By Megan Cassella and David Morgan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican senators on Thursday raised the possibility they would confirm Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland before the U.S. president leaves office in January if Democrats retain the White House in the Nov. 8 election. Garland began the customary meetings with senators that kick off the confirmation process. He visited the offices of Democrats Harry Reid and Patrick Leahy a day after Obama nominated the appeals court judge and former prosecutor to replace conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died on Feb. 13. Republicans are concerned that if Hillary Clinton, Obama's former secretary of state and the Democratic front-runner, wins the presidential election, she could send the Senate a far more liberal nominee after taking office. Garland, 63, is widely viewed as a moderate acceptable to many Republicans, who also worry they could lose control of the Senate to the Democrats in the November vote. Nominations to the lifetime Supreme Court post require Senate confirmation. Republicans have said they want the next president to make the selection, hoping their party wins November's election. Billionaire businessman Donald Trump is the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. Utah's Orrin Hatch and Arizona's Jeff Flake, Republican members of the Judiciary Committee that would hold any confirmation hearings, said it was possible the Senate could act on Garland's nomination in a "lame-duck" session after the election and before a new president and Congress take office in January. "I would choose a less liberal nominee. And this nominee is a less liberal nominee than we would get, I'm quite certain, with Hillary Clinton," Flake told reporters. Senate Republican leaders have vowed not to hold confirmation hearings or an up-or-down vote on any Supreme Court nominee put forward by Obama. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky reiterated that stance on Thursday. Denis McDonough, Obama's chief of staff, said the White House will watch developments over the next several weeks and months but expected Republicans eventually would hold a vote on Garland's nomination. Any Democratic appointee to the high court, now with four liberals and four conservatives following Scalia's death, could tip it to the left for the first time in decades. That could shape rulings on such issues as abortion, gun rights, religious rights, affirmative action, union powers and political spending. Flake said while Republican leaders were "fully justified" in delaying action on confirmation, if the Republicans lose the White House race the Senate "ought to look at this nomination in a lame-duck session in November." Hatch in 1997 backed Garland's nomination to his current judgeship. "To this day, I think well of Merrick Garland, and I think he's a fine person," Hatch told National Public Radio. "I remain convinced that the best way for the Senate to do its job is to conduct the confirmation process after this toxic presidential election season is over." While McConnell is refusing even to meet with Garland, Republican Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa indicated he was willing. "If I can meet with a dictator in Uganda, I can surely meet with a decent person in America," Grassley said, according to CNN. Garland met with Nevada's Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, and Vermont's Leahy, top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. Garland did not address reporters, but Leahy expressed hope that Republican leaders would change course. If they followed a normal routine, senators could hold confirmation hearings and a vote by the Memorial Day holiday in late May, Leahy said. Reid pledged to keep up the pressure on Republicans to confirm Garland. "Do it now. Why wait?" Reid said when asked about a lame-duck confirmation scenario. "To hold up a nomination so that Donald Trump can give a nomination? That should scare everybody." (Reporting by Megan Cassella and David Morgan; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Susan Cornwell; Editing by Will Dunham and Howard Goller)
- Yahoo News
Republicans built up QAnon backer Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, but now are they afraid of what they created?
On the eve of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the combative Georgia Republican known for her association with QAnon, was back on Twitter after a 12-hour suspension, and back to making waves.
- NBC News
Court documents recounted the man's telling his children that he would consider them "traitors" if they contacted authorities.
Secretary of State nominee Tony Blinken said at a confirmation hearing on Tuesday that it was “extraordinary how frightened Vladimir Putin seems to be of one man” — Alexey Navalny.Why it matters: Russia’s most prominent opposition figure, Navalny, returned to Russia on Sunday and was swiftly arrested. He spent the previous five months recovering in Germany after being poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. His detention poses an early foreign policy challenge for the Biden administration.Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.What he’s saying: Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Navalny served as a voice for millions of Russians, “and their voice needs to be heard in Russia.” * “The attempts to silence that voice by silencing Mr. Navalny is something that we strongly condemn,” Blinken added, noting that Navalny's arrest and other points of tension with Russia would be “very high on the agenda for an incoming administration.” * Incoming national security adviser Jake Sullivan previously called for Navalny's immediate release.The latest: Navalny was ordered to remain in pre-trial detention for 30 days. He was officially arrested for violating the conditions of a suspended prison term by missing an appointment in December.Worth noting: Blinken praised Sen. Mitt Romney, who serves on the committee, for being “prescient” on Russia. Romney was mocked for referring to Russia as America’s “number one geopolitical foe” in a 2012 presidential debate with Barack Obama, including by Obama himself.Go deeper: Bill Browder on Russia-U.S. relations after Alexei Navalny's arrestGet smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- Yahoo News Video
Alejandro Mayorkas, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to head the Department of Homeland Security, said during his Senate confirmation hearing that he would execute Biden’s plan to stop building the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Mayorkas also said that CBP and ICE play “critical roles” in the federal government and that he wouldn’t abolish them.
- The Week
Constitutionally-speaking, Chief Justice John Roberts is meant to preside over President Trump's impeachment trial, but he apparently wants out, Politico reports.Multiple Republican and Democratic sources have reportedly told Politico that Roberts is seeking a way to avoid the job because of how things played out when he oversaw Trump's first impeachment trial last year. Roberts, Politico notes, has worked hard to keep the Supreme Court apolitical during his tenure, so he was reportedly displeased that he "became a top target of the left" during the proceedings. "He wants no further part of this," one source told Politico, although there's been no official word from Roberts' camp about what he'll ultimately do.Trump's trial is a bit of a constitutional oddity. On the one hand, it's a presidential impeachment, but on the other hand, the trial will take place after he leaves office, which is why there's a chance Roberts may have some wiggle room. Historically, either the vice president or the longest-serving member of the Senate have taken up the mantle for lower-level impeachments, per Politico. That means Vice President-elect Kamala Harris or Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) could be the choice. Read more at Politico.More stories from theweek.com 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment Biden honors coronavirus victims during somber ceremony Trump's White House staff and alumni are reportedly using the same excuse to skip his big sendoff
Tam Dinh Pham of the Houston police department was part of the deadly mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. A veteran Houston police officer is in trouble after attending the U.S. Capitol riots in Washington, D.C., then lying about it. Officer Tam Dinh Pham joined the deadly mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
- National Review
Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) warned on Tuesday that the U.S. is not taking China’s actions against Uyghur Muslims seriously enough. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced earlier in the day that the U.S. will classify China’s treatment of Uyghurs as a “genocide.” China operates a network of internment camps where over a million Uyghurs are imprisoned, and the Chinese government has implemented a program of forced sterilizations for Uyghur women. Sasse said that the genocide designation came “late,” and implied that both the Trump administration and incoming Biden team have not done enough to confront China. “This decision is good and right, but it’s late. The United States isn’t taking the Uyghur genocide seriously.” Sasse said in a statement. “A lot of folks in the Trump Administration wanted to talk about China primarily in terms of a trade deficit, and a lot of folks in the Biden Administration want to talk about China as merely a competitor.” Sasse added, “The Chinese Communist Party is a genocidal dictatorship and Chairman Xi [Jinping] is evil. The United States has an obligation to meet this challenge head on and take the side of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang who are raped and tortured.” China also reportedly uses Uyghurs and other Muslims for forced labor, including harvesting cotton in Xinjiang Province. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol banned the importation of cotton from Xinjiang last week. The province is the source of 20 percent of the world’s supply of raw cotton. Earlier on Tuesday, Biden’s nominee for Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told senators that she supported an “aggressive” stance toward China. “Our approach to China has to evolve and essentially meet the reality of the particularly assertive and aggressive China that we see today,” Haines said. “I do support an aggressive stance, in a sense, to deal with the challenge that we are facing.”
A prominent Iranian-born scholar arrested Monday was secretly paid to write columns favorable to Tehran and lobby at least one U.S. lawmaker on its behalf, federal prosecutors say.Why it matters: Kaveh Afrasiabi’s writings showed up in prominent publications such as the New York Times and the Guardian as, the Justice Department says, he drew regular payments from the Iranian government and communicated frequently with the country’s diplomatic staff. None of these professional or financial conflicts was disclosed.Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.What’s new: Federal officers charged Afrasiabi with acting as an unregistered foreign agent. * Prosecutors say Iran’s mission to the United Nations paid him more than $265,000 from July 2007 through November 2020. Many of the checks described payments to Afrasiabi as a “salary.” * Prosecutors say Afrasiabi also received health insurance benefits from the Iranian U.N. mission since 2011.During that time, Afrasiabi made media appearances and published writings in major publications that described him as an independent scholar and expert on Iranian affairs. * Afrasiabi’s columns have appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, and HuffPost. He’s also appeared on Chinese and Russian state media in the U.S. * His writings uniformly aligned with Tehran’s position on world affairs, and, according to the indictment, were often written in consultation with Iranian diplomatic staff. * Prosecutors say Afrasiabi also helped craft an April 2015 column in the New York Times written by Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif.Afrasiabi’s work also included direct communications with an unidentified member of Congress and his staff, prosecutors say. * According to the indictment, Afrasiabi helped write a December 2009 letter from the unnamed congressman to then-President Barack Obama regarding Iranian nuclear negotiations.Be smart: DOJ’s indictment was unsealed on Tuesday, as the Trump administration unveils last-minute measures going after foreign powers it considers top U.S. adversaries.Go deeper: "U.S. declares China's actions against Uighurs 'genocide'"Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.
A boy who was killed in an alleged murder-suicide by his father has been identified as 9-year-old Pierce O’Loughlin. Family tragedy: The boy and his father, Stephen O'Loughlin, 49, were both found dead at their home on Scott Street, Marina District in San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon, SF Chronicle reports. The boy’s mother, Lesley Hu, asked authorities to check on her son after learning that he did not show up for school that day.
- NBC News
Suspect William McCall Calhoun Jr. faces a host of charges stemming from the Jan. 6 pro-Trump riot at the U.S. Capitol Building.
- The Week
Anthony Scaramucci was right: The White House appears to be having trouble rounding up a sizable crowd for President Trump's official send-off from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Wednesday."In what looks like a desperate attempt to build a crowd for the crowd-obsessed president, an email has been making the rounds to current and former White House officials inviting them, and as many as five plus-ones, to Trump's elaborate exit ceremony," Politico reported Tuesday morning. "The go-to excuse for skipping out has been the 6 a.m. call time at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. But truly, many just don't want to be photographed sending off their former boss."Trump's current staffers have a good reason to avoid their outgoing boss. "Former White House officials and campaign staffers who would typically land plum jobs in corporate America after serving their time are now out in the cold," Politico says. One former White House official who got out early put it this way: "No one wants to touch them, they're just toxic." Another former Trump aide, pointing to the fallout from the Jan. 6 insurrection, was more blunt, telling Politico: "They're f---ed."Trump will be the first president since Andrew Johnson, another member of the tiny impeached president club, to skip the inauguration of his successor. "Johnson snubbed Ulysses S. Grant in 1869," The Washington Post notes. More stories from theweek.com 5 more scathing cartoons about Trump's 2nd impeachment Biden honors coronavirus victims during somber ceremony Chief Justice John Roberts reportedly wants no part of Trump's impeachment trial
- Architectural Digest
Mercedes-Benz’s Hyperscreen, General Motors’ Bright Drop, and Jeep’s Electric Wrangler were among the unveils that turned headsOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
The company's comments come after California's top epidemiologist on Sunday issued a statement recommending providers pause vaccination from lot no. 41L20A due to possible allergic reactions that are under investigation. The vaccine maker said it was unaware of comparable cases of adverse events from other vaccination centers which may have administered vaccines from the same lot or from other lots of its vaccine.
- National Review
President-elect Joe Biden has chosen Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine to be his assistant secretary of health, setting her up to become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the Senate. Levine, a pediatrician and former Pennsylvania physician general, will serve as the top deputy to Health and Human Services Secretary-designee Xavier Becerra. “Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond,” Biden said in a press release. “She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.” Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said that Levine is “a remarkable public servant with the knowledge and experience to help us contain this pandemic, and protect and improve the health and well-being of the American people.” Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, appointed Levine to her current position in 2017. She was confirmed by the Republican-majority Pennsylvania Senate for her roles as health secretary and physician general. Levine, a graduate of Harvard University and Tulane University School of Medicine, has become the public face of the state’s coronavirus pandemic response. She faced calls to resign from her post last spring after reports that she had removed her 95-year-old mother from her personal care home after ordering all nursing homes and long-term facilities in the state to accept coronavirus patients from hospitals, despite concerns about older people’s vulnerability to the virus. She defended the decision, saying her mother who is “more than competent to make her own decisions” had requested the move.
- NBC News
Officers in Sacramento, California, and Toledo, Ohio, were killed in separate incidents on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.
- The Telegraph
The final days of a presidential term normally see an outgoing president issue a series of pardons to those who have had criminal convictions. Rumours are swirling about who Donald Trump may pardon, but what is a presidential pardon and how might Trump exercise this power? What is a pardon? A presidential pardon is a legal act under the constitution that allows presidents to unilaterally set aside a punishment for a federal crime. This can involve commuting a sentence, removing a fine or providing clemency. A president can issue a pardon for any federal crime except impeachment.
World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned Monday the world is "on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure" because of unequal COVID-19 vaccine distribution.Why it matters: Tedros noted during an executive session that 39 million vaccine doses had been administered in 49 higher-income countries, while one lowest-income nation had "just 25 doses." Be smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America. * This "me-first" approach will ultimately "prolong the pandemic, the restrictions needed to contain it, and human and economic suffering," he added.Of note: The WHO itself faced criticism in an interim report on Monday for being slow to respond to the outbreak after it was first detected in late 2019 in China, which was also singled out for failings early on. * "The global pandemic alert system is not fit for purpose," said the preliminary report by the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, an independent panel commissioned by the WHO. * "The WHO has been underpowered to do the job."What they're saying: China's public health measures "could have been applied more forcefully by local and national health authorities" in January, said the report's panel of experts, led by former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. * The experts noted it was unclear why the WHO did not meet until the third week of January 2020, nor why it was unable to agree to declaring a Public Health Emergency of International Concern until a week later.What to watch: A World Health Organization team of researchers is in Wuhan, China, investigating the origins of the pandemic. * Tedros said his focus is on the roll-out of the global vaccine-sharing scheme COVAX, which is due to begin next month. Over 180 countries have signed up to the WHO-led scheme. * He hopes that by World Health Day on April 7, COVID-19 vaccines "are being administered in every country, as a symbol of hope for overcoming both the pandemic and the inequalities that lie at the root of so many global health challenges."Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- National Review
President-elect Joe Biden is set to propose an extensive immigration reform bill on day one of his administration, which includes an eight-year path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally. The bill, which is expected to fill hundreds of pages, would offer one of the quickest pathways to citizenship for illegal immigrants in recent years: those living in the U.S. illegally as of January 1 would have a five-year path to temporary legal status, or a green card, contingent upon a background check, paying taxes, and other basic requirements, according to the Associated Press. What follows, should eligible immigrants decide to pursue citizenship, is a three-year path to naturalization. Meanwhile, “Dreamers” — young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children — as well as agricultural workers and those under temporary protective status could receive green cards even sooner if they are working, in school or fulfill other requirements. However, the measure does not include Republican-supported enhanced border security, only calls for coming up with strategies and for the use of technology, which could prove a hurdle to its passage in Congress as Biden would need to earn support from some GOP senators to pass the proposal into law. The legislation also aims to address the causes of migration from Central America to the U.S. and offers grants for workforce development and English language learning. On Inauguration Day, Biden is expected to issue a series of executive orders to reverse other Trump immigration actions, including the outgoing administration’s travel “ban” on predominantly Muslim countries. On the campaign trail, Biden repeatedly promised that immigration reform would come on day one of his administration. “[W]e made a mistake. It took too long to get it right,” Biden said of the Obama Administration’s record on immigration, during the October 23 presidential debate.
- The Independent
Trump ends term with ‘patriotic education’ report which makes excuses for slavery and calls anti-abortion movement ‘great reform’
White House website says report is “rebuttal of reckless 're-education' attempts that seek to reframe American history around idea that United States is not an exceptional country but an evil one”
When asked if he thinks Capitol stormer Guy Reffitt is dangerous, his son replied, ‘I don’t really know him anymore.’ A Texas man allegedly threatened to shoot his own children if they turned him in for his participation in the deadly insurrection in the U.S. Capitol Building. Guy Reffitt, 48, told his family he participated in storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, but upon learning he was wanted by the FBI, he warned them against turning him in.