—Police say five people, including the alleged assailant, were killed in a terrorist attack in London. Forty others were injured. More here
—At Wednesday’s hearing, Democratic senators adopted a new strategy to press Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch on abortion and campaign finance. More here
—House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes turned quite a few heads on Capitol Hill when he announced he’s learned that the Intelligence Community “incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition.” More here
—We’re tracking the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).
House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes turned quite a few heads on Capitol Hill Wednesday when he announced he’s learned that the Intelligence Community “incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition.” He said he received this information through an unnamed source. The vague statement from the congressman and Trump ally did note that the intelligence was gathered legally and that there was no evidence of wiretapping at Trump Tower. But the news does throw a lifeline to President Trump after weeks of alleging his predecessor “wiretapped” him. As my colleague David A. Graham writes:
Nunes’s vague statements raised a host of questions, and his decision to announce them publicly and then go to the White House to brief President Trump, having not informed Democrats on the committee about his new findings, cast a pall of politics over the proceedings.
Trump said felt “somewhat vindicated” by the announcement, as former intelligence officials and Democrats on the Hill said the statement from Nunes was inappropriate.
Possible U.S. Airstrike Kills 33 Civilians in Syria
A possible U.S. airstrike killed 33 civilians in Syria, a monitoring group said Wednesday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based network trusted by many news organizations, said the U.S.-led coalition airstrike hit a school in northern Syria in a region controlled by ISIS. The school, located in the town of Mansoura, some 15 miles southwest of Raqqa, was being used as a shelter for displaced families from Raqqa, Aleppo, and Homs. Only two people survived the airstrike. U.S. officials have not confirmed whether the airstrike took place. U.S. military personnel were in the area that day airlifting around 500 U.S.-trained Syrian fighters. Fighting remains intense the northern city of Raqqa, the last ISIS stronghold and self-declared capital.
The U.K. Parliament was placed under lockdown Wednesday after reports emerged of gunfire outside Westminster Palace in central London, according to local media. Details about what exactly happened are not yet known.
This story is developing. For more updates, follow our live blog here.
More Allegations About Manafort's Russia Links, But Trump's Former Campaign Manager Rejects Them
Paul Manafort, who was chair of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, worked secretly a decade ago for Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire, to further Russian President Vladimir Putin’s interests, the Associated Press is reporting this morning, citing documents that laid out Manafort’s plan to hurt opponents of Russia across the former Soviet Union. For this work, the AP adds, Manafort received a $10 million annual contract beginning in 2006. Manafort and the Trump White House have repeatedly denied that Manafort, who previously worked for Ukraine’s pro-Moscow president, worked to further Russian government interests. Manafort’s repeated that assertion today in response to the AP’s story, acknowledging he worked for Deripaska, but noting his “work did not involve representing Russian political interests.” Here’s more from the AP: “Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse. … Manafort and Deripaska maintained a business relationship until at least 2009, according to one person familiar with the work.” The allegations come a day after Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian lawmaker, said he had evidence Manafort tried to hide about $750,000 as payment in 2009 from a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine; at the time, Manafort was an adviser to Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian president who was close to Moscow. Manafort called that claim “baseless.” On Monday, FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers the bureau was “investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election,” including “the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”
Judge Gorsuch Prepares for the Third Day of His Confirmation Hearings
Judge Neil Gorsuch will face questions for the third day from lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee, a day after he went before the panel and defended the independence of the judiciary, but refused to be drawn into more controversial issues such as abortion rights and gun control. As my colleague Matt Ford wrote last night, “attempts by the Democratic senators … to reveal new dimensions of Gorsuch’s ideological beliefs were largely unsuccessful.” Gorsuch is President Trump’s nominee to fill the position on the U.S. Supreme Court made vacant by the death last year of Justice Antonin Scalia. Democrats were angered that President Obama’s nominee for the position, Judge Merrick Garland, was not given a hearing by Republicans, who control the Senate. The fourth and final day of the hearings are scheduled for Thursday. Despite some public opposition from Democrats and their supporters, Gorsuch, a widely respected jurist, is expected to be easily confirmed by the Senate.
The untold story of how anger became the dominant emotion in our politics and personal lives—and what we can do about it.
I. An Angry Little Town
Soon after the snows of 1977 began to thaw, the residents of Greenfield, Massachusetts, received a strange questionnaire in the mail. “Try to recall the number of times you became annoyed and/or angry during the past week,” the survey instructed. “Describe the most angry of these experiences.” One woman knew her answer: Recently, her husband had bought a new car. Then he had driven it to his mistress’s house so she could admire the purchase. When the wife found out, she was livid. Furious. Her rage felt like an eruption she couldn’t control.
The survey was interested in the particulars of respondents’ anger. In its 14 pages, it sought an almost voyeuristic level of detail. It asked the woman to describe the stages of her fury, which words she had shouted, whether punches had been thrown. “In becoming angry, did you wish to get back at, or gain revenge?” the survey inquired. Afterward, did you feel “triumphant, confident and dominant” or “ashamed, embarrassed and guilty”? There were also questions for people like her husband, who had been on the receiving end: “Did the other person’s anger come as a surprise to you, or did you expect that it would occur?”
Sure, the job is terrible—but that’s not new. What’s different is that this president can’t use the same leverage that predecessors such as George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton did.
Donald Trump is, infamously, not the sort of man used to getting no for an answer. And while the frequent demurrals from candidates for administration jobs must have started to accustom the president to rejection, Nick Ayers’s decision not to take the White House chief-of-staff position must still come as a bitter shock.
Ayers has been the presumptive top presidential aide for as long as the incumbent John Kelly’s future has seemed dim—which is to say for months. Yet when Trump on Saturday finally announced Kelly’s exit, Ayers didn’t want the role.
Three other leading candidates have already said they don’t want it either, including Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget; Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin; and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. Another rumored contender, Representative Mark Meadows, released a statement saying it would be an honor to serve in the job.
Some who enter this president’s service are changed for the worse. Others have been that way all along.
John Kelly’s forthcoming departure as White House chief of staff is a reminder of an important but underpublicized distinction among those who have chosen to support or work for Donald Trump.The distinction is between those whom Trump has made bad, and those who have been revealed as bad through their association with this man. (There’s also a small “not yet bad” category, which I will get to later on.)
In the first category,“made bad,” are people who in other circumstances might have taken a harder, higher-minded path. They might have chosen to stand on principle, to take the long view, to seek out reasonable compromises, to defend the norms and values of American institutions—and, overall, to behave in a way they’d be happy to talk about later on. Many of these people have actually made those choices at previous times in their life.
The new and returning series that stood out the most
Trying to pick the best television series of 2018 is a bit like trying to judge a cuteness contest in a zoo: There’s way too much to choose from, and very little of it looks alike. How to compare, say, a peerless drama about repressed Edwardian England with a satirical animated comedy about an anthropomorphized, alcoholic horse actor? Or a thoughtful, in-depth documentary series about inequality in a Chicago-area high school with a bleakly comic fable about America’s nastiest and most overprivileged media dynasty?
Television’s current abundance means not just a laundry list of new quality shows each month, but also new styles and techniques with which TV creators are pushing the limits of the form. With that in mind, this list of the best series of 2018 tries to recognize things that TV has done exceptionally well this year, from complex and dynamic female characters, to empathetic cringe comedy, to experimental modes of storytelling, and everything that comes in between.
Someone needs to get the White House under control—but the president won’t let it happen.
Before a president begins thinking about who should be his White House chief of staff, he has to define both the job and the moment. There’s nothing magical about the chief of staff’s corner office in the West Wing. How any individuals perform in the job depends, first, on the power the president gives them to execute their responsibilities, and second, on their expertise facing whatever’s in front of the White House in that moment. So how should that inform President Donald Trump as John Kelly takes his leave?
Consider the first issue. Had they been given unlimited time and bandwidth, neither of the presidents I worked for would have even hired a chief of staff. Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama would have wanted to take every meeting, hear every perspective, mull every decision, game out every scenario, and address every challenge. They both loved the job of president—and arrived in the Oval Office every morning excited to see what they could accomplish.
Black holes are somehow able to grow constantly without changing their size. Physics might finally be able to explain why.
Leonard Susskind, a pioneer of string theory, the holographic principle and other big physics ideas spanning the past half century, has proposed a solution to an important puzzle about black holes. The problem is that even though these mysterious, invisible spheres appear to stay a constant size as viewed from the outside, their interiors keep growing in volume essentially forever. How is this possible?
In a series of recent papers and talks, the 78-year-old Stanford University professor and his collaborators conjecture that black holes grow in volume because they are steadily increasing in complexity—an idea that, while unproven, is fueling new thinking about the quantum nature of gravity inside black holes.
Other countries swear by brooms, mops, and sponges. The U.S. prefers something more disposable.
Every day, as Americans dry their hands, soak up their spills, and wipe their counters, they are—whether they know it or not—contributing to their country’s dominance. In an era of waning American exceptionalism, inhabitants can at least pride themselves on an underratedly important, probably shameful distinction: They reside in the paper-towel capital of the world.
This status is unquestioned. According to data shared with me by the market-research firm Euromonitor International, global spending on paper towels for use at home (but not in office or public bathrooms) added up to about $12 billion in 2017, and Americans accounted for about $5.7 billion of that total. In other words, the U.S. spends nearly as much on paper towels as every other country in the world combined.
In my six decades in public service, I’ve seen many changes in our nation and its institutions. Yet the most profound change I’ve witnessed is also the saddest. It is the complete collapse in respect for virtually every institution of government and an unprecedented cynicism about the nobility of public service itself.
These are not just the grumblings of an angry old man lamenting the loss of “the good old days.” In December 1958, almost exactly three years after I entered the House of Representatives, the first American National Election Study, initiated by the University of Michigan, found that 73 percent of Americans trusted the federal government “to do the right thing almost always or most of the time.” As of December 2017, the same study, now conducted by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, found that this number had plummeted to just 18 percent.
The latest season did something surprising with the long-running show’s first female lead: It often allowed her to be powerless in the face of injustice.
Commercials and subway ads for the latest season of Doctor Who, which ended Sunday, bore a straightforward slogan: “It’s about time.” The show is, literally, about time, specifically time travel, but the joke was in the tagline’s second meaning: The Doctor, for the first time in the sci-fi series’ 55-year history, was played this season by a woman. The sentiment underlying the show’s promotional material was less proud than it was apologetic; that slogan might as well have been an exhaled Finally.
Since Doctor Who premiered in 1963, the potential of its elastic premise—the Doctor is an alien Time Lord who can regenerate into a new body when the old one fails—hasn’t been fully realized in its casting. Before the actress Jodie Whittaker took over the part at the end of 2017, making her proper debut this year in the revival’s 11th season, 12 white men played the lead role (or 13, counting John Hurt’s appearance in the 50th-anniversary special). While the Doctor—when the Doctor was a man—offered a model of masculinity that was brainier, more compassionate, and more resolutely pacifist than most male heroes in pop culture, the character still propped up a specific idea of what it meant to walk through the world as a white man. He operated like the cleverest person in every room, and because he was almost always right, he was justified in seizing authority. “Just walk about like you own the place,” David Tennant’s Doctor told the show’s first black companion, Martha (played by Freema Agyeman), when he took her back to Shakespearean times. “Works for me.”
The incoming House Judiciary chairman says the president has allegedly been involved in “massive frauds against the American people.”
The talk on the Sunday-morning shows took an ominous turn for President Donald Trump after a week when court filings put him in the middle of preelection hush-money payments by his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and in interactions by Cohen with Russians during the 2016 campaign. Suddenly, the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which had been focused on possible campaign collusion with Russia and obstruction of justice, had expanded and entered what one senator called a “new phase” that left members of both parties discussing the prospects for impeachment.
“What these indictments and filings show is that the president was at the center of several massive frauds against the American people,” Representative Jerry Nadler, the New York Democrat who in January will take over the House Judiciary Committee, where any impeachment proceedings would begin, said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union. He added that if Cohen’s allegations prove true about Trump’s direct involvement in preelection payoffs to two women who alleged affairs with the president—payments prosecutors said constituted campaign-finance felonies—“they would be impeachable offenses. Whether they are important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question.”