×
FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
May 19, 2017
OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump's approval rating just hit a new low, a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Friday found. Just 38 percent of adults approve of Trump's performance while a whopping 56 percent disapprove, the lowest mark for the president since his inauguration. Roughly 6 percent of respondents said they had "mixed feelings."

The last two weeks have been tumultuous for Trump, starting with his abrupt dismissal of former FBI Director James Comey on May 9 and the White House's subsequent struggle to offer a consistent explanation for the firing. This week, a steady flow of leaks has upended Washington: On Monday, it was reported Trump shared highly classified intelligence information, gathered by Israel, with Russian officials during a meeting in the Oval Office last week; on Tuesday, the existence of memos written by Comey detailing his interactions with Trump, including when the president asked him to halt the investigation into Russia-linked former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, was revealed; on Wednesday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to head the Russia investigation; and on Thursday, it was reported Trump asked Comey when the FBI would be stating publicly that Trump himself was not under investigation for potential ties to Russia.

The Reuters poll was conducted May 14-18 among 1,971 adults, including 795 Democrats and 721 Republicans. It has a margin of error of 3 percentage points. On Friday, after the poll closed, The New York Times reported Trump bragged about firing Comey in his Oval Office meeting with the Russian officials, calling Comey a "nut job" and saying dismissing him had "taken off" the "great pressure" from the Russia investigation. The Washington Post reported, nearly simultaneously, that the investigation of potential collusion with Russia is closing in on a current White House official who is "close to the president," and that the "intensity of the probe is expected to accelerate."

See the full results of the Reuters/Ipsos poll — including Trump's struggles in the last month — here. Kimberly Alters

5:00 p.m. ET

Nine people were killed and 16 injured Monday afternoon when a man drove a van down a Toronto sidewalk, authorities said. The driver of the vehicle is in custody, though authorities have yet to identify a motive.

The incident occurred down a busy stretch of Yonge Street in Toronto's North York neighborhood. Toronto Deputy Police Chief Peter Yuen told reporters that authorities would be on the scene for "days," and that the investigation would be "complex."

An eyewitness told BBC News that she saw a white car plow through pedestrians. "So many people [were] shouting, 'Stop the car,' but he didn't," the woman said. "He just [kept] moving." Kimberly Alters

This is a breaking news story that will be updated as more details become available.

2:31 p.m. ET
iStock.

Something stinks in the far reaches of our solar system.

A study published in the journal Nature Astronomy on Monday suggests that the clouds that form the upper atmosphere of Uranus are largely composed of hydrogen sulfide gas — the same compound found in rotting eggs that produces their signature odor.

Scientists have speculated about whether Uranus' clouds contained hydrogen sulfide or ammonia, which is found in Jupiter's and Saturn's atmospheres, Space reported. But until now, there has been no concrete proof; Jupiter and Saturn, meanwhile, are much closer to Earth, and thus much easier to observe. The "lucky break" that allowed researchers to finally observe the miniscule gas particles in Uranus' atmosphere was the Gemini telescope in Hawaii, said Leigh Fletcher, one of the co-authors of the study.

Based on what they've discovered about Uranus, scientists now theorize that Neptune's atmosphere may contain hydrogen sulfide as well — which may make humans reluctant visitors to the far-off planets. But Patrick Irwin, the study's lead author, says the rotten egg smell would be the least of anyone's concerns: "Suffocation and exposure in the atmosphere" would be a much bigger problem to worry about, he quipped.

Read more about the study at Space. Shivani Ishwar

2:18 p.m. ET
Jason Davis/Getty Images

Nashville police have confirmed that the 29-year-old man suspected of opening fire in a local Waffle House over the weekend has been taken into custody. Travis Reinking, of Illinois, opened fire early Sunday morning in the restaurant, killing four people and injuring four others. He fled the scene nude after being disarmed by another Waffle House patron, James Shaw Jr., and had been the subject of an intense manhunt.

Reinking was arrested last July by the Secret Service on charges that he was in a restricted area outside the White House, and had four of his guns seized, including the AR-15 rifle police said he used in Sunday's shooting. Jeva Lange

2:05 p.m. ET
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the Department of Education has dramatically scaled back its efforts to probe potential civil rights violations in schools, a ProPublica investigation has found. Whereas the Obama administration made investigating racial disparities a central priority, under President Trump the Department of Education has moved away from that goal, shuttering at least 65 Obama-era probes without mandating any reforms.

The investigation, published by ProPublica and Mother Jones on Monday, explains how under former President Barack Obama, the Department of Education sought to identify "disparate impact," defined by ProPublica as a theory that "holds that differential treatment by race amounts to discrimination whether or not there is overt or intentional bias." With that guiding tenet, the department investigated school districts across the country in search of institutionalized discrimination.

But under DeVos, those efforts have been severely curbed, ProPublica found:

... [T]he pullback is already happening. In a June 2017 internal memo leaked to ProPublica, one of DeVos' top officials ordered investigators to limit proactive civil rights probes rather than expanding them to identify systemic patterns, as the Obama administration had often done in school discipline cases.

Since then, the Education Department has closed at least 65 school discipline investigations opened under Obama [...] In at least 50 cases, the department attributed the shutdowns to "moot" allegations or insufficient evidence or details. [ProPublica]

In one of the investigations, of a small school district in Bryan, Texas, federal investigators found at least 10 instances where black students had been punished more severely for the same infraction as their white peers, and district data showed black students were nearly four times as likely to be suspended as white students, ProPublica reported. But in 2017, the probe was effectively shuttered due to "insufficient evidence," with the school escaping any mandated reforms.

Read more at ProPublica. Kimberly Alters

2:01 p.m. ET
Metro Nashville Police Department via Getty Images

The 29-year-old man suspected of killing four people at a Waffle House in Nashville this weekend before fleeing the scene believed Taylor Swift was stalking him and had hacked his phone and Netflix account, CNN reports. Travis Reinking's parents called the police in May 2016, with the responding officer writing that "Travis stated he did not want to hurt Taylor Swift or anyone else, he only wanted the harassment to stop." A paramedic described Reinking's behavior as "delusional."

Last July, Reinking was arrested by the U.S. Secret Service due to trespassing in a restricted area near the White House and claiming he wanted to meet President Trump. His four guns were taken away by the police and given to Reinking's father, who has "acknowledged giving them back to his son," Nashville Police spokesman Don Aaron said. One of the seized weapons was used in the Waffle House shooting.

Reinking had a history of apparent paranoia. At one point he claimed that people were "tapping into his computer and phone," and he said he felt like he was being baited into breaking the law. He is still being sought by the police. Jeva Lange

11:35 a.m. ET

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) will vote to confirm Mike Pompeo for secretary of state, he announced Monday morning. Manchin, a moderate senator from a red state, had been pegged as a likely cross-aisle vote for Pompeo.

President Trump tapped Pompeo last month to replace the ousted Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to vote on Pompeo's nomination later Monday, where it is possible he will fail to receive a positive recommendation; Republican Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) has already announced his opposition to Pompeo given Pompeo's hawkishness, and no committee Democrats support Pompeo.

Still, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will likely proceed to a full Senate vote on Pompeo's nomination later this week. Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) already announced her intention to support Pompeo, and her vote alongside Manchin's should be enough to overcome any Republican defections and propel Pompeo to the State Department. Kimberly Alters

11:27 a.m. ET
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

Linus Phillip was killed by police in Largo, Florida, in March after he attempted to drive away from officers who wanted to search his car at a gas station because they said they smelled marijuana. The officers involved in the fatal shooting will not be prosecuted, but the Largo police are continuing a controversial post-mortem investigation on Phillip.

Two officers went unannounced to the funeral home where Phillip's body was located and used his finger in an attempt to unlock his cell phone. They did not notify his family in advance, nor did they obtain a warrant.

The Supreme Court has held that police cannot search a cell phone without a warrant, but the situation is legally complicated when the phone's owner is dead. "While the deceased person doesn't have a vested interest in the remains of their body, the family sure does, so it really doesn't pass the smell test," Charles Rose, a Stetson University law professor, told the Tampa Bay Times. "This is one of those set of factors that walks on the edge of every issue."

Phillip's fiancée, Victoria Armstrong, happened to be at the funeral home when the detectives arrived. "I just felt so disrespected and violated," she said of their surprise appearance. Armstrong has called for further investigation of Phillip's death, particularly because the police have reported differing quantities of drugs they say were in his vehicle. "There's so many parts of the case that still aren't adding up," she said to the Tampa Bay Times. "I just want the truth." Bonnie Kristian

See More Speed Reads