Headlines: January 11, 2019
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President Donald Trump on Thursday traveled to the US-Mexico border, on the eve of federal workers missing their first paycheck since the government shutdown began, and edging closer to declaring a federal emergency in order to build his border wall. This is what he said to reporters. President Trump on Thursday in McAllen, Texas, tried to convince his base that violence and crime were pouring over from Mexico into the US.
News emerged that the White House would divert emergency funding from the billions of dollars that Congress had set aside for rebuilding areas struck by recent climate-related disasters including California’s wildfire destruction, and the aftermath of hurricanes in North Carolina, Houston, and Puerto Rico. Trump apparently dismissed outright an attempt by some Republicans to bring the White House and Democrats together using a large immigration reform bill that offered some concessions to immigrant groups. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham who had led that effort, explained, “It kind of fell apart.” He then said, “It is time for President Trump to use emergency powers to fund the construction of a border wall/barrier,” and added, “I hope it works.”
Meanwhile, thousands of federal workers protested in Washington DC on Thursday, angry about the on-going government impasse, which looks on track to breaking the record on the longest shutdown in US history. The rally was led by several unions representing federal workers and joined by other unions and union workers expressing their solidarity. According to the Washington Post, “Those who gathered — chanting ‘pay the workers; furlough Trump’ as they marched to the White House — work for various federal agencies and live in different states. Some said they support Trump’s push for a border wall and increased security along the U.S.-Mexico border. Others scoffed at the idea.” Brittany Holder, a spokeswoman for the National Federation of Federal Employees told the Post, “We want to send a very strong message — that this is not about politics, it’s about getting people back to work. People are feeling really stressed and anxious, and they want to know when this will end.” On the same day as the protest the US Senate unanimously passed a bill ensuring that workers who go without pay will receive full compensation when the government reopens.
In other news, Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen has agreed to publicly testify in front of Congress next month. His testimony is yet another result of the Democrats taking majority power in the House and begins fulfilling one of the key promises that the party made to voters in investigating the President’s shady dealings. Cohen has pled guilty to several charges stemming from the on-going investigations into election-wrongdoing and has already been sentenced to three years in prison. In accepting the Congressional invitation to testify Cohen said in a statement, “I look forward to having the privilege of being afforded a platform with which to give a full and credible account of the events which have transpired.” Republicans dismissed the coming testimony as, “political theater,” while Mr. Trump said he’s “not worried about it at all.”
Independent Senator Bernie Sanders and House Representative Elijah Cummings on Thursday unveiled a major bill to reduce prescription drug prices. Both lawmakers denounced President Trump’s attempts to lower the prices of prescription medication in making their case for a set of three bills. According to Reuters, “The Sanders and Cummings bill would peg U.S. prescription drug prices to the median price from five countries – Canada, Britain, France, Germany and Japan – where drug costs are typically far lower because of government price controls.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to the Middle East this week where he gave a major speech on Thursday in Cairo, Egypt. His lengthy address laid out a new vision for a Trumpian foreign policy while blasting that of former President Barack Obama. Much of that vision centered on isolating Iran. He gave the speech just about a decade after President Obama made a historic speech in the same city. Pompeo is on a multi-nation tour of the Middle East along with White House National Security Advisor John Bolton. The trip intended to offer nations clarity on Trump’s sudden announcement of a complete withdrawal of US forces from Syria. But, according to the New York Times, “the two officials left the administration’s message muddier than they found it. In Jerusalem on Sunday, Mr. Bolton laid out conditions for withdrawal that could leave American troops in Syria indefinitely.” When reporters asked Pompeo about the contradictions he simply said, “There’s no contradiction whatsoever. This is a story made up by the media.”