Hello and welcome to the Top 5 by Sam Jenkins. The Top 5 consists of the top five things happening right now in politics. Be sure to click that like button, leave a comment, or let me know if I’m #FakeNews. Thank you for reading!
1 Big Thing: Trump and Putin
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On Monday, President Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland. During their joint press conference, Trump refused to blame Putin and Russia for their interference into the 2016 presidential election. He asserted, “I don’t see any reason why it would [be Russia].” This is despite the U.S. Intelligence Community’s unequivocal conclusion that Russia did interfere with the U.S. elections.
- A couple days later, Trump attempted to rectify the situation claiming, “The sentence should have been: ‘I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t, or why it wouldn’t be Russia.’”
- Another interest of the Trump-Putin summit was whether Russia would again interfere in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections.
- Additionally, Putin proposed an exchange between the two countries that the White House considered, but eventually rejected. This proposed exchange would’ve allowed the Special Counsel’s office a chance to question the indicted Russian officials in exchange for Russia’s chance to question several American officials, including the former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul.
- Before the White House’s final decision, a State Department spokesperson stated the idea was “absolutely absurd.”
Mueller Indictments – DNC Hack
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On Friday, the Justice Department indicted 12 Russian military operatives for their role in the 2016 presidential election. Specifically, this group of Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and other Democratic campaign infrastructure. The indictment also outlined the timeline of the Russian interference:
- The Russian interference started in March of 2016 when they sent John Podesta, the chairman of the Hillary Clinton campaign, a spear-phishing email. Ultimately, he clicked on the email and in doing so, handed the Russians his password and all his emails.
- From there, the Russians slithered into the DNC and other parts of the Democratic infrastructure with similar methods. They then leaked this stolen information with different entities, including DC Leaks, Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks.
- The Russian hackers also breached various state elections databases, including one state where they stole the information of 500,000 voters.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw temporarily stopped deportations of families who were just reunited. However, the Department of Justice disagrees with this ruling so they will file an appeal.
- Additionally, Sabraw scolded but did not punish the Trump administration for missing last week’s deadline to reunify children under 5 years old.
- The Department of Health and Human Services also issued an updated plan for reuniting children, which utilizes more methods to verify family ties other than just DNA.
- The U.S. government must reunite all 2551 children aged 5 to 17 with their parents by July 26th per Judge Sabraw.
Kavanaugh is Underway
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Since President Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court, the political gears of the confirmation process started moving quickly:
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Kavanaugh would be confirmed in “late August or early September,” which would allow him to begin at the start of the Court’s session on October 1st.
- There are still various Senators who haven’t announced their vote to confirm Kavanaugh, including Republicans Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski as well as various Democrats from more electorally moderate states.
- Money is trying to sway their votes. One conservative group, Judicial Crisis Network, has already spent $3.8 million dollars to confirm Kavanaugh. Alternatively, a liberal group, Demand Justice, has pledged to spend $5 million dollars in total on the confirmation process.
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On Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced certain nonprofit organizations will not be required to disclose their big donors to the Internal Revenue Service. The Department of Treasury claimed this policy would protect privacy and reduce compliance costs for nonprofit organizations.
Other people disagreed with the policy claiming it exacerbates big money’s corrupting influence in politics. For example, the change undercuts governmental agencies’ ability to conduct oversight. Likewise, it made an already easy process of keeping political contributions under the table easier. Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer, a law professor at Notre Dame Law School, said, “This will make so-called dark money a bit darker.”