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January 18, 2018

Republicans won three out of four special elections on Tuesday in strongly Republican areas, but in each case the Democrat outperformed President Trump's 2016 numbers by at least a dozen percentage points and in one — a state Senate seat in western Wisconsin that Republicans have held for 17 years — Democrat Patty Schachtner won by 11 points, a 28-point swing from Trump's 2016 numbers. "This special election hit the Wisconsin GOP like an electric shock," said former conservative radio host Charlie Sykes. On Thursday, President Trump is heading to Pennsylvania to head off another upset in a U.S. House district Republicans have easily held for 16 years.

Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone, 59, and Democrat Conor Lamb, 33, are facing each other in a March 13 election to fill the seat former Rep. Tim Murphy (R) vacated amid a sex and abortion scandal. The gerrymandered district in western Pennsylvania voted for Trump by 19 percentage points, but "internal polls from both parties now reveal a single-digit race," The New York Times reports. Saccone has proved to be a lackluster campaigner and poor fundraiser, and so Trump is visiting Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence is campaigning with Saccone Feb. 2, and both men could return if needed, GOP officials tell the Times.

House Republicans in Washington have already contributed about half of Saccone's $200,000 war chest, and they have more fundraisers scheduled for him in Washington. Two conservative organizations have already spent $700,000 to broadcast ads against Lamb, a former prosecutor and Marine, and the Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC is going to jump in with attack ads next week. Lamb, meanwhile, has said he wants to keep the race local; the House Democratic campaign arm is unlikely to put much money in the race, and other than Vice President Joe Biden, the Times says, "few high-profile Democrats would help Mr. Lamb by dipping into the district." Lamb has raised more than $550,000. Peter Weber

10:56 a.m.

At least 66 people were killed and dozens more injured Friday when a fuel pipeline in Mexico exploded after being ruptured by fuel thieves. Some 85 people not included in the current death toll are listed as missing as of Saturday morning.

A crowd of people had gathered to collect the spilling fuel in plastic containers when the fireball occurred. Local authorities said the death toll could continue to rise given the severity of the injuries and the number of people whose whereabouts remain unknown.

Illegal pipeline taps like this one, which occurred near the town of Tlahuelilpan about 60 miles north of Mexico City, are a chronic problem in Mexico; an average of 42 taps were drilled daily in the first 10 months of 2018. "Far from stopping the fight ... against fuel theft, it's going to become stronger," said Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Saturday. "We'll continue until we've eradicated these practices." Bonnie Kristian

10:32 a.m.

Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago police officer convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery for his fatal shooting of a black teenager named Laquan McDonald in 2014, was sentenced Friday to six years and nine months in prison.

With good behavior, Van Dyke could be out of custody in three years or less, his lawyer said. The special prosecutor who handled the case had requested a sentence of 18 to 20 years, and the sentence Van Dyke received is for the murder charge alone, not the battery. Each of the battery convictions had a mandatory minimum sentence of six years, and the judge could have ordered them to be served sequentially.

On Thursday, three other officers accused of falsifying reports to justify the shooting were acquitted. Bonnie Kristian

10:25 a.m.

For once, President Trump is really happy with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

He responded with a flurry of tweets Friday and Saturday to Friday evening's news that Mueller denied a BuzzFeed News report alleging his investigation had compiled evidence Trump directed Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney, to lie to Congress about the Moscow Trump Tower project.

Many of Trump's posts were retweets from friendly voices like his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and commentator Geraldo Rivera:

In his own tweets, Trump called the BuzzFeed report "disgraceful" and blamed it for a "very sad day for journalism."

Trump also tweeted on familiar topics including the Steele Dossier, the stock market, immigration, and his perceived persecution at the hands of the press. Bonnie Kristian

8:30 a.m.

Saturday's third annual Women's March is expected to draw smaller crowds than in previous years thanks to accusations of anti-Semitism among national organizers.

Former Democratic National Committee chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.) formally withdrew her participation Friday, saying she "cannot associate with the national march's leaders and principles, which refuse to completely repudiate anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry."

Other prominent speakers and sponsors from past years — including Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), the Democratic National Committee, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and NARAL — have cut ties as well. Most did not issue specific statements explaining their decision.

For those who do participate, events are organized in Washington, D.C., as well as hundreds of other cities nationwide and around the world. Policy focuses this year include the minimum wage, health care, and opposition to President Trump.

Read The Week's Shikha Dalmia here on the controversy and divisions within the march's ranks. Bonnie Kristian

8:08 a.m.

President Trump on Twitter Friday evening announced plans for a Saturday afternoon statement on his proposed border wall construction and the partial government shutdown:

Trump did not offer any further details on the nature of his announcement, nor did the White House press team respond to inquiries on the subject. "I'm not going to get ahead of the president, but I can assure he's going to continue fighting for border security. He's going to continue looking for the solution to end the humanitarian and national security crisis at the border," said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

CNN reported Friday night an unnamed senior administration official said the president plans to offer a deal to congressional Democrats and will not at this point make an emergency declaration so he can use military funding for wall construction. Bonnie Kristian

January 18, 2019

President Trump may not be the only one in legal jeopardy after BuzzFeed News' bombshell report.

In Friday's report, sources told BuzzFeed News that Trump directed his former lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about the Moscow Trump Tower project. But before that, the report says Trump's children "Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen" — something Donald Trump Jr. has denied to Congress.

Cohen — who was reportedly in charge of the Trump Tower project — once said discussions with Russia about the project stopped in January 2016. He took that back in a guilty plea last November, saying he lied to Congress and affirming that discussions actually continued beyond January. That statement contradicted Trump Jr.'s insistence that discussions ended earlier, though as Trump Jr. claimed to the Senate Intelligence Committee in September 2017, he knew "very little" about what was happening with the project anyway.

BuzzFeed News' Friday report explicitly contradicts that statement, meaning Trump Jr. would've lied to Congress just like Cohen has admitted to doing. It also provides a potential explanation for a smattering of contacts Trump Jr. has had with various Russians, as pointed out by Axios. And it all helps solidify an August 2018 report from The Washington Post, which says the president worried Trump Jr. "inadvertently may have wandered into legal ­jeopardy."

Read more about the BuzzFeed News report's consequences for Trump Jr. at Axios. Kathryn Krawczyk

January 18, 2019

Less than a year ago, all but three Senate Democrats were willing to give President Trump $25 billion for his border wall. But what looked like an inconsequential "no" vote at the time could drive a winning campaign in 2020, Bloomberg reports.

It seems almost unthinkable that in February 2018, 44 out of 47 Senate Democrats said they'd give Trump wall funding in exchange for citizenship for the undocumented Dreamers. The government is currently shut down over one-fifth of the money Democrats were once willing to relinquish, and party leaders are now uniformly opposed to funding more than $2.7 billion of it.

But Democrat weren't so united a year ago. Potential 2020 candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) co-sponsored the 2018 border compromise, and nearly every other senator rumored to be or officially running in 2020 backed it. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif), though, voted against the failed 2018 bill, saying she wouldn't use "taxpayer money ...to implement this administration's anti-immigrant agenda." Immigration activist Frank Sharry thinks Harris was thinking about 2020 when she made the choice. It would make for a perfect "30-second ad coming in the primary" to say all these other Democrats "voted for" a wall, Sharry told Bloomberg.

Even Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) former campaign press secretary, Symone Sanders, conceded to Harris' "winning message," telling Bloomberg she "was on the right side of history when it came to that vote." After all, in this ongoing shutdown squabble, Democrats don't want to be seen "giv[ing Trump] the money to make him stop hurting people," as MSNBC's Joy-Ann Reid puts it.

Harris isn't officially running yet, but has reportedly decided to announce her decision soon — perhaps around Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Read more about Harris' advantage at Bloomberg. Kathryn Krawczyk

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