First Crimea, now Alaska? Not so fast, insists Russian President Vladimir Putin. During his annual question-and-answer session shown on state TV, a caller asked if annexing Alaska was the power-craving leader's next goal. The northern state's chilly climate, however, is apparently a turn-off for Putin.
"We have a northern country — 70 percent of our territory are in the north and the far north," said Putin, per a Russian news agency. "Is Alaska really in the Southern Hemisphere? It's cold there, too. Let's not get hot-headed." The state was a Russian territory until 1867, when it was sold to the United States for $7 million.
"Who needs Alaska?" he joked. Maybe Florida is something he'd be interested in. Jordan Valinsky
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) held nothing back while grilling President-elect Donald Trump's treasury secretary nominee, Steven Mnuchin, on Thursday. McCaskill used the entirety of her time to press Mnuchin on the issue of Trump's potential conflicts of interest due to his global business, wondering aloud if Trump would fire the government ethics officer in order to install someone more favorable to his organization's interests.
At one point during the questioning, McCaskill asked: "Do you agree your boss is famous for firing people?"
Mnuchin, cornered, admitted: "Well, he has a show about it."
— Peter Stevenson (@PeterWStevenson) January 19, 2017
McCaskill continued, asking Mnuchin, "Isn't it true that a lot of [Trump's] debt is held by foreign interests?" Mnuchin deflected: "I don't know, I've just read it in the papers."
"Do you think you should know that, as someone who runs the committee on foreign investments, if we're talking about the commander-in-chief?" McCaskill pressed.
Mnuchin mostly agreed: "I think you have a valid point," he said. Jeva Lange
I appreciate that Mr Mnuchin recognized the validity of my ?s about foreign investment in Trump's business as relates to nat'l security.
— Claire McCaskill (@clairecmc) January 19, 2017
Energy secretary nominee and former Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) deferred to scientists when asked Thursday during his Senate confirmation hearing if he would support the longstanding ban on nuclear testing. "I'm going to rely upon their observations of whether there is clear technical ability to use the technology that we have today," Perry said, referring to Department of Energy scientists and private-sector scientists. "I think anyone would be of the opinion that if we don't ever have to test another nuclear weapon, that would be a good thing — not just for the United States, but for the world."
Perry's answer came after some chiding from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who asked the question because of President-elect Donald Trump's interest in allowing more countries to get nuclear weapons, and the fact that "more than 60 percent" of the Energy Department's budget deals with nuclear energy. Initially, Perry answered the question by pointing to the importance of the U.S. having "a nuclear arsenal that is modern, that is safe." "The question," Sanders said, cutting in, was about "nuclear testing."
Perry was similarly circumspect about whether he would support the storage of nuclear waste at Nevada's Yucca Mountain, a site the U.S. government had once eyed for dumping nuclear waste. Trump's administration has reportedly discussed reviving that plan. "I will not sit here in front of you and tell you absolutely no way is Nevada going to be the recipient of high-level waste," Perry said. Becca Stanek
During his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday as President-elect Donald Trump's energy secretary nominee, former Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) faced tough questions from Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) on his stance on climate change, whether he'd fight for the Energy Department against potential budget cuts from the Trump administration, and his views on maintaining the Iran nuclear deal.
But before that, he made an unfortunate double entendre in greeting Franken, who was seated at the dais:
PERRY: I hope you're as much fun on that dais as you were on your couch.
PERRY: May I rephrase that please?
FRANKEN: Please. pic.twitter.com/fiLWD6qTOK
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) January 19, 2017
Mnuchin admits Trump's 'rather modest campaign staff' might not have done a great job with his tax plan
President-elect Donald Trump's tax plan has been criticized by some analysts for possibly adding "trillions" to the national debt and significantly benefiting high-income households. When pressed on the issue during his Senate confirmation hearing, Trump's treasury secretary nominee, Steven Mnuchin, seemed to admit that the plan was less than ideal:
Mnuchin implies that Trump campaign tax plan may be off base because of small staff, bad modeling.
— Alan Rappeport (@arappeport) January 19, 2017
"I think, as you know, we had a rather modest campaign staff relative to the other people out there," Mnuchin said. "One of the things I look forward to if I'm confirmed is having access to all the people at the Treasury who are able to model these things." Watch below. Jeva Lange
Kind of amazing. Mnuchin appears to say Trump campaign's tax plans are flawed because their team wasn't good enough. pic.twitter.com/QcETcbNfr6
— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) January 19, 2017
After an emotional farewell speech and warm final press conference, President Barack Obama on Thursday took one more opportunity to thank the American people just one day before he leaves office. In a long-standing White House tradition, the outgoing president leaves his successor a personal note in the Oval Office containing words of wisdom based on what they've learned during their tenure — but, as Obama explained in a letter to the public, he wanted to go a step further.
"Before I leave my note for our 45th president, I wanted to say one final thank you for the honor of serving as your 44th," the president wrote. "Because all that I've learned in my time in office, I've learned from you."
The note goes on to offer Americans hope "when the arc of progress seems slow," an apparent nod to those feeling apprehensive about the incoming administration. Read the president's full parting message below. Kelly Gonsalves
— Rajini Vaidyanathan (@BBCRajiniV) January 19, 2017
President-elect Donald Trump's administration is reportedly planning massive cuts to the Energy Department's budget, and former Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas), Trump's nominee for energy secretary, was faced with the tough question of how he'd push back at his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) asked for Perry's commitment to fight for the department's research budget, telling Perry that Trump's administration would be "cutting the legs out from under you" if they made the "devastating" and "absolutely nuts" budget cuts.
Perry cited his "rather interesting background" of "defending budgets," but didn't exactly commit one way or the other. In fact, all Perry said in response to King's question was that he knows "what the Department of Energy should be good at." Earlier in the hearing, Perry joked that maybe Trump's team would "forget" the cuts they'd proposed.
Per The Hill's report, Trump's team is reportedly planning to slash funding "for nuclear physics and advanced scientific computing research to 2008 levels, eliminate the Office of Electricity, eliminate the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and scrap the Office of Fossil Energy, which focuses on technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions." Becca Stanek
President-elect Donald Trump's transition team has prepared a drastic plan to cut the federal budget, The Hill reports. The planned changes reportedly aim to shrink federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years.
Among the budget-slashing proposals are reducing funding for the Commerce and Energy departments, including eliminating certain programs altogether; imposing significant budget cuts on the departments of State, Transportation, and Justice; privatizing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which distributes funding to nearly 1,500 locally owned public radio and TV stations; and eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, which disperses grants to cultural institutions and humanities programs.
As The Hill notes, the Trump team's proposed budget aligns closely with a budget proposal published last year by the conservative Heritage Foundation, and resembles past outlines that have been supported by congressional Republicans. It is as yet unclear whether the transition team's proposed budget would address Social Security and Medicare, which contribute largely to the federal deficit.
The budget proposal — which The Hill calls the "skinny budget" — should be released within 45 days of Trump taking office. Read more about the incoming administration's budget ideas at The Hill. Kimberly Alters