The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: No-Fly Zone

The president canceled House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s planned congressional delegation trip overseas, after she disinvited him from delivering the State of the Union.

Joshua Roberts / Reuters

What We’re Following Today

It’s Thursday, January 17. The partial government shutdown is now in its 27th day.

‘Zero-Tolerance’ Policy: Donald Trump’s administration likely separated thousands more children from their parents than previously thought since the practice of family separations first spiked in 2017, a new inspector general report finds. While administration officials had once denied that a family separation policy was ever official, it was revealed in 2018 that more than 2,000 children had been separated from their parents and placed in custody elsewhere, sometimes in facilities thousands of miles away from the border.

Tit for Tat: After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi disinvited Trump from delivering the State of the Union, the president retaliated today by canceling Pelosi’s planned congressional delegation trip to Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan. With tempers on both sides running high, the shutdown now seems even further from a resolution, reports Russell Berman.

Shutdown Watch: The federal-government shutdown is deeply unpopular among voters, but Trump and GOP senators don’t seem to care—they’ve grown used to representing only a minority of Americans, writes Ronald Brownstein.

Beto Watch: Beto O’Rourke hasn’t said if he’s running for president, but some Democratic operatives are building a campaign for him anyway.

Ideas From The Atlantic

(Benjamin Lowy / Getty / The Atlantic)

Impeach Donald Trump (Yoni Appelbaum)
“The United States has grown wary of impeachment. The history of its application is widely misunderstood, leading Americans to mistake it for a dangerous threat to the constitutional order. That is precisely backwards. It is absurd to suggest that the Constitution would delineate a mechanism too potent to ever actually be employed.” → Read on.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Has the Better Tax Argument (Derek Thompson)
“When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggested this month that the United States should tax income over $10 million by 70 percent, it galvanized something unusual: a broad and substantive national conversation about the design and purpose of federal tax policy. No, I’m just kidding. It kicked off a lot of screaming about socialism, especially on cable news.” → Read on.

Barr May Do Exactly What Trump Wants (Adam Serwer)
“Taken as a whole, Barr’s testimony is less comforting than it seemed. Barr is a respected party elder who possesses the legitimacy, legal acumen, and ideological convictions to shield the president and undermine the rule of law without committing the sort of ham-handed errors that could turn the public or Congress further against Trump.”  → Read on.


Donald Trump's 50 Most Unthinkable Moments

(Samuel Corum / Anadolu Agency / Getty)

Unthinkable is The Atlantic’s catalog of 50 incidents from the first two years of President Trump’s first term in office, ranked—highly subjectively!—according to both their outlandishness and their importance.

At No. 2: “Very fine people, on both sides.”

Join the conversation: Which moments from the Trump presidency would you add to this list? Email us at with the subject line “Unthinkable,” and include your full name, city, and state. Or tweet using the hashtag #TrumpUnthinkable.

Readers told us:

“My specific addition would be his accusation that Obama bugged him late in 2016.”
—Scott Brown, Carmel Valley, California

“The list doesn’t address candidate Trump … but in some ways that list is even more worrying, because it demonstrates just how ugly the mood in our country has become.”
—Steven Coleman, Townsend, Massachusetts


A federal worker collects a free bag of groceries from Kraft Foods on the 27th day of the partial government shutdown in Washington, D.C. (Joshua Roberts / Reuters)

What Else We’re Reading

Is Trump Trying to Politicize Agriculture Data? Some Former USDA Officials Suspect Yes. (Christie Aschwanden, FiveThirtyEight)

Why Bill de Blasio Is Acting Like a 2020 Candidate (David Freedlander, New York)

If We Forget Appalachia’s Radical History, We Will Misunderstand Its Future (Kim Kelly, Pacific Standard)

State Department Calling Employees Back to Work During the Shutdown (Nahal Toosi, Politico)

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