U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: March 5, 2017

Pool/Getty Images


1. Obama rep says Trump wiretap claim ‘simply false’
President Trump’s tweeted allegation that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the election is not true, Obama representative Kevin Lewis said Saturday. “A cardinal rule of the Obama administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice,” Lewis said. “As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.” Trump’s comments came under widespread scrutiny after his Twitter announcement. Horror author Stephen King took a creative approach, tweeting a short story of the wiretap in which Obama also “stole the strawberry ice cream.”

Source: CNN, The Guardian

2. Pro-Trump rallies organized nationwide
“Maybe the millions of people who voted to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN should have their own rally,” President Trump tweeted last weekend in response to demonstrations against his administration. “It would be the biggest of them all!” On Saturday, his supporters met that challenge, organizing “Spirit of America” rallies drawing hundreds in 28 states and Washington, D.C. Counter-protesters showed up in many locations, with taunts and fist fights breaking out between the two groups at least in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Berkeley, California. Most events, however, were peaceful, and organizers in Austin asked attendees to bring “donations for the homeless and veterans.” “We came out today because Trump deserves to see he still has people for him,” said an Ohioan Trump supporter named Margaret Howe, who marched because she is worried political division will devolve into civil war. “It’s just all sad.”

Source: NPR, The Associated Press

3. Trump’s wiretapping claim comes under scrutiny
President Trump’s Saturday claim that former President Obama wiretapped his phones in Trump Tower during the election received widespread pushback later Saturday, predominantly from Trump’s Democratic critics and former members of the Obama administration. “No President can order a wiretap,” tweeted former Obama deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes. “Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens from people like you.” Trump “is either lying, or he declassifed a judicial warrant possibly targeting him” said Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.). “I think we need to know which it is.” Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) was less explicitly critical but indicated he’d like “to get to the bottom of this.”

Source: The Hill

4. U.S. suspends fast processing for temporary tech visas
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Fridayannounced the suspension of expedited processing for the H-1B visa, a temporary residency option for graduate-level workers in STEM fields including mathematics, medicine, and computer science. The agency regularly suspends quick processing for a few weeks to deal with application backlogs, but the length of this suspension is unusual. The visa program is particularly popular among tech firms in the San Francisco Bay Area, where foreign workers often stay three to six years in computer engineering positions. The fast processing suspension will begin April 3 and last for up to six months, affecting applications for 2018 visas.

Source: Reuters, SFGate

5. New immigration executive order expected Monday
President Trump is expected to sign a new executive order Monday to replace the suspended order that temporarily blocked U.S. entrance from seven majority-Muslim countries and shut down all refugee admissions. “Fundamentally, you’re still going to have the same basic policy outcome for the country,” said White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller of the new order. “But you’re going to be responsive to a lot of very technical issues that were brought up by” the two courts that prohibited the original rule’s enforcement. It is unknown whether the White House will continue the legal battle over the first order, as Trump initially pledged to do.

Source: Politico, The Washington Post

6. Malaysia expels North Korean ambassador
North Korean ambassador Kang Chol was expelled from Malaysia Saturday in connection with the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which occurred in a Malaysian airport. Kang has been given 48 hours to exit the country. The expulsion came after Kang said Malaysia could not be trusted with the investigation into Kim’s death and reportedly did not attend a diplomatic meeting where his presence was requested Friday night. “Malaysia will react strongly against any insults made against it or any attempt to tarnish its reputation,” said Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman.

Source: Al Jazeera, BBC News

7. Mexico opens legal defense centers at U.S. consulates
Mexico on Saturday opened legal defense centers at its consulates in all 50 U.S. states in response to President Trump’s hardline immigration policy. “We are not promoting illegality,” said Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray. “Today we are facing a situation that can paradoxically represent an opportunity, when suddenly a government wants to apply the law more severely,” he added. “It is becoming more than evident that to apply the law, which is the obligation of any state, would also imply a real economic damage to this country which highlights the need for immigration reform.” Videgaray urged the United States to devise a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants.

Source: Reuters, The Hill

8. 110 dead in 48 hours in Somalia due to severe drought
Severe drought has killed 110 people in Somalia in the past 48 hours, Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire said Saturday at a meeting of the Somali National Drought Committee. The death toll is specific to the Bay region of the country, but the United Nations estimates that as many as 5 million Somalis — roughly half the country’s population — are in need of relief aid as ongoing drought conditions threaten widespread famine. Cholera also “broke out in Goof-guduud, Awdiinle, and Berdale locations in Bay region,” said Mohamed Fiqi, a state agriculture minister. “Children, women and old people are among the dead, the death toll increases.”

Source: The Associated Press, PM News Nigeria

9. Seattle shooting of Sikh man investigated as a hate crime
Police in the Seattle area are hunting for an attacker who shot a Sikh man in the arm as he stood in his own driveway. The shooter reportedly yelled, “Go back to your own country,” as he shot the victim, who lost consciousness but is expected to make a full recovery. The attack is being investigated as a hate crime. “We’re early on in our investigation and the shot resulted in non life-threatening injuries, however we are treating this as a very serious incident,” said local police chief Ken Thomas. “To think that this could happen in our community was very surprising and extremely disappointing.” The victim is a U.S. citizen who was born in India.

Source: CNN, The Seattle Times

10. Pence demands The Associated Press apologize for publishing his wife’s email address
Vice President Mike Pence demanded an apology from The Associated Press on Saturday after the news outlet published his wife’s personal email address in a story about his use of a private email account as governor of Indiana. “Last night the @AP published my wife’s private email address, violating her privacy and our security,” Pence tweeted. “When we requested they take it down, they refused. The @AP owes my wife an apology.” An AP representative said the story was edited to remove Karen Pence’s email “after learning Mrs. Pence still used the account.” The Pence family’s lawyer said the damage has already been done, and Karen Pence has been subjected “to vitriolic and malicious emails.”

Source: USA Today, Fox News

U.S. Politics

Opinion: GOP Senator Threatens Constituent With Arrest For Requesting a Town Hall

Opinion: GOP Senator Threatens Constituent With Arrest For Requesting a Town Hall

attribution: NONE


By now some Americans, at least one or two, are aware that there is little that terrifies Republicans more than the people they are elected and paid to represent. That level of fear likely matches Republicans absolute disregard for the U.S. Constitution except for the 2nd Amendment. State-level Republicans used to cherish the 10th Amendment, but the chatter that the Trump administration is going to punish states that voted to decriminalize recreational marijuana use puts that hypocritical Republican adoration of “states’ rights” to rest.

Since Trump lucked out and got to move into the White House, Republicans at all levels have combined their hatred of the Constitution, particularly the 1st Amendment, and fear of the people into some unconstitutional actions; namely, punishing people for exercising their right to “gather peaceably for a redress of their grievances.” It was just reported by Marc Belisle that a couple of weeks ago a United States Senator took the next logical tyrannical step and threatened to arrest a constituent for asking for a town hall meeting to allow “the people” to air their grievances. Seriously, this is exactly what Trump and the GOP meant when they promised to make America great. Many people, and it is many people, comprehend that what the Trump Republicans are doing is making America fascist after 239 years as a representative democracy.

The United States Senator, a frightened Republican named Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, is sick and tired of his constituents requesting a town hall gathering to do what constituents have been doing as of late; ask why Republicans are on a tear to break the government and eliminate services the people are paying for. Apparently, Johnson has been “missing in action” in Wisconsin despite “his people pestering him” to come and talk about what the Hell Republicans are doing to them. In fact, the Daily Cardinal reported that Johnson’s constituents have gone to very “creative lengths” to lure their Senator to “interact with Wisconsin voters.” In one case:

Roughly 500 constituents gathered at what was termed an “empty chair town hall” for Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., at the First Congregational Church in Madison Wednesday night.”

Of course the purpose of an “empty chair town hall” was to make a point that the “Daily Cardinal” was more than happy to report; that Senator Johnson has been missing in action because he is frightened senseless of not just “the people,” but his own constituency. The Cardinal reported his absence (empty chair) at the town hall likely so Johnson would read or hear about it and feel a sense of anything but anger. But it was anger in Johnson’s Senate office that boiled over when they issued a cease and desist letter on official Senate stationary to a weary constituent threatening them with arrest by the Capitol Police for having the temerity to make phone calls to Johnson’s Senate office requesting that their Senator do his job and meet with his constituents. The letter said:

Dear _________

This Cease and Desist letter is to inform you that any further communication from you to U.S. Senator Ron Johnson’s office can only be done in writing. This means that you are not to call or visit any of Senator Johnson’s staff or any of his offices at any time.

Our office has done all that we can to assist you with your concerns. This letter acts as written notice of our expectation for you to discontinue your unwarranted telephone calls and office visits.

If you fail to comply with this notice, then we will have no other alternative but to contact the United States Capitol Police and report your noncompliance.


Ron Johnson’s staff

U.S. Senate

Now first; the idea that the U.S. Capitol Police can, or will, do any arresting of one, or any, of Johnson’s constituent(s) living in Wisconsin, or anywhere for that matter, for calling their Senate representative isn’t even bizarre or absurd; it is nothing short of plainly batshit insanity. There is no such thing as a law against a constituent contacting their congressional representative; no matter how often or how annoying hearing the voice of the people may be. One thing is crystal clear, though; this idea of threatening a constituent with arrest, although shocking, is the new normal since Trump got to move into the White House and institute “militant authoritarian responses” to everything, but especially an American’s “expression of democracy.”

As Mr. Belisle rightly noted, it is a glaring display of Trump’s and Republicans’ “outright contempt for democracy and Americans who try to exercise it.” It is the GOP’s new normal and an alarming sign that tyrannical authoritarianism is rampant among Republicans now that they have a happy fascist living in the White House.

The Wisconsin constituent is likely unafraid, and equally unimpressed, by Johnson’s show of tyranny because they are just a minuscule fraction of the millions of Americans who have deluged their congressional representatives’ offices nationwide with an “unprecedented volume of calls on a range of issues.” The phone calls are in addition to angry constituents jamming town halls since Trump moved in the White House to express their outrage over Republican threats to eliminate the Affordable Care Act and “gut” the EPA, Social Security and Medicare.

Johnson may be the first U.S. Senator to threaten a citizen with arrest for exercising their constitutional right to express their grievances, but he is not the first Republican to take action to punish expressions of democracy. In at least ten Republican-led states lawmakers are attempting to criminalize peaceable protests; a move that is counter to the 1st Amendment and thus patently unconstitutional.

In Arizona recently Republicans in the state senate voted to give law enforcement authorization to seize protesters personal property and assets if someone among the masses commit an untoward act. All it would take is one idiot breaking a storefront window, even by accident, to allow law enforcement to punish all participants and organizers by arresting them and seizing their personal assets. Fortunately for Arizonans with a belief they have a Constitution guaranteeing their right to protest, Arizona’s house failed to follow the senate and defeated the fascist legislation.

These incidents all go to substantiate the earlier statement that Republicans are terrified, and plainly hate, the Constitution and democracy nearly as much as they do the people they are elected to serve; not intimidate or threaten with arrest for calling or visiting their senator’s office, or seizing their assets because some moron threw a brick through a store’s window during an otherwise peaceful protest. In Senator Ron Johnson’s case, he may be the first to actually threaten a constituent with arrest for reaching out to seek a redress of their grievances, whatever they may be, but he is not remotely alone among Republicans facing the wrath of the people.

Besides being American citizens and constituents, they are people who are not going to be intimidated by any authoritarian tyranny. Not because they are social conservatives or liberals, but because they are “real Americans” and patriots who know what will happen if they are prohibited from exercising their Constitutional rights; and that horrifies Republicans more than any batch of online petitions or fundraising efforts or Democrats giving fiery sermons or storming the Senate to drop some kind of bombs. Bombs don’t frighten Republicans, but angry Americans, however, terrify them senseless and incite them to further tyranny.

U.S. Politics

Mike Pence’s email scandal is exactly like Hillary’s


Mike Pence chastised Hillary for doing exactly what he did: Using private email to keep the public from seeing his government communications.

Ignore all the talk about how Hillary had a private server, and that makes the Pence scandal different. Look at Mike Pence’s own words during the campaign — the problem according to Pence wasn’t the server, the problem was keeping emails private.

“Hillary Clinton operated in a way to keep her mails… out of the public reach.” — then-VP-candidate Mike Pence.Mike Pence

The core issue, according to Pence, was that Hillary found a way to keep her government email off of public servers, and thus Pence claimed she was per se hiding something.

And that is exactly what Mike Pence did as governor of Indiana. Pence found a way to keep his government email off of public servers, and thus per se was hiding something.

All of this talk about email servers is a red herring.

And on the classified-argument too, per the Indy Star, Pence is in trouble: “Vice President Mike Pence routinely used a private email account to conduct public business as governor of Indiana, at times discussing sensitive matters and homeland security issues.”

Homeland security issues. Doesn’t get more serious than that.

And on the question of breaking the law, Pence is also in trouble:

Indiana law requires all records dealing with state business to be retained and available for public information requests. Emails exchanged on state accounts are captured on state servers, which can be searched in response to such requests. But any emails Pence sent from his AOL account to another private account likely would have been hidden from public record searches unless he took steps to make them available.

Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke Britt, who was appointed by Pence in 2013, said he advises state officials to copy or forward their emails involving state business to their government accounts to ensure the record is preserved on state servers.

But there is no indication that Pence took any such steps to preserve his AOL emails until he was leaving the governor’s office.

Oh, and Pence is refusing to release all the emails. Sound familiar?

So to recap:

1. Private email used to hide public correspondence? Check.

2. Confidential national security information possibly put at risk? Check.

3. Refusal to make those emails public? Check.

4. Possibility of broken laws? Check.

In the end, look no further than Pence’s own words: “Hillary Clinton operated in a way to keep her mails… out of the public reach.”

Still going to tell me that this doesn’t sound an awful lot like what Mike Pence did too?

Well, in all fairness to Mike Pence, there is one major difference between Hillary’s email controversy and Pence’s: Hillary never got hacked. Pence did.

U.S. Politics

Obama just shut down Trump’s “simply false” claim that he wiretapped Trump Tower

Obama just shut down Trump's

Image Credit: Getty Images


That didn’t take long.

In a statement from Barack Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis, the former president called President Donald Trump’s Saturday-morning tweet, which asserted Obama surveilled Trump Tower via wiretapping, “simply false.”

“A cardinal rule of the Obama administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice,” the statement reads. “As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.”

Trump, citing no evidence, accused Obama of wiretapping in a bizarre Twitter rant that meandered from defending Attorney General Jeff Sessions in his ongoing Russian ambassador scandal to accusing Obama of McCarthyism.

And, true to form, the commander in chief managed to get an early morning jab in at his Apprentice successor Arnold Schwarzenegger after the actor’s announcement Friday that he was leaving the show due to its “baggage.”

Mathew Rodriguez

U.S. Politics

The myth of liberal Ivanka Trump

CREDIT: AP Photo/ Evan Vucci


A series of anonymously-sourced anecdotes have created an image of a moderate Trump in the White House. But actual policy changes are hard to find.

Standing before the crowd at the Republican National Convention last July, the future first daughter— dressed in an Ivanka Trump-branded muted sheath dress that was later marketed to consumers through her considerable social media presence — opened her speech with a strange line for the most visible child of the new leader of the Republican Party.

“Like many of my fellow millennials, I do not consider myself categorically Republican or Democrat,” Ivanka told a cheering crowd. “More than party affiliation, I vote on based on what I believe is right, for my family and for my country. Sometimes it’s a tough choice.”

It was a speech met with near-universal praise from pundits and delegates. California delegate Shawn Steel told the Guardian that it proved Ivanka was “the greatest asset Donald Trump has.” CNN called it “smart and savvy.” And Vanity Fair called it “remarkable,” noting that it struck a decidedly different tone from the rest of the convention.

“She simply pretended she was speaking at the Democratic Party’s convention, and delivered a speech about the wage gap, maternal leave, and other liberal ideals,” wrote Tina Nyugen.

Ivanka followed that speech with a slew of public appearances and interviews where she advocated for her father’s paid leave plan — a plan that will do little to help low-income Americans who need the most help shouldering the cost of childcare. When Trump won the election in November, a trickle of anonymously-sourced stories suggested Ivanka would use her position in the White House — unofficial, to comply with nepotism laws — to pull her notoriously extreme father towards the center on traditionally liberal issues like women’s rights, family leave, and the environment.


In recent weeks, the trickle of anonymously-sourced stories painting Ivanka as a progressive influence on her father has grown to a deluge, with stories coming out almost daily suggesting Ivanka and her husband, senior White House advisor Jared Kusher, have been working behind the scenes to moderate both Trump’s tone and policy goals.

Among the stories are rumors that, thanks to Ivanka and Kushner, when Trump releases his long-anticipated executive order next week rolling back several crucial Obama-era climate policies, there will be no mention of pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, a pledge that had been a staple in the Trump stump speech. A recent round of anonymously-sourced stories also claim that Ivanka was the primary reason for Trump’s more moderate tone during his Joint Address to Congress on Tuesday night, a perception that won Trump rounds of praise from political pundits.

But just as Trump’s more measured tone benefited Trump more than it benefited Americans — allowing the president to bask in the adoration of the media without actually changing any of his unpopular policies — the liberal myth of Ivanka does more to bolster Ivanka’s personal brand, and insulate the White House from criticism of its most unpopular policies, than protect Americans from Trump’s extreme agenda.

In late January and early February, at the dawn of the Trump presidency, rumors began circulating that the White House was preparing an executive order that would overturn Obama-era protections of LGBTQ workers, something Trump’s Vice President, Mike Pence, has supported throughout his legislative career.

That executive order did not come to fruition; instead, the White House released a statement pledging its support to “protect the rights of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community.” Sources identified only as being “close to Kushner and Ivanka Trump” told Politico that the world had Ivanka and Kusher to thank for that order, who had worked behind the scenes to ensure the Obama-era protections remained in place.

But almost a month after pledging to protect the rights of the LGBTQ community, the White House rolled back federal protections for transgender students. This time, there was no word from Ivanka — not even through anonymous sources. When it came to actual policies enacted by her father’s White House, Ivanka was silent.

That’s far from the only example of an outlet running a story, based on an anonymous source, depicting Ivanka as a moderating influence on her father, followed by a Trump policy that functions to the opposite effect. In December, Politico ran a story, based again on nameless sources, suggesting Ivanka was looking to make climate change her signature issue.

The media seized on the story almost immediately, wondering if Ivanka would be able to convince her father — an infamous climate change denier who called the phenomenon “a hoax” created by the Chinese — that climate change was a crisis worth tackling.

And those stories have continued through the early days of Trump’s presidency: A week ago, the Wall Street Journal published a story based on unnamed sources that credited Ivanka and Kushner with removing mention of the Paris climate agreement from Trump’s forthcoming executive order on climate change. The day after Trump’s speech to Congress, Axios published a story based on an unnamed source that credited Ivanka with the passing mention of “clean air and clean water” that made it into Trump’s remarks — the only reference to the environment in the entire speech.

And yet, Ivanka’s allegedly moderating influence with respect to the environment has done little to stop the Trump administration from enacting a strikingly anti-environment agenda. To lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Trump appointed Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s attorney general who sued the EPA 14 times to block various environmental regulations, from the Clean Power Plan to the Clean Water Rule. On the same day Trump gave his speech to Congress, with its single mention of “clean air and clean water,” he signed an executive order directing the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to begin rolling back the Obama-era Clean Water Rule, which expanded the coverage of the Clean Water Act to protect drinking water for 117 million Americansnot previously protected by the Clean Water Act.

Perhaps most glaring are reports of the omission of the Paris agreement from the forthcoming Trump executive order on climate — one of the most widely re-reported anonymously-sourced anecdotes about Ivanka’s environmental efforts in the Trump White House. Without fail, they all neglect to highlight the fact that the United States’ participation in the Paris agreement, without the domestic policies that Trump is set to undo with that same executive order, amounts to little more than a public relations performance.

The Paris agreement is built on the independent domestic pledges of participating countries — without domestic policies like the Clean Power Plan, or without a leader interested in deepening the country’s commitment to greenhouse gas reductions, it makes little difference if the United States participates in the agreement. It is participation in name only — and coming from the world’s largest historic emitter of greenhouse gases, participation in name only could be enough to sink the agreement altogether.

Unlike issues she has championed publicly, any image of Ivanka as an environmentalist or a champion of LGBTQ rights comes not from her own words, but from pictures painted by anonymous sources and published by media outlets without critical coverage. And even when Ivanka speaks about an issue on the record — as she has with paid leave and women in the workplace —coverage is often uncritical, focusing more on talking points than the details of the policy.

The benefit of these stories to readers, and the American public, is negligible. It offers the quick thrill of an uncorroborated glimpse into an administration that seems, at times, without a unifying purpose, and for those who care about issues like the environment or human rights, it can seem like a life raft of sanity in an otherwise hopeless sea of extremism. But despite Ivanka’s palpable presence in the administration — she appears in administration meetings and events almost daily, despite having no official role — Trump’s presidency has thus far been marked by orders to roll back protections on both human rights and the environment.

If anything, these stories are a net-negative for the American public, distracting from Trump’s more extreme policies by softening them through Ivanka. A story on a forthcoming executive order not criticizing the Paris climate agreement shifts focus away from what the order does mention: likely the dismantling of crucial domestic policies meant to curb carbon pollution and slow global warming. Stories about Trump mentioning clean water once in his speech detract attention from the fact that hours before, he signed an order rolling back clean water protections — protections that are extremely popular with voters.

But, above all, these stories benefit Ivanka. They perpetuate her carefully cultivated image of a young woman who votes with her conscience, not a particular party; a young woman who cares deeply about equality and opportunity and the future of our planet, deeply enough to attach her name to those causes so long as it comes from an unnamed, untraceable source.

Her choice of issues — paid family leave, LGBTQ rights, the environment — are as calculated as the carefully curated reality of her Instagram account, where her inoffensive tone creates what ThinkProgress’ Jessica Goldstein described before the election as a “blank space onto which liberals can project a favorite fantasy.” It’s no coincidence that Ivanka’s preferred causes are those often championed by millennials, and especially millennial women. That is, and always has been, her target audience — the group that, according to a 2015 Vogue profile, Ivanka geared her entire clothing and lifestyle brand toward.

In that same profile, author Jonathan van Meter quotes a friend of Ivanka’s, who tells him that “her father is hated by half of America and loved by the other half. The half that love him love her, and the half that hate him love her — because she’s not him!’”

Anonymously-sourced stories give Ivanka enough cover to perpetuate the idea that she is distinct from her father — that she is of Trump, but not necessarily the Trump. For those who oppose her father’s policies, this myth of a liberal Ivanka acts like an oasis of reason in a landscape seemingly void of such principles; it comforts those who know that without a moderating presence, all the president is left with is an adviser like Steve Bannon. But for those who support her father’s policies, anonymously-sourced stories create a myth nebulous enough that it can be ignored — especially when the concrete policies coming from the White House are consistently more Bannon than Ivanka.

Ancient cultures created myths to explain that which seemed inexplicable; earthquakes, floods, plagues, feast, and famine all came from unseen deities, forces that rippled into reality but remained just outside the field of view. But myths, by definition, are not real — and it’s time to learn the difference.

Natasha Geiling


U.S. Politics

Obama Disputes Wiretap Claims

President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama walk out prior to Obama's departure during the 2017 presidential inauguration at the U.S. Capitol January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC.

Pool/Getty Images


Former president Barack Obama responded to President Donald Trump’s accusation that Obama ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower. “Neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen,” Obama’s spokesman said

U.S. Politics

Sunday Talk: What’s New Is Old Again


attribution: New Coke (L) – Classic Coke (R)


This week, President/senior administration official @realDonaldTrump addressed a joint session of Congress for the first (and possibly only) time.

In his hourlong speech—the highlight/lowlight of which was the cynical exploitation of a Gold Star WifeTrump took a slightly different tone than usual.

Pundits all across the spectrum were quick to declare this new Trumppresidential.”

So pleased was Trump with the fawning coverage that he decided to put the country’s (alleged) security at grave risk by delaying his new and improved #MuslimBan in order to bask in the adulation.

Meanwhile, investigative reporters continued to dig into Trump’s extensive ties to Russia.

Less than 24 hours after his big speech, several new reports linking the administration to Russia had dropped, ultimately leading to the recusal of Attorney General Sessions from all related investigations—much to Trump’s dismay.

And then, just like that, the old Trump returned to the forefront, tweeting out insaneconspiracy theories, and attacking Arnold Schwarzenegger’spatheticratings on The Celebrity Apprentice.


Morning lineup:

Meet the Press: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY); Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL); Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper; Roundtable: Danielle Pletka (American Enterprise Institute), Democratic Strategist Cornell Belcher, Thomas Friedman (New York Times) & Kimberly Strassel (Wall Street Journal).

Face The Nation: Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA); Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME); Former Defense Secretary/CIA Director Leon Panetta; David Sanger (New York Times); Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price; Roundtable: Jamelle Bouie (Slate), Julie Pace (Associated Press), Ramesh Ponnuru (National Review) & Ed O’Keefe (Washington Post).

This Week: White House Deputy Principal Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders; Former White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest; Sen. Al Franken (D-MN); Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey; Roundtable: Dan Balz (Washington Post), “Independent” Strategist Matthew Dowd & Jennifer Jacobs (Bloomberg Politics).

Fox News Sunday: Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR); Sen. Chris Coons (D-CT); Roundtable: Former Whit House Press Secretary Dana Perino, Bob Woodward (Washington Post), Peter Baker (New York Times) & Radio Host Laura Ingraham.

State of the Union: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA); Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL); Roundtable: Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D), Radio Host Dana Loesch, Former South Carolina State Sen. Bakarai Sellers (D) & Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC).

Evening lineup:

60 Minutes will feature: an interview with far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen (preview); an interview with the National Transportation Safety Board’s lead investigator, Brian Young, about the sinking of the cargo ship El Faro(preview); a report on the rescue of 33 circus lions from South America—the largest airlift of lions in history (preview).

Late night shows:

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Monday: Anderson Cooper (CNN); Producer Judd Apatow; Recording Artist Jidenna.

Tuesday: Actor Kevin Kline; Actor Jerrod Carmichael; Former NSA Director Gen. Michael Hayden.

Wednesday: Actor Michael Ian Black; TV Show Host Jackson Galaxy.

Thursday: Actress Kristen Stewart; Comedian Maz Jobrani; Rock Band Dawes.

Friday: Actress Felicity Huffman; Actress Jurnee Smollett-Bell.

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

Monday: Guest TBA;  Tuesday: Producer Judd Apatow;  Wednesday: Author Tressie McMillan Cottom;  Thursday: Musical Artist Alynda Segarra.


President Trump held an Oval Office meeting (photo op) with the presidents of HBCUs, and things didn’t go very well.

Trump, according to a half dozen people in the room, said that the HBCU leaders made up the largest group he’d seen in the room.

“You people are doing an amazing job,” four people in the room recalled Trump saying. Two of them said Trump repeated the complimentary refrain three times. They all said the comments raised eyebrows, and it was discussed afterward even as others just said it was Trump being Trump.

It was “very insensitive,” one of the college presidents said, but added that while the phrase irked him and his colleagues, it also struck him as “very Trump-ish.”


Education Secretary Betsy DeVos lauded HBCUs for being “pioneers” of school choice.

Following President Trump’s meeting with leaders of Historically Black Colleges and Universities on Monday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos released a statement applauding the schools as “real pioneers when it comes to school choice.”

They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality,” she continued. “Their success has shown that more options help students flourish.”

But lauding HBCUs as “real pioneers when it comes to school choice” overlooks the fact that they were historically the only options available to black students denied entry to traditionally white institutions.

And because states have historically prioritized white schools — many of which necessitated the formation of HBCUs by refusing to integrate — HBCUs have been persistently underfunded.

And, in other education news…

An Iowa state senator’s purported business degree turned out to be a Sizzler training certificate.

The information that was posted on the Iowa Senate Republican’s website used to suggest that Mark Chelgren, a state lawmaker, held a business degree.

But that wasn’t exactly the case, according to NBC News and other media outlets, which this week reported that Chelgren instead held a certificate for a training program for the chain restaurant Sizzler.

Still, Chelgren — a Republican who represents the Iowa Senate’s 41st District in the southeastern part of the state — told the Associated Press that he didn’t mean to mislead people.

“I know they’ve changed that, because apparently a degree and a certificate are different,” Chelgren told AP. “And I’m okay with their change, but there was never any intent at all to mislead anyone.”

“This was a management course he took when he worked for Sizzler, kind of like Hamburger University at McDonald’s,” Ed Failor Jr., chief of staff for the Iowa Senate majority leader, told NBC News. “He got a certificate.”

Class dismissed.

– Trix