Intense thunderstorms have brought hail and strong rains to some regions of Australia, where bushfires have been burning at an unprecedented scale.
Farmers and firefighters alike celebrated the rain, which has helped disperse smoke in Melbourne and could dampen bushfires. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology, however, has been weary to celebrate, calling the thunderstorms a “double edge sword.” The storms have ushered in a host of new problems like flooding while exacerbating old ones; lightning strikes have sparked at least two new fires in the Great Otway National Park.
“Unfortunately with lightning strikes, it’s not always the next day they pop up,” Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “They can smolder around in trees and in root systems for a couple of days and pop up under drier, hotter conditions.”
While the New South Wales(NSW) Rural Fire Service spoke hopefully about the rain, tweeting “relief is here for a number of firefighters working across NSW,” they noted that the storms alone could not put out current fires. The rains have yet to extinguish fires or hit the regions that need it most.
Relief is here for a number of firefighters working across NSW. Although this rain won’t extinguish all fires, it will certainly go a long way towards containment. This footage was captured down at the Good Good Fire burning near Cooma. #nswrfs#nswfirespic.twitter.com/fxV9u2hN6K
The thunderstorms also bring further problems. On Thursday, three inches of rainfall caused flooding and damage to parts of Melbourne with the city receiving a month’s worth of rain in the span of a few hours. In NSW, 10,000 households and businesses lost power due to thunderstorms.
Authorities have also warned that in drought-ridden regions where bushfires have burnt water-absorbing vegetation, massive amounts of rain could lead to dangerous flash floods and landslides.
Climate scientists say that climate change intensified the current bushfires due to prolonged droughts and record high temperatures. As Australia continues to grapple with its climate emergencies, questions remain about the safety of some areas.
“They’ve got to drastically change their relationship with the surrounding environment; they’ve got to drastically change the surrounding environment in order to be able to survive and reduce their vulnerability,” said Ross Bradstock, the director of the Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfires at the University of Wollongong in an interview with the Atlantic. “Another option is the retreat from flammable places.”
“A review of yesterday’s air traffic control communications shows the Delta Flight 89 crew did not tell air traffic control that they needed to dump fuel,” the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in a statement emailed to TIME.
Pilots typically notify flight controllers if they believe they need to dump fuel, a procedure that is sometimes done to reduce an aircraft’s weight ahead of an emergency landing for safety reasons.
According to a recording of the conversation between a Flight 89 pilot and an air traffic controller from LiveATC.net and reported by CNN, a pilot explicitly said he or she did not need to dump fuel:
Tower: “OK, so you don’t need to hold or dump fuel or anything like that?”
Pilot: “Uh, negative.“
Furthermore, the pilots did not dump fuel “at an optimal altitude” that would have allowed the fuel to dissipate before it reached the ground, the FAA said.
If circumstances allow, controllers can direct pilots in need of a fuel dump to an area where it’s safer to perform the maneuver. However, in an emergency situation, it is ultimately up to pilots to do what they believe is necessary for the safety of their aircraft and those aboard. Whether the fuel dump in Tuesday’s situation was warranted given the aircraft’s situation and position will be central to the investigation of the incident.
Delta Air Lines refused to comment, citing the ongoing investigation. A Delta spokesperson previously said that the aircraft “landed safely after a release of fuel, which was required as part of normal procedure to reach a safe landing weight.”
Delta Air Lines Flight 89 had been en route from Los Angeles to Shanghai and landed just 15 minutes after takeoff on Tuesday at 11:47 a.m., Los Angeles International Airport officials had said.
Fuel dumped by the aircraft fell across five elementary schools and one high school and fire crews treated 60 people for minor injuries, officials said, according to CNN.
No one was hospitalized as a result of the incident. “Students and staff were on the playground at the time and may have been sprayed by fuel or inhaled fumes,” a Los Angeles Unified School District spokesperson said in an earlier statement.
The 64-year-old justice evoked the viral meme during the oral arguments of Babb v. Wilkie, an age discrimination case in which a Department of Veterans Affairs pharmacist named Dr. Noris Babb alleges she was denied promotions in part because of her age.
It is illegal to discriminate against a federal worker because of their age. Babb v. Wilkie asks the question: does age have to be the only reason a worker was denied a promotion for it to be classified as age discrimination? Babb’s lawyers have argued that federal employees only need to prove that age was among several factors for it to be classified as so. The case will affect over a million federal workers who are over the age of 40, according to National Public Radio.
On Wednesday, Babb’s lawyer Roman Martinez argued that Babb experienced ageism at work for years. Roberts then pressed Martinez on what he would classify as age discrimination.
Roberts gave a scenario: What if, during a weeks long process, a younger hiring person said “OK Boomer” to the applicant once. “It doesn’t have to play a role in the actual decision,” he added. “So is that actionable?”
The question drew laughter from the court room.
“I think we would say that it does have to play a role in the decision-making process that leads to the decision,” Martinez responded. “And I think in that particular case, if it really had no role, if it was just sort of, you know, a stray comment in the air, I think that on the facts of that, I think a court could conclude…”
“How do you tell what’s a significant factor in the decision?” Roberts interrupted to ask.
“We’re saying what the statute says… that it needs to be made free from discrimination. We think that applies to the process as a whole,” Martinez said.
Roberts then said that Martinez’ position was becoming “really just a regulation of speech in the workplace.”
Roberts was referring to the viral meme “OK Boomer,” which originated out the social media site TikTok last year. The short videos usually include audio of an older man saying, “The millennials and Generation Z have the Peter Pan syndrome, they don’t ever want to grow up.” Young people them film their reactions, which always ended with the phrase “OK Boomer.” The term quickly took off, becoming shorthand for millennial and Generation Z frustration with Baby Boomer condescension.
This wasn’t the first time the term “OK Boomer” was evoked in the hallowed halls of government. In November 2019, a New Zealand Green Party MP, 25-year-old Chlöe Swarbrick, retorted “OK Boomer” to another MP after he began to heckle her speech on a Zero Carbon Bill in parliament.
Green MP @_chloeswarbrick was heckled by a National MP during her speech on the Zero Carbon Bill.
She fired back with "okay boomer" but the captions on Parliament TV clearly have not yet got the memo on millennial slang: pic.twitter.com/zF8Ogp4Geu
(WASHINGTON) — The Senate overwhelmingly approved a new North American trade agreement Thursday that rewrites the rules of trade with Canada and Mexico and gives President Donald Trump a major policy win before senators turn their full attention to his impeachment trial.
The vote was 89-10.
The measure goes to Trump for his signature. It would replace the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, which tore down most trade barriers and triggered a surge in trade. But Trump and other critics blamed that pact for encouraging U.S. companies to move their manufacturing plants south of the border to take advantage of low-wage Mexican laborers.
Passage of the trade bill came one day after Trump signed a new trade agreement with China, easing trade tensions between the economic powers.
“Quite a week of substantive accomplishments for the nation, for the president and for our international trade,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., shortly before the vote on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada deal.
One day after signing a new trade deal with China, President Donald Trump is expected to get more good news on his trade agenda as the Senate considers a new North American pact.
The House has already overwhelmingly approved the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The Senate is expected to do the same on Thursday and send the measure to Trump’s desk for his signature before it turns to articles of impeachment.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell described the pact as a “major win for the Trump administration, a major win for those of us who are already ready to move past this season of toxic political noise.”
Trump blamed the current trade pact with Canada and Mexico, the North American Free Trade Agreement, for sending millions of manufacturing jobs to low-wage plants south of the U.S. border. His administration secured changes that aim to have more cars produced where workers earn an average of at least $16 an hour. It also secured changes that require Mexico to change its laws to make it easier for workers to form independent unions, which should improve worker conditions and wages and reduce the incentive for U.S. companies to relocate their plants.
While the administration completed its negotiations with Canada and Mexico more than a year ago, Democrats in the House insisted on changes to the pact that they say make it more likely Mexico will follow through on its commitments. As part of those negotiations, the administration agreed to drop a provision that offered expensive biologic drugs — made from living cells — 10 years of protection from cheaper knockoff competition.
Republicans and the president have complained about how long it took to complete the negotiations, but the talks resulted in a rare mix of support for USMCA. The AFL-CIO, an association of trade unions, endorsed the measure along with scores of business and farm groups. The biggest holdouts are environmental groups, which continue to oppose the measure because it doesn’t address climate change. Indeed, they contend the agreement would contribute to rising temperatures.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., marveled Wednesday at how leaders of organized labor and farm groups in his state appeared together to support the pact.
“They both agree that this USMCA trade agreement is a step forward, an improvement over the original NAFTA,” Durbin said. “I think we’ve added to this process by making it truly bipartisan.”
Sweethearts, the pastel candy hearts with romantic messages that have become synonymous with Valentine’s Day, are back after a year-long hiatus — but die-hard fans will note a few significant changes.
The beloved candy was absent last year after it changed ownership to Spangler Candy, perhaps best known as the producer of Dum Dum lollipops, in Fall 2018; the timing of the sale prevented the company from being able to produce Sweethearts in time for Valentine’s Day, much to the disappointment of candy hearts enthusiasts everywhere.
In a statement to CNBC, Spangler spokesperson Diana Moore Eschhofen said that the incident was a learning moment for the company.
“It became really apparent to us how much people were going to miss them,” she said.
In order to ensure that there would be Sweethearts this year, the original Sweethearts equipment from the former Necco factory in Massachusetts, was moved to another plant in a year-long process that involved transporting sixty truckloads of equipment and in some cases, lifting out larger pieces of equipment through the roof with a crane.
Despite the new factory, however, Spangler is still facing its fair share of challenges in creating Sweethearts for fans this year. According to Eschhofen, based on the technical challenges they’re facing and consumer response, it’s doubtful that Spangler will be able to meet the consumer demands for 2020. While the candy hearts will be available at drugstores nationwide, regional stores will have them in limited supply. The hope is that Spangler will be able to meet consumer demands in 2021.
Those won’t be the only changes for the candies either; the printer that gave Sweethearts their trademark romantic quips wasn’t working consistently and the new printer they acquired was damaged — which means that this year’s crop of hearts will have decidedly less to say than usual.
The candy may also taste a little different too, but this change is less about necessity and more about nostalgia. Spangler found the original recipe for Sweethearts in old paperwork; while Necco had modified the formula and flavors over the course of Sweethearts’ 118-year history, Spangler is excited to bring back the OG flavors, including banana and wintergreen — a sweet surprise for any fan of the brand.
The lesson the Barack Obama era should have taught us is the foundational faultiness of specious claims to a post-racial America. For those who refused to see how entrenched racism remained even after Obama’s ascent, Trump emerged a more profane object lesson in the failures of marching away from clarity about who America has been and is perfectly willing to be again with regard to racial matters. The lesson we continue to struggle with, however, is the faultiness of a belief that we are post-feminist or, more to the point, that we are post-patriarchal. This is exceedingly apparent as we watch the Democratic left stumble and fumble over whether and how gender should matter in the current presidential election.
On Tuesday night, I watched the final presidential debate before the Iowa caucuses. It happened during a week where Bernie Sanders was accused of telling Elizabeth Warren in a private meeting in 2018 that he didn’t believe a woman could win the presidency. We have no way of verifying who said what to whom. Warren says he said it. Sanders denies it. But what their conflict in the press and on stage the night of the debate points to is a continuing challenge on the radical left, among both white people and people of color, to fully understand how patriarchy works and what their responsibility is as progressives in combating it. .
Yes, we have seen a sea change in gender conversation in this country. The 2010s brought us the legalization of gay marriage and a robust conversation about queer, trans and gender nonbinary identities. Given the persisting high rates of murder of trans people and the routine and quotidian misgendering of folks by people who insist that maintaining the integrity of English grammar matters more than referring to people by their proper pronouns, we have a long way to go before we can be self-congratulatory. But the fact that my gender studies students now know the difference between cisgender and transgender identities on the first day of class when a decade ago they didn’t is a testament to an important cultural shift. It seems then that gender conversations and struggles are ubiquitous. And it is precisely this set of social circumstances that have obscured the enduring operation of the patriarchy when it comes to the issue of women ascending to the highest levels of leadership.
Many on the progressive left, for instance, argue that representation is not enough. Electing a woman to the presidency, giving her the “vagina vote,” as it was called in 2016, does not ensure that she will actually do a good job representing women’s issues. This is, of course, correct. Women voters and women politicians often take positions that are antithetical to women’s collective and individual well-being. But are we really prepared to say that gender is now merely incidental to leadership? That’s a post-patriarchal dream, but nowhere near being a reality, and it is as specious as any claims to a post-racial America. Given that we are in serious danger of having Roe v. Wade overturned, a decision that affects reproductive freedoms across gender categories, arguing that gender is merely incidental to the election and to Warren’s candidacy is faulty.
But as we watch – and I with growing dread – the winnowing down of the Democratic field potentially to three white men, Sanders, Biden and Buttigieg, we are faced again with the problem of gender. I have, thus far, been disappointed watching progressive white feminists and feminists of color alike continue to argue for a socialist revolution on the grounds that gender would be covered. They make this same case about race, and that, too, is dubious.
Sanders is the most progressive and revolutionary candidate on the merits, these folks argue, so the fact that Warren is a woman – and similarly progressive – can’t matter. The insistence that an elderly white man’s socialist revolution will better address my 21st-century black feminist gender concerns is textbook white liberal paternalism. How will Sanders white masculinity affect and inform how he governs? This is a question that we should get to ask. Being progressive doesn’t mean that one’s race or gender ceases to matter in one’s leadership style and prerogatives, especially not in a world where gender and race are always presumed to matter for how women and people of color will govern.
For these voters, class — and Bernie’s strident advocacy for working-class folks and socialist values — trumps more menial concerns of women’s equality. The language of “women’s equality” seems to be from a 20th–century playbook, and of course, our gender analysis is far too sophisticated now to attend to such concerns. Meanwhile, we have not managed to elect a woman to the presidency in 244 years of being a nation-state. To claim now that Warren’s gender is incidental is also to make the claim that the gender of the 45 men who have been president is also incidental. Of course that’s absurd.
There are two other broad strands of argument on the left from those who insist that they aren’t compelled to proffer the vagina vote. There are those on the black left, who have convinced themselves that there’s no reason to vote for a white woman, because white women are simply water-carriers for a white-supremacist project. As a black feminist, I stand in a long tradition of black women thinkers who have critiqued white women’s gender and racial politics and have called them out for their collusion with white supremacy. And as a regular black chick, I have more than a few stories of white women who inspire my resentment. But a patriarchal analysis reminds us that gender still matters, and it still determines access to structural leadership. In a world where white women voters skewed toward Trump and will likely skew toward him again, it’s fine to distrust white women. It’s not fine to shunt gender to the side when an actual progressive female candidate is running for office.
The second group judges candidates based on how they stack up on the merits with regard to progressive policy. So if you are a member of the radical anti-capitalist left, and Warren insists, as she did in Tuesday’s debate, in talking about how “to make markets work,” then on the merits you have to vote for Sanders the Socialist. Or so the argument goes. But because the analysis of gender here is ancillary, these folks never have to think about whether the first woman to win the presidency can do so as a socialist, given the ways that the concept of the “bleeding heart liberal” carries underneath it a misogynist edge about namby-pamby femme people. It is remarkable that Warren has fared as well as she has running as far to the left as she has. America carries big-stick energy around the world, a phallic project that places female leaders in the position of trying to replicate these behaviors in order to appear tough or reject them at the risk of appearing soft. (Hillary Clinton couldn’t crack this code, and Warren will have to figure it out if she manages to face Trump in the general.)
These voters also choose never to think about the ways that merit-based arguments of the same sort are deployed by corporate America or the halls of academia to wall women and racial minorities out of access to great jobs and organizational leadership opportunities. Anyone who has ever served on a committee charged with hiring candidates who bring some diversity to a place understands how things go when the white guy who meets all the criteria (because he has had structural access to all the privileges that would help him meet all the criteria) is up against a promising woman or person of color who is very good but falls down in a few categories. Or conversely she’s the best, but the standards as written and understood make hiring her seem like too much of a risk. Hiring committees often struggle with what feels to them like the fundamental unfairness of allowing a candidate’s diversity to put them over the top. Many (white) members of these committees see this as a sullying of (a mythic) meritocracy in a way that disadvantages white men. But first, they have to believe that the man in question received all his qualifications on the merits and not because of structural privileges. I expect people on the progressive and radical left, those who claim to understand how intersectionality works, to know better, but they aren’t acting like they do.
In fact, these same arguments have been made about Sanders, that he was being dismissed in 2016 because he is a white man, that identity has become “a weapon against the left.” What happens in a world in which white people begin to make dubious claims about how diversity initiatives disadvantage them and take away positions that they are qualified for and entitled to? You have a generation of white men who engage in grievance politics subjecting us all to their rage and their Trump. What happens if these same arguments undergird claims to the presidency on the left? Unfortunately, Sanders’ progressivism does not keep him or his supporters from making the same kinds of problematic merit-based claims to presidential employment that white men in every other industry make.
This same argument that pits diversity against merit is being martialed in disappointing ways on the Sander-supporting left. He is undoubtedly the most left candidate in this race. And if he wins the primary, I will line up with other left voters to support his candidacy.
But a refusal to see the ways in which the arguments about Sanders’ entitlement to the presidency on the merits of his progressivism disadvantages “diverse” candidates, as such arguments routinely do, is a level of intellectual disingenuousness that I find disheartening as a radical black feminist. And our refusal to tell the truth about how gender matters – that it matters at all – won’t just harm Warren’s presidential prospects. It will also make it more difficult for us to pursue the kind of policy agenda that this moment demandson pressing gender issues that are at stake. As pioneering socialist feminist Zillah Eisenstein argued recently, “my query for 2020 is whether voting for a white man … when there is a field of women who are as gifted as most of the men, and with Elizabeth Warren who has a formidable progressive agenda and is more gifted than most of the men, is not misogynist? Maybe a vote for Bernie once again normalizes and endorses male rule / leadership / presidencies even if he is a socialist.”
Wanting a woman to rise to the top of an almost all-male pack is not a position that needs defending. What should be defended is the uncritical desire to elect yet another man to a position that 45 men and zero women have held. That choice, to choose another man for President, should be held up to the strictest scrutiny and the highest standard. Gender alone is not a sufficient qualification to be President (though I can think of a few recent Presidents for which this seems to be the only qualification they had). But I am convinced that it should offer an edge in a situation where no cisgender women, trans people or gender nonbinary people have ever had a position. I think race should work similarly. The experiences one gains from being marginalized because of racism and sexism offer invaluable perspectives that often make candidates inclined to be more egalitarian and inclusive, precisely because they know intimately what exclusion feels like. We have another opportunity in this election to make clear that gender is not the stepchild of radical politics, and it is long past time that we take it.
(WASHINGTON) — The Senate opens its historic proceedings against President Donald Trump on Thursday with a formal reading of the charges by House prosecutors, followed by the arrival at the Capitol of Chief Justice John Roberts, who will swear in all 100 senators as jurors for only the third impeachment trial in U.S. history.
The chamber begins to transform itself into an impeachment court at noon following a second day of ceremonial protocol that shifts the proceedings out of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Democratic-run House to the Republican-majority Senate.
The House lawmakers prosecuting the case will read the charges to the Senate, then, later in the day, Roberts will administer the jurors’ oath to senators who swear to deliver “impartial justice.”
The events, unfolding during an election year as Trump seeks another term, will be a test not only of his presidency but also of the nation’s three branches of power and its system of checks and balances. Several senators are running for the Democratic party’s nomination to challenge Trump in November.
The president calls the impeachment a “hoax,” even as new information emerges about his actions toward Ukraine that led to the charges against him.
He faces a charge that he abused his presidential power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden, using military aid to the country as leverage. Trump was also charged with obstructing Congress’ ensuing probe.
Ahead of the proceedings the Government Accountability office said Thursday that the White House violated federal law in withholding the security assistance to Ukraine, which shares a border with hostile Russia.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opened the chamber Thursday decrying Pelosi’s decision to hand out “souvenir pens” after she signed the resolution to transmit the charges to the Senate.
“This final display neatly distilled the House’s entire partisan process into one perfect visual,” McConnell said. “’It was a transparently partisan process from beginning to end.”
Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer renewed his party’s request that the trial include new witnesses and documents not available for the House impeachment proceedings.
“What is the president hiding? What is he afraid of?’’ Schumer said.
“The gravity of these charges is self-evident,” he said. “The House of Representatives have accused the president of trying to shake down a foreign leader for personal gain.”
The president has suggested recently that he would be open to a quick vote to simply dismiss the charges, but sufficient Republican support is lacking for that. Still, an eventual vote to acquit Trump is considered highly likely.
On Wednesday, in a dramatic procession across the U.S. Capitol, House Democrats carried the charges to the Senate.
“Today we will make history,” Pelosi said as she signed the documents, using multiple pens to hand out and mark the moment. “This president will be held accountable.”
Moments later the prosecutors walked solemnly through the stately hall, filing into the Senate back row as the clerk of the House announced the arrival: “The House has passed House Resolution 798, a resolution appointing and authorizing managers of the impeachment trial of Donald John Trump, president of United States.”
Opening arguments are to begin next Tuesday after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Earlier Wednesday, the House voted 228-193, almost entirely along party lines, ending a weeks-long delay to deliver the charges with a tally reflecting the nation’s split.
The top Republican in the House, Kevin McCarthy of California, said Americans will look back on this “sad saga” that tried to remove the president from office with the “weakest case.”
The president’s team expects acquittal with a Senate trial lasting no more than two weeks, according to senior administration officials. That would be far shorter than the trial of President Bill Clinton, in 1999, or the first one, of President Andrew Johnson, in 1868. Both were acquitted.
The seven-member prosecution team is led by the chairmen of the House impeachment proceedings, Reps. Adam Schiff of the Intelligence Committee and Jerrold Nadler of the Judiciary Committee, two of Pelosi’s top lieutenants.
On Wednesday, Schiff released new records from Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, about the Ukraine strategy, including an exchange with another man about surveilling later-fired U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.
Schiff said the new evidence should bring more pressure on McConnell, who is reluctant to allow witnesses to testify and prefers swift acquittal. The White House has instructed officials not to comply with House subpoenas for testimony and documents.
“The challenge is to get a fair trial,” Schiff said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It shouldn’t be a challenge — if the senators are really going to live up to their oath to be impartial, they’ll want a fair trial. That’s obviously not where Mitch McConnell is coming from.”
The managers are a diverse group with legal, law enforcement and military experience, including Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Sylvia Garcia of Texas, Val Demings of Florida, Jason Crow of Colorado and Zoe Lofgren of California.
Two are freshman lawmakers — Crow a former Army Ranger who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Garcia a former judge in Houston. Demings is the former police chief of Orlando and Jeffries is a lawyer and member of party leadership. Lofgren has the rare credential of having worked on the congressional staff investigation of President Richard Nixon’s impeachment — he resigned before the full House voted on the charges — and then being an elected lawmaker during Clinton’s.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is leading an effort among some Republicans, including Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, to consider Senate witnesses. She told reporters she was satisfied the rules will allow votes on that.
Romney said he wants to hear from John Bolton, the former national security adviser at the White House, who others have said raised alarms about the alternative foreign policy toward Ukraine being run by Giuliani.
Any four senators could force an outcome. Republicans control the chamber, 53-47, but it takes just 51 votes during the trial to approve rules or call witnesses. It also would take only 51 senators to vote to dismiss the charges against Trump.
Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Alan Fram, Matthew Daly, Andrew Taylor, Mary Clare Jalonick, Laurie Kellman, and Padmananda Rama contributed to this report.
(LONDON) — Prince Harry went back to work Thursday, taking on his first royal duties since a pivotal summit with Queen Elizabeth II on his future role in the royal family.
Harry is expected to carry on as normal, with no immediate plans to be reunited with his wife Meghan, who travelled to Canada after the couple released a bombshell statement last week announcing their wish to step back from royal duties. He is set to carry on meetings into next week, Britain’s Press Association reported.
The monarch brokered a deal on Monday that determined there would be “a period of transition” to sort out the complicated matter of how to be a part-time royal. Meghan and Harry will spend time in both Canada and the U.K. as things are sorted out.
In his first engagement since the crisis emerged, Harry will host the Rugby League World Cup 2021 draw at Buckingham Palace.
In the meantime, he has released two video statements on causes he has long championed: mental health and the Invictus Games.
In the first video, he introduced a new initiative to champion the importance of mental health for those who play rugby. The initiative aims to combine sport with mental health awareness at a time when suicide is the leading cause of death for men between the ages of 20 and 49 in the UK.
In footage posted on the Sussexroyal Instagram page, he also launched the next leg of the Invictus Games for wounded service personnel and veterans. The event will be held in Dusseldorf in 2022.
“I hope everyone in Germany is ready for what will be an incredible week of sport!” Harry said. “I have no doubt that the German public will get right behind these games and that every single competitor can expect a warm welcome and an amazing atmosphere.”
(KYIV, Ukraine) — Ukrainian police say they have opened an investigation into the possibility that the former U.S. ambassador came under illegal surveillance before she was recalled from her post.
The announcement Thursday came two days after Democratic lawmakers in the United States released a trove of documents that showed Lev Parnas, an associate of President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, communicating about the removal of Marie Yovanovitch as the ambassador to Ukraine.
The Ukrainian Interior Ministry, which runs the police forces, said in a statement that Ukrainian police “are not interfering in the internal political affairs of the United States.”
“However, the published messages contain facts of possible violations of Ukrainian law and of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, which protect the rights of diplomats on the territory of another state,” the statement continued.
Jared Kushner’s White House office is a shrine to his own influence. Gold-framed accolades from his father-in-law hang on the walls, written in thick black Sharpie in President Donald Trump’s spiky hand. To Jared, Great job on Mexico. Thanks DAD, reads one. A limestone replica of the plaque marking the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, which Kushner helped orchestrate, rests atop a bookcase. There’s his medal representing the Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest award given to foreigners by the Mexican government, with whom Kushner hammered out a trade deal. Above the door is a commemorative poster for the criminal-justice bill Kushner shepherded, signed by the rapper Kanye West. (To Jared from your friend Ye.) Near his desk sits a rack of folders with handwritten labels that nod to Kushner’s unrealistically broad policy portfolio: Health care, Lebanon, Border Infrastructure, Central America Econ Plan, POTUS Environment, DOJ [Department of Justice].
The office is smaller than the others lining the south wall of the West Wing, where some of the President’s top aides cloister. But Kushner, an erstwhile real estate developer, values setting over size, and chose the space adjoining Trump’s private dining room, the President’s favorite hideaway. “Not the biggest office in the world, but it’s a good location,” he explains to TIME. Kushner likes to show visitors the spot on one wall where a door to the President’s inner sanctum was plastered over. “This is where Monica used to come in,” he says, of the former White House intern who visited Bill Clinton’s study.
The rack of folders does not contain his entire portfolio. As senior adviser to the President, he’s been entrusted with brokering peace in the Middle East, building a border wall, reforming the criminal-justice system, pursuing diplomacy with China and Mexico, and creating an “Office of American Innovation” dedicated to revamping how the government works. Kushner is in charge of the President’s 2020 re-election campaign, overseeing fundraising, strategy and advertising. He has walk-in privileges in the Oval Office and can weigh in on any decision across the building. “Nobody has more influence in the White House than Jared. Nobody has more influence outside the White House than Jared,” says Brad Parscale, whom Kushner installed as Trump’s campaign manager. “He’s No. 2 after Trump.”
At the start of Trump’s term, very few people in Washington considered this a good thing. Some White House officials complained privately that the President’s decision to task his 39-year-old son-in-law with some of the world’s hardest problems made the Administration look incompetent at best and corrupt at worst. Conservative Republicans worried that Kushner and his wife Ivanka, both former Democratic donors like Trump himself, would steer the new President toward the political center. To liberals, Kushner was a case study in the dangers of nepotism, a dilettante playing diplomat who was either unable or unwilling to use his political capital to rein in Trump’s worst impulses.
His first few months after Trump won the White House were littered with mistakes that showcased naiveté. His meeting with a Russian banker linked to the Kremlin stoked speculation about collusion. His support for Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey helped trigger the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller. His spotty top-security clearance application and ties his family’s real estate business has had to foreign governments forced the President to grant him a clearance by fiat, overruling counterintelligence officials and White House lawyers. Foreign intelligence services reportedly identified Kushner as a target for manipulation. As criticism rained down, Kushner was content to remain a cipher, often seen but rarely heard.
Kushner now acknowledges his learning curve. “I had some bumpy patches along the way. I got here, and obviously at the beginning, there’s a lot I needed to learn,” he tells TIME, sitting at a conference table in his office. “I didn’t know all the files that well. I didn’t know which files were my responsibility, which files were other people’s responsibility. I didn’t necessarily know what it took to be successful.”
But over the course of Trump’s term, few people have been as influential as Kushner. He was an architect of the primary bipartisan legislative achievement of Trump’s first term, the criminal-justice reform bill. He helped negotiate a revamped trade deal with Canada and Mexico. His push to tighten America’s embrace of Saudi Arabia and Israel has altered Middle East politics. He has proven a deft bureaucratic knife fighter, helping push out a series of senior staffers who tried to impose order on a freewheeling President. “Hopefully my results speak for themselves,” Kushner says. “I think that I’ve accomplished a lot. I think the President trusts me, and he knows I’ve had his back, and he knows that I’ve been able to execute for him on a lot of different objectives.”
The portrait that emerges from interviews with Kushner, current and former White House officials, lawmakers and people close to him is of an increasingly confident operator who is learning to pull the levers of power in the White House and throughout Washington in ways that may surprise critics. Listening to Kushner describe his role makes it clear that he was never going to be the moderating force that Democrats hoped for and Trump loyalists feared. He doesn’t see his job as steering Trump to a decision. He sees himself as the enabler of the President’s agenda.
“One thing you have to remember when you work for President Trump is that you don’t make the waves. He makes the waves,” Kushner explains in his office, a silver bowl of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups on the table. “Your job is to surf the wave as best as you can every day. And you have to always smile and have a sense of humor with it, because he’s the one who’s got the instinct.”
The Trump presidency may depend on Kushner’s surfing skills. As the Senate prepares to convene its impeachment trial on Jan. 21, Kushner is overseeing strategy meetings in the West Wing to bring competing White House factions together and plot out the President’s defense. At the same time, he approves every expenditure of $1 million or more for the 2020 re-election bid.
America has a history of Presidents appointing family members to positions of power dating back to John Adams. John F. Kennedy’s closest adviser and Attorney General was his brother Bobby. Bill Clinton tapped his wife Hillary to run the signature issue of his first term, health care reform. But it is rare for a President to give such power to a family member with no policy experience. Kushner has proved he has the quality Trump prizes most–loyalty to the boss–but his blind devotion has sometimes carried a cost. Some White House aides argue that the President’s impeachment was the result of Kushner’s working to oust aides who had tried to put up guardrails to protect the President.
Kushner’s many critics inside the White House admit he is now nearly untouchable–one reason they all insisted on speaking anonymously for this article. And while he may have learned a lot in three years, when you’re tackling the world’s toughest problems, overconfidence can be dangerous. “He’s a classic ‘don’t know what you don’t know,’” says one senior Administration official. “He should stop assuming and ask some questions and try to learn.”
On most mornings, Kushner wakes up around 5:30 a.m. in the $5.6 million white brick mansion he and his wife, Ivanka Trump, rent in Washington’s Kalorama neighborhood, where his neighbors include ambassadors, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos and the Obamas. He practices transcendental meditation–he won’t reveal his mantra–and puts an espresso pod into a coffee machine for his wife. On a recent morning when Ivanka was out of town, Kushner read the newspapers in bed with their youngest child while the eldest daughter walked the family’s fluffy white Pomsky, named Winter. (The duty conforms to a contract Kushner required the 8-year-old to write and sign before bringing the dog home.) By 7:15 a.m., Kushner is usually in the back seat of a black Secret Service SUV heading to the West Wing.
On Dec. 19, the day after Trump’s impeachment, Kushner had a full agenda at the White House. Over the course of three hours, Kushner worked on Trump’s effort to cut government regulations on businesses, expand school-choice programs and increase investment in poor urban neighborhoods. When Kushner’s team of nearly a dozen advisers packed his office, the updates ticked from immigration to technology upgrades at agencies to prison-release programs, along with a half-dozen other initiatives Kushner is tracking.
At one point, Kushner walked across the hall to the Roosevelt Room to offer advice to a group of White House fellows, young professionals spending a year working with senior staff and Cabinet secretaries. He salted his remarks with business jargon, using phrases like growth curve and calculated risk. “You’re always at a posture until you are at a deal,” he said.
It’s hard to pin down Kushner’s ideology. He did not register as a Republican until September 2018. White House officials were suspicious of his priorities and resentful of his clout. Turf wars were rampant. Kushner says he has learned to express his opinions with the President in private–usually in the White House residence or in the President’s dining room next door to his office–so that aides with competing interests don’t leak to the press. “It’s very rare that I’ll give my opinion to the President in front of other people,” he says. “I have my personal opinions and my personal sympathies, but I work for the President of the United States. And my job is to, when he asks my advice on things, give him my advice. But then when the President makes a decision, my job is to help him execute that decision.”
A descendent of Holocaust survivors, Kushner grew up in Livingston, N.J., in a family of Orthodox Jews. His parents were prominent Democratic donors close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who once crashed in Kushner’s childhood bedroom.
Kushner is no stranger to family controversy. When Jared was 23 years old, his father Charles pleaded guilty to illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion and witness tampering in a case that involved trying to influence Charles’ brother’s testimony by setting him up with a prostitute and secretly videotaping the encounter. Kushner’s father spent 14 months in federal prison in Alabama. Kushner remains close with his immediate family, speaking with his parents on Friday nights before Shabbat. He wears a Kabbalah bracelet of red thread, a gift from his sister that invokes how his grandmother used to sew red thread into family clothing to ward off evil.
Kushner’s bond with Trump was forged by more than his 2009 marriage to the President’s elder daughter. Both men are ambitious scions who inherited real estate empires and lifted them to glitzier heights in Manhattan. Kushner’s cornerstone acquisition was 666 Fifth, which his company bought in 2007 for $1.8 billion. It was a record price paid at the wrong time: within a year, the recession hit and the debt became hard to service. Talks between the Kushner Companies and business interests in China and Qatar in 2017 sparked speculation by Democrats that those countries might be trying to gain leverage over Kushner.
Like the Kushners, Trump prefers to run his enterprises as a family business. So when he launched his campaign in 2015, Kushner was eventually drawn into the fold, and he quickly became a key adviser, pushing a blitz of Facebook ad buys and encouraging Trump to do more friendly interviews with local television stations in swing states. Trump leaned on Kushner, who took no title in the campaign, to oversee decisions about spending, advertising and travel.
Campaign officials competing for power often waited until Friday nights to approach Trump about decisions Kushner opposed, according to two former campaign officials, knowing that as modern Orthodox Jews, Kushner and Ivanka would be home for Shabbat and off electronic devices. In October 2016, rivals tried to strip Parscale’s control over television ad buys while Kushner was out of the office observing Yom Kippur.
But Kushner proved a capable infighter as well. During the presidential transition, he persuaded Trump to jettison former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who had once prosecuted Charles Kushner. (Kushner has publicly denied doing so.) He nixed a host of conservatives who had criticized Trump for key Administration posts. And he worked to sideline officials whose objectives he believes were different from the President’s. “The biggest source of tension I had early on with different people here centered around the fact that people wanted him to make decisions that they want him to make, as opposed to getting him information,” Kushner says. “He’s rotated out a lot of the people who have maybe been more in it for themselves than for him.”
But bringing on board malleable underlings has sometimes produced the unique chaos of Trump unbound, and Kushner’s own feel for people has been spotty. He pushed for Michael Flynn to be hired as National Security Adviser, a job that lasted 24 days after Flynn became embroiled in an FBI investigation over his lying about a phone call with the Russian ambassador. Later he helped push out press secretary Sean Spicer to bring in New York financier Anthony Scaramucci, who imploded within 10 days. His decision to embrace Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman backfired when Saudi agents killed Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.
There were policy flaps too. Flouting Republican doctrine, Kushner consulted former Obama Administration health adviser Zeke Emanuel about salvaging the Affordable Care Act, according to one current and one former White House official. Kushner held talks with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham about rewriting U.S. immigration laws behind the back of then Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, according to the officials. Carping about Kushner became an unofficial pastime in the Trump Administration.
Six months into his term, Trump tapped Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general, as chief of staff to impose a dose of military discipline in the building. Kelly tried to curtail Kushner and Ivanka’s influence, insisting they schedule appointments through him to see the President. For a time, Kushner’s power in the building seemed to wane.
But as Kushner knew, nobody who tries to control Trump lasts very long. One by one, his antagonists fell by the wayside, and Kushner was there to fill the void.
In late 2017, Kushner was at loggerheads with then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and then Defense Secretary James Mattis over moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a campaign promise. Tillerson and Mattis warned the move would ignite a conflagration in the region, endangering American lives. Trump overrode them and sided with Kushner. “I just want to say for the record, I am against this,” Tillerson told Trump during a secure meeting in the White House in November 2017, according to a White House official.
Less than a month later, Tillerson learned he was being fired as he read Twitter on the toilet. Kushner and others suggested replacing him with CIA chief Mike Pompeo, a former Kansas Congressman with whom Kushner had gotten along during the presidential transition. Pompeo took the job and has become one of Trump’s most loyal aides, pushing a pro-Israel, anti-Iran agenda that comports with Kushner’s.
When the drive to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), another Trump campaign promise, stalled in the spring of 2018, Kushner flew to Mexico City to meet with Luis Videgaray, then the Mexican Foreign Minister. Kushner persuaded Videgaray to peel away from Canada in the negotiations and deal directly with Trump, giving the President an edge on concessions from both countries.
The move infuriated some White House officials, who resent the way that they say Kushner steps in to take credit for projects they’ve been working on for months. “Sometimes he comes in, he f-cks everything up, and if it works well, he takes credit, [but] if it’s sh-tty, he just flits away,” says another senior White House official, who like others spoke on condition of anonymity, noting that Kushner’s influence with the President makes public criticism dangerous.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer offers a different view. In the final push for the trade deal known as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), Kushner “was in my office sitting in those negotiation sessions for weeks and weeks, and we would go to 10, 11 at night,” Lighthizer recalls. “He’s tough and he’s 100% with the President.”
Kushner’s sway now extends to Congress, where he helped drive the First Step Act, a modest package of prison reforms, into law. Powerful Republicans, including Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, were skeptical. In November 2018, Trump summoned Kushner to the Oval Office for a meeting. “Mitch, why don’t you tell Jared what you told me,” Trump said. McConnell told Kushner there weren’t enough days on the calendar to move the legislation. Then he turned to Trump and joked that Kushner had been having everyone in his Rolodex lobby McConnell. “I have a lot more people lined up to call you,” Kushner said. Trump laughed and told the pair to work it out. Kushner’s pressure helped persuade McConnell to put the bill on the floor, where it passed in December 2018.
Kushner’s work on criminal-justice reform helped persuade some skeptics in the White House that his value had begun to outstrip his inexperience. “If you want to measure a cost-benefit analysis,” says a former White House official, “that’s a clear example, and I think there are others like it, where the value-add significantly exceeds whatever kind of drawbacks might exist.”
Kushner’s role in the White House is different from that of his wife or her siblings. While Trump’s sons stayed in New York to run the family real estate business, Ivanka Trump has taken on a small but well-defined portfolio of popular issues–workforce development, women’s empowerment and paid family leave–while steering clear of more controversial subjects. Kushner, on the other hand, has taken on radioactive projects like the border wall.
“The President tends to task Jared with his highest-priority projects,” Ivanka Trump tells TIME. “He obviously has a very well-defined and large portfolio, but the President will often call on him to handle other issues that are of significance.”
On a drizzly Tuesday in January, Kushner climbed into a black Chevy Suburban heading to Washington’s Reagan airport for a flight to Milwaukee. He was due to attend a Trump rally and a meeting on criminal-justice reform. In the car, he spoke by phone with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to get an update on border-wall construction. Secret Service agents whisked him through security and onto a Southwest Airlines plane. During boarding, several passengers looked wide-eyed at Kushner as he walked past, but none said anything to him. Kushner took a phone call from a senior Mexican official and kept talking as the plane taxied and lifted off. The two spoke until the call dropped off as the plane gained altitude.
In northwest Milwaukee, Kushner sat at a long table at the Greater Praise Church of God in Christ and listened to stories from former inmates who had found jobs through a local faith-based program called the Joseph Project. Some of them had been released early under provisions in the First Step Act. One person at the event said Kushner’s experience visiting his father in federal prison had clearly given him a better understanding of the challenges people face after being incarcerated. Kushner nodded. “It didn’t come at a cheap price,” he responded.
Kushner believes that prison reform could improve Trump’s paltry support in African-American communities. He’s most focused on neighborhoods like this one, which happen to be in crucial swing states. One of the core themes Kushner is hammering for Trump’s re-election campaign is that the President has fulfilled his promises. There are, of course, big exceptions–like the border wall. But Kushner knows that in a tight race, expanding the President’s coalition even a little bit beyond his core supporters could prove critical. “You think about prison reform. He didn’t even promise to do that. He came in and he got that done,” Kushner says as his car wheels away from the low-rise brick sanctuary. “He’s delivered for his voters, but he’s also delivered for people who were not his voters.”
He says the key states in 2020 will be Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. He says data has persuaded him to push the campaign to compete in states like Minnesota, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado as well. If Trump wins a second term, there’s a fear among conservatives that Kushner’s influence will only grow. And it seems increasingly clear that Kushner and his wife aren’t going anywhere. “I think there’s a lot more that we can do,” Kushner says. “Hopefully, I’ll get the chance through a second term to continue to put these reforms into place.”
Left unmentioned is the question of whether Kushner, a fixture in Manhattan business and media circles, would be welcomed home after working on behalf of a President many of his old friends and associates detest. “I’ll be honest. My family likes Washington,” he says. “The kids love their schools. The lifestyle here is quite nice. But for me, I like challenges. I think the challenges I get to work on here are some of the most complicated, best challenges you could find.”
As the sunlight fades in Milwaukee, Kushner’s SUV glided past a snaking line of hundreds of Trump supporters waiting to get into the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena for Trump’s rally. The car stopped by the stadium’s loading docks and Kushner jumped out. Walking inside, he spotted Parscale, who was waiting to give Kushner an update on the Wisconsin campaign operation. A Phil Collins song thumped from the speakers. “I’ve got a meeting with the campaign team now,” Kushner said. “And then wait for the President to get here, and have some fun when he does.”