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Vox Sentences: National Treasure 3: The search for the secret health care bill

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The Russia scandal envelops Attorney General Jeff Sessions.


J'recuse

Jeff Sessions Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself Thursday from any investigation related to the 2016 presidential campaign, including whether the Trump campaign had inappropriate communication with members or allies of the Russian government. [NYT / Eric Lichtblau, Michael D. Shear, and Charlie Savage]
  • While Sessions claimed he was already considering recusal, since he'd been a Trump campaign adviser, it's certainly curious that the announcement followed the revelation that he had met twice with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak before election day. [Washington Post / Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, and Greg Miller]
  • You might recognize the name Sergey Kislyak. He's the ambassador with whom former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn discussed lifting sanctions before Trump was inaugurated. Kislyak may not be some sort of spymaster, but he works for a regime in which, as BuzzFeed's Ali Watkins writes, "the lines between diplomacy and espionage are blurred." [BuzzFeed News / Ali Watkins]
  • This makes Kislyak something of a crossover character in multiple Trump/Russia scandals, as helpfully annotated in this visual. [Vox / Javier Zarracina and Alvin Chang]
  • No other member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which Sessions served on at the time, met with Kislyak when Sessions did. And this is especially weird because Sessions used to be a Russia hawk — at least before he hooked up with Trump. [Vox / Sarah Wildman]
  • Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente will now handle all decisions about investigations of Trump's campaign — including the decision about whether to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the Trump/Russia connections. [Mother Jones / Patrick Caldwell and Pema Levy]
  • It is possible (though, let's face it, extremely unlikely) that such an inquiry could lead to Sessions himself being charged with perjury. After all, he did claim under oath, during his confirmation hearings, that he never met with anyone from Russia while advising Trump. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • If anything, the Sessions scandal may have convinced the White House that it needs to start getting in front of stories of meetings with Russian officials. To that end, it confirmed today that Trump son-in-law and confidant Jared Kushner had met with Kislyak and Flynn in December — which isn't a big deal from a diplomatic standpoint, but could raise questions regarding financial conflicts of interest. [Vox / Matt Yglesias]

National Treasure 3: Repeal and Replace

Steny Hoyer, speaking to a bust of Abe Lincoln Matt Fuller / Periscope
  • Apparently House Republicans have decided to steamroll ahead with a replacement to the Affordable Care Act and dare their members to vote against it on the floor, rather than getting their input beforehand. [WSJ / Louise Radnofsky, Kristina Peterson, and Stephanie Armour]
  • The bill in question, though, is being kept under lock and key — literally. House Republicans were reportedly allowed to see it in a closed-door meeting but not allowed to get copies themselves. [Bloomberg / Billy House and Arit John]
  • House Democrats were understandably upset. So was one Senate Republican, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). So on Thursday, a group of members of Congress started wandering the halls of the Capitol looking for the secret bill. [Washington Post / Amber Phillips]
  • You have to read Vox's Sarah Kliff to understand just how surreal this scene was. Paul was wheeling around a copier! Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) delivered a sorrowful soliloquy to a giant bust of Abraham Lincoln! It was political theater at its most WTF. [Vox / Sarah Kliff]
  • Kliff managed to get details from a Republican staffer on what the bill might actually look like — or at least four "principles" it will follow, which is detail compared with not even knowing where the bill is. [Vox / Sarah Kliff]
  • The fact that Paul was also part of the Great Obamacare Replacement Hunt is illustrative. Senate Republicans are going to be the problem for this strategy (and arguably, any Obamacare replacement strategy) anyway. [Business Insider / Josh Barro]
  • Meanwhile, Republican governors are coming up with a health care plan of their own — which looks a lot like the health care law that's currently in place. [Bloomberg / Zachary Tracer and Anna Edney]

Mubarak rehabilitated

Mohamed el-Shahed/AFP/Getty Images
  • Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was acquitted Thursday in the deaths of hundreds of protesters who took part in the 2011 "Arab Spring" revolts that ultimately toppled his rule. [Al Jazeera]
  • Mubarak was initially convicted, in 2012, of conspiring to murder 239 protesters. But his lawyers successfully appealed the case to the highest court, which has now acquitted him in a final ruling. [Reuters]
  • What's changed, in the meantime, is the political context in which Mubarak is being tried. The Mubarak regime has been rehabilitated after his successor, Mohammed Morsi, was removed in a 2013 military coup; all other Mubarak-era officials have been freed. [NYT / Declan Walsh]
  • Many of the protesters who helped evict him, meanwhile, still languish in jail, due to a continued crackdown on dissent by the current Egyptian government (led byl Abdel Fattah el-Sisi). [NPR / Jane Arraf]
  • Sisi is, by all accounts, a relatively statesmanlike leader, and there are certainly politicians in the US who prefer him to Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood regime. But he is still, at heart, the leader of a military government. [New Yorker / Peter Hessler]

Miscellaneous

  • "How much pee is in the pool" is one of those questions that should never be answered, but science found a way nonetheless. [The Guardian / Hannah Devlin]
  • On the genre movie archetype of the silent, bloodthirsty, lethal teen/tween girl. [NY Mag / Emily Yoshida]
  • The correct approach to comments sections at news sites is "don't have a comments section," but barring that, this Norwegian site's decision to make commenters take a quiz to prove they read the article before posting is pretty great. [NiemanLab / Joseph Lichterman]
  • "Gary from Chicago" at the Oscars is being targeted for having a criminal record. But given that he did 20 years for stealing perfume, he's a great example of the tremendous damage mass incarceration and "three strikes" laws can do. [Hollywood Reporter / Seth Abramovitch]
  • The shaky performance of Venezuela's Adrian Solano at the cross-country skiing world championships prompted worldwide mockery. But Solano had a good excuse: He'd never skied on snow before going to the world championships. [NYT / Jack Williams]

Verbatim

  • "The open borders position may sound new and radical, but it is simply a call for the return of lost liberties." [Foreign Affairs / Nathan Smith]
  • "Liberal witches, like much of the left, vehemently disagree on how to handle the embattled former reality star and his administration; some find the rhetoric of the binding spell too divisive, while others worry that the populism of the mass ritual could dangerously dilute any desirable magical effects." [Vice / Callie Beusman]
  • "I asked them: ‘How in the heck can I owe $5,800 when I bought the dog for $2,400?’ They told me, ‘You’re not financing the dog, you’re leasing.’ ‘You mean to tell me I’m renting a dog?’ And they were like, ‘Yeah.’" [Dawn Sabins to Bloomberg / Patrick Clark]
  • "State Sen. Mark Chelgren's alleged alma mater is actually a company that operated a Sizzler steak house franchise in southern California and he doesn't have a 'degree.'" [NBC News / Corky Siemaszko]
  • "Yarmosh’s now 5-year-old son, in comparing his two assistants, came to believe Google knew him better.' Alexa isn’t smart enough for me,' he’d say, asking random questions that his parents couldn’t answer, like how many miles it is to China." [Washington Post / Michael Rosenwald]

Watch this: One paragraph of Obamacare saved this boy’s life

A baby was born six days after an Obamacare regulation — and it made all the difference. [YouTube / Sarah Kliff and Johnny Harris]

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