Senate health-care bill faces serious resistance from GOP moderates – Washington Post

By Juliet Eilperin and Amy Goldstein,

A small group of moderate Republican senators, worried that their leaders’ health-care bill could damage the nation’s social safety net, may pose at least as significant an obstacle to the measure’s passage as their colleagues on the right.

The vast changes the legislation would make to Medicaid, the country’s broadest source of public health insurance, would represent the largest single step the government has ever taken toward conservatives’ long-held goal of reining in federal spending on health-care entitlement programs in favor of a free-market system.

That dramatic shift and the bill’s bold redistribution of wealth — the billions of dollars taken from coverage for the poor would help fund tax cuts for the wealthy — is creating substantial anxiety for several Republican moderates whose states have especially benefited from the expansion of Medicaid that the Affordable Care Act has allowed since 2014.

Their concerns that the legislation would harm the nation’s most vulnerable and cause many Americans to become uninsured have thrust into stark relief the ideological fault lines within the GOP. Though Senate conservatives were the first to threaten to torpedo the bill, contending that it is too generous, the potential loss of nearly half a dozen moderate lawmakers’ votes may be the main hurdle. Since the bill will get no support from Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can afford defections from no more than two Republicans as he tries to bring it to a vote this week.

His odds worsened Friday when Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who is up for reelection next year, said he could not support the bill in its current form. Heller specifically cited its cuts to Medicaid, not just by ending its expansion in Nevada and 30 other states but by restricting government spending for the program starting in 2025.

This bill “is simply not the answer,” he declared, describing some of the 200,000 Nevadans who have gained health coverage through the expansion. He rhetorically asked whether the Republican plan will ensure that they have insurance in the future. “I’m telling you, right now it doesn’t do that,” he said.

Though three of the other four wavering GOP centrists also come from Medicaid-expansion states, not all were as explicit as Heller in their reactions after the Better Care Reconciliation Act was finally unveiled late last week. Both Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) said that they would evaluate it with an eye toward its effect on low-income residents.

“It needs to be done right,” Murkowski said in a tweet. “I remain committed to ensuring that all Alaskans have access to affordable, quality health care.”

Part of the pressure the moderates now face is that Medicaid consistently draws widespread support in surveys. A poll released Friday by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that three-fourths of the public, including 6 in 10 Republicans, said they have a positive view of the program. Just a third of those polled said they supported the idea of reducing federal funding for the expansion or limiting how much money a state receives for all beneficiaries.

Even among Republicans, the foundation found, only about half favor reversing the federal money for Medicaid expansion.

Congressional budget analysts plan to issue their projections as early as Monday on the legislation’s impact on the federal deficit and the number of Americans with insurance coverage. Already, proponents and critics alike are predicting that the Senate proposal would lead to greater reductions through the Medicaid changes than the estimated $834 billion estimated for a similar bill passed by House Republicans last month.

“The focus of Republican efforts largely has been on costs,” said Lanhee Chen, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. “You do have a different set of issues that the two sides have been focused on, which partly explains why this has been such an intractable and difficult debate to find common ground on.”

Under the Senate GOP version, 2021 is when Medicaid’s transformation would begin. The expansion, which has provided coverage to roughly 11 million people, would be phased out. What is now an open-ended entitlement, with federal funding available for a specific share of whatever each state spends, would be converted to per capita payments or block grants.

Then, four years later, the federal government would apply an inflation factor to spending increases that would be equal to the urban consumer price index rather than the higher medical inflation rate used in the House bill.

“There has never been a rollback of basic services to Americans like this ever in U.S. history,” said Bruce Siegel, president of America’s Essential Hospitals, a coalition of about 300 hospitals that treat a large share of low-income patients. “Let’s not mince words. This bill will close hospitals. It will hammer rural hospitals, it will close nursing homes. It will lead to disabled children not getting services. . . . People will die.”

To some extent, the division within the GOP’s ranks reflects geography. Some of the most reticent senators come from states where health-care systems stand to lose the most financially if the bill passed.

According to an analysis by the Commonwealth Fund, hospitals in Nevada would be saddled over the next decade with at least double the costs in “uncompensated care” — bills for which neither an insurer nor a patient paid. It examined the House legislation but noted that the Senate bill would doubtless hit harder because of its deeper reductions in federal Medicaid payments.

Hospitals in West Virginia would suffer an even greater spike in uncompensated care, about 122 percent during the decade. But the analysis showed that the greatest damage would come in McConnell’s own state: Kentucky, which has had the nation’s largest Medicaid expansion under the ACA, would see a 165 percent jump in unpaid hospital bills.

Yet conservative Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), one of the bill’s champions, said it would establish “a very, very gradual and gentle transition to a normal inflation rate” for a program in which he said costs were spiraling out of control. Beyond Medicaid, it would permit private health plans to cover fewer services and would allow individuals and employers to eschew coverage without penalty — elements that its authors say could lower how much consumers pay for their insurance.

“The idea that there’s a sector of our economy that has to permanently have a higher inflation rate than the rest of our economy is ridiculous,” Toomey said Thursday. “I think that it’s absolutely essential to putting [Medicaid] on a sustainable path so that it will be there for future generations.”

Avik Roy, a conservative health expert who serves as president of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, said the legislation’s proponents need to show “that competitive insurance markets can work for the poor and the vulnerable and the sick.”

People too often equate federal spending with establishing a safety net, when greater competition and a free market could produce better results at a lower cost, in Roy’s view. The Senate bill would extend “quite robust” tax credits to many people, he said, even to those living in poverty who were not eligible for Medicaid: “Republicans have a different view of what a safety net should look like.”

Pressure is coming from outside groups on the right. Though the four conservatives who have voiced opposition to the bill might be pushed hard — Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.), Mike Lee (Utah), Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Ron Johnson (Wis.) — Heller will be a special target. A super PAC, America First Policies, reportedly is planning a seven-figure ad buy just in Nevada.

But patient-advocacy organizations that focus on an array of diseases are intensifying their own lobbying on the bill, including running print and online ads in several key states. If one health issue has emerged as a flash point, however, it is the nation’s opioid epidemic.

Shatterproof, a national nonprofit organization focused on addressing addiction, estimates that 2.8 million people have gained access to substance-abuse treatment under Medicaid expansion. In Ohio alone, total federal funding provided 70 percent of the $939 million that the state spent to combat the epidemic last year.

Capito and Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio) have asked the chamber’s Republican leaders to provide in the bill $45 billion over 10 years to address opioids; the measure currently provides $2 billion. But that amount, Shatterproof chief executive Gary Mendell said Friday, is less than a tenth of what experts predict will be needed over the next decade. And providing a designated fund while leaving millions uninsured makes little sense, he added.

Shatterproof just launched a six-figure advertising buy in Ohio, West Virginia and Maine — which is represented by another undecided Republican, Sen. Susan Collins — to urge the states’ senators to vote against the bill. Mendell noted that Portman has been a champion on substance-use treatment for years, and it was difficult to run ads targeting him.

“His people need to understand that this has to be a no vote,” Mendell said.

Specific constituencies aside, some policy experts regard the Senate’s plan as a wholesale reversal of the government’s path to offer health insurance to ever-wider groups of Americans, piece by piece. That started with the creation of Medicaid and Medicare as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society and could be ending with the ACA.

“This is bringing us back to where we were before 1965,” said Paul Starr, a Princeton University professor of sociology and public affairs who has written extensively about the history of U.S. health-care policy. “There is no longer the federal commitment to back up the states in terms of health care for the poor.”

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Trump Asks ‘Why No Action?’ Amid Questions About Obama’s Response To Russian Meddling – NPR

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, speaks with then- U.S. President Barack Obama in Hangzhou in eastern China’s Zhejiang province on Sept. 5, 2016, in the midst of last year’s presidential race.

Alexei Druzhinin/AP

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President Trump took to Twitter to question his predecessor’s judgment and actions — at the end of a week characterized by a steady drumbeat of questions about how and when the Obama administration chose to respond to Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“Why no action?,” the president asked in the first of two tweets Saturday evening that suggested the Obama administration didn’t do enough — and soon enough — to stop Russia last year.

Obama Administration official said they “choked” when it came to acting on Russian meddling of election. They didn’t want to hurt Hillary?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 24, 2017

Since the Obama Administration was told way before the 2016 Election that the Russians were meddling, why no action? Focus on them, not T!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 24, 2017

Since Wednesday the Obama administration’s response has increasingly come under scrutiny in dueling congressional hearings held by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, in a bombshell report by the Washington Post and in the disclosure of correspondence between two Democratic senators last fall and Obama’s State Department first reported on by BuzzFeed.

In the final days of the presidential campaign last year, two Democratic senators asked President Obama to take action against Russia for its election meddling.

“Such attacks cannot be tolerated and the United States must take immediate measures to ensure that those responsible are held to account,” Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Ben Cardin, D-Md., wrote in a letter to Obama dated Nov. 1, 2016, just a week before Election Day.

After referencing the hacking and disclosure of emails belonging to the Democratic National Committee and other people and organizations aligned with the Democratic Party, Cardin and Feinstein went on to stress to Obama the importance of protecting the electoral process:

“The seminal event in a functioning democracy is an election, and the international implications of the results of a U.S. election are far reaching. Russia’s actions threaten to undermine our democratic process. Our electoral infrastructure is strong, but it is incumbent upon us to ensure that our institutions are protected. A cyberattack on our electoral process or any part of our critical political, economic, or military infrastructure is a hostile action that must be countered.”

The senators suggested that the assets of individuals found to have been involved in the Russian interference be frozen. Additionally, they counseled Obama to consider “expanding the use of secondary sanctions” and “taking proportional cyber responses beyond sanctions that would shine a direct spotlight on those responsible for the cyberattacks.” They also told Obama that the administration should indict those responsible in U.S. courts.

The State Department wrote back to the lawmakers a month later, after Hillary Clinton’s stinging loss to Donald Trump.

“As we have made clear to the Russian government and others, we will not tolerate attempts to interfere with the U.S. democratic process, and we will take action to protect our interests, including in cyberspace, and we will do so at a time and place of our choosing,” the Obama administration told the two senators.

The correspondence, reported on by BuzzFeed Friday, was part of a release of government records sought by Operation 45, a transparency project, in the course of Freedom of Information Act litigation filed against several U.S. intelligence agencies. Operation 45 “is dedicated to ensuring transparency and accountability for the Administration of Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States,” the project’s website says.

The BuzzFeed report about the letters came the same day as a Washington Post report that provided a look inside the Obama administration’s response to and decision-making about Russia. The CIA notified Obama in August of last year that Russian President Vladimir Putin was directly involved in the campaign to interfere in the election, according to the Post. “The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump,” the Postreport says.

But it would be roughly two months — not until Oct. 7, 2016, as Feinstein and Cardin pointed out in their letter — before the Obama administration publicly declared that the Russian government was behind the hacking of the DNC and other Democratic groups. The administration did not impose sanctions on Russia until late December 2017, some five months after the CIA’s intelligence report was hand-delivered to the White House, according to the Post. (“Over that five-month interval,” the Post report says, “the Obama administration secretly debated dozens of options for deterring or punishing Russia, including cyberattacks on Russian infrastructure, the release of CIA-gathered material that might embarrass Putin and sanctions that officials said could ‘crater’ the Russian economy.”)

The U.S. intelligence community’s declassified report about the election interference was not made available to the public until early January 2017. Finally, Obama’s Department of Homeland Security did not designate state election systems as “critical infrastructure,” entitling states to seek federal help with cybersecurity, until early January of this year as well.

On Wednesday, Jeh Johnson, who was Obama’s secretary of Homeland Security during last year’s election, was asked by members of Congress about the timing of the administration’s response — specifically why the voting public was not informed about what Russia was up to until the fall of 2017.

One of the candidates, Johnson said, not naming but clearly referring to Donald Trump, “was predicting that the election was going to be rigged,” Johnson testified before the House Intelligence Committee, “and so we were concerned that by making the statement, we might in and of itself be challenging the integrity of the election process.” Johnson also told the top Democrat on the committee that he had been concerned last year that he would be criticized “for perhaps taking sides” in an ongoing election if he publicly spoke out about the Russian meddling that he knew was going on.

Tony Blinken, Obama’s former national security adviser, defended the previous administration’s response Friday to CNN, saying Obama took action to protect the electoral system itself from interference by the Russians.

“We made massive efforts so they couldn’t do that,” Blinken told the cable news network. “This led to two things: President Obama issued a very stark warning to President Putin in September at the G-20 conference in China. What we saw, or thought we saw, after that, it looked like the Russians stopped their efforts. But the damage was already done.”

Trump’s tweets Saturday were not his first this week in the vein of questioning the Obama’s administration’s response. The president tweeted Thursday morning and Friday evening, apparently in response to questions faced by Johnson and the Post’s reporting.

While Trump seems to now be accepting and acknowledging that Russia interfered in the election, as the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman pointed out, also on Twitter on Friday night, Trump has previously called Russian election interference a hoax perpetrated by Democrats to explain Clinton’s loss:

This week he called the hackings a Dem hoax. But today he gets to blame Obama, so he says it’s real https://t.co/5eQlqVxpM8

— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) June 24, 2017

Speaking to the international media this month, Putin denied that the Russian government had any role in meddling in last year’s presidential election.

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Evidence is mounting that Russia took 4 clear paths to meddle in the US election – Business Insider

Donald Trump and Hillary ClintonUS President Donald Trump
and Hillary Clinton.
Mark Wilson/Getty
Images; Justin Sullivan/Getty Images; Samantha Lee/Business
Insider

It was September 2015 when the FBI first noticed that Russian
hackers had infiltrated a computer system belonging to the
Democratic National Committee.

It was the first sign that Moscow was attempting to meddle in the
presidential election.

Nearly a year later, further reporting and testimony from current
and former intelligence officials have painted a portrait of
Russia’s election interference as a multifaceted, well-planned,
and coordinated campaign aimed at undermining the backbone of
American democracy: free and fair elections.

Now, as FBI special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional
intelligence committees continue to investigate Russia’s election
interference, evidence is emerging that the hacking and
disinformation campaign waged at the direction of Russian
President Vladimir Putin took at least four separate but related
paths.

The first involved establishing personal contact with Americans
perceived as sympathetic to Moscow — such as former Defense
Intelligence Agency chief Michael Flynn, former Trump campaign
chairman Paul Manafort, and early Trump foreign-policy adviser
Carter Page — and using them as a means to further Russia’s
foreign-policy goals.

The second involved hacking the Democratic National Committee
email servers and then giving the material to WikiLeaks, which
leaked the emails in batches throughout the second half of 2016.

The third was to amplify the propaganda value of the leaked
emails with a disinformation campaign waged predominantly on
Facebook and Twitter, in an effort to use automated bots to
spread fake news and pro-Trump agitprop.

And the fourth was to breach US voting systems in as many as 39
states leading up to the election, in an effort to steal
registration data that officials say could be used to
target and manipulate voters in future elections.

[Un]witting agents

AP_17157670241072James
Comey.
AP Photo/J. Scott
Applewhite

Former FBI Director James Comey
confirmed in a hearing before the Senate Intelligence
Committee in March, two months before he was fired, that the
bureau was investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016
election. That probe included an examination of whether the Trump
campaign colluded with Moscow to undermine Hillary Clinton, Comey
testified at the time.

Restrictions on disclosing classified information in an open
setting precluded Comey from naming names; but reports surfaced
before he testified that certain members of Trump’s campaign had
communicated with Russian officials in ways that raised red
flags.

Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Carter Page, Jared Kushner, and
Roger Stone were among those being looked at by federal
investigators, reports said, amid the FBI and congressional
probes into whether any Trump associates acted as agents of the
Kremlin, wittingly or not.

Flynn was forced to resign as national-security adviser in
February after it emerged he had discussed US sanctions with
Russia’s ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, during the
transition period. The White House said Flynn resigned because he
misled Vice President Mike Pence about his conversation with
Kislyak.

It was later reported that the acting attorney general, Sally
Yates, had warned the White House in January that Flynn could be
vulnerable to Russian blackmail, because US intelligence knew
Pence had publicly mischaracterized Flynn’s interactions with
Kislyak.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, worked to
advance Russian interests for over a decade. Beginning in 2004,
Manafort served as a top adviser to former Ukrainian President
Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian strongman whom Manafort is
widely credited with helping win the presidency in 2010. Between
2006 and 2009, Manafort was paid millions to lobby on behalf of
Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska. AP reporter Jeff Horwitz

told Fox News that Manafort was “a gun for hire” who was
willing to work explicitly “on behalf of Russian interests.”

Carter Page, an early foreign-policy adviser to Trump’s campaign,
has also become a subject of FBI and congressional
investigations. His trip to Moscow in July 2016 raised red flags
at the FBI, which was granted a warrant by the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor Page’s communications
on suspicion that he was communicating with Russian officials.

Jared KushnerJared
Kushner.
Getty
Images

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, became a
subject of the investigation after US intelligence officials
intercepted communications suggesting he had proposed setting up
a secret backchannel to Moscow using Russian diplomatic
facilities on US soil. Kushner met with both Kislyak and Russian
banker Sergey Gorkov in December and failed to disclose it on his
security-clearance form.

And Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to Trump, communicated with a
self-described hacker, Guccifer 2.0, in August 2016 who US
intelligence officials believe was a Russian prop.

Former FBI Special Agent Clint Watts told the Senate Intelligence
Committee in May that the Trump campaign itself may have been an
unwitting agent of Russia.

“Part of the reasons active measures have worked in the US
election is because the commander-in-chief has used Russian
active measures at times against his opponents,” Watts said,
pointing to Manafort and Trump’s citations of fake-news stories
pushed out by Russian-linked entities last year.

“[Trump] denies the intel from the United States about Russia,
and he claimed the election could be rigged — that was the number
one claim pushed by RT, Sputnik News, all the way up until the
election,” Watts said. “Part of the reasons Russian active
measures work is because they parrot the same lines.”

Indeed, the Trump transition team
released a statement in December that appeared to cast doubt
on the CIA’s findings that Russia had meddled in the election
with the specific purpose of damaging Clinton’s candidacy and
swinging voters towards Trump.

“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons
of mass destruction,” the statement said.

The DNC, WikiLeaks, and Guccifer 2.0

In July 2016, the Democratic National Committee announced that
Russian hacking groups known as “Cozy Bear” and “Fancy Bear” had
infiltrated its servers. The intrusions came after federal
investigators warned the
DNC in September 2015 that its servers had been breached, but
the DNC failed to take action.

After gaining access to the DNC’s system in 2016, Fancy Bear and
Cozy Bear disseminated thousands of emails via hacker Guccifer
2.0, who leaked the information to WikiLeaks. US intelligence
agencies believe Guccifer 2.0 was created by Fancy Bear, or a
Russian organization affiliated with the group. WikiLeaks
published the first batch of DNC emails on July 22, one day
before the Democratic National Convention.

julian assangeWikiLeaks founder Julian
Assange.
Carl Court/Getty
Images

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told Fox News’ Sean Hannity
during a January interview that
the Russian government did not provide the hacked DNC emails to
him. But US intelligence agencies believe WikiLeaks has become a
Kremlin propaganda tool.

Cybersecurity experts at the intelligence firm ThreatConnect also
linked Guccifer 2.0 back to Russia and concluded the hacker was
the product of a
Russian disinformation campaign.
The New York Times reported in December that Guccifer 2.0 had
also hacked into the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
and released the information to reporters covering competitive
House districts.

A little over two months later, on October 7, WikiLeaks released
a batch of emails from Clinton campaign manager John Podesta’s
account. The hack of Podesta’s emails came after
Trump confidant Roger Stone tweeted in August, “Trust me, it
will soon the [sic] Podesta’s time in the barrel.
#CrookedHillary”

WikiLeaks continued releasing Podesta’s emails and published
nearly 60,000 messages leading up to Election Day. Podesta

said after the initial breach that Russian intelligence was
responsible.

Roger StoneRoger
Stone.
Hollis
Johnson

“A big difference to me in the past was, while there was
cyberactivity, we never saw in previous presidential elections
information being published on such a massive scale that had been
illegally removed both from private individuals as well as
organizations associated with the democratic process both inside
the government and outside the government,” Adm. Mike Rogers, the
director of the National Security Agency, told the House
Intelligence Committee in March.

It soon emerged that Russian hackers had also accessed the
Republican National Committee’s servers and accounts belonging to
Republican officials, but had chosen
not to release the information. This development appeared to
confirm intelligence findings that Russian meddling was done
specifically to hurt Clinton and aid Trump.

The US intelligence community “is confident that the Russian
Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US
persons and institutions, including from US political
organizations,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper
and the Department of Homeland Security said in a
joint statement shortly after the first batch of Podesta’s
emails were first leaked.

During a January hearing before the Senate Armed Services
Committee with other intelligence chiefs,
Clapper reaffirmed that finding. “We stand more resolutely on
that statement,” he said.

Fake news, trolls, botnets

In early January, the Office of the Director of National
Intelligence released a
declassified report documenting the results of the
investigation former President Barack Obama had requested into
Russian election interference.

Vladimir PutinRussian President Vladimir
Putin.
Adam Berry/Getty
Images

The report said that while Russian operatives did not change vote
tallies, Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered an
elaborate effort to propel Trump to the presidency — not only via
hacking but also through the dissemination of “fake news” aimed
at undermining Clinton and boosting Trump.

The Russians, Comey said in March, were also “unusually loud” in
their intervention, leaving digital footprints on the DNC and
John Podesta email hacks that were sloppy and easily linked back
to the Kremlin.

Meanwhile, state-sponsored Russian news agencies like RT and
Sputnik, openly backed Trump. And automated Twitter accounts —
many of them linked to Russia and
aided by professional trolls paid by the Kremlin — flooded
the social-media platform with pro-Trump rhetoric and made-up
news throughout the campaign and especially in the days leading
up to the election.

The bots
favored Trump by five-to-one, according to Sam Woolley of the
Oxford Internet Institute’s computational propaganda institute.

Russian internet trolls — paid by the Kremlin to spread false
information on the internet — have been behind a number of
“highly coordinated campaigns” to deceive the American public,
journalist Adrian Chen
found when researching Russian troll factories in St.
Petersburg in 2015.

It’s a brand of information warfare, known as “dezinformatsiya,”
that has been used by the Russians since at least the Cold War.
The disinformation campaigns are only one “active measure” tool
used by Russian intelligence to “sow discord among,” and within,
nations perceived as hostile to Russia.

From his interviews with former trolls employed by Russia, Chen
gathered that the point of their jobs “was to weave propaganda
seamlessly into what appeared to be the nonpolitical musings of
an everyday person.

“Russia’s information war might be thought of as the biggest
trolling operation in history,” Chen wrote. “And its target is
nothing less than the utility of the Internet as a democratic
space.”

In a telling case study of how widespread and pervasive fake news
was during the election,
Oxford University researchers found that nearly half of the
news Michigan voters were exposed to on Twitter leading up to
Election Day was fake. They found that the proportion of
“professional to junk news” was “roughly one-to-one,” and that
“fully 46.5% of all content presented as news” about politics and
the election fell under “the definition of propaganda” when
unverified WikiLeaks content and Russian-origin news stories were
factored in.

donald trumpPresident
Trump.
REUTERS/Jonathan
Ernst

As many as 39 state-election systems targeted

In January, President-elect Trump issued
a statement after he was briefed on the intelligence
community’s classified report on Russia’s election interference.

“While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people
are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure
of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations
including the Democrat [sic] National Committee, there was
absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the
fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting
machines.”

As it turns out, that was not entirely true.

Bloomberg
reported in June that election systems in as many as 39
states could have been attacked, though voting tallies are not
believed to have been altered or manipulated in any way.

“In Illinois, investigators found evidence that cyber intruders
tried to delete or alter voter data,” Bloomberg said. “The
hackers accessed software designed to be used by poll workers on
Election Day, and in at least one state accessed a campaign
finance database.”

The report was bolstered by a leaked NSA document published by
The Intercept earlier this month detailing how hackers connected
to Russian military intelligence had attempted to breach US
voting systems days before the election.

National-security experts
were floored by the document and said it was the clearest
evidence so far that Russia interfered in the election.

Department of Homeland Security official Jeanette Manfra
confirmed to the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 21 that
Russian hackers targeted at least 21 states’ election systems in
2016, successfully exploiting a small number of networks and
stealing voter registration data. Time reported on Thursday that
the hackers successfully altered voter information in at least
one election database and stole thousands of voter records
containing private information like Social Security numbers.

The exposure of that data has left upcoming elections vulnerable
to manipulation. Virginia and New Jersey will hold gubernatorial
elections later this year, and all 435 seats in the House and 33
of the 100 seats in the Senate will be contested in the 2018
midterm elections.

Putin has consistently denied the Kremlin had anything to do with
the hacking or disinformation campaigns waged in 2016 to bolster
Trump and hurt Clinton. But he acknowledged
a potential Russian role for the first time earlier this
month when he said that “patriotically minded” Russian citizens
might have taken it upon themselves “to fight against those who
say bad things about Russia.”

SEE ALSO:‘This is huge’: National security experts were floored by the leaked NSA document on Russian election hack

DON’T MISS:‘The mother lode of all leaks’: A massive data breach exposed information that ‘you can use to steal an election’

NOW WATCH: ‘Where is Sean?’: Things got awkward when April Ryan asked Sarah Sanders why Spicer didn’t attend the WH briefing

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Texas Mother Accused of Leaving 2 Children to Die in Hot Car to Teach a ‘Lesson’ – NBCNews.com

A Texas mother faces first-degree felony charges in the deaths of her 2-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son after police say she locked them inside a sweltering car last month to teach them a lesson.

Cynthia Marie Randolph, 24, was arrested Friday on two counts of causing injury to a child. Authorities later determined that the children died from extreme heat exposure.

The incident happened on May 26, when Randolph’s 2-year-old daughter, Juliet, and 1-year-old son, Cavanaugh, were found dead in a locked car in the driveway of her home outside of Fort Worth, police said.

Image: Cynthia RandolphImage: Cynthia Randolph

Cynthia Randolph was arrested in connection with the deaths of her two children from extreme heat exposure after they were found locked inside a car on May 26, 2017.Parker County Sheriff’s Office

Temperatures hovered around 96 degrees that day, reported NBC Dallas-Fort Worth.

In documents released Friday, the Parker County Sheriff’s Department used Randolph’s alleged shifting statements about how her children died as probable cause to charge her.

Authorities said Randolph initially told officers that she had been folding laundry in the house while her children played outside. When she didn’t hear from them for nearly half an hour, Randolph said she searched for the toddlers before discovering them locked inside the car, alongside her keys and cellphone.

She then told officers that she had to break a window and rescue the children, then called 911, authorities said.

But when she was arrested Friday, police said Randolph admitted to officers that she locked the children inside the car on purpose.

“When they refused to leave the car, the defendant said she shut the door to teach Juliet a lesson, thinking she could get herself and her brother out of the car when ready,” authorities said in the probable cause affidavit.

It added that Randolph told officers that she went inside the home, smoked marijuana and fell asleep for several hours.

“When she woke, the defendant found her children in her vehicle, unresponsive,” authorities added. “The defendant said that she broke the car window to make it look like an accident.”

Randolph was booked into the Parker County Jail. A bond had not been set and it wasn’t immediately clear whether she retained an attorney, NBC Dallas-Fort Worth reported.

So far this year, 13 children have died from heat strokes after being left in hot cars, according to San Jose State University professor Jan Null. Null, who is a meteorologist that works with the National Safety Council, maintains a website that tracks trends in hot car deaths each year.

According to her research, an average 37 children die in hot cars annually in the United States.

In an effort to combat the rise in hot car deaths, Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, introduced the Hot Cars Act of 2017. If passed, the legislation would require new cars to come equipped with a system for alerting the driver if a child is left in the back seat after the car is turned off.

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With five holdouts on health-care bill, McConnell is in for a final frenzy of negotiation – Washington Post

By Paul Kane,

The stark divide among Republicans on reshaping the nation’s health system came into full view over the last few days.

Formally unveiled Thursday, the Senate Republican plan came under immediate friendly fire from within Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s GOP conference. The Kentucky Republican now has just a few days to try to navigate the perilous path in trying to appease one bloc of holdouts without losing votes from another bloc.

It sets up a final frenzy of negotiation, as McConnell has determined he’ll finish with the legislation one way or another by the end of this month. If he’s not careful, the GOP leader could end up being lambasted by conservatives and liberals alike for cutting narrow deals to try to buy off votes from individual senators in a similar manner used for passing the Affordable Care Act.

McConnell can only afford to lose two of the 52 Republicans in the Senate, but as the week went on, he had many more holdouts than that.

The highest profile defection, for now, came from Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who is usually a go-along-get-along acolyte to party leadership.

But Heller faces the most difficult reelection next year of any Republican and his state’s governor, Brian Sandoval, is extremely popular and remains a staunch supporter of the current funding structure for Medicaid’s expansion that led to nearly 300,000 of his residents to get health coverage.

“It’s simply not the answer,” he said Friday, with Sandoval at his side. He left some wiggle room to possibly support a rewritten draft but he made clear that his concerns went beyond just the Better Care Reconciliation Act’s phase out of federal support for the Medicaid expansion beginning in 2021. He questioned the plans protection for consumers to have guaranteed coverage for critical conditions and other proposals.

“It’s going to be very difficult to get me to a yes,” Heller said.

His comments came after a quartet of Senate conservatives announced their opposition to the legislation “as written” shortly after McConnell released the plan Thursday, on top of another handful of senators who have expressed concerns about various provisions in the 142-page draft.

One of those conservatives, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), received less attention than Heller but made clear just how far apart the two sides are in a nearly 900-word letter Friday to his constituents about the proposal. “No, the Senate healthcare bill released [Thursday] does not repeal Obamacare. It doesn’t even significantly reform American healthcare,” Lee wrote.

He went on to outline a demand that would in some ways undermine the very structure of the bill, allowing states to completely opt out of the law and create their own health-care systems. It’s the sort of demand that conservatives like but will be fiercely opposed by Democrats, as well as some Republicans, who fear that it would create too much chaos in the marketplace.

Republicans are acknowledging that they expect to know by Tuesday, Wednesday at the latest, whether they have the votes to pass the plan. If he can do it, McConnell then must spend the rest of the summer working with the House to see if they can pass the Senate bill, in whole, or negotiate a new compromise.

All of this makes the coming week’s initial vote — a simple parliamentary motion to begin debate — the critical test of support that will signal whether the legislation rises or falls.

“We take great care in doing the whip process, so we know before we go to the floor how the votes will turn out, so we’ll know that before that happens,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the majority whip, said Thursday.

Until now McConnell has said very little in public, operating what could be called a strategy of political risk minimization.

His secretive process has been criticized loud and clear, from Republicans and Democrats, but most of it has been directed at him. He does not mind absorbing media lashes if it keeps the heat focused on him and not his Republican colleagues. He did so last year when he absorbed most of the Democratic attack for refusing to consider the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland while his Republican incumbents faced little criticism for the move on the campaign trail.

The legislation will be in public view just a few days before the key votes, and by Friday the issue will be resolved, avoiding the long and politically debilitating negotiations that Democrats went through in 2009 and 2010.

But Democrats got a law passed, a really big one that went on to provide insurance to tens of millions of people, and they are now, after years of passively defending the ACA, fully engaged in promoting its benefits and trying to make Republicans look like mean-spirited accountants trying to balance the books on the backs of the poor.

McConnell must decide if he wants to cut side deals to win or if a good faith effort that comes up short is a better path forward politically.

So far the proposal only includes a modest $2 billion for a new funding stream to fight the opioid epidemic, an issue critical to a pair of Midwestern Republicans, Sens. Shelly Moore Capito (W. Va.) and Rob Portman (Ohio).

Once the Congressional Budget Office reports in the next few days about the financial impact of the proposal, McConnell will have a better sense of how many billions more in opioid funding could secure Portman and Capito’s votes.

Will Nevada get its own specific carve out on Medicaid funding to win over Heller?

That’s what McConnell’s nemesis, former Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), did in 2009 to win over wavering Democrats to pass the ACA. Then the majority leader, Reid included a provision that provided full federal funding for the Medicaid expansion just to Nebraska, winning the vote of then-Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who saw the initial proposal as an unfunded mandate.

The proposal was blasted as the “Cornhusker Kickback” and it was eventually nixed as the final version of the law had 100 percent funding for all states for three years and then phased down to 90 percent federally subsidized for Medicaid’s expansion.

“This bill is a legislative train wreck of historic proportions,” McConnell said the day that Reid, Nelson and other Democrats unveiled the final package just before Christmas 2009.

Now, McConnell faces a similar dilemma.

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