President Donald Trump erupted in anger to word that the FBI suspected he might be spying for the Kremlin. Rather than refute the story that he “learned in the failing New York Times,” he blasted “corrupt” former FBI officials for investigating him “for no reason & with no proof.” The counterintelligence probe, initiated in after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017, was shifted to special counsel Robert Mueller. Trump did deny a Washington Post report that he hid the content of his discussions with Russia’s president from senior aides.
The Presidential Daily Brief
“No one knows what he will do.” One White House-linked Republican gave that assessment of President Trump’s strategy for ending the government’s longest-ever partial government shutdown. With air traffic controllers unpaid and some food inspectors idled, Trump, “nearly” alone in the White House, tweeted that he’s “ready to sign” funding legislation — as soon as “Democrats return from their ‘vacations’” And while those legislators balk at bankrolling the president’s signature border wall, the TSA says it will provide some back pay, including a $500 holday bonus, to otherwise unpaid airport security personnel.
William Barr isn’t wooing Democrats. Nominated by President Donald Trump to replace Jeff Sessions, Barr will face the Senate Judiciary Committee for confirmation hearings starting Tuesday. Democrats will want reassurances that Barr won’t hinder special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, whose legitimacy Barr has questioned. So far, Democrats aren’t impressed, as Barr agreed to advance meetings only with Republican lawmakers. Barr, who’s said there’s more evidence against Hillary Clinton than Trump, plans to recuse himself from an antitrust case involving AT&T — in which he owns stock — and Time Warner, on whose board he served.
In a sign of increasing opposition to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, allied cleric Abdul Hai Yusuf was seen in an online video confronted in his mosque by chanting crowds demanding that he lead a march against the president. Three weeks of protests, sparked by rising bread and fuel prices, have resulted in at least 22 deaths. After Friday’s prayers, police fired tear gas against anti-regime demonstrators. If they achieve their demand of al-Bashir’s ouster, experts fear a chaos-inducing political vacuum will result in the already unstable North African nation.
A military spokesperson said Friday that the process of withdrawing some 2,000 American soldiers from Syria — as announced in an @realDonaldTrump tweet last month — is now underway. But so far, it appears that only equipment is leaving, and more troops may be deployed to guard an anticipated drawdown. Trump’s decision alarmed both U.S. allies and officials, prompting Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ resignation and Jan. 1 departure. Now even Republican legislators are expressing concern about America’s Kurdish allies, instrumental in fighting Islamic State, but whom Turkey plans to pursue militarily.
President Trump’s immigration policy has helped slash illegal border crossing from Mexico. But in 2017, deaths along the border rose. Border Patrol agents feel increasingly under fire as critics move their focus from Washington to the border itself, where agents feel more like crossing guards than lawmen. Not that the Border Patrol union in McAllen, Texas, minds. “It boils down to compassion,” union official Chris Cabrera says. Better it be this ragtag group of military veterans than anyone else who may not care as much as they do — about securing the frontier.
The Week Ahead: This weekend, the NFL’s best teams will compete in divisional playoffs. Wednesday is the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the U.S. Constitution’s 18th Amendment and the start of Prohibition. And on Friday, Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago police officer who shot Black youth Laquan McDonald, will be sentenced for second-degree murder.
Know This: Former Obama administration housing secretary and Texan Julian Castro and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard have indicated they’ll seek the Democratic nomination for U.S. president. Five people have died in vehicle crashes in Kansas and Missouri as snowstorms move toward the East Coast. And a a subterranean roof collapse has killed 21 miners in China’s northern Shaanxi province.
#OZYfact: No state in the U.S. produces more NFL players per capita than the District of Columbia, with one for every 54,703 residents.
In the six minutes before someone phones 911 to report a mass shooting, six people will die. The shooter could hit another dozen victims before the cops arrive. That’s what John Benner, a retired SWAT commander in Ohio, impresses upon teachers learning to wield firearms along with their dry-erase markers. The debate over guns in the classroom has raged as the school toll mounts, but an untold number of teachers are already packing. Going through Benner’s training scenarios, however, they discover that the kids they shoot aren’t always the bad guys.
These Seussian flora need their Lorax. The bulbous mature specimens’ trunks are frequently dry, unstable and on the verge of collapse, and fewer saplings are spouting. The trees, which can grow up to 100 feet tall, are an integral part of Africa’s spirit and landscape. Communities meet around baobabs and worship their ancestors at the trees’ roots. The leaves and fruit have sustained hunter-gatherers for centuries, with the oldest known tree predating Julius Caesar. Although scientists suspect climate change, further investigations are necessary to understand the degeneration — before the last baobab falls.
She couldn’t go home again. That’s because Pakistan was foreign to the 14-year-old Norway-raised Iram Haq. Haq’s parents wanted to shield her from boys and other temptations, so they shipped her to her aunt in Islamabad. Now Haq is sharing a fictionalized version of her story in What Will People Say, which Norway submitted for a consideration in the Academy Awards’ best foreign language film category. Haq, who reconciled with her father before he died, says her inner teenager has found peace.
For women in politics, “likability” has been everything. But the 116th Congress’ female wave has turned that paradigm on its head, and corporate America can learn from that, argues journalist Tanya Tarr. Women in power, like Rep. Maxine Waters, have made “unlikability” a superpower, winning battles, if not friends. That applies even more in male-monopolized boardrooms. Congress’ enhanced diversity also electrifies the dynamic, with women like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez becoming high-profile targets, giving women in both sectors an opportunity to respell “unlikable” as R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
Flying through the air on ropes from cliffs, rappelling from helicopters and climbing trees with grappling hooks, Rhodesian-born Jeffrey Lendrum loved collecting eggs. Specifically, the eggs of nesting raptors that Persian Gulf falconers were willing to pay a sheikh’s ransom for. After being nabbed at Birmingham Airport with Welsh peregrine falcon eggs taped to his chest, Lendrum managed to escape justice — until June, when authorities arrested him again at London’s Heathrow with vulture, eagle, hawk and kite eggs worth $130,000. Lendrum will soon begin nesting in a U.K. prison.