The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Staff Infection

Written by Elaine Godfrey (@elainejgodfrey).

Today in 5 Lines

The search continues for a replacement for White House Chief of Staff John Kelly after several leading candidates reportedly have already declined the role.

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a case brought by two states—Kansas and Louisiana—that were seeking to end Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood.

Maria Butina, the accused Russian spy who was close with officials at the National Rifle Association, seems to have reached a plea deal with the Justice Department, according to a new court filing.

Hundreds of activists protested in the offices of three House Democratic leaders, including likely incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The protesters are encouraging Democrats to create a special committee focused on climate change.

Over the weekend, House Democrats discussed the prospect of impeachment, and one senator suggested that Trump’s troubles have entered a “new phase.”

Today on The Atlantic

Lowering the Barr: William Barr, President Donald Trump’s nominee to run the Justice Department, isn’t perfect, writes Benjamin Wittes, but he’s at least a more qualified attorney general than others the president reportedly has considered.

Who He Always Was: John Kelly’s employment in President Trump’s administration revealed the general’s true nature, writes James Fallows.

Finding Mr. Right: President Trump is looking for a new chief of staff to replace John Kelly. The problem is, he doesn’t really want one, argues Rahm Emanuel.

Who Is John Delaney?: The Maryland lawmaker and 2020 presidential contender just wrapped up his 20th visit to Iowa. But it’s still not clear that he’s the kind of candidate that Democrats want to challenge Trump. (Elaine Godfrey)

Why Is America So Angry?: In The Atlantic’s January/February cover story, Charles Duhigg delves into how anger became the dominant emotion in American politics—and what can be done to change that.

SnapshotJosie, …read more

Source:: <a href= target="_blank" title="The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Staff Infection” >The Atlantic – Politics

Comey Testified That We’ve Become ‘Numb’ to Trump’s Lies

The band got back together on Friday. For five hours, members of the House of Representatives peppered former FBI Director James Comey with questions about familiar topics. All the greatest hits were there: Hillary Clinton’s private email server; the tarmac meeting between Bill Clinton and then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch; the affair between FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page and all of the anti-Trump texts they’d shared, and of course the salacious Steele dossier.

And because this show had no live audience, but also because Comey had resisted an entirely closed hearing, fans could read a 235-page transcript that was released late Saturday. And that’s where the twists came in. At one point, for example, an FBI official accompanying Comey confirmed that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is pursuing a possible obstruction of justice case against the president.

[Read: The Last Gasp]

It’s not a page-turner. The representatives from the Judiciary and Oversight committees questioned Comey on topics that he’s addressed before and even covered in a memoir. The closed hearing largely consisted of Republicans pushing Comey on his decision not to prosecute Clinton for her serious lapses in email security, and Democrats pushing him to criticize Trump and occasionally pushing him (again) on his controversial public pronouncement about reopening the email investigation days before the 2016 election. Predictably, he stood by his decisions as FBI director.

Nonetheless, there were a few interesting moments with some new information.

First, the FBI official accompanying Comey and her confirmation that Mueller’s inquiry covers possible obstruction of justice by President Trump. The moment came as Representative Trey Gowdy, the retiring South Carolina Republican who grew famous for leading a Benghazi investigation, was asking Comey whether he considered a Justice Department memo sufficient grounds for Trump to fire him. The FBI official, Cecilia Bessee, …read more

Source:: The Atlantic – Politics

Mitch McConnell Appears to Be Killing Bipartisan Sentencing Reform

A series of tough sentencing laws in the 1970s and 1980s sent incarceration rates soaring. Congress imposed mandatory minimum sentences for federal crimes including drug offenses, leaving aging offenders serving life terms as the federal prison population swelled from 25,000 in 1980 to 210,000 three decades later. Though federal incarceration rates grew more quickly, states hold most of the country’s 2.3 million total inmates.

In recent years, a coalition of liberal and conservative reformers have pushed for changes with arguments both moral and fiscal. Some success came during the Obama years, such as reducing the sentencing disparity between forms of cocaine. Despite President Trump’s “tough on crime” campaign rhetoric, there seemed to be an opening for significant reform this year in a rare act of bipartisan cooperation. The window of opportunity is closing quickly.

The First Step Act, a package of prisoner-reentry reforms, passed the GOP-controlled House of Representatives approved a version by a 360-59 margin with almost every Republican in favor. Trump endorsed the bill after the midterm elections, giving momentum to an effort pushed by his son-in-law Jared Kushner, whose father spent a year in federal prison for tax evasion and illegal campaign contributions.

[Read: Sentencing: The Judge’s Problem]

The bill would let some federal inmates participating in “evidence-based recidivism reduction programs” earn credit to leave prison more quickly; the sentencing reform added in the Senate trims future mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes and lets prisoners sentenced under the old crack cocaine rules petition for a reduced sentence in line with the recent reforms.

On Friday, Trump tweeted that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should allow a vote on the “extremely popular” package.

Top GOP senators predict it would get 25 or 30 Republican votes in their chamber and pass with a bipartisan supermajority. But now McConnell …read more

Source:: The Atlantic – Politics