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Vox Sentences: “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty”

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Welcome to … THE COMEYDOME.

That thing, that thing, that thi-i-i-ing

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 07: FBI Director James Comey testifies during a hearing before House Oversight and Government Reform Committee July 7, 2016 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing 'Oversight of the State Department,' focusing (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
  • We almost never force you to read the stuff we’re linking to. But holy cow, you have to go read the novelistic, riveting testimony former FBI Director James Comey will deliver before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday morning. [Senate Select Committee on Intelligence / James Comey]
  • Comey’s testimony doesn’t reveal much new information about his interactions with President Donald Trump. But he does confirm reports from the Washington Post and New York Times that Trump asked Comey for his loyalty on one occasion, and asked him to clear former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn on another.
  • The testimony also corroborates a claim made by Trump himself: that Comey told Trump on three occasions that the federal investigation into contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russian government did not extend to investigating Trump himself. In fact, as depicted in the testimony, Trump’s biggest frustration with Comey was that he wouldn’t say so publicly. [National Review / David French]
  • The prepared testimony doesn’t really construct a slam-dunk case that Trump committed an obstruction of justice in his interactions with Comey (though we’ll have to wait for Thursday’s hearing to see if new information is revealed then). [Vox / Andrew Prokop]
  • But legal doesn’t mean appropriate. As law professor (and Comey friend) Benjamin Wittes writes, “The President also has the authority to give the State of the Union address in Latin and have it consist entirely of obscenities directed at the Speaker of the House. To people who know the norms of federal law enforcement, the conduct described here is closer to that end of the spectrum of presidential behavior than it is to the normal range." [Lawfare / Benjamin Wittes]
  • The drama over Comey, and the Russia investigation more generally, has even swamped other hearings — it totally took over a Wednesday Senate Intelligence hearing that was supposed to be about reauthorizing Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is the legal basis for many of the controversial surveillance practices unveiled by Edward Snowden. [Vox / Alex Ward]
  • In fairness to the senators, they weren’t totally straying off topic — they were simply responding to a Washington Post report that Trump had asked Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats (who testified at the FISA hearing) to publicly clear his name with regards to the Russia investigation, just like he’d asked Comey. [Washington Post / Adam Entous]
  • But it’s tomorrow’s Comey show that is the most anticipated Senate hearing in recent memory — with Comey’s “history of saying uncomfortable things to powerful people” (in the words of Vox’s Zeeshan Aleem) colliding with Trump’s characterological inability to let people say uncomfortable things to him without responding to them, especially when those people are also making him look bad on television. [Vox / Zeeshan Aleem]
  • Oh, yeah. About that. Trump will have his phone. His staff is trying to distract him by scheduling meetings throughout the morning, but they say they can’t stop him from watching Comey if he wants to. And they are universally dreading Trump’s reaction in the way one dreads a hurricane. [Politico / Matthew Nussbaum, Josh Dawsey, Darren Samuelsohn, Tara Palmeri​]

ISIS attacks in Iran

An Iranian policeman holds a weapon as another one gestures from a window at the Iranian parliament in the capital Tehran on June 7, 2017 during an attack on the complex. The Islamic State group claimed its first attacks in Iran as gunmen and suicide bomb OMID VAHABZADEH/AFP/Getty Images
  • At least 12 people have been killed in twin terror strikes in Tehran, Iran, targeting both the parliament building and the tomb of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who led the 1979 revolution and founded the Islamic Republic. [NYT / Thomas Erdbrink and Mujib Mashal]
  • ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack; it, like many hardline Sunni groups, views Iran's Shiite population as heretics. However, the Iranian government appears to be blaming Saudi Arabia. [Reuters / Bozorgmehr Sharafedin]
  • In a statement, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps declared, "World public opinion, especially in Iran, sees the fact that this terrorist act was perpetrated soon after the meeting of the US president with the heads of one of the reactionary regional states that has always supported ... terrorists as to be very meaningful," implicating both Saudi Arabia and the US by extension. [CNN / Shirzad Bozorgmehr and Angela Dewan]
  • The attack, and Iran’s accusation against Saudi, is particularly concerning given the regional climate for the past week. Saudi Arabia and its allies (including Egypt and the United Arab Emirates) have been isolating Qatar, which they think has grown excessively close to Iran, and exerting tremendous economic pressure by closing its sole land border with Saudi. [Vox / Zeeshan Aleem]
  • ISIS vowed further attacks, declaring, “Persia should know that the state of the caliphate will not miss an opportunity for an onslaught against them.” It was the group’s first successful attack against Iran, and the most significant strike by any group in the country in many years. [FT / Monavar Khalaj and Erika Solomon]
  • And Iran is vowing retaliation too. The revolutionary guard statement further promised that “spilled blood of the innocent will not remain unavenged.” [Washington Post / Brian Murphy and Kareem Fahim]
  • As if determined to make matters worse, President Trump issued a White House statement declaring that “states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote." [Daniel Dale​]

Orphan (Counties, Because Insurers Can’t Make It Into the) Black

  • The biggest news on Obamacare this week isn't in the Senate, which is still working on putting together its repeal bill. It's in Ohio, where Anthem has decided to pull out of the Obamacare exchanges, a move that leaves 20 counties in the state, and 13,000 people, without an Affordable Care Act plan for next year. [Bloomberg / Anna Edney, Zachary Tracer, Hannah Recht]
  • That’s bad enough for those counties, but if Anthem withdraws from all Obamacare exchanges nationwide, it’d be even worse. Its Obamacare plans currently enroll some 1.1 million people, and if it pulled out, 300,000 people would be left without any plans available.
  • Aetna is the latest insurer to pull out, but it's not the first. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City pulled out of Missouri last month, leaving 25 counties with no options… [Vox / Sarah Kliff, Sarah Frostensen]
  • ...and before that, mega-insurers Aetna, Humana, and UnitedHealth all dropped out. [Bloomberg/ Zachary Tracer]
  • Even before the 2018 dropouts, more and more people were experiencing losses in provider choice. In 2016, only 2 percent of enrollees lived in a county where there was only one insurer choice. In 2017, 21 percent of enrollees do. That number will surely be higher next year. [Kaiser Family Foundation / Ashley Semanskee, Cynthia Cox]
  • The problem is deeper than the Trump administration, but Trump is certainly not helping. More and more insurers are saying openly that they're hiking premiums and withdrawing participation in part because Trump has thrown the law into uncertainty, not least by failing to promise cost-sharing subsidies to help low-income enrollees with copays and deductibles. [Vox / Sarah Kliff]
  • States that want to can take action to prevent these kinds of withdrawals. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has declared that any insurers that withdraw from Obamacare exchanges will be barred from participating in Medicaid, Child Health Plus, and the Essential Plan, three other state-level health programs that generally partner with insurers. [LA Times / Michael Hiltzik]
  • But relatively few states have progressive governments that are going to be inclined to protect Obamacare. For a look at what a larger-scale Obamacare explosion will look like, and how it will affect low-income areas that voted for Trump, see this great feature from Sarah Kliff looking at Tennessee. [Vox / Sarah Kliff​]


  • How do you police bullying and hate speech in public schools when it consists of quoting the president? [BuzzFeed / Albert Samaha, Mike Hayes, Talal Ansari]
  • Because Uber didn't have enough scandals going on, now it turns out that a senior Uber executive obtained medical records for a woman who was raped by her Uber driver in New Delhi, in an attempt to show she was lying. [Recode / Kara Swisher and Johana Bhuiyan]
  • Big liberal cities like New York or San Francisco make up most of the market for high-end products. That means advertisers have a big incentive to get Very Woke, very fast. [The Guardian / Alissa Quart]
  • Local news loves stories about high schoolers who make it to Harvard or Yale despite growing up in a rough neighborhood. One of those high schoolers, Andrea Bossi of South Side Chicago, is sick of what these stories say about her community. [Chicago Mag / Andrea Bossi]
  • Another national crisis: The flood of Trump administration scandal has swelled the number of reporters in the Capitol building to arguably unsafe levels. [Washington Post / Elise Viebeck and Ben Terris]


  • “I don't believe Trump colluded with the Russians because I don't think he colludes with his own staff.” [Sen. Lindsey Graham via Steven Dennis]
  • “There is not something wrong with you! (Or, if there is, it’s completely unrelated to your sexuality. Maybe you routinely park your car diagonally over the white lines and take up two spaces in the school parking lot, I don’t know your life.)” [Slate / Mallory Ortberg]
  • “Though Donovan tries to mine the latent sexiness in violence for all it’s worth, he is, in fact, against consensual BDSM, condemning it in a 2010 essay as part of a long list of evils that he feels has been perpetuated by gay culture: the ‘extreme promiscuity, sadomasochism, transvestism, transsexuality, and flamboyant effeminacy’ promoted by ‘the pink-haired, punk rock stepchildren of feminism,’ gay activists. No, it's straight-up people hurting and killing other people he's endorsing.” [Slate / Donna Minkowitz]
  • “After about 20 minutes of waiting at the foot of my driveway, the white officer returned to my porch and arrested me for violating the noise ordinance. … We were the ‘good’ blacks. We had all done the right thing: gone to college, purchased homes and had outstanding careers. We followed the rules. … However, none of that mattered.” [The Root / C. Nicole Mason]
  • “Last month, President Trump visited Saudi Arabia and his administration announced that he had concluded a $110 billion arms deal with the kingdom. Only problem is that there is no deal. It’s fake news.” [Brookings / Bruce Riedel]

Watch this: What happens when you treat health care like a soap opera

Cable news treated a major health care vote like an episode of House of Cards. That kind of coverage might make for entertaining television, but it badly warps the way viewers at home understand what's at stake in the fight over health care. [Vox / Carlos Maza, Coleman Lowndes]

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