Crimea may only have been the beginning
Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian forces on Sunday battled for control of a police compound in eastern Ukraine, with both sides reporting at least one casualty. One Ukrainian security officer was killed and five others wounded, with Ukraine's Interior Minister Arsen Avakov claiming an "unidentifiable number" of casualties among the separatists.
The fighting came after pro-Russian gunmen stormed the police headquarters and occupied other buildings in the small eastern city of Slaviansk. Ukrainian officials feared the armed incidents could forewarn another movement like the one that drove Crimea to break away and join Russia, and they and the White House accused Moscow of promoting the violence specifically to achieve that end.
White House National Security Council spokesperson Laura Lucas Magnuson said in a statement it appeared as though Russia was "inciting violence and sabotage and seeking to undermine and destabilize the Ukrainian state," adding, "We saw similar so-called protest activities in Crimea before Russia’s purported annexation. " Jon Terbush
President Trump bragged he helped CBS' Face the Nation earn their highest television ratings since the September 11 World Trade Center attacks during an incredible interview with The Associated Press published Sunday evening. Trump called the achievement a "tremendous advantage."
"It's interesting," Trump said. "I have, seem to get very high ratings ... You know, Chris Wallace had 9.2 million people, it's the highest in the history of the show. I have all the ratings for all those morning shows. When I go, they go double, triple. Chris Wallace, look back during the Army-Navy football game, I did his show that morning."
Trump went on to put his ratings in some questionable context:
TRUMP: It had 9.2 million people. It's the highest they've ever had. On any, on air, (CBS Face the Nation host John) Dickerson had 5.2 million people. It's the highest for Face the Nation or as I call it, "Deface the Nation." It's the highest for "Deface the Nation" since the World Trade Center. Since the World Trade Center came down. It's a tremendous advantage. [The Associated Press]
The interview saw Trump at what The Toronto Star's Daniel Dale called "the most honest [he] has ever been about his TV obsession," too. "I don't watch CNN anymore," Trump told the AP. "I don't watch MSNBC anymore. I don't watch things, and I never thought I had that ability. I always thought I'd watch." Read the full interview at AP here. Jeva Lange
Chinese President Xi Jinping urged President Trump to show restraint as tensions rise over North Korea. The two leaders spoke by phone on Monday as the Hermit Kingdom prepares to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of its military on Tuesday. Korea experts fear that Pyongyang will mark the occasion with another provocative missile or nuclear weapon test. North Korea said Sunday that it was prepared to bomb the USS Carl Vinson, a U.S. aircraft carrier leading a Navy carrier strike group toward North Korea in a show of force. Xi said he hoped "all sides exercise restraint and avoid doing things that exacerbate tensions." President Trump also spoke by phone with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who called on Pyongyang to end its "dangerously provocative actions" after it marked its last major holiday a week ago with a failed missile test. Harold Maass
New Orleans removed the first of four designated Confederate monuments Monday as workers toiled in the dark of night to bring down the Liberty Monument, which honors a white supremacist group that attempted to overthrow the city's Reconstruction-era biracial government, NBC News reports. The workers arrived at the site at around 1:25 a.m. in the hopes of avoiding protests from the monuments' supporters, who have even made death threats toward those working to take down the city's most glaring Confederate symbols.
"The monuments are an aberration," Mayor Mitch Landrieu said. "They're actually a denial of our history and they were done in a time when people who still controlled the Confederacy were in charge of this city and it only represents a four-year period in our 1,000-year march to where we are today."
— Lauren Bale (@LaurenBaleWWLTV) April 24, 2017
The city also plans to remove statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard and Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis. Landrieu called the Liberty Monument "the most offensive of the four."
"I think it's a terrible thing," said one supporter of the monuments, Robert Bonner, a 63-year-old Civil War re-enactor. "When you start removing the history of the city, you start losing money. You start losing where you came from and where you've been."
Coincidentally, the removal of the Liberty Statue falls on "Confederate Memorial Day," with state government offices in Mississippi and Alabama closed in commemoration of soldiers who fought to secede from the Union. "History deserves study and reflection, no matter how unpleasant or complicated parts of it may be," said a spokesperson for Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, who named April "Confederate Heritage Month" in his state in 2016. Jeva Lange
President Trump is aggressively pushing his agenda ahead of his 100-day benchmark at the end of the week, while Congress faces a Friday deadline to approve a budget or the government shuts down. On top of the expected flurry of executive orders, Trump has signaled that deep tax cuts are coming this week as well as a renewed attempt to repeal ObamaCare.
A particularly thorny battle could erupt over Trump's border wall, which is included in the proposed budget but not supported by a single congressperson from a U.S.-Mexico border state. "Eventually, but at a later date so we can get started early, Mexico will be paying, in some form, for the badly needed border wall," Trump tweeted, but such a promise could do little to assure Congress now. Jeva Lange
America's agricultural sector uses more undocumented immigrant labor than any other U.S. industry, Pew Research Center has found, and The Associated Press estimates that about 46 percent of America's 800,000 crop farmworkers are working in the U.S. illegally, citing federal data. Farmers say that American citizens typically have neither the skills nor dedication to do farm labor in sufficient numbers, and some research backs that up.
Worrying about the perceived uptick in immigration raids on farmworkers under President Trump and the very real fear that has engendered in the immigrant community, farmers have begun lobbying their representatives in Congress and local politicians to deal with immigration in a manner that doesn't jeopardize America's farms, AP reports. Even Republican farmers who support Trump and favor more immigration restrictions say otherwise law-abiding immigrant farm workers should be shown clemency.
And if mercy doesn't work, agriculture interests are pointing to the hard costs of deporting immigration laborers. The American Farm Bureau Federation says that food prices would go up 5-6 percent under strict immigration enforcement, and the National Milk Producers Federation predicted this month that milk prices could rise to $8 a gallon, from about $3.30 a gallon today. About 79 percent of dairy farms employ immigrants, a 2015 Texas A&M study found, and 71 percent of dairy farm owners have low to medium confidence that the employment documents their immigrant laborers provide is valid.
In the meantime, farm owners are warning their farmworkers to be careful and attending immigration rights workshops. You can get a sense of how Trump's perceived crackdown is affecting vineyards and plant nurseries in Oregon in the AP video below. Peter Weber
On Wednesday, President Trump will sign an executive order instructing the Interior Department to review all national monuments designated by his predecessors back to January 1996, a potential first step in scaling back or even revoking some of the designations, The Salt Lake Tribune reports. The move appears aimed at two national monuments created in Utah by former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, designated in September 1996, and especially Bears Ears National Monument, so named last December. "While no president has attempted to withdraw a monument named by a predecessor," The Salt Lake Tribune notes, "there have been those who have scaled back those designations."
Some of Utah's top officials have pushed for a scaling back or revocation of the Grand Staircase and Bears Ears monuments, including Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who said he had petitioned Trump to rescind the Bears Ears designation and tried "to ensure that this issue is a priority on the president's agenda." Land in Utah should be "managed by the Utahns [who] know them best and cherish them deeply," he said. A push to shield Bears Ears and other areas failed in Congress last year out of concern that the measure was too friendly to mining and other development interests, as well as concerns from Native Americans and environmentalists. Peter Weber
President Trump is divisive, but "there are two White House figures who are widely admired," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight: "Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. They're like America's William and Kate, except in this case, both of them are attractive." Lots of Republicans gush about the power couple, "but for liberals, the popular assumption is that Jared and Ivanka will be moderating influences," saving the world from, say, nuclear armageddon. But is that fair to us, or them? Oliver asked two basic questions: "Is Ivanka really the moderating influence that people claim, and what in Jared's background justifies such a gigantic White House portfolio?"
Ivanka is an artfully constructed enigma, Oliver said, and her "ability to say nothing and yet consistently support her dad can actually apply to her political views as well." Her alleged support for things like gay rights and Planned Parenthood "all feel true, but there is not a lot of evidence," he said. In her 2009 book, for example, "she's pretty much telling you, to your face, not to trust any assumption that you're making about her. So it's possible that she's doing nothing to moderate her father."
Her husband is another matter. "It is not unusual for powerful men to give their son-in-laws do-nothing jobs, but leave it to Donald Trump, who can't even get nepotism right, to give his a do-everything job," Oliver said. "Jared's portfolio would be unmanageable for the smartest man on Earth, so is Jared Kushner the smartest man on Earth?" His reputation for deep thought seems to be based on the fact that he listens but rarely talks. In fact, Oliver asked, "have you ever heard him speak? Seriously, what does his voice sound like?" He played a clip of Kushner talking on TV in 2009, but cruelly had Gilbert Gottfried dub over his voice.
Based on publicly available information, Kushner doesn't appear to have any special qualifications other than not being Steve Bannon, his marriage to the president's daughter, and being a "creepily silent 36-year-old heir to a real estate fortune," Oliver said. "And I know that all of this may seem like an evisceration of both Jared and Ivanka, but it is really not. I don't know enough about them to eviscerate them, just as you don't know enough about them to justify putting any real hopes in them." If Jared and Ivanka "are the reason you are sleeping at night," he added, "you should portably still be awake." Watch below — being warned that there is NSFW language and barely safe images of Donald Trump naked. Peter Weber