Trump Administration, Week 105: Friday, 18 January – Thursday, 24 January 2019 (Days 729-735)

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, 18 January 2019, Day 729:


In a rare move, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office denies BuzzFeed report that Trump told his lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about Trump Tower project in MoscowThe Washington Post, Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky, and Karoun Demirjian, Friday, 18 January 2019: “Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s office on Friday denied an explosive report by BuzzFeed News that his investigators had gathered evidence showing President Trump directed his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about a prospective business deal in Moscow. ‘BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate,’ said Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller. The statement was remarkable on several levels — first, the special counsel’s office speaks exceedingly rarely, and second, the statement seemed to drive a stake through a sensational allegation that Democratic lawmakers suggested earlier in the day could spell the end of the Trump presidency. As earthshaking as the claims in the story were, no other media organizations were able to match them. The story published by BuzzFeed on Thursday night attributed to two federal law enforcement officials an incendiary assertion: that Mueller had collected emails, texts and testimony indicating Trump had directed Cohen to lie to Congress about the extent of discussions surrounding a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow. That project never came to pass, but Cohen pleaded guilty last year to lying to Congress about the matter. The BuzzFeed report strongly implied the president might have committed a crime, dramatically raising speculation of possible impeachment. Within hours, Democrats in Congress were publicly demanding answers. The potential consequences of the report were so severe — immediate congressional investigations and a possible legal showdown with the White House — that Mueller decided to take the surprising step of publicly denying his investigation had gathered any such evidence. The special counsel’s office has only rarely issued public statements since it was created in May 2017; it had never previously issued a public statement regarding evidence in its investigation into Trump and Russian interference in the 2016 election. Inside the Justice Department, the statement was viewed as a huge step, and one that would have been taken only if the special counsel’s office viewed the story as almost entirely incorrect. The special counsel’s office seemed to be disputing every aspect of the story that addressed comments or evidence given to its investigators. The explicit denial by the special counsel’s office is likely to provide further ammunition to complaints by Trump and his supporters that press coverage of him is unfair and inaccurate.” See also, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Office Releases Statement Disputing BuzzFeed News Report That Trump Directed Michael Cohen, His Longtime Lawyer and Fixer, to Lie to Congress About the Trump Tower Project in MoscowThe New York Times, Mark Mazzetti and Sharon LaFraniere, Friday, 18 January 2019: “The special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election disputed on Friday a report that said President Trump had directed Michael D. Cohen, his longtime lawyer and fixer, to lie to Congress about his role in negotiations to build a skyscraper in Moscow. The rare public statement by a spokesman for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, challenged the facts of an article published by BuzzFeed News on Thursday saying that Mr. Cohen had told prosecutors about being pressured by the president before his congressional testimony…. Before Mr. Carr’s statement, the BuzzFeed report led to a flurry of reactions by senior members of Congress who said that the allegations, if true, could be grounds for initiating impeachment proceedings against Mr. Trump…. A proven effort by Mr. Trump to pressure a witness to commit perjury would be one of the most damning revelations so far in the investigation into Russia’s attempts to sabotage the 2016 presidential election and could be the cornerstone of a case that the president obstructed justice to keep investigators at bay…. BuzzFeed News maintained that its report was accurate, its editor, Ben Smith, said after Mr. Mueller’s office disputed the account. ‘We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he’s disputing,’ Mr. Smith said on Twitter.”

Report by Oil Change International says the oil boom in the U.S. could lead to a climate catastropheCNN, Ivana Kottasová, Friday, 18 January 2019: “America’s push for oil and gas supremacy could lead to a ‘climate catastrophe,’ a new report has warned. The report by Oil Change International said that the United States is set to ‘unleash the world’s largest burst’ of carbon emissions from new oil and gas development if it goes ahead with its plans to expand drilling. ‘At precisely the time in which the world must begin rapidly decarbonizing to avoid runaway climate disaster, the United States is moving further and faster than any other country to expand oil and gas extraction,’ the report said. The United States became the world’s largest oil producer last year, surpassing Russia and Saudi Arabia. America’s oil output has more than doubled over the past decade, mostly thanks to the huge shale oil boom. The International Energy Agency said Friday that US oil output soared by more than 2 million barrels per day in 2018, the biggest jump ever recorded by any country. The agency, which monitors energy markets trends for the world’s richest nations, said the growth will continue this year.” See also, Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar’s Policy Preferences Could Destroy the World: If allowed to continue with projected new fossil fuel projects, U.S. oil and gas production could account for 60 percent of all new oil and gas production through 2030, making the U.S. the world’s largest new source of oil and gasThe Intercept, Kate Aronoff, published on Saturday, 19 January 2019.

Pentagon report says military bases face climate risks, but critics say it’s short on detailsThe Washington Post, Brady Dennis, Chris Mooney, and Missy Ryan, Friday, 18 January 2019: “Dozens of military installations around the country already are experiencing the impacts of climate change, and rising seas, wildfires and other climate-fueled disasters are likely to cause increasing problems for the armed forces, the Defense Department said Thursday in a report to lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The 22-page document comes in response to a request from Congress in an annual funding bill, which required defense officials to provide a list of the 10 most vulnerable sites that each military branch faces over the next two decades, and an analysis of what could be done to protect them. The document affirms a longstanding sense that the U.S. military, with massive energy needs and bases flung around the globe – including some on low-lying islands — is well attuned to how the planet is changing due to the burning of fossil fuels. But while the report calls climate change ‘a national security issue’ and highlights individual bases that face potential impacts, it did not include such a list of the most at-risk installations — an omission that drew quick criticism on Friday.”

Continue reading Week 105, Friday, 18 January – Thursday, 24 January 2019 (Days 729-735)

House speaker Nancy Pelosi abandons Afghanistan trip and accuses Trump of imperiling lawmakers with his disclosure of the trip to a battle areaThe Washington Post, Erica Werner and Mike DeBonis, Friday, 18 January 2019: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused President Trump on Friday of putting her and fellow lawmakers in danger by publicizing their plans to travel to Afghanistan, forcing them to abandon the trip, a breathtaking allegation against the commander in chief as their feud escalated and the government shutdown dragged on. Pelosi said the State Department had determined that the trip could no longer be made without endangering the safety of lawmakers, as well as of troops and support personnel. The accusation came a day after Trump had denied Pelosi the use of military aircraft, forcing her to make plans to fly commercially to Afghanistan — before she abandoned that plan, too, accusing the administration of leaking word of it.”

House Democrats Add $1 Billion in Border-Related Spending to Measures to Reopen GovernmentThe New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Friday, 18 January 2019: “House Democrats have added more than $1 billion in border-related spending to a package of funding bills that would reopen most of the government, even as President Trump said he would have a ‘major announcement’ on Saturday about the border and the shutdown stalemate. Both sides’ actions were the first indications of possible movement over the shutdown after a week of inertia and harsh words between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Mr. Trump. That conflict culminated when the president, responding to Ms. Pelosi’s request that he postpone his State of the Union address, announced on Thursday that he would not authorize the use of a military plane to fly her and other members of Congress to Afghanistan to meet with American troops. Ms. Pelosi said Friday she was postponing the trip after the White House leaked her alternative plan to use a commercial airline because she had been advised it was too dangerous…. The proposal to include more spending on border measures is scheduled for a vote next week, according to two senior Democratic officials. The plan reflects a shift in strategy by congressional Democrats, who have maintained that they would not give the president a counterproposal until he drops his insistence on a wall and signs legislation to reopen the government. It is an attempt to rebut Mr. Trump’s repeated portrayal of Democrats as opponents of border security and their denunciation of his wall as an embrace of open borders.”

Senator Jeff Merkley (Democrat-Oregon) asks the FBI for perjury investigation of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen over her statements about the Trump administration’s family separation policy during sworn testimony to CongressThe Washington Post, Eli Rosenberg, Friday, 18 January 2019: “A Democratic senator requested Friday that the FBI open a perjury investigation into Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, accusing her of lying about the Trump administration’s family separation policy during sworn testimony to Congress. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) released a previously undisclosed memo Thursday from high-level officials at the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department in 2017 that outlined policy options to deal with illegal immigration at the border. The second item on the list is a policy to ‘separate family units.’ The memo also notes that an upshot of such policies will be the ‘substantial deterrent effect.’ Nielsen has long denied there was a policy to separate families; during testimony in front of Congress in December, she said, ‘We’ve never had a policy for family separation.'” See also, The Trump administration weighed targeting migrant families and speeding up the deportation of children: A draft plan obtained by NBC News also shows officials wanted to specifically target parents in migrant families for increased prosecutionsNBC News, Julia Ainsley, published on Thursday, 17 January 2019: “Trump administration officials weighed speeding up the deportation of migrant children by denying them their legal right to asylum hearings after separating them from their parents, according to comments on a late 2017 draft of what became the administration’s family separation policy obtained by NBC News. The draft also shows officials wanted to specifically target parents in migrant families for increased prosecutions, contradicting the administration’s previous statements. In June, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the administration did ‘not have a policy of separating families at the border’ but was simply enforcing existing law. The authors noted that the ‘increase in prosecutions would be reported by the media and it would have a substantial deterrent effect.’ The draft plan was provided to NBC News by the office of Sen. Jeff Merkley, D.-Ore., which says it was leaked by a government whistleblower.”

White House Announces Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un Will Hold Second Summit Meeting in FebruaryThe New York Times, Mark Landler and David E. Sanger, Friday, 18 January 2019: “President Trump will meet with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, in late February, the White House announced on Friday, renewing a high-level diplomatic dialogue that has eased tensions with a rogue nuclear state but has shown no progress in eliminating its nuclear arsenal.” See also, White House says Trump to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in late FebruaryDavid Nakamura, John Hudson, and Anne Gearan, Friday, 18 January 2019.


Saturday, 19 January 2019, Day 730:


Trump offers 3-year extension of protection for ‘dreamers’ in exchange for $5.7 billion for wall; Democrats call it a ‘non-starter,’ The Washington Post, Katie Zezima, Seung Min Kim, and David Nakamura, Saturday, 19 January 2019: “President Trump on Saturday offered Democrats three years of deportation protections for some immigrants in exchange for $5.7 billion in border wall funding, a proposal immediately rejected by Democrats and derided by conservatives as amnesty. Aiming to end the 29-day partial government shutdown, Trump outlined his plan in a White House address in which he sought to revive negotiations with Democrats, who responded that they would not engage in immigration talks until he reopened the government. [T]he initial reaction to the offer from Democrats and conservative border hawks was hostile, raising doubts that it would be enough to break an impasse that has resulted in 800,000 federal workers being furloughed or forced to work without pay and numerous government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, operating at minimal staffing levels. The shutdown has become the longest in U.S. government history.” See also, Trump Offers Temporary Protections for ‘Dreamers’ in Exchange for Wall FundingThe New York Times, Annie Karni and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Saturday, 19 January 2019. See also, In Trump’s Immigration Announcement, a Compromise Snubbed all AroundThe New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Saturday, 19 January 2019: “Immigrant advocates denounced it as cruel. The conservative right howled that it was amnesty. What President Trump billed on Saturday as a compromise to end the country’s longest government shutdown pleased neither the Democratic congressional leaders whose buy-in he needs to strike a deal nor the core supporters whose backing has always been at the heart of his insistence on a border wall.”

Inside the Mueller team’s decision to dispute BuzzFeed’s explosive story on Trump and his personal lawyer, Michael CohenThe Washington Post, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, Saturday, 19 January 2019: “When a BuzzFeed reporter first sought comment on the news outlet’s explosive report that President Trump had directed his lawyer to lie to Congress, the spokesman for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III treated the request as he would almost any other story. The reporter informed Mueller’s spokesman, Peter Carr, that he and a colleague had ‘a story coming stating that Michael Cohen was directed by President Trump himself to lie to Congress about his negotiations related to the Trump Moscow project,’ according to copies of their emails provided by a BuzzFeed spokesman. Importantly, the reporter made no reference to the special counsel’s office specifically or evidence that Mueller’s investigators had uncovered. ‘We’ll decline to comment,’ Carr responded, a familiar refrain for those in the media who cover Mueller’s work. The innocuous exchange belied the chaos it would produce. When BuzzFeed published the story hours later, it far exceeded Carr’s initial impression, people familiar with the matter said, in that the reporting alleged that Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and self-described fixer, ‘told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie,’ and that Mueller’s office learned of the directive ‘through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.’ In the view of the special counsel’s office, that was wrong, two people familiar with the matter said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. And with Democrats raising the specter of investigation and impeachment, Mueller’s team started discussing a step they had never before taken: publicly disputing reporting on evidence in their ongoing investigation.”


Sunday, 20 January 2019, Day 731:


Moscow Skyscraper Talks Continued Through ‘the Day I Won,’ Trump Is Said to AcknowledgeThe New York Times, Mark Mazzetti, Maggie Haberman, and Michael S. Schmidt, Sunday, 20 January 2019: “President Trump was involved in discussions to build a skyscraper in Moscow throughout the entire 2016 presidential campaign, his personal lawyer said on Sunday, a longer and more significant role for Mr. Trump than he had previously acknowledged. The comments by his lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani indicated that Mr. Trump’s efforts to complete a business deal in Russia waned only after Americans cast ballots in the presidential election. The new timetable means that Mr. Trump was seeking a deal at the time he was calling for an end to economic sanctions against Russia imposed by the Obama administration. He was seeking a deal when he gave interviews questioning the legitimacy of NATO, a favorite talking point of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. And he was seeking a deal when, in July 2016, he called on Russia to release hacked Democratic emails that Mr. Putin’s government was rumored at the time to have stolen. The Trump Tower Moscow discussions were ‘going on from the day I announced to the day I won,’ Mr. Giuliani quoted Mr. Trump as saying during an interview with The New York Times.” See also, Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s Personal Lawyer, Walks Back Comments About the Timing of Trump Tower Negotiations in Russia and Says His Moscow Trump Tower Comments Were ‘Hypothetical,’ The New York Times,  Maggie Haberman, published on Monday, 21 January 2019: “President Trump’s personal lawyer on Monday walked back the timeline he had offered a day earlier on when negotiations ended with Russian officials about a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow, calling his comments ‘hypothetical’ and not intended to convey facts. The latest statement from the lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, was described as a clarification of remarks he made to The New York Times in an interview on Sunday, as well as other remarks he made in interviews on Sunday television news shows.” See also, Giuliani walks back startling claims on talk about Trump’s Moscow tower planThe Washington Post, Seung Min Kim, published on Monday, 21 January 2019. See also, Rudy Giuliani on Trump: ‘Even if He Did Do It, It Wouldn’t Be a Crime,’ The New Yorker, Isaac Chotiner, published on Monday, 21 January 2019:”On Sunday, Rudy Giuliani, one of President Trump’s lawyers, made a startling admission to the Times and NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’: that Trump had been involved in discussions to build a Trump Tower Moscow throughout the 2016 campaign, contradicting Trump’s public statements and raising ever more serious questions about the President’s ties to Vladimir Putin. Giuliani told the Times that Trump had said the discussions were ‘going on from the day I announced to the day I won.’ Giuliani also said that Trump may have spoken to Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, before Cohen gave false testimony to Congress about the timing of the Moscow discussions, claiming that they had ended in January, 2016. When, in November, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, he told prosecutors that they continued at least through June, 2016. Giuliani told the Times that Trump may have acknowledged these conversations in the written answers that he gave to the special counsel, Robert Mueller, late last year. ‘There was no question that he was asked by the special counsel [whether he talked to Cohen] before [Cohen] testified Giuliani told the Times. The issue of whether Trump influenced Cohen’s false testimony was raised when BuzzFeed reported, on Thursday night, that according to two federal law-enforcement officials, Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress. In response, Mueller’s office issued a rare statement, saying that BuzzFeed’s descriptions of statements, documents, and testimony obtained by the office ‘are not accurate.’ (BuzzFeed has stood by its story.) Later on Sunday, Giuliani walked back his statements about the timing of the Trump Tower Moscow discussions, saying that they were ‘hypothetical and not based on conversations I had with the President.’ On Monday afternoon, I called Giuliani to try to understand what he was saying about the Moscow negotiations. After telling me that he had only a minute before getting into the shower, he agreed to a conversation, which has been edited and condensed for clarity. In it, we discussed what he told the Times about the Trump Tower Moscow project, his feelings about Mueller’s office, and if he ever worries about his legacy.”

U.S. Policy on Russia? Trump and His Team Might Give Different Answers. The New York Times, Peter Baker, Sunday, 20 January 2019: “After Russian forces seized three Ukrainian ships in November and threatened to turn the Sea of Azov into a Russian lake, Trump administration officials outlined possible responses like imposing additional sanctions, sending ships to make port calls or deploying monitors. Two months later, President Trump has not taken significant action despite widespread support within his administration, nor have the European allies. In Moscow, President Vladimir V. Putin’s Kremlin, rather than being deterred, has grown so emboldened that it is talking again about dismantling Ukraine as an independent state. Mr. Trump’s approach toward Russia has attracted new attention with recent reports that the F.B.I. in 2017 opened a counterintelligence investigation into whether the president was acting on Russia’s behalf, that he has gone to unusual lengths to conceal the details of his meetings with Mr. Putin and that he threatened to pull out of NATO. The president’s lawyer revealed on Sunday that Mr. Trump’s proposed skyscraper in Moscow was under discussion all the way through the November 2016 election…. [The Trump administration] has taken actions that went beyond those of his most recent predecessors, including sanctions, diplomatic expulsions and increased military support for Eastern Europe. His administration has supplied Ukraine with defensive weapons that President Barack Obama refused to provide and announced that it would scrap a nuclear arms treaty in retaliation for Russian cheating. Yet in at least some of those cases, according to current and former administration officials, Mr. Trump has gone along with such actions only reluctantly or under pressure from advisers or Congress. He has left it to subordinates to publicly criticize Russian actions while personally expressing admiration for Mr. Putin and eagerness to be friends. His recent decision to pull out of Syria was seen as a victory for Russia. And as in the latest Ukraine confrontation, he has for now at least given Moscow a pass.” See also, 5 Times the Trump Administration Has Been Tougher Than Trump on RussiaThe New York Times, Noah Weiland, published on Monday, 21 January 2019.


Monday, 21 January 2019, Day 732:


Greenland’s Melting Ice Nears a ‘Tipping Point,’ Scientists SayThe New York Times, John Schwartz, Monday, 21 January 2019: “Greenland’s enormous ice sheet is melting at such an accelerated rate that it may have reached a ‘tipping point,’ and could become a major factor in sea-level rise around the world within two decades, scientists said in a study published on Monday. The Arctic is warming at twice the average rate of the rest of the planet, and the new research adds to the evidence that the ice loss in Greenland, which lies mainly above the Arctic Circle, is speeding up as the warming increases. The authors found that ice loss in 2012 was nearly four times the rate in 2003, and after a lull in 2013-14, it has resumed. The study is the latest in a series of papers published this month suggesting that scientific estimates of the effects of a warming planet have been, if anything, too conservative. Just a week ago, a separate study of ice loss in Antarctica found that the continent is contributing more to rising sea levels than previously thought. Another new analysis suggested that the oceans are warming far faster than earlier estimates. Warming oceans are currently the leading cause of sea-level rise, since water expands as it warms. Researchers said these findings underscored the need for action to curb emissions of planet-warming gases and avoid the worst effects of climate change.”

Senator Kamala Harris Joins Democratic Presidential FieldThe New York Times, Astead W. Herndon, Monday, 21 January 2019: “Senator Kamala Harris, the California Democrat and barrier-breaking prosecutor who became the second black woman to serve in the United States Senate, declared her candidacy for president on Monday, joining an increasingly crowded and diverse field in what promises to be a wide-open nomination process. The announcement was bathed in symbolism: Ms. Harris chose to enter the race on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, an overt nod to the historic nature of her candidacy, and her timing was also meant to evoke Shirley Chisholm, the New York congresswoman who became the first woman to seek the Democratic Party’s nomination for president 47 years ago this week. In addition, Ms. Harris will hold her first campaign event on Friday in South Carolina, where black voters are the dominant force in the Democratic primary, rather than start off by visiting Iowa and New Hampshire, the two predominantly white states that hold their nomination contests first. She will hold a kickoff rally Sunday in Oakland, Calif., her hometown. For the first time, the Democratic presidential race now includes several high-profile women, with Ms. Harris joining two other prominent senators who have announced candidacies, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New YorkRepresentative Tulsi Gabbard, a Hawaii Democrat, has also said she is running, and more women could enter the race in the coming weeks.” See also, Senator Kamala Harris (Democrat-California) enters 2020 presidential raceThe Washington Post, Matt Viser and Chelsea Janes, Monday, 21 January 2019: “Sen. Kamala D. Harris of California joined the 2020 presidential contest Monday, thrusting a daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India into the Democratic race two years after she arrived in the Senate. Harris, a 54-year-old former prosecutor raised in a state that has been the crucible of the Trump resistance, expanded a growing field of candidates fighting for the nomination of a party that is increasingly nonwhite and fueled by women alienated by the president.” See also, Senator Kamala Harris’s 2020 policy agenda: $3 trillion tax plan, tax credits for renters, bail reform, Medicare for allThe Washington Post, Jeff Stein, Monday, 21 January 2019: “Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) will run for president proposing a nearly $3 trillion tax plan, billions in tax credits to low-income renters, a Medicare-for-all health-care system, and a reduction in cash bail for inmates charged with criminal offenses, her aides said. Harris announced her candidacy Monday. Aides said Harris’s platform will incorporate Sen. Bernie Sanders’s Medicare-for-all health-care proposal, while also pushing enormous tax relief intended to help low-income renters and boost incomes for working-class families.”

Trump made 8,158 false or misleading claims in his first two yearsThe Washington Post, Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo, and Meg Kelly, Monday, 21 January 2019: “Two years after taking the oath of office, President Trump has made 8,158 false or misleading claims, according to The Fact Checker’s database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president. That includes an astonishing 6,000-plus such claims in the president’s second year. Put another way: The president averaged nearly 5.9 false or misleading claims a day in his first year in office. But he hit nearly 16.5 a day in his second year, almost triple the pace. We started this project as part of our coverage of the president’s first 100 days, largely because we could not possibly keep up with the pace and volume of the president’s misstatements. Readers demanded we keep it going for the rest of Trump’s presidency. Our interactive graphic, managed with the help of Leslie Shapiro of The Washington Post graphics department, displays a running list of every false or misleading statement made by Trump. You can also search for specific claims or obtain monthly or daily totals.”

The Trump Administration Quietly Changed the Definition of Domestic Violence to a Substantially More Limited and Less Informed OneSlate, Natalie Nanasi, Monday, 21 January 2019: “Without fanfare or even notice, the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women made significant changes to its definition of domestic violence in April. The Obama-era definition was expansive, vetted by experts including the National Center for Victims of Crime and the National Domestic Violence Hotline. The Trump administration’s definition is substantially more limited and less informed, effectively denying the experiences of victims of abuse by attempting to cast domestic violence as an exclusively criminal concern. The previous definition included critical components of the phenomenon that experts recognize as domestic abuse—a pattern of deliberate behavior, the dynamics of power and control, and behaviors that encompass physical or sexual violence as well as forms of emotional, economic, or psychological abuse. But in the Trump Justice Department, only harms that constitute a felony or misdemeanor crime may be called domestic violence. So, for example, a woman whose partner isolates her from her family and friends, monitors her every move, belittles and berates her, or denies her access to money to support herself and her children is not a victim of domestic violence in the eyes of Trump’s Department of Justice. This makes no sense for an office charged with funding and implementing solutions to the problem of domestic violence rather than merely prosecuting individual abusers.”

Government Shutdown’s Pain Cuts Deep for the Homeless and Other Vulnerable AmericansThe New York Times, Glenn Thrush, Monday, 21 January 2019: “One month after the government shutdown began, its effects have begun to hurt some of the most vulnerable Americans: not just homeless people, but also those who are one crisis away from the streets. And nonprofit groups dedicated to helping low-income renters are already scrambling to survive without the lifeblood payments from HUD that began being cut off on Jan. 1.”

Exclusive: Republicans reach a landmark agreement to reshape the party’s fundraising apparatusPolitico, Alex Isenstadt, Monday, 21 January 2019: “President Donald Trump’s political team and top Republican officials have reached a landmark agreement to reshape the party’s fundraising apparatus and close the financial gap that devastated them in the midterms. With the deal, Republicans hope to create a rival to ActBlue, the Democratic online fundraising behemoth that plowed over $700 million in small-dollar donations into Democratic coffers in the 2018 campaign. Republicans have had no comparable centralized platform to cultivate small dollars. Since the election, officials including White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel have privately insisted the party needed to come up with an answer. Following weeks of closed-door discussions, Republicans have agreed to create a new platform dubbed Patriot Pass, which will be used to cultivate and process online donations. The GOP — whose jungle-like ecosystem of vendors has long fought bitterly over contracts and dollars — has struggled in the past to create such a unified system.”

An Agreement That the Companies Controlled by the Russian Billionaire Oleg Deripaska Negotiated With the Trump Administration May Have Been Less Punitive Than AdvertisedThe New York Times, Kenneth P. Vogel, Monday, 21 January 2019: “When the Trump administration announced last month that it was lifting sanctions against a trio of companies controlled by an influential Russian oligarch, it cast the move as tough on Russia and on the oligarch, arguing that he had to make painful concessions to get the sanctions lifted. But a binding confidential document signed by both sides suggests that the agreement the administration negotiated with the companies controlled by the oligarch, Oleg V. Deripaska, may have been less punitive than advertised. The deal contains provisions that free him from hundreds of millions of dollars in debt while leaving him and his allies with majority ownership of his most important company, the document shows.”

Trump marks Martin Luther King day with a 2-minute visit to the Martin Luther King, Jr. MemorialPolitico, Louis Nelson, Monday, 21 January 2019: “President Donald Trump made a brief appearance Monday at Washington’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, honoring the civil rights icon with a wreath on the federal holiday bearing his name. The president, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence and acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, spent roughly two minutes at the memorial. Trump left the White House late Monday morning for an unannounced trip to the King memorial, traveling there via motorcade, according to the White House press pool. The president had faced some criticism for his previously released schedule, which did not include any public events marking Martin Luther King Jr. day.” See also, Trump Lays Wreath at Two-Minute Visit to Martin Luther King Jr. MemorialThe New York Times, Annie Karni, Monday, 21 January 2019: “President Trump briefly visited a national monument to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday to lay a wreath below the towering statue of the slain civil rights leader. ‘Beautiful day,’ Mr. Trump said to reporters. ‘Thank you for being here. Appreciate it.’ He was accompanied on the two-minute visit by Vice President Mike Pence and David Bernhardt, the acting interior secretary. Mr. Trump’s stop by the memorial — to observe a moment of silence without extended public remarks — appeared to be a last-minute addition to his calendar. The president’s schedule listed no public events to mark the federal holiday honoring King’s life, which had drawn criticism from civil rights activists.”


Tuesday, 22 January 2019, Day 733:


Supreme Court allows Trump restrictions on transgender troops in the military to go into effect as legal battle continuesThe Washington Post, Robert Barnes and Dan Lamothe, Tuesday, 22 January 2019: “The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed President Trump’s broad restrictions on transgender people serving in the military to go into effect while the legal battle over his controversial policy continues in lower courts. The justices lifted nationwide injunctions that had kept the administration’s policy from being implemented. The Trump policy reverses an Obama administration rule that would have opened the military to transgender men and women and instead bars those who identify with a gender different from the one assigned at birth and are seeking to transition. The court’s five conservatives — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh — allowed the restrictions to go into effect while the court decides whether eventually to consider the merits of the case. The liberal justices — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — would have kept the injunctions in place. As is the court’s custom in such orders, neither side gave reasons.” See also, Supreme Court Revives Transgender Ban for Military ServiceThe New York Times, Adam Liptak, Tuesday, 22 January 2019: “The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted the Trump administration’s request to allow it to bar most transgender people from serving in the military while cases challenging the policy make their way to the court. The administration’s policy reversed a 2016 decision by the Obama administration to open the military to transgender service members. It generally prohibits transgender people from military service but makes exceptions for those already serving openly and those willing to serve ‘in their biological sex.’ The vote to lift two injunctions blocking the policy issued by lower courts was 5 to 4, with the Supreme Court’s five conservative members in the majority.”

Supreme Court Doesn’t Act on Trump’s Appeal in ‘Dreamers’ CaseThe New York Times, Adam Liptak, Tuesday, 22 January 2019: “The Supreme Court took no action on Tuesday on the Trump administration’s plans to shut down a program that shields some 700,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation. The court’s inaction almost certainly means it will not hear the administration’s challenge in its current term, which ends in June. The justices’ next private conference to consider petitions seeking review is scheduled for Feb. 15. Even were they to agree to hear the case then, it would not be argued until after the next term starts in October under the court’s usual procedures. A decision would probably not arrive until well into 2020. The move left the program in place and denied negotiating leverage to President Trump, who has said he wanted to use a Supreme Court victory in the case in negotiations with Democrats over immigration issues. Mr. Trump tried to end the program in 2017, calling it an unconstitutional use of executive power by his predecessor and reviving the threat of deportation for immigrants who had been brought to the United States illegally as young children. But federal judges have ordered the administration to maintain major pieces of the program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, while legal challenges move forward.” See also, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protects young undocumented immigrants is not likely to get Supreme Court review this termThe Washington Post, Robert Barnes, Tuesday, 22 January 2019: “The Supreme Court is not likely to review during its current term the program that shields young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, leaving in place the Obama-era initiative that the Trump administration has tried to end. The justices on Tuesday took no action on the administration’s request that it review the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has protected nearly 700,000 people brought to this country as children, commonly known as ‘dreamers.’ If the court sticks to its normal procedures, that would mean that even if it accepts the case as a later date, it would not be argued until the new term starting in October, with a decision likely in 2020.”

Trump administration asks the Supreme Court to quickly take up the census citizenship questionThe Washington Post, Robert Barnes, Tuesday, 22 January 2019: “The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday to bypass its normal procedures and decide quickly whether a question about citizenship can be placed on the 2020 Census. Last week, U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman of New York ordered the administration to stop its plans to add the question to the survey. Furman said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross broke a ‘veritable smorgasbord’ of federal rules by overriding the advice of career officials who said including the citizenship question was likely to cut down the response rate and make the census less accurate. Normally, the Justice Department’s next stop would be the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. But Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco said that would not leave enough time for a final ruling from the Supreme Court.”

Supreme Court Will Review New York City Gun LawThe New York Times, Adam Liptak, Tuesday, 22 January 2019: “The Supreme Court said on Tuesday that it would review a New York City gun law that limits residents from transporting their guns outside their homes, its first Second Amendment case in nearly a decade and a test of the court’s approach to gun rights after the arrival of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh in October. Justice Kavanaugh, who replaced the more moderate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and created a reliable five-member conservative majority, has an expansive view of gun rights. His presence most likely means that the Supreme Court will start exploring and perhaps expanding the scope of the Second Amendment.” See also, Supreme Court will review gun restrictions for the first time in nearly a decadeThe Washington Post, Robert Barnes, Tuesday, 22 January 2019: “The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it will examine New York City’s ban on transporting a licensed and unloaded handgun outside the city limits, the first Second Amendment challenge it has accepted in nearly a decade. The decision to hear the case in the term that begins in October may signal that the reinforced conservative majority on the court is ready to examine more laws that restrict gun rights. New York’s law is not replicated elsewhere: It permits transporting handguns only to firing ranges within the city. Those who challenged the law have licenses to keep a handgun at their homes. Petitioners included those who want to take their guns to firing ranges or competitions outside the city, and one who wanted to take the gun to his second home upstate. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled for the city. It said petitioners had not shown there was inadequate access to one of the seven firing ranges in the city, that petitioners could not rent a firearm if they wanted to go to a range elsewhere, or that the upstate homeowner could not get a permit to keep a second handgun there.”

Trump’s Personal Lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, Said There Were ‘No Plans’ for Trump Tower Moscow. Here They Are. BuzzFeed News, Azeen Ghorayshi, Tuesday, 22 January 2019: “The plan was dazzling: a glass skyscraper that would stretch higher than any other building in Europe, offering ultra-luxury residences and hotel rooms and bearing a famous name. Trump Tower Moscow, conceived as a partnership between Donald Trump’s company and a Russian real estate developer, looked likely to yield profits in excess of $300 million. The tower was never built, but it has become a focal point of the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Trump’s relationship with Russia in the lead-up to his presidency. The president and his representatives have dismissed the project as little more than a notion — a rough plan led by Trump’s then-lawyer, Michael Cohen, and his associate Felix Sater, of which Trump and his family said they were only loosely aware as the election campaign gathered pace. On Monday, his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said ‘the proposal was in the earliest stage,’ and he went on to tell the New Yorker that ‘no plans were ever made. There were no drafts. Nothing in the file.’ However, hundreds of pages of business documents, emails, text messages, and architectural plans, obtained by BuzzFeed News over a year of reporting, tell a very different story. Trump Tower Moscow was a richly imagined vision of upscale splendor on the banks of the Moscow River.” See also, Trump’s lies on his business dealings in Russia were a profound betrayal of votersThe Washington Post, Editorial Board, Tuesday, 22 January 2019: “There has been a welter of news reports, denials, statements and retractions in the past week concerning President Trump’s pursuit of a major real estate deal in Russia during the 2016 campaign, so perhaps some clarification is in order. Here’s what is not in dispute: For most of the time he was running for president, Mr. Trump was also encouraging negotiations that would have put his name on a 100-plus-story tower in Moscow and yielded tens of millions of dollars in revenue for his company. He did this secretly, while publicly defending Russian President Vladi­mir Putin and arguing against sanctions against Russia. And he repeatedly deceived U.S. voters by saying he had no business in the country. It may not be true, as BuzzFeed reported last week, that the office of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III collected evidence showing that Mr. Trump instructed lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about the Moscow deal. Mr. Mueller’s office called the report inaccurate. It may be, as Mr. Trump’s counsel Rudolph W. Giuliani said Sunday, that negotiations on the deal continued until the November 2016 election; or maybe, as he said Monday, that timeline was merely ‘hypothetical.’ But we know Mr. Trump thought it perfectly acceptable to clandestinely pursue his personal business interest with the government of a prime U.S. adversary while advancing a presidential platform of improving relations with the regime. Whether that was illegal, it was a profound betrayal of the voters.” See also, Trump is exasperated by Rudy Giuliani, his gaffe-prone personal lawyerPolitico, Eliana Johnson and Darren Samuelsohn, Tuesday, 22 January 2019: “Rudy Giuliani has a growing list of enemies in the White House — which now includes his boss, President Donald Trump. Trump was apoplectic after a pair of weekend media interviews by his personal lawyer, in which Giuliani said that the president had been involved in discussions to build a Trump Tower in Moscow through the end of the 2016 campaign — a statement that enraged Trump because it contradicted his own public position, according to two sources close to the president. Giuliani’s statement was the latest in a series of remarks over several months that has required walk-backs or reversals, and Trump spent much of Sunday and Monday fuming to aides and friends about his lawyer’s missteps. Most of those people share Trump’s frustration, noting that the former New York mayor often appears to lack a mastery of the facts of Trump’s legal headaches.” See also, Rudy Giuliani’s missteps frustrate Trump but underscore the unique role he plays for the presidentThe Washington Post, Josh Dawsey, published on Wednesday, 23 January 2019.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller wants to know about 2016 Trump campaign ties to the National Rifle Association (NRA)CNN, Sara Murray, Tuesday, 22 January 2019: “Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has expressed interest in the Trump campaign’s relationship with the National Rifle Association during the 2016 campaign. ‘When I was interviewed by the special counsel’s office, I was asked about the Trump campaign and our dealings with the NRA,’ Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign aide, told CNN. The special counsel’s team was curious to learn more about how Donald Trump and his operatives first formed a relationship with the NRA and how Trump wound up speaking at the group’s annual meeting in 2015, just months before announcing his presidential bid, Nunberg said. Nunberg’s interview with Mueller’s team in February 2018 offers the first indication that the special counsel has been probing the Trump campaign’s ties to the powerful gun-rights group. As recently as about a month ago, Mueller’s investigators were still raising questions about the relationship between the campaign and the gun group, CNN has learned.”

Senate votes to extend the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, a key federal welfare program, through June amid government shutdownThe Washington Post, Felicia Sonmez, Tuesday, 22 January 2019: “The Senate on Tuesday passed a measure that would temporarily extend a key federal welfare program, days after a group of governors warned that states were on the verge of exhausting their funding amid the ongoing government shutdown. The measure, which was approved unanimously by the Senate and had already passed the House, would extend the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program through June 30. It now heads to President Trump’s desk. The vote comes two days after the National Governors Association sent a letter to congressional leaders urging the Senate to immediately pass an extension of the $16.5 billion block grant program, which supports cash welfare benefits and other services for low-income families.”

Senate plans votes on competing bills to reopen the federal governmentThe Washington Post, Erica Werner, John Wagner, and Jeff Stein, Tuesday, 22 January 2019: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday scheduled a pair of competing votes to reopen the federal government, announcing that he would bring up dueling proposals from President Trump and the Democrats that would amount to the first real action in the Senate since the shutdown began a month ago. Neither measure looked likely to win the support from 60 senators needed to advance, and instead the votes Thursday threatened to accomplish little more than to provide each side with new ammunition to accuse the other of prolonging the nation’s longest government shutdown. The result could be only to prove that some other solution is needed to end the partial shutdown, even as 800,000 federal workers face the loss of a second straight paycheck Friday.” See also, Senate Leaders Plan Competing Bills to End ShutdownThe New York Times,  Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Tuesday, 22 January 2019: “The Senate will hold competing votes on Thursday on President Trump’s proposal to spend $5.7 billion on a border wall and on a Democratic bill that would fund the government through Feb. 8 without a wall. It will be the first time the Senate has stepped off the sidelines to try to end the monthlong government shutdown. The procedural move by Senators Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, and Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, is the first time the parties have agreed to do virtually anything since the shutdown began Dec. 22. With most Republicans united behind Mr. Trump’s insistence that any legislation to reopen the government include money for a border wall and most Democrats opposed to the linkage, neither measure is expected to draw the 60 votes required to advance.”

Report Says Shutdown Is Impeding F.B.I.’s Law Enforcement EffortsThe New York Times, Katie Benner, Tuesday, 22 January 2019: “As the partial government shutdown enters its fifth week, the funding freeze has impeded F.B.I. efforts to crack down on child trafficking, violent crime and terrorism, according to a report issued Tuesday by the group that represents the bureau’s 13,000 special agents. ‘The resources available to support the work of F.B.I. agents are currently stretched to the breaking point and are dwindling day by day,’ said Thomas O’Connor, the president of the group, the F.B.I. Agents Association. The report reflected the scope and seriousness of the shutdown’s effects, and came as President Trump and the leaders of the two parties on Capitol Hill maneuvered to find a path out of the impasse.”

El Chapo Trial Suggests Trump’s Wall Would Do Little to Stop Drug SmugglingThe New York Times, Alan Feuer, Tuesday, 22 January 2019: “Some of the drugs were hidden in passenger cars, concealed in trucks in cans of jalapeños or stashed in tanker trains with ordinary loads of cooking oil. Others were sent beneath the border in sophisticated tunnels. The 10 weeks of testimony at the trial of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the drug lord known as El Chapo, have revealed that his innovative smuggling network typically went through legal checkpoints — not isolated stretches of the border where a wall might be an obstacle.”

Class Action Lawsuit Filed by Immigrant Advocacy Groups Alleges Immigrant Children Are Being Used as ‘Bait’ to Arrest SponsorsHuffPost, Angelina Chapin, Tuesday, 22 January 2019: “Donald Trump’s administration is using detained immigrant children as ‘bait’ to arrest their sponsors and deliberately keeping kids in shelters for long periods, according to a class action lawsuit filed on Friday by immigration advocacy groups. The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of more than 10,000 children detained in Office of Refugee Resettlement shelters, is a list of horror stories compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Legal Aid Justice Center and a D.C.-based law firm…. Using children in efforts to arrest their sponsors and keeping minors unnecessarily detained is ‘an abomination,’ said Mary Bauer, the deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project. ‘It is cruel, it is shocking, and it is every bit as horrific as the other kinds of family separation we have seen. This is not a problem that has been solved.’ She said a recently leaked government memo confirms that the Trump administration implemented policies such as zero tolerance and sharing a sponsor’s information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deter families of unauthorized immigrants from coming to the U.S.”

‘I Was Absolutely Afraid'” Indigenous Elder Nathan Phillips on ‘Mob Mentality’ of MAGA Hat-Wearing Students in D.C., Democracy Now!, Tuesday, 22 January 2019: “On Friday, thousands took part in the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, D.C. The next day, video went viral of an interaction that took place soon after the march ended between an indigenous elder and a group of Catholic high school students from Kentucky who had attended a March for Life protest the same day. In the video, Omaha elder Nathan Phillips is seen peacefully playing his drum and singing while being encircled by the students—some of whom were wearing red ‘Make America Great Again’ hats. The video appears to show the students taunting and mocking Phillips. Some of the students are seen making a tomahawk-chop motion with their arms. One student wearing a red MAGA hat is seen standing directly in front of Phillips while grinning and smirking. The videos sparked widespread outrage, but some commentators walked back their critique of the students after more videos were posted online. We speak to Nathan Phillips about what happened. He is a Vietnam-era veteran and previous director of the Native Youth Alliance.”

House Democrats turbocharge committee investigations of TrumpReuters, Ginger Gibson and Karen Freifeld, Tuesday, 22 January 2019: “Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives have quietly tweaked a rule on taking secret depositions that is likely to give a boost to their investigations of President Donald Trump, his personal finances and his administration. The little-noticed change, made since the Democrats took over majority control of the House earlier this month, will let staffers of House investigative committees take testimony from subpoenaed witnesses without a lawmaker being present. By eliminating complications with lawmakers’ schedules, the change will let staffers work faster and range more widely, said former staffers and sources inside the committees that are launching several inquiries into Trump and his presidency. The importance of this was underscored, legal experts said, when attorney general nominee William Barr indicated last week that he was unlikely to release the final report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller to lawmakers in its original format.”

House of Representatives aims to prevent Trump from withdrawing from NATOThe Washington Post, Karoun Demirjian, Tuesday, 22 January 2019: “The House of Representatives resoundingly passed a bipartisan measure Tuesday to prohibit the Trump administration from using federal funds to pull the United States out of NATO, rebuking the president for his frequent attacks against the strategic alliance and suggesting he might seek to withdraw. The vast majority of House Republicans joined Democrats to pass the bill by a vote of 357 to 22, after members of both parties gave impassioned speeches for why the alliance was so vital to preserve and protect.”

For the Trump Administration, It Has Been Hard to Follow the 1946 Law Governing Administrative PoliciesThe New York Times, Margot Sanger-Katz, Tuesday, 22 January 2019: “Ever since President Trump took office, his appointees have directed federal agencies to draft regulations meant to delay or reverse policies of the Obama administration. Nearly all the proposals have been tripped up by the same arcane 1946 law governing administrative policies. Just last week, two signature administration actions — to add a question about citizenship status to the 2020 census, and to allow employers to avoid covering birth control for their workers if they object to it — have been stymied by rulings under the law. That law, the Administrative Procedure Act, was written to make sure that the executive branch followed some basic steps when it wanted to change policies. Over time, courts have given it additional teeth by requiring regulators to follow certain processes and conduct certain analyses before making changes. The Trump administration appears to have repeatedly failed to hew to those standards…. An analysis by the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law shows that more than 90 percent of court challenges to major Trump deregulatory actions have been successful so far. By the institute’s count, 30 big rules have been challenged, and the courts have found for the litigants 28 times. Some of those rulings may change after appeals to higher courts, but administrative law experts said even the string of lower-court rulings was unusual. In a typical administration, the government wins on such challenges around 70 percent of the time, said Richard Revesz, a law professor at N.Y.U. who specializes in environmental law. ‘This is truly aberrational,’ he said.”

Trump says he directed White House press secretary Sarah Sanders ‘not to bother’ with White House press briefingsThe Washington Post, John Wagner, Tuesday, 22 January 2019: “President Trump said Tuesday that he directed White House press secretary Sarah Sanders “not to bother” with press briefings because he believes that reporters are rude to her and that most members of the media will not cover the administration fairly. Press briefings, which used to be a near-daily occurrence, have become a rarity in the Trump White House. Sanders has not provided an on-camera briefing for more than a month, including the duration of the partial government shutdown.” See also, The Demise of the White House Press Briefing Under TrumpThe New York Times, Karen Yourish and Jasmine C. Lee, Tuesday, 22 January 2019.


Wednesday, 23 January 2019, Day 734:


After U.S. Backs Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s Leader, President Nicolás Maduro Cuts Ties With the U.S.The New York Times, Ana Vanessa Herrero, Wednesday, 23 January 2019: “President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela faced the most direct challenge to his hold on power on Wednesday, when an opposition leader stood in the streets of the capital and declared himself the legitimate president, cheered on by thousands of supporters and a growing number of governments, including the Trump administration. Mr. Maduro responded furiously by cutting diplomatic ties with the United States. He gave American diplomats 72 hours to leave the country, ordering them out with a derisive ‘be gone!’ and accusing the Trump administration of plotting to overthrow him. The United States said it would ignore the deadline. The fast-moving developments convulsed Venezuela, a once-prosperous country that has been devastated by years of political repression, economic mismanagement and corruption. But they also appeared to give new momentum to the opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, the 35-year-old National Assembly leader who stepped onto the national stage just recently…. A senior American official briefing reporters in Washington warned that if Mr. Maduro used force against opponents, the United States could impose new sanctions, and did not rule out the use of military force to stop him. It was not the first time the Trump administration has warned of a ‘military option’ for Venezuela. Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Paraguay, Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala and the Organization of American States have also recognized Mr. Guaidó as the country’s leader.” See also, U.S. to defy Venezuelan order for U.S. diplomats to leave Caracas in 72 hoursThe Washington Post, Mariana Zuñiga, Anthony Faiola, and Carol Morello, Wednesday, 23 January 2019: “President Nicolás Maduro on Wednesday faced the gravest challenge to his authority since assuming power in 2013, as the leader of the U.S.-backed opposition claimed the legitimate mantle of leadership and President Trump and other world leaders promptly recognized him as Venezuela’s interim and rightful head of state. A defiant Maduro responded by announcing a break in ‘diplomatic and political relations’ with the United States, ordering American diplomats to leave the country within 72 hours. The high-stakes move set up a looming diplomatic crisis. Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader now recognized by Washington as Venezuela’s interim president, called on diplomats to remain. In a statement late Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated the Trump administration would not heed Maduro’s demand and called on the Venezuelan armed forces to refrain from endangering American personnel or face ‘appropriate actions.’ ‘The United States does not recognize the Maduro regime as the government of Venezuela,’ the statement said. ‘Accordingly the United States does not consider former president Nicolas Maduro to have the legal authority to break diplomatic relations with the United States or to declare our diplomats persona non grata.’ Earlier in the day, Trump was asked if military force was being considered. ‘We’re not considering anything, but all options on the table,’ he said. ‘All options, always, all options are on the table.'”

Trump Says He’ll Delay Speech Until After the Government Shutdown, as Democrats Draft Border Security PlanThe New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Wednesday, 23 January 2019: “President Trump said late Wednesday that he would deliver his State of the Union address once the federal government reopens, capping a day of brinkmanship with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who told the president that he was not welcome to deliver the speech in the House chamber while the government is partly closed. ‘As the Shutdown was going on, Nancy Pelosi asked me to give the State of the Union Address,’ Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter shortly after 11 p.m., hours after he had said he would look for another venue for the speech. ‘I agreed. She then changed her mind because of the Shutdown, suggesting a later date. This is her prerogative – I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over.’ The president’s seeming capitulation came even as House Democratic leaders said they were prepared to give him a substantial sum of money for border security — perhaps even the $5.7 billion he has requested — but not for a wall and not until he agreed to reopen the government. That figure is roughly double what Democrats had previously approved.” See also, Pelosi tells Trump: No State of the Union address in the House of Representatives until government is reopenedThe Washington Post, Seung Min Kim and Felicia Sonmez, Wednesday, 23 January 2019: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday rescinded her invitation to President Trump to deliver the State of the Union in the House next week — denying him a national platform for the annual speech in an extraordinary standoff between the two most powerful figures in the nation. Late Wednesday, the president signaled a retreat from the standoff, announcing on Twitter that he will wait till the shutdown is over to deliver the address to Congress. The cancellation — part of an escalating and at times personal feud between the newly elected Democratic speaker and the Republican president — illustrates the extent of the dysfunction that has gripped Washington and America’s body politic amid the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history.” See also, The Trump-Pelosi State of the Union letter duel, annotatedThe Washington Post, Philip Bump, Wednesday, 23 January 2019. See also, Trump Delays State of the Union Address After Duel With House Speaker Nancy PelosiThe Wall Street Journal, Kristina Peterson and Rebecca Ballhaus, updated on Wednesday, 24 January 2019: “President Trump said late Wednesday that he wouldn’t deliver his State of the Union address until the government reopened, following days of high-profile squabbling after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged the president last week to delay his speech. Earlier in the day, Mr. Trump said in a letter that he planned to deliver the annual address from the House chamber on Tuesday, as is tradition. Mrs. Pelosi rebuffed his plan, telling him he couldn’t deliver the address until the government reopened, which prompted the president to say he would seek alternative venues. In a tweet late Wednesday, Mr. Trump said he had abandoned that research and that he would deliver his address ‘when the Shutdown is over.’ He added: ‘I am not looking for an alternative venue for the SOTU Address because there is no venue that can compete with the history, tradition and importance of the House Chamber.’ He said he looked forward to delivering a ‘great’ address in the ‘near future!'”

‘Will work for pay’: Furloughed federal workers stage sit-in outside senators’ offices; 12 arrestedThe Washington Post, Marissa J. Lang, Wednesday, 23 January 2019: “On the 33rd day of a partial government shutdown that has left hundreds of thousands without pay, union leaders and furloughed federal workers marched into the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday and demanded a meeting. When office staff refused, a dozen of them took a seat in the hallway outside. ‘Majority Leader McConnell, where are you?’ asked Jeffrey David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees. U.S. Capitol Police officers arrested 12 protesters for staging a sit-in outside McConnell’s office. They were pulled up from the floor and led away, their arms zip-tied behind their backs. Each was charged with a misdemeanor. The frenzied scene outside McConnell’s office — where a dozen protesters continued to chant ‘We want to work’ and ‘Where is Mitch?’ — was the climax to an afternoon of protests and confrontations meant to draw attention to the growing desperation of federal workers…. The protest, led by several unions that represent furloughed federal employees and out-of-work contractors, drew hundreds of workers to Capitol Hill. About 800,000 furloughed workers will face the loss of a second paycheck on Friday. Protesters began by standing in silence for 33 minutes — one for each day of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. Inside the Hart Senate Office Building, where protest signs are banned, workers instead wrote messages on Styrofoam plates…. Workers raised their empty plates toward the windows of senators’ offices that overlook the atrium where they gathered. With each minute of silence that passed, organizers rang a chime to mark another day of the government impasse, another day of no work, no pay and growing despair. After 33 minutes, the crowd erupted into a chorus of chants: ‘No more food banks,’ the protesters shouted. ‘They need paychecks!'” See also, Hundreds of thousands of federal employees are working without payThe Washington Post, Lisa Rein and Reuben Fischer-Baum, updated on Wednesday, 23 January 2019. See also, The Trump administration finds yet another way to harm federal employeesThe Washington Post, Editorial Board, Wednesday, 23 January 2019: “Workers in nine departments and dozens of agencies, about a third of the government, have been affected by the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, which will have lasted 33 days as of Thursday. While the Trump administration has tried to ease the impact of the closure on the public by using creative interpretations of work rules to avoid the interruption of popular government programs, it has shown scant interest in softening the hardship for people who do those vital federal jobs. A case in point is its refusal to allow states to offer unemployment benefits to federal workers who are required to work without pay during the shutdown. Workers who were furloughed as of Dec. 22 (about 380,000 people) are generally eligible to apply for benefits under the Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees program administered by the states. The benefits are not a match for a regular government paycheck, and they will have to be repaid if employees receive back pay when they return to work. Nonetheless, unemployment benefits provide a vital and timely lifeline to people struggling with how to pay the rent, buy groceries and take care of other necessities. So it’s a hardship that workers who have been deemed essential and required to work without pay (about 420,000 of them, with the number likely to increase with the administration’s efforts to recall additional employees) are not eligible for jobless benefits under a 2013 federal guidance that was reaffirmed last week by the Trump administration. The department’s rationale, The Post’s Tim Craig reported, is that essential workers don’t qualify because they are guaranteed eventual payment for the hours they work. Never mind that furloughed workers eligible for jobless benefits will also get back pay because of action taken by Congress and signed by Mr. Trump. Never mind that the federal workers who are required to work don’t have the option of trying to find temporary nongovernment work. Never mind that federal workers who are required to work have to incur the costs of commuting. Never mind that the predicament of these public servants is not of their making.”

Air traffic controllers’ union issues dire safety warning over government shutdownThe Guardian, Lauren Gambino, Wednesday, 23 January 2019: “Union leaders representing air traffic controllers, pilots and flight attendants issued an urgent warning on Wednesday that the month-long government shutdown was threatening the safety and security of the nation’s air travel system. ‘We cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play, nor predict the point at which the entire system will break,’ the union leaders wrote. ‘It is unprecedented.’ In the joint statement, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association president, Paul Rinaldi, the Air Line Pilots Association president, Joe DePete, and the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA president, Sara Nelson, described a ‘growing concern for the safety and security of our members, our airlines, and the traveling public due to the government shutdown.'” See also, Aviation Professionals Warn of Dire Risk Amid ShutdownThe New York Times, Matt Stevens, Wednesday, 23 January 2019: “The unions that represent the nation’s air traffic controllers, pilots and flight attendants issued a dire warning on Wednesday, calling the government shutdown an ‘unprecedented’ and ‘unconscionable’ safety threat that is growing by the day and must end. In a joint statement, the heads of the unions, which represent more than 130,000 aviation professionals, said that on Day 33 of the shutdown, major airports were already seeing security checkpoints close, and more closings could follow; safety inspectors were not back on the job at pre-shutdown levels; and analysts’ ability to process safety reporting data and take critical corrective action had been weakened.”

Kevin Hassett, a top economic adviser to Trump, says there could be zero economic growth in the first quarter if government shutdown lingersCNN, Paul R. La Monica, Wednesday, 23 January 2019: “A top economic adviser to President Donald Trump told CNN on Wednesday that the US economy may show no growth in the first quarter if the federal government shutdown lasts much longer. White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Kevin Hassett said in an interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow that he was not overly worried about the long-term effects of a government shutdown. But after Harlow asked him if the United States could wind up with zero GDP growth this quarter, he conceded that it was possible. ‘We could, yes,’ he said. But Hassett noted that the economy is typically weak in the first quarter because it follows a boom during the holidays. He argued that the economy would bounce back once the government reopens and any hit to GDP would eventually be recovered.” See also, White House Economist Kevin Hassett Says the Economy May Not Grow in the First Quarter If the Government Shutdown ContinuesThe Wall Street Journal, Paul Kiernan and Vivian Salama, Wednesday, 23 January 2019: “The Trump administration’s top economist said Wednesday that the U.S. economy may not grow at all in the first quarter if the partial government shutdown continues. Kevin Hassett, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, noted in a CNN interview that first-quarter growth tends to be relatively weak because of measurement issues and said it could be ‘very close to zero’ if the shutdown persists through March. ‘It is true that if we get a typically weak first quarter and then have an extended shutdown, that we could end up with a number that’s very, very low,’ Mr. Hassett said. He added that when the government reopens, the economy should recover any lost ground. The White House estimates the economy loses ‘a little more than’ one tenth of a percentage point of growth for each week that the partial shutdown persists.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York Signs Abortion Bill Into Law, Codifying Roe v. Wade. The law will protect the landmark decision in the event that it is overturned by the Supreme Court. HuffPost, Amy Russo, Wednesday, 23 January 2019: “Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York has signed into law new measures to protect and expand abortion rights across the state. On Tuesday night, after passing the Senate and the Assembly, the Reproductive Health Act received its final approval from the governor. The law essentially codifies the landmark decision made in Roe v. Wade 46 years ago to allow abortion, thus protecting it in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned in the future, something which Democrats fear could occur under a conservative-led Supreme Court. In a press release, Cuomo emphasized that concern as a sign of the legislation’s importance. ‘Today we are taking a giant step forward in the hard-fought battle to ensure a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her own personal health, including the ability to access an abortion,’ Cuomo said. ‘With the signing of this bill, we are sending a clear message that whatever happens in Washington, women in New York will always have the fundamental right to control their own body.’ Aside from keeping abortions available, the law removes the procedure from the state’s criminal code, which had previously made it illegal after 24 weeks of pregnancy unless the mother’s life was in jeopardy.”

Michael Cohen, Trump’s Former Lawyer, Indefinitely Postpones Testimony to CongressThe New York Times, Maggie Haberman, Wednesday, 23 January 2019: “Michael D. Cohen, the former personal lawyer and fixer for President Trump, indefinitely postponed his congressional testimony set for next month, his lawyer said on Wednesday, depriving House Democrats of one of their first big spectacles in their plans to aggressively investigate the Trump administration. Mr. Cohen’s lawyer Lanny J. Davis cited verbal attacks from Mr. Trump, who had begun suggesting after Mr. Cohen agreed to testify that one of his relatives be investigated for unspecified crimes. Democrats called the president’s attacks ‘textbook mob tactics’ of coercion. ‘The most upsetting thing about all of this is the fact that Mr. Cohen was intimidated,’ Representative Elijah E. Cummings, Democrat of Maryland and chairman of the House Oversight Committee who had invited Mr. Cohen to testify, said in an interview. ‘And not only was he intimidated, but he believes his family also has been intimidated and threatened.'” See also, Ex-Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen will not testify before Congress next month, lawyer saysThe Washington Post, Matt Zapotosky and Karoun Demirjian, Wednesday, 23 January 2019: “Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer, will not testify before Congress next month, one of his attorneys said Wednesday — which could quash, at least temporarily, liberals’ hopes for a public hearing in which Trump’s ex-fixer airs the president’s dirty laundry. Lanny J. Davis, an attorney for Cohen, said in a statement, ‘Due to ongoing threats against his family from President Trump and Mr. [Rudolph W.] Giuliani, as recently as this weekend, as well as Mr. Cohen’s continued cooperation with ongoing investigations, by advice of counsel, Mr. Cohen’s appearance will be postponed to a later date.’ Cohen was to appear before the House Oversight Committee on Feb. 7.” See also, Michael Cohen Postpones House Testimony, Citing Trump’s Comments About His FamilyThe Wall Street Journal, Rebecca Ballhaus, Wednesday, 23 January 2019: “Michael Cohen, a former lawyer for President Trump, on Wednesday moved to postpone his scheduled testimony before the House Oversight Committee, citing attacks by the president on his family…. Mr. Trump in recent weeks has attacked Mr. Cohen’s father-in-law, Fima Shusterman, implying in a Fox News interview that he was guilty of criminal activity. Referring to Mr. Cohen, Mr. Trump said, ‘In order to get his sentence reduced, he says, I have an idea, I’ll give you some information on the president. Well, there is no information. But he should give information maybe on his father-in-law, because that’s the one that people want to look at.'”

Trump Administration Grants South Carolina Foster Care Agencies Authority to Discriminate Against Jewish, Muslim, and Catholic Foster FamiliesThe Intercept, Akela Lacy, Wednesday, 23 January 2019: “The Trump administration on Wednesday made a quiet move that opens the door for the religious right to use the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act to discriminate against able foster parents whose religious views are in conflict with those of an agency. On the 33rd day of the government shutdown, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar signed a waiver giving special permission to a federally funded Protestant foster care agency in South Carolina to break federal and state law, using strict religious requirements to deny Jewish, Muslim and Catholic parents from fostering children in its network.”

Young progressives, including Ocasio-Cortez, are named to the House Oversight CommitteeThe Washington Post, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Tim Elfrink, Wednesday, 23 January 2019: “Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) were among several outspoken progressives named Tuesday to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Their presence will ensure that the committee will be a high-profile forum in which Democrats, newly emboldened after winning back the House in November, will go toe-to-toe with the Trump administration. The panel’s subpoena power could be a powerful weapon in their arsenal.”

In October 2018, Joe Biden’s Paid Speech Buoyed Republican Fred Upton in Midwest BattlegroundThe New York Times, Alexander Burns, Wednesday, 23 January 2019: “Joseph R. Biden Jr. swept into Benton Harbor, Mich., three weeks before the November elections, in the midst of his quest to reclaim the Midwest for Democrats. He took the stage at Lake Michigan College as Representative Fred Upton, a long-serving Republican from the area, faced the toughest race of his career. But Mr. Biden was not there to denounce Mr. Upton. Instead, he was collecting $200,000 from the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan to address a Republican-leaning audience, according to a speaking contract obtained by The New York Times and interviews with organizers. The group, a business-minded civic organization, is supported in part by an Upton family foundation. Mr. Biden stunned Democrats and elated Republicans by praising Mr. Upton while the lawmaker looked on from the audience. Alluding to Mr. Upton’s support for a landmark medical-research law, Mr. Biden called him a champion in the fight against cancer — and ‘one of the finest guys I’ve ever worked with.’ Mr. Biden’s remarks, coming amid a wide-ranging discourse on American politics, quickly appeared in Republican advertising. The local Democratic Party pleaded with Mr. Biden to repair what it saw as a damaging error, to no avail. On Nov. 6, Mr. Upton defeated his Democratic challenger by four and a half percentage points.”

Pete Buttigieg, citing need for generational change, joins 2020 Democratic presidential raceThe Washington Post, Cathleen Decker and Chelsea Janes, Wednesday, 23 January 2019: “South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has signaled for months that he would try to leap from local to presidential politics, announced Wednesday that he will join the burgeoning cast of Democratic candidates in the 2020 race…. Buttigieg suffused his announcement with references to his youth and the generational exception he represents compared with most of the Democratic field. He turned 37 on Saturday, making him the youngest entrant in the presidential race.”

Iranian journalist Marzieh Hashemi is released from U.S. custody after completing testimony to grand juryThe Washington Post, Spencer S. Hsu and Tom Jackman, Wednesday, 23 January 2019: “An Iranian television journalist with dual U.S.-Iranian citizenship completed her testimony Wednesday before a federal grand jury in Washington and has been released from U.S. government custody, three people familiar with the case said. No further details were immediately available regarding the whereabouts of Marzieh Hashemi, 59, a veteran producer and on-air presenter for Iran’s English-language Press TV, whose arrest Jan. 13 by the FBI on a ‘material witness’ warrant drew protests from Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”


Thursday, 24 January 2019, Day 735:


Venezuela’s Military Backs President Nicolás Maduro, as Russia Warns the U.S. Not to InterveneThe New York Times, Ana Vanessa Herrero and Neil MacFarquhar, Thursday, 24 January 2019: “The embattled government of Venezuela struck back against its opponents on Thursday, winning strong support from the country’s armed forces and the solid backing of Russia, which warned the United States not to intervene. The events put Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, at the center of a Cold War-style showdown between Russia, an ally that has shored up his government with billions of dollars, and the United States, which has denounced him as a corrupt autocrat with no legitimacy.” See also, Venezuela’s Maduro says he will withdraw embassy and consulate staff from Washington and other U.S. citiesThe Washington Post, Mariana Zuñiga, Anthony Faiola, and Rachelle Krygier, Thursday, 24 January 2019: “The United States and Venezuela remained in a standoff Thursday as the Trump administration ordered the evacuation of some embassy staff, but declined to remove all personnel despite a directive from President Nicolás Maduro that they leave, while Russia demanded that the Americans cease ‘intervention’ in the teetering oil-rich nation. Moscow and Beijing have propped up the socialist South American state for years, investing billions through loans and energy deals and setting up what is now a dramatic global power play over Venezuela’s future. On Wednesday, Washington recognized Juan Guaidó, head of the U.S.-backed opposition, as the rightful leader of Venezuela, describing Maduro — a former union leader and bus driver accused of turning Venezuela into a narco-state — as a usurper. The move prompted Maduro to break diplomatic ties with Washington and order U.S. diplomats out of the country by this weekend. Arguing that Maduro had won reelection last year through fraud and is no longer Venezuela’s rightful leader, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rejected Maduro’s order and indicated that U.S. personnel would not budge.  Maduro subsequently received the backing of a number of generals and senior officials, and he taunted President Trump while vowing to hold on to power. He declared that he would recall all staff from the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington and seven consulates in the United States. He reiterated his demand that all U.S. Embassy personnel in Caracas leave Venezuela by this weekend, calling Washington ‘infantile’ for rejecting his order. He pointedly sidestepped the consequences of U.S. personnel remaining.”

The Collapse of Two Plans in the Senate to End the Government Shutdown Propels Urgent NegotiationsThe New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Thursday, 24 January 2019: “A pair of measures to reopen the government — one with President Trump’s border wall, the other without it — failed in the Senate on Thursday, sending lawmakers from both parties into frenzied efforts to forge a compromise that could end the nearly six-week partial shutdown. In back-to-back votes, the Senate first blocked Mr. Trump’s proposal to add $5.7 billion for his border wall to legislation to resume funding for the government, then turned back a Democratic measure that omitted the wall. Neither side was able to garner the 60 votes needed to advance its bill. But the results undercut the president by revealing that his proposal drew less support in the Republican-controlled Senate than did the Democrats’ plan, which attracted a half-dozen Republicans willing to break with Mr. Trump. And with the shutdown reaching a grim milestone on Friday as 800,000 federal workers miss a second consecutive paycheck, pressure is mounting in both parties to find a solution.” See also, Shutdown showdown: Senate votes down two bills to end the government shutdown after Trump agrees to postpone State of the Union addressThe Washington Post, Felicia Sonmez and John Wagner, Thursday, 24 January 2019: “The Senate rejected competing Republican and Democratic plans Thursday to end the partial government shutdown, now in its 34th day. The Republican bill included funding for President Trump’s border wall while the Democratic plan did not.”

Senate Intelligence Committee Subpoenas Trump Attorney Michael CohenThe New York Times, Maggie Haberman, Nicholas Fandos, and Eileen Sullivan, Thursday, 24 January 2019: “The Senate Intelligence Committee has issued a subpoena to compel Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, to appear before the panel next month to formally correct false testimony that he delivered last year about a proposed Trump Organization project in Moscow, one of his lawyers confirmed on Thursday. The subpoena was disclosed a day after Mr. Cohen pulled out of a public hearing scheduled for Feb. 7 before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, citing in a letter from his lawyer, Lanny J. Davis, verbal attacks by Mr. Trump. Mr. Cohen’s initial agreement to appear before the Oversight Committee had been voluntary, but he will have little choice in complying with the Senate request. Democrats in charge of the House Oversight and Intelligence committees have signaled in recent days that they may follow suit and issue subpoenas of their own, despite acknowledging Mr. Cohen’s safety concerns.” See also, Ex-Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen is subpoenaed by the Senate Intelligence committeeThe Washington Post, Robert Costa and Karoun Demirjian, Thursday, 24 January 2019: “The Senate Intelligence Committee has issued a subpoena for President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, his attorney confirmed Thursday, a day after Cohen sought to cancel a scheduled public appearance on Capitol Hill by citing alleged ‘threats’ from the president against his family. Several congressional committees have been angling to speak with Cohen since he pleaded guilty last month to lying to Congress about how long into 2016 Trump and his advisers pursued a project to build a Trump Tower in Russia.” See also, Michael Cohen Subpoenaed to Testify Before the Senate Intelligence CommitteeThe Wall Street Journal, Rebecca Ballhaus and Dustin Volz, Thursday, 24 January 2019: “The Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday subpoenaed President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen to appear before the panel, according to a spokesman for Mr. Cohen, a day after Mr. Cohen postponed testimony before a House committee citing attacks by the president on his family. Mr. Cohen is scheduled to testify before the Republican-controlled Senate committee in a closed-door session on Feb. 12, a person close to Mr. Cohen said.”

A ‘Let Them Eat Cake’ Government Shutdown? Democrats Make the Most of the Trump Administration’s Missteps. The New York Times, Katie Rogers, Thursday, 24 January 2019: “President Trump has not gone out of his way to demonstrate any particular empathy for the 800,000 federal workers affected by the government shutdown, but he has been relatively careful about what he has said about them…. But Mr. Trump has stocked his administration with millionaires and the garden-variety wealthy who have not been as careful with their messaging, and Democrats are making the most of it. The ripest partisan target is Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, who pads around Washington in $600 embroidered slippers and is known for frequenting high-end restaurants. On Thursday, he expressed confusion about why furloughed federal workers were visiting food banks. ‘I don’t really quite understand why’ the food bank visits were happening, Mr. Ross, 81, said on CNBC. Some banks were offering interest-free loans, he said, and because the workers would eventually get their back pay, ‘there’s no real reason why they shouldn’t be able to get a loan against it.’ Asked by reporters to respond to Mr. Ross’s comments, Mr. Trump said that he had not heard them, ‘but I do understand, perhaps, he should have said it differently.’ He went on to suggest that ‘local people’ who operate banks and grocery stores would be understanding of people who have missed pay. By that time, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, had already called Mr. Ross’s comments ‘appalling’ and further evidence of the administration’s ‘callous indifference’ toward federal workers. But it was Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, Mr. Trump’s most visible shutdown adversary, who invoked the French Revolution. ‘Is this the “let them eat cake” kind of attitude,’ Ms. Pelosi said, ‘or call your father for money?’ — a reference to an earlier taunt of the president after a shutdown meeting.” See also, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says furloughed workers should take out a loan. His agency’s credit union is charging nearly 9% interest. The Washington Post, David J. Lynch and Damian Paletta, Thursday, 24 January 2019: “The Commerce Department’s federal credit union is charging furloughed employees almost 9 percent interest on emergency loans to cover their missing paychecks, despite Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross saying Thursday that financial institutions were offering ‘very, very low-interest-rate loans to bridge people over the gap.’ ‘During the Government Shutdown we’re here to help our members and non-member employees of the Department of Commerce & NOAA and its affiliates, the Executive Office of the President and the White House Management and Administration Offices,’ the credit union’s website says. Emergency loans of up to $5,000 are available for furloughed employees with repayment terms of up to two years, the site says. Two loan officers reached at the credit union’s telephone number confirmed the terms, which include interest rates ‘as low as 8.99 percent.'” See also, Another Loan? Furloughed Employees Balk at Wilbur Ross’s SuggestionThe New York Times, Emily Flitter and Tara Siegel Bernard, Thursday, 24 January 2019. See also, Commerce secretary Wilbur Ross doesn’t understand why unpaid federal workers use food banksThe Washington Post, Damian Paletta, Thursday, 24 January 2019.

Senator Elizabeth Warren Proposes Annual Wealth Tax on Ultra-MillionairesThe Intercept, David Dayen, Thursday, 24 January 2019: “Senator Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign has rolled out a proposal for an annual tax on wealth, becoming the first major Democratic candidate to follow a recommendation outlined in Thomas Piketty’s blockbuster book ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century.’ The proposal, according to two University of California, Berkeley, economists who are leading experts on wealth and inequality, would shrink the wealth of the superrich by $2.75 trillion over a 10-year period, while only affecting around 75,000 U.S. households. A paper distributed by Warren’s campaign announcing the proposal notes that the United States contains ‘an extreme concentration of wealth not seen in any other leading economy.’ As UC Berkeley’s Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman have demonstrated, the top 0.1 percent has had their wealth share nearly triple between the late 1970s and 2016.” See also, Senator Elizabeth Warren to propose new ‘wealth tax’ on very rich AmericansThe Washington Post, Jeff Stein and Christopher Ingraham, Thursday, 24 January 2019: “Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) will propose a new annual ‘wealth tax’ on Americans with more than $50 million in assets, according to an economist advising her on the plan, as Democratic leaders vie for increasingly aggressive solutions to the nation’s soaring wealth inequality. Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, two left-leaning economists at the University of California, Berkeley, have been advising Warren on a proposal to levy a 2 percent wealth tax on Americans with assets above $50 million, as well as a 3 percent wealth tax on those who have more than $1 billion, according to Saez.” See also, A Plan by Senator Elizabeth Warren Would Levy a 2 Percent Annual Tax on all Assets Owned by Households With a Net Worth of $50 million or More. The Tax Would Be Imposed on the 75,000 Wealthiest Families in the U.S. The New York Times, Jim Tankersley, Thursday, 24 January 2019: “Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a Democratic candidate for president, is expected to unveil a plan that would impose a new annual tax on the 75,000 wealthiest families in the United States. Her plan is the latest sign of how Democrats, with an eye toward 2020, are looking to tax the rich to pay for expanded social programs and distribute wealth more evenly. In recent weeks other Democrats have called for increasing marginal income tax rates for the very rich, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the freshman from New York who has proposed a 70 percent top rate on income exceeding $10 million a year. Ms. Warren’s so-called ultramillionaire tax would levy a 2 percent annual tax on all assets — including stocks, real estate and retirement funds, held either in the United States or abroad — owned by households with a net worth of $50 million or more. It would add an additional 1 percent ‘billionaire surtax’ on households with net worth exceeding $1 billion, a group that includes President Trump. No assets would be exempt. The plan also calls for increased spending at the Internal Revenue Service to ensure that Americans are not evading the tax. And it would impose an ‘exit tax’ on those seeking to avoid the wealth tax by renouncing their American citizenship. The proposal would raise $2.75 trillion in tax revenue over a decade, according to calculations by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, two University of California-Berkeley economists whose work documents the growing concentration of wealth in the United States.” See also, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren Proposes Wealth Tax on the 75,000 Richest Households in the U.S., The Wall Street Journal, Richard Rubin, Thursday, 24 January 2019: “Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is proposing an annual wealth tax, attempting to combat inequality and raise trillions of dollars with a significant new levy on the very richest Americans. Ms. Warren’s proposal would impose a 2% annual tax on household wealth above $50 million and an additional 1% tax on wealth above $1 billion. The tax would affect about 75,000 households and raise $2.75 trillion over a decade, according to economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, who analyzed the plan for the Massachusetts senator. That is roughly 10 times the revenue that the current estate and gift taxes are projected to raise, but Ms. Warren’s ‘ultramillionaire-tax’ proposal on the top 0.1% isn’t just about generating money to pay for government programs. It marks Democrats’ intense emphasis on inequality as the party tries to reclaim the White House in 2020. The wealth-tax proposal drives the tax-policy conversation within the Democratic Party further to the left. Two progressive groups—the Washington Center for Equitable Growth and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy—released papers on wealth taxes this week.” See also, Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax is fundamentally about fairnessThe Washington Post, Tory Newmyer, published on Friday, 25 January 2019.

Should You Be Worried About Flying? What We Know About Air Travel During the Government Shutdown. The New York Times, Patrick McGeehan and Thomas Kaplan, Thursday, 24 January 2019: “Unions representing air traffic controllers, pilots and flight attendants offered an urgent warning on Wednesday that the lengthy government shutdown had created serious safety concerns for the nation’s air travel system. ‘In our risk averse industry,’ their presidents said in a joint statement, ‘we cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play, nor predict the point at which the entire system will break.’ The partial shutdown, nearing five full weeks, has caused strain across the air travel system. For more than a month, thousands of transportation security officers and air traffic controllers have been working without pay. Union officials have been warning that the additional stress the shutdown has put on the workers could have dangerous consequences.” See also, ‘Risk in the system’: Unpaid air traffic controllers driving Uber say second shift threatens air safetyThe Washington Post, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Thursday, 24 January 2019: “Unpaid air traffic controllers are waiting tables and driving for Uber in the time left over from their 10-hour shifts tracking the position and speed of aircraft to prevent collisions. These are the federal employees who each day see to the safety of millions of airborne passengers. And they are nearing a breaking point amid the longest government shutdown in history, according to the head of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, Paul Rinaldi, whose union is suing the Trump administration for freezing the earnings of members, who are preparing to miss a second paycheck on Friday…. In a blistering statement issued on Wednesday, Rinaldi joined the leaders of unions representing pilots and flight attendants in expressing ‘growing concern for the safety and security of our members, our airlines, and the traveling public due to the government shutdown.'” See also, Airlines Warn Government Shutdown Strains Are WorseningThe Wall Street Journal, Andrew Tangel and Alison Sider, Thursday, 24 January 2019: “Some of the biggest U.S. airlines warned passengers would soon face worse delays and more canceled flights if the partial federal government shutdown drags on further…. Unions representing controllers, pilots and flight attendants at several major airlines this week said air travel is becoming more dangerous amid the standoff in Washington.”

U.S. to Begin Blocking Asylum Seekers From Entering at the Mexican BorderThe New York Times, Glenn Thrush, Thursday, 24 January 2019: “The Trump administration said Thursday that it would start blocking a small number of asylum seekers from entering the United States from Mexico, using the San Ysidro border crossing near San Diego as the first location to turn back immigrants applying for refugee status. The policy to block asylum seekers was first announced last month by Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. It will gradually be expanded over the next two weeks at border crossings with heavy foot traffic in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, according to a senior United States official briefed on the move, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The move is intended to dissuade immigrants, mostly from Central America, from making the long and dangerous journey through Mexico to the southwestern United States border. The policy is likely to intensify pressure on the Mexican authorities, who are already struggling to deal with thousands of Central American immigrants who have applied for humanitarian visas in Tapachula, near the border with Guatemala. It will apply both to some asylum seekers who try to enter the United States at border crossings and to people who are stopped while illegally trying to enter. Asylum seekers generally have been allowed to wait in the United States, often for years, for their cases to be processed.” See also, Trump administration to start sending asylum seekers to wait in MexicoThe Washington Post, Andrew deGrandpre, Maria Sacchetti, Kevin Sieff, and David Nakamura, Thursday, 24 January 2019: “U.S. officials at the southern border will begin sending some asylum applicants back to Mexico on Friday as the Trump administration implements new measures preventing migrants from waiting in the United States while their cases are processed.”

Civil penalties for polluters dropped dramatically in Trump’s first two years, analysis showsThe Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, Thursday, 24 January 2019: “Civil penalties for polluters under the Trump administration plummeted during the past fiscal year to the lowest average level since 1994, according to a new analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data. In the two decades before President Trump took office, EPA civil fines averaged more than $500 million a year, when adjusted for inflation. Last year’s total was 85 percent below that amount — $72 million, according to the agency’s Enforcement and Compliance History Online database.”

Two career White House security specialists rejected Jared Kushner for top secret security clearance, but they were overruled by their supervisor, Carl Kline, a Trump appointeeNBC News, Laura Strickler, Ken Dilanian and Peter Alexander, Thursday, 24 January 2019: “Jared Kushner’s application for a top-secret clearance was rejected by two career White House security specialists after an FBI background check raised concerns about potential foreign influence on him — but their supervisor overruled the recommendation and approved the clearance, two sources familiar with the matter told NBC News. The official, Carl Kline, is a former Pentagon employee who was installed as director of the personnel security office in the Executive Office of the President in May 2017. Kushner’s was one of at least 30 cases in which Kline overruled career security experts and approved a top-secret clearance for incoming Trump officials despite unfavorable information, the two sources said. They said the number of rejections that were overruled was unprecedented — it had happened only once in the three years preceding Kline’s arrival…. Kushner’s FBI background check identified questions about his family’s business, his foreign contacts, his foreign travel and meetings he had during the campaign, the sources said, declining to be more specific.”

Jerome Corsi, former Roger Stone associate and witness in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, collected payments from Infowars through job Stone arrangedThe Washington Post, Manuel Roig-Franzia and Rosalind S. Helderman, Thursday, 24 January 2019: “Over the past several months, author and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi has emerged as one of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s most vexing witnesses in his probe of Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. Corsi — perhaps best known for promoting the false idea that former president Barack Obama was not born in the United States — has released internal special counsel documents, fulminated against alleged plea-deal offers and published a hastily written e-book outlining his account of interactions with his onetime ally, the longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone, a subject of intense scrutiny in Mueller’s probe. At the same time, Corsi says, he has been collecting what he describes as $15,000-a-month payments from Infowars, a website that has attacked the special counsel investigation as a deep-state conspiracy designed to topple President Trump. An attorney for Infowars confirmed that these payments continued for the past six months as severance since Corsi lost his post as the website’s Washington bureau chief — a job that Stone helped arrange, according to both Corsi and Stone.”

Donald Trump and Michael Cohen Received Gun Licenses in Exchange for Favors, Former Police Official AllegesThe New York Times, Ashley Southall, Thursday, 24 January 2019: “President Trump, his eldest son, and his former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, were among a roster of rich and powerful people who received gun licenses from the New York Police Department in return for special favors, a former lieutenant has claimed in court papers. The former lieutenant, Paul Dean, said the men received permits to carry guns in New York City without the proper paperwork after donating to two charities with close ties to the department. They were among a list of other well-connected people who Mr. Dean said benefited from a ‘systematic culture of corruption’ that stretched from the department’s gun licensing division to the upper echelons of the department.”