The Senate has confirmed Jeff Sessions as the United States attorney general after a 52-47 vote Wednesday evening. Sessions’s confirmation has faced widespread protests over his opposition to the Voting Rights Act and his history of making racist comments. The vote capped a contentious 24 hours. On Tuesday night, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced and rebuked by the Senate for reading a 1986 letter written by Coretta Scott King denouncing Sessions, who was at the time being considered for a federal judgeship. The letter reads, in part, “The irony of Mr. Sessions’ nomination is that, if confirmed, he will be given a life tenure for doing with a federal prosecution what the local sheriffs accomplished twenty years ago with clubs and cattle prods.” Following Warren’s silencing, several Democratic senators urged their colleagues to vote against him by reading this same letter. Warren’s reading marks the first time Coretta Scott King’s testimony was included in the Congressional Record, even though she had submitted it 30 years ago. At the time, Senate Judiciary Chair Strom Thurmond, a fierce segregationist, refused to enter King’s testimony into the record. We’ll have more on Sessions’s confirmation later in the broadcast.
President Trump lashed out at the appeals court judges who are presiding over the lawsuit challenging his executive order banning people from seven majority-Muslim nations from entering the United States.
President Donald Trump: “If you were a good student in high school or a bad student in high school, you can understand this. And it’s really incredible to me that we have a court case that’s going on so long. And it couldn’t have been written any more precisely. It’s not like, 'Oh, gee, we wish it were written better.' It was written beautifully.”
That’s President Trump, speaking in Washington, D.C., Wednesday to a conference of law enforcement officials. During his comments, he also called the deliberations “disgraceful.” Trump’s attack comes after he went on a Twitter rant over the weekend against federal Judge James Robart, calling him a “so-called judge” after Robart issued a nationwide injunction halting Trump’s Muslim ban.
Trump’s rant sparked widespread criticism, including from Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, who called Trump’s tweets “disheartening and demoralizing” during a meeting with Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal. This morning, Trump attacked Senator Blumenthal on Twitter, claiming he was misrepresenting Gorsuch’s words—even though a spokesperson for Gorsuch himself told CNN the judge had voiced concern about Trump’s comments during the meeting.
The mother of a young British woman killed by a mentally ill man in Australia in August has written a furious open letter to President Trump, after her daughter’s killing was included in the White House’s list of 78 terrorist attacks. Rosie Ayliffe wrote, “My daughter’s death will not be used to further this insane persecution of innocent people.” Her daughter, 21-year-old Mia Ayliffe-Chung, was stabbed to death in a hostel in Queensland by a Frenchman who had a preliminary diagnosis of schizophrenia. After the attack, the media originally reported the attacker, Smail Ayad, may have been an Islamic extremist, but Australian police quickly ruled out terrorism in its investigation. Sandra Jackson, the mother of a second backpacker who was killed during the attack, has also criticized Donald Trump, tweeting, “@realDonaldTrump wake up this morning to see you’ve used my Son murder to further your campaign of hate, how dare you. You are a disgrace.”
Trump is facing increasing criticism for not including cases of massacres carried out by white supremacists in the White House’s recently issued list of 78 terrorist attacks. Among the attacks not included was the recent massacre in Quebec City, Canada, where a Trump-supporting white nationalist killed six worshipers at a mosque on January 29. Also not included was the Charleston, South Carolina, massacre, where nine black worshipers were killed by white supremacist Dylann Roof in 2015. On Tuesday, Wisconsin Republican Congressmember Sean Duffy tried to defend the exclusion of these massacres from the list during an interview with ?CNN’s Alisyn Camerota.
Alisyn Camerota: “Congressman, why isn’t the president talking about the white terrorist who mowed down six Muslims who were praying at their mosque?”
Rep. Sean Duffy: “Yeah, I don’t know. But I would just tell you, there is a difference. Again, death and murder on both sides is wrong. But if you want to take the dozens of scenarios where ISIS-inspired attacks have taken innocents, and you give me one example of what’s happened—I think that was in Canada—of America—”
Alisyn Camerota: “How about the Charleston—how about the Charleston church shooting, Congressman?”
Rep. Sean Duffy: “But so—but—but here—but here’s what you’re doing. So, yeah—”
Alisyn Camerota: “He was an extremist. He was a white extremist.”
Rep. Sean Duffy: “Yeah, yeah. Yeah, he was, OK.”
Alisyn Camerota: “How about that? That doesn’t matter?”
Rep. Sean Duffy: “No, it does matter. It does matter. Look at the good things that came from it. Nikki Haley took down the Confederate flag. That was great!”
Congressmember Duffy did not acknowledge during this interview that in his home state of Wisconsin a white supremacist killed six people in 2012 during a massacre at a Sikh temple. Meanwhile, the White House is also considering officially designating more groups as foreign terrorist organizations, including the Muslim Brotherhood—one of the Middle East’s oldest and most influential Islamic groups.
Protesters rallied at demonstrations nationwide Wednesday to protest the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to greenlight the construction of the contested $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline. The company behind the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, says it will start work immediately. Hundreds of people gathered outside the White House in Washington, D.C., to protest the project, which many fear could contaminate the Missouri River, which serves as a drinking water source for millions. Crowds also gathered in Los Angeles, Manhattan, Denver and San Francisco, where about a dozen people were arrested blockading the doors of the Federal Building. More protesters rallied in Ithaca, New York; Columbus, Ohio; and Chicago, where four people were arrested after locking themselves to each other to shut down a Citibank to protest its investments in the pipeline. Many of the protesters were furious not only about the government’s approval of the pipeline, but also about Trump’s recent claims that no one had called the White House to express opposition to the project.
President Donald Trump: “As you know, I approved two pipelines that were stuck in limbo forever. I don’t even think it was controversial. You know, I approved them. I haven’t even heard—I haven’t had one call from anybody saying, 'Oh, that was a terrible thing you did.' I haven’t had one call.”
As multiple news outlets have reported, the White House shut down its public comments phone line following Trump’s inauguration. However, hundreds of thousands of people have written statements denouncing the project since the Army Corps of Engineers opened up the public comment period in late January. On Wednesday, a group of veterans and indigenous water protectors delivered electronic versions of more than 200,000 of these comments to the Army Corps office in Manhattan. Meanwhile, the City Council of Davis, California, has voted unanimously to divest $124 million in city banking services from Wells Fargo over concerns about the bank’s backing of the pipeline.
In Phoenix, seven protesters were arrested last night blockading an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement van in efforts to stop the deportation of 35-year-old Guadalupe García de Rayos, a mother who has been living in the United States for the last 21 years. Rayos was arrested and detained Wednesday by immigration agents during one of her routine, required check-ins with immigration officials. Advocates say her arrest signals a clear shift toward the ramping up of deportations under the Trump administration, even of people like Rayos, who had been deemed a “low-priority” for deportation under President Obama. Rayos’s lawyer said, “We’re living in a new era now, an era of war on immigrants.” In protest, hundreds of people surrounded the ICE van carrying Rayos. One man locked himself to the wheels of the van, while others blockaded it with their bodies.
Protester: “So we’re here stopping the kidnapping of Lupita, so that she can be back with her family. I’m here because today it’s Lupita, tomorrow it may be my mom, and the next day it might be your mom. We need to stop the deportations, because there are 8 million people at risk. There are 8 million people who are a priority in the Trump administration, in the Trump deportation machine. And he’s not going to stop it. We have to stop it, in your city, here in Phoenix. Wherever you are, you can do this, too.”
President Trump is facing allegations of potential conflicts of interest after he attacked the department store Nordstrom in a tweet from his official government account, saying, “My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!” The tweet came after Nordstrom announced it was dropping Ivanka Trump’s clothing line—a business decision the company says was “based on performance.” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer claims Nordstrom’s decision was “an attack” on Trump’s daughter. But multiple reporters have questioned how this is an attack on Ivanka Trump, given that she had claimed she had stepped away from her clothing line after Trump’s election. Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey has referred the tweet to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics. Ivanka Trump has no official government role, but she frequently sits in on top meetings with her father, and her husband, Jared Kushner, is a senior adviser in the White House. Meanwhile, in another potential conflict of interest, the Department of Defense is looking to rent office space in Trump Tower in Manhattan—which means the government might end up funneling money directly to one of Trump’s businesses. CNN reports that renting a floor in the tower costs about $1.5 million every year.
In northern Afghanistan, six Red Cross workers were killed Wednesday after their cars were ambushed. Two more are still missing. The Taliban has denied involvement, and local officials have blamed the attack on ISIS. On Wednesday, ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack outside the Supreme Court building in Kabul on Tuesday, which killed at least 22 people.
In Romania, thousands of people braved the snow for a ninth straight day of anti-government and anti-corruption protests. The massive nightly mobilizations have been the largest in Romania since 1989. They were sparked by the passage of an emergency ordinance that decriminalized misconduct by officials, but have continued even after the government rescinded that decree. This is one of the protesters.
Protester: “We are keeping our positions strong, and we want our government to resign, because we cannot trust this government, because they’re crouching in the middle of the night, passing laws for corrupt politicians. We cannot trust this government anymore. So, the only thing that can satisfy us right now is the resignation of the prime minister and the government itself.”
At least three players on the New England Patriots say they won’t visit the White House for the traditional Super Bowl celebration as a protest against President Trump. Linebacker Dont’a Hightower and safety Devin McCourty have joined tight end Martellus Bennett in boycotting the visit. McCourty said, “I don’t feel accepted in the White House. With the president having so many strong opinions and prejudices, I believe certain people might feel accepted there while others won’t.” The Patriots won the Super Bowl 34-28 Sunday night after a historic comeback over the Atlanta Falcons.
And a Pennsylvania state senator has issued an unusually strong denouncement of President Trump, calling him a “fascist, loofa-faced, ***-gibbon!” Senator Daylin Leach’s tweet was a response to Trump’s threat that he would “destroy the career” of a Texas state senator who was proposing legislation to require police to obtain a conviction before seizing one’s property in a process known as asset forfeiture. Currently asset forfeiture allows police to seize people’s property even if they are never even charged with a crime. After Trump’s threat, Daylin tweeted, “Hey @realDonaldTrump I oppose civil asset forfeiture too! Why don’t you try to destroy my career you fascist, loofa-faced, ***-gibbon!”