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Jane Sanders Lawyers Up

Bernie Sanders was in the midst of an interview with a local TV reporter early last month when the senator fielded an unexpected question about an uncomfortable matter.

“There’s an implication, and from at least one individual, an explicit argument that when they called for an investigation into Burlington College that you used your influence to secure a loan from People’s United—”

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The senator cut him off.

Sanders is used to fielding softball questions from an adoring local press, but his inquisitor, Kyle Midura of Burlington TV station WCAX, had a rare opportunity to put him on the spot. Investigative reporters had been breaking stories about a federal investigation into allegations that the senator’s wife, Jane Sanders, had committed fraud in obtaining bank loans for the now defunct Burlington College, and that Sanders’s Senate office had weighed in.

Sanders had never responded to questions about the case, but he took the bait this time. Briefly.

“Well, as you know,” he said, “it would be improp— this implication came from Donald Trump’s campaign manager in Vermont. Let me leave it at that, because it would be improper at this point for me to say anything more.”

Midura leaned in. “You’ve previously said it was nonsense.”

“Yes,” Sanders responded, “it is nonsense. But now that there is a process going on, which was initiated by Trump’s campaign manager, somebody who does this all of the time, has gone after a number of Democrats and progressives in this state. It would be improper at this point for me to add any more to that.”

End of conversation. But not the end of the investigation or the potential for damage to the senator from a small New England state who has rocketed to the top of the world of progressive politics nationwide.

Sanders and his wife have been trying to ignore the federal investigation since reporters for VTDigger, an online publication, confirmed the FBI’s involvement in April. The original request for an investigation into the potential bank fraud did indeed come from Brady Toensing, an attorney who chaired Trump’s Vermont campaign, and whose January 2016 letter to the U.S. attorney for Vermont put federal agents on the trail. (Toensing, in an email to Politico Magazine , notes, “The investigation was started more than a year ago under President Obama, his Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and his United States Attorney, all of whom are Democrats.”)

Now, Senator Sanders and his wife are taking the case more seriously. Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ longtime top political adviser who heads Sanders’ political organization, Our Revolution, confirms to Politico Magazine that Bernie and Jane Sanders have lawyered up. The couple has retained Rich Cassidy, a well-connected Burlington attorney and Sanders devotee, and Larry Robbins, the renowned Washington-based defense attorney who has represented I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and disgraced former Rep. Bill Jefferson, to represent Jane Sanders in the matter.

Now, President Donald Trump’s Justice Department is handling an investigation that will proceed at the discretion of a

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Jane Sanders Lawyers Up

Bernie Sanders was in the midst of an interview with a local TV reporter early last month when the senator fielded an unexpected question about an uncomfortable matter.

“There’s an implication, and from at least one individual, an explicit argument that when they called for an investigation into Burlington College that you used your influence to secure a loan from People’s United—”

Story Continued Below

The senator cut him off.

Sanders is used to fielding softball questions from an adoring local press, but his inquisitor, Kyle Midura of Burlington TV station WCAX, had a rare opportunity to put him on the spot. Investigative reporters had been breaking stories about a federal investigation into allegations that the senator’s wife, Jane Sanders, had committed fraud in obtaining bank loans for the now defunct Burlington College, and that Sanders’s Senate office had weighed in.

Sanders had never responded to questions about the case, but he took the bait this time. Briefly.

“Well, as you know,” he said, “it would be improp— this implication came from Donald Trump’s campaign manager in Vermont. Let me leave it at that, because it would be improper at this point for me to say anything more.”

Midura leaned in. “You’ve previously said it was nonsense.”

“Yes,” Sanders responded, “it is nonsense. But now that there is a process going on, which was initiated by Trump’s campaign manager, somebody who does this all of the time, has gone after a number of Democrats and progressives in this state. It would be improper at this point for me to add any more to that.”

End of conversation. But not the end of the investigation or the potential for damage to the senator from a small New England state who has rocketed to the top of the world of progressive politics nationwide.

Sanders and his wife have been trying to ignore the federal investigation since reporters for VTDigger, an online publication, confirmed the FBI’s involvement in April. The original request for an investigation into the potential bank fraud did indeed come from Brady Toensing, an attorney who chaired Trump’s Vermont campaign, and whose January 2016 letter to the U.S. attorney for Vermont put federal agents on the trail. (Toensing, in an email to Politico Magazine , notes, “The investigation was started more than a year ago under President Obama, his Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and his United States Attorney, all of whom are Democrats.”)

Now, Senator Sanders and his wife are taking the case more seriously. Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ longtime top political adviser who heads Sanders’ political organization, Our Revolution, confirms to Politico Magazine that Bernie and Jane Sanders have lawyered up. The couple has retained Rich Cassidy, a well-connected Burlington attorney and Sanders devotee, and Larry Robbins, the renowned Washington-based defense attorney who has represented I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and disgraced former Rep. Bill Jefferson, to represent Jane Sanders in the matter.

Now, President Donald Trump’s Justice Department is handling an investigation that will proceed at the discretion of a

...

The Senate GOP's backdoor Obamacare rollback

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Buried deep in the 142 pages of the Senate’s new health care bill is an immense reform that could pave the way for a new rollback of parts of the Affordable Care Act—one that takes place state by state, rather than in Washington. Although the bill preserves most of the consumer protections written into the 2010 law, it also contains a provision that allows states effectively to waive many of them, and gives them a financial incentive to do so.

The bill dramatically expands a policy built into Obamacare that lets states apply for waivers to loosen the law's insurance requirements. And although it will likely receive less attention than the bill's Medicaid reforms or tax cuts, the new bill loosens the waiver rules in way that could completely reshape the individual insurance market, allowing states to drop almost every major Obamacare insurance regulation as long as it doesn’t increase the federal deficit—with almost zero oversight from the federal government. Everything from the requirement that insurers cover maternity care to protections for people with pre-existing conditions could be at stake.

Supporters of Obamacare say its consumer protections are critical to ensuring that everyone has access to affordable insurance that meets basic coverage requirements; the expanded waivers, they say, could leave the old and sick with insurance so flimsy as to be essentially useless. Supporters of the new bill say those fears are overblown, and that loosening the requirements is key to states' attempts to lower rates and stabilize insurance markets.

The waivers are technically known as “Section 1332 waivers,” for the section of the Affordable Care Act that allowed states to request exemptions from a long list of ACA rules. These include the requirement that individuals buy insurance; the tax credits to help buy insurance on state exchanges; the “essential health benefits” that insurers must cover; and limits on how much consumers must pay out-of-pocket each year. The waiver program was intended to let states experiment with different designs of their insurance markets—changing the structure of the subsidies, or requiring insurers to cover different benefits—within the basic parameters of the law.

But Section 1332 wasn’t originally designed as a loophole for states to ignore the law’s regulations. Instead, the law contained four so-called “guardrails” to ensure every American had access to quality insurance. A waiver proposal had to provide coverage as comprehensive as that under the ACA; provide protection against out-of-pocket costs as under the ACA; cover a comparable number of people as the ACA; and not increase the federal deficit.

“Those four guardrails in essence replicate the ACA,” said Chris Condelucci, former GOP staffer and ACA expert. “It’s almost like the exception is swallowing the rule, and states have come to learn that as well.”

To request a waiver, a state legislature actually needs to pass a law, and is required go through an open process with a notice and comment period. The actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services must certify that a state meets the

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Trump calls Mueller-Comey relationship ‘very bothersome’

President Donald Trump is pictured.

“He’s very, very good friends with Comey, which is very bothersome,” President Donald Trump said of the special counsel. | AP Photo

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Trump loses patience with his White House counsel

White House counsel Don McGahn has largely stepped back from managing Donald Trump’s response to the expanding Russia investigation, but that hasn’t stopped the president from lashing out at him about it anyway.

Trump started the week by giving McGahn, a loyal supporter who was among the first Washington establishment figures to sign on with his presidential campaign, a dressing down in the Oval Office for not doing more to squash the Russia probe early on.

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The episode — recounted by four people familiar with the conversation — came as part of a broader discussion on Monday about the president’s frustrations with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, which now includes the question of whether Trump himself tried to obstruct the investigation by firing FBI director James Comey.

The Russia portfolio has been handed off to Trump’s longtime personal attorney Marc Kasowitz, leaving McGahn to focus on the standard duties of the top White House lawyer: vetting political appointees, selecting judges for vacancies in lower courts, and giving legal advice on potential legislation and other White House policy decisions.

Trump’s willingness to lay into him for the escalation of the probe — largely the result of Trump’s own decision to dismiss Comey — illustrates McGahn’s falling stock in the West Wing, as well as Trump’s desire to find someone to blame for his legal predicament.

“This is one of the misconceptions about the White House counsel’s office. Don represents the institution. What is going on with Russia and Mueller are matters involving Trump in his personal capacity,” said one informal but frequent adviser to the White House. “I am not sure the president completely understands how these roles are segregated.”

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Neither the White House press office nor McGahn responded to a request for comment.

Veterans of Washington scandals said that there is often an adjustment when personal lawyers come in alongside attorneys working in an institutional capacity.

“As far as Don goes, I don’t think his role has significantly changed,” said Randy Evans, partner at the law firm, Dentons, friend to McGahn, and former outside counsel to then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. “There is a natural transition period, where you are figuring out where the turf lines are and there can be a little bit of overlap.”

But the president’s outburst at McGahn speaks to one of the most difficult aspects of working in the Trump White House. No top aide is immune from the president’s anger or being called out in front of colleagues, even long-time loyalists like McGahn who signed on in the early days of the campaign before Trump won the New Hampshire primary.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was publicly dumped from his perch as the head of the Trump transition team just days

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