Delegates from nearly 200 countries have agreed to a United Nations deal on climate change that seeks to keep global temperatures from rising by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius—or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. The deal, brokered in a marathon session as two weeks of climate negotiations came to an end in Katowice, Poland, on Saturday, sets a so-called rulebook on how to implement the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Greenpeace executive director Jennifer Morgan welcomed the outcome as an important step but said countries still have to do far more to prevent the worst effects of catastrophic climate change.
Jennifer Morgan: “On this rulebook, I think that is a solid outcome. Basically what you now have is that all countries—the U.S., China, Europe, South Africa, etc.—have accepted binding rules and common rules to report and review what they’re doing. And that’s important. But that doesn’t substitute for the need to build ambition and to say, 'OK, we get it. We're going to go and increase our ambition,’ because it’s really the very existence of islands and people that’s at stake here.”
President Trump has pledged to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement. Democracy Now! was at the U.N. talks in Katowice all last week; you can see our coverage archived here.
President Trump has ordered Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to step down by the end of the year. Zinke’s resignation came amid at least 17 federal investigations into his suspected ethics violations and corruption, including at least one Justice Department probe that could result in criminal charges. During his less than two years at the Interior Department, Zinke presided over the largest rollback of protections to federal land in U.S. history and opened up vast swaths of U.S. coastal waters to oil and gas drilling. Trump is expected to name Zinke’s deputy, David Bernhardt, as acting interior secretary. Bernhardt is a former fossil fuel and water industry lobbyist who played a key role in weakening endangered species protections to allow for new oil and gas drilling in Western states.
President Trump has chosen White House budget director Mick Mulvaney as acting White House chief of staff to replace John Kelly, who’s set to step down in January amid friction with Trump and growing chaos in the White House. Mulvaney’s promotion came as The Daily Beast website obtained a video, recorded in 2016, of then-Congressmember Mick Mulvaney calling Donald Trump “a terrible human being.”
Rep. Mick Mulvaney: “Yes, I’m supporting Donald Trump. I’m doing so as enthusiastically as I can, even the fact I think he’s a terrible human being. But the choice on the other side is just as bad.”
Mulvaney also said Trump had said “disgusting and indefensible” things about women in a 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape, and made similar comments on social media that he later deleted after he joined the Trump administration.
In Texas, a federal court has declared the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, setting up a likely challenge to President Obama’s signature healthcare law at the Supreme Court. Federal District Court Judge Reed O’Connor—a George W. Bush nominee—ruled Friday that the ACA’s individual health insurance mandate violates the Constitution, which invalidates the entire law, he said. Speaking at a congressional ball Saturday night, President Trump hailed the ruling.
President Donald Trump “I believe we’re going to get really good healthcare. Exciting things happened over the last 24 hours.”
The ruling is a victory for the 18 Republican state attorneys general and two Republican governors who are challenging the ACA, but the law will remain in effect as the ruling is appealed.
White House senior adviser Stephen Miller said Sunday that President Trump is prepared to shut down the government if Democrats don’t provide billions of dollars to build an expanded wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Miller was speaking with Margaret Brennan of CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Stephen Miller: “We’re going to do whatever is necessary to build the border wall to stop this ongoing crisis of illegal immigration. This is a”—
Margaret Brennan: “And that means a shutdown?”
Stephen Miller: “This is a very—if it comes to it, absolutely. This is a very fundamental issue. At stake is the question of whether or not the United States remains a sovereign country.”
A government shutdown could see more than 600,000 federal workers furloughed without pay just ahead of Christmas.
This comes as the family of a 7-year-old indigenous Guatemalan girl who died on December 8 while in the custody of the U.S. Border Patrol demanded answers. Jakelin Caal Maquín died of shock from sepsis after she and her father were detained in a remote part of New Mexico. Border Patrol agents only brought the girl to the hospital after her body temperature spiked to over 105 degrees. This is Ruben Garcia, an immigrant rights activist and director of the Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas.
Ruben Garcia: “The family is seeking an objective and thorough investigation and are asking that investigators will assess this incident within nationally recognized standards for the arrest and custody of children.”
On Friday, the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security promised to investigate the death.
This comes as new data show the Trump administration continues to increase the number of arrests and deportations of immigrants. During the 2018 fiscal year that ended in September, the U.S. deported more than a quarter-million people, a 13 percent increase over a year before. Even so, the pace of deportations in 2018 was only about half of the record pace set under President Obama.
The president’s former personal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, told ABC News that Donald Trump directed him in 2016 to make illegal payments to two women who alleged they had sexual affairs with Trump. Cohen’s interview with George Stephanopoulos was recorded one day after Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for tax evasion, bank fraud and lying to Congress, and after Cohen admitted he broke federal campaign finance laws by paying hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal during the 2016 campaign.
Michael Cohen: “He directed me to make the payments. He directed me to become involved in these matters, including the one with McDougal, which was really between him and David Pecker and then David Pecker’s counsel. I just reviewed the documents … in order to protect him. I gave loyalty to someone who, truthfully, does not deserve loyalty.”
George Stephanopoulos: “He was trying to hide what you were doing. Correct?”
Michael Cohen: “Correct.”
George Stephanopoulos: “And he knew it was wrong?”
Michael Cohen: “Of course.”
The president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani said Sunday that Donald Trump pursued discussions about building a skyscraper in Moscow until November of 2016—far later than previously known. Giuliani told ABC’s “This Week” that Trump made the admission in written responses he submitted to investigators with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. The admission directly contradicts President Trump’s claim in 2017 that “I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven’t made a phone call to Russia in years.”
In medical news, the U.S. pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that some of its talcum powder contained dangerous levels of asbestos, but covered up its findings about the deadly carcinogen. That’s according to an investigation by the Reuters news agency, which found documents showing the company knew about traces of asbestos in some of its baby powder as early as 1971. The news sent share prices of Johnson & Johnson plunging by 10 percent on Friday. The report came as Johnson & Johnson faces thousands of lawsuits claiming its talcum powder led to cancer.
President Trump tweeted Sunday that he would “review” the case of Maj. Matt Golsteyn, a Green Beret who’s been charged with premeditated murder. After Golsteyn told the CIA in 2011 that he killed an Afghan man he suspected of being a bomb maker in 2010, the military reprimanded him but did not press murder charges. But after Golsteyn admitted to the killing in a 2016 interview on Fox News, the Army reopened an investigation and recently charged him with murder. On Sunday, President Trump tweeted, “At the request of many, I will be reviewing the case of a 'U.S. Military hero,' Major Matt Golsteyn.” Legal experts say the president’s tweet threatens to undermine an ongoing criminal prosecution.
In Wisconsin, outgoing Republican Governor Scott Walker has signed legislation that limits the power of the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general-elect, while rolling back early voting in future elections. Democrats have blasted the power grab as a “legislative coup” and say they’ll sue to have the laws overturned. Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin called the Republican move “a craven partisan attack on democracy.”
And in Los Angeles, an estimated 50,000 teachers and other public school workers marched to City Hall Saturday, demanding better pay and more resources for students and classrooms. United Teachers Los Angeles says its members are prepared to strike in January unless city officials meet their demands for smaller class sizes, more librarians, fewer standardized tests and more teacher input in local school leadership councils.