January 29, 2020

President Trump may think it amusing and laudatory that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo berated and cursed out NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly last week after she asked him tough questions about Ukraine and whether he supports his diplomats, but NPR isn't laughing at Pompeo's behavior.

The State Department informed NPR diplomatic correspondent Michele Keleman on Sunday, without explanation, that she will no longer be traveling with Pompeo on this week's trip to Britain, Ukraine, and Central Asia. NPR CEO John Lansing demanded an explanation Tuesday and told the State Department if NPR doesn't get satisfactory answers by Wednesday, when Pompeo is scheduled to depart, NPR "will have no choice but to conclude that Ms. Kelemen was removed from the trip in retaliation for the content of NPR's reporting."

The government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a Freedom of Information Act request Tuesday seeking emails, text messages, and other records related to the State Department's decision to kick Keleman off Pompeo's trip. "The requested records would shed light on whether the State Department or Secretary Pompeo did, in fact, retaliate against NPR as a result of the contentious January 24, 2020 Interview," CREW's Nikhel Sus wrote in the filing.

After Kelly's interview with Pompeo, she told NPR on Friday, he called her into a separate room and "asked, 'Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?' He used the F-word in that sentence and many others." Kelly also said Pompeo made her point out Ukraine on an unlabeled map — she says she did; Pompeo, in his official response, snidely (and improbably) suggested she pointed to Bangladesh. Pompeo also accused Kelly of lying, though emails of her exchange with Pompeo's staff show Kelly was forthright and stayed within agreed-upon parameters.

Pompeo calling her a "liar" is "not what bothers me," Kelly wrote in an New York Times op-ed Tuesday. "It matters that people in positions of power — people charged with steering the foreign policy of entire nations — be held to account. The stakes are too high for their impulses and decisions not to be examined in as thoughtful and rigorous an interview as is possible. Journalists don't sit down with senior government officials in the service of scoring political points. We do it in the service of asking tough questions, on behalf of our fellow citizens. And then sharing the answers — or lack thereof — with the world." Peter Weber

5:12 p.m.

There's a lot of speculation about how Republican senators will respond to the Supreme Court vacancy following the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) plans to forge ahead with a confirmation vote, and President Trump has urged GOP lawmakers to confirm his nominee "without delay." But observers have pinpointed a few Republicans that could potentially break with the party and try to push the vote until at least after the November election is decided. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), often considered one of the more moderate voices in the upper chamber, was one of them.

Collins, who is in a tough re-election battle, released a statement Saturday, clarifying that she believes a vote to confirm the nominee should wait until after the election. Collins said "we must act fairly and consistently — no matter which political party is in power," likely referring to the fact that the Republican-led Senate blocked then-President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, in 2016 due to the proximity to that year's election.

The senator said she would not object if Trump makes a nomination or if the Senate Judiciary Committee begins "the process of reviewing his nominee's credentials," but, ultimately, whoever wins the election on Nov. 3 should make "the decision on a lifetime appointment." Tim O'Donnell

2:24 p.m.

The late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday night at 87, was remembered fondly by her eight surviving colleagues on the bench, all of whom released statements on her passing.

Any ideological divide between Ginsburg and the other justices was absent from their recollections, most of which consisted of praise for her intellectual brilliance and positive memories of working alongside her, with multiple justices noting how Ginsburg welcomed them graciously when they took their place on the court. Justice Sonia Sotomayor called Ginsburg a personal "hero" and said she assisted her throughout her career, "long before I came to the Supreme Court."

Former Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired from the court in 2018, also shared his thoughts, having served alongside Ginsburg for 25 years. "By her learning she taught devotion to the law," he said. "By her dignity she taught respect for others and her love for America. By her reverence for the Constitution, she taught us to preserve it to secure our freedom." Tim O'Donnell

1:59 p.m.

In response to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) plan to give President Trump's eventual nominee to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg a confirmation vote on the Senate floor, possibly before the November election, some Democrats are calling for former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, to threaten to pack, or expand, the high court.

As Jill Filipovich writes in The Washington Post, there is a belief that the GOP would be stealing a Supreme Court seat if enough lawmakers change their stance on whether a president should nominate a Supreme Court justice in an election year. McConnell and the Republican Senate, Filipovich writes, "have so repeatedly broken the rules, rigged the game, and stolen victories that it's become impossible to play on neutral turf," which is why she thinks Democrats should at least consider embracing the controversial tactic.

Filipovich notes the court hasn't always had nine members and suggests a Biden White House and Democratic-controlled Congress could sign and pass an act rather easily. But Biden has repeatedly said he's not in favor of the move because "we'll live to rue that day." Additionally, other analysts doubt court-packing will catch on with the majority of Democratic voters, and especially swing voters.

Indeed, there's even a sense that pushing for court expansion could backfire quickly. Tim O'Donnell

12:08 p.m.

The battle over Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's now-vacant seat was already in full swing just hours after it began.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made it clear he wants to fast-track the confirmation of Ginsburg's replacement and said President Trump's nominee will receive a vote on the Senate floor. The president, for his part, said Republicans have an "obligation" to confirm his nominee, whoever it may be, "without delay."

But Democrats also made their position clear. In the 9 p.m. ET hour on Friday, after Ginsburg's death was announced, donors gave $6.2 million online to Democratic causes. That's the most money ever given in a single hour since ActBlue, the party's donation-processing site launched 16 years ago, The New York Times reports. Then, in the 10 p.m. hour, Democratic donors set another record by giving $6.3 million.

ActBlue doesn't specify where donations go in real time, but one page created by Crooked Media — a media company set up by former Obama administration aides and home to the Pod Save America podcast — called "Get Mitch or Die Trying" (in reference to McConnell) raised more than $3 million in about three hours, the Times reports, and was headed toward $13 million as of Saturday afternoon (at that time, ActBlue had processed $46 million overall since Ginsburg's death.) The proceeds will be divided among 13 different Democrats running for Senate this year. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

10:45 a.m.

That didn't take long.

President Trump on Saturday urged Senate Republicans to confirm a new Supreme Court Justice, who he will nominate, to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday night at 87. Trump told GOP lawmakers "we have this obligation, without delay."

Ginsburg's death has already sparked a debate over the vacant seat. In 2016, Senate Republicans blocked then-President Barack Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, because it was an election year. So is 2020, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has argued it's a different situation because the Senate majority and president are from the same party and, therefore, he is aiming to fast-track a nomination. Democrats — and some Republicans — have said a confirmation hearing should wait until at least after the November election, if not January's inauguration.

Days before she died, Ginsburg reportedly said her "most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed." With Trump and McConnell on the same page about confirming her replacement as soon as possible, it appears whether her wish is granted will depend on how individual Republican senators approach the situation. Tim O'Donnell

10:21 a.m.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Saturday posted a photo to his Instagram account in which he is walking down a flight of stairs as part of his recovery after he was poisoned last month.

In the photo's caption, Navalny, one of Russia's most prominent Kremlin critics, wrote that he has a "clear path" to recovery, but suggested it will be a long one. He was removed from a ventilator five days ago and said he is still having trouble climbing stairs, pouring water, and using his phone. Still, he has apparently made significant progress since, he said, he was previously considered only "technically alive."

Navalny fell ill in August while in Siberia and was airlifted to a hospital in Berlin while in a coma. Multiple labs in Europe have confirmed he was poisoned by a Soviet-era nerve agent called Novichok. His supporters suspect Russian President Vladimir Putin was behind the assassination attempt, but Moscow has denied any involvement and has accused Navalny's aides of removing evidence, jeopardizing the official inquiry into the poisoning. Read more at Deutsche Welle and The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell

8:36 a.m.

There has been no shortage of current and former American politicians on both sides of the aisle expressing their admiration for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, including the last two Democratic presidents.

In a statement, former President Barack Obama called Ginsburg a "warrior for gender equality" who "helped us see that discrimination on the basis of sex isn't about an abstract ideal of equality; that it doesn't only harm women; that it has real consequences for all of us." Obama also weighed in on the possibility of the Republican-led Senate fast-tracking the confirmation of Ginsburg's replacement before the election, suggesting that Ginsburg herself would want her legacy to be honored by the Senate sticking to the precedent it set in 2016 when the GOP blocked Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland because it was an election year. (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said 2020 is different because the president and Senate majority are of the same party.)

Former President Bill Clinton, who nominated Ginsburg to the high court in 1993, also shared his thoughts on her life and legacy, describing her "as one of the most extraordinary justices" ever to serve on the bench. Tim O'Donnell

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