U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: January 23, 2017

Mark Wilson/Getty Images


1. Trump team clashes with media in ‘rocky’ first weekend
The Trump administration clashed with the media for a second day on Sunday over the size of the crowd at President Trump’s inauguration, as Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, defended White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s claim that Trump had drawn “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.” Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s Meet the Press, asked why Trump would have Spicer make a false claim. “You’re saying it’s a falsehood,” Conway said, but actually Spicer simply “gave alternative facts.” Todd replied: “Wait, ‘alternative facts’? Look, alternative facts are not facts. They’re falsehoods.” Trump allies and aides said they hoped to move on after a “rocky” first weekend.

Source: The Hill, NBC News

2. Trump to start renegotiating NAFTA with Mexico and Canada
President Trump said Sunday that he had scheduled meetings with the leaders of Mexico and Canada to start renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump promised during his campaign that he would rework the 23-year-old trade pact to get the U.S. a better deal. He said his talks with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would focus “on NAFTA, on immigration, on security at the border.” Former President Barack Obama, who also criticized NAFTA as a candidate, sought to impose Democratic-favored labor and environmental rules through the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, which included Canada and Mexico. Trump has vowed to scrap the TPP.

Source: CNN

3. Lawyers filing suit saying foreign payments to Trump violate Constitution
A group of constitutional scholars and ethics lawyers plans to file a lawsuit on Monday accusing President Trump of violating the U.S. Constitution by letting his hotels and other businesses take payments from foreign governments. Deepak Gupta, one of the lawyers behind the suit, said that the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause covers payments to Trump’s hotels, and loans for his buildings from banks controlled by foreign governments. The framers of the Constitution “understood that one way a republic could fail is if foreign powers could corrupt our elected leaders,” Gupta said. Trump’s lawyers said the clause doesn’t apply to a fair-market payment, such as a hotel bill, and Eric Trump, the president’s son and executive vice president of the Trump Organization, said the lawsuit was “purely harassment for political gain.”

Source: Reuters, The New York Times

4. Death toll from Southern storms rises to 18
The death toll from weekend storms that tore across the South rose to at least 18 on Sunday. Fourteen people were killed in Georgia, including three who died in Dougherty County when a tornado caused widespread destruction. Storms hit from northern Florida to South Carolina, and west to Mississippi. Severe thunderstorms in Florida’s panhandle resulted in a tornado watch in 30 counties in north and central Florida on Sunday night.

Source: USA Today, The Weather Channel

5. Syrian peace talks begin in Kazakhstan
Representatives of Syria’s government and rebel factions started fresh peace talks in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, on Monday. The negotiations are brokered by Russia and Iran, which support Syria’s government, and Turkey, which backs some of the rebel groups. The talks, which opposition groups said would not involve direct discussion between rebels and the government, are intended to build on a shaky ceasefire that took effect last month. The U.S. is not directly participating because of the “immediate demands of the transition,” but the U.S. ambassador to Kazakhstan, George Krol, is attending. If the talks succeed, more political talks are expected in February.

Source: BBC News, The Associated Press

6. Trump won’t release tax returns, Conway says
President Trump does not plan to release his tax returns, his senior counselor, Kellyanne Conway, said Sunday. Trump was pressed for his returns during the campaign, and said he would release them after an Internal Revenue Service audit was completed. He has since said his victory indicated that Americans were not concerned about his taxes, an argument Conway echoed. “We litigated this all through the election,” she said. In a Pew Research Center poll this month, 60 percent of respondents, including 38 percent of Republicans, said Trump should release his tax returns.

Source: The New York Times

7. McCain and Graham say they will support Tillerson nomination
Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Sunday that they would support the confirmation of President Trump’s pick for secretary of state, former ExxonMobil chief Rex Tillerson. “After careful consideration, and much discussion with Mr. Tillerson, we have decided to support his nomination to be secretary of state,” they wrote in a statement. “Though we still have concerns about his past dealings with the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin, we believe that Mr. Tillerson can be an effective advocate for U.S. interests.” The senior senators’ support is expected to help propel Tillerson through his Senate confirmation and may also allow Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who has been critical of Tillerson, to vote no without scuttling a nominee for a president from his party.

Source: Reuters, The Wall Street Journal

8. Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura dies in Dominican Republic crash
Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed Sunday in a car crash in his native Dominican Republic. He was 25. Ventura pitched for the Royals in two World Series, in 2014 and 2015. The team’s general manager, Dayton Moore, said Ventura was “so young and so talented, full of youthful exuberence.” His death came on the same day that former Major League infielder Andy Marte died in a separate car crash in the Dominican Republic, and just four months after another gifted young pitcher, the Miami Marlins’ Jose Fernandez, was killed in a boating accident.

Source: Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports

9. Samsung blames faulty batteries for Galaxy Note 7 debacle
Samsung Electronics said Monday that its internal investigation determined that faulty batteries caused its flagship Galaxy Note 7 phones to catch fire. The defects forced Samsung to cancel the production and sale of the phones, its main competitor for Apple’s iPhones. The setback cost the South Korean tech giant $5.3 billion in operating profit, but the company said it would take steps to eliminate the possibility that the problem would happen in future devices, including the S8 due out in April or May. Samsung’s earnings are due Tuesday.

Source: Reuters

10. Patriots and Falcons advance to Super Bowl
The New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons won their respective NFL conference championships on Sunday to advance to the Super Bowl. The Patriots’ offense, led by quarterback Tom Brady, sealed their 36-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers with three touchdown passes. The Falcons crushed the Green Bay Packers 44-21. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan passed for 392 yards and 4 TDs, and scored his first rushing touchdown of the season, helping to earn his team the second Super Bowl appearance in its 51-year history.

Source: The New York Times, USA Today

U.S. Politics

PoliticusUSA’s Newsletter for 01/22/2017



Warning!! – A Petulant Child Is Loose In the Oval Office

Trump spent his first full day on the job complaining that he is not getting the human-turned-god treatment he feels he deserves like he gets at home.

Read more »

Editorial Cartoon: Sisterhood United

Liberty was at the marches.

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On His 3rd Day In Office, Trump Is Facing A Major Lawsuit For Violating The Constitution

A collection of legal scholars, ethics lawyers, and money in politics experts are suing President Trump for violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.

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In Pictures: The Women’s March On Washington

Here is a photo gallery from Washington, D.C. of the largest protest march in US history.

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The Dictionary Trolls Kellyanne Conway By Tweeting Out The Definition Of Fact

“A fact is a piece of information presented as having objective reality,” Merriam-Webster Dictionary tweeted after Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway tried to rebrand the Trump administration’s false statements as “alternative facts.”

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Democrats Turn The Tables With Bill To Stop Trump From Unilaterally Lifting Russian Sanctions

Senate Democrats, anticipating Donald Trump lifting those sanctions, are working to hold Trump to the same rule as Republicans held Obama to regarding sanctions on Iran.

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Even Fox News Says Trump Is Lying About Inauguration Crowd Size

On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace confronted White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus with photographic evidence to dispute their inaugural crowd size lie.

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Reality Crushes Trump Lies On Women’s March And Inauguration TV Ratings

The Women’s March was the second busiest day in Metro history, coming in second only to President Obama’s 2009 inauguration.

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Women’s March On Washington Sets US Protest Record As Estimated 3.6-4.5 Million Marched

The final national crowd estimate is that somewhere between 3.6 million and 4.5 million people marched across the country in Women’s March On Washington.

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Chuck Todd Obliterates Kellyanne Conway For Claiming White House Lies Are “Alternative Facts”

On Meet The Press, Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway tried to claim that the White House is using “alternative facts.” Host Chuck Todd destroyed Conway’s claim and showed that the media isn’t going to be Trump’s propaganda arm.

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Trump Throws a Fit Wondering Why the Women’s Marchers Protested After His Election

Instead of being presidential and congratulating the millions of women’s marchers for their peaceful protests, Donald Trump wondered why they were protesting since we just had an election. He seems to expect all dissent to stop now that he’s president.

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Marching Towards Healing and Rallying for the Rights of All

The marches across the country manifested the grassroots energy to continue bending the moral arc of the universe towards justice for all people.

Read more »

U.S. Politics

Trump Won’t Release His Tax Returns, a Top Aide Says

President Donald Trump spoke with Kellyanne Conway on Sunday after a ceremony to install the White House senior staff. CreditMandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


WASHINGTON — President Trump has no intention of releasing his tax returns, his senior counselor said on Sunday, ruling out a step he had said he would take once an Internal Revenue Service audit was completed.

“The White House response is that he’s not going to release his tax returns,” the counselor, Kellyanne Conway, said in an interview on the ABC program “This Week.”

“We litigated this all through the election,” she added.

Last year, Mr. Trump became the first major-party presidential nominee in more than 40 years not to release his tax returns, and he would be the first president since the early 1970s to decline to release tax information, either through a summary or a full or partial return.

While Ms. Conway said that Mr. Trump had complied “with all the ethical rules” and “done everything” he needs to do to step away from his businesses, many ethics experts have taken the opposite view. They argue that Mr. Trump has not done enough to separate himself from his business empire and guarantee that he will not be subject to conflicts of interest while in office. They continue to call for the release of his tax returns as a way of evaluating potential areas of conflict.

On Sunday, Ms. Conway echoed an assertion that Mr. Trump made this month when he argued that it was only the news media — not other Americans — who cared enough about his finances to demand his tax returns.

“No, I don’t think they’re concerned — I won,” Mr. Trump said. But at the time, he cited the I.R.S. audit as the reason he would not release the documents.

In a Pew Research Center poll this month, 60 percent of respondents said Mr. Trump should release his returns, although just 38 percent of Republican respondents said he should.

Ms. Conway said those calling for the release of the information — which includes the director of the nonpartisan Office of Government Ethics — “want to keep litigating what happened in the campaign.”

In the interview, Ms. Conway was asked about a petition on the White House website demanding that Mr. Trump release the returns. It had garnered more than 220,000 signatures by Sunday; petitions that get 100,000 signatures require a response from the White House. But Ms. Conway issued a flat refusal.

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, told ABC that Mr. Trump should follow the example of previous presidents: “Tax returns have always been a tradition that should be observed.”


U.S. Politics

Dan Rather Takes Kellyanne Conway To The Woodshed; Advises The Media On How To Handle Lies

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 20: Dan Rather records an episode of his show, Dan Rather's America, on SiriusXM at Quicken Loans Arena on July 20, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

Dan Rather | Featured image via Kirk Irwin/Getty Images


After Trump spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway had the gall to defend blatant Trump administration lies as “alternative facts,” Dan Rather, one of the few real journalists left in our country, took to Facebook and called for action.

“These are not normal times,” Rather said. “These are extraordinary times. And extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.”

Conway wasn’t the only person who suffered Rather’s wrath, but he called her phrase “Orwellian,” which it was. Rather also talked about Sean Spicer, who, as he said, threatened, bullied and lied to reporters before walking out of the briefing room without even answering a question. He also called out the administration for its lies.

Rather remarked that we’ve never seen this before, but he has some suggestions for the media. The first of which is to not be afraid to call a lie a lie. Even more than from the press, though, Rather wants to see that kind of bravery come from Congress.

There is one group of people who can do a lot – very quickly. And that is Republicans in Congress. Without their support, Donald Trump’s presidency will falter. So here is what I think everyone in the press must do. If you are interviewing a Paul Ryan, a Mitch McConnell, or any other GOP elected official, the first question must be “what will you do to combat the lying from the White House?” If they dodge and weave, keep with the follow ups. And if they refuse to give a satisfactory answer, end the interview.

Facts and the truth are not partisan. They are the bedrock of our democracy. And you are either with them, with us, with our Constitution, our history, and the future of our nation, or you are against it. Everyone must answer that question.

It’s true. If the media does its job, the truth will win out and “alternative fact” will be called simply, “lies.”

These are not normal times. These are extraordinary times. And extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.

When you have a spokesperson for the president of the United States wrap up a lie in the Orwellian phrase “alternative facts”…

When you have a press secretary in his first appearance before the White House reporters threaten, bully, lie, and then walk out of the briefing room without the cajones to answer a single question…

When you have a President stand before the stars of the fallen CIA agents and boast about the size of his crowds (lies) and how great his authoritarian inaugural speech was….

These are not normal times.

The press has never seen anything like this before. The public has never seen anything like this before. And the political leaders of both parties have never seen anything like this before.

What can we do? We can all step up and say simply and without equivocation. “A lie, is a lie, is a lie!” And if someone won’t say it, those of us who know that there is such a thing as the truth must do whatever is in our power to diminish the liar’s malignant reach into our society.

There is one group of people who can do a lot – very quickly. And that is Republicans in Congress. Without their support, Donald Trump’s presidency will falter. So here is what I think everyone in the press must do. If you are interviewing a Paul Ryan, a Mitch McConnell, or any other GOP elected official, the first question must be “what will you do to combat the lying from the White House?” If they dodge and weave, keep with the follow ups. And if they refuse to give a satisfactory answer, end the interview.

Facts and the truth are not partisan. They are the bedrock of our democracy. And you are either with them, with us, with our Constitution, our history, and the future of our nation, or you are against it. Everyone must answer that question.

“To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”  ~  Theodore Roosevelt

Wendy Gittleson

U.S. Politics

Men at the Women’s March? You bet. Here’s why they came.

Image result for Feminism

According to this attendee, “White men don’t do enough shutting up and listening, so that’s why I’m here today.” |  Naomi Shavin


WASHINGTON, DC — At least 500,000 people attended the Women’s March on Washington, and while most of the marchers were women, a substantial portion of attendees were men, despite early reports suggesting that men might not turn out in great numbers.

After all, there were arguments about whether men were welcome in general. Even men who wanted to attend didn’t know the march was inclusive to them, since the name and platform were centered on women. Any confusion leading up to the march about who it was for, who could participate, and why it was important to show up in person, though, was sorted out by Saturday. Men arrived at the National Mall on Saturday morning to rally for women and gender equality, and also stand up for other marginalized groups and pressing issues.

As New Yorker Spencer Edwards put it, “Women’s struggles are human rights struggles.” His partner Steve Saporito added, “Solidarity includes showing support in DC to help make it as big a demonstration as possible.”

Steve Saporito and Spencer Edwards say their “pussyhats” were knitted by a nine-year-old girl in Washington state | Naomi Shavin

The men I spoke with throughout the day listed a variety of reasons they couldn’t have missed the march. “I can’t look back at this time and think: I didn’t do everything I could,” said participant Dan Lomask.

Jossif Ezekilov said, “for too long the women’s movement has not had male participation. Even the most liberal men among us have seen this as a women’s only issue.” He continued, “breaking down a lot of these gender barriers helps everybody. I want to be part of that.”

Jossif Ezekilov holds a sign and stands with friends outside the Newseum. Crowds spilled from the mall into downtown Washington, DC. |  Naomi Shavin

Several male attendees told me they were inspired to march by female family members. Josh Schorlemmer, who attended with his twin brother Jake, spoke of their mother. “She was a single mom and she worked her ass off for us to have everything we needed,” said Josh. “I think it’s good to be out here so she gets paid the same as men and she has the same rights.”

Jake added, “Not to be the stereotypical twin, but that’s exactly what I was going to say.” Their mom texted them Saturday morning to tell them she was proud.

“I’m a feminist, 100 percent,” Josh said. “I don’t see why everybody doesn’t want to be that.”

Twins Josh and Jake Schorlemmer are both in law school, in DC and New York, and met up to march together on behalf of their mom. | Naomi Shavin

Mike Child was another proud feminist male marcher. His sweatshirt read “Feminist AF,” and he told me, “In general, I think that white men don’t do enough shutting up and listening, so that’s why I’m here today.”

Child wasn’t the only self-identifying white man eager to “show solidarity,” as Jason Ashley said: “I’m not a minority in any way. I think it’s important for people like me to come out because we have a lot of institutional power that isn’t necessarily used to help other people, and it’s about to be used to continue the United States’s way of discriminating.”

Trump’s misogynistic campaign demeaned not only women, but essentially every minority group in the country. The Women’s March became the a meeting point for people from many marginalized groups, like Victor Yang, to raise their voices. “I really think we need equality for all, and on top of that I’m a minority, so I feel this isn’t just a march for women, it’s also a march for minorities to demonstrate to the new president that he has to keep us in mind,” he said.

Victor Yang (center left) and Jason Ashley (center right) each spoke about how their identities factored into their respective decisions to march. | Naomi Shavin, Emily Crockett

Like many of the women, men also traveled from far and wide to rally and march. Bernard Dunayevich said he flew in the night prior from San Francisco to attend, “just for this. I flew in last night.”

Arthur, a lifelong feminist from Brooklyn, NY, called the march, “an antidote to what happened yesterday.”

“Since I was 12 years-old. I had a mother who was very fair minded and rational and reasonable and it was [the time of] women’s liberation. She explained a few things, and I said, ‘Of course that’s fair.’” I asked him what he thought of the march unfolding around him. “It’s a lot of fun to be here,” he grinned. “The last time I was here was the Obama inauguration. It’s bringing back happy memories.”

Arthur drove down from Brooklyn in an SUV with five other people. He said he was one of three men on the trip. | Naomi Shavin

But beneath the joy, empowerment, and inspiration some men described feeling, many said there was a deep resolve. “The march today is a trigger to get involved and we’re gonna stay involved,” promised Tom Palley, who also spoke about his daughter and his wife. Another father, George Faraday, said “I have a daughter and I don’t want her to grow up in the kind of world that I think Trump has in mind for women.”

Bernard Dunayevich and Tom Palley had “the honor of being the only guys” in their group at the march. | Naomi Shavin

U.S. Politics

Chris Wallace Fires Back At Priebus’ ‘Ridiculous’ Argument Over Crowd Size

Fox News screencap


“Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace asked White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus to explain how “arguing about crowd size” will help the American people in a contentious interview Sunday morning.

“President Trump said in his inaugural address that every decision he makes will be to benefit American families. How does arguing about crowd size do that?” Wallace asked.

“It’s really not about crowd size,” Priebus replied. “What it’s about is honesty in the media.”

He said that “from day one” the media has been trying to undermine Trump’s legitimacy and cited a reporter who tweeted that a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. had been removed from the Oval Office.

“The point is the attacks, and the attempts to delegitimize this president in one day,” he said.

“You talk about honesty, and say that this was about honesty,” Wallace said. “Well, there’s another issue, though, Reince, and that’s the President’s honesty, because two things that he said yesterday were just flat wrong.”

He showed side-by-side photos from Trump’s inauguration and President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009 to compare crowd sizes.

“Take a look at those pictures,” he said. “Which one is bigger?”

“Listen, you’re also not saying that that picture was taken before he was even speaking,” Priebus interrupted. “I could take a picture of the Mall right now—”

“I was there! I was there on the Mall!” Wallace said, speaking over Priebus. “I mean let me say first of all I think this is a ridiculous conversation, but there were huge areas. He said there were crowds all the way to the Washington Monument.”

“There was,” Priebus said. “I was sitting there.”

“Reince, there weren’t,” Wallace said.

“Yes there was,” Priebus insisted. “I was sitting there looking.”


Watch the entire exchange below, starting at 0:54:

U.S. Politics

Merriam-Webster trolls Kellyanne Conway for calling falsehoods ‘alternate facts’



Merriam-Webster reminds the president’s adviser that facts, by definition, are based in reality.

Kellyanne Conway made headlines this weekend for rebranding the White House’s false information about Donald Trump’s inauguration crowds as “alternative facts.” So, the social media team behind the Merriam-Webster Dictionary felt the need to clarify the definition of the word “fact.”

Linking to a trending topic page for Conway’s quote, Merriam-Webster tweeted, “A fact is a piece of information presented as having objective reality.”

On Saturday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer scolded reporters during a press briefing for spreading what he deemed falsities about Trump’s inauguration, according to CNN. “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period,” he said, despite contrary findings from aerial photos, Nielsen ratings, and Metro reports on subway riders in Washington, D.C.

During a Sunday interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Conway defended Spicer’s false claims as “alternative facts.”

“You’re saying it’s a falsehood, and they’re giving — Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that,” she said. Host Chuck Todd countered, “Alternative facts are not facts. They are falsehoods.”

The dictionary also linked to a post that it wrote (well, its editors wrote) about how Conway’s comments fueled a spike in online searches for the word “fact.” That people aren’t sure whether “alternative facts” are still facts appeared to get under the skin ― the cover? ― of the dusty, gold-trimmed book that’s been begging for attention on your shelf for at least a decade.

“In contemporary use, fact is generally understood to refer to something with actual existence, or presented as having objective reality,” reads the post.

It’s not the first time the dictionary has inserted itself into the political arena. Last February, Merriam-Webster tried to help make sense of one of Trump’s error-riddled tweets.

Trump has since deleted that tweet, which called Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) a “Leightweight chocker [sic]” twice, and said it was a “Great honer! [sic]” that so many polls showed him winning a debate.

Jennifer Bendery