By Robert A. Vella
‘Don’t tell Trump’
WASHINGTON — In the months before Kirstjen Nielsen was forced to resign, she tried to focus the White House on one of her highest priorities as homeland security secretary: preparing for new and different Russian forms of interference in the 2020 election.
President Trump’s chief of staff told her not to bring it up in front of the president.
Ms. Nielsen left the Department of Homeland Security early this month after a tumultuous 16-month tenure and tensions with the White House. Officials said she had become increasingly concerned about Russia’s continued activity in the United States during and after the 2018 midterm elections — ranging from its search for new techniques to divide Americans using social media, to experiments by hackers, to rerouting internet traffic and infiltrating power grids.
But in a meeting this year, Mick Mulvaney, the White House chief of staff, made it clear that Mr. Trump still equated any public discussion of malign Russian election activity with questions about the legitimacy of his victory. According to one senior administration official, Mr. Mulvaney said it “wasn’t a great subject and should be kept below his level.”
Judge blocks rule change
A federal judge on Tuesday said that he would block the Trump administration from setting new rules that would have cut off millions of dollars in government funding from Planned Parenthood.
U.S. District Judge Michael McShane, a nominee of former President Barack Obama, said on he would grant a preliminary injunction, calling the rule a “ham-fisted approach to public health policy.” The case landed in court Tuesday after lawsuits brought by Oregon and 20 other states.
The rule, which was set to go into effect May 3, concerns a $286 million-a-year grant, known as Title X, that pays for birth control, testing of sexually transmitted diseases, and cancer screenings for 4 million low-income people. It requires the “physical and financial” separation of family planning services and abortion, and does not allow doctors to directly refer patients for abortions.
“At the heart of this rule is an arrogant assumption that the government is better suited to direct women’s healthcare than their providers,” McShane said during the hearing, according to the Courthouse News Service. “The final rule would create such a financial strain on medical providers that, ironically, it would create a vacuum that would create substantially more abortions.”
GOP turmoil for 2020
Senior Trump 2020 advisers are headed to Harrisburg on Wednesday to meet with Pennsylvania GOP officials amid mounting concerns about the president’s prospects in the critical battleground state.
Trump’s campaign is moving to shore up the state after 2018 midterm elections that saw Republicans get blown out in races up and down the ballot. Compounding the situation is a state party organization riven by turmoil and infighting.
Rep. Andy McKean, 69, the longest serving Republican currently in the Iowa legislature, announced Tuesday he would register as a Democrat after being registered as a Republican for almost 50 years.
“With the 2020 presidential election looming on the horizon, I feel, as a Republican, that I need to be able to support the standard bearer of our party. Unfortunately, that is something I’m unable to do. I believe that it is just a matter of time before our country pays a heavy price for President Trump’s reckless spending and short-sighted financial policies, his erratic, destabilizing foreign policy, and his disregard for environmental concerns,” he said in a statement.
Voter turnout data
Turnout among 18- to 29-year-old voters surged between 2014 and 2018, according to data released Tuesday.
In 2014, just 20 percent of people in that age group voted, compared to 36 percent in 2018, an increase of 79 percent, the Census Bureau reported, citing data from the Voting and Registration Supplement.
Overall turnout was the highest it had been in decades, increasing from 41.9 percent in 2014 to 53.4 percent in 2018. According to The Washington Post, the 2018 turnout represented a 100-year high.
The release of methane and carbon dioxide from thawing permafrost will accelerate global warming and add up to $70tn (£54tn) to the world’s climate bill, according to the most advanced study yet of the economic consequences of a melting Arctic.
If countries fail to improve on their Paris agreement commitments, this feedback mechanism, combined with a loss of heat-deflecting white ice, will cause a near 5% amplification of global warming and its associated costs, says the paper, which was published on Tuesday in Nature Communications.
The authors say their study is the first to calculate the economic impact of permafrost melt and reduced albedo – a measure of how much light that hits a surface is reflected without being absorbed – based on the most advanced computer models of what is likely to happen in the Arctic as temperatures rise. It shows how destabilised natural systems will worsen the problem caused by man-made emissions, making it more difficult and expensive to solve.