I don’t have any idea how long the government shutdown will last, and I don’t have any idea how it will end. Neither do the people who have the power to end it. But as it works its way into the fabric of our daily lives, affecting more and more elements it’s going to have unintended consequences that will be permanent.
It’s all because of a wild-eyed campaign promise that started out as some kind of mnemonic about immigration that turned into a real thing. It’s like Herbert Hoover and the Republicans in 1928 demanding that there really will be a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage and by golly, we’re shutting down the government until those chickens and cars are in their places. It is just as ridiculous to promise a wall along the 2,000 miles of the southern border and betting your entire political legacy on it.
No one — least of all Trump — knows what he really meant, and it’s clear that this tantrum that has morphed into hardships for the people directly affected and creating ripples beyond their zero-sum paychecks — if they’re not getting paid, they’re not buying groceries or paying their bills and that hits the merchants and the landlords and so on — and now the good folks at the IRS may not be processing tax refunds upon which a lot of people count on as a boost in their income during the bill-paying months after Christmas (hi there!). And it may even reach into the public schools, where kids who count on being fed breakfast and lunch to supplement their diets may lose out on free or reduced meals because the school district can’t put up the funds to pay for the program on their own.
But as long as Trump believes this is the only way to win and he’s being egged on by sycophants and his maniacal base, this situation will continue until he figures out a way to cave and make it look like he’s won. It will be something along the lines of “I allowed the shutdown to end because I know the terrible burden it’s placing on the people who depend on the invaluable services the government provides! I alone can save them!” Fox News will hail him as the hero of the working class, he’ll demonize the Democrats as obstructionists, and campaign in 2020 as if he was the one who saved America.
If you have been following the reports about the confrontation between the Native American Nathan Phillips and a group of teenagers from a Catholic school in Covington, Kentucky, on the Mall for the anti-abortion demonstration last weekend, you’ve been hearing a lot of conflicting versions: the kids were the innocent bystanders who got caught up in it, or they were the instigators by mocking the Native Americans and the Indigenous Peoples March, or there was another group of Black Israelites who stirred it up.
Here’s a rather succinct version of what happened, put together by Josh Marshall at TPM.
A Native American group (The Indigenous People’s March) had marched to the Memorial earlier in the day. Later a group of teenage boys from a Catholic High School in Covington, Kentucky were also there. They were in town for the March for Life, an anti-abortion march. They had apparently congregated at the Memorial as a staging point to wait for buses to leave. While these two very different things were happening, there was a third much smaller group of so-called “Black Israelites” – maybe half a dozen men – who had been there seemingly for most of the day haranguing both groups. One video I watched from earlier in the day shows the Black Israelites haranguing the Native American marchers for “worshipping totem poles” and in other ways needing to repent to God.
I’m not sure how common they are in other cities or parts of the country. If you live in New York or DC or Philadelphia you’ve probably seen them. They’re mainly known for a form of very aggressive street preaching, often combative and using racial epithets. They are often and not-unfairly viewed as a cult. In a later interview, Phillips said they reminded him of the protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church, the ones who used to go to the people’s funerals and rant hateful things about gay people. That’s a pretty good analogy.
In any case, at some point late in the afternoon, the Black Israelites are yelling at the High School kids and vice versa. The more aggressive language, at least at the start, is coming from the Black Israelites, using homophobic slurs and using the N-word directed at one of the High Schoolers who’s African-American (seemingly the only one.) It’s not totally clear to me who started what here. But you’ve got the hyper-aggressive black supremacist group and this crowd of white high school boys in MAGA hats. So I’m not sure much of a spark was needed.
It’s this situation Phillips described as getting out of control when he decided to intervene to settle things down or at least try to put himself between the two groups. Phillips walks between the two groups and into the group of students. The group of students parts around him and pretty quickly he’s surrounded by high school students who are variously laughing, jeering and chanting. The one student whose face you’ve no doubt seen doesn’t move aside like the others and that’s where you have the standoff captured in the original viral video.
As this is happening, the kids surrounding the two are taunting Phillips and laughing and variously goofing off like high school guys do. The entire tableau is defined by the fact that Phillips, the Native American elder with a dark complexion, is surrounded by lily white teens probably half of whom are wearing MAGA caps. They’re all laughing, taunting and doing ‘tomahawk chops’ in response to Phillips. I’ve seen various people claiming in the light of the new videos that the kids might simply be milling around or laughing uncomfortably or even chanting in unison with Phillips’ drumming. That’s a stretch by any definition and the ‘tomahawk chop’ hand motions put any such claims to rest. It’s already a pretty riled up situation. But it’s crystal clear their reaction to Phillips is one of jeering and racial taunting.
The boy who was at the center of the confrontation on the other side of Phillips, Nick Sandman, later released a statement in which he claims he was “startled and confused” and attempting to defuse the situation by “remaining motionless and calm.” He says he was saying a “silent prayer” in the viral video in hopes that the situation would not get out of hand.
I’m sure there was some element of being startled or even confused. Few of us are ever thinking only one thing in a chaotic situation. But I see no way to reconcile Sandman’s claims with what’s actually on the video. He can be seen hipping and hawing around Phillips like the rest of the kids just before the stand off and he seems more cocky and defiant than anything like trying to appeal for calm in the video that went viral. Eyewitnesses claim they heard the boys making various denigrating remarks about Native Americans. I heard some of those on the video but not all of them. Phillips and Sandman gave conflicting accounts of whether Sandman refused to move as Phillips tried to walk up the steps. At least the video itself makes it hard to resolve that.
The original video especially is so loaded – smiling white boy in a MAGA cap standing on the verge of laughing in the face of an impassive Native American beating a ceremonial drum – that it’s probably impossible for anyone to look at it and not project all sorts of beliefs, fears, grievances about the society we live in. But again, I don’t think Sandman’s explanation is credible. I think he decided to stand his ground, get in the guy’s face, and smile a kind of satisfied smile to show he wasn’t backing down. Meanwhile, his friends are surrounding both of them, goofing, taunting, jeering. Again, the chopping hand motion tells the story.
One side note that probably deserves more attention. There were apparently chaperones with the boys. Again, these are high school students on a school trip. Whatever you think of the rest of it, all the videos show numerous points at which adults should have intervened but apparently didn’t.
Having been a high school teacher and having taken a number of field trips with kids of that age (and that privileged mindset), it’s not hard to imagine this happening with the awareness of the grown-ups in charge and realizing too late that it’s getting out of control and onto the airwaves. That in no way excuses it.
The pathetic message from the kid’s parents — we’re the victims here! — goes right along with the mindset that started the whole thing, and the adults on the trip and back home have a lot of explaining to do about how well they teach their children to respect others. If they want to win people over to their side, be it anti-abortion or whatever, they’re going to have to do it without the Trump-inspired smirk.
Today is the federal holiday set aside to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday.
For me, growing up as a white kid in a middle-class suburb in the Midwest in the 1960’s, Dr. King’s legacy would seem to have a minimum impact; after all, what he was fighting for didn’t affect me directly in any way. But my parents always taught me that anyone oppressed in our society was wrong, and that in some way it did affect me. This became much more apparent as I grew up and saw how the nation treated its black citizens; those grainy images on TV and in the paper of water-hoses turned on the Freedom Marchers in Alabama showed me how much hatred could be turned on people who were simply asking for their due in a country that promised it to them. And when I came out as a gay man, I became much more aware of it when I applied the same standards to society in their treatment of gays and lesbians.
Perhaps the greatest impression that Dr. King had on me was his unswerving dedication to non-violence in his pursuit of civil rights. He withstood taunts, provocations, and rank invasions of his privacy and his life at the hands of racists, hate-mongers, and the federal government, yet he never raised a hand in anger against anyone. He deplored the idea of an eye for an eye, and he knew that responding in kind would only set back the cause. I was also impressed that his spirituality and faith were his armor and his shield, not his weapon, and he never tried to force his religion on anyone else. The supreme irony was that he died at the hands of violence, much like his role model, Mahatma Gandhi.
There’s a question in the minds of a lot of people of how to celebrate a federal holiday for a civil rights leader. Isn’t there supposed to be a ritual or a ceremony we’re supposed to perform to mark the occasion? But how do you signify in one day or in one action what Dr. King stood for, lived for, and died for? Last August marked the fifty-fifth anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech. That marked a moment; a milestone.
Today is supposed to honor the man and what he stood for and tried to make us all become: full citizens with all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship; something that is with us all day, every day.
For me, it’s having the memories of what it used to be like and seeing what it has become for all of us that don’t take our civil rights for granted, which should be all of us, and being both grateful that we have come as far as we have and humbled to know how much further we still have to go.
Today is also a school holiday, so blogging will be on a holiday schedule.
For the first time since Congress passed legislation to make the third Monday of January a national holiday to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the National Mall—including the memorial dedicated to King’s honor—is closed due to President Trump’s insistence that Congress submit to his demand for a national monument to racism and fear. We must be clear that this is the impasse we face. Democrats cannot be blamed for failing to compromise.
On the opening day of the 116th Congress, Democratic leadership in the House took up bipartisan legislation to reopen the Congress that their colleagues in the Senate had already compromised to approve. Only one thing kept 800,000 federal employees from receiving their paychecks this past week: the refusal of Trump and his congressional enablers to consider that legislation.
Fifty-one years ago, Dr. King and the Poor People’s Campaign threatened to bring the federal government to standstill in order to demand that it serve everyone in America’s multi-ethnic democracy. In 2019, President Trump has shuttered the government to demand that we build a bulwark against the browning of America.
This is, as he promised it would be, Trump’s shutdown. But the president is not acting alone. Congressional Republicans who have been unwilling to stand up to the him for two years created the conditions for this present crisis. And all along the way, Trump’s white evangelical boosters have offered their blessing. Defending Trump on Fox News, the Rev. Robert Jeffress argued recently that Trump’s wall cannot be immoral because Heaven itself has walls. He did not mention the Bible’s testimony that Heaven’s gates are always open.
Though most religious leaders are not Trumpvangelicals like Jeffress, we must recognize the complicity of so-called moderates in a moment of crisis if we are to honor the memory of Dr. King. While most people today recognize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as both a great American and a great preacher, we would do well to remember that he was not affirmed by a majority of Christian leaders in his own day, black or white.
When we celebrate King, it is easy to conjure the image of a Klan preacher spewing hatred against the civil-rights movement, just as Trumpvangelicals offer a religious blessing to Trump’s white nationalism today. But segregationist preachers were not the only religious resistance to King’s efforts for systemic justice in America. Dr. King’s own denomination, the National Baptist Convention, pushed him out along with other Baptist preachers who insisted on the tactic of nonviolent direct action. Then as now, the opposition to reconstruction of American democracy claimed the moral narrative in our common life.
Dr. King objected—and his polemical response is what we remember half a century later. But the fact that the ecumenical leadership of the faith community in Alabama at the time felt self-assured in making this statement is a testimony to how prevalent their political “realism” was across theological traditions.
We must not deceive ourselves. Even as we gather in churches, synagogues, community centers, and university halls across America to honor the legacy of Dr. King this weekend, the so-called moderates’ call for compromise is drowning out King’s insistence that we cannot submit to the terms of white supremacy. Trump’s immoral demand for an unnecessary wall is an effort to concretize every lie that has been told about immigrants by this administration. Such a wall would be as poisonous to our common life as the “whites only” signs in 1960s Birmingham were to the citizens Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference came to support in their campaign to tear down Jim Crow.
King understood that whenever we compromise with a lie about who people are, we empower the political forces that have exploited our nation’s divisions to cling to power. The same politicians who want a wall today are also blocking voting rights and the expansion of healthcare to all Americans; they are the same people who have deregulated corporate polluters and denied climate science—the same ones who insist on increasing investment in the war economy while slashing our nation’s safety net and denying workers the right to earn a living wage.
We must be clear: Trump’s demand for a wall is not about border security. It is about a lie as sinister as the claim at the heart of Jim Crow—that America’s future depends on the values of white rule, not the promise of the multi-ethnic democracy we have struggled toward in this land for 400 years. We must not make the same mistake that the clergy of Birmingham made in 1963. If we would honor King, then let us follow him in refusing to compromise with a lie.
On Saturday, the twenty-ninth day of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, Donald Trump tried to make a deal. The President, trapped between his far-right bona fides and the general electorate, offered to support a limited measure called the Bridge Act, which would extend temporary legal protections for Dreamers in exchange for full funding of his $5.7-billion border wall. The offer was reportedly crafted by Mike Pence and Jared Kushner, and without the input of congressional Democrats. Yet, almost on cue, Trump’s supporters claimed that the President had effectively flipped the script on his partisan detractors. “Compromise in divided government means that everyone can’t get everything they want every time,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “The President’s proposal reflects that. It strikes a fair compromise by incorporating priorities from both sides of the aisle.”
The problem was that the offer addressed none of the Democrats’ concerns, either on the issue of the Dreamers, whose legal status Trump has put in limbo, or the shutdown, which Trump precipitated by demanding funding for the wall. In 2017, when Trump cancelled DACA, he gave Congress six months to devise a solution to protect the legal status of some seven hundred thousand Dreamers. Of all the proposals under consideration, the most conservative was a provisional arrangement known as the Bridge Act. It offered to freeze DACA protections in place for three years to buy Congress time as it sought to devise a proper solution. One of the bill’s sponsors, a Colorado Republican named Mike Coffman, who lost his reëlection bid last November, told me at the time that the bill was a last resort. Moderate Republicans preferred a more comprehensive solution that included a path to citizenship for Dreamers; the Bridge Act was something to have in place in case a deal couldn’t be reached in time. For all of its insufficiencies, the previous version of the Bridge Act would have covered many more people (some 1.3 million Dreamers) than the iteration outlined by the President on Saturday (roughly seven hundred thousand existing DACA recipients). Predictably, Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, wasted no time in calling Trump’s latest proposal a “non-starter.” The question now is how long will the President, through clenched teeth, pretend he made the gesture in good faith?
It’s no accident that the White House has selected this measure to try to goad the Democrats, who, for the last several months, have been clear on one thing: no congressional deal on Dreamers would be acceptable unless it included a pathway to citizenship. The Bridge Act doesn’t just come up well short of that; in effect, it simply prolongs the status quo. Federal judges have already blocked the Trump Administration’s effort to cancel DACA, meaning the program is, for the time being, held in place. It’s a precarious situation—only existing recipients can renew their status, and new applications aren’t being accepted—but the Bridge Act is hardly a significant improvement. “The White House hasn’t released a bill yet, but the three years under the Bridge Act is not a three-year extension of DACA,” Kamal Essaheb, the policy director of the National Immigration Law Center, told me on Saturday. “Under the original Bridge Act, the protections end at a certain date in the future. So, if the Bridge Act is enacted today, all work permits would expire in January, 2022, for example. That’s not much of a give, because someone renewing their DACA status today would likely get a work permit into mid- to late 2021.” There’s a chance that the Supreme Court will hear the Trump Administration’s case for ending DACA, but as of now the Justices have not shown any sign that they will; it seems increasingly unlikely, therefore, that the Trump Administration’s appeal will be heard during the Court’s current term. An additional inducement offered by the President, on Saturday, has a similarly stale logic. He proposed a three-year extension of temporary protected status (T.P.S.), which allows victims of war and natural disasters to live and work in the United States, for the three hundred thousand people who lost it over the last two years because of Trump. In October, a federal judge in California blocked the Trump Administration’s efforts to end their T.P.S.
The President proposed a raft of other measures, few of them new or meaningfully different than the terms already being haggled over. He wanted to add more border agents; invest in immigration judges; increase drug-detection technology at the border. The Democrats, who on Friday proposed to add a billion dollars to border-security funding, shouldn’t be particularly opposed to any of these details on their own. Their objection, however, is both more general and more explicit: they want to reopen the government first, and then deal with Homeland Security policies.
Ultimately, the most revealing aspect of Saturday’s proposal is the bland predictability of it. Last year, around this time, the President backed himself into the same corner: he agreed, in an Oval Office meeting with Chuck Schumer, to trade close to five times the wall funding he wants now for a path to citizenship for Dreamers. Immediately afterward, he changed his mind, triggering a government shutdown. Earlier that month, Republicans and Democrats in the Senate came to him with a bipartisan solution for Dreamers, which included changes to legal immigration and redoubled funding for border security—in short, all the measures the President had publicly demanded. He responded by blowing up the deal on the spot. Once more, Trump is hoping that the Democrats will flinch, and that no one will remember how we got here in the first place.
On Tuesday night the cast of ‘Can’t Live Without You’ met for the first time to get to know each other, their characters, and read the script out loud so that the director and I could see how it all comes together. (Spoiler alert: really well.) So here we are:
President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter.
Trump also supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. “Make it happen,” the sources said Trump told Cohen.
And even as Trump told the public he had no business deals with Russia, the sources said Trump and his children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen, whom they put in charge of the project.
Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying about the deal in testimony and in a two-page statement to the Senate and House intelligence committees. Special counsel Robert Mueller noted that Cohen’s false claim that the project ended in January 2016 was an attempt to “minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1” — widely understood to be Trump — “in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.”
Now the two sources have told BuzzFeed News that Cohen also told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie — by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did — in order to obscure Trump’s involvement.
It’s going to interesting to hear what Mr. Cohen has to tell Congress when he testifies next month.
And yes, telling someone to lie to Congress is obstruction of justice. It’s what the House drafted articles of impeachment on for Richard Nixon.
The fight over the weeks-long government shutdown hit a bizarre new low as President Trump on Thursday canceled a planned trip to Afghanistan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a day after she angered Republicans by suggesting the president delay his State of the Union Address.
Hours before Pelosi and top Democrats were set to depart for a visit to military leaders in Brussels and to troops in Afghanistan, Trump released a letter canceling what he termed a “public relations event.”
“I also feel that, during this period, it would be better if you were in Washington negotiating with me and joining the Strong Border Security movement to end the Shutdown,” he wrote. “We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the Shutdown is over.”
The president’s letter to Pelosi (D-Calif.) followed one she wrote to him Wednesday suggesting he postpone his State of the Union address, set for Jan. 29, if the partial government shutdown does not end this week, citing security concerns because of Secret Service and other personnel who are working without pay.
Trump uncharacteristically did not respond Wednesday to Pelosi’s suggestion that he postpone his speech. Instead he struck back Thursday afternoon, canceling a trip that for security reasons had not yet been made public.
As just about everyone one has noted, Ms. Pelosi has been to Afghanistan numerous times to see the troops and find out how they are doing first-hand while Trump has never been. But he is going to Florida for the long weekend on a military transport.
All Trump is doing is making Ms. Pelosi look better.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked President Trump on Wednesday to scrap or delay his Jan. 29 State of the Union address amid the partial government shutdown, an extraordinary request that escalated the partisan battle over his border wall even as bipartisan groups of lawmakers pressed him to reopen the government and make room for compromise.
In a letter to Mr. Trump that underscored how the shutdown fight has poisoned hopes of bipartisan comity at the start of divided government, Ms. Pelosi cited security concerns as her reason for proposing that the president postpone the annual presidential ritual of addressing a joint session of Congress in a televised speech during prime time — or perhaps submit a written message instead.
Security aside, her move would deprive Mr. Trump of one of the brightest spotlights of a president’s year, intensified this year by Democratic control of the House and the drama of the longest government shutdown in the nation’s history.
“Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government reopens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has reopened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to the Congress on Jan. 29,” Ms. Pelosi wrote.
The best part is that Trump can’t just show up on Capitol Hill to deliver his bloviating stream-of-consciousness ramble; he has to be invited. And Speaker Pelosi just told him, and very politely, “Sorry, you can’t come.” And there’s nothing he can do about it.
Aside from the Democrats wresting control of the House from the GOP, this is my favorite result of the election of 2018: we know have a grown-up in charge of at least one part of the government. (Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell has been doing everything he can to lie low and let the government shutdown go by as if he’s got nothing to do with it. Which, of course, he does.)
But perhaps the best part is that the more Trump carries on with his tantrums, the calmer and cooler Speaker Pelosi becomes. And that just drives Trump even more crazy, as if there’s a limit. He’s so used to getting his way and having the bluster and ranting win, but he’s never been forced to deal with someone who doesn’t rise to the bait.
Theresa May’s government faces a vote of no confidence later after MPs rejected the PM’s Brexit deal.
Labour launched the bid to trigger a general election after the deal setting out the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU was rejected by 230 votes.
However, one senior party figure has suggested it is unlikely to succeed, with Northern Ireland’s DUP and Tory rebels saying they will back the PM.
The confidence vote is expected to be held at about 19:00 GMT.
Mrs May has told MPs she will return to the Commons with an alternative plan next week, provided she survives the confidence vote.
“The House has spoken and this government will listen,” she said on Tuesday night, offering cross-party talks to determine a way forward.
My knowledge of the inside workings and ramifications of British politics wouldn’t fill a teacup, but even to the casual observer the fall of a government over such a divisive issue as Brexit, along with the turmoil in the U.S. and the abrupt changes of course in the Middle East leads me to believe that the only possible beneficiary of this whole cock-up is Vladimir Putin.
Or, to put it another way, Russian collusion and interference didn’t start with the 2016 election in the United States and is still going on.
The Trump administration on Tuesday said it has called back tens of thousands of federal workers to fulfill key government tasks, including disbursing tax refunds, overseeing flight safety and inspecting the nation’s food and drug supply, as it seeks to blunt the impact of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.
The nearly 50,000 furloughed federal employees are being brought back to work without pay — part of a group of about 800,000 federal workers who are not receiving paychecks during the shutdown, which is affecting dozens of federal agencies large and small. A federal judge on Tuesday rejected a bid by unions representing air traffic controllers and other federal workers to force the government to pay them if they are required to work.
The efforts by the Trump administration to keep the government operating during the partial shutdown came as the White House and Congress made no progress toward resolving their underlying dispute.
I don’t know about you, but I think being forced to work without being paid for it amounts to slavery. Didn’t we do something about that a while back?