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Every day, we bring you a different dispatch on Trump’s America. Today’s focus: Opioid deja vu.
Thursday’s Dispatch: More than two months later, action on the opioid crisis
Thursday’s presidential press conference will be a prime example of how Donald Trump runs the federal government.
More than two months after Trump declared the opioid crisis “a national emergency,” as of last week, the government had still not formally declared a national emergency. That designation would send additional federal funds to hospitals, addiction clinics and first responders dealing with the historic rate of opioid-driven drug overdoses in America.
Nearly two weeks ago, Mic asked the White House for an update on the emergency declaration. The Trump administration issued Mic the same statement that had been issued in August, saying the government was focused on opioids and already treating it like an emergency.
As with health care, tax reform and a host of other initiatives, Trump’s rhetoric on opioids has been long detached from his administration’s policy initiatives.
The president said last week that he would soon formally declare a national emergency over opioids. Now, reports indicate the president will declare the crisis a public health emergency — but stop short of the more sweeping declaration.
The public health emergency will do less than a more sweeping national emergency. It will have to be renewed every 90 days. It will not provide federal funding for addiction treatment centers with more than 16 beds, a key recommendation of Trump’s own opioid commission.
“I think our general feeling is, that’s a good step, but it’s a temporary step, and it’s a transitional step,” Jim Blumenstock, chief of health security for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers, told USA Today. Trump’s public health declaration is not expected to come with a further ask of money from Congress, which could designate funds to get more life-saving naloxone into the hands of first responders.
The cold reality: Nearly 65,000 people died of drug overdoses between February 2016 and February 2017, the most recent data available. That’s more people than were killed in car accidents last year.
Watch for Trump’s speech on the opioid crisis at 2 p.m. Eastern.
Thursday in Trump’s America:
Establishment Republicans know they’re fighting for their lives. After very public rebukes of Trump by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), the GOP is launching an assault on Steve Bannon to protect other Republican incumbents up for reelection next year, the Washington Post reported. Bannon and his wealthy allies are sensing the opportunity to pick off multiple Republican senators in a bid to drive the GOP to become more nationalist and isolationist.
The average premium increase of the most popular plans purchased on Obamacare’s individual health care exchange will be 34% next year, a new study said. That’s driven by instability in the marketplace created by Trump’s decision to end subsidies to health insurers and general anxiety surrounding the Affordable Care Act’s future.
And the bipartisan legislation that would stabilize the marketplace — which Trump opposes — would cut $3.8 billion from the deficit.
USA Today reported the new U.S. refugee admission program could block nearly half of the people seeking to come to the United States this year compared to last.
The Republican candidate running for governor in Virginia is running anti-immigrant ads as he aims to pull off an upset in the gubernatorial race. Will it work? And Mic broke down how a new Democratic super PAC is trying to win back state legislatures — starting with a data-driven prototype in next month’s Virginia election.
Why the Senate’s late-night vote on an obscure financial regulation will make it harder for you to fight for your money back.
What to know about who Donald Trump may pick at the next chair of the Federal Reserve. (Bored by monetary policy? Give this a click.)
House Republicans are barreling toward passage of a budget that would pave the way for tax reform — and $1.5 trillion in tax cuts. The Senate passed it last week.
Sometime today, the National Archives will post thousands of documents related to the John F. Kennedy murder investigation. Continually update this webpage.
Shortly after being slammed by a hurricane, Puerto Rico signed a $300 million contract with a two-person energy company based in the Montana hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Now, San Juan’s mayor said the contract should be voided — and Whitefish Energy apologized for feuding with her.
“I’m a very intelligent person.” Trump said journalists are making him out to be “more uncivil” than he actually is.
The feud that has consumed the last few weeks: Trump vs. Corker, a history. Tap or click below to watch.
A congressional committee investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election has stepped up its probe over the past month, requesting that an agency that combats financial crime turn over confidential banking information on nearly 40 individuals and businesses, including at least nine who are American, BuzzFeed News has learned.
Senator Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network — FinCEN for short — on September 29, seeking information about any suspicious financial transactions banks may have flagged on the individuals and businesses since Jan 2015. Banks are required by law to flag such transactions for FinCEN.
The Judiciary Committee is one of three congressional committees looking into Russian interference. Its investigation only recently got off the ground after months spent negotiating the scope of its probe, two staffers told BuzzFeed News, and a rift has reportedly been developing between Grassley and Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee. Feinstein did not sign the letter.
“The Senate Judiciary Committee is conducting an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, as well as the Department of Justice’s enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act,” Grassley’s letter says. “I am requesting a copy of any and all documents relating to Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) that have been filed regarding the following individuals or entities.” They include:
- Rinat Akhmetshin, and Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian-American lobbyist and the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump, Jr. at Trump Tower in June 2016.
- Robert Arakelian, another lobbyist who works with Akhmetshin.
- Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation, the Washington, DC-based nonprofit headed by Veselnitskaya whose stated goal is to “restart American adoption of Russian children” but has lobbied to repeal the Magnitsky Act, the 2012 law that imposed sanctions on Russian officials.
- Glenn Simpson, Thomas Catan, Peter Fritsch and their private investigation firm Fusion GPS, which commissioned the so-called “dossier” that alleged the Russian government had been “cultivating, supporting and assisting” President Donald Trump.
- Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence agent who collected the intelligence for the dossier; his business partner, Christopher Burrows; and their firm Orbis Business Intelligence.
- Perkins Coie, a law firm that reportedly retained and paid Fusion GPS on behalf of the Clinton campaign for research that ended up in the dossier.
- Prevezon Holdings, a Russian-owned company that was charged with money laundering and settled with the Department of Justice earlier this year, and eight of its related companies.
- The law firm Baker Hostetler, which was hired to defend Prevezon, and two of the firm’s attorneys, John Moscow and Mark Cymrot.
Banks, hedge funds, casinos, and other financial institutions are required under the Bank Secrecy Act to file suspicious activity reports with FinCEN when money laundering or fraud is suspected. They are also required to file SARs for certain cash or wire transactions of $10,000 or more, even if those transactions seem legitimate. SARs contain personal financial information, such as bank account numbers and a record of financial transactions. FinCEN may not have SARs on all the individuals and businesses the Committee named.
A spokesperson for Grassley, Michael Zona, did not respond to requests for comment about the committee’s investigation. Simpson, the Fusion GPS co-founder, declined to comment. Simpson’s business partners, Fritsch and Catan, did not respond to requests for comment. Burrows declined to comment on behalf of himself, Steele, and Orbis. Neither Cymrot nor a spokesperson for Baker Hostetler responded to requests for comment. Moscow, the other Baker Hostetler attorney, declined to comment. Akhmetshin, Arakelian, and Veselnitskaya also did not respond to requests for comment. Officials at Prevezon could not be reached. A spokesperson for Perkins Coie said that the firm “rigorously adheres to all laws and regulations including those that protect the integrity of our financial systems, and any suggestion that the law firm has acted inappropriately is wholly unfounded.”
Grassley’s letter set an October 13 deadline for FinCEN to turn over the financial information to his committee. But according to three sources, no suspicious activity reports have been sent to the committee.
Jason Leopold is a senior investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in LA. Recipient: IRE 2016 FOI award; Newseum Institute National Freedom of Information Hall of Fame. PGP fingerprint 46DB 0712 284B 8C6E 40FF 7A1B D3CD 5720 694B 16F0. Contact this reporter at <a href=”mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org”>email@example.com</a>
Contact Jason Leopold at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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