Congressional Memo: G.O.P.’s Grand Visions for Congress Now Look Like a Mirage


But in the 115th Congress, the Senate has done little more than struggle to confirm Mr. Trump’s nominees, and Republicans ultimately helped force his choice for labor secretary, Andrew F. Puzder, to withdraw from consideration on Wednesday in the face of unified Democratic opposition.

The House has spent most of its time picking off a series of deregulation measures, like overturning a rule intended to protect surface water from mining operations. For his part, Mr. Trump has relied mostly on executive orders to advance policies.

The inactivity stems from a lack of clear policy guidance — and, just as often, contradictory messages — from the Trump administration, which does not appear to have spent the campaign and transition periods forming a legislative wish list. Democrats have also led efforts to slow the confirmation of nominees to Mr. Trump’s cabinet who might otherwise be leading the charge.

“When you spend a lot of time talking about policy and debating policy in the presidential campaign, it is far easier to be specific about legislation when you get into office,” said Austan Goolsbee, who served as the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers during the Obama administration. “President Trump spent the campaign fleshing out nothing in detail, so it’s not really a surprise that they can’t even agree on priorities, much less on actual legislative detail.”

House Republicans say slow and steady was always the plan. “We are 100 percent on pace with the 200-day plan we presented to President Trump and to members at our retreat,” Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Speaker Paul D. Ryan, wrote in an email. “Budget first (check), then regs (check), then Obamacare bill (in process and on schedule), and then tax (after Obamacare).”

But even Democrats, who had been gearing up for fights and compromises on health care, a tax overhaul, infrastructure and other policy matters, are bored and frustrated. “It’s painful for someone like me who was excited about infrastructure and tax reform,” said Representative Jim Himes, Democrat of Connecticut. “It seems like the administration and the majority are nowhere.”

Congressional Republicans seem wary of offering their own bills, lest Mr. Trump or one of his aides, who have largely been distracted by personnel and intelligence scandals, undercut their efforts. This was most visible when Mr. Trump demanded that Republicans come up with a replacement plan for a health care law they had hoped to simply repeal, sending members flailing. The administration also gave conflicting messages on a tax plan embraced by House Republicans that would apply the corporate tax rate to all imports while exempting exports.

“On our side, it’s pretty clear who drives policy,” said a Republican aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid being written about by Mr. Trump on Twitter. “But take any issue and try to figure that out from their side.”

Is the leading influence Mr. Trump’s policy adviser, Stephen Miller, who presents himself as the voice of the White House? Or the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner? Or Vice President Mike Pence? No one seems to know.

Huge overhauls of the nation’s health and tax systems — long congressional Republicans’ fantasy — are hard under the best of circumstances. When Democrats run Congress, “it’s easier for them to move ahead because they’re looking for ways to expand and grow government,” said Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona. “Republicans are looking to rein government in.”

Republicans say things would be going great if only Democrats would allow Mr. Trump his cabinet. Under current Senate rules, Democrats are unable to filibuster any of the nominees, but they have gone out of their way to use procedural tools to drag out the process, partly because many of the president’s choices are contentious, and partly because of their antipathy for Mr. Trump. Their lone victory so far: toppling Mr. Puzder.

“They have undertaken the most unprecedented obstruction of cabinet nominees in history,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said on the Senate floor on Wednesday. The Senate is also preparing for battle over Mr. Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, who has been meeting with senators. “So far, Democrats are gumming up the works,” said Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania. “We will persevere. We will work our way through it.”

But if every nominee were magically confirmed tomorrow, “where would they go next?” asked Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois. “There is no leadership there.”

Indeed, a largely policy-free campaign left the Trump administration flat-footed from the start, and questions about his campaign’s communications with Russia and other distractions have prevented serious lawmaking discussions.

Some Republicans are frustrated that even social policy bills that have long been mainstays in the House, but died in the Senate or were vetoed by Mr. Obama, are not moving forward. “I’m much more concerned about what we are not doing in the House relative to these core value issues,” said Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio.

There have been some tentative steps toward cooperation, like an examination of Russian involvement in the presidential election. “To date, the Republicans have been pretty constructive partners on things like Russian hacking,” Mr. Himes said.

But that collaboration has its limits. A bill that would force the Trump administration to consult Congress before taking any steps to lift sanctions on Russia has been waylaid.

“We’ve got to have a government functioning first,” said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, a sponsor of the bill.

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Behind the Fortress Deal: A Japanese Billionaire's Huge Ambitions


Late last year, Fortress Investment Group co-Chairman Peter Briger talked to an old friend about a deal for his firm.

On the line was Rajeev Misra, who left Fortress in 2014 for a senior post at SoftBank Group, the Japanese telecommunications company. The New York firm was being undervalued by the public markets and wanted to go private, Mr. Briger said during the call, according to people familiar with the matter.​

The deal…



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Yellen Defends Fed Efforts to Boost Economy During House Questioning


Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen on Wednesday fended off Republican criticism of the central bank’s efforts to boost the economy, and repeated her warnings that proposals to rein in the Fed could compromise its independence.

Ms. Yellen, testifying before the House Financial Services Committee, touted the economy’s improvement since the financial crisis, including a substantially lower jobless rate, but acknowledged that growth…



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Are Schools Banning Valentine’s Day Because it Offends Muslims?


CLAIM

At least one state banned Valentine’s Day at schools because it is offensive to Muslims. See Example(s)

EXAMPLES

Collected via e-mail and Twitter, February 2017

there is a rumor that some schools are cancelling Valentine’s Day because it is offensive to Muslims.




mostly false

RATING

mostly false

WHAT’S TRUE

In January 2016, a single school in St. Paul discontinued Valentine’s Day celebrations in keeping a 2008 policy discouraging classroom observances (including birthdays).

WHAT’S FALSE

The policy extended to all non-federal observances, and did not originate with Muslims.

ORIGIN

On 15 February 2017, the web site LibertyIsViral.com reported that the state of Minnesota had banned Valentine’s Day, specifically because it “offends Muslims”:

Guess Which State Just BANNED VALENTINES DAY Because It ‘OFFENDS MUSLIMS’ … SERIOUSLY

WTF?! SINCE WHEN DID AMERICA BECOME FILLED WITH THE MOST VILE OPPRESSIVE ASS BACKWARDS PUSSIES ON THE FACE OF GOD’S GREEN EARTH? THIS IS STARTING TO MAKE ME FURIOUS. AMERICANS NEED TO GET THEIR HEADS OUT OF THEIR ASSES AND THEIR KIDS OUT OF GOVERNMENT RUN SCHOOLS BEFORE THEIR CHILDREN ARE TURNED INTO SHEEP.

The Principal of Bruce Vento Elementary School in St. Maul, Minnesota just sent a letter to parents noting that celebrations of Valentine’s Day are banned.

Why? Because it, along with other “dominant holidays,” are offensive to Muslims! … The principal went on to explain the holiday is cancelled as it violates some students’ religious beliefs. This is a reference to Muslims are not allowed to celebrate it. The romantic holiday is outlawed throughout every Islamic nation … Schools are never this sensitive to the needs of Christian students, but liberal school administrators will stop at nothing to appease Muslims. This is outrageous!

According to the misleading story, the principal at Bruce Vento Elementary School in St. Paul banned Valentine’s because it offended Muslims, citing a 29 January 2016 article published by the Star Tribune. That article began:

Celebrations of Valentine’s Day and the other “dominant holidays” are ending at one St. Paul elementary school, according to a letter from the principal addressed to families.

Principal Scott Masini of Bruce Vento Elementary School, whose student body is overwhelmingly nonwhite, explained in the letter that “my personal feeling is we need to find a way to honor and engage in holidays that are inclusive of our student population … I have come to the difficult decision to discontinue the celebration of the dominant holidays until we can come to a better understanding of how the dominant view will suppress someone else’s view.”

Masini said there will be no cards or treats brought to school to mark Valentine’s Day.

The letter listed the holidays that the East Side school will no longer celebrate as Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Masini said the decision was made in consultation with his staff.

“One of the concerns that I have,” Masini wrote, “ … is whether or not this practice is encroaching on the educational opportunities of others and threatening the culture of tolerance and respect for all.”

The reason the original piece pointed out the proportion of “nonwhite” pupils at the school was not clear, as religion and melanin content are not interchangeable. Statistics provided in the article showed that Asian-American and Pacific Islander students were in the majority at 52.3 percent (a large percentage of whom identify as Christian). The second and third largest demographics at 35.4 and 6.9 percent respectively were black (also Christian) and Hispanic (largely Christian or Catholic).

Masini made no reference to Islam or any other religion in the entirety of the article, and the single sentence about to religious objections came from comments made by a Facebook user in support of the policy change:

The letter surfaced Wednesday evening on an invitation-only Facebook page titled “Supporting St. Paul Students and Teachers.” By daybreak Thursday, there were dozens of comments left on the page, which was started by parents in the district two years ago in connection with teacher contract talks.

“Very sad. All the fun is gone,” read one posting. “Totally ridiculous” and “Tired of the PC,” read two others.

In support, one commenter said she believes Masini and his staff are “being sensitive to children at their school who do not practice these holidays due to religious beliefs. … Holidays are very personal. Every family has a different take on how they celebrate or do not celebrate them.”

Left out of the 2017 rehash of the 2016 article was its background about the district’s overall policy regarding classroom observance of holidays across the board, put in place nearly a decade before anyone claimed that offended Muslims were to blame:

School board policy regarding holidays, last revised in 2008, says that schools “shall discourage lavish programs and festivities arranged to celebrate holidays and other special days, and shall strive to eliminate them, if possible except where such observances are required by law.” Those holidays: Washington’s Birthday, Lincoln’s Birthday, Martin Luther King’s Birthday and Veterans Day … The district eliminated student birthday party celebrations a few years ago to ensure inclusiveness, meaning no more goodies brought into classrooms on special days, [district spokesman Tony] Taschner said.

We found no information whatsoever to suggest that the primary claim (that offended Muslims ordered the cancellation of Valentine’s Day at one school or an entire state) had any basis in truth. That decision was covered by an area newspaper in January 2016 (not February 2017), and the reasons it was revisited as if novel were not apparent.The claim appeared to be a rehash of routine allegations that offended Muslims have demanded or coerced (non-existent) bans on Christmas, the Pledge of Allegiance, poppies, the National Anthem, the American flag in America, the Statue of Liberty, Halloween (twice), bathing suits at water parks, bacon, England jerseys, pork, ham, the graves of grandparents, chapel benches, and the use of microwaves for non-halal food.

Sources:

Walsh, Paul.   “St. Paul School Kisses Valentine’s Day, Other ‘Dominant Holidays,’ Goodbye.”
StarTribune.   29 January 2016.

PewResearchCenter.   “The Shifting Religious Identity Of Latinos In The United States.”
7 May 2014.

PewResearchCenter.   “A Religious Portrait Of African-Americans.”
30 January 2009.

PewResearchCenter.   “Asian Americans: A Mosaic Of Faiths.”
19 July 2012.



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Nordstrom Files for Chapter 11 After Scott Baio Boycott?


CLAIM

Retail chain Nordstrom filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after Scott Baio boycotts.




false

RATING

false

ORIGIN

On 13 February 2017, Fox News published a story appearing to report that “Happy Days” actor Scott Baio announced he would boycott retail chain Nordstrom because he was unhappy with its decision to drop the clothing line of President Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka:

Actor Scott Baio, a known President Donald Trump supporter, said on Twitter that he is dropping Nordstrom after the department store dropped ties with Ivanka Trump.

Though the retailer cited declining sales, the move coincided with calls for a boycott against stores that carry any products related to the Trump family.

In the tweet, Baio included a photo of his store statement, showing he had spent more than $30,000 this past year at Nordstrom.

The tweet prompted comedians to pile on the actor (best known for playing Chachi):

Unhappy with being the butt of South African comedian and “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah’s joke, Baio responded, “When you, @Trevornoah learn what it means to be an American then you’ll have a say. Until then enjoy our $ and shut your pie-hole!”

The flap prompted Huffington Post blogger David Fagin to write a satirical post reporting that the mall chain best known for selling clothing and cosmetics was going under, thanks entirely to Baio’s boycott:

Retailers who think they can do whatever they want with their brands, and not have to answer to washed-up teenage heartthrobs, better think again.

Within minutes of former child star, Scott Baio, announcing that both he, and his wife, would no longer shop at Nordstrom, due to what they believe is a politically motivated boycott of his fantasy wife, Ivanka Trump, the nation’s top retailer announced plans to file for Chapter 11 protection…

A loss of such magnitude shook the stock market as well, as the Dow dropped nearly 400 points, sending Wall Street reeling, after what is now hashtagging as #BaioWatch. Tomorrow’s front page of The Retail Times reads simply, “Charles is in charge of Nordstrom.”

This many store closings will obviously mean the loss of thousands of jobs, but many soon-to-be former Nordstrom employees say they aren’t worried. “I’m a cosmetologist by trade,” said Joyce Stewart, a sixty-eight year-old Nordstrom veteran of twenty-one years, “but I’ve always dreamt of working with my hands, sixteen/seventeen hours a day in a heavy-lifting, menial labor type of job. I see this as a sign to finally do what I love, and that means helping to build a wall around Mexico.”

While some apparently thought the post was straight news, it was clearly labeled “satire” at the top. A spokeswoman for Nordstrom confirmed to us that the retailer is not filing for bankruptcy.

Sources:

Fox News. “Scott Baio Says He’s Dropping Nordstrom After Store Drops Ivanka Trump.”
13 February 2017.

Fagin, David. “In Wake of Scott Baio Boycott, Nordstrom Files For Chapter 11.”
Huffington Post. 13 February 2017.



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White House Proposes New Rules to Steady Insurance Markets Under Health Law


On Capitol Hill, conservatives declared that they are not about to accept a health law replacement that remotely resembles the Affordable Care Act. And the I.R.S. adopted a policy for the coming tax season that could weaken the requirement for people to have insurance. The tax agency said it was reversing one aspect of an Obama administration plan after Mr. Trump, on his first day in office, issued an executive order instructing agencies to reduce burdens imposed by compliance with the Affordable Care Act wherever legally possible.

The proposed rules signal the Trump administration’s urgency in trying to keep other insurers from fleeing the market after Humana’s departure. The company said on Tuesday that it was losing money by insuring too many sick people without enough healthy ones enrolling. Humana had already scaled back its participation to 11 states this year, from 19 in 2016.

Mark T. Bertolini, the chief executive of Aetna, said Wednesday that the marketplaces were in “a death spiral,” and at a conference sponsored by The Wall Street Journal, he declined to say if his company would participate next year. And Molina Healthcare, one of the few insurers that seemed to be financially successful under the health law, reported on Wednesday that it was losing money in the marketplaces. It threatened to drop out if its concerns about a risk-sharing program requiring the company to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to other insurers were not addressed.

Dr. Patrick H. Conway, the acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the rules proposed on Wednesday “will help protect Americans enrolled in the individual and small group health insurance markets while future reforms are being debated.”

But Democrats and consumer groups denounced the proposed rules, saying they would make it more difficult for people to enroll and increase costs for some consumers.

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the senior Democrat on the Finance Committee, said the rules sent “a clear message to the American people: Patients are not a priority, and insurance companies are back in charge.”

Under the proposed rules, the annual open enrollment period would be reduced to about six weeks from two months. The shorter time frame would be similar to the open enrollment periods for Medicare and for many employer-sponsored health plans.

But the administration acknowledged that the shorter sign-up period “could lead to a reduction in enrollees, primarily younger and healthier enrollees” who often sign up near the deadline.

Other parts of the rules would limit opportunities for people to hold off on buying insurance until they get sick, a phenomenon that has loaded many health plans offered under the Affordable Care Act with more expensive, sick customers than they expected. By manipulating a system that now precludes insurers from rejecting customers with pre-existing medical conditions, consumers are avoiding the purchase of insurance when they are healthy and rushing in when they need it, insurers say.

The rules also would require consumers to provide “supporting documentation” to prove they were eligible to enroll in health plans through HealthCare.gov outside the standard open enrollment season. The administration estimated that 650,000 people annually could have their enrollment delayed because of the new requirement to verify eligibility.

People can sign up after the deadline if they experience certain “life changes” like having a baby, getting married or losing employer-sponsored insurance. Insurers have told the government for several years that people who sign up in a special enrollment period use up to 50 percent more services than those who sign up in the regular enrollment season.

Insurers and Republican members of Congress welcomed the proposed changes, which will be published in the Federal Register on Friday, giving the public until March 7 to comment. Final rules are likely to be issued in March or April. Insurers must decide by early May what kinds of health plans they will offer in 2018.

Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee and chairman of the Senate health committee, said the proposals were “important first steps to rescue a collapsing Obamacare individual market.’’

But insurers cautioned that the proposed rules, while helpful, would in no way provide a solution if, in a few weeks, Republicans introduce legislation to repeal major provisions of the Affordable Care Act, such as the requirement for most Americans to have coverage.

Christopher W. Hansen, the president of the advocacy arm of the American Cancer Society, said the tighter restrictions on special enrollment periods could “cause problems for cancer patients,” delaying treatment and reducing their chances of survival.

Changes being made by the I.R.S. could weaken incentives for people to obtain insurance. The tax agency said it would accept and process tax returns even if taxpayers failed to indicate whether they had coverage, qualified for an exemption or were paying the penalty for going without insurance.

The individual mandate, requiring most Americans to have insurance, was to be enforced through the tax system. The I.R.S. said the requirement was “still in force until changed by Congress.” The government can deduct the amount of any penalty from refunds that would otherwise be sent to taxpayers. But it is unclear how it will use this authority.

In the rules proposed Wednesday, the Trump administration said that it would generally allow states to determine whether insurance plans had enough doctors, hospitals and other health care providers to serve patients. The hope is that would lure more insurers into the market. Additionally, insurers could refuse to provide new coverage to consumers who failed to pay premiums owed in the previous year. If an insurer terminates coverage for nonpayment of premiums, it could require consumers to pay all past-due premiums owed to that insurer before restarting coverage.

And insurers would be allowed to sell health plans covering a smaller share of expected costs. The administration said consumers would have “more coverage options” as a result, but it acknowledged that some consumers could see increases in their deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs.

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Boeing Workers Reject a Union in South Carolina


On Friday, Boeing will unveil its newest Dreamliner, the 787-10, a larger model being built exclusively in North Charleston, at a ceremony Mr. Trump is set to attend.

Notable Recent Union Efforts in the South

The union vote came almost two years after the machinists called off a scheduled vote at Boeing’s South Carolina facilities amid what they described as widespread misinformation from management and unrelenting pressure from local politicians.

That setback capped a stretch of high-profile losses for unions across the South. Workers at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., narrowly voted down a union in 2014. In 2011, production and maintenance workers at R. J. Reynolds Tobacco in North Carolina narrowly rejected a union, the third defeat in an organizing effort that had gone on for more than six and a half years.

In South Carolina, interviews with Boeing workers suggested that the union had a legitimate chance of succeeding because the company had failed to defuse some of the frustrations it had promised to address before the previously scheduled vote.

Chief among them was what workers described as management’s unfair approach to evaluating workers and handing out raises and promotions.

Workers and at least one recent manager also complained that instructions for performing their jobs seemed to change from month to month and said that a union would bring more consistency to their work lives.

“The union also affects your immediate managers,” Al Reatz, who retired from Boeing as a manager in September, said in a recorded message to workers at a pro-union rally on Monday. “They can start coming in in the mornings, and they’ll also know what they’re doing each day.”

Photo

The Boeing plant in North Charleston, S.C. On Friday, the company will unveil its newest Dreamliner, the 787-10, a larger model being built there.

Credit
Randall Hill/Reuters

In addition to fairer, objective evaluations and more consistent work instructions, the union’s aims included higher wages for production and maintenance workers in South Carolina, who make about $23 per hour on average, versus about $31 per hour for comparable workers in Washington State.

But in the end, Boeing’s efforts to defeat the organizing campaign proved too strong to overcome. The company implied to workers that a union would drive a wedge between them and management, which the union strongly disputed. Organizers said that workers could seek the help of a union steward if they had a problem on the job, but that they would otherwise be free to deal with managers on their own.

Boeing also dwelled on the machinists’ union’s opposition to its 2009 decision to open a second Dreamliner assembly line in South Carolina. At the time, the union argued that opening the plant would undermine the protected right to strike of tens of thousands of Boeing workers in Washington State, and the machinists filed a charge against the company with the National Labor Relations Board.

A group closely tied to the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance, of which Boeing is a member, ran a series of hard-edge ads opposing the union organizing effort, including one depicting the machinists as a casino boss who wanted workers to gamble away their future.

Before the election, Boeing officials speculated that the union had sought to hold the vote before Mr. Trump appointed two new members to the N.L.R.B., which would give Republicans a majority that might be more sympathetic to objections from the company about the conduct of the election, and less so to any union appeal.

Mike Evans, the lead local organizer for the machinists’ union, disputed that, saying the union had moved to hold the vote because it believed it had finally built sufficient support among workers.

But the board’s changing partisan makeup could be a factor in future organizing efforts. In addition to being more sympathetic to objections from management and more skeptical of charges filed by workers, a Republican board could undo rules enacted in 2015 to expedite the election process, a move widely viewed as helping organizers.

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Has the Process to Impeach President Donald Trump Begun?


CLAIM

The process to impeach President Trump has begun.




false

RATING

false

ORIGIN

On 15 February 2017, left-of-center web site BipartisanReport.com posted a story with a misleading clickbait headline: “Donald Trump Impeachment Process Begins – FEC Paperwork Filed – Tantrum Imminent.” The story then went on to report that a California Democrat, Boyd Roberts of Laguna Beach, had announced plans to challenge the sitting Republican, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, and has simultaneously launched a political action committee called “Impeach Trump”:

Boyd Roberts, a Democrat in California, has officially registered with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to run gainst Rohrabacher, and he has an interesting plan to do so.

Roberts has submitted the required paperwork to the FEC to establish an “Impeach Trump” leadership political action committee (PAC). The PAC is meant to raise money, which will be donated to help candidates and lawmakers. Based on the paperwork, however, his own campaign is the only beneficiary of it at this time.

Counter to what the story implies, the impeachment process does not involve the FEC. Instead, impeachment proceedings are initiated by the House of Representatives, and the trial is carried out by the Senate. The Constitution states:

The House of Representatives shall choose their speaker and other officers; and shall have the sole power of impeachment…

The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.

Although no formal process has begun to impeach President Donald Trump, the idea has been bandied about since he was sworn in on 20 January 2017. Two liberal groups, Free Speech for People and Roots Action, have begun gathering signatures and organizing support for impeachment of the 45th president, asserting that his business ties violate the emoluments clause of the Constitution. Norman Solomon, a co-founder of Roots Action, described the process in an op-ed for The Hill:

The Constitution states that to start impeachment proceedings, a document or “resolution calling for a committee investigation of charges against the officer in question” must be introduced in the House of Representatives. Such a move would have been appropriate from the moment that Trump became president.

As documented in depth on the ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow.org website — where more than 600,000 people have already signed a petition for impeachment — the president continues to violate two “emoluments” clauses in the Constitution. One prohibits any gifts or benefits from foreign governments, and the other prohibits the same from the U.S. government or any U.S. state.

Impeachment proceedings, which are formal charges of misconduct brought against elected officials, are extremely rare occurrences. In recent history, they were brought against Bill Clinton — but that failed to sink his presidency. Richard Nixon left office before the process could be carried out to completion. The only other president to face impeachment was Andrew Johnson in 1868. He was acquitted.

Sources:

Mayhew, Eliza. “Donald Trump Impeachment Process Begins – FEC Paperwork Filed – Tantrum Imminent.”
Bipartisan Report. 15 February 2017.

Solomon, Norman. “The House Should Start Impeachment Against Trump Now.”
The Hill. 6 February 2017.

Panzar, Javier. “Laguna Beach Real Estate Broker Who Hopes to Unseat Rep. Dana Rohrabacher Launches Impeach Trump PAC.”
The Los Angeles Times. 14 February 2017.



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Aquaman Training Video Shows Off Jason Momoa's Sword Skills


Earlier today, Aquaman star Jason Momoa revealed that he recently read the script for this superhero adventure, praising the unique world that the King of Atlantis inhabits. The actor also teased that he’s recently started his training for the movie. And as it turns out, we now have a brief glimpse at some of the actor’s swordplay training, thanks to a new video. While we don’t get a detailed glimpse at the actor’s skills, it’s clear he’s training pretty hard for this latest addition to the DCEU.

This video was posted on Instagram by the athletic apparel company Hyperfly, which shows Jason Momoa working on his swordplay moves with three unidentified trainers at the 87Eleven facility, which was founded by John Wick directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch. The video isn’t terribly long, but it gives us a tiny glimpse into what kinds of sword fighting scenes we may see his character Arthur Curry engage in during this swashbuckling adventure. The actor may be training for quite some time, since a recent report claims that filming may not start for several months.

A report from September said that this Aquaman movie will start filming this summer at Leavesden Studios in London, with principal photography also taking place on location in Australia. There was also another report in December that claimed director James Wan is prepping for a September shoot in Italy. No exact filming dates were given for these summer and fall shoots, but it’s possible that Jason Momoa could be training for the next several months to play Aquaman, which hopefully means we may get to see more training videos like this before filming gets under way.

While Jason Momoa has been in training, the cast is starting to come together, with Temeura Morrison recently entering talks to play Arthur Curry’s human father. If he does in fact sign on, he’ll join a cast that includes Amber Heard as Mera, Willem Dafoe as Nuidis Vulko, Patrick Wilson as Orm, Nicole Kidman as Atlanna and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Black Manta. James Wan is directing from a script by Will Beall. Warner Bros. recently pushed Aquaman from a July 27, 2018 release date to October 5, 2018, which is currently the only movie slated for release on that date. It will open one week after Warner Bros.’ A Star Is Born remake starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.

Director James Wan previously teased in interviews that the story has a lot of “action-romance” elements, comparing parts of the story to the 1980s classic Romancing the Stone. The director teased that the story begins with both Aquaman and Mera “not quite clicking with each other,” but then they grow closer throughout the movie. Hopefully we’ll find out more about Aquaman before filming stars, but until then, check out this new video featuring Jason Momoa’s sword training.



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Suicide Squad 2 Wants Director Mel Gibson


Warner Bros. has reportedly engaged in early talks with filmmaker Mel Gibson to direct the studio’s Suicide Squad sequel. No formal offer has been issued yet, but Mel Gibson is reportedly “familiarizing himself” with the source material. Warner Bros. is also considering other filmmakers. Daniel Espinosa (Safe House) is one of the other directors the studio is eyeing, though it isn’t clear how many other filmmakers are in the mix for this coveted gig.

The Hollywood Reporter broke the news today, revealing that the studio is not “being passive” in regards to this sequel. Many fans wondered if this would even happen at all, after Suicide Squad director David Ayer came aboard to direct another Warner Bros./DC project, Gotham City Sirens, which features Margot Robbie reprising her Suicide Squad role as Harley Quinn. A report from December revealed that a Suicide Squad sequel is still in the works, although it was believed at the time that David Ayer would simply make Gotham City Sirens first, before moving on to Suicide Squad 2.

A report from August claimed that David Ayer started writing the Suicide Squad 2 screenplay back in July, with Warner Bros. planning a spring 2017 shoot for the superhero sequel. However, Jai Courtney, who played Captain Boomerang in last summer’s Suicide Squad, revealed in an interview that he hasn’t heard anything about reprising his role for Suicide Squad 2. It also remains to be seen if Jared Leto will be back as The Joker, since he was reportedly quite unhappy with how his character turned out in Suicide Squad.

Much like Warner Bros.’ Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad was torn to shreds by critics, but still fared well at the box office, earning $325.1 million domestically and $745.6 million worldwide, from a $175 million budget. There have also been rumors that Warner Bros. may be taking an R-rated approach to Suicide Squad 2, which is most likely due to the success of Deadpool, which managed to out-gross Suicide Squad with $363 million domestic and $783.1 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing R-rated film worldwide in cinematic history.

Suicide Squad 2 is expected to bring back all of the main stars, although there has been talk of a Deadshot spin-off as well. That isn’t set in stone. If Mel Gibson does in fact come aboard to direct this superhero sequel, it will be just another example that his star is finally on the rise once again. After his critically-acclaimed biopic Hacksaw Ridge was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, the actor/filmmaker’s schedule started to fill up. He recently signed to co-star in Paramount’s comedy sequel Daddy’s Home 2 and he is also re-teaming with his Hacksaw Ridge star Vince Vaughn in Dragged Across Concrete.



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