On Monday, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement criticizing the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, by more than a dozen armed militants:
While the disagreement occurring in Oregon about the use of federal lands is not a Church matter, Church leaders strongly condemn the armed seizure of the facility and are deeply troubled by the reports that those who have seized the facility suggest that they are doing so based on scriptural principles. This armed occupation can in no way be justified on a scriptural basis. [LDS]
The apparent leader of the Malheur occupation, Ammon Bundy, said in a video posted Friday that God had told him to take a stand for now-jailed ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond and against the federal government's public lands policies. After praying, "I began to understand how the Lord felt about Harney County and about this country, and I clearly understood that the Lord was not pleased with what was happening to the Hammonds," Bundy said. The Bundy clan — including father Cliven Bundy — is Mormon, and has a long history of land conflicts with the federal government, dating back to at least great-great-grandfather Abraham Bundy, according to OPB.
And Mormonism also has a long, sometimes bloody history of standoffs with the government, mostly resolved since the mid-20th century but still alive in the rural West, among families like the Bundys. "The Oregon standoff isn't a 'Mormon movement,' but it does ultimately represent the mixing of Mormon themes, common Western land use issues, and the rhetoric of far-right patriot groups," explains BuzzFeed's Jim Dalrymple. You can read more about Mormonism and the Oregon standoff at BuzzFeed, OBP, and The Oregonian, but a few points seem worth highlighting.
First, the Mormon Church considers the U.S. Constitution divinely inspired — a point Cliven Bundy has used to equate the Constitution with scripture — so when the Bundy militia talks about defending their understanding of the Constitution, they are very consciously mixing church and state. Second, Captain Moroni is a figure from the Book of Mormon famous for standing up for liberty against a corrupt king in about 100 B.C., and he has also become an icon for some anti-government extremists in the modern West. Which explains why this guy is in Oregon:
— Amanda Peacher (@amandapeacher) January 3, 2016
Thursday night was President Obama's last night as president, and Stephen Colbert kicked it up a notch on The Late Show, bringing out an old friend for a sort of end-of-administration eulogy. Colbert set it up by ribbing Obama. "Whether or not you liked him or voted for him, we can all agree eight years later, it's still kind of crazy that his middle name was Hussein," he said. "I can't believe he got elected."
"Now I tried very hard to come up with a way to talk about Barack Obama's legacy tonight, but after looking at the scope of his presidency, I realized that anyone who thinks they can sum up the last eight years in a few minutes would have to be a delusional egomaniac," Colbert said. His Colbert Report alter-ego appeared (well, close enough for lawyers): "Did someone say delusional egomaniac?" After the Report Colbert said he was up to the task of recapping Obama's presidency, Late Show Colbert stepped aside: "Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome conservative pundit Stephen Colbert."
Colbert Report Colbert started off with all the hits from Obama's early years, when Colbert was still on Comedy Central. "Well, well, well, at long last our America-hating, secret-Muslim, lead-from-behind, terrorist-fist-bumping, hopey-changey apologist in chief is leaving office," he said, in character. "Well, I have just one thing to say to him, and it's tonight's WERD." The WERD was "Thanks, Obama," and it started out sarcastic. "I don't want to exaggerate here," he said. "Every year of the Obama regime felt like he was strangling a bald eagle with the American flag while taking a dump on an apple pie." (WERD: "A La Commode.") "That's why I want to say, Thanks Obama," Report Colbert said. "You reminded guys like me what we truly stand for: the opposite of whatever you said." (WERD: "The Audacity of Nope.") The bit is a reminder of Obama's presidency, but also of why Colbert's old persona was such effective and brutal satire — at the end, it's not quite clear which Colbert is speaking, or whether it's funny. Watch below. Peter Weber
There were almost certainly more celebrities at the anti-Trump rally in New York City on Thursday night than at President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration concert at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. — though that's probably fine with Trump. ("The so-called 'A' list celebrities are all wanting tixs to the inauguration, but look what they did for Hillary, NOTHING," he tweeted last month. "I want the PEOPLE!") The actors and musicians, plus New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, gathered with thousands of other protesters outside the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Manhattan.
The celebrity speakers urged the crowd to unite and stand up for their rights against the incoming administration, but they also turned to comedy. Director Michael Moore, one of the organizers, explained why. A lot of Trump's actions have no effect on him personally, Moore said. "What's he affected by? He's affected by comedy! He has the thinnest skin of any bully I've ever met." Robert De Niro followed that up with tweets he said Trump would post sometime "in the middle of the night," including: "De Niro should give back his Oscars! Voting was rigged!"
When Alec Baldwin took the stage, he urged the protesters to wage "100 days of resistance" against the Trump administration, and called Trump's Cabinet a "disgrace." "Donald Trump and Steve Bannon and Mike Pence and all these people that are a part of Trump's administration think you're going to lay down," he told the crowd. "The one thing they don't realize is New Yorkers never lay down." He rewarded the audience for coming out by reprising his Trump impersonation from Saturday Night Live. You can watch below — spoiler: it has to do with urine. Peter Weber
On Thursday, Mexican authorities handed notorious drug cartel chief Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán over to U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and the DEA flew him to New York City to face federal charges of drug trafficking, money laundering, weapons, and criminal enterprise charges. El Chapo landed at a regional airport on Long Island Thursday night, and was quickly transferred to a Manhattan prison before an expected court hearing in Brooklyn on Friday. He also faces charges in five other U.S. jurisdictions, and faces up to life in prison.
Mexico agreed to extradite the head of the Sinaloa cartel last May, after he was captured following his second high-profile prison break. His lawyers had protested the extradition, and a Mexican court gave final approval for his transfer to the U.S. on Thursday. A Mexican official also described the extradition, on President Obama's last night in office, as a "farewell gift" to Obama rather than a welcome basket for his successor, President-elect Donald Trump. Trump insulted Mexico and Mexicans during his campaign and has vowed to eventually make Mexico pay for his proposed border wall, and though Mexico's new foreign minister has forged ties with incoming Trump officials, the Mexican official told The Washington Post that the extradition of Guzmán on Obama's watch is meant to signal that in future negotiations, "nothing is for free."
"The fact that we delivered him to Obama is a clear political message that says this is a government we have long collaborated and worked closely with," Jorge Chabat, an expert on security at Mexico City think tank CIDE, told The New York Times. "By not waiting to send him to Trump after his inauguration, it is a subtle statement saying, 'We could do this for you, too, in the future, if we have a good relationship.'" If not, Chabat added, "there won't be any other powerful narcotraffickers extradited," he said. Evan Pérez reported a similar message on CNN Thursday evening, telling Anderson Cooper "it is clear that one of the reasons they wanted to do this now, right before Barack Obama leaves office, was to make sure that Donald Trump couldn't claim victory for this." Watch below. Peter Weber
President-elect Donald Trump promised Thursday to bring the country together, and if you're skeptical, just look what he's already done to his hometown's two rival tabloids:
Now this is rare. They match. pic.twitter.com/AKqiYouMWC
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) January 20, 2017
"Don of a New Day" isn't the world's greatest headline pun, but it was apparently irresistible for the editors at the New York Post and New York Daily News, who even chose similar photographs. Next up, Congress? Peter Weber
President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were frequent guests on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and to mark their last day in the White House, the host shared a video filled with highlights of their appearances, including a trip to CVS, a push-up challenge, and lots and lots of dancing — both real and computer-generated.
DeGeneres began her tribute by thanking President Obama for changing her life. "I am legally married woman because of him, and so is my wife," she said. "His courage and compassion created equality for everyone. He moved us forward and made more happen in the past eight years than I ever dreamed possible." The montage included clips from a very youthful looking Barack Obama's first visit to the show in 2007 and his meeting with a child presidential expert, plus a very personal Valentine's Day message from POTUS to FLOTUS ("I ObamaCare about you more than you even know"). Watch the touching — and funny — clip below. Catherine Garcia
President-elect Donald Trump was modest at his official inaugural concert on Thursday evening, telling the crowd gathered at the Lincoln Memorial that they had made his election possible: "I had something to do with it, but you had much more to do with it than I did." He said that he and his supporters "all got tired of seeing what was happening and we wanted change, but we wanted real change," adding: "It's a movement like we've never seen anywhere in the world, they say."
The headliners for the concert were Toby Keith, Lee Greenwood, and the band 3 Doors Down, and Trump was seen dancing and fidgeting through the performances. Several big performers had publicly said they turned down invitations to perform, including Elton John, Kiss, and Celine Dion, and Broadway star Jennifer Holliday backed out amid an uproar from her fans. But Trump was upbeat. "This started out tonight being a small, little concert, and then we had the idea, maybe we'll do it in front of the Lincoln Memorial — I don't know if it's ever been done before, but if it has, very seldom," he said. "And the people came by the thousands and thousands, and here we are tonight, all the way back."
Preinaugural concerts at the Lincoln Memorial are actually pretty common for incoming presidents — Presidents Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton all had them — and the crowds at Obama's 2009 Lincoln Memorial concert were notably much bigger. Here's the view from Obama's box in 2009:
And you can see the same view from Trump's box on Thursday, after he walked out to greet the crowd to the music of The Rolling Stones' "Heart of Stone" (which begins: "There's been so many girls that I have known / I've made so many cry, and still I wonder why / Here comes a little girl, I see her walking down the street / She's all by herself, I try to knock her off her feet").
That's not necessarily a knock on Trump. Obama's Lincoln Memorial inaugural concert, after all, included Bruce Springsteen, Beyoncé, Garth Brooks, Jon Bon Jovi, Stevie Wonder, U2, John Mellencamp, Sheryl Crow, James Taylor, and other stars, plus a slew of actors including Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington. Trump had some celebrity help, too. "This is some day, dear friends," said actor Jon Voight, who went on to tell the crowd that Trump's victory was a sign of divine intervention after "a parade of propaganda that left us all breathless with anticipation, not knowing if God could reverse all the negative lies against Mr. Trump." Peter Weber
Police officers used chemical spray against protesters gathered outside the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday night after they began throwing trash at Donald Trump supporters leaving the "DeploraBall," The Washington Post reports.
Several protesters raised their middle fingers at the supporters, the Post repots, and shouted "racist" and "Nazi." Other protesters were silent — one group projected phrases onto the side of the building, like "Bragging about Grabbing a Woman's Genitals" and "Impeach the Predatory President," and another inflated a giant white elephant with a banner that said "racism." Organizers of the DeploraBall, named after Hillary Clinton's description of some Trump supporters as "deplorable," said they had nothing to do with the white supremacist movement, although rumors swirled across social media that well-known members of the alt-right movement would be attending. Catherine Garcia