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Jane Sanders Lawyers Up

Bernie Sanders was in the midst of an interview with a local TV reporter early last month when the senator fielded an unexpected question about an uncomfortable matter.

“There’s an implication, and from at least one individual, an explicit argument that when they called for an investigation into Burlington College that you used your influence to secure a loan from People’s United—”

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The senator cut him off.

Sanders is used to fielding softball questions from an adoring local press, but his inquisitor, Kyle Midura of Burlington TV station WCAX, had a rare opportunity to put him on the spot. Investigative reporters had been breaking stories about a federal investigation into allegations that the senator’s wife, Jane Sanders, had committed fraud in obtaining bank loans for the now defunct Burlington College, and that Sanders’s Senate office had weighed in.

Sanders had never responded to questions about the case, but he took the bait this time. Briefly.

“Well, as you know,” he said, “it would be improp— this implication came from Donald Trump’s campaign manager in Vermont. Let me leave it at that, because it would be improper at this point for me to say anything more.”

Midura leaned in. “You’ve previously said it was nonsense.”

“Yes,” Sanders responded, “it is nonsense. But now that there is a process going on, which was initiated by Trump’s campaign manager, somebody who does this all of the time, has gone after a number of Democrats and progressives in this state. It would be improper at this point for me to add any more to that.”

End of conversation. But not the end of the investigation or the potential for damage to the senator from a small New England state who has rocketed to the top of the world of progressive politics nationwide.

Sanders and his wife have been trying to ignore the federal investigation since reporters for VTDigger, an online publication, confirmed the FBI’s involvement in April. The original request for an investigation into the potential bank fraud did indeed come from Brady Toensing, an attorney who chaired Trump’s Vermont campaign, and whose January 2016 letter to the U.S. attorney for Vermont put federal agents on the trail. (Toensing, in an email to Politico Magazine , notes, “The investigation was started more than a year ago under President Obama, his Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and his United States Attorney, all of whom are Democrats.”)

Now, Senator Sanders and his wife are taking the case more seriously. Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ longtime top political adviser who heads Sanders’ political organization, Our Revolution, confirms to Politico Magazine that Bernie and Jane Sanders have lawyered up. The couple has retained Rich Cassidy, a well-connected Burlington attorney and Sanders devotee, and Larry Robbins, the renowned Washington-based defense attorney who has represented I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and disgraced former Rep. Bill Jefferson, to represent Jane Sanders in the matter.

Now, President Donald Trump’s Justice Department is handling an investigation that will proceed at the discretion of a


Six-week ‘tapes’ saga comes to a very un-Trumpian end

President Donald Trump prides himself on being a master of suspense, conspiracy theory, counterattack and self-promotion.

But when it came time to end the six-week mystery about whether he recorded “tapes” of his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey in the Oval Office — the day before a House Intelligence Committee deadline to produce any such tapes — the president deflated the balloon in a very non-Trumpian way.

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There was no drawn-out news conference in the lobby of the Trump Hotel, for instance, like the one he staged during his presidential campaign to announce he was finally dropping his false, yearslong conspiracy theory about President Barack Obama’s birthplace.

Neither was there any stoking the coals of news to come, keeping the guessing game going, as he has done with other much-anticipated White House announcements. “I will be announcing my decision on the Paris Accord over the next few days. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” he tweeted on May 31, three full days before his Rose Garden statement.

And there was no blurting out news in the heat of the moment at a rally — as he did when he made the surprise announcement in the middle of a campaign-style rally in Cincinnati last December that he was choosing James Mattis for defense secretary. Trump kept his mouth closed about the status of the alleged “tapes” even though he had the opportunity Wednesday night to break his news before a roaring crowd in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Instead, he put the tapes saga to bed in a pair of carefully worded tweets that were uncharacteristically reviewed by White House officials before being blasted out to his 32.7 million Twitter followers.

“With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information I have no idea whether there are ‘tapes’ or recordings of my conversations with James Comey,” the president tweeted. “But I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings.”

Trump, according to people familiar with his thinking, often enjoys the theater of the mini-scandals he sets off with his Twitter feed, and throughout his career has enjoyed keeping everyone around him off balance. He sees the fog of confusion he creates as a winning negotiating tactic, according to some of his longtime associates. And his aides have compared his “tapes” tweet to the keep-them-guessing strategy he favors when it comes to foreign policy.

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Even among his top White House aides, many were kept in the dark about the status of potential tapes of the conversations Trump had with Comey before deciding to fire him in May, sources said.

But many Republicans close to the Trump White House see the original May 12 tweet that “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before


Inside McConnell’s plan to repeal Obamacare

As Mitch McConnell unveiled the Senate’s long-anticipated Obamacare repeal bill at a closed-door briefing Thursday morning, he urged GOP senators to withhold statements announcing outright opposition to the proposal and remain flexible, according to people familiar with the matter.

About four hours later, a quartet of McConnell’s most conservative members said in a joint statement that they are “not ready to vote for this bill.”

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But notably, GOP Sens. Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Ron Johnson and Ted Cruz left themselves plenty of room to eventually support it after further negotiation and persuasion — a critical nod to the Senate majority leader’s request.

The Kentucky Republican still has much work to do to get his health care overhaul across the finish line and may have to offer those senators some concessions that move the bill to the right. And somehow while doing so, he also must keep on board a pair of moderates and a half-dozen stalwart defenders of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.

Right now, McConnell is far away from having a commitment for the 50 votes needed for passage, according to senators who spoke on anonymity to discuss internal politics of the 52-member caucus. But no one on Capitol Hill seems to be betting against the wily majority leader as he plans for one of the most critical roll call votes of his career next week.

“He is extremely talented in cobbling together coalitions of people who disagree,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a moderate Republican skeptical of the GOP’s direction. “I never underestimate his ability to pull something off.”

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McConnell’s strategy has been a slow burn, allowing his members to vent in private party discussions while gradually writing a bill that takes in their considerations over the past six weeks. He’s had more than 30 meetings with his members about taking down the 2010 health law, intended to give his members more input and get them comfortable with the product.

Johnson, for example, doesn’t even serve on the two committees who oversee healthcare policy, so the process has empowered him more than he might have been through regular order. People close to McConnell believe Lee’s staff has been read in more than any other member on the chamber’s complicated parliamentary procedures that constrain what is possible under reconciliation.

“He believes that given the amount of input we’ve had from everybody, we’ll get to 50. Because everybody’s had a seat at the table,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, a close McConnell ally in leadership. “If you get 80 percent of what you want in a circumstance like this, it’s going to have to be a victory because we’re not going to get 100 percent.”

The most immediate concern is certainly the four Republicans who’ve banded together to enhance their negotiating position.



Winners and losers from the Senate repeal bill

U.S. Capitol Police remove a protester.

Stephanie Woodward, of Rochester, N.Y., who has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair, is removed from a sit-in at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office Thursday as she and other disability rights advocates protest proposed funding caps to Medicaid. | Jacquelyn Martin/AP

The wealthy, young and healthy come out ahead in the GOP's newly revealed plan, while addiction treatment programs and Planned Parenthood are slated to lose funding.


06/22/2017 04:10 PM EDT

The Senate’s Obamacare repeal bill , which touches all parts of the health care system and beyond, creates new sets of winners and losers. Here are a few:


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The wealthy: The bill would strike Affordable Care Act taxes on high earners, particularly a levy on investment income that fell on married couples with more than $250,000 of adjusted gross income and single filers with more than $200,000 of adjusted gross income. It also nixes a Medicare Hospital Insurance tax on incomes above $250,000.

The young and healthy: The plan focuses on lowering premiums by allowing states to cut some of Obamacare’s major insurance rules that help protect sicker patients but also drive up the cost of coverage. For instance, states could cut mandated coverage of emergency care and substance abuse treatment. Younger and healthier people with fewer health care needs would be able to buy skimpier health insurance.

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GOP governors who fought Obamacare: Republican governors who sought less federal oversight and more state control over their insurance markets will get tremendous leeway under waivers in the Senate bill. The Senate plan would roll back requirements about what insurers must cover and expedite state applications seeking more flexibility. For instance, governors would no longer need permission from their legislatures to obtain waivers.

Some health industry groups: Medical device makers, health insurers and tanning establishments, among others, would see the eventual elimination of ACA taxes on their products or services — although some of those taxes may be kept temporarily to pay for parts of the plan. Major provider groups, however, including the American Hospital Association, have come out forcefully against the Senate bill, while many other industry groups were still reviewing the plan Thursday afternoon.


Poorer, older insurance consumers: The Senate plan, like the House bill, would allow insurers to charge their older customers up to five times as much as younger customers for the same health plan. That’s an expansion of the so-called age band in Obamacare, which allows insurers to charge older customers no more than three times as much as younger ones. In two years, the Senate plan would also eliminate a key subsidy program that helps cover out-of-pocket medical bills for low-income consumers.

People struggling with addiction: The bill rolls back the federal government’s generous funding for Medicaid expansion, which


Graphic: What the GOP's Senate health care bill does to Obamacare

GOP Senate Health Care Bill: What you need to know Health care

The Senate’s sweeping Obamacare repeal has the same overarching goals as the House-passed American Health Care Act, including an overhaul of Medicaid, striking many of the Affordable Care Act’s insurance regulations and coverage mandates and getting rid of Obamacare taxes. But the chambers diverge in some important ways. Here is a summary of key points:

What the Senate health care bill does to Obamacare:

Individual mandate eliminated
Cost-sharing subsidies eliminated
Planned Parenthood funding eliminated
Pre-existing conditions changed
Medicaid expansion changed
Traditional Medicaid changed
Insurance subsidies changed
Opioid funding changed

What is eliminated

Individual mandate

Requires everyone to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty.

Penalties for going without insurance would disappear.

Cost-sharing subsidies

The law provides payments to insurers to cover medical bills for most low-income customers on Obamacare’s marketplaces. Republicans say Congress never properly appropriated the payments, worth $7 billion this year.

The payments would be extended for two years before they are eliminated.

Planned Parenthood funding

There is no corresponding provision in the ACA.

The women’s health organization would be banned from the Medicaid program for one year.

What changed

Pre-existing conditions

Insurers are banned from charging people more or denying coverage based on an existing medical condition

That requirement remains. But states could waive other insurance rules that could weaken protections for medical conditions, such as the basic benefit package and the minimum payments insurers must make toward medical bills.

What changed from House: The House bill would have let states opt out of the requirement that insurers must charge everyone the same, regardless of pre-existing conditions.

Medicaid expansion

States were encouraged to expand their Medicaid programs and received enhanced federal payments to cover more people.

The Senate bill will gradually roll back enhanced federal funding over three years starting in 2021.

What changed from House: The rollback would begin in 2020 for people who come off the Medicaid rolls and new enrollees wouldn’t receive enhanced funding.

Traditional Medicaid

There is no corresponding provision in the ACA.

The Senate plan dramatically overhauls the traditional Medicaid program covering low-income kids, pregnant women, the elderly and people with disabilities. Instead of receiving open-ended funding from the federal government, states will receive a set amount per enrollee and have new flexibility to run their programs. Certain vulnerable populations could be protected from the spending cap. States would have the option to add work requirements for able-bodied adults.

What changed from House: The Senate cuts Medicaid more deeply than the House bill. Starting in 2025, the Senate version uses a slower annual growth rate for payments made to states.

Insurance subsidies

The law subsidizes premiums on insurance marketplaces for people who don’t get coverage through work or qualify for other government programs. Income-based subsidies are available to people earning up to four times the federal poverty level.

Starting in 2020, eligibility

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