On Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held hearings on legislation to "modernize" the Endangered Species Act, part of a push by Republicans to roll back environmental regulations and protections. The Republicans on the committee, led by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), and three of the five witnesses at the hearing argued that the 1973 law to keep animal species from extinction impedes oil drilling, mining, and farming, and infringes on the rights of states and private landowners. The proposed legislation would make it harder to list animals on the endangered species list and limit legal action under the 1973 law, among other changes.
Barrassso painted the bill as a way to cut "red tape," while Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said the Endangered Species Act makes it too hard to take animals off the list, arguing that only 50 of the 1,600 species listed as endangered or threatened have been removed. Jamie Rappaport Clark, head of the conservation nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife, testified that the Obama administration removed 29 species from the endangered list in eight years, in a sign that the law is working. "For more than 40 years, the ESA has been successful, bringing the bald eagle, the American alligator, the Stellar sea lion, the peregrine falcon, and numerous other species back from the brink of extinction," she said. "Based on data from the (Fish and Wildlife Service), the ESA has saved 99 percent of listed species from extinction."
There's a parallel push to scale back the Endangered Species Act in the House — House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) wants to repeal it entirely, arguing that "it has never been used for the rehabilitation of species" but instead has "been used to control the land." On Wednesday night's Full Frontal, Samantha Bee was puzzled at the constituency for killing the Endangered Species Act. "The vast majority of Americans support wildlife protection," she said, citing a Defenders of Wildlife poll showing 84 percent support for the law (an American Farm Bureau Federation poll was more nuanced.) "'Animals are awesome' is the only safe topic of conversation most American families have left. Left-right, old-young, black-white, Americans agree: Four legs, good."
President Trump, who has already delayed adding an endangered bumblebee to the endangered species list, is expected to sign any legislation that comes to his desk. Peter Weber
CNN's Don Lemon calmly pans Trump's 'unhinged,' childish Phoenix speech, 'a total eclipse of the facts'
Contrary to President Trump's repeated assertions inside the Phoenix Convention Center on Tuesday night, CNN did broadcast his entire campaign-style rally. And as it was ending, to Trump's campaign closing song about not always getting what you want, CNN's Don Lemon shook his head and said he was "just going to speak from the heart here." His heart clearly wasn't impressed with Trump's speech. "What we have witnessed was a total eclipse of the facts, someone who came out on stage and lied directly to the American people and left things out that he said in an attempt to rewrite history, especially when it comes to Charlottesville," he said.
Lemon said Trump blamed his problems on perceived enemies as real as "the imaginary friend of a 6-year-old," and argued that the president of the United States acted "like a child blaming a sibling" for something he himself did. You can watch Lemon's initial reaction to Trump's speech below. Peter Weber
Don Lemon reacts to Trump's speech: "What we have witnessed is a total eclipse of the facts...he's unhinged, it's embarrassing." pic.twitter.com/BXvSgFFwVp
— Axios (@axios) August 23, 2017
As thousands of protesters stood outside, President Trump spoke to supporters Tuesday night in the Phoenix Convention Center about his response to the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia; complained about the media; hinted that he'll soon pardon Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa County sheriff convicted of criminal contempt of court; and said the wall would be built along the U.S.-Mexico border "even if we have to close down our government" to get the funds.
Trump spent the first 30 minutes of his speech defending his Charlottesville remarks and decrying the criticism he received from "dishonest" people who thought he took too long to comment. He re-read his Charlottesville comments, omitting the part where he equated white supremacists to protesters, and accused the media of "trying to take away our history and our heritage" and giving hate groups "a platform."
When Trump mentioned Arpaio, the crowd cheered, and he said: "I'll make a prediction: I think he's going to be just fine. I won't do it tonight because I don't want to cause any controversy. But Sheriff Joe can feel good." He briefly mentioned tax reform, immigration, and getting rid of ObamaCare, and said he wouldn't talk about Arizona's Republican U.S. senators who are "weak on borders and weak on crime." Trump also falsely claimed multiple times there weren't very many protesters outside, and kept saying he could see CNN turning off their cameras, even though the network aired the rally in its entirety. Catherine Garcia
The U.S. Navy is planning on relieving Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin of duty as commander of the Seventh Fleet, following four crashes, two of them deadly, in Asia since January, U.S. officials told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.
Aucoin is a three-star commander, and he will be removed on Wednesday, the officials said; the Navy declined to comment to the Journal. The Seventh Fleet is based in Yokosuka, Japan, and the most recent collision took place early Monday, when the USS John S. McCain and a tanker crashed in the waters east of Singapore and the Straits of Malacca; 10 sailors were reported missing, and the bodies of some of the sailors were recovered on Tuesday. Catherine Garcia
Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, will travel to Israel on Wednesday, his third trip to the country since being tasked by the president with bringing peace to the Middle East.
Kushner is scheduled to meet on Thursday separately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. A person close to the White House told the Los Angeles Times that Kushner is considering this a "temperature taking" trip, and not expecting anything major to come out of it. The White House said the discussions will focus on combating extremism, humanitarian issues in the Gaza Strip, and "the path to substantive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks."
Kushner is already in the region, and along with special envoy Jason Greenblatt and Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell, he has been holding meetings with leaders from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Qatar. Catherine Garcia
Anyone looking to become an instant millionaire should grab a few dollars and head to the closest retailer selling Powerball tickets — the estimated jackpot for Wednesday night's drawing has reached $700 million.
This is the second-largest Powerball jackpot in U.S. history. Tickets are $2 each, and the odds of winning are 1 in 292.2 million. If anyone wins the whole shebang, they can choose an annuity option, receiving the jackpot in 30 payments over 29 years, or take the cash, which significantly reduces the amount of money (in this case, it would be $443.3 million). The winner will also have to pay federal taxes (25 percent), and possibly state taxes (Californians and Texans are among the exempt). Good luck! Catherine Garcia
Just hours before Marcellus Williams, 48, was scheduled to be put to death on Tuesday, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) issued a stay of execution, in light of attorneys saying DNA evidence proves Williams did not stab to death Felicia Gayle, a 42-year-old former reporter at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in her home nearly 20 years ago.
In a statement, Greitens said a "sentence of death is the ultimate, permanent punishment. To carry out the death penalty, the people of Missouri must have confidence in the judgment of guilt." Greitens is going to appoint a five-person Board of Inquiry, which will review the case and offer a recommendation to him, CNN reports. Williams' attorneys said they did not have the DNA evidence during his 2001 trial, and a forensic DNA expert and biologist hired by the legal team found that hair samples found at the crime scene do not match Williams and none of his DNA is on the murder weapon.
The Missouri Attorney General's Office said there is still plenty of non-DNA evidence proving Williams' guilt; Williams sold Gayle's husband's laptop, and some of the victim's personal items were found inside the trunk of his car. From the beginning, Williams has maintained his innocence, saying he was convicted based on testimony from convicted felons. Catherine Garcia
President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have "not spoken to each other in weeks," The New York Times reported Tuesday. The Republican president and the top Senate Republican have apparently entered a "political cold war," the Times said, made all the more fraught by the fact that the GOP faces a tough legislative battle in the fall, as well as the presence of Elaine Chao — McConnell's wife — in Trump's Cabinet as transportation secretary.
The resentment and mutual hostility is so grave, apparently, that McConnell has reportedly taken to privately confessing that he's not sure the Trump administration can be saved:
Mr. McConnell has fumed over Mr. Trump's regular threats against fellow Republicans and criticism of Senate rules, and questioned Mr. Trump's understanding of the presidency in a public speech. Mr. McConnell has made sharper comments in private, describing Mr. Trump as entirely unwilling to learn the basics of governing.
In offhand remarks, Mr. McConnell has expressed a sense of bewilderment about where Mr. Trump's presidency may be headed, and has mused about whether Mr. Trump will be in a position to lead the Republican Party into next year's elections and beyond, according to people who have spoken to him directly. [The New York Times]
Earlier this month, Trump repeatedly attacked McConnell on Twitter, spurring the majority leader's Senate colleagues to rally around him. Trump has also attacked Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake (R), calling him "toxic" and endorsing his primary challenger, Kelli Ward; Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), whose refusal to vote for her party's health-care proposal prompted Trump to say she "really let the Republicans, and our country, down"; and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R), whose critical comments about Trump's controversial response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, prompted the president to label him "publicity-seeking."
Trump needs McConnell as an ally to rally those same Republicans around his agenda, but "angry phone calls and private badmouthing have devolved into open conflict," the Times wrote. Read more at The New York Times. Kimberly Alters