Weekly Newsletter

Vol. 31: The Silent Killer

June 18, 2017 – Day 221 P.E. – National Go Fishing Day

The TrumpShaker Top Three
June 18, 2017 – National Go Fishing Day – Day 221 P.E (Post Election).
The Silent Killer
The Republican Senate is now just one to two weeks away from passing a bill that gives a massive tax break for the very rich, takes away health care from millions, and has an approval rating of 17%. Outside of last week’s edition of The TrumpShaker, you may not have heard much about it and that’s just how the GOP wants it.Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will do everything he can to bring a RepubliCare bill up for a vote in less than two weeks, before the July 4 recess. No one, except for the 13 angry men in the GOP’s Stonecutters’ meeting room, know what is in the bill.  If you read nothing else on health care, read this set of interviews from Vox, in which Republican senators are unable to articulate what is in this bill and what it would accomplish besides just getting rid of the Affordable Care Act.The Senate’s version of the bill will likely look very much like the House bill, which eliminates Medicaid for tens of millions, prevents Medicare patients from using Planned Parenthood, dramatically raises premiums for those over 50, allows lifetime/annual limits to be reinstated on employer plans, and permits insurers to punish those with pre-existing conditions — all to give large tax breaks to those with incomes over $1 million. The most significant difference in the Senate version will likely be that Medicaid will be phased out more slowly, beginning in seven years. Related civics lesson: the term of a U.S. senator is six years. Also, expect to see state specific perks such as opioid funding for West Virginia, subsidies for Alaska, and a longer Medicaid phase-out for Ohio to buy the votes of a few GOP senators on the fence.This bill, which impacts every American and 1/6 of the U.S. economy, will have no hearings in the Senate, compared with 36 days of hearings for the Affordable Care Act. Rumors are that McConnell may even try to bypass the mandatory 20 hours of floor debate by submitting a placeholder bill and then putting the entire RepubliCare legislation in as an “amendment” at the last minute, which would require only 2 hours of debate.

The Los Angeles Times reported that, “Don Ritchie, historian emeritus of the Senate, said not since the years before World War I has the Senate taken such a partisan, closed-door approach to major legislation.”

McConnell has refused to even meet with patient groups. A coalition of 15 groups, including the March of Dimes, American Lung Association, and American Heart Association, asked to meet with McConnell any time between June 15 and June 23. McConnell said he was too busy.

So what can you do? If you live in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Maine, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, or West Virginia, you need to call your senators and encourage them to vote against the bill and demand, at least, they follow the deliberative process the Senate has followed for 100 years. If you live in a state with a Democrat senator, call and encourage him/her to use everything in their power to slow down the process. Democrat senators have done a lot of complaining but have not yet taken extreme action like slowing down all Senate activity or introducing thousands of amendments.

The Republicans know this bill is deeply unpopular. If the public finds out what is in it and has a chance to voice its thoughts, it won’t pass. Take for example one very uninformed member of the public.  This week, Donald Trump apparently finally read the House bill. In a private meeting with Republican Congressional leadership Trump allegedly called the bill, “mean, mean, mean” and said, “We need to be more generous.” You may recall, since Trump doesn’t, that this is the same bill that Trump twisted arms to pass and then had a kegger on the White House lawn to celebrate when it did.

Republicans are not interested in policy, just winning. Their victory will be a loss for millions.

As The Tяump Turns

Major developments on this week’s episode of As The Tяump Turns:

  • You Get a Lawyer! You Get a Lawyer! Everybody Gets Lawyers! – Trump added another private lawyer to his team to take on inquiries related to Russia. Vice President Pence also hired a private attorney, but noted, “It’s very routine. Very routine.” Sure, Mike, if you say so. Not to be left out, Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen went out and hired his own attorney. If nothing else, I’m glad that Trump does seem to have some sort of job creation plan, at least for attorneys.
  • Mueller Follows the Money – The Washington Post reported that special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner’s business dealings, specifically his conversations with super evil sounding Russian bank Vnesheconombank.
  • Newt Gingrich Suffers Amnesia – In 1998, Newt Gingrich, as Speaker of the House, initiated the impeachment process against President Bill Clinton. The second article of impeachment was obstruction of justice. This week, in defense of Trump, Gingrich said, “The president of the United States cannot obstruct justice.” Also in 1998, the movie Armageddon was released. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.
  • A Cyber Red Dawn May Have Happened in Your State This Fall – Russian hackers may have attacked voting systems and/or databases in 39 states last year. This is your periodic reminder that Mitch McConnell was briefed on all of this, but McConnell threatened the Obama administration with painting disclosure as a partisan attack if Obama went public with the information.
  • It’s Your Move, Donald – The Senate voted 97-2 this week to impose new sanctions on Russia and limits Trump’s ability to ease or eliminate sanctions on Russia. Reports are that the White House is already leaning on the House to make some Russian-friendly changes to the bill.
  • Trump Admits to Being Investigated, Threatens Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, and Calls Himself a Witch in Less than 140 Characters.

The Keebler Elf Cooks Up a Story

Attorney General and Keebler Elf Cosplayer Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee this week. This was the first time he’s testified in front of the Senate since he “mistakenly” forgot to mention in his confirmation hearing that he met with the Russian ambassador during the campaign.

Takeaways from the hearing:

  • Sessions disagrees with Comey – Sessions contradicted former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony that Sessions had not replied when Comey had requested that he not be left alone in a room with Trump. Sessions said he did reply and that he agreed with Comey.
  • Sessions has memory problems – Sessions could not recall if he met with the Russian ambassador a yet undisclosed third time when both were at an event at the Mayflower Hotel in DC in April 2016. Sessions also could not recall if he had direct involvement in changing the Republican National Committee platform to take out language critical of Russia.
  • Sessions has never asked about Russia’s interference in the election – The highest-ranking law official in the country has never had so much as a briefing on what Russia did in the 2016 presidential election.
  • Sessions doesn’t feel we deserve answers – Using the Seinfeld “I choose not to run” defense, Sessions simply refused to answer many questions. His reasoning was he can’t answer a question now in case Trump later wants to assert executive privilege. Democrat senators accused Sessions of stonewalling and basically declaring executive privilege without having to actually do so.
  • Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) makes Sessions nervous – Former prosecutor Harris went straight Law & Order on Sessions and he couldn’t handle it. The man who is leading efforts to hunt down immigrants and whisk them away in the middle of the night without a hearing said, “I’m not able to be rushed this fast. It makes me nervous.” Here’s the video, but if you’re picturing Woody Allen impersonating Foghorn Leghorn, that’s about right.
Quick TrumpShakes
Et Tu Shakespeare? – The right-wing outrage machine is in overdrive over a cutting- edge playwright who goes by the name of William Shakespeare, Bill to his friends. The Central Park production of Julius Caesar is set in modern times and features an orange-skinned man wearing a too long tie in the title role of Caesar. In this play, Caesar/Trump is (2000-year-old spoiler alert) assassinated. Breitbart and Fox News whipped up its followers into a frenzy over the depiction of Trump’s assassination. Bank of America and Delta both immediately pulled their sponsorship of the theater group and the National Endowment for the Arts distanced itself. The play was interrupted on Friday night by protesters. Shakespeare companies all over the country have started to receive death threats, regardless if they are putting on Julius Caesar. Apparently, the right-wing reactionaries are both illiterate and forgetful. Illiterate because the play is about how defending democracy through undemocratic means destroys it – it’s not a pro-assassination play. Forgetful because the same company depicted Obama as Caesar in 2012 and . . . no one said a thing.
 
Suffering Sycophants – Trump held his first cabinet meeting this week and instead of actually, you know, doing, work they took turns praising dear leader to such an extent that Kim Jong-un would call it over the top. The kiss-ass winner was White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus who said, “We thank you for the opportunity and blessing to serve your agenda.” Apparently, worried that his in-person praise was insufficient, Vice President Pence tweeted out later in the week, “It is the greatest privilege of my life to serve as Vice President to @POTUS Donald Trump – a man devoted to American ideals.”
 
Who Could Know Such Things? – While his party is busy denying climate change, Kansas Republican Senator Pat Roberts just can’t think of a single thing that may have caused his state’s poor wheat crop. “I have no idea what we have done to Mother Nature, but she sure has taken it out on us.”
 
Have You Ever Been in a Turkish Prison – Well, Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan’s security agents probably have not, but they may see the inside of an American prison. DC police have charged 12 Turkish agents for attacking protesters during Erdoğan’s visit with Trump.
 
Up in Arms – You may recall, long ago, all the way back to last week, Trump had declared Qatar a funder of terrorism and said that he supported the blockade of its borders. This week, the Trump administration approved a $12 billion sale of 36 fighter jets to Qatar. An incredulous Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) asked, “I don’t mean to be facetious about this, but does the president know?” He’s not the only one confused. The US Ambassador to Qatar resigned, a few weeks after tweeting: “Increasingly difficult to wake up overseas to news from home, knowing I will spend today explaining our democracy and institutions.”
 
Building a Wall Around Our Hearts – The Trump administration continues to find new cruel ways to harm families seeking the American dream. There were multiple lowlights this week. Trump canceledprograms that protect immigrant parents of American citizens. This will likely increase the number of children living in the U.S. without the support of their parents. Border patrol arrested immigrants seeking medical care in the Arizona desert, violating an Obama-era agreement to allow aid workers to provide medical care for immigrants. This may increase the number of people dying in the Arizona and Texas deserts. ICE swept up 114 Iraqi nationals in Michigan. Many are from a persecuted minority, so if they are deported, they may face torture and death in Iraq. This would increase the death toll from our invasion of Iraq.
 
Cabinet of Doom Update!  – It’s been awhile since I’ve taken a look at new developments in Trump’s cabinet. Not that you were thinking it, but that’s not the fault of my crack team of reporters here at The TrumpShaker, but rather because Trump hadn’t done anything to fill vacant posts. For example, currently36 of the 62 senior positions in the State Department that need Senate confirmation do not even have a nominee. However, there is breaking news this week: After J.Lo and Martin Short were unavailable, Trump reportedly nominated his son Eric’s wedding planner, Lynne Patton, to head up Housing and Urban Development Region II, i.e., she’d be in charge of all public housing in New York and New Jersey. Like almost everyone else in the administration, she has no relevant experience. However, she was Vice President of the Eric Trump Foundation, which you may recall spent money for children with cancer on greens fees at Trump properties. Oh, she also claims a J.D. from Quinnipiac University, however she only attended for two semesters and didn’t graduate. In calling on the administration to reconsider, Representative Grace Meng (D-NY) tweeted: “The federal government is not your personal patronage system.”
 
They Let You Do It. You Can Do Anything. – Trump’s Access Hollywood bus boast proved accurate this week as two trials ended in favor of the powerful. In Minnesota, Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez was found not guilty of manslaughter in the killing of African-American Philando Castile. Castile was the passenger in a car that was pulled over for having a broken taillight. While Castile was following the officer’s instruction to get his driver’s license, Yanez shot him seven times, firing into the car where Castile’s fiancé and her four-year old daughter were also sitting. Castile’s fiancé captured the immediate aftermath on Facebook Live. In Norristown, Pennsylvania, a hung jury resulted in a mistrial in the Bill Cosby assault trial. Sixty women have accused Bill Cosby of rape. Prosecutors are expected to pursue a new trial.
 
Cuba No Libre – Last week, I mentioned that Trump was considering undoing Obama’s efforts to open channels with Cuba. This week, he made it a reality, announcing, “I am canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba.” A somewhat cynical person would say he is only doing this because it goes against Obama. A more cynical person would say he also did it as a favor to Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who happens to sit on the Senate Intelligence Committee overseeing the Russian investigation.  A very cynical person would say he also did this to keep other U.S. hotel chains from jumping into Cuba since it would be tough politically for Trump to open hotels there while president. I’m very cynical. Trump may not get his way, however. Republicans have actually pushed back on Trump’s Cuba policy. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) has called for a vote to lift travel restrictions to Cuba. 
Featured Media of the Week

This week, I’ll give you a break from reading a whole article and instead let you watch former PresidentObama induct Jay-Z into the Songwriter Hall of Fame.  Obama wisely notes that “we both have wives that are significantly more popular than we are.”
Action Center
While you’re planning your summer camping trip, take a minute to write to the Department of the Interior to save our national monuments. The Department of Interior is reviewing the designation  of 27 national monuments, covering millions of acres. Trump would love nothing more than to find an excuse to allow energy companies into these untouched lands. If you care about maintaining beautiful open undeveloped space, submit your comment before July 10.
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