On Tuesday, Donald Trump signed a series of executive memorandums to revive the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines—two major projects halted by the Obama administration following massive resistance from indigenous and environmental groups. The Dakota Access project would carry up to 570,000 barrels of oil a day from North Dakota to Illinois. The Keystone XL pipeline would transport 830,000 barrels of crude every day from Alberta’s oil sands to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast for export. Trump’s move sparked a number of emergency protests last night. Thousands rallied on Fifth Avenue near Trump Tower in New York City and outside the White House in Washington, D.C. More rallies were held in Seattle, Chicago and Los Angeles. This is actress Jane Fonda, speaking in New York City.
Jane Fonda: “We’re in a whole new era. When there’s a catastrophe that’s happened, we have to be out in the streets. I call him the predator-in-chief. And I say we must never normalize him. We must never legitimize him. He did not win the majority of American votes, and it was an election that was interfered with by foreign—by Russia. And there was a lot of fake news, and he should not be legitimized.”
We’ll have more on the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines after headlines with Native American activist Winona LaDuke, water protector Bobbi Jean Three Legs, actress Shailene Woodley and filmmaker Josh Fox.
More than 50,000 gallons of oil have spilled from a pipeline in the western Canadian province Saskatchewan, contaminating the land of the Ocean Man First Nation community. An official from the Ministry of the Economy says there are so many pipelines in the area, he doesn’t even know which pipeline leaked.
President Trump is slated to sign a slew of executive orders today and Thursday to severely restrict immigration. One order is expected to include a months-long ban prohibiting refugees from resettling in the United States, including refugees fleeing the devastating war in Syria. Another executive order is expected to stop visas from being issued to anyone traveling to the U.S. from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
Trump will also take executive action to redirect federal funds toward the expansion of the already massive wall and security apparatus along the U.S.-Mexico border. Over the last decade, the U.S. has already installed 700 miles of fencing and tens of thousands of motion sensors, as well as spy towers, radar systems, Predator surveillance drones and thousands of law enforcement agents along the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump’s order is expected to add 5,000 workers to the Customs and Border Protection agency, which is already the largest federal law enforcement agency with a force of more than 60,000 agents. Trump has named Julie Kirchner, the former head of the extreme anti-immigrant organization Federation for American Immigration Reform, to be the new chief of staff at Customs and Border Protection. During the 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly vowed Mexico would pay for the border wall—a pledge rejected by Mexico’s leaders. Instead, it appears that Trump is planning to redirect Department of Homeland Security aid currently going to Mexico in order to pay for the expanded border wall. Another executive order Trump is expected to sign today will seek to eliminate “sanctuary cities” and triple funding for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, known as ICE.
Trump is also considering using executive action to reinstate the secret CIA black sites used during the George W. Bush administration. The black sites were part of a highly classified program in which suspects captured abroad were interrogated, and sometimes tortured, at secret sites around the world. It was widely condemned by legal and human rights experts, as well as much of the world community. President Obama ordered all of the black sites to be closed at the beginning of his presidency.
The Trump administration has forced the Environmental Protection Agency to freeze all grants and contracts—threatening to disrupt key operations of the agency, including the cleanup of toxic sites and routine water quality testing. Trump’s administration has also imposed a media blackout on the agency, prohibiting the EPA from issuing press releases, publishing blog updates or even posting information on social media.
As the news of the EPA media blackout broke Tuesday, the Twitter account for the Badlands National Park in South Dakota, part of the U.S. National Park Service, went rogue, publishing a series of tweets about climate change, including one that read, “Today, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years. #Climate.” The tweets were later deleted. Trump has also signed an executive order imposing a sweeping hiring freeze for all federal agencies, except for military and national security.
President Trump is calling for a “major investigation” of voter fraud, as he continues to stand by his lies about the 2016 election—despite the fact that his claims have been widely debunked by experts. On Monday, Trump had his first meeting with congressional lawmakers Monday, during which he again lied about the 2016 election results. He falsely claimed that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton because 3 to 5 million unauthorized immigrants voted in the election. During a news briefing Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump continues to maintain this belief.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer: “I think he was having a discussion with some folks and mentioned something in passing, which has been a long-standing belief that he’s maintained. This isn’t the first time they’ve heard this concern of his. Trey?”
Reporter: “It’s not, but I think it’s worth clarifying whether illegal ballots or illegal immigrants are being referred to as to—”
Press Secretary Sean Spicer: “And I think there’s been studies. There’s one that came out of Pew in 2008 that showed 14 percent of people who have voted were noncitizens. There’s other studies that have been presented to him. It’s a belief he maintains.”
That was Sean Spicer, claiming that a 2008 study published by the Pew Research Foundation supports Trump’s “belief.” But Politico reports Spicer himself was lying on multiple counts in this statement. According to Politico, there is no 2008 Pew study saying any such thing. There is another study—published in 2014 and since widely debunked—that mistakenly claimed 14 percent of noncitizens said they were registered to vote in 2008 and 2010. Brian Schaffner, one of the academics behind the survey data on which the study was based, told CNN Trump is misinterpreting the study, calling Trump’s claims “absurd” and “not even plausible” and saying, “Of the people who we were sure were non-citizens, we could not find any who actually cast a vote.”
In news from Trump’s Cabinet nominations, the Senate has confirmed South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations after a 96-4 vote. The Senate Banking Committee has approved neurosurgeon Ben Carson to be the next secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, known as HUD. His nomination still has to go before the full Senate.
Trump has tapped two more members of the far right-wing outlet Breitbart Media to join his administration. Breitbart’s national security editor Sebastian Gorka is likely to join Trump’s National Security Council. Immigration reporter Julia Hahn has been named special assistant to the president. Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, is the former head of Breitbart, which frequently publishes racist, sexist, anti-immigrant and xenophobic news. Trump has also tapped John Gore, a lawyer who has defended gerrymandering and extreme voter ID laws, to serve as one of the Department of Justice’s top senior civil rights officials.
Trump says he’ll name his pick to fill the late Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court as early as next week. Two contenders for the seat have emerged: Judge William Pryor Jr. and Neil Gorsuch. Pryor is a fierce opponent of abortion who has called Roe v. Wade the “worst abomination of constitutional law in our history.” He also opposes LGBT rights and has backed an anti-sodomy law in Texas.
Trump is threatening federal intervention in Chicago to address shootings and gun violence. In a tweet Tuesday night that made reference to his inaugural address, he wrote, “If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible 'carnage' going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds!”
A new lawsuit is accusing President Trump of violating the U.S. Constitution’s “Emoluments Clause,” which prohibits people holding federal office from accepting payments from foreign governments. The lawsuit, filed by the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, argues that Trump is violating this clause by continuing to operate his hotels and businesses. The Justice Department will defend Trump against this lawsuit, meaning taxpayers will be funding his defense.
The Israeli government has approved the construction of a massive wave of new Jewish-only housing units in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and in East Jerusalem. More than 500 housing units have been approved for East Jerusalem, and more than 2,500 units for the occupied West Bank. The settlements are illegal under international law.
The Committee to Protect Journalists is calling on Washington, D.C., to drop charges against journalists who were arrested and charged with felonies after reporting on the Disrupt J20 actions during Trump’s inauguration Friday. At least six journalists were arrested during the actions, including a reporter with RT America, as well as freelance journalist Aaron Cantú and live-streamer Matt Hopard.
And the Oscar nominations have been announced. Four out of the five films nominated for Best Documentary were made by black filmmakers, including Ava DuVernay, whose documentary about mass incarceration and race is entitled “13th.” Other nominated documentaries include “I Am Not Your Negro,” “Fire at Sea,” “O.J.: Made in America” and “Life, Animated,” directed by Roger Ross Williams, about a young autistic man named Owen Suskind who learns to communicate through Disney movies. Last year here at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, Democracy Now! interviewed Owen and his father, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind.
Ron Suskind: “Why do you love 'Dumbo'? What’s it really about, deep down? What’s the big message?”
Owen Suskind: “Finding your inner hero.”
Ron Suskind: “What does Timothy say to Dumbo that’s so powerful to help him fulfill his destiny?”
Owen Suskind: “’Don’t worry, Dumbo. We’ll—don’t worry, Dumbo. We’ll get you to fly.’ Then the crows say, 'All you need is ’chology. You know, psychology. Ain't that right, boys?’ '[inaudible]' 'You want to make the elephant fly, don't you? Well, then use the magic feather!’ 'The magic feather?' 'Yeah! I gotcha!' 'Dumbo! Have I got it!
The magic feather! Now you can fly!'”
To see our full interview with Owen Suskind, his father Ron and “Life, Animated” director Roger Ross Williams, as well as our interview with Ava DuVernay, whose documentary “13th” has been nominated, click here.