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
During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) tried to take off a pair of glasses. There was just one problem; he wasn't wearing any glasses.
WATCH: Sen. Orrin Hatch removes a pair of glasses he's not wearing pic.twitter.com/QXCCb4RHzn
— Jon Levine (@LevineJonathan) January 16, 2018
Rather than point out, as some Twitter users did, that this reflexive motion is not uncommon for people who wear contacts, the soon-to-be retiree (or the staff who run his Twitter account at least) responded with a millennial-friendly witticism.
Oh you mean his invisible glasses from Warby Parker? They're new, you've probably never heard of them. pic.twitter.com/pygTRwbJl7
— Senator Hatch Office (@senorrinhatch) January 16, 2018
A spokesperson for Hatch later told The Hill that the senator left his reading glasses at home and simply succumbed to the Pavlovian instinct to take them off. It was a mistake, the spokesman said, that "many glasses and contact lens wearers can relate to." Kelly O'Meara Morales
Presidential physician claims Trump is 'in excellent health,' did 'exceedingly well' on neurological tests
President Trump's personal doctor claimed he would be "the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency" when he was a candidate, and now that such a reality has actually come to pass, the 71-year-old earned similar superlatives from presidential physician Ronny Jackson, who said Trump has "incredible genes" and declared him to be "in excellent health." Trump underwent the routine physical examination on Friday in Bethesda, Maryland, the Los Angeles Times reports.
During a press conference Tuesday, Jackson said Trump is 6'3" and weighs 239 pounds, up from 2016 when he weighed 236 pounds, "which the medical community considers overweight; if he were 6-foot-2, as listed on his New York driver's license, he would be considered obese," The Washington Post writes. His heart exam was normal, his total cholesterol was 223, and he did "exceedingly well" on cognitive and neurological tests, which he personally requested, Jackson said. Trump's medications include Crestor for cholesterol, which Jackson said he has increased, aspirin for his heart, Propecia for male pattern hair loss, cream for rosacea, and a multivitamin.
Jackson added that Trump ought to lose 10 to 15 pounds and that he was "more excited about the diet part than the exercise part." Jackson claimed that Trump's slurred speech during a public appearance last month might have been caused by Sudafed, and that an ultrasound after the incident turned up no concerning results.
Less flattering was the opinion of The Washington Post, which noted last week that Trump is "older than all previous presidents when they first took office. He is also the heaviest president in at least a generation and consumes a diet heavy with Big Macs, Filet-O-Fish sandwiches, fried chicken, pizza, well-done steak, and two rounds of dessert. He seems to get little exercise beyond swinging a golf club, as he spends most of his time on the course traveling in an electric cart. And he likes to brag about how little sleep he gets." Jeva Lange
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signs Democratic-sponsored gun control bill hours before leaving office
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) left office Tuesday, but not before he signed a Democratic-sponsored bill that bans the sale or possession of "bump stocks" in his state, NJ.com reports. The divisive legislation comes in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting last year, when the gun accessory was used to murder 58 people and wound some 489 others. Bump stock owners in New Jersey now have 90 days to turn over the items to authorities.
"These are simple, easy-to-use devices that increase the firepower and killing power of firearms," explained former state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), who retired last week. "There is no legitimate need for these devices." Residents of New Jersey were not previously allowed to use bump stocks — the accessories weren't even allowed in the "vicinity of a weapon," NJ.com writes — but Christie's law officially requires the devices be removed from the state altogether.
The legislation passed unanimously in the state Senate and Assembly, which are both controlled by Democrats. Democrat Phil Murphy was sworn in as Christie's replacement just before noon Tuesday. Jeva Lange
Lindsey Graham misses the good old days.
During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, the South Carolina Republican lamented that President Trump had changed in a disturbing way over the last week, clearly referencing the president's disparagement of Haiti, El Salvador, and unnamed African nations as "shithole countries."
"[Last] Tuesday we had a president who I was proud to golf with, call my friend, who understood immigration had to be bipartisan ... but he also understood the idea that we had to do it with compassion," Graham said before making a plea to the president: "I don't know where that guy went. I want him back."
Sen. Lindsey Graham: Trump understood that immigration reform had to be done with compassion, but something changed in a short period of time. “I don’t know where that guy went, I want him back” (corrects quote) https://t.co/LQshZ9pJqz
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) January 16, 2018
After he made his remarks, Graham ran into reporters outside the hearing and told them he believed the president's staff was to blame for this whole ordeal: "I think someone on his staff gave him really bad advice between 10 o'clock and 12 o'clock on Thursday." He added: "We cannot [make a deal on immigration] with people at the White House who have an irrational view on how to fix immigration." Kelly O'Meara Morales
Sen. Lindsey Graham: “We cannot do this with people in charge at the White House who have an irrational view of how to fix immigration" https://t.co/rxDILJixq9
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) January 16, 2018
Japanese officials are using emergency loudspeakers normally reserved for earthquake alerts to warn residents of the city of Gamagori not to eat potentially deadly fish sold from a local supermarket, The Japan Times reports. The local store allegedly sold five packages of fugu without removing the fish's liver, which can contain an extremely dangerous neurotoxin. "Eating fugu liver can paralyze motor nerves, and in a serious case cause respiratory arrest leading to death," officials warned.
Fugu is an expensive delicacy, but it is also so dangerous that it must be prepared for consumption by specially licensed professionals. There is not an antidote for its poison, which can be more toxic than cyanide and is also found in its skin, intestines, and ovaries, the BBC reports.
So far, three of the five packages sold by the store have been recovered "but we still don't know where the remaining two are," said local official Koji Takayanagi. Jeva Lange
Nestlé sells American candy brands, including Crunch, Butterfinger, to Italy's Ferrero for $2.8 billion
Swiss food and beverage company Nestlé announced the sale of its American candy businesses, including brands like Crunch, Gobstopper, and Butterfinger, to the Italian confectionary company Ferrero for $2.8 billion, CNBC reports. The sale will evidently make Ferrero, which owns Nutella and Ferrero Rocher pralines, the third-largest chocolate company in the world.
"With Ferrero we have found an exceptional home for our U.S. confectionery business where it will thrive," said Nestlé CEO Mark Schneider. "At the same time, this move allows Nestlé to invest and innovate across a range of categories where we see strong future growth and hold leadership positions, such as pet care, bottled water, coffee, frozen meals, and infant nutrition.”
Nestlé's chocolate brands have reportedly been struggling in the U.S. due to "consumers' preference for healthier snacks like fruit and nut bars and premium brands like Lindt," CNBC writes. The sale will not include Nestlé's Toll House products or candies it produces globally, like KitKat. Jeva Lange
DHS chief Kirstjen Nielsen tried to plead ignorance of Trump's infamous immigration comments at a Senate hearing. It did not go well.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday and faced some tough questions about President Trump's recent disparaging remarks about Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations, which he reportedly called "shithole countries."
In his round of questioning, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) asked Nielsen what the president meant when he expressed a desire for the U.S. to take in more Norwegian immigrants. Nielsen replied that Trump was discussing immigration "from a merit-based perspective" and that he wanted immigrants "with skills who can assimilate and contribute to the United States, moving away from country quotas and to an individual merit system."
DHS Sec. Nielsen says Pres. Trump's Norway remark was referring to Norwegian prime minister "telling him the people of Norway work very hard. What he was referencing is, from a merit-based perspective, we'd like to have those with skills" who can contribute to U.S. pic.twitter.com/mnwytgkM1K
— ABC News (@ABC) January 16, 2018
A little later, Leahy asked Nielsen, "Norway is a predominantly white country, isn't it?" After stuttering, she replied, "I actually do not know that sir, but I imagine that is the case."
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) January 16, 2018
Nielsen's interrogation, however, was far from over. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) — who was in the room with Nielsen when Trump reportedly made the comments during a meeting on immigration — wasted little time in asking, "How did [Trump] characterize those countries in Africa?" Nielsen claimed to not remember exactly what the president said because of "cross conversations" and "rough talk by a lot of people in the room."
Questioned by Sen. Dick Durbin, DHS Sec. Nielsen says Pres. Trump used "strong language" in immigration meeting, but "I don't remember a specific word." She added that did not "specifically remember" a categorization of African countries. pic.twitter.com/iy9g6Ej4wY
— ABC News (@ABC) January 16, 2018
Durbin pressed on: "Do you remember the president saying expressly, 'I want more Europeans, why can't we have more immigrants from Norway?'" Nielsen said that she remembered Trump asking about "the concept of 'underrepresented countries'" but her memory failed her in regards to the president's alleged profanity. Durbin did get Nielsen to admit that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) used "tough language" as he quoted the president, but Nielsen did not explicitly confirm the use of the word "shithole." She would only say, "I remember specific cuss words being used by a variety of members." Kelly O'Meara Morales