The Supreme Court confirmed Friday that it will consider the legality of President Trump's travel ban, which restricts travel to the United States from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad, and North Korea, and for certain government officials from Venezuela, The New York Times reports.
Six of the eight nations targeted by the ban are predominately Muslim. A lawsuit filed by Hawaii legally challenged the ban, which was issued in September, and succeeded before a federal district court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
The Supreme Court has signaled it could be amenable to Trump's ban, which is the third of its kind to be issued by the Trump administration. Oral arguments could begin as soon as April. Jeva Lange
The Trump administration on Thursday instituted new guidelines protecting pro-life medical workers. The new rules will protect medical professionals who oppose abortion, contraceptive use, or gender reassignment, allowing them to adhere to any personal objections they may have to facilitating those procedures without penalty.
Politico reported the coming announcement Tuesday, and it was confirmed by the Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday. A new department within HHS, called the "conscience and religious freedom division," will exist as a branch of the department's civil rights office for individuals to report "discrimination" against these pro-life workers, The New York Times reported.
Conservative groups celebrated the initiative, saying it properly shielded health-care workers from being compelled to betray their personal convictions. The Times noted that the HHS announcement occurred just one day before the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., an event celebrated by social conservatives that protests abortion. Kimberly Alters
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 26,000 points Wednesday, CNN Money reported, marking a historic first for the market index. The Dow had first passed the 26,000-point threshold Tuesday, but Wednesday was the first day that it sustained those gains at market close.
Overall, the index spiked 323 points over the course of Wednesday's trading, ending the day at 26,115.65 points. The 1.3 percent bump was spurred by "stronger-than-expected quarterly results from some of the biggest U.S. companies," CNBC explained. Kimberly Alters
President Trump's former chief strategist and campaign CEO Stephen Bannon was reportedly subpoenaed last week by Special Counsel Robert Mueller to testify before a grand jury, a person familiar with the decision told The New York Times. This is the first known instance of a grand jury subpoena being used on someone in Trump's inner circle, and "could be a negotiating tactic," the Times writes, noting that Mueller "is likely to allow Mr. Bannon to forgo the grand jury appearance if he agrees to instead be questioned by investigators in the less formal setting of the special counsel's offices in Washington."
But as Solomon L. Wisenberg, who served as a prosecutor for the independent counsel that investigated former President Bill Clinton, observed: "By forcing someone to testify through a subpoena, you are providing the witness with cover because they can say, 'I had no choice — I had to go in and testify about everything I knew.'"
Bannon testified behind closed doors Tuesday in front of the House Intelligence Committee which, like Mueller, is looking for evidence of Russian interference in the election. Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told ABC News that he has questions for Bannon about Trump-related money laundering, among other inquiries. Jeva Lange
An adult film star was allegedly paid $130,000 to keep quiet about an affair with Donald Trump, The Wall Street Journal reports
President Trump's lawyer might have arranged a $130,000 payment to former adult film star Stephanie "Stormy Daniels" Clifford during the campaign to ensure she not speak publicly about an alleged sexual encounter with the president at a Lake Tahoe golf tournament in 2006, The Wall Street Journal reports based on conversations with people familiar with the alleged dealing.
The encounter was reportedly consensual, although another adult film star, Jessica Drake, claimed in October 2016 that Trump kissed her and two other women without consent in a suite at the same tournament. The Journal previously reported that Karen McDougal, the 1998 Playmate of the Year, was paid $150,000 by the National Enquirer for a story of her own alleged 2006 affair with Trump, although it was not ultimately published. Trump notably married Melania Trump in 2005.
"Rumors that I have received hush money from Donald Trump are completely false," Clifford wrote in a statement to the Journal. Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, said: "This is now the second time that you are raising outlandish allegations against my client. You have attempted to perpetuate this false narrative for over a year; a narrative that has been consistently denied by all parties since at least 2011." Read the full allegations at The Wall Street Journal. Jeva Lange
Editor's note: This post originally mischaracterized the National Enquirer's payment to Karen McDougal. It has since been corrected. We regret the error.
Bipartisan immigration talks stalled on Thursday after Trump threw "gasoline to the fire," in the words of Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), by dismissing immigrants from "shithole countries." While the White House did not reject the reports, which were supplied by a Democratic aide to NBC News, President Trump appeared to deny his word choice on Friday, tweeting:
The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made - a big setback for DACA!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2018
Trump's frustrations had reportedly boiled over during talks about the visa lottery program and the temporary protected status program, which his administration just ended for some 200,000 Salvadorans who have lived in the U.S. for more than a decade. The Congressional Black Caucus chairman, Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), claimed the president's comments are "further proof that his Make America Great Again agenda is really a Make America White Again agenda."
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), who was present at the meeting, confirmed Trump did not approve of the bipartisan plan, The New York Times reports. Durbin added: "I don't know what happens next." Jeva Lange
House votes to extend National Security Agency's sweeping spying laws another 6 years in victory for Trump, Ryan
The House rejected a bipartisan effort to limit the National Security Agency's surveillance program in a 233-183 vote Thursday, marking a victory for President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). The proposal would have required officials to get warrants in most situations before reading any American citizens' electronic messages that are incidentally picked up when spying on the communications of foreigners abroad.
In a second subsequent vote, the House approved 256-164 to extend Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act by six years. The section allows the government to continue warrantless collection of foreign communications from American firms like Google and AT&T, regardless of if the emails, text messages, or photos are exchanged with American citizens, The New York Times reports. "Section 702 was written to go after terrorists, but it is being used to go after Americans," argued Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) on the floor Thursday, USA Today reports.
While the legislation still requires Senate approval, the House was the likelier forum for limits to be imposed on the surveillance program because fewer lawmakers in the Senate approve of changes to the spying laws. Earlier Thursday, Trump contradicted the White House's official stance in favor of the surveillance law, although he publicly amended his opinion after a phone call from Ryan, the Times reports. Jeva Lange
The Canadian government is "convinced" that President Trump intends to pull the U.S. out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Reuters reported Wednesday. NAFTA has linked Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. via trilateral free trade since 1994.
But America's neighbors to the north are increasingly wary the president — who has repeatedly railed against NAFTA, including calling it the "worst trade deal ever made" — will announce America's withdrawal from the deal. Reuters, citing two Canadian government sources, explained that Canada is expecting Trump to "make his move at about the same time that negotiators from the United States, Canada, and Mexico meet in late January for the sixth and penultimate round of talks to modernize the treaty."
Both the Canadian dollar and Mexican peso weakened against the American dollar after the report, Reuters noted. Daniel Dale of The Toronto Star pointed out that should Trump trigger a withdrawal, it would not take effect immediately, but rather begin a six-month extraction process. Additionally, Dale said, it is "unclear if [Trump] has the power to withdraw without [congressional] approval," and there will be "lawsuits coming if he tries."