Trump Administration, Week 104: Friday, 11 January – Thursday, 17 January 2019 (Days 722-728)

Boston, 21 January 2017

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are my emphasis. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ a day or so before posting. I hope readers will peruse the articles in full for a better understanding of the issues and their context; our democracy and our future depend on citizens who can distinguish between facts and falsehoods and who are engaged in the political process.


Friday, 11 January 2019, Day 722:


After Trump Fired F.B.I. Director James Comey in May 2017, the F.B.I. Opened an Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of RussiaThe New York Times, Adam Goldman, Michael S. Schmidt, and Nicholas Fandos, Friday, 11 January 2019: “In the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests, according to former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation. The inquiry carried explosive implications. Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the president’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security. Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence. The investigation the F.B.I. opened into Mr. Trump also had a criminal aspect, which has long been publicly known: whether his firing of Mr. Comey constituted obstruction of justice. Agents and senior F.B.I. officials had grown suspicious of Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign but held off on opening an investigation into him, the people said, in part because they were uncertain how to proceed with an inquiry of such sensitivity and magnitude. But the president’s activities before and after Mr. Comey’s firing in May 2017, particularly two instances in which Mr. Trump tied the Comey dismissal to the Russia investigation, helped prompt the counterintelligence aspect of the inquiry, the people said.” See also, Ex-FBI Officials Say Spy Inquiry into President Trump Is ‘Uncharted Territory,’ Daily Beast, Spencer Ackerman, Erin Banco, and Betsy Woodruff, Friday, 11 January 2019: “The White House is blasting as ‘absurd’ a blockbuster new report that the FBI opened an investigation into whether the president of the United States was working on behalf of the Kremlin. But respected former FBI special agents tell The Daily Beast such a momentous step would not be taken without ‘serious and substantial evidence.’  They told The Daily Beast that the senior-most levels of the FBI and Justice Department would have known about an event they considered without precedent in bureau history. ‘This is uncharted territory,’ said Ali Soufan, a retired FBI counterterrorism special agent. ‘I don’t believe that it has happened before… Ever.’ On Friday night, The New York Times reported that FBI agents opened a counterintelligence investigation in May of 2017 into whether President Trump had been operating ‘on behalf of Russia against American interests.'” See also, FBI’s investigation of Trump included a counterintelligence inquiryThe Washington Post, Devlin Barrett and Ellen Nakashima, published on Saturday, 12 January 2019: “The FBI investigation into President Trump that was opened almost immediately after he fired then-director James B. Comey also included a counterintelligence component to determine if the president was seeking to help Russia and if so, why, according to people familiar with the matter. The decision by then-acting FBI director Andrew McCabe to open an investigation of a sitting president was a momentous step, but it came after Trump had cited the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election in his decision to fire Comey, these people said. The counterintelligence component of the Trump investigation was first reported by the New York Times.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has no remaining cancer, Supreme Court announcesThe Washington Post, Robert Barnes, Friday, 11 January 2019: “Tests revealed that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has no additional cancer following her surgery in December, and no further treatment is needed, the Supreme Court announced Friday. ‘Her recovery from surgery is on track,’ court spokeswoman Kathleen Arberg said in a statement. ‘Post-surgery evaluation indicates no evidence of remaining disease, and no further treatment is required.'” See also, Ruth Bader Ginsburg Is Cancer Free After Surgery, Supreme Court SaysThe New York Times, Adam Liptak, Friday, 11 January 2019.

Exasperated Democrats try to rein in Alexandria Ocasio-CortezPolitico, Rachael Bade and Heather Caygle, Friday, 11 January 2019: “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is already making enemies in the House Democratic Caucus — and some of its members are mounting an operation to bring the anti-establishment, democratic socialist with 2.2 million Twitter followers into the fold. The effort, described by nearly 20 lawmakers and aides, is part carrot, part stick: Some lawmakers with ties to Ocasio-Cortez are hoping to coax her into using her star power to unite Democrats and turn her fire on Republicans. Others simultaneously warn Ocasio-Cortez is destined for a lonely, ineffectual career in Congress if she continues to treat her own party as the enemy. ‘I’m sure Ms. Cortez means well, but there’s almost an outstanding rule: Don’t attack your own people,’ said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.). ‘We just don’t need sniping in our Democratic Caucus.’ Incumbent Democrats are most annoyed by Ocasio-Cortez’s threat to back primary opponents against members of their ranks she deems too moderate. But their frustration goes beyond that: Democratic leaders are upset that she railed against their new set of House rules on Twitter the first week of the new Congress. Rank and file are peeved that there’s a grassroots movement to try to win her a top committee post they feel she doesn’t deserve.”

Continue reading Week 104, Friday, 11 January – Thursday, 17 January 2019 (Days 722-728)

Trump Pulls Back From Declaring a National Emergency to Fund a Border WallThe New York Times, Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman, Friday, 11 January 2019: “President Trump has stepped back from declaring a national emergency to pay for a border wall, under pressure from congressional Republicans, his own lawyers and advisers, who say using it as a way out of the government shutdown does not justify the precedent it would set and the legal questions it could raise…. Mr. Trump, who according to aides has grown increasingly frustrated over the refusal of Democrats to bend and sees the shutdown as a road with no off-ramp in sight, hinted on Friday that the warnings were having an effect. ‘What we’re not looking to do right now is national emergency,’ he told reporters gathered in the Cabinet Room as the shutdown approached its fourth week. Minutes later he contradicted himself, saying that he would declare a state of emergency if he had to.” See also, Trump backs off national emergency to build border wall as shutdown becomes longest everThe Washington Post, John Wagner, Erica Werner, Damian Paletta, and Josh Dawsey, published on Saturday, 12 January 2019.

Huge Migrant Teen Detention Camp in Tornillo, Texas, Is Shutting DownThe New York Times, The Associated Press, Friday, 11 January 2019: “The nonprofit running what once was the largest U.S. detention camp housing migrant teenagers said the last children left the facility Friday. The tent city in Tornillo, Texas, is shutting down, and all tents and equipment will be removed from the site by the end of January, said Krista Piferrer, spokeswoman of BCFS Health and Human Services. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the care of migrant children, said all the children who were held at Tornillo have been either released to an appropriate sponsor or transferred to other shelters…. The Tornillo facility opened in June in an isolated pocket of the Texas desert with capacity for 360 children. It expanded into a guarded detention camp that in mid-December held more than 2,700 largely Central American teens in rows of canvas tents.” See also, Tornillo tent city for migrant teens is on the verge of shutting downTexas Tribune, Julián Aguilar, published on Tuesday, 8 January 2019. 

Pentagon Pushes Forward on Syria PulloutThe Wall Street Journal, Nancy A. Youssef and Dion Nissenbaum, Friday, 11 January 2019: “The U.S. military is moving ahead with its plans to withdraw all troops from Syria, in keeping with a White House directive in December, even though a U.S.-Turkey rift appears likely to delay the pullout, defense officials said. White House national security adviser John Bolton said this week that the U.S. wouldn’t leave Syria until Turkey promised not to target the U.S.’s Kurdish partners, provoking a furor during his visit to Ankara and throwing the withdrawal plan into turmoil. But the defense officials said the Pentagon hasn’t received any new direction and until it does, officials are proceeding with withdrawal plans. Scores of ground troops are headed toward Syria to help move troops out, and a group of naval vessels headed by the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge is headed to the region to back up troops at the vulnerable moment they are leaving the country, the officials said. The Kearsarge carries hundreds of Marines, helicopters and other aircraft. ‘Nothing has changed,’ one defense official said. ‘We don’t take orders from Bolton.'” See also, U.S. Military Has Started Withdrawing Some Equipment, but Not Yet Troops, From Syria in Chaotic WithdrawalThe New York Times, Eric Schmitt, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, and Ben Hubbard, Friday, 11 January 2019: “The American military has started withdrawing some equipment, but not yet troops, from Syria as part of President Trump’s order to wind down that battleground against the Islamic State, two Defense Department officials said on Friday amid continuing confusion over plans to disengage from one of the Middle East’s most complex conflicts. The officials said the number of American troops might actually increase slightly in Syria, to help protect the final process of pulling out — an operation that is still expected to take at least four to six months to complete.”

‘Could you make these guys essential?’: Mortgage industry gets shutdown relief after appeal to senior Treasury officialsThe Washington Post, Lisa Rein and Jeff Stein, Friday, 11 January 2019: “After an intense lobbying campaign by the mortgage industry, the Treasury Department this week restarted a program that had been sidelined by the partial government shutdown, allowing hundreds of Internal Revenue Service clerks to collect paychecks as they process forms vital to the lending industry. The hasty intervention to restore the IRS’s income verification service by drawing on revenue from fees — even as 800,000 federal employees across the country are going without their salaries — has intensified questions about the Trump administration’s un­or­tho­dox efforts to bring certain government functions back online to contain the shutdown’s impacts. Critics, including many former IRS officials, described the move as an act of favoritism to ease the burden on a powerful industry.”

Despite Government Shutdown, the Trump Administration Continues Effort to Expand Alaska Oil DrillingNPR, Elizabeth Harball, Friday, 11 January 2019: “[D]espite the shutdown, the Trump administration is continuing work on one of Interior’s biggest, most controversial priorities: opening up more Arctic lands in Alaska to oil drilling. The Bureau of Land Management, an agency [in] the Interior [Department], has gone ahead with a series of public meetings on its effort to expand oil development in the 22-million-acre National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.”

Representative Tulsi Gabbard (Democrat-Hawaii) says she will run for president in 2020CNN, Caroline Kelly, Friday, 11 January 2019: “Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said Friday she will run for president in 2020. ‘I have decided to run and will be making a formal announcement within the next week,’ the Hawaii Democrat told CNN’s Van Jones during an interview slated to air at 7 p.m. Saturday on CNN’s ‘The Van Jones Show.’ Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran, currently serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She is the first American Samoan and the first Hindu member of Congress.” See also, Tulsi Gabbard, Representative From Hawaii, Announces Democratic Presidential BidThe New York Times, Maggie Astor, Friday, 11 January 2019.


Saturday, 12 January 2019, Day 723:


Trump has concealed details of his face-to-face encounters with Putin from senior officials in administrationThe Washington Post, Greg Miller, Saturday, 12 January 2019: “President Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his conversations with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, including on at least one occasion taking possession of the notes of his own interpreter and instructing the linguist not to discuss what had transpired with other administration officials, current and former U.S. officials said. Trump did so after a meeting with Putin in 2017 in Hamburg that was also attended by then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. U.S. officials learned of Trump’s actions when a White House adviser and a senior State Department official sought information from the interpreter beyond a readout shared by Tillerson. The constraints that Trump imposed are part of a broader pattern by the president of shielding his communications with Putin from public scrutiny and preventing even high-ranking officials in his own administration from fully knowing what he has told one of the United States’ main adversaries. As a result, U.S. officials said there is no detailed record, even in classified files, of Trump’s face-to-face interactions with the Russian leader at five locations over the past two years. Such a gap would be unusual in any presidency, let alone one that Russia sought to install through what U.S. intelligence agencies have described as an unprecedented campaign of election interference…. Former U.S. officials said that Trump’s behavior is at odds with the known practices of previous presidents, who have relied on senior aides to witness meetings and take comprehensive notes then shared with other officials and departments.”

Trump Tweets Lengthy Attack on the F.B.I. Over Its Inquiry Into the Possibility He Acted on Behalf of RussiaThe New York Times, Nicholas Fandos and Michael S. Schmidt, Saturday, 12 January 2019: “President Trump on Saturday unleashed an extended assault on the F.B.I. and the special counsel’s investigation, knitting together a comprehensive alternative story in which he had been framed by disgraced ‘losers’ at the bureau’s highest levels. In a two-hour span starting at 7 a.m., the president made a series of false claims on Twitter about his adversaries and the events surrounding the inquiry. He was responding to a report in The New York Times that, after he fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director in 2017, the bureau began investigating whether the president had acted on behalf of Russia.”

Democrats Push to Block Sanctions Relief for the Companies of Russian Billionaire Oleg DeripaskaThe New York Times, Kenneth P. Vogel and Alan Rappeport, Saturday, 12 January 2019: “Senate Democrats intend to force a vote this coming week on the Trump administration’s move to lift sanctions against companies controlled by an influential Russian oligarch, intensifying a new line of scrutiny of the administration’s handling of Russia policy. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, said on Saturday that the sanctions on the business empire of the oligarch, Oleg V. Deripaska, should remain in place, and that a deal negotiated by the Treasury Department to remove them was ‘flawed and fails to sufficiently limit’ Mr. Deripaska’s ‘control and influence of these companies.'”

Julián Castro, Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Announces 2020 Presidential RunThe New York Times, Maggie Astor, Saturday, 12 January 2019: “Julián Castro, the former housing secretary and former mayor of San Antonio, announced on Saturday that he would run for president, one of the most high-profile Latino Democrats ever to seek the party’s nomination. His first campaign stop will be in Puerto Rico, where he will speak on Monday at the Latino Victory Fund’s annual summit and meet with residents still struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria. Later in the week, his campaign said, he will go to New Hampshire…. In his speech on Saturday, Mr. Castro emphasized education, calling for a national version of the prekindergarten program he established in San Antonio when he was mayor. To fund the program there, he increased the city’s sales tax — a politically risky proposition, especially in Texas, but San Antonio voters approved it. His message was firmly progressive. He called for a higher minimum wage, denounced police killings of African-Americans, which he described as ‘state violence,’ and embraced the Black Lives Matter movement. He also condemned President Trump’s immigration policy, including the practice of family separation and the proposed border wall, and declared that his first executive order if elected would be to rejoin the Paris climate accords, which Mr. Trump left.” See also, Former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro joins 2020 Democratic presidential fieldThe Washington Post, Jenna Johnson, Saturday, 12 January 2019.


Sunday, 13 January 2019, Day 724:


White House Sought Options to Strike IranThe Wall Street Journal, Dion Nissenbaum, Sunday, 13 January 2019: “President Trump’s National Security Council asked the Pentagon to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran last year, generating concern at the Pentagon and State Department, current and former U.S. officials said. The request, which hasn’t been previously reported, came after militants fired three mortars into Baghdad’s sprawling diplomatic quarter, home to the U.S. Embassy, on a warm night in early September. The shells–launched by a group aligned with Iran–landed in an open lot and harmed no one.” See also, Pentagon Officials Fear Bolton’s Actions Increase Risk of Clash With IranThe New York Times, Eric Schmitt and Mark Landler, Sunday, 13 January 2019: “Senior Pentagon officials are voicing deepening fears that President Trump’s hawkish national security adviser, John R. Bolton, could precipitate a conflict with Iran at a time when Mr. Trump is losing leverage in the Middle East by pulling out American troops. At Mr. Bolton’s direction, the National Security Council asked the Pentagon last year to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran, Defense Department and senior American officials said on Sunday…. In response to Mr. Bolton’s request, which The Wall Street Journal first reported, the Pentagon offered some general options, including a cross-border airstrike on an Iranian military facility that would have been mostly symbolic. But Mr. Mattis and other military leaders adamantly opposed retaliating, arguing that the attack was insignificant — a position that ultimately won out, these officials said.”

Trump Threatens to ‘Devastate Turkey Economically’ if It Attacks KurdsThe New York Times, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Sunday, 13 January 2019: “President Trump threatened Turkey on Sunday with harsh economic sanctions if it attacks Kurdish forces in Syria after American troops withdraw from the country in the coming months…. Mr. Trump’s tweets marked the first public threat toward Turkey, a NATO ally, over the Kurds and seemed to offer a blanket of protection for the group, a band of American-backed militias that the Turkish government sees as terrorists. Mr. Trump’s announced pullout from Syria without guaranteeing safety for the Kurds, who have helped American forces fight the Islamic State, had received sharp criticism from lawmakers. But his tweets Sunday threatened to upend Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s attempt to reach a deal with Turkey to protect them, something Mr. Pompeo had been optimistic about when talking to reporters in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, earlier Sunday.”

Revelations about Paul Manafort’s 2016 interactions with Russian associate show special counsel’s intense focus on Russia contactsThe Washington Post, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, Sunday, 13 January 2019: “New revelations about Paul Manafort’s interactions with a Russian associate while he was leading President Trump’s campaign provide a window into how extensively the special counsel has mapped interactions between Trump associates and Russians in his 20-month-long investigation. When Manafort pleaded guilty in September to federal crimes related to his work advising Ukrainian politicians, Trump said the admissions by his former campaign chairman had “nothing to do” with the special counsel’s main mission, which Trump described as ‘looking for Russians involved in our campaign.’ But new details inadvertently revealed in a court filing last week — including the fact that Manafort shared polling data about the 2016 race with an associate who allegedly has ties to Russian intelligence — indicate that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has also been scrutinizing interactions between Russians and Manafort while he led Trump’s presidential bid. Manafort is among at least 14 Trump associates who interacted with Russians during the campaign and transition, according to public records and interviews.”

Top Democrats Warn Trump Over Comments on Michael CohenThe New York Times, Nicholas Fandos and Maggie Haberman, Sunday, 13 January 2019: “Three newly empowered Democratic House committee chairmen, alarmed by statements over the weekend by President Trump about his former lawyer’s planned testimony before Congress, cautioned on Sunday that any effort to discourage or influence a witness’s testimony could be construed as a crime. The warning, a stark and unusual message from some of Congress’s most influential Democrats, underscores the increasing legal and political peril facing Mr. Trump. Democrats are beginning their own investigations of him as the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, appears to move toward a conclusion in his investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia and potential obstruction of justice by Mr. Trump. In a Fox News interview on Saturday night, Mr. Trump accused the former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, of lying about him to win leniency from federal prosecutors and spoke cryptically of the existence of damaging information against Mr. Cohen’s father-in-law. Mr. Cohen, who has been sentenced to three years in prison, has accused Mr. Trump of directing him to make illegal hush payments during the campaign. ‘Our nation’s laws prohibit efforts to discourage, intimidate or otherwise pressure a witness not to provide testimony to Congress,’ the chairmen wrote. ‘The president should make no statement or take any action to obstruct Congress’s independent oversight and investigative efforts, including by seeking to discourage any witness from testifying in response to a duly authorized request from Congress.’ The message seemed to imply that if Democrats in the House were to ever try to build an impeachment case against Mr. Trump, attempts to interfere with their work could be used as evidence.”


Monday, 14 January 2019, Day 725:


Ice loss from Antarctica has sextupled since the 1970s, new research findsThe Washington Post, Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis, Monday, 14 January 2019: “Antarctic glaciers have been melting at an accelerating pace over the past four decades thanks to an influx of warm ocean water — a startling new finding that researchers say could mean sea levels are poised to rise more quickly than predicted in coming decades. The Antarctic lost 40 billion tons of melting ice to the ocean each year from 1979 to 1989. That figure rose to 252 billion tons lost per year beginning in 2009, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. That means the region is losing six times as much ice as it was four decades ago, an unprecedented pace in the era of modern measurements. (It takes about 360 billion tons of ice to produce one millimeter of global sea-level rise.)”

Attorney General Nominee William Barr Promises to Allow Mueller to Finish His Work, But He Limits His Assurances About the Investigation to Issues Under His ControlThe New York Times, Katie Benner, Monday, 14 January 2019: “William P. Barr, President Trump’s nominee for attorney general, promised on Monday that he would allow the special counsel to continue his investigation, seeking to allay Democrats’ fears that he might shut down the inquiry. ‘It is in the best interest of everyone — the president, Congress, and, most importantly, the American people — that this matter be resolved by allowing the special counsel to complete his work,’ Mr. Barr said in written testimony that he plans to deliver on Tuesday at the start of his two-day confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. ‘The country needs a credible resolution of these issues,’ he added. ‘If confirmed, I will not permit partisan politics, personal interests, or any other improper consideration to interfere with this or any other investigation.’ But Mr. Barr’s written statement also included a subtle caveat, limiting his assurances about the investigation to issues under his control: ‘I can assure you that, where judgments are to be made by me, I will make those judgments based solely on the law and will let no personal, political, or other improper interests influence my decision,’ he wrote. That qualification could be important because Mr. Barr has long advanced a philosophy of strong executive powers under which almost any executive branch decision is ultimately the president’s to make and the president is the nation’s top law-enforcement official, not the attorney general.” See also, Trump Says He Alone Can Do It. William Barr, His Attorney General Nominee, Usually Agrees. The New York Times, Charlie Savage, Monday, 14 January 2019: “William P. Barr has long espoused an unfettered vision of executive power. He may soon serve a president not known for self-restraint.” See also, William Barr, Trump’s Pick for Attorney General, Faces Heat Over Opposition to Whistle-Blower LawThe New York Times, Robert Pear, Monday, 14 January 2019: “President Trump’s nominee for attorney general, William P. Barr, has expressed extreme hostility to whistle-blower protections in federal law that allow private citizens to win financial rewards for exposing fraud in federal programs. Mr. Barr’s views on executive power and the investigation of President Trump by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, will hold much of the spotlight Tuesday, but he will also come under sharp pressure to renounce his position on whistle-blower protections at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. That is because the whistle-blower law is strongly supported by a Republican whose vote he needs, Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa.”

U.S. District Court Judge Wendy Beetlestone Blocks Trump Administration Restrictions on Birth ControlThe New York Times, Robert Pear, Monday, 14 January 2019: “A federal court issued a nationwide injunction on Monday that prevents the Trump administration from interfering with women’s access to free birth control guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act. The decision, by Judge Wendy Beetlestone of the Federal District Court in Philadelphia, extends a losing streak for President Trump, who has repeatedly been set back in his efforts to allow employers to deny insurance coverage of contraceptives to which the employers object on religious or moral grounds.” See also, U.S. District Court Judge Wendy Beetlestone blocks Trump effort to roll back birth control mandate nationwideThe Washington Post, Amy Goldstein, Monday, 14 January 2019: “A federal judge in Pennsylvania stepped in at the last moment to pause Trump administration rules that would restrict the ability of some women to get birth control at no charge because their employers object on religious or moral grounds. U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone issued a nationwide preliminary injunction Monday afternoon, the same day the new policy was to take effect. Her ruling came less than 24 hours after a federal district court judge in California issued a more limited stay covering 13 states and the District of Columbia. The rulings in rapid succession, both by judges appointed by President Barack Obama, are the latest legal twists in a dispute over the expansion of health-care benefits for women under the Affordable Care Act that has wound through the courts for years. The rulings do not permanently block the Trump policy but stop it from going into effect while legal challenges are pursued.” U.S. District Court Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr. Blocks Trump’s Attempt to Roll Back Birth Control MandateThe New York Times, Matt Stevens, Monday, 14 January 2019: “A federal judge on Sunday granted a request by more than a dozen states to temporarily block the Trump administration from putting into effect new rules that would make it easier for employers to deny women health insurance coverage for contraceptives. Contraception is covered by the Affordable Care Act as a preventive health service, something employers and insurers are generally required to provide at no charge. But the Trump administration developed rules to allow employers to opt out of the mandate if they had religious or moral objections. A version of those rules was stymied by the courts in 2017, so the administration issued a new set of rules in November, which had been scheduled to take effect on Monday. However, the judge, Haywood S. Gilliam Jr. of the United States District Court in Oakland, Calif., granted a request by 13 states and the District of Columbia for a preliminary injunction, writing that the new rules ‘are nearly identical to’ the ones that he had previously blocked.”

Aides Say Trump Discussed Pulling the U.S. From NATOThe New York Times, Julian E. Barnes and Helene Cooper, Monday, 14 January 2019: “There are few things that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia desires more than the weakening of NATO, the military alliance among the United States, Europe and Canada that has deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years. Last year, President Trump suggested a move tantamount to destroying NATO: the withdrawal of the United States. Senior administration officials told The New York Times that several times over the course of 2018, Mr. Trump privately said he wanted to withdraw from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Current and former officials who support the alliance said they feared Mr. Trump could return to his threat as allied military spending continued to lag behind the goals the president had set. In the days around a tumultuous NATO summit meeting last summer, they said, Mr. Trump told his top national security officials that he did not see the point of the military alliance, which he presented as a drain on the United States. At the time, Mr. Trump’s national security team, including Jim Mattis, then the defense secretary, and John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, scrambled to keep American strategy on track without mention of a withdrawal that would drastically reduce Washington’s influence in Europe and could embolden Russia for decades. Now, the president’s repeatedly stated desire to withdraw from NATO is raising new worries among national security officials amid growing concern about Mr. Trump’s efforts to keep his meetings with Mr. Putin secret from even his own aides, and an F.B.I. investigation into the administration’s Russia ties.”

Republican Representative Steve King of Iowa Is Removed From Committee Assignments Over White Supremacy RemarkThe New York Times, Trip Gabriel, Jonathan Martin, and Nicholas Fandos, Monday, 14 January 2019: “House Republican leaders removed Representative Steve King of Iowa from the Judiciary and Agriculture Committees on Monday night as party officials scrambled to appear tough on racism and contain damage from comments Mr. King made to The New York Times questioning why white supremacy is considered offensive. The punishment came on a day when Mr. King was denounced by an array of Republican leaders, though not President Trump. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, suggested Mr. King find ‘another line of work’ and Senator Mitt Romney said he should quit. And the House Republicans, in an attempt to be proactive, stripped him of the committee seats in the face of multiple Democratic resolutions to censure Mr. King that are being introduced this week.” See also, Republican Representative Steve King’s Racist Remarks and Divisive Actions: A TimelineThe New York Times, Trip Gabriel, published on Tuesday, 15 January 2019. See also, House Republican leaders move to strip Representative Steve King of his committee assignments over comments about white nationalismThe Washington Post, Mike DeBonis, Monday, 14 January 2019: “A panel of Republican leaders voted unanimously Monday to keep veteran Iowa lawmaker Steve King off House committees, a firm rebuke to an influential opponent of illegal immigration who sparked outrage last week after openly questioning whether the term ‘white supremacist’ was offensive.” See also, A brief guide to Steve King’s ‘long history of racist statements,’ The Washington Post, Cleve R Wootson Jr., Monday, 14 January 2019.

Supreme Court Won’t Rule on the Legality of the Appointment of Acting Attorney General Matthew WhitakerThe New York Times, Adam Liptak, Monday, 14 January 2019: “The Supreme Court declined on Monday to decide whether President Trump acted lawfully in appointing Matthew G. Whitaker to be the acting attorney general, denying an unusual motion asking the justices to address that question in the context of a case about a different issue. The court also turned down the case itself. The court’s order was two sentences long and gave no reasons. There were no noted dissents.” See also, Supreme Court turns aside challenge to Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney generalThe Washington Post, Robert Barnes, Monday, 14 January 2019.

Compelled to work without pay. federal employees sue Trump, accusing him of violating 13th AmendmentThe Washington Post, Meagan Flynn, Monday, 14 January 2019: “A group of federal employees working without pay during the partial government shutdown are likening the predicament to involuntary servitude in a lawsuit filed last week, accusing President Trump and their bosses of violating the 13th Amendment. The lawsuit is one of several pursued by federal workers against the Trump administration as the government shutdown enters its 24th day, the longest in history, leaving hundreds of thousands of employees without a paycheck and, in many cases, struggling to pay bills. Employees at U.S. Customs and Border Protectionthe Bureau of Prisons and Federal Aviation Administration have already filed lawsuits against the administration through their respective unions, among others. But this case, filed Wednesday in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, diverges from the others by invoking the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude in the aftermath of the Civil War.”

Trump invokes one of the worst Native American massacres to mock Elizabeth WarrenThe Washington Post, Tim Elfrink, Monday, 14 January 2019: “One hundred years after U.S. soldiers killed and maimed hundreds of Sioux men, women and children at the Wounded Knee massacre, Congress formally apologized in 1990 by expressing its ‘deep regret on behalf of the United States.’ On Sunday night, President Trump used that same massacre as a punchline in his latest broadside against Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the Democratic presidential hopeful whom he regularly calls ‘Pocahontas’ in jeering reference to her claims of American Indian heritage.”

Trump denies working for Russia and calls past FBI leaders ‘known scoundrels,’ The Washington Post, John Wagner and Karoun Demirjian, Monday, 14 January 2019: “President Trump on Monday flatly denied that he worked for Russia, and he called FBI officials who launched a counterintelligence investigation to determine whether he did ‘known scoundrels’ and ‘dirty cops.’ Trump’s comments to reporters as he left the White House came in response to reports that an FBI investigation that was opened after Trump fired then-Director James B. Comey in May 2017 included a component to determine whether the president was seeking to help Russia. ‘I never worked for Russia,’ Trump said as he prepared to leave for an event in New Orleans, adding: ‘Not only did I never work for Russia, I think it’s a disgrace that you even asked that question because it’s a whole big fat hoax. It’s just a hoax.’ During a television appearance Saturday night, after the counterintelligence component of the Trump investigation was first reported by the New York Times, Trump called a question whether he had ever worked for Russia ‘insulting’ but did not directly answer it.”


Tuesday, 15 January 2019, Day 726:


Judge Jesse Furman of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York rules against the Trump administration’s push for a citizenship question on the 2020 CensusThe Washington Post, Tara Bahrampour, Tuesday, 15 January 2019: “A federal judge has ruled against the Trump administration’s addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, marking the first major ruling in a controversy that has pitted states and cities against top administration officials and is likely to come before the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Jesse M. Furman of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ordered the administration Tuesday to stop its plans to add the question to the survey. Calling Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s decision to add the question ‘arbitrary and capricious,’ he blasted Ross for ‘egregious’ violations of the Administrative Procedure Act. The New York case is the first of three high-profile trials around the country that are challenging the question and is likely to be a road map for the others, legal experts say.” See also, Federal Judge Jesse Furman Blocks the Trump Administration From Adding a Question About U.S. Citizenship to the 2020 Census, a Ruling That Seems Certain to Reach the Supreme Court, The New York Times, Michael Wines, Tuesday, 15 January 2019: “A federal judge blocked the Commerce Department from adding a question on American citizenship to the 2020 census, handing a legal victory on Tuesday to critics who accused the Trump administration of trying to turn the census into a tool to advance Republican political fortunes. The ruling marks the opening round in a legal battle with potentially profound ramifications for federal policy and for politics at all levels, one that seems certain to reach the Supreme Court before the printing of census forms begins this summer. The upcoming census count will determine which states gain or lose seats in the House of Representatives when redistricting begins in 2021. When the Trump administration announced last year it was adding a citizenship question to the census, opponents argued the results would undercount noncitizens and legal immigrants — who tend to live in places that vote Democratic — and shift political power to Republican areas. In a lengthy and stinging opinion, Judge Jesse M. Furman of the United States District Court in Manhattan said that Wilbur L. Ross Jr., the commerce secretary, broke ‘a veritable smorgasbord’ of federal rules when he ordered the citizenship question added to the census nearly a year ago. Judge Furman said Mr. Ross cherry-picked facts to support his views, ignored or twisted contrary evidence and hid deliberations from Census Bureau experts. Judge Furman also criticized Mr. Ross and his aides for giving false or misleading statements under oath as they struggled to explain their rationale for adding the question.” See also, How Wilbur Ross ‘aggressively’ tried to alter the 2020 Census and ‘conceal’ why, according to U.S. District Judge Jesse FurmanThe Washington Post, Fred Barbash, Tuesday, 15 January 2019: “For months, experts warned Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross that asking about citizenship on the 2020 Census would result in an undercount of minorities, particularly Latinos. Ross pushed ahead anyway. He had made up his mind long before consulting them, a decision that could have potentially ‘massive and lasting consequences.’ Then he created a ‘sham’ account of a deliberative process that he thought would pass muster in the courts to ‘obtain cover for a decision’ he and his political aides had ‘already made.’ That’s the conclusion of a new 277-page opinion by U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman. Furman, an appointee of President Barack Obama in the Southern District of New York, ordered the administration to halt its plans to add the citizenship question to the 2020 census.” See also, Judge Orders Trump Administration to Remove 2020 Census Citizenship QuestionNPR, Hansi Lo Wang, Tuesday, 15 January 2019.

Attorney general nominee William Barr vows to protect the Russia investigation, but he says Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report might stay secretThe Washington Post, Devlin Barrett, Karoun Demirjian, Matt Zapotosky, and Seung Min Kim, Tuesday, 15 January 2019: “Attorney general nominee William P. Barr suggested Tuesday that any report written by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III might not be made public, signaling the possibility of future battles within the government over his findings. The remarks by Barr, who is expected to be confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate, highlight the uncertainty surrounding how he will grapple with what many expect will be the final steps of Mueller’s investigation into President Trump, his advisers and Russian interference in the 2016 election. Barr pledged at his confirmation hearing Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee to keep politics out of Justice Department decisions about criminal investigations. He said he would allow Mueller, whom he called a longtime friend, to finish his work, but Democrats expressed concern that, if confirmed, Barr might not follow the advice of the agency’s ethics officials.” See also, William Barr’s big caveat on publicly releasing the Mueller reportThe Washington Post, JM Rieger, Tuesday, 15 January 2019: “President Trump’s attorney general nominee, William P. Barr, made two things abundantly clear Tuesday: He would release a summary of the Russia report ‘consistent with the law,’ and he is really good friends with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. ‘I don’t know what, at the end of the day, what will be release-able,’ Barr told Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) of Mueller’s report, saying it would be confidential and the attorney general would be responsible for putting out ‘certain information upon the conclusion of the investigation.’ It was a significant shift after Tuesday morning’s testimony, when Barr hedged when asked about publicly releasing the findings of the Russia investigation. ‘It is very important that the public and Congress be informed of the results of the special counsel’s work,’ Barr said in his opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee. ‘My goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law.’ ‘Consistent with the law’ is not, of course, a straightforward ‘yes.’ And it is a notable caveat as the White House gears up to potentially assert executive privilege to block parts of the Mueller report, elements of which Barr has previously written could be ‘fatally misconceived.’”  See also, William Barr May Be Worse on Immigration Than Jeff SessionsThe Intercept, John Washington, Tuesday, 15 January 2019: “Though a lot of attention will be on attorney general nominee William Barr’s stance on executive power, and how it could affect the Mueller investigation, during the Senate confirmation hearings starting today, his legacy on immigration also merits strict scrutiny. Since he likely will be confirmed, Barr’s hard-line immigration stance, which runs lockstep with President Donald Trump’s, may set the stage for a new volley of attacks against immigrants and asylum-seekers. Migrants, attorneys, and advocates should be prepared…. A maximalist in his views of executive power — he’s in favor of torture, doesn’t believe that Congress should restrict a president’s power to control independent oversight commissions, and thinks that a president hardly needs to consult anybody to engage in acts of war — if he is confirmed, Barr may be the kind of enabler Trump desires to further skirt Congress and, through emergency decree or executive action, fund a border wall, continue to gut asylum protections, and keep rounding up, detaining, and deporting tens of thousands of migrants. None of these actions would be a first for William Barr.” See also, 9 takeaways from William Barr’s confirmation hearingThe Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Tuesday, 15 January 2019. See also, Attorney General Nominee William Barr Vows to Let Special Counsel Robert Mueller Finish InvestigationThe New York Times, Charlie Savage, Nicholas Fandos, and Katie Benner, Tuesday, 15 January 2019.

A critical solution to climate change is right here in the western U.S.: our public landsHigh Country News, Jamie Williams, Tuesday, 15 January 2019: “Despite the willful denunciation of proven climate science by the White House and some members of Congress, there is a hopeful awakening in the United States: Young activists are stepping forward to demand a Green New Deal that guarantees climate action, justice and economic security for all. It is not a single law, but rather a collection of policies that embody many of the actions needed to expand clean energy, grow job opportunities, reduce climate pollution, improve air and water quality, and enhance the resilience of communities. In any plan to help us transition from an economy built on fossil fuels to one driven by clean energy, our public lands should feature prominently. We need a climate plan for public lands that will manage a phase-down of fossil fuel leasing and production in line with current climate science. At the same time, we must support those communities most affected by pollution and boom-and-bust energy cycles as they transition to the energy of the future. Climate change is the largest and most misunderstood problem humanity will ever face. There is no previous situation to compare it to, no successful historical model to reference — and that just makes the issue even riper for the critics who claim it simply doesn’t exist.”

Trump administration calling nearly 50,000 back to work, unpaid, as government shutdown drags onThe Washington Post, Erica Werner, Tuesday, 15 January 2019: “The Trump administration on Tuesday said it has called back tens of thousands of federal workers to fulfill key government tasks, including disbursing tax refunds, overseeing flight safety and inspecting the nation’s food and drug supply, as it seeks to blunt the impact of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. The nearly 50,000 furloughed federal employees are being brought back to work without pay — part of a group of about 800,000 federal workers who are not receiving paychecks during the shutdown, which is affecting dozens of federal agencies large and small. A federal judge on Tuesday rejected a bid by unions representing air traffic controllers and other federal workers to force the government to pay them if they are required to work.” See also, Trump Summons Thousands Back to Work Without Pay as Government Shutdown Drags OnThe New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Tuesday, 15 January 2019: “The Trump administration said Tuesday that it would summon tens of thousands of federal employees back to work without pay to get the government running amid a partial shutdown well into its third week, as the White House and increasingly agitated lawmakers on Capitol Hill cast about for a way to end the stalemate. On a day of inertia and theatrics in Washington, the partisan disconnect fueling the deadlock was on full — sometimes absurd — display. House Democrats spurned an invitation by President Trump to a bipartisan lunch at the White House, drawing howls of outrage from Mr. Trump’s team, while Democrats dismissed the steak-and-potatoes meal as little more than a photo opportunity. A group of House Democratic freshmen marched across the Capitol — with reporters in tow — to publicly confront Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, with demands to end the impasse. But Mr. McConnell was not in his office, so they left a note.” See also, F.A.A. Recalls Thousands of Workers to Address Air Safety ConcernsThe New York Times, Thomas Kaplan, Tuesday, 15 January 2019: “The Federal Aviation Administration is bringing thousands of furloughed inspectors and engineers back to work as the partial government shutdown drags on, the agency said on Tuesday. The agency’s announcement came after unions representing aviation safety inspectors and air traffic controllers raised concerns that the lengthy shutdown was eroding the safety of the nation’s air travel system. It is one of the largest changes made by a government agency since the shutdown last month to address the need to maintain an essential service. The government has already made staffing changes to deal with a decision to have the Internal Revenue Service pay tax refunds, and the Food and Drug Administration has said it is bringing hundreds of workers back to step up food safety inspections.” See also, Indigenous people face food and medicine crisis as government shutdown continues, lawmakers are told. In addition, ex-Interior Department officials say National Parks should be closed to avoid destruction of property and poaching. The Washington Post, Darryl Fears, Friday, 15 January 2019:”As the partial government shutdown drags on, Native American tribes in urban and rural areas are facing food shortages and a health care crisis because federal funds that stock pantries and provide medicine for diabetes and opioid addiction have been cut off, witnesses told a House committee Tuesday. In addition to the shutdown’s impact on indigenous people, citizen observers at national parks are reporting poaching of wild game such as deer, garbage piled high and trees that have been illegally cut as most park workers remain on furlough, former Interior officials who appeared before the committee said.” See also, The Government Shutdown: Here’s Where Things StandThe New York Times, Niraj Chokshi, Tuesday, 15 January 2019: “Now into its fourth week, the partial shutdown has had wide-ranging effects. The news is too much to fit into one article, so here’s a guide to our latest reporting.” See also, Government Shutdown’s Economic Damage Starts to Pile Up, Threatening an End to GrowthThe New York Times, Jim Tankersley, Tuesday, 15 January 2019: “The partial government shutdown is inflicting far greater damage on the United States economy than previously estimated, the White House acknowledged on Tuesday, as President Trump’s economists doubled projections of how much economic growth is being lost each week the standoff with Democrats continues. The revised estimates from the Council of Economic Advisers show that the shutdown, now in its fourth week, is beginning to have real economic consequences. The analysis, and other projections from outside the White House, suggests that the shutdown has already weighed significantly on growth and could ultimately push the United States economy into a contraction.” See also, Trump administration doubles estimate of government shutdown cost to the economy from the original forecastCNBC, Steve Liesman, Tuesday, 15 January 2019: “The Trump administration now estimates that the cost of the government shutdown will be twice as steep as originally forecast. The original estimate that the partial shutdown would subtract 0.1 percentage point from growth every two weeks has now been doubled to a 0.1 percentage point subtraction every week, according to an official who asked not to be named. The administration had initially counted just the impact from the 800,000 federal workers not receiving their paychecks. But they now believe the impact doubles, due to greater losses from private contractors also out of work and other government spending and functions that won’t occur.”

Trump and Putin Have Met Five Times. What Was Said Is a Mystery. The New York Times, Peter Baker, Tuesday, 15 January 2019: “The first time they met was in Germany. President Trump took his interpreter’s notes afterward and ordered him not to disclose what he heard to anyone. Later that night, at a dinner, Mr. Trump pulled up a seat next to President Vladimir V. Putin to talk without any American witnesses at all. Their third encounter was in Vietnam when Mr. Trump seemed to take Mr. Putin’s word that he had not interfered in American elections. A formal summit meeting followed in Helsinki, Finland, where the two leaders kicked out everyone but the interpreters. Most recently, they chatted in Buenos Aires after Mr. Trump said they would not meet because of Russian aggression. Mr. Trump has adamantly insisted there was ‘no collusion’ with Russia during his 2016 presidential campaign. But each of the five times he has met with Mr. Putin since taking office, he has fueled suspicions about their relationship. The unusually secretive way he has handled these meetings has left many in his own administration guessing what happened and piqued the interest of investigators.”

Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Senator, Joins Democratic Race for PresidentThe New York Times, Shane Goldmacher, Tuesday, 15 January 2019: “Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, an outspoken advocate for women’s causes and electing more women to office, is herself entering the 2020 race for the White House, becoming the latest candidate to join what is expected to be a crowded Democratic primary to take on President Trump. In an appearance Tuesday on ‘The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,’ Ms. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, said she was forming an exploratory committee to raise money and travel the country for her run. She is scheduled to start campaigning within days, with plans to spend the weekend in Iowa.” See also, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand tells Stephen Colbert she will run for presidentThe Washington Post, Jenna Johnson, Tuesday, 15 January 2019. See also, Kirsten Gillibrand’s 2020 policy agenda: Universal paid family leave, publicly funded elections, improving gender and racial equalityThe Washington Post, Jeff Stein, Tuesday, 15 January 2019: “Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) will run for president vowing to enact universal paid family leave, publicly funded federal elections, and a Medicare-for-All health-care system, as well as a number of measures to combat America’s racial and gender disparities in education, health care and criminal justice, according to campaign aides.”

House votes overwhelmingly to condemn white nationalism amid furor over Representative Steve King’s racist remarksThe Washington Post, Mike DeBonis and John Wagner, Tuesday, 15 January 2019: “Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) faced new fallout Tuesday after questioning whether the term ‘white nationalist’ should be offensive as more Republicans called for his resignation, the House voted overwhelmingly to disavow his words, and harsher sanctions loomed. Together with the GOP’s decision Monday to strip him of committee assignments, it marks a stunning castigation for a ­onetime conservative kingmaker who helped steer his party to hard-line positions on immigration, abortion and other issues.” See also, How Can Republicans Condemn Representative Steve King But Not Donald Trump? The New Yorker, John Cassidy, Tuesday, 15 January 2019.

Supreme Court Concludes That Snatching a Necklace Is a Violent FelonyThe New York Times, Adam Liptak, Tuesday, 15 January 2019: “Purse snatching and pickpocketing can amount to violent felonies for purposes of a federal law, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday in a 5-to-4 decision featuring unusual alliances. The case concerned the Armed Career Criminal Act, a federal law that is a kind of three-strikes statute. It requires mandatory 15-year sentences for people convicted of possessing firearms if they have earlier been found guilty of three violent felonies or serious drug charges. Figuring out what qualifies as one of those earlier offenses is not always easy. Tuesday’s decision considered a part of the law that defined violent felonies to include offenses involving the use or threat of physical force. The question in the case was whether minimal force, as in a purse snatching, is enough.” See also, Supreme Court sets low threshold for sentencing repeat violent offenders to stiff prison termsThe Washington Post, Robert Barnes, Tuesday, 15 January 2019.

Immanuel Christian School, the school that hired Karen Pence, requires applicants to disavow gay marriage, trans identity, premarital sex, cohabitation, extramarital sex, etc.The Washington Post, Eli Rosenberg, Tuesday, 15 January 2019: “The school where Vice President Pence’s wife, Karen, has accepted a part-time job teaching art requires potential employees to affirm certain religious beliefs that seek to exclude homosexual and transgender applicants, including that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. Immanuel Christian School, a private K-8 school in Springfield, Va., outside of Washington, sets forth the position in its employment application for teachers and support staff in a section that requires applicants to initial a set of standards that begins with a promise that they are born-again Christians. One of the items is a pledge to ‘live a personal life of moral purity.’ ‘I understand that the term “marriage” has only one meaning; the uniting of one man and one woman in a single, exclusive covenant union as delineated in Scripture,’ the section says, saying that God intended sexual acts to occur only between ‘a man and a woman who are married to each other.’ ‘Moral misconduct which violates the bona fide occupational qualifications for employees includes, but is not limited to, such behaviors as the following: heterosexual activity outside of marriage (e.g., premarital sex, cohabitation, extramarital sex), homosexual or lesbian sexual activity, polygamy, transgender identity, any other violation of the unique roles of male and female, sexual harassment, use or viewing of pornographic material or websites, and sexual abuse or improprieties toward minors as defined by Scripture and federal or state law.'” See also, Karen Pence Is Teaching at a Christian School That Bars L.G.B.T. Students and TeachersThe New York Times, Matthew Haag, published on Wednesday, 16 January 2019. See also, Karen Pence to teach at Christian school that bans gay students, parents, and employeesPolitico, Rebecca Morin, Wednesday, 16 January 2019.


Wednesday, 16 January 2019, Day 727:


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Asks Trump to Reschedule State of the Union Amid ShutdownThe New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Nicholas Fandos, Wednesday, 16 January 2019: “Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked President Trump on Wednesday to scrap or delay his Jan. 29 State of the Union address amid the partial government shutdown, an extraordinary request that escalated the partisan battle over his border wall even as bipartisan groups of lawmakers pressed him to reopen the government and make room for compromise. In a letter to Mr. Trump that underscored how the shutdown fight has poisoned hopes of bipartisan comity at the start of divided government, Ms. Pelosi cited security concerns as her reason for proposing that the president postpone the annual presidential ritual of addressing a joint session of Congress in a televised speech during prime time — or perhaps submit a written message instead. Security aside, her move would deprive Mr. Trump of one of the brightest spotlights of a president’s year, intensified this year by Democratic control of the House and the drama of the longest government shutdown in the nation’s history.” See also, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asks Trump to postpone the State of the Union address because of the government shutdown–or deliver it in writingThe Washington Post, Erica Werner, Robert Costa, and John Wagner, Wednesday, 16 January 2019: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked President Trump on Wednesday to postpone his State of the Union address — or deliver it in writing — if the government shutdown doesn’t end this week, an extraordinary suggestion that touched off a day of maneuvering and political theater from the White House to Capitol Hill. The address, scheduled for Jan. 29, would give Trump a prime-time televised platform to make his case for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, the sticking point in a partisan stalemate that has closed large parts of the government since Dec. 22. Pelosi did not rescind her invitation for Trump to deliver the address, but in a letter to the president she suggested they work together to find a different date for it after the government has reopened, because of the security costs involved from federal agencies that are going without funding.” See also, Pelosi’s bold letter about postponing Trump’s State of the Union address, annotatedThe Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Wednesday, 16 January 2019. See also, Pelosi asks Trump to reschedule State of the Union Address because of shutdownPolitico, Heather Caygle and Rachael Bade, Wednesday, 16 January 2019.

At confirmation hearing, Andrew Wheeler, Trump’s choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency, vows to advance a deregulatory agendaThe Washington Post, Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin, Wednesday, 16 January 2019: “Andrew Wheeler, a former fossil fuel industry lobbyist whom President Trump nominated earlier this month to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, told a key Senate panel Wednesday that he would continue the administration’s aggressive reversal of environmental rules even as Democrats asked him why he wasn’t doing more to curb greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change…. Wheeler has made clear — both through his words and actions — that he would pursue many of the regulatory rollbacks Pruitt put in motion and carry out Trump’s promises of a more efficient, less powerful EPA. Wheeler highlighted nearly three dozen significant rules that the EPA had rolled back during the past two years in his prepared testimony. In the last six months EPA has proposed relaxing carbon emission limits on power plants and freezing fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks for six years…. Democrats have little hope of blocking Wheeler’s confirmation. But they used the hearing to lambaste him and the administration’s environmental record…. Democrats, meanwhile, sought to pin down Wheeler on questions about climate change and his ties to the fossil fuel industry. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) pressed Wheeler repeatedly on whether he agreed with President Trump’s comment that climate change amounted to a Chinese ‘hoax.’ After being pressed, the acting administrator replied, ‘I have not used the “hoax” word myself.’ Sanders then asked Wheeler whether he accepts the consensus of most scientists that climate change is one of the most serious problems facing the nation. ‘I would not call it the greatest crisis, no, sir,’ he replied. ‘I would call it a huge issue that needs to be addressed globally.'” See also, At His Confirmation Hearing to Head the Environmental Protection Agency, Andrew Wheeler Walks a Fine Line on Climate ChangeThe New York Times, Lisa Friedman, Wednesday, 16 January 2019: “When Andrew Wheeler, president Trump’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, testified before Senators on Wednesday at his confirmation hearing, he found himself walking a tightrope on the issue of climate change. One of the most pointed moments came shortly after he told senators that climate change was not ‘the greatest crisis’ facing our planet. Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, then asked Mr. Wheeler, a former coal-industry lobbyist, to rate his level of concern on a scale of one to 10. After a pause, Mr. Wheeler said, ‘about eight or nine.’ ‘Really?’ Mr. Merkley responded. Senator Merkley and other Democrats on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works took pains to focus in on Mr. Wheeler’s efforts to roll back environmental protections and undo Obama-era regulations designed to fight climate change as indicators that he is unsuitable to lead the E.P.A.” See also, Toxic Tragedy: Andrew Wheeler Has Betrayed Congress and Shamelessly Cooked the Books to Help Coal BaronsSierra Club, Pat Gallagher, published on Friday, 11 January 2019: “Andrew Wheeler has proposed that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ignore the public health benefits provided by the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS). Wheeler arbitrarily decreed the harms posed by mercury and other neurotoxins to be insignificant, and turns a deliberately blind eye to the dangers of particulate pollution (microscopic particles which cause asthma and cardiovascular disease). This proposal is a shameful betrayal of the Clean Air Act that will put the health of tens of thousands of people in danger. Wheeler’s decision sacrifices public health, and the interests of dozens of utilities nationwide who have already invested in the pollution controls needed for MATS, to benefit only handful of coal industry interests–even as virtually every economic indicator suggests that coal cannot compete with cleaner, cheaper energy technologies like solar and wind. Congress was clear in the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act that it, like the American public, placed high value on addressing the dangerous health consequences of mercury and other highly toxic air pollutants – it specifically listed mercury, arsenic, cadmium, hydrochloric acid, and hydrogen cyanide among the over 180 chemicals it deemed ‘highly toxic.’ After congressionally-required National Academy of Sciences research on the toxicological effects of methylmercury, EPA concluded in 2000, and confirmed in 2012 and 2016, that regulation of hazardous air pollution from coal- and oil-fired power plants ‘is appropriate and necessary.’ Now comes Andrew Wheeler, who decides that the control of mercury is not ‘appropriate or necessary.’ Tell that to the nursing mother whose infant’s neurological system has been compromised by mercury poisoning (according to Mr. Wheeler, that poisoning is worth just a few thousand dollars).”

Trump Administration Redefines Who Is Essential to Get Parts of the Government Moving AgainThe New York Time, Katie Rogers and Alan Rappeport, Wednesday, 16 January 2019: “As the government shutdown stretches into its fourth week, the Trump administration is reinterpreting longstanding rules to open the federal government piece by piece, forcing thousands of workers to report to work without pay, many of them in sectors that could minimize damage to the president’s base. Federal farm service offices will open to help farmers and ranchers. With tax season underway, the Internal Revenue Service is calling more than half of its 80,000 employees back to work. Thousands of furloughed safety inspectors have been told to report to airports and runways. And dozens of Interior Department employees will head to the country’s coastline to sell oil and gas leases.” Trump taps free government labor to execute his political agendaPolitico, Nancy Cook, Wednesday, 16 January 2019: “The Trump administration is pushing the legal boundaries of a government shutdown, fueling fears that the president is manipulating federal agencies and workers to soften the political blow against him. In recent days, agencies have called back to work thousands of furloughed federal employees, restarted services and pursued key policies at shuttered agencies. The activity has legal experts, administration officials and veterans of past shutdowns questioning what actually constitutes a government shutdown if the administration can simply resurrect its preferred services and a la carte policy to-do list nearly a month after funding expired for several agencies.”

A Typical Federal Worker Has Missed $5,000 in Pay From the Shutdown So FarThe New York Times, Jugal K. Patel, Wednesday, 16 January 2019: “The 800,000 federal workers who haven’t been paid during the government shutdown have each missed more than $5,000 in wages on average over the four weeks so far, according to a New York Times analysis. Combined, that’s more than $200 million per workday. While the median federal salary is $77,000, about one-fifth of workers make less than $50,000. Many have said they have less than a month of savings.”

Will the Public Ever See Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Report on Trump? Maybe. The New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt and Charlie Savage, Wednesday, 16 January 2019: “The swirl of speculation surrounding the Russia investigation often assumes that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, will release a report of his findings that will serve as the definitive explanation of how Russia interfered in the 2016 election and whether President Trump or his associates coordinated with Moscow. But there is no such guarantee. The law does not require the Justice Department to release a report, and Mr. Mueller has been silent on the issue. Mr. Trump’s nominee for attorney general, William P. Barr, said at his confirmation hearing on Tuesday that he wanted to release as much of what Mr. Mueller found as possible. But he said he needed to learn more about the report and the regulations that govern his releasing information from it before deciding what to do about disclosing the findings. That answer did not satisfy leading Senate Democrats, who said on Wednesday that they would oppose Mr. Barr’s nomination unless he agreed to release the entire report Mr. Mueller produces, except for redactions of sensitive national security information.”

Internal watchdog says the General Services Administration ‘improperly’ ignored constitutional concerns before allowing Trump to keep his lease on a government-owned building, the one that houses his Trump International Hotel in D.C.The Washington Post, Jonathan O’Connell and David A. Fahrenthold, Wednesday, 16 January 2019: “The General Services Administration ‘ignored’ concerns that President Trump’s lease on a government-owned building — the one that houses his Trump International Hotel in Washington — might violate the Constitution when it allowed Trump to keep the lease after he took office, according to a new report from the agency’s inspector general. Trump’s company won the lease several years before he became president. After Trump was elected, the agency had to decide whether his company would be allowed to keep its lease. At that time, the inspector general found, the agency should have determined whether the lease violates the Constitution’s emoluments clauses, which bar presidents from taking payments from foreign governments or individual U.S. states. But it did not, according to the report issued Wednesday. ‘We . . . found that [the agency] improperly ignored these Emoluments Clauses, even though the lease itself requires compliance with the laws of the United States, including the Constitution,’ the report said.” See also, Inspector General’s Report Finds the General Services Administration, the Federal Agency That Leased the Trump International Hotel in D.C. to Trump, Ignored Constitutional Questions About the LeaseThe New York Times, Sharon LaFraniere, Wednesday, 16 January 2019: “The federal agency that had leased a prime property in Washington to the Trump Organization failed to grapple fully after the 2016 election with the politically fraught question of whether Donald J. Trump’s victory left the deal in violation of the Constitution, according to an inspector general’s report released on Wednesday. The inspector general for the agency, the General Services Administration, found that its lawyers agreed that Mr. Trump’s election raised constitutional issues about the Trump Organization’s lease of the building on Pennsylvania Avenue, which was redeveloped as the Trump International Hotel. The lease was signed in 2013 and the hotel opened two weeks before the 2016 election. But rather than confront head-on after Election Day what to do about the issue — or seek the advice of the Justice Department — the agency ignored it, the report said. Essentially, the General Services Administration decided to ‘punt,’ the report said, quoting a senior agency lawyer, effectively clearing the way for Mr. Trump’s business to continue operating in the heart of the capital. The inspector general’s report suggested that the intersection of Mr. Trump’s business with his role as president might violate the Constitution’s restrictions on government-bestowed benefits or ’emoluments’ to federal officials, besides their salaries.” See also, Federal Watchdog Finds Government Ignored Emoluments Clause With Trump HotelNPR, Jessica Taylor and Peter Overby, Wednesday, 16 January 2019.

T-Mobile announced a merger needing Trump administration approval. The next day, 9 T-Mobile executives had reservations at Trump’s hotel in D.C. The Washington Post, Jonathan O’Connell and David A. Fahrenthold, Wednesday, 16 January 2019: “Last April, telecom giant T-Mobile announced a megadeal: a $26 billion merger with rival Sprint, which would more than double T-Mobile’s value and give it a huge new chunk of the cellphone market. But for T-Mobile, one hurdle remained: Its deal needed approval from the Trump administration. The next day, in Washington, staffers at the Trump International Hotel were handed a list of incoming ‘VIP Arrivals.’ That day’s list included nine of T-Mobile’s top executives — including its chief operating officer, chief technology officer, chief strategy officer and chief financial officer, and its outspoken celebrity chief executive, John Legere. The executives had scheduled stays of up to three days. But it was not their last visit. Instead, T-Mobile executives have returned to President Trump’s hotel repeatedly since then, according to eyewitnesses and hotel documents obtained by The Washington Post.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan and the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center (MIRC) Demand an Investigation Into Kent County Sheriff’s Department After It Delivered U.S. Citizen Jilmar Ramos-Gomez to ICE for DeportationACLU, Wednesday, 16 January 2019: “Today the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan and Michigan Immigrant Rights Center (MIRC) sent a letter to the Kent County Sheriff and Kent County Board of Commissioners, demanding an investigation into how an American citizen and decorated veteran was taken into U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody for deportation. On December 14, 2018, the Kent County Sheriff’s Department handed a United States citizen and decorated Marine combat veteran over to ICE officials so that he could be deported. The veteran, Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, was born in Grand Rapids, grew up here, and bravely served our country in Afghanistan.” See also, Latino Marine veteran Jilmar Ramos-Gomez was detained for deportation. Then Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) realized he was a citizen. The Washington Post, Eli Rosenberg, Wednesday, 16 January 2019.

Democrats Fall Short in Effort to Rebuke the Trump Administration on Easing Sanctions Against the Companies of Russian Billionaire Oleg DeripaskaThe New York Times, Kenneth P. Vogel, Wednesday, 16 January 2019: “Senate Republicans on Wednesday narrowly staved off an effort by Democrats to deal the Trump administration’s Russia sanctions policy an embarrassing rebuke. Eleven Republicans joined Democrats in a vote to enforce sanctions against the corporate empire of an influential ally of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, but the effort fell three votes short of the 60-vote threshold required to advance the measure. The vote was 57-42, with one Democratic senator not voting. The sanctions against companies controlled by the influential oligarch, Oleg V. Deripaska, now seem destined to be lifted this week as part of a deal negotiated by the Treasury Department to reduce Mr. Deripaska’s ownership and control of the aluminum giant Rusal and two linked companies. Sanctions against Mr. Deripaska personally, which had gone into effect last April, remain in force and would not have been affected by the Treasury Department decision or the Senate measure. Mr. Deripaska’s companies waged an aggressive lobbying and legal campaign against the sanctions last year. The administration first delayed putting sanctions on the companies into effect and then announced last month it would lift them entirely.” See also, Republican senators protect the Trump administration’s plan to lift sanctions on the companies of Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, an ally of Russian president Vladimir PutinThe Washington Post, Jeanne Whalen, Wednesday, 16 January 2019.

House Democratic leaders bottle up effort to censure Iowa Republican Representative Steve KingThe Washington Post, Mike DeBonis, Wednesday, 16 January 2019: “House Democratic leaders blocked an effort to censure Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) for racial comments, referring the measure to the House Ethics Committee for further review due to concerns that it might set a dangerous precedent for policing members’ speech. Censure is the most serious sanction for a House member short of expulsion, and it has been imposed only six times in the past 100 years. Prompted by King’s recent comments to the New York Times questioning the offensiveness of the terms ‘white nationalism’ and ‘white supremacy,’ the House adopted a resolution condemning that hatred Tuesday. But Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) sought to go further by censuring King and pressed for a vote on Wednesday. After the House clerk read the resolution detailing King’s inflammatory comments over the years, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) moved to refer the matter to the Ethics Committee — a move that could bottle up the effort indefinitely. The House agreed on voice vote.”


Thursday, 17 January 2019, Day 728:


President Trump Directed His Attorney Michael Cohen to Lie to Congress About the Moscow Tower ProjectBuzzFeed News, Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier, Thursday, 17 January 2019: “President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter. Trump also supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. ‘Make it happen,’ the sources said Trump told Cohen. And even as Trump told the public he had no business deals with Russia, the sources said Trump and his children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen, whom they put in charge of the project. Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying about the deal in testimony and in a two-page statement to the Senate and House intelligence committees. Special counsel Robert Mueller noted that Cohen’s false claim that the project ended in January 2016 was an attempt to ‘minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1’ — widely understood to be Trump — ‘in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.’ Now the two sources have told BuzzFeed News that Cohen also told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie — by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did — in order to obscure Trump’s involvement. The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents. Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office. This revelation is not the first evidence to suggest the president may have attempted to obstruct the FBI and special counsel investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. But Cohen’s testimony marks a significant new frontier: It is the first known example of Trump explicitly telling a subordinate to lie directly about his own dealings with Russia.” See also, BuzzFeed’s Michael Cohen story, if true, looks to be the most damning to date for TrumpThe Washington Post, Aaron Blake, published on Friday, 18 January 2019: “Predicting President Trump’s imminent demise has made fools of people since the moment he launched his presidential campaign. But the latest blockbuster story about the Russia investigation is different. If Robert S. Mueller III has the evidence he reportedly has — that Trump asked Michael Cohen to lie to Congress for him — it could present something that’s been missing thus far from the public domain: an event so cut-and-dried that even Republicans would be hard-pressed not to consider impeachment. BuzzFeed News broke the story Thursday night about the alleged Trump request. The lie Cohen told is the one he has pleaded guilty to: about when efforts to secure a Trump Tower Moscow concluded. BuzzFeed reports that not only did Cohen tell Mueller’s team that Trump told him to lie, but that Mueller had evidence of this even before confronting Cohen. There are important caveats here — and the story is of such significance that we need to emphasize those caveats up high. The first is that it is based upon two anonymous ‘federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter.’ The second is that Cohen’s team isn’t confirming it, despite his having flipped on Trump long ago. We also don’t know exactly what evidence Mueller has. The solidity of that evidence matters greatly in what would otherwise be a he-said, he-said situation.” See also, Trump reportedly told Michael Cohen to lie. His own attorney general pick testified that’s a crime. The Washington Post, Isaac Stanley-Becker, published on Friday, 18 January 2019: “When Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) asked President Trump’s nominee for attorney general, William P. Barr, earlier this week whether it would be a crime if ‘the president tried to coach somebody not to testify, or testify falsely,’ Barr was unequivocal: ‘Yes,’ the nominee told the Senate Judiciary Committee. ‘Under an obstruction statute, yes.’ Now that an explosive story published Thursday by BuzzFeed News alleges that Trump did just that, by ordering Michael Cohen, his former attorney, to lie to Congress, Barr’s answer presents the White House with a new quandary — the president’s own choice for the nation’s top law enforcement official has described such conduct as ‘classic’ obstruction of justice. Barr said the same when pressed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), as well as in his own written statements. He has affirmed his view at least three times, both in a once-private memo and in sworn testimony. In response to the BuzzFeed story, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) tweeted Friday morning that the committee would investigate. ‘We know that the President has engaged in a long pattern of obstruction. Directing a subordinate to lie to Congress is a federal crime. The @HouseJudiciary Committee’s job is to get to the bottom of it, and we will do that work,’ he wrote.” See also, Democrats demand investigation after report in BuzzFeed News that Trump ordered Michael Cohen to lie to CongressThe Washington Post, Tim Elfrink, published on Friday, 18 January 2019: “Democratic leaders reacted with fury and demanded an investigation late Thursday following a new report that President Trump personally directed his former attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about the president’s push for a lucrative condo project in Moscow in the lead-up to the 2016 election. The Thursday night report from BuzzFeed News cites two unnamed federal law enforcement officials who say Cohen acknowledged in interviews with the office of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III that the president directed him to deceive Congress about key facts linking Trump to the proposed deal in Russia. Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying under oath about those details. Democrats said that if the report is accurate, Trump must quickly be held to account for his role in the perjury, with some raising the specter of impeachment. ‘The allegation that the President of the United States may have suborned perjury before our committee in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date,’ wrote Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. ‘We will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true.'” See also, Michael Cohen bombshell could significantly change Mueller debateThe Washington Post, Jacqueline Alemany, published on Friday, 18 January 2019.

Report issued by the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services says the Trump administration probably separated thousands more migrant children from their parents than has previously been made publicThe Washington Post, Amy Goldstein, Thursday, 17 January 2019: “A government report released Thursday said the Trump administration probably separated thousands more migrant children from their parents at the U.S. border than has previously been made public, but federal efforts to track those children have been so poor that the precise number is unknown. The report issued by the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services says no one systematically kept count of separated children until a lawsuit last spring triggered by the Trump administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy, under which the government tried to criminally prosecute all parents who crossed the border illegally, taking their children from them in the process. As a result of the lawsuit, the government identified about 2,700 separated children in federal custody as of June, some of them infants and toddlers. But Health and Human Services officials say there was a sharp spike in separated children starting nearly a year earlier, shortly after President Trump took office, the report said. Investigators now say thousands more children were taken from their parents or other guardians by border or immigration agents during that time and later released. The report said that estimate was based on ‘informal tracking’ by the HHS office responsible for refu­gee children and did not include more specific numbers.” See also, Family Separation May Have Hit Thousands More Migrant Children Than ReportedThe New York Times, Miriam Jordan, Thursday, 17 January 2019: “The Trump administration most likely separated thousands more children from their parents at the Southern border than was previously believed, according to a report by government inspectors released on Thursday. The federal government has reported that nearly 3,000 children were forcibly separated from their parents under last year’s ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy, under which nearly all adults entering the country illegally were prosecuted, and any children accompanying them were put into shelters or foster care. But even before the administration officially unveiled the zero-tolerance policy in the spring of 2018, staff of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the agency that oversees the care of children in federal custody, had noted a ‘sharp increase’ in the number of children separated from a parent or guardian, according to the report from the agency’s Office of Inspector General.” See also, Thousands more migrant children separated under Trump than previously knownThe Guardian, Amanda Holpuch, Thursday, 17 January 2019: “The Trump administration may have separated thousands of migrant children from their parents at the border for up to a year before family separation was a publicly known practice, according to a stunning government review of the health department’s role in family separation. A report by the health department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) published on Thursday said officials at the health department estimated ‘thousands of separated children’ were put in health department care before a court order in June 2018 ordered the reunification of 2,600 other children. ‘The total number of children separated from a parent or guardian by immigration authorities is unknown,’ the report said.”

As Trial Starts for Border Humanitarian Volunteers, New Documents Reveal Federal Bureaucrats’ Obsession With Stopping ActivistsThe Intercept, Ryan Devereaux, Thursday, 17 January 2019: “Trump administration prosecutors argued this week that members of the borderland faith-based organization No More Deaths broke the law by leaving jugs of water and cans of beans for migrants trekking through a remote wilderness refuge in the Sonoran Desert. The arguments came in the first of a series of high-profile federal trials in Tucson, Arizona, where humanitarian aid volunteers are facing prosecution under a litany of charges…. Christopher Dupont, an attorney for the defendants, argued that by devoting their time to putting out food and water in one of the world’s deadliest regions for migrants traveling on foot — where a minimum of 3,000 people have died making their way north since 2000 — the No More Deaths volunteers were acting on deeply held principles to confront a ‘crisis of the soul’ that has turned much of southern Arizona’s most remote federal lands into a ‘veritable cemetery.’ There are currently two sets of separate but related cases stemming from a Trump administration crackdown on humanitarian aid volunteers in southern Arizona. The most serious charges have been leveled against Scott Warren, a 36-year-old academic, whom the government charged with three felony counts of harboring and conspiracy, for providing food, water, and a place to sleep to two undocumented men over three days last January. Warren faces 20 years in prison if convicted and sentenced to consecutive terms. In addition to the felony case, Warren, who was not on trial this week, is one of nine No More Deaths volunteers accused of violating regulations on the Cabeza Prieta Refuge. Those cases are divided into three trials, with the first now underway.” See also, Judge Convicts ‘No More Deaths’ Volunteers After They Left Water for MigrantsDemocracy Now!, published on Tuesday, 22 January 2019: “In Arizona, a judge rendered guilty verdicts for four activists from the humanitarian group No More Deaths. The volunteers were accused of crimes related to their efforts to leave water and food in the harsh Sonoran Desert to help refugees and migrants survive the deadly journey across the U.S. border. They now face up to six months in prison. In a statement, No More Deaths volunteer Catherine Gaffney said, ‘This verdict challenges not only No More Deaths volunteers, but people of conscience throughout the country. If giving water to someone dying of thirst is illegal, what humanity is left in the law of this country?’ Five more volunteers with the group are still scheduled to face trial. Click here to see our recent interview about this case.”

Michael Cohen, Trump’s Former Lawyer, Hired IT Firm to Rig Early CNBC and Drudge Polls to Favor Trump as He Considered Running for PresidentThe Wall Street Journal, Michael Rothfeld, Rob Barry, and Joe Palazzolo, Thursday, 17 January 2019: “In early 2015, a man who runs a small technology company showed up at Trump Tower to collect $50,000 for having helped Michael Cohen, then Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, try to rig online polls in his boss’s favor before the presidential campaign. In his Trump Organization office, Mr. Cohen surprised the man, John Gauger, by giving him a blue Walmart bag containing between $12,000 and $13,000 in cash and, randomly, a boxing glove that Mr. Cohen said had been worn by a Brazilian mixed-martial arts fighter, Mr. Gauger said. Mr. Cohen disputed that he handed over a bag of cash. ‘All monies paid to Mr. Gauger were by check,’ he said, offering no further comment on his ties to the consultant. Mr. Gauger owns RedFinch Solutions LLC and is chief information officer at Liberty University in Virginia, where Jerry Falwell Jr., an evangelical leader and fervent Trump supporter, is president. Gauger said he never got the rest of what he claimed he was owed. But Mr. Cohen in early 2017 still asked for—and received—a $50,000 reimbursement from Mr. Trump and his company for the work by RedFinch, according to a government document and a person familiar with the matter. The reimbursement—made on the sole basis of a handwritten note from Mr. Cohen and paid largely out of Mr. Trump’s personal account—demonstrates the level of trust the lawyer once had within the Trump Organization, whose officials arranged the repayment. The Trump Organization declined to comment. After this article was published Thursday morning, Mr. Cohen said in a tweet that he attempted to have the polls rigged with Mr. Trump’s knowledge. ‘What I did was at the direction of and for the sole benefit of [Mr. Trump],’ Mr. Cohen wrote. ‘I truly regret my blind loyalty to a man who doesn’t deserve it.'” See also, Trump’s Former Lawyer Michael Cohen Acknowledged Making Payments to Rig Online Polls to Help Trump as He Considered a Run for PresidentThe New York Times, Maggie Haberman, Thursday, 17 January 2019: “Michael D. Cohen, the former personal lawyer and fixer for President Trump, acknowledged on Thursday that he had paid the owner of a technology services company to help doctor results of an online poll to help Mr. Trump as he considered a run for president. In a post on Twitter about his actions, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Cohen said that he had done so at the direction of Mr. Trump, and regretted it.” See also, Michael Cohen does not dispute report in The Wall Street Journal that he paid tech firm to rig polls for TrumpThe Washington Post, John Wagner and Philip Rucker, Thursday, 17 January 2019. See also, The quintessential Trump campaign story: A bag of cash, Michael Cohen, and a rigged online pollThe Washington Post, Philip Bump, Thursday, 17 January 2019: “We have, on Thursday, a story that perhaps serves as the best encapsulation to date of how the early days of Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency worked, a summary that, itself, seems to explain much of what happened afterward. It’s the details that are particularly compelling. It was, according to the Wall Street Journal, a Walmart bag, blue, containing somewhere over $12,000 in cash and a boxing glove that Michael Cohen, then Trump’s personal attorney, claimed had been owned by a Brazilian fighter. We’re meant to infer from Cohen’s assurances on the glove that it was somehow worth $38,000; otherwise, that Walmart bag wouldn’t have contained the $50,000 that Cohen was supposed to turn over. This was in early 2015, before Trump was a candidate for the presidency, but the wheels were already in motion. Cohen had engaged a tech guy named John Gauger to help prime the pump for a Trump candidacy, according to the Journal, asking him to rig a non-scientific poll hosted at the Drudge Report.”

Trump Hits Back at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Upending Her Trip to See Troops in Afghanistan With a Stop in BrusselsThe New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Annie Karni, and Nicholas Fandos, Thursday, 17 January 2019: “A bus emblazoned with the United States Air Force logo was idling outside the Capitol on Thursday, members of Congress on board, ready to depart for Joint Base Andrews and a waiting military aircraft. Inside, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was in her office making final preparations to lead the congressional delegation on a secret visit to American troops in Afghanistan with a stop in Brussels. Then came word from the White House: President Trump was grounding their plane and killing the trip. Mr. Trump’s decision to upend Ms. Pelosi’s travel plans was a remarkable bit of one-upmanship in an increasingly bitter government shutdown drama in which Mr. Trump and Ms. Pelosi, the newly elected Democratic speaker, are the main antagonists. The day before, Ms. Pelosi had suggested that the president cancel or delay his State of the Union address this month, citing security concerns amid a prolonged partial shutdown that has forced thousands of federal employees to work without pay. Mr. Trump at first said nothing, but 24 hours later, without mentioning her request, the president released a sarcasm-tinged letter in which he told her the trip was off.” See also, Trump says he’s canceling Pelosi’s foreign trip a day after she asked him to delay his State of the Union speechThe Washington Post, Erica Werner and John Wagner, Thursday, 17 January 2019.

Rudy Giuliani says Trump didn’t collude with Russia, but he can’t say if campaign aides didCNN, Caroline Kelly, Thursday, 17 January 2019: “Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday that he never denied President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign, only that the President himself was not involved in collusion. In an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo on ‘Cuomo Prime Time,’ Giuliani, a former New York mayor and Trump’s attorney, said he doesn’t know if other people in the campaign, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, were working with the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential race. ‘I never said there was no collusion between the campaign, or people in the campaign,’ Giuliani said. He added, ‘I said the President of the United States. There is not a single bit of evidence the President of the United States committed the only crime you can commit here, conspiring with the Russians to hack the DNC.’ It’s another remarkable statement from Giuliani, given that the President and his supporters have repeatedly denied any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.” See also, Rudy Giuliani: ‘I never said there was no collusion’ between the Trump campaign and RussiaThe Washington Post, Allyson Chiu and Lindsey Bever, Thursday, 17 January 2019: “Rudolph W. Giuliani claimed Wednesday night that he ‘never said there was no collusion’ between President Trump’s campaign and Russia leading up to the 2016 presidential election. In a remarkable, at times contentious interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, the president’s lawyer was accused of contradicting his own past statements about collusion as well as what Trump and his supporters have repeatedly asserted. On Twitter, Trump has used the phrase ‘no collusion’ dozens of times, and a number of those instances were direct denials that his campaign was involved with the Russian government. Giuliani’s shocking declarations — several of which Cuomo called out as being false — quickly sent the Internet into a tailspin as many wondered what could have prompted the former New York mayor to suddenly change course.” See also, Rudy Giuliani just contradicted nearly all the Trump team’s past collusion denialsThe Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Thursday, 17 January 2019. See also, Rudy Giuliani seeks to clarify comments on the Trump campaign and Russia, saying he has ‘no knowledge of any collusion,’ The Washington Post, Philip Rucker, Thursday, 17 January 2019: “President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, on Thursday dialed back a comment that had left open the possibility that members of Trump’s 2016 campaign may have conspired with Russia, saying he did not intend to suggest any conspiracy or wrongdoing.” See also, Rudy Giuliani Backs Off Remarks on Potential Collusion by Trump AidesThe New York Times, Eileen Sullivan and Maggie Haberman, Thursday, 17 January 2019: “President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani backtracked on Thursday from a surprising assertion he had made a night earlier that left open the possibility that Trump campaign aides might have coordinated with Russia in its election interference in 2016. ‘There was no collusion by President Trump in any way, shape or form,’ Mr. Giuliani said in a statement on Thursday, reiterating the president’s longstanding defense against accusations that his campaign secretly coordinated with Moscow to help swing the election. ‘Likewise, I have no knowledge of any collusion by any of the thousands of people who worked on the campaign.’… Mr. Giuliani was seeking to clarify an interview on Wednesday night in which he stopped short of defending Trump campaign aides, drawing speculation that he might have inside knowledge of possible coordination with Russia.” See also, 

In What Was Most Likely a Largely Symbolic Vote, 136 House Republicans Join Democrats in Vote Against Russia Sanctions ReliefThe New York Times, Kenneth P. Vogel, Thursday, 17 January 2019: “In what was most likely a largely symbolic vote, 136 House Republicans joined with Democrats on Thursday in an overwhelming show of disapproval of the Trump administration’s policy toward three Kremlin-aligned companies. The House voted 362 to 53 to block the Treasury Department from lifting sanctions against the companies, which are controlled by the Russian oligarch Oleg V. Deripaska. Had a similar resolution also passed the Republican-controlled Senate, it would have blocked the Treasury Department’s move and led to the enforcement of the sanctions against the aluminum giant Rusal and two linked firms. But an effort by Senate Democrats failed on Wednesday to clear the 60-vote threshold required for passage, despite winning support from 11 Republicans.” See also, In rebuke to the Trump administration, more than 130 Republicans break ranks to oppose Treasury plan to lift sanctions against companies controlled by Putin ally Oleg DeripaskaThe Washington Post, Jeanne Whalen, Thursday, 17 January 2019.

Back pay approved for furloughed federal employees once shutdown endsThe Washington Post, Eric Yoder, Thursday, 17 January 2019: “When funding is restored to federal agencies shuttered by the partial government shutdown, employees who have been on unpaid furloughs will receive back pay, under legislation President Trump signed Wednesday. The measure extends to furloughed employees the same guarantee of eventual back pay that already had applied to those who have remained on the job in unfunded agencies because of the safety- or security-related nature of their work. Of the 800,000 federal employees in unpaid status since Dec. 22, more than half have continued to work. They have been assured of back pay when funding is restored for their agency, but there had been no such assurance for those who were furloughed. In previous shutdowns, they, too, had been paid retroactively, however.”

Republican Representative Steve King (Iowa) and Donald Trump: mutual fans and echoesThe Washington Post, Glenn Kessler and Meg Kelly, Thursday, 17 January 2019: “In the New York Times interview that caused a firestorm, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) says he once told President Trump: ‘I market-tested your immigration policy for 14 years.’ After all, King was advocating for a border wall — a ‘King wall’ as he called it — as early as 2006, almost 10 years before the concept of a wall along the southern border turned up in Trump’s announcement that he was running for president. But the symbiotic relationship has come under strain after King was quoted in the New York Times article as saying: ‘White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization? After that quote was publicized, House Republicans stripped King of his committee memberships and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders labeled his comments as ‘abhorrent.’ Trump himself has not commented on the controversy. But attention anew has been focused on how Trump and King have often echoed each other in their public statements. As a reader service, we have assembled some of these quotes so readers can judge for themselves.”

The White House Called the Food Stamp Funding That Puerto Rico Requested ‘Excessive and Unnecessary,’ BuzzFeed News, Nidhi Prakash, Thursday, 17 January 2019: “The Trump administration says providing additional disaster funding for Puerto Rico’s food stamp program is ‘excessive and unnecessary,’ as the island continues to struggle to recover from the effects of 2017’s Hurricane Maria and an ongoing economic crisis. In response to a bill that passed the House this week, the White House rejected the idea of extending disaster funding for food stamps in Puerto Rico in a statement on Wednesday. The measure would have provided $600 million for the island’s food stamp program, known as NAP or Nutrition Assistance for Puerto Rico, to help provide for more Puerto Ricans in the aftermath of the natural disaster. [T]he request for $600 million came directly from Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who wrote a letter to congressional leaders in November asking for additional disaster relief funding, including for the food stamp program, citing ‘its inability to provide food security to those in need. For the last three and half decades the U.S. Congress has treated American citizens in Puerto Rico differently when it comes to meeting essential nutritional needs,’ he wrote at the time. Rosselló said the program was inadequate to meet Puerto Rico’s needs to begin with, but now, after an unprecedented natural disaster and financial crisis, the emergency funds are crucial.”

Iran Says U.S. Has Detained ‘Press TV’ Journalist Marzieh Hashemi and Calls for Her ReleaseNPR, Daniella Cheslow, Thursday, 17 January 2019: “Iran’s foreign ministry is calling for the immediate release of an American-born journalist who works for an Iranian state broadcaster and who is believed to have been detained in the U.S. ‘The custody of Iran’s reporter in the U.S. is highly political and she should be released immediately,’ Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted as saying by the Islamic Republic News Agency. Marzieh Hashemi, 59, works for the English-language news service Press TV in Iran. Hashemi lives in Iran but was shooting a documentary in St. Louis, according to The Associated Press, which spoke to her son Hossein…. Hashemi told the AP he has learned his mother is being held as a material witness. Federal law allows for the detention of a person who is ‘material in a criminal proceeding’ if it seems that person is unlikely to respond to a subpoena.” See also, Marzieh Hashemi, a Journalist for Iranian TV, Is Detained as a Material Witness in U.S. InvestigationThe New York Times, Alan Yuhas, published on Friday, 18 January 2019: “An American-born journalist who works for an Iranian state-run television channel was arrested in the United States as a material witness in an undisclosed investigation, according to a federal court order unsealed on Friday. The journalist, Marzieh Hashemi, was arrested at the St. Louis airport on Sunday and was transferred by the F.B.I. to Washington, according to Press TV, where she works as an anchor. American officials had not confirmed her detention until Friday, when Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ordered some details about her arrest unsealed. The court order said that Ms. Hashemi, 59, had been arrested on a material witness warrant and was not accused of any crime. She had made two court appearances, it said, and American authorities expected her to be released after ‘her testimony before a grand jury investigating violations of U.S. criminal law.’ Though the order said a lawyer had been appointed for Ms. Hashemi, none was named.”