Is another government shutdown imminent? Bipartisan talks on a government spending bill broke down over the weekend as Democrats and Republicans remained in disagreement over the number of immigrants ICE should be allowed to detain. Democrats want to put a cap on the number of beds for immigrant prisoners at just over 35,000—with around 16,000 beds reserved for detainees already living in the country.
The bipartisan conference committee must come up with a new spending bill that both Congress and President Trump will approve by Friday this week in order to avoid another government shutdown. Trump has also threatened to call a national emergency to bypass Congress for his $5.7 billion in border wall funding.
President Trump is heading to the border town of El Paso in Texas today to hold a rally. Former candidate for the U.S. Senate and possible 2020 presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke will speak at a counterrally. Meanwhile, California Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to withdraw the majority of troops stationed on the California-Mexico border, following a similar move in New Mexico by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.
In Virginia, Democratic Governor Ralph Northam continues to resist mounting calls from within his own party to step down after claims he posed for a racist photo seen in his 1984 medical school yearbook page depicting a man wearing blackface next to a man wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit. Northam has denied that he is in the photo, but he did admit to wearing blackface on another occasion that same year. In an interview with ”CBS This Morning,” Northam said he thought about resigning but that he believes he can help Virginia “heal.” Host Gayle King had to correct Northam when he referred to slaves brought to Virginia in the 17th century as “indentured servants.”
Gov. Ralph Northam: “In 1619, the first indentured servants from Africa landed on our shores in Old Point Comfort, what we call now Fort Monroe. And while—
Gayle King: “Also known as slavery.”
Gov. Ralph Northam: “Yes.”
Meanwhile, a second woman came forward Friday accusing Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax of sexual assault. Meredith Watson said Fairfax raped her in 2000 while they were both students at Duke University. In a statement, she called the attack “premeditated and aggressive.” Fairfax has denied the accusations and called for the FBI to investigate.
Watson’s statement also said she was raped on another occasion by a Duke basketball player, prior to the alleged rape by Fairfax. Duke reportedly dismissed the rape allegation against the basketball player at the time. Hours after the second sexual assault accusation emerged Friday, Patrick Hope, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, said he will introduce articles of impeachment against Fairfax if he does not step down by today.
The U.S. and Russia have proposed opposing draft resolutions at the U.N. Security Council as the leadership crisis in Venezuela deepens. The U.S. is calling for elections in Venezuela and for international aid deliveries to be allowed to enter the country. Russia called out international intervention in the affairs of Venezuela and the threat of foreign military action.
Meanwhile, in Venezuela, a standoff over humanitarian deliveries at the country’s border with Colombia is pitting the Venezuelan military, which is still loyal to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, against supporters of opposition leader and self-proclaimed president Juan Guaidó, including the United States. Venezuelan officials described the aid as a Trojan horse.
Freddy Bernal: “For us, humanitarian aid is a Trojan horse. It’s a Trojan horse that is trying to quietly invade Venezuela. According to our constitution, we have the right and the duty to defend our borders peacefully, and, of course, as always, it is being done by the Bolivarian armed forces.”
On Friday, an operation by Brazilian military police in Rio de Janeiro left at least 13 people dead after a shootout in the neighborhood of Santa Teresa. Police say they were there to investigate suspected drug traffickers but encountered gunfire when they entered the area. This comes after Rio’s new governor, Wilson Witzel, said last month that city security forces were authorized to shoot to kill suspects. He also said Rio should have its own Guantánamo Bay to house criminals, whom he labeled “terrorists.”
In Haiti, thousands have been protesting in the capital Port-au-Prince since Thursday. At least two people were killed, according to local reports, including a 14-year-old boy. Protesters are calling for President Jovenel Moïse to step down over a corruption scandal involving the suspected embezzlement of nearly $4 billion of Petrocaribe funds Haiti received as part of a Venezuelan oil subsidy program. Protesters are also calling out the country’s economic situation.
Protester: “The people can’t take it any longer. We have spoken to the president, but he doesn’t understand. There’s inflation; the price of the dollar is going up. We can’t stay in this situation. We have decided to see it through to the end. There will surely be a revolution in the country.”
In Gaza, Israeli forces shot and killed two Palestinian teenagers protesting at the separation barrier with Israel Friday. Gaza health officials identified the victims as 14-year-old Hassan Shalabi and Hamza Shteiwi, who was either 17 or 18. It’s estimated that Israeli soldiers have killed at least 240 people and wounded 23,000 others since the Great March of Return protests began last March.
Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan landed in Afghanistan today for a surprise visit, following recent peace talks between the U.S. and the Taliban and as several violent attacks have shaken the country in recent weeks. Shanahan said he does not have orders to withdraw U.S. troops from the country, a plan first announced by President Trump in December, as well as a key Taliban demand in the ongoing peace negotiations.
American Media, Inc., which owns the National Enquirer, fired back at Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Friday after he publicly accused the publication of extortion and blackmail. AMI said it stands behind its reporting and that it acted “lawfully.” Bezos suggested in a blog post last week that the leak of private text messages to the tabloid might be connected to his ownership of The Washington Post, which has been critical of both President Trump and Saudi leadership following the murder of its columnist Jamal Khashoggi. The texts were between Bezos and Lauren Sánchez, with whom he was reportedly having an affair. Saudi officials have also responded to the scandal, denying any involvement in obtaining or releasing the messages. The Daily Beast is reporting that Michael Sánchez, Lauren Sánchez’s brother, is suspected as the source of the leak.
Denver public school teachers begin a strike today after 11th-hour negotiations between the teachers’ union and the school district failed over the weekend. The Denver Classroom Teachers Association is demanding an increase in teachers’ base salary rather than putting money in incentives and bonuses. This will be the city’s first teachers’ strike in 25 years.
In New York City, protesters took over the Guggenheim Museum Saturday night to call out the museum’s relationship with the Sackler family, whose company, Purdue Pharma, produces the prescription painkiller OxyContin. Artist Nan Goldin, who herself became addicted to OxyContin, has been leading calls for art institutions to stop taking money and disassociate themselves from the Sacklers. Goldin and other protesters staged a die-in after dropping thousands of fake prescriptions with anti-Sackler messages from the museum’s famous winding walkway. The action was a reference to a quote by a member of the Sackler family who once claimed the launch of OxyContin would be “followed by a blizzard of prescriptions that would bury the competition.” A protest also took place at the nearby Metropolitan Museum.
The Washington Post is reporting that Amazon is reconsidering its plan to open its sprawling new HQ2 campus in New York City, due to political opposition and protests from the local community. The New York state Senate recently appointed Michael Gianaris, a vocal critic of the Amazon deal, to a board charged with reviewing the plan. Activists, union leaders and other politicians have spoken out against the deal, including New York City Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
In political news, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar both formally launched their presidential campaigns over the weekend. There are now an unprecedented six women seeking the Democratic nomination. Klobuchar launched her campaign Sunday with an outdoor rally in Minneapolis during a heavy snowstorm.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar: “I don’t have a political machine. I don’t come from money. But what I do have is this: I have grit.”
In her announcement speech, Klobuchar said she would tackle climate change, gun control and money in politics. A third-term senator, Klobuchar is viewed as one of the more centrist Democrats to enter the 2020 race. She is a former prosecutor known for her “tough on crime” track record, including stricter sentencing, in particular for drug offenders. More recently, Klobuchar came into the spotlight after a tense exchange with then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. After the senator asked Kavanaugh if he ever drank so much that he blacked out, he snapped back, “Have you?”
Meanwhile, Senator Elizabeth Warren formally launched her presidential run Saturday with a rally in the working-class city of Lawrence, Massachusetts. Warren, one of the most liberal members of the Senate, is a former Harvard professor whose work trying to rein in Wall Street led to the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In her speech, Warren pledged not to accept any lobbying or super PAC money, challenging other Democrats running in the primary to do the same. Warren then traveled to Iowa on Sunday.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren: “By the time we get to 2020, Donald Trump may not even be president. In fact, he may not even be a free person.”
Warren came under fire last year for taking a DNA test to demonstrate her Native American ancestry. She later apologized for the move. Last week, The Washington Post reported that she listed herself as “American Indian” on a 1986 Texas legal bar registration form. In response to the backlash, Warren said, “I can’t go back. … But I am sorry for furthering confusion on tribal sovereignty and tribal citizenship and harm that resulted.”
In entertainment news, the Grammy Awards made history last night, celebrating women and rap. Six female acts were nominated for best new artist, while five women were nominated for album of the year. Alicia Keys was the first woman to host the show in 14 years. Former first lady Michelle Obama also made a surprise appearance at the event, taking the stage with female artists. Cardi B became the first solo woman to win best rap album. Childish Gambino, who did not attend the awards ceremony, was the first-ever artist to take home both record and song of the year for a rap track for “This Is America.”
And North Carolina Republican Congressmember Walter Jones died Sunday on his 76th birthday. Originally an ardent supporter of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the 13-term lawmaker had a change of heart after witnessing the funeral of a U.S. servicemember. In 2003, after France refused to back George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, Jones ordered three congressional cafeterias to rename French fries and French toast on the menu to “freedom fries” and “freedom toast.” Two years later, in 2005, he renounced his vote in support of the war and called for a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq. The U.S. invasion of Iraq killed nearly 300,000 people, according to Brown University’s Costs of War Project—mostly civilians—and displaced millions of others.