×
January 14, 2019

President Trump may have changed his mind about welcoming responsibility for shutting down part of the federal government over his proposed border wall, but Americans are still sticking him and his party with most of the blame, according to two polls released Sunday. In a Washington Post/ABC News poll, 53 percent of respondents blamed Trump and the Republican Party for the shutdown, now the longest in U.S. history, while 29 percent blamed Democrats and 13 percent blamed both sides. In a CNN/SSRS poll, 55 percent of American adults blamed Trump and the GOP, 32 percent blamed Democrats, and 9 percent blamed both sides equally.

Trump and the GOP "are losing the messaging war on the government shutdown," Politico reports, but only among Democrats, independents, and white voters without a college education. Almost 7 in 10 Republicans blame Democrats for the shutdown in the Washington Post/ABC poll, but GOP support for building a border wall has increased by 16 percentage points since last January, to 87 percent now from 71 percent a year ago. In the CNN poll, 8 in 10 Republicans back a wall. Overall, in the CNN poll, 56 percent of Americans oppose the wall and 39 percent support it; in the Post/ABC poll, 54 percent oppose the wall versus 42 percent who support it.

Trump's poll numbers have also taken a hit amid the shutdown, the CNN poll found. His approval rating remained steady at 37 percent, but his disapproval number rose 5 percentage points since December, to 57 percent. Much of that rise in disapproval came from whites without college degrees, among whom he is now underwater for the first time in a year, with 45 percent approving and 47 percent disapproving. This group also blames Trump over Democrats for the shutdown, 45 percent to 39 percent.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted via phone Jan. 8-11 among 788 Americans nationwide, and its margin of sampling error is ±4.5 percentage points. The CNN/SSRS poll was conducted Jan. 10-11 among 848 adults nationwide, and its margin of sampling error is ±4.1 points. Peter Weber

10:36 p.m.

Those who have been keeping up with Jared Kushner, his family real estate development business, and their $1.8 billion purchase of a Manhattan building don't have the full story, Kushner's father, Charles, writes in a Washington Post op-ed published Wednesday night.

Kushner took over management of Kushner Companies after his father went to prison for tax evasion and witness tampering, becoming CEO in 2008. In 2007, Kushner Companies purchased 666 Fifth Ave. in New York City for a record $1.8 billion, thinking that "the parts of the 1.5-million-square-foot building were worth more than the whole, and splitting it into retail and office components would create value of more than $2.5 billion," Charles Kushner said.

The global financial crisis hit the next year, and "projected office rents for 666 Fifth Ave. were cut in half," Kushner said. Still, they managed to structure the debt so they could sell off half the retail component, and last year completed a $1.3 billion, 99-year land lease to Brookfield Asset Management. Charles Kushner denied reports that the company was ever on the brink of collapse, and that he sought foreign money to pay off a $1.2 billion mortgage.

Charles Kushner praised his son, who left the company in 2017 to join the Trump administration as a senior adviser. He has divested from more than 80 partnerships "at a substantial financial sacrifice," Kushner said, and his "service to the country has brought unprecedented scrutiny of the Kushner Companies" and because of that, "we have passed up many business opportunities that we normally would have pursued." Read the entire op-ed at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

9:06 p.m.

Hope Hicks, a former Trump Organization employee and White House communications director, will give the House Judiciary Committee documents as part of its inquiry into potential obstruction of justice, CNN reports.

Earlier this month, Hicks received a letter from House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), requesting documents on the firing of former FBI Director James Comey; false statements former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn made to the FBI; hush-money payments made to women who said they had affairs with President Trump; and the drafting of a statement regarding a meeting Donald Trump Jr. had with Russians at Trump Tower in 2016.

Hicks, a longtime Trump confidante, has been asked to turn over "any personal or work diary, journal, or other book containing notes, a record, or a description of daily events" having to do with Trump, his campaign, the Trump Organization, and the executive office of the president. In 2018, Hicks testified privately before the House Intelligence Committee, and while she agreed to answer questions about the Trump campaign and transition, she would not discuss her time in the White House. Catherine Garcia

8:26 p.m.

Environmental Protection Agency chief Andrew Wheeler on Wednesday said it's not climate change, but unsafe water, drought, and plastic trash in the oceans that are "the largest and most immediate environmental and public health issues affecting the world right now."

He made his remarks in Washington on World Water Day, saying he is frustrated because "water issues often take a backseat" to larger discussions about global warming. "Most of the threats from climate change are 50 to 75 years out," Wheeler said. "What we need to do is make sure that the people who are dying today from lack of having drinking water in Third World countries, that problem is addressed." During an interview with ABC News last month, Wheeler said climate change is not a "crisis."

Speaking with CBS News on Wednesday, Wheeler said the United States has "the safest drinking water in the world," and "92 percent of the water everyday meets all the EPA requirements for safe drinking water." Regarding the lead-contaminated water in cities like Flint, Michigan, Newark, New Jersey, and Baltimore, Wheeler said the EPA is "working to update a number of regulations, one of which is our lead and copper rule, which takes a look at the pipes. ... We're looking at what we can do to require regular testing for schools and daycares, so that would be part of that regulation when it comes out later this year." Catherine Garcia

7:22 p.m.

A Connecticut woman says Harvard University has been making money off of images of her slave ancestors, and she wants that to end.

Tamara Lanier filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Massachusetts, claiming that Harvard exploited the images of her great-great-great-grandfather Renty and his daughter, Delia, who were slaves in South Carolina. In the suit, Lanier says a Harvard scientist, Louis Agassiz, went to the South in 1850 to "prove" black people are inferior and to "justify their subjugation, exploitation, and segregation." The photos were taken after he ordered Renty and Delia to take off their clothes.

Harvard has profited from the images, with Renty's picture used during the 2017 conference "Universities and Slavery: Bound in History" and placed on the cover of a $40 book about photography and anthropology, NBC News reports. The suit says Renty and Delia's images, "like their bodies before, remain subject to control and appropriation by the powerful, and their familial identities are denied to them." Lanier is asking for Harvard to give her the images, as well as unspecified damages. Catherine Garcia

5:30 p.m.

John Kelly is just doing what former Trump officials do.

On Wednesday, the former chief of staff for President Trump officially started his new career in public speaking. Kelly joined an agency that already represents a slew of ex-White House staffers, including former Press Secretary Sean Spicer and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. It seems like a predictable move for Kelly, but the speaking example he's using to promote himself is more interesting, The New York Times' Aaron Blake points out.

Kelly's agency profile is loaded with his biography and favorite speech topics: governance, geopolitics, and leadership, if you were wondering. There's just one featured video of him speaking, though, and it comes from a White House press room appearance in October 2017. In it, Kelly discusses going to the dedication of a new FBI field office in Florida in 2015, and how Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) only "talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building." Wilson slammed the comments as a "lie."

A video later surfaced by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel quickly showed that, as PolitiFact notes, Kelly "mischaracterized" Wilson's words "in significant ways." Kelly later said he would "absolutely not" apologize to Wilson, but it's still a little strange that he'd choose such a controversial clip to advertise his speaking prowess.

Add Kelly to your speaker wishlist — and watch the video of him disparaging Wilson — here. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:14 p.m.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas listened to arguments about a case that involves racial discrimination on Wednesday. And then he did something surprising: He spoke — for the first time in three years and only the second time in a decade.

Thomas, a conservative judge, is reportedly known for his silence on the stand, but, per Reuters, he asked several questions amid arguments in the case of Curtis Flowers, a 48-year-old black man from Mississippi who has been tried for the same quadruple murder six separate times. He is an inmate on death row. Flowers' case was the focus of the American Public Media podcast, In the Dark.

Flowers and his attorney, Sheri Lynn Johnson, are arguing that Flowers' right to a fair trial was violated multiple times because the prosecutor in his case "had relentlessly worked to keep black jurors from sitting on" Flowers' trials. Both sides in a trial are, in fact, permitted to strike a limited number of potential jurors and they are not required to submit a reason behind the decision, but a juror's race cannot be a factor.

Reuters reports it seems likely the Supreme Court will side with Flowers, including conservative Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Samuel Alito. But Thomas, who is black, sounded skeptical and was focused on whether Flowers' defense team had likewise sought to exclude white jurors in Flowers' most recent trial. Tim O'Donnell

4:11 p.m.

President Trump's feud with the late Sen. John McCain has become a downright obsessive vendetta.

Despite the fact that the former GOP senator died nearly six months ago, Trump has decided in the past few days to dig up his favorite McCain insults and seemingly launch them at random. He tied McCain to the Steele dossier in some tweets on Sunday, and then ranted about McCain's thumbs-down vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro again on Tuesday.

But things got intensely personal on Wednesday, with Trump bragging about how he gave McCain "the kind of funeral that he wanted" in a speech at an Ohio army tank plant. Trump said that McCain's funeral was something he "had to approve," but added that "I don't care about this." Trump then showed he really did care by claiming he "didn't get a thank you."

Trump followed this new episode in his backlog of McCain rants with a repeat, describing how he "never liked" McCain much and "probably never will," and complaining about the Steele dossier and ACA vote again. He did not mention that the funeral McCain wanted was one without him in the audience. Kathryn Krawczyk

See More Speed Reads