President Trump ordered the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller last June, and only backed away from this demand after the top White House lawyer, Donald McGahn, said he’d rather resign than carry out Trump’s order.
That’s according to an explosive New York Times investigation, which chronicles how President Trump tried to claim special counsel Robert Mueller had conflicts of interest that disqualified him from carrying out the ongoing investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to sway the 2016 election and whether President Trump later tried to obstruct the probe by firing FBI Director James Comey. Trump tried to claim Mueller was disqualified because Mueller had once had a dispute over the fees at the Trump National Golf Club in Virginia; because he had once worked for a law firm that had also represented Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner; and because he had interviewed for the job of FBI director—to replace Comey.
But White House lawyer Donald McGahn was unswayed by Trump’s arguments, and he refused to instruct the Justice Department to fire Mueller, saying that his firing could have a catastrophic impact on Trump’s presidency and that he—that’s McGahn—would rather quit. This morning in Davos, Switzerland, where Trump is at the World Economic Forum, he rejected The New York Times report.
Reporter: “Mr. President, did you seek to fire Mueller?”
President Donald Trump: “Fake news, folks. Fake news. Typical New York Times fake stories.”
Amid the political chaos in the United States and the escalating threat of nuclear war between the U.S. and North Korea, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has advanced the Doomsday Clock 30 seconds closer to midnight.
Rachel Bronson: “It is with considerable concern that we set the time of the 2018 Doomsday Clock and offer a plea to rewind the Doomsday Clock. As of today, it is two minutes to midnight.”
The clock is a symbolic timekeeper that tracks the likelihood of nuclear war and other existential threats. It now stands closer to midnight than at any time since 1953. The scientists directly cited President Trump’s nuclear policies as one of the reasons for advancing the clock. Scientist Lawrence Krauss also said the loss of trust in facts themselves contributes to the growing existential threat.
Lawrence Krauss: “The danger of nuclear conflagration is not the only reason the clock has been moved forward, as my colleagues have described. This danger looms at a time when there’s been a loss of trust in political institutions, in the media, in science and in facts themselves, all of which exacerbate the difficulty of dealing with the real problems the world faces and which threaten to undermine the ability of governments to effectively deal with these problems.”
In Washington, D.C., immigrant rights groups and some Democratic lawmakers are slamming President Trump’s new proposed immigration plan, which would provide a 10-to-12-year path to citizenship for about 1.8 million young undocumented immigrants, in exchange for no protections for their parents, $25 billion for Trump’s border wall, an end to the family reunification program and an end to the diversity lottery system, which particularly benefits African nations. Opponents of Trump’s plan say it would dramatically restrict legal immigration paths and hurt families. The plan was crafted by Trump’s xenophobic policy adviser Stephen Miller and White House Chief of Staff General John Kelly, who previously served as the head of the Homeland Security Department and, before that, as the head of Pentagon’s Southern Command.
In response to the plan, the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted, “Today the White House released a hateful proposal that would slash legal immigration to levels not seen since the racial quotas of the 1920s, eliminate legal channels for African immigrants, and spend $25 BIL for a wasteful border wall plus increase in Border Patrol and ICE agents.” Many immigration activists and Democrats have vowed to oppose the plan, with Illinois Democratic Congressmember Luis Gutiérrez tweeting, “It would be far cheaper to erect a 50-foot concrete statue of a middle finger and point it towards Latin America. Both a wall and the statue would be equally offensive and equally ineffective and both would express Trump’s deeply held suspicion of Latinos.”
In more immigration news, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund has sued the Trump administration over its decision to end temporary status protections for nearly 60,000 Haitian immigrants who have been living in the United States for years. The group is arguing the move was “irrational and discriminatory” and that it was motivated by President Trump’s “public hostility toward immigrants of color.”
President Trump is facing protests in Davos, Switzerland, where he’s slated to address the World Economic Forum this morning. Swiss activists greeted Trump’s arrival with a 200-foot-long banner hung on the side of a mountain reading “Trump Not Welcome.” This is activist Andreas Freimueller.
Andreas Freimueller: “Well, we just had eight helicopters passing by with Donald Trump sitting in one of them. And we wanted to send a very clear message to him: We don’t agree what you’re doing; what you do is not good for the world, it’s not good for the people.”
In South Korea, at least 37 people have been killed in a fire at a hospital in the southeastern city of Miryang. At least 140 more people were injured. It comes on the heels of another deadly fire in South Korea, which killed 29 people last month.
In news on Honduras, an explosive new investigation by the Associated Press says Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández’s new National Police chief personally helped facilitate a massive cocaine delivery to a drug cartel boss in 2013. The report says José David Aguilar Morán was serving as the chief of intelligence for the National Police when a police officer busted other officers escorting a tanker truck filled with more than 1,700 pounds of cocaine. Aguilar then reportedly personally ordered the corrupt officers to be freed and the drugs delivered. The U.S. street value of the cocaine shipment was over $20 million.
The AP investigation is another blow to the government of President Juan Orlando Hernández, who is slated to be sworn in on Saturday after a highly contentious re-election that the American Organization of States says was riddled with fraud. Since the November 26 vote, nationwide protests and strikes have rocked Honduras, with more mass protests being organized for Inauguration Day. This is demonstrator María Esther Escalante.
María Esther Escalante: “Unfortunately, democracy has been lost in this country. We see every day how the dictatorship imposes itself in the country and, therefore, creates a situation that puts greater complexity and greater difficulty on the defense of human rights.”
Puerto Rico says after the island was hit by the devastating Hurricane Maria, it will not pay any of its debt service payments for the next five years. That’s according to Puerto Rico’s new fiscal plan, which must be approved by Puerto Rico’s unelected, congressionally imposed fiscal control board. Meanwhile, Harvard students are demanding their university divest its $2 billion commitment with Baupost Group, a Boston-based hedge fund that is a large holder of Puerto Rico’s debt.
And the Supreme Court has stayed the execution of Vernon Madison, after his lawyers argued he was mentally incompetent after being imprisoned in solitary confinement on death row for 30 years. Vernon Madison was sentenced to death for the killing of a police officer in 1985 in Alabama.