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Trump WH: Birth Control Mandate Is Unnecessary Because of Planned Parenthood, Which We’ll Also Defund

Environment & Health | Mother Jones - Thu, 06/01/2017 - 5:13pm

The Trump administration's argument for letting lots of employers opt out of covering birth control is…not exactly bulletproof.

Yesterday, Vox reported that the Trump administration is considering a broad exemption to Obamacare's mandate on contraceptive coverage, according to a leaked draft of the proposed rule. If passed, the rule would allow virtually any employer, not just a religious one, to remove birth control coverage from its insurance plan if contraception violates the organization's religious beliefs or "moral convictions"—a broad and murky standard.

But, in a curious twist, part of the Trump administration's justification for the move hinges on the existence of hundreds of Planned Parenthood clinics, many of which the White House is actively trying to close by "defunding" Planned Parenthood.

As the draft text explains, the administration believes the past rationale for Obamacare's contraception mandate is insufficient. The document lists several reasons why this is the case. Here's one of them:

"There are multiple Federal, state, and local programs that provide free or subsidized contraceptives for low-income women, including Medicaid (with a 90% Federal match for family planning services), Title X, health center grants, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. According to the Guttmacher Institute, government-subsidized family planning services are provided at 8,409 health centers overall. Various state programs supplement Federal programs, and 28 states have their own mandates of contraceptive coverage as a matter of state law. For example, the Title X program, administered by the HHS Office of Population Affairs (OPA), provides voluntary family planning information and services for clients based on their ability to pay.

...

"The availability of such programs to serve the most at-risk women identified by IOM [Institute of Medicine, now known as the National Academy of Medicine] diminishes the Government's interest in applying the Mandate to objecting employers."

The implication here is that since there are already programs like Medicaid and Title X to help low-income women afford contraception, the requirement that most employers provide no-cost birth control is less pressing.

But there are a couple of glaring contradictions here: First of all, of the 8,409 health centers that provide Medicaid and Title X family planning services, as cited in the rule, 817 of them are run by Planned Parenthood—the very group that Congress and the administration are trying to exclude from using Title X and Medicaid funds to provide health care.

Trump has already signed a bill into law allowing states to exclude Planned Parenthood and other providers who offer abortions from receiving Title X family planning funding—never mind that Title X funding is used exclusively for nonabortion services. Beyond that, there are several more proposals moving through government—including in the House's American Health Care Act and in the Trump budget proposal—to withhold Medicaid and other federal dollars, including Title X, specifically from Planned Parenthood.

The problem with the White House's logic boils down to this: As the nation's largest provider of federal Title X-funded care, in 2015 Planned Parenthood centers served more than 40 percent of women nationwide using Title X-funded family planning care—a whopping 1.58 million patients. But if Planned Parenthood can no longer receive a single federal dollar to provide contraception and other family planning care—an oft-repeated goal of the Trump administration—then these nearly 1.6 million low-income patients will suddenly lose their family planning care. And now their employers may not cover that care either.

Hillary Clinton Is Out of Fucks

Environment & Health | Mother Jones - Wed, 05/31/2017 - 4:24pm

Hillary Clinton appeared at Recode Wednesday in conversation with founders Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, and to steal a headline from myself, she is out of fucks.

It was fascinating to watch. She didn't hold back. You can watch the full thing below or continue on for some highlights.

<br />

Here are some good bits, courtesy of the recode live blog:

On emails!!!

"The over riding issue that affected the election that I had any control over — because I had no control over the Russians. Too bad about that — was the use of my emails. The way that it was used was very damaging. The New York times covered it like Pearl harbor.

On Goldman Sachs speeches

"I have to say, Walt I never thought someone would throw out my entire career...because I made a couple of speeches…Men got paid for the speeches they made...I got paid for the speeches I made…I take responsibility for every decision I made, but that's not why I lost”

On the vast right-wing conspiracy
"What is hard for people to accept, although now after the election there's greater understanding, is that there are forces in our country...who have been fighting rear guard actions for as long as I've been alive…We were on a real roll as a country despite assassinations, despite setbacks, expanding rights to people who never had them in any country was frankly thrilling. I believe then as I believe now that we're never done with this work. Part of the challenge is to maintain the focus and energy to move forward but you have to understand the other side is never tired either."

On fake news
"Fake news...lies that's a good word too...The other side was using content that was just flat out false and delivering it in a very personalized way. Above the radar screen and below."

On the DNC

"I inherit nothing from the Democratic party. It was bankrupt. It was on the verge of insolvency. I had to inject money into the [DNC] for it to keep going."

On the RNC

"They raised...best estimates are close to $100 million...to build this data foundation. They beta tested it. They ran [hundreds of thousands of surveys]. Trump becomes the nominee and is [given] this tried and true...platform."

On Russia collusion
"I think it's fair to ask how did that actually influence the campaign and how did they know what messages to deliver. Who told them? Who were they coordinating with or colluding with?…The Russians in my opinion could not have known how best to weaponize that information unless they had been guided by Americans."

"Within one hour of the Access Hollywood tapes being leaked, the Russians or say Wikileaks—same thing—dumped the John Podesta emails. They were run of the mill emails. "Stuff that were so common. Within one hour they dumped them and then began to weaponize them. They had their allies like Infowars say the most outlandish, absurd lies you could imagine. They had to be ready for that."

On Putin

"It's important that Americans...understand that Putin wants to bring us down. He was an old KGB agent."

On Obama

"Barack Obama saved the economy and he doesn't get the credit he deserves, I have to say that [because people don't know that.]" Clinton re: democrats not investing in creating content.

 

This post is being updated.

Trump Wants to Let Your Boss Take Away Your Birth Control

Environment & Health | Mother Jones - Wed, 05/31/2017 - 2:14pm

The Trump administration is considering a broad exemption to Obamacare's mandate on contraceptive coverage, according to a leaked draft of the proposed rule published by Vox on Wednesday.

Since 2011, the Obamacare provision has required that most employers provide insurance that covers birth control, without any cost to the patient. The rule has been the target of a number of lawsuits by religious employers who felt that the requirement violated their religious beliefs. Showing sensitivity to such concerns, in 2014 the Supreme Court ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that some religious employers could opt out of the coverage. But the court required them to file paperwork indicating their objection, in turn triggering separate contraceptive coverage for employees provided directly by the insurance company. That ruling, though, didn't settle the issue for religious groups. In a follow-up 2016 Supreme Court case, Zubik v. Burwell, a number of religious organizations said that even this accommodation required them to violate their beliefs, as the paperwork made them complicit in providing birth control coverage. The Supreme Court sent the case down to the lower courts, where it has still not been resolved.

Now, the Trump administration seems ready to extend the birth control exemption beyond just religious employers. According to the leaked draft, dated May 23, the new rule would allow virtually any organization to opt out of the mandate if they feel contraception coverage violates "their religious beliefs and moral convictions."

"This rule would mean women across the country could be denied insurance coverage for birth control on a whim from their employer or university," said Dana Singiser, vice president for public policy and government relations of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a statement. "It would expand the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling to allow any employer—including huge, publicly traded companies—to deny birth control coverage to their employees. Think about it: Under this rule, bosses will be able to impose their personal beliefs on their female employees' private medical decisions."

What's more, this draft doesn't require employers opting out of the mandate to notify the government they are doing so; they're only required to notify employees of a change in their insurance plans. Insurance companies could also themselves refuse to cover contraception if it violates their religious or moral beliefs.

This appears to provide an even broader exemption than what team Trump has previously signaled it would enact. Throughout the campaign, Trump assured religious leaders their organizations would not have to comply with the contraception mandate: "I will make absolutely certain religious orders like the Little Sisters of the Poor are not bullied by the federal government because of their religious beliefs," he wrote in a letter to Catholic leaders last year, referring to the order of nuns that were party to the Zubik Supreme Court case. And on May 4, Trump, flanked by the Little Sisters of the Poor, signed an executive order about religious liberty, which encourages several agencies to address religious employers' objections to Obamacare's preventive care requirements, including contraception.

It is unclear what changes may have been made to this draft since May 23, but what is clear is that the rule is in an advanced stage of the process; the Office of Management and Budget announced that it is currently reviewing it, the penultimate step before the rule is enacted via posting in the Federal Register.

You can read the full draft, obtained by Vox, below:

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Preventive Services Final Rule (Text)

Nearly 8,000 New Voters Registered Ahead of Georgia Special Election

Environment & Health | Mother Jones - Wed, 05/31/2017 - 1:11pm

A last-minute push to register voters in Georgia's 6th Congressional District before the June 20 special election has resulted in nearly 8,000 new voters in the district as of Tuesday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. That's a big enough number to swing a close election, and polls thus far show the race within the margin of error. It's also an encouraging sign for Democrat Jon Ossoff, the insurgent candidate who topped the first round of voting in the solidly Republican district and is hoping that new voters can put him on top in the June 20 runoff.

The election between Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel has been widely portrayed as a test of the Democratic resistance to President Donald Trump. In the conservative district, Ossoff is trying to peel off Republican voters disenchanted with Trump, particularly white women. But in order to win, Ossoff also needs strong support from the Democratic base and new voters. So when a federal judge reopened voter registration in the district through May 21, groups that target young, poor, and minority voters rushed into the district to register eligible voters. The 7,942 new voters include new registrants and people who moved into the district after the primary and transferred their registration.

The district has more than 521,000 registered voters, so it's unclear whether another 7,942—or about 1.5 percent of that total—will make a difference. Ossoff fell 3,700 votes short of winning an outright majority in the primary on April 18. If the runoff remains a toss-up, these new voters could determine the winner.

A Federal Judge Slams Trump: "Even the 'Good Hombres' Are Not Safe"

Environment & Health | Mother Jones - Tue, 05/30/2017 - 6:19pm

Today, a federal appeals court judge in California rebuked the Trump administration for its zealous deportation policy and for "ripping apart a family." Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that he had no power to stop the removal of Andres Magana Ortiz, but nevertheless took the time to write a short opinion blasting his deportation as "inhumane."

"We are unable to prevent Magana Ortiz's removal, yet it is contrary to the values of this nation and its legal system," Reinhardt wrote in a six-page concurring opinion. "Indeed, the government's decision to remove Magana Ortiz diminishes not only our country but our courts, which are supposedly dedicated to the pursuit of justice…I concur as a judge, but as a citizen I do not."

As Reinhardt detailed in his opinion, Magana Ortiz came to the United States from Mexico 28 years ago, built a family and a career, and paid his taxes. His wife and three children are American citizens. His only legal transgressions were two DUIs, the last one 14 years ago. "[E]ven the government conceded during the immigration proceedings that there was no question as to Magana Ortiz's good moral character," Reinhardt noted. Nonetheless, in March the government decided to deny Magana Ortiz's application for a stay of removal while he applied for legal residency status, a process that is still underway, and moved to deport him to Mexico.

Reinhardt took particular aim at the fact, demonstrated repeatedly in the first months of Donald Trump's presidency, that the administration's immigration crackdown is not only targeting violent criminals. "President Trump has claimed that his immigration policies would target the 'bad hombres,'" he wrote. "The government's decision to remove Magana Ortiz shows that even the 'good hombres' are not safe. Magana Ortiz is by all accounts a pillar of his community and a devoted father and husband. It is difficult to see how the government's decision to expel him is consistent with the President's promise of an immigration system with 'a lot of heart.' I find no such compassion in the government's choice to deport Magana Ortiz."

Read the full opinion below.

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Darrell Issa Appears to Flee to Building Roof to Avoid Protesters

Environment & Health | Mother Jones - Tue, 05/30/2017 - 3:26pm

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) was seen taking refuge on the roof of his office building in Vista, California, Tuesday, taking photos of angry constituents who had gathered below to protest the congressman's voting record. The incident comes before a much-anticipated town hall meeting this Saturday at San Juan Hills High School, where the nine-term congressman is expected to face a hostile crowd because of his support for various Trump administration policies, including the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Democrat Mike Levin, an environmental lawyer who recently announced his bid to challenge Issa in 2018, shared an image of the congressman appearing to avoid demonstrators on social media, where it was roundly mocked.

Yes, this is really @DarrellIssa on the roof of his district office building. Too afraid to come speak with assembled constituents below. pic.twitter.com/wCYRjO8Ev8

— Mike Levin (@MikeLevinCA) May 30, 2017

Others saw his retreating to a rooftop as reminiscent of Michael Scott, Steve Carrell's character in The Office who memorably took to the roof in the episode titled "Safety Training."

Sean Spicer: I hid in the bushes to avoid people! No one can top that!
Darrell Issa: Hold my beer. https://t.co/txY2wpKBKI

— Lily Herman (@lkherman) May 30, 2017

@MikeLevinCA @DarrellIssa You have to treat him like Michael Scott and tell him you have a present for him if he comes down. pic.twitter.com/SBkznuHDZ1

— JeremiahOrtega (@jortega8) May 30, 2017

Issa, on the other hand, described his trip to the roof a bit differently. Shortly after the criticism, he took to Twitter to offer this narrative. We recommend zooming in to take a closer look at the signs:

Spent the morning talking with constituents gathered outside the office today, then popped upstairs to take a quick pic! pic.twitter.com/K2CFdenOIj

— Darrell Issa (@DarrellIssa) May 30, 2017

For more on Levin and the fight to defeat Issa, the richest man in Congress, head to our profile here.

The Police Officer Who Killed 12-Year-Old Tamir Rice Has Been Fired

Environment & Health | Mother Jones - Tue, 05/30/2017 - 3:20pm

The police officer who fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice in a Cleveland park in November 2014 has been fired, Cleveland's police chief said at a press conference on Tuesday. The decision comes two and a half years after Rice was killed. Officer Timothy Loehmann was fired not for shooting Rice but for lying on his job application about his disciplinary record at a previous police department, according to the termination documents. (Another officer who had been on the scene of the shooting was suspended for 10 days.)

Loehmann, who started working for the Cleveland Police Department in early 2014, failed to disclose that although he voluntarily left his job at another department, he was allowed to resign after a series of incidents in which supervisors deemed him unfit for duty, according to Cleveland.com. He also did not disclose that he had failed a written exam for employment at a second police department.

Loehmann shot Rice after he and his partner responded to a 911 call about a person in a park waving a gun. His death became an early touchstone for the Black Lives Matter movement. Video of the shooting showed that Loehmann shot the child, who was holding a toy pellet gun, within two seconds of arriving on the scene. A grand jury declined to charge the officers involved.

A dispatcher who took the initial 911 call was suspended in March for failing to tell the responding officers that the caller had said the person with the gun might be a juvenile and that the gun could be fake. A June 2015 Mother Jones investigation revealed how that failure contributed to the child's  death.

Reuters: Jared Kushner Had Undisclosed Contact With Russian Envoy, Say Sources

Environment & Health | Mother Jones - Fri, 05/26/2017 - 9:10pm

By Ned Parker and Jonathan Landay

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser, Jared Kushner, had at least three previously undisclosed contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States during and after the 2016 presidential campaign, seven current and former U.S. officials told Reuters.

    Those contacts included two phone calls between April and November last year, two of the sources said. By early this year, Kushner had become a focus of the FBI investigation into whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, said two other sources - one current and one former law enforcement official.

Kushner initially had come to the attention of FBI investigators last year as they began scrutinizing former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s connections with Russian officials, the two sources said.

    While the FBI is investigating Kushner’s contacts with Russia, he is not currently a target of that investigation, the current law enforcement official said.

The new information about the two calls as well as other details uncovered by Reuters shed light on when and why Kushner first attracted FBI attention and show that his contacts with Russian envoy Sergei Kislyak were more extensive than the White House has acknowledged.

    NBC News reported on Thursday that Kushner was under scrutiny by the FBI, in the first sign that the investigation, which began last July, has reached the president’s inner circle.  

    The FBI declined to comment, while the Russian embassy said it was policy not to comment on individual diplomatic contacts. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Multiple attempts to obtain comment from Kushner or his representatives were unsuccessful.

In March, the White House said that Kushner and Flynn had met Kislyak at Trump Tower in December to establish “a line of communication.” Kislyak also attended a Trump campaign speech in Washington in April 2016 that Kushner attended. The White House did not acknowledge any other contacts between Kushner and Russian officials.

 

BACK CHANNEL

Before the election, Kislyak’s undisclosed discussions with Kushner and Flynn focused on fighting terrorism and improving U.S.-Russian economic relations, six of the sources said. Former President Barack Obama imposed sanctions on Russia after it seized Crimea and started supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014.

After the Nov. 8 election, Kushner and Flynn also discussed with Kislyak the idea of creating a back channel between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin that could have bypassed diplomats and intelligence agencies, two of the sources said. Reuters was unable to determine how those discussions were conducted or exactly when they took place.

Reuters was first to report last week that a proposal for a back channel was discussed between Flynn and Kislyak as Trump prepared to take office. The Washington Post was first to report on Friday that Kushner participated in that conversation.

Separately, there were at least 18 undisclosed calls and emails between Trump associates and Kremlin-linked people in the seven months before the Nov. 8 presidential election, including six calls with Kislyak, sources told Reuters earlier this month. . Two people familiar with those 18 contacts said Flynn and Kushner were among the Trump associates who spoke to the ambassador by telephone. Reuters previously reported only Flynn’s involvement in those discussions.

Six of the sources said there were multiple contacts between Kushner and Kislyak but declined to give details beyond the two phone calls between April and November and the post-election conversation about setting up a back channel. It is also not clear whether Kushner engaged with Kislyak on his own or with other Trump aides.

 

HOW KUSHNER CAME UNDER SCRUTINY

    FBI scrutiny of Kushner began when intelligence reports of Flynn’s contacts with Russians included mentions of U.S. citizens, whose names were redacted because of U.S. privacy laws. This prompted investigators to ask U.S. intelligence agencies to reveal the names of the Americans, the current U.S. law enforcement official said.

Kushner’s was one of the names that was revealed, the official said, prompting a closer look at the president’s son-in-law’s dealings with Kislyak and other Russians.

    FBI investigators are examining whether Russians suggested to Kushner or other Trump aides that relaxing economic sanctions would allow Russian banks to offer financing to people with ties to Trump, said the current U.S. law enforcement official.

    The head of Russian state-owned Vnesheconombank, Sergei Nikolaevich Gorkov, a trained intelligence officer whom Putin appointed, met Kushner at Trump Tower in December. The bank is under U.S. sanctions and was implicated in a 2015 espionage case in which one of its New York executives pleaded guilty to spying and was jailed.

The bank said in a statement in March that it had met with Kushner along with other representatives of U.S. banks and business as part of preparing a new corporate strategy.

    Officials familiar with intelligence on contacts between the Russians and Trump advisers said that so far they have not seen evidence of any wrongdoing or collusion between the Trump camp and the Kremlin.  Moreover, they said, nothing found so far indicates that Trump authorized, or was even aware of, the contacts.

    There may not have been anything improper about the contacts, the current law enforcement official stressed.

    Kushner offered in March to be interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is also investigating Russia’s attempts to interfere in last year’s election.

The contacts between Trump campaign associates and Russian officials during the presidential campaign coincided with what U.S. intelligence agencies concluded was a Kremlin effort through computer hacking, fake news and propaganda to boost Trump’s chances of winning the White House and damage his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

 

 (Reporting by Ned Parker and Jonathan Landay; Additional reporting by John Walcott, Warren Strobel and Phil Stewart in Washington; Editing by Kevin Krolicki and Ross Colvin)

 

The Washington Post Just Published an Explosive Report About Jared Kushner and Russia

Environment & Health | Mother Jones - Fri, 05/26/2017 - 7:30pm

Shoes continue to drop in the investigation into the Trump campaign's possible connections to Russia. Yesterday, speculation that the FBI was looking into the Trump family was confirmed by reports that Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior advisor, is under scrutiny. More details are emerging about the investigation.

Enter the Washington Post:

Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.

Ambassador Sergei Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, then President-elect Trump’s son-in-law and confidant, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.

The meeting also was attended by Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser.

This story hasn't been confirmed by other publications, so take it with the weight of a single report based on anonymous sources, but having said that: Yikes.

Go read the whole thing.

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