On Monday, oral arguments will begin for a high-stakes Supreme Court case concerning union dues. The question specifically pertains to public sector unions — in this case, the California Teachers Association (CTA) — and whether it can mandate dues payment by non-member employees.
The plaintiff, a third grade teacher from Anaheim named Rebecca Friedrichs, argues that compulsory dues infringe on her First Amendment rights by forcing her to participate in political activity she does not support. (The CTA donates millions to political candidates and causes, overwhelmingly favoring Democrats.)
"My union has become what it used to fight," Friedrichs said. "It is powerful, it is entrenched, and it is not listening to its members."
If SCOTUS rules in Friedrichs' favor, it will overturn Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977), which held that public school teachers could be forced to pay unions, and affect public sector unions in about 25 states. Bonnie Kristian
U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies are looking at intercepted communications and financial transactions as part of an investigation into potential links between Russian officials and three of Donald Trump's close associates — former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page, and longtime Republican operative Roger Stone, The New York Times reports.
The Times says that while it is unclear if the intercepted communications have anything to do with Trump or his campaign and which Russian officials are involved, the investigation centers at least in part on business dealings. The FBI is leading the investigation, and after Trump is inaugurated, he will have the authority to redirect or end some of their efforts; six current and former officials who confirmed the investigation's existence told the Times they were sharing the information because they "feared the new administration would obstruct their efforts."
Manafort and Stone both told the Times they do not have relationships with Russian officials or the government, and Page said he "did nothing wrong, for the 5,000th time." Catherine Garcia
Robert De Niro, Alec Baldwin, Cher, Mark Ruffalo, Rosie Perez, Sally Field, and other celebrities joined thousands of protesters and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio Thursday night at an anti-Donald Trump rally organized by Michael Moore outside of the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Manhattan.
The New York Police Department estimates that 20,000 to 25,000 people were at the "We Stand United" rally, Deadline reports. "We Americans, we New Yorkers, we patriots will stand united for our rights and the rights of our fellow citizens," De Niro told the crowd, while Cher said, "The only thing that can save us is you. Nothing happened to stop Vietnam until we got into the streets. The power of the people is bigger than the a—holes who are there in Washington." Catherine Garcia
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) wants to reach across the aisle in order to "fix" ObamaCare.
On Thursday, Johnson said the Republican idea of "repeal and replace" isn't right. "From my standpoint, I've been talking about repairing the damage and then transitioning to a system that actually works," he said on CNBC. "That takes some time. It's way more complex than simply repeal and replace. That's a fun little buzzword, but it's just not accurate."
Reforms are driving up the cost of coverage, Johnson said, and he wants to work with Democrats to "fix" ObamaCare "for the benefit of the American people." People are starting to realize it's "not particularly easy" to overhaul everything, he added, calling it a "daunting task." Catherine Garcia
When George W. Bush moved into the White House in 2001, there was a letter waiting for him from Bill Clinton, and eight years later, he wrote his own missive to Barack Obama. Today, those notes were made public for the first time.
Letter Bill Clinton left for George W Bush and the letter he left for Barack Obama. pic.twitter.com/bjwueznABA
— Yashar (@yashar) January 19, 2017
The letters were released by the National Archives and Records Administration, and include words of encouragement and reminders of the great responsibility that comes along with being president of the United States. Bush told Obama that there would be "trying moments. The critics will rage. Your 'friends' will disappoint you. But, you will have an Almighty God to comfort you, a family who loves you, and a country that is pulling for you, including me. No matter what comes, you will be inspired by the character and compassion of the people you now lead."
In his letter, Clinton told Bush that the "burdens you now shoulder are great but often exaggerated," and the "sheer joy of doing what you believe is right is inexpressible." He called Bush "fortunate" to lead the United States "in a time of profound and largely positive change, when old questions, not just about the role of government, but about the very nature of our nation, must be answered anew," and said his prayers were with Bush and his family. Catherine Garcia
Actor Miguel Ferrer, best known for his roles on NCIS: Los Angeles and Twin Peaks, died in his home Thursday of cancer. He was 61.
The son of singer Rosemary Clooney and actor Jose Ferrer, he also starred in RoboCop and Crossing Jordan, and voiced characters in Mulan, Rio 2, and Robot Chicken. Prior to his death, Ferrer completed voice work for the villain Deathstroke in the movie Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. "Miguel made the world brighter and funnier and his passing is felt so deeply in our family that events of the day, monumental events, pale in comparison," his cousin, George Clooney, told The Hollywood Reporter. "We love you Miguel. We always will."
NCIS: Los Angeles showrunner R. Scott Gemmill said in a statement he will remember Ferrer as a "man of tremendous talent who had a powerful dramatic presence on screen, a wicked sense of humor, and a huge heart," and his Crossing Jordan co-star Jill Hennessy called his death "unreal." He is survived by his wife, Lori; sons Lukas and Rafi; and brother Rafael Ferrer. Catherine Garcia
The Mexican government announced Thursday that drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman has been extradited to the United States, where he is wanted in several jurisdictions on federal drug trafficking charges.
The former leader of the Sinaloa cartel, Guzman has been in a prison near Ciudad Juarez; last January, he was recaptured nearly six months after he escaped from a maximum-security prison in Mexico. Catherine Garcia
President-elect Donald Trump's impending inauguration prompted the bands the Gorillaz and Arcade Fire to release new songs Thursday, the day before Trump is officially sworn into office. The Gorillaz song, "Hallelujah Money," was the band's first release in six years and was released alongside a video depicting singer Benjamin Clementine inside a cartoon rendition of the Trump Tower elevator:
Arcade Fire, meanwhile, teamed up with gospel singer Mavis Staples for their new song, "I Give You Power." The lyrics, "I give you power / I can take it away," seem to send a clear message to both Trump and any elected official. The song is only available for streaming on Tidal. Becca Stanek