Many Americans can't name any First Amendment rights - Axios
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Many Americans can't name any First Amendment rights

Data: The Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey, August 9-13, 2017, 1,013 respondents; Chart: Chris Canipe / Axios

"More than half of Americans (53%) incorrectly think it is accurate to say that immigrants who are here illegally do not have any rights under the U.S. Constitution," according to the Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey, by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

  • 37% of the 1,013 adults surveyed (37%) can't name any of the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment.
  • Why it matters, from Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the center's director: "Protecting the rights guaranteed by the Constitution presupposes that we know what they are."
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White House "OK" with taking out ACA repeal if it's an "impediment"

Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney departs after a television interview. Photo: Alex Brandon / AP

"If we can repeal part of Obamacare as part of a tax bill, and have a tax bill that is still a good tax bill that can pass, that's great. If it becomes an impediment to getting the best tax bill we can, then we're OK with taking it out." White House budget director Mick Mulvaney to CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union"
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America's Rhodes scholars are more diverse than ever

Simone Askew of Fairfax, Va., one of the new Rhodes scholars, answers questions in West Point, N.Y., in August after being selected first captain of the U.S. Military Academy Corps of Cadets. Photo: Richard Drew / AP

"The latest group of U.S. Rhodes scholars includes 10 African Americans — the most ever in a single Rhodes class — as well as a transgender man," AP's Gene Johnson reports:

"Among them: the first black woman to lead the Corps of Cadets at West Point; a wrestler at [MIT] who's helping develop a prosthetic knee for use in the developing world; and a Portland, Oregon, man who has studied gaps in his hometown's 'sanctuary city' policy protecting immigrants."

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White House braces for long Mueller winter

Robert S. Mueller speaks to a convention of campus law enforcement officials in Hartford Conn. in 2008. Photo: Bob Child / AP

"Witnesses questioned by Mueller's team warn that investigators are asking about ... foreign contacts and meetings that have not yet become public, and to expect a series of new revelations," the WashPost's Ashley Parker and Carol Leonnig write atop column 1:

What we're hearing: I'm told that Mueller's team is rooting around inside Trump world more deeply than is publicly known. Outside West Wing advisers tell me that may create a showdown.

More from WaPo:

  • "One Republican operative ... described Mueller's team 'working through the staff like Pac-Man.'"
  • "[A]t least nine people in Trump's orbit had contact with Russians during the campaign or the transition."
  • White House lawyer Ty Cobb: "I've done my best ... to share my view that the perception of the inquiry — that it involved a decade or more of financial transactions and other alleged issues that were mistakenly reported — just wasn't true, and that the issues were narrower."
  • "Cobb added that those who have already been interviewed by Mueller's team have left feeling buoyed. ... [N]obody I know of was shaken or scared."
  • "The president ... has warmed to Cobb's optimistic message ... Cobb had initially said he hoped the focus on the White House would conclude by Thanksgiving, but adjusted the timeline slightly in an interview, ... saying he remains optimistic that it will wrap up by the end of the year, if not shortly thereafter. "

A White House official tells me: "The only people focused on or consumed by this are the press. The White House staff are working to carry out the President's agenda on behalf of the American people."

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Charles Manson died

Charles Manson is escorted to his arraignment in the Sharon Tate murder case in 1969. Photo: AP

Charles Manson, leader of the cultish Manson Family and one of the most famous serial killers in American history, died yesterday at the age of 83, per The New York Times. Imprisoned since 1971 for the brutal murders of Sharon Tate — the wife of director Roman Polanski — and four others, he died of natural causes in a hospital.

Why it matters: Manson became one of the most inscrutable murderers in history — though he was never actually present when his family killed — and retained a hold on American popular culture through the years for his wild ideology. He never expressed guilt or remorse for his role in at least nine killings, which he had hoped would bring about an apocalyptic race war that he termed Helter Skelter.

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Individual mandate is important, but underperforming

Experts almost universally agree repealing the individual mandate is bad for the marketplace. Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP

Experts across the political spectrum generally agree that the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate is both necessary for market stability, and probably not working as well as its authors intended.

The bottom line: Almost everyone agrees that repealing the mandate now, without a replacement, will make insurance markets function substantially worse than they are today. But many experts believe other policies might be just as effective, if not more so, at getting healthy people into the system and thus moderating premium increases.

While there's disagreement about how effective the mandate has been, most people I talked to acknowledge that it's not working as well as originally intended, and some conservative health wonks think there are more effective ways of getting more young, healthy people into the market.
  • "There is real uncertainty about the precise magnitude of the effects of repealing the mandate—as there is about almost any change in public policy—but little uncertainty that doing so would result in many more uninsured and a worse health care system," said Matt Fielder of the Brookings Institution.
  • "The mandate wasn't very strictly enforced, the penalty is pretty low by most people's standards, and it comes a year after dropping coverage, if it comes," Joe Antos of the American Enterprise Institute told me.
  • "Putting aside whether the mandate is actually effective, insurers think it is effective—and in many ways that's what counts. If insurers think it's effective, then they won't jack up premiums—which means it is effective," the Center for American Progress Topher Spiro said.
  • Potential alternatives include auto-enrolling people into coverage, imposing a penalty on those who don't have continuous coverage when they sign up, creating a federal reinsurance pool to offset the cost of sick enrollees, increasing the mandate penalty.
What we know about the mandate's effectiveness:
  • Enrollment through the ACA's exchanges has been lower than predicted. There are many potential reasons for this, but the mandate being a weak incentive is one.
  • S&P Global estimated last week that repealing the mandate would result in 3 to 5 million more uninsured people than the status quo — a far cry from the 13 million predicted by the Congressional Budget Office.
  • Yet, as Brookings' Matt Fiedler points out, the uninsured rate among people who are too wealthy for the ACA's premium subsidies fell by around one-third as the ACA took effect. "That trend is very hard to explain unless the mandate has had a significant effect on insurance coverage decisions since these individuals are not eligible for subsidies or Medicaid expansion."
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Steve Bannon's new group

Mary Schwalm / AP

Steve Bannon is setting up a new 501(c)(4) — aka a "tax-exempt social welfare organization" — to promote his agenda, and, he argues, the president's.

  • Such groups don't have to disclose their donors so long as — according to the IRS code — they can "be operated exclusively to promote social welfare" and so long as politics are not the group's "primary activity."

Bannon first publicly mentioned his new plans on billionaire John Catsimatidis' Sunday morning radio show, "Cat's Roundtable."

I asked a source close to Bannon to tell me more about the group. Here's what they told me:

  • The group has no name yet but will be set up this week.
  • Bannon plans to use the group to establish a "war council" to promote hawkish policies against China.
  • Bannon is obsessed with the rise of China and believes that Beijing will become a hegemon — sinisterly dominating America — if the U.S. doesn't aggressively confront it. (His detractors inside the White House say his ideas are reckless and would start a globally devastating trade war. Bannon, however, says China is already engaged in economic warfare against America, stealing the country's IP and technology, but the U.S. refuses to properly fight back.)
  • He also plans to use the group to "focus on grassroots efforts" so the base is "unified and energized to support the president's agenda."
  • Other policy issues that animate Bannon: trade, immigration, education, and inner city infrastructure development.

Why it matters: For all the speculation about Bannon's relationships with donors he's had no fundraising apparatus to date.

What we don't know: Which donors will fund the group. And we may never know because, under the law, Bannon won't have to tell us.

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U.S. v China in the race to weaponize space

Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Photo: Senior Airman Ian Dudley/U.S. Air Force via AP

I spent two days last week traveling with Defense Secretary James Mattis. The most memorable moment: inside Cheyenne Mountain, a Cold War-era fortress dug into the Rocky Mountains, and built to withstand nuclear attacks.

But the most illuminating session happened inside the Peterson Air Force Base, the hub for monitoring threats to the homeland. Colonel Todd Moore, who commands the 21st Space Wing, and his colleagues, told us about the escalating military space battle with China.

As one officer put it to us: America's superiority in space is why the 170 pound U.S. solider in Afghanistan is so much more lethal than the 170 pound enemy soldier he faces. The American soldier can look down at a screen and see the enemy on the other side of the mountain. The U.S. military has so much more information than its adversaries — provided by satellites, GPS, and other sophisticated systems.

Why this matters: A senior military officer summed it up in his briefing: "Our adversaries see space as a potential war fighting domain" and while Russia has always understood the importance of space, "it's really China that's growing incredibly [fast]."

What's next: America's adversaries are rapidly developing their military space capabilities. China is determined to dominate space, and is investing gobsmacking amounts of money to get the edge on the U.S. In 2007, China tested its first anti-satellite weapon, and its military space capabilities have grown substantially since then. These concerns will grow ever-louder as the Pentagon fights for a larger budget.

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Next wave of D.C. harassment allegations anticipated

Photo: Carolyn Kaster / AP

Members of Congress with histories of mistreating women should be extremely nervous. Major outlets, including CNN, are dedicating substantial newsroom resources to investigating sexual harassment allegations against numerous lawmakers. A Republican source told me he's gotten calls from well-known D.C. reporters who are gathering stories about sleazy members.

Bottom line: Democratic Sen. Al Franken is the very tip of the congressional iceberg. Many more stories are coming and we wouldn't be surprised if they end several careers.

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Judicial appointments are the sleeper story that matters

Photo: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Tax reform and the end of year spending deal will consume all of Washington's oxygen until the end of the year. But quietly, a potentially far more important, though far less sexy story is unfolding.

If Mitch McConnell's schedule goes to plan, the week after Thanksgiving the Senate Majority Leader will confirm his ninth federal judge. That would beat President Reagan's eight in his first year — the most in recent history. And it triples the three federal judges President Obama appointed in his first year in office.

Why this matters: The federal courts affect almost every area of policy: gun rights, presidential executive orders like Trump's travel ban, social policy issues like abortion and freedom of religion, and tensions between regulation, litigation and private enterprise. McConnell's judges — who passed through a well-funded and organized conservative pipeline — will shape the U.S. over many decades in ways we can't yet imagine.

  • Smart Democrats are deeply concerned about this trend, and understand that these lifetime judicial appointments will have a much greater impact on the future direction of this country than any short-term spending deal or policy.
  • Example: "This will be the single most important legacy of the Trump administration," Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told Business Insider. If conservatives have their way, he said, the Senate would "put judges on circuit courts all over the country, district courts all over the country, that will, given their youth and conservatism, will have a significant impact on the shape and trajectory of American law for decades."
  • As Congress becomes more and more dysfunctional, and more and more power accrues to the executive branch, it's the judges who increasingly decide policy. It wasn't Congress that blocked Trump's travel bans. It was judges in states like Hawaii and Maryland.

Inside McConnell's head: Leonard Leo, a top outside adviser on judicial appointments for President Trump and Republican leaders, told me McConnell places "an enormously high priority on the confirmation of judges" and has throughout his career. "His thinking behind that is that the federal judiciary has an enormous impact on the future direction of our country in ways that many pieces of legislation and public policy initiatives don't."

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China hawk Lighthizer increasingly influential in White House

Robert Lighthizer, center, arrives for a news conference at the start of NAFTA renegotiations in Washington. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin / AP

You won't see him on cable news, but President Trump's hardline trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer is wielding extraordinary — and growing — influence inside the White House.

  • Lighthizer was the lead economic adviser for Trump's Asia trip, with Gary Cohn and Steven Mnuchin staying home to handle tax reform. He briefed the president constantly on Air Force One and was by his side at just about every meeting.
  • Trump has huge respect for Lighthizer. He likes that he will take on his colleagues and doesn't back down, even in front of Trump. He's increasingly winning internal arguments over the administration's inevitable economic confrontation with China.

Why this matters: Lighthizer makes the pro-trade community nervous. He agrees with Trump that the mounting trade deficits with China are unacceptable. And he's staking out such hardline negotiating positions with South Korea (on the KORUS trade deal) and Canada and Mexico (on NAFTA) that top Republicans on the Hill and in Washington's business community fear he will torpedo both deals.

Behind-the-scenes: Shortly before Trump left for Asia, Lighthizer met with the entire economic team in the White House to discuss the U.S.-China relationship. If the Trump administration takes the hardline actions we expect them to eventually take on China, historians will look back on this meeting as a seminal moment.

The scene — these details were described to people outside of the White House and weren't disputed by Lighthizer's spokeswoman or the White House:

Lighthizer — in front of the whole economic team including Cohn, Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue — described the U.S.-China economic relationship as "bullshit." Lighthizer laid out the history of the last 25 years of U.S.-China relations. He went through what each "dialogue" was called under presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama. His point: every administration comes up with a new catchword and strategic framework to describe the U.S.-China relationship, but the trade deficit with China just keeps ballooning by the billions.

I'm told many in the group — which includes officials like Cohn who often disagree with Lighthizer philosophically — found Lighthizer's presentation compelling.

Why he's gaining influence: There aren't many senior officials in this administration who share Trump's hardline / protectionist views on trade. Steve Bannon did — but he's gone and not missed by his colleagues. Then there's Peter Navarro — but his colleagues have little respect for him, frequently marginalize him and accuse him of leaking stories to the press. That leaves Lighthizer, whose views cannot be dismissed because he's been a major figure in U.S. trade policy since the Reagan administration. He wins internal arguments with his colleagues by swamping them with his historical knowledge.

Worth noting: Avowed free-traders in the administration didn't even push back against this narrative when I reached out to them.

What's next: The Trump administration has been very secretive about its next moves on trade policy. You won't see anything aggressive before tax reform is done. But people on the Hill and in the business community — who worry about this administration taking harsh economic actions against China — shouldn't be lulled by Trump's public praise of President Xi. Behind the scenes, Lighthizer's arguments are winning the day.