Day in Brief Transcript 2/11/19

The federal government will shut down again in a little more than four days if bipartisan negotiators on Capitol Hill can’t come up with a funding deal that can pass Congress and get support from President Trump. Top lawmakers are meeting again after talks stalled over the weekend. Trump is lashing out because of a Democratic demand to cap the number of beds available to hold detained immigrants.

Trump is heading to El Paso, where he’ll try to rally support for his wall. But White House unforced errors keep coming. Trump claimed in his State of the Union that El Paso was once one of the country’s most dangerous cities and that as soon as a barrier was built, crime plummeted. That parroted the words of the Texas attorney general, but nobody at 1600 Pennsylvania seems to have bothered to check if it was true. Turns out El Paso was never one of the country’s most dangerous cities and FBI statistics show crime actually increased slightly after the barriers were built. Don’t take my word for it. El Paso’s Republican mayor pointed it out today.

Why Trump doesn’t stick to established facts, focusing instead on scaremongering, is beyond me. He could make a good case on the facts, pointing out that border patrol wants more barriers and that they reduce illegal immigration, something that could defuse the humanitarian crisis at detention centers.

This Democratic freshman class in Congress is causing a bigger ruckus than any other since the GOP’s class of 1994. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota may not have achieved the notoriety of her colleague, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but her comments are drawing even more intense criticism. Omar has now “unequivocally apologized” for an anti-Semitic tweet that was blasted by Republicans, Chelsea Clinton, and other Democrats who called it “deeply hurtful to Jews.” Omar had made it worse by doubling down with a second tweet before apologizing.

Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax has been placed on leave by his law firm after sexual assault allegations, but he won’t be facing impeachment just yet. A Democratic delegate has decided to wait before filing articles of impeachment in the Virginia statehouse. That’s despite the fact that almost all members of the commonwealth’s delegation to Congress have called on Fairfax to resign and that the two women accusing him of sexual assault say they are willing to testify.

Meanwhile, Gov. Northam is on a “charm offensive,” saying he needs to stay in office. He may well survive his blackface scandal as the drumbeat for him to resign seems to be losing strength.

Michael Cohen will not testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday due to what his lawyer called “post-surgery medical needs.” This is the third time a planned appearance by Cohen on Capitol Hill has been postponed.

Like a cornered animal in the last area it controls in Syria, ISIS is fighting fiercely with suicide car bombs, snipers, and booby traps. The extremists have slowed the advance of Kurdish fighters who are attacking with the help of US-led coalition airstrikes. The area ISIS controls is only a few square miles, but it’s not clear how many of its fighters are there and how many civilians are trapped.

Meanwhile, the top US commander in the fight against ISIS has aligned himself with the US intelligence community to disagree with Trump, saying there are still “tens of thousands” of ISIS fighters spread across Syria and Iraq. He said “They are dispersed and disaggregated, but there is leadership.” US allies remain concerned about Trump’s timetable to withdraw US troops from Syria.

The Bezos scandal raises all sorts of important questions about the National Enquirer, blackmail, possible Trump and/or Saudi involvement, and more. But it’s also turning into quite the soap opera, with an extra-marital affair, divorce, racy pictures, sexting, and now the brother of the billionaire’s mistress accused of leaking the texts that launched the scandal, while also attacking the billionaire’s security consultants. A lawyer for the Enquirer denied that Trump or the Saudis had anything to do with it.

Has any White House leaked as much as Trump’s? More of Trump’s schedules have been released, confirming that most of his work hours are spent in unstructured “executive time.” Trump defended himself, insisting it’s a positive, not a negative, and that he’s working, not relaxing. Still, I’m sure most Americans would join me in volunteering to have more executive time.

California Governor Gavin Newsom is reversing his predecessor’s decision to deploy National Guard troops to the border with Mexico. That had been requested by the Trump administration. New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan did the same thing last week.

In the Age of Trump, many big international stories get short shrift or are fully ignored. Had you even heard of the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo? More than 500 people have died, while 271 managed to survive. Almost 100 of the dead are children. If there hadn’t been an aggressive vaccination program, this could have already turned into an epidemic, similar to what we saw in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea in 2014. The threat, however, is far from over, and the number of new cases spiked in January.

According to Senator Warren, she may never face Trump in a presidential campaign because he could be behind bars in 2020. That followed a provocative Trump tweet that again mocked Warren for having claimed Native American heritage. Some also accuse the Trump tweet of referring to the Trail of Tears, the forced relocation of Native Americans that caused thousands of deaths.

In our daily alternate universes segment, the great divide between conservative and liberal media was evident in the coverage of Trump’s tweet. The Left slammed Trump’s tweet as offensive, while the right mostly ignored the story. Whether Trump was intentionally referring to the Trail of Tears is up for debate, but he opened the door by capitalizing “Trail” when referring to the “campaign trail.” The thing is, the Left has often ridiculed Trump’s knowledge of history, so it could be a stretch to assume he knew the reference and was thinking about it. It’s hard to have it both ways.

Finally, no fault goes to host Alicia Keys, but the Grammys were almost unwatchable. When they honored Dolly Parton, the focus turned to Katie Perry getting blasted for upstaging the country star, her dress, and her singing. Speeches got cut off, most obnoxiously when Drake mildly criticized the Grammys in his acceptance speech for “God’s Plan.” And, really, who thought J-Lo should lead a Motown medley with a whole bunch of Motown’s greatest stars in the room? Oh, the ceremony also lasted a mind-numbing 3 hours and 40 minutes.

But I digress. On the positive side, Gaga was great and won a couple of awards. Women reigned, in general, with Kacey Musgraves taking home four Grammys, including Album of the Year, and Cardi B becoming the first solo woman to win a Grammy for Best Rap Album. Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, posted four big wins, as well.