1-16-19 William Barr tries to assure senators that he can be trusted with the Mueller probe.

AG nominee William Barr tries to assure senators that he can be trusted with the Mueller probe.

On day one of his confirmation hearing, Barr testified that he would not fire Robert Mueller without “good cause,” also pointing out that he couldn’t imagine a scenario in which that would happen. Barr also said he doesn’t believe Mueller “would be involved in a witch hunt” and that he “will not be bullied” by Trump.

What else did I miss?

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) pressed Barr on whether or not Mueller’s full report would be released. His answer? “I don’t know, at the end of the day, what will be release-able.”

What happens next?

Testimony will wrap up at some point today. With Republicans holding a 53-47 majority in the Senate, Barr is pretty much guaranteed to be confirmed as the next attorney general. 

 


 

Mitch McConnell blocks another effort to end the shutdown.

The Republican majority leader says he won’t even hold a vote in the Senate until Congress reaches a deal with Trump. As he phrased it, he doesn’t want the Senate to “participate in something that doesn’t lead to an outcome.” Guess he thinks doing nothing is a better option.

What exactly would they have voted on?

A package of bills that would reopen the government by funding Homeland Security for just a few weeks, while funding all other agencies through September. The package has been passed by the House twice now, but Republicans in the Senate have blocked it both times.

Anything else?

The effects of the shutdown are only growing worse, and just under 4 in 10 Americans now say they’ve been affected firsthand. For example, with unpaid TSA agents calling in sick, wait times at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport were up to three hours (!) yesterday

 


 

The Trump admin had a rough couple days in court.

Like, really rough. On Monday, a federal judge blocked the administration’s proposed restrictions on birth control, which would have allowed employers to deny birth control coverage over “moral convictions.” Then on Tuesday, another judge ordered the White House to remove a citizenship question from the 2020 census, which critics say would prevent non-citizens from participating.

Is that the end of the story?

Not quite. It’s still not clear if the Trump admin will challenge the birth control ruling, but they are expected to appeal the census decision. The case will more than likely wind up reaching Supreme Court by the time the census is printed this summer.

 


 

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is running for president.

Last night on the “Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” the Democratic senator from New York announced she’s forming a presidential exploratory committee (i.e. running for president). Gillibrand — the second senator (and second female senator) to announce her candidacy — has established herself as one of the most outspoken members of Congress when it comes to the #MeToo movement. She told Colbert, “The first thing I would do is restore what’s been lost: the integrity and the compassion in this country.”

 


 

No deal on Brexit.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May suffered the biggest parliamentary defeat in British history yesterday, when her plan for leaving the European Union was rejected 432 votes to 202. With a March 29 deadline creeping closer, it’s looking like the U.K. might split from the E.U. without a plan in place.

What now?

One Member of Parliament summed things up pretty nicely for the Daily Beast: “Honestly, not a fucking clue what happens next.”

 


 

LGBTQ workers in Kansas regain protections.

In her first act as governor, Laura Kelly (D) reinstated protections stripped by ex-Governor Sam Brownback (R).

 


New York votes to ban ‘gay conversion therapy.’ 

Only 14 other states have banned the dangerous practice, which has been rejected by every major mental health organization for decades.

 


Taco trucks give out food to teachers on strike in Los Angeles.

The free tacos are courtesy of a “Tacos for Teachers” GoFundMe, which has already raised over $20,000. Tens of thousands of L.A. teachers have been on strike since Monday morning, demanding more pay, smaller class sizes, and more support staff.

 


Need a gift for the politics nerd in your life?

FCTRY, an online arts store, is now selling Robert Mueller action figures for $19.99. They also sell mini versions of RBG, Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and other political icons with part of the proceeds going to “progressive causes.”

 


 

Wounded Knee is not a punchline.

by Reed Redmond 

If you’re on Twitter, there’s a good chance you’ve seen ‘Wounded Knee’ trending over the past couple days. As is all too often the case, the social media frenzy started with a tweet from President Trump. On Monday evening, after Elizabeth Warren enjoyed a beer in her kitchen on Instagram Live, Trump sent out a tweet calling her “Pocahontas” and saying she should have filmed the video “from Bighorn or Wounded Knee.”

Trump might have thought he was making a joke, but let’s be clear: there is nothing funny about what happened at Wounded Knee. 

On the morning of December 29, 1890, U.S. soldiers slaughtered hundreds of Sioux Indians camped out on the banks of the Wounded Knee Creek on the Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation. Half of them were women and children. Lakota Chief Turning Hawk recalled the massacre in front of Congress in 1891:

“The women as they were fleeing with their babes were killed together, shot right through, and the women who were very heavy with child were also killed…Little boys who were not wounded came out of their places of refuge, and as soon as they came in sight a number of soldiers surrounded them and butchered them there.”

In response to Trump’s comment, Jefferson Keel, the president of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), stated, “Hundreds of Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho people lost their lives at the hands of the invading U.S. Army during these events, and their memories should not be desecrated as a rhetorical punchline.” A number of other Native American groups have joined the NCAI in denouncing the Trump’s comments.

No, this isn’t the first time Trump has thrown around incoherent (and racist) comments about Native history and culture. He’s made a habit of using ‘Pocahontas’ as a slur, and he once testified in front of Congress that Native American casino operators “don’t look like Indians.” But invoking Wounded Knee is a new low, even for him. As Sioux writer Ruth Hopkins tweeted, “It’s cold, callous, and just plain racist.”

This is not just a bad joke or an unsavory tweet, and it’s definitely not funny. It’s a U.S. president using the massacre of hundreds of Native Americans as a punchline, and nobody should be okay with that.

 


 

The Leftovers:

Trump’s inaugural committee spent $107 million on his inauguration. No, that’s not a typo. A new investigation shows $1.5 million went to Trump’s D.C. hotel, and a $1.6 million “supervisory fee” went to a friend of Melania’s.

Thousands of troops are still at the border, and the Pentagon just extended their deployment for nine months.

An Arizona highway was blocked by a literal river of chocolate. “Welcome my friends, welcome to my highway.”

Robert Mueller’s investigation isn’t done yet. His team asked a judge to delay sentencing for ex-Trump official Rick Gates while he “continues to cooperate.”

Trump wanted to pull the U.S. out of NATO. You know who would love that? Russia.

Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) is facing a challenge from a Democrat he delivered as a baby. A little on the nose, but I guess that’s a pretty good metaphor for the next generation of leaders.

Trump had a letter hand-delivered to Kim Jong-un over the weekend. The two leaders are still trying to iron out a plan for a second summit.

Watch this baby giggle as she hears her sister’s voice for the first time. Try not to smile. We dare you.

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