Trump slaps ‘phony’ label on aide’s comments in White House-arranged call

President Donald Trump slammed the New York Times Saturday for using “phony sources” in a story citing a White House official – but the comments the paper referred to came from a formal background briefing attended by multiple news organizations and widely reported.

Trump appeared to be responding to a Times story about his on-again, off-again plans for a June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un..

“The Failing @nytimes quotes ‘a senior White House official,’ who doesn’t exist, as saying ‘even if the meeting were reinstated, holding it on June 12 would be impossible, given the lack of time and the amount of planning needed,’“ the president wrote on Twitter.

The Times cited a White House official in a story about Trump’s reversal on the summit following his abrupt decision to withdraw from the historic sit-down in a letter sent Thursday.

The paper reported that the official said holding the meeting on the originally scheduled date would be “impossible,” though in fact the official didn’t use the word during the background briefing, held on Thursday afternoon at the White House and organized by the press office.

“There’s a certain amount of actual dialogue that needs to take place at the working level with your counterparts to ensure that the agenda is clear in the minds of those two leaders when they sit down to actually meet and talk and negotiate, and hopefully make a deal. And June 12 is in 10 minutes, and it’s going to be – you know,” the official said, according to a White House transcript. “But the President has said that he has – someday, that he looks forward to meeting with Kim.”

POLITICO was among the news organizations that participated in the call and reported the official’s comments at the time.

Reporters were quick to call the president out following his tweet.

“I mean, every reporter on the call knows who this official was, and this official exists,” Mike Warren, a senior writer for the conservative Weekly Standard wrote on Twitter. “And we all heard the official say it.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Saturday the White House pre-advance team is heading to Singapore as scheduled to move ahead with logistics. Trump has indicated he’s open to holding the June 12 summit, and Kim met Saturday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in to get the meeting back on track.

Trump has repeatedly fumed at the unnamed White House sources in stories about his administration and the leaks that are spread through many of their quotes. POLITICO reported the president demanded and White House chief of staff John Kelly signed off on a plan to that would dismiss junior aides in the communications shop, who have been blamed for the leaks.

“WRONG AGAIN! Use real people,” Trump concluded on Saturday. “not phony sources.”

Nahal Toosi contributed to this report.



Trump calls family separation policy ‘horrible’ in tweet

President Donald Trump on Saturday urged voters to pressure Democrats into accepting an immigration deal on his terms, appearing to cite his own administration’s “horrible” policy of stepping up the separation of families held at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Put pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from there parents once they cross the Border into the U.S. Catch and Release, Lottery and Chain must also go with it and we MUST continue building the WALL! DEMOCRATS ARE PROTECTING MS-13 THUGS,” the president wrote on Twitter.

Trump’s tweet follows a backlash on social media over reports that children are being separated from parents at the border.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said May 7 that the Homeland Security Department will refer “100 percent of illegal southwest border crossings” to the Justice Department for prosecution, triggering the law that allows for the transfer of the custody of children.

“We don’t want to separate families, but we don’t want families to come to the border illegally,” Sessions said at the time. “This is just the way the world works.”

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen also signed a memo directing the department to refer all suspected border-crossers to the Justice Department, according to a DHS official.

POLITICO has reported that children encountered at the border can be classified as unaccompanied minors if their parents are prosecuted and detained for criminal charges. When that occurs, the children are transferred into the custody of the Health and Human Services Department.

The Border Patrol caught about 38,000 people at the border in April, which POLITICO reported was about a three times the number from 2017, but still a number that is well below the level in recent decades.

Trump has pushed Congress for a wider deal on immigration before the 2018 midterm elections including measures on DACA, chain migration, and funding for Trump’s border wall, a longstanding campaign promise.

Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) earlier this month said he expects a broad immigration deal “by the spring, early summer.”


White House still a go on planning trip for North Korea summit

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders reaffirmed Saturday that a White House advance team will head to Singapore for a planning meeting in preparation for a potential June 12 summit there with North Korea.

President Donald Trump has signaled repeatedly that he’s open to proceeding with the historic sit-down despite sending a blunt letter North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Thursday apparently calling it off.

“The White House pre-advance team for Singapore will leave as scheduled in order to prepare should the summit take place,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Saturday morning.

Kim met Saturday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a key figure in brokering the U.S.-North Korea détente, to discuss getting the Singapore meeting back on track.

The manifest for the trip to Singapore, obtained Friday by POLITICO, includes a large advance team lead by deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin and special assistant to the president Patrick Clifton. Also on the manifest: director of presidential advance Bobby Peede, Bill Hughes, Ben Miller, Hannah Salem and Rebecca Wasserstein.

The team is set to arrive in Japan on May 28 and will leave for Singapore the same day, according to the manifest.

Trump’s letter to Kim and statements from his top aides have framed the potential summit as a boost for Kim, with Sanders saying it would "be great for the world and certainly would be good for North Korea." But the president holds his own stake in the discussions, which could reap a sizable victory for him on the global stage.

For months, Trump has worked to make the landmark gathering happen. His abrupt cancellation and deteriorating dialogue, however, have raised questions about his ability to pull off the delicate talks.

“We’ll see what happens,” he said Friday as he departed for the Naval Academy graduation ceremony in Annapolis, Maryland. “It could even be the 12th. We’re talking to them now. They very much want to do it. We’d like to do it. We’ll see what happens.”


Trump announces release of American held in Venezuela

President Donald Trump on Saturday announced that an American citizen held in Venezuela would be released and on U.S. soil by Saturday evening.

"Good news about the release of the American hostage from Venezuela. Should be landing in D.C. this evening and be in the White House, with his family, at about 7:00 P.M," the president wrote on Twitter. "The great people of Utah will be very happy!"

Josh Holt of Utah was arrested in 2016 after traveling to Venezuela to marry a woman he met online. According to a Washington Post report, Holt was accused of stockpiling weapons in public housing.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said Saturday he has worked with both the Obama and Trump administrations alongside diplomatic contacts to help secure the release of Holt and his wife Thamy.

"I could not be more honored to be able to reunite Josh with his sweet, long-suffering family in Riverston," Hatch said in a statement.

The Utah Republican praised Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) for his "pivotal efforts" and singled out Caleb McCarry, a staffer on the committee, for his work in bringing Holt home.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro held onto power in last week’s national elections, which the White House has labeled a "sham." Maduro expelled the top U.S. diplomat stationed there on Tuesday, a move that came a day after the U.S. slapped new sanctions on the country.


North and South Korean leaders meet again

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have met for the second time in a month to discuss peace commitments they reached in their first summit and Kim’s potential meeting with President Donald Trump.

South Korea’s presidential office said Moon will personally announce the outcome of Saturday’s summit with Kim on Sunday local time.

The meeting in a border truce village came hours after South Korea expressed relief over revived talks for a summit between Trump and Kim following a whirlwind 24 hours that saw Trump cancel the highly anticipated meeting before saying it’s potentially back on.


Week 53: Trump Goes Spy Hunting and Gets Skunked

Master table-turner Donald Trump is at it again, spinning the latest damning news from the Russia investigation and flinging it back at his critics to make him look like a victim, not a perp.

This week’s twirl of the table had Trump spinning his interpretive energies into “SPYGATE,” his racy label for the alleged “Criminal Deep State” conspiracy against him. Why call it Spygate? Trump, who lives for catchy buzz-phrases and slogans, told an ally he wanted “to brand” the informant as a spy, and that such language would leave a more lasting impression on the media and public.

On Sunday, the president issued his pompous “I hereby demand” decree on Twitter that the Department of Justice investigate his suspicions that the Obama administration had “infiltrated or surveilled” his campaign. According to Trump’s theory, the FBI wasn’t investigating the possible penetration of his 2016 presidential campaign by Russian intelligence when it assigned an informant to speak to three members of his campaign staff. It was embedding a spy in his campaign for political purposes, resulting in a scandalous affair that could be “bigger than Watergate!“ “Illegal!” he tweeted, all designed to “frame“ him for crimes he didn’t commit. The president raised such a fuss that he instigated two mini-briefings on Capitol Hill about the FBI’s tactics so that select members of Congress could judge for themselves.

The “spy” in question turns out to be Stefan A. Halper, Republican stalwart and University of Cambridge professor emeritus who worked for the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations and George H.W. Bush’s campaign. (If this be the Deep State, maybe it’s not as dark and mysterious as we thought.) He allegedly spied on President Jimmy Carter’s 1980 campaign for Reagan, and some say he used former CIA agents to gather his information.

As much as Trump would like you to believe that Halper was a spy and not a legitimate informant working on an investigation, he can’t get independent voices with clout (outside of Kimberly A. Strassel of the Wall Street Journal editorial page) to echo his opinions. This week, a leading member of the president’s party, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina (who didn’t attend the briefings), declined an invitation to endorse the Trump view. “A confidential informant is not a spy,” Graham said succinctly. Republicans who attended the briefing were mum, ducking out without speaking to reporters. Democrats who attended—Rep. Adam Schiff, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Chuck Schumer, and Sen. Mark Warner—were adamant in insisting that no “spying” had occurred. Even Rudy Giuliani, who had asserted his boss’ right to know if Halper had gathered exculpatory evidence in his conversations with George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, didn’t suggest afterward that anything like that had emerged.

Of the many problems with Trump’s SPYGATE theory is the idea that the nefarious FBI and the “Criminal Deep State” would go to all that trouble penetrating his campaign with a “spy” and then not use what they had gleaned to destroy his chances of winning the election? It’s a strange bit of sabotage when the saboteur sets the charges under the bridge and then doesn’t strike the fuse. Like the similar table-turning by Trump’s supporters who advocated for the release of the Nunes memo, or Trump’s insistence that the real Russia scandal was the Uranium One deal, or his claim that the Obama administration had “tapped“ his phones, or the business about “unmasking,” or his new harping about a government spy infiltrating his campaign is just another obfuscating slow-simmer idea to leap out of his mental Crock-Pot. Trump barks, Mueller’s caravan moves on.

This week we learned of yet another previously undisclosed contact between a powerful Russian and a member of the Trump court. On Friday, the New York Times reported that oligarch Viktor Vekselberg met with Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen in his Trump Tower office just 11 days before the inauguration.

A few days after Trump took the oath of office, Cohen won a $1 million consulting contract from Columbus Nova, which is an affiliate of Vekselberg’s Renova Group—both of which landed on the Treasury Department sanctions list last month. (Cohen only ended up collecting $580,000 of the contract.) Also attending the meeting was Columbus Nova head Andrew Intrater, Vekselberg’s cousin, who later donated $250,000 to the Trump inaugural committee. Both Intrater and Vekselberg have been interviewed by Mueller’s team. The Intrater and Vekselberg arrival was captured by the C-SPAN camera positioned in the Trump Tower lobby. Isn’t it lovely that C-SPAN has ended up being the operator of the national security security-cam?

“Mr. Trump was in the building that day, and his office was just doors down from Mr. Cohen’s, though Mr. Intrater said they did not see the president-elect,” the Times reports.

So many meetings between foreigners and Trumpies in the Trump Tower! Let’s count!

Long before Vekselberg and Intrater came calling on Cohen, the president’s gilded edifice on 5th Avenue had hosted several interesting meetings. In January 2015, Trump met with Emin Agalarov, son of Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov, and his publicist, Rob Goldstone in his office. More famously, the top brass of Trump campaign—Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort—met with a bevy of Russians promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting. In August 2016, as the New York Times has just reported, emissaries for two Arab princes met with Donald Trump Jr. and informed him that the wealthy princes wanted to help Trump win the November election. (“The interactions are a focus of the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel,” the Times reports.) The two emissaries, Blackwater founder Erik Prince and international fixer George Nader, later met with Putin-linked financier Kirill Dmitriev in Seychelles in January 2017. A third attendee at the meeting, Joel Zamel, a “specialist in social media manipulation,” had previously worked for Putin-allied oligarchs Oleg Deripaska and Dmitry Rybolovlev. Deripaska, as is well known, was once a business partner of Manafort’s.

Roger Stone, longtime Trump supporter, self-proclaimed dirty-tricks artist, and author of the famous tweet that promised John Podesta that he would soon been enjoying his "time in the barrel," may soon have a ticket to the big wooden tub. This week, the Wall Street Journal published Stone emails that indicate that he might not have been on the complete level in his interview with the House Intelligence Committee in September about his solicitation of materials from Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks. It now appears that despite earlier denials, he was actively seeking additional emails by Hillary Clinton.

“Please ask Assange for any State or HRC e-mail from August 10 to August 30—particularly on August 20, 2011,” Stone wrote to his go-between. Stone tells the Journal that his testimony was truthful, but it’s hard to square with this email.

Appearing on Meet the Press last Sunday, Stone said he was “prepared” to be indicted in Mueller’s investigation for some “extraneous crime pertaining to my business.” Evidence that the awfulness of prison life is weighing on him came two days later in an interview with Breitbart News Daily on Sirius XM. Stone said former CIA Director John Brennan would end up going to jail for his deep state crimes against Trump, so he “should pop the glass capsule and take the cyanide now.”

Will Stone take cyanide if he’s sent up the river? My guess is he’d find a way to wash it down with some contraband Champagne.


Turn your own tables with mail to My email alerts include a Russian at every meeting. My Twitter feed is Russian. My RSS feed is for sale to the highest foreign bidder.


How a Tiny Kansas Town Rebooted Its Struggling Hospital into a Health Care Jewel

LAKIN, Kansas—No stoplight marks the entrance to Lakin, just a gas station, a Subway, and a Dollar General. On Main Street, a coffee shop owned by a Mennonite family stays open late once a week, but its storefront was the only one illuminated at 7 p.m. on a recent weeknight. According to one study, the 2,200 citizens of Lakin live in one of the ten most remote towns in the country. To reach it, you must drive through miles of straw-colored fields that stretch to the horizon in all directions. Ranches that aren’t growing corn or wheat have dikes drilling for natural gas or cows standing in feedlots of gray filth. During the winter, the air is so dry that the soil cracks, and the wind carries the inescapable stench of dust and manure.

The region’s economy depends on the price of gas and oil, which plummeted in recent years. But there are pockets of industrial vitality, too. Seventeen miles east of Lakin, in Holcomb, where Truman Capote wrote In Cold Blood, smoke rises from the steel towers of the Tyson Fresh Meats plant. Tyson’s workers slaughter 6,000 head of cattle a day, making it one of the largest beef-packing plants in the world. East African refugees inspect beef beside immigrants from Burma, Mexico, and Ecuador. Those who don’t find jobs at the plant labor on the surrounding dairy farms and ranches. In short, this part of western Kansas is like a lot of rural America, right down to the struggling county hospital.

Four years ago, Kearny County Hospital had to turn away patients because it didn’t have enough doctors to treat them. It was losing $100,000 a year in its maternity ward. County commissioners wanted to avoid the fate of other rural communities, which have lost 83 hospitals across the country in the past eight years. Often, the solution is to stop delivering babies. More than half the rural counties in the country no longer have a labor and delivery unit in their hospitals; in Kansas, nine rural obstetrics units have shut down in the past 10 years, and six more are planning to close soon, says Michael Kennedy, associate dean for rural health education at the University of Kansas School of Medicine.

But Kearny County went the other way.

Officials hired an innovative CEO who came up with a way to make their rural hospital appeal to talented young physicians who want to deliver babies in Third World countries. You can do that work right here in Kansas, Ben Anderson told his new recruits, by serving immigrants and refugees. Once the new doctors arrived, Anderson applied for grants to upgrade the hospital’s equipment and fly in a specialist to see women with high-risk pregnancies. The skilled doctors and luxurious birthing suites attracted immigrants from neighboring Garden City and wealthier patients from out of town, and the baby boom they created padded the hospital’s bottom line. KCH went from delivering 187 babies in 2014 to 327 in 2017. In the span of five years, Anderson has turned the hospital into the county’s largest employer, with a profitable maternity ward that draws patients from as much as two hours away for its superior care. “I think it’s a huge success story,” Kearny County Commissioner Shannon McCormick says. “When you’re alive and thriving and all your neighbors are not—you’re doing something good.”

The district’s Congressman is Roger Marshall, a Republican obstetrician who has said that some poor people “just don’t want healthcare.” But if the turnaround of Kearny County Hospital reveals anything, it’s that people really like good health care.

Anderson says the hospital now serves about 20,000 patients annually, up from roughly 10,000 patients in 2012, and generated $23.4 million in revenue last year. As hospitals in his corner of southwest Kansas continue to cut services, he’s looking to expand.

“We have a moral responsibility to provide good care,” he says, “even if we’re the only care.”


On a windy February morning, Anderson wore black-frame glasses and carried a thermos from Dartmouth, where he earned his master’s in healthcare delivery science, as he gave me a tour of the hospital. The walls of his office were covered in his handwriting: stick figures to illustrate the concepts of equity and equality, a pie chart to explain how the hospital is reimbursed for Medicare patients. His personal mission statement was scrawled in a back corner: “Honor God through loving diverse people and advocating for holistic healing, with special attention toward those who are most vulnerable.”

Anderson grew up poor in California, and remembers receiving medicine from a homeless shelter because he didn’t have insurance. Now 38, he says that experience, along with his Christian faith, drives his desire to care for others. “It’s a practical act of love,” he says.

We walked past the hospital waiting room, where a Bible, a copy of Methodist Life newspaper, and a Spanish-language phone book sat on a table near the front door. The halls were carpeted and quiet, muffling whatever emergencies might be unfolding behind closed doors. Anderson showed me one of the five spacious birthing suites, which each have a private bathroom, Jacuzzi tub, and fold-out couch. In one corner of the room was a $16,000 incubator, designed to transfer infants to the neonatal intensive care unit in Garden City, half an hour away. Down another hallway was the brightly-lit family clinic, where moms waited with their young children to see the same doctors who had delivered them. Outside, Anderson showed me the converted military trailer that handles the overflow from the clinic. This is where some of the area’s sickest moms see a specialist once a month.

Anderson and his wife, who grew up near Kansas City, have four children. She wanted to raise them in a rural Kansas town, and he was drawn to the refugee population near Kearny County. In 2009, they moved to Ashland, Kansas, about two hours southeast of Lakin. That’s where Anderson pioneered his recruiting strategy. He asked Todd Stephens, director of the international family medicine fellowship at Via Christi, a Catholic, nonprofit regional health system with a particular focus on serving the poor in Wichita, how he could hire one of his graduates. Stephens encouraged him to target candidates who were interested in missionary work overseas. He also warned Anderson that the doctors wouldn’t relocate one at time—good doctors don’t want to practice by themselves.

Anderson took that recruiting model with him to Lakin in 2013. Over the next two years, he hired six new medical providers, and began coordinating recruiting efforts with hospitals in five other counties. He was especially interested in family medicine doctors who were trained in obstetrics, because in rural America, it’s more affordable to hire someone who can treat all patients than to hire specialists. Family medicine physicians can also get help repaying their medical school loans if they work in rural, underserved areas. Via Christi has one of the strongest family-medicine obstetrics training programs in the country. Anderson kept hiring their graduates, and then made sure his hospital had the equipment to back up their skills.

First, he had to address the hospital’s high rate of complicated births. In 2014, he asked Lisette Jacobson, an associate professor at the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita, to help him apply for a grant from the Children’s Miracle Network of Kansas. She examined the data and discovered that most of the women with what are known as complicated pregnancies were overweight, obese or had family members who had been diagnosed with diabetes or heart disease. This is partly a function of living in rural America, Jacobson says, where people tend to drink and smoke more, weigh more, and have less access to medical care and healthy food. Many of the women also had gestational diabetes—which is associated with preeclampsia, drives up C-section rates, and can threaten the life of the baby and mother. Latino women are at higher risk for gestational diabetes, and they make up the majority of KCH’s pregnant patients. The hospital’s gestational diabetes rate was twice the national average.

These statistics helped convince the Children’s Miracle Network to give Kearny County the $250,000 grant. Much of the money was used to install an infant security system, which prevents strangers from stealing newborns from their cribs. (Kearny County had not experienced such a kidnapping, but the security has become standard after rare abductions in other states made headlines in the 1990s.) The rest of the funds were used to upgrade the birthing suites and buy obstetrical equipment. Next, Anderson and Jacobson met with officials from Via Christi Health. They explained that southwest Kansas did not have any maternal-fetal medicine specialists to care for pregnant women with gestational diabetes and other risky complications. Via Christi offered to fly one of its specialists, Dr. Michael Wolfe, the 240 miles from Wichita to Kearny County once a month. Wolfe spends each visit examining 20 expectant mothers with high-risk pregnancies. His makeshift office is now the only maternal-fetal medicine clinic along the 519 miles between Denver and Wichita. Wolfe uses a 4D ultrasound machine—which shows moving, three-dimensional images of the fetus—that the hospital purchased with $70,000 worth of local donations. He also consults with the family medicine doctors in Kearny County—some of whom he trained during residency—on how best to care for their vulnerable patients.

Jacobson is now looking for funds to start a diabetes prevention program and hire breastfeeding experts to help the women who deliver at Kearny County remain healthy before and after they give birth. The hospital also received a separate grant to build community greenhouses and a walking trail—all of which should help improve the health of overweight patients.

“I think this is a model that can be replicated in other states,” Jacobson says of her partnership with the hospital.

The key, in her view, is collaborating with private health systems and the state health department, and making sure the local community supports the project from the beginning. When Jacobson discovered why so many women were having complicated pregnancies, she shared her findings with the people in Lakin, and explained how she would tackle the problem. Then she formed focus groups to ask women what they wanted— such as support with diet and exercise during pregnancy. People became invested in the project. They showed up for prenatal appointments and saw how better healthcare would affect their families. When it came time to raise money for an ultrasound machine, the banks and feedlots pitched in tens of thousands of dollars. “You’re not alone out there,” Jacobson says of struggling rural hospitals. “There are a lot of people that care about what you’re doing.”

Anderson, Wolfe and Jacobson’s work is part of a partnership called Pioneer Baby, designed to improve the health of reproductive-age women and their families throughout the region. They have already seen some success. Two years ago, 28 percent of the babies born at Kearny County were “large for gestational age,” a condition caused by gestational diabetes. Now that rate is 16 percent. If it goes down to 10 percent, Anderson says, the hospital will rival its urban neighbors.

Pioneer Baby helps ease the financial strain that prompts many rural hospitals to shut down their maternity wards. There are fixed costs for staffing such units 24 hours a day—including on-call doctors and nurse anesthetists-—and many hospitals simply don’t deliver enough babies to cover those costs. Anderson has figured out how to stay afloat with a mix of Medicaid, private insurance, federal funds and grants.

Only 14 percent of the women who deliver at the hospital live in Kearny County. The rest are evenly split between two groups: residents of neighboring Finney County—where the Tyson plant is located, and most of the immigrants live—and women from 14 other counties in the region. Some of the immigrants have private insurance through their jobs. Others have Medicaid, which reimburses in advance for prenatal visits, even if it doesn’t cover the full cost of labor and delivery. If a patient is uninsured, a state grant reimburses the hospital $61,000 annually for that lost revenue. No one is turned away because of their inability to pay, and the sheer volume of births helps keep the doors open.

The patients who drive to Lakin from one or two hours away are motivated by different factors. At least half of them have nowhere else to go: there’s a doctor shortage in their counties, and their hospitals have cut back on delivery services. But others have heard the doctors at Kearny County are good and the birthing suites are comfortable. These women tend to have private insurance, and their premiums offset the cost of serving people who are insured. Last year, the obstetrics unit turned a $400,000 profit.

The federal prescription drug program called 340B helps the hospital care for needy mothers in other ways—giving them car seats and clothing, helping them rid their homes of bed bugs or buy groceries. The 340B program allows certain hospitals to buy drugs at a steep discount and then be reimbursed for those costs by Medicare. Kearny County uses a portion of the $1.64 million it receives through the program to help pregnant women—particularly those who are uninsured. “If Medicaid isn’t covering the cost of OB, that money has to come from somewhere,” says Diane Calmus, government affairs and policy manager for the nonprofit National Rural Health Association. “And 340B is an important source of that for a lot of hospitals.” The program has recently come under fire from the Trump administration, which slashed $1.6 billion from its budget this year.

Given such financial and political constraints, Anderson’s success is a rare bright spot in the industry. “If we could replicate Benjamin Anderson—having somebody with the skill set that he has is a big piece of the picture,” Calmus says.


Fatha Hasan keeps a framed photo of the doctor who delivered her 6-month-old son on the wall of her Garden City home. An Ethiopian refugee, Hasan immigrated to Kansas last February to join her husband. They already had two children, one of whom was born via C-section. Hasan wanted to avoid surgery with her third baby, but doctors at a Garden City clinic told her she would have to have a C-section. So she went to Kearny County.

Dr. Lane Olson gave her a choice: She could attempt a vaginal birth, but there was a small chance her uterus could rupture and both she and the baby could die. He might have to perform an emergency C-section. Despite these dangers, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends vaginal births after C-sections as long as emergency intervention is available. Olson was willing to give it a try. “He was kind to her. He encouraged her and helped her a lot,” says Ifrah Ahmed, a friend of Hasan’s who translated for her during a recent interview. “He helped her build her morale.” And Olson was right. Hasan spent just one night in the hospital to give birth last November and did not need a C-section.

Olson, 32, moved to Lakin three years ago in part because he wanted to help patients like Hasan. He had done a fellowship at a mission hospital in Rwanda and wanted to keep working internationally. He’s now one of five family medicine doctors—along with a physician’s assistant—who handle deliveries at KCH, and Anderson plans to add two more doctors this fall.

Erin Keeley, a 27-year-old physician’s assistant, is fluent in Spanish and has befriended many of the local refugees. She’s counseled a first-time mom from Somalia about the safest way to deliver her baby after female genital mutilation, and listened sympathetically to a woman, pregnant with her third child, who had to leave her two older daughters behind in Cuba. “There’s just a sense of medicine as mission here,” Keeley says.

And that mission changes the way patients are treated. Some women told me they feel more welcome in Lakin than they do in Garden City hospitals and clinics. They don’t have to sit for hours in the waiting room, and if they are uninsured, it’s easier to get service. “They don’t make the patients feel like you’re the outsider,”Ahmed says. “More like, ‘How can I help you? What can I do for you?’”

A few weeks before Trump was elected, federal authorities thwarted a plot by a small, anti-Muslim militia group to bomb an apartment complex in Garden City where many Somali immigrants live. By contrast, doctors at Kearny County have befriended their Somali patients, and offer to pray with women during labor, a practice that both Muslim refugees and Christian patients appreciate. “They’re very God-centered people,” Ahmed says. “Especially refugees that have been through a lot in life … it makes an impact and shows them that there is good in the world.”

The doctors also receive substantial perks: 10 weeks paid time off a year, which allows them to travel internationally, and the chance to practice their skills. On a typical day, every family doctor will deliver a baby, see patients in the emergency room and clinic, perform a minor surgery and check on patients in the hospital and nursing home.

Dr. Drew Miller, 38, grew up 40 miles away and has been working at Kearny County Hospital for nearly eight years. After doing his training in Kansas City, the transition back to a rural area was tough. “A small town can feel very isolated and clique-y,” he says. “Those first couple of years, it was very lonely.”

Some locals think the young doctors are only in Lakin to pay off their medical school loans. Older patients complain that they can no longer see the same family doctor every time they need medical care—and the doctor they do see might be their children’s age. Such resentments can make it difficult for newcomers to make friends outside of work. Yet Miller says he’s grown to love Lakin and plans to stay.

As the hospital continues to grow, Kearny County is looking for ways to expand its staff and possibly open a clinic closer to the Tyson plant. Anderson is working with an architect to design a master plan for the hospital that would include more birthing suites. Olson says the next big challenge is recruiting and retaining nurses to work exclusively in the obstetrics unit. Doctors can’t stay with patients through hours and hours of labor, so well-trained nurses must fill that role.

Meanwhile, Fatha Hasan keeps bringing her son to see Olson, and recommends him to friends and neighbors. “She’s praying that God gives Olson a long life to live,” Ahmed says.


How the ‘Watergate Babies’ Broke American Politics

For millions of Americans, from political analysts to readers confronting their morning newspapers, the dysfunction of today’s Congress is a disturbing mystery. The majority, which controls the agenda and schedule of the House, seems riven with division; the leadership seems bereft of methods or muscle for enforcing discipline; distrust pervades relations with Senate colleagues, and the relationship with the White House, controlled by the majority’s own party, is unpredictable and volatile. With the Republicans locked in seemingly intractable conflict with a minority focused on regaining power, the Congress has rarely been less productive or less well-regarded in the public’s perception.

It wasn’t always like this; in some ways, it was worse. For generations, the House was a secretive, hierarchical, tradition-bound institution that gave little regard or influence to newcomers. Power was concentrated so assiduously in the handful of committee chairs that even the elected leadership hesitated to challenge the old men with the gavel. From the dour Woodrow Wilson through the thundering Lyndon Johnson, the House lumbered along in its top-heavy, anachronistic style, incapable of competing with an executive branch that was increasingly agile and expansive, well-suited to modern mass communications, and aggregating power by virtue of its ability to act decisively.

That model changed in the 1970s, along with many core aspects of American society. Against the fallout of the Watergate scandal and the executive branch abuses of the Nixon administration, the November 1974 congressional election resulted in one of the largest infusions of new faces into the House of Representatives in political history. On January 3, 1975, 93 new men and women became members of the Congress, 76 of them Democrats (49 occupying seats previously held by Republicans).

This was not just another group of the post–World War II House liberal reformers who had struggled against a stultifying institutional structure. Members of the Class of ’74 believed that if they were able to make the institution and its procedures more transparent to the public, both the House and American politics overall would change forever.

With few exceptions, the Class of ’74 did not seek office to reform an outdated Congress, but upon their arrival, they quickly learned a key lesson: without changes to traditions like the seniority system that disproportionately rewarded conservatives in single-party districts, few of their policy objectives would be achievable. However, the reforms they helped implement not only ended the deference to seniority, but also redistributed power within the House, to the elected leadership and also to increasingly autonomous subcommittees on which more junior members would play an influential role. The meetings, deliberations and votes of those panels, and the House floor itself, were opened to increased public scrutiny and accountability thanks to greater press access and recorded voting.

When volatile political, religious and cultural issues combined with procedural reforms that the Class of ’74 pushed through in an attempt to open up Congress, the changes set in motion unanticipated transformations that endangered the longtime Democratic majority, promoted the realignment of the political parties along ideological lines, and helped to institutionalize a distinctly partisan and confrontational style that permeates contemporary American politics today.

“We were a conquering army,” recalls George Miller, the longtime California congressman and Class of ’74 member who took office at the age of 29. “We came here to take the Bastille. We destroyed the institution by turning the lights on.”


From the moment they arrived in Washington, they were labeled the “Watergate Babies,” a derisive sobriquet suggesting immaturity and self-centeredness. In truth, surprisingly few members of the Class of ’74 cited the modernizing of the Congress as a central motivation in their decision to run for Congress. In interviews with over 40 of the Class’ members, both Democrats and Republicans recalled that they aspired to change national policy: on energy, on the environment, on issues affecting women and minorities, and especially, on Vietnam.

After years of Watergate drama, voters in 1974 sent a message that they wanted to purge corrupt and unresponsive politicians—particularly those who’d aligned with the Nixon White House. In California’s conservative Orange County, “Watergate made it possible for me to win” with 56 percent of the vote, remembers Jerry Patterson, a Class member. Paul Tsongas in Massachusetts and Les AuCoin in Oregon became the first Democrats to win their seats in a century or more. The tidal pull of the election was so powerful that it swept along candidates with unusual backgrounds: Bob Krueger, a Duke professor and Shakespearean scholar with an Oxford Ph.D., won in Texas despite a decade’s absence from his district, while Eddie Beard was a Rhode Island house painter who had never left his hometown.

Especially significant were Democratic victories in the former Confederacy, a region where the number of Republican House members had quintupled from just seven in 1960 to 34 in 1972. In the aftermath of the civil rights movement, Kevin Phillips had predicted in The Emerging Republican Majority (1969) that these states would boost Republican fortunes in competing for House control; but in 1974, Democrats won back nine House seats in the region, swelling the number of Southerners in the caucus to 81. The wave was so formidable that in Georgia, the ultraconservative Democrat Larry McDonald, a newcomer who had been briefly jailed for failure to pay alimony just a few months before the election, narrowly defeated a former Vietnam prisoner of war.

The new freshmen Democrats were generally young, mostly male, and almost exclusively white. Overall, 87 members of the Class were under the age of 40, shaving two decades off the average age of House Democrats. Many newcomers were in their early 30s or even 20s and more closely resembled long-haired college students than national legislators. “We were young, we looked weird,” observed Connecticut’s Toby Moffett, a former “raider” for famed consumer advocate Ralph Nader. “I can’t even believe we got elected!”

Stylistically, the Class proved an exasperating mystery to some older legislators, even those sharing its policy objectives. Some were Vietnam-era veterans, others were teachers or entrepreneurs or state legislators; one a steelworker, another a gospel singer; one was a member of the John Birch Society, another openly sympathized with Students for a Democratic Society.

Their youth and impatience with the pace of the House made some Class members appear impetuous, which did little to endear the newcomers to their senior leaders. “Close to half had never campaigned for any office before running for Congress,” marveled Massachusetts Congressman Tip O’Neill, the House majority leader. They “had never rung doorbells, or driven people to the polls, or stayed late stuffing envelopes at campaign headquarters,” all hallmarks of the sort of earn-your-stripes machine politics that O’Neill knew well from Boston.

But the absence of deference didn’t mean they were hostile to government itself. “The need is not bigger government, but better government,” explained Class member Phil Sharp. They were a “‘new breed’ of legislator,” one commentator wrote, “young, brash, independent of its elders and their system, rejecting cronyism and parochialism, [imposing] a new order of ethics and independence.” “We believed government could be a force for good,” says Jim Blanchard, a Class member from Michigan who later served two terms as governor. Ideologically, “we were the products of the inspiration of JFK more than the Vietnam War.” Their goal, a New York Times reporter summarized, was to open up the legislative process, to “restore Congress to its proper constitutional rank as a co-equal branch of government [and] to staunch the systemic corruption that seemed to be the price of a bloated presidency.”

To the leadership, it seemed that many in the Class arrived with “a million grievances,” as O’Neill recalled. Class members challenged the desultory pace and anemic legislative output allowed by the powerful committee chairmen and tolerated by the leaders. Equally important, the freshmen wanted to send a clear signal to voters back home that they had not simply become a part of the congressional muddle they had been elected to purify. One of their first decisions was to create an unprecedented New Members Caucus to assert their collective power. “Your people voted for you because they thought you wanted to change the system,” remembers Miller. “We were running against this system. Why join up with the established group?”

The freshmen rejected the notion of simply following the instructions of senior members and the leadership; if the leadership wanted something, they’d have to persuade. Often, a member of the Democratic whip organization “just stood at the [House] door with his thumbs up or down,” signaling how to vote and expecting acquiescence from members, Miller recalls. Nobody was going to tell them how to vote without providing information and answering questions. “You could say there are 20 of us: We demand a meeting!” says Miller. The freshmen’s “mutual deference, not party discipline,” the National Journal suggested, “would become the rule.”


When the Class members arrived in January 1975, they were greeted by a group of would-be reformers, some of whom had battled for reforms while many in the Class were still in college. Since the mid-1950s, dissident groups of Democrats—Jimmy Roosevelt’s Raiders, Gene McCarthy’s Marauders—had sought to reduce the influence of the House’s conservative governing elite. By 1959, they had coalesced into the Democratic Study Group, whose influential members would include future leaders like Tom Foley, Jim O’Hara, Don Fraser and Bob Kastenmeier. Bella Abzug, the New York dynamo, called the freshmen “the Reinforcements,” and they proved ready to serve as the “shock troops … all charged up for change,” says Tim Wirth, a class member from Colorado.

Under the tutelage of these veterans, the freshmen learned that achieving their policy goals was inextricably linked to removing obstructions that prevented the House from addressing policy areas like health care, energy, and the environment. The veteran reformers explained that the most urgent step was the removal of several problematic chairmen long protected by the nearly sacrosanct seniority system.

More than any other anachronism, the seniority system infuriated the reformers, whose priorities were obstructed, and whose level of participation in committee and floor activity was squelched, by unresponsive chairmen, many of whom voted far more often with the Republican minority than with their own caucus. “If you live longer and get elected oftener than anybody else on your committee, you, by God, will become chairman of it when your party is in the majority,” wrote Missouri Rep Richard olling, a longtime reformer by the time the Class of ’74 was sworn in.

Seniority had originated in 1910 as a reform to prevent a seaker from naming only his own friends and allies as chairs. Seniority, it was believed, based selection solely on one neutral factor: the amount of time served in the House. Neither friendships, alliances, nor ideology entered into the designation of chairmen. or as long as anyone could remember, junior members were expected to accede to the accumulated wisdom and experience of more senior members. “Don’t try to go too fast,” legendary Speaker Sam Rayburn famously counseled. “If you want to get along, go along.”

“Getting along” and “going along” meant rarely speaking in caucus or committee meetings or during debate on the House floor, and even less rarely offering amendments. It was the atypical newcomer who had the opportunity to see a bill he had authored taken up for consideration, and even more extraordinary for a novice to manage a bill on the House floor. Power was concentrated so assiduously in the handful of committee chairs that even the elected leadership hesitated to challenge one of the old men with a gavel in his hand. When Rep. Howard Smith of Virginia—who, as chairman of the Rules Committee, effectively determined what legislation flowed from committees to the floor—refused to consider civil rights legislation reported from the Judiciary Committee, neither the chairman nor the seaker could force their bill past the crusty old segregationist for years.

The absoluteness of the seniority system, Bolling wrote, gave a chairman “license to cavalierly defy the majority on his own committee, the Congress, the President, the courts, and most Americans except his ever-loving constituents.” Only on the rarest of occasions did defiance of the party provoke retribution. When Democrats John Bell Williams of Mississippi, the chairman of the Commerce Committee, and Albert Watson of South Carolina endorsed Republican Barry Goldwater for president in 1964, the caucus had enough. “I don’t want to put up with these traitorous bastards anymore,” declared Hale Boggs of Louisiana, the Democratic whip. The leadership rescinded Williams’ seniority, which deprived him of his chairmanship. Watson, who declared he would “not sit around and be bullied by Northern liberals,” renounced his status as a Democrat, quit the House, and was promptly reelected as a Republican, the first in South Carolina in the 20th century.

Among Democrats, dissatisfaction with the seniority system came to a boil in the mid-1960s, as passage of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act led to frustration and anger among the old-guard of Southern white conservative Democrats who had long dominated the House’s committees. As millions of black voters registered for the first time, and white conservative Democrats began shifting to a reviving Republican Party, the security of many Democratic incumbents became less certain. Their losses were a harbinger of a trend in which southern seats shifted to Republicans following the departure of an entrenched Democrat. The old guard Southern Democrats, predicted Rep. Carl Albert, would soon be left to rot “in the graveyard of the white man’s democracy.”

Opposition to unconditional seniority was the reform that unified the freshmen. The evidence justifying major reform was contained in an exhaustive report by DSG and Common Cause enumerating the shortcomings of several of the chairs. Overall, 14 of 22 were faulted for being “disrespectful to the caucus,” echoing the prejudice of the former longtime Agriculture Chairman Harold Cooley. (“I hate and detest junior members interrupting a senior member asking a question,” Cooley once had declared. “Senior members will ask all the important questions and conduct all the committee work.”) The report targeted five chairs: W.R. Poage (Agriculture), Wright Patman (Banking), Wayne Hays (House Administration), George Mahon (Appropriations), and F. Edward Hébert (Armed Services).

Patman, Ray Madden, the 82-year-old Rules chairman, and Harley Staggers, 67, of the Commerce Committee, were accused of “significant shortcomings,” while Poage, Mahon and Hays “showed a pattern of more serious abuses.” The report was especially critical of Hébert for having “flagrantly violated standards of fairness and compliance with House and Caucus rules” by stacking subcommittees with pro-war members and “punishing” those with whom he disagreed. The freshmen were especially alarmed to learn that their efforts to end the war in Vietnam would face enormous roadblocks if Hébert maintained the Armed Services chair.

Determined to disseminate power more broadly, the caucus decided to limit members to one subcommittee chairmanship, ending the practice by which a small number of members exercised their seniority to claim the gavel on as many as four subcommittees. In a decision that had major implications for junior members, each committee member was allowed to select one subcommittee before anyone chose a second assignment. This change meant that freshmen were able to fill up the slots on powerful subcommittees as their top choices, freezing out more senior members. As a result, the membership of some subcommittees became distinctly more junior and more progressive than was the composition of the parent committee that had been fashioned by the leadership to reflect the diverse views within the caucus. Taken together, the impact of these changes was sweeping: even those chairmen who were not challenged found their power significantly circumscribed by the energized subcommittees.

For conservatives, the message was ominous. “Watch out,” Georgia veteran Phil Landrum cautioned his colleagues. “The revolution’s going to get you.”


The culture clash brought on by the Class’s reforms wasn’t all a game of inside baseball. It was about how the members of the Class spoke, and the relationship they had with mass media.

Veterans of the long struggles for civil rights, for women, for children, for the environment, for people with disabilities, these new legislators articulated their agenda not merely as policy objectives but as constitutional and ethical “rights” with a profoundly moral dimension: a right to an abortion, a right to clean water and air, a right to consumer safety. While the practice occurred among liberals in the class of 1974, it increasingly appeared among conservatives as well: a right to gun ownership, a right to life for unborn fetuses, a right to lower taxes, a right to less government, a right to freedom from government regulation.

Elevating policy goals to the status of rights would prove to be a crucial step in the evolution of ideological partisanship in the United States. The application of such a moral dimension to the framing of public issues served to diminish the attractiveness of compromise in pursuit of a common objective. Negotiating a compromise on a disagreement about funding levels or whether to construct wastewater treatment plants did not raise thorny issues of morality; legislators were comfortable with legislating solutions by “splitting the difference.” But compromising on issues imbued with moral absoluteness was regarded as far less meritorious by members and by the interest groups that rated, financed and provided grass-roots supporters for their campaigns. In a legislative environment that compels compromise in order to function efficiently, it was an unforeseen step toward a more polarized atmosphere.

Then there was the push to open up Congress to the public—not only with public committee meetings, but televised sessions.

The goal, said Class member Bill Brodhead, was to “put everybody on record, no hiding from press or constituents.” Although there had been occasional television coverage of major hearings like the Army-McCarthy inquiry or the Watergate investigation, coverage of floor debates had long been resisted on a bipartisan basis. Republican David Dennis had warned that live floor coverage would encourage “prima donnas … who will be spending more time making hay on the TV camera than in doing the business that we are sent there to transact.”

The enormous popularity of the Watergate and impeachment hearings—which gave tens of millions of Americans their first live look at extended congressional hearings—increased the pressure. By October 1975, a joint committee recommended that both the House and Senate allow TV coverage of committees as well as the floor. When the House turned on the floodlights and cameras on March 19, 1979, the first speaker on the airwaves was a technology-savvy sophomore from Tennessee, Al Gore, who optimistically predicted, “The solution for lack of confidence in government is more open government at all levels. Television will change this institution just as it has changed the executive branch … but the good will far outweigh the bad.”

The historic decision to allow live television coverage of the floor and virtually all committee hearings had profound, if not unexpected, consequences.

The lure of the camera proved powerful. Members delivered speeches and offered motions that had less to do with legislating than with appealing to partisans, funders and the press not only during formal House business but also during the legislatively irrelevant “one-minute speeches” and “special orders” at the beginning and end of the day (and sometimes well into the night). Where such speeches previously had typically been honorific—congratulating the local sports team or a spelling bee winner—in the televised era, they became vehicles for inflammatory criticisms of the other party that required no countervailing response from those under attack.

Precluded from bringing legislation to the floor, minority Republicans strategically employed these informal procedures to present alternative policy goals to national audiences, knowing that most observers were unable to distinguish genuine legislative debate from the rhetorical spectacle. Newt Gingrich, first elected in 1978 and among the most aggressive in the practice of inflammatory floor debate, credited TV coverage with having “provided a group of media-savvy House conservatives with a method of … winning a prime-time audience” while becoming a national media figure.

As the number of investigations doubled beginning with the Class’s 94th House, the nature of oversight increasingly reflected the “new polarized, winner-take-all Congresses featuring sharp partisanship and polarization in the new technology age.” Fueled by the new generation of investigative, exposé-oriented journalists spawned by Watergate, oversight became a crucial weapon for attacking the opposing party, especially during periods of divided government when the rate of investigations, often “framed by alleged negligence, abuse of power, violation of law, and ethical misconduct,” increased substantially.

The ability to force votes on highly divisive political and cultural issues—and the infusion of members who were happy to do so—drew deep cleavages between the parties. On the Democratic side, those issues involved reduction in military spending, environmentalism, and expanded rights for minorities and women. For Republicans, “cutting-edge” issues like school busing, reducing welfare, crime, and curbing the growing “permissive and irreligious” lifestyle served as valuable differentiating organizational and tactical devices. The sheer number of floor votes on these controversial topics “contributed to the sense of uncertainty and instability that was pervasive” in the House.

The approach was developed by Republican strategists like South Carolina activist Lee Atwater. A 1981 Atwater memo on conservative messaging techniques described how the harsh racist terminology of the 1950s had been replaced in the late 1970s with more innocuous terms like “forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff.” “Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic,” Atwater wrote. “‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing.”

“We saw the Southern conservatism emerging,” recalled top Republican House strategist Bill Pitts, “and [we] took advantage of it” to target vulnerable Democratic seats. One of the Republican activists later recalled it was “our job to so structure the confrontations that swing Democrats and marginal Democrats will have no choice.”

By using floor procedures to fashion amendments on divisive issues that put marginal Democrats in conflict with their constituencies or their party, these strategists found a political game plan that reforms had inadvertently facilitated.

“They’ve either got to leave their leadership or get defeated at the polls,” the Republican declared. “That’s how we’re trying to design every confrontation.” The number of recorded votes, which had risen from 177 in 1969 to 537 at the time of the 1974 election, grew to 661 during the Class’s first session, and in 1976 to more than 800 recorded votes, often on issues like abortion, school busing and flag burning.

Bob Bauman of Maryland bragged about his efforts to impose abortion restrictions to “create political difficulties for the Democratic incumbents.” It worked.


As early as mid-1975, some in the Class feared that the decentralization of power in the House was complicating, not facilitating, the legislative process. Even some of the reformers accepted the unintentional consequences of some of their decisions. “You make the rules more democratic,” one senior staff observer noted, “and things are bound to look messier.”

Scholars who had bemoaned the lethargy of the Congress in the 1960s now questioned whether reformism might produce, in the words of Henry Graff of Columbia University, “a generation of political cowards … either virgins or eunuchs fearful of making consequential decisions” because of expanded public scrutiny and competitiveness.

An especially sharp critique came from conservative intellectual Irving Kristol, who likened Congress’ periodic reform efforts to “spasmodic self-abuse.” Far from resolving the problems of the Congress, he warned, the “reforms aiming to solve today’s problems are likely to constitute the problems of tomorrow,” promoting partisan division by demanding an unattainable “insistence on a degree of political purity.”

Sunshine laws, Kristol argued, penalized candor and rewarded “grandstanding” by self-promoting legislators skilled at taking advantage of their newfound access to round-the-clock coverage by the media. The transparency rules, he predicted, would do little but “provide opportunities for mischievous intervention by various publicity-hunting busybodies,” while complicating the search for compromise and forcing deliberations even further behind closed doors. Hays agreed, and by 1976, argued publicly that the presence of the press and public had generated “more partisanship and more hardenings [of positions].” Votes on procedural rules were transformed from inconsequential housekeeping decisions into votes on which members were held as accountable as on the substance of a bill itself. These rules battles became far more frequent and partisan.

There was a rising disquiet, a sense that perhaps the reforms had gone too far, had damaged the capacity of the institution to function effectively, jeopardizing the ability to achieve political goals. Within the Congress, no less a reform advocate than Richard Bolling cautioned about “the demagoguery” of some of the changes approved by the House. “We had no idea how good we had it,” Wirth said later, reflecting on his early years in the House.


By the late 1970s, the ideological sorting already had left the minority faction of each party—the conservative Democrats and the liberal Republicans—sharing a sense they were ill-treated by their party’s majority.

Pennsylvania’s Bob Walker, elected in 1976, epitomized the keen edge of the younger Republican activists who, like many in the Class of 1974, viewed his own party leaders with almost as much disdain as anyone in the other party did. “Many of our more senior members didn’t see any way out of minority status,” he recalled. “They found it easier to cooperate with Democrats to get a percentage of the action,” which blunted the GOP’s ability to distinguish itself and left the party with “no real case to take to the country.”

The new conservatives, Congressional Quarterly noted, were “scornful of the Republican Party” and its congressional leadership, and were dedicated to “carefully raising money and building the organization … to move Congress sharply to the right over the next several elections.”

Achieving that goal required promoting issues that defined conservatism distinctly, pressing contentious votes, raising money, and identifying prospective candidates for office. During the 94th Congress, conservative groups utilized the 1974 campaign reform law to increase their House fundraising from just $250,000 for the 1974 election by more than 10 times, to $3.5 million for the 1976 House cycle, with little notice.

By 1978, the new conservatives had the capacity to target some of the Class members they viewed as occupying seats that rightly belonged to Republicans. It was the year “when conservatism started to raise its head,” recalled Class member Mike Blouin, who lost his Iowa seat that November. “Single-issue [groups] with deep pockets took control of the process,” he recalled. “The brickbrats came out, and campaigns got mean.”

Over the next several congresses, Class Democrats tied the decline in collegiality and collaboration to the new generation of Republicans who began arriving in 1978 and successfully exploited the reforms of the mid-1970s to push conservative priorities.

In particular, they pointed to Gingrich as the most tactical and methodical of Republican strategists, who emphasized the need for message discipline over legislative mastery and who employed viscerally partisan rhetoric atypical of either party. “Newt was a game-changer,” Don Bonker said. “He came in throwing grenades, with a machete.” “Newt wouldn’t say ‘bad,’” Jim Florio recalled, “he said ‘pathetic,’ which drove polarization.” Harkin highlighted Gingrich’s writings that taught GOP candidates to “speak like Newt,” employing harsh epithets aimed at “personally destroying your opponent,” including terms like “sick,” “pathetic” and “traitors” to impugn Democrats who “cheat” and “lie.”

Despite the rise in partisan feuding—culminating in Gingrich’s stunning purge of Speaker Jim Wright in 1989—few anticipated that the Democratic majority itself might be endangered.

In the aftermath of the Reagan landslide in 1981, in which Democrats lost 33 House seats and the Senate shifted to Republican control for the first time since 1954, a group of Class members including Toby Moffett, Tom Downey and George Miller had visited with Speaker Tip O’Neill to raise concerns that, unless the trend were arrested, the House might soon have a Republican majority. He dismissed them as alarmists; the permanency of Democratic control seemed beyond question.

Less than a decade later, Class member Les AuCoin, who lost a close race to incumbent Sen. Bob Packwood in 1992, sensed “a deeper, undetectable shift in the tectonic plates,” a swing away from the confidence in government activism the Class had brought to Washington.

More than the careers of most in the Class was at an end; it was a new era with a new set of empowered conservative activists practicing a combative form of politics in pursuit of very different objectives for the House and for the country. “The Great Society was over,” AuCoin noted, as was the Class’ reform era, “but no one knew it.”


Manafort’s ex-son-in-law’s attorneys quit over unpaid bills and ‘lack of candor’

Bankruptcy attorneys hired by Paul Manafort’s former son-in-law Jeffrey Yohai are seeking to drop their representation of at least one of his businesses, citing unpaid bills and a ‘lack of candor.’

The move comes about a week after press reports that Yohai secretly entered a guilty plea earlier this year in a criminal case relating to financing for his real estate deals. The plea led to speculation that Yohai might be providing evidence to prosecutors working for special counsel Robert Mueller on two criminal cases against Manafort.

In filings Friday in federal bankruptcy court, attorneys from the Torrance, California, law firm of Hinds & Shankman told a judge that they can no longer represent Yohai’s Baylor Holding, LLC real estate firm.

"As of the filing of this motion, Baylor is in default under various provisions of the singed [sic] engagement letter with H&S, including by way of example only, lack of candor, lack of cooperation, and non-payment expenses [sic] and attorneys’ fees," attorneys James Hinds, Paul Shankman and Rachel Sposato wrote. "Failure by a client to be candid with counsel, a failure to cooperate in the engagement, and a failure to pay for services are all good cause for counsel to seek leave of the court to withdraw. … Baylor has repeatedly failed to be candid with H&S, top [sic] cooperate with H&S and has failed to pay its outstanding attorneys fees and costs."

Baylor is an investment vehicle Manafort and Yohai used to purchase various properties in the Los Angeles area. Court records list Yohai as the "managing member" of the company.

In response to an email message from POLITICO, Hinds said his role was limited to business issues related to the properties Yohai was trying to develop.

"Our representation of Jeffrey ended when he was unable to refi the three properties in Bankruptcy Court. I have nothing to do with Jeffrey’s criminal issues," Hinds said.

Yohai appears to have been under increasing financial stress over the past several years, as he struggled to finance the real estate projects and faced lawsuits from disgruntled investors like actor Dustin Hoffman. A Reuters report on Yohai’s plea earlier this year said he is now represented by a public defender, typically available only to defendants who are indigent.

Yohai and Manafort’s daughter Jessica divorced last year.


Nunes feels Russia probe blowback at home

LOS ANGELES — Devin Nunes, the California congressman whose allegiance to Donald Trump has made him public enemy number one to many Democrats, is beginning to feel the heat back home.

His little-known challenger is awash in cash from across the country as a result of Nunes’ polarizing role in the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. An independent expenditure campaign has posted hostile billboards along Highway 99, the heavily traveled main road through Nunes’ Central Valley district.

On Wednesday, a report in the Fresno Bee linked Nunes to a winery that allegedly held a wild cocaine-and-prostitutes evening yacht cruise — a winery where the congressman is a part-owner.

Yet Nunes isn’t blinking. In response to the first real challenge of his career, the House Intelligence Committee chairman recently raised a dizzying $2.3 million in just over six weeks — nearly as much as he raised in his entire 2016 campaign.

He now holds more cash on hand — in excess of $5 million — than any other Republican House incumbent in California.

“It’s a lot to raise in six weeks, and it’s a lot in a district like his,” said Bill Whalen, a former speechwriter for Gov. Pete Wilson and a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

“That money, like real estate, goes a lot further in the Central Valley,” he said, noting that advertising is less expensive in the Central Valley than in California’s larger media markets.

Nearly $1.5 million of Nunes’ latest fundraising haul came from small, unitemized contributions, according to his pre-primary election FEC report, a sign of his emergence as a direct-mail fundraising powerhouse.

Where Nunes once cut a relatively low profile in Congress, during the Trump presidency he has rallied Republican activists around his efforts to delegitimize the Russia probe. The president showed his gratitude earlier this week, praising Nunes as a “very courageous man” — all of it stands to boost the congressman’s standing among the conservative grassroots and bring in more bucks.

The Californian’s fundraising strategy suffers from a low rate of return — in April and early May alone, Nunes spent more than $1.3 million on direct mail, in addition to renting email lists and hats and yard signs. But he is tapping into small-dollar donors both in his district and across the United States, and it’s enabling him to build a powerful small-donor list that could be of use in future campaigns and political endeavors.

While Trump and Nunes remain popular in a conservative-oriented district that the president carried by nearly 10 percentage points in 2016, Andrew Janz, a Fresno prosecutor, has emerged as one of the Democratic Party’s top online fundraisers among House candidates.

Janz has pivoted off the criticism of Nunes by the Fresno Bee, the dominant newspaper in the district, which has variously called Nunes “inept” and “subservient” to Trump.

“He certainly isn’t representing his Central Valley constituents or Californians, who care much more about health care, jobs and, yes, protecting Dreamers than about the latest conspiracy theory,” the editorial board wrote early this year. “Instead, he’s doing dirty work for House Republican leaders trying to protect President Donald Trump in the Russia investigation.”

Janz has raised more than $1.8 million to date — more than enough money to air TV ads ahead of the primary election — but he’s still been overwhelmed by Nunes’ recent fundraising. The Democrat raised $463,767 during the same six-week period and was left with less than $600,000 on hand.

Both are widely expected to advance from California’s June 5 top-two primary election to the general election in November. Nunes, who remains the odds-on favorite, appears to be stockpiling as a hedge against a potential Democratic surge in the fall.

“I’m still skeptical it’s going to be a competitive district,” said Rob Pyers of the California Target Book, which handicaps races in the state. “The fundamentals of that district are too Republican, I think, for any Democrat to make serious inroads.”