Alice Ollstein

Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.

Articles by Alice

The Senate returns to D.C. Monday evening after a week-long recess, and on the surface they appear to be even further from a deal to pass a health care bill than when they canceled a planned vote in late June.

Existing ideological divisions were exacerbated over the break as lawmakers were hit from all sides—hounded by constituents at town halls, hammered with attack ads, and pressured by GOP leaders and President Donald Trump to pass something in the few short weeks before their August recess.

But despite some Republicans declaring the effort “dead,” a flurry of activity—including backroom negotiations and new data from the Congressional Budget Office—could bring the bill back to life. Some GOP leaders are even saying that a vote could happen as early as next week.

Here are the things to watch as the debate unfolds:

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The Senate returns today from a week-long recess—during which GOP lawmakers largely avoided their constituents—and will pick up where they left off in hammering out an agreement on their bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Deep ideological, policy and political divides still remain among the Republican majority, exacerbated by a growing body of evidence that the bill would cause tens of millions of people to lose their health insurance over the next decade, raise out-of-pocket costs for millions more, and restrict access to crucial services.

Here are 9 charts that lay out the severe impacts of the Senate’s health care bill’s provisions.

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Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya met with high-level members of President Donald Trump’s campaign shortly after he clinched the GOP nomination, according to a report published Saturday by the New York Times.

Veselnitskaya, who is married to a former deputy transportation minister, and who has represented several companies controlled by the Russian government, is best known for lobbying against a U.S. law that sanctions suspected Russian human rights violators. Striking down that law, the Magnitsky Act, has been a top priority for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The meeting on June 9, 2016 reportedly including Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, his son Donald Trump Jr., and his erstwhile campaign manager Paul Manafort. Manafort and Kushner are now under investigation in the sprawling probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The New York Times reports that representatives of Donald J. Trump Jr. and Mr. Kushner confirmed that the meeting did in fact take place, but declined to comment on whether the campaign itself was discussed. Kushner did not originally disclose the meeting on his White House security clearance form, but did so recently on an amended version. Manafort reportedly disclosed the meeting to congressional committees investigation Russian election interference.


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Just before leaving the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany on Saturday, President Donald Trump held a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Following that high-level talk, the White House blasted out a transcript of Trump’s public remarks preceding the meeting, a document that called Xi “President Xi of the Republic of China.”

One problem: the “Republic of China” refers to Taiwan. China is referred to as the “People’s Republic of China.”

This is not the first time that Trump has blundered into the extremely sensitive question of Taiwan’s sovereignty.

Before he was even sworn into office, Trump angered China by taking a phone call from Taiwan’s president, something a U.S. leader has not done in decades. Though Trump defended the call at the time, he later told Xi he would honor the “one China” policy and not recognize Taiwan’s status as a sovereign nation.

On Saturday, according to the White House’s transcript, Trump told Xi: “It’s an honor to have you as a friend,” and called China a “great trading partner.”

Though the White House did not provide a translation of Xi’s remarks, Shanghai Media Group’s correspondent Ching-Yi Chang shared a translation with the U.S. press.

Xi, striking a more sober note than Trump, said “there is a lot of work needed to be done” on the “sensitive issues [that] remain in the China-U.S. relationship.”

“Differences emerge endlessly,” Xi reported said.

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President Donald Trump’s attorneys argued in a court filing late Friday that a defamation lawsuit from former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos—who claims Trump sexually assaulted her nearly a decade ago—should be dismissed.

Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz said that Zervos’ accusations are false and “politically motivated,” and said that Trump’s campaign trail statements calling Zervos and 10 other women who accused him of sexual harassment “liars…telling totally false stories” are legal under the First Amendment and do not constitute defamation.

“The Statements—all of which were advanced during a heated political campaign to convince the public to vote for Mr. Trump, and many of which were published via Twitter—constitute non-actionable rhetoric and hyperbole that is protected by the First Amendment,” the filing reads.

Kasowitz, who is also representing him in the investigation into potential collusion with Russia to influence the 2016 election, further argued that a 1997 Supreme Court ruling that held that presidents can be sued while in office for their private conduct only applies to federal lawsuits. Zervos’ lawsuit was filed in New York’s state court system.

Zervos, who must file a reply to the court in August, has accused Trump of groping and kissing her against her will when she visited him to ask for a job at the Trump Organization. She said she would not have filed the suit had the infamous Access Hollywood tape of Trump bragging about groping another woman not leaked, and had Trump not publicly denied he had ever engaged in such behavior.

“You do not have the right to treat women as sexual objects just because you are a star,” Zervos said when she filed the suit.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin held a press conference Saturday morning at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, claiming that President Donald Trump accepted his denials of Russian hacking and interference in the 2016 election when the two leaders met in private on Friday.

Putin, according to the Associated Press, confirmed what Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters after the meeting: that Trump asked Putin multiple times about accusations that Russia interfered in the U.S. presidential election on his behalf.

Putin asserted Saturday that he thinks his answers denying allegations of Russian meddling “satisfied” Trump.

“It seems to me that he has taken note of that and agreed, but it’s better to ask him about his attitude,” Putin said, according to AP. Putin added that “Moscow and Washington would be able to improve their ties if the two countries keep relating the way he and Trump did.”

U.S. officials denied this account of the meeting on Friday, but did so anonymously instead of in a public press conference.

But Tillerson, much to the alarm of U.S. lawmakers, said the Friday meeting between the two presidents focused not on accountability for the hacking, but on how to “move forward,” including plans to cooperate on cybersecurity.

Trump, in a break with longstanding tradition, left the G20 summit without holding a press conference. He was one of the only world leaders to do so.

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On Saturday, a Russian official tweeted out a photo, that has since been deleted, of first daughter Ivanka Trump sitting in her father’s place at a meeting of world leaders at the G20 summit on the topic of African migration and health.

Ivanka, an unpaid but official White House adviser, briefly took President Donald Trump’s seat between Chinese President Xi Jinping and British Prime Minister Theresa May when Trump stepped out of the room.

A White House official told the Associated Press that Ivanka Trump had been sitting in the back of the room, and moved forward when the president of the World Bank began discussing topics related to a new women’s entrepreneurship fund she is working on.

“The official said that when other leaders stepped out, their seats were also briefly filled by others,” AP reported.

The stand-ins for other heads of state, however, were government ministers or senior officials, not a family member with no previous foreign policy experience. Several U.S. pundits condemned the move as “grotesque” and reminiscent of a “banana republic.”

Just a few weeks ago, in an interview on Fox News, Ivanka Trump said that she tries “to stay out of politics.”

“I don’t profess to be a political-savant,” she said. “I leave the politics to the other people and work on issues I deeply care about.”

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A federal court heard arguments Friday in a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s demand from all 50 states for sensitive voter information, including addresses, Social Security numbers and party affiliation data.

Over the July 4 holiday weekend, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) sued the leaders of the dubious “election integrity” commission—Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach—saying they had committed “egregious security blunders” that “would enable identity theft and financial fraud.” They’re demanding that the commission’s data collection efforts be immediately halted.

Already, the vast majority of states have resisted the commission’s inquiry, with at least 44 states refusing to hand over some of the information requested. In court on Friday, an attorney for the Justice Department admitted that only one state, Arkansas, has sent its voter information to the federal government thus far.

EPIC’s attorneys argued, for their part, that the commission is violating the E-Government Act of 2002, which government agencies to conduct a privacy impact assessment before collecting personal information using information technology. No assessment was conducted before requesting voter data, the suit alleges. The DOJ lawyer responded that because the “election integrity” commission is not an official government agency, it does not have to abide by these rules.

EPIC also raised concerns that the site the commission has set up to receive sensitive voter information is hosted by the Pentagon, with a .mil web address.

After hearing both sides make their case on Friday afternoon,US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said she would issue a written opinion in the coming days.

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As Senate Republicans struggled in late June to muster the votes for a health care overhaul, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) threw a Hail Mary pass, urging his colleagues to vote on a bill that would simply repeal the Affordable Care Act without creating anything to take its place.

Asked by TPM how the pitch was received, Paul deadpanned: “Not very well. Lead balloon.”

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As Senate Republicans lurch towards repealing the Affordable Care Act, party leaders and the Trump administration are pushing a new line about the projection that their bill would strip 22 million people of their health insurance over the next decade: that many or most of those people would be exercising their freedoms and dropping coverage by choice.

“If you’re not going to force people to buy something they don’t want, then they won’t buy it,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said on Fox News. “So it’s not that people are getting pushed off a plan. It’s that people will choose not to buy something they don’t like or want.”

Ryan’s GOP colleagues in the Senate are doubling down on this argument even as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and outside health care experts say it is largely the bill’s gutting of Medicaid, reduction of subsidies and increase in out-of-pocket costs that would price tens of millions of people out of the health care marketplace entirely.

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