Headlines: January 7, 2019
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The White House has announced that President Donald Trump will head to the US-Mexico this Thursday amid a deepening crisis over his demand for a border wall. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders made the announcement on Monday morning and gave few other details. Meanwhile Trump is considering using emergency powers to build his wall as the partial government shutdown enters its third week.
On Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence met with representatives of Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi for more talks on the impasse over Trump’s wall. The President tweeted about the meeting and downgraded his demand for a concrete wall to a steel wall. He said, “We are now planning a Steel Barrier rather than concrete. It is both stronger & less obtrusive. Good solution, and made in the U.S.A.”
Also on Sunday a reporter asked Trump whether he could relate to what federal workers were going through as they struggled without pay. Trump on Sunday claimed without evidence that federal workers wanted him to continue the government shutdown that was resulting in their loss of pay.
In foreign policy news, National Security Adviser John Bolton took a surprise trip to Israel over the weekend. During a joint address with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Bolton contradicted Trump’s recent announced withdrawal of US troops from Syria, saying that the withdrawal would be conditional upon the defeat of ISIS. Bolton plans to travel to Turkey on Tuesday to meet with government representatives. It was just after a phone call between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Trump made his surprise announcement three weeks ago of a withdrawal of troops from Syria. Bolton’s trip appears to be designed to undo some of the damage that Trump’s announcement made and to assuage jittery allies. On Sunday Trump also walked back his plan to withdraw completely from Syria, saying, “I never said we’re doing it that quickly, but we’re decimating ISIS… that being said, we’re pulling out of Syria. But … we won’t be finally pulled out until ISIS is gone.”
Meanwhile news has emerged that Kurdish Syrian fighters have captured two American men who were hiding in an area they recently liberated from ISIS. The two are thought to be part of a group of foreign recruits that joined the Islamic State.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the freshman Congresswoman from New York, has begun her political career with a bang, refusing to sit back quietly as is expected from new lawmakers. She effectively shot back at conservative critics who posted a video they found of her dancing with friends in college, by posting a video of herself dancing in Congress on Friday. On Saturday she put veteran Republican lawmaker Steve Scalise in his place in a Twitter argument after he criticized her suggestion calling for a 70% tax rate on the rich to fund a Green New Deal. Ocasio-Cortez responded to Scalise saying, “You’re the GOP Minority Whip. How do you not know how marginal tax rates work? Oh that’s right, almost forgot: GOP works for the corporate CEOs showering themselves in multi-million [dollar] bonuses; not the actual working people whose wages [and] healthcare they’re ripping off for profit.” And, on Monday Ocasio-Cortez made news for her answer to a question during a 60 Minutes interview. She was asked whether she believed Trump was a racist. She responded by saying, “No question,” and then explained, “When you look at the words that he uses, which are historic dog whistles of white supremacy…When you look at how he reacted to the Charlottesville incident, where neo-Nazis murdered a woman, versus how he manufactures crises like immigrants seeking legal refuge on our borders, it’s night and day.”
A Gallup poll has found that a record number of Americans want to move to another country. Women in particular – one in five – say they would move permanently to another country if they could. The same poll conducted during the Bush years showed that 11% and during the Obama years showed that 10% of women wanted to emigrate elsewhere. Thirty percent of young people – those aged 15-29 – also want to leave the US. And, 30% of the poorest Americans also want to leave. According to Gallup, while their poll, “does not ask people about their political leanings, most of the recent surge in Americans’ desire to migrate has come among groups that typically lean Democratic and that have disapproved of Trump’s job performance so far in his presidency.” President Trump has fixated on the people wanting to migrate to the US but not seemed to consider those wanting to leave.
Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts spent Saturday in Iowa – a key battleground state in Presidential elections. She tested the political waters in that state by addressing crowds of enthusiastic voters about her favorite topic: an economy that is tilted toward the majority of Americans rather than wealthy elites. At another event she was asked point blank about her controversial decision to take a DNA test. She justified her decision to take a DNA test when asked by a supporter in Iowa over the weekend.