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December 20, 201911:32 AM ET
Heard on All Things Considered

Scott Horsley
Two years ago Friday, Republicans in Congress passed a sweeping tax cut. It was supposed to be a gift-wrapped present to taxpayers and the economy. But in hindsight, it looks more like a costly lump of coal.
Passed on a party-line vote, the tax cut is the signature legislative accomplishment of President Trump’s first term. He had campaigned hard for the measure, promising it would boost paychecks for working people.
“Our focus is on helping the folks who work in the mailrooms and the machine shops of America,” he told supporters in the fall of 2017. “The plumbers, the carpenters, the cops, the teachers, the truck drivers, the pipe-fitters, the people that like me best.”

As Growth Slows, The Economy Is Falling Short Of Trump’s Target
In fact, more than 60% of the tax savings went to people in the top 20% of the income ladder, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. The measure also slashed the corporate tax rate by 40%.
“It will be rocket fuel for our economy,” Trump promised.
Boosters of the tax cut insisted the economy would grow so fast, it would more than make up for the revenue lost to lower rates.
“The tax plan will pay for itself with economic growth,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
It hasn’t worked out that way.
“It was unbelievable at the time, and it’s proven to be absolutely untrue,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “The tax cuts were never going to — and have not — come anywhere close to paying for themselves.”
Corporate tax revenues fell 31% in the first year after the cut was passed. Overall tax revenues have declined as a share of the economy in each of the two years since the tax cut took effect.
“Not surprising, if you cut taxes, you get less in revenues,” MacGuineas said. “And what we’ve been doing at the same time is we’ve been increasing spending. And no surprise, our deficit has exploded.”
The federal deficit this year was $984 billion — an extraordinary figure at a time when the country is not mired in recession or widespread war.
The tax cut also failed to produce a permanent boost in economic growth, despite promises from Republican supporters.
“After eight straight years of slow growth and underperformance, America is ready to take off,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said when the tax cut passed two years ago.
In fact, the economy grew 2.9% last year — exactly the same as in 2015.
The tax cut, along with increased government spending, did give a short-term lift to the economy and businesses temporarily boosted investment. But the rocket fuel burned off quickly. Business investment declined in the last two quarters

“There was an acceleration in terms of momentum for business investment, but it was rather short-lived,” said Gregory Daco of Oxford Economics. “A year further down the road, we’re really not seeing much of any leftover of this fiscal stimulus package.”
Hampered in part by the president’s trade war, the economy is projected to grow only about 2% this coming year. That’s below the administration’s target of 3% and slightly below the average growth rate since 2010.
To be sure, the stock market is booming, and unemployment is near record lows. But while most Americans give the economy high marks, that doesn’t extend to the tax cut. A Gallup Poll last tax season found only about 40% of Americans approved of the cut while 49% disapproved.
Even though experts say most workers did get a bump in their take-home pay, it was largely invisible to many taxpayers. Only about 14% of those surveyed by Gallup believe their taxes went down. (That figure includes 22% of Republicans, 12% of Democrats and 10% of independents.)
“For millions of middle-class Americans, it is not a very happy anniversary,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said while wealthy Americans are celebrating their tax savings from the past two years, working people feel like an afterthought.
Perhaps it’s an acknowledgement of that sentiment that the president is now talking about another round of tax cuts, after the 2020 election. “We’re going to be doing a major middle-income tax cut, if we take back the House,” Trump promised in November.
The president made similar promises before last year’s midterm election. But the follow-up to his 2017 tax cut never materialized.

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Greg Miller, Greg Jaffe 11 hrs ago, Washington Post

The new Russia adviser at the White House — the third in just six months — has no meaningful background on the subject. The only expert on Ukraine has never spoken with President Trump, only been mocked by him publicly.

The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv will soon be without its highest-ranking diplomat for the second time in a year, as another ambassador departs after being undermined by the U.S. president and his personal attorney.
The CIA analyst who triggered the impeachment inquiry continues to work on issues relating to Russia and Ukraine, but when threats against him spike — often seemingly spurred by presidential tweets — he is driven to and from work by armed security officers.

Having been impeached by the House, Trump faces trial in the Senate on charges that he abused the power of his office and sought to obstruct Congress. But the jarring developments over the past three months have also exposed the extent to which the national security establishment and the values that have traditionally guided American foreign policy are facing an extraordinary trial of their own under Trump’s presidency.
An entire roster of public servants has been disparaged, bullied and in some cases banished for standing in Trump’s path as he sought to pressure Ukraine for political favors, or for testifying about his conduct afterward.
Many who came forward were convinced that Trump’s actions were a violation of American principles, if not the law, and they clung to a misplaced faith that matters of national security would transcend partisan politics. Instead, the impeachment saga has hardened political divisions and cast doubt on the United States’ commitment to ideals it has long professed. This story is based on interviews with more than 20 current and former officials, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss their role in the administration or the impeachment inquiry.
Trump was the catalyst of his own impeachment, withholding military aid and a White House meeting from the leader of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, whom he was pressuring to pursue investigations designed to politically wound former vice president Joe Biden.
But the fallout of the impeachment battle extends far beyond Trump’s political survival in a Senate trial. Tensions, exposed by impeachment, have fed Trump’s belief that he is surrounded by disloyal subordinates and have fueled animosity among congressional Republicans toward the supposed “deep state.” Today, the idea that a cadre of nonpartisan civil servants can loyally serve presidents of either party in pursuit of shared national interests — a bedrock principle of the country’s approach to foreign policy since World War II — is under attack.
Some of the responsibility for the mounting collateral damage falls on career officials and political appointees who took jobs in the administration despite deep objections to the president’s view.
These officials hoped they could steer the unconventional president, who has an affinity for autocrats and an aversion to traditional allies, toward more-conventional views and policies.
Others came to see themselves as doing damage control, taking advantage of Trump’s short attention span to advance their preferred objectives and counter what they regarded as his destructive impulses.
Their actions have fed the view among some Republicans that impeachment is not just an isolated fight about Trump’s actions toward Ukraine but also is an extension of a broader, unfinished conflict.
“We’re fighting for the country here,” said Stephen K. Bannon, who called for the “deconstruction of the administrative state” while advising Trump in the early months of his presidency. “This all started in the transition,” Bannon said in an interview, adding that the attacks on those who “actively worked against [Trump’s] policies on Ukraine” or defied his wishes on Ukraine should serve as “a warning that if you go against the president, there is going to be a price to be paid.”
Enemies list
The impeachment-related damage is extensive.
The acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, William B. Taylor Jr., returned to Kyiv after his Nov. 14 testimony only to watch Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, arrive weeks later to resume his quest for dirt on Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Giuliani’s sojourn while filming a documentary for a right-wing television network made clear to officials in Ukraine that Taylor and the U.S. Embassy had no standing with the U.S. president.
Taylor has since announced that he will step down by Jan. 2, clearing out of the Ukrainian capital on an accelerated schedule in part to spare Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — scheduled to visit Kyiv next month — from having to appear in pictures alongside a diplomat Trump branded as disloyal.
The ambassador had taken the job only after Pompeo promised him that U.S. policy would remain firmly grounded in fighting Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine, an assurance that now seems uncertain at best.
Veterans of the Foreign Service are bewildered. “These attacks — I’ve not seen anything like this since I joined the Foreign Service,” said John Heffern, a former senior State Department official who entered the department when Ronald Reagan was president. “Our work is promoting international universal values — freedom of the press and rule of law. Considering what’s happened in the United States, it undermines our ability to project that message to our foreign counterparts.”
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top adviser on Ukraine at the National Security Council, has continued to work at the White House since testifying that he was so disturbed by Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky that he reported his concerns to White House lawyers.
But Vindman — who was born in Ukraine, moved to the United States with his family at age 3 and earned a Purple Heart in the war in Iraq — has been taunted by Trump, cast as disloyal by the president’s allies and falsely accused of plotting with the whistleblower to undermine the president.
“Vindictive Vindman is the ‘whistleblower’s’ handler,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said in a Nov. 22 tweet. The baseless charge was a sign of how Trump has influenced his party’s tactics and illustrated the intense pressure on Republicans to back the president.
In 2017, Blackburn chastised Trump for his fixation on score-settling and petty insults, writing on Facebook that “civility in all our interactions — both personal and digital — is not only proper but fundamental to a respectful and prosperous society.”
Fiona Hill, the former top Russia adviser at the White House, has endured obscene phone calls to her home phone, according to people familiar with the matter, and vicious assaults from far-right media. Alex Jones, the conspiracy monger who operates the Infowars website, devoted much of his Nov. 22 broadcast to smears against Hill. “I want her a** indicted,” Jones said. “I want her indicted for perjury. Today. Indict that w****.”
For Hill, the attacks were a continuation of an astonishing level of hostility she witnessed during the two years she served in the White House. Trump loyalists drafted internal “enemies” lists, co-workers were purged, and NSC security teams logged hundreds of external threats against Hill and other officials, all fueled by a steady stream of far-right smears.
Hill, a former U.S. intelligence official and co-author of a biography of Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, was little known outside foreign policy circles when she joined the White House. Within weeks of joining the administration, she faced a wave of internal and external efforts to discredit or neutralize her.
A former Republican congressman, Connie Mack IV of Florida, approached aides of Vice President Pence’s, warning that Hill was tainted by her prior work for an organization funded by George Soros. A billionaire financier and Holocaust survivor, Soros has used his fortune to fight the spread of authoritarianism and bigotry. He has also become associated with a “globalist” agenda opposed by many on the right, and his name is frequently invoked in anti-Semitic slurs.
At the time, Mack was working as a paid lobbyist for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, an autocratic leader seeking to shut down a Soros-funded international university in Hungary. Orban was concerned that Hill might use her position at the White House to object.
In an interview, Mack insisted that he was merely trying to call officials’ attention to what he believed was a conflict of interest for Hill, not instigate her removal or incite right-wing attacks. But the attacks came anyway.
“My entire first year of my tenure at the National Security Council was filled with hateful calls, conspiracy theories, which has started again” amid impeachment, she testified in October. For months, Hill arrived at work nearly each day to find venomous messages left on her work phone by a caller from Florida. The same woman called Hill at home several times, frightening her young daughter, according to two people familiar with the matter.
For Hill, ever the Russia analyst, the ruthless nature of the harassment harked back to the Bolshevik purges of revolutionary Russia. Bannon has all but touted this connection, comparing his destructive agenda to that of Vladi­mir Lenin’s.
In 2017, Bannon and his allies compiled a list of about 50 people they wanted exiled from the National Security Council. Most of their targets drew suspicion because they had worked as civil servants in the Obama White House. Bannon’s team also scoured the targets’ social media profiles for signs of disloyalty to the Trump administration.
Officials involved in the effort said they were driven by a missionary zeal to rid the administration of any of the foreign policy elite they blamed for miring the country in costly wars and locking it into burdensome alliances that undermined Trump’s “America First” agenda.
Nothing wrong
Key players in those 2017 purges, and several of their targets, have resurfaced in the impeachment fight.
Among the first to confront Hill when she joined the White House that year was Derek Harvey, who went to the NSC after working for Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) on the House Intelligence Committee. On one of Hill’s first days on the job, Harvey told her he could not understand why Trump had allowed her into the fold, according to officials who witnessed the exchange.
Harvey, who was active in generating the enemies list, returned to Nunes’s staff after being ousted by then-national security adviser H.R. McMaster in July 2017. When Hill testified behind closed doors before the committee, Harvey could be seen passing notes to members, officials said. He also approached Hill at one point, telling her that the “trolls are out again.” The gesture, intended to communicate sympathy, ignored the fact that Hill and others viewed him as contributing to the poisonous climate.
Harvey declined to comment for this story.
Bannon said the whistleblower was at the top of the list he and his allies created in 2017. Former White House officials said it also included a State Department official now serving as a top aide to Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Another early target of Trump loyalists was Stephanie Holmes, a career State Department employee assigned to the NSC who was falsely accused of leaking details of Trump’s Oval Office conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Holmes came under such intense internal pressure that she hired a lawyer, former colleagues said. She subsequently left her NSC job to take a post that seemingly should have shielded her from the bloodletting, moving with her husband, David, also a diplomat, to the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine.
It was only because the Holmeses were in Kyiv that David Holmes was in position to witness Trump’s phone call with U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondlandat an outdoor cafe. Holmes testified last month that he could overhear Trump asking about the investigations he wanted Ukraine to conduct into the Bidens, and that Sondland confided to Holmes afterward that the president did not “give a s**t” about Ukraine.
Trump has intentionally fostered internal friction, sowing tension among subordinates as a management tactic, current and former White House officials said. But he also inadvertently hired advisers who are repelled by his crude behavior and isolationist instincts.
McMaster, former chief of staff John F. Kelly, former secretary of state Rex Tillerson and others all fought Trump on major aspects of his foreign policy — his disdain for the NATO alliance, his desire on a moment’s notice to pull U.S. troops out of war zones, and his aversion to imposing sanctions on Russia. They, in turn, often hired subordinates who were similarly scornful of Trump’s positions.
The impeachment hearings exposed how these officials coped with Trump, and at times sought to counter his agenda, if only in the context of Ukraine.
The most senior officials, such as Pompeo, and John Bolton when he was national security adviser, often relied on underlings to sound alarms or subvert Trump’s efforts to pressure Zelensky, without putting their own standing with the president at risk. Taylor, Hill and Vindman repeatedly raised objections to aspects of the shadow policy they perceived but had no meaningful power to stop it. Former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker walked a treacherous tightrope,working to secure a commitment from Ukraine to pursue the investigations to clear impediments to what he regarded as the real policy: bolstering Ukraine in its war with Russian-backed separatists.
He hid his alarm at Trump’s baseless conspiracy theories about the 2016 election and the president’s loathing for the Ukrainians. Volker saw himself as facing a choice: He could accept Trump’s view of Ukraine or try to fix it.
“I tried to fix it,” he testified. Volker’s career was derailed as a result. He resigned from his diplomatic post after his role in the Ukraine episode was exposed. He was also forced to step down as executive director of the McCain Institute, a think tank whose stated mission is to advance “character-driven leadership.”
Career diplomats and civil servants routinely suppress private views to execute policies set by presidents. The impeachment hearings forced a parade of witnesses to reveal their feelings about Trump on a stage with an international audience.
“People were forced to testify about things they believe . . . how they felt about what the president was doing,” one of the impeachment witnesses said in an interview. The stark airing of these differences “caused the president to think they are biased against him,” the official said.
Trump responded by railing against witnesses he dismissed as “Never Trumpers,” a reference to the hundreds of national security experts who came out publicly against Trump in 2016.
In reality, none of those who testified had ever publicly opposed Trump, and many had made conscious decisions — despite misgivings — to return to government to work for him.
Some did so at considerable personal or professional cost. Hill was cautioned by friends and colleagues in the close-knit foreign policy community to reject the NSC job. One long-standing peer has refused to speak with her since learning she had gone to work for Trump, according to people familiar with the matter.
Three years into Trump’s presidency, the list of perceived enemies continues to expand, and now is composed of officials whom Trump or his own subordinates hired. The hostility they face comes not only from Trump loyalists — whether inside the administration or launching attacks from right-wing media sites — but also from a substantial swath of the Republican Party.
For decades, the GOP cast itself as the champion of the FBI, CIA, Pentagon and other national security institutions. But over the past three years, Republicans have repeatedly turned on those agencies when necessary to protect Trump’s presidency.
In their final report on the impeachment hearings, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee focused on “unelected bureaucrats” as the true villains of the impeachment scandal. These officials made “accusations and assumptions” about the president, were “discomforted at Trump’s call” with Zelensky, and they “chafed at the president’s outside the beltway approach to diplomacy.”
Ultimately, they were to blame.
In the recent interview, Bannon marveled at how rapidly GOP lawmakers have lined up behind Trump against impeachment. Early in the scandal, Bannon said, it would have been difficult to find more than a few GOP members willing to backs trump’s assertion that his call with Zelensky was “perfect.”
Though the core facts have never been in question, Bannon said that “because of the information put forth by the president and his advocates,” it was impossible to find a GOP member prepared to dispute Trump’s depiction.
“Today, look at House Judiciary, a hundred percent say it is a perfect call,” Bannon said. “A hundred percent say there’s nothing wrong.”
greg.miller@washpost.com
greg.jaffe@washpost.com

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Glenn Kessler 2 hrs ago,Fact Checker, The Washington Post

 
“This impeachment represents an unprecedented and unconstitutional abuse of power by Democrat Lawmakers, unequaled in nearly two and a half centuries of American legislative history.”

— President Trump, in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Dec. 17, 2019
Reading President Trump’s impeachment-eve letter to the House speaker seemed very familiar to The Fact Checker. It’s like a written version of his campaign rallies, replete with false claims we have fact-checked many times before either in individual fact checks or in our database of false or misleading Trump claims.
This letter will add a couple dozen new entries to our database, but here are some of the lowlights.
“The Articles of Impeachment introduced by the House Judiciary Committee are not recognizable under any standard of Constitutional theory, interpretation, or jurisprudence. They include no crimes, no misdemeanors, and no offenses whatsoever. You have cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!”
There’s nothing in the Constitution that says an impeachment needs to be a specific crime.
“Fortunately, there was a transcript of the conversation taken, and you know from the transcript (which was immediately made available) that the paragraph in question was perfect.”
Trump only released the rough transcript after Democrats announced they would launch a possible impeachment inquiry. Many outside experts say that Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was highly unusual. Trump appeared to have no agenda except to ask for the Ukrainian government to work with his private attorney to investigate a potential 2020 presidential rival and also investigate debunked conspiracy theories about possible interference by Ukraine in the 2016 election. Trump made about eight requests for help with some sort of investigation involving either former vice president Joe Biden or the Democrats.
Before the call took place, Trump with no explanation halted the expected delivery of military aid. Some U.S. diplomats believed the halt was connected to the president’s demands for a probe of Biden, text messages released by Congress show. Moreover, The Washington Post reported that at least four national security officials were so alarmed by Trump’s ongoing pressure campaign on Ukraine that they lodged objections with a White House lawyer before and right after the call.
“I said to President Zelensky: ‘I would like you to do us a favor, though, because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it.’”
There is no evidence that Ukraine had any role in the 2016 election interference that intelligence agencies concluded was directed from the highest levels of the Russian government. After making this comment in the call, Trump referenced a debunked theory that CrowdStrike, the Californian company that revealed the hack of the Democratic National Committee, was Ukrainian, to the apparent confusion of Zelensky.
“I said do us a favor, not me, and our country, not a campaign.”
Weeks after the rough transcript of the July 25 call with the Ukrainian president was released, Trump began claiming that when he said “do us a favor” in the call, the word “us” referred to the United States, not himself, the administration or his campaign. This is an ex post facto explanation that strains credulity. He repeatedly requested that Ukrainian officials meet with his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani.
“You know full well that Vice President Biden used his office and $1 billion dollars of U.S. aid money to coerce Ukraine into firing the prosecutor who was digging into the company paying his son millions of dollars.”
This sentence is a fountain of falsehoods.
Trump falsely accuses former vice president Joe Biden of something he did not do. The Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office had opened an investigation into the Ukrainian oligarch Mykola Zlochevsky, who owned Burisma Holdings, a natural gas company; Hunter Biden, a lawyer and businessman, joined Burisma’s board in April 2014 and left in 2019.
The prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, let that investigation and others go dormant, and the United States and its allies decided he was not effective in his job and in fact let corruption flourish. Biden traveled to Ukraine in December 2015 and said the United States would withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees unless Shokin was removed; it was not a demand to stop the Burisma prosecution, and there’s no evidence of Shokin’s “digging” into Burisma — nor is there any evidence Hunter Biden was ever under investigation.
(Trump incorrectly claims $1 billion in U.S. aid money was at stake, but note that it was just a loan guarantee.)
The vice president’s trip was part of a longer push by the United States, Western allies and nongovernmental organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. The goal was to promote reform in Ukraine and remove a prosecutor who allegedly was turning a blind eye to corruption. The U.S. plan to push for Shokin’s dismissal didn’t initially come from Biden but rather filtered up from officials at the State Department. Shokin was eventually removed by parliament. The prosecutor general of Ukraine in early 2019, Yuriy Lutsenko, was quoted as saying “he had no evidence of wrongdoing by U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden or his son.”
Hunter Biden did earn substantial sums from Burisma over six years that could have totaled “millions.”
“Even Joe Biden admitted just days ago in an interview with NPR that it ‘looked bad.’”
Trump suggests that Biden said his successful efforts to oust the prosecutor looked bad. Trump is mischaracterizing an interview with NPR, in which Biden is quoting his son talking about being on Burisma’s board.
“The matter is, my son testified and did an interview saying if he, looking back on it, made a mistake, he made a mistake although he did nothing wrong,” Biden said. “The appearance looked bad and it gave folks like Rudy Giuliani an excuse to come up with a Trumpian kind of defense, why they were violating the Constitution. His, his words speak for themselves.”
“President Zelensky has repeatedly declared that I did nothing wrong.
This isn’t true. Zelensky has tried hard not to get in the middle of U.S. political fight and faces a dilemma in discussing what he thought about the call. He does not want to get on Trump’s bad side — and he does not want to appear weak back home.
Trump’s “nothing wrong” language echoes misleading tweets he made about an interview that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had with Time magazine. Nowhere in the interview did Zelensky say that his American counterpart did “nothing wrong.” In fact, he criticized Trump’s comments about corruption in Ukraine and his decision to suspend military aid to Kyiv.
Zelensky also questioned Trump’s decision to freeze military aid, casting it as a matter of “fairness.” Here are Zelensky’s full comments on a potential quid pro quo: “I never talked to the President from the position of a quid pro quo. That’s not my thing. … I don’t want us to look like beggars. But you have to understand. We’re at war. If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us. I think that’s just about fairness. It’s not about a quid pro quo. It just goes without saying.”
“Ambassador Sondland testified that I told him: ‘No quid pro quo. I want nothing. I want nothing. I want President Zelensky to do the right thing, do what he ran on.’”
Trump has misleadingly seized on a small part of the damaging impeachment inquiry testimony of Gordon Sondland, a Trump donor and the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. Sondland testified that the White House declined to invite Zelensky to meet with Trump in Washington as a means of pressuring Zelensky to announce the investigations Trump wanted into Joe Biden. “I know that members of this committee frequently frame these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a ‘quid pro quo’?” Sondland said. “With regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting, the answer is yes.”
Sondland said he later came to believe that $400 million of military aid to Ukraine was also contingent on an announcement of the investigations. But Trump is quoting from a phone conversation that Sondland said he had with Trump on Sept. 9, after Congress announced an investigation into the holdup of aid to Ukraine. Sondland testified that he did not know whether Trump was telling the truth, at least about the funding portion of the quid pro quo.
“Your chosen candidate lost the election in 2016, in an Electoral College landslide (306-227).”
This is an old favorite line from Trump’s rallies, but as always he gets two things wrong — that he won a landslide and the electoral college math.
Trump earned 306 pledged electors, Hillary Clinton 232. But after defections by some electors, the final tally was 304 votes for Trump and to 227 votes for Clinton.
But Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million. If 40,000 votes had switched in three states, Trump would have also lost the electoral college. So it was no landslide.
According to a tally by John Pitney of Claremont McKenna College, every Republican president since Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876 won a larger share of the electoral college votes than Trump, with the exception of George W. Bush (twice) and Nixon in 1968.
“Congressman Adam Schiff cheated and lied all the way up to the present day, even going so far as to fraudulently make up, out of thin air, my conversation with President Zelensky of Ukraine and read this fantasy language to Congress as though it were said by me.”
As of Dec. 10, Trump 62 times has railed about a relatively minor event as if it were a serious crime. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) summarized the content of Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky at a congressional hearing, occasionally for dramatic effect (or what Schiff called a parody). There is no exact transcript of the conversation, as the summary was cobbled together from notes, so Schiff told the audience that “this is the essence of what the president communicates.”
Much of what Schiff said tracks the basic contents of the call but he went too far to claim Trump had asked Zelensky to “make up” or “manufacture” dirt; Trump simply asked for an investigation of a potential 2020 rival.
“The so-called whistleblower who started this entire hoax with a false report of the phone call that bears no relationship to the actual phone call that was made.”
The whistleblower report is correct on key details about the call between Trump and the Ukrainian president, according to the rough transcript released by the White House. Other details in the whistleblower complaint have been largely confirmed, according to a line-by-line examination by The Fact Checker. Yet Trump more than 60 times has falsely insisted the report was inaccurate.
Trump’s letter also contains exaggerated or false claims that Trump constantly makes about his achievements or the Russia probe. Here’s a brief summary.
“Seven million new jobs created”: Trump always counts from the election, giving himself credit for three months of jobs under Obama. It’s nearly 6.6 million since he took office.
“A completely reformed VA with Choice and Accountability for our great veterans”: the laws passed under Trump built on laws passed earlier, especially a VA Choice law signed by Obama.
“Historic tax and regulation cuts”: Trump’s tax cuts rank sixth in the last 100 years when measured as a percentage of gross domestic product. His regulation cuts are large, but aren’t historic compared with the deregulation in the Carter years.
“The first decline in prescription drug prices in half a century”: Trump overstates what happened to the consumer price index for prescription drugs. It fell by 0.6 percent for the 12 months ending December 2018, and then kept dropping for a period of months but more recently has increased. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are other 12-month periods with index declines, including one as recently as 2013.
“The replacement of the disastrous NAFTA trade deal with the wonderful USMCA”: Trump keeps claiming that he significantly overhauled the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), but all he did was make some modest tweaks. The new agreement is about 90 percent the same, with some elements borrowed from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade deal Trump scrapped at the start of his term.
“Massive new trade deals with Japan and South Korea”: Again, modest at best.
“Becoming the world’s top energy producer”: This happened under Obama.
“A colossal reduction in illegal border crossings”: They have soared under Trump, almost doubling from 2016 to 2019. Trump is counting from May to November, when there has been a decline, but overall the numbers are higher.
“45 million dollars spent, 18 angry Democrat prosecutors”: The special counsel’s investigation cost $32 million, according to financial reports released by the Justice Department. Mueller reported direct costs and also indirect costs, which no other special counsel had reported for previous investigations. He seized assets from Paul Manafort worth more than $40 million as part of the probe. Those assets now belong to taxpayers, and there’s a case to be made that the special counsel’s investigation therefore made more money than it spent.
“The use of spies against my campaign”: After the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation, an FBI informant in Europe, a professor named Stefan Halper, met with at least three people working on the Trump campaign in Europe. But the Justice Department inspector general, in a report issued in 2019, found no evidence that such confidential sources interacted with the campaign before the investigation was started or that any were placed on the campaign.
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The current coverage of “impeachment” has taken up a lot of time however the real story is the partisanship involved. It must be pointed out that the Dupublicans have the Senate and the Scamocrats have the house. The house proposes and writes bills that are then sent to the Senate. Currently, the Senate aka Botch McConnell has taken none of them up for votes, these are bills that help regulate our healthcare, our finance, and our education, in other words, the taxes we pay are not being used to help us (citizens of either party). What is happening is that the Majority Party in the Senate is installing extreme and unqualified Judges to lifetime appointments that will “haunt” our courts for years to come. All of this under the cover of an unconventional and unqualified President. In essence, the Senate or “Moscow  Mitch” is doing what he wants in our names and attempting to make us believe it is for our own good. This is a good example of demagoguery and we are now and will continue to suffer because of it. Our option as always is to educate ourselves on the activities of our Congress and pay less attention to the Headliner (TOTUS) as he is doing what he always does and will continue to do- Rant and rage with no facts to back him up. This has been his lifetime pattern and will continue when he out of office. Meanwhile, Congress is busily building a nightmare judiciary on our behalf.

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It seems that politics is about owing and paying debts. Who do we the voters owe? Voters are assailed daily by political fights about issues that are fabricated and true. The truth is always readily available but the fabrications more often than not take center stage. The possible reason for this upside-downness is our aversion to pursuing the truth when we hear something that sounds wrong or perhaps the laziness caused by the entertainment value of ridicule. We are in the grip of a political clique that has violated their own oath of office which demands allegiance to the United States ergo the voters. This clique has defiled the offices they hold to the extent that a “Samson” like effort will be required to make it clean. Our Senate is decidedly one-sided and pursuing the agenda of their own and the right-leaning conservatives who under the guise of  “American Values” has installed extreme and sometimes unqualified judges in the lower courts who will certainly shift our democracy away from any sort of  fair hearings on many issues that will affect us for years to come. Some issues that will surely come about: Abortion rights, right to work and Firearm laws. It is legal to bring these issues to these courts as necessary but the Judges in place can surely slant the outcomes. We (voters) need to be aware of the harm already done by our Congress particularly by the Senate lead by Botch McConnell. Mr. McConnell has quietly installed these judges while not bringing attention to his actions. His own home constituents are recipients of his poor legislation and it apparently does not matter to him. It is our duty (voters) to have proper representation and the way we get it is to vote and know who we are voting for, so far our Congress,( in general) has failed to give us what we deserve. Who do we owe? We owe ourselves the best possible representation and the way to get it is to educate ourselves on currently serving representatives and aspiring candidates, then vote on facts, not rhetoric.

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Illinois Has Had:

3 Presidents who were honest

several Governors who went to jail

1 city with a high crime rate (above the National average or near it)

1 city that is literally underwater

Huge pension problems due to poor management and deals with and by the legislators.

 

Now we have Congressman Rodney Davis: Apparently, Congressman Davis works for the President and the party, not the people in Illinois who elected him. I have always thought or hoped that the people elected by the people actually work for the people. Mr. Davis as he has done all along takes the side of the party and the White House resident. This recent statement regarding the impeachment hearings points out the reluctance of the elected officials to just do their jobs regardless of party. This issue is too important for politics and we ( the voters) need to hold all of them no matter the party to a higher standard of responsibility. We as a country are in the grip of an unqualified leader seeking only to raise his personage above the country. This all will be born out in these hearings. The sheer amount of resistance to Congressional subpoenas speaks volumes. If there was no wrongdoing then appearing before a panel, to tell the Truth, should not be a problem. I hope Mr. Davis (the peoples representative) will opt for the good of the people, not the party.

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Thanks to the GOP spending money and capital on repealing and picking the ACA apart, we have citizens in some states with minimal to no healthcare coverage, their go-to care is emergency rooms where they HAVE to be treated regardless of their ability to pay. This creates a financial burden on all of us in higher costs and sometimes lower quality of care. Unfortunately, many Americans never understood the ACA since it was labeled “Obamacare” and the GOP’s followers never bought into it. A political mistake that will haunt us all until someone with half a brain decides to really look into how “so-called free health care works- It is not free- (this just a snapshot) how it works is the residents of the country pay in their national tax the cost of healthcare, schooling and other public needs without any additional taxes. It must be noted that everyone in those countries, including politicians, pay the same money in their taxes and receive the same general healthcare.  I am not sure if there is a sliding scale of what people pay but that may be part of it.MA

Phil McCausland 2 hrs ago NBC news
HOLLY SPRINGS, Miss. — Darlene Velasco can’t afford to treat her Type 2 diabetes. She doesn’t make enough money at her job selling college sports memorabilia to pay for medication or private health insurance and, at $13.50 an hour, earns too much to qualify for Medicaid.

That’s been the case for years and without treatment, Velasco, 45, was declared legally blind in May. The disease built up cataracts in her eyes and when her vision began to blur and disappear, she found herself driving to her job that carries no health benefits steered only by the memory of the backcountry roads that surround her home.
“I reached out to everybody I could, asking about programs for people who can’t afford medical insurance — hardworking people,” she said late one October night, deep in this Mississippi hill country. “Not everyone has that financial stability with benefits. Some of us get our paycheck biweekly, struggle to make ends meet, pay rent and raise kids. It’s not easy.”

Mississippi is one of 14 states that chose not to expand Medicaid, forgoing about $1 billion from the federal government each year since 2012 when the Affordable Care Act offered states the opportunity to expand care.
The states that choose to go along with the program, first rolled out under the ACA, will eventually have to provide a 10 percent match of the funds by 2020. That would cost Mississippi about $100 million a year, and Republican lawmakers insisted it would be detrimental to the state economy.
In Mississippi, a state that has one of the highest uninsured rates in the country — currently ranked at 45 out of 50 — about 100,000 people fall in the same coverage gap as Velasco, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. In total, 2.5 million poor adults fall into that same gap in the 14 states that did not expand Medicaid.
Meanwhile, health care costs continue to grow, creating a core campaign issue in Mississippi’s contentious gubernatorial election that will be decided Tuesday. State Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, supports expansion to address costs, while Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves opposes it.
A review by NBC News of the Medicaid budgets for all 14 states that refused expansion showed their expenses increased dramatically after 2012 — despite state lawmakers’ objections that accepting expansion would cost too much. Mississippi’s budget grew by about $173 million — a 20 percent increase — since 2012, while enrollment only grew by 10,000 over the same period.
Jesse Cross-Call, a senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, studied Medicaid expansion and state budgets and testified before the Mississippi Legislature near the end of October on the topic.
He said there was a growth in Medicaid spending in nonexpansion states initially because enrollment briefly grew after the passage of the ACA, but Mississippi and the other states’ budgets remain inflated because of rising health care costs.
“State Medicaid spending is increasing and the primary driver is prescription drugs, an aging population, disabilities and other health care costs, but it’s not Medicaid expansion,” Cross-Call said. “There are greater health care forces acting on states right now, but many states have made it so Medicaid expansion has been a net saver.”
Louisiana, which passed expansion in 2016, reported savings of $199 million in 2017 and $350 million in 2018. Virginia, where expansion went into effect in January, predicted $152 million in savings in 2019 and $270 million in 2020. Numerous other states have also experienced savings through the program, as well.
A 2017 Health Affairs study found “expansion states did not experience any significant increase in state-funded expenditures, and there is no evidence that expansion crowded out funding for other state priorities.”
Mississippi has yet to see any savings, and though Velasco didn’t get health insurance through the state to treat her diabetes and avoid becoming legally blind, Mississippi taxpayers still paid through the state’s department of rehabilitation services to treat her vision at a cost of more than $20,000.
It also meant Velasco had to undergo cataract surgery in October, a procedure that terrified her and could have been prevented if she had been able receive coverage through Medicaid or somehow pay about $500 a month for her medication or the several hundred dollars needed monthly to afford private insurance.
“They knocked me out because I was that scared,” she said. “I had tears coming out of my eyes. I was crying.”
‘I can’t just go to the doctor’
The lack of health insurance has left millions of Americans in those states that chose to go without Medicaid expansion to carry the burden of medical debt when they need to receive health care.
Velasco said she socks away a few dollars out of each biweekly paycheck to save up to go to the doctor. She’s losing hearing in one ear and doctors told her she had a cyst on an ovary when she visited the emergency room for stomach pain two years ago.
Eventually, Velasco hopes to be able to afford to have them examine it.
“It hasn’t caused cramps or anything. I’m hoping it melted away,” she said. “But I can’t just go to the doctor. I have to pay out of pocket. Every time I go when I’m sick, I have to pay $160 when I get seen.”
In the state that has the highest percentage of its residents with past-due medical debt in the country, it appears that many people choose to go without, according to a study done by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Investor Education Foundation.
More than half in Mississippi said the cost of health care led them to not fill a prescription, avoid the doctor or skip a medical test, according to the study.
“In a sense, the people of Mississippi are saying the cost of health care is driving them away from medical services, and we see that nationally in the data as well,” Gary Mottola, the research director for the FINRA Foundation, said.
When the foundation began the study in 2012, 41 percent of Mississippians said they held past-due medical debt. That number dipped to 31 percent in 2015 with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, but has since grown again to lead the nation at 41 percent in 2018 after funding and advertising for the ACA was cut.
For many, the dollar numbers attached to accidents or unexpected illnesses are so large that they become abstract and unapproachable.
Samantha Mechell, 59, broke her hip three months ago when she tripped over her cat. A visit to the hospital and the ensuing surgery needed so that the longtime waitress could walk again cost her $140,000. Without insurance, she said her bill was sent to collections before she completed physical therapy.
“I wanted to go back to work early but my doctor said I couldn’t without my walker,” she said, still limping heavily minutes after her midweek lunch shift ended. “I have bills. Nobody pays those but me. There’s only me.”
She earns $900 monthly, which goes to rent and utilities, while the $20 or $30 she makes in tips each day help pay for food and gas.
When she couldn’t work, she said she used loose change she collected and some of the tax returns that she saved for a rainy day to pay for meals of ramen noodles or hot dogs.
“They want all this money, but I don’t have much,” she said. “It’s just rough. I know there’s a lot of people out there like me.”
Are lives at risk?
Advocates for expansion and health care experts argue that the lack of access to health insurance coverage could be putting people’s lives at risk, especially in rural areas, in part because hospitals are having to provide uncompensated care that is endangering their economic viability and causing some to close their doors.
That’s a problem in Mississippi, where almost half of the state’s rural hospitals are at “high financial risk,” according to the independent consulting firm Navigant.
A 2018 study from the University of Colorado found these issues are exacerbated in the 14 states that refused Medicaid expansion, finding that states that did not expand Medicaid saw a sharp increase of hospital closings, while states that expanded Medicaid saw closure rates decrease.
There is now a clear number tied to those life and death stakes, according to a report published this year by the National Bureau of Economic Research. It found the states’ decision over Medicaid expansion has had a cumulative impact on mortality among older adults, leading to 19,200 fewer deaths in Medicaid expansion states between 2014 and 2017, while states that decided against expansion “likely resulted in 15,600 additional deaths” that could have been avoided.
“It’s one thing not to have health insurance, but not to have access to any health care is a whole different thing and that’s where we are,” said State Rep. Robert Johnson, a Democrat who represents the impoverished Mississippi Delta town of Natchez. The hospital in that town is at risk of closing and considered “critically essential” to the community by Navigant.
“What do we do if the emergency room isn’t there anymore?” he added.
Roy Mitchell, the executive director of the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program, and his organization work to help families obtain and maintain health care coverage in the state. He said that the push to expand Medicaid consistently hits roadblocks because of the political perception that it would be too expensive for the state.
“I’ve been working in public health advocacy in Mississippi for 25 years. The equity arguments in Mississippi fall on deaf ears,” Mitchell said. “Unfortunately, we always look at the financial side here. I’m surprised there hasn’t been a greater reaction by the faith-based community because the equity arguments for Medicaid expansion are so overwhelming — and it saves lives.”
The politics of expansion
Drawn by potential savings and the benefits of health care coverage, voters in Idaho, Nebraska and Utah — typically conservative states — supported the expansion of Medicaid at the ballot box during the 2018 election. Similar battles are occurring in North Carolina and Georgia.
Now, even Republicans in deeply red Mississippi are beginning to find expansion attractive.
Bill Waller, Jr., the former chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court who ran against Reeves in the Republican primary for governor, advocated for a form of expansion similar to a plan supported by the Mississippi Hospital Association, which would have beneficiaries pay a $20 monthly fee and a $100 copay for hospital visits.
Waller lost to Reeves by 8 points after the lieutenant governor cast him as sympathetic to national liberals and compared him to Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Months after the brutal primary, Waller still called the expansion issue existential for the state and pointed to the success seen in Arkansas, which expanded Medicaid in 2013 and provided coverage to about 250,000 people.
“It’s critical for the advancement of the state, both economically and socially,” Waller said, sitting in his wood-paneled office in downtown Jackson, just a few blocks from the governor’s mansion.
Waller declined to endorse Reeves and would not say if he is voting Tuesday for the Republican nominee or Jim Hood, Mississippi’s attorney general and the lone Democrat to hold statewide office, whom he called a “credible political figure” who could push through expansion.
Reeves, meanwhile, maintains opposition to the expansion, though he has provided few policy solutions to address the state’s growing health insurance crisis.
Reeves’ campaign did not respond to multiple interview requests made by NBC News. Campaign spokesman Parker Briden also declined to provide NBC News an interview with Reeves after the lieutenant governor briefly spoke at a press event in Jackson, Mississippi, where he discussed his opposition to Medicaid expansion in late October.
He mainly insisted at the event that his opponent would raise taxes, which Hood denies, but still did not provide an alternative.
“We believe you know how to spend your money better than any government entity ever will,” Reeves said at the time.
Cost is always an issue in Mississippi and it was exacerbated when Reeves and the state Legislature passed the largest tax cut in Mississippi history in July 2017. Now, a state with already low revenue is seeing its assets shrink even further.
The state is projected to lose $46.5 million this year and $415 million per year once the tax cut hits its full level in 2028, according to Mississippi’s Department of Revenue and Legislative Budget Office.
In an interview, Hood lamented that Reeves and state Republicans passed the tax cut, calling it “a corporate tax give away.” He pointed to that as a reason Mississippi is struggling to pay for Medicaid, as well as fund increases to a beleaguered education system and much-needed fixes to thousands of damaged roads and bridges.
Hood said that makes it more difficult to ignore that the state’s proposed general fund budget for financial year 2019 was $5.6 billion — less than the $6 billion the state would have already banked from the federal government had it chosen to pursue expansion in 2012.
But when asked how he planned to pay for his policy proposals considering that tax cut was still in place and he would likely work with the same Republican Legislature that passed the cut, Hood did not have a clear answer and said he would likely renegotiate private government contracts.
As for Medicaid expansion, Hood said he felt confident he could get it passed if he followed the same route advocated by the Mississippi Hospital Association and Waller, though he noted he wasn’t “sure of every detail” and didn’t “know the answer to how exactly that happens.”
But he insisted that Mississippi taxpayers wouldn’t foot the bill.
“That one doesn’t cost anything,” he said. “It generates $100 million a year, creates 10,000 jobs. It’s an economic driver.”
In the meantime, however, people like Velasco continue to hope that the politicians arguing almost 200 miles south of her home will find some solution.
For her, time is of the essence.
“I’ve gone years without medication, and it’s gotten to a point where you hit rock bottom,” Velasco said, folding her hands in her lap. “And it’s just like, ‘Okay, if I go, I go.’ That’s just how I have to see it.”

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Non Sequitur Comic Strip for November 03, 2019

 

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“There is not much progress being made in Washington these days and contrary to what my Republican colleagues might tell you, it’s not impeachment and it’s not House Democrats who are holding things up.”

It’s Senator Mitch McConnell.

During the 116th Congress, the House of Representatives has passed more than 150 pieces of legislation under the steady leadership of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Legislation to lower prescription drug prices, expand gun background checks, and fight climate change.
On February 27, the House passed the Bipartisan Background Checks Act. As of today, eight months and many mass shootings later, Senator McConnell has still not brought it up for a vote in the Senate.

On April 4, the House passed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. As we wait to vote on this bill in the Senate, survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence wait for critical updates to this landmark law.

On May 2, the House passed the Climate Action Now Act to recommit the United States to the Paris Climate Agreement. The clock is ticking on saving our planet, but the Senate Majority Leader won’t bring this bill to the floor for a vote.

On June 4, the House passed the American Dream and Promise Act to protect the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers living in the U.S. and provide them with a path to citizenship. We still have not voted on this bill in the Senate.

On July 27, the House passed the Securing America’s Federal Elections Act, or SAFE Act, to push back against foreign interference in our elections and protect our democracy. This bill, like so many others, has not been brought up for a vote by Senator McConnell.
Unfortunately, so many important bills have languished on the desk of Senator McConnell, buried in his legislative graveyard.

Regardless, Democrats will continue working for the American people. We will keep pushing Senator McConnell to do his job, end the legislative graveyard, and at the very least, take up votes on bills that have passed the House.

Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)

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The GOP apparently has been conned and is willing to still drink the “kool aid” that TOTUS is providing or is the party using TOTUS as a “hat” to cover their own misdeeds? MA.

By Caroline Kelly, CNN 7 hrs ago

All three Republican primary challengers lambasted state GOP leaders — and President Donald Trump — for opting to cancel their 2020 presidential primary elections in a show of support for the President.

“In the United States, citizens choose their leaders,” former Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, former Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld said in a Washington Post op-ed on Friday.
“The primary nomination process is the only opportunity for Republicans to have a voice in deciding who will represent our party,” they added. “Let those voices be heard.”

Their pushback comes after party leaders in Kansas, South Carolina and Nevada canceled their Republican primaries, with Arizona expected to make it official over the weekend. The scrapped primaries pose a further obstacle for the long-shot challengers, already fighting the incumbent President, who, according to a CNN/SSRS Poll, has an 88% approval rating among Republicans.
It is not unprecedented for state Republicans or Democrats to decide not to hold a presidential primary when an incumbent is running essentially uncontested. In South Carolina, a key early primary state, Republicans decided to nix their presidential primaries in 1984 and 2004, when Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were up for their second terms, while state Democrats skipped their contests in 1996 and 2012, with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama running for reelection.
“Each of us believes we can best lead the party. So does the incumbent. Let us each take our case to the public,” the three GOP candidates wrote on Friday. “The saying ‘may the best man win’ is a quintessential value that the Republican Party must honor if we are to command the respect of the American people.”
“Cowards run from fights,” they added, in a thinly veiled jab at Trump. “Warriors stand and fight for what they believe. The United States respects warriors. Only the weak fear competition.”
The trio pointed to the roiling Democratic primary underway in arguing that ideological challenges are a focal point of not only American government, but also the Republican Party.
“Do Republicans really want to be the party with a nominating process that more resembles Russia or China than our American tradition?” the group writes. “Under this President, the meaning of truth has been challenged as never before. … Do we as Republicans accept all this as inevitable? Are we to leave it to the Democrats to make the case for principles and values that, a few years ago, every Republican would have agreed formed the foundations of our party?”
The three candidates also cited the risk of costly legal challenges to the states, predicting that they would likely exceed the costs of hosting the primaries. Walsh told CNN after South Carolina’s decision on Saturday that he would “fight legally and all other options” to challenge the states.
“Let us spend the next six months attempting to draw new voters to our party instead of demanding fealty to a preordained choice,” the three wrote. “If we believe our party represents the best hope for the United States’ future, let us take our message to the public and prove we are right.”

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