The process of confirming a Supreme Court justice is a complicated political challenge under normal circumstances. So you can imagine what the potential nominee could face this election year. Liberals are practically foaming at the mouth given President Obama's opportunity to name a successor, while conservatives are vowing to filibuster the decision. Justice Antonin Scalia, who died unexpectedly Feb. 13, was a reliable conservative vote in the High Court. If Obama wants to actually get his successor confirmed in the next 11 months, that person needs to essentially do the impossible — please everyone. Whom might this unicorn candidate be?
The White House doesn't plan to name anyone until the Senate is back in session on Feb. 22, but that leaves plenty of time for speculation. Pulled from the many lists floating around, here are the three buzziest candidates:
The 48-year-old Indian-American already achieved the impossible in 2013 when he was unanimously confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, by far the most prominent circuit court. Previously, he had a seven-year stint working for the solicitor general's office, including five years under President George W. Bush. He also clerked for two Republican judges, including Sandra Day O'Connor. Srinivasan is widely viewed as a moderate.
The 51-year-old Obama appointee also earned a unanimous Senate vote in 2013 when she was confirmed to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. At the time, she was championed by the same committee chair, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who would be leading the Supreme Court confirmation process this time around. Kelly, who graduated from Harvard Law School in 1991 with Obama, spent most of her career as a public defender.
The 48-year-old Obama appointee was confirmed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2012 by a "filibuster-proof majority" (61 to 34). Watford, who is African-American, spent a decade as a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles and has clerked for prominent conservative judge Alex Kozinski as well as Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He is considered a moderate. Lauren Hansen
Now that President Trump has the nuclear codes in his hands, two Democratic lawmakers are hoping to make it a little harder for him to actually use them. On Tuesday, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) reintroduced a bill that would prevent Trump from launching a nuclear strike if Congress had not declared war. As it stands now, the president holds the right to launch a preemptive nuclear strike, a policy both Markey and Lieu oppose no matter who the president may be.
Markey and Lieu first tried to introduce this bill in September, after Trump suggested at a presidential debate that he couldn't "take anything off the table" when it came to nuclear weapons, including first strike. But now that Trump has actually been sworn into office, Markey and Lieu say this bill is more pressing than ever.
"It is a frightening reality that the U.S. now has a commander-in-chief who has demonstrated ignorance of the nuclear triad, stated his desire to be 'unpredictable' with nuclear weapons, and as president-elect was making sweeping statements about U.S. nuclear policy over Twitter," Lieu said in a statement. He urged Congress to pass a "system of checks and balances" to be "applied to the potentially civilization-ending threat of nuclear war." Becca Stanek
Democratic senator forces Trump nominee to admit Trump's inauguration crowd was smaller than Obama's
The Senate confirmation hearing for Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) took a rather odd turn Tuesday when Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) proceeded to pull up photographs comparing the inauguration crowds of former President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump.
"Which crowd is larger?" Merkley asked Mulvaney, Trump's nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget.
"Senator, if you would allow me to give the disclaimer that I'm not really sure how this ties to OMB, I'll be happy to answer your question, which is from that picture it does appear that the [Obama crowd] is bigger than the [Trump crowd]," Mulvaney replied.
Merkley then got to his point: "The president disagreed … he said, 'It's a lie' … The reason I'm raising this is because budget often contains varied deceptions. You and I talked in my office about the 'magic asterisk.' This is an example of where the president's team — on something very simple and straightforward — wants to embrace a fantasy rather than a reality." Watch the full line of inquiry below. Jeva Lange
— CSPAN (@cspan) January 24, 2017
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer insists President Trump 'believes' false claims about massive voter fraud
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer doubled down on President Donald Trump's false assertion that millions of illegal immigrants voted in the 2016 U.S. election. "The claim, which [Trump] has made before on Twitter, has been judged untrue by numerous fact-checkers," The New York Times wrote of the statement, going as far as to label the accusation a "lie." Trump nevertheless repeated the claim Monday at a reception with congressional leaders.
Spicer was asked directly about voter fraud during his White House press briefing Tuesday, and replied "the president does believe that … based on studies and evidence people have presented to him." Spicer did not elaborate on what those studies are or what the evidence might be. Watch below. Jeva Lange
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) January 24, 2017
Eighteen-year-old Paris Jackson was just 11 when her father, pop legend Michael Jackson, died. The cause of Jackson's death is attributed to cardiac arrest brought on by drugs administered by his doctor; Jackson's physician was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
But according to Paris Jackson, something even more sinister was going on. "[Michael Jackson] would drop hints about people being out to get him," Paris told Rolling Stone. "And at some point he was like, 'They're gonna kill me one day.'"
She goes on:
Paris is convinced that her dad was, somehow, murdered. "Absolutely," she says. "Because it's obvious. All arrows point to that. It sounds like a total conspiracy theory and it sounds like bulls--t, but all real fans and everybody in the family knows it. It was a setup. It was bulls--t."
But who would have wanted Michael Jackson dead? Paris pauses for several seconds, maybe considering a specific answer, but just says, "A lot of people." Paris wants revenge, or at least justice. "Of course," she says, eyes glowing. "I definitely do, but it's a chess game. And I am trying to play the chess game the right way. And that's all I can say about that right now." [Rolling Stone]
President Trump's administration has temporarily suspended all new contracts and grants at the Environmental Protection Agency, and blocked EPA employees "from providing updates on social media or to reporters," The Associated Press reported Tuesday. The freeze extends to "task orders and work assignments," an EPA contracting officer indicated, and ProPublica reported the move "could affect a significant part of the agency's budget allocations and even threaten to disrupt core operations ranging from toxic cleanups to water quality testing."
Myron Ebell, who was tasked with running the EPA transition for Trump's administration, said the freeze was enacted to ensure the new administration has a say in any regulations, hiring, or contracts moving forward, as they await the confirmation of Trump's pick for EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt. Ebell said administrations prior to Trump have taken similar actions. "This may be a little wider than some previous administrations, but it's very similar to what others have done," he said.
An employee of the EPA, however, told ProPublica that he has "never seen anything like it in nearly a decade with the agency." The EPA employee said it is not yet clear how long the suspension will last. Becca Stanek
It has proven to be very much a mistake to underestimate Kellyanne Conway during a campaign. But to underestimate her in a fistfight? That too might prove to be painful, the New York Daily News reports.
Allegedly, Conway intervened when two men at Trump's inauguration ball went at each other with fists last Friday. "But the two men wouldn't break up the fight and Conway apparently punched one of them in the face with closed fists at least three times, according to the stunned onlooker," the Daily News writes.
Fox News senior correspondent Charles Gasparino relayed the scuffle in a Facebook post. "Inside the ball we see a fight between two guys in tuxes, and then suddenly out of nowhere came Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, who began throwing some mean punches at one of the guys," he said. "Whole thing lasted a few [minutes], no one was hurt except maybe the dude she smacked. Now I know why Trump hired her."
Aren't convinced? "[By the way], I exaggerate none of this," Gasparino reassured. Jeva Lange
Bigger storms and rising seawater aren't the only bad things about climate change. Birds are reportedly going to get a lot "uglier" as the Earth warms, The Independent reports.
Most of what makes birds interesting or even spectacular comes from characteristics used for attracting mates or intimidating rivals. But in the case of male flycatchers, who have a brilliant white patch on their forehead during mating season, the warming habitat has resulted in the birds having smaller and smaller patches. “Just as climate change will lead to winners and losers in terms of species' abundance and distribution, it seems it may also lead to winners and losers in the global beauty pageant," researchers Cody Dey, of Windsor University, and James Dale, of Massey University, wrote for Nature Ecology & Evolution.
And it's not just the flycatchers: "The researchers said other studies suggested this reduction in 'ornamentation' could be happening all over Europe and that more species could be similarly affected," The Independent reports, although the direct link between the vanishing mating characteristics and the warming global temperatures isn't yet clear. Jeva Lange