In a speech packed with policy proposals, a dark view of the past, and hope for the future, President Trump addressed a joint session of Congress Tuesday evening. As my colleague Clare Foran notes, the speech was “perhaps more notable for its tone than its substance.” She writes:
It marked a striking change of tone from his campaign and his early days in office, from a president who has frequently feuded with critics, including members of his own party. The optimistic tone was equally a departure from Trump’s inaugural address, in which he painted a picture of a country in decline and memorably promised to end “American carnage.” On Tuesday, he acknowledged that “the challenges we face as a nation are great,” but he added “our people are even greater.”
For a full breakdown of the moments of the speech and what the president proposed, check out our full coverage here.
Malaysian authorities charged two women in the death of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The women, Siti Aishah from Indonesia and Doan Thi Huong from Vietnam, face the death penalty if convicted. Kim was killed on February 13 at the Kuala Lumpur airport when the women allegedly rubbed a VX nerve agent on his face. Lawyers for the women have said they thought they were playing a prank on a gameshow. Kim died within 20 minutes of the attack. The North Korean government is suspected in orchestrating the attack. Leaders in Pyongyang have denied those accusations. Authorities in Malaysia are seeking to question a diplomat in the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
FBI to Investigate Shooting of 2 Indian Men in Kansas as a Hate Crime
Authorities will investigate the shooting at a Kansas bar that resulted in the death of an Indian man as a hate crime, the FBI announced Tuesday. The decision comes nearly one week after 51-year-old Adam Purinton allegedly yelled at Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, both 32-year-old Indian men, to “get out of my country” before opening fire, killing Kuchibhotla and wounding Madasani. Ian Grillot, another bar patron who tried to intervene in the shooting, was also injured. Purinton, who was charged with first-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder, reportedly believed Kuchibhotla and Madasani to be of Middle Eastern descent. The incident has since prompted fears within the Indian community of future racially-motivated attacks, and Madasani’s father, Jaganmohan Reddy, cautioned Indian parents against sending their children to the U.S., adding: “The situation seems to be pretty bad after Trump took over as the U.S. president.” In a press briefing Friday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called suggestions of a correlation between the shooting and President Trump’s immigration policies “absurd.”
2 Police Officers Shot in Houston; Suspect at Large
Updated at 3:42 p.m.
Two Houston police officers responding to a burglary were shot Tuesday in the southwest portion of the city, prompting a shelter-in-place for residents of the area. Both officers were shot multiple times and are being treated at local hospitals. One, identified as Officer Jose Munoz, a 10-year veteran, received non-life-threatening injuries; the other, Officer Ronnie Cortez, a 24-year veteran of the force, was critically injured, Chief Art Acevedo said at a news conference. Acevedo said there were two suspects, one of whom was killed at the scene, and the other who is at large.
Update: two officers shot during incident at 8714 Sterlingame; both being treated at hospitals; conditions not being released at this time
Female and Child Migrants Face Rampant Abuse in Libya, UNICEF Says
Female and child migrants making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean to Europe face sexual abuse, violence, and exploitation at the hands of smugglers and traffickers, a report published Tuesday by UNICEF finds. According to the UN agency, there are more than 250,000 migrants in Libya; women make up 11 percent and children 9 percent. These migrants are often held within any one of the 34 government-run detention centers identified throughout the country, though UNICEF said many of them are also held in unofficial detention centers run by armed groups. Of the 122 women and children interviewed by UNICEF, three-quarters “said they experienced violence, harassment, or aggression at the hands of adults” while in detention, and nearly half of them reported sexual abuse. Those interviewed also reported a lack of access to proper nutrition, sanitation, health care, and legal access—conditions UNICEF described as “living hellholes.” Afshan Khan, the UNICEF Regional Director and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe, said in a statement that migration routes from Libya to Europe are “controlled by smugglers, traffickers and other people seeking to prey upon desperate children and women who are simply seeking refuge or a better life,” adding: “We need safe and legal pathways and safeguards to protect migrating children that keep them safe and keep predators at bay.” Indeed, there are few safeguards for migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean. Of the more than 180,000 who attempted the journey from Libya to Italy last year, more than 4,500 drowned—a figure which made 2016 the deadliest year for migrants on record.
UPDATE: Samsung's Chief, 4 Executives Charged in Corruption Scandal
Updated at 9:19 a.m. ET
South Korean prosecutors say they charged Lee Jae-yong, the Samsung heir, and four other company executives with corruption and embezzlement in a scandal that has already resulted in the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye. Three of the four executives, who were named in Tuesday’s announcement, resigned from the company. Lee was arrested earlier this month. My colleague Yasmeen Serhan previously reported: “The arrest concerns multimillion-dollar donations the Samsung executive made to companies associated with Choi Soon-sil, a longtime friend of Park whose Rasputin-like relationship with the president prompted allegations of undue influence and ultimately led to Park’s impeachment. Prosecutors allege Lee made the donations in exchange for political support for a 2015 merger between Samsung and Cheil Industries, an affiliated firm. Though Lee confirmed he made the donations, he denied that they were bribes.” The charges could have major implications for Samsung; Lee has run the conglomerate since his father, Lee Kun-hee, suffered a heart attack in 2014.
UPDATE: 'I Don’t Think We’ve Explained it Well Enough to the American Public,' Trump Says
Updated at 9:01 a.m. ET
President Trump toldFox & Friends he’d give himself an “A” on his achievements so far, but would give himself a “C or C-plus” for messaging. “I think I’ve done great things, but I don’t think I have—I and my people—I don’t think we’ve explained it well enough to the American public,” he said. The remarks came hours before his scheduled remarks to a joint session of Congress. Trump said he’d use the address to elaborate on his plans for the military, border security, the economy, and health care. The speech isn’t technically a State of the Union address, which is given a year after a president has been in office. The address, which begins at 9 p.m., comes a little more than a month after Trump’s inauguration as president. My colleague Molly Ball assessed his time in office so far.
If the vote is close, Donald Trump could easily throw the election into chaos and subvert the result. Who will stop him?
Illustrations by Guillem Casasús / Renderings by Borja Alegre
There is a cohort of close observers of our presidential elections, scholars and lawyers and political strategists, who find themselves in the uneasy position of intelligence analysts in the months before 9/11. As November 3 approaches, their screens are blinking red, alight with warnings that the political system does not know how to absorb. They see the obvious signs that we all see, but they also know subtle things that most of us do not. Something dangerous has hove into view, and the nation is lurching into its path.
The danger is not merely that the 2020 election will bring discord. Those who fear something worse take turbulence and controversy for granted. The coronavirus pandemic, a reckless incumbent, a deluge of mail-in ballots, a vandalized Postal Service, a resurgent effort to suppress votes, and a trainload of lawsuits are bearing down on the nation’s creaky electoral machinery.
Five years ago, the flight vanished into the Indian Ocean. Officials on land know more about why than they dare to say.
1. The Disappearance
At 12:42 a.m. on the quiet, moonlit night of March 8, 2014, a Boeing 777-200ER operated by Malaysia Airlines took off from Kuala Lumpur and turned toward Beijing, climbing to its assigned cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. The designator for Malaysia Airlines is MH. The flight number was 370. Fariq Hamid, the first officer, was flying the airplane. He was 27 years old. This was a training flight for him, the last one; he would soon be fully certified. His trainer was the pilot in command, a man named Zaharie Ahmad Shah, who at 53 was one of the most senior captains at Malaysia Airlines. In Malaysian style, he was known by his first name, Zaharie. He was married and had three adult children. He lived in a gated development. He owned two houses. In his first house he had installed an elaborate Microsoft flight simulator.
If the judge’s faith has put limits on her talent and ambition, there are few signs of it.
The first I heard of Amy Coney Barrett was when her name was floated as a possible nominee for the seat left vacant on the Supreme Court when Anthony Kennedy retired. I thought she was an interesting person, although not for any reasons of policy or politics: She is a mother of seven children, several of them very young; a Catholic; a deeply accomplished and distinguished member of the judiciary. I could not prevent myself from noticing, too, how beautiful she is, and wondering how the hell she balances raising seven children with her huge career. But there was little time to ponder these questions in my heart, as Mary did the annunciation, because Brett Kavanaugh was nominated instead of her, and things got so weird so fast that she slipped my mind.
Amy Coney Barrett’s ascension is a triumph for the conservative legal movement.
When President Donald Trump announces tomorrow that Amy Coney Barrett is his nominee for the Supreme Court, he will be effectively declaring victory. In 2016, Trump offered a horse trade to American conservatives: In exchange for their votes, he promised to appoint judges who would champion their interests. This nomination will be yet another chance for Trump to remind his supporters that their bet paid off, conveniently timed just a few weeks before Election Day.
While Trump may see this nomination as a boon to his reelection campaign, the true victors are the leaders of the conservative legal movement, who built the sophisticated machine in Washington that made this moment possible. With most of America’s institutions, from Congress to the executive branch, locked into a state of dysfunction and partisan bitterness, the Court has become the ultimate venue for the parties to fight out controversies and entrench their power. Barrett’s nomination is the culmination of a decades-long strategy to advance judges steeped in a conservative judicial philosophy that tends to favor limited government regulation of businesses, produce skepticism of abortion rights, and promote an expansive view of religious liberty. If Barrett is confirmed, a new 6-to-3 conservative supermajority will be poised to determine Americans’ rights for a generation. (The president is expected to formally announce her selection tomorrow evening.)
The need to defy reality on the president’s behalf is pushing his appointees beyond the point of reason.
I glanced at the story, read it, and then moved on to something else. But the story of William B. Crews kept bothering me, because it might be a harbinger of things to come.
Crews is—or was—an employee of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the federal agency run by Anthony Fauci. While working as a public-affairs officer for NIAID, Crews was also a prolific conspiracy theorist. He spent the past six months attacking Fauci, NIAID, and the American scientific establishment more generally, on the website Redstate.com, using the pseudonym “Streiff.” On Monday, Lachlan Markay of The Daily Beast published a story unmasking him. Crews abruptly retired that same day.
The United States has a long tradition of government employees criticizing their superiors. But in his extracurricular writing, Crews was not composing whistleblower memos. These were not carefully sourced revelations of wrongdoing at the agency. Instead, they were rants that accused Fauci, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, and many others of turning the coronavirus into a deliberate plot to undermine the Trump administration. In June, Crews attacked America’s most respected scientific bodies: “If there were justice,” he wrote, “we’d send and [sic] few dozen of these fascists to the gallows and gibbet their tarred bodies in chains until they fall apart.” In July, he attacked Fauci by name: “If you made those recommendations and they were disastrously wrong and based on bad science that you promulgated, you owe it to all of us to STFU and go away.”
Joe Biden should simply name what is true and what most Americans intuit about the president: He is a terribly broken man.
“I’m used to bullies.”
That’s a line Joe Biden has used several times during his run against Donald Trump, and he said it again recently in talking about the first presidential debate.
“I hope I don’t take the bait, because he’s going to say awful things about me, my family, et cetera,” Biden said at a virtual fundraiser. “I hope I don’t get baited into getting into a brawl with this guy, because that’s the only place he’s comfortable.” Biden expects to be able to keep his cool because, he said, “I’m used to dealing with bullies.”
The challenge for Biden isn’t simply that he’ll be facing a bully on the debate stage in Cleveland on Tuesday; it’s that he’ll be facing a man who is shameless and without conscience, a shatterer of norms and boundaries, a liar of epic proportions, a conspiracy-monger who inhabits an alternate reality. President Donald Trump operates outside any normal parameters.
In her 2019 memoir, What Do We Need Men For?, E. Jean Carroll accused Donald Trump of rape, in a Bergdorf’s dressing room in the mid-1990s. After the president denied ever meeting her and dismissed her story as a Democratic plot, she sued him for defamation. Carroll was not, of course, the first woman to say that Trump had sexually harassed or assaulted her, but unlike so many other powerful men, the president has remained unscathed by the #MeToo reckoning. So in the run-up to the November 3 election, Carroll is interviewing other women who alleged that Trump suddenly and without consent “moved on” them, to cite his locution in the Access Hollywood tape. “I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them, it’s like a magnet ... And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy.”
Only in America does so much power rest in the hands of elderly judges.
When the Framers of the Constitution debated the document’s careful system of checks and balances, they confronted a question that would only become more important over time: Should there be a mandatory retirement age for federal judges?
Alexander Hamilton argued against one. Writing in The Federalist Papers, he dismissed “the imaginary danger of a superannuated bench.” Hamilton won out, and the Constitution placed no term limits on the service of federal judges, including the men and (much later) women who would make up the Supreme Court.
More than two centuries later, the United States stands alone in its handling of lifetime appointments to its highest court, and the drawbacks of a “superannuated bench” have become ever more clear. Last Friday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the third member of the Supreme Court to die in office in the past 15 years. Her death injects a partisan fight over the judiciary into the tempest of a presidential election, and it has brought about a nightmare scenario for Democrats, who have long feared the possibility that a conservative would replace her progressive vote on the Supreme Court and shift the nation’s jurisprudence dramatically to the right. But it also serves as a reminder that only in the U.S. does the balance of so much national power hang on the ability of an 87-year-old jurist to hold out for a few more months against the ravages of disease and the inevitability of life’s natural course.
If Trump wins, especially after losing the popular vote, the left may draw the wrong conclusions.
This is the era of expecting the worst while hoping for the merely tolerable. Some might say that the worst is already happening—economic disaster and 190,000 dead from a pandemic—while the president and his surrogates insist, in a feat of self-delusion, that the “best is yet to come.” As someone who has argued against catastrophism—I don’t believe Donald Trump is a fascist or a dictator in the making, and I don’t believe America is a failed state—I find myself truly worried about only one scenario: that Trump will win reelection and Democrats and others on the left will be unwilling, even unable, to accept the result.
A loss by Joe Biden under these circumstances is the worst case not because Trump will destroy America (he can’t), but because it is the outcome most likely to undermine faith in democracy, resulting in more of the social unrest and street battles that cities including Portland, Oregon, and Seattle have seen in recent months. For this reason, strictly law-and-order Republicans who have responded in dismay to scenes of rioting and looting have an interest in Biden winning—even if they could never bring themselves to vote for him.
A rock structure, built deep underground, is one of the earliest hominin constructions ever found.
In February 1990, thanks to a 15-year-old boy named Bruno Kowalsczewski, footsteps echoed through the chambers of Bruniquel Cave for the first time in tens of thousands of years.
The cave sits in France’s scenic Aveyron Valley, but its entrance had long been sealed by an ancient rockslide. Kowalsczewski’s father had detected faint wisps of air emerging from the scree, and the boy spent three years clearing away the rubble. He eventually dug out a tight, thirty-meter-long passage that the thinnest members of the local caving club could squeeze through. They found themselves in a large, roomy corridor. There were animal bones and signs of bear activity, but nothing recent. The floor was pockmarked with pools of water. The walls were punctuated by stalactites (the ones that hang down) and stalagmites (the ones that stick up).