×
July 8, 2018

The Trump administration on Saturday halted $10.4 billion in risk adjustment payments to insurance companies, citing two court rulings from this winter which found the allocations were calculated incorrectly.

Implemented as part of the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, the payments were managed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and were intended to offset costs for insurers with unusually ill and costly enrollees.

The suspension is temporary, but CMS has not issued a new allocation policy or indicated when payments will resume. The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the change, notes "some insurers might seek to 'reprice for the coming year' if it is clear they wouldn't be getting the expected money based on prior years' business." Bonnie Kristian

2:51 p.m.

Attorney General William Barr is reviewing Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on whether President Trump's campaign colluded with Russian election interference, a source familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Saturday. Barr is expected to reveal the principle conclusions of the report soon. Meanwhile, per AP, House Democrats have scheduled a conference call for Saturday to strategize over how they will proceed. As everything winds down, here are three pressing questions that remain about the Mueller investigation.

How much will Barr reveal? To state the obvious, it remains unclear just how much information the attorney general will make available to the public. Barr is under no obligation to provide any aspect of the report, but there are also no laws that prevent him from doing so. Earlier in March, Congress voted unanimously to make the report public.

Will Mueller testify? Congressional investigations into the Trump administration will continue regardless of the Mueller report's conclusions. But how much will Congress rely on Mueller going forward? Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the House Intelligence Committee chair, said on Friday that his committee could call on Mueller to testify before them if the report is not made fully available to Congress.

Is this really the last major legal threat to Trump's presidency? The White House was reportedly feeling very confident about the conclusion of Mueller's investigation. But an undisclosed number of federal and state investigations grew out of Mueller's work that will continue to lurk behind the Trump presidency. These include the prosecution of Trump political adviser Roger Stone, as well as inquiries into the business dealings of close Trump associates like Elliott Broidy and Thomas J. Barrack. No matter how it shakes out, it is therefore unlikely that Trump will be fully in the clear. Tim O'Donnell

1:07 p.m.

Attorney General William Barr sent a letter to Congress on Friday, informing lawmakers that the investigation conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller had reached its conclusion and the final report is now under Barr's review.

The letter did not divulge much — indeed, Barr announced that he would brief Congress more thoroughly "as soon as this weekend." But one of the key pieces information about the process came to light precisely because it was not mentioned in the letter. Per special counsel investigation regulations, The Washington Post reports, Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein were required to, first and foremost, alert Congress when the investigation was complete. Beyond that, the only requirement is to "provide a description and explanation" of any action by the special counsel that the Attorney General deemed "inappropriate or unwarranted."

Barr's initial letter, therefore, would indicate that the Department of Justice did not, over the course of the last two years, block Mueller and his team from investigating anyone. In other words, there does not appear to have been any executive interference.

"There were no such instances during the Special Counsel's Investigation," Barr wrote in the letter. Read the full analysis at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

11:48 a.m.

The king will get some extra rest this year.

For the first time since 2005, the NBA playoffs will not feature LeBron James, whose teams had appeared in 13 straight postseasons, including eight straight trips to the NBA Finals.

James' Los Angeles Lakers were officially eliminated from contention following Friday evening's 111-106 loss to the Brooklyn Nets. Los Angeles dropped to 31-41 overall with 10 games remaining in the regular season.

It's the sixth year in a row that the Lakers, who signed James during the offseason, have missed the postseason. Before the current streak of futility, the storied franchise missed the playoffs only five times during its first 65 seasons in the league, Per ESPN.

Despite the lack of team success and having to deal with a mid-season injury, James still put up his usual prolific numbers, averaging 27.4 points, 8.1 assists, and 8.5 rebounds per game on the year.

"I'm probably going to have a conversation with the coaching staff and my trainer and go from there," James said. "But I love to hoop. S---, I'm going to have five months and not play the game." Tim O'Donnell

11:19 a.m.

The Mueller report is now in the hands of Attorney General William Barr and the early reaction both inside the White House and from analysts is that things are looking good for the Trump administration — especially because Special Counsel Robert Mueller is not recommending any further indictments as a result of the nearly two-year investigation.

CNN legal expert Jeffrey Toobin said the lack of indictments is "unambiguously good news" for the White House.

MSNBC's Chris Matthews, meanwhile, expressed incredulity that the investigation concluded without Mueller directly interviewing Trump, though NBC News reporter Ken Dilanian explained that Trump likely would have invoked the Fifth Amendment regardless.

CBS News' Major Garrett reported that Trump's attorneys also are expecting the investigation to end in the president's favor.

"The special counsel's office is essentially shuttered and they believe not only legally, but importantly politically, the president will be found to be largely, if not completely in the clear," Garret said.

CNN's Jim Acosta likewise reported that the White House was celebrating the news "quietly," but "with a fair amount of glee." Acosta said a Trump campaign adviser told him, "This was a great day for America and we won." Tim O'Donnell

8:41 a.m.

A former Justice Department lawyer who helped write the regulations for special counsel investigations in 1998 and 1999 has added his name to the list of those calling for Attorney General William Barr to make Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, which was handed over to Barr on Friday, available to the public.

Neal Kumar Katyal, who is now a law professor at Georgetown University, wrote in The Washington Post that he and his colleagues drafted regulations for special counsel investigations following independent counsel Ken Starr's investigation into former President Bill Clinton. They wanted to avoid similar investigations in the future which might "produce a lurid document going unnecessarily into detail about someone's intimate conduct."

But he also wrote that the regulations serve as "a floor, not a ceiling" on the amount of transparency that the attorney general can provide to Congress and the public after the special counsel completes an investigation.

"The canard that some Trump allies are floating, that a public release would violate the special counsel regulations, is false," Katyal wrote. "They require transparency and an 'explanation of each action' at the end of the special counsel investigation, but they don't forbid more transparency on top of that."

Katyal argued that Barr "has all the latitude in the world" to make the Mueller public and that he should, indeed, do so. Read the full article at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

8:06 a.m.

New Zealand continues to act swiftly in its response to the mass shootings that claimed 50 lives at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand last week.

The manifesto, believed to be written by Brenton Tarrant, the 28-year-old Australian who has been charged with the murder of 50 people, is now illegal in the country, New Zealand's Office of Film and Literature Classification announced on Saturday. The manifesto, which is more than 80 pages long, is rife with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim content. It was made public online before the shootings occurred and was also sent to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's office just minutes before Tarrant allegedly carried out the attack.

"Others have referred to this publication as a 'manifesto', but I consider it a crude booklet that promotes murder and terrorism. It is objectionable under New Zealand law," New Zealand's Chief Censor David Shanks said. "It crosses the line."

The decision follows another one made earlier this week which banned footage of the shootings, including edited clips and still images. The New Zealand government also banned semi-automatic rifles and accessories just six days after the shooting. Tim O'Donnell

7:47 a.m.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency shared the private data, including banking information, of millions of hurricane and wildfire survivors, the Department of Homeland Security inspector general said in a memo that surfaced on Friday.

The unlawful disclosure places the survivors at "increased risk of identity theft and fraud."

The data was shared with an unidentified federal contractor that was helping the 2.3 million survivors from Hurricanes Irma, Harvey, and Maria, as well as the 2017 California wildfires find housing. It included 20 "unnecessary" fields such as electronic funds transfer numbers, bank transit numbers, and addresses.

FEMA said in a statement that it has already begun filtering the data to ensure it cannot be shared with the public, and the organization has said that there is so far no indication that the information has been compromised. But, per CNN, a more permanent fix may not be finalized until June 2020. Tim O'Donnell

See More Speed Reads