On Capitol Hill, Senate Democrats are in the middle of a 24-hour debate seeking to delay the confirmation of billionaire Betsy DeVos for education secretary. DeVos is perhaps Trump’s most contested pick among a group of controversial Cabinet nominees, who are overwhelmingly white male millionaires and billionaires. DeVos is a longtime backer of charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools. She and her husband have also invested in a student debt collection agency that does business with the Education Department. On Monday, Senate Democrats took to the floor of the U.S. Senate to begin the 24-hour debate in efforts to convince a third Republican to join them and vote against DeVos, which would sink her confirmation. This is Washington Senator Patty Murray.
Sen. Patty Murray: “Madam President, this nomination is dead even right now, on the razor’s edge. Fifty senators, Democrats and Republicans, will vote to reject Betsy DeVos, and we need just one more Republican to join us, to stand on the side of students and parents and public education in America, and say no to Betsy DeVos.”
Last week, two Republican lawmakers—Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski—announced plans to vote against DeVos, leaving Senate Republicans one vote short of confirming her. If the Senate vote is 50-50, Vice President Mike Pence would then cast the deciding vote—an event that has never happened to any other presidential nominee in history. Parents and teachers have been flooding the Senate phone system calling lawmakers to demand they oppose her confirmation. Nearly all Democratic senators are expected to also vote against the nominations of Tom Price to head the Department of Health and Human Services, Jeff Sessions for attorney general, Andrew Puzder for labor secretary and Steven Mnuchin for Treasury Secretary—which The Washington Post calls a “historic rebuke of a first-term president’s Cabinet selections.” We’ll have more on the ongoing Senate debate over Betsy DeVos after headlines.
A federal appeals court will hear arguments today on whether to restore President Donald Trump’s executive order banning people from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen from entering the United States. The hearing is to review an order by a lower court judge to put Trump’s directive on hold. On Monday, more than 100 companies, including tech giants Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, Twitter and Uber, filed documents with the court saying they oppose Trump’s Muslim ban. Top former officials, including former Secretaries of State John Kerry and Madeleine Albright, also filed documents with the court Monday saying they oppose the ban. Over the last two weekends, tens of thousands of people have protested in nationwide demonstrations against Trump’s Muslim ban. In one of the latest protests, about 20 rabbis were arrested Monday night blocking the street near Trump Tower in Manhattan in protest of the ban.
President Trump falsely claimed Monday during a speech to U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida that the media is intentionally covering up terrorist attacks.
President Donald Trump: “You’ve seen what happened in Paris and Nice. All over Europe, it’s happening. It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it.”
The claims appear to be part of a wider push by the White House to increase fear about potential—and even imaginary—terrorist attacks in order to justify President Trump’s crackdown on immigration, including his Muslim ban. Later on Monday, after pressure from media outlets, the White House released a list of what it claims are 78 terrorist attacks since 2014 that it says have not received sufficient coverage. Many of the attacks on the list caused no fatalities, and almost all were carried out outside the United States. The list includes attacks that received such an onslaught of media attention, they are still recognized by only one word, such as “Nice” or “Orlando.” The list also included multiple misspellings, including misspelling the name of San Bernardino. In response, California Congressmember Pete Aguilar tweeted, “You can’t even spell #SanBernardino but you exploit our community to justify your #muslimban.”
New information has emerged showing that counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway has repeatedly made false claims about a nonexistent terrorist attack which she called the Bowling Green massacre. Conway’s comments first sparked controversy after a February 2 interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews in which she attempted to justify President Trump’s Muslim ban by citing a terrorist attack in Bowling Green, Kentucky, which never happened.
Kellyanne Conway: “I bet it’s brand-new information to people that President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized, and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre. Most people don’t know that, because it didn’t get covered.”
After widespread criticism, Conway said she misspoke when she said “massacre,” and that she intended to refer to the case of two Iraqi men living in Bowling Green who were arrested in 2011 on charges of having attempted to send money and weapons to al-Qaeda in Iraq. Their arrests led the Obama administration to implement a more extensive screening process for Iraqi refugees, but not to impose a ban on Iraqi resettlement. However, it’s now clear that Conway did not misspeak at all, as video and quotes of her making the same claims in two previous interviews have surfaced. In an interview with Cosmopolitan.com on January 29, she falsely claimed: “Two Iraqi nationals came to this country, joined Isis, traveled back to the Middle East to get trained and refine their terrorism skills, and come back here, and were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre of taking innocent soldiers’ lives away.” This is not true. On that same day, Conway did an interview with TMZ in which she made the same false claim.
Kellyanne Conway: “The fact is that it was President Obama and the Congress who identified these seven countries, so President Trump is just following on. President Obama suspended the Iraq refugee program for six months in 2011, and no one certainly covered—I think nobody noticed. He did that because—I assume because there were two Iraqis who came here, got radicalized, joined ISIS, and then were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green attack on our brave soldiers.”
Senior adviser to the Democratic National Committee Zac Petkanas said in response, “The Trump administration was so desperate to sell their increasingly unpopular and likely illegal anti-Muslim ban that they actually made up a terrorist attack to scare people into acceptance.” Media watchdogs have called on cable networks to stop booking Kellyanne Conway for interviews because of these lies.
In Britain, Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow says he will refuse to invite Donald Trump to address the British Parliament during Trump’s upcoming state visit, citing Trump’s “racism and sexism.”
John Bercow: “After the imposition of the migrant ban by President Trump, I am even more strongly opposed to an address by President Trump in Westminster Hall. I feel very strongly that our opposition to racism and to sexism and our support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations in the House of Commons.”
More than 1.8 million Brits have also signed a petition seeking to stop Trump’s state visit entirely, arguing, “He should not be allowed to make an official State Visit because it would cause embarrassment to her Majesty the Queen.” The British Parliament is slated to debate the petition on February 20.
Back in the United States, New England Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett says he will not visit the White House with the rest of his Super Bowl-winning team because of his opposition to Donald Trump.
President Trump has acknowledged that his plans to dismantle the Dodd-Frank financial reforms are inspired, in part, by a desire to help his banking friends. Dodd-Frank is a set of financial reforms implemented after the 2008 financial crisis. This is Trump speaking at a dinner that included JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon on Friday.
President Donald Trump: “We have some of the bankers here. There’s nobody better to tell me about Dodd-Frank than Jamie. So, you’re going to tell me about it. But we expect to be cutting a lot out of Dodd-Frank, because, frankly, I have so many people, friends of mine, that have nice businesses, they can’t borrow money. They just can’t get any money, because the banks just won’t let them borrow, because of the rules and regulations.”
First lady Melania Trump is suing the owner of the media outlet the Daily Mail over an article published last August that suggested Melania may have once worked for an escort service. The lawsuit, which seeks $150 million in damages, claims the article hurt Melania’s chances at making millions of dollars by selling a brand of beauty and fashion products while she is “one of the most photographed women in the world.” Her lawyer is Charles Harder, who also represented Hulk Hogan in his $140 million lawsuit against Gawker, which caused Gawker to shut down. President George W. Bush’s White House ethics counselor, Richard Painter, told The Washington Post the lawsuit appears to suggest Melania Trump sought to profit from her role as first lady, saying, “There has never been a first lady of the United States who insinuated that she intended to make a lot of money because of the 'once-in-a-lifetime' opportunity of being first lady.”
In a shocking new report on Syria, Amnesty International says as many as 13,000 people have been hanged in a Syrian government military prison between 2011 and 2015. Amnesty calls the hangings part of a “deliberate policy of extermination.” The group says the majority of the 13,000 people hanged were civilians opposed to the Assad regime. This is Amnesty International’s Lynn Maalouf.
Lynn Maalouf: “The new findings in this report are about a systematic campaign of mass hangings whereby every week, usually on Mondays and Wednesdays, groups of detainees, of between 20 to 50 detainees, would be taken from their cells, told that they would be transferred to civilian detentions, but instead of that, they were taken to a cell in another building inside of Saydnaya where they would be hanged.”
The Israeli Parliament has approved a highly contentious bill to retroactively legalize Jewish-only settlements built on private Palestinian land in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Its passage was celebrated by far-right Israeli politicians, who called Monday a “historic day for the settlement movement.” The legislation is uniformly opposed by Palestinians and is highly divisive within Israeli politics. Israel’s attorney general calls the legislation unconstitutional and a violation of international law. This is opposition leader Isaac Herzog.
Isaac Herzog: “Do not give your hand to this insane law that threatens to destroy Israeli democracy, Israel’s international stand, threatens IDF commanders and threatens leaders of the state and stands in complete opposition to the opinion of the attorney general.”
In breaking news from Afghanistan, at least 19 people have been killed in a suicide bomb attack outside the Supreme Court building in the capital Kabul. At least 40 more people were wounded. The death toll may rise. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack so far.
And here in New York City, high school and college students are planning a walk out today to protest President Trump and his executive order seeking to ban people from seven majority-Muslim nations from entering the United States. It’s the latest in a series of student walkouts and protests nationwide to oppose Trump’s immigration crackdown. In recent weeks, students have also held mass demonstrations demanding their universities become “sanctuary campuses”—calling on their administrations to refuse to cooperate with Trump’s plans to speed up deportations.