The Reuters news agency this week recognized the challenges of covering Donald Trump’s presidency by comparing it to authoritarian regimes like Egypt, Yemen and China.
“It’s not every day that a U.S. president calls journalists ‘among the most dishonest human beings on earth’ or that his chief strategist dubs the media ‘the opposition party’,” Reuters Editor-in-Chief Steve Adler wrote in a message to staff on Tuesday. “It’s hardly surprising that the air is thick with questions and theories about how to cover the new Administration.”
He cited the organization’s work in “Turkey, the Philippines, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Thailand, China, Zimbabwe, and Russia” as an example of how to report on the Trump administration.
Adler said that reporters could use experience learned in “nations in which we sometimes encounter some combination of censorship, legal prosecution, visa denials, and even physical threats to our journalists.”
Among other advice, the news agency pointed out that reporters should “[g]ive up on hand-outs and worry less about official access.”
“They were never all that valuable anyway. Our coverage of Iran has been outstanding, and we have virtually no official access. What we have are sources,” the memo said. “Get out into the country and learn more about how people live, what they think, what helps and hurts them, and how the government and its actions appear to them, not to us.”
The letter encouraged reporters to “never be intimidated” by the administration.
“Don’t vent publicly about what might be understandable day-to-day frustration. In countless other countries, we keep our own counsel so we can do our reporting without being suspected of personal animus. We need to do that in the U.S., too,” the message to reporters said. “Don’t take too dark a view of the reporting environment: It’s an opportunity for us to practice the skills we’ve learned in much tougher places around the world and to lead by example – and therefore to provide the freshest, most useful, and most illuminating information and insight of any news organization anywhere.”
President Trump on Tuesdaynominated Neil Gorsuch, a federal appeals court judge in Colorado, to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant when conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died last February. Like Scalia, Gorsuch is a conservative and believes in a strict, originalist interpretation of the Constitution. Gorsuch, at 49, is the youngest Supreme Court nominee in 25 years. He is a widely respected jurist, but still could face a bitter confirmation battle. His confirmation would restore the court’s 5-4 conservative majority. Some Democrats questioned Gorsuch’s record on women’s rights. Others vowed to fight Trump’s nominee because they felt former President Barack Obama should have been the one to fill the vacancy. Obama nominated another highly respected judge, Merrick Garland, for the seat last year, but Republicans blocked the nomination, refusing to consider any Obama nominee.
Senate Democrats boycotted planned committee votes on President Trump’s nominees to head the Treasury, and Health and Human Services departments, delaying the process. At least one Democratic member of the committees must be present to hold a vote on whether to recommend the nominees for approval by the full Senate. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch called the boycott “shocking” and “offensive.” Democrats say they want further information about reports contradicting testimony Steven Mnuchin, the treasury secretary nominee, made to the committee. They also want Rep. Tom Price, Trump’s health and human services nominee, to explain a report that he received an offer to buy a biomedical stock at a discount, contrary to what he said in his confirmation hearing.
San Francisco filed a lawsuit against President Trump on Tuesday over his executive order threatening to yank federal funding from so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with immigration agents and provide protection for undocumented immigrations. San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera called Trump’s action unconstitutional and “un-American.” There are about 400 jurisdictions around the country that meet some descriptions of sanctuary cities, although there is no official designation. The White House says such cities “willfully violate federal law” by shielding from deportation people who are in the U.S. illegally.
A Senate panel on Tuesday narrowly voted to recommend the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as President Trump’s education secretary. The nomination now goes to the full Senate. All 12 Republicans on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions voted for DeVos, while all 11 Democrats voted against her. Republicans on the committee argued that DeVos was the reformer the department needed, while Democrats said the Michigan billionaire private school voucher advocate would undermine public schools. Two Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, said they had not decided whether they would back DeVos in a floor vote, indicating that her confirmation was not a sure thing.
President Trump said Tuesday in a White House meeting with pharmaceutical executives that he would speed up drug approvals and bring down drug costs. “For Medicare, for Medicaid, we have to get the prices way down,” Trump said. “We’re also gonna be streamlining the process so that from your standpoint, when you have a drug, you can actually get it approved if it works instead of waiting for many, many years.” Trump’s comments marked the latest in a series of pushes to help businesses by cutting federal regulations.
Former United Nations leader Ban Ki-moon has decided not to run in an election expected later this year to replace President Park Geun-hye, who was impeached in December over a corruption scandal. Ban returned to South Korea last month, calling for political reform, but said Wednesday that he had been “very disappointed by some politicians’ obsolete and marrow-minded” views, so he “decided that siding with them is meaningless.” His decision made Moon Jae-in, a key opposition figure, the clear frontrunner.
British lawmakers are scheduled to vote Wednesday on a bill that would give Prime Minister Theresa May permission to trigger negotiations on the U.K.’s exit from the European Union by March 31. Members of the House of Commons have signaled they would approve starting the Brexit process in the Wednesday vote, although the opposition is expected to fight for amendments next week when the bill returns for the next step in the parliamentary process, the committee stage. The government had not intended to take the matter to lawmakers, believing that voters had delivered the final word by backing withdrawal from the EU in a referendum last summer. The country’s Supreme Court, however, ruled that Parliament had to approve before the government could invoke Article 50 of the EU Treaty, the starting point for the two-year process.
Acting Secretary of the Army, Robert Speer, has ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to issue the final permit needed to complete the Dakota Access pipeline, two North Dakota lawmakers who back the project said in statements issued Tuesday night. Sen. John Hoeven and Rep. Kevin Cramer, both Republicans, said the permit would give the pipeline company, Energy Transfer Partners, an easement to run the pipeline under Lake Oahe on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Hoeven said the pipeline would be “built with the necessary safety features to protect the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and others downstream.” Protesters say the pipeline threatens the local water supply and Indian sacred sites.
French anticorruption police searched offices in the lower house of parliament on Tuesday as part of an investigation into whether presidential candidate Francois Fillon used public funds to pay family members for jobs they didn’t really do. A newspaper, Le Canard Enchaine, triggered the investigation with a report last week, and on Tuesday reported new details. The paper reported that the conservative Republican party candidate’s daughter and son earned $91,000 from 2005 to 2007 working for him when he was a senator, and his wife, Penelope Fillon, earned more than $900,000 over a decade. She reportedly was paid as a parliamentary assistant and contributor to a magazine, but the newspaper said she did little work.
This year, the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is adding three new canine breeds, as well as a category for cats. In addition to the hypoallergenic American hairless terrier, the North African sloughi, and the ancient Hungarian pumi, cats are joining the dog show for the first time in its 140-year history. In previous years, pedigreed cats were given a separate event. “The club has maintained its traditions while expanding to accommodate an ever-changing, dog-loving public,” said Westminster spokeswoman Gail Miller Bisher. More than 2,800 dogs will show at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan from Feb. 11-14.
The Democratic National Committee is kicking a candidate out of the chairman’s race after he told The Hill that Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) should not be the party’s next leader because he is a Muslim.
In a Jan. 5 email to The Hill, Vincent Tolliver, a former House candidate in Arkansas, said that Ellison, the first-ever Muslim elected to Congress, should not be chairman because of Islamic positions on homosexuality.
“His being a Muslim is precisely why DNC voters should not vote for him,” Tolliver wrote. “Muslims discriminate against gays. Islamic law is clear on the subject, and being gay is a direct violation of it. In some Muslim countries, being gay is a crime punishable by death.”
“Clearly, Mr. Ellison is not the person to lead the DNC or any other organization committed to not discriminating based on gender identity or sexual orientation,” Tolliver continued. “I’m shocked HRC [Human Rights Campaign] has been silent on the issue. A vote for Representative Ellison by any member of the DNC would be divisive and unconscionable, not to mention counterproductive to the immediate and necessary steps of rebuilding the Democratic Party.”
A spokesperson for Tolliver said he stands by the statement.
The Hill did not report on the remarks in early January because it was unclear whether Tolliver would be an active candidate for chair.
However, on Saturday, Tolliver participated in the DNC-sanctioned candidates forum in Houston, Texas.
The DNC announced on Tuesday that Tolliver would also be one of 11 candidates participating in the next forum in Detroit on Feb. 4.
But Tolliver is no longer invited to participate in the event.
“The Democratic Party welcomes all Americans from all backgrounds. What we do not welcome is people discriminating against others based on who they are or how they worship,” interim chairwoman Donna Brazile said in a statement to The Hill. “We expect candidates for Chair of the Party to conduct a respectful campaign based on issues. To assure that, we ask all our Chair candidates to pledge ‘to uphold the interests, welfare and success of the Democratic Party of the United States,’ and to participate in the process ‘in good faith.’ Mr. Tolliver’s disgusting comments attacking the religion of a fellow candidate fall far short of that standard. Accordingly, Mr. Tolliver is no longer a candidate for DNC Chair.”
Ellison’s spokesman Brett Morrow responded to Tolliver’s remarks in an email to The Hill:
“A few days after Donald Trump instituted a racist and unconstitutional Muslim ban, it’s disappointing that a fellow DNC candidate would fan the flames of intolerance,” Morrow said, although Tolliver made his statement weeks before President Trump signed his Friday executive order banning citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries from coming the United States.
“Keith has shown first-hand his commitment to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, organizing tirelessly against the Minnesota anti-marriage equality amendment in 2012, which led to a resounding win for love at the ballot box. Trump is taking away health care for millions of people, separating families, and alienating our allies. Keith will continue to focus on uniting the Democratic party to fight back against division and hate, and to fight for the core Democratic values of tolerance and inclusion.”
Ellison and former Labor secretary Tom Perez are viewed as the favorites to be the next DNC chair.
Those two and five other candidates — New Hampshire Democratic chairman Ray Buckley, South Carolina chairman Jaime Harrison, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former DNC official Jehmu Greene and Idaho Democratic official Sally Boynton Brown — have participated in all of the DNC’s Future Forum events at cities across the country.
An additional three candidates, not including Tolliver, will bring the field to 10 people at this weekend’s Detroit forum.
A spokesperson for the DNC said there is no signature threshold to participate in the forums. The events are open to anyone who reaches out to the DNC’s secretary to request inclusion.
The official field of candidates will likely narrow by Feb. 21, when the contenders are required to submit petitions signed by 20 DNC members.
According to White House Propaganda Minister Sean Spicer, it was completely fine that conservatives endlessly delayed President Obama’s Supreme Court pick because it was his “fourth term.”
I know what you’re thinking — The White House press secretary couldn’t possibly be so stupid that he would not know how many terms a President can legally serve (two) — but it’s true. Spicer explained that the Democrats had a responsibility to confirm any “qualified” Supreme Court nominee of Trump’s despite the campaign last year to deprive President Obama of the same courtesy. According to Spicer, this is completely different because:
“There’s never been a situation in which you had a fourth term, someone that late in an election cycle. That had never occurred before. And I think the Senate Republicans were very clear that we should wait and let the voters have a choice. And that’s exactly what happened.”
Yes, fourth term. We didn’t even get the third term conservatives were sure Obama would have and the rest of us desperately wish he could have had and Spicer thinks he served for 16 years. but he is right that the obstruction on the part of the GOP was unprecedented.
“There really is something unique about the position Republican senators are taking with respect to the Scalia vacancy,” law professor Jason Mazzone told The New York Times last year. “We really did not find any precedent for the idea, notwithstanding the Senate’s very broad powers in this area, that a sitting president could be denied outright the authority to offer up a nominee who would receive evaluation through normal Senate processes.”
“There is a difference between the Senate rejecting, as it’s quite entitled to do, a particular nominee on the merits, and the Senate taking the position that a president cannot exercise a constitutionally delegated power,” he added.
Trump’s nominee isn’t exactly qualified, as he has sided against the right of women to have available to them a full array of healthcare options, including a decision related to Hobby Lobby. He has also stated that “secular courts” do not have the right to interfere with [the Christian] religion, even when businesses are practicing discrimination against women.
Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have argued that the 1,172-mile pipeline would damage the water supply and desecrate land the tribe considers sacred.
The acting secretary of the US Army has directed the Army Corps of Engineers to proceed with the easement required to build the Dakota Access Pipeline, a North Dakota senator confirmed Tuesday evening, despite intense protests opposed to the project.
“Today, the Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer informed us that he has directed the Army Corps of Engineers to continue with the easement needed to complete the Dakota Access Pipeline,” Sen. John Hoeven said in a statement. “Building new energy infrastructure with the latest safeguards and technology is the safest and most environmentally sound way to move energy from where it is produced to where people need it.”
Thousands of demonstrators, including members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, have camped out at the Standing Rock site against the pipeline, leading to intense and at times violent confrontations with law enforcement.
Members of the tribe have argued that the 1,172-mile pipeline would damage the water supply and desecrate land the tribe considers sacred.
The group won a brief victory when the US Army Corps of Engineers announced in December it would not grant an easement for the line to cross under a river near the Standing Rock reservation. But work on the controversial pipeline was expected to resume after President Donald Trump signed executive orders last week to revive both the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines.
The US Army did not immediately respond to questions Tuesday night.
The tribe also stated that, although the easement is imminent, the Army Corps of Engineers still needed to undertake several steps before actual construction work can begin, including granting the easement and notifying Congress.
“If and when the easement is granted, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will vigorously pursue legal action,” the statement read.
According to Hoeven’s statement, the easement will be issued.
“This will enable the company to complete the project, which can and will be built with the necessary safety features to protect the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and others downstream,” it read.
North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer released a statement applauding the decision.
“It’s time to get to work and finish this important piece of energy infrastructure enhancing America’s energy security and putting North Dakotans and Americans back to work,” Cramer said.
The decision, however, will likely again draw hundreds of protesters to the area, and additional law enforcement is expected to be sent to the area in anticipation of protests.
Hoeven said the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of the Interior have been contacted to “secure additional federal law enforcement resources.”
Twenty Bureau of Indian Affairs law enforcement officers have already been sent to the area, the statement read.
So there was Stewart Tuesday night, alongside his old friend Colbert, sharing his first thoughts on President Trump’s first week and a half in office.
With a dead animal strapped to his head and a red tie that went down past his feet, Stewart appeared on the Late Show to tell Colbert about some of the additional executive orders Trump has up his oversized sleeves.
“I’ve gotta say, I love your outfit,” Colbert told him. “Is this your Donald Trump impression?”
After a pause, Stewart said, “I thought this is how men dress now. The president sets men’s fashion. And I saw the inauguration: super long tie, dead animal on head. Boom!”
The costume recalled a bit that Stewart did with Colbert early in his stint as Late Show host, all the way back in December 2015. In that appearance, Colbert forced his friend to wear a Trump-esque wig and rub Cheeto dust on his face so that people would listen to his message to Congress about renewing the Zadroga Act to help 9/11 first responders. “No one’s going to listen to you,” Colbert said at the time, “unless you Trump it up a little bit.” That, of course, was back when Donald Trump was still a punchline and not the president of the United States.
Stewart brought with him a stack of new executive orders yet to be announced by President Trump. Number one: “By the authority vested in me by the Constitution, I, Donald J. Jonah Jameson Trump, hereby direct that, to secure our border, China shall immediately and without hesitation send us their wall. Done.” As for how we get Mexico to pay for it, he added, “When the wall arrives at the southern border, we shut the lights and pretend we’re not home. It’s C.O.D., Mexico has to sign for it.”
For his next “encyclical,” Stewart said. “I, Donald J. Lincoln Kennedy Trump III do pronounce America now finally has an official language.” No, it’s not English. “The new official language of the United States is bullshit.” As Trump, he declared that he has instructed his staff to “speak only in bullshit,” adding, “None of that, ‘Sure, I’ll speak bullshit at work, but at home I’ll use facts and real information.’ No. Bullshit all the time. Immersion—it’s the only way to be fluent.”
“I, Donald J. Trump, do declare by executive order that I, Donald J. Trump, am exhausting,” Stewart read. “It has been 11 days, Stephen. Eleven fucking days. The presidency is supposed to age the president, not the public!” The reason Trump was so “exhausting,” he continued, is that “every instinct and fiber of my pathological self-regard calls me to abuse of power.”
“I, Donald J. Trump, am exhausting because it is going to take relentless stamina, vigilance, and every institutional check and balance this great country can muster to keep me, Donald J. Trump, from going full Palpatine, with the lightning coming out of the fingertips and the ‘fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate.’ We have never faced this before—purposeful, vindictive chaos.”
Putting the executive order prop down, Stewart continued, “But perhaps therein lies the saving grace of I, Donald J. Trump’s presidency. No one action will be adequate. All action will be necessary. And if we do not allow Donald Trump to exhaust our fight and somehow come through this presidency calamity-less, and constitutionally partially intact, then I, Donald J. Trump, will have demonstrated the greatness of America, just not the way I thought I was gonna.”
With that, he hugged Colbert, tore off his tie and walked off stage.
On Tuesday evening, in the East Room of the White House in prime time, President Trump tapped Neil Gorsuch as his nominee to the Supreme Court. The court has had a vacancy since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia nearly a year ago.
Gorsuch is a judge on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Denver-based federal court that covers Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming, as well as the portions of Yellowstone National Park that extend into Montana and Idaho. He was appointed to the position by George W. Bush in 2006 and was confirmed by the Senate in a voice vote.
He attended Harvard Law School, as well as Columbia and Oxford, and clerked for Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy of the Supreme Court. (White retired in 1993 and died in 2002.) It’s the sort of gleaming ivory C.V. that was largely absent from the rest of Trump’s shortlist. Academically, Gorsuch would fit right in: Every current justice attended law school at either Harvard or Yale. But if he’s confirmed, it would be the first time a justice and his former clerk sat together on the Supreme Court. Gorsuch is 49. The youngest member of the current court, Justice Elena Kagan, is 56.
Ideologically, Gorsuch would almost certainly represent a reliably conservative vote and voice, restoring the tenuous balance on the court that existed before Scalia’s death. According to ”judicial common space” scores, developed by a team of political scientists and legal scholars, Gorsuch would be the most conservative justice save for the silent stalwart Justice Clarence Thomas and would sit somewhere just to the right of the ideological space occupied by Scalia.
Trump promised to nominate justices “very much in the mold” of Scalia, and Gorsuch seems to fit the chair. A recent working paper by a group of attorneys and academics tried to gauge the “Scalia-ness” of several potential Trump nominees. Gorsuch did well in the lookalike contest. Like Scalia’s, his opinions were especially likely to invoke originalism — the idea that, rather than an evolving document, the meaning of the Constitution was fixed at its enactment.
Beyond the statistics, Gorsuch’s judicial record ticks many conservative boxes. As SCOTUSblog explained, many of his high-profile cases have involved religion. He sided with Hobby Lobby, which viewed contraception as immoral, in a case related to the Affordable Care Act and has opposed limiting religious expression in public spaces. He has not been sympathetic to death penalty defendants and has endorsed Second Amendment rights. He’s also written a book that, according to its publisher, “builds a … powerful moral and legal argument against legalization” of assisted suicide and euthanasia, based on “the idea that human life is intrinsically valuable.” Some have used that argument as a window into his future views in abortion cases.
Gorsuch may be skeptical of recent progressive victories won at the high court. “American liberals have become addicted to the courtroom, relying on judges and lawyers rather than elected leaders and the ballot box,” he wrote in National Review in 2005, praising the words of a Washington Post columnist, and specifically citing same-sex marriage. “This overweening addiction to the courtroom as the place to debate social policy is bad for the country and bad for the judiciary.”
The empirics aren’t perfect, and Supreme Court nominees can surprise after they take their place on the bench. Former Justice David Souter, for example, was appointed by George H.W. Bush yet became reliably liberal. Kennedy, often considered the court’s moderate median, was appointed by Ronald Reagan. And while Gorsuch is the youngest nominee since Thomas, there is evidence that justices get more liberal as they get older — a trend not even Scalia was immune from.
Still, for now, Gorsuch has pretty unimpeachable conservative credentials. He also has a sterling résumé. Those two qualities have historically been important in how easily the nominee navigates the Senate confirmation process — senators are more likely to vote “yea” on better qualified and more moderate nominees.
One other thing to keep an eye on in the coming weeks that could also affect Gorsuch’s chances of making it to the bench: public opinion. Qualifications and ideology matter, but a nominee’s approval rating also has some predictive power. Robert Bork, for example, had a net approval rating of -11 percentage points at the time of his confirmation vote in 1987 and got far fewer votes than one would expect given his ideology and experience. Thomas was likely confirmed (albeit barely) despite the Anita Hill controversy, in part, because his net approval rating was +36 percentage points.
The key question is whether Gorsuch ends up with a net approval rating closer to Trump’s (-8 percentage points) or closer to the average Republican Supreme Court nominee over the past 25 years (+25 percentage points). If his approval rating is closer to Trump’s, Gorsuch could have a difficult time corralling the 60 votes in the Senate necessary to overcome a filibuster. If his approval rating is closer to the historical average, his confirmation is far more likely. We can see this by rerunning our Supreme Court model (you can read more details about that here) with the current Senate makeup and see how many votes the most recent five confirmed Republican nominees would get:1
EXPECTED SENATE “YES” VOTES FOR A NOMINEE WITH NET APPROVAL RATING EQUAL TO …
AVERAGE FOR REPUBLICAN NOMINEES IN LAST 25 YEARS
Public approval of the nominee influences the Senate vote
The only nominee who would be predicted to get more than 60 votes with an approval rating equal to Trump’s would be Anthony Kennedy, who at the time of his nomination was seen as well-qualified and far more moderate than Gorsuch is. Compare that to a nominee with an average approval rating. All the previous nominees with the exception of Thomas, who was far, far less qualified than Gorsuch, would get about 60 “yea” votes or more in this situation. And given that there may be a few Democratic senators who vote “no” and still vote to end any filibuster, it’s likely that any nominee with an average approval rating will be confirmed.
Oliver Roeder is a senior writer for FiveThirtyEight.
Harry Enten is a senior political writer and analyst for FiveThirtyEight.