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.
What speech should be protected by the First Amendment is open to debate. Americans can, and should, argue about what the law ought to be. That’s what free people do. But while we’re all entitled to our own opinions, we’re not entitled to our own facts, even in 2019. In fact, the First Amendment is broad, robust, aggressively and consistently protected by the Supreme Court, and not subject to the many exceptions and qualifications that commentators seek to graft upon it. The majority of contemptible, bigoted speech is protected.
He understands men in America better than most people do. The rest of the country should start paying attention.
Every morning of my Joe Rogan experience began the same way Joe Rogan begins his: with the mushroom coffee.
It’s a pour-and-stir powder made from lion’s mane and chaga—“two rock-star mushrooms,” according to Joe—and it’s made by a company called Four Sigmatic, a regular advertiser on Joe Rogan’s wildly popular podcast. As a coffee lover, the mere existence of mushroom coffee offends me. (“I’ll have your most delicious thing, made from your least delicious things, please,” a friend said, scornfully.) But it tastes fine, and even better after another cup of actual coffee.
Next, I took several vitamin supplements from a company called Onnit, whose core philosophy is “total human optimization” and whose website sells all kinds of wicked-cool fitness gear—a Darth Vader kettlebell ($199.95); a 50-foot roll of two-and-a-half-inch-thick battle rope ($249.95); a 25-pound quad mace ($147.95), which according to one fitness-equipment site is a weapon dating back to 11th-century Persia. I stuck to the health products, though, because you know how it goes—you buy one quad mace and soon your apartment is filled with them. I stirred a packet of Onnit Gut Health powder into my mushroom coffee, then downed an enormous pair of Alpha Brain pills, filled with nootropics to help with “memory and focus.”
Meritocracy prizes achievement above all else, making everyone—even the rich—miserable. Maybe there’s a way out.
In the summer of 1987, I graduated from a public high school in Austin, Texas, and headed northeast to attend Yale. I then spent nearly 15 years studying at various universities—the London School of Economics, the University of Oxford, Harvard, and finally Yale Law School—picking up a string of degrees along the way. Today, I teach at Yale Law, where my students unnervingly resemble my younger self: They are, overwhelmingly, products of professional parents and high-class universities. I pass on to them the advantages that my own teachers bestowed on me. They, and I, owe our prosperity and our caste to meritocracy.
Two decades ago, when I started writing about economic inequality, meritocracy seemed more likely a cure than a cause. Meritocracy’s early advocates championed social mobility. In the 1960s, for instance, Yale President Kingman Brewster brought meritocratic admissions to the university with the express aim of breaking a hereditary elite. Alumni had long believed that their sons had a birthright to follow them to Yale; now prospective students would gain admission based on achievement rather than breeding. Meritocracy—for a time—replaced complacent insiders with talented and hardworking outsiders.
The famed economist’s “shareholder theory” provides corporations with too much room to violate consumers’ rights and trust.
On Monday, the Business Roundtable, a group that represents CEOs of big corporations, declared that it had changed its mind about the “purpose of a corporation.” That purpose is no longer to maximize profits for shareholders, but to benefit other “stakeholders” as well, including employees, customers, and citizens.
While the statement is a welcome repudiation of a highly influential but spurious theory of corporate responsibility, this new philosophy will not likely change the way corporations behave. The only way to force corporations to act in the public interest is to subject them to legal regulation.
The shareholder theory is usually credited to Milton Friedman, the University of Chicago economist and Nobel laureate. In a famous 1970 New York Timesarticle, Friedman argued that because the CEO is an “employee” of the shareholders, he or she must act in their interest, which is to give them the highest return possible. Friedman pointed out that if a CEO acts otherwise—let’s say, donates corporate funds to an environmental cause or to an anti-poverty program—the CEO must get those funds from customers (through higher prices), workers (through lower wages), or shareholders (through lower returns). But then the CEO is just imposing a “tax” on other people, and using the funds for a social cause that he or she has no particular expertise in. It would be better to let customers, workers, or investors use that money to make their own charitable contributions if they wish to.
Through the 2016 campaign, I posted a series called “Trump Time Capsule” in this space. The idea was to record, in real time, what was known about Donald Trump’s fitness for office—and to do so not when people were looking back on our era but while the Republican Party was deciding whether to line up behind him and voters were preparing to make their choice.
The series reached 152 installments by election day. I argued that even then there was no doubt of Trump’s mental, emotional, civic, and ethical unfitness for national leadership. If you’re hazy on the details, the series is (once again) here.
That background has equipped me to view Trump’s performance in office as consistently shocking but rarely surprising. He lied on the campaign trail, and he lies in office. He insulted women, minorities, “the other” as a candidate, and he does it as a president. He led “lock her up!” cheers at the Republican National Convention and he smiles at “send them back!” cheers now. He did not know how the “nuclear triad” worked then, and he does not know how tariffs work now. He flared at perceived personal slights when they came from Senator John McCain, and he does so when they come from the Prime Minister of Denmark. He is who he was.
Even if the party sweeps Congress and the White House in 2020, the Senate rule would let a faction of the reddest, whitest states stymie its agenda.
Even if Democrats regain unified control of the White House and Congress in 2020, the fate of their ambitious legislative agenda will still likely hinge on a fundamental question: Do they try to end the Senate filibuster?
If the party chooses to keep the filibuster, it faces a daunting prospect: Democrats elected primarily by voters in states at the forefront of the country’s demographic, cultural, and economic changes will likely have their agenda blocked by Republican senators largely representing the smaller, rural states least touched by all of those changes. In fact, since the Senate gives each state two seats, the filibuster allows Republican senators from states representing only about one-fifth of the country’s population to be in position to stymie Democratic legislation.
The president crossed an important line when he canceled a meeting with the Danish prime minister.
Yesterday, President Donald Trump canceled a meeting with the new Danish prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, because she refuses to discuss the sale of Greenland. Greenland used to be a Danish colony but now belongs to the people of Greenland—the Danish government could not sell the island even if it wanted to. Trump likely did not know that Denmark is one of America’s most reliable allies. Danish troops, for example, fought alongside U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and suffered 50 fatalities, and Danish forces were among the earliest to join the fight against the Islamic State.
Many Americans may laugh off Trump’s latest outrage, but Trump crossed an important line. It is one thing to float a cockamamie idea that no one believes is serious or will go anywhere. “Let’s buy Greenland!” Yes, very funny. A good distraction from the economy, the failure to deal with white supremacy, White House staff problems, or whatever is the news of the day. It is quite another to use leverage and impose costs on Denmark in pursuit of that goal—and make no mistake, canceling a presidential visit is using leverage and imposing costs. What’s next, refusing to exempt Denmark from various tariffs because it won’t discuss Greenland? Musing on Twitter that America’s defense commitments to Denmark are conditional on the negotiation? Intellectual justifications from Trump-friendly publications, citing previous purchase proposals and noting Greenland’s strategic value and abundance of natural resources? (That last one has already happened.)
The U.S. president canceled his visit to the kingdom over his failed attempt to buy Greenland. Danes are reacting with bewilderment, anger, and humor.
COPENHAGEN—At first there was disbelief, then anger, and then, following a script now familiar to a growing number of nations, Denmark turned, in its attempt to explain the inexplicable, to speculation. After waking yesterday morning to the news that the president of the United States had canceled a state visit that he himself had requested, Danes found themselves moving through the stages of Donald Trump grief.
Trump tweeted early yesterday here, just two weeks before he was to come to Denmark, that the trip was off. “Based on Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s comments, that she would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting,” he wrote. (His tweet was sent just hours after Carla Sands, the U.S. ambassador to Denmark, tweeted: “Denmark is ready for the POTUS.”)
That old truism of American politics—“It’s the economy, stupid”—could come back to haunt the money-minded president in 2020.
It’s the nightmare scenario that President Donald Trump’s camp dreads most: an economic downturn that steadily intensifies as the 2020 election nears. What would it mean for Trump if, by the fall of 2020, the jobless rate had doubled, economic growth was hovering at an anemic 1 percent, and, with no end in sight for the trade war with China, the stock market was plunging? A president whose argument for reelection rests on a healthy economy would suddenly find that his rationale has collapsed, right along with voters’ retirement funds.
“Does every presidential campaign worry about a downturn in the second and third quarter of an election year? You bet your ass they do,” said one Trump confidant, who, like some others contacted for this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the subject candidly.
The debate over Britain leaving the European Union has polarized the country and normalized what was previously unthinkable.
Brexit isn’t what it used to be. In the months immediately after Britain voted to leave the European Union in 2016, two flavors were on offer—“hard” and “soft.” A soft Brexit generally meant leaving the bloc’s political structures but not its economic ones, such as the single market for goods and services. The hard version meant leaving those, too. Crucially, both versions would see Britain formally agree to a new relationship with the EU.
“In the summer of 2016, everyone was a soft Brexiter, really,” Anand Menon, a professor of European politics and foreign affairs at King’s College London, told me.
Now no one is. The political landscape is polarized. What was once considered “hard” is now denounced by the loudest Brexiteers as a squalid compromise. Instead, “no deal” has become the purest, truest form of Brexit—“No deal is the best deal,” the official account of the Brexit Party, the most doctrinaire of Brexit-supporting groups, recently tweeted.