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December 19, 2017

Republicans plan to pass their $1.5 trillion tax plan starting Tuesday, with the House approving the bill first and the Senate clearing it later in the day or on Wednesday. No Democrats are expected to vote in favor. The tax bill would be the first big legislative win for Republicans this year. It slashes the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent, lowers the top rate for the richest Americans, and gives more modest, temporary tax cuts to everyone else. By 2023, families making under $30,000 would start seeing tax increases, the nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation said Monday, and by 2027, average taxes would go up for everyone earning up to $75,000. The bill is projected to add $1.46 trillion to the deficit over those same 10 years.

In a new CNN poll, 55 percent of U.S. adults oppose the tax bill while 33 percent support it, a 10-point deterioration in support from early November.

The bill's unpopularity is largely due to the perceived winners and losers in the package; 66 percent said it will do more to help the wealthy than the middle class, 37 percent said their own family would be worse off under the bill, and only 21 percent say they would be better off. The CNN poll was conducted by SSRS Dec. 14-17 among 1,001 adults, and it has a margin of sampling error of ±3.8 percentage points. Peter Weber

8:29 a.m. ET

Saturday Night Live opened with a joint press conference by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (Aidy Bryant) and Dr. Ronny Jackson (Beck Bennett), the doctor who reported the results of President Trump's physical this past week. Jackson is on hand, Sanders explains, "to come out here and tell you how not fat the president is."

"This is the president's unbiased, 100 percent accurate health assessment," Bennett's Jackson begins. "At the time of examination, the president was 71 years and seven months young. His resting heart rate was a cool 68 bpm, his weight a very svelte 239 pounds. He has a gorgeous 44-inch coke-bottle waist, and his height, 75 inches, with legs that — well, they seem to go on forever. Size 12 shoes, so you can fill in the blanks there," he continues. "It's my expert medical opinion that the president has a rockin' bod with an excellent cushion for the pushin'. And if given the chance, I would."

The real Jackson was not quite so vivid in his report on Trump's health, though he did say Trump has "incredible genes" and declared him to be "in excellent health." Read about Jackson's actual report here, and watch the full SNL sketch below. Bonnie Kristian

8:17 a.m. ET
Khaled Desouki/The Associated Press

Vice President Mike Pence departed for the Middle East this week, proceeding with visits to Egypt, Jordan, and Israel despite the government shutdown. The trip was labeled a national security measure, the White House told Politico, to avoid shutdown-related cancellation.

In Cairo on Saturday, Pence met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who expressed displeasure with President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel last year. Pence described the conversation as "disagreement between friends," saying he "heard el-Sisi out."

On Sunday, Pence spoke with King Abdullah II of Jordan, who said after the Jerusalem announcement, the U.S. must "rebuild trust and confidence" in the possibility of a two-state solution. The vice president assured him the United States is "committed to continue to respect Jordan's role as the custodian of holy sites, [and] that we take no position on boundaries and final status" in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Bonnie Kristian

8:00 a.m. ET

President Trump's involvement in spending negotiations to end the government shutdown is slowing the process, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor Saturday.

"I told the president we Democrats were willing to fund the military at the highest levels in history, far above even his budget request," said Schumer of his Friday negotiations with Trump, after which, he said, the president changed his terms. "Negotiating with this White House is like negotiating with Jell-O," Schumer continued. "It's next to impossible."

Meanwhile, the president's campaign released an ad linking Democrats to murders committed by illegal immigrants. And Sunday morning, Trump tweeted that the GOP should change Senate rules to pass a funding bill without Democratic cooperation:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) on Sunday suggested Schumer and Trump both believe they are winning the public relations battle in blaming each other's parties for the shutdown — and in the unlikely event that he is referencing how both Congress (including congressional Democrats) and the president are very unpopular, he's right. Bonnie Kristian

January 20, 2018
Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images

The 13 California siblings discovered Sunday held captive in deeply abusive conditions were permitted to keep journals, investigators have learned. In fact, authorities have found hundreds of journals in the California home where the malnourished children's parents, David and Louise Turpin, allegedly chained them to furniture, refused to let them outdoors, and gave them only one meal per day.

The journals are difficult to read because of the siblings' limited language development, but investigators expect them to provide "strong evidence of what occurred in that home" as the case proceeds to trial. "There is a good chance that being able to write may have kept them sane," James Pennebaker, a psychologist with expertise in writing as a response to trauma, told USA Today. "In an interesting way, this may have helped them come to terms with the bizarre world they lived in."

A man in Texas who purchased the Turpins' former home also shed light on their living conditions, sharing photos of the property's filthy, unlivable interior at the time of the sale. After the house became uninhabitable, the Turpins brought a double-wide trailer to their property and lived in that instead. Bonnie Kristian

January 20, 2018

The Women's March returned for a second year Saturday as tens of thousands of women rallied in cities across the country, including Washington, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and more.

The march in Washington proceeded despite the government shutdown, which many demonstrators referenced as part of their critique of the Trump administration. Immigration policy, the #MeToo movement, health care, and the 2018 midterm elections were of central concern to many participants. One protest sign in Washington referenced President Trump's notorious Access Hollywood comments, urging demonstrators to "Grab him by the midterms."

"I'm done with men feeling like they have some sort of power over women," Amanda Kowalski, a protester in Los Angeles, told The New York Times, "and I'm definitely done with having a president who believes that he has the power to take things from them, to take things that are provided — like Planned Parenthood — from women, when they deserve the same sort of health care as anybody else."

See scenes from demonstrations in several cities below. Bonnie Kristian

January 20, 2018

President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, rapidly established himself as "Mr. China" in his father-in-law's nascent administration last year, a New Yorker piece published Saturday reports. He talked repeatedly with Chinese Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai, conversations that happened alone or with a limited retinue of American officials, a break with past administrations' practice of marshaling a collection of experts for U.S.-China meetings.

Chinese accounts of Kushner's relationship with Cui raised alarm in the U.S. intelligence community, The New Yorker reports:

According to current and former officials briefed on U.S. intelligence about Chinese communications, Chinese officials said that Cui and Kushner, in meetings to prepare for the summit at Mar-a-Lago, discussed Kushner's business interests along with policy. Some intelligence officials became concerned that the Chinese government was seeking to use business inducements to influence Kushner's views. The intelligence wasn't conclusive, according to those briefed on the matter. "I never saw any indication that it was successful," a former senior official said, of Chinese efforts to compromise Kushner. The Chinese could have mischaracterized their discussions with Kushner. [The New Yorker]

In a statement to The New Yorker, Kushner's representative strenuously denied all wrongdoing, saying there "was never a time — never — that Mr. Kushner spoke to any foreign officials, in the campaign, transition, and in the administration, about any personal or family business. He was scrupulous in this regard." Read the full New Yorker story here. Bonnie Kristian

January 20, 2018
Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

After a late night of unproductive talks, Congress reconvened Saturday morning to continue negotiations to end the government shutdown — and, naturally, to throw lots of blame across the aisle.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Friday he believes there is a "really good chance" the matter will be resolved by Monday, but many lawmakers' remarks were not so optimistic. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) accused Senate Democrats of "holding government funding hostage," while House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the shutdown should be blamed on President Trump's "confrontation and chaos."

Trump himself resumed his early tweeting spree to again claim that "Democrats are holding our Military hostage over their desire to have unchecked illegal immigration." Bonnie Kristian

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