May 14, 2019

After a year of delays, President Trump is expected to sign an executive order this week prohibiting American firms from purchasing and using telecommunications equipment from foreign companies that present a national security risk, three U.S. officials told Reuters on Tuesday.

While the order will not list the names of any specific companies or countries, the goal is to set Trump up so he can ban U.S. businesses from buying equipment from China's Huawei, the world's third-largest maker of smartphones, Reuters reports. U.S. officials say Huawei equipment could be used by China to spy on Americans, an allegation the company denies.

The order cites the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which authorizes the president to regulate commerce in the event of an unusual and extraordinary threat, officials told Reuters. Last year, Trump signed a measure banning the U.S. government from using equipment from two Chinese companies: Huawei and ZTE Corp. Catherine Garcia

1:45 p.m.

Hindsight, they say, is 20/20. Some House Republicans might be have that cliche on their minds these days.

That's because U.S. District Court Judge David Briones has continually ruled against the Trump administration's efforts to fund the president's oft-promised wall at the U.S.'s southern border by pointing to an obscure legislative provision passed by the House GOP back in 2014, Politico reports.

The provision, which prohibits the chief executive from doing anything to "eliminate or reduce funding for any program, project, or activity as proposed in the president's budget request" until Congress gives the thumbs up, was initially put in place to prevent former President Barack Obama from making cuts to space exploration. While born from a narrow dispute, the restrictions wound up being applied government-wide when enacted, and a year later Republicans added "increase" along side "eliminate" and "reduce."

Briones has utilized the language in his rulings on the wall, noting that Trump doesn't have the authority to move money from other military construction projects to fund the wall. It looks like he has his own party to thank. Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

1:15 p.m.

Billionaire Michael Bloomberg knows mayors. He was, after all, the leader of the nation's largest city, but even after giving up the reigns to New York, Bloomberg has spent a lot of time building relationships with city leaders through philanthropy. Now, he's hoping some mayors might help boost his young Democratic presidential campaign, The New York Times reports.

So far, eight mayors across the country are backing Bloomberg. All eight attended his boot camp for mayors at Harvard University, where they had access to advice from Bloomberg-funded experts, and more than half have reportedly received millions of dollars in grants and support packages from Bloomberg.

The mayors maintain they're endorsing Bloomberg because of his platform and ideas, not because they felt pressured on account of his aid. But some did acknowledge that his philanthropy helped establish his credibility. "Lots of people have money," said Stockton, California, Mayor Michael Cobbs, who endorsed Bloomberg's campaign earlier this week. "But the way he uses his money speaks to how he's someone who has a vision for [the Democratic Party]."

There's plenty of mayors who attended Bloomberg's Harvard program or received grants from his foundation that haven't endorsed him yet, as well, though. So it's hardly a given that he'll rack up much more support from mayors, especially when considering that one mayor who attended the Harvard program is now his Democratic presidential competitor, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Buttigieg, for what it's worth, probably has a leg up on Bloomberg when it comes to the mayoral vote after more than 50 city executives pledged their support back in September. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

11:14 a.m.

As Sudan's transitional civilian government continues its nascent rule, the country's former President Omar al-Bashir, who was removed from power after 30 years earlier this year following nationwide protests, was sentenced Saturday to two years detention in a state-run reform center on financial irregularities and corruption charges. Some of his supporters briefly disrupted the proceedings before being forced out of the courtroom.

The 75-year-old is reportedly protected somewhat by a law that prevents anyone over the age of 70 from serving jail time. He will reportedly serve his sentence after a verdict is reached in another case in which he is accused of ordering security forces to kill the protesters in the movement that led to his removal, and he was also questioned about the 1989 coup in which he was brought to power. One of his lawyers said they would appeal the verdict.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague is also pursuing al-Bashir for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide in Sudan's Darfur region, but none of the cases against him in Sudan are connected to those allegations. Read more at Al Jazeera and BBC. Tim O'Donnell

10:47 a.m.

Come back with a better plan.

That's essentially what California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Friday told Pacific Gas & Electric after he rejected the utility company's plan to pull itself out of bankruptcy and pay victims of California's wildfires. Newsom said the proposal didn't meet safety requirements under state law and that PG&E fell "woefully short" of the safety benchmark. The company reportedly won't receive state assistance without implementing major changes to its plan. Without that money, it's future is murky.

"For too long, PG&E has been mismanaged, failed to make adequate investments in fire safety and fire prevention, and neglected critical infrastructure," Newsom said in a letter. "PG&E has simply violated the public trust."

PG&E, whose faulty equipment has received blame for sparking some the state's recent fires, is on the hook for $30 billion in financial liabilities from California. The company didn't actually need Newsom's approval, but asked him to weigh in anyway. Now it looks like the gamble backfired, and PG&E is pushing back against Newsom's comments, arguing its plan does conform to the safety requirements.

PG&E has until Tuesday to revise its plan. Read more at The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times. Tim O'Donnell

8:27 a.m.

North Korea appears committed to that year-end deadline.

The country conducted its second successful test this week geared toward strengthening Pyongyang's nuclear deterrent at the Sohae satellite launch site Friday, state media said Saturday. Although North Korea's Academy of Defense Science didn't specify what was tested, the trial may have included technologies to improve intercontinental ballistic missiles, The Associated Press reports. North Korea considers ICBMs as strategic defensive weapons.

The test, in addition to one on Dec. 7, is widely seen as an attempt to pressure the Trump administration to make major concessions in nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang. North Korea set a year-end deadline for the United States to change course from its insistence on unilateral denuclearization before it sets out on a "new path."

Still some experts don't believe North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will reverse course too drastically and create tensions that existed in 2017 by running nuclear and ICBM tests. Instead, they predict he'll try to provoke Trump with military activities that don't pose a direct threat to Washington and by strengthening Pyongyang's alliance with Moscow and Beijing, AP reports. Read more at Reuters and The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

December 13, 2019

President Trump now has three chances to keep his financial records a secret.

The Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear Trump's appeal of three cases that involve subpoenas for his financial records, giving no explanation for the decision. Oral arguments for the separate cases are likely slated for March, with a decision expected at the end of June.

In three separate cases, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, the House Oversight Committee, and the House Financial Services and Intelligence Committees requested Trump's financial records from his banks and other businesses he worked with. Trump's lawyers sued to block those subpoenas, but in each case, courts ruled against them. So they appealed the decisions to the Supreme Court, first getting stays on the rulings to block the records' immediate release to the oversight committee, and then getting the whole case accepted Friday.

Previous judges have noted that past presidents released their tax returns to the public, and Trump's lawyers subsequently argued that the subpoenas are not a legitimate legislative inquiry. Kathryn Krawczyk

December 13, 2019

Hey, I don't know about you, but I'm feeling ... the oppressing crush of mortality.

Taylor Swift celebrated her 30th birthday on Friday, despite being 19, like, yesterday. "WHO'S GONNA TELL HER SHE'S THIRTAY NOW," Swift tweeted, sharing a throwback photo of the sweet little girl who would one day grow up to have complete strangers creepily speculate about her fertility on social media.

Swift didn't note how she plans to celebrate, but seeing as she accepted Billboard's first-ever Woman of the Decade Award last night, she understandably might be sleeping in. Jeva Lange

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