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Montana Republican Candidate Allegedly "Bodyslammed" Guardian Reporter on Eve of Election
May 24th, 2017, 07:14 PM

Montana Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte allegedly assaulted a reporter at a campaign event in Bozeman on Wednesday evening, one day before voters go to the polls to fill the seat vacated in March by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. The reporter, Ben Jacobs of the Guardian, had previously broken a major story about Gianforte's investments in Russian companies.

Jacobs broke the news of the alleged assault on Twitter. Alexis Levinson, a reporter for BuzzFeed News, immediately confirmed parts of his account in a series of tweets, describing "a loud crash" followed by Jacobs' feet flying through the air, and not long after, the arrival of Gallatin County sheriff deputies on the scene.

According to audio of the encounter posted by the Guardian, Gianforte's outburst came after Jacobs asked him about the Congressional Budget Office's analysis of the GOP health care bill, which Gianforte had previously signaled he was supportive of. "I am sick and tired of you guys!," Gianforte can be heard shouting. "The last guy who came in here did the same thing. Get the hell out of here!"

In a statement, a Gianforte spokesman blamed Jacobs for the incident, asserting that Jacobs was responsible for "pushing them both to the ground."

You can listen to audio of the incident posted by the Guardian here:

Gianforte has led in public polling against Democrat Rob Quist, a country music star who has the support of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. But the race has tightened in recent weeks, and both parties have invested heavily in advertising. Donald Trump Jr., the president's son, traveled to the state to round up support for Gianforte, and Vice President Mike Pence recorded a robo-call to help get out the vote. Although the state is reliably Republican in presidential contests, the at-large seat is seen as a possible opportunity for Democrats to chip away at the GOP's House majority and make a major electoral statement six months after their November catastrophe.

The alleged assault could give Quist a boost, but thanks to the way Montana elections work, it might be a small one. Because of the state's generous vote-by-mail law, 250,000 people—a large percentage of the voting population—already cast their votes before Wednesday's news.

The US Lost Track of a Billion Dollars Worth of Weapons in Iraq—Again
May 24th, 2017, 07:14 PM

In June 2014, Iraqi forces dropped their weapons, shed their uniforms, and abandoned their posts as ISIS militants stormed into and captured Mosul. More than a year later, the United States began funneling $1.6 billion worth of new weaponry and other support to the beleaguered Iraqi army. The arsenal included tens of thousands of assault rifles, hundreds of armored vehicles, hundreds of mortar rounds, nearly 200 sniper rifles, and other gear.

What happened to much of it is now a mystery. According to a government audit obtained by Amnesty International, the US Army admits that it failed to accurately track this recent infusion of arms and other military supplies.

The now-declassified Department of Defense audit, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, reveals that efforts to keep track of weapons being sent to Iraq have been plagued by sloppy, fragmented, and inaccurate record keeping. The audit concluded that the Army unit in charge of transferring materiel to the Iraqi government "could not provide complete data for the quantity and dollar value of equipment on hand"—including large items such as vehicles.

This is not a new development. "If you do look back at previous audits, almost word for word, you get the same recommendations about the fact that they can't centralize records, they've got records spread across different spreadsheets, it's very difficult for them to locate weapons as they pass down the chain," says Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty International's arms control and human rights researcher. He notes that some Iraqi supply records are hand-written paper receipts.

The problem predates the current conflict by more than a decade. In 2007, the Government Accountability Office found that the United States could not account for nearly 30 percent of the weapons it had distributed in Iraq since 2004—about 200,000 guns. The situation does not appear to have improved much since then. In 2015, the Pentagon's inspector general reported that the Iraqi army relies on "a manual, paper-based system for tracking supplies and equipment." Even US and Iraqi personnel supervising arms depots did not know where specific weapons were supposed to be. Last year, Commander Elissa Smith, a Defense Department spokeswoman, told Mother Jones, "The bottom line is that the US military does not have a means to track equipment that has been taken from the government of Iraq by" ISIS.

Department of Defense

The most recent audit notes that the Army couldn't even tell whether certain equipment was in Kuwait or Iraq. It also claims that once military gear is transferred to the Iraqis, "it is no longer U.S. Government property" and the Pentagon "is relieved of responsibility to account for the equipment." The Pentagon's Golden Sentry program, however, requires that military supplies sent to foreign governments must be checked after delivery to ensure they are being used properly.

US-manufactured and supplied weapons in Iraq have made their way into the hands of ISIS fighters as well as paramilitary militias such as the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Units that have carried out summary executions, torture, and disappearances. Some of those militias have officially been incorporated into the Iraqi military. "This has been a constant feature of the Middle East and arms transfers," Wilcken says. "Weapons go in, and maybe they serve their purpose for a short time, and then they come back to bite the suppliers. In Iraq, the weapons are not just spreading out into armed groups operating in Iraq but filtering back into the Syrian conflict as well."

"There is a critical security situation in Iraq," says Wilcken. Yet he says that funneling weapons into the country without effective monitoring fuels arms proliferation as well as human rights violations throughout the region. "If the [the United States is] investing billions of dollars in equipment, training, and assistance to the Iraqi army but not spending a little extra to ensure that this can lead to a long-term sustainable security solution, then that's a distortion of their investments. They should be doubling down on securing arms supplies and checking that they're not being handed out to serial violators."

Watch Betsy DeVos Dodge Questions About How She’d Deal With Private Schools That Discriminate
May 24th, 2017, 07:14 PM

In her first appearance before Congress since her contentious confirmation hearing in January, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos refused to say whether she would step in to withhold federal funding from private schools that discriminate against LGBT students.

Speaking before the House appropriations subcommittee Wednesday to defend the administration's proposal to cut $10.6 billion from the education department's budget, DeVos pushed her familiar school choice message, arguing that states should be left to create their own voucher programs and that parents should be able to pick schools that can best serve their children.

But she quickly faced pushback from the subcommittee's Democratic members. Rep. Katharine Clark (D-Mass.) asked DeVos if she could think of a "situation of discrimination or exclusion that, if a state approved it for its voucher program, that you would step in and say, 'That's not how we're going to use our federal dollars'?" Clark pointed to Indiana's Lighthouse Christian Academy, where students could be denied admission if they come from homes that violate biblical lifestyle standards—anything from "homosexual or bisexual activity" to "practicing alternate gender identity."

"We have to do something different than continuing a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach," DeVos responded. "States and local communities are best equipped to make decisions and framework on behalf of their students."

Later, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said it was "appalling and sad" that the federal government would step away from its responsibility to protect students from discrimination. DeVos clarified that the education department would continue to investigate allegations of discrimination, despite the proposed $1.7 million cut to the department's Office of Civil Rights. "I want to be very clear: I am not in any way suggesting that students should not be protected and should not be in the safe and secure and nurturing learning environment," she said.

Watch the full exchange below:

Paul Ryan Says the GOP Health Bill Will Lower Premiums. That's Very Misleading.
May 24th, 2017, 07:14 PM

The Congressional Budget Office delivered brutal news to House Republicans on Wednesday. Their health care bill will cost 23 million people their health insurance over the next decade, according to the CBO's new analysis.

House Republicans passed their health care plan, the American Health Care Act, earlier this month, before the CBO had time to run the numbers. As Republicans now struggle to defend the bill they've already approved, they've latched onto one piece of good news contained in the CBO report: The average premiums will decrease between 4 percent and 20 percent by 2026. The drop will vary by state, depending on which states take advantage of waivers in the bill that would allow less generous coverage.

While technically true, this argument is highly misleading. The CBO does not prophesy a buffet of cheap plans for buyers on the individual market to choose from. Instead, it is simply calculating the average premium it believes people will pay on the open market under the House Republicans' health care plan. And there are two main reasons the CBO believes that average will ultimately fall. First, plans will be cheaper because they will provide less coverage. Second, because the bill allows insurers to charge older people more and provides less generous subsidies, many older, sicker people will be priced out. Put simply, the average premium goes down because the market will target young, healthy people while pricing out older, sicker people.

"Both the scope of benefits would be less and then the population would change, and that's why premiums would go down," says Edwin Park, vice president for health policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. In short, comparing today's premiums to those under the GOP bill is comparing apples and oranges. In this case, the apples are comprehensive plans available to all, and the oranges are skimpier plans geared toward the young and healthy. For most people keeping the same coverage, according to Park, premiums would actually go up.

When the CBO scored the first iteration of the GOP health care bill in March, it predicted that in 10 years, premiums would be 10 percent lower on average. In the latest version, Republicans have managed to drive premiums down even further, by around 20 percent in states that choose to take advantage of coverage waivers. This is accomplished by allowing insurance companies to offer even stingier plans than in the previous version of the bill. The current bill alters the requirement under current law that insurers cover essential health benefits, such as prescriptions, mental health treatment, and maternity and newborn care, allowing states to greatly roll back the kinds of care that are included. "The average premium is weighted by what they think people are going to enroll in, and that's going to be less generous plans," Park says.

But lower premiums may not result in meaningful savings. According to the CBO, although premiums will go down, out-of-pocket costs will rise substantially. The Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, required plans to cover at least 70 percent of all eligible benefits. But that provision is gone in the House GOP bill, resulting in plans with higher deductibles and more out-of-pocket costs for covered services. And whereas Obamacare has a cost-sharing feature to help low-income Americans with their co-pays and deductibles, the GOP bill eliminates this extra funding.

As the CBO's analysis states, "Although premiums would decline, on average, in states that chose to narrow the scope of [essential health benefits], some people enrolled in nongroup insurance would experience substantial increases in what they would spend on health care." The report singles out "out-of-pocket spending on maternity care and mental health and substance abuse services," predicting that people on the individual market would see their costs increase by "thousands of dollars in a given year."

People who prefer a more comprehensive plan with lower deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses may be out of luck. Cheaper plans with minimal coverage will attract the healthiest people. The CBO predicts that insurers will stop offering more comprehensive plans—those equivalent to today's gold or platinum plans—because they assume that mostly sicker people will buy them.

So when Republicans brag that their plan lowers premiums, that's true. But it does it by providing worse coverage to fewer people with higher out-of-pocket expenses. Only the young and healthy are likely to save under the new plan—at least until they get sick.

How a "10-Hour Film" About Race and Police Violence Made It On Network Television
May 24th, 2017, 07:14 PM

Fox's limited event series, Shots Fired, ends its 10-episode season tonight. The show, which stars Stephan James, Sanaa Lathan, and my father, Richard Dreyfuss, centers around a small North Carolina community plunged into chaos after a black police officer, Joshua Beck, shoots a white college student, Jesse Carr, who had allegedly reached for a gun during a traffic stop. When Department of Justice investigators arrive, they soon uncover a second mystery: Only weeks earlier, a young black teen named Joey Campbell had been killed. But by whom?

In March, my colleague Brandon Patterson spoke to co-creator Reggie Bythewood about the show's origins. As this "10-hour film" (as the creators call it) prepares to wrap up, I spoke with Bythewood and co-creator Gina Prince-Bythewood, his wife, for an update on what to expect in the finale and what the series has taught them about the risks and rewards of depicting race and police violence on network television.

Mother Jones: How was directing the finale?

Reggie Bythewood: You're always in the hot seat as a director, but doing the final hour of the 10-event series was a lot of pressure, but I would say really good pressure. This was the hour that allowed us to see what really happens between Joey Campbell and the people who surrounded him. And it allows us to see what really happened between Jessie Carr and Beck. The fact that we have those revelations is great.

MJ: You've said that you first had the idea for the show when Trayvon Martin was killed.

RG: After the Zimmerman verdict came in, I showed our oldest boy this Emmett Till documentary. And out of that he wrote this story about Trayvon Martin going to heaven and meeting Emmett Till. That story ended up being in hour five of Shots Fired.

Emmett Till felt like this ghost that always haunted us. When you came up the elevator to our writers' room, the first thing you saw was a big picture of Emmett Till. Everybody who walked in had to pay homage to Emmett. The last day shooting the finale ended up being Emmett Till's birthday. So it made directing this feel like a spiritual process.

There were a lot of tears shooting our final scenes. It wasn't just our lead actors who were crying. It was also our background actors who were crying and hugging. It really felt like everybody came together, believing in challenging people's points of view, raising consciousness, and making this world better for all of us.

The other thing that was great to have was great actors with such passion for what we were trying to do. It's great to see Sanaa Lathan going toe-to-toe with Richard Dreyfuss. There were times when you could see the two of them just get together and elevate the scene.

And even in the finale, there's a scene where Stephan James, who plays Preston, is going after Arlen [Dreyfuss], who's on the stand testifying before the grand jury. It's these two guys, like boxers, using their own tactics to try to win.

MJ: One of the things I found so interesting about Arlen, my dad's character, is that he was inspired in part by the case in Tulsa where a reserve deputy sheriff shot and killed an unarmed man when he accidentally grabbed his pistol instead of his taser.

RB: In the news, there was so much focus on the shooter and whether or not he meant to pull his taser. But, the biggest story to us, which never really got great media attention, was that this police department was essentially running "tours" and letting wealthy folks come in and pay for the opportunity to be police officers with little training.

MJ: And they were letting them come in because they were donating to the police force and then doing some small amount of training and then were like not really deputized, but were allowed to take a gun—

Gina Bythewood: The fact that they were allowed to have a firearm and they had falsified the training records because these men had not been properly trained. They were not just playing cop in the suburbs and they're not playing cop on college campuses—they were playing cops in black neighborhoods. What is that mentality? Like why do you want to do that? It really is horrifying that that was allowed to go on, for the thrill for these rich white individuals who wanted to play cops.

MJ: I think most people don't know that sort of thing is happening.

GB: Yeah, I mean it's just so corrupt, the system. The show is basically a 10-hours-long seminar about how the system is corrupt from the streets all the way up to the highest level of government, and there's so much collusion based on money and power. Once you know about it, you can't unknow it, and it really will make you an activist. For us, the show was our effort at being activists.

MJ: I know my dad feels the same way.

GB: The fact that this is on the air still surprises us sometimes: the fact that Fox put it on the air and never told us to pull back on anything we said, and that they're proud of the show. We feel very, very lucky that we got to do this event series.

MJ: Presumably there were a lot of people who were surprised that this was on Fox, because people conflate Fox with Fox News.

GB: Yes. Yep.

MJ: Fox News at the moment is going through a bunch of stuff, but at the same time, 20th Century Fox is doing separate and fantastic things, and I think there must have been a lot of surprised reactions. Did you guys get a lot of that?

RB: Initially when people saw the subject matter and they saw that it was going to be on Fox, they attributed it to Fox News and thought, "Okay, well now this is going to be a show that says it's showing all sides, but really it's showing how the Black Lives Matter movement is horrible, how activists are horrible, how police reformers are horrible, and only taking one side."

GB: The nervousness was something we had to fight against, and make clear that this was a Fox project, not Fox News.

RB: Even in the beginning, Gina and I had asked, "Wait, are you going to really let us do this?" To be honest, we initially had those questions and we were actually blown away that we've been able to do this show on network TV, not cable.

MJ: The show is billed as a special event series, but do you have plans for a second season?

GB: From the beginning, we knew we wanted it to have a beginning, middle, and end and wanted the audience to know they were going to get a conclusion.

RB: We needed to do a first season that felt uncompromising and really reflected the type of storytelling we wanted to do. Once all that was done, if it really felt great—and if the network wants to—I know we can figure it out. If we were to do a second season, it would be tackling another social issue that has not been addressed in TV yet, as well.

Watch the season finale of Shots Fired tonight at 8 PM ET/PT on FOX.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

23 Million More Uninsured: Read the CBO's Report on the GOP Health Care Bill
May 24th, 2017, 07:14 PM

We now know roughly how many people will have health insurance under the bill to repeal Obamacare that House Republicans passed earlier this month. Late Wednesday afternoon, the Congressional Budget Office released its report analyzing the effects of the GOP's bill. It estimated that by 2026, 23 million fewer people would have insurance under the Republican plan than under current law.

In total, 51 million would be uninsured by 2026 (compared to 28 million under current law). And those changes come fast. The CBO projects that 14 million additional people will be uninsured by next year if the GOP bill becomes law.

The CBO's new report predicts a grim market for people who are sicker or older. It predicts that about one-third of the US population will live in states the will opt out of at least some of the so-called "essential health benefits" that Obamacare currently requires insurers to cover. That would lower the average price of premiums but raise out-of-pocket costs.

In one hypothetical, the CBO anticipates that insurance companies might no longer include maternity coverage as a basic benefit, instead offering it as a separate add-on that could cost up to $17,000 per year. "Offering benefits in the form of riders segments people with certain health care risks from the larger pool of people purchasing nongroup insurance," the CBO says. "That segmentation causes a small decrease in the premiums for the larger pool, but it substantially increases the out-of-pocket costs of those people who use health care benefits that are not on the mandated list." The CBO also singles out mental health and substance abuse as benefits that insurers may no longer cover.

And one-sixth of states would go even further, not just ditching essential benefits but also allowing insurance companies to charge higher fees for people with preexisting conditions. "Over time," the CBO says, "less healthy individuals (including those with preexisting or newly acquired medical conditions) would be unable to purchase comprehensive coverage with premiums close to those under current law and might not be able to purchase coverage at all."

After mainline Republicans initially balked at overturning preexisting condition protections, GOP leadership added in an extra $8 billion to help sick people obtain coverage. But the CBO sees that money as immaterial, "because the funding would not be sufficient to substantially reduce the large increases in premiums for high-cost enrollees."

The CBO had scored an earlier version of the Republican bill back in March. At the time, it projected that 24 million people would lose health insurance thanks to the bill. But the hard right of the Republican caucus rejected that iteration of the bill. House leadership had to include a new amendment that offered states the option to rip away Obamacare's core consumer protections. The current bill would allow insurance companies to sidestep Obamacare's ban on charging extra for people with preexisting conditions.

But once Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) got the votes he needed, he didn't want to waste any time or let an economic analysis muck up his vote. Breaking with norms, Ryan and the Republican leadership rushed through the new version of their health care bill before the CBO had time to run the numbers. The bill narrowly passed the House in a 217-213 vote, with no support from Democrats. Three weeks later, the CBO's numbers are finally out.

Read the CBO's report below:

 

This is a breaking news story that will be updated.

Trump Isn't Enforcing His Plan to Avoid Violating the Emoluments Clause
May 24th, 2017, 07:14 PM

In January, Donald Trump's lawyer said that the Trump Organization would donate any profits earned at Trump hotels from a foreign government to the US Treasury. The move was supposedly an attempt to stay on the right side of the Constitution's Emoluments Clause, which prohibits US government officials from taking gifts or benefiting from foreign governments. Ethics experts noted that the pledge, issued by attorney Sheri Dillon, did not truly address this violation of the Constitution. Trump needed to divest his ownership of the hotels, they contended. And now new documents released by congressional Democrats show that Trump is not taking even his insufficient effort seriously.

Because Trump still owns his hotel properties and companies that operate hotels, anyone—a person or business here or overseas, or a foreign government—can directly line the pockets of the US president simply by reserving rooms or renting out conference or banquet facilities at a Trump hotel. Since the inauguration, several foreign governments have rented space at the Trump hotel in Washington, DC, and foreign diplomats have reported being approached by Trump hotel staff soliciting business.

To address the emoluments issue, profits from these sort of transactions involving foreign governments are supposed to go to the US Treasury. But it's hard to determine what counts as profit. And under the plan developed by Dillon, the calculation of profit would be made by the Trump Organization itself, without independent oversight. And there would be no auditing to ensure that all money from foreign governments was covered.

How does the Trump Organization determine which foreign funds ought to be donated? Not too assiduously, it appears. The House Oversight Committee several weeks ago asked the Trump Organization for information on this process. In response, the company sent the committee a nine-page pamphlet that instructs staff at its properties on how to handle this matter. The pamphlet indicates that the Trump Organization is not enthusiastic about gathering this information and doesn't want its guests bothered by any efforts to comply with the Emoluments Clause.

The pamphlet notes that the hotels should not calculate the profit from foreign patronage but rather estimate it. After all, it says, calculating the actual profit would take a lot of effort: "To attempt to individually track and distinctly attribute certain business-related costs as specifically identifiable to a particular customer group is not practical, nor would it even be possible without an inordinate amount of time, resources and specialists."

The pamphlet presents a formula by which managers can estimate how much money should head to the US Treasury. In one example, a hotel that earned $10 million in revenue but had $8.5 million in expenses would be considered to have a profit of 15 percent. If it took in $500,000 from foreign governments, it should donate 15 percent of that revenue—that is, $75,000—to the US Treasury. (This basic formula does not take into account the complexities of actual transactions. For instance, what if a foreign government bought $1 million in services from a Trump hotel that was only breaking even? This would certainly benefit Trump, but none of these funds would end up being donated.)

When it comes to identifying foreign revenues, the pamphlet tells Trump hotel staff not to try too hard, for that could annoy the customers: "To fully and completely identify all patronage at our Properties by customer type is impractical in the service industry and putting forth a policy that requires all guests to identify themselves would impede upon personal privacy and diminish the guest experience of our brand." So, the pamphlet points out, the Trump Organization will not try to identify customers who do not inform the hotel that they are representing a foreign government.

The pamphlet, which you can read in full below, was released by Democrats on the House Oversight Committee along with a letter sent to the Trump Organization on Wednesday morning. The letter, signed by Rep. Elijah Cummings, the senior Democrat on the committee, complained that the company had failed to fully explain how it would avoid violating the Emoluments Clause.

In the letter, Cummings scolded the Trump Organization for its seemingly lackadaisical approach. "This pamphlet raises grave concerns about the President's refusal to comply with the Constitution merely because he believes it is 'impractical' and could 'diminish the guest experience of our brand,'" he wrote. "Complying with the United States Constitution is not an option exercise but a requirement for serving as our nation's President."

A spokeswoman for the Trump Organization sent Mother Jones a brief statement, acknowledging receipt of the letter: "We have received and are in the process of reviewing the letter. We take these matters seriously and are fully committed to complying with all of our legal and ethical obligations."

 
House Dems Investigating Trump Loans for Russian Connections
May 24th, 2017, 07:14 PM

Since Donald Trump became a presidential candidate, journalists and investigators looking at his business holdings have wondered if there are any Russian connections to the complicated and opaque finances of his real estate empire. So far, no solid evidence of a Moscow link has emerged. But on Wednesday a group of House Democrats took a significant step on this front. They sent a letter to German banking giant Deutsche Bank asking for information regarding the four large loans Trump has received from the bank. In particular, the lawmakers are looking for information indicating whether the Russian government guaranteed any of the Trump loans or if these transactions "were in any way connected to Russia."

According to financial disclosures made by Trump during the campaign, he owes more than $714 million to several banks. But his biggest lender—by far—is Deutsche Bank, which has provided Trump at least $364 million in financing. Deutsche Bank has regularly clashed with US regulators in recent years, and it is currently under investigation by the Department of Justice for its role in a 2011 scheme to allegedly launder money out of Russia using a complex system of what are known as "mirror trades." Given that Trump now oversees the Department of Justice, his loans with the German bank are one of his most glaring conflicts of interest.

In February, the Guardian reported that sometime after Trump launched his bid for the presidency, Deutsche Bank undertook a review of Trump's business with the bank. The review, which has not been made public, reportedly did not find a link to Russia. But the Democrats want to see that review to make sure. Their letter, which was sent to Deutsche Bank's American CEO, asks for a copy of the review and related documents.

In the 1990s, as Trump struggled with assorted bankruptcies, his relationship with many Wall Street banks deteriorated. Deutsche Bank remained one of the few major banks willing to lend him money. In 2005, he borrowed $640 million from Deutsche Bank to fund the construction of his Chicago tower, but when the 2008 financial crisis hit, this partnership turned rocky. In November 2008, just as he was about to miss a payment on the loan, Trump sued Deutsche Bank for more than $3 billion, arguing that the bank's actions on the world market had led to the financial collapse that had hurt Trump's real estate business. The bank, in turn, counter-sued, demanding that Trump pay back the $40 million he had personally guaranteed on the loan. The dispute lingered in court for several years before finally being settled. Oddly, Trump subsequently worked out four new hefty loans with Deutsche Bank: one for that Chicago tower; two loans totaling $125 million to finance his purchase of the Doral National golf course in Miami; and a $170 million loan for renovating Trump's new hotel in Washington, DC. The loan for the Washington hotel was issued in August 2015, a couple months after Trump entered the presidential race.

"At a time when nearly all other financial institutions refused to lend to Trump after his businesses repeatedly declared bankruptcy, Deutsche Bank continued to do so—even after the President sued the Bank and defaulted on a prior loan from the Bank—to the point where his companies now owe your institution an estimated $340 million," the Democratic lawmakers stated in their letter to Deutsche Bank. "Only with full disclosure can the American public determine the extent of the President's financial ties to Russia and any impact such ties may have on his policy decisions."

Last fall, a Deutsche Bank spokeswoman confirmed to Mother Jones that all of Trump's loans from Deutsche Bank came from its "private bank," a division that caters to high net-worth individuals who typically maintain large personal or brokerage accounts with the bank. According to Trump's personal financial disclosure, he had at least two brokerage accounts with Deutsche Bank. Additionally, a failed concrete manufacturing business started by Donald Trump Jr. received a loan from Deutsche Bank, and Jared Kushner and his mother jointly have a loan from Deutsche Bank. (Trump eventually purchased from Deutsche Bank the loan it had made to his son's failed business.)

In the letter, the House Democrats also asked for the bank's records regarding a 2011 internal investigation of its "mirror trading" operation in Moscow. According to a New Yorker report last summer, between 2011 and 2015, Deutsche Bank employees in Moscow used a complicated trading procedure to help move as much as $10 billion out of Russia, possibly to help wealthy Russians evade sanctions imposed on the Putin regime.

The five Democrats who signed the letter are Reps. Maxine Waters (Calif.), the senior Democrat on the House Financial Services committee, Daniel Kildee (Mich.), Gwen Moore (Wis.), Al Green (Texas), and Ed Perlmutter (Colo.). A spokeswoman for Deutsche Bank did not respond to a request for comment regarding the Democrats' inquiry.

A full copy of the letter is below.

 
Team Pope to Team Trump: Please Just Stay in the Paris Climate Deal
May 24th, 2017, 07:14 PM

Pope Francis used the opportunity of President Donald Trump's Vatican visit on Wednesday to urge the United States to stay in the landmark Paris climate accord. It's a decision the new president has been kicking down the road ever since assuming office, despite a campaign pledge to withdraw from, or "cancel," US involvement in the deal.

According to CNN:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, briefing reporters on Air Force One after the meeting, said terrorism and climate change came up. He said the Vatican's secretary of state raised climate change and encouraged Trump to remain in the Paris agreement.

Tillerson said the President "hasn't made a final decision," and likely will not until "after we get home."

My colleague Rebecca Leber has been tracking the White House's public hemming and hawing over the deal—and the administration factions competing to influence the president's thinking.

From earlier this month:

We've heard for months that Trump's Cabinet is split on what to do about both climate change policy and the Paris agreement. Ivanka Trump, now in her official role at the White House, represents those who want to stay. We're told that she's "passionate about climate change," and she is joined by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and economic adviser Gary Cohn, who are also in favor of staying in the Paris agreement. Energy Secretary Rick Perry wants to "renegotiate." Secretary of Defense James Mattis sees climate change as a national security threat and likely favors staying involved, as does Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

On the other side of the debate, Scott Pruitt is leading the "leave" team, echoing the president in calling the accord a "bad deal." Team Pruitt also includes senior adviser Steve Bannon and White House Counsel Don McGahn. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has not publicly weighed in, but he opposed the deal as a senator.

During the Vatican meeting on Wednesday, the Pope gave Trump a copy of his influential 2015 "encyclical" on climate change, in which Francis warned that "the Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth."

According to pool reports, Trump promised the leader of the world's Catholics, "Well, I'll be reading them." But the official White House readout of the president's meeting sent to reporters made no mention of climate change.

British Officials Angered by US Leaks of Manchester Intelligence to Media
May 24th, 2017, 07:14 PM

High-ranking British officials, including Home Secretary Amber Rudd, are speaking out against the United States, after a number of confidential details in the ongoing investigation into Monday's Manchester attack appeared in American media before British authorities confirmed them.

"The British police have been very clear that they want to control the flow of information to protect operational integrity, the element of surprise," Rudd said in an interview Wednesday with BBC's Radio 4. "So it is irritating if it gets released from other sources."

"I have been very clear with our friends that that should not happen again," she continued.

The information in question includes the suspected attacker's identity and the detail that the attack was likely a suicide-bombing—intel that emerged in American reports hours before authorities publicly verified them. BuzzFeed reports CBS News and the Associated Press were among the American media to cite anonymous US intelligence officials in the reports in question. Notice the time-stamps below:

Meanwhile, British news outlets adhered to police exhortations and waited to disclose such details until officials were ready to reveal them.

Rudd's admonishment comes as the latest setback in the United States' intelligence-sharing relationships with key allies, after the Washington Post reported last week that President Donald Trump divulged highly classified information to the Russian ambassador and foreign minister during a meeting in the Oval Office. The bombshell allegation raised concern that Trump's reveal could jeopardize relations with the intelligence-sharing partner—later reported to be Israel—who relayed the information to the United States in the first place.

On Monday, Trump stepped into it again, when he appeared to inadvertently confirm that the source was in fact Israel.

"This is a leaky administration," Thomas Sanderson of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in DC told the Guardian. "What does that mean for sharing information we need to going forward? The UK and Israel are probably our two biggest sources of intelligence. Now they're thinking, 'Is this going to cause us damage every time we share?'"