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Analysis, background reports and updates from the PBS NewsHour putting today's news in context.

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    High-level Justice Department and FBI officials will testify before Congress today at 10 a.m. ET as part of a review of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that comes on the heels of continued scrutiny about the relationship between the Trump Administration and Russia following the 2016 election. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, National Security Agency Director Admiral Mike Rogers, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein are scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday ahead of fired FBI director James Comey’s much-anticipated testimony Thursday.

    The post WATCH LIVE: Rosenstein, McCabe and Coats testify at Senate Intel hearing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A boy is evacuated during an attack on the Iranian parliament in central Tehran on June 7. Photo by Omid Vahabzadeh/TIMA via Reuters

    A boy is evacuated during an attack on the Iranian parliament in central Tehran on June 7. Photo by Omid Vahabzadeh/TIMA via Reuters

    A coordinated double attack in Iran on Wednesday left 12 people dead and wounded dozens, according to state media. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility on its website. If true, it would be the first major attack by the terrorist group in Iran.

    Attackers armed with pistols and assault rifles stormed the Iranian parliament building in the capital Tehran Wednesday morning as people scrambled to escape, some through windows. A session of parliament was in progress at the time. Lawmakers took cover in the locked chamber during the siege.

    The same morning, more assailants struck the mausoleum for Islamic Republic founder Ayatollah Khomeini in southern Tehran. At least one attacker detonated a suicide vest, according to state broadcaster Irib. Khomeini led the 1979 Islamic revolution that removed the Western-backed shah and was the country’s first supreme leader.

    File photo from Reuters shows the mausoleum of the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

    File photo from Reuters shows the mausoleum of the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

    The sieges ended with four of the attackers dead. Iran is fighting Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq. The last major attack in Iran, which is majority Shiite, was in 2010 when Sunni extremists attacked a mosque in the Sistan-Baluchestan province.

    The militant group’s Aamaq news agency released a video purporting to show the inside of the parliament with a body lying on the floor. A voice says in Arabic, “Do you think we will leave? We will remain, God willing.”

    In a statement, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered his condolences and said Russia “resolutely condemns” the violence. He pledged to continue fighting international terrorism.

    The post Islamic State group claims attacks on Iran’s parliament, shrine appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats (2NDR) ; Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe (L) ; National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers (R); and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (2NDL) are seated to testify before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in Washington, U.S., June 7, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque - RTX39GQ2

    Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats (2NDR) ; Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe (L) ; National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers (R); and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (2NDL) are seated to testify before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in Washington, U.S., June 7, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

    Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats refuses to publicly discuss private conversations he’s had with President Donald Trump.

    Coats was responding to a senator’s question about whether Trump pressured him to publicly downplay the significance of the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s election meddling and possible coordination with the Trump campaign.

    Coats says he has never been pressured or felt pressure to intervene in shaping intelligence products.

    Coats was testifying Wednesday before the Senate intelligence committee.

    National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers says he’s never been asked to do anything illegal or felt pressure to do anything immoral during his three years as head of the intelligence agency. Rogers was responding to a senator’s question about whether President Donald Trump asked him to intervene in or downplay the ongoing FBI investigation into Russia’s election meddling and possible ties with the Trump campaign.

    Rogers says he will not publicly discuss private conversations he had with the president.

    It’s been reported that Trump asked Rogers to publicly state that there is no evidence that there was collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

    Rogers was testifying before the Senate intelligence committee Wednesday about surveillance laws.

    The chairman of the Senate Intelligence committee is making a pitch for the reauthorization of a law governing the collection of foreign intelligence, saying it’s critical to monitoring militants, potential terror threats and is subject to multiple layers of oversight.

    Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., says he understands that Americans’ communications often are swept up in the process, but that now is not a time to roll back the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which expires at the end of the year.

    The panel’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, also lauded the law. But he used the hearing to raise concerns about reports that President Donald Trump asked top intelligence and law enforcement authorities to “publicly downplay” the investigation into Russian activities and contacts with the Trump campaign during last year’s election.

    The post Intel officials won’t publicly discuss private conversations with Trump appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A combination photo shows U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and former FBI Director James Comey. Photos by Jim Lo Scalzo and Gary Cameron/Reuters

    A combination photo shows U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and former FBI Director James Comey. Photos by Jim Lo Scalzo and Gary Cameron/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Seen in the kindest light, legal experts say conversations attributed by the fired FBI director to President Donald Trump were clumsy and inappropriate. In the worst light, James Comey’s recollections could provide enough evidence to build a case that the president tried to interfere with a criminal investigation.

    Released Wednesday, a day ahead of Comey’s highly anticipated testimony to a Senate committee, the remarks detail a series of conversations between the men about the investigation into contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, and Comey’s discomfort with the interactions.

    Experts say the most damning statement in Comey’s written testimony concerns former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, who was under investigation for making false statements about contacts with Russian officials.

    Trump asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other top government officials to leave the Oval Office on Feb. 14 before urging Comey to drop the investigation of Flynn. “I hope you can let this go,” Trump said, according to Comey’s testimony.

    WATCH LIVE: James Comey to testify in Senate hearing on Russia

    Ryan Goodman, a New York University law professor, called that statement “the most devastating revelation” in Comey’s testimony. The former director “is now on record saying that the president tried to impede the investigation of Flynn,” Goodman said.

    Julie O’Sullivan, a former federal prosecutor who teaches at Georgetown University’s law school, said Trump’s decision to clear the room before talking to Comey is evidence that suggests that Trump “was aware that what he was doing was a problem.”

    Trump has previously denied that he told Comey to end the investigation.

    Obstruction of justice is a federal crime, though it’s an open question whether a sitting president can be prosecuted. It’s also an impeachable offense, though Republicans who control Congress are extremely unlikely to go after a president of their own party.

    James Comey’s reported disclosure that President Trump allegedly asked him to drop an FBI investigation has raised the question of — and plenty of disagreement over — whether that request may constitute obstruction of justice. John Yang gets reaction to that and the naming of a special counsel from William Jeffress of Baker Botts LLP and Michael Waldman of the Brennan Center for Justice.

    But a former FBI official and a prominent Washington, D.C., law professor said they don’t see a crime in what Comey reported that Trump said. Instead, the document reveals a president woefully ignorant of standard protocol and of the historic wall of independence between the FBI and the White House, an inexperience that could work in his favor and make his actions simply improper instead of actually illegal.

    “I think the request is inappropriate,” said Andrew Arena, a retired senior FBI official. “Whether it crosses that threshold to being criminal, I’m not there yet.”

    Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, said nothing he read in Comey’s statement convinces him that Trump violated the law by interfering with a federal investigation. “Sounding like Tony Soprano does not make you Tony Soprano,” Turley said. “We do not indict people for being boorish or clueless.”

    Associated Press writers Sam Hananel and Eric Tucker contributed to this report.

    READ MORE: 9 things we learned from Comey’s prepared Senate remarks

    The post Legal experts say Trump comments in Comey testimony are inappropriate, maybe worse appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    File photo of a Veterans Affairs Medical Center by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    File photo of a Veterans Affairs Medical Center by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The House will vote next week on Senate-passed legislation to make firing employees easier for the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs, as the department sought to speed forward on initiatives urged by President Donald Trump to expand private care and boost accountability.

    Testifying before a Senate panel, VA Secretary David Shulkin urged Congress to act by this fall on additional legislation to give veterans broader access to private doctors. The plan to eliminate administrative restrictions and give the program more money immediately prompted Senate Democrats to criticize aspects of it as unacceptable “privatization.” A copy of the plan was obtained by The Associated Press.

    “I will not be the guy to allow the administration to chip away at VA health care,” said Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, the top Democrat on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, pointing to a proposed VA budget that would give double-digit increases to outside care while funding for VA programs remains mostly flat. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., referring to proposed pilot programs that could lead to the closing of VA facilities, pledged to “fight them with everything I have.”

    It was an early sign of the likely political disputes ahead over the future direction of the VA, coming after a 2014 scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center. Some veterans died while waiting months for appointments at the center.

    READ MORE: Senate approves bill to make firing Veterans Affairs employees easier

    Dubbed the Veterans CARE program, the plan would replace Choice and its current restrictions that veterans can go outside the VA network only in cases where they had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a facility. Veterans CARE stands for “Coordinated Access Rewarding Experiences” program.

    Under the plan, veterans would consult their VA health providers about their medical problem, and the two parties would jointly decide whether it was best to receive care within the VA or with a private doctor. A veteran could take into account the length of time waiting for a VA appointment, poor performance at the local VA hospital based on ratings on the department’s website, or if the VA can’t provide the service.

    Veterans also would be able to access walk-in clinics, such as CVS MinuteClinics, to treat minor illnesses or injury.

    Major veterans’ groups are closely watching VA reforms, worried it could lead to decreased investment in core VA hospitals. While Trump’s budget proposal calls for a 3.7 percent increase in total VA funding, it seeks $29 billion over the next decade for the new CARE program, paid in part by cutting some disability benefits for elderly veterans. The American Legion says the funding trade-offs are “stealth privatization.”

    Shulkin said the VA was seeking a “spirit of innovation” with its expansion of private treatment, part of an effort to improve overall care for veterans. But he allowed that the VA would be open to modifications in discussion with Congress. “I am not in support of a program that leads to privatizing or leading to the shutting down of programs,” he insisted.

    WATCH: Veterans Affairs Secretary Shulkin says there’s ‘a lot of work to do’ to fix the system

    On the accountability bill, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told a small group of reporters Wednesday that fixing the VA is a “big focus of ours.” The House will vote on the bill next Tuesday.

    “It’s coming back over to us so we’re going to pass that, go right to the president, get a signature,” McCarthy, R-Calif., said. He tweeted later: “Our vets deserve the best.”

    The Senate passed the bipartisan bill by voice vote Tuesday. The bill would lower the burden of proof needed to fire VA employees, allowing a dismissal even if most evidence is in a worker’s favor. Still, it was seen more in balance with workers’ rights than a version passed by the House in March.

    The Senate bill would turn a campaign promise of Trump’s into law. It would create a permanent VA accountability office, which was established in April by executive order. In a tweet Tuesday night, Trump urged the House to “get this bill to my desk ASAP! We can’t tolerate substandard care for our vets.”

    The VA has been plagued by years of problems, including the 2014 scandal in which VA employees created secret waiting lists to cover up delays in care. During the presidential campaign, Trump pledged to bring greater accountability to the VA. Describing the VA at the time as “the most corrupt,” he vowed to give veterans more choice in seeking care from outside providers.

    ___

    AP Congressional Correspondent Erica Werner contributed to this report.

    The post House to act on VA accountability; Democrats wary on private care appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — In a hugely anticipated hearing, fired FBI director James Comey will recount a series of conversations with President Donald Trump that he says made him deeply uneasy and concerned about the blurring of boundaries between the White House and a law enforcement agency that prides itself on independence.

    Comey’s testimony is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. ET June 8. Watch live in the player above or on your local PBS station.

    The testimony, Comey’s first public statements since his May 9 dismissal, is likely to bring hours of uncomfortable attention to an administration shadowed for months by an investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

    Comey’s account of demands for loyalty from the president, and of requests to end an investigation into an embattled Trump adviser, are likely to sharpen allegations that Trump improperly sought to influence the FBI-led probe.

    Comey’s detailed and vivid recollections of his one-on-one conversations with Trump were revealed in seven pages of prepared testimony released Wednesday, the day before his appearance before the Senate intelligence committee.

    He’ll testify under oath that Trump repeatedly pressed him for his “loyalty” and directly pushed him to “lift the cloud” of investigation by declaring publicly the president was not the target of the probe into his campaign’s Russia ties.

    MORE: Read James Comey’s prepared statement before Thursday’s Senate hearing

    The remarks paint a picture of an FBI director so disconcerted by his interactions with the president that he began keeping written memos of their private discussions, including one he hastened to type out in an FBI vehicle immediately after a Trump Tower meeting.

    He’ll tell lawmakers he believed the president was trying to create a “patronage relationship” with him and describe in detail an Oval Office meeting in which Trump urged him not to investigate ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s contacts with Russian officials.

    But the ex-FBI director also will validate Trump’s assertion that he was not personally a target of the federal counterintelligence investigation into possible campaign collusion with Russia. Comey says he did offer the president that “assurance,” but resisted Trump’s appeals to make that information public.

    “The FBI and the Department of Justice had been reluctant to make public statements that we did not have an open case on President Trump for a number of reasons, most importantly because it would create a duty to correct, should that change,” Comey says in the prepared remarks.

    Trump’s personal lawyer said Trump was cheered by the testimony.

    “The president is pleased that Mr. Comey has finally publicly confirmed his private reports that the president was not under investigation in any Russian probe,” attorney Mark Kasowitz said in a statement. “The president feels completely and totally vindicated. He is eager to continue to move forward with his agenda.”

    Comey has not spoken publicly since he was abruptly fired by Trump on May 9. His dismissal, four years into a 10-year term, fueled claims Trump’s ultimate aim was to quash the investigation and obstruct justice, potentially a federal crime or an impeachable offense. Some legal experts said Comey’s account could bolster such a case.

    Ryan Goodman, a professor at New York University School of Law, said Trump’s efforts to protect Flynn provide “strong evidence” of obstruction of justice. However, Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, said that while Trump’s dealings with Comey were inappropriate, “We do not indict people for being boorish or clueless.”

    James Comey’s reported disclosure that President Trump allegedly asked him to drop an FBI investigation has raised the question of — and plenty of disagreement over — whether that request may constitute obstruction of justice. John Yang gets reaction to that and the naming of a special counsel from William Jeffress of Baker Botts LLP and Michael Waldman of the Brennan Center for Justice.

    The ex-FBI director’s testimony recounts his conversations with the apparent precision of a veteran lawman. Comey notes he had nine one-on-one interactions with Trump over a four-month stretch, compared to two private conversations with President Barack Obama between September 2013 and the end of 2016. He also says he did not keep written memos of his interactions with Obama.

    READ MORE: Legal experts say Trump comments in Comey testimony are inappropriate, maybe worse

    The first meeting with Trump after the inauguration occurred on Jan. 27, during a private dinner at the White House that Comey came to view as an attempt by the president to “create some sort of patronage relationship.”

    According to Comey, Trump asked if he wanted to remain as FBI director and declared: “I need loyalty. I expect loyalty.” Comey says he replied that he could offer his honesty, and that when Trump said he wanted “honest loyalty,” Comey paused and said, “You will get that from me.”

    Comey also describes at length a Feb. 14 meeting in the Oval Office in which he believed Trump asked him to back off an investigation into Flynn.

    “He then said, ‘I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go,'” Comey says, according to the prepared remarks. He says he believed the president was talking only about Flynn, not about the broader Russia probe.

    White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she was unsure if the president read Comey’s testimony after its release. Asked whether the president stood by earlier assertions that he had neither sought Comey’s loyalty nor asked for the Flynn investigation to be dropped, she said: “I can’t imagine the president not standing by his own statement.”

    Former FBI Director James Comey detailed his personal conversations with President Trump in a prepared statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee, released a day ahead of his much-anticipated hearing. Judy Woodruff discusses the revelations with Matt Apuzzo of The New York Times and former Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin.

    Sen Mark Warner of Virginia, senior Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, said in prepared testimony released early Thursday: “I do want to emphasize what is happening here — the president of the United States is asking the FBI director to drop an ongoing investigation into the president’s former National security advisor.

    READ MORE: Obstruction of justice, explained

    Earlier Wednesday, Trump announced that he planned to nominate Christopher Wray, a former Justice Department official, as Comey’s successor.

    Trump allies have raised questions about Comey’s credibility ahead of his testimony, noting that the FBI had to correct some of his remarks from his last appearance on Capitol Hill. They’ve also questioned why Comey did not raise his concerns about Trump publicly or resign.

    Comey’s prepared testimony does not full answer that question, though he does say he asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to help prevent him having any direct communication with the president in the future.

    Trump has repeatedly cast the Russia investigation as a “hoax” and denied having any improper ties to Moscow. According to Comey, Trump was acutely aware of the political toll of the investigation, complaining that the probe had left a “cloud” that was “impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country.”

    In a phone call on March 30, Comey says, the president asked him what could be done to “lift the cloud.” He says Trump also volunteered that “he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia” — referencing an unverified intelligence dossier detailing compromising information Moscow had allegedly collected on Trump.

    AP writers Mark Sherman and Sam Hananel contributed to this report.

    WATCH: Did President Trump’s reported actions obstruct justice?

    The post WATCH: Comey’s testimony puts spotlight on President Trump appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FBI Director James Comey testifies before a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the "Oversight of the State Department" in Washington, D.C. Photo by Gary Cameron/Reuters

    FBI Director James Comey testifies before a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the “Oversight of the State Department” in Washington, D.C. Photo by Gary Cameron/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Republican National Committee says President Donald Trump knew that firing FBI Director James Comey would be “detrimental to his presidency” but believed it was the right thing to do for the country.

    That’s among the talking points the RNC is providing to Trump backers ahead of Comey’s testimony on Capitol Hill Thursday.

    A pair of former White House officials — Katie Walsh, who left her post as deputy chief of staff in March, and Mike Dubke, who stepped down as communications director last week — are helping the RNC effort to combat Comey’s testimony.

    Comey’s testimony is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. ET June 8. Watch live in the player above or on your local PBS station.

    The RNC is encouraging supporters to focus on Comey’s acknowledgement in his prepared text that he told Trump he was not directly under investigation as part of the FBI’s Russia probe.

    Republicans also say the president does want the Russia investigations to move forward, an argument the White House has used against Democrats who say Trump fired Comey in an effort to halt the FBI probe.

    READ MORE: 9 things we learned from Comey’s prepared Senate remarks

    The post RNC says Trump firing Comey was the ‘right thing to do’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The witness table where former FBI Director James Comey will face the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee and testify on June 8 about his meetings with President Trump sits at the ready in Washington, D.C. Photo by Jim Bourg/Reuters

    The witness table where former FBI Director James Comey will face the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee and testify on June 8 about his meetings with President Trump sits at the ready in Washington, D.C. Photo by Jim Bourg/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Former FBI Director James Comey won’t be the only one in the spotlight Thursday as he testifies at a wildly anticipated hearing. The eight Republicans and seven Democrats on the Senate Intelligence committee each get their moments as they take turns questioning the former FBI chief who was fired last month by President Donald Trump.

    The panel’s members represent right, left and center of the political spectrum, including liberal Democrats who’ve attacked Trump relentlessly, and conservative Republicans who’ve defended him unreservedly. There are potential presidential candidates past and future, senators up for re-election in a tough political climate and a couple veteran GOP lawmakers, including committee Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina, who were re-elected last year against the odds, thanks partly to Trump’s own victory.

    Each lawmaker will be guided by his or her own political considerations as well as constituent orientation as they question Comey, mindful of the glare of the national spotlight. Here’s a look at four lawmakers representing a range of views on the committee.

    Comey’s testimony is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. ET June 8. Watch live in the player above or on your local PBS station.

    SEN. JAMES LANKFORD, REPUBLICAN, OKLAHOMA

    Lankford, 49, is serving his first full term in the Senate after four years in the House. Before that, he worked for the Baptist Convention of Oklahoma as director of student ministry. Despite his conservative orientation and general support for Trump and the GOP agenda, Lankford has on occasion separated himself from the president, including calling for him to release his tax returns.

    With the release of Comey’s written testimony Wednesday, the Republican National Committee focused on the confirmation it provided that Comey had assured Trump he was not under investigation. Lankford expressed hope for an open discussion with Comey.

    “I would hope he could talk through what happened around his firing, the memos that he wrote, the nature of his memos, the reason that he put those memos out there, but also the core issues that we’re still dealing with on the Russia investigation itself,” Lankford said. “There are still a lot of unanswered issues that we have to be able to get resolved.”

    SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, REPUBLICAN, MAINE

    Collins, 64, is one of the leading centrists in the Senate, the Republican who’s often most willing to break with her party. For example, she opposed a couple of Trump’s Cabinet nominees. She did not support Trump for president, and although unfailingly gentle and polite she has not been shy about voicing her criticism of him.

    Collins spent years working for her predecessor in the Senate, Republican William Cohen, and was interning for him in 1974 when he voted as a member of the Judiciary Committee to impeach President Richard Nixon.

    Very popular at home, Collins was easily re-elected to a fourth term in 2014 and is now viewed as a potential candidate for governor.

    Collins is interested in hearing directly from Comey about his interactions with Trump prior to Comey’s firing. The ousted FBI director said Trump sought his “loyalty” and asked what could be done to “lift the cloud” of investigation shadowing his White House, according to prepared remarks released ahead of his appearance Thursday.

    “The tone, the exact words that were spoken and the context are so important. And that is what we lack right now,” Collins has said. “And we can only get that by talking to those directly involved.”

    SEN. JOE MANCHIN, DEMOCRAT, WEST VIRGINIA

    Manchin, 69, a popular former governor of West Virginia, is the most conservative Democrat in the Senate and is running for his third term in a state Trump won by 40 percentage points. Manchin has not been afraid to praise Trump, meet with him and align himself with the president. At the same time, he’s stuck with fellow Democrats in strongly opposing Trump on some issues, including the GOP drive to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s health care law.

    Now, approaching Thursday’s hearing, Manchin says that West Virginia voters are closely following the story line around Trump’s firing of Comey and the federal investigation into Russia’s interference into the 2016 election and ties with Trump.

    He asked constituents to send in questions they wanted to make sure got asked at the hearing, and received over 600 responses, which his staff is breaking into categories to help guide his questioning.

    As for what he wants to hear from Comey, Manchin says: “Just tell the truth. Tell the truth.”

    SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, DEMOCRAT, CALIFORNIA

    Harris, 52, is a newcomer to the Senate, but not to the role of questioning witnesses. She spent years as a prosecutor, and served as district attorney of San Francisco before being elected California’s attorney general. She was elected to the Senate last year to replace another liberal Democrat, Barbara Boxer, who retired.

    Harris drew attention at Wednesday’s Intelligence Committee hearing when Burr cut her off as she pressed a witness, leading to complaints from liberal and women’s groups about her treatment.

    A rising star in California politics, she is also seen as a potential future candidate for president. Harris has been among the Democrats most steadfastly opposed to the Trump administration.

    Harris has said she hopes to use Thursday’s hearing to press Comey on the investigation into Russia’s election meddling that he was overseeing before his firing.

    In the Capitol this week she told reporters she was preparing diligently: “Reviewing everything that has happened in previous hearings, reviewing public source documents including a lot of the interviews that you all have accumulated and conversations that you all have had as press, reviewing the timeline and the calendar around some of the dates that we know certain conversations or hearings occurred and where there were certain answers to questions, and checking to make sure that they were consistent.”

    MORE: Read James Comey’s prepared statement before Thursday’s Senate hearing

    The post Who’s on the Senate Intel panel questioning Comey? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A homeless woman sits on a bench few blocks away from the White House in downtown Washington, September 1, 2015. A report by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments gave a one-day "snap-shot" that counted more than 11,600 homeless people on January 28 in nine metropolitan Washington area jurisdictions. A lack of affordable housing, combined with stagnant or falling wages, has been cited by experts as a key contributing factor to homelessness in a number of U.S. cities. REUTERS/Carlos Barria - RTX1QO3K

    A homeless woman sits on a bench few blocks away from the White House in downtown Washington, D.C. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    Editor’s Note: Makers versus takers. It’s the cliche dividing line between those of us who contribute to the economy and those who supposedly leach off it. The assumption is simple and stark. The former pay taxes; the latter don’t, and live off those who do.

    But it turns out that even the poorest among us pay a high proportion of their income in taxes. Vanessa Williamson of the Brookings Institution, an economic think tank, decided to study the data, and has now written “Read My Lips: Why Americans Are Proud to Pay Taxes,” a book full of surprises about who pays taxes and how much they pay. The following piece highlights the greatest surprise of all.

    — Paul Solman, Economics Correspondent


    Quick, think of a taxpayer.

    Did you imagine a middle-class person puzzling over their income tax returns? Or maybe a homeowner looking at their property tax assessment? If you are like most Americans, you probably did not think of a mother putting gas in the tank of the family car or a retail worker having wages withheld for Social Security and Medicare. Because people in the United States associate taxpaying with the income tax, they underestimate the costs of the many other taxes they pay — especially the payroll taxes, sales taxes and gas taxes that fall heavily on lower-income people. In reality, low-income Americans pay a lot in taxes, and their role in paying for schools, roads and other public services largely go unrecognized.

    Low-income Americans pay a lot in taxes, and their role in paying for schools, roads and other public services largely go unrecognized.

    All told, those in the bottom fifth of earners pay almost a fifth of their income in taxes. According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, the lowest-income quintile — those making less than $19,000 a year — pay almost 11 percent of their income in state and local taxes. Working people, even if they don’t make enough money to pay federal income tax, also pay payroll taxes that contribute to Social Security and Medicare. And anyone who drives a car pays gas taxes. The old cliché really does hold true — the only thing as inevitable as death are taxes.

    One fifth of one’s income would be a lot for anyone. But for a low-income family struggling to get by, those costs really add up. “When I go to the store, I’m pinching pennies all the time because we never have enough food and everything,” said one woman in Ohio when I asked about the sales tax. If one’s fiscal contributions are measured in the hardship they impose, the poor are paying dearly.

    READ MORE: Column: Why we need to rewrite our tax code from scratch

    Taking into account all taxes, almost every adult in the United States qualifies as a taxpayer. Overall, the tax system is moderately progressive; rich people pay a higher percentage than poor people, but almost everyone pays substantial amounts. At the very, very top of the income spectrum, however, taxes stop being progressive. Once you reach the top 0.1 percent, effective tax rates actually start going down. Each of the top 1,300 richest households in America made more than $62 million in 2012, but they pay a lower percentage in federal income taxes than upper-middle-class people. Still, almost every person — excluding multinational corporate “persons” — pays a substantial amount of their income into government coffers.

    OK, but what about undocumented immigrants? It is widely — and wrongly — believed that undocumented immigrants do not pay taxes, and unfortunately, this is a misperception that is resistant to facts. The truth is, unauthorized immigrants pay approximately 8 percent of their income in state and local taxes, a higher percentage than wealthier people pay (because state and local taxes are, on the whole, regressive). About 6 million unauthorized immigrants file income taxes each year; and undocumented immigrants are also paying about $15 billion in Social Security taxes, though these immigrants are not eligible for Social Security benefits. Without these contributions, “Social Security would have entered persistent shortfall of tax revenue to cover payouts starting in 2009,” according to Stephen Goss, chief actuary of the Social Security Administration.

    The truth is, unauthorized immigrants pay approximately 8 percent of their income in state and local taxes, a higher percentage than wealthier people pay.

    Why does it matter that poor people and immigrants are recognized as taxpayers? Because Americans see taxpaying as a civic responsibility, an important part of the responsibilities of upstanding people to the country they live in. When some taxpayers are denied credit for their contributions, it has the effect of denying their political standing. It calls into question the right of poorer people to receive public benefits and leaves recipients of social spending bearing a tremendous stigma. You may remember the words of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who claimed that the 47 percent of households that do not owe net income taxes are “dependent upon government” and unwilling to “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” With their eyes on the income tax, many people — and particularly conservatives — express anger at the benefits the poor receive, which appear to them unearned.

    The truth is far different. Lower-income people and undocumented immigrants are paying substantial portions of their income in taxes. So the next time you hear a politician talking about their responsibilities to “the taxpayers,” remember all the people who have earned that title.

    READ MORE: An argument for how Trump’s tax plan could exacerbate inequality

    The post Column: How much do the poor actually pay in taxes? Probably more than you think. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A woman leaves the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in New York on Aug. 15, 2012. File photo by Keith Bedford/Reuters

    A woman leaves the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in New York on Aug. 15, 2012. File photo by Keith Bedford/Reuters

    LOS ANGELES — For years, immigrants facing deportation have been allowed to stay in the U.S. provided they show up for regular check-ins with federal deportation agents and stay out of trouble. After a brief meeting, they’re usually told to return months later to check in again.

    Now, in cases spanning from Michigan to California, some of these immigrants are being told their time here is up.

    Immigrants who already have deportation orders and were allowed to stay in the country under the prior administration have become a target under President Donald Trump’s new immigration policies, with some getting arrested on the spot during check-ins with officers. Such arrests have dismayed family members and sent chills through immigrant communities.

    In other instances, immigrants have been fitted with ankle-monitoring bracelets. Others have been released much like they were during President Barack Obama’s administration in what immigration attorneys say appears to be a random series of decisions based more on detention space than public safety.

    “Everywhere, people going in to report are just absolutely terrified,” said Stacy Tolchin, a Los Angeles immigration attorney.

    Agents still consider requests to delay deportations at immigrants’ regularly scheduled check-ins if, for example, someone has a medical condition, said David Marin, who oversees enforcement and removal operations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Los Angeles. But decisions are made on an individual basis, and efforts are being stepped up to procure travel documents from foreign countries to send people back home.

    “They still have the ability to file a stay, but again, we’re looking at it in a different light,” Marin said. “There has to be an end game here.”

    RELATED RESOURCE: Millions targeted for possible deportation under Trump rules

    Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it is tracking nearly 970,000 immigrants with deportation orders. The majority — 82 percent — have no criminal record, the agency said. ICE declined to say how many must regularly report to authorities or are tracked by ankle monitors, and it is unclear how many are being arrested.

    Trump boosted immigration arrests by 38 percent in the early days of his administration, but deportations fell from a year ago as activity on the U.S.-Mexico border slowed.

    For authorities keen on showing they’re beefing up immigration enforcement, immigrants who already have deportation orders are seen as an easy target. They can be removed from the country more quickly than newly arrested immigrants, whose cases can drag on for years in immigration court proceedings and appeals.

    “I just assume they figure this is an easy removal. All we have to do is deport this person, and that adds to our numbers of people who are out of the United States,” said Heather Prendergast, chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Liaison Committee.

    Many immigrants with old deportation orders have lived in the United States for years and set down roots here despite having no legal status, which deportation agents were known to weigh to decide who was a priority for removal.

    RELATED RESOURCE: Cities, states move to calm fears of deportation

    Under the Obama administration, immigration lawyers said their clients often were told they faced no immediate risk of being deported and could temporarily remain, so long as they committed no crimes.

    In Michigan, Jose Luis Sanchez-Ronquillo reported to authorities for more than four years before he was arrested at an April check-in and sent to a Louisiana detention facility. The 36-year-old father of two came into contact with police during a traffic stop and lost his immigration case in 2012. But he was then repeatedly allowed to stay, said Shanta Driver, his lawyer.

    In Virginia, 33-year-old Cesar Lara was detained in May after living here for a decade. The Mexican house painter wound up with a deportation order after he was arrested in 2012, when officials stopped him for removing wood from a forest, said his mother, Maria De Lara.

    “(Trump) said they were just going to deport pure criminals and bad people, and my son is not a criminal,” she said. “He’s working for the community.”

    It’s hard to know how many immigrants with deportation orders are being detained. In Atlanta, immigration attorney Charles Kuck said one in five of his clients with scheduled check-ins has been detained since Trump took office, something that hardly ever happened during the prior administration.

    RELATED RESOURCE: Trump: Young immigrant ‘dreamers’ are not deportation targets

    Immigration lawyers said they tell clients they must attend required check-ins, and immigrants usually do, hoping to be allowed to stay and avoid the prospect of deportation agents showing up at their homes.

    Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, said he believes deportations will rise as the Trump administration continues to arrest immigrants here illegally and that authorities will focus more on the interior of the country as activity on the southern border declines.

    “These are people who have had their chance at due process, and it is just Obama decided to let them stay,” said Krikorian, who wants stricter limits on immigration. “It is a perfectly defensible and perfectly appropriate use of their resources to start with these people who are already ordered deported.”

    While those supporting Trump see the shift as a necessary fix to a dysfunctional immigration system, critics say politics is driving the change.

    Alex Nowrasteh, immigration policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, said authorities already are deporting immigrants from the jails, and illegal immigration from Mexico has waned, prompting the Trump administration to look for ways to satisfy campaign supporters.

    “The administration ran on this phantom problem, and now they’re going to have to big-time deliver on their promises,” Nowrasteh said.

    ___

    Associated Press writer Jeff Karoub in Detroit contributed to this report.

    The post Under Trump, old deportation orders get new life appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Donald Trump will speak today at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority Conference,” which is being held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C.

    President Donald Trump is expected to deliver a speech at 12:35 p.m. EDT at the Faith & Freedom Coalition on Thursday. Watch live in the player above.

    The president’s address to religious conservatives at this event will occur during fired FBI Director James Comey’s high-profile testimony in front of the Senate Intelligence committee.

    WATCH LIVE: James Comey testifies in Senate hearing on Russia

    PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.

    The post WATCH LIVE: Trump addresses Faith and Freedom Coalition conference during Comey testimony appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — Former FBI director James Comey says that shifting explanations of his firing confused and concerned him.

    The ousted FBI director says at the start of his high-profile Senate hearing that President Donald Trump had repeatedly told him he was doing a great job. Comey says he told the president he planned to serve out his full 10-year term.

    Comey says he was “confused” by the explanation that his decisions during the 2016 election was the reason he was fired by Trump.

    WATCH: James Comey testifies in Senate hearing on Russia

    The post WATCH: Comey says ‘shifting explanations’ of his firing concerned him appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Former FBI Director James Comey testifies at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election in Washington, D.C., on June 8. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    Former FBI Director James Comey testifies at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election in Washington, D.C., on June 8. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — James Comey says President Donald Trump’s administration spread “lies, plain and simple” and “defamed” him and the FBI.

    The former FBI director opened his Senate testimony Thursday by stating that the administration’s explanations for his firing confused and concerned him. He didn’t say what the lies were.

    The ousted FBI director says at the start of his high-profile Senate hearing that President Donald Trump had repeatedly told him he was doing a great job. Comey says he told the president he planned to serve out his full 10-year term.

    Comey is testifying before the Senate intelligence committee. His remarks are his first public statements since his firing on May 9, which came as he was leading an FBI investigation into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.

    WATCH: James Comey testifies in Senate hearing on Russia

    The post Comey says White House ‘defamed’ him and FBI appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Visitors cheer with beer during the opening ceremony for the 182nd Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, September 19, 2015. Millions of beer drinkers from around the world will come to the Bavarian capital over the next two weeks for Oktoberfest, which starts today and runs until October 4, 2015. Photo by Michael Dalder/REUTERS

    VImbibing just a handful of beers a week is associated with long-term changes to a person’s brain, a new study finds — although the functional meaning of these changes is unclear. Photo by Michael Dalder/REUTERS

    Imbibing just a handful of beers a week is associated with long-term changes to a person’s brain, a new study finds — although the functional meaning of these changes is unclear.

    Why it matters:

    While it’s widely accepted that drinking too much is bad for you, conventional wisdom — and the government’s dietary guidelines — says that alcohol can be consumed in moderation. The US government defines that as one drink a day for women and two for men.

    This study, published in the BMJ on Tuesday, finds that drinking around these levels — 8 to 12 drinks a week — is associated with a few measures of cognitive decline that showed up on brain scans.

    The nitty-gritty:

    Researchers brought 550 Londoners to Oxford and ran them through an MRI machine. But these weren’t just any Londoners — they were government employees who, about every five years since 1985, had been filling out surveys about their health habits, including how much alcohol they consumed. This enabled the researchers to look for relationships between the individuals’ drinking habits and what showed up on their brain scans.

    READ MORE: Babies’ face scans detect exposure to low amounts of alcohol in utero

    The researchers found that moderate drinking over those 30-plus years was associated with degeneration and shrinking of the hippocampus, a region of the brain involved in memory and navigation, as well degeneration of the brain’s white matter.

    In essence, “the more people drank, the smaller their hippocampus,” said first author Anya Topiwala, a psychiatry professor at University of Oxford. Consuming one more alcoholic drink per week was associated with a 0.01 percent decrease in the size of the hippocampus. For comparison, aging one year was associated with a 0.02 percent decrease.

    But keep in mind:

    The study only looked at a few hundred Londoners, mostly well-educated and middle-class, so it may not be representative of a wider population. Topiwala also pointed out there might have been “selection bias” in the sample — individuals had to get from London to Oxford in order to undergo the MRI scans and then spend an hour in a brain scanning machine and undergo other memory tests — which individuals who were alcohol dependent or had suffered brain damage from alcohol use might be less likely to do.

    The authors also noted that the changes in the hippocampus are only statistically significant for the right hippocampus, not the left hippocampus. Topiwala said she’s not sure why this is the case.

    READ MORE: A little alcohol may not be good for you after all

    What they’re saying:

    In an accompanying editorial, Killian Welch, a neuropsychiatrist at a hospital in Scotland, wrote that the study might change what we think constitutes a healthy level of drinking.

    “[The] findings strengthen the argument that drinking habits many regard as normal have adverse consequences for health,” Welch wrote. “This is important. We all use rationalizations to justly persistence with behaviors not in our long term interest. With publication of this paper, justification of ‘moderate’ drinking on the grounds of brain health becomes a little harder.”

    The bottom line:

    Alcohol has an effect on your brain, perhaps at lower levels than previously thought.

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on June 6, 2017. Find the original story here.

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    We'll explore the wide worlds of science, health and technology with content from our science squad and other places we're finding news.

    The post Even moderate drinking may expedite brain decline appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — Former FBI Director James Comey says that former Attorney General Loretta Lynch urged him to refer to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails a “matter” instead of an “investigation.”

    Comey says in his Senate Intelligence Committee hearing that he was confused by the request and it was one of the reasons he felt the need to publicly announce his findings in the Clinton email case.

    READ MORE: What to watch for in Comey’s Senate testimony

    Comey says the other major factor was Lynch’s meeting with former President Bill Clinton on the tarmac of an Arizona airport. Comey says he had to announce his findings to protect the credibility of the FBI and the Justice Department.

    WATCH: James Comey testifies in Senate hearing on Russia

    The post WATCH: Comey says former AG Lynch urged him to refer to Clinton email probe as ‘matter,’ not ‘investigation’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — Former FBI Director James Comey says he was concerned Donald Trump would “lie” about the nature of his first conversation with him.

    Comey says Trump’s behavior was new to him and led him to think, “I gotta write it down and I gotta write it down in a very detailed way.”

    READ MORE: What to watch for in Comey’s Senate testimony

    During the meeting, Trump asked if he personally was under investigation. Comey says he told him he was not at that time.

    Trump fired Comey in May. At the time, Comey was leading an investigation into Russia’s election meddling and ties with the Trump campaign.

    READ MORE: 9 things we learned from Comey’s prepared Senate remarks

    The post WATCH: Comey says he was concerned Trump would ‘lie’ about nature of their first conversation appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Former FBI Director James Comey testifies at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election in Washington, D.C., on June 8. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    Former FBI Director James Comey testifies at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election in Washington, D.C., on June 8. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Former FBI director James Comey says he thought during a January dinner with President Donald Trump that the president was “looking to get something” in exchange for allowing him to stay on as FBI director.

    Comey is describing his views that the president was trying to create a type of “patronage relationship” at the start of the Trump administration.

    MORE: Read James Comey’s prepared statement before Thursday’s Senate hearing

    The ousted FBI head is testifying that the president told him before the dinner he hoped he would stay as director.

    Comey says law enforcement leaders aren’t “supposed to be peeking out to see whether your patron is pleased or not with what you’re doing.”

    READ MORE: What to watch for in Comey’s Senate testimony

    The post Comey says President Trump was ‘looking to get something’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Former FBI Director James Comey testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    Former FBI Director James Comey testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Fired FBI Director James Comey says, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes,” of his conversations with President Donald Trump.

    Three days after Trump fired Comey, the president tweeted that Comey should hope there are “no tapes” of their conversations.

    READ MORE: What to watch for in Comey’s Senate testimony

    Comey documented his conversations with Trump in memos after the encounters. During his first public appearance since he was fired, senators asked Comey about his responses to Trump.

    Comey says he chose his words carefully when responding to Trump because he was “so stunned” by the conversation. Comey was recalling a February conversation in which, Comey says, Trump said he hoped Comey could let go the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s first national security adviser Michael Flynn’s calls with the Russians.

    WATCH: James Comey testifies in Senate hearing on Russia

    The post Comey: ‘Lordy, I hope there are tapes’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Donald Trump has so far stayed off Twitter during former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony. But his eldest son hasn’t.

    Donald Trump Jr. is posting repeatedly during the closely watched testimony Thursday.

    He repeatedly defended his father and attacked Comey.

    Trump Jr. in particular seized on Comey’s assertion that he interpreted the president’s statement that he “hoped” the FBI would drop its probe into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

    Trump Jr. tweeted “you would think a guy like Comey” would know the difference between “hoping and telling.”

    He also cast doubt on all of Comey’s testimony and said he should “have actually followed procedure.”

    Donald Trump Jr. and his brother Eric are now at the helm of their father’s New York-based business.

    WATCH: James Comey testifies in Senate hearing on Russia

    The post President Trump’s son attacks Comey on Twitter appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Jesus Dominguez, 63, who does not have health insurance, reads a pamphlet at a health insurance enrollment event in Cudahy, California. According to the Census Bureau, 9.1 million Americans have no health insurance, down the previous year. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

    In his high-stakes strategy to overhaul the federal health law, President Donald Trump is threatening to upend the individual health insurance market with several key policies. But if the market actually breaks, could anyone put it back together again?

    The question is more than theoretical. The Trump administration has already acted to depress enrollment in Affordable Care Act plans, has instructed the IRS to back off enforcement of the requirement that most people have health insurance or pay a penalty and threatened to withhold billions of dollars owed to insurance companies. All of those actions make it more difficult for insurers to enroll the healthy people needed to offset the costs of the sick who make it a priority to have coverage.

    The president himself has made his strategy clear in interviews and tweets. “The Democrats will make a deal with me on healthcare as soon as ObamaCare folds — not long,” Trump tweeted March 28. “Do not worry, we are in very good shape!”

    But the individual insurance market is not in such good shape. A growing number of insurers are asking for double-digit premium increases or deciding to leave the market altogether. In the latest announcement, Anthem said Tuesday that it was pulling out of the Ohio marketplace next year. And while most analysts say the market probably would eventually rebound, in the short term things could get messy.

    “Is the administration doing what it needs to do to stabilize the market? No, they’re doing the opposite.”

    “Is the administration doing what it needs to do to stabilize the market? No, they’re doing the opposite,” said Kevin Counihan, CEO of the insurance exchange program during the Obama administration.

    Trump’s biggest weapon, by far, is refusing to reimburse insurance companies for billions of dollars in payments the law requires them to make to help policyholders with incomes up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level (about $30,015 for an individual and $61,500 for a family of four) afford their deductibles and other out-of-pocket payments. These “cost-sharing subsidies” are the subject of an ongoing lawsuit, and Trump can effectively end them at any time by dropping the suit.

    Meanwhile, major insurance companies like Aetna and Humana have already announced that they won’t participate in the health exchange market for 2018.

    Other plans have said they would like to stay in but only if they are granted huge rate hikes, citing the uncertainty of whether the Trump administration will repay them for the cost-sharing discounts and whether it will enforce the health law’s “individual mandate” that requires most people to have coverage or pay a fine. In Pennsylvania, for example, insurers are seeking premium increases of less than 10 percent for 2018 — but warn that if the mandate to have insurance is not enforced or cost-sharing reductions not paid, those increases could balloon to 36 percent or more.

    Those who follow the market closely say the exits and requests for large premium increases are no surprise. “It’s just been one thing after another in this market,” said Kurt Giesa, an actuarial expert at the consulting firm Oliver Wyman. He said if the administration follows through on its threat not to fund the cost-sharing subsidies for the rest of the year, “that could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

    Giesa also pointed out that it’s not just insurance companies that would suffer if the individual insurance market is crippled. “That strategy of crashing the market has real human consequences,” he said. “There are 15-million-plus people relying on that.”

    That group includes not only people who purchase insurance through the “health exchange” state marketplaces, but also those who purchase insurance on their own, usually because they earn too much to get federal assistance paying their premiums. Premium subsidies are available to those who earn less than 400 percent of the poverty level (about $48,240 for an individual and $98,400 for a family of four).

    People who pay their own way are the ones getting hit hardest.

    People who pay their own way are the ones getting hit hardest, said insurance industry consultant Robert Laszewski. “There is a horrific death spiral going on with the [non-subsidized] part of the market right now,” he said, because rate hikes are limited for those getting help from the government, but not for those paying the full premiums.

    A major question is how hard would it be for the government to regain the trust of insurers as a reliable business partner, regardless of what changes are eventually made.

    Counihan acknowledged that insurers felt they were treated unfairly even before the Trump administration took office, when Republicans in Congress prevented full payment of “risk corridor” funds that the law promised insurers who enrolled more than their expected share of sick people. Insurers are still owed millions of dollars and many have sued the federal government to try to get the money.

    Counihan said the first words out of the mouths of most insurance CEOs he met with were “we don’t trust you guys.”

    Giesa said the government’s misbehavior goes back even further — to the fall of 2013, when the Obama administration allowed some consumers to keep their old plans. That effectively kept healthy people out of the new markets, “after companies had set their prices,” Giesa said, resulting in some big losses for insurance companies.

    Despite the woes, insurance analysts say they doubt the individual market would stay down for long.

    “This market could grow. And I don’t think [insurance companies] want to be left out completely from this market if there’s an opportunity to break even, or make a little money.”

    One reason, said Laszewski, is that, unlike with big commercial insurers, for many nonprofit insurers serving the individual market as the insurer of last resort is part of their mission. Boards of Blue Cross Blue Shield plans and other nonprofits, he said, tend to be made up of representatives of “labor, the local hospitals, big employers. … They have community connections. So it’s going to take a lot to drive them off.”

    Another reason insurers will likely return or work to remain in the individual market is that it’s part of the future of health care, said Counihan. With so many people now working for themselves in the “gig economy,” he said, selling insurance “is going to be more business-to-consumer than businessto-business.”

    “This market could grow,” agreed Giesa. “And I don’t think [insurance companies] want to be left out completely from this market if there’s an opportunity to break even, or make a little money.”

    In the end, said Counihan, regardless of what he considers the Trump administration’s “disorganized neglect, I think this market is here to stay.”

    The post If the individual health insurance market withers, who would revive it? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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