👋 Away Message: It's infrastructure week at WTF HQ! This will be the last edition of WTFJHT until May 31. WTF is taking a much needed break to retool ahead of what is shaping up to be a very consequential midterm cycle (we've also had a few unresolvable scheduling snafus/conflicts here, so I'm just going to take a mulligan on this one). In the mean time, we've built a little news aggregator tool – currentstatus.io – to keep you up-to-date on the daily shock and awe. Thanks for understanding! I'm going to miss you. You'll hear from us again on Tuesday, May 31. Thanks for being here.
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1/ Trump will cut off essential subsidy payments to Affordable Care Act insurers. The subsidies are used to pay out-of-pocket costs for low-income people and represent an estimated $7 billion this year. A White House statement directed Congress to “repeal and replace the disastrous Obamacare law and provide real relief to the American people” because “the government cannot lawfully make the cost-sharing reduction payments.” Trump said the ACA was “imploding” and called it a “broken mess” in a pair of tweets. Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi responded, saying Trump had “apparently decided to punish the American people for his inability to improve our health care system.” Nearly 6 million enrollees qualify for the cost-sharing payments this year. (Politico / New York Times / CNN)
2/ Insurers pushed back against Trump’s decision to cut the ACA’s cost-sharing reduction subsidies. “This action will make it harder for patients to access the care they need. Costs will go up and choices will be restricted,” the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and America’s Health Insurance Plans said in a joint statement. “These benefits help real people every day, and if they are ended, there will be real consequences.” (The Hill)
3/ New York and California threatened to sue the Trump administration over health care subsidies the White House said it would cut off. “Again and again, President Trump has threatened to cut off these subsidies to undermine our healthcare system and force Congress to the negotiating table,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement. He added that Trump is using people as “political pawns in his dangerous, partisan campaign to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act at any cost.” (The Hill)
4/ Trump will not certify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement, but won’t immediately withdraw from the 2015 accord. Trump put the onus on Congress to amend the law and establish “trigger points,” which could be used to impose new sanctions on Iran to address continued ballistic missile development, alleged support for terrorist groups in Lebanon, Yemen and elsewhere, and more. Trump threatened to terminate the deal if Congress is not able to reach a solution. (New York Times / Associated Press / Washington Post)
5/ The background check chief said he has “never seen [the] level of mistakes” Jared Kushner made on his security clearance application. Kushner’s initial SF-86 form did not mention any foreign contacts. He updated the form in the spring, listing about 100 contacts, but omitted the June 2016 meeting with the Russian lawyer, Trump Jr., and Paul Manafort. He updated the SF-86 forms once more in June to include that meeting. (CNN)
7/ Facebook removed thousands of posts from public view that were linked to the Russian disinformation campaign. The data was deleted a day after researcher Jonathan Albright published a report showing that the reach of the Russian campaign was at least twice what Facebook had said. Facebook claimed it simply fixed a “bug,” which allowed researchers to access cached information from inactive Facebook Pages. (Washington Post)
8/ Trump nominated a climate change skeptic to lead the White House’s environmental policy board. While a fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Kathleen Hartnett White led a project to “explain the forgotten moral case for fossil fuels.” She’s written that carbon dioxide is the gas “that makes life possible on the earth and naturally fertilizes plant growth” and that “global warming alarmists are misleading the public about carbon dioxide emissions.” She’s called the Obama administration’s environmental initiatives a “deluded and illegitimate battle against climate change.” Her TPPF fellowship received funding from the fossil fuel industry. (The Hill)
9/ Trump will extend the March 5th DACA deadline if Congress fails to pass legislation before then. Trump told Senator James Lankford that he was willing to “give it some more time” to allow lawmakers to find a solution for “dreamers.” There are currently 690,000 young people with DACA status. (Washington Post)
10/ The Pentagon and FEMA accidentally included a reporter on their email chain about how to “spin” the Puerto Rico recovery effort. They suggested saying ‘the federal government’s full attention is on Hurricane Maria response’ to combat what San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz characterized as a ‘people-are-dying story.’” FEMA was told to stress its success in reaching “all municipalities in Puerto Rico” in response to Trump attacking the San Juan mayor for “poor leadership ability.” (Bloomberg)
quotables/ A selection of quotes from Trump’s speech at the Values Voter Summit:
I’m “returning moral clarity to our view of the world” and ending “attacks on Judeo-Christian values.” (CNN)
It’s almost Christmas but “people don’t talk about [it] anymore. They don’t use the word Christmas because it’s not politically correct […] well guess what? We’re saying merry Christmas again.” (The Hill)
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