Leaders of key European countries said they recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president Monday, after an ultimatum imposed on President Nicolás Maduro to call for new elections expired Sunday at midnight. The countries include France, Spain, Germany, Britain, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Austria and the Netherlands. This is German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Chancellor Angela Merkel: “Juan Guaidó is the person we expect to initiate an election process as soon as possible. And Germany, along with several other European countries, recognizes him as the legitimate interim president to oversee this task.”
In Canada, members of the Lima Group issued a declaration of support for Juan Guaidó. Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland highlighted that the group, however, does not support the use of force to remove Maduro’s government. Three members of the Lima Group—Guyana, Mexico and St. Lucia—did not support the declaration. Guaidó hailed the widespread recognition from international leaders Monday. He has called for more mass protests in Venezuela today. Meanwhile, the government of sitting President Nicolás Maduro remains defiant, with Maduro again saying he would not bow to any outside ultimatums. This is Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza.
Jorge Arreaza: “As they say in Spain, the European countries are following the United States right now. It is not the United States; it is the ruling elite, particularly Donald Trump, John Bolton, Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo. … Donald Trump is such a despot, a racist, a supremacist, a discriminator, arrogant, so grandiose that he does not care about others. What he is is the expression of capitalism.”
Democratic Virginia Governor Ralph Northam told his staffers he would make a decision about his future as governor “soon” as the scandal around a racist 1984 yearbook photo continues to mount. On Friday, Northam apologized for a photo in his Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook showing a man wearing blackface posing next to a man wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit, but walked back his statements the following day, claiming neither of the men in the photo was him, although he did admit to using blackface to portray Michael Jackson at a dance contest. Northam is reportedly hoping to prove he is neither of the people in the photo that has both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, and civil liberties groups, calling for his resignation. Northam reportedly told his Cabinet members he was worried he would be thought of as a “racist for life” if he resigned.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax—who would become governor if Northam stepped down—denied a sexual assault accusation from 2004 at an impromptu news conference Monday. The accuser alleges Fairfax forced himself on her in a hotel room in 2004 after they met at the Democratic National Convention. Fairfax maintains the encounter was consensual. Fairfax’s staffers also said that The Washington Post investigated the allegation before Fairfax’s inauguration but did not run the story because they were unable to substantiate the claims.
Amid the ongoing scandal in Virginia, an old photo showing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell posing in front of a large Confederate flag has resurfaced. The photo first circulated in 2015 and is said to be from a Sons of Confederate Veterans event in the early 1990s.
President Trump is set to deliver the State of the Union address from the House Chamber tonight. Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate and voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams will deliver the Democrats’ response, with California Attorney General Xavier Becerra delivering the Spanish-language response.
Democratic lawmakers have invited guests who are affected by some of President Trump’s most controversial policies. Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley will bring a mother and daughter who were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border last year as part of Trump’s family separation policy. California Democratic Congressmember Zoe Lofgren invited Shaima Swileh, a Yemeni mother who had to sue in order to receive a travel waiver to see her dying son—a U.S. citizen—because of Trump’s Muslim ban. Victorina Morales, an undocumented worker who used to work at a Trump golf club before going public with her story in December, will accompany New Jersey Congressmember Bonnie Watson Coleman. The Trump Organization has fired at least 18 undocumented workers since Morales broke her story. Tune in tomorrow for Democracy Now!’s special coverage of the State of the Union.
Reports have emerged that Trump will nominate David Malpass, a Treasury Department official, to be the new head of the World Bank. Malpass is an outspoken critic of the World Bank, saying it is overly intrusive. Malpass previously worked on Wall Street as the chief economist of Bear Stearns. In 2007, he wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “Don’t Panic About the Credit Market”—less than a year before the collapse and subsequent sale of Bear Stearns amid the 2008 financial crisis.
President Trump has announced he will nominate David Bernhardt as secretary of the Interior Department. Bernhardt, a former oil lobbyist, has been the agency’s acting secretary since Ryan Zinke stepped down in December amid multiple scandals and ethics investigations. Bernhardt was confirmed as deputy secretary of the interior in 2017, where he helped roll back regulations overseen by the department. He worked to make the approval for land and offshore drilling projects easier, and proposed limiting protections for endangered species. Bernhardt also ordered some furloughed workers back to work during the government shutdown to push through on oil and natural gas drilling permits, offshore drilling and drilling in the Alaska refuge.
Iraq’s President Barham Salih spoke out after Trump said he wanted to keep U.S. troops in Iraq to “watch” Iran. In an interview with CBS Sunday, Trump said, “We have an unbelievable and expensive military base built in Iraq. It’s perfectly situated for looking at all over different parts of the troubled Middle East.” In response, Salih said Trump “didn’t ask Iraq about this,” and that the U.S. military presence in Iraq has the mission of helping to combat the Islamic State. President Salih added the Iraqi constitution prohibits the use of Iraq as a base to threaten neighboring countries.
In Somalia, a car bomb killed at least 11 people at a shopping center in the capital Mogadishu Monday. Also on Monday, gunmen shot and killed the head of a Dubai-owned port in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland. The militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for both the attacks.
A panel including three British members of Parliament concluded that the “highest levels of Saudi authority” are responsible for the “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment of women activists and may be in violation of international law. The panel looked at reports from human rights groups detailing the fates of women activists jailed after campaigning for the right to drive and an end to the male guardianship system. The women include Loujain al-Hathloul, a prominent women’s rights advocate who has been arrested several times. Amnesty International says that activists were sexually harassed, electrocuted, flogged and subjected to death threats.
Mexican officials announced a plan Monday to search for tens of thousands of people who have disappeared in the country’s devastating drug war.
Alejandro Encinas: “There are 40,000 missing persons, more than 1,100 unmarked graves, around 26,000 unidentified bodies in the custody of forensic services. And that tells you the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis and the violation of human rights that we are facing and that we want to get beyond in our country.”
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador committed during his campaign to investigate the disappearances, and said he would set up truth commissions and a reparations system for victims.
The White House is reportedly panicking after President Trump’s “executive schedule” was leaked and published by Axios Sunday. The schedules revealed Trump spent around 60 percent of his time over the past three months in unstructured “Executive Time,” which includes tweeting, reading the news, watching TV and making phone calls.
The Justice Department issued a subpoena to President Trump’s inaugural committee Monday, ordering the handover of financial documents related to Trump’s 2016 presidential inauguration. The Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office requested the documents and is seeking information on whether any foreign donors received access to the Trump administration in exchange for contributions. Last month, The New York Times reported Trump’s inaugural committee received an unprecedented $107 million from private donors—at least twice the amount raised by any of his predecessors.
New York Democrats have named state Senator Michael Gianaris to the board that will evaluate New York’s development deal with Amazon, setting up a possible fight with Governor Andrew Cuomo. Gianaris has been a critic of the Amazon deal to build a new headquarters in Long Island City, Queens. Cuomo, who has long courted Amazon’s business, offering billions in tax incentives, has the authority to block the appointment of Gianaris, though it would likely intensify anger among the Democratic lawmakers and activists who have opposed the Amazon deal.
On Monday, Republican state senators in Utah passed a bill limiting Medicaid expansion—just a few months after voters approved the expansion in November. The Medicaid expansion should benefit people with incomes up to 138 percent of the poverty level, but the Republican bill would restrict eligibility to those making less than 100 percent of the poverty level. Utah will also seek federal permission to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients. In Idaho, where over 60 percent of voters approved a Medicaid expansion, lawmakers are also attempting to stymie the measure, by considering work requirements and other restrictions.
In environmental news, a new report finds that at least a third of the Himalayan ice cap will melt off by the end of the century due to rising temperatures. The report states that even radical change to human behavior would not be enough to save the glaciers of the Hindu Kush and Himalaya range, with major consequences for nearly 2 billion people. The Hindu Kush and Himalaya region stretches from Afghanistan to Myanmar and is the largest concentration of ice after the Arctic and Antarctica. The melting glaciers risk overflowing lakes that would engulf local communities by mid-century, before river flows go into decline, affecting power supplies from hydro dams and agricultural production.
And four activists known as the “Four Necessity Valve Turners” were arrested Monday after shutting off two valves at an Enbridge Energy pipeline in Minnesota. The pipelines run over Native American territory. In a statement, the activists, who are part of the Catholic Worker Movement, said, “The group acts in solidarity with the most vulnerable worldwide who suffer the greatest impact from climate change. The Four Necessity Valve Turners believe it is time to take personal responsibility for preventing the dangerous expansion of the oil industry, because governments and regulators have failed to do so.” The Facebook page for the Four Necessity Valve Turners has reportedly been taken down since live-streaming yesterday’s actions. The activists are being held at a jail in Itasca County where they are awaiting arraignment hearings scheduled for Wednesday morning. They are facing possible misdemeanor charges including trespassing and property damage.