Author: By Greg Sargent

Trump is threatening to wreck our democracy. Blame the Republicans who are looking the other way.

(Daniel Acker/Bloomberg) THE MORNING PLUM: The events we’ve seen in the run-up to the inauguration of Donald Trump have only confirmed that he represents a threat to our democracy and governing norms in multiple unprecedented ways. But this isn’t just a story about Donald Trump. It’s also a story about congressional Republicans. Trump is doing all he can to discredit the apparent CIA conclusion that Russia tried to interfere in our election, which might make a true accounting of this apparently unprecedented assault on our democracy harder. He continues to suggest he will do little to address all the potential conflicts of interests — and possibility of corruption — that are developing around his global business interests on a mind-boggling scale. He continues to claim — after the election — that millions voted illegally, to sow confusion and doubt about the real meaning of the outcome and the integrity of our political process. Yet there are steps congressional Republicans could take to mitigate the damage of those things, but aren’t: 1) Republicans are already signaling they may hamstring efforts to get to the bottom of Russian interference. The Post’s Karoun Demirjian reports today that, while Republicans say they want a vigorous probe of what happened, some appear to be taking steps that make this less likely. Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan want to run the probes through their respective bodies’...

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Top Republicans just came out for an investigation into potential Russian interference. Now what?

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh) Mitch McConnell announced this morning that he favors an investigation into any efforts by Russia to tip the election to Donald Trump, observing: “The Russians are not our friends.” A spokesman for Paul Ryan appeared to confirm this afternoon that the House Speaker, too, supports a similar probe, though he was more circumspect about it. So now what happens? There are two basic things to keep an eye on in the short term: Who conducts these investigations, and how they are defined. Nate Persily, a professor of law at Stanford University, told me today that a lot will turn on which investigative model is selected. Will it be an outside panel similar to the 9/11 Commission, created by Congress? Or will it be joint Senate and House committees created by Congress for the express purpose of probing alleged Russian interference, similar to the Iran-Contra committees? It will almost certainly be neither of those. The most likely outcome in the short term will be that these investigations will be run through existing Congressional committees. McConnell today insisted that the Senate Intel Committee would be up to the task of probing potential Russian interference, and Ryan’s spokesman also appeared to suggest that the House Intel Committee would likely carry out any investigation. “That approach has less independence,” Persily said. “There’s less potential for randomness and jurisdiction-spreading if you...

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Trump’s tweet attacking the union chief gets one thing right. His pick for Labor Secretary should read it.

(AP Photo/Gerry Broome) As you’ve heard, Donald Trump unleashed a fearsome twitter tirade against Chuck Jones, the union leader who represents the workers at the Carrier plant in Indiana, because Jones had the temerity to point out the facts about all the jobs that Trump allegedly saved — facts that told a substantially less flattering tale. This is being widely seen as the latest sign of Trump’s hair-trigger retributive streak. Fair enough. But I want to point out here that Trump’s tweets about the union leader actually got one big thing right. And this is newly relevant today, because the thing that Trump got right, it turns out, reveals what’s really wrong with his newly announced choice for Labor Secretary. First, the tweets in question: If United Steelworkers 1999 was any good, they would have kept those jobs in Indiana. Spend more time working-less time talking. Reduce dues — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2016 Chuck Jones, who is President of United Steelworkers 1999, has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2016 In his zeal to belittle someone who dared to undermine his narrative about himself, Trump actually gets at a larger truth: workers are struggling in part because they don’t have an adequate voice and lack adequate bargaining power. It’s true that unions have been substantially...

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Schumer: If Republicans destroy our health system, we won’t throw them a lifeline

(Andrew Burton/Getty Images) THE MORNING PLUM: The emerging GOP plan to repeal Obamacare on a delayed schedule — and then maybe kinda sorta replace it later — has raised a big question: Will Democrats help Republicans pass a replacement that is far less generous and comprehensive than the health law is, allowing Republicans an escape from the political fallout from repeal? In an interview with me, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer answered this question with a resounding No. Under no circumstances, he vowed, would Democrats throw Republicans such a political lifeline. “We’re not going to do a replacement,” Schumer said of the Senate Democratic caucus. “If they repeal without a replacement, they will own it. Democrats will not then step up to the plate and come up with a half-baked solution that we will partially own. It’s all theirs.” This could have far-reaching implications for the political battle over the health law that’s set to unfold — and indeed for the future of the health care system. Senate Republicans just announced that they will begin the process of repealing most of the health law in January, including the subsidies and Medicaid expansion that have helped cover many millions of previously uninsured people. Republicans are currently arguing over when exactly repeal should kick in — conservatives want it to be sooner, while GOP Senate leaders want to defer it to...

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Don’t get distracted. Trump and Republicans are set to inflict radical, disruptive change.

Get ready to get schlonged, America. (Reuters/Carlo Allegri) THE MORNING PLUM: Will Donald Trump really go through with all of it? It’s worth stepping back and looking at the big picture for a moment. While we are arguing over 1,000 jobs saved at Carrier and obsessing over a verbal scuffle between Trump and Hillary Clinton aides over what really happened in the campaign, Trump and Republicans may soon be going forward with an agenda that could inflict radical, disruptive change on millions of people. Consider just a portion of what lies ahead: 1) Millions are set to lose health insurance. CNN reports this morning that Republicans are coalescing around a strategy that would repeal Obamacare at the outset but delay the full impact of it, on the gamble that Democrats will help them replace it later. Whether or not that will actually happen, the move underscores that Republicans themselves are discovering how hard it will be to replace Obamacare with something that accomplishes roughly the same things — or at least enough of them to keep their proposal from looking too radical — without all the things they hate about it. Yet they are likely to go through with repeal anyway. Trump vowed to repeal Obamacare and won the election, so it’s hardly surprising that this is happening. Yet there are zero indications that Trump himself understands the fundamental...

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Obamacare is probably toast. And a lot of poor, white Trump voters will get hurt by it.

  THE MORNING PLUM: Donald Trump has chosen GOP Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, a longtime critic of the Affordable Care Act, as his Secretary for Health and Human Services. This likely means that, at best, the health law will be repealed and replaced by something that covers far fewer people, or that, at worst, it will get repealed outright, leaving even more people without coverage. So what does this mean for poor and working class white Trump voters who are currently benefiting from the law, some no doubt enjoying health coverage for the first time in their lives? Jonathan Cohn has a good piece explaining what the choice of Rep. Price means in policy terms. Unlike many Republicans, Price has at least given a lot of thought to how to replace the ACA. But Price’s own replacement proposal would roll back the Medicaid expansion, a substantial portion of financial assistance for others getting coverage, and a fair amount of regulation of the individual market. And so, the likely end result (again, at best) is that a lot of the 20 million people who would lose coverage due to repeal will remain without coverage, and protections for those with bad medical conditions will be eroded. The core philosophical difference here is that conservatives want far less in government spending and regulations designed to cover poor and sick people, protect consumers,...

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This Trump Tweet signals a major assault on voting. Here’s what it might look like.

(AP Photo/ Evan Vucci) THE MORNING PLUM: Donald Trump’s victory in the electoral college apparently wasn’t enough to quiet the mental demons that regularly hector him into tweeting out conspiracy theories and lies. Trump has now made national news with this tweet, a response to reports that Hillary Clinton’s campaign will join a recount effort in Wisconsin and possibly Michigan and Pennsylvania as well: In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 27, 2016 As Glenn Kessler explains, there is zero evidence that this happened. Trump will continue to reach deep into the fever swamps to shape reality for himself and his supporters — only now he’ll do so in the position as most powerful person in the world. Trump also tweeted that there was “serious voter fraud” in three states that the media refuses to report upon. But all this may also telegraph something concrete that we might see under a Trump presidency: A far more ambitious effort to restrict access to voting than we might have expected. “My concern is that this might be a signal that we will see an assault on voting rights,” Wendy Weiser, the director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, told me today. “Claims of...

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Trump’s new interview with the New York Times Isn’t reassuring. It’s deeply alarming.

(Reuters/Carlo Allegri) THE MORNING PLUM: This morning, the New York Times published a full transcript of the remarkable set of exchanges that occurred yesterday between Donald Trump and the paper’s editors and reporters. Some, such as Tom Friedman, see cause for hope in the fact that Trump appears to be moderating his stances on climate change and torture, as well as in the indications that Trump perhaps allows the advice of others to shape his thinking — sort of, at least. There is a bit of cause for hope in the transcript — more on that later. But on balance, the main takeaway from it should be that, if anything, we should be more alarmed, rather than less. Though it’s true that Trump did shift on climate, the exchange on this topic is, on balance, more worrying than not, and it perhaps deserves the most attention, because as I’ve argued, the question of whether Trump will really pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord is one of the most consequential we face. Here’s the exchange on that topic: QUESTION: Are you going to take America out of the world’s lead of confronting climate change? TRUMP: I’m looking at it very closely….I’ll tell you what. I have an open mind to it. We’re going to look very carefully. It’s one issue that’s interesting because there are few things...

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