The planet is closer to a catastrophic disaster than at any time since 1953. That’s according to the scientists behind the Doomsday Clock, a symbolic timekeeper that tracks the likelihood of nuclear war and other existential threats. On Thursday, the scientists moved the clock’s minute hand 30 seconds closer to midnight. The hour now sits at two-and-a-half minutes before doomsday. This is Rachel Bronson of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.
Rachel Bronson: “But perhaps most troubling has been two concerns that are adding to an already challenging global landscape. The first: the first has been the cavalier and reckless language used across the globe, especially in the United States during the presidential election and after, around nuclear weapons and nuclear threats. And the second is a growing disregard of scientific expertise, expertise that is needed when it comes to responding to pressing global challenges, including climate change. There is a troubling propensity to discount, or outright reject, expert advice related to international security, including the conclusions of intelligence experts.”
Scientists are planning for a major march on Washington, called the “March for Science on DC.” The idea came after millions of people rallied in D.C. and in cities across the world last Saturday for the Women’s March on Washington to protest the inauguration of Donald Trump.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has canceled a meeting with President Trump that was scheduled for next week, as tensions between the two countries rise. The move came after Trump announced plans Wednesday to expand the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico—a wall Trump has repeatedly said he would force Mexico to pay for. On Thursday, Mexico’s top diplomat was at the White House to help pave the way for the visit, when his team received word of a Trump tweet suggesting that if Mexico were not willing to pay for the wall, it should cancel the trip. Trump claims the two leaders mutually canceled the upcoming meeting, a statement Peña Nieto has refuted. This is former Mexican President Vicente Fox.
Vicente Fox: “It is stupid. It is crazy. Imagine him going to Congress and saying to the American Congress to authorize a budget, to lend money to build a useless wall, a wall that is a complete waste of money and which is useless. And he tells Congress not to worry: 'I will get Mexico to replace the money. Mexico will pay for it.' Well, Trump, here you go.”
On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the U.S. would impose a 20 percent tax on all goods imported from Mexico and use the proceeds to pay for the expanded border wall. But after widespread outrage at the plan, Spicer walked back his statements only hours later, saying the import tax was just “one idea.” We’ll go to Mexico City for more on the U.S.-Mexico standoff later in the broadcast.
Trump is making his first official visit to the Pentagon as president today. The New York Times reports the White House has drafted a presidential directive instructing Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis to ramp up U.S. military action against ISIS. The military action could include U.S. Army helicopters and ground artillery in Syria.
In his first televised interview as president, Trump also openly embraced torture, including waterboarding, saying torture “absolutely” works. Trump’s comments sparked immediate criticism, including from international human rights experts and lawyers. This is Ian Seiderman with the International Commission of Jurists.
Ian Seiderman: “This is almost unprecedented. We just came through many years of cleaning up the mess in this area that was made by a previous U.S. administration, under President Bush. But even the Bush administration, while it engaged in torture—and that’s been well documented—was very careful not to publicly condone torture. In fact, on a number of occasions, the president, Bush, himself, as well as a number of officials, condemned torture. They saw it as—they understood it was criminal activity. They saw it as something embarrassing and to be covered up.”
On Thursday, top ranking Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Armed Services Committee Chair John McCain, signaled congressional Republicans would not change the laws on the use of torture. Ryan said, “Torture is illegal. … [W]e agree with it not being legal.” British Prime Minister Theresa May also indicated that Britain may stop sharing intelligence with the CIA, following Trump’s endorsement of torture, saying, “We condemn torture, and my view on that won’t change.” May and Trump are scheduled to meet for about an hour today in the Oval Office, marking the first visit by a foreign leader to the White House since Trump took office. Prime Minister Theresa May, House Speaker Paul Ryan and other top Republicans were all speaking out against torture from the Republicans’ annual three-day retreat in Philadelphia, which Trump also attended Thursday.
More than 5,000 people took to the streets of Philadelphia Thursday to protest Trump’s visit to the city and to denounce Republican policies, including the efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Trump’s first executive order, signed only hours after his inauguration, made the “prompt repeal” of Obamacare the administration’s top priority. The administration has pulled ads for the 2017 enrollment season of Obamacare off the air—including the ads that were already paid for. The deadline to sign up for new plans is January 31.
The entire State Department’s senior-level management has been ousted by the Trump administration this week. The news of the resignations broke Thursday, sparking widespread concern. Former State Department Chief of Staff David Wade told The Washington Post, “It’s the single biggest simultaneous departure of institutional memory that anyone can remember, and that’s incredibly difficult to replicate.”
Trump is continuing to call for a major investigation into voter fraud, as he stands by his lies about the 2016 election—despite the fact that his claims have been widely debunked by experts. Trump is falsely claiming that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton because of 3 to 5 million unauthorized votes cast in the election. This is Trump speaking in his first televised interview as president, with ABC’s David Muir.
David Muir: “When you say, in your opinion, millions of illegal votes, that is something that is extremely fundamental to our functioning democracy, a fair and free election.”
President Donald Trump: “Sure. Sure. Sure.”
David Muir: “You say you’re going to launch an investigation into this.”
President Donald Trump: “Sure, done.”
David Muir: “What you have presented so far has been debunked. It’s been called false.”
President Donald Trump: “No, it hasn’t. Take a look at the Pew reports.”
David Muir: “I called the author of the Pew report last night. And he told me that they found no evidence of voter fraud.”
President Donald Trump: “Really? Then why did he write the report?”
While experts have found no evidence to support Trump’s lies about widespread voter fraud, they have found at least five members of Trump’s family members or inner circle were registered to vote in multiple states—something that Trump has claimed is evidence of voter fraud. The Washington Post reports Trump’s son-in-law and close White House adviser Jared Kushner, Trump’s daughter Tiffany Trump, Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and treasury secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin were all registered to vote in two different states. We’ll have more on Trump’s voter fraud claims later in the broadcast.
The Trump administration’s war on the media escalated Thursday, when Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, called the media “the opposition party.” In a New York Times article published Thursday, Bannon said, “The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut.” Bannon is the former head of right-wing Breitbart Media, which frequently publishes racist, sexist, anti-immigrant and xenophobic news. We’ll have more on Trump’s war on the media after headlines.
The Trump administration has announced plans to publish a weekly list of crimes committed by unauthorized immigrants living in so-called sanctuary cities, where local officials and law enforcement are refusing to comply with federal immigration authorities’ efforts to speed up deportations. The plans for the weekly list, to be published by the Department of Homeland Security, were included in Trump’s executive orders signed Wednesday. Author Andrea Pitzer, who is currently writing a book on Nazi concentration camps, points out Trump’s proposed list recalls a Nazi Germany-era policy by which the Nazi Institute for Research on the Jewish Question kept files on crimes committed by Jews. The list is part of Trump’s attack on sanctuary cities, which also includes threats to cut their federal funding. Mayors of sanctuary cities nationwide have vowed to resist Trump’s attacks. But Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez has already announced the county will drop its sanctuary city status and comply with Trump’s executive order. In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott says he’ll cut state grants to Austin, a sanctuary city, and has vowed Austin Sheriff Sally Hernandez will lose her job unless she forces local police to begin cooperating with federal immigration agents in order to speed deportations.
Trump is expected to sign more executive orders cracking down on immigration in the coming days, including one that would temporarily ban refugees from resettling in the U.S. and block all visas from being issued to anyone from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. The Department of Homeland Security has already halted trips to interview refugees abroad. The interviews are an essential part of refugee admission and resettlement. The anticipated crackdown is sparking widespread protest in the U.S. and abroad. On Thursday, Oscar-nominated Iranian actress Taraneh Alidoosti said she is boycotting the Academy Awards ceremony over Trump’s proposed visa ban, calling it “racist.”
The Washington Post reports Trump personally pressured the head of the National Park Service to find and provide photographs of the Inauguration Day crowds on the National Mall, in efforts to counter news reports about the inauguration’s low turnout. Trump and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer have repeatedly lied about the crowd size, saying more people showed up to Trump’s inauguration than any other in U.S. history. In fact, 180 thousand people showed up to Trump’s inauguration, compared to 1.8 million who attended Obama’s inauguration in 2009. Trump reportedly also told the head of the Park Service he was angry the service’s Twitter had retweeted a photograph showing a side-by-side comparison of photos from Trump’s inauguration and Obama’s inauguration.
In Africa, Gambian President Adama Barrow arrived back in Gambia on Thursday, following the departure of longtime leader Yahya Jammeh, who had initially refused to step down. Barrow’s supporters lined the streets to celebrate his return from Senegal, where he’d fled and held his inauguration last week in the Gambian Embassy in Senegal’s capital. This is one of Barrow’s supporters.
Barrow supporter: “I’m here to welcome my president, yeah, because we are very happy to be here today, welcoming the president of the third republic of the Gambia, which is Adama Barrow. So today is our happiest day. We are here to enjoy. And he will be here around 4:00, happy to see us, as we are preparing for him and welcome him in his country back.”
Hundreds of people on Hawaii say they’ll protest against Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg this weekend over his filing of lawsuits against hundreds of Hawaiians, including Native families, to force the sale of small parcels of land in order to make his Hawaiian beachfront property as private as possible. Native Hawaiian professor Kapua Sproat of the University of Hawaii said, “This is the face of neocolonialism.” Zuckerberg now says he’s reconsidering the lawsuits.
Vice President Mike Pence is slated to speak today at an anti-abortion rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., called the March for Life. His speech will mark the first time in the march’s 44-year history that a sitting vice president will address the crowd, which had gathered each year since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. Pence is well known for his anti-abortion views. His speech comes only days after Trump’s administration reinstated the global gag order, which bans U.S. funding for any international healthcare organizations that perform abortions, advocate for the legalization of abortion or even mention the word “abortion.”
In Ohio, a federal judge has ruled Ohio’s new lethal injection process unconstitutional. The ruling concerns Ohio’s use of the sedative midazolam, which has been linked to botched executions in Alabama and other states. Thursday’s ruling delays three scheduled executions in Ohio.
In Ohio, Bresha Meadows, a 15-year-old girl who allegedly killed her abusive father, has been transferred to an adolescent treatment facility, after spending 175 days in a juvenile jail. Jonathan Meadows, Bresha’s father, reportedly made life for his family a living hell, routinely attacking his wife—Bresha’s mother—breaking her ribs, puncturing her blood vessels, blackening her eyes and slashing her body. Following the announcement of her transfer, her aunt recalls Bresha saying, “I’ll be able to walk around outside. I’ll be able to lay in the grass.” Click here to see our full coverage of Bresha Meadows’s case.
And George Orwell’s “1984” has become a best-seller in the days after President Trump took office. Penguin, the publisher, reports a 9,500 percent sales increase since last Friday, the day of Trump’s inauguration. The classic dystopian work introduced the world to the terms “Big Brother,” “thought police,” “newspeak” and “doublethink”—words that many are finding have new meaning under the Trump administration. To hear a reading of “1984,” click here.