Watch Jeff Sessions urge the attorney general Trump just fired to resist a president's unlawful orders
On Monday evening, acting Attorney General Sally Yates informed Justice Department lawyers that as long as she headed the DOJ, its lawyers "will not present arguments in defense of the executive order" President Trump issued on immigration from seven Muslim nations because she's not "convinced that the executive order is lawful." President Trump promptly fired her, saying Yates "has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order."
Yates had been planning to leave the department a few days after the Senate confirmed Trump's nominee, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), and she reportedly knew her letter could lead to her early termination. But sometimes "the attorney general has a responsibility to say no to the president if he asks for something that's improper." That last quote is from Jeff Sessions — whose protégés reportedly wrote Trump's executive order — talking to Yates at her deputy attorney general Senate confirmation hearing in March 2015. "If the views a president wants to execute are unlawful, should the attorney general or deputy attorney general say no?" Sessions asked. "Senator, I believe that the attorney general or the deputy attorney general has an obligation to follow the law and the Constitution," Yates replied.
— T. R. Ramachandran (@yottapoint) January 31, 2017
Sessions went on to compare the president to a business executive. "Sometimes, the lawyers have to tell the CEOs, Mr. CEO, don't do that, we'll get us sued," he said. "It's going to be in violation of the law. You'll regret it. Please. No matter how headstrong they might be, do you feel like that's the duty of the attorney general's office?" Yates said yes.
Before wrapping up, Sessions strolled down memory lane: "I remember John Ashcroft, attorney general for Bush, he's been celebrated, when he was in the hospital, they tried to get him to sign a document that dealt with terrorism that he thought went too far, he refused to do so. So, I hope that you feel free to say no, in the character of John Ashcroft and others who said no to President Nixon on certain issues." Ashcroft was consulted in the hospital, Sessions did not mention, because Bush was first turned down by the acting attorney general, James Comey, who is now head of the FBI. You can watch the entire Sessions-Yates exchange at C-SPAN. Peter Weber
The first time Michael Moore directed a fiery documentary about an incumbent Republican president, it made for box office gold, but the filmmaker's second attempt came up short this weekend.
Fahrenheit 11/9, the new documentary in which Moore takes on President Trump, debuted with a low $3 million, putting it in eighth place, per Box Office Mojo. That might sound somewhat decent for a documentary, but it's fairly disastrous for one that opened in as many theaters as Moore's did. It played in about 1,700 theaters, giving it a per-screen average of just $1,800.
For comparison, Moore's 2004 George W. Bush documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 opened to $23.9 million and a per-screen average of $27,000, Box Office Mojo reports. Calculating for inflation, that's the equivalent of $31 million today. What makes matters worse is that Fahrenheit 9/11 actually opened in fewer theaters: only 868.
The Indian Ocean island nation the Maldives held a national election on Sunday, and in an upset, opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih beat incumbent President Abdulla Yameen, 134,616 votes to 96,132, according to provisional results. Yameen, accused of increasing authoritarianism, conceded, saying: "The Maldivian people have decided what they want. I have accepted the results." The election had pitted not only Yameen against Solih, but also China against India. Yameen had accepted economic aid and investment from Beijing and moved the Maldives closer to China; Solih, known as Abu, is expected to bring the nation back into India's orbit.
Solih led a coalition including his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), the Jumhooree Party, and the Adhaalath Party, running on a platform of democratic reform. "The message is loud and clear," he said after the results came in. "The people of Maldives want change, peace and justice." Yameen, who has sharply cracked down on dissent in recent months, is the half-brother of former longtime autocratic leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who was jailed in June. The Maldives, made up of 1,192 islands and 26 coral atolls, is one of the countries most at risk from rising sea levels tied to climate change. Peter Weber
Democrats have opened up a 12 percentage point lead in voter preference for which party controls Congress, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds. That's up from 8 points in August and 6 points the month before that. And there are some bad numbers for Republicans in the survey: Moderates and independents favor Democrats by more than 30 points, women 50 and older by almost 20 points, and voters in competitive congressional districts by 12 points, 53 percent to 43 percent. Fifty-nine percent of voters want to see "a great deal" or "quite a bit" of change.
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) September 23, 2018
But there are some warning signs for Democrats, too, the poll finds. First, Republicans have nearly caught up in interest about the midterms, with 61 percent rating their interest a 9 or a 10 on a 10-points scale, versus 65 percent of Democrats. That 4-point lead for Democrats is down from 16 points in July. Also, 73 percent of senior citizens — who tend to vote, and vote more for the GOP — are very interested in the midterms versus just 35 percent of voters age 18 to 34. Younger voters tend to vote more Democratic, when they vote, which isn't often, as Daniel Nichanian notes:
Level of interest in midterms is 73% among seniors & 35% among young voters, per NBC/WSJ poll. Imagine U.S. politics if gap was different.
And in line with past midterms voting rates among voters by age. Check this out (https://t.co/4KRVJS0Dxl): pic.twitter.com/qTotsp88yO
— Taniel (@Taniel) September 23, 2018
Men are also more interested than women, 60 percent to 56 percent, and white voters (61 percent) more interested than black (53 percent) and Latino voters (49 percent). When NBC/WSJ winnowed the overall congressional preference down to likely voters, the Democrats' 12-point lead shrank to 8 points. The poll was conducted Sept. 16-19 among 900 voters and it has an overall margin of error of ±3.3 percentage points, or ±4 points for likely voters. Peter Weber
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the woman who is accusing him of attempted rape at a house party in the early 1980s, Christine Blasey Ford, are both scheduled to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday — or at least that was the plan before The New Yorker published a second allegation of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh, this one from freshman year at Yale. In any case, Kavanaugh plans to give the Judiciary Committee calendars he kept in the summer of 1982, The New York Times reports, citing someone working for his confirmation.
The calendars "do not show a party consistent with the description of his accuser," the Times reports, but they also "do not disprove Dr. Blasey's allegations, Judge Kavanaugh's team acknowledged. He could have attended a party that he did not list." The calendars from June, July, and August show he was at the beach or with his parents many weekends, went to the movies, and did other teen activities, the Times says.
In 1982, Kavanaug was 17 and Ford 15. "Unusual for a teenager, Judge Kavanaugh seemed to keep track of his days even during summer vacation," the Times says. Some observers were confused that someone who kept such fastidious notes and held on to them for 36 years had such a poor memory and records about so many topics in his confirmation hearing. Lisa Birnbach, author of The Official Preppy Handbook, had a different problem with this new wrinkle:
Here is my ruling: Keg parties are too last- minute to have noted in a calendar. Calendar would have provided unwanted evidence of underage drinking for parents. Also no self-respecting 17 yr old preppy boy kept a calendar.
— Lisa Birnbach (@LisaBirnbach) September 23, 2018
"Sensitive to the potential backlash over questioning the credibility of a woman alleging sexual misconduct," the Times says, Kavanaugh "will not challenge her account of being assaulted but will argue that it was not him." Peter Weber
"Facebook has been in the news a lot recently over concerns about everything, from privacy to fake news to Russian trolls, but tonight we're actually going to go in a different direction," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight: Facebook's "behavior overseas." More than half of Facebook's revenue and 80 percent of its users now come from outside the U.S.
Facebook and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, have aggressively pushed the "utopian" idea that connecting billions of people around the world is an unvarnished good, Oliver noted, but "it's important to remember that when it comes to the internet, a certain number of those people are then going to say 'Jews control sharks who did 9/11!' and you really have to think that through. Unfortunately, thinking things through has never really been Facebook's strong point." In fact, he said, Facebook "has made some hugely consequential mistakes overseas, and that's what tonight's story is about."
Oliver pointed to a few examples but focused mostly on Myanmar, where Facebook is ubiquitous on smartphones — and the company has been very slow in policing its posts for violence-inciting posts against the minority Muslim Rohingya community by military leaders, politicians, and especially a Buddhist monk so hateful he's been called the "Burmese bin Laden." One teacher in Myanmar compared Facebook to a toilet, but Oliver said that's unfair, because "there is a purity and integrity to toilets that Facebook seriously lacks."
Until Facebook fixes this, he said, "it is painfully obvious everyone should be treating everything on their site with extreme skepticism and see Facebook for what it actually is: A fetid swamp of mistruths and outright lies interspersed with the occasional reminder of a dead pet. That's it." While his audience gasped, Oliver played his own version of a Facebook commercial. There is NSFW language throughout, plus mildly disturbing verbal imagery about Care Bears and sex. Watch below. Peter Weber
Brett Kavanaugh is historically unpopular, and more voters believe Christine Ford, Fox News poll finds
Judge Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination wasn't very popular before Christine Blasey Ford's allegation that he tried to rape her in high school in the early 1980s. Now, half of all voters oppose his confirmation while only 40 percent want him elevated to the highest court, according to a new Fox News poll. (In the previous Fox News poll, Aug. 19-21, voters were split, 46 percent opposing, 45 percent in favor.) The 50 percent opposition is the worst number for a Supreme Court nominee in Fox News polling dating back to 2005.
More voters believe Ford, 36 percent, than Kavanaugh, 30 percent, with 34 percent unsure who to believe, the poll found. There is a significant gender gap: Women believe Ford over Kavanaugh by 10 percentage points, and suburban women by 17 points, but men also believe Ford over Kavanaugh by a narrow 1 point. There's also a predictable partisan split, and a stark divide by education level: Voters with college educations believe Ford by a 14-point margin and those without a degree believe Kavanaugh by 17 points.
Support for Kavanaugh has dropped across the board, Fox News' pollsters found: 12 points among independents, 11 points among suburban women, 5 points among men, 4 points among Republicans, 10 points among voters under 45, and 11 points among voters in counties where the 2016 margin between President Trump and Hillary Clinton was 10 points or less.
Democratic polling firm Anderson Robbins Research and GOP pollsters Shaw & Company Research jointly conducted the Fox News poll Sept. 16-19, contacting 1,003 registered voters by phone. The poll has an overall margin of sampling error of ±3 points, and ±4 points for items related to Ford's allegations, polled Sept. 17-19. Peter Weber
Scrabble just got a little easier, with the addition of 300 new words to the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary.
Merriam-Webster is releasing the sixth edition of the dictionary on Monday, with emoji, facepalm, ew, OK, twerk, sheeple, sriracha, and yowza among the new words. Peter Sokolowski, editor-at-large at Merriam-Webster, told The Guardian "OK is something Scrabble players have been waiting for, for a long time. Basically two- and three-letter words are the lifeblood of the game."
Another game-changer is qapik, a unit of currency in Azerbaijan. "Every time there's a word with q and no u, it's a big deal," Sokolowski said. "Most of these are obscure." Merriam-Webster updates the official dictionary every four to eight years, and this time, the lexiconographers checked with the North American Scrabble Players Association on the words they thought should be included. Catherine Garcia