House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday Republicans are preparing to strip federal funding for Planned Parenthood as part their effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The move would end about $400 million in annual Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood. Republicans framed the move as an effort to halt abortions, though federal law already bars federal funds from paying for abortions, except to save the life of the woman. In Washington, Planned Parenthood legislative director Jacqueline Ayers said the attack was aimed at women’s healthcare.
Jacqueline Ayers: “This Republican leadership in the Congress has made their priorities quite clear. And with Speaker Ryan’s announcement today to defund Planned Parenthood, we know that their real goal is about taking away healthcare access. We can’t let that happen. We know that they are going to not only defund Planned Parenthood, but also work to roll back access to healthcare under the Affordable Care Act and take away healthcare for the 20 million people who now have access for the first time and the 55 million women who have had coverage under no-cost birth control for the first time.”
On Thursday, Planned Parenthood announced plans for nearly 300 events in 47 states, including marches, protests and letter-writing campaigns.
In Washington, Republican lawmakers have scheduled confirmation hearings for Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees next week—with at least six candidates set to testify to senators on the same day. It’s a move that critics say is a clear effort to prevent public scrutiny of Trump’s controversial Cabinet picks. The six scheduled to appear before Senate committees on January 11 are Betsy DeVos for Education, Elaine Chao for Transportation, John Kelly for Homeland Security, Rex Tillerson for secretary of state, Mike Pompeo for CIA and Jeff Sessions for attorney general. Critics say Sessions has failed to complete his Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire, and are asking for a delay in his confirmation hearings. The crush of hearings comes on the same day that Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has scheduled a rapid-fire series of budget items dubbed a “vote-o-rama” that will include votes related to repealing the Affordable Care Act. And topping it off, President-elect Donald Trump has scheduled his first news conference for January 11––the first since July, when he called on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump is expected to name Dan Coats as director of national intelligence. Coats is a former Republican senator from Indiana who served two terms. He was a vocal enemy of Planned Parenthood, saying in 2015, “The barbaric practices of Planned Parenthood should not receive a dime of taxpayer money.” In 2003, Coats served as U.S. ambassador to Germany, where he pressured the German government not to oppose President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. If confirmed, Coats would oversee a sprawling intelligence service whose power Donald Trump reportedly wants to rein in.
On Capitol Hill, top intelligence officials told a receptive audience of both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate Armed Services Committee that Russia sought to meddle in November’s election through a series of hacks and leaks. This is James Clapper, the outgoing director of national intelligence.
James Clapper: “Russia has clearly assumed an even more aggressive cyberposture by increasing cyber-espionage operations, leaking data stolen from these operations, and targeting critical infrastructure systems.”
Critics including journalist Glenn Greenwald question the case that Russia interfered in November’s election. And James Clapper has previously lied during sworn testimony to Congress. In March 2013, Clapper was asked by Sen. Ron Wyden, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” to which he replied, “No, sir.” Clapper later defended himself by claiming he had answered the question in the “least untruthful manner.” Later today, Donald Trump is set to meet with Clapper, along with CIA Director John Brennan and FBI Director James Comey, who say they’ll present evidence to the president-elect that Russian hackers meddled in November’s election.
Donald Trump acknowledged today that he won’t force Mexico to pay for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border—in a reversal of one of his signature campaign pledges. After CNN reported Thursday night that Trump would instead ask Congress to appropriate funds for a wall, Trump tweeted, “The dishonest media does not report that any money spent on building the Great Wall (for sake of speed), will be paid back by Mexico later!”
The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly Thursday to condemn a U.N. resolution that declares Israeli settlements a flagrant violation of international law. All but four Republicans voted in favor of the measure, which passed on a vote of 342 to 80. More than 100 Democrats joined in support, with 76 opposed. The nonbinding resolution declares unwavering U.S. support for Israel and condemns Security Council Resolution 2334, which was approved in late December after the Obama administration refused a veto sought by Israeli officials and President-elect Donald Trump. This is Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Speaker Paul Ryan: “I am stunned. I am stunned at what happened last month. This government, our government, abandoned our ally Israel when she needed us the most.”
Among the minority of lawmakers who opposed Thursday’s House resolution was Oregon Democrat Earl Blumenauer.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer: “But, unfortunately, Israel’s future is being threatened by its own actions, as well as its adversaries’. For years, reckless settlement expansion has been opposed by the United States and the rest of the world. They’re confiscating Palestinian land in a way that is not just contrary to long-standing American policy but is often illegal under Israeli law.”
Some top Republican lawmakers, including Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have proposed cutting off funding to the United Nations over the Security Council’s condemnation of Israeli settlements.
In Israel, police have arrested two people for threatening judges who brought a manslaughter conviction against an Israeli soldier caught on tape executing a wounded Palestinian man. Video of the killing last March shows Palestinian Abdel Fattah al-Sharif lying immobilized on the ground as Israeli Sergeant Elor Azaria fires a single shot into the man’s head at close range. Azaria’s conviction last week drew outrage across Israel, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joining calls for a presidential pardon of the soldier. On Thursday, Israeli police said they arrested a man and a woman who used social media to post death threats against the military judges who convicted Azaria. This is police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld.
Micky Rosenfeld: “Israeli police units are looking out for individuals who are putting out information threatening individuals in connection with the case. And this will continue as long as necessary.”
One of the two arrested was identified as a 22-year-old woman who allegedly threatened the top military judge on Azaria’s case, writing, “Take a grenade and blow up the judge and scatter all of her parts in different places, let the dogs eat her.” According to The Jerusalem Post, she was questioned by police, released and banned from posting on Facebook for 30 days.
In Chicago, four teenagers will face felony hate crimes and other charges, after a video they posted to Facebook showed them torturing a bound and gagged mentally disabled teenager, while taunting him with racial epithets. The four could face sentences of up to 30 years in prison. The suspects are African-American, and their victim is white, which prompted a racist backlash on social media sites. White supremacist groups sought to tie the four to the Black Lives Matter movement, using the hashtag “#BLMKidnapping.”
In Texas, Republican lawmakers said Thursday they would introduce legislation requiring that schoolchildren and people in government buildings use bathrooms that correspond to their “biological sex.” The bill is similar to a “bathroom bill” passed in North Carolina that has prompted a boycott and widespread protests from LGBTQ groups.
Meanwhile, in Mississippi, police are investigating the death of Mesha Caldwell as a homicide, making her the first transgender woman to be murdered in 2017. From 2010 through 2016, at least 111 transgender and gender-nonconforming people were murdered nationwide. Seventy-five percent of those killed were African-American.
In North Dakota, a water protector opposing the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline says he’s willing to go to jail on contempt charges rather than give testimony to a federal grand jury. On Wednesday, a federal judge threw out a motion by Steve Martinez to quash a subpoena ordering him to testify about injuries to Sophia Wilansky, a water protector whose arm was severely wounded during a police crackdown on November 20. Martinez has been ordered to testify on February 1. He says he believes the grand jury is a fishing expedition aimed at forcing him to list the names of other activists opposing the Dakota Access pipeline.
Steve Martinez: “February 1st, I am looking at contempt, because I’m not going to cooperate with this. And I just think it’s just a way for them to bully me into giving names and helping them out. I don’t want to lose my freedom at all, but it’s a small price to pay.”
In Turkey, a pair of attackers wielding guns and grenades opened fire on a courthouse in the western city of Izmir, before blowing themselves up in a car bomb attack that killed a police officer and a court employee. Turkish officials blamed the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party for the violence.
The attack came after Turkish officials said they’ve identified the gunman responsible for a New Year’s Day massacre at an Istanbul nightclub, which left 39 people dead. Police released a photo of the suspect, who they say remains at large, but have not revealed his name.
In Syria, state media said Thursday at least 11 people died and 35 others were injured after a car bomb exploded in the coastal town of Jableh. It was the first attack in the city since a fragile truce went into effect last week. There was no claim of responsibility for the attack, but ISIS and several other groups were not part of the Russian, Iranian and Turkish-brokered ceasefire.
And with just two weeks until Inauguration Day, the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, or ANSWER, Coalition now knows where it will be permitted to protest. The National Park Service granted ANSWER a permit for a small portion of the west end of Freedom Plaza in the nation’s capital. The agency says 24 other permit requests are still pending because Donald Trump’s inaugural committee has not confirmed which locations it does not plan to use. This is attorney Carl Messineo with the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund.
Carl Messineo: “The fact is, the NPS is trying to disrupt protest organizing and to sanitize the parade route of the kind of dissent that organized planning creates. The presidency may soon belong to Donald Trump, but the public space belongs to the people.”
The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund says it may sue to get more permits issued. This is Executive Director Mara Verheyden-Hilliard.
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard: “We are getting calls from people all over the country who are worried about whether or not they should buy those bus tickets, whether or not they’re going to be able to speak out, to stand, to have land under their feet. We’re here to tell them that it is safe to come, that it is lawful to come, that you can bring your children, you can bring your parents. There will be permitted space in Washington, D.C. There is permitted space in Washington, D.C. And it is safe and legal to protest. And you should buy your bus tickets today.”