Trump may not attend Wednesday's odd White House briefing for senators on Korea, as tensions ratchet up
Amid U.S.-North Korean tensions so high that defense analysts warn one misstep could lead to war, all 100 senators are meeting at the White House Wednesday afternoon for a special, unusual briefing on North Korea from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, intelligence chief Dan Coats, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It isn't clear if President Trump will attend at all, though a senior administration official told CNN "if he attends — which is not determined — it will just be a brief drop-by."
The briefing was arranged by the White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and several senators seem unclear why they are traveling down the street on a fleet of buses instead of meeting at the Capitol. "That meeting is a Senate meeting led by Leader McConnell, just utilizing our space," White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday. "We're not there to talk strategy." A McConnell spokesman said President Trump offered the auditorium at the Eisenhower Office Building when McConnell requested a briefing. "I, frankly, don't understand why it's not easier to bring four people here than it is to take 100 there," said Sen. Angus King (I-Maine).
A U.S. nuclear submarine docked in South Korea on Tuesday, the same day North Korea conducted its largest-ever live-fire military exercises to mark the anniversary of its military founding. The USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group is headed toward the Korean peninsula, and on Wednesday, the U.S. began setting up the U.S. Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system in South Korea, and is conducting a previously scheduled Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test from California. "The real question now is somebody going to make a stupid mistake, because some kind of minor escalation could get out of hand," Bruce Bennett, a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation, told CNN. You can watch part of the North Korean exercises and a live report from CNN's Will Ripley in Pyongyang below. Peter Weber
Americans are predictably polarized on whether President Trump aced or failed his first year, a new Politico/Morning Consult poll published Tuesday reveals.
While 34 percent say he should get an A or B for the last 12 months, slightly more — 35 percent — give Trump an F. Middle ground is sparse, with 11 percent scoring Trump's year with a D and 14 percent a C average. At the individual issue level, Trump scored best on the economy, jobs, and fighting terrorism and worst on draining the swamp.
Broken down by demographic markers, the poll results stayed consistent with past survey trends. Men remain more positive about Trump than women, as do Republicans compared to both Democrats and independents. Trump's grades have gotten worse overall since his 100-day mark, when Politico/Morning Consult conducted the same grading poll, but Republicans are actually happier with him now than they were then. Bonnie Kristian
On Tuesday, Japan's state broadcasting organization, NHK, sent out a terrifying mobile notification which read: "NHK news alert. North Korea likely to have launched missile. The government J alert: evacuate inside the building or underground." Japanese residents only had a very brief time to contend with existential questions about how to spend their final moments; the apocalyptic warning was retracted minutes later, CNN reports.
Japan's false alarm occurred just three days after a similar alert was sent by mistake to residents in Hawaii on Saturday, sparking widespread panic before it was rescinded. NBC News notes that Tuesday's alert was only sent to people who had NHK's app installed on their phones, and while NHK published the alert on its website, it did not air on TV. "Due to the quick response from [NHK]," NBC News explains, "there was limited social media commentary regarding the incident in Japan." By comparison, Hawaii's weekend nuclear scare — complete with blaring sirens — went out to basically everyone with a cell phone, and continued for an exhausting 38 minutes before it was deemed a false alarm caused by human error.
Exactly how Japan's false alarm occurred isn't yet clear. Kelly O'Meara Morales
Negotiations concerning Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which indefinitely defers deportation for immigrants illegally brought to the United States as children, have stalled, but Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Tuesday participants shouldn't be too worried.
Deporting DACA registrants, who are also called DREAMers, is "not gonna be a priority of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement to prioritize their removal. I've said that before. That's not the policy of DHS," Nielsen said on CBS. She added that as long as DACA recipients are properly registered and do not commit any crimes, they will remain low priority for deportation "in perpetuity."
Nielsen did not say whether she has issued formal guidance to that effect, something critics say is necessary for her promise to be meaningful. At present, DREAMers are protected by a judge's order directing DHS to continue processing DACA renewal applications for prior registrants, a reversal of the Trump administration's September decision to rescind DACA, which included a six-month deadline for Congress to save the program.
Watch an excerpt of Nielsen's comments below. Bonnie Kristian
.@SecNielsen on #DACA deportations: "It's not going to be a priority of @ICEgov to prioritize their removal. I've said that before. That's not the policy of DHS." https://t.co/PM1g9bB6jj pic.twitter.com/g91D33pne6
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) January 16, 2018
HLN anchor Ashleigh Banfield came to the defense of Aziz Ansari on her show, Crime & Justice, after a pseudonymous woman, "Grace," accused the actor of sexual assault in an article published over the weekend. "Grace" claimed her date with Ansari was "the worst experience with a man I've ever had" and that the actor repeatedly pressured her to have sex despite her objections.
Addressing Grace directly, Banfield said: "I'm sorry you had a bad date. I've had a few myself. They stink. I'm sure it must be really weighing on you." Banfield clarified, though, that "after protesting [Ansari's] moves, you did not get up and leave right away. You continued to engage in a sexual encounter. By your own clear description, this was not a rape, nor was it a sexual assault." Banfield added that if Grace was indeed sexually assaulted, "you should go to the police right now."
Otherwise, seeing that the encounter did not "affect your workplace or your ability to get a job," Banfield inquired: "What exactly was your beef — that you had a bad date with Aziz Ansari?" She concluded: "What you have done, in my opinion, is appalling. You went to the press with the story of a bad date. And you have potentially destroyed this man's career over it, right after he received an award for which he was worthy."
Watch the segment below, and read why Damon Linker says the Ansari takedown is a setback for the #MeToo movement here at The Week. Jeva Lange
— Crime & Justice (@CrimeJusticeHLN) January 16, 2018
Republican Sen. Joni Ernst faced open ridicule by her constituents at an "otherwise friendly" event in Red Oak, Iowa, on Sunday after she fumbled an answer about which foreign countries President Trump is "standing up for," Shareblue Media writes. The awkward moment followed a question by Stanton resident Barb Melson, who asked if Ernst is "taking a stand or doing something about the damage Trump is doing to our neighbors around the world with his white supremacy talk."
Ernst initially deflected the question, saying she would rather talk about things that are important to Iowa specifically, but then suggested Trump is "standing up for a lot of the countries." She was interrupted by a shouted demand to "name a few."
"Norway," Ernst said, drawing open laughs.
Norway is one of the least ethnically diverse countries in the world, with 83 percent of residents being Norwegian and another 8 percent being from somewhere else in Europe. The country was reportedly offered by Trump as an alternative to "shithole" places like Haiti, El Salvador, and unspecified African nations during a meeting with lawmakers last week.
In Boone, Iowa, on Monday, Ernst drew further "groans from the crowd" when she told voters that she doesn't believe Trump is a racist "deep inside," the Des Moines Register writes. "I think he's brash and he says things that are on his mind, but I don't truly believe that he's a racist," Ernst said. Watch Ernst speak in Red Oak below. Jeva Lange
Rural Iowa voters laugh out loud at Republican Senator Joni Ernst’s defense of Trump. pic.twitter.com/yu0ywmwQAd
— ☇RiotWomenn☇ (@riotwomennn) January 16, 2018
The percentage of U.S. adults without health insurance grew by 1.3 percentage points in 2017, or about 3.2 million people, Gallup reports, based on its Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index survey. This is first rise since the Affordable Care Act was enacted and the single largest increase in the uninsured rate since Gallup and Sharecare began measuring it in 2008, though at 12.2 percent uninsured it is below the peak uninsured rate of 18 percent in the third quarter of 2013, before the ACA's exchange markets and individual mandate took effect. The jump in uninsured adults was highest among young adults and Latino, black, and low-income Americans, Gallup said.
Gallup attributed the growing uninsured rate to rising premiums, insurers leaving markets, well-publicized and unsuccessful Republican attempts to repeal the ACA, more succesfull attempts to undermine it, and the common perception that the GOP would scrap the individual mandate, which they did in their tax overhaul. Republicans are looking to change the funding mechanisms for Medicaid and Medicare, and "with less federal assistance from these programs to help offset the rising cost of health insurance, fewer Americans may be able to afford health insurance," Gallup predicted. Gallup conducted more than 25,000 interviews from October through December, and the margin of sampling error is ± 1 percentage points. Peter Weber
The Morning Joe team was cutting nobody slack on Tuesday morning, with host Joe Scarborough reserving his toughest love for Democrats. The blunt conversation came as Republican lawmakers have concluded they do not have the votes to pass a long-term federal government funding deal by Friday's deadline, leaving them focused on passing another stopgap spending measure and raising the odds of a government shutdown. Democrats, meanwhile, are using the budget to insist Republicans protect DREAMers — immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children — although there is division in the ranks over to what extent the party is willing to compromise to reach a deal.
Scarborough, though, didn't see any conflict. "You should not give [Republicans] a single vote in keeping the government running," he told the Democrats. "That's their job. This is their government. This is their Congress. This is their presidency … Don't give them a single vote unless they give you a clean bill on DREAMers."
Scarborough insisted that "if you do, you are too weak and too spineless and too stupid when it comes to politics and too cowardly to be given control of Congress in 2018."
Co-host Mika Brzezinski also offered some advice for Republicans — chiefly that "sucking up" to the president "is not going to help you." Watch below. Jeva Lange
— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) January 16, 2018