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Manafort Monday Turns Into a Very Bad Day for Trump—and Mike Pence

The technical term for what we do and what law firms, associations and professional groups do is lobbying. For purposes of today, I will admit that in a narrow sense, some people might term it influence peddling,” Paul Manafort admitted in 1989, when he testified regarding his role in a Reagan-era scandal at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Throughout his long career as a Republican Party fixer and influence peddler on behalf of what the Center for Public Integrity termed “the torture lobby”—a global cadre of dictators and strongmen who wanted to make sure the United States did not hold them to account—Manafort has been one of most troublesome creatures in the Washington “swamp” that Donald Trump decried as a presidential contender. Yet Manafort has also worked, from the 1980s on, for his client “Donald”—the New York billionaire who relied on Manafort to help clear hurdles for gambling and real-estate endeavors.

When “Donald” ran for the Republican presidential nomination, he needed influence peddlers to help him close the deal and organize a functional party convention in Cleveland. So he brought in the torture lobbyist and his associate Rick Gates to manage the campaign.

Manafort managed things for several months, while Gates remained on the Trump team as a key figure in the campaign, the transition process, and the planning of the new president’s inauguration. Manafort also maintained a relationship with “Donald,” reportedly continuing to talk with his longtime associate through the remainder of the campaign and into the transition process.

Now that Manafort and Gates have been indicted on 12 counts of money laundering involving at least $18 million, setting up secret overseas bank accounts through which $75 million flowed, lying to federal authorities, and operating as unregistered foreign agents for the government of a Ukrainian leader who is linked with the Russians, and now that it has been revealed that George Papadopoulos (a foreign-policy adviser to Trump who urged the candidate meet with Russian officials) has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, the word from the White House is that Trump barely knows these guys and that the indictments by special counsel Robert Mueller have focused on figures who had only “limited” contact with the Trump team.

That sounds like the sort of “I-know-nothing” spin that Manafort counseled his clients to employ back in the day when he was working for the cruelest—and most criminal—dictators in the world. They should be recognized as the self-serving lies that they are.

Trump led the lying project with Monday-morning tweets that announced, first, “Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????” and, second, “Also, there is NO COLLUSION!”

The truth is that Manafort’s role in the Trump campaign was not “limited.” It was definitional. When Manafort was in charge of making sure that the Republican platform-writing process and convention went smoothly, the party suddenly became dramatically friendlier to Russia—to such an extent that the headline on an analysis piece published in The Washington Post just before the convention read: “Trump campaign guts GOP’s anti-Russia stance on Ukraine.”

There will be many attempts to deny and dissemble. But one thing is certain: Manafort definitely put one man in the West Wing of the White House (and the adjoining Eisenhower Executive Office Building): Mike Pence.

It was Manafort who brought Pence, the scandal-plagued and politically vulnerable governor of Indiana, who had backed Texas Senator Ted Cruz in that state’s Republican primary, into consideration as a vice-presidential prospect for Trump. Referring to Trump, Manafort explained last summer that “I brought him in to meet Pence.” That manipulation, said Manafort, fostered the notion that Pence “had value to Trump as a potential VP nominee.”

But the Manafort-Pence connection was about more than just introducing Trump to a Republican stalwart the fixer had known for many years. Veteran Republican strategist John Weaver says, “Remember, Manafort selected the VP and was therefore the most important person on the campaign team.”

Most indications going into the 2016 Republican National Convention were that Trump wanted New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to be his running mate, and that Christie was ready to take the gig.

But, according a CBS report on the negotiations, “Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager at the time, allegedly had another idea in mind.”

The report explained that

Manafort had arranged for Trump to meet with his first choice for the job on July 13: Indiana Governor Mike Pence. Afterwards, the plans was for Trump and Pence to then fly back to New York together and a formal announcement would be made, a campaign source said of Manafort’s thinking:

What had previously been reported as a “lucky break” by the New York Times was actually a swift political maneuver devised by the now fired campaign manager. Set on changing Trump’s mind, he concocted a story that Trump’s plane had mechanical problems, forcing the soon-to-be Republican nominee to stay the night in Indianapolis for breakfast with the Pence family on Wednesday morning.

Swayed by Pence’s aggressive pitch, Trump agreed to ditch Christie and make Pence his VP the following day, according to a source.

It should be understood that Manafort had allies, especially Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who was in the anyone-but-Christie camp because the New Jerseyan had, as a federal prosecutor, sent Kushner’s dad to jail.

But the Manafort-Pence connection ought not be underestimated. Indeed, when CNN reported in December that Manafort had“reemerged as a player in the fight to shape the new administration,” the network explained that “with Pence firmly entrenched in Trump’s inner circle…Manafort—who keeps a home in Trump Tower—has a direct line to top decision-makers.”

Pence ran the transition team, which populated the Trump administration with scandalous figures who have been accused of serious wrongdoing, including ousted White House national-security adviser Mike Flynn. After Flynn exited the administration under a cloud, Pence adopted his own “I-know-nothing” stance. But then it was revealed that Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, had informed Pence in a November 18, 2016, letter that he was concerned about ethical issues that could arise from “Lt. Gen. Flynn’s involvement in advising Mr. Trump on matters relating to Turkey or Russia—including attending classified briefings on those matters…”

Cummings said Pence and the transition team had “17 or 20 red lights” regarding Flynn, yet Flynn got security post.

There is a fantasy that suggests that Mike Pence is a mere spectator—and an ignorant one, at that—when it comes to the scandals associated with the Trump campaign, the Trump transition, and the Trump administration. That has never been true. Pence has often been at or near the center of things. And, as attention turns toward Manafort, it must also turn toward Pence.

That does not mean that Vice President Pence’s connections, statements, and actions are of more concern that those of President Trump. But it does mean that Trump will not be the only member of the 2016 Republican ticket who faces serious scrutiny in 2017 and beyond.

John NicholsTWITTERJohn Nichols is The Nation’s national-affairs correspondent. He is the author of Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse: A Field Guide to the Most Dangerous People in America, from Nation Books, and co-author, with Robert W. McChesney,

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New NAACP President Derrick Johnson Speaks on Education and Moratorium on Charter Schools

LOS ANGELES - Equitable education is a top priority for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which re-emphasized its call for a moratorium on charter school expansion during its California Hawaii 30th Annual State Convention at the LAX Marriott Hotel in Los Angeles Oct. 26-29.

The NAACP contends that charter schools divert already-limited funds from public schools, without the same levels of oversight, civil rights protections, and transparency. It wants stronger oversight in governance and practice in the system.

In California, of the 175,000 Black students who took the math test for 2017, six percent exceeded state standards, 13 percent met standards, 25 percent ‘nearly' met standards, and 56 percent did not, according to the California Department of Education.

In English/Language Arts, 44 percent of the 175,000 Blacks tested did not meet state standards, while 25 percent nearly passed, 22 percent passed, and 9 percent exceeded them.

During an invitation-only stakeholders meeting on Oct. 26, CBM sought new NAACP President Derrick Johnson's thoughts on calling for a moratorium on charter schools, when some families are finding success in these schools.

While not all traditional schools are failing, Black children are suffering greatly in traditional schools, not just from a lack of education, but from criminalization through various disciplinary measures (such as random backpack searches, suspensions, and expulsions), CBM noted.

"The NAACP will continue to advocate for quality education for our children. We began to notice a trend with charter schools. We're clear that anytime you put a profit motive behind the delivery of education there are individuals who would put profit above people," Johnson replied.

As a result, he said the organization's position is clear. It is calling for a moratorium on charter schools, because of the privatization of schools and the lack of transparency in their operations.

Particularly, Johnson said, the NAACP is looking at the impact of how charters operate across the country, which varies under state laws.

"You have scenarios like in Detroit, where the authorizing board, you have 16 of them. There is no standardization. There is no transparency in their governance. And in some cases, we found that schools would open up, receive resources, and close, and parents are left holding the bag," Johnson stated.

He said that level of instability is found in the majority of Black, Latino and poor neighborhoods.

Johnson said there might be some best practices across the country with charter schools, and the NAACP knows there is not a perfect system with public schools.

That said, it has long advocated for quality education in the public school sector, but the 15-year emergence of the privatization of education is also a problem, he stated.

"We will not be consistent with our mission if we didn't speak out as strongly against what's taking place in the privatization process of delivering education in the same vein that we have historically spoken out against the lack of quality in the public setting. That's why we've taken the position that we've taken," Johnson stated.

Rev. K.W. Tulloss, president of the National Action Network Los Angeles Chapter agrees with the NAACP that equity in the overall funding of students per pupil is a worthy fight.

Though his own children attend a charter school, Tulloss advocates for a cap, because he feels the Black community is too flooded with the sites. He said he is also against a two-tier system that pits charter vs. traditional, because every child matters.

"I don't particularly agree with the NAACP stance in trying to point out the discrepancies of charter schools, because, when you do that, you talk about my children who attend charter schools. As a parent, I chose charter schools, because there's not a one-size-fits-all system," Tulloss said.

"My child, I feel, is doing a great job in a charter school, Watts Learning Center, which is 70 percent African American students there," he added.

On the political front, CBM also asked Johnson how he thinks the NAACP's switch from a 501(c)(3) non-partisan status to a 501(c)(4), allowing it to lobby or campaign politically, may impact its ability to not fall prey to the highest bidder.

He replied the NAACP is a membership-based advocacy organization, with strength in its local units across the country.

They are already 501(c)(4), which means very few restrictions on policies, positions, how they inform the community, and political advocacy around certain measures, Johnson said.

"The NAACP also has an internal policy that we don't endorse political parties or individual candidates," he said. But the national office has been restricted and limited on the type of support it could give to state conferences on certain ballot positions.

"In order for us to have consistency, we're creating a (c)(4) so we'll have better alignment with our local units as they advocate for public policy, but we will retain our (c)(3) at the same time,” Johnson concluded.

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DESPITE TRUMP, ACA OPEN ENROLLMENT HAS BEGUN

No, President Trump and the Republican Congress haven‘t “repealed and replaced” President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA), the federal health care law, yet. But yes, as Open Enrollment began on Nov. 1st, there are significant changes than in previous years.

The enrollment period ends on Dec. 15th for coverage through the 2018 Federal Health Insurance Exchange to begin January 1, 2018. This is the shortest enrollment period (45 days) in recent years, so those without health care coverage should act immediately.

To qualify for federal tax subsidies to offset the rising cost of health insurance premiums, those seeking to apply should go online to www.healthcare.gov. Most of those who get their health insurance coverage through the ACA are eligible for what are known as Advanced Premium Tax Subsidies (APT).

In some states, the average ACA health insurance premium is calculated at $662 per month, but after the APT subsidy tax credit kicks in, that comes down to just $129 per month, and in some cases, as low as $87 a month.

In many states last year, enrollment was down. Observers say one of the reasons for the decrease was uncertainty about the future of the ACA, especially after Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, vowing to mothball the federal law, which he and the Republican Congress have repeatedly tried, but failed to do.

The Trump Administration has significantly cut the advertising budget to make more Americans aware of the ACA Open Enrollment period, in addition to shortening it to just 45 days, hoping to slowly phase it out in the future. It has also cut federal funding to nonprofit groups that traditionally helped low-income residents navigate the process of signing up and qualifying.

The White House has also discontinued the cost sharing reimbursements to insurance companies to help offset rising premiums to consumers. As a result, premiums across the nation have gone up anywhere from 15 to 21 percent, according to published reports.

Applicants are generally “…guaranteed to be insurable and are encouraged to sign up for health insurance….” through the ACA if they currently have ACA coverage, but want to change their plan for 2018; they don’t have health insurance through their employer or spouse’s employer; they don’t have government coverage (veterans, Medicaid or Medicare); or they’re older than 26 and are no longer on their parents’ policy.

Failure in having health insurance in 2018 will result in a sizable tax penalty, officials warn. For the past two years, that fee has been $695.00 per uninsured adult, and $347.00 per uninsured child, or 2.5 percent of household income, whichever is higher.

Also keep in mind, per new rules that are now in effect, insurance companies can now deny you coverage if you owe them money on current coverage. You must settle any outstanding balances before you will be re-enrolled.

And you can also be denied the premium tax credit to lower your bill in 2018 if you’re behind in your taxes. To correct this, fill out the federal tax reconciliation IRS form 8962 to determine your 2016 taxable income.

For more information, call 1-800-318-2596, or go to www.healthcare.gov

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