In a chilling New York Times article, James B. Comey, director of the FBI, is quoted saying the threat of terrorism is worse than he imagined before assuming his current position:
By Mr. Comey's own account, he also brought to the job a belief, based on news media reports, that the threat from Al Qaeda was diminished. But nine months into his tenure as director, Mr. Comey acknowledges that he underestimated the threat the United States still faces from terrorism.
"I didn't have anywhere near the appreciation I got after I came into this job just how virulent those affiliates had become," Mr. Comey said, referring to offshoots of Al Qaeda in Africa and in the Middle East during an interview in his sprawling office on the seventh floor of the J. Edgar Hoover Building. "There are both many more than I appreciated, and they are stronger than I appreciated." [The New York Times]
One might interpret this information differently, based on preconceived notions.
Neocons, for example, might see this as further evidence that skepticism of the surveillance state is rooted in nothing but ignorance and naiveté. Meanwhile, folks on the other side of the debate might view this as yet another example of someone being co-opted once they gain a position of authority.
But Comey's credibility on this issue is hard to impugn. As the No. 2 in the Bush Justice Department, he famously refused to approve reauthorization of the N.S.A.'s domestic eavesdropping program.
I don't know about you, but I'd be more comfortable if his credibility on this issue weren't quite so solid. Matt K. Lewis
Saturday Night LIve took a second flight of fancy into the mind of President Trump's White House counselor and former campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, this time envisioning her celebrating her newfound celebrity à la Roxie Hart from the Broadway musical Chicago.
The skit repurposes the character's solo number, "Roxie" (you can see Renée Zellweger's performance from the 2002 Chicago film here if you need a refresher), to imagine Kate McKinnon's Conway gleefully reveling in her own fame. "The name on everybody's lips is going to be Conway," she sings, "And when the world goes up in flames, at least for now they knew my name!" Watch the full song below. Bonnie Kristian
President Trump will meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May in Washington on Friday, she confirmed Sunday, to discuss the future relationship between Washington and London, specifically where free trade and NATO cooperation are concerned.
May told the BBC she will not shy away from frank or even difficult conversation, referencing the Women's Marches against Trump organized around the globe the day before. "I've already said that some of the comments that Donald Trump has made in relation to women are unacceptable, some of those he himself has apologized for," she said. "When I sit down [with Trump], I think the biggest statement that will be made about the role of women is the fact that I will be there as a female prime minister. Whenever there is something that I find unacceptable, I won't be afraid to say that to Donald Trump."
Trump is also to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who indicated Sunday he will speak with the new president by phone Sunday night. "A telephone conversation will be held this evening between President Trump and me. Many matters face us, the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the situation in Syria, the Iranian threat," he said.
President Donald Trump visited CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, on Saturday and gave a speech pledging full White House support for the CIA, especially in counterterrorism projects, where he argued the United States has been too restrained. "I am so behind you," he said, "you're gonna get so much backing. Maybe you're gonna say, please, don't give us so much backing, Mr. President, please, we don't need that much backing."
Trump also bashed the media for reporting election-era acrimony between himself and intelligence agencies. "I have a running war with the media, they are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth," he said. "They sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community. The reason you are the number one stop is exactly the opposite." Watch his full remarks below. Bonnie Kristian
If you have 15 minutes, it's worth watching the president's campaign-esque monologue at the CIA memorial wall: https://t.co/8Xez7v4Wzy
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) January 22, 2017
SNL's Putin promises Russia will take care of America: 'It's the most expensive thing we've ever bought'
Saturday Night Live opened with a monologue from a shirtless Beck Bennett reprising his role as Russian President Vladimir Putin with a post-election message for Americans: "Relax, I got this. Putie is going to make everything okay. I promise that we will take care of America: It's the most expensive thing we've ever bought."
Putin moves on to offer some advice to Donald Trump, president to president — "If you're going to lie, don't make it so obvious" — before welcoming Kate McKinnon in her recurring role as miserable Russian woman Olya Povlatsky, who seems to be launching a women's movement of her own. Watch the full clip below. Bonnie Kristian
Official estimates of the crowds at Women's Marches criticizing the Trump administration nationwide on Saturday put the events' attendance at about 1.6 million collectively, CNN reports, with around 600,000 people in Washington, D.C., alone.
March organizers' estimates are higher, reporting about 5 million protesters across the United States, including 750,000 in Los Angeles, where the police assessment is just 100,000 marchers. Unknown thousands also marched in more than 20 countries abroad; all told, some 670 marches were organized on all seven continents.
— NYT Graphics (@nytgraphics) January 22, 2017
By any tally, the march in Washington far exceeded initial projections of 200,000 attendees. The protesters may well have outnumbered inauguration attendees, too: The D.C. Metro system reported it saw more riders by 11 a.m. on Saturday than on the day of the inauguration: 275,000 rides Saturday compared to 193,000 by the same time Friday. Bonnie Kristian
The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel released an opinion Saturday saying President Trump's plan to hire his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, for a senior advisory role in the White House does not run afoul of federal anti-nepotism law.
"We conclude that [the federal anti-nepotism statute] does not bar this appointment because the president's special hiring authority ... exempts positions in the White House Office" from the ban, the opinion tells Trump, later noting that in "choosing his personal staff, the president enjoys an unusual degree of freedom, which Congress found suitable to the demands of his office."
The 14-page document was prepared by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Daniel L. Koffsky, who is "a longtime career lawyer at Justice," as Politico reports, and not a Trump appointee. Kushner's appointment could still face an ethics challenge in court, though it is unclear how a plaintiff could demonstrate standing to sue. Bonnie Kristian
At least four people were killed and more injured after a tornado ripped through southern Mississippi Saturday morning, officials from the city of Hattiesburg reported on Twitter. Two of the deaths occurred in a trailer park, where impermanent structures offered less protection from the extreme weather.
The tornado struck around 4 a.m. "It woke me up and half the roof was gone," said Hattiesburg's Edna Smith, whose home was badly damaged. "I don't know what I'm going to do now. I'm going to try to get some help." Part of Smith's roof landed in her backyard, while the roof of her neighbor's porch shoved her car into a brick wall.
Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree declared a state of emergency as rescue efforts continue and 13,000 people remain without power. At least one local university has sent students home so destruction on campus can be repaired. Bonnie Kristian