Politics Roundup: January 9 – 15, 2017

politicsroundup

Welcome to the weekly compilation of the ins and outs, the ups and downs, the comings and goings from the alternate world of reality – politics!

My Word of Wisdom: Politics is like WWE Raw
Governing is like 60 Minutes

Monday, 1/9/17:

Will President Elect Donald Trump follow through with a news conference on Wednesday following the farewell address of President Barack Obama on Tuesday night?

The Prez is expected to offer up some “admonitions” to his successor.

How can Trump resist responding to being told what to do and not to do?

There is no way the President Elect will miss an opportunity to push back on the Obama “admonitions” with no better avenue than at a news conference.

Trump “is not denying that entities in Russia were behind this particular hacking campaign,” said incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

After the President Elect took to Twitter to hit GM and Ford over car manufacturing in Mexico, Fiat Chrysler said Sunday that it would spend $1 billion to modernize two plants in Warren, Michigan, and Toledo, Ohio, in an expansion that will create 2,000 jobs.

Hearings begin this week on the President Elect’s nominees to his Cabinet.

On Tuesday, embattled Senator Jeff Sessions will be grilled on his quest to become Attorney General.

Will Democrats find a way to block Sessions?

Also facing the music will be John Kelly the designee for Homeland Security Secretary.

The US Navy is cheering Trump wanting to increase its number of ships. The Navy has submitted a proposal for a 355-ship expansion.

Naming Names:
Senior Presidential Adviser – Jared Kushner, son-in-law of the President Elect

Kushner has been “consulting with the Office of Government Ethics regarding the steps he would take,” his lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, said, and would “resign from his position at Kushner Companies and divest substantial assets in accordance with federal guidelines.”

Ex-CIA Director and former security adviser to Trump James Woolsey  had some advice for the President Elect:

Trump should re-evaluate his use of Twitter with “fresh eyes” after the inauguration, because “governing in 140 character transmissions is a lot harder,” Woolsey said.

OOPs!

There will be plenty of movie and entertainment stars,” Trump told The New York Times in an interview. “All the dress shops are sold out in Washington. It’s hard to find a great dress for this inauguration.”

The Washington Post checked and seems the DC stores say they have plenty of frocks from which to choose for the balls.

Talk about your double standard – Vice President Elect Mike Pence and family go to the theater and get booed and a lecture. Bill and Hillary Clinton go to the theater and get standing ovations.

In accepting her Cecil B. DeMille Award for Lifetime Achievement at the Golden Globes last night, Meryl Streep let loose with both barrels at the President Elect. Trump shrugged off her remarks calling her another “liberal movie people.”

Did Meryl Streep go too far when she put down the vast number of Americans who watch football and mixed martial arts?

Did Trump go too far by saying Streep was “over-rated” as an actress?

Kentucky junior Senator Rand Paul told CNN today that he will be rolling out a replacement to the Affordable Care Act within the next two days to be voted on at the same time the ACA repeal vote is taken.

Kentucky has passed two abortion restriction bills, which Governor Matt Bevin says he will sign into law. One requires a doctor to perform an ultrasound and show it to the mother before the procedure. The other forbids abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy – with no exceptions for rape or incest.

Add Kentucky to the list of more than half the states that is now a “right-to-work” state.

Indiana’s former Governor as of today who will be Vice President in another 11 days along with his family, two cats and rabbit rode in style after Vice President Joe Biden sent Air Force Two to pick up Mike Pence to move to Washington DC today.

Thanks to @usairforce for a great flight to Washington, DC with Karen, Charlotte, Oreo, Pickle and our rabbit, Marlon Bundo,” Pence tweeted.

President Obama is finally admitting that losses in Congress, Governor’s Offices and state legislatures may have been partly his fault.

I take some responsibility on that,” the president told ABC’s This Week. “I think that some of it was circumstances.”

Global politics: Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani died Sunday after suffering a heart attack.

The Associate Press in an exclusive is reporting: Iran is to receive a huge shipment of natural uranium from Russia to compensate it for exporting tons of reactor coolant, diplomats say, in a move approved by the outgoing U.S. administration and other governments seeking to keep Tehran committed to a landmark nuclear pact.

Peace talks are underway in Geneva, Switzerland to reunited the divided island of Cyprus, which has been split between Greek and Turkish sections for decades after winning independence from the United Kingdom in 1960.

Reports are seeping out of Iran that Ebrahim Raisi, 56, is being groomed to succeed Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 77, upon his death.

Singapore wants its troop carriers back after they were seized in November by Hong Kong. “They are protected by sovereign immunity even though they were being shipped by commercial carriers. They are immune from any measures of constraint abroad. They cannot legally be detained or confiscated by other countries,” Singapore Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen said

Tuesday, 1/10/17:

BREAKING NEWS: Russian operatives have compromising information on President Elect Donald Trump to undermine his presidency. The information was passed on by the intelligence chiefs to Trump and to President Barack Obama last week in an addendum to the intelligence report into the Russian hacking during the recent US election.

Set loose the lions!

Confirmation hearings for nominees to fill the Cabinet of President Elect Donald Trump began today.

Up first was Senator Jeff Sessions, the pick for Attorney General.

Following was Retired General John Kelly to fill the chair at Homeland Security.

In a first, New Jersey junior Senator Cory Booker is testifying in opposition to Sessions for the Justice Department. Booker asserts that Sessions is not capable of “ensuring the fair administration of justice” for all. Booker will be testifying on Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

As Sessions began his appearance before the committee this morning, he said in his prepared remarks, “I abhor the Klu Klux Klan and all it represents.”

Sessions also pledged to protect the rights of the gay community and the rights of women.

Several protesters at Sessions’ hearing were led out by Capitol Police without direction from Chairman Chuck Grassley other than his opening of the hearing when he stated that such would happen. Among the protesters were fake KKK members.

The AG nominee vowed to tell the President “No” when warranted. He also promised to uphold and execute all laws, even those which he voted against while a Senator.

Grassley asked Sessions about how he would approach the issue with Hillary Clinton and her use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State. Sessions said he would recuse himself from any questions that may rise concerning the Clintons, including the Clinton Foundation.

Sessions noted that he would not, as current Attorney General Loretta Lynch, defer the concerns about the Clintons, but would officially recuse himself.

While Sessions said that he would follow the law when it comes to abortion, he also said he believed that Roe V Wade violated the Constitution.

Unlike one of his predecessors AG Eric Holder, Sessions said that not defending laws is not permissible unless it cannot be defended.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, with eye on a future run again for the White House, ran down a litany of silence by Democrats on the Judiciary Committee when, in Cruz’s view, the Obama Administration did not follow or uphold the law.

Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal asked Sessions to consider recusing himself from voting on Cabinet appoints to avoid an appearance of conflict of interest.

In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee today, Senators from both sides of the aisle seemed to infer that the FBI may be currently criminally investigating one or more political campaigns and the possible collusion with the Russian government to influence the recent presidential election. Director James Comey refused to confirm or deny such an investigation is underway.

When asked in the Judiciary Committee by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin that if such an investigation was underway if he would recuse himself from such case, Sessions said he would have to wait and see.

The hearing on Sessions is still on going.

The hearing in the Senate Homeland Security Committee for Kelly is just getting underway as Kernels goes to press.

Oh, and President Barack Obama is delivering his farewell speech to the nation from Chicago, Illinois tonight. More on this tomorrow.

After meeting with the President Elect in Trump Tower on Monday, Alibaba head Jack Ma has pledged 1 million jobs for the US of A.

Ma said Alibaba would accomplish the goal by supporting 1 million small businesses, particularly in the Midwest, and helping them sell agricultural products and other goods and services in China and the rest of Asia through its sales platform.

Should a painting by a high school student, who won an annual national art contest sponsored by the US Congress, which depicts police officers as pigs be allowed to hang in the halls of Congress?

Repeal of the Affordable Care Act may not be as simple as Republicans had hoped it would be. There may not be the necessary votes in the Senate to pass repeal without a replacement bill ready and in place to take effect.

House Speaker Paul Ryan came out today on repeal and replace of the ACA at the same time.

It is our goal to bring it all together concurrently,” Ryan told reporters after meeting with House Republicans behind closed doors. “We’re going to use every tool at our disposal through legislation, through regulation, to bring replace concurrent along with repeal, so that we can save people from this mess.”

During a town hall meeting, hosted by CNN Monday night, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders would not rule out another run in 2020 for the Oval Office. If he does run and win, Sanders would be 79 when he took office.

OOPs!

When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell objected to a letter from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to hold up the hearings on nominees to the Cabinet for the Trump Administration until vetting letters were returned to the Office of Government Ethics, McConnell did not recognize it was the same letter with a few word changes he had sent in 2009 to then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, asking the same.

With the sands in the hour glass flowing out quickly, President Barack Obama and his Administration are working feverishly to overhaul police departments in Chicago, Illinois and Baltimore, Maryland before Trump is sworn in as President. Both cities have been found wanting by the US Justice Department in police relations with minority citizens.

Secretary of State John Kerry says that contact with the Trump Transition Team has been very shallow.

Kerry said talking about the transition, “It’s going pretty smoothly because there’s not an enormous amount of it.”

The nation’s top intelligence officials are facing questions today about a report that fingered the Kremlin in hacking during the presidential campaign from members of Congress.

With no job in the White House coming and losing popularity at home, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is turning his focus to the national drug epidemic.

The confirmation hearing for Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos has been postponed until next week. DeVos is one of the nominees who has not completed her questionnaire from the OGE.

Naming Names: None today

Scuttlebutt: Marie Osmond is letting it be known that if asked, she would be happy to perform at any inauguration events for President Trump.

Global politics: The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Muslim girls must swim with boys in school-run classes even though their religion frowns on the mixing of the genders in such a manner.

According to USA Today: Ghanian new President, Nana Akufo-Addo, had barely claimed his nation’s presidency before becoming embroiled in a social media brush fire after swiping lines from two US Presidents in his own inaugural address.

From President George W. Bush, Akufo-Addo said, “I ask you to be citizens: citizens, not spectators; citizens, not subjects; responsible citizens building your communities and our nation.”

From President Bill Clinton, Akufo-Addo went on, “Though our challenges are fearsome, so are our strengths. Ghanaians have ever been a restless, questing, hopeful people. And we must bring to our task today the vision and will of those who came before us.”

Wednesday, 1/11/17:

Does Russia have compromising information, perhaps even videos of adulterous behavior, of President Elect Donald Trump?

If so, does this explain his behavior toward Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression in the world?

Were surrogates for Trump meeting regularly through the campaign season with Russian agents?

Allegations about Russia and Trump were presented in a two-page synopsis that was appended to a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election given to President Barack Obama and Trump last week.

The information came from a former British intelligence operative considered credible by US intelligence officials, although it has not been verified.

Want the breakdown of what BuzzFeed published and CNN first reported: https://qz.com/882677/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-donald-trump-golden-showers-intelligence-report-claimed-by-the-russians/

Vice President Elect Mike Pence and incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer all too to task both Buzzfeed and CNN for reporting on the alleged Russian attempts to compromise Trump. Pence also called out some in the mainstream media for continuing to try and delegitimize the presidency of Trump.

Trump refers to the report as “fake news.”

For the first time since July, the President Elect conducted a full-blown press conference today.

Trump said today that he did believe it was Russia doing the hacking during the presidential campaign and election. He also said there were others as well.

As to hidden videos, Trump denies he would act out in compromising activities when leaving the country because he is expecting hidden cameras. He added he is also a “germaphobe.”

Although Trump has said he would like to get along with Putin, “I doubt that I will,” the President Elect said.

I have no deals in Russia. I have no dealings with Russia. I have no loans with Russia,” Trump told reporters.

He added he had no pending deals in Russia. Trump said he turned down a $2 billion deal in Dubai.

The only ones concerned with my tax returns are you, reporters,” Trump responded about releasing his tax returns.

The President Elect noted that under current law he is exempt from conflict-of-interest laws. He pointed out he could run his organization and be President, but did not think it was fair.

Trump has signed documents divesting himself of all management of the Trump Organization to sons, Don Jr. and Eric.

Sheri Dillon, attorney for the President Elect, laid out how Trump will separate from his business in the interest of running the nation.

Daughter Ivanka will also be resigning from all positions and authority with the Trump Organization.

There will be no new foreign deals during Trump’s tenure. Domestic deals must be vetted and approved by the White House Ethics Adviser. Pending deals are being ended.

Foreign governments who stay in Trump hotels will have their hotel bill payments sent not to Trump’s own personal account, but the US Treasury.

The President Elect vowed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act “simultaneously.”

Whether it’s a tax or payment, Mexico will reimburse us for the wall,” Trump said about who would pay for the wall on the southern border. Trump added he did not want to wait to start building the wall.

Within about two weeks after the inauguration, the President Elect plans to nominate his pick to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.

CNN‘s Jim Acosta and Trump got into a shouting match up until Trump ended it by calling Acosta and CNN, “fake news.”

From today’s presser, it appears that CNN is in the doghouse, as is Buzzfeed, and will likely not be interviewing Trump or asking questions at press conferences in the near future.

Intelligence agencies are vital and very, very important,” Trump said.

CNN‘s Jake Tapper noted that the network did not publish any of the 35-page dossier which Buzzfeed put out, which the network also called “irresponsible.”

Wiping away tears, President Obama said “goodbye” to the nation he has led for eight years last night in an address from Chicago, Illinois, where his political career began.

The Prez warned economic inequality, racism, and hardline anti-immigrant sentiment threatened to weaken US democracy.

We weaken those ties when we define some of us as more American than others,” Obama said, “when we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt, and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.”

There have been moments throughout our history that threatened to rupture that solidarity — the beginning of this century has been one of those times,” the Prez said. “A shrinking world, growing inequality; demographic change and the specter of terrorism – these forces haven’t just tested our security and prosperity, but they’re testing our democracy as well.”

Regardless of the station we occupy, we all have to try harder,” Obama said. “We all have to start with the premise that each of our fellow citizens loves this country just as much as we do, that they value hard work and family just like we do, that their children are just as curious and hopeful and worthy of love as our own.”

It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy, to embrace the joyous task we’ve been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours,” he said. “Because for all our outward differences, we in fact all share the same proud title: the most important office in a democracy, citizen.”

This struck me as one of the outgoing President’s best lines:

“If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try to talk with one in real life. If something needs fixing, lace up your shoes and do some organizing. If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.”

Among those submitting Rex Tillerson’s name before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the consent hearing for the position of Secretary of State were former Senator Sam Nunn and former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio came down hard on Tillerson.

From his questioning, it was not apparent if Rubio would vote for or against Tillerson’s confirmation.

Tillerson said Russia should be held accountable for its actions and NATO allies are right to be alarmed by Russia’s behavior.

I would leave things in the status quo so we are able to convey this can go either way,” Tillerson said in response to a question on whether he thought right now is the right time to lift sanctions on Russia.

It is Day 2 for Attorney General nominee Senator Jeff Sessions before the Senate Judiciary Committee when New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and civil rights icon Georgia Congressman John Lewis speak out against the nominee.

Louisiana Representative Cedric Richmond compared witnesses speaking on the second day of the confirmation hearing for Sessions was the equivalent of asking him, Booker and especially Lewis to “go to the back of the bus.”

This brought up the specter of Jim Crow laws which Lewis fought against in Selma, Alabama and throughout the South.

Naming Names:

Secretary of Veterans Affairs – David Shulkin, current Under Secretary for Health at the Veterans Administration

Vaccine Policy Study Chair – Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a member of the political dynasty, has been asked to head a commission to investigate “vaccine safety and scientific integrity.”

President-elect Trump has some doubts about the current vaccine policies and he has questions about it,” said Kennedy.

Scuttlebutt: Army leaker Chelsea Manning is on the President’s short list to have her 35-year sentence for leaking classified material commuted.

The US Supreme Court has delayed a lower court’s order that North Carolina redraw its congressional districts by March 15 while the Court considers accepting an appeal to the ruling.

Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey said that state political campaigns were hacked by the Russians, but not the Trump campaign nor the Republican National Committee.

Global politics: The South Korean Special Prosecutor’s office has summoned Samsung Group leader Jay Y. Lee for questioning in connection with the influence-peddling scandal that led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye.

North Korea now has enough plutonium to make 10 nuclear bombs, South Korea said today.

Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski has been mocked on Twitter for saying he had a meeting with the representative of a nonexistent country as part of Poland’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council.

Waszczykowski told reporters while there on Tuesday that he had meetings with officials from nearly 20 countries, including some Caribbean nations “for the first time in the history of our diplomacy. For example with countries such as Belize or San Escobar.”

There is no San Escobar.

After being warned by China not to meet with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen when she made a pit stop in Texas on her way to South America, both Texas Governor Greg Abbot and Texas Senator Ted Cruz met with her Sunday.

Then Abbot made a mistake.

Tsai gave Abbott a Taiwanese vase and he gave her a clock with the Texas state seal. It turns out that was a faux pas — not because it wasn’t a lovely clock, but because, Taiwan News reports, “in Chinese culture the phrase ‘giving a clock’ is a homophone with ‘attending a funeral,’ and therefore symbolizes an untimely demise for the recipient.”

Japan is trying to find a way that will allow Emperor Akihito to abdicate and allow his son to rise to the throne. This would be the first abdication in 200 years since current law prohibits abdication.

Thursday, 1/12/17:

Is an announcement that the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation are being investigated by the Office of Inspector General into the investigation of the Hillary Clinton email server another attempt to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the presidency of Donald Trump?

The head of the Office of Government Ethics was not impressed with the plan President Elect Donald Trump announced on Wednesday of how he would separate from his business empire.

OGE chief Walter Shaub said Trump’s plan, continuing to profit from his business while President is “wholly inadequate.”

Shaub went on to say that it is “meaningless from a conflict of interest perspective” to stop running the business without selling and putting assets in a blind trust.

We can’t risk the perception that government leaders would use their official positions for professional profit,” Shaub said.

During his Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing, Secretary of State designee Rex Tillerson said he did not oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free trade agreement Trump has condemned, although Tillerson said he questioned “whether the agreement that was negotiated serves all of America’s interests the best.”

Tillerson also called Russia’s Ukraine invasion “illegal,” which Trump has not done.

Florida Senator and former presidential rival Marco Rubio criticized Tillerson for not condemning Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, and the Philippines for their human rights records.

Rubio has not decided whether he will vote to confirm Tillerson.

If Rubio does not vote for the designee, Tillerson’s nomination could flounder in the Senate committee.

Senate Democrats are asking the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate if Tillerson lied to Congress yesterday when he said that Exxon Mobil did not “directly lobby” against sanctions on Russia.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called Trump Tower last night to assure the President Elect that it was not the intelligence community which had leaked the information about a report commissioned by anti-Trump Republicans and Democrats.

That 35-page report was compiled by a former MI-6 operative alleging the Russian government has incriminating information, audio and video of Trump.

One of the allegations in that report which has already been debunked is about Trump’s long time ally and legal counsel, Michael Cohen. Cohen was accused of  being out of the country meeting with Russian agents.

Turns out it was someone else with the same name.

BBC correspondent Paul Wood said Wednesday there are multiple sources, not only the report of the former MI-6 officer, supporting the conclusion that Russia has potentially compromising material on the President Elect.

I got a message back that there was allegedly more than one tape, not just video, but audio as well, on more than one date, in more than one place, in both Moscow and St. Petersburg,” Wood said, but “Nobody should believe something just because an intelligence agent says it.”

Did New Jersey Senator Cory Booker launch his 2020 presidential campaign when he spoke out against fellow Senator Jeff Sessions bid to be Attorney General?

Retired General James “Mad Dog” Mattis faced the Senate Armed Forces Committee today to answer questions on whether he was suited to be the next Secretary of Defense.

If confirmed, Mattis would need a congressional waiver to serve since he has not been retired for the statutory 7-year minimum.

The committee passed the waiver in a strong vote. Later this afternoon, the full Senate followed with approval of the waiver.

The House of Representatives is expected to follow suit.

Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo sat before the Senate Intelligence Committee as he was grilled on his ability to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.

Dr. Ben Carson had to also answer questions from the Senate Banking Committee today to earn confirmation as the next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Pompeo was called on the carpet today about an op-ed he wrote, advocating the US government return to “collecting all meta-data,” by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden.

The nominees for the Cabinet, thus far, seem to have no trouble with disagreeing with remarks made by the President Elect on the campaign trail.

Perhaps Trump selected these people for that reason – to disagree with him, persuade him and to lead the departments and agencies to which they have been nominated.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren tried to get Carson to promise that no one in the President Elect’s family nor Trump would ever receive any money from any contracts with HUD.

In answer to Warren, “It would not be my intention to benefit any American. It’s for all Americans,” Carson responded. “I will manage things in a way that benefits the American people.”

Some more of what Carson had to say to the committee today:

The programs that have been enacted in HUD over the years, you know, they’re good programs,” Carson said. “But in and of themselves they’re not bringing about the elevation of large numbers of people. And that’s what we’re looking for. We don’t want it to be a way of life, we want it to be a Band-Aid and a springboard to move forward.”

The place where there is a lot of money is the private sector. What we have to concentrate on is helping the private sector to recognize that, in the long run, the private sector does better when we develop our people,” Carson said.

In one for the bizarre, as the Intelligence Committee and Pompeo were talking and the subject of Russian hacking was invoked, the power went out in the room.

Vice President Joe Biden was surprised by President Obama today when he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his more than a quarter of a century service to the nation in the Capitol.

The Senate voted last night to approve the first step in repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Republicans have yet to settle on one replacement plan for the ACA.

Naming Names:

Cyber Security Head – Rudy Giuliani, former New York City Mayor, will serve in an unpaid position

Rudy Giuliani will be sharing his expertise and insight as a trusted friend concerning private sector cyber security problems and emerging solutions developing in the private sector,” the Trump Transition Team said in a statement.

Scuttlebutt: None

Global politics: German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned the European Union today it should not rely on “eternal” US support, as concern grows in Europe about Trump’s commitment to trans-Atlantic ties.

Israel’s top court has ordered the Western Wall’s ultra-Orthodox administration to explain why women are banned from leading prayers at the holy site, as sought in a petition.

A criminal investigation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that may involve discussion of a secret deal that would benefit him and a newspaper owner and gifts from a Hollywood producer could be serious enough to threaten his hold on power, analysts say.

Friday, 1/13/17:

The final week, the last seven days of the presidency of Barack Obama began today.

One week from today, Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States.

In one of his last big moves, President Obama ended the “wet foot, dry foot” policy which granted legal residency automatically to Cubans escaping from the Castro dictatorship.

The policy has been in place in one form or other since the days of President John F. Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Not everyone is happy with the policy change, including Democratic New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, who said it’ll only “tighten the noose” of the Castro regime around the neck of the Cuban people.

Trump could restore the policy once in office.

The Prez plans to conduct his last press conference on Wednesday, two days before handing the keys to the Oval Office to his successor.

Three sites were named national monuments by the President on Thursday.

One covers several square blocks in Birmingham, Alabama, that include the 16th Street Baptist Church, where four black girls were killed in a 1963 Ku Klux Klan bombing.

Another includes an Anniston, Alabama, Greyhound bus station where Freedom Riders were attacked in 1961.

The third commemorates a community built in Beaufort County, South Carolina, by freed slaves after the Civil War.

Obama also expanded the California Coastal National Monument, and the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Oregon.

Republicans moved ahead today with legislation aimed at dismantling Obamacare aka the Affordable Care Act. This come though there are concerns there is not a replacement yet for the healthcare program. Also of concern is the potential financial cost of repealing President Barack Obama’s signature domestic legislation.

Civil rights icon Georgia Congressman Democrat John Lewis says in his opinion the Trump presidency will not be legitimate due to Russian intrusions and interference in the electoral process.

Incoming National Security Adviser retired General Mike Flynn exchanged phone calls and texts with the Russian Ambassador to the US of A in December purportedly to set up meetings with Trump after the inauguration.

Democrats are suspicious since the contact was while President Obama was putting new sanctions on Russia.

The President Elect continued his protest of the unsubstantiated allegations in a dossier leaked to the national press in a tweet today, “It now turns out that the phony allegations against me were put together by my political opponents and a failed spy afraid of being sued … Totally made up facts by sleazebag political operatives, both Democrats and Republicans – FAKE NEWS! Russia says nothing exists.”

Late this afternoon, the Senate Intelligence Committee announced it is launching an investigation into Russian influence in US politics.

Including the election, inquiry will also be made into any contacts with both the incoming and outgoing Administrations, which may have been made with the Russians.

The committee has subpoena power and will use it when necessary.

The committee will also be looking into the allegations in the 35-page dossier.

In essence, every avenue that touches on Russia will be investigated, which puts fake news proliferation in the mix as well.

In separate closed-door session, the House and Senate were given intelligence briefings on the Russian hacking investigation today. Two hours was devoted to the Senate, but only an hour to the House, which left Democratic Representatives fuming.

Former Democratic National Committee Chair Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz confronted FBI Director James Comey following the briefing over the emails which led to her removal as the DNC chair.

The conversation became quite loud, echoing down the halls of the Capitol. Other Democratic lawmakers reportedly egged her on as she lambasted Comey.

During a town hall on CNN last night, House Speaker Paul Ryan assured an illegal immigrant she did not have to worry about a deportation force showing up at her door step.

Director of the Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub is being called on the carpet to face questions from Congress on his outspokeness and public airing of criticism of the President Elect and his plan to separate himself from his wide-ranging business interests.

In a letter, Utah Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said that Shaub had “raised a bunch of eyebrows” by taking “a very aggressive stance on issues he’s never looked at.”

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said Thursday that she sees no short-term “serious obstacles” for the US economy, but she warned of long-term threats posed by low productivity and growing inequality.

Linda Bean faced a backlash after a report that Bean, an L.L.Bean board member, had given $30,000 to the pro-Trump Making Maine Great Again PAC, exceeding limits on individual contributions in a single year.

Trump tweeted his support of Bean, “Buy L.L.Bean.”

Naming Names:
Public Liaison to Government Agencies and Businesses – Anthony Scaramucci, hedge fund founder and Trump campaign fundraiser

A total of $90 million has been raised for the Trump inauguration festivities.

Global politics: West African leaders have flown into the Gambia to make a final attempt to persuade Yahya Jammeh to step down when his presidential term ends next week.

International investigators have said for the first time that they suspect Syrian President Bashar al Assad and his brother are responsible for the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict, according to a document seen by Reuters.

Blocking Chinese access to islands in the disputed waters of the South China Sea would require the U.S. to “wage war“, an influential Chinese state-run tabloid said today, after US Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson suggested the strategy on Wednesday.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered free contraceptives be handed out to six million women in the country without access to them.

Sunday, 1/15/17:

Legitimacy has been put in question by Georgia Congressman John Lewis and other Democrats concerning the election of Donald Trump to be President.

Friday, the iconic civil rights leader told NBC‘s Chuck Todd in an interview for Meet the Press, aired today, that he did not think that Trump is a legitimate President because of Russian interference in the election process.

Trump reacted Saturday in a tweet that Lewis needed to concentrate more on serving the people in his congressional district.

It’s going to be very difficult. I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president,” Lewis said.

I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton,” he told Todd.

I think there was a conspiracy on the part of the Russians and others to help him get elected,” Lewis said. “That’s not right. That’s not fair. That’s not the open democratic process.”

Lewis will be sitting out and not going to the inauguration.

Several other members of Congress are also planning to boycott the swearing in of Trump. That number now stands at nearly 20 lawmakers not showing for the event.

Will that number grow?

Just because Lewis is a civil rights icon, is he not open to criticism?

Did Trump go too far by saying that the Atlanta, Georgia area Lewis represents is crumbling and “crime infested” and Lewis is “all talk, talk, talk — no action or results”?

Some Democratic talking heads are siding with Lewis and also saying that Trump will be an illegitimate President.

Some Democrats are also saying now that the election was not free and fair.

Meanwhile on Friday, Congress passed a budget while taking steps to end the Affordable Care Act.

The budget, which won Senate approval early Thursday, does not need the President’s signature.

The ‘Unaffordable’ Care Act will soon be history!” Trump tweeted Friday.

Republicans can now repeal the ACA using a procedural tool known as “budget reconciliation,” which allows repeal to pass with a simple 51-vote majority in the Senate.

The President Elect told The Wall Street Journal over the weekend, “If you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?” Trump asked, though he noted he will not make any major changes “at least for a period of time.”

On how the confirmation process is going with his Cabinet nominees, Trump tweeted that his nominees “are looking good and doing a great job,” and insisted he wants them “to be themselves and express their own thoughts, not mine!”

On Saturday in protest of the incoming Trump presidency and his immigration policy, 2,000 people rallied on the National Mall in Washington DC.

Thousands of women from across the nation are descending on the Capitol today in protest of Trump and his Administration.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is jumping in to investigate the Russian influence in the recent election.

The committee will follow the intelligence wherever it leads,” a joint statement from Chairman Richard Burr and Vice Chair Mark Warner, Republican and Democrat respectively. “We will conduct this inquiry expeditiously, and we will get it right.”

This is all a distraction,” Vice President Elect Mike Pence said on Fox News Sunday about the ongoing flap over the Russian attempts to influence the recent presidential election, and “part of a narrative to delegitimize” Trump and his election victory over Hillary Clinton.

Naming Names: Inner City Initiative – Comedian Steve Harvey, working with Housing and Urban Development Secretary designee Dr. Ben Carson

It’s not my jump into politics, I ain’t going to pass a background check,” Harvey told the press after meeting with Trump in Manhattan Friday. “It’s just me following orders from my friend, President Obama, who said, ‘Steve,’ as he told everyone, ‘get out from behind your computers, stop tweeting and texting. Get out there and sit down and talk.’ I stepped from behind my microphone and I came and talked to the guy who is going to be the 45th president.”

Scuttlebutt: Jennifer Holliday has been booked to play a concert for the inauguration of Trump, but now she has backed out with an apology to the gay community.

My only choice must now be to stand with the Community and to state unequivocally that I WILL NOT PERFORM FOR THE WELCOME CONCERT OR FOR ANY OF THE INAUGURATION FESTIVITIES!” Holliday wrote in a letter to The Wrap. “I sincerely apologize for my lapse of judgement, for being uneducated on the issues that affect every American at this crucial time in history and for causing such dismay and heartbreak to my fans.”

Could the national press corps be losing its digs in the West Wing?

The President Elect had planned to visit the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture in commemoration tomorrow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Day.

That trip has now been cancelled.

Senior level transition sources told ABC News today the visit is off due to unspecified “scheduling issues.”

Or is it because of the feud with Lewis?

Global Politics: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday Trump’s promise to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is a mistake which could hinder the Mideast peace process.

We are waiting to see if it happens. If it does it will not help peace and we hope it does not happen,” Abbas said during a trip to Vatican City.

China is pushing back after Trump said that the One China policy which has been in force since the days of Richard Nixon is open to negotiation.

China is saying it is not.

It is not up for negotiation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement. “There is only one China in the world, Taiwan is an inalienable region of China, and the government of the People’s Republic of China is the only legitimate government representing China.”

Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo welcomed 4,000 U.S. troops to her country in a ceremony on Saturday. She hailed their arrival as “an important day for Poland, for Europe, for our common defense.”

Today diplomats from 70 nations — not including representatives of Israel, Palestine, or the incoming Donald Trump administration — are meeting in Paris “to officially restate their commitment to the two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Makes sense to me…NOT!

British Prime Minister Theresa May will detail her plan for Brexit, the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, in a major speech Tuesday, urging her country to “unite to make a success and build a truly global Britain.”

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Mark

Father, grandfather, political pundit - I am Mark Ivy. I am father to two wonderful sons, Dave and Kev, of whom I am very proud;two terrific daughters-in-law, Anna and Hailey; three beautiful granddaughters: Dylan, Alaina and Amelia. On September 2, 2014, I was diagnosed with disseminated histoplasmosis, a fungal infection, discovered by a biopsy of my larynx. The infection is fatal if left untreated. For 2 1/2 years I lived under a death sentence being misdiagnosed with a non-specific bacterial infection which left my right lung a "dried up sponge" and non-functioning. I was aggressively treated for the infection with antifungals. The treatment ended October of 2015 and fortunately did not take two years. I suffer from chronic Horton's Syndrome. The effects vary widely causing various problems. Statistically, Horton's affects only 0.1% of the population. Major depression also attacks me regularly.

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