Through The Smog: Last Week’s Stories You Might’ve Missed
John Lewis And The Democrat’s Resistance
The President-elect decided to start off Martin Luther King Jr. weekend by insulting none other than Rep. John Lewis (D — GA), a civil rights icon who survived Bloody Sunday and marched along the man this holiday memorializes. Trump claimed that John Lewis was “all talk” “no action” and “no results.” Many Democratic leaders, like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Senator Kamala Harris, and Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, jumped to his defense. Lewis also responded by releasing a powerful statement.
This all came the morning after John Lewis, who had just received an intelligence briefing regarding Russia’s efforts to interfere in our democracy, stated he thought Donald Trump was not a “legitimate” President. Lewis, ever the master of resistance, is among the growing number of democrats who have decided to boycott Trump’s inauguration.
GOP Takes First Step In Their Plan To Take Away Healthcare From 25 Million Americans
In a vote that concluded around 1:30am Thursday morning, Senate Republicans took the first step in repealing the Affordable Care Act and consequently stripping health insurance coverage from more than 25 million Americans. Though the talking points and hashtags reiterated Republicans’ pledges to “Repeal and Replace” Obamacare, this vote, which was then confirmed by the House on Friday, established a speedy process for the former with no semblance of a plan for the latter.
The Affordable Care Act, often referred to as and often not realized to be Obamacare, is the comprehensive health care reform law enacted in March 2010 by President Obama. It was the most significant revision to healthcare in the United States since the Social Security Amendments of 1965, which created Medicare and Medicaid.
When the ACA became law in 2010, 16.3% of the population, or 49.9 million Americans, lacked health insurance. In Q1 of 2016, the uninsured rate hit a record low of 8.6 percent of Americans (persons of all ages uninsured at the time of interview), marking the first time it fell below 9 percent in the nation’s history, per the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
If the Affordable Care Act is fully repealed, essential health care protections will be seized and an estimated 25 million Americans will lose coverage.
With their votes this week, Republicans signaled they will move full steam ahead with repeal and also struck down amendments for basic health care protections for people with pre-existing conditions, children, and veterans. Neither Majority Leader McConnell nor Speaker Ryan have provided details on their plan to “replace” Obamacare and no information is readily available on their websites.
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The Trump-Russia Plot Thickens
On Friday, Senate Intelligence Committee leaders, Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA), announced that they would investigate links between Russia and President-elect Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. This was a stark reversal for Burr who, just the day before, stated that Trump’s ties to Russia would be investigated outside of his panel.
This news comes after House members were briefed in a closed-door meeting with spy chiefs about Russia’s alleged election-related hacking. In that meeting, House Democrats had a contentious exchange with FBI Director James Comey after he refused to state whether or not the FBI was investigating links between the Kremlin and Trump’s campaign. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, accused Comey of a “double standard” in the way he handled the Trump-Russia investigation vs. the Clinton email investigation. Pelosi went on to demand answers:
“I think the American people are owed the truth. And for that reason, the FBI should let us know whether they’re doing that investigation or not.”
As the questions continued to mount surrounding whether or not Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russian officials, it was reported that “Michael Flynn, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for national security adviser, held five phone calls with Russia’s ambassador to Washington on the day the United States retaliated for Moscow’s interference in the U.S. presidential election.” This, coupled with the fact President-elect Trump told the Wall Street Journal he would consider lifting sanctions on Russia if “we get along,” is doing nothing to alleviate the suspicions that Trump and his campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 US Presidential election.
The Federal Bureau Of Investigation Is Under Investigation
The Justice Department inspector general announced Thursday that there will be an investigation into broad allegations of misconduct involving FBI Director James B. Comey and how he handled the probe of Hillary Clinton’s email server.
Among things this investigation will focus on are whether or not Comey followed procedure at his July press conference, in his sending of the now infamous letter regarding emails the FBI found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop just 11 days before the election, and the leaks that came out of the FBI. This was welcome news to many on the left who have pointed to the Comey letter as the turning point in the campaign that led to Clinton’s loss.
In an editorial this week, the Wall Street Journal called for Comey to resign as Director of the FBI. This is a sentiment shared by many Democratic leaders.
Week Full Of Confirmation Hearings For Trump’s Nominees
This week was packed with confirmation hearings for Trumps picks:
The most contentious of these were the hearings of controversial nominees, Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson and Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions (R).
At Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) testified against Sessions. This was an unprecedented move. A sitting Senator has never testified against their colleague nominated for a cabinet position. Also, Civil Rights legend Rep. John Lewis testified against Sessions, slamming his civil rights record.
At Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson’s confirmation hearing, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) went hard, digging into Tillerson’s Russia ties and pressing Tillerson on human rights.
At Defense Secretary nominee Retired Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis, CIA Director nominee Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), what was most noteworthy was how distinctly different Pompeo and Mattis appeared to be from Trump’s views. They both had very harsh words for Russia. Mattis stated that we must honor the “imperfect arms-control agreement” with Iran, an agreement Trump has called a “disaster.” Pompeo said he would “absolutely not” use brutal interrogation techniques, while Trump has called to bring back waterboarding. Some are clinging to these signs as an early indication that a few of Trump’s cabinet picks will be a check on his Presidency.
4,000 US Troops Arrive In Poland
Polish officials welcomed the 4th Infantry Division of the US Army to their nation this week. The deployment of almost 4,000 troops is the first continuous, and by far the largest, deployment of US troops to Europe since the Cold War. Additionally NATO will deploy four multinational battalions to the Baltic region later this year. Both deployments are part of Department of Defense’s Operation Atlantic Resolve which started in 2014. This operation increases US military support for European NATO members with the stated purpose of easing concerns created by the increased Russian military activity in Crimea and the rest of the Baltic region in recent years.
Addressing the assembled combined troops, Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz said:
“We waited for decades, sometimes feeling we had been left alone, sometimes almost losing hope, sometimes feeling that we were the only one who protected civilization from aggression that came from the east.”
Russian responses have been predictably critical of the troop deployment. Speaking to Sputnik, Russian military experts stated:
“Currently, they are deploying a contingent to Europe on a rotational basis. By doing this, they bypass our agreements on the number of NATO troops along Russia’s border. What we are witnessing now is an attempt to find a foreign enemy, instead of fighting domestic ones. This is a PR campaign, in which the ideological importance [of the deployment of US troops] is much higher than its military significance.”