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
Tuesday, January 31, 2017 at 8 p.m.
Tune in tomorrow for the much anticipated announcement of President Donald Trump’s nominee to fill the vacancy at the US Supreme Court.
That vacancy, a result of the death nearly one year ago of Justice Antonin Scalia, could impact the course of US law for decades.
Is the President, as many talking heads are saying, moving the nation to authoritarianism?
Hollywood made clear its feelings about the executive order banning entry from seven nations at the Screen Actor’s Guild awards ceremony last night.
It was not positive.
The EO has already had parts blocked by federal judges, but not the entire order.
Homeland Security came out with a clarification Sunday night on the order, noting that those with green cards would not be barred entry, but subject to questioning.
The countries affected are Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia.
In December 2015 former President Barack Obama signed into law a measure placing some restrictions on certain travelers from Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria. A couple of months later, Libya, Somalia and Yemen were added.
President Trump said the executive order he signed on Friday “is not a Muslim ban” but a move to prevent terrorists from entering the country.
Trump said he had “tremendous feeling” for the refugees fleeing Syria, but “my first priority will always be to protect and serve our country.”
The former President spoke out today on the EO causing all the stir.
In his statement, Obama voiced his support for the protesters. He noted, in his opinion, it was an attack on American values, with which he strongly disagreed with President Trump.
A group of State Department officials sent a memo to the White House expressing their dissent with the travel ban.
The American Civil Liberties Union took the Administration to court over the ban and won several stays over the weekend. The ACLU also benefited from the ban with a whopping $24 million in donations compared to the usual $3-$4 million per year in donations.
“Only 109 people out of 325,000 were detained and held for questioning,” Trump tweeted. “Big problems at airports were caused by Delta computer outage…..protesters and the tears of Senator Schumer.”
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson plans to sue President Trump over the EO that suspended immigration from those seven countries. Ferguson and 15 other Attorneys General, all Democrats, released a statement condemning the EO.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer pointed out today that the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are by law members of the National Security Council and will continue to be.
He also noted that the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency was being added to the NSC, which was not an inclusion during the Administration of President Obama.
But why did the Prez appoint the White House Chief Political Strategist to the NSC?
Keeping his promises, the Prez signed another EO today to slash regulations by as much as 75%.
“There will be regulation, there will be control, but it will be normalized control,” Trump said as he signed the order in the Oval Office, surrounded by a group of small business owners.
Former President George H.W. Bush was discharged from a Houston hospital today after being treated for pneumonia, his spokesman said.
Global Politics: “I regret to announce via this statement that I have decided to not attend the Academy Awards Ceremony alongside my fellow members of the cinematic community,” Asghar Farhadi, the Iranian director of The Salesman, said Sunday.
The director is up for an Oscar. There has been much debate over if he would denied entry to the US for the ceremony.
Benoit Hamon, the most left-leaning of seven primary candidates, won the Socialist nomination for French President.
Iraq’s lawmakers today backed a “reciprocity measure” that would bar Americans from entering Iraq in retaliation for Trump’s banning of Iraqis from traveling to the United States. The vote is not binding and up to the Iraqi Prime Minister whether to enforce.
Britain takes a different approach to Trump on immigration restrictions but the United States is a close ally and an invitation for a state visit still stands, Prime Minister Theresa May said today.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein tweeted today insisting that “discrimination on nationality” violates international human rights codes.
“The U.S. ban is also mean-spirited, and wastes resources needed for proper counterterrorism,” al-Hussein wrote.
Drum roll, please.
Will 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Justice Neil Gorsuch, please step forward.
In dramatic and presidential fashion, President Donald Trump announced his nominee to fill the vacancy on the bench of the Supreme Court this evening during prime time at 8 p.m.
Now, will the judge who won unanimous consent went appointed to the Appeals Court win with bipartisan support the seat on the nation’s highest court?
The selection of Gorsuch, 49, could impact jurisprudence for the next several decades.
That was the message to Acting Attorney General Sally Yates late last night. The pink slip came after Yates put out a memo to Justice Department lawyers to not defend the executive order signed by President Donald Trump on Friday placing a temporary ban on people from seven nations coming into the US of A.
That EO sparked protests across the nation, which continue. Several federal judges have blocked portions of that EO.
A new Acting Attorney General Dana Boente, who was the US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, was named, who immediately rescinded the Yates memo and sent out his own affirming Justice would defend the EO.
The White House said in a statement that Yates “has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States. … Ms. Yates is an Obama Administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.”
The Chairman of the House Rules Committee Pete Sessions, a Republican, agreed with Yates’ assessment, however, noting the similarity “to an evaluation that we made and that was it did not appear to be specific in nature. It did not appear to maintain the continuity of an effort that could be understood and followed through on. … It did not look as complete and succinct as what I think I would’ve wanted.”
President Trump signed an executive order Monday that he said would deliver on his campaign promise to slash government regulations.
President Trump will leave in place former President Barack Obama’s 2014 order creating new workplace protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, the White House said Monday.
“President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBT rights, just as he was throughout the election,” the statement from the White House said.
Senate Democrats boycotted the Finance Committee preventing confirmation votes for Health and Human Services designee Dr. Tom Price and Treasury designee Steve Mnuchin.
Homeland Security Secretary Retired General John Kelly came out today to explain implementation of the temporary ban on entry to the US from seven countries. He emphasized it was not a a ban on Muslims.
Kelly said he was aware of the controversial EO and had known for over a year it would be coming, just not when. Kelly said he found out an exact day on Thursday, the day before the order was signed.
Elaine Chao, wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, was confirmed today as Transportation Secretary.
Attorney General designee Senator Jeff Session will get his vote in the full Senate after his confirmation was approved by the Judiciary Committee on strict party lines 12-11.
Likewise the nomination of Betty DeVos to be Education Secretary moved from committee to the full Senate for confirmation as did Energy designee former Governor Rick Perry.
Congressman Ryan Zinke is moving forward as well as designee for Secretary of the Interior.
Trump replaced the Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Monday night with Thomas Homan, ICE Executive Associate Director of Enforcement and Removal Operations since 2013.
Another group sued the President in federal court in Virginia Monday. The group of 27 plaintiffs from across the U.S. — says the controversial EO signed on Friday “implements an impermissible religious gerrymander that divides foreign nationals, even those lawfully present inside the United States, into favored and disfavored groups based on their faith.”
The suit asks that the EO be totally blocked and ruled unconstitutional.
The Pentagon is compiling a list of Iraqi citizens who have worked with the US military and recommending that they be exempt from Trump’s temporary ban on visitors from Iraq and six other predominantly Muslim countries, according to military officials.
Another executive order today. This one is on beefing up cyber security in the US.
Meeting with pharmaceutical company execs today, the President vowed to get drug prices lower.
The Department of Homeland Security said today it will allow 872 refugees to enter the country after they were initially barred from flying to the US under the President’s executive order on immigration.
The man who appeared on CNN and was cheered by the Prez for his expertise on voter fraud turns out to be registered to vote in three states.
He was listed on the rolls in Alabama, Texas and Mississippi, according to voting records and election officials in those states. He voted only in Alabama in November, records show.
San Francisco, California filed a lawsuit today challenging the President’s executive order directing the federal government to withhold money from cities that have adopted sanctuary policies toward undocumented immigrants.
Global Politics: The United Nations Security Council, which will include new US Ambassador Nikki Haley, will discuss Iran’s ballistic missile test in violation of a UN resolution.
“We hope that Iran’s defense program is not used by the new US administration… as a pretext to create new tensions,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said at a press conference.
The Austrian government has announced plans to ban the full-face Islamic veil in public, part of a raft of measures to contain the rise of the far-right Freedom Party.
The British Parliament will hold a debate on calls to cancel Donald Trump’s state visit due to be hosted by the Queen this year, after 1.6 million people signed a petition in support of scrapping or downgrading the invitation.
Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, a 36-year-old from Peoria, Illinois, hero!
Owens was the first US casualty of the new Administration. He was killed during a weekend raid on an Al Qaida base in Yemen.
President Donald Trump, accompanied by First Daughter Ivanka, took Marine One to Dover Air Force Base this afternoon to honor the return of Owens remains.
Gloves are off.
Democrats boycotted for the second day the Senate Finance Committee to block confirmation votes on Dr. Tom Price and Steve Mnuchin for Cabinet positions.
Pushing back, Chairman Orrin Hatch suspended the rules and Republicans pushed through the votes to send the nominees for Heath and Human Services and Treasury to the full Senate for a vote.
Scott Pruitt’s committee confirmation vote was blocked today as Democrats boycotted the meeting for the Environmental Protection Agency designee.
In his meeting on Tuesday with pharmaceutical giants, President Trump had this to say, “For Medicare, for Medicaid, we have to get the prices way down. We’re also gonna be streamlining the process so that from your standpoint, when you have a drug, you can actually get it approved if it works instead of waiting for many, many years.”
Meanwhile in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democrats mounted a strong objection to Senator Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General, but to no avail.
Sessions nomination now goes for a full Senate vote.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, during a CNN Town Hall, called Justice Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court “hostile.”
Some Democrats are aching for a very vigorous fight against the Gorsuch appointment. To most Democrats, Gorsuch is “stealing” the seat on the bench from DC Circuit Court of Appeals Justice Merrick Garland.
Garland was appointed by former President Barrack Obama, but was never afforded a hearing or vote by the Senate majority Republicans.
In a sign of his character, the first call Gorsuch placed following his nomination was to Garland.
When appointed to the 10th District Court by former President George W. Bush, Gorsuch received unanimous voice-vote approval by the Senate.
The Prez today urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to use the “nuclear option” if necessary to obtain Gorsuch appointment. The nuclear option would change the requirement of 60 votes to confirm a Supreme Court nominee to only a simple majority vote.
We have a Secretary of State.
Rex Tillerson was approved by the Senate today by all Republicans and four Democrats.
Chairman Jason Chaffetz, Republican Congressman from Utah, said on Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s possible conflicts of interest could be among the more than 40 items his House Oversight Committee investigates.
California Congresswoman Barbara Lee and the chairs of four Democratic caucuses in the House of Representatives are demanding President Trump remove his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, from the National Security Council, arguing that Bannon’s appointment to the group is “dangerous.”
The Prez kicked off the commemoration of Black History Month with a sit-down and listening session with a number of members from the black community.
National Security Adviser retired General Mike Flynn told Iran today that the US was putting the Persian nation on notice, following its ballistic missile launch over the weekend.
Education Secretary designee Betsy DeVos may be in trouble of winning full confirmation. Republican Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski said on the Senate floor today they will not approve her confirmation.
This means that Republicans cannot spare another defection. As it is, the now 50-50 split will be broke and confirm DeVos by Vice President Mike Pence.
President Trump canceled a scheduled visit to the Harley-Davidson factory in Milwaukee due to the motorcycle maker’s fear of protests over his immigration and refugee ban, an administration official told CNN Tuesday. Harley-Davidson released a statement saying there was never a visit planned this week to any of its facilities.
That said, Harley-Davidson execs are meeting with the Prez in the White House on Thursday.
Over 900 career diplomats with the State Department have signed the memo to the new Secretary of State, voicing concern and opposition to the executive order on the temporary ban of travel from seven countries.
However, a poll that came out yesterday, following the disastrous roll-out of the temporary ban, found that the majority of Americans support the President’s executive order.
Washington, Massachusetts, Virginia and New York are becoming the first states to sue the Trump administration with filings announced this week over the executive order restricting refugees and immigration. All four have Democratic Attorneys General.
More about Gorsuch, the nominee to the Supreme Court: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/01/31/neil-gorsuch-supreme-court-nominee-five-things-to-know/97083588/
Another political cartoon that is spot on: http://theweek.com/cartoons/677406/political-cartoon-trump-promises-ban
Global Politics: Former United Nations leader Ban Ki-moon has decided not to run in an election expected later this year to replace President Park Geun-hye, who was impeached in December over a corruption scandal.
British lawmakers are scheduled to vote today on a bill that would give Prime Minister Theresa May permission to trigger negotiations on the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union by March 31.
French anticorruption police searched offices in the lower house of parliament on Tuesday as part of an investigation into whether presidential candidate Francois Fillon used public funds to pay family members for jobs they didn’t really do.
Romania’s governing Social Democratic Party shocked domestic and international observers Tuesday when it adopted an emergency measure to decriminalize official misconduct causing damage worth less than about $48,000.
Iran admitted today it had test-fired a new ballistic missile. Iran’s Defense Minister said the test did not breach the Islamic Republic’s nuclear agreement with world powers or a United Nations Security Council resolution endorsing the pact.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg today urged Russia to use its influence with pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine to halt what he called the worst upsurge in fighting in a long time.
Leftist independent Alejandro Guillier is tied with conservative Sebastian Pinera to win Chile’s 2017 presidential race.
António Guterres, the new UN Secretary General said today that border policies based on religion, ethnicity or race were “against the fundamental principles and values on which our societies are based.”
The United Arab Emirates’ top diplomat came out in defense of Trump’s order temporarily barring citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Gulf federation’s Foreign Minister, said, “The is a temporary ban and it will revised in 3 months, so it is important that we put into consideration this point.”
“Some of these countries that were on this list are countries that face structural problems,” he continued. “These countries should try to solve these issues…and these circumstances before trying to solve this issue with the United States.”
That is what now President Donald Trump promised on the campaign trail. And tough talk is what he is doing with both allies and foes.
Word has leaked out that the conversation with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull ended abruptly with disagreement over a deal worked out by former President Barack Obama to take in over a thousand refugees being kept on an island off the Australian mainland.
The call was scheduled for an hour, but lasted only about 25 minutes.
Trump has said he will go through with the deal with reservations, adding that he does not want to let into the US of A the next Boston bomber.
The refugees will have to go through “very extreme vettting,” according to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
Then there was the call with Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto where the Prez is reported to have offered to send in US troops to help the Mexicans quell the cartels and other “tough hombres.”
Couple those phone calls with the statement by unconfirmed National Security Adviser Mike Flynn announcing publicly to Iran that the US was “officially putting Iran on notice.”
Attending the National Prayer Breakfast this morning, the Prez told the assembled group about his tough calls with foreign leaders, “Don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about it.”
Turning to religious freedom, the Prez told the attendees he would “destroy” the Johnson Amendment, named for then Senator and later President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Under the provision, which was made in 1954, tax-exempt entities like churches and charitable organizations are unable to directly or indirectly participate in any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate.
Specifically, ministers are restricted from endorsing or opposing candidates from the pulpit. If they do, they risk losing their tax-exempt status.
Trump wants to repeal this provision.
“The wall will be built where it’s needed first, and then it will be filled in. That’s the way I look at it,” Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told Fox News in an interview. “I really hope to have it done within the next two years.”
On undoing the Affordable Care Act, the House Republicans pushed through a proposal seeking to scrap regulations intended to prevent coal mining companies from dumping debris into streams.
Republicans also voted to drop a rule requiring mining and drilling companies to disclose payments made to foreign governments.
Republicans said they were just getting started reversing Obama administration regulations, and that they will move on to address rules on fracking, federal contracting, guns, and other matters.
The Senate Environmental Committee, facing a second day of Democratic boycott, moved ahead with advancing Environmental Protection Agency Director nominee Scott Pruitt to a vote in the full Senate after the Republican leadership suspended the rules to vote unanimously with only GOP Senators to confirm.
Out of the hospital, former President George H.W. and former First Lady Barbara Bush will flip the coin at Sunday’s Super Bowl LI.
The Prez asked for prayers for new Apprentice host, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to get better ratings, in remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast.
The Arnold responded, “I got a great idea. Why don’t we switch jobs?”
Global Politics: “It’s better that these things — these conversations — are conducted candidly, frankly, privately,” Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters about his conversation with President Trump on Saturday.
Turnbull also denied that Trump hung up on him as is being reported.
British lawmakers on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill authorizing the government to start negotiations to leave the European Union.
Israel on Wednesday started clearing Jewish settlers from a West Bank outpost called Amona, while planning to build a new settlement for the displaced settlers on disputed land.
Iran has responded to Flynn’s warning that it was “on notice” today, saying it would “vigorously continue its missile” program and testing.
Colombia’s ELN rebels freed hostage ex-lawmaker Odin Sanchez on today, the government confirmed, clearing the way for peace talks next week.
The Zimbabwe pastor who fled to the United States after launching the popular #ThisFlag protest movement faces up to 20 years in prison for organizing protests against Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe in New York.
The death on Wednesday of Congo’s opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi leaves opponents of President Joseph Kabila seriously weakened in their bid to force Kabila to quit power after he defied constitutional term limits to stay on last year.
Two weeks in and President Donald Trump has the lowest approval rating of any new President in modern history at this point.
A new CNN/ORC poll reveals only 44% approve of the job the President is doing, even though he is following through with his campaign promises.
Another 53% disapprove of his job.
This is indicative of the popular vote, which he lost, where the majority did not want him to be their President.
The 44% represent Republicans, independents and disillusioned Democrats, mostly in the Heartland and South.
Since the President’s travel ban took effect, 60,000 to 100,000 visas have been revoked to travelers from the seven countries named in the controversial executive order signed one week ago today.
The President signed another executive order today to begin unraveling the tangled web of Dodd-Frank enacted at the height of the Great Recession to reel in the finance industry.
A federal judge in Seattle, Washington today granted a nationwide temporary restraining order on Trump’s executive order made last week that temporarily barred entry to the United States to citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries.
A federal judge in Boston, however, also today declined to extend a temporary restraining order on the same EO.
U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria, Virginia ordered the federal government to give the state a list by Thursday of “all persons who have been denied entry to or removed from the United States.”
“Any attack on the United States, or our allies, will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons would be met with a response that would be effective and overwhelming,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said at South Korea’s defense ministry, at the end of a two-day visit.
Mattis was clearly talking to Kim Jung Un and North Korea.
South Dakota Republicans just did something that backfired spectacularly for congressional Republicans earlier this year: They got rid of an independent ethics commission designed to watch over them.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on Sunday denied President Trump’s request for an immediate stay on a federal judge’s temporary block on enforcement of his immigration executive order.
The Court also ordered the State of Washington and the US Justice Department to submit arguments before Monday afternoon, before issuing a final ruling.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in “accordance with the judge’s ruling, DHS has suspended any and all actions implementing the affected sections of the Executive Order entitled, ‘Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,'” including “actions to suspend passenger system rules that flag travelers for operational action subject to the Executive Order.”
“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” tweeted the President. “When a country is no longer able to say who can, and who cannot , come in & out, especially for reasons of safety & security – big trouble!”
The Prez added, “Interesting that certain Middle-Eastern countries agree with the ban. They know if certain people are allowed in it’s death & destruction!”
That remark about “this so-called judge” has Republicans and Democrats alike crying, “foul.” Judges in the US of A are “real judges,” not “so-called.”
It is also getting cheers in some circles for doing as the Vice President said, “He was speaking his mind.” Supporters cite Trump’s plain talk as one of the reasons they voted for him to be President.
For the third straight weekend, protesters marched in a number of major US cities, as well as in cities abroad including London, Paris, and Jakarta.
“Well, I respect a lot of people but that doesn’t mean I’m going to get along with him,” Trump said of Russian President Vladimir Putin, adding that Russia could be a valuable ally to the United States in the war on terror.
“But he’s a killer, though,” Fox pundit Bill O’Reilly pushed back. “Putin’s a killer.”
Trump nodded, and said, “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?”
“We are going to win the arguments because we’re going to take the steps necessary to protect the country, which the president of the United States has the authority to do,” Vice President Mike Pence told Fox News today, as he made his the rounds of the Sunday talk shows.
Vincent Viola, President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of the Army, withdrew his name from consideration Friday, citing business dealings. Viola said it was too difficult to divest and cut his business holdings.
Make no doubt, repeal and replace is still the name of the game in Congress in dealing with the shortcomings of the Affordable Care Act.
“If you’re going to repair the American health care system, and fix its problems, you have to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something better: Patient-centered health care,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told Chuck Todd on NBC‘s Meet The Press. “And that is how you repair this health care system.”
A couple of studies suggest that the recent executive order on illegal immigrants who are criminals could net six to eight million undocumented individuals by including those “suspected” of committing crimes.
Global Politics: On second thought, Romania’s leaders are scrubbing a new order which decriminalized some government corruption. It will be back to all corruption bad after the people rose up in protest.
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