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March 20, 2019

The Trump administration's drilling dreams may have just burst.

Late on Tuesday, a judge in Washington, D.C.'s U.S. District Court ruled that the Interior Department broke the law when selling off federal land for oil and gas drilling. It's a defeat for the Wyoming plan involved in the case, but also could spell trouble for President Trump's drill-happy Bureau of Land Management, The Washington Post suggests.

Two environmental advocacy groups first sued the BLM for leasing and selling federal lands for drilling under former President Barack Obama's watch, saying the department ignored the threat of climate change when making the decision. Additional moves by the Trump administration to increase drilling offshore and in Alaska later boosted the case's implications, the two groups later said. That's because even though Obama's Interior Department started considering climate change more heavily as his administration waned, Trump officials completely reversed those considerations. And when the D.C. judge ruled that the Obama BLM broke the law because it "did not sufficiently consider climate change," Trump's looser standards were almost certainly lumped into that decision.

The Tuesday decision temporarily stops companies from drilling on the 300,000 acres of Wyoming land the BLM sold under Obama, the Post says. It also could force the BLM to rethink what it considers before authorizing future drilling projects, seeing as current standards "deprive the agency and the public of the context necessary to evaluate oil and gas drilling on federal land," the judge wrote in his decision. Read more at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:12 a.m.

In the not-so-distant past, former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) was the fundraising king. He excelled at reeling in the dough during both his 2018 Texas Senate run and his early presidential campaign. But those days are seemingly over for the 2020 candidate.

O'Rourke has struggled recently when it comes to polls and funding, which is raising questions about whether his once-promising campaign has run out of gas. He is expected to report just $3.6 million between April and June, less than half the $9.4 million he raised in the first quarter. The number also falls short of the $6.1 million he raised in the 24 hours after he first announced his campaign, which is what had people thinking he could be a contender in the first place. Politico called the April through June figure "startlingly small."

The fundraising decline reportedly has O'Rourke's allies on edge, though they think he still has time to get things back on track. If that's to be the case, he probably needs to simultaneously improve his polling numbers, which have also dipped.

It doesn't sound as if O'Rourke is ready to bow out, however. Instead of scaling back, the campaign is making a push by expanding its number of field offices in Iowa.

But in the larger picture, the numbers indicate O'Rourke is fading into the primary's muddied waters. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and former Vice President Joe Biden have begun to separate themselves from the pack in terms of cash and polling data. O'Rourke was never a frontrunner, but he appears to have been displaced by Buttigieg as the election's upstart candidate. Tim O'Donnell

9:57 a.m.

Joe Biden is ready to get civil.

The former vice president is prepared for President Trump to question his age and mental state, just like Trump did during the 2016 presidential race against Hillary Clinton. But instead of challenging Trump to a physical fight like he's mentioned in the past, Biden would rather take Trump on in a push-up contest, he told MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski in a Morning Joe interview aired Tuesday.

Biden and Trump are two objectively old men, yet they've nevertheless publicly fantasized about beating each other up a number of times in the past. So Brzezinski asked Biden what he'd do during a debate if Trump continued to "go after your age, your mental state." "I'd say, 'C'mon Donald, c'mon man. How many push-ups do you want to do here, pal?'" Biden responded. "I mean, jokingly. C'mon, run with me, man." Biden then went on to say he was "not going to get down in the dirt" with Trump, because "that's the only way he knows how to fight."

Perhaps Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), nearly 10 years Biden's senior yet famous for his push-up contests with much younger constituents and reporters, would like to get involved. Fellow 2020 candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who's around the same age as Biden and Trump, meanwhile had no comment. Kathryn Krawczyk

8:53 a.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is hitting back against President Trump following his attacks on four minority congresswomen, not only calling the tweets racist but declaring Trump the most "openly racist and divisive" president America has ever seen.

Biden in response to Trump's weekend tweets telling four congresswomen to "go back" to where they came from said on Monday that "there has never been a president in American history who has been so openly racist and divisive as this man," The Hill reports.

The former vice president went on to blast Trump's tweets as "sickening" and "embarrassing." Biden also tore into the president's comments at an event on Monday, calling what he said a "flat, racist attack" and saying that it's Trump who "should go home," Politico reports.

Biden had previously in his 2020 campaign launch video blasted Trump for his Charlottesville response and in a recent immigration speech said the president while describing immigrants "repeatedly invokes racist invective," per Politico. Trump has insisted that his weekend tweets were "not at all" racist. Brendan Morrow

8:15 a.m.

North Korea said Tuesday that the U.S. will put talks aimed at getting Pyongyang to denuclearize at risk if it goes ahead with summer military exercises with South Korea, Reuters reports. The North Korean Foreign Ministry said the U.S. is continuing a pattern of "unilaterally reneging on its commitments" to North Korea, so Pyongyang has to reconsider its own commitments to discontinue missile and nuclear weapons tests while talks continue.

President Trump last month tried to persuade North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to resume talks on giving up his nuclear weapons by arranging a spur-of-the-moment meeting with Kim on the border between the two Koreas that resulted in an agreement to restart working-level talks that had been on hold since the collapse of their second summit in February. Harold Maass

7:38 a.m.

Netflix is excising a graphic scene from its teen drama 13 Reasons Why after more than two years of criticism.

The Netflix original series based on a young adult novel about a high-school student who takes her own life originally contained a disturbing and explicit depiction of suicide in its finale that sparked debate when it aired in March 2017. The show's creators defended the scene as their way of showing the horror of suicide, while experts raised concerns over how the scene might affect vulnerable young viewers. A study in April found that suicides among those between age 10 and 17 spiked the month after 13 Reasons Why premiered on Netflix, although this increase could not be definitively tied to the series' release, NPR reports.

Now, two years later, the controversial suicide scene has been edited out of the show. In the version currently streaming on Netflix, only the moments immediately before and after Hannah's suicide are shown, but the series no longer depicts the character cutting her wrists as in the original version.

Netflix in a statement on Tuesday said that "we've been mindful about the ongoing debate around the show" and decided to edit the scene "on the advice of medical experts." Creator Brian Yorkey said, as he has in past interviews, that the intent of the scene was to "tell the truth about the horror of such an act" so that "no one would ever wish to emulate it" but that the creators have "heard concerns" ahead of the third season's launch. He concludes that this new version will "do the most good for the most people while mitigating any risk for especially vulnerable young viewers." Brendan Morrow

2:06 a.m.

More than 100 people have been killed in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh, with heavy rains causing widespread flooding and triggering landslides.

Millions of people have been displaced from their homes, including 4.3 million in the Indian states of Assam and Bihar. It is the beginning of monsoon season, and the rain started on Thursday, leaving roads and railroad tracks underwater. It's estimated that some parts of Nepal saw nearly 16 inches of rain in the last few days, and in Bangladesh, officials are keeping an eye on the swollen rivers that flow into the country from India.

During the 2017 monsoon season, at least 800 people were killed in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh, with countless crops and homes destroyed. Catherine Garcia

1:25 a.m.

Attorney George Conway, husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and one of the most prominent conservative critics of President Trump, said he always viewed Trump as "boorish, dim-witted, inarticulate, incoherent, narcissistic, and insensitive," but also thought he was an "equal-opportunity bully — in his uniquely crass and crude manner, he'll attack anyone he thinks is critical of him."

In an op-ed published Monday night in The Washington Post, Conway writes that because of Trump's tweets on Sunday, telling four Democratic lawmakers, all women of color, to "go back" where they came from, there is no doubt that "naiveté, resentment, and outright racism, roiled in a toxic mix, have given us a racist president. Trump could have used vile slurs, including the vilest of them all, and the intent and effect would have been no less clear."

Conway's mother came to the U.S. from the Philippines, and while he remembers in the 1970s a woman approached her in a parking lot and said "Go back to your country," this never really bothered him, because "to my mind, most Americans weren't like that. The woman in the parking lot was just a boor, an ignoramus, an aberration." Now, he can see there are more people in the world who share this woman's point of view, and it horrifies him that Trump appears to be one of them.

"Trump is not some random, embittered person in a parking lot — he's the president of the United States," Conway said. "By virtue of his office, he speaks for the country. What's at stake now is more important than judges or tax cuts or regulations or any policy issue of the day. What's at stake are the nation's ideals, its very soul." Read the entire op-ed at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

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