WASHINGTON – Former “Sex and the City” star Cynthia Nixon says if President Donald Trump fires Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the commander-in-chief’s opponents must “take to the streets.”
Nixon said, “We must make the firing of Robert Mueller a stark line in the sand and if Trump crosses it we must take to the streets as never before!”
Nixon was among several celebrity speakers at an anti-Trump event, dubbed the “People’s State of the Union,” in New York the evening before Trump’s first State of the Union address to Congress tonight.
The New York Times reported last week that in June Trump wanted to fire Mueller — who’s leading the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election — but ultimately backed off when White House counsel Don McGahn threatened to quit.
Trump in tricky territory for State of the Union
President Trump delivers his State of the Union address before Congress this evening and can fairly boast about a strong economy and a record-breaking stock market, according to USA Today.
But it is also a time of grave danger for his presidency, with special counsel Robert Mueller investigating allegations of election fraud and obstruction of justice.
It is unlikely that Trump will mention the investigation – the elephant in the room.
White House officials say Trump will put the spotlight on a few priorities, including an immigration overhaul.
To counter Trump, Democrats have invited a host of “DREAMers” – undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. Massachusetts Rep. Patrick Kennedy will deliver the official Democratic response afterward.
US releases list of Russian politicians, oligarchs who ‘flourished’ under Putin
President Trump’s administration released a list of more than 200 Russian politicians and oligarchs who have “flourished” under the regime of President Vladimir Putin, but the Trump administration, surprisingly, announced that nobody will be punished, according to USA Today
The “Putin list” was released following a demand by Congress that the U.S. punish Russia for interfering in the 2016 U.S. election.
Some U.S. lawmakers said Trump was giving a free pass to those on the list, fueling further questions about whether the president is too soft on Russia.
Trump says he’s willing to testify in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and that his testimony could take place within two to three weeks.
Wray alludes McCabe departure result of government watchdog investigation
FBI Director Chris Wray hinted to FBI staff in an all-employee email that a government watchdog investigation played a role in FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s departure Monday, sources who have seen the memo told CNN.
Wray said in the message that he could not comment on the coming inspector general report about the FBI’s conduct during the 2016 election and defended himself as not being swayed by politics.
A source familiar with the matter told CNN that Wray had informed McCabe, who had been expected to retire soon, that he is bringing in his own team, which McCabe would not be a part of, and that it was McCabe’s decision whether to stay or leave.
The coming inspector general report into the handling of the 2016 Hillary Clinton email investigation has taken on increased scrutiny as President Trump and his allies have railed against FBI officials like McCabe for months over the agency’s handling of sensitive political matters and what they argue is political bias.
Sen. Collins, a centrist power player
GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is suddenly finding herself in the driver’s seat when it comes to getting legislation through the Senate in an increasingly divisive political atmosphere, according to The Hill.
A centrist in a party drifting to the right, Collins is flexing her strength as a dealmaker and signaling she intends to be a power player while Republicans enjoy just a 51-49 edge in the upper chamber.
Collins was instrumental in ending a three-day government shutdown earlier this month, convening a bipartisan group of senators in her office for days that slowly tiptoed toward a deal.
Colleagues say the 65-year-old Collins, a frequent presence on cable television with close relationships to members of both parties, could also be at the center of talks on infrastructure and health care that the Trump administrations plans.
First lady ‘blindsided’ by report of payment to porn star
First lady Melania Trump was reportedly “blindsided” by reports that her husband’s personal lawyer arranged a hush-money payment to an adult film star over an alleged affair that took place the year after her marriage to President Trump.
The affair and six-figure payment made Melania Trump furious with the president, prompting her to keep a low profile in recent day, according to a part of a larger story about what the story about the Trumps’ “tumultuous” relationship, in The New York Times.
Melania Trump was expected to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos with her husband, but she suddenly backed out of the trip last week, instead making a surprise 24-hour visit to Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla.
The first lady’s aides told the Times that she has been focusing on her “role and her family.”
The first lady is expected to attend her husband’s State of the Union address tonight.
EPA chief braces for grilling
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt will face harsh questioning today as he testifies for the first time before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
It will be only Pruitt’s second appearance before a congressional oversight panel in the year since taking the helm of the EPA, and Democrats are expected to make the most of it because of his reshaping of the agency.
Pruitt has downsized the EPA – leaving hundreds of positions unfilled – and rolled back environmental protection initiatives from the Obama administration.
And Pruitt has made major changes to the agency’s science advisory boards, recruiting more industry voices and barring scientists who receive EPA grants from being members. The latter policy move has spurred legal challenges, including a lawsuit last week from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Dems block 20-week abortion ban
Democrats blocked a bill that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks, a blow to anti-abortion groups that considered its passage a top priority for Congress in 2018, according to a report in The Hill.
The bill, authored by GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, was unable to get the 60 votes necessary to end a filibuster and proceed to a vote, meaning the bill is effectively dead in the upper chamber.
The bill failed with a 51-46 vote. GOP Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine were among those who voted “no.” Democratic Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who recently won in a special election against Republican candidate Roy Moore, also voted “no.”
#MeToo activists launch new initiatives
The women behind the #MeToo movement aren’t showing any signs of slowing down, according to USA Today.
Actor and activist Rose McGowan’s new E! documentary series, “Citizen Rose,” premieres tonight at 8 p.m. EST. The two-hour special explores McGowan’s biography as well as a recent history of the #MeToo movement. McGowan’s memoir Brave hits the shelves today, too.
Fellow #MeToo alum Alyssa Milano is launching another online initiative today, #StateOfTheDream, to support immigrants and raise money for United We Dream, an immigrant youth-led organization.
Milano called for social media users to create brief videos describing “your dream for America” and post them at 9 p.m. EST.
Pentagon blocks data on progress, troop levels and attrition in war in Afghanistan
The Pentagon has restricted the release of information on progress in the war in Afghanistan, a move that will limit transparency, the U.S. government’s top watchdog on Afghanistan says.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, publishes a quarterly report that includes unclassified data on the amount of territory controlled or influenced by the Taliban and the government.
John Sopko, who leads SIGAR , says the independent watchdog agency has been told not to release that information. The military also classified, for the first time since 2009, data on troop numbers and attrition rate.
This is the latest move by the Pentagon to limit the amount of publicly available information about the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan – America’s longest.
CIA director: Russia will try to interfere with 2018 US elections
CIA Director Mike Pompeo told the BBC in an interview today that Russia will target U.S. mid-term elections later this year as part of the Kremlin’s attempt to influence domestic politics across the West, and warned that the world had to do more to push back against Chinese meddling.
Pompeo said Russia has a long history of information campaigns and that its threat would not go away.
Russia has been accused of meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the allegations, which Moscow denies.
Asked if Russia would try to influence the mid-term elections, Pompeo said: “Of course. I have every expectation that they will continue to try and do that.”
He also says the Chinese posed a threat of equal concern and were “very active” with a world-class cyber capability.
The State of the Union… misspelled
Whoever printed tickets for President Trump’s first State of the Union speech must be feeling very chagrined right now, according to The HuffPost.
Trump is set to deliver his first State of the Union speech tonight, and it will likely be different than previous addresses ― as were some of the initial tickets.
It seems that some of the tickets misspelled “union” as “uniom,” based on numerous tweets from guests with tickets in hand.
The error was quickly corrected, but no one knows how many of the original tickets were delivered– whichm like stamps with errors, may become highly valuable collectibles.
ICE deports Jordan native living in U.S. for almost 40 years
Youngstown, Ohio, residents came out in droves, organizing vigils and protests to support Amer Othman Adi, who arrived in the U.S. 39 years ago and whose wife and daughters are all U.S. citizens.
To no avail. Despite a House Judiciary Committee bill requesting the Department of Homeland Security to review his case, which would allow him to temporarily remain in the U.S., the Immigration and Customs Enforcement put Othman Adi on a flight to Amman, Jordan, Monday night. He said goodbye to his family by phone.
Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, who was working on his release, said: “Amer was a pillar of the community…hired members of our community… paid taxes. He did everything right… yet our government wasted our precious resources incarcerating him… I’m sad that America, and the American Presidency has become a place where politics outweighs doing what is right.”
FEMA cutting aid to Puerto Rico
The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced today that it will end free supplies of food and water in Puerto Rico this week as the island’s supermarkets and other businesses reopen following Hurricane Maria, according to an NPR report.
FEMA will “officially shut off” aid to the island Wednesday after providing more than 30 million gallons of drinking water and 60 million meals to its inhabitants, according to NPR.
FEMA Puerto Rico director Alejandro De La Campa told the radio broadcast: “The reality is that we just need to look around. Supermarkets are open, and things are going back to normal.”.
Not all of Puerto Rico’s government officials agree with the agency’s decision to end aid this week. Mayor Carmen Maldonado said in her town of Morovis, the number of customers without power restored to their homes is close to 80 percent and that most residents can’t afford the cost of a generator.
“This is all something that FEMA should contemplate before eliminating its delivery of these supplies,” the mayor added.
Christie: Trump shouldn’t let Mueller interview him
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said today that he doesn’t believe President Trump should sit for an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of the Russia investigation.
Christie, now a regular contributor on ABC News, said, “Robert Mueller is not someone to be trifled with. And he’s not someone who takes lightly the words of anybody who he’s looking at.”
Mueller is leading a criminal probe into Russian election meddling and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. His investigation has thus far led to two guilty pleas and two indictments.
Trump, who has called Mueller’s investigation a “hoax” and a “witch hunt” said last week he would be willing to speak with Mueller under oath, but details of an interview with Mueller are still being worked out.
Christie, a former federal prosecutor, said he believes the Trump administration has cooperated with Mueller’s investigation, adding that he hasn’t seen evidence of an obstruction of justice case against the president.
Airbnb ad: ‘Let’s open doors, not build walls’
Airbnb is launching a new ad calling for the country to “open doors, not build walls.”
The text reads at the beginning of the ad: “We heard there’s been some expletive-filled interest in these beautiful destinations.”
It then shows scenes from Haiti, El Salvador and Africa.
The ad goes on, “We also know a few people who would love to show you around…let’s open doors, not build walls.”
At the end of the ad, text reads: “#weaccept.”
The ad comes in the wake of reports that President Trump during a White House meeting earlier this month referred to Haiti and African nations as “sh–hole countries.”
Trump faced widespread backlash and accusations of racism over the reported comments, which he denies making.
Trump furious over DOJ guidance against releasing Nunes memo
President Trump blew up in anger after learning that a top Department of Justice official had warned against releasing a classified memo by Republican staffers that allegedly proves an anti-Trump bias in the DOJ and FBI, Bloomberg reports.
Trump was furious when he learned that Associate Attorney General Stephen Boyd had said it would be “extraordinarily reckless” to release the classified memo.
The incident reportedly took place as Trump was traveling to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week.
Sources told Bloomberg that Trump viewed Boyd’s letter warning against the release of the memo as another attempt by the DOJ and FBI to undercut him. He also saw it as a way to block the GOP push to reveal what Trump thinks is a politically motivated attack against him in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, according to the report.
Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, JPMorgan Chase to tackle employee health care
Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase & Co. are combining efforts to improve health care for their U.S. employees.
The three companies announced today they are teaming up to explore “ways to address healthcare for their U.S. employees, with the aim of improving employee satisfaction and reducing costs,” according to a news release about the venture.
An independent company, which “is free from profit-making incentives and constraints,” they say, will initially tackle technological solutions to deliver “simplified, high-quality and transparent” health care to employees at economical prices.
Sen. Doug Jones hopes Trump delivers ‘presidential address’ instead of campaign speech
Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama said on “CBA This Morning” that he’s hopeful President Trump will deliver a message of unity during his State of the Union speech tonight.
Jones said, “I’m hoping and expecting that the president will deliver a presidential address. Not a campaign address but a presidential address in which he lays out not only his accomplishments this past year, but also his goals for the future.”
Jones defeated embattled Republican candidate Roy Moore in a December special election to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s vacant seat. His victory marked the first time in decades a Democrat had won a Senate seat in Alabama.
Jones said today that he thinks his election win was a “wake-up call” that Democrats and Republicans need to find common ground.
Europe’s economy grew faster than the US’ in 2017
The U.S. economy is growing at a nice clip, but Europe’s economy is expanding at an even faster rate, according to a report in USA Today.
Economic growth in the 19 countries that use the euro currency surged by 2.5% in 2017, according to official data published today. Growth in the 28-member European Union was also up 2.5 percent last year.
It’s the best period of growth for both groupings since 2007, putting Europe just ahead of the 2.3 percent expansion posted by the U.S. in 2017.
The improving economic picture in Europe helped boost the euro to $1.25 this month, an increase of 21 percent from its low of $1.03 at the start of 2017.
Harley-Davidson closing Kansas City, Mo., plant as motorcycle sales fall
Harley-Davidson’s sales fell sharply in 2017 and the company will move ahead with a plan to consolidate manufacturing operations, including the closure of its Kansas City, Mo., plant, according to USA Today.,
The world’s largest maker of heavyweight motorcycles has struggled to reverse a four-year sales slide, with growth overseas somewhat helping offset a decline in the U.S. bike market.