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Schumer To Republicans On Obamacare Repeal: You Break It, You Own It

  • This is what Chuck Schumer needs to keep saying, and what Mitch McConnell needs to hear: Democrats aren't going to do anything to mitigate the disaster Republicans are going to create by repealing Obamacare.
  • The emerging GOP plan to repeal Obamacare on a delayed schedule—and then maybe kinda sorta replace it later—has raised a big question: Will Democrats help Republicans pass a replacement that is far less generous and comprehensive than the health law is, allowing Republicans an escape from the political fallout from repeal?
  • In an interview with me, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer answered this question with a resounding No.
  • "We're not going to do a replacement," Schumer said of the Senate Democratic caucus.
rss@dailykos.com (Joan McCarter) / Daily Kos | December 7, 2016, 8:41 pm

<i>The Atlantic </i> Politics & Policy Daily: Trump Wrestles With Remaining Cabinet Picks

Today in 5 Lines

Donald Trump chose Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad to serve as ambassador to China, and WWE co-founder Linda McMahon to lead the Small Business Administration. The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved the 21st Century Cures Act, a $6.3 billion medical research package that includes FDA reforms, as well as funding to combat the opioid epidemic and for Vice President Joe Biden’s “cancer moonshot” initiative. The death penalty trial began for Dylann Roof, the 22-year-old charged with killing nine people in a Charleston, South Carolina, church in 2015. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said two minors were charged with arson in connection with the wildfires that killed 14 people last week. At least 97 people were killed in a 6.5-magnitude earthquake in Indonesia’s Aceh province.


Today on The Atlantic

  • An Uncertain Future: The United States has seen periods of conflict and change, but the outcome of the 2016 presidential race is a unique moment that highlights a conflicting mix of hope and despair among voters. (James Fallows)

  • In the Hot Seat: Whether Donald Trump’s team will address climate change is unclear, but the U.S. counties that are likely to see the most devastating environmental effects are the ones that overwhelmingly voted for the president-elect. (Alex Wagner) 

  • Don’t Be Fooled: Trump met with Al Gore about climate change this week and seemingly softened his position on torture in a New York Times interview last month. But this may not reflect a significant change, David A. Graham warns, because “the Trump pivot is the Bigfoot of politics in 2016: often spotted, never verified.”

Follow stories throughout the day with our Politics & Policy portal.


Snapshot

People visit a makeshift memorial near the site of a warehouse fire in Oakland, California. Eric Risberg / AP


What We’re Reading

Who Else?: Donald Trump, the man who rallied the working-class masses to victory in November and whose campaign inspired “new levels of anger and fear” in America, is Time’s “Person of the Year.” (Michael Scherer)

The In-Between: Low-income Americans have generally benefitted most from the Affordable Care Act, but in some states, the poorest residents are excluded from coverage for political reasons. Here’s what life is like in the “dead zone.” (Inara Verzemnieks, The New York Times Magazine)

Great Minds?: In his short time as president-elect, Donald Trump has arranged a business deal to protect American workers, advocated for a massive infrastructure package, and criticized the cost of new presidential aircraft—just like President Obama did in 2009. (Blake Hounshell and Daniel Lippman, Politico)

A City Under Water: A project between ProPublica and The Texas Tribune shows how climate change puts Houston at risk of torrential rainfall and flooding, leaving local officials scrambling to prepare for the next storm. (Neena Satija, Kiah Collier, and Al Shaw)

Covering America: NPR’s Asma Khalid recounts her experiences while reporting on the intersection of demographics and politics in a contentious election year as a Muslim woman.


Visualized

Flying With Trump: New York Times photographer Doug Mills shares photos from his time traveling with President-elect Donald Trump. See the images here.


Question of the Week

Last week, President Obama lit the National Christmas tree for the final time—less than a month after pardoning his last turkey. For the next four years, it will be Donald Trump’s turn to carry on the many White House traditions. Which presidential tradition is your favorite—and why?

Send your answers to hello@theatlantic.com, and our favorites will be featured in Friday’s Politics & Policy Daily.

-Written by Elaine Godfrey (@elainejgodfrey) and Candice Norwood (@cjnorwoodwrites)

<meta Charset="utf-8"><em>New York Times</em>: Alleged Pizzagate Gunman Listens To Trump Ally And Conspiracy Theorists Alex Jones

  • The New York Times interviewed Edgar Welch, the alleged armed gunman who went to Washington, D.C’s Comet Ping-Pong pizzeria in a self-described attempt to investigate the false “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory repeatedly pushed by Donald Trump ally and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
  • Jones has been described as “more responsible than any other person for the spread of ‘Pizzagate,’” and has bragged about his private conversations with Trump and their close ideological beliefs.
  • He said he did not believe in conspiracy theories, but then added that the Sept.
Media Matters for America / Media Matters | December 7, 2016, 7:12 pm

Tell Donald Trump To Take His Damn Intelligence Briefing

  • TIME magazine just revealed that Donald Trump is still refusing to attend his highly-classified daily intelligence briefings that every President-elects receives in order to prepare him to be ready to defend the country on day one.
  • Please sign the petition below — or on this page — and join us in demanding that Donald Trump attend these vitally-important briefings.
  • The President-elect receives the same daily spy briefing that the President himself receives.
  • Donald Trump, unlike his predecessors, is refusing to regularly attend the briefings.
John Aravosis / AMERICAblog | December 7, 2016, 5:41 pm

House Democrats Call For Bipartisan Commission To Investigate Hacking

  • Yet the headline writers at Politico somehow think that Democrats “waved the white flag.” Completely wrong.
  • If emails that didn’t leave the personal server of an acting cabinet official are worth years of investigation, shouldn’t an effort to hack not just emails but the outcome of the election be worth checking out?
  • Two House Democrats called Wednesday for the creation of a bipartisan national commission — modeled after the one that investigated the Sept.
  • However, just because something seems reasonable doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.
rss@dailykos.com (Mark Sumner) / Daily Kos | December 7, 2016, 5:36 pm

Did Jeff Sessions Champion Desegregation?

Civil-rights organizations balked when Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, who was rejected for a federal judgeship in 1986 over allegations he made racist remarks, was chosen to succeed Loretta Lynch as attorney general. Sessions’s allies have sought to portray those criticisms as unfair, in part by pointing to his record of filing desegregation lawsuits as U.S. attorney in Alabama.

Sessions himself claims to have been a champion of desegregation. “I filed 20 or 30 civil-rights cases to desegregate schools and political organizations and county commissions when I was a United States attorney,” Sessions told National Review in 2009. Trump spokesman Jason Miller offered a similar claim in November, telling reporters on a conference call that “when Senator Sessions was U.S. attorney, he filed a number of desegregation lawsuits in Alabama.” Miller’s claim about his record has been reported by outlets including Politico, Wired, and The Washington Times. Conservative outlets have dismissed the questioning of his civil-rights record as "another in a long line of liberal smears" against a principled conservative, in part by citing his record on school desegregation.

The Atlantic could not find evidence Sessions filed any new school desegregation lawsuits. Searches of the legal databases Westlaw and PACER found no evidence that any new school-desegregation lawsuits were filed in Alabama’s Southern District by Sessions between 1981, when Sessions became U.S. attorney in Alabama, and 1995, when he became Alabama attorney general, though it is possible that the records exist but are not in those databases. The Atlantic could find no reference to the claim in the transcripts of his 1986 confirmation hearing.

Former Justice Department officials and civil-rights experts expressed puzzlement when asked about the claim, in part because nearly every school in Alabama was under desegregation orders by the 1970s, years before Sessions became U.S. attorney. Several historians and legal experts who focus on desegregation said they were also unaware of any new school desegregation cases  in Alabama filed during that period, let alone by Sessions.

In 1967, despite massive resistance by Governor George Wallace and later his wife and successor Lurleen Wallace, the Supreme Court upheld a statewide school-desegregation plan in put forth in Lee v. Macon County Board of Education––many schools in Alabama still remain under desegregation orders. In 1971, in Davis v. Board of School Commissioners of Mobile County, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Mobile, which is in the Southern District, had not developed an adequate desegregation plan. That case, filed in 1963, lasted until 1997. Two higher-education desegregation cases were filed in the 1980s, but they were outside of the Southern District.

“I'm not aware of any new school desegregation cases filed 1981 to 1993,” said James Blacksher, a longtime civil-rights attorney in Alabama who was the lead counsel on the Davis case. “Most pleadings filed by the government usually listed the [U.S. attorney] as local counsel, even though they did not actively participate.”

After 1981, when Sessions became U.S. attorney, his name could well have been on filings related to the Lee or Davis cases––Sessions’s office provided The Atlantic with one such filing. But those filings would most likely have been prepared by the Justice Department’s civil rights division in Washington, D.C., not the U.S. attorney’s office in the district under a desegregation order. Several current and former civil rights division lawyers told The Atlantic it would be unusual for any desegregation case to be filed by a U.S. attorney rather than the civil rights division––but it would be standard procedure for a U.S. attorney’s name to be on a particular filing.

That seems more consistent with the way that Sessions himself characterized his record in a separate 2009 interview, with National Journal:

I signed 10 pleadings attacking segregation or the remnants of segregation, where we as part of the Department of Justice, we sought desegregation remedies—the takeover of school systems, redrawing lines—all those things that I was allowed to participate in supporting.

Asked about Sessions’s 2009 claim in National Review, the Trump transition team offered a list of Sessions’s “top civil rights enforcement cases.” That list included 10 filings in four separate cases, three of them voting-rights cases and one in the ongoing Davis school desegregation case in 1986. But the list raises additional questions.

The list states that Sessions “brought the first anti voter suppression lawsuit in the history of the Department of Justice,” in the 1983 case U.S. v. Conecuh County, when “Sessions sued white Conecuh County election officials, including the Chair of the local Republican Party.”

Sessions is indeed listed on the filing. But John Tanner, a former Bush-era Justice Department appointee and the main attorney on that case, said that while he discussed the case with Sessions, who seemed “interested” and “supportive,” most of the work was done out of the civil rights division. Not every Southern U.S. attorney was cooperative with the civil rights division in that era, but Sessions was.

“We conduct our own investigations, we worked out of the office, the U.S. attorney’s offices sometimes send someone in to introduce the D.C. attorney to the court as a courtesy,” Tanner said. “On that one most of the fact gathering was from having federal observers present, and that is an operation that’s run out of D.C.”

Sessions is also listed on filings in the U.S. v. Dallas County Commission voting rights case, because it took place in his district. But Gerald Hebert, who was the lead civil rights division attorney on that case, said Sessions had little to do with the case itself. The case was a challenge to the county’s at-large method of electing members to the county board of education, contending that it violated black voters’ rights.

“He never filed anything in the Dallas County case that he wrote,” said Hebert, now with the Campaign Legal Center. “Usually, the civil rights division filed the briefs and wrote them. His name would have been included in the CRD draft, which is standard operating procedure.” During his 1986 confirmation hearing, Hebert testified that Sessions had described the ACLU and NAACP as “un-American” and called a white civil-rights attorney “a traitor to his race,” claims that Sessions denied.

Joe Rich, a former civil rights division attorney on the Davis school desegregation case who is now at the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights, is listed on the Davis filing that includes Sessions’s name. He said he did not recall the Alabama senator being a big part of the case.  

“My recollection is that Sessions had very little to do with it,” said Rich. “He was the U.S. attorney, he was probably on the pleading, but I don’t remember him playing a major role in it.”

Reached by email, the attorney for the Justice Department listed on the fourth case, a voting-rights case related to Dallas called U.S. v Marengo County Commission, declined to speak to The Atlantic.

Asked about the discrepancies between Sessions’s 2009 claim to have “filed 20 or 30 civil-rights cases” and the available public documents, the Trump transition team cited Sessions’s other claim, to have “signed 10 pleadings attacking segregation or the remnants of segregation.”

Sessions claimed however, to have “filed 20 to 30” desegregation cases, and Miller likewise said he had  “filed a number a desegregation lawsuits in Alabama.” They did not claim he placed his name on work prepared by the civil rights division, or that he had a small part in ongoing desegregation cases that were filed decades before. And in three of the four examples the transition team offered of Sessions’s “top civil rights enforcement cases” to support the more modest claims regarding his record, attorneys who worked on those cases said they did not recall Sessions playing a major role.

“All this shows is that Sessions didn't completely refuse to participate in or have his name on pleadings in cases that the civil rights division brought during his tenure. But nobody, to my knowledge, has ever made such a claim about him,” said Samuel Bagenstos, a professor at Michigan Law and the former number-two official in the civil rights division under Obama. "These four cases are awfully weak evidence of Sessions's supposed commitment to civil rights … if this is what they can come up with, it's pretty unimpressive."

The question looming over Sessions’s nomination isn’t just about his personal views on race, but whether he believes in vigorous enforcement of federal civil-rights laws, and whether as attorney general, he would see them enforced. In response, Sessions’s defenders have pointed to his record on desegregation. But on closer inspection, that record seems to raise more questions than it answers.

Reports Show Trump May Have Had Little To Do With SoftBank Deal He Took Credit For

  • Trump announces that Masayoshi Son, CEO of SoftBank, has agreed to invest $50 billion in U.S., create 50K new jobs.
  • DONALD TRUMP: Ladies and gentlemen, this is Masa, of SoftBank from Japan, and he's just agreed to invest $50 billion in the United States and 50,000 jobs.
  • WSJ: SoftBank CEO Confirms Investments Will Come From Existing Fund That Predates Trump.
  • The telecom mogul, who made his fortune in Japan with SoftBank GroupCorp., announced his investment plans in the lobby of Trump Tower, though he didn’t provide details.
Media Matters for America / Media Matters | December 7, 2016, 4:11 pm

In Political Prosecution, Palestinian American Activist Rasmea Odeh Granted New Trial

  • Deutsch added, “We’re hopeful that the jury will see the whole background and status of her situation and be more open to understanding that she did not intentionally lie when she obtained her naturalization.”
  • Nesreen Hasan, who is a lead organizer with the Rasmea Defense Committee and its parent organization, the United States Palestinian Community Network (USPCN), reacted, “The government has gone to great lengths to cover up the details of Israel’s torture and crimes against this mentor of mine and of so many others—this Palestinian icon.
  • Odeh is a 68-year-old associate director of the Arab American Action Network (AAAN) in Chicago.
  • Just over 45 years ago, she was arrested and subjected to torture by Israeli security forces.
Kevin Gosztola / Shadowproof | December 7, 2016, 3:28 pm

Another General In Trump’s Cabinet

  • Donald Trump has named another retired General to his Cabinet, this time it’s retired Marine General John Kelly, who Trump has chosen to be the next Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security:
  • Kelly, 66, is a widely respected military officer who served for more than 40 years, and he is not expected to face difficulty winning Senate confirmation.
  • Yet Kelly’s nomination could raise questions about what critics see as Trump’s tendency to surround himself with too many military figures.
  • Kelly, a Boston native, was chosen over an array of other candidates who also met with Trump after his surprise election victory last month.
Doug Mataconis / Outside The Beltway | December 7, 2016, 3:16 pm

Time's Person Of The Year: Der Pumpkinfuhrer

  • That's at least two more chins than are strictly necessary on a human being.
  • If you're going to pick a Person of the Year, and the year you're stuck with is garbage pile known as 2016, you only have two choices.
  • Time Magazine doesn't have the budget for a nationwide stump search, so here we are.
  • Trump himself reacted precisely as you would expect him to react, by praising Time as a very important magazine and declaring it a great honor despite the offense of Time calling him, on the cover, President of the Divided States of America.
rss@dailykos.com (Hunter) / Daily Kos | December 7, 2016, 2:31 pm

Pentagon Says $125 Billion Waste Report Not Suppressed

  • Ironically, it appears an agency still unable to complete a legally required audit is being transparent on this one issue.
  • The report [PDF], currently online, recommends the Pentagon cut spending by $125 billion over five years.
  • Nowhere in the report is there a recommendation to cut costly and pointless projects like the F-35 or the corrupt revolving door that makes such projects possible.
  • Though the report was not suppressed as the Washington Post reported, it looks as though it was mostly a waste of time.
Dan Wright / Shadowproof | December 7, 2016, 1:26 pm

There's Still No Trump Pivot

The Trump pivot is the Bigfoot of politics in 2016: often spotted, never verified. Yet despite warnings—from Mark Leibovich, from S.E. Cupp, from Jonathan Chait—the temptation to stake a claim as the genuine discoverer of the mythical Trump pivot remains powerful.

Now there’s another chance. Here’s Trump, meeting with Al Gore. Here’s Trump, saying maybe torture isn’t a tremendous idea. Here’s Trump, telling Time that he wants to find an accommodation for DREAMers, the unauthorized immigrants brought here as children and raised in the United States.

So with an eye toward recent history, here’s some advice: Don’t be tempted.

Take the Gore meeting. There’s no good way to know what motivated the summit, which was arranged by Ivanka Trump. Gore gave a tight-lipped statement when he emerged. Whatever the point of the meeting, as Robinson Meyer notes, the balance of Trump’s statements and his concrete actions on climate change point in a clear direction. There are his repeated claims that climate change is a Chinese hoax, and there is his appointment of Myron Ebell, an outright denier of global warming, to head his EPA transition team.

What about the torture question? This one came out of Trump’s interview at The New York Times, but it’s actually much less than has been reported. Trump was asked whether he still supported torture, and he described a meeting with General James Mattis, who he on Tuesday nominated as secretary of defense. Here’s the transcript:

I said, what do you think of waterboarding? He said—I was surprised—he said, ‘I’ve never found it to be useful.’ He said, ‘I’ve always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture.’ And I was very impressed by that answer. I was surprised, because he’s known as being like the toughest guy. And when he said that, I’m not saying it changed my mind. Look, we have people that are chopping off heads and drowning people in steel cages and we’re not allowed to waterboard. But I’ll tell you what, I was impressed by that answer. It certainly does not—it’s not going to make the kind of a difference that maybe a lot of people think. If it’s so important to the American people, I would go for it.

In other words, he’s not really backing off. To summarize, Trump now thinks maybe torture doesn’t work, but he hasn’t changed his mind and will happily yield to his interpretation of political exigency. Of course, why might some Americans think torture was effective? It could be because the man who won the presidential election spent months saying things like, “Torture works, okay folks? … Believe me, it works.”

Trump’s comments about DREAMers came in an interview for an award you should otherwise ignore.“We’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud,” Trump told Michael Scherer, with typical vagueness. “They got brought here at a very young age, they’ve worked here, they’ve gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they’re in never-never land because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”

That last phrase is marvelously disingenuous: They don’t know what’s going to happen because Trump has promised to withdraw executive orders, put in place by President Obama, that settled their status.

Despite making his hardline immigration stance the centerpiece of his campaign, Trump has floated this kind of softening before. In late August, he seemed unsure of his own stance, suggesting he might be open to allowing some unauthorized immigrants to remain. Several days later, after harsh backlash, he reversed course and re-adopted his old position: Throw ’em all out.

Since his election, Trump has offered more conflicting stances. On immigration issues, Trump has met with Kris Kobach, a hardliner who is Kansas secretary of state. But allowing DREAMers to stay might actually be one area where Trump will follow through. The reason is not that there’s proof of a change of heart; his August episode suggests he’s never been totally decided. Rather, that’s because it has always seem unlikely he would really follow through on deporting all unauthorized immigrants. Doing so would be extremely expensive, logistically nearly impossible, and politically unpopular.

There are a few possibilities that seem more likely than a pivot on Trump’s part. One is his oft-noted tendency to parrot whatever the last thing he’s heard is, as in the case of Mattis criticizing torture. Another is that he is happy to sow uncertainty, taking both sides of an issue in order to appear more open and flexible than he is. One lesson he must have learned from the campaign is that there’s seldom any penalty when he flatly contradicts himself and his former, or even contemporary, statements.

Meanwhile, his Cabinet picks so far suggest little in the way of a pivot. As David McIntosh, the president of the Club for Growth, told Politico, it is “the most conservative since Reagan.” Appointments include Senator Jeff Sessions, a longtime backer and adviser, as attorney general; Ben Carson, who has no experience in housing or policy, as secretary of housing and urban development; Michael Flynn, a proud Islamophobe, as national security adviser; and Representative Tom Price, a strongly conservative critic of health-care reform, as secretary of health and human services. Several spots remain open, including secretary of state, which could head in a radical direction (e.g., Rudy Giuliani) or a much more mainstream one (e.g., David Petraeus).

Trump’s appointments of Steven Mnuchin as secretary of the treasury and Wilbur Ross as secretary of commerce, as well as meetings with Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn, reportedly about the Office of Management and Budget, have raised eyebrows and some hackles among Trump supporters, but they should come as little surprise to anyone who followed the campaign; Ross was a top backer and adviser, and Mnuchin told BusinessWeek more or less outright in August that he would have a spot in Trump’s cabinet.

With the exception of Flynn, Trump’s appointments of and meetings with generals have suggested a pivot to some observers. In addition to his meetings with Petraeus, Trump has named retired General James Mattis as secretary of defense and General James Kelly as secretary of homeland security. But to view these as softening is to view them along the wrong axis. They may be surprisingly experienced and competent, especially compared to some of other nominees and rumored candidates, but both of them take hard lines on key issues.

Trump’s presidential campaign provided ample proof that not only was he not going to pivot, but he didn’t need to do so to be politically successful. Unless and until he starts experiencing some political setbacks, why would he do so now? Bigfoot still isn’t real.

Weather Channel Meteorologist Calls Out Breitbart: “Please Stop Using Our Video To Mislead Americans” On Climate Change

  • The Weather Channel criticized Breitbart.com for falsely claiming that global warming temperatures have “plunged,” describing a Breitbart article as “a prime example of cherrying picking” data and pointing out that Breitbart denied the findings of “thousands of researchers and scientific societies.”
  • In a video accompanying a December 6 article, Weather Channel meteorologist Kait Parker explained to Breitbart, “Science doesn’t care about your opinion.
  • The Weather Channel video and article roundly debunked the false and misleading claims in the November 30 Breitbart article by James Delingpole.
  • Here is the video and full transcript of Parker’s comments (which are well worth watching):
Media Matters for America / Media Matters | December 7, 2016, 12:56 pm

Donald Trump Is Time’s ‘Person Of The Year’

  • In what may be the least surprising decision of the year, Donald Trump was named Time Magazine’s ‘Person Of The Year’:
  • Donald Trump is Time’s person of the year for 2016, the magazine’s editor announced Wednesday morning on NBC’s “Today” show.
  • “When have we ever seen a single individual who has so defied expectations, broken the rules, violated norms, beaten not one but two political parties on the way to winning an election that he entered with 100-1 odds against him,” Time managing editor Nancy Gibbs said.
  • Gibbs said 2016 “may have been one of the more straightforward years” in terms of selecting a person of the year, with Trump the obvious choice.
Doug Mataconis / Outside The Beltway | December 7, 2016, 12:13 pm