116th Congress Commences, Pelosi Elected Speaker – The new Congress convened on Thursday with a vote in the House of Representatives which had Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi elected Speaker of the House. Pelosi, 78, had faced stiff opposition in the runup to the election from Democratic members who wanted new, fresher voices to lead their majority in the House and their party in general. The House of Representatives, now under Democratic control, is expected to open multiple investigations into alleged improprieties committed by President Trump. Ms. Pelosi sent a letter inviting Trump to deliver a State of the Union address to the nation on January 29th.
Russia Charges American With Espionage – Paul Whelan, a Marine veteran being held in solitary confinement in a Russian prison has been charged in court for espionage. If convicted, Mr. Whelan, 48, could face up to 20 years in prison. Many analysts believe the arrest occurred in order to give Russia a bargaining chip in a possible prisoner exchange with the United States for Maria Butina, a Russian national who recently admitted to acting on behalf of Russia in the United States.
No End In Sight For Shutdown – The partial shutdown of the federal government continues as Democrats and the White House are unable to agree to terms on reopening the government. Democrats in the new 116th Congress passed a spending bill Thursday to reopen the government, but it is not clear if the bill will even get to a vote in the Senate, not to mention passing in the Senate. Even if the bill does, by some miracle, get approved by the Senate, President Trump has vowed to veto any bill which does not include funding for a border wall. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged the impasse in negotiations between Republicans and Democrats, saying that it seems the shutdown could last for months.
Romney Blasts Trump In Op-Ed – Freshman Senator from Utah Mitt Romney penned an op-ed in The Washington Post slamming President Trump’s character, saying the president’s actions over his first two years in office show that he “has not risen to the mantle of the office”. By writing the op-ed, Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, clearly demonstrated that he will not be a friend to the president in the Senate, while most Republicans, even those who disagree with Trump, continue to tow the party line. President Trump responded to the critique via tweet, telling Romney to “be a team player” and to focus on border security. Ronna McDaniel, Romney’s niece and chairwoman of the Republican National Committee sent out a tweet attacking Senator Romney for his op-ed, saying that Romney’s action “feed into what the Democrats and media want”. It’s probably been a frosty holiday season in the Romney home.
Warren Jumps Into 2020 Race – Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) announced on Monday that she was forming an exploratory committee in advance of a possible bid for the presidency in 2020. Her announcement made her the first major Democratic player in a possibly crowded 2020 field to openly admit her intentions. Warren, often derided by President Trump as “Pocahontas” for her claims to being part Native American, is an ultra-liberal who believes her leftist stances, especially on fiscal issues, resonates with young voters, which could help propel her to the Democratic nomination.
Trump Slows Syria Withdrawal – Following fierce pushback from his national security team and Senator Lindsey Graham, President Trump has apparently agreed to move back the deadline for US withdrawal from Syria from thirty days to several months. Senator Rubio introduced a bill in the Senate, sponsored by Republican Senators Mitch McConnell and Jim Risch which would increase sanctions on Syria, a move which is seen as a protest of President Trump’s decision to pull US troops from Syria.