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Ex-Trump Campaign Aide Gets 14 Days in Prison

George Papadopoulos, the former Trump campaign adviser whose actions triggered the Russia investigation, was sentenced to 14 days in prison Friday by a judge who said he had placed his own interests above those of the country.

 

The punishment was far less than the maximum six-month sentence sought by the government but also more than the probation that Papadopoulos and his lawyers had asked for. However, defense lawyer Thomas Breen said the sentence was fair.

U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss said that Papadopoulos’ deception was “not a noble lie” and that he had lied because he wanted a job in the Trump administration and did not want to jeopardize that possibility by being tied to the Russia investigation.

Papadopoulos, the first Trump campaign aide sentenced in special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, said he was “deeply embarrassed and ashamed’” for having lied to FBI agents during an interview last year and acknowledged that his actions could have hindered their work.

In an interview aired Friday on the CNN Papadopoulos said he does not remember informing Trump campaign officials that Russia had damaging emails about former U.S. Secretary of State and Trump presidential opponent Hillary Clinton. But he added he “can’t guarantee” he kept the information from campaign officials.

Foreknowledge of Russia’s offer to share damaging information about Clinton is at the heart of the Mueller investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

Papadopoulos, who served as a foreign policy adviser to President Donald Trump’s campaign, has been a central figure in the Russia investigation dating back before Mueller’s May 2017 appointment. He was the first to plead guilty in Mueller’s probe and is now the first Trump campaign adviser to be sentenced. His case was also the first to detail a member of the Trump campaign having knowledge of Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election while it was ongoing.

 

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Trump Wants Justice Department Probe of ‘Resistance’ Writer

President Donald Trump declared Friday that the U.S. Justice Department should work to identify the writer of a New York Times opinion piece purportedly submitted by a member of an administration “resistance” movement straining to thwart his most dangerous impulses.

Trump cited “national security” as the reason for such a probe, and in comments to reporters he called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to open the investigation. He also said he was exploring bringing legal action against the newspaper over Wednesday’s publication of the essay.

“Jeff should be investigating who the author of that piece was because I really believe it’s national security,” Trump said. If the person has a high-level security clearance, he said, “I don’t want him in those meetings.”

It’s all but unthinkable that the Justice Department could open an investigation into the op-ed article. Though it was strongly critical of Trump, no classified information appears to have been revealed by the author or leaked to the newspaper, which would be one crucial bar to clear before a leak investigation could be contemplated.

Still Trump’s call was the latest test of the independence of his Justice Department, which is supposed to make investigative and charging decisions without political interference from the White House.

A day earlier, Trump’s top lieutenants stepped forward to repudiate the op-ed in a show of support for their incensed boss, who has ordered aides to unmask the writer.

Cabinet responses

By email, by tweet and on camera, the denials paraded in from Cabinet-level officials, and even Vice President Mike Pence. Senior officials in key national security and economic policy roles charged the article’s writer with cowardice, disloyalty and action against America’s interests in harsh terms that mimicked the president’s own words.

In an interview Thursday with Fox News, Trump said the author “may not be a Republican, it may not be a conservative, it may be a ‘deep state’ person who has been there for a long time.”

There is a long list of officials who could have been the author. Many have privately shared some of the article’s same concerns about Trump with colleagues, friends and reporters.

With such a wide circle of potential suspicion, Trump’s men and women felt they had no choice but to speak out. The denials and condemnations came in from far and wide: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis denied authorship on a visit to India; Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke chimed in from American Samoa. In Washington, the claims of “not me” echoed from Pence’s office, from Energy Secretary Rick Perry, from Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman, from Dan Coats, director of national intelligence, and other Cabinet members.

The author professed to be a member of that same inner circle. So could the denials be trusted? There was no way to know, and that only deepened the president’s frustrations.

A White House official said Trump’s call for the Justice Department investigation was an expression of his frustration with the op-ed, rather than an order for federal prosecutors.

“The department does not confirm or deny investigations,” said Sarah Isgur Flores, a spokeswoman.

Confirmation of concerns

Some people who agreed with the writer’s points suggested the president’s reaction actually confirmed the author’s concerns, and Democrats were quick to condemn the president’s call for a federal investigation.

Senator Chris Coons of Delaware said, “President Trump continues to show a troubling trend in which he views the Department of Justice as the private legal department of the Trump organization rather than an entity that is focused on respecting the Constitution and enforcing our laws.”

But Rudy Giuliani, the president’s attorney, suggested that it “would be appropriate” for Trump to ask for a formal investigation into the identity of the op-ed author.

“Let’s assume it’s a person with a security clearance. If they feel writing this is appropriate, maybe they feel it would be appropriate to disclose national security secrets, too. That person should be found out and stopped,” Giuliani said.

And Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a key ally of Trump’s, called for the president to order those suspected of being the author to undergo lie-detector tests.

“People are suggesting it,” Trump said Friday, steering clear of explicitly endorsing the proposal. “Eventually the name of this sick person will come out.”

As the initial scramble to unmask the writer proved fruitless, attention turned to the questions the article raised, which have been whispered in Washington for more than a year: Is Trump truly in charge, and could a divided executive branch pose a danger to the country?

Former CIA Director John Brennan, a fierce Trump critic, told NBC, “This is not sustainable, to have an executive branch where individuals are not following the orders of the chief executive. … A wounded lion is a very dangerous animal, and I think Donald Trump is wounded.”

Diligence ‘from within’

The anonymous author, claiming to be part of the resistance “working diligently from within” the administration, said, “Many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”

“It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room,” the author continued. “We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.”

First lady Melania Trump issued a statement backing her husband. She praised the free press as “important to our democracy” but assailed the writer, saying, “You are not protecting this country, you are sabotaging it with your cowardly actions.”

Down Pennsylvania Avenue, House Speaker Paul Ryan said he did not know of any role Congress would have to investigate, though Republican Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, a Trump ally, said the legislative body could take part.

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Trump Wants Justice Department Probe of ‘Resistance’ Writer

President Donald Trump declared Friday that the U.S. Justice Department should work to identify the writer of a New York Times opinion piece purportedly submitted by a member of an administration “resistance” movement straining to thwart his most dangerous impulses.

Trump cited “national security” as the reason for such a probe, and in comments to reporters he called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to open the investigation. He also said he was exploring bringing legal action against the newspaper over Wednesday’s publication of the essay.

“Jeff should be investigating who the author of that piece was because I really believe it’s national security,” Trump said. If the person has a high-level security clearance, he said, “I don’t want him in those meetings.”

It’s all but unthinkable that the Justice Department could open an investigation into the op-ed article. Though it was strongly critical of Trump, no classified information appears to have been revealed by the author or leaked to the newspaper, which would be one crucial bar to clear before a leak investigation could be contemplated.

Still Trump’s call was the latest test of the independence of his Justice Department, which is supposed to make investigative and charging decisions without political interference from the White House.

A day earlier, Trump’s top lieutenants stepped forward to repudiate the op-ed in a show of support for their incensed boss, who has ordered aides to unmask the writer.

Cabinet responses

By email, by tweet and on camera, the denials paraded in from Cabinet-level officials, and even Vice President Mike Pence. Senior officials in key national security and economic policy roles charged the article’s writer with cowardice, disloyalty and action against America’s interests in harsh terms that mimicked the president’s own words.

In an interview Thursday with Fox News, Trump said the author “may not be a Republican, it may not be a conservative, it may be a ‘deep state’ person who has been there for a long time.”

There is a long list of officials who could have been the author. Many have privately shared some of the article’s same concerns about Trump with colleagues, friends and reporters.

With such a wide circle of potential suspicion, Trump’s men and women felt they had no choice but to speak out. The denials and condemnations came in from far and wide: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis denied authorship on a visit to India; Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke chimed in from American Samoa. In Washington, the claims of “not me” echoed from Pence’s office, from Energy Secretary Rick Perry, from Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman, from Dan Coats, director of national intelligence, and other Cabinet members.

The author professed to be a member of that same inner circle. So could the denials be trusted? There was no way to know, and that only deepened the president’s frustrations.

A White House official said Trump’s call for the Justice Department investigation was an expression of his frustration with the op-ed, rather than an order for federal prosecutors.

“The department does not confirm or deny investigations,” said Sarah Isgur Flores, a spokeswoman.

Confirmation of concerns

Some people who agreed with the writer’s points suggested the president’s reaction actually confirmed the author’s concerns, and Democrats were quick to condemn the president’s call for a federal investigation.

Senator Chris Coons of Delaware said, “President Trump continues to show a troubling trend in which he views the Department of Justice as the private legal department of the Trump organization rather than an entity that is focused on respecting the Constitution and enforcing our laws.”

But Rudy Giuliani, the president’s attorney, suggested that it “would be appropriate” for Trump to ask for a formal investigation into the identity of the op-ed author.

“Let’s assume it’s a person with a security clearance. If they feel writing this is appropriate, maybe they feel it would be appropriate to disclose national security secrets, too. That person should be found out and stopped,” Giuliani said.

And Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a key ally of Trump’s, called for the president to order those suspected of being the author to undergo lie-detector tests.

“People are suggesting it,” Trump said Friday, steering clear of explicitly endorsing the proposal. “Eventually the name of this sick person will come out.”

As the initial scramble to unmask the writer proved fruitless, attention turned to the questions the article raised, which have been whispered in Washington for more than a year: Is Trump truly in charge, and could a divided executive branch pose a danger to the country?

Former CIA Director John Brennan, a fierce Trump critic, told NBC, “This is not sustainable, to have an executive branch where individuals are not following the orders of the chief executive. … A wounded lion is a very dangerous animal, and I think Donald Trump is wounded.”

Diligence ‘from within’

The anonymous author, claiming to be part of the resistance “working diligently from within” the administration, said, “Many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”

“It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room,” the author continued. “We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.”

First lady Melania Trump issued a statement backing her husband. She praised the free press as “important to our democracy” but assailed the writer, saying, “You are not protecting this country, you are sabotaging it with your cowardly actions.”

Down Pennsylvania Avenue, House Speaker Paul Ryan said he did not know of any role Congress would have to investigate, though Republican Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, a Trump ally, said the legislative body could take part.

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Trump Threatens to Tax Virtually All Chinese Imports to US

U.S. President Donald Trump is threatening to impose tariffs on another $267 billion worth Chinese imports, which would cover virtually all the goods China imports to the United States.

The potential tariffs would come on top of punitive levies on $50 billion in Chinese goods already in place, as well as tariffs on another $200 billion worth of goods that Trump says “could take place very soon.”

He told reporters traveling with him to Fargo, North Dakota, on Friday that “behind that, there’s another $267 billion ready to go on short notice if I want.”

“That changes the equation,” he added.

Such a move would subject virtually all U.S. imports from China to new duties.

The president’s comments came one day after a public comment period ended on his proposal to add duties on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Friday that the Trump administration would evaluate the public comments before making any decisions on the new proposed tariffs.

The U.S. trade representative’s office received nearly 6,000 comments during seven days of public hearings on the proposal.

The Trump administration has argued that tariffs on Chinese goods will force China to trade on more favorable terms with the United States. It has demanded that China better protect American intellectual property, including ending the practice of cybertheft. The Trump administration has also called on China to allow U.S. companies greater access to Chinese markets and to cut its U.S. trade surplus.

China has retaliated against the U.S. tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese imports with import taxes on an equal amount of U.S. goods. It has also threatened to retaliate against any new tariffs. However, China’s imports from the United States are worth $200 billion a year less than American imports from China, so it would run out of room to match U.S. sanctions.

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Trump Threatens to Tax Virtually All Chinese Imports to US

U.S. President Donald Trump is threatening to impose tariffs on another $267 billion worth Chinese imports, which would cover virtually all the goods China imports to the United States.

The potential tariffs would come on top of punitive levies on $50 billion in Chinese goods already in place, as well as tariffs on another $200 billion worth of goods that Trump says “could take place very soon.”

He told reporters traveling with him to Fargo, North Dakota, on Friday that “behind that, there’s another $267 billion ready to go on short notice if I want.”

“That changes the equation,” he added.

Such a move would subject virtually all U.S. imports from China to new duties.

The president’s comments came one day after a public comment period ended on his proposal to add duties on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Friday that the Trump administration would evaluate the public comments before making any decisions on the new proposed tariffs.

The U.S. trade representative’s office received nearly 6,000 comments during seven days of public hearings on the proposal.

The Trump administration has argued that tariffs on Chinese goods will force China to trade on more favorable terms with the United States. It has demanded that China better protect American intellectual property, including ending the practice of cybertheft. The Trump administration has also called on China to allow U.S. companies greater access to Chinese markets and to cut its U.S. trade surplus.

China has retaliated against the U.S. tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese imports with import taxes on an equal amount of U.S. goods. It has also threatened to retaliate against any new tariffs. However, China’s imports from the United States are worth $200 billion a year less than American imports from China, so it would run out of room to match U.S. sanctions.

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A Look at Trump and the Hunt for Leaks

President Donald Trump is vowing to root out the aides, officials or others who contributed to a pair of accounts that contend some on his team question his judgment, competence and even rationality.

A book by journalist Bob Woodward and an anonymous New York Times opinion piece, Trump has said, are fiction and lies. But the president nonetheless finds them compelling enough to seek out the leakers of behind-the-scenes stories and quotes. On Friday, Trump said the U.S. Justice Department should investigate the identity of the op-ed writer. 

“Eventually, the name of this sick person will come out,” he told reporters on Air Force One.

Some things to know about leak investigations:

The nature of a leak

Telling embarrassing stories about a president’s behavior is not the same thing as revealing classified information.

The first could be a political risk, which is why administration members from Vice President Mike Pence on down denied being the op-ed writer this week. Still, writing unflattering things about the president isn’t a crime.

But the Espionage Act and other federal laws do criminalize unauthorized disclosures about certain national security information, such as surveillance methods. Any leak investigations of classified information tend to go through a complex process at the Justice Department that includes determining whether the information was sensitive and known to few people.

No classified information appears to have been revealed by the anonymous op-ed author. And it’s far from clear that the vivid portraits of erratic presidential behavior described by Woodward and the op-ed writer would breach national security.

Speaking of national security …  

Trump told reporters Friday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should pursue the identity of the Times essay writer.

“Jeff should be investigating who the author of that piece was because I really believe it’s national security,” the president said. If the person has a high-level security clearance, Trump said, “I don’t want him in those meetings.”

The FBI and Justice Department are responsible for investigating federal crimes, but there is no indication of anything illegal having been done in the publication of a newspaper opinion piece critical of the president. It is also extraordinary for a president to demand an investigation by the Justice Department, which is supposed to make investigative and charging decisions without White House interference.

The Times opted to publish the unsigned column, which alleges that a “quiet resistance” of senior administration officials is “working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”

Trump earlier dared the Times to do what journalists scrupulously avoid: “If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!” he tweeted.

Asked if he would take any action against the Times, Trump said, “We’re going to see, I’m looking at that right now.”

The fallout from these leaks

Trump was asked if, in light of the book and column, he trusted the people around him.

“I do, I do,” he said. “But what I do is, now I look around the room and I say, ‘Hey, I don’t know somebody.’ ”

Truth-telling tests

Nothing would stop Trump from directing his aides to hunt for leakers among senior officials.

Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican who describes himself as a libertarian, said Trump would be justified using lie detectors to find the anonymous essay writer. 

Trump wasn’t saying Friday whether he’d take the suggestion.

Lie detectors wouldn’t be reliable enough to unearth the column author or other sources for sure, studies and a massive federal report have indicated. And polygraphs aren’t acceptable as evidence in court.

“At best they are unreliable. The question is how unreliable?” said Indiana University brain sciences professor Richard Shiffrin.

‘You’d be shunned’

Meanwhile, Trump is said to be examining the language of the denials issued this week by the highest members of his administration or their spokespeople.

“Everybody very high up has already said it wasn’t me. It would be very hard if it was, if they got caught,” Trump said. “You’d be shunned for the rest of your life.”

Leak probes of the past

Trump would be far from the first president to hunt for leakers. 

During his eight years in office, Barack Obama’s Justice Department prosecuted nine cases against whistle-blowers and leakers, compared with three by all other previous administrations. In one of those investigations, the government secretly seized records for telephone lines and switchboards that more than 100 reporters for The Associated Press used in their Washington bureau and elsewhere.

In June under the Trump administration, Reality Winner, 26, pleaded guilty to a single count of transmitting national security information. The former Air Force translator had worked as a contractor at a National Security Agency office in Augusta, Georgia, when she printed a classified report and left the building with it hidden in her pantyhose. Winner told the FBI she mailed the document to an online news outlet.

Deep Throat

Former FBI No. 2 W. Mark Felt first denied, then decades later admitted, being the famous source for Washington Post reporters Woodward and Carl Bernstein in their Watergate coverage that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

Nixon and polygraphs

Prior to the Watergate scandal, Nixon in 1971 considered lie detector tests for an estimated 300,000 federal employees with security clearances, according to a taped presidential conversation played for the House Judiciary Committee looking at the administration’s domestic surveillance programs.

Advised the tests would result in mass resignations, he ordered the tests for about 1,000 employees of the State and Defense departments, the CIA and the National Security Council.

A June 1974 Associated Press report quoted Nixon as saying, “I don’t know much about these things, but it scares the (expletive deleted) out of them.”

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A Look at Trump and the Hunt for Leaks

President Donald Trump is vowing to root out the aides, officials or others who contributed to a pair of accounts that contend some on his team question his judgment, competence and even rationality.

A book by journalist Bob Woodward and an anonymous New York Times opinion piece, Trump has said, are fiction and lies. But the president nonetheless finds them compelling enough to seek out the leakers of behind-the-scenes stories and quotes. On Friday, Trump said the U.S. Justice Department should investigate the identity of the op-ed writer. 

“Eventually, the name of this sick person will come out,” he told reporters on Air Force One.

Some things to know about leak investigations:

The nature of a leak

Telling embarrassing stories about a president’s behavior is not the same thing as revealing classified information.

The first could be a political risk, which is why administration members from Vice President Mike Pence on down denied being the op-ed writer this week. Still, writing unflattering things about the president isn’t a crime.

But the Espionage Act and other federal laws do criminalize unauthorized disclosures about certain national security information, such as surveillance methods. Any leak investigations of classified information tend to go through a complex process at the Justice Department that includes determining whether the information was sensitive and known to few people.

No classified information appears to have been revealed by the anonymous op-ed author. And it’s far from clear that the vivid portraits of erratic presidential behavior described by Woodward and the op-ed writer would breach national security.

Speaking of national security …  

Trump told reporters Friday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should pursue the identity of the Times essay writer.

“Jeff should be investigating who the author of that piece was because I really believe it’s national security,” the president said. If the person has a high-level security clearance, Trump said, “I don’t want him in those meetings.”

The FBI and Justice Department are responsible for investigating federal crimes, but there is no indication of anything illegal having been done in the publication of a newspaper opinion piece critical of the president. It is also extraordinary for a president to demand an investigation by the Justice Department, which is supposed to make investigative and charging decisions without White House interference.

The Times opted to publish the unsigned column, which alleges that a “quiet resistance” of senior administration officials is “working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”

Trump earlier dared the Times to do what journalists scrupulously avoid: “If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!” he tweeted.

Asked if he would take any action against the Times, Trump said, “We’re going to see, I’m looking at that right now.”

The fallout from these leaks

Trump was asked if, in light of the book and column, he trusted the people around him.

“I do, I do,” he said. “But what I do is, now I look around the room and I say, ‘Hey, I don’t know somebody.’ ”

Truth-telling tests

Nothing would stop Trump from directing his aides to hunt for leakers among senior officials.

Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican who describes himself as a libertarian, said Trump would be justified using lie detectors to find the anonymous essay writer. 

Trump wasn’t saying Friday whether he’d take the suggestion.

Lie detectors wouldn’t be reliable enough to unearth the column author or other sources for sure, studies and a massive federal report have indicated. And polygraphs aren’t acceptable as evidence in court.

“At best they are unreliable. The question is how unreliable?” said Indiana University brain sciences professor Richard Shiffrin.

‘You’d be shunned’

Meanwhile, Trump is said to be examining the language of the denials issued this week by the highest members of his administration or their spokespeople.

“Everybody very high up has already said it wasn’t me. It would be very hard if it was, if they got caught,” Trump said. “You’d be shunned for the rest of your life.”

Leak probes of the past

Trump would be far from the first president to hunt for leakers. 

During his eight years in office, Barack Obama’s Justice Department prosecuted nine cases against whistle-blowers and leakers, compared with three by all other previous administrations. In one of those investigations, the government secretly seized records for telephone lines and switchboards that more than 100 reporters for The Associated Press used in their Washington bureau and elsewhere.

In June under the Trump administration, Reality Winner, 26, pleaded guilty to a single count of transmitting national security information. The former Air Force translator had worked as a contractor at a National Security Agency office in Augusta, Georgia, when she printed a classified report and left the building with it hidden in her pantyhose. Winner told the FBI she mailed the document to an online news outlet.

Deep Throat

Former FBI No. 2 W. Mark Felt first denied, then decades later admitted, being the famous source for Washington Post reporters Woodward and Carl Bernstein in their Watergate coverage that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

Nixon and polygraphs

Prior to the Watergate scandal, Nixon in 1971 considered lie detector tests for an estimated 300,000 federal employees with security clearances, according to a taped presidential conversation played for the House Judiciary Committee looking at the administration’s domestic surveillance programs.

Advised the tests would result in mass resignations, he ordered the tests for about 1,000 employees of the State and Defense departments, the CIA and the National Security Council.

A June 1974 Associated Press report quoted Nixon as saying, “I don’t know much about these things, but it scares the (expletive deleted) out of them.”

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Modest Premium Hikes Expected as ‘Obamacare’ Stabilizes

Millions of people covered under the Affordable Care Act will see only modest premium increases next year, and some will get price cuts. That’s the conclusion from an exclusive analysis of the besieged but resilient program, which still sparks deep divisions heading into this year’s midterm elections.

The Associated Press and the consulting firm Avalere Health crunched available state data and found that “Obamacare’s” health insurance marketplaces seem to be stabilizing after two years of sharp premium hikes. And the exodus of insurers from the program has halted, even reversed somewhat, with more consumer choices for 2019.

The analysis found a 3.6 percent average increase in proposed or approved premiums across 47 states and Washington, D.C., for next year. This year the average increase nationally was about 30 percent. The average total premium for an individual covered under the health law is now close to $600 a month before subsidies.

For next year, premiums are expected either to drop or increase by less than 10 percent in 41 states with about 9 million customers. Eleven of those states are expected to see a drop in average premiums. In six other states, plus Washington, D.C., premiums are projected to rise between 10 percent and 18 percent.

Insurers also are starting to come back. Nineteen states will either see new insurers enter or current ones expand into more areas. There are no bare counties lacking a willing insurer.

Even so, Chris Sloan, an Avalere director, says, “This is still a market that’s unaffordable for many people who aren’t eligible for subsidies.”

Nearly nine in 10 ACA customers get government subsidies based on income, shielding most from premium increases. But people with higher incomes, who don’t qualify for financial aid, have dropped out in droves.

It’s too early to say if the ACA’s turnabout will be fleeting or a more permanent shift. Either way, next year’s numbers are at odds with the political rhetoric around the ACA, still heated even after President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans failed to repeal the law last year.

Trump regularly calls “Obamacare” a “disaster” and time again has declared it “dead.” The GOP tax-cut bill repealed the ACA requirement that Americans have health insurance or risk fines, effective next year. But other key elements remain, including subsidies and protection for people with pre-existing conditions. Democrats, meanwhile, accuse Trump of “sabotage,” driving up premiums and threatening coverage.

The moderating market trend “takes the issue away from Republican candidates” in the midterm elections, said Mark Hall, a health law and policy expert at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. “Part of the mess is now their fault, and the facts really don’t support the narrative that things are getting worse.”

Market stability also appears to undercut Democrats’ charge that Trump is undermining the program. But Democrats disagree, saying the ACA is in danger while Republicans control Washington, and that premiums would have been even lower but for the administration’s hostility.

“Voters won’t think that the Trump threat to the ACA has passed at all, unless Democrats get at least the House in 2018,” said Bill Carrick, a strategist for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., whose re-election ads emphasize her support for the health law.

As if seconding Democrats’ argument, the Trump administration has said it won’t defend the ACA’s protections for pre-existing conditions in a federal case in Texas that could go to the Supreme Court. A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that Americans regardless of partisan identification said those protections should remain the law of the land.

In solidly Republican Arkansas, Democratic state legislator and cancer survivor Clarke Tucker is using the ACA in his campaign to try to flip a U.S. House seat from red to blue. Tucker, 37, says part of what made him want to run is the House vote to repeal the ACA last year and images of Trump and GOP lawmakers celebrating at the White House.

Business analysts say the relatively good news for 2019 is partly the result of previous premium increases, which allowed insurers to return to profitability after losing hundreds of millions of dollars.

“They can price better, and they can manage this population better, which is why they can actually make some money,” said Deep Banerjee of Standard & Poor’s.

Repeal of the ACA’s requirement to carry insurance doesn’t seem to have had a major impact yet, but Banerjee said there’s “a cloud of uncertainty” around the Trump administration’s potential policy shifts. Yet some administration actions have also helped settle the markets, such as continuing a premium stabilization program.

April Box of Spokane Valley, Washington, lives in a state where premiums could rise substantially since insurers have proposed an 18 percent increase. In states expecting double-digit increases, the reasons reflect local market conditions. Proposed increases may ultimately get revised downward.

Box is self-employed as a personal advocate helping patients navigate the health care system. She has an ACA plan, but even with a subsidy her premiums are expensive and a high deductible means she’s essentially covered only for catastrophic illness.

“I’m choosing not to go to the doctor, and I’m saying to myself I’m not sick enough to go to the doctors,” Box said. “We need to figure out how to make it better and lower the price.”

Now in her 50s, Box was born with dislocated hips. She worries she could be uninsurable if insurers are allowed to go back to denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. She might need another hip surgery.

“It needs to be a level playing field for everybody,” said Box. “We need to have universal coverage – that is really the only answer.”

Tennessee is a prime example of the ACA’s flipped fortunes.

Last year, the state struggled to secure at least one insurer in every county. But approved rates for 2019 reflect an 11 percent average decrease. Two new insurers – Bright Health and Celtic_ have entered its marketplace, and two others – Cigna and Oscar – will expand into new counties.

Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander called that a “welcome step,” but argued rates could have been even lower if congressional Democrats had supported a market stabilization bill. Democrats blame Republicans for the failure.

To calculate premium changes, Avalere and The Associated Press used proposed overall individual marketplace rate filings for 34 states and D.C., and final rates for 13 states that have already approved them. Data was not available for Massachusetts, Maryland and Alabama. The average rate change calculations include both on-exchange and off-exchange plans that comply with ACA requirements. The government isn’t expected to release final national figures until later this fall.

 

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Modest Premium Hikes Expected as ‘Obamacare’ Stabilizes

Millions of people covered under the Affordable Care Act will see only modest premium increases next year, and some will get price cuts. That’s the conclusion from an exclusive analysis of the besieged but resilient program, which still sparks deep divisions heading into this year’s midterm elections.

The Associated Press and the consulting firm Avalere Health crunched available state data and found that “Obamacare’s” health insurance marketplaces seem to be stabilizing after two years of sharp premium hikes. And the exodus of insurers from the program has halted, even reversed somewhat, with more consumer choices for 2019.

The analysis found a 3.6 percent average increase in proposed or approved premiums across 47 states and Washington, D.C., for next year. This year the average increase nationally was about 30 percent. The average total premium for an individual covered under the health law is now close to $600 a month before subsidies.

For next year, premiums are expected either to drop or increase by less than 10 percent in 41 states with about 9 million customers. Eleven of those states are expected to see a drop in average premiums. In six other states, plus Washington, D.C., premiums are projected to rise between 10 percent and 18 percent.

Insurers also are starting to come back. Nineteen states will either see new insurers enter or current ones expand into more areas. There are no bare counties lacking a willing insurer.

Even so, Chris Sloan, an Avalere director, says, “This is still a market that’s unaffordable for many people who aren’t eligible for subsidies.”

Nearly nine in 10 ACA customers get government subsidies based on income, shielding most from premium increases. But people with higher incomes, who don’t qualify for financial aid, have dropped out in droves.

It’s too early to say if the ACA’s turnabout will be fleeting or a more permanent shift. Either way, next year’s numbers are at odds with the political rhetoric around the ACA, still heated even after President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans failed to repeal the law last year.

Trump regularly calls “Obamacare” a “disaster” and time again has declared it “dead.” The GOP tax-cut bill repealed the ACA requirement that Americans have health insurance or risk fines, effective next year. But other key elements remain, including subsidies and protection for people with pre-existing conditions. Democrats, meanwhile, accuse Trump of “sabotage,” driving up premiums and threatening coverage.

The moderating market trend “takes the issue away from Republican candidates” in the midterm elections, said Mark Hall, a health law and policy expert at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. “Part of the mess is now their fault, and the facts really don’t support the narrative that things are getting worse.”

Market stability also appears to undercut Democrats’ charge that Trump is undermining the program. But Democrats disagree, saying the ACA is in danger while Republicans control Washington, and that premiums would have been even lower but for the administration’s hostility.

“Voters won’t think that the Trump threat to the ACA has passed at all, unless Democrats get at least the House in 2018,” said Bill Carrick, a strategist for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., whose re-election ads emphasize her support for the health law.

As if seconding Democrats’ argument, the Trump administration has said it won’t defend the ACA’s protections for pre-existing conditions in a federal case in Texas that could go to the Supreme Court. A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that Americans regardless of partisan identification said those protections should remain the law of the land.

In solidly Republican Arkansas, Democratic state legislator and cancer survivor Clarke Tucker is using the ACA in his campaign to try to flip a U.S. House seat from red to blue. Tucker, 37, says part of what made him want to run is the House vote to repeal the ACA last year and images of Trump and GOP lawmakers celebrating at the White House.

Business analysts say the relatively good news for 2019 is partly the result of previous premium increases, which allowed insurers to return to profitability after losing hundreds of millions of dollars.

“They can price better, and they can manage this population better, which is why they can actually make some money,” said Deep Banerjee of Standard & Poor’s.

Repeal of the ACA’s requirement to carry insurance doesn’t seem to have had a major impact yet, but Banerjee said there’s “a cloud of uncertainty” around the Trump administration’s potential policy shifts. Yet some administration actions have also helped settle the markets, such as continuing a premium stabilization program.

April Box of Spokane Valley, Washington, lives in a state where premiums could rise substantially since insurers have proposed an 18 percent increase. In states expecting double-digit increases, the reasons reflect local market conditions. Proposed increases may ultimately get revised downward.

Box is self-employed as a personal advocate helping patients navigate the health care system. She has an ACA plan, but even with a subsidy her premiums are expensive and a high deductible means she’s essentially covered only for catastrophic illness.

“I’m choosing not to go to the doctor, and I’m saying to myself I’m not sick enough to go to the doctors,” Box said. “We need to figure out how to make it better and lower the price.”

Now in her 50s, Box was born with dislocated hips. She worries she could be uninsurable if insurers are allowed to go back to denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. She might need another hip surgery.

“It needs to be a level playing field for everybody,” said Box. “We need to have universal coverage – that is really the only answer.”

Tennessee is a prime example of the ACA’s flipped fortunes.

Last year, the state struggled to secure at least one insurer in every county. But approved rates for 2019 reflect an 11 percent average decrease. Two new insurers – Bright Health and Celtic_ have entered its marketplace, and two others – Cigna and Oscar – will expand into new counties.

Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander called that a “welcome step,” but argued rates could have been even lower if congressional Democrats had supported a market stabilization bill. Democrats blame Republicans for the failure.

To calculate premium changes, Avalere and The Associated Press used proposed overall individual marketplace rate filings for 34 states and D.C., and final rates for 13 states that have already approved them. Data was not available for Massachusetts, Maryland and Alabama. The average rate change calculations include both on-exchange and off-exchange plans that comply with ACA requirements. The government isn’t expected to release final national figures until later this fall.

 

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Obama Tells Students Democracy Depends on Their Vote in November

Former U.S. president Barack Obama, who has maintained a low public profile since leaving office, entered the midterm election battle Friday with a simple message: “You need to vote because our democracy depends on it.”

“A glance at recent headlines should tell you that this moment really is different. The stakes really are higher. The consequences of any of us sitting on the sidelines are more dire,” Obama told students at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, where he accepted an ethics in government award.

In keeping with tradition, Obama has been reluctant to publicly comment on his successor, U.S. President Donald Trump, despite the fact Trump was a frequent critic of Obama.

The former president said the current state of Washington politics “did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause. He’s just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years. A fear and anger that’s rooted in our past but is also born out of the enormous upheavals that have taken place in your brief lifetimes.”

Obama implored the students “to show up” at the polls in November, noting that only one in five young eligible voters cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election.

“This whole project of self-government only works if everybody’s doing their part. Don’t tell me your vote doesn’t matter,” he declared.

Obama’s appearance at the central Illinois university campus was the first of several campaign events in the coming weeks at which he will urge Democratic voters to cast ballots in November’s midterm elections to take control of Congress from Donald Trump’s Republican Party. 

The former president also will attend a Southern California event for seven Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives in Republican-controlled districts that supported Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton over Trump two years ago.

Obama will campaign in Ohio next week for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray, a former Obama administration official.

He will return to Illinois later this month and then appear in Pennsylvania, a key state that Democrats hope will help deliver the 23 seats needed to regain control of the House and stop the advancement of Trump’s agenda.

The Democratic and Republican parties have traditionally experienced sharp declines in voter turnout in non-presidential elections. But the November 6 election is widely perceived as a referendum on Trump, who regularly touts his accomplishments such as tax cuts and deregulation. However, a widening investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election that Trump won and more frequent questions about his fitness for office have cast a pall over his presidency.

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