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2018-04-24T06:42:33.369Z
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{"feed":"The-Atlantic-Politics","feedTitle":"The Atlantic - Politics","feedLink":"/feed/The-Atlantic-Politics","catTitle":"News","catLink":"/cat/news"}

The longtime attorney for President Donald Trump’s real-estate empire, Michael Cohen, went to federal court on Monday in a bid to block federal prosecutors from reading documents and other materials that were seized from Cohen’s home in a sweeping raid. The porn star Stormy Daniels, whom Cohen allegedly paid off to protect Trump, was there to watch. And the hearing was presided over by Judge Kimba Wood, who ordered Cohen to reveal the name of a client he’d tried to keep secret: the Fox News host Sean Hannity.

In a blow to Cohen and Trump, who asked to review the seized documents before the government had a chance to look at them, Wood ruled that Justice Department staffers divorced from federal investigators—known as a “taint team”—could be trusted to sift through the seized materials and determine what is and isn’t protected by attorney-client privilege. Wood signaled that she would consider appointing a special master to ensure not “fairness” but “the perception of fairness,” and said the court would reconvene after all parties have a chance to review the seized material and make privilege requests.

The president of the United State is one key player with a personal link to Cohen—but there are many other people involved in the rapidly unfolding drama. Here are the people you need to know about, to understand what happens next:

Joanna Hendon

The high-stakes nature of the Cohen investigation was punctuated last week when Trump hired a new attorney, Joanna Hendon, to represent him in the...

Last month, The Atlantic hired Kevin Williamson, the longtime National Review staffer. Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor in chief of The Atlantic, announced the move, declaring him a writer “whose force of intellect and acuity of insight reflect our ambition.”

Immediately, critics began poring over Williamson’s substantial archive of published writing and public statements. Among the most controversial was an exchange on Twitter about abortion and the death penalty. Williamson declared that “the law should treat abortion like any other homicide.” Pushed to clarify, Williamson added, “I have hanging more in mind.” Later, he expounded, “I’m torn on capital punishment generally; but treating abortion as homicide means what it means.”

Many progressives cited those words as decisive proof that The Atlantic erred in hiring Williamson, even as many centrists and conservatives praised and defended him. “Weighed against these charges are hundreds of thousands of words of smart, stylish and often hilarious commentary, criticism and reportage,” Bret Stephens wrote. “Shouldn’t great prose and independent judgment count for something?”

The controversy divided The Atlantic staff in unknown proportions. And Thursday, Goldberg addressed the matter in an email. “Last week,” he wrote, “I mentioned my belief that Kevin would represent an important addition to our roster of Ideas columnists, and I addressed the controversy surrounding some of his past tweeting and writing. I expressed my belief that no one's life work should be judged by an intemperate tweet, and that such an episode should not necessarily stop someone from having a fruitful career at The Atlantic....

Kellyanne Conway is moving closer to accepting President Donald Trump’s offer for her to succeed Hope Hicks as White House communications director, if only on an interim basis, according to multiple sources who have spoken with her.

“It’s becoming increasingly difficult for her to say no,” said one senior White House official. The official said that First Lady Melania Trump and Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff have both encouraged her over the last few days to reconsider Trump’s offer. Conway declined to speak on the record for this story.

When Hicks announced her resignation earlier this month, Conway said in a Fox News segment that she wasn’t interested in the job. But Trump has continued to urge her to change her mind, as have many rank-and-file White House communications staffers, some of whom see Conway as a mentor. “He’s basically told her she’s no longer allowed to say no,” joked another senior White House official. Like others who spoke for this story, these officials did so on condition of anonymity, in order to discuss private conversations.

In recent days, Conway and Trump have discussed a potential compromise: Conway would take over the post on an interim basis. Once a permanent replacement was found, she would then carve out her own role in the communications shop. Similar to Karen Hughes in the George W. Bush administration, she would serve as an executive of sorts, overseeing both the communications and press shops.

Part of Trump’s insistence draws from...

Today in 5 Lines
  • Congress is expected to unveil a $1.3 trillion spending bill to keep the government funded until September. Lawmakers have until Friday at midnight to pass the bill before the government shuts down, but President Trump is already threatening to veto it.

  • The man suspected in a series of recent bombings in Austin, Texas, died after blowing himself up Wednesday morning. Authorities identified him as 23-year-old Mark Anthony Conditt of Pflugerville, Texas.

  • A year before being fired, Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe reportedly oversaw an investigation into whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions lacked candor when questioned about his contacts with Russian operatives.

  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologized for what he called a “breach of trust” after it was reported that Cambridge Analytica, a data firm with ties to the Trump campaign, accessed information from 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge.

  • The Federal Reserve raised interest rates to the highest level in a decade. The central bank is expected to hike rates three more times this year, as the U.S. economy continues to strengthen.


Today on The Atlantic
  • A New Hope?: Elaina Plott reports that Kellyanne Conway, who currently serves as counselor to President Trump, is now considering replacing Hope Hicks on an interim basis.

  • Illinois’s Marquee Race: Democrats nationwide have spent the year attacking a billionaire president and railing against his conflicts of interest. But on Tuesday, Democrats in Illinois nominated a billionaire of their own to run...

“DO NOT CONGRATULATE.”

That was the instruction that President Donald Trump received on briefing materials before he called Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday to discuss Putin’s victory in a reelection widely regarded as corrupt.

But Trump did congratulate Putin, and he also declined to bring up the recent poisoning of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter in London, a crime that the British government blames on the Kremlin. As I wrote on Tuesday, Trump’s reaction was somewhat out of the mainstream of American reaction when autocratic rulers win election, but not entirely apart. Barack Obama called Putin following his 2012 election victory, but waited several days before doing so, while the U.S. government criticized election regularities.

The difference can be partly explained by Trump’s disdain for this type of subtle diplomatic dig, and his partiality to grand gestures. But given Trump’s history with Russia, the statement sticks out. That history includes the president’s long history of complimentary statements about Putin; his notable reluctance to attribute electoral interference to Russia; Press Secretary Sarah Sanders’s tortured avoidance of statements critical of Russia, including her refusal Tuesday to say that the election was not free and fair; and of course the ongoing investigations into interference in the election, including the admissions by former Trump aides that they lied about conversations with the Russians.

One of the enduring characteristics of Donald Trump’s short but high-flying political career has been his ability to put behind him stories that would have sunk any other...

President Donald Trump threatened to veto a massive government spending package over border wall funding measures, a senior White House official and two senior House Republican aides told The Atlantic. The president is also “upset” that the bill lacks a measure to defund sanctuary cities, both sources added.

“He certainly wants the wall money,” the senior White House official said. “And he knows the ink is not dry yet on the bill.”

Another White House official told The Atlantic that Trump’s comments about the border wall in particular indicate the president’s broader dissatisfaction with congressional leaders, who he believes have been stagnant on moving ahead with his core campaign promise.

All four officials spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitive nature of the negotiations.

The $1.3 trillion omnibus bill currently includes $1.6 billion for “border security” measures, including more border agents and funding for the construction of wall prototypes, and just $641 million for the wall itself—far shy of the $25 billion Trump requested.

House conservatives have groused in recent days that Republican leaders have all but abandoned efforts to follow through on Trump’s core campaign promises related to immigration. “They don’t even pretend anymore to want it,” said one senior aide to a conservative member about the border wall, who requested anonymity to talk about private discussions.

Trump met at the White House on Wednesday afternoon with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“The speaker met with the president this afternoon to discuss...

Here are two pro-gun arguments, from people who are not bots and who don’t go in for the “you libtard cuck!” style of discourse. Obviously I disagree with their perspectives. But because they’re making sustained versions of two main arguments against current gun-control measures, I quote them at length.

The first argument is that it’s meaningless to concentrate on one weapon, the AR-15, even though it has been used in the most notorious recent gun massacres. A reader writes:

I am an avid firearms enthusiast, and I own an AR-15 rifle.

One of your articles begins as follows: "I’ve argued over the years that the AR-15 is a weapon designed for the military, which was never meant to be in civilian hands. Dissenting arguments fall into three main categories: slippery slope (any step toward gun regulation is really a step toward confiscation and prohibition); pointlessness (disturbed people will always find a way to kill); and hypocrisy (how can you complain about gun killings, when abortion goes on?).”

I would provide you with a fourth dissenting argument: functional non-uniqueness. The AR-15 style rifle was introduced into the civilian market in the early to mid 1960’s, not long after its fully automatic variants were introduced to the military. While the rifle was indeed originally designed for the military, there is nothing notable about that fact.

Such is the case for all semi-automatic rifles, both “assault"-style and wood/steel traditional style, bolt-action rifles, lever action rifles, etc. I would encourage you to research the M1 carbine, M1A, and...

The email that landed in my inbox Thursday morning from Sabrina Fernandez was brief, polite, and painful.

Hi Ms. Cottle,

I’ve just been back to back funerals which is why I haven’t been able to get back to you. Is there any way I can answer all your questions via email by tonight or do you need it immediately?

Eighteen-year-old Fernandez is the student-body president of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida. She lives next door to my oldest friend and had graciously agreed to share insights on how she and her classmates are weathering the aftermath of the February 14 mass shooting—especially amid the national frenzy surrounding the #NeverAgain movement that some of the survivors launched to push for gun-law reform.

Fernandez’s week had been exactly as rough as you would imagine. Just eight days earlier, 17 of her classmates and teachers had been gunned down. That makes for an awful lot of funerals to attend, an awful lot of friends (and parents) to comfort, an awful lot of grieving to endure. Still, she didn’t want me to think she was ignoring me—or that she didn’t have anything to say.

Fernandez is not one of the high-profile teens leading the #NeverAgain charge in the media. “We’ve always had students more politically savvy than others, the faces of the #NeverAgain movement, [whom] I’m proud to call my fellow classmates,” she emailed me late Thursday night. “They were dedicated to making a difference prior to this and now more than ever.”

But she is...

“Poison is the wind that blows from the north and south and east.” Marvin Gaye wasn’t an environmental scientist, but his 1971 single “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” provides a stark and useful environmental analysis, complete with warnings of overcrowding and climate change. The song doesn’t explicitly mention race, but its place in Gaye’s What’s Going On album portrays a black Vietnam veteran, coming back to his segregated community and envisioning the hell that people endure.

Gaye’s prophecies relied on the qualitative data of storytelling—of long-circulated anecdotes and warnings within black communities of bad air and water, poison, and cancer. But those warnings have been buttressed by study after study indicating that people of color face disproportionate risks from pollution, and that polluting industries are often located in the middle of their communities.

Late last week, even as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Trump administration continued a plan to dismantle many of the institutions built to address those disproportionate risks, researchers embedded in the EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment released a study indicating that people of color are much more likely to live near polluters and breathe polluted air. Specifically, the study finds that people in poverty are exposed to more fine particulate matter than people living above poverty. According to the study’s authors, “results at national, state, and county scales all indicate that non-Whites tend to be burdened disproportionately to Whites.”

The study focuses on particulate matter, a group of both natural and manmade microscopic suspensions of solids and...

In Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed in a mass shooting, a sheriff’s deputy faced widespread criticism last week amid reports that he heard AR-15 fire yet failed to rush into the high school he was assigned to protect. Critics say he should’ve risked his life to confront the gunman with his service weapon. “When it came time to get in there and do something, he didn’t have the courage, or something happened,” President Donald Trump said. “He certainly did a poor job. That’s the case where somebody was outside, they are trained, they didn’t react properly under pressure or they were a coward.”

It was the first time I can recall a policeman being labeled a coward by any federal official, let alone a law-and-order type who bristles at most criticism of cops.

And even though the facts of the case are hardly clear and the deputy maintains that he thought the shooter was outside the school, Trump was hardly alone.

The hashtag #CowardofBroward began trending on Twitter.

A high school student who survived the attack told a TV interviewer that he has this message for the deputy: “You’re despicable. You didn’t do your job. You were trained for this. You were armed. You had a bullet-proof vest. You were protected more than anybody else. You did nothing. You froze, you got scared, you did nothing at all, and you could have saved a lot of lives.” Tucker Carlson declared on Fox News that the deputy “may not have...

For years, activists have urged lawmakers to provide a path to citizenship for so-called “Dreamers,” immigrants brought to the United States illegally as minors. They’ve staged sit-ins, protested at the steps of the Capitol, and organized rallies across the country. But the Trump administration’s hardline stance has required advocate groups to go further and consider how much they’re willing to concede to protect young undocumented immigrants—potentially at the expense of other immigrant groups.

There are dozens of immigrant advocacy groups across the country, but the policies they defend can differ depending on the group of immigrants they’re serving. This includes systems to legally immigrate to the United States, some of which President Trump has proposed scrapping.

In September, the administration announced that it was ending the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program with a six-month delay, leaving a window of time for Congress to act. Democrats tried to enshrine DACA protections into law by tacking it on to must-pass legislation, such as bills funding the government. And as a result, in January, the lack of a DACA deal led to a three-day government shutdown. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged to hold an open-floor debate on immigration if a deal wasn’t reached before the February 8 funding deadline. This month, the Senate engaged in a debate over immigration, much of which happened behind closed doors, and failed to advance four separate proposals.

Attempts to pass the DREAM Act, a measure first introduced in 2001 that would allow...

Never let it be said that Justice Clarence Thomas is overly concerned with appearances. Witness his release of a passionately pro-gun opinion, less than a week after a school shooting took 17 lives at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

As near as I can tell, only two subjects excite this most phlegmatic of justices: the death penalty and the Second Amendment’s “right to bear arms.” I was present in Court two years ago when Thomas broke his 11-year silence on the bench—to ask Assistant U.S. Solicitor General Ilana Eisenstein why a misdemeanor conviction for domestic abuse should deprive the abuser of the right to possess firearms: “Can you think of another constitutional right that can be suspended based upon a misdemeanor violation of a state law?”

The quick-witted Eisenstein responded that Congress based the law on a record showing that “individuals who have previously … battered their spouses, pose up to a six-fold greater risk of killing, by a gun, their family member.”

But that answer didn’t satisfy Thomas. The following June, when the Court decided, 6 to 2, that Congress could outlaw gun possession by abusers, Thomas dissented, writing, “Under the majority’s reading, a single conviction under a state assault statute for recklessly causing an injury to a family member—such as by texting while driving—can now trigger a lifetime ban on gun ownership. … We treat no other constitutional right so cavalierly.” (Justice Sonia Sotomayor joined Thomas’s dissent as to the proper reading of the statute; but...

On Tuesday, in the aftermath of the shooting of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida, Trump sent a memo to Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordering a proposal to ban bump stocks and to improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. But experts and advocates say the move is more performative than meaningful—and the decision is being criticized by gun-control advocates and Second Amendment proponents alike.

“It’s a presidential distraction,” said William Vizzard, a professor of criminal justice at California State University, Sacramento, and a former Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives  agent. “It’s obvious that somebody somewhere in the White House calculated that this is not working for them politically, and it’s time to make an announcement without really doing anything that’s going to fire up the NRA.”

After the October 2017 shooting in Las Vegas, where a gunman used semi-automatic rifles fitted with bump stocks to murder 58 concert-goers, calls to ban the devices were deafening; California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced a bill to outlaw them. Even the National Rifle Association made a rare call for further restrictions on bump stocks, saying that “devices designed to allow semiautomatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.”

But the legislation stalled, and instead, Republicans called on the ATF to conduct a review of the devices. The ATF had previously ruled on this issue in 2010, when they determined that, since using a bump stock requires the shooter...

The shifting geography of the electoral battlefield is providing gun-control advocates their best opportunity in years to tilt the balance on the issue in Congress.

Since the early 1990s, the National Rifle Association has sustained an impregnable congressional blockade against new gun-control measures. But the weakest link in that chain has always been the Republican-held suburban seats in the House of Representatives, where many voters support reasonable limits on gun access.

Even before the mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school last week, Donald Trump’s unpopularity with college-educated voters was pushing those seats to the center of the midterm battle for control of the House. Now, the increased attention to gun issues could widen the wedge between suburban Republicans and the white-collar voters already recoiling from Trump’s tempestuous presidency.

“Where it coincides with the political realignment that’s occurring under Trump, the gun issue puts at risk a lot of these Republicans who have represented … suburban districts,” said Peter Ambler, the executive director of Giffords, the gun-control advocacy group founded by former Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

During his first term, then-President Bill Clinton overcame the NRA’s resistance to pass the 1993 Brady bill mandating background checks for most gun sales and the 1994 ban on assault weapons. Since then, two major dynamics have tilted the balance in the House toward the NRA and its allies.

The most visible change has been the GOP’s success at ousting Democrats in dozens of rural and small-town districts and replacing them with pro-gun-rights Republicans. But “visible”...

Could Amazon flip a state?

Amid all the public chatter over the company’s search for a second North American headquarters, there’s been strikingly little discussion about the potential political impact. But the choice’s electoral implications could be substantial.

Just as Democrats are becoming increasingly reliant on younger, better-educated, and urbanized voters, Amazon’s second headquarters could bring tens of thousands of such workers to a state. That wouldn’t affect national politics much if Amazon picked one of the finalists from an already solidly blue state, such as New York City or Los Angeles. But if it chose a city from an existing or emerging battleground—its list of 20 finalists includes Columbus, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Raleigh—the addition of so many younger workers could provide an important thumb on the scale for Democrats.

Amazon has signaled it intends to finalize its choice this year. Once it’s established, the number of workers connected to the new corporate hub is expected to grow significantly, with Amazon actively recruiting employees from around the country. Amazon projects that it will directly inject into the winning community up to 50,000 new jobs and $5 billion in investment. Based on the spin-off effects it has experienced in Seattle, the site of its first headquarters, Amazon forecasts that other companies will create roughly as many additional jobs. Add in the workers’ families, and Amazon’s choice city could attract well over 100,000 new residents.

That migration could have a long fuse before it changes a state’s balance of power. But there’s...

Do the president’s words matter?

In Donald Trump’s first year in office, there has been a surprisingly widespread effort to argue that they do not. Liberals and moderates occasionally insist that the media and the public should shift their attention from the president’s vulgar statements to the real policy work happening at federal agencies. Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, have repeatedly ignored and dismissed Trump’s most shocking comments; criticized the media for paying attention to his tweets; feigned forgetfulness of his vulgarities; and even made jokes about all that ignoring, dismissing, and forgetting.

The upshot seems to be: Ignore the words, heed the substance.

But Trump’s words are his substance. “Politics is persuasion as well as coercion,” the political scientist Jacob Levy wrote last week, rightly arguing that Trump has “changed what being a Republican means.” He has done so not through legislative coercion—indeed, he barely seems to understand the basics of American government—but through persuasive insistence. On issues as diverse as the alleged dangers of immigration and the nature of truth, Trump’s words have the power to cleave public opinion, turning nonpolitical issues into partisan maelstroms and turning partisan attitudes on their head. Trump’s rhetoric doesn’t produce the legislative artifacts that journalists typically use to analyze presidential power—it hasn’t translated to many actual laws passed. But the country is only just beginning to understand the scope of Trump’s lexical influence.

Let’s start with the obvious examples. Years ago...

“Conventional wisdom suggests that the temptations of Washington, D.C., corrupt all the idealists, naïfs, and ingenues who settle there," Franklin Foer writes in his cover story for the March issue of The Atlantic. "But what if that formulation gets the causation backwards? What if it took an outsider to debase the capital and create the so-called swamp?”

Before Paul Manafort led the campaign to position Donald Trump as the ultimate Washington outsider, Manafort had built a career on being the consummate D.C. insider. Foer tells the story of Manafort's rise and fall, his stint as a consigliere to oligarchs, and the lines he was willing to cross in lobbying and political consulting. Foer joins Jeff and Matt to describe how Manafort's career is a window into the rise of corruption in America.

Links

The plan for the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) has been contested hotly for months now, in a power struggle that started even before Hurricane Maria plunged the island into darkness for months. But the ultimate fate for the commonwealth-owned power company has always trended in one direction: privatization.

On Monday, Governor Ricardo Rosselló formalized that fate, announcing that over the next year-and-a-half, the Puerto Rican government will pursue a plan to sell the decrepit power utility, ending an effective territorial monopoly on electricity that has existed for almost 80 years, ever since President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.

In translated remarks announcing the decision, Rosselló cited deep structural problems with Prepa as one of the major factors for the island’s debt crisis. “One of the great impediments that has stopped our opportunities for economic development is the deficient and obsolete system of generation and distribution of energy on our Island,” the governor said. “The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority has become a heavy burden on our people, who are now hostage to its poor service and high cost. What we know today as the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority does not work and cannot continue to operate like this.”

The burden that the governor mentioned is mostly related to the $9 billion debt accrued by Prepa, the largest component of the island’s fiscal and bankruptcy crisis. Over the past few decades, Prepa has been deeply connected to demographic and economic woes across Puerto Rico. As industries and...

On Tuesday, Steve Bannon spent hours behind closed doors with the House Intelligence Committee. It was rough. The former White House chief strategist stonewalled lawmakers, they said, even after members from both parties issued a subpoena. Then, on Wednesday, CNN reported that Bannon has struck a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team for an interview.

The disparate results obtained from Bannon neatly symbolize the difference between Mueller’s probe and the various congressional panels, all of which are in their own ways investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and what role the Trump campaign played in it. The congressional panels are high drama, but low results, riven by procedural hurdles, partisan foodfights, and what appears to be interference from the White House. Mueller, meanwhile, has kept his head down and his lips sealed, with most news about his probe emerging from outside sources or from court documents, but all appearances suggest a team moving slowly but inexorably and effectively forward.

Bannon’s testimony to the House Intelligence Committee had been scheduled since at least last week, but Tuesday morning, as Bannon testified, The New York Times reported that Mueller had subpoenaed him. The House interview was voluntary, but Bannon apparently wouldn’t say much, answering questions about his time on the Trump campaign but refusing to discuss the presidential transition team or his time in the White House. He also reportedly wouldn’t talk about his conversations with Trump after leaving the White House in August.

Initial reports...

Editor’s Note: This is part of The Atlantic’s ongoing series looking back at 1968. All past articles and reader correspondence are collected here. New material will be added to that page through the end of 2018.

In January 1968, Colonel Robert B. Rigg, a retired Army intelligence officer, published an article in ARMY magazine that captured the attention of an establishment reeling from recent riots in Watts, Detroit, and other American cities. He argued that those disturbances might be relatively mild precursors to a coming rebellion in the streets––that during the next few years, “organized urban insurrection could explode to the extent that large American cities could become scenes of destruction approaching those of Stalingrad in World War II.”

As he envisioned it, those disaffected by the Vietnam War or poverty or racial injustice might at any time attempt a guerrilla uprising in their cities, where man has invariably built “a finer jungle for insurrection” than any in nature.

“Rooftops, windows, rooms high up, streets low down, and back alleys nearby could become a virtual jungle for patrolling police or military forces at night when hidden snipers could abound, as they often do against U.S. and allied forces in Vietnam in daylight,” he wrote. “Could local police or National Guard units carry out such search-and-destroy campaigns in the cement-blockjungles of high-rise buildings?”

He didn’t think so.

“Urban guerrillas could shoot down the streets, drop fire bombs, and not even need mortars,” he wrote. Hostages could be taken. The Communists might even...