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10 things you need to know today: January 25, 2017

Trump revives Dakota Access and Keystone oil pipelines, Trump expected to order construction of border wall, and more


Trump revives Keystone and Dakota Access oil pipeline plans

President Trump on Tuesday signed executive orders reviving the Keystone and Dakota Access oil pipelines. The Obama administration had rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, and delayed the Dakota Access project to see whether its final stretch could be rerouted to avoid concerns that it would threaten the water supply and sacred sites on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Trump said both projects would hinge on renegotiated terms, which would include such requirements as using American steel and building the pipes in the U.S. "If we're going to be building pipelines in the United States, we'll build the pipes in the United States," Trump said.


Trump expected to issue order for construction of border wall

President Trump said via Twitter that he planned a "big day" on Wednesday, as he launches a series of actions on immigration and national security that will start with an executive order to start construction of a wall on the Mexican border. Building a wall and making Mexico pay for it were key refrains during his presidential campaign. Trump plans to redirect U.S. resources to get the project going quickly, and address his promise to make Mexico pay the bill later. He also plans to issue executive orders to cut the number of refugees who can enter the U.S. and temporarily block people from Syria and other "terror prone" countries from entering the U.S.


Spicer says Trump believes debunked claim of massive election fraud

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Tuesday confirmed that President Trump believes that millions of illegal votes were cast for Hillary Clinton in November, resulting in her more than 2.8 million lead in the popular vote. "The president does believe that, I think he's stated that before, and stated his concern of voter fraud and people voting illegally during the campaign and continues to maintain that belief based on studies and evidence people have brought to him," Spicer said. Spicer, pressed on the issue in a briefing, declined to provide any evidence. The New York Times took the unusual step of calling the claim a "lie" in a headline.


Trump administration freezes activities at EPA and other agencies

The Trump administration announced Tuesday that it was freezing activities at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Agriculture, and the National Institutes of Health. The administration also imposed a temporary media blackout on the agencies, barring employees from external communication such as talking to reporters, publishing press releases, or posting to social media or agency websites. Doug Ericksen, communications director for the Trump EPA transition team, said the blackout would probably be lifted by the end of the week. "We're just trying to get a handle on everything and make sure what goes out reflects the priorities of the new administration," he said.


Trump promises to announce Supreme Court pick next week

President Trump said Tuesday that he would decide on a nominee to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, and announce a "truly great" pick next week. Republicans refused to even consider former President Barack Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, leaving the position vacant for 11 months. Sources close to the selection process say Trump's short list includes appeals court judges William Pryor in Alabama, Neil Gorsuch in Colorado, and Thomas Hardiman in Pennsylvania.


Russia, Iran, and Turkey vow to ensure Syria ceasefire compliance

Russia, Iran, and Turkey pledged to support Syria's fragile ceasefire and work together on a mechanism to ensure compliance at the end of two days of peace talks in Kazakhstan on Tuesday. Lingering differences and rebel infighting still threaten to undermine the deal. Previous efforts by the U.S. and Russia failed to produce a lasting ceasefire. The U.S. did not participate actively in the Kazakhstan talks due to the demands of the presidential transition, but State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Tuesday the U.S. welcomes any progress toward reducing violence in Syria.


Israel approves massive West Bank settlement expansion

Israel on Tuesday announced plans to expand Jewish settlements in the West Bank with 2,500 new housing units. Palestinian leaders immediately denounced the plans. Hanan Ashrawi of the Palestinian Liberation Organization's executive committee said the Israeli government was "more committed to land theft and colonialism than to the two-state solution and the requirements for peace and stability." On Sunday, the Jerusalem City Council approved 566 more housing units in East Jerusalem, ending a delay due to former President Barack Obama's objections. The latest move came two days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talked with President Trump.


Senate approves Nikki Haley as U.N. ambassador

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in a 96-4 vote. Haley resigned shortly after the vote, and Lt. Gov Henry McMaster (R) was sworn in to replace her for the final two years of her term. During her confirmation hearing, Democrats challenged Haley, a two-term governor, for her lack of international experience, but she won praise for her responses to questions about critical issues such as Russia and United Nations resolutions on Israel.


Trump to keep Comey as FBI director

FBI Director James Comey has told his agents that President Trump has asked him to continue to serve in the post, The New York Times reported Tuesday, citing sources familiar with the matter. The decision would avoid another potentially tense confirmation fight, and keep Comey in charge as the FBI investigates several Trump associates' potential ties to Russia. Comey, a Republican, has been criticized by Democrats for announcing days before the November election that the FBI was looking at new emails possibly related to Hillary Clinton's use of a private server, a move that Clinton has blamed for her loss to Trump.


La La Land leads Oscars with 14 nominations

La La Land led the pack in this year's Academy Award nominations, which were announced Tuesday. The musical received 14 nominations, tying a record shared by Titanic and All About Eve. After facing two years of criticism for a lack of diversity among Oscar nominees, the academy gave nods to six black actors — a record — and included diverse films like Moonlight, Fences, and Hidden Figures in the Best Picture race. The other nominees for the coveted Best Picture Oscar were La La Land, Manchester by the Sea, Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, and Lion. "It makes me feel good to see such a multifaceted group of people get recognized," said Moonlight director Barry Jenkins.


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