With President Trump overseas, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney previewed Trump's first full budget proposal on Monday. The $4.1 trillion plan won't be released until Tuesday, but Mulvaney outlined the steep cuts to Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program, social services for the low-income and disabled, most federal agencies, farm subsidies, federal pension benefits, college loans, highway funds, medical research, and foreign aid, paired with billions more for the Pentagon, Veterans Affairs Department, and Homeland Security. The proposal also includes $19 billion in new spending to help states provide six weeks of paid leave for new mother and fathers, a priority for Ivanka Trump.
The proposal foresees a balanced budget in 10 years, but that relies on growth of at least 3 percent a year, widely seen as exceedingly optimistic, plus Congress passing the American Health Care Act along lines laid out in the House Republican version. Using more conventional projections, it leaves a gaping hole in the budget. The blueprint does not cut Medicare or the main part of Social Security — though the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program goes under the knife — because Trump promised not to, Mulvaney said, adding that SSDI doesn't count under the promise because for voters, "it's old age retirement that they think of when they think of Social Security," not disability benefits.
For Trump's budget plan to become reality, Congress would have to sign on. That is seen as unlikely, though Congress will probably have to take Trump's priorities into consideration. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has already panned the proposal, calling it "a budget that takes a meat cleaver to the middle class by gutting the programs that help them the most." Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said the $866 billion in Medicaid cuts are probably DOA in the Senate. "I just think it's the prerogative of Congress to make those decisions in consultation with the president," he said. "But almost every president's budget proposal that I know of is basically dead on arrival."
Mulvaney will start trying to sell the plan to the House and Senate budget committees on Wednesday and Thursday, and he told reporters he doesn't expect Congress to enact his wish list unchanged. "If Congress has a different way to get to that endpoint, God bless them," he said. Still, "it would be nice to minimize the daylight between us and them on these things." Peter Weber
Facebook apparently has a new weapon against fake news: Facebook users.
In a post to the site Friday, Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg explained that in an effort to surface only trustworthy news content, the social media giant will allow its users to opine on which news sources they believe are most credible. These results — culled via customer surveys — will help Facebook determine which content deserves to show up in users' news feeds.
The change is part of Facebook's ongoing effort to revitalize its news feed after it came under fire for promulgating false news stories from untrustworthy sources during the 2016 presidential election. "There's too much sensationalism, misinformation, and polarization in the world today," Zuckerberg wrote, adding that the "objective" solution is to have the "community determine which sources are broadly trusted." "We could try to make that decision ourselves, but that's not something we're comfortable with," Zuckerberg wrote.
Adam Mosseri, the Facebook official tasked with overseeing the news feed feature, told The Wall Street Journal that Facebook executives can't "decide what sources of news are trusted and what are not trusted, [in] the same way I don't think we can't decide what is true and what is not."
Of course, Americans have had quite a tough time determining what is and is not fake news. BuzzFeed News reported shortly after the 2016 presidential election that fake news did better on Facebook than real news in the final months of the election. Mosseri emphasized to the Journal that user opinions would be "just one of many [methods used] to order posts in users' news feeds."
Investigators still do not know why Stephen Paddock shot and killed 58 people during an outdoor music festival in Las Vegas last October, CBS News reports. In a press conference Friday, authorities conceded that three months of investigation had not yielded any findings on Paddock's motivations, though Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo did emphasize that Paddock acted alone and that his girlfriend — who was at one point suspected of helping him — would not be charged with any crime.
During the press conference, Lombardo also discussed a newly released 81-page report that examined Paddock's actions in the months leading up to the shooting, which was the deadliest in modern American history. The evidence indicated Paddock had been planning an attack for a while; investigators found he purchased over 50 firearms in the 12 months leading up to the shooting, and that he had studied the response strategies of various law enforcement departments.
Lombardo noted that "disturbing" internet searches Paddock had conducted indicated he may have considered carrying out the attack at other concerts or at beaches in California, CBS News reported. Investigators also found child pornography on Paddock's computer.
The Justice Department said Friday that it intends to retry Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) after his corruption trial ended in a mistrial in November. Menendez, 63, was accused of taking luxury gifts, trips, and campaign donations from his friend and donor, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, in exchange for government favors. One juror afterwards told reporters that the deadlock was 10-2 in favor of acquittal, Politico writes.
"An early retrial date is in the best interests of the public, and the United States is available to schedule a retrial at the Court's earliest convenience," the Justice Department wrote in its filing Friday.
Menendez's 11-week trial was the first prosecution of a sitting senator in decades. He is up for re-election this year. Jeva Lange
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) has responded to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) dismissively referring to him as "sort of the Steve King of the Senate," a reference to one of the House's most outspoken immigration hardliners.
"All I can say is we're not going to end family immigration for DACA," Graham had told MSNBC earlier Friday. "The Tom Cotton approach has no viability here. You know, he's become sort of the Steve King of the Senate."
Cotton was not amused. "The difference between Steve King and Lindsey Graham is that Steve King can actually win an election in Iowa," he told reporters, jabbing at Graham's short-lived campaign for the Republican nomination. "He didn't make it off the starting line, he didn't even make it off the kiddy table debates."
Tom Cotton: "The difference between Steve King and Lindsey Graham is Steve King can actually win an election in Iowa."
Reporters actually went "oooooh" after.
— Paul McLeod (@pdmcleod) January 19, 2018
President Trump and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) met in a rare private meeting Friday afternoon in a last-ditch attempt to negotiate a budget ahead of the looming midnight deadline. Aides said that Republican congressional leaders were not in attendance.
"We made some progress but we still have a good number of disagreements," Schumer told reporters afterward. "The discussion will continue."
Schumer speaks out after "long and detailed" meeting with Pres. Trump over shutdown: "We made some progress but we still have a number of disagreements," adds "the discussions will continue." pic.twitter.com/1mxnOWcatG
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) January 19, 2018
While the House passed a bill Thursday to keep the government funded until Feb. 16, it is widely thought that the measure will not pass the Senate, where it needs 60 votes. Democrats have refused to support a funding measure that does not protect young undocumented immigrants.
Congress has nine hours to agree on a budget before the government shuts down at midnight. Jeva Lange
The Supreme Court confirmed Friday that it will consider the legality of President Trump's travel ban, which restricts travel to the United States from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad, and North Korea, and for certain government officials from Venezuela, The New York Times reports.
Six of the eight nations targeted by the ban are predominately Muslim. A lawsuit filed by Hawaii legally challenged the ban, which was issued in September, and succeeded before a federal district court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
The Supreme Court has signaled it could be amenable to Trump's ban, which is the third of its kind to be issued by the Trump administration. Oral arguments could begin as soon as April. Jeva Lange
Compared to a pet rock, a marimo moss ball ($14 for six) might strike you as a lively companion. Each small green orb is made of living algae that grows in a sphere, and when cared for, it will grow larger ever so slowly and can live 100 years. Though marimo, or "ball seaweed," grows in lakes throughout the Northern Hemisphere, the Japanese led the way in bringing the balls home and nurturing them. Legend has it that the first marimo balls were the hearts of two star-crossed lovers, and every one since supposedly has the power to discern true love. "All you need is one touch of the plush, velvety surface to get hooked."