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Update: 2017-02-15


Sarah, Ezra, and Matt talk about the latest Russia-related scandal engulfing the Trump administration, the White House's lack of progress on policy, and new research on how Medicaid expansion reduced the divorce rate.

Following script is auto-generated by Speech to Text Technology:

sponsored by text or get free access to all your favorite magazines attacks or accomplice weeds which is also sponsored by The Great courses plus a four month free at The Great courses plus dot com slash weeds and me and teases weeds when you get twenty percent off your first order but Amy and his dot com slash weeds the following podcast contains explicit language the the crib yet and welcome to the weeds um I'm at bugs policy podcast and apparently never met Yglesias at joined as usual by Sir Cliff and Ezra Klein yes good morning we then as they say um I think as we say now yes as we say here know so you know we want to talk about some weighty matters some policy matters and possibly even some exciting research but I'm showing off my leg doesn't Russian words that I know because of course Russia is back in the news so rushes back new so we're speaking on Wednesday morning and overnight at nine twenty one pm we're getting to the point in in the story where you begin by noting dates and times because of moving so quickly but as I read and I'm twenty one pm The New York Times posted a really blockbuster story alleging that contacts between Trump land I think is right way to put this in just the Trump campaign but trouble and unknown intelligence officers are much more extensive than has previously been reported and this by the way not just that has previously been reported but this directly contradicts things that Sean Spicer has said this is a very big change in the story is of course comes on the heels of national security advisor Michael Flynn resigning over lying to Mike Pence we think over whether he discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador shortly after after the election but are a couple quotes from his near constant because the story itself because the issue is complex and we don't know everything the story is complex and has lot of nuance and I want make sure we capture some of that so the key paragraph here is that American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted communications around the same time they're discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the DNC so it's important to say lawn for Smith had this knowledge for a long time but how to turn the campaign the house when James Colby came out and said he was semi reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails doesn't appear to come out to this seems to be what Harry Reid is talking about when he sent a letter to James called me in October saying he was sitting on explosive information about Russia and Trump with airport it is the intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was concluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election the officials interviewed in recent weeks that so far they have seen no evidence of such cooperation and I think this is important to just make sure we get right what we have right now is evidence that was founded during surveillance of known foreign intelligence officers writes what the U S government is doing with Cervelli people they typically surveillance Russia to keep an eye on them in the course of sailing those Russian folks they found that a bunch of Trump people from business associates including Palmetto for Michael Flynn quarter page where in touch with them right now we don't know what those contacts with not even clear if the FBI or see a nose with his contacts was possible they have records of the calls happen but don't actually have the calls themselves but there's a lot of strange contact it was founded by keeping an eye on the people you normally keep an eye on and it's worth noting Paul Matt forte had to resign from the campaign is a little bit mysterious why that happen Michael Flynn has now resigned poverty in the New York Times story with this hilarious article Carter Paige also resigned so heavily that Donald Trump has begun saying that he was never part of the campaign so there you go home now for the former campaign manager has insane clued in the story he says he denies everythings is absurd I've no idea what it's referring to her then he said it's not like these people wear badges that say I'm a Russian intelligence officer so that's not exactly comforting so there's a lot going on here this story have been followed by reporting the Washington Post and CNN house Republicans continue to basically say they have no interest in investigating anything but that is cracking among Senate Republicans the Intelligence Committee in the Senate which is led by Richard Burr and the top Democrat on it is Senator Mark Warner they are saying that they're going to do a full investigation here they want Flynn to come in and testify before the committee so you're beginning to see a boo for its congressional investigation this is very big and it's very beige in a way where people don't really know what's going on and don't know where it can lead but the range of possible outcomes here is almost it's almost too large to stare at without having to turn away can you like what we feel like as the range right now because they can like range from like you know the whole dossier were talking about a few months ago that ring true to like these being and it feels hard to see the range of inconsequential at this point how you think of like I don't think of things and I don't think there's a consequential anywhere in this range I think one question is what kinds of information do we actually happened what kinds of information we actually able to get so there's a version here where or what the FBI knows is that Carter Page and Paul manna for the night before and maybe a couple other people placed calls to known members of the Russian intelligence service but they don't know when those calls it and what was said on those calls those guys are not on the campaign anymore and so maybe this knocks a couple other people down for lying you know it makes him look bad but that there's not enough information that comes forward after this it for for anything to go on then there's a possibility that we actually do learn a lot but it's worth noting that the top Russian government officials during the campaign said Yeah we know all these chums were talking to them a jump during the time denied it but clearly he was lying about that seems to whether he knew I guess we don't know but that does not seem to be inaccurate and I'll then if we're able to get a lot of information I have been very very skeptical of I know lot of smart people who are saying Oh Trump doesn't make it two years is all the cops that scandal I've been very skeptical that kind of thing I'm not saying that I think they're I think impeachment is on the table I don't give in the evident inclinations of House Republicans on this but this seems to be a scandal that its potential limit is unknown it's a scandal that could be at impeachment level in a normal political scenario it certainly imagine that leading to the Democrats taking the house in twenty eighteen and then an insane of investigations kicking off that they really could go anywhere this is that this isn't normal this is what we normally see in administration this is something different well one other different factor plays like the question you're touching on like where will investigation go Rand Paul earlier today said something to the effect of Well why are we going to spend time investigating our own party when we are really important policy priorities like repealing Obamacare which was It was an odd frame I thought to put on like how to choose what the Senate does that that also strikes me as another big unknown here right that whites Senate Republicans what House Republicans decide their priorities are to the EU could see a lot of information like you're saying billed as are but whether that information actually comes out probably don't realize a lot on like if the Senate if Republicans stick with that brand called thinking that he talked about today saying you know what we have other fish to fry where we're going to kind of not investigate our own parties that kind of Alabama can do these other things that we want to do which I think could really shape how this all plays out he is also worth because because the weeds of talking about this sort of history of the legal framework in which investigations happen right so after Watergate after Richard Nixon's resignation particularly after the nineteen seventy four midterms give these incredibly large Democratic Party majorities in Congress on this very weekend President Gerald Ford who was unusual because he had never even run for vice president so just a series of scandals that had elevated for a big new Democratic majority that low level of ideological polarization scandal on the front burner and so they created this new framework the independent counsel framework in which the attorney general could be asked to appoint independent counsel who would have separate funding operate outside of the Justice Department chain of command and could investigate executive branch Skittles so that was set up under forty was used under Carter and I think a relatively minor way to look at the question of whether some White House officials had been involved in using cocaine or something like that but Danny was in the Reagan administration that is first we'll field testers party Iran contra scandal and it was at an independent prosecutor for that big investigation an investigation that ended with a number of senior officials being convicted of but not of underlying they were all convicted of sort of coverup type things lying to investigators obstruction of justice that kind of saying the independent counsel had clearly hoped to get them to flip on Reagan himself that in half in George H W Bush was elected president he pardoned the high level offenders and un with the dead lot where Democrats felt that the pardons and a cover up as sort of let Reagan get away with it and Republicans felt that what happened was was the independent prosecutor sort of went off his leash and having investigated the underlying crime started just trying to jam up senior officials right then Bill Clinton as president there's that question about ORD land deal that happened when he was governor of Arkansas Whitewater prosecutor is appointed for that in the interim prosecutor again he investigates a land deal nobody is convicted of that but in the course of asking questions of Arkansas politicians you get some people on obstruction false statements to investigators and the investigation just keeps rolling and becomes an investigation about whatever and it becomes investigation into whether Bill Clinton made false statements in a deposition at the Paula Jones lawsuit and Bill Clinton winds up being impeached over this so then the authorization for this event council expires early in the George W Bush administration and both parties sort of feel like they've been burned by these like open investigations and we're going to close the door on it so we don't have that mechanism anymore rides were back to the pre Watergate mechanism in which you are relying on either the attorney general wants to preserve his own independent reputation and says OK I'm going to step aside and let someone sell one s or on Congress to say we're going to stand up and we're going to investigate this but we have right now is a Congress that's under Republican Party lockdown we have an attorney general who and what you want to say about Jeff sessions has no independent legal reputation of his own to protect is one thing to say even as a political reputation right is extremely unlikely Republicans all back Jeff sessions for the attorney general job they like him well enough he's a colleague of theirs in the Senate is far fetched to imagine that President Mike Pence president Marco Rubio would have appointed Jeff sessions attorney general if only because they wouldn't of wanted to re litigate the question of is Jeff sessions a longtime white supremacist Donald Trump was very happy to do that he's very close to sessions sessions indicated that unlike who was a little inch you know said she was going to recuse herself from Hillary Clinton e mail investigation Jeff sessions has made no such representations so I I think that's one complicated things a point to get out on the table because you're going to start to see a lot of pushback against the leak rate which at Donald Trump this morning did Eli Lake diversion of aid in Bloomberg View there was that there was a Free Beacon story that had a slightly loopy conspiracy theory about this suggesting Ben Rhodes was orchestrating it all from from behind the scenes but to understand the leaking you have to understand this investment Tori context right one reason the attorney general might say I'm going to recuse myself from this I'm going to fully empower deputy attorney general whose name I forget but as a career prosecutor guy kind of conservative Law and Order by but not like I specifically Donald Trump Ronnie is that if you did that then you could say to one Force personnel have been working on this like Look guys like you got to play by the book you know you gotta do this stuff that running up the chain can be telling tales out of school you know you can't leak partial information when you don't have credible investment or a path you put people in a difficult position right I mean leaking information including leaking partial information to the press is a good way of making shore and that political officials don't shut down an investigation and that's what we're seeing here I mean I think nobody could say that what is happening here is that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell has over the past two years demonstrated a strong to really get to the bottom of what's up with Donald Trump and the Russian intelligence services certainly Jeff sessions has given no indication he wants to do that and none of them have set up any kind of structures that would kind of take themselves out of the loop so people are going to feel that they haf to leak things to keep things going right I think what is I think all that is cracked this by the way a lot of criticism of Barack Obama right now who could have appointed special prosecutor on his way out the door and did not write he knew about this there's a famous meeting between him and Mitch McCall McCullough says if you make this a partisan issue if you if you make this an issue I'll make a partisan issue Obama backs down but even after the election is not appoint a special prosecutor is not set up any framework for this to go on and you can to some to understand what Obama is thinking does not want that to be viewed at the end of his legacy is like an effort to destroy the next president but I'm not sure that move a look at history you have the same at the primary defense of the investigation of his investigations are ongoing in the intelligence services is coming from a bureaucracy that is leaking things promoted to the Washington Post to do than your palm to CNN right organizations that have very very strong intelligence reporting traditions and personnel but what is a big unknown here is that now you imagine what the Trump administration's thinking and the Trump administration's problem as they see you solace on Trump's Twitter feed today demonstrations problem is not this rush of stuff which I think what Bill Clinton thought was What is bullshit and you want to get clear that whether it's right or wrong I don't know but I think as we thought but I think this clearly smoke and fire here is that there's a lot going on here his problem is that the bureaucracy his problem is how does he muscle bureaucracy that he in theory controls but because of civil service protections does not have as much power over as he wants but his mike pump A O C I A Colby is remaining at FBI commies an interesting player here too because really shot his reputation a shed at the end of the election this maybe to some degree an opportunity for him to go down to somebody played a more straight if he's if he's able to protect these kinds of investigations and you obviously have Jeff sessions of Attorney General as you mentioned but the thing that compensation try to forgot how to do is try to get government from investigating them I don't really know what powers they have over that I don't really know how easy or hard it is to foil or staunch one of these investigations again I think the fact that Coleman is being kept on is an interesting wrinkle to all this because he could get guys not stopped or that maybe the leaks because they're worried they'll stop but that is too cerebral or question of where does go from here the really crucial question is given this is happening with in the chain of command inside the federal government it's not happening in a new play set up for it and given the chain of command all the reports up to folks Trump is either hired or is keeping on and given that Trump has been very clear in his written extremely clearly and on Twitter that the problem in government right now is leaking from the N S A and C I A what happens next how does how do they try to crack down on that had to try to stop these investigations the magazines are great I've always loved magazines we always have them in the house when I was going up a digital technologies also great and I work for a website I looked between my phone and text are is an app that's about to give me the best of both worlds it pulls together almost every big time magazines out there that you've heard of that time the Atlantic you that Newsweek I'm a big fan of the well of Fast Company Rolling Stone it's an app that gives you unlimited access to this just like huge pile of amazing magazines it's normally a month and get over two hundred bags so that's like that's the best magazine subscription deal that you're going to find universe except that the deal gets even better with you some it actually dot com slash weeds get a fourteen day free trial such as when Apple's top twenty sixty iPad apps via one of those it's a great format for looking at them but really just like if you enjoy reading magazines this is one of the best ways to do to the bottom line fourteen day free trial but it actually dot com slash weeds that's fourteen days to try texture for free the texture dot com slash weeds texture dot com slash was what I think this speaks like a theme we've got a head on a few times on the weeds about the size of bureaucracy in the sprawling as a bureaucracy and the difficulty of controlling that I think one question I had going in the Trump administration one question I still have what happens to all these people who who were there who went through the transition and I very anecdotally I've heard from a number of people who I know lean left or like not happy but are still there and I think that's a tough population control I think at the very top levels it a little easier to get a glass blown up over sing with all these leaks is that so far these people are naive and scared to give this information to Russian Post said York Times someone somewhere has decided it is good if this information comes out but it seems like there's a limit to how far we can I guess the question I have a nose are covered in leaking go without some kind of assess from congressional Republicans and that's why I think what's happening in the Senate is really important right now though so so House Republicans are completely they have just said Speaker Ryan yesterday said I might mangle is quote and paraphrase but he said I'm going to leave it to the White House to explain what happened with full and that is not what you want to hear there's been another of the statements from the relevant House Republicans charge with investigative powers is a new theme yeah noone is Nunes Nunez Nunez Nunez he and the Intelligence Committee he's not interested in investigating this at least as of yet but there was a real crack in the Senate Republicans and Mitch McConnell the Senate leadership Mitch McConnell blunt corn n they have said this really does need to be investigated now and then bird who's running the Intelligence Agency Intelligence Committee he has come out and he and Mark Warner the ranking Democrat have made a joint statement they are they're currently at this moment working in lockstep together Burr is no one is more of an institution of his more moderate guy he comes from a state we had a tough reelection race he's not up for a long time now but North Carolina is not a dark red state so I completely think you're right but the Senate seems to be traveling a different pathway than the House of the Rand Paul's statement you offered up it's embarrassing and Rand Paul should be embarrassed for saying that that is an appalling way to see his institutional duty but it is increasingly less representative as far as I can tell what's happening I think that is like what happens next but they do they want to run a real just feels like a bit of a for MIL year break that we've seen on other issues and some Republicans from like the more right wing like when Paul for example who doesn't want to get into those who like his lockstep on repealing Obamacare and this kind of split between traditionalist people have been there for a long time and verses like the more freedom caucus eve wing of the party that also seems to be the wing that is lining up less interest said in this kind of investigation said and I think these are like fault lines we've seen a lot on entitlement issues that might in a weird way like all society emerge eying on issues of like weather we investigator know one thing one thing I think is interesting about that that does separate out the house in the Senate is that I don't fully understand the Senate is the seat of neo conservatism in the Republican Party two and the Senate has a couple extremely powerful Republican members who really really really really hate Russia and in a way like what Rand Paul cares about in life is shrinking the size of federal government right he cares that repealing Obamacare he cares about cutting the budget we think it's good or bad just that it is animating passion is why he's here John McCain and Lindsey Graham really really care about Russia Marco Rubio has sort of become part of that neo con caucus and it has very very songs and Russia he ended up rolling over on the vote was extremely rough the next Ellison during the confirmation hearings Mitch McConnell has been extremely retiring on all kinds of things Donald Trump has said with the sort of exception being Russia where he has been very dismissive of Trump's argument is that I believe that Trump like other presidents is going to come in and find out that Russia is not our friend is our enemy and so what can I do think is happening sort of interesting in the Senate is how much people who take the issue of Russian power Russian interference in America American elections more seriously and so have a little bit more illogical interested in what is happening here I mean this is where I go back to the different investigative frameworks right because in in in ye Olde a special prosecutor days like which are independent counsel days you have an independent counsel the independent counsel would start looking at Flynn a card or page Roger Stone people who at the center of the Russia story but a little bit on the edges of like currently existing Trump world and then what the independent counsel would do is like trying to get them to implicate other people try to get them to cough up financial documents he would like become whole thing right where you start pulling the sweater and we right I have no idea what Donald Trump is hiding his tax returns but like its something is something illegal it something embarrassing I mean it is it is something reigning Russian potentially any I just did not like Donald Trump I would use the show or anything else as just a way in to like try to cough up financial disclosure from Donald Trump but we're not in that world when ascending world John McCain Lindsey Graham Marco Rubio added to an extent Mitch McConnell to an extent Richard Burr those guys care about the policy issue here which is like will Donald Trump to lift sanctions on Russia show will Donald Trump send weapons to the Ukrainian government will Donald Trump maintain forward basing of US soldiers in the Baltic states and the one I think plausible outcome here is that the threat of an investigation is used not to thoroughly investigate Donald Trump but to force Donald Trump like Michael Flynn stepping down as the first step in a pit of the Trump administration's Russia policy back to conventional Republican Party Russia policy right than a tree that I think John McCain Lindsey Graham Marco Rubio are going to yell happy with is like Trump replaces flan with this other Admiral who's like bodies with James Madison from now reaffirms his commitment to NATO and basically Russia ends up getting like screwed here read like they did all this work to try to get them from elected and then he completely turns on them because he needs to get right with his own party's base there and Republicans continue to agree with Rand Paul like actually doing the investigation like is counterproductive to all of their goals it seems to me that that's a that's a big difference where is like if Democrats ran the house they would be using this to tear Trump that because the Russia thing on his own it's a big deal but it's like abstract to people but it's this like a sore on the administration that if you wanted to tear him down you could really pick at but I think the Republicans who are Russia Hawks they care about Russia they but they still are going to want prop Donald Trump I know maybe there's a question like how far you can get with the threat of investigation and not actual investigation an eye because all the stuff until we had all this reporting come out the past two days at the stuff was happening for like months and SAG as you can raise the Specter of Investigation every now and the kind of like keeping at bay but it seems I don't seem like hard to prevent if you're not actually liking to go that far that you could have these people with interim plan to maybe like aren't as high profile as flan but are still doing some the things that they were able to do for a number of months and still we started having all these leaks as I know it seems hard to crack down on just with like it's like the threat of Investigation is adjusting to Ed kind of help outweigh the needs of the league if you look it is weird Flynn's story write like that one of the interesting things we see here is that like Mike Pence learned that Flynn had lied to him not from the White House counsel who was told by Sally AIDS but from the Washington Post write because there was a leak to the post and you can imagine this game really people don't people who don't like Michael flan like first let's tell the White House counsel and they're going to just hope that the White House counsel takes care of this like it's way to fund something like that promise I don't like Michael Flynn right at me like Michael Flynn find that actually think this is very bad the pushback that this is all this like an anti Flynn conspiracy theory Michael Flynn appears to call the Russian bastard tried to like talk through sanctions with him when he was in violation of the wall sure yet but I mean this like levels of like first you like you called on again and you're like Hey man you got problem with Michael flan anyway and it becomes clear nothing is happening administration is still saying the school never took place so then you call the Washington Post like a man there was this CAW and then you're hoping something will happen but you see that they keep putting Sean Spicer out there to say stuff that's not true there Kelly Ann Conway saying Michael Flynn has the president has full confidence in my plan so then you need to come back with like another leak right now eventually like Flynn is dislodged and I think part of the hope is that you know that urbanization will get the message it tried Tums ferocious pushback on Twitter this morning suggests to me that he has not gotten the message but like getting the message would be to say
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