They cleared the hurdle. The Senate voted today to confirm Mike Pompeo as head of the CIA, shortly after the Foreign Relations Committee cleared former Exxon-Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State. The narrow Tillerson tally was secured when Marco Rubio came around, despite his criticism of Tillerson’s Russia ties. Earlier today, Donald Trump signed an order to leave the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade deal negotiated by the Obama administration. The new president also signed executive orders to freeze federal hiring and cut funding for international NGOs that provide abortions, reinstating a Reagan-era policy.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Oops! A missile test-fired from a British submarine near Florida in June was to splash down in the Atlantic. But the Sunday Times newspaper reported that it flew the other way — over the U.S. — causing a British political firestorm. Prime Minister Theresa May convinced her government to lavish $50 billion on the aging Trident nuclear arsenal, and her spokesperson said she was told the system worked. One former Royal Navy head accused ministers of emulating North Korea in obscuring the failure, and now parliamentarians are asking what May knew and when.
That didn’t take long. Liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is filing suit in federal court today alleging that Donald Trump is violating a provision of the Constitution. The Emoluments Clause says no federal officeholder can receive payments from any foreign state — like, the suit argues, foreign officials staying at the president’s hotels — without the consent of Congress. Trump Organization Executive Vice President Eric Trump called it “purely harassment,” and even if a court rules for the plaintiffs, Congress could simply give consent.
They’re using “alternative facts.” Press Secretary Sean Spicer harangued the media over inauguration coverage, falsely claiming that Donald Trump had the biggest crowd ever, among other easily disprovable claims, in his first official podium appearance. Now the nascent administration must face an even greater numerical gap: Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington, with an estimated 470,000 demonstrators in D.C. alone, dwarfed the 160,000 inaugural attendees. The president’s obsession with battling the press has even caused unease among some Trump aides, who’d rather use the administration’s opening days to make policy, not war.
Yahya Jammeh has left the building. The deposed former president finally agreed to step down, accepting the results of December’s election and the inauguration of his successor, President Adama Barrow. But Jammeh didn’t leave empty-handed. After his plane departed Saturday night, taking the long-time leader into exile, it was revealed that he’d looted the country’s coffers, reportedly making off with $11.4 million and a fleet of luxury cars. Though he’s been offered asylum in Morocco and Nigeria, it remains unclear where Jammeh will ultimately land.
It’s a special relationship — between the president and the Rust Belt states that elected him. President Trump will soon meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with an eye toward renegotiating NAFTA, which Trump’s excoriated as undercutting U.S. workers. He hopes to launch a friendlier discussion with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May when she visits Friday, laying the foundation for a British-American trade pact. But that could take years and run afoul of EU obstacles if Britain’s divorce from the bloc drags out.
Know This: Storms slammed the southeastern U.S. over the weekend, killing 18 people, 14 in Georgia alone. Secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson appears headed for Senate confirmation after key lawmakers gave their blessing. And peace talks between belligerent Syrian factions and the government have begun in Kazakhstan — without U.S. participation.
Figure This: “I frankly didn’t see the point … Nobody called me and said, ‘Hey, could we have a dialog?’” — Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump, on the Women’s March on Washington, to ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos.
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Play fast and loose with lithium-ions, you’re gonna get burned. Samsung has revealed why its smartphones spontaneously combusted: After testing 200,000 devices, the company says poor battery design and hurried product releases resulted in some phones shorting, overheating and even exploding in owners’ pockets. This faulty battery tech from two different suppliers resulted in everything from airplane bans to mocking memes, while igniting serious legal and financial problems for Samsung. The electronics giant is nevertheless on track to release its new phone, the Galaxy S8, this spring.
He’s a different kind of dealmaker. When businessman Jim Justice flipped from Republican to Democrat to capture West Virginia’s governor’s mansion, his outsider run sparked comparisons to the president — whose second son, Eric, is Justice’s hunting buddy. With his state’s image tarnished by the coal industry’s collapse and the opioid epidemic, Justice is hoping to leverage its dense forests and natural gas reserves into a rebirth. But while he’s helped make West Virginians proud again, they’re still waiting to find out what their local billionaire mogul can accomplish.
Does it include brotherly love? Philadelphia activists have encouraged teachers to incorporate lessons this week addressing racial issues, ranging from elementary-level “revolution” coloring books to high school lectures on the biology of skin color. While it’s arguably a defining issue of our time, the voluntary initiative’s prompted a backlash over teaching such a controversial topic, particularly one pegged to a movement amplifying societal divisions. But with teenagers getting news about police shootings and protests in real time on their smartphones, proponents say educators should engage them and add context.
They’re following the Prime Directive, leaving lower beings undisturbed. Film rights owners CBS and Paramount have settled a lawsuit over a feature-length crowdfunded fan film. Axanar takes place 21 years before the 1966 sci-fi series and tells the story of an invented Starfleet captain. More than 10,000 fans donated an unprecedented $1 million, and Star Trek directors J.J. Abrams and Justin Lin encouraged the project. But studios slammed creators with a year-long lawsuit — that’s now shelved as long as the film is released in 15-minute segments.
Blue bloods, meet the upstarts. New England reached its seventh Super Bowl in the Bill Belichick era with its 36-17 stomping of Pittsburgh last night, as quarterback Tom Brady and receiver Chris Hogan penetrated a somewhat oxidized Steel Curtain. Championship-starved Atlanta staged a jubilant final game in the Georgia Dome as the Falcons dismantled Green Bay 44-21, with quarterback Matt Ryan overcoming a postseason malaise. The Feb. 5 matchup for the Lombardi Trophy will be the Falcons’ second Super Bowl, having lost their first to Denver 18 years ago.