Sex. Russians. Sex and Donald Trump and the Russians.
Now that I have your attention, consider this: whatever Donald Trump did in a Russian hotel is far less damaging to the United States than what the Republican Congress is doing right now in Washington, D.C.
The Donald’s shenanigans with prostitutes will not kill Americans. Ending the Affordable Care Act will. After 48 hours of nonstop media blather about Russia and sex and Trump, the Senate voted at 1:30 a.m. this morning (January 12) to streamline repeal of the Affordable Care Act. The House will probably pass the same budget reconciliation legislation within a few days. Note that this does not yet repeal the Affordable Care Act. The Senate vote is one step. The House vote will be a second step, in a much longer process. As the New York Times explains:
“Republicans have embarked on a fragile, multistep process to repeal major parts of the health care law, one that is on pace to at least take weeks, even without any big stumbles.”
Let me repeat: the Republicans have NOT YET repealed the Affordable Care Act. There is still time to fight.
On Wednesday morning (January 11), five Republican Senators wanted to go slower on repeal. They said they would not agree to a January 27 date for submitting a budget reconciliation plan for repeal. On Wednesday night, they backed down and joined fellow Republicans in a 51-48 vote to approve the January 27 date. One of them said the date was only a placeholder. Another said January 27 was “not set in stone” and was “the earliest we could do it,” but it could take longer. These Republicans, and others, might still listen to the pleas of people who will be hurt by repeal.
The Republicans might patch up divisions and manage repeal. Or they might divide over whether and how to replace ACA, and stall the whole process. They might still kill it, but the ACA is not dead yet and the fight is far from over. Fighting for the ACA seems to me a lot more important than focusing on the maybe true/maybe false speculation about sex, lies and videotapes.
Then there’s the cabinet. Russian blackmail of Trump would not jeopardize the voting rights of Americans. Nominating Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions as Attorney General will. For a full list of Trump nominations and background on each, see Pro Publica’s The Chosen: Who Trump is Putting in Power.
Juan Cole reminds us that the Russian sex stories about Trump could be a big red herring, arguing that if we really want to know what the Russians have on Trump, we should follow the money, not the alleged sex tapes.
In his press conference, Trump said he didn’t have investments or loans in Russia. That’s probably not true, according to Cole. He cites Financial Times reporting on Trump bankruptcies and subsequent connection to “a shadowy Kazakh figure;” the Washington Post‘s “exposé of Trump’s relationship with a Russian ‘businessman’ whom the Post characterizes as possibly having links to organized crime;” and a lengthy analysis in The American Interest of Trump’s “direct and indirect connections with a farflung private Russian/FSU network of outright mobsters, oligarchs, fraudsters, and kleptocrats.”
Worried yet? I am. And not about what Trump did or didn’t do in some Russian hotel room, some years ago. I’m far more worried about what Congress is doing in the Capitol right now. If I have any time left over to worry about Trump’s Russian connections, I’ll follow Juan Cole’s advice and look for real financial shenanigans, not unverified and unverifiable stories from an anonymous ex-spy.