Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:
In every type of government, nothing unites people behind the leader more quickly, reflexively or reliably than war. Donald Trump now sees how true that is, as the same establishment leaders in U.S. politics and media who have spent months denouncing him as a mentally unstable and inept authoritarian and unprecedented threat to democracy are standing and applauding him as he launches bombs at Syrian government targets.
Trump, on Thursday night, ordered an attack that the Pentagon said included the launching of 59 Tomahawk missiles which “targeted aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars.” The governor of Homs, the Syrian province where the attack occurred, said early this morning that the bombs killed seven civilians and wounded nine.
The Pentagon’s statement said the attack was “in retaliation for the regime of Bashar Assad using nerve agents to attack his own people.” Both Syria and Russia vehemently deny that the Syrian military used chemical weapons.
When asked about this yesterday by the Globe and Mail’s Joanna Slater, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged an investigation to determine what actually happened before any action was contemplated, citing what he called “continuing questions about who is responsible”.
But U.S. war fever waits for nothing. Once the tidal wave of American war frenzy is unleashed, questioning the casus belli is impermissible. Wanting conclusive evidence before bombing commences is vilified as sympathy with and support for the foreign villain (the same way that asking for evidence of claims against Russia instantly converts one into a “Kremlin agent” or “stooge”).
Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura challenges on his support for Trump and the electoral college, as well as his views on marijuana legalisation and climate change. (Reich Wing Watch)
Travis J. Tritten reports for Stars and Stripes:
The Republican chairmen of the Senate and House armed services committees said Monday that President Donald Trump‘s proposal to boost defense spending by $54 billion for fiscal year 2018 is not enough.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, are pushing for a $640-billion base defense budget and said the $603-billion proposal unveiled by the White House will not reverse the decline in recent years in spending and military readiness.
The White House released a spending cap-busting, top-line figure following pledges by Trump for a major defense buildup but declined to provide details of how the additional money will be used. It plans to release a fully detailed defense budget in May and that must be passed by Congress.
“With a world on fire, America cannot secure peace through strength with just 3 percent more than President [Barack] Obama’s budget. We can and must do better,” McCain said in a released statement.
Marcus Weisgerber reports for Defense One:
President Donald Trump has proposed to return Pentagon spending to levels originally proposed by then-President Barack Obama in 2013.
The move has drawn fire from Republicans who say it doesn’t increase defense spending enough and Democrats who decry the cuts it entails for the rest of the federal government.
The proposal was revealed in the top-level spending targets sent by Trump’s Office of Management and Budget to federal departments on Monday. The Pentagon’s share of Trump’s 2018 budget plan is $603 billion, according to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney.
The figure happens to be near the same amount envisioned for 2018 in a multiyear spending plan approved by the last administration. But Obama’s plan ran afoul of the caps imposed by the Budget Control Act, or BCA. That’s also a problem for Trump, who is proposing to spend $54 billion more, or about 10 percent, than the $549 billion cap allows.
Jonathan Martin reports for The New York Times:
Former Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez was elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee on Saturday, narrowly defeating Representative of Minnesota to take the helm of a still-divided party stunned by President Trump’s victory but hopeful that it can ride the backlash against his presidency to revival.
The balloting, which carried a measure of suspense not seen in the party in decades, revealed that Democrats have yet to heal the wounds from last year’s presidential primary campaign. Mr. Perez, buoyed by activists most loyal to former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, won with 235 votes out of 435 cast on the second ballot.
Mr. Ellison, who was lifted primarily by the liberal enthusiasts of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, captured the remaining 200 votes. But that was only after he had pushed the voting to a second round after Mr. Perez fell a single vote short of winning on the first ballot.
After Mr. Perez’s victory was announced, Mr. Ellison’s supporters exploded in anger and drowned out the interim chairwoman, Donna Brazile, with a chant of “Party for the people, not big money!” When Mr. Perez was able to speak, he immediately called for Mr. Ellison to be named deputy chairman, delighting Mr. Ellison’s supporters.
Taking the microphone from Mr. Perez, Mr. Ellison pleaded with his fervent backers: “We don’t have the luxury to walk out of this room divided.”
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer cited “states’ rights” on Tuesday in defending the Trump administration’s decision to end the Obama administration’s federal protections for transgender students.
“The president has maintained for a long time that this is a states’ rights issue and not one for the federal government,” he said. “All you have to do is look at what the president’s view has been for a long time that this is not something that the federal government should be involved in. This is a states’ rights issue.”
But on Thursday, asked about federal marijuana enforcement, it was like the states had no rights at all. Arkansas-based reporter Roby Brock asked Spicer about the administration’s posture towards Arkansas’s new medical marijuana law.
Spicer suggested that the Trump administration would respect state laws related to medical marijuana — but not offer the same respect for recreational marijuana.
Darius Tahir reports for Politico:
Former House Speaker John Boehner predicted on Thursday that a full repeal and replace of Obamacare is “not what’s going to happen” and that Republicans will instead just make some fixes to the health care law.
Boehner, who retired in 2015 amid unrest among conservatives, said at an Orlando healthcare conference that GOP lawmakers were too optimistic in their talk of quickly repealing and then replacing Obamacare.
“They’ll fix Obamacare, and I shouldn’t have called it repeal and replace because that’s not what’s going to happen. They’re basically going to fix the flaws and put a more conservative box around it,” Boehner said.
The former speaker’s frank comments capture the conundrum that many Republicans find themselves in as they try to deliver on pledges to axe Obamacare but struggle to coalesce around an alternative.
Amy Goodman speaks to former Department of Homeland Security attorney Margo Schlanger and attorney Cesar Vargas, co-director of DREAM Action Coalition, about how the White House is moving to greatly expand the Department of Homeland Security’s authority to deport millions of undocumented immigrants and to increase the number of immigration and Border Patrol agents by 15,000. President Obama’s deportation practices set the stage for today’s new crackdown. During his time in office, Obama deported a record 2.7 million people. In 2014, the head of the National Council of La Raza, Janet Murguía, called Obama the nation’s “deporter-in-chief”. (Democracy Now!)
Brad Plumer reports for Vox:
On the same day the Senate confirmed Rex Tillerson as Donald Trump’s secretary of state, the House voted to kill a transparency rule for oil companies that Tillerson once lobbied against while CEO of Exxon Mobil.
So all in all, a good day for America’s largest oil and gas firm.
Using the little-known Congressional Review Act, the House GOP voted on Wednesday to kill an Obama-era regulation that would require publicly traded oil, gas, and mining companies to disclose any payments that they made to foreign governments, including taxes and royalties.
The rule itself dates back to the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act — when senators from both parties included a provision requiring greater disclosure from mining and drilling companies working abroad. The hope was to cut down on corruption in resource-rich developing countries by increasing transparency.
Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh speak to Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief for The Huffington Post, about Democrats beginning to push back Trump’s nominees after facing public pressure to do more. Grim recently wrote an article titled ‘After Trying Everything Else, Democrats Have Decided To Listen To Their Voters‘. (Democracy Now!)
Jordan Smith reports for The Intercept:
At the end of a three-day hearing, a federal district court judge in Austin, Texas, on January 19 issued a temporary injunction blocking state officials from excising Planned Parenthood from the state’s Medicaid program — a move that would deny more than 11,000 of the state’s poorest residents from accessing preventive care from their provider of choice, and would annually strip Texas Planned Parenthood clinics of several million dollars.
The current court action is just the latest in a long string of attempts by the state of Texas to defund local affiliates of the nation’s largest provider of women’s health and reproductive care. And it is part of a larger movement by conservative state and federal lawmakers to cut off Planned Parenthood from all government funding.
If anti-choice lawmakers in D.C. have their way, it may be easier for Texas, and other states, to get their way.
[…] The good news, such as it is, is that the executive branch is only supposed to execute the law, not make it. This means that some of Trump’s executive orders are more symbolic nods to his base than a real change in governance.
For instance, Trump has loudly celebrated his Wednesday executive order calling for “the immediate construction of a physical wall on the southern border.” But presidents can only spend money that’s been appropriated by Congress, for the purposes Congress directed.
So if you read deep into the executive order, you’ll find that it merely instructs the secretary of homeland security to “identify and, to the extent permitted by law, allocate all sources of federal funds for the planning, designing, and constructing of a physical wall.” This means the secretary will look at money already appropriated by Congress and try to find some designated for a purpose that could somehow be interpreted as “build the wall.”
In other words, Trump’s order sets his administration looking under the federal budget’s sofa cushions for spare change, which is not going to add up to anything like the $20-$40 billion the wall would cost.
When Trump excitedly tweeted that “we will build the wall!” it actually just meant “we will build the wall if someday Congress gives me money for it!” — something that was true before he signed the executive order.
Fourteen Senate Democrats joined all but one Senate Republican in confirming Rep. Mike Pompeo as the new CIA director on Monday evening, failing a crucial first test of whether Democrats would present a united front to defend human rights and civil liberties in the Trump era.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was the lone member of his party to vote against his confirmation.
Pompeo is a far-right Kansas Republican who has in the past defended CIA officials who engaged in torture, calling them “patriots.” Last week, he left the door open to torture by acknowledging in his written responses to the Senate Intelligence Committee that he would be open to altering a 2015 law prohibiting the government from using techniques not listed in the Army Field Manual.
As a member of Congress, he repeatedly appeared on the radio program hosted by anti-Muslim activist Frank Gaffney, and has portrayed the war on terror as a conflict between Islam and Christianity. He has also claimed that “Islamic leaders across America [are] potentially complicit” in terrorism because they supposedly don’t speak out against it, which is not true.
While Pompeo’s confirmation was opposed by Human Rights Watch, it netted votes from a variety of Senate Democrats, including the caucus’ leader: Chuck Schumer of New York.
Spencer Woodman reports for The Intercept:
On Saturday, the Women’s March on Washington will kick off what opponents of the incoming administration hope will be a new era of demonstrations against the Republican agenda. But in some states, nonviolent demonstrating may soon carry increased legal risks — including punishing fines and significant prison terms — for people who participate in protests involving civil disobedience. Over the past few weeks, Republican legislators across the country have quietly introduced a number of proposals to criminalize and discourage peaceful protest.
The proposals, which strengthen or supplement existing laws addressing the blocking or obstructing of traffic, come in response to a string of high-profile highway closures and other actions led by Black Lives Matter activists and opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Republicans reasonably expect an invigorated protest movement during the Trump years.
In North Dakota, for instance, Republicans introduced a bill last week that would allow motorists to run over and kill any protester obstructing a highway as long as a driver does so accidentally. In Minnesota, a bill introduced by Republicans last week seeks to dramatically stiffen fines for freeway protests and would allow prosecutors to seek a full year of jail time for protesters blocking a highway. Republicans in Washington state have proposed a plan to reclassify as a felony civil disobedience protests that are deemed “economic terrorism.” Republicans in Michigan introduced and then last month shelved an anti-picketing law that would increase penalties against protestors and would make it easier for businesses to sue individual protestors for their actions. And in Iowa a Republican lawmaker has pledged to introduce legislation to crack down on highway protests.
Francine Kiefer writes for The Christian Science Monitor:
You could dub them the “roll-back cabinet” – Donald Trump’s nominees who are hostile to the very government agencies that they have been selected to lead.
In confirmation hearings this week, Democrats have decried and Republicans have rallied behind an Environmental Protection Agency appointee who has sued the agency 14 times (Scott Pruitt); a proposed Health secretary who promises to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (Tom Price); and a billionaire who would be the nation’s top public educator but who supports vouchers to help kids leave public schools for private ones (Betsy DeVos).
Then there’s the designated Labor secretary who opposes significant increases in the minimum wage (Andy Puzder) and the proposed Energy secretary who, as a presidential candidate, called for the department’s abolishment (Rick Perry). Mr. Perry, however, walked back those comments during his confirmation hearing Thursday, saying, “after being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination.”
As a nation, America has been here before. Historians point to 1981, when Ronald Reagan also appointed cabinet secretaries who wanted to dismantle policies and programs in the departments they led.
The Washington Times:
Senator John McCain called Monday for a massive boost in defense spending totaling more than $85 billion per year over the next half-decade, saying that is just the beginning of what it will take to restore the U.S. military to a dominant role.
The Senate Armed Services Committee chairman’s plans, detailed in a white paper, are an important marker, laying out defense hawks’ wish list as Congress prepares to debate budget priorities under the Trump administration.
Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican, said that after years of bleeding, the Pentagon will struggle to fight the war on terrorism while preparing to engage emerging threats in Russia and China.
Amy Goodman speaks to Craig Holman of Public Citizen who says that the Trump administration is a scandal in waiting because of the vast number of conflicts of interest he brings: “If steps are not taken to manage these conflicts, the Trump administration is likely to become one of the most scandal-ridden in memory.” You can watch the full of interview with former George W. Bush ethics lawyer Richard Painter, which was shown at the start of this interview, here. (Democracy Now!)
Matthew Rozsa reports for Salon:
Senate Republicans plan on helping President-elect Donald Trump confirm some of his more controversial cabinet appointments by holding a marathon session of hearings on Wednesday and through Thursday — a procedure that Democrats claim is intended to help the picks avoid serious scrutiny.
On the same day that Trump has scheduled a news conference (which could also distract attention from the confirmation hearings), the Senate is scheduled to hear from a number of Trump’s potential appointments — some of whom have baggage — on Wednesday and Thursday, according to The Hill on Wednesday.
BBC News reports:
Republicans are to drop a plan to gut the independent body that investigates political misconduct, after an outcry.
President-elect Donald Trump had criticised Republicans after they voted to strip the Office of Congressional Ethics of its independence.
“Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance!” Mr Trump said in a tweet.
The proposal was dropped in an emergency meeting at the new Congress, unnamed lawmakers told the US media.
Mr Trump made cleaning up corruption in Washington a key theme of his campaign, and he ended his tweet with “#DTS”, an acronym for “drain the swamp”.
Rupert Neate reports for The Observer:
Earlier this month, Donald Trump used a “thank-you” rally in Des Moines, Iowa, to give his supporters further insight into the “deal-making” team he intends to build in Washington. As president-elect, Trump has so far nominated a number of billionaires, three Goldman Sachs bankers and the chief executive of the world’s largest oil firm to senior positions. Responding to liberal consternation at the sheer wealth of the prospective appointees, Trump told his audience: “A newspaper [the New York Times] criticised me and said: ‘Why can’t they have people of modest means?’ Because I want people that made a fortune. Because now they are negotiating for you, OK? It’s no different than a great baseball player or a great golfer.”
Trump’s cabinet, which is not yet fully filled, is already said to be worth a combined $14bn – the richest White House top table ever assembled. His team – if all are confirmed by the Senate – will be worth 50 times the $250m combined wealth of George W Bush’s first cabinet, which the media at the time dubbed the “team of millionaires”. For Trump, those figures are simply a confirmation of competence: in Trumpian politics, the richer you are, the better you must be at cutting a deal. And “deal-making” is what the next White House will be all about.
Throughout his campaign, Trump repeatedly returned to the theme of the “terrible deals” cut by previous administrations, from the North American Free Trade Agreement trade deal to the nuclear deal with Iran.
Vera Bergengruen reports for McClatchy:
As a candidate, Donald Trump promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington. Now that he’s been elected and is embracing part of that very establishment, Democrats and many in the media are slamming him as a typical politician who abandoned a principle as soon as it suited him.
But when McClatchy checked in with several dozen voters in central Pennsylvania – one of the swing states that swung the White House to Trump – to see how they defined the swamp, most didn’t really care. Instead, they said it’s fine with them if he uses the expertise of a DC establishment of lobbyists, donors and special interests to to get his way – and their way.
“This is his thing. He is a successful businessman who hires people to get him . . . what he wants,” said , 42, who works at a gas station near Philipsburg, Pa. “If he has to use swamp people to make America great again, why not?”
Chris Matthews speaks to Senator Rand Paul, a Donald Trump supporter, about why he thinks Rudy Giuliani or John Bolton are dreadful choices for Secretary of State in the forthcoming Trump administration. (MSNBC)
When Barack Obama leaves the White House, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer will almost certainly be elected Senate minority leader — and therefore become the highest ranking Democratic official in America.
That’s a terrible roll of the dice for Democrats, because Schumer might as well have been grown in a lab to be exactly the wrong face for opposition to Donald Trump:
- Schumer, who’s just about to turn 66, grew up in Brooklyn and went to the same high school as Bernie Sanders. Then their lives diverged: Schumer, the smartiest of the smartypants, got a perfect score on the SATs and then went to Harvard and Harvard Law School. He was elected to the New York State Assembly at 23, the U.S. Congress at 29, and the U.S. Senate at 47. He’s never had any adult job outside elected office.
- He possesses the same impressive political acumen as Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, sagely explaining “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.”
Lauren Fox reports for Talking Points Memo:
The red ‘Make America Great Again’ hats poured out of the House Republican conference Tuesday– the signal that the party has fully drunk the Donald Trump Kool-aid it was resisting little more than a week ago.
It was the first full conference meeting in the wake of Trump’s stunning election win. Members had been back home, in their districts, trying carefully to balance their bombastic nominee with their own re-elections. In the end, it turned out Trump’s vision helped them.
Now, even Republicans who once kept their distance from their party’s nominee, wanted to be on the right side of their new President. But the cognitive dissonance between what House GOP leaders were saying about Trump before the election and what they’re saying now was not lost on some members.
David Lightman reports for McClatchy:
Here’s the post-election version of a divided America: While the nation’s streets and social media erupted in protest of the Donald Trump presidency, Washington insiders were joining together to embrace him.
Inside the Capitol, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who a month ago was so disgusted with Trump that he said he would no longer defend him, had what he called a “fantastic, productive” meeting with the president-elect. The lobbyists and insiders Trump reviled are angling for influence and jobs. Some have become key members of his transition team.
Outside official circles there’s a very different mood. The half of America that rejected Trump and said it feared for the nation’s future under his presidency launched protests and threats in ways not seen in modern times.
Daniel Lazare writes for Consortium News:
The election commentary now filling the Internet seems distinctly out of touch. Many analysts are castigating Hillary Clinton for all the things she did wrong, her failure to connect with white workers in the Rust Belt, her inability to sufficiently rally blacks, and so on. Or they’re criticizing the American people for falling for a racist, sexist know-nothing like Donald Trump.
But these critics are ignoring the elephant in the parlor. The simple fact is that Americans didn’t elect Trump. An ancient relic known as the Electoral College did. For better or worse, a plurality of the people voted for Hillary Clinton.
Indeed, her margin of victory is turning out to be bigger than many imagined. The latest count by the Associated Press has her ahead by about a half million popular votes, or Clinton’s 48 percent to Trump’s 47 percent. That’s about the same as George W. Bush’s losing margin in 2000 before a judicial coup d’état propelled him into office.
But Nate Cohen of The New York Times’s “Upshot” team is predicting that by the time all mail-in, absentee, and provisional ballots are counted, it will end up even bigger, i.e., as high as 2.2 million, or 1.7 percent. That’s ten times John F. Kennedy’s margin of victory in 1960 and four times Richard Nixon’s in 1968.
Alexandra Jaffe and Katy Tur report for NBC News:
Donald Trump on Friday announced Vice President-elect Mike Pence would take over transition planning from Chris Christie, a move that sources say reflect a diminished role for the New Jersey governor.
Sources tell NBC News that the controversy surrounding two former Christie aides being convicted in the closure of George Washington Bridge lanes was an issue, but more significant was Christie’s failure to vocally defend Trump at key moments throughout the campaign.
[…] Mike Pence, as well as Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign chief Steve Bannon will be leading the charge to whittle down names for cabinet positions. The transition executive committee will include three of his children, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump.
But despite Donald Trump‘s campaign pledge to “drain the swamp” in Washington and his outsider campaign, many of the prospects are clear Washington insiders.
Sources tell NBC News that Texas Rep. Mike McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, is being considered for Secretary of Homeland Security; former Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers, a past chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is on the list for Director of the CIA; while Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the Financial Services Committee, is in the mix for Treasury Secretary.
Amy Goodman speaks to investigative reporter Greg Palast who has uncovered the latest in vote suppression tactics led by Republicans that could threaten the integrity of the vote in Ohio and North Carolina. On some polling machines, audit protection functions have been shut off, and African Americans and Hispanics are being scrubbed from the voter rolls through a system called Crosscheck. “It’s a brand-new Jim Crow,” Palast says. “Today, on Election Day, they’re not going to use white sheets to keep way black voters. Today, they’re using spreadsheets.” (Democracy Now!)
Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speaks to Medea Benjamin, author of the book Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection, to get her response to the vote by Congress to allow Americans to sue Saudi Arabia over the 9/11 attacks, overriding President Obama’s veto of the bill. The legislation would allow courts to waive claim of foreign sovereign immunity after an act of terrorism occurs within U.S. borders. “If innocent families [of drone attacks] were able to take the U.S. to court instead of seeing joining ISIS or al-Qaeda as their only resort, that would be a very positive thing.” (Democracy Now!)
David Uberti writes for Columbia Journalism Review:
[…] Herein lies the caveat journalists should consider before they wet the bed over Gallup’s latest data: There is no media. There is only my media and your media.
“The media”—“such as newspapers, TV, and radio” per Gallup’s definition—has given way to an amorphous blob of email newsletters, podcasts, blogs, YouTube channels, tweets, Snaps, Facebook Live streams, and countless other vessels we couldn’t have imagined 20 years ago. Many people who produce content for them adhere to journalistic standards, but an increasing proportion of them do not. Consuming the fruits of that labor is an intensely personalized experience.
Peer further into Gallup’s data. Trust in media among self-identified Republicans, Democrats, and independents was in the same ballpark in 1998. That was in the early years of the cable news wars. The nearly two decades since coincided with an intense fragmentation of media among more digitally focused individuals and organizations.
Nowhere has this explosion been more forceful than with conservatives, whose half-century project of demonizing the lamestream media has begun splattering into myriad splotches on the internet. The world of a lone conservative media superpower, Fox News, is gradually giving way to a multi-polar world of abundant right-leaning choices.