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
President Donald Trump has named Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as his new national security adviser, The Associated Press reports. McMaster replaces Michael Flynn, who resigned from the post last week.
The announcement came after Trump spent the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, interviewing four candidates for the position before settling on McMaster, whom he called "a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience."
McMaster is a respected military strategist known for his knowledge in counterterrorism, The New York Times reports:
General McMaster is seen as one of the Army's leading intellectuals, first making a name for himself with a searing critique of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for their performance during the Vietnam War and later criticizing the way President George W. Bush's administration went to war in Iraq. [The New York Times]
Flynn resigned after it was revealed that he discussed Russian sanctions with the Russian ambassador to the United States before then President-elect Donald Trump had been inaugurated. Flynn had told Vice President Mike Pence the discussions never happened. Jessica Hullinger
Milo Yiannopoulos, a controversial editor of Breitbart News, has been disinvited from speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, one of the largest gatherings of conservative activists in the country. The news came after a weekend of uproar after video clips surfaced appearing to show Yiannopoulos condoning pedophilia.
Yiannopoulos initially responded in a Facebook post titled "A note for idiots," in which he said, "I do not support pedophilia. Period. It is a vile and disgusting crime, perhaps the very worst. There are selectively edited videos doing the rounds, as part of a co-ordinated effort to discredit me from establishment Republicans, that suggest I am soft on the subject."
On Monday, the American Conservative Union, which sponsors the conference, released a statement saying Yiannopoulos' invitation had been rescinded. "We continue to believe that CPAC is a constructive forum for controversies and disagreements among conservatives, however there is no disagreement among our attendees on the evils of sexual abuse of children," ACU president Matt Schlapp said.
In a follow-up Facebook post, Yiannopoulos chalked the whole thing up to misunderstanding and deceptive video editing: "I understand that my usual blend of British sarcasm, provocation and gallows humor might have come across as flippancy, a lack of care for other victims or, worse, 'advocacy.' I deeply regret that."
President Trump is scheduled to speak at the conference Friday. Jessica Hullinger
Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, died suddenly in New York on Monday, Russian officials say. He was 64. Officials say Churkin fell ill and was taken to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, where he later died. The cause of his illness was not immediately known, though the New York Post reports he suffered from a "cardiac condition."
The Associated Press says Churkin, who had been the ambassador for more than a decade, "had a reputation for an acute wit and sharp repartee especially with his American and Western counterparts." His death comes one day before he was to turn 65.
Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout. Jessica Hullinger
On Sunday's Last Week Tonight, John Oliver took aim at President Donald Trump's cozy relationship with Russia. "He does have a weird, noticeably soft spot for both the country and its leader," Oliver said, hammering the point home with a compilation video of the numerous times Trump has complimented, praised, or otherwise flattered Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"It's a bit weird," Oliver says. "You've been objectively nicer to Vladimir Putin than you have to Meryl Streep."
But the real meat of the segment is in analyzing what we actually know about Putin ("He annexed Crimea, imposed severe fines and long prison terms on protesters, propped up the brutal Assad regime, and signed a harsh anti-gay propaganda law."), why he remains so popular, and what Trump's wish that America could just "get along" with Russia would actually mean for Democratic values.
"Trump is basically the propagandist of Putin's dreams," Oliver says. Take a look below, although be warned: There is lots of NSFW language. Jessica Hullinger
Russian President Vladimir Putin really wants to know what goes on in President Trump's head. NBC News reports that the Kremlin is compiling a document that outlines and analyzes Trump's psychological makeup, for Putin to use in preparation for a future meeting between the two politicians.
The report is apparently updated with new information regularly, and takes notes on Trump's behavior during his first few weeks in the White House, former Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Fedorov says. "Among the preliminary conclusions? The new American leader is a risk-taker but can be naïve, according to a senior Kremlin adviser," NBC News reports. Fedorov also adds that the Kremlin has noticed that Trump views the presidency like one of his businesses.
NBC notes that it's normal for leaders to be briefed on one another before meeting, but "preparing a detailed dossier on the mind and instincts of a U.S. leader is unusual." The Kremlin's confidence in Trump's ability to smooth over America's relationship with Russia — or lift sanctions imposed by former President Obama following Russia's meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election — seems to be waning. Jessica Hullinger
Uber is launching an 'urgent investigation' into stunning claims of sexual harassment by a female former employee
Uber has launched an "urgent investigation" into claims of sexual harassment, discrimination, and seemingly incompetent HR policies after a former employee published a stunning confessional about her time with the company. Susan Fowler, a former site reliability engineer who joined Uber in 2015, published a long blog post on her website outlining her time with the ride-hailing company, and why she left. In the post, she paints a damning picture of a company where women are targeted and undermined by managers and HR representatives alike.
Fowler claims her manager made sexual advances toward her via online chat. She said she took screenshots of the messages and showed them to human resources, but was told that her boss was a "high performer" and senior managers didn't want to punish him for something they saw as an "innocent mistake." She later discovered other women in the company experienced similar abuse, and received equally insufficient responses from the HR department.
After a series of meetings with HR, things came to a head:
The HR rep began the meeting by asking me if I had noticed that *I* was the common theme in all of the reports I had been making, and that if I had ever considered that I might be the problem ... Less than a week after this absurd meeting, my manager scheduled a 1:1 with me, and told me we needed to have a difficult conversation. He told me I was on very thin ice for reporting his manager to HR. [Susan Fowler]
America has no intention of seizing Iraqi oil, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said Monday before making a surprise visit to Iraq. His comments directly contradict those made by President Trump.
"We're not in Iraq to seize anybody's oil," Mattis told reporters. Trump has said repeatedly that his preferred strategy for taking on ISIS would be to "take the oil." "You wouldn't have ISIS if we took the oil," Trump told ABC's David Muir in January. As CNN explains, that would have been a war crime and a violation of international law.
Mattis is visiting Iraq as the push by U.S.-backed Iraqi forces to remove ISIS militants from Western Mosul enters its second day. "I need to get current on the situation there, political situation, the enemy situation, and the friendly situation," Mattis said.
The Islamic State was thought to have 6,000 fighters in Mosul in mid-October, when the government's offensive began, Reuters reports. More than 1,000 of those are estimated to have been killed.
This isn't the first time Mattis has broken with Trump's policy plans. In January, he said he does not support scrapping the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump has dubbed "one of the dumbest deals ever." Over the weekend, Mattis said he disagreed with Trump's claim that the press is "the enemy of the American people." Jessica Hullinger