The President is Back

Monday, January 29, 2018Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 10.42.09 AM

Good Monday morning, 
Here are some of the stories making news in Washington and politics today:
  • President Trump is set to give his first State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday, delivering what his aides describe as an optimistic speech that will seek to reach beyond the people who voted for him in 2016. But will he stick to the script?

  • As Capitol Hill prepares for Mr. Trump’s address, some lawmakers are concerned that his presidency has pushed an already dsyfunctional Congress into a near-permanent state of gridlock — one that could threaten American democracy.

  • Senate Democrats are working to ensure that any budget negotiations include legislation to protect Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel for the Russia investigation, from being fired by Mr. Trump.
  • Democrats have stepped up calls to protect Mr. Mueller after revelations of the president’s attempt to fire him last summer. But Republicans appeared to settle on warnings instead.

  • Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, has maintained a low profile while resignations and firings have roiled the Trump administration. But the disclosure that he threatened to resign in order to stop the president from ousting Mr. Mueller has thrust Mr. McGahn squarely in the public eye.

— The First Draft Team

At Davos, the Real Star May Have Been China, Not Trump

Liu He, a top economic policy adviser to the Chinese president, drew a full house to his presentation to global business and political leaders at the World Economic Forum.

Liu He, a top economic policy adviser to the Chinese president, drew a full house to his presentation to global business and political leaders at the World Economic Forum. Gian Ehrenzeller/European Pressphoto Agency

President Trump used the World Economic Forum meeting to woo investors and business leaders by reassuring them that “America first does not mean America alone.” But it was clear in Davos, Switzerland, this past week that geopolitical momentum lay with Beijing, not Washington.
At one end of town, President Michel Temer of Brazil welcomed an unexpected offer from Beijing for Latin American nations to work closely with a Chinese initiative, known as the Belt and Road, intended to spread its economic and diplomatic influence abroad.
At the other end of town, a senior Chinese diplomat helped introduce the prime minister of Pakistan at a breakfast meeting. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi used his talk to praise the rapidly expanding Chinese investments in his country, including to build power stations and a large port.
One of the best-attended speeches at the forum was that of Liu He, a member of China’s ruling Politburo, who promoted the Belt and Road initiative, also known as One Belt, One Road. Participants said the Chinese initiative was already rivaling more established, traditionally American-led, international institutions.
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Hillary Clinton campaign’s Senior Adviser for Faith Based Operations, Burns Strider, in 2008.

Hillary Clinton Declined to Oust Faith Adviser Accused of Harassment in 2008


Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager at the time recommended that she fire the adviser, Burns Strider. Instead, Mr. Strider was docked several weeks of pay and ordered to undergo counseling.

Afghan Army soldiers outside Kabul in October. American advisers will help train Afghan forces, including marshaling air support and artillery when they are targeted by the Taliban.

Training Quick and Staffing Unfinished, Army Units Brace for Surging Taliban


A brigade of military advisers is being heralded as a key part of President Trump’s strategy to turn the tide in Afghanistan, but its commander has raised internal concerns about the challenges it faces.

Sprawling for 50 miles from the Philadelphia suburbs to the farms of Lancaster County, the Seventh Congressional District snakes past a barn and around a hospital in Coatesville, Pa.

In a Comically Drawn Pennsylvania District, the Voters Are Not Amused


The bizarre shape of the state’s Seventh Congressional District makes it a headache just to tell who lives there. Few seem to lament a court order to redraw the map.

A Bombardier CSeries plane in 2015. The Commerce Department had recommended that the United States impose duties of nearly 300 percent on Bombardier’s new CSeries, but the International Trade Commission decided to revoke them.

Boeing Is Denied Bid for Tariffs on Canadian Jets


The decision ends a trade case filed by Boeing, which said its Canadian rival Bombardier unfairly subsidized and dumped its planes in the United States.

Rebekah Mercer, who is under renewed pressure to step down from the board of the American Museum of Natural History.

Curators at Museum of Natural History Object to a Trustee


Several members of the museum’s staff have sent a letter protesting Rebekah Mercer’s position on the board.

Tom Colicchio announced he is leaving Food Policy Action, the organization he helped found, on Instagram and Twitter.

Chef Colicchio Quits a Food Policy Group He Started


Tom Colicchio says Food Policy Action’s lobbying efforts aren’t working; he’ll work instead to help elect “better” lawmakers.

Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, will step down later this year.

Richards on Her Life After Planned Parenthood


The president of the organization since 2006, Cecile Richards will now be promoting a memoir and campaigning for Democratic women in the midterm elections.

The Follower Factory


Everyone wants to be popular online. Some even pay for it. Inside social media’s black market.

Part of the gallery at the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament last summer. The event, which is entering its 29th year, brings more than 40,000 people to Stateline, Nev., a casino town on the shores of Lake Tahoe.

In Tahoe, a Wild Intersection of Golf and Celebrities


The American Century Championship has never been your usual, tame golf tournament. Reports about Mr. Trump’s visit in 2006 have brightened the spotlight.

Stephen Wynn was personally selected for the Republican National Committee finance post by President Trump.

Wynn Steps Down From R.N.C. Post After Sexual Misconduct Claims


Stephen Wynn, a casino mogul and political donor, had been selected for a Republican committee finance position by Mr. Trump but was facing growing calls to step aside.

A pump jack in a Permian Basin oil field in West Texas. The area has been a focus of the shale drilling boom.

Oil Boom Gives the U.S. a New Edge in Energy and Diplomacy


Having survived a slump, shale drilling is surging as prices recover, limiting market upheaval and providing Washington with strategic leeway.

The reawakening of Europe, combined with growth in the United States, has kept Chinese industry humming to satisfy demand for goods, from auto parts to tools to clothing.

Every One of the World’s Big Economies Is Now Growing


For the first time since the global economic downturn, there is a wave of expansion that is creating jobs, lifting fortunes and tempering fears of popular discontent.

Right and Left: Partisan Writing You Shouldn’t Miss
Read about how the other side thinks. We have collected political writing from around the web and across ideologies about President Trump’s attempted firing of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel for the Russia investigation. 
From the Right
Ben Shapiro in The Daily Wire:
“Now, none of this amounts to legal obstruction.”
Mr. Shapiro concedes that the news that Mr. Trump tried to fire Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel appointed to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election, may prove to be “another link in the chain of possible obstruction.” However, he points out, “the president is the head of the executive branch and the investigation has not been quieted in any way.” Read more »
From the Left
Renato Mariotti in Politico:
“Trump’s desire to fire Mueller despite knowing that firing a law enforcement official overseeing the Russia investigation could raise obstruction concerns is strong evidence that Trump’s intent was to obstruct the investigation.”
Mr. Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, lays out the case that, given the president’s attempt to remove Mr. Mueller in June, the special counsel may have the evidence he needs to prove obstruction of justice. Before Thursday’s report by The Times, Mr. Mariotti points out, Mr. Mueller may have been more cautious about this charge. In his experience, “proving a defendant’s intent without direct evidence” is difficult. However, Mr. Trump’s knowledge that firing the special counsel was “wrongful” can serve to “bolster Mueller’s case” for obstruction. Read more »
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