Headlines: January 15, 2019
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President Donald Trump’s Attorney General nominee William Barr is testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday for his confirmation hearings. Barr has already served as Attorney General in the George H. W. Bush administration. He is likely to face scrutiny over a 19-page memo he had written in June 2018 to the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about his views on the Special Counsel’s investigation into election wrongdoing, and specifically his narrow definition of “obstruction of justice” charges. On Tuesday morning Hawaii Democrat Senator Mazie Hirono spoke to CNN ahead of Barr’s confirmation hearing.
Also on Tuesday, Elizabeth Holtzman, former Democratic Congresswoman who was a member of the House Judiciary Committee during the Nixon Watergate scandal, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post about Barr. Holtzmann takes issue with Barr’s analysis of the Nixon impeachment saying, “Barr’s misguided and clumsy attempt to rewrite history is his broader effort to elevate the president into a kind of unaccountable monarch. This is part of a quiet Republican campaign over the past generation to locate in the Constitution grounds for a powerful ‘unitary executive’ who is virtually above the law.”
Meanwhile the longest US government shut down in history continues with no end in sight as Donald Trump tweets his days away. On Monday Trump retweeted an article that his son Donald Jr had posted from the extremist right wing website Daily Caller, which claimed to be an anonymous op-ed written by a senior government official praising the shutdown because it is, “an opportunity to strip wasteful government agencies for good.” On Tuesday morning he tweeted, “Why is Nancy Pelosi getting paid when people who are working are not?” Meanwhile the repercussions of the shutdown are being felt far and wide. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers are not being paid and the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which is apparently the nation’s busiest airport, just announced that travelers should allow 3 hours to clear security because of the shortage of TSA workers.
Trump gave a speech to the Farm Bureau on Monday even as the US Department of Agriculture was going without funding in the shutdown. Farmers are unable to get their loan applications processed and are awaiting their farm subsidy payments as the shutdown continues. But during his speech Trump defended the shutdown and his demand for a border wall by repeating the many debunked assertions and outright lies he has been touting. He also claimed there would be immigration policies friendly to agribusinesses seeking cheap farm labor.
In other news, the GOP has stripped Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa of his leadership role in the House Judiciary and Agriculture committees. The drastic action came in the wake of comments that King had made in a New York Times interview last week where he said, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” He later said he was a “nationalist” and defended “western civilization’s values,” but that he was not a backer of “white nationalist and white supremacist” ideas. The Times explained that King, “helped write the book on white identity politics that are ascendant in Mr. Trump’s Republican Party,” and King himself boasted, “Yes, Mr. President… I market-tested your immigration policy for 14 years, and that ought to be worth something.” The GOP has seemingly just realized that King is a white supremacist and has now barred him from committee assignments for the next two years. King has been elected 9 times in his Iowa district.
Meanwhile Democratic freshman New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called King out on Twitter saying, “Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences.” She added, “King’s district should start working to replace him in 2020. Regardless of party, it’s not good for a district if their Rep has such reprehensible views that they aren’t allowed to touch legislation with a 10 ft pole.” Ocasio-Cortez continues to win over Americans with her bold progressive agenda and her ability to take on racist trolls including those in the Republican Party. An analysis by Axios found that just two weeks into her job Ocasio-Cortez, “has far more power on Twitter than the most prominent Democrats, including the congressional leaders and the likely 2020 presidential candidates.” In fact her engagement on social media is second only to Trump and has generated more interactions on social media, “than the five most prolific news organizations combined over the last 30 days.”
The National Safety Council (NSC) has just released its latest assessment of the dangers facing Americans and found that one in 96 Americans now dies from opioid overdoses – which is higher than the risk of dying in a car accident. A spokesperson for the NSC told CBS, “The opioid crisis remains an abstract issue for many people; they still believe it will not happen to them, or it isn’t a risk facing them or their family…These numbers show the gravity of the problem our country is facing. We need to reprioritize and regroup because all these deaths are preventable.”