump at their summit in Finland appears to contain a chip that can transmit information to nearby cell phones, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.

The publication noted that photos of the ball show a logo for a near-field communication (NFC) tag, a chip that is included in the Adidas 2018 FIFA World Cup ball. Russia hosted this year's World Cup.

Cruz on Wednesday proposed five English-language debates focusing on a variety of topics after previously telling reporters that his Spanish was not good enough for a debate performance, the Texas Tribune reports. O'Rourke had initially requested two of the debates be in Spanish to accommodate Texas's large Hispanic population.

Republicans are staring down tough battles to hold onto the governorships of Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker (R) is seeking a third term, and Michigan, which has an open seat. They still hope to seriously contest at least one Senate seat across the three states, most likely against Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). And they are defending more than a half-dozen key House seats across the trio of states — not to mention their two best (and possibly only) House pickup opportunities, in Minnesota.

Daily News Digest July 25, 2018

We usually do a roundup of headlines from around the web, but today we are doing things a little differently. Up front is the Supreme Court nomination.

Call your Senators. It appears that Manchin and Heitcamp are waffling on the Brett Kavanaugh nomination. Senator Schumer needs to be reminded that it is his job to keep the Dems together on this one.

Contact information can be found at the top of the right sidebar.

Now, on to our regularly scheduled programming.

This Week's Headlines: 

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr told CNN Tuesday he believed there were "sound reasons" for judges to approve the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant on former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page, in yet another break between the Republican leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees.

"I don't think I ever expressed that I thought the FISA application came up short," Burr said when asked about House Republican memo alleging FBI and Justice Department abuses of the FISA process. "There (were) sound reasons as to why judges issued the FISA."

Huge, immediate gains for wealthy shareholders combined with tepid increases in business investment and decreases in real wages don’t paint a flattering picture of the tax cut’s impact so far. There is, however, a possibility that the tax cut has acted as a Keynesian fiscal stimulus, helping to push down unemployment.

But Maitlis used it as an example of a "corrosive culture." 

“It became a joke. It became something that defined you,” she said. “You joked about it when you presented the Emmy awards. But it wasn’t a joke. It was the start of the most corrosive culture. You played with the truth, you led us down a dangerous path. You have corrupted discourse for the entire world by going along with these lies.”

“Think about being strategic,” Brownfield told Cutz, according to these officials. “Don’t just hit everyone because you can. Hit the right people and then maybe get others to just be scared and wonder when they’ll get hit.”

The strategy of singling out one top official for isolation from the sanctions regime to raise suspicion is one that U.S. law enforcement has used to destabilize drug cartels. It’s unclear whether the U.S. has ever used it against another government.

Daily News Digest July 24, 2018

This Week's Headlines: 

Robert Wilkie, who grew up in Fayetteville the son of an injured Vietnam combat veteran, was confirmed Monday as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, becoming the leader of the embattled agency that provides health care for military veterans.

The Senate confirmed the 55-year-old Wilkie by a vote of 86-9.

Then, in a Monday tweet, he walked back his earlier attempt at a cleanup.

Trump  falsely claimed that a dossier by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele “was responsible for starting” the investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.” He went on to blast the dossier, calling it “fake” and “dirty” before declaring the investigation headed by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III a “witch hunt.”

Twenty casualties were reported by the government earlier on Tuesday. One of the youngest victims was thought to be a six-month-old baby who died of smoke inhalation.

The fire department said that 156 adults and 16 children had been taken to hospital. Eleven of the adults are in a serious condition.

Hundreds of people were missing on Tuesday after a billion-dollar hydropower dam that was under construction in Laos collapsed, killing several people and displacing more than 6,600 others, a state news agency said.

KPL, the official Lao news agency, reported that the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy hydropower dam collapsed at 8 p.m. on Monday, releasing five billion cubic meters of water and sweeping away homes in the southern province of Attapeu, which lies along the country’s border with Vietnam and Cambodia. The agency did not give an exact death toll.

The chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence discussed soliciting contributions from “restricted donors” while he was advising future Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ 2016 campaign, according to a complaint filed Tuesday with the state’s ethics commission.

The complaint also says that Greitens for Missouri, which Pence chief of staff Nick Ayers advised, “funneled” donations through 501(c)(4) nonprofits, which do not have to reveal donor identities.

Daily News Digest July 23, 2018

This Week's Headlines: 

A draft of Cuba's new constitution backs away from a stated goal of furthering communism and opens the door for legal recognition of private businesses and gay marriage, according to a new report.

Cuba's current constitution was drafted in 1976 and outlines a goal of building a communist society. Cuba's national assembly is reportedly debating a draft of an updated constitution that seeks to redefine the role of communism in the country. 

Mr. Trump, in an all-caps message on Twitter addressed to President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, wrote that the country would face “CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED” if he continued to threaten the United States.

Two people were killed and 12 others were injured after a man with a handgun opened fire on a bustling avenue in Toronto on Sunday night, the police said. The gunman was later found dead.

Officers confronted the gunman, who was identified only as a 29-year-old man, on a nearby street and exchanged gunfire with him, the authorities said. The gunman ran from the police and was found dead on a street.

“They need to wake up and pay attention to what people actually want,” Ms. Conner said of Democratic leaders. “There are so many progressive policies that have widespread support that mainstream Democrats are not picking up on, or putting that stuff down and saying, ‘That wouldn’t really work.’”

Daily News Digest July 22, 2018

This Week's Headlines: 

For decades, the National Rifle Association has promoted its hardline politics with appeals to patriotism, freedom, and the staunch defense of the Second Amendment. But now, the controversial gun lobbying group finds itself deeply caught up in a wide-ranging effort to sabotage American democracy by an enemy foreign power. 

Federal prosecutors unsealed charges this week against 29-year-old Russian national Maria Butina, a self-styled gun activist with long-running ties to the NRA who worked for Alexander Torshin, a high-level Russian government and banking official from President Vladimir Putin’s party. Butina, who was a graduate student at American University until this spring, began traveling to the United States in 2014 and operated as a “covert Russian agent,” according to an FBI affidavit.

In the piece published in The Salt Lake Tribune, which is owned by Hunstman’s brother, Huntsman said that he would stay on the job after conducting “an unscientific survey among my colleagues” and asking his own naval officer sons if he should resign.

“The laughter told me everything I needed to know,” the ambassador and former Utah governor wrote. “It also underscores the fragile nature of this moment.”

President Trump surprised some Republican officials last week by publicly supporting Mr. Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state, in Tuesday’s primary runoff against Casey Cagle, the state’s lieutenant governor. And since then, Mr. Kemp has doubled down on his pledge to be a “politically incorrect” governor, playing up the gun-toting, truck-driving, Everyman image that some party leaders worry could cost them the general election.

On Saturday, Mr. Pence riled up Mr. Kemp’s fervent supporters and posed for selfies afterward while country music blared from the speakers.

On Saturday evening, those materials — an October 2016 application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to wiretap Mr. Page, along with several renewal applications — were released to The New York Times and other news organizations that had filed Freedom of Information Act lawsuits to obtain them. Mr. Trump had declassified their existence earlier this year.

“This application targets Carter Page,” the document said. “The F.B.I. believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government.” A line was then redacted, and then it picked up with “undermine and influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election in violation of U.S. criminal law. Mr. Page is a former foreign policy adviser to a candidate for U.S. president.”

Daily News Digest July 20, 2018

This Week's Headlines: 

Sen. Rand Paul has used political donations to spend more than $11,000 at restaurants in Italy and Malta and thousands more for European hotels and limousine services in connection with fundraising and other political events.

Paul’s political leadership committee also spent $337 on apparel at a Men’s Wearhouse in Omaha, Nebraska, in September 2014, and $438 on apparel at a New York Allen Edmonds in February 2016. The figures were provided by two independent watchdog groups.

After providing considerable detail on the numbers of children and their parents, and assuring the court that that the government would work to provide as much notice as possible before reunification so that non-governmental organizations could be present to provide for the families’ needs, Judge Sabraw appeared to wind up exactly where he started on Friday morning -- satisfied that the parties were working together to reunite as many children with their parents as quickly as possible. 

The next status conference is scheduled for July 20. Strap in.

Putin and Trump held a joint press conference after a one-on-one meeting on Monday, during which Trump disagreed with U.S. intelligence officials' conclusion that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election. 

The presser quickly became the subject of backlash from both sides of the aisle, due to Trump's statements and because the president refused to confront Putin about election interference. 

The changes are in keeping with a broader pattern of regulatory moves in the Trump administration aimed at reducing cost and other burdens for businesses, particularly the energy business. Last month the Trump administration also started the process of rolling back the National Environmental Policy Act, an obscure law that is considered the cornerstone of environmental policy, laying out the process federal agencies must follow when considering major infrastructure projects.

Daily News Digest July 19, 2018

This Week's Headlines: 

Two weeks before his inauguration, Donald J. Trump was shown highly classified intelligence indicating that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had personally ordered complex cyberattacks to sway the 2016 American election.

The evidence included texts and emails from Russian military officers and information gleaned from a top-secret source close to Mr. Putin, who had described to the C.I.A. how the Kremlin decided to execute its campaign of hacking and disinformation.

Four members of the Homeland Security Advisory Council, which advises the Department of Homeland Security, have resigned, saying in a letter that they can no longer be associated with the Trump administration's immigration policies and calling the separation of migrant families "morally repugnant."

The letter, which was obtained by CNN, was addressed to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and signed by Richard Danzig, David Martin and Matthew Olsen -- all former Democratic administration officials -- and by Elizabeth Holtzman, a former Democratic congresswoman from New York. 

Russian politicians are rallying behind Vladimir Putin and denouncing American suggestions that the translator at his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump be interrogated about what they discussed privately.

"Does a woman now have the right to behave — and I know there's a double standard between the way men chase women and running and running around — you know, I'm not going to get there, but you know what I'm talking about. But it used to be that women were held to a little bit of a higher standard. We required modesty from women. Now, are we beyond those days where a woman can behave as a slut, but you can't call her a slut?" Lewis asked in 2012, according to CNN.

Daily News Digest July 18, 2018

This Week's Headlines: 

I've seen Trump's tax returns myself as part of a legal action that began in 2006 when he sued me for libel for a biography I wrote, "TrumpNation." (Trump lost the suit in 2011; a court order precludes me from discussing specifics in the returns.) As I wrote in a May 2016 column about the tax returns, I suspect that Trump is hesitant to make them public because they would reveal, among other things, sensitive information about his business activities, conflicts of interest and financial pressures that might come to bear upon him in the White House. Pressure from places like Russia, for example.

Trump has made a point of saying that there was "no collusion" involving the Kremlin and his presidential campaign team whenever he criticizes Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. But Mueller has a broad mandate, and he's also examining obstruction of justice as well as the Trump Organization's business dealings.

The White House’s midyear budget projections see federal deficits surpassing $1 trillion in 2019.

In an annual budget review, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) estimated that new legislation enacted since the release of its February budget — alongside new projections on other spending and receipts — would add $101 billion more to the 2019 deficit, pushing it above $1 trillion.

Ms. Abernathy, 21, staggered out of bed and yelled for her mother, Lynn, who had been lying awake on the living-room couch. They grabbed a few bags, scooped up Ms. Abernathy’s 2-year-old son and were soon hurtling across this poor patch of southeast Missouri in their Pontiac Bonneville, racing for help. The old hospital used to be around the corner. Now, her new doctor and hospital were nearly 100 miles away.

Medical help is growing dangerously distant for women in rural America. At least 85 rural hospitals — about 5 percent of the country’s total — have closed since 2010, and obstetric care has faced even starker cutbacks as rural hospitals calculate the hard math of survival, weighing the cost of providing 24/7 delivery services against dwindling birthrates, doctor and nursing shortages and falling revenues.

Mr. Aaron and other close observers of the Sinclair-Tribune deal expressed bewilderment over Mr. Pai’s latest move. Since becoming chairman in January 2017, Mr. Pai has enacted or proposed a wish list of policy changes advocated by Sinclair. The F.C.C. has eased a cap on how many stations a broadcaster can own and has relaxed a restriction on television stations’ sharing of advertising revenue and other resources.

“This is very surprising given Ajit Pai has used most of his tenure at the F.C.C. to do favors to benefit Sinclair,” Mr. Aaron said. “I’m actually having to pick up my jaw off the floor.”

Daily News Digest July 17, 2018

This Week's Headlines: 

President Donald Trump’s extraordinary remarks Monday, siding with Russian President Vladmir Putin’s denials of 2016 campaign meddling over U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion, has left U.S. and foreign diplomats worried that the United States will no longer be a reliable partner, will no longer defend other countries and will no longer stand up to its adversaries.

Trump, they say, is clearly out on his own with his controversial views but as president of the United States he could change decades of precedence.

Congressional Republicans have tried mightily to position themselves as close allies of President Donald Trump, and Monday they faced their greatest test of loyalty yet.

And while some key GOP players made it clear they had had enough of Trump’s refusal to side with the U.S. intelligence community over Russian denials about meddling in the 2016 presidential election, it was unclear and unlikely the latest furor would diminish GOP support for major Trump initiatives.

In a court filing on Monday, lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union said there are growing concerns that the Trump administration’s efforts to return more than 2,000 migrant children to their parents by July 26 to comply with a court order could be accompanied by attempts to carry out “mass deportations” once the families are reunited.

Lawyers for the civil rights group referred in their motion to “persistent and increasing rumors — which defendants have refused to deny — that mass deportations may be carried out imminently and immediately upon reunification.”