President trump on Twitter: “I have just instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to substantially increase Sanctions on the country of Iran!”
Washington Post: “The comment comes after Iranian news agencies reported that Iran warned the United States that it would broadly retaliate against any attacks in the wake of crippling strikes on the Saudi oil industry over the weekend.”
“The Trump administration is weighing a range of options for a retaliatory action against Iran, including a cyberattack or physical strike on Iranian oil facilities or Revolutionary Guard assets,” NBC News reports.
“In a national security meeting on Monday, U.S. military leaders provided President Trump with a menu of possible actions against Iran. But the president, seeking a narrowly focused response that wouldn’t draw the U.S. into broader military conflict with Iran, asked for more options.”
President Trump picked Robert O’Brien, who is the special presidential envoy for hostage affairs at the State Department, to be his new National Security Adviser, the Washington Post reports.
Meanwhile, “The White House on Tuesday fired John Mitnick, the general counsel for the Department of Homeland Security, after months of shake-up at an agency responsible for carrying out President Trump’s immigration agenda,” New York Times reports.
“The White House this year has turned the Department of Homeland Security — which oversees securing the country’s borders, disaster relief efforts and addressing domestic terrorism and cybersecurity threats — into a revolving door of officials, creating a void of permanent leadership.”
“Since Donald Trump took office, the U.S. military has spent nearly $200,000 at the president’s luxury Scotland resort, according to figures and documents the Pentagon provided to the House Oversight Committee,” Politico reports.
“The spending, which has all occurred since August 2017, paid for the equivalent of hundreds of nights of rooms at the Turnberry resort over approximately three dozen separate stays.”
“The Pentagon warned of dire outcomes unless Congress paid for urgently needed military construction projects nationwide — the same projects that have now been canceled to fund President Trump’s border wall,” the Washington Post reports.
“The warnings are contained in Defense Department budget requests sent to lawmakers in recent years. They include potentially hazardous living conditions for troops and their families, as well as unsafe schools that would impede learning. In numerous cases, the Defense Department warned that lives would be put at risk if buildings don’t meet the military’s standards for fire safety or management of explosives.”
“The acting director of national intelligence will not testify before Congress this week or immediately hand over a whistle-blower complaint to lawmakers, escalating a standoff between Capitol Hill and leaders of the intelligence agencies,” the New York Times reports.
“The Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, demanded in a cryptic letter on Friday that Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, turn over a whistle-blower complaint made to the inspector general for the intelligence agencies.”
“Mr. Schiff asked in his letter whether the underlying conduct involved ‘the president or those around him.’ But Mr. Schiff has said he cannot discuss the content of the complaint, and it is difficult to assess because its nature is not publicly known. Other lawmakers said they did not know the complaint’s details.”
Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) told the HuffPost that he’s not inclined to support President Trump’s judicial nominee Steven Menashi, a major blow for an already controversial court pick with strong opposition from progressive groups.
Said Kennedy: “I’m real doubtful. My thought is, look, if he’ll treat a United States senator the way he treated us, I wonder how he would treat the people.”
Politico: “The impeachment divide between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler is growing. While they are putting on a united front publicly – and indeed, Pelosi has signed off on the Judiciary Committee’s impeachment-related work — the speaker feels like Nadler’s committee is getting out ahead of the caucus, which has created tension between the two longtime allies.”
“In fact, in one contentious meeting last week, Pelosi stunned lawmakers when she chided Judiciary staff for aggressively pushing impeachment even though it doesn’t have the floor votes yet… Pelosi was especially frustrated that she heard staffers had tried to convince at least one hold-out to back an impeachment inquiry.”
Pelosi added: “And you can feel free to leak this.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) accused President Trump of spreading “lies that put my life at risk” after the president retweeted a post falsely claiming that the Minnesota Democrat “partied on the anniversary of 9/11,” the Washington Post reports.
Omar said the video of her dancing was taken not on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks but at a Congressional Black Caucus event.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNBC that Democrats should focus on making improvements to the Affordable Care Act instead of pushing to introduce “Medicare for All.”
Said Pelosi: “God bless 2020 Democratic presidential candidates putting forth Medicare for All proposals, but know what that entails. I believe the path to ‘health care for all’ is a path following the lead of the Affordable Care Act. Let’s use our energy to have health care for all Americans, and that involves over 150 million families that have it through the private sector.”
“The Trump administration will allow pork plants to reduce the number of Department of Agriculture line inspectors assigned to them and run their slaughter lines without any speed limit under a new rule intended to modernize an antiquated inspection system,” NBC News reports.
“But the changes have alarmed consumer advocates who believe the rule will make food less safe and endanger workers.”
“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he’ll still fight to keep power despite exit polls from today’s elections showing his Likud party trailing the center-left Blue and White party and his right-wing bloc falling short of a majority,” Israel’s Channel 13 reports.
“Netanyahu accused the media of biased coverage during the campaign and insisted that after waiting for the final results, he’d attempt to form a governing coalition.”
“In one of the boldest state-led efforts to expand access to higher education, New Mexico is unveiling a plan on Wednesday to make tuition at its public colleges and universities free for all state residents, regardless of family income,” the New York Times reports.
On Wednesday morning, Donald Trump tweeted that he was “revoking California’s federal waiver on emissions.” Which is interesting mostly because California’s waiver doesn’t come from a regulation at the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s not the result of an executive order signed by President Obama. That waiver is built into the Clean Air Act, which from the outset explicitly granted California the right to set standards that were tougher than those required by the federal government. Even though the EPA makes a regular announcement that it is “granting” California’s waiver, that action is as ceremonial as anything done by, say, the British monarch. California’s primacy to set these limits is enshrined in law.
So Trump just broke the law, and off to the courts we go.
Jonathan Bernstein: “Escalating the hardball isn’t the only way to go. One option would be to threaten to pack the court, but also offer a compromise. Several people have recommended a constitutional amendment that would fix the number of justices at nine, with each serving for a single 18-year term, staggered so that there’d be a vacancy every other year. That would have several virtues. One is that it would improve on the weirdly random nature of Supreme Court vacancies, which is difficult to defend as a matter of democracy. It would also reduce the hold that long-gone election results have on the future. And it would end the strong incentive to nominate very young justices. Some even argue that by regularizing vacancies, it might minimize the vast importance placed on every confirmation fight.”
“I’ve been ambivalent about this proposal, but it certainly has some advantages. And it’s a whole lot better than increasing the size of the court every time we get unified party government, which is where all of this is heading. If Democrats are going to play constitutional hardball, or threaten to, I’d much rather they try to reach a long-term compromise rather than continue to ratchet things up. It might even be in their interest to do so.”
“The Trump administration told the Supreme Court Tuesday that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is unconstitutional because Congress limited the president’s power to remove the agency’s director before his or her five-year term expires,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“Two federal appeals courts have upheld the CFPB’s structure, which is intended to insulate the director from political interference by allowing dismissal only for ‘inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office.’ They relied on a 1935 Supreme Court precedent, known as Humphrey’s Executor, which approved similar protections for members of the Federal Trade Commission, who like the CFPB director are presidential appointees confirmed by the Senate.”
“The Federal Reserve looks poised to cut interest rates for a second time Wednesday to help extend the economic expansion in the face of global weakness, President Trump’s trade war with China and geopolitical risks such as the attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities,” the AP reports.
“Less than two weeks after being sworn in last year, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), a young progressive star fresh off an upset of one of the top Democratic leaders in the House, put her fellow Democrats on notice that she would soon be coming for them, too,” the New York Timesreports.
“Appearing in a promotional video for Justice Democrats, the insurgent liberal group dedicated to unseating entrenched Democratic lawmakers that helped sweep Ms. Ocasio-Cortez to power, the Bronx firebrand urged her supporters to recruit candidates to run against her new colleagues. She was flanked by the group’s three co-founders, two of whom had just taken top jobs in her office. There were even whispers that she might try to oust Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, a rising star regarded by many Democrats as a future speaker of the House.”
“But after nearly nine months, with her eyes now wide open to the downsides of her revolutionary reputation and social media fame, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has tempered her brash, institution-be-damned style with something different: a careful political calculus that adheres more closely to the unwritten rules of Washington she once disdained.”