Controversial new book details the dysfunction in the White House during Trump’s first year as president.
Fire and Fury
Much of this week’s political coverage has centered around the publication of a book, Fire and Fury, “which details an inside-look of President Trump’s White House." After Trump’s lawyers sent cease-and-desist letters to just about everyone involved – the author, Michael Wolff, the publisher, Henry Holt, and Steve Bannon, his former advisor, who made some incendiary comments about the president’s son in the book – the publisher decided to move the publication date up four days, to Friday.
- As you can probably guess, the book shot up the bestseller lists and sold out within minutes or hours in lots of bookstores.
- The book first drew the president’s ire when Bannon’s comments were publicized. Bannon told Wolff that Trump Jr.’s infamous meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in June 2016 was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic,” and he called Ivanka Trump “dumb as a brick.”
- Trump shot back at Bannon, saying he’d “lost his mind” when he left the White House.
- Trump Jr. also pushed back against Bannon’s comments, tweeting that Bannon had “squandered [the privilege of working in the White House] & turned that opportunity into a nightmare of backstabbing, harassing, leaking, lying & undermining the President.”
- On Thursday, Rebekah Mercer, the billionaire co-owner of Breitbart, the ultra-nationalist media outlet that Bannon runs, issued a statement distancing herself from him and embracing President Trump, leaving Bannon with few allies in the growing feud.
This week in Russia
Paul Manafort, the embattled figure at the center of the Russia investigation, filed a lawsuit against Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the Justice Department. In the complaint, filed in the same district court handling the criminal case against him, Manafort argues that Mueller has exceeded his authority and that “DOJ granted Mueller too much power in the first place.”
- If you’ve got whiplash and don’t exactly remember what Manafort was charged with, you can take a look at our coverage, here. And for more context, browse back through some of our “This week in Russia” coverage.
Manafort’s suit came just days before Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) recommended “the Justice Department investigate for possible criminal charges the author of the now-famous dossier alleging the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin during the 2016 election.”
- Both Manafort’s and Grassley’s moves are seen by many as partisan attempts to challenge the credibility of both the Mueller investigation and the FBI.
According to multiple media outlets, President Trump urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, just before Sessions went ahead and did just that.
- Trump used Don McGahn, his White House counsel, as the messenger, in an episode that is known to Special Counsel Mueller and “is likely of interest” to him as he looks into whether Trump’s actions were intended to obstruct the investigation.
- The New York Times was the first to break the news.
California’s new pot policy puts the state on a collision course with Jeff Sessions.
California became the world’s biggest legal recreational marijuana marketplace on Monday when a new state law stemming from a 2016 voter-approved initiative went into effect. The newly legal industry is valued at $7 billion – bigger, even, than Canada’s soon-to-be-legalized marijuana industry – and advocates project that state and local governments could eventually collect $1 billion a year in taxes. That’s a sizable chunk from a single industry in a state where revenue from all sources in its most recent fiscal year equaled $117.6 billion.
- The new law, as Huffington Post’s Matt Ferner reports, “allows adults 21 and older to legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana.”
- Adults can also have six or fewer cannabis plants at home for personal use, but restricts public use – if you can’t smoke cigarettes somewhere, you can’t smoke cannabis there, either.
- Also, and this is notable, folks prosecuted under previous cannabis laws can petition courts to clear their crimes. According to statistics compiled by California’s state judicial system, more than 4,800 people have already done so.
California's progressive new cannabis policy puts the state on a collision course with the federal government, however: the Associated Press reported on Thursday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions – a longtime opponent of legalized marijuana – “is rescinding the Obama-era policy that had paved the way for legalized marijuana to flourish in states across the country.”
- A 2013 memo written by then-Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole announced the Justice Department would not enforce federal policy on marijuana in places it conflicted with state law, “so long as officials acted to keep it from migrating to places where it remained outlawed and out of the hands of criminal gangs and children.”
- Sessions is rescinding that memo, and instead directing federal prosecutors to decide for themselves “how aggressively to enforce federal marijuana law” in places where it conflicts with state law.
- Proponents of Sessions’ move point to problems in Colorado, where “drug traffickers…hide in plain sight, illegally growing and shipping the drug” to states where it’s still illegal and will sell for much higher prices. Opponents, however, “condemned Sessions’ move as a return to outdated drug-war policies that unduly affected minorities.”
- Sessions’ decision is aligned to previous moves, like directing prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense,” against low-level drug offenders, a policy that is likely exacerbate overcrowding in prisons.
In one of the strangest elections in modern history, Republicans retained control of the Virginia House of Delegates when incumbent David Yancey “won a lottery-style drawing” against Democrat Shelly Simonds.
- After a tie in November’s election, the names of both candidates were “placed in a film canister; those were then placed into a bowl and one name was drawn.”
- Democrats won a tidal wave of electoral victories in Virginia in November, taking control of the governorship in a high-profile contest, and picking up 14 seats in the House of Delegates.
- Had Simonds – who’d initially been declared the winner by a single vote – won, Democrats would have tied up the House. Instead, Republicans will keep a slim 51-49 majority.
The US economy added 148,000 jobs in December, a small uptick to finish off a year of strong growth.
- The good news: The jobless rate remained at a remarkably tight 4.1 percent, which is likely the reason wages continued to grow (albeit very slowly), climbing another 9 cents, which, according to the Washington Post, means wages have increased about 2.5 percent since December 2016.
- The bad news: businesses are struggling to find qualified employees, and baby boomers are leaving the job market faster than younger workers can cycle in to replace them. And the robust job market has not touched every area of the country: both West Virginia and Ohio, where mining and manufacturing have been on the decline for decades, have higher-than-average jobless rates – and people in low-opportunity areas “are showing less desire to pack up and leave” than ever before.
The FBI is reopening an inquiry into “whether the Clinton Foundation engaged in any pay-to-play politics or other illegal activities while Hillary Clinton served as secretary of State,” according to The Hill.
President Trump dissolved his controversial voter fraud commission, after multiple states refused to comply with requests for data.
BP and Royal Dutch Shell, two of the world’s oil giants, will incur massive one-time charges as a result of the new tax bill, although both announced they expect the bill to benefit them in the long run. BP will “take a one-off $1.5 billion charge” while Shell is taking a $2-2.5 billion charge.
“300 [of Hollywood’s most] prominent actresses, female agents, writers, directors, producers and entertainment executives” have launched a campaign called Time’s Up, which aims to combat sexual harassment in the entertainment and other industries.
The Trump administration has requested $18 billion to fund the first phase of a border wall along the southern US border.
- The wall “would include 316 miles of new fencing and 407 miles of reinforcing existing fence over the next decade.”
- At a press conference at Camp David on Saturday, Trump reiterated his belief that Mexico will pay for the wall’s construction: “I believe Mexico will pay for the wall,” he said. “I have a very good relationship with Mexico…but yes, in some form, Mexico will pay for the wall.”
header image: "photo of the day 4/8/17," the white house / flickr