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November 7, 2018

Attorney General Jeff Sessions was pushed out on Wednesday in what could potentially trigger consequences as significant as the dissolution of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Here's what you need to know.

What does it mean that Sessions was forced to resign?

Because Sessions resigned, President Trump was able to immediately appoint a new acting attorney general, rather than needing to go through the Senate approval process otherwise required to name a new AG. Sessions had recused himself from any involvement in the Mueller investigation; his replacement will not have the same obligation.

Who is the new attorney general?

Matthew Whitaker will serve as acting attorney general. He was formerly chief of staff to Jeff Sessions.

Whitaker, a Republican, published an op-ed in CNN last year arguing that Mueller had gone too far in his probe, an opinion shared by the president. "It does not take a lawyer or even a former federal prosecutor like myself to conclude that investigating Donald Trump's finances or his family's finances falls completely outside of the realm of his 2016 campaign and allegations that the campaign coordinated with the Russian government or anyone else," Whitaker argued. "That goes beyond the scope of the appointment of the special counsel."

What can Whitaker do now?

Sessions' ousting will likely tarnish the integrity of the ongoing Mueller investigation in the eyes of many Democrats and Republicans alike, and Whitaker can even technically fire the special counsel if there is "cause." Earlier this year, the Senate Judiciary Committee progressed legislation that would allow Mueller to "challenge" a potential firing "in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia," NBC News explains, although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has so far refused to bring it to the floor, arguing: "This is not necessary, there’s no indication that Mueller is going to be fired."

Additionally, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will no longer be in charge of overseeing the Mueller investigation, NBC News reports.

What will Democrats do?

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) assured that there would be swift action if the Mueller investigation came under threat, vowing that "protecting Mueller and his investigation is paramount. It would create a constitutional crisis if this were a prelude to ending or greatly limiting the Mueller investigation." Jeva Lange

January 19, 2019

The Senate will this coming week consider President Trump's Saturday proposal for an immigration deal to end the government shutdown, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Saturday — but the pitch is unlikely to gain much traction with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and congressional Democrats more broadly.

"Democrats were hopeful that the President was finally willing to re-open government and proceed with a much-need discussion to protect the border," Pelosi said in a statement released right before Trump's remarks began. "Unfortunately, initial reports make clear that his proposal is a compilation of several previously rejected initiatives, each of which is unacceptable and in total, do not represent a good faith effort to restore certainty to people's lives.“

Trump's plan offers three years of relief, including from deportation, for recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and temporary protected status (TPS), but Pelosi's statement demands a "permanent solution." She also asks for increased port of entry infrastructure and more customs agents, which Trump did not mention.

However, there is some overlap between the two lists. Both Pelosi and Trump call for more immigration judges and border patrol agents as well as, in Trump's words, "drug detection technology to help secure our ports of entry."

Pelosi's statement concludes with a request that Trump re-open the government so comprehensive immigration policy negotiations can proceed. Trump's speech ended by urging Congress to agree to his deal to re-open the government so "weekly bipartisan meetings at the White House" can be scheduled for immigration policy reform. Bonnie Kristian

January 19, 2019

President Trump began his address on border security and the partial government shutdown Saturday with a grim description of the "humanitarian and security crisis on our southern border." He highlighted the dangers of migrants' journeys to the United States, especially sexual assault, and argued stricter border control would reduce crime and drug trafficking.

"As I candidate for president, I promised I would fix this crisis, and I intend to keep that promise one way or the other," Trump said. "I am here today to break the logjam and provide Congress with a path forward to end the government shutdown and solve the crisis on the southern border."

That path, as Trump explained it, includes "$800 million in urgent humanitarian assistance, $805 million for drug detection technology to help secure our ports of entry, an additional 2,750 border agents and law enforcement professionals, [and] 75 new immigration judge teams to reduce the backlog of — believe it or not — almost 900,000 cases."

The proposal retains Trump's longstanding demand of $5.7 billion for construction of "powerful and fully designed, see-through steel barrier[s]" in "high-priority locations." It offers "three years of legislative relief for 700,000 [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)] recipients brought here unlawfully by their parents at a young age," as well as a "three-year extension of temporary protected status (TPS)" for "300,000 immigrants whose protective status is facing expiration" while further immigration reform is negotiated.

Trump also listed two "measures to protect migrant children from exploitation and abuse," a "new system to allow Central American minors to apply for asylum in their home countries and reform to promote family reunification for unaccompanied children" detained away from their families in the United States.

"That is our plan: border security, DACA, TPS, and many other things," Trump concluded. "This plan solves the immediate crisis ... and immediately re-opens our federal government." Watch the full live stream below. Bonnie Kristian

January 19, 2019

"We have made a lot of progress as far as denuclearization is concerned and we are talking about a lot of different things. Things are going very well with North Korea," President Trump told reporters Saturday of his Friday conversation with North Korean negotiator Kim Yong Chol.

"That was an incredible meeting," Trump said. "We've agreed to [another summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un], probably the end of February. We've picked a country, but we'll be announcing it in the future. Kim Jong Un is looking very forward to it and so am I."

Vietnam, Thailand, and Singapore are thought to be under consideration for the summit's location. Read a "plausible roadmap to peace with North Korea" from The Week's Harry J. Kazianis here. Bonnie Kristian

January 19, 2019

At least 66 people were killed and dozens more injured Friday when a fuel pipeline in Mexico exploded after being ruptured by fuel thieves. Some 85 people not included in the current death toll are listed as missing as of Saturday morning.

A crowd of people had gathered to collect the spilling fuel in plastic containers when the fireball occurred. Local authorities said the death toll could continue to rise given the severity of the injuries and the number of people whose whereabouts remain unknown.

Illegal pipeline taps like this one, which occurred near the town of Tlahuelilpan about 60 miles north of Mexico City, are a chronic problem in Mexico; an average of 42 taps were drilled daily in the first 10 months of 2018. "Far from stopping the fight ... against fuel theft, it's going to become stronger," said Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Saturday. "We'll continue until we've eradicated these practices." Bonnie Kristian

January 19, 2019

Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago police officer convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery for his fatal shooting of a black teenager named Laquan McDonald in 2014, was sentenced Friday to six years and nine months in prison.

With good behavior, Van Dyke could be out of custody in three years or less, his lawyer said. The special prosecutor who handled the case had requested a sentence of 18 to 20 years, and the sentence Van Dyke received is for the murder charge alone, not the battery. Each of the battery convictions had a mandatory minimum sentence of six years, and the judge could have ordered them to be served sequentially.

On Thursday, three other officers accused of falsifying reports to justify the shooting were acquitted. Bonnie Kristian

January 19, 2019

For once, President Trump is really happy with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

He responded with a flurry of tweets Friday and Saturday to Friday evening's news that Mueller denied a BuzzFeed News report alleging his investigation had compiled evidence Trump directed Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney, to lie to Congress about the Moscow Trump Tower project.

Many of Trump's posts were retweets from friendly voices like his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and commentator Geraldo Rivera:

In his own tweets, Trump called the BuzzFeed report "disgraceful" and blamed it for a "very sad day for journalism."

Trump also tweeted on familiar topics including the Steele Dossier, the stock market, immigration, and his perceived persecution at the hands of the press. Bonnie Kristian

January 19, 2019

Saturday's third annual Women's March is expected to draw smaller crowds than in previous years thanks to accusations of anti-Semitism among national organizers.

Former Democratic National Committee chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.) formally withdrew her participation Friday, saying she "cannot associate with the national march's leaders and principles, which refuse to completely repudiate anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry."

Other prominent speakers and sponsors from past years — including Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), the Democratic National Committee, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and NARAL — have cut ties as well. Most did not issue specific statements explaining their decision.

For those who do participate, events are organized in Washington, D.C., as well as hundreds of other cities nationwide and around the world. Policy focuses this year include the minimum wage, health care, and opposition to President Trump.

Read The Week's Shikha Dalmia here on the controversy and divisions within the march's ranks. Bonnie Kristian

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