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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines, or for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. We produce our daily news hour at a fraction of the budget of a commercial news operation, all without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting? This is only possible with your support. Right now every donation to Democracy Now! will be doubled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $25 today, Democracy Now! will get $50 to support our daily news hour. Please do your part. It takes just a couple of minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you and everybody else in the coming year. Thanks so much. -Amy Goodman
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President Donald Trump has announced his nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court: Judge Neil Gorsuch. Senate Democrats have vowed to filibuster the nomination of the conservative jurist. As a judge on the 10th Circuit, Gorsuch ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby in the case deciding whether the company could refuse to provide birth control coverage to employees as required by Obamacare. Judge Gorsuch also has a long history of ruling against employees in cases involving federal race, sex, age, disability and political discrimination and retaliation claims. Gorsuch reportedly upheld a decision that denied long-term insurance benefits to a worker who sustained a work-related injury that required spinal surgery. He also reportedly dissented from a ruling in favor of a truck driver whose employer illegally fired him for deserting a trailer so he wouldn’t freeze to death. Gorsuch is a member of the ultraconservative Federalist Society, which believes in severely restricting the power of federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, to regulate businesses. Gorsuch’s mother, Anne Gorsuch Burford, briefly served as President Reagan’s EPA administrator, where she slashed staff and eviscerated anti-pollution regulations before resigning amidst scandal. We’ll have more on Judge Neil Gorsuch after headlines.
Opposition to Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominations mounted on Capitol Hill and across the country Tuesday, as Senate Democrats boycotted two scheduled committee votes and dozens of people were arrested at a series of protests nationwide. Led by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, Democratic lawmakers on the Senate Finance Committee stalled the confirmations of treasury secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin and health and human services secretary nominee Tom Price by refusing to attend the committee meeting. Under committee rules, if no Democrats attend the hearing, the committee can’t vote. The lawmakers accused Mnuchin and Price of lying to the committees during their nomination hearings. Amid the Democratic boycott, protesters staged a sit-in to block the entrance to the office of Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch, the Republican senator from Utah, as a protest against Tom Price’s nomination. At least 47 people were arrested. Democratic lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee also delayed a vote on the confirmation of Jeff Sessions for attorney general Tuesday by making extended speeches. This is California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein: “Instead, he has been the fiercest, most dedicated and most loyal promoter in Congress of the Trump agenda and has played a critical role in the clearinghouse for policy and philosophy to undergird the implementation of that agenda. With this in mind, I must vote no.”
Jeff Sessions’s confirmation has faced a series of protests over his opposition to the Voting Rights Act and his history of making racist comments. On Monday, about 10 members of the NAACP, including President Cornell William Brooks, were arrested at a sit-in at Sessions’s office in Mobile, Alabama. It was the second NAACP sit-in against Sessions’s confirmation. On Tuesday, retired Army Colonel Ann Wright disrupted the Senate Judiciary Committee in protest of Sessions.
Ann Wright: “No to racism! No to the ban on refugees! Wait! Oh, wait! Oh! Oww! I’ll go out, but you don’t need to drag me. I’ve got a hip replacement. I’m 70 years old, and I can make it out on my own. But no to racism! No to hate! No to Jeff Sessions! No to the ban on refugees!”
More protests against Jeff Sessions and Trump’s other Cabinet nominations erupted Tuesday. In New York City, thousands of protesters gathered outside the home of Senator Chuck Schumer, calling on him to oppose Trump’s Cabinet picks. In a separate protest also in New York City, 11 protesters, including Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, were arrested blocking traffic outside Trump Tower to oppose the nominations. In Chicago, at least seven protesters were arrested after hundreds staged a sit-in at the Federal Building to demand Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth vote against billionaire Betsy DeVos for education secretary, which they did. Nevertheless, DeVos was among three of Trump’s Cabinet picks who were approved by Senate committees Tuesday. The Senate education committee voted 12-11 to approve DeVos in a straight party vote, even though The Washington Post reports DeVos appears to have plagiarized parts of her written answers submitted to the Senate committee. Also on Tuesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted 16-7 to approve former Texas Gov. Rick Perry as energy secretary and voted 16-6 to approve Montana Congressmember Ryan Zinke to head the Interior Department. DeVos, Perry and Zinke will now all face full Senate votes on their confirmation. The full Senate also voted Tuesday to confirm Elaine Chao to become transportation secretary.
Protests also continued in cities nationwide against Trump’s executive order temporarily banning all refugees, as well as all citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations—Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen—from entering the United States. In Minneapolis, an estimated 5,000 people flooded into the streets around the Federal Building. The Anti-War Committee, which organized the protest, said, “It is criminal for the U.S. to bomb and attack other countries and then turn away refugees when the U.S. has destroyed their homelands.” In Columbia, South Carolina, over 600 people gathered at the State House to denounce Trump’s Muslim ban. Legal challenges to the ban also grew Tuesday as the states of Washington, Massachusetts, Virginia and New York all joined lawsuits against Trump’s executive order. This is Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.
Maura Healey: “The executive order is harmful, discriminatory and unconstitutional. It discriminates on the basis of religion and national origin, denies our residents access to due process and equal protection of the law and violates federal immigration law. The role of this office is to uphold the law and the Constitution of this state and of the United States.”
As many as 1,000 State Department diplomats and officials have signed on to a dissent memo that condemns Trump’s Muslim ban. That’s far more signatures than any other dissent memo signed in recent years. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer tried to claim the executive order is not a “ban.” That’s despite the fact that both Spicer and President Trump have repeatedly called the executive order a ban, including multiple times on Monday. On Tuesday, Spicer also tried to defend authorities’ decision to handcuff a 5-year-old U.S. citizen for hours at the Dulles International Airport in Virginia after the boy returned from a trip to Iran, by claiming the boy could have posed a security threat. Trump has falsely claimed that only 109 people have been denied entry to the U.S. since the ban was imposed. In fact, officials with Customs and Border Protection said Tuesday at least 721 people have been denied entry into the United States.
Editor’s Note: This morning’s headlines also included a claim by a man who told WJBK in Detroit that his mother, a 75-year-old Iraqi-American green card holder, died after being denied entry into the United States. An imam in Detroit has since told the station that the woman died in Iraq five days before the ban was put in place.
Donald Trump has canceled his planned trip to Milwaukee amid mass planned protests. The White House announced Tuesday Trump will not tour a Harley-Davidson factory on Thursday as scheduled. In response, the Milwaukee Coalition Against Trump said, “Trump’s unpopular policies have ignited an unprecedented resistance movement that will block his every move. We hope our success in Milwaukee sets the tone for the rest of Trump’s Presidency, wherever he goes, there will be resistance!”
More anti-protest laws are being pushed by lawmakers across the country amid the wave of mass demonstrations against Donald Trump’s presidency. In Iowa, lawmakers have introduced a bill that would make blocking traffic a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Minnesota lawmakers are pushing an anti-protest bill that would allow cities to sue protesters in order to charge them for the cost of policing the demonstrations. In North Dakota, lawmakers have introduced a bill that would legalize accidentally running over protesters who are blocking traffic. Washington state lawmakers are pushing a bill that would label protests as “economic terrorism.” And in Indiana, Republican legislators have introduced a bill that would empower police to remove protesters blocking traffic using “any means necessary,” legislation activists have dubbed the “block traffic and you die” bill. The new bills come as more than 200 activists are facing up to 10 years in prison on felony riot charges for protesting against Donald Trump’s inauguration in Washington, D.C.
In Romania, over 20,000 people protested in the capital Bucharest and other cities across the country after the government passed an emergency ordinance decriminalizing official misconduct. Protesters say the move sanctions corruption. This is one of the protesters.
Protester: “We came to protest against these immoral and mafia-type government methods. They are voting in the night like thieves—a law which gives a right to steal 44,000 euros to the politicians and public officers who are serving them.”
Back in the United States, Republican lawmakers have introduced new legislation that proposes to sell off 3.3 million acres of public land—an area about the size of the state of Connecticut. The land spans 10 different states. The bill is being pushed by Utah Republican Congressmember Jason Chaffetz.
And the Army Corps of Engineers appears poised to approve the final permit required to build the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline, which has faced months of resistance from hundreds of indigenous nations and non-Native allies. On Tuesday, North Dakota Senator John Hoeven said he had spoken with acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer and that Speer has directed the Army Corps to issue the easement for Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the pipeline, to drill underneath the Missouri River. The Standing Rock Sioux and many more fear a pipeline spill could contaminate the river, which serves as a drinking water source for millions. Water protectors say that if the easement is granted, the government would be illegally circumventing the process of an environmental impact statement, which was ordered in December under President Obama’s administration. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said, “To abandon the EIS would amount to a wholly unexplained and arbitrary change based on the President’s personal views and, potentially, personal investments.” Members of the resistance camp Sacred Stone on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota have called for water protectors to come to support the resistance to the Dakota Access pipeline.