Here are the main events that occurred in Politics this week:
1. President Trump Declares National Emergency to Fund Border Wall
On February 15, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on the border with Mexico to access billions of dollars that Congress refused to give him to build his proposed border wall. “We’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border, and we’re going to do it one way or the other,” President Trump said in a televised statement in the Rose Garden 13 hours after Congress passed a spending measure without the money he had sought. “It’s an invasion,” he added. “We have an invasion of drugs and criminals coming into our country.” President Trump’s announcement came during a bizarre, 50-minute press conference in which he ping-ponged from topic to topic, touching on the economy, China trade talks, his summit meeting with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, and the reasons why he deserves to win the Nobel Peace Prize. President Trump also explained his failure to secure wall funding during his first two years in office when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress by saying, “I was a little new to the job.”
The decision by President Donald Trump immediately incited condemnation by Democrats, who call the move unconstitutional, as well as from some Republicans who view it as setting a negative precedent. “This is a power grab by a disappointed president, who has gone outside the bounds of the law to try to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional legislative process,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schummer (D-NY) in a joint statement. Additionally, Governors Gavin Newsom (D-CA) and Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) similarly condemned the President’s actions and stated that their states will file suit over the issue. President Trump acknowledged that his declaration of a national emergency would be litigated in the courts and even predicted a rough road for his side. “Look, I expect to be sued,” he said, launching into a mocking riff about how he anticipated lower court rulings against him. “And we’ll win in the Supreme Court,” he predicted.
2. Senator Bernie Sanders Announces Candidacy for the Democratic Presidential Nomination
After months of deliberation, Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) announced on February 19 that he is running for president again in 2020. It will be Sanders’ second consecutive bid for the Democratic nomination after losing to Hillary Clinton in 2016. “I’m running for president because, now more than ever, we need leadership that brings us together — not divides us up,” Sanders wrote in an email that went out to supporters. “Women and men, black, white, Latino, Native American, Asian American, gay and straight, young and old, native-born and immigrant. Now is the time for us to stand together.” In his announcement, Sanders called out President Donald Trump as “the most dangerous president in modern American history,” as well as a “pathological liar, a fraud, a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe and someone who is undermining American democracy as he leads us in an authoritarian direction.” Sanders’ entry into the race has been widely anticipated, with reports that an announcement was imminent surfacing over the weekend.
Bernie Sanders enters the 2020 race as one of the frontrunners, a remarkable turn for a candidate who was viewed as a protest candidate from the political fringe four years ago. Today, Sanders is one of the most popular politicians in the country, and his progressive policy agenda has been embraced by many of the Democratic Party’s leading figures. Sanders begins his second Presidential bid with a higher profile and much better-organized base of support. In terms of polling, Sanders is tied for first place in the Democratic primary race with former Vice President Joe Biden and California Senator Kamala Harris and is ahead in several key primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire. Additionally, Sanders has secured endorsements from key progressive voices in the Democratic Party including Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and organizations such as Our Revolution. Despite his strong position in the Democratic race, Sanders’ increased influence has also invited stricter scrutiny from political opponents, including a vocal faction inside the Democratic party who blame him for dampening support for Clinton ahead of her loss to Trump, which may reduce his chances to win the Democratic Primary.
3. In a Major Victory for President Trump, William Barr Confirmed as Attorney General
President Donald Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, William Barr, was confirmed in the Senate on February 14 to take over the Justice Department, where he will oversee special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. Barr was confirmed in a 54-45 vote that mostly fell along party lines. Barr was widely expected to be confirmed by the Republican-majority Senate on Thursday. Barr had served in the same role more than two decades earlier in President George H.W. Bush’s administration and had passed procedural hurdles in the Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Senate in recent votes. A few senators broke with their party in the final vote. Among Democrats, Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Doug Jones (D-AL) both of whom represent some of the most Republican states in the entire country, voted for Barr, as did first-term Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), who is a moderate Democrat representing a critical swing state. The only Republican to vote against Barr’s nomination was Rand Paul (R-KY), who expressed criticism with Barr’s views regarding domestic surveillance.
Barr, a Justice Department veteran, came under heavy scrutiny during his confirmation process. Democrats in particular grilled Barr during congressional testimony about how he would handle Robert Mueller’s ongoing probe of Russia’s election interference and possible cooperation with Trump campaign-related officials. Barr has said that he considers Mueller a friend, and vowed to make the conclusions of the special counsel’s probe as public as he could manage. He even pushed back on Trump’s oft-repeated characterization of the Russia investigation as a “witch hunt” during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in mid-January. That was not enough to assuage some Democrats’ concerns about the fate of the special counsel investigation in Barr’s hands. “Despite repeated questions and follow-up letters he failed to respond to, Bill Barr refused to commit to allowing the American people to see the full report submitted to him by Special Counsel Mueller,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)., the Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat. “I consider that disqualifying.” Still, she added, “While I opposed Bill Barr’s nomination, I hope that he’ll remember he is the people’s lawyer, not the president’s lawyer.”
4. President Donald Trump Increases Pressure on
President Donald Trump on February 18 urged Venezuelan military officials to back the country’s self-declared interim president Juan
As he lambasted the Maduro regime, President Donald Trump also pointed to Venezuela as an example of the alleged dangers of socialism and made a broader case for the downfall of all socialist governments in the Western Hemisphere. “The twilight hour of socialism has arrived in our hemisphere,” Trump said. “The days of socialism and communism are numbered, not only in Venezuela but in Nicaragua and Cuba as well.” And while he avoided tying Democratic politicians to the socialist government in Venezuela as he has in the past, Trump briefly turned his speech on Venezuela to domestic politics, vowing the US will “never be a socialist country.” “And to those who would try to impose socialism on the United States, we again deliver a straightforward message: America will never be a socialist country,” Trump said toward the end of his speech.
President Donald Trump previously seized on the deteriorating situation in Venezuela as a political attack line, warning voters in hyperbolic terms that Democratic policies will turn the US into Venezuela. “The new Democrats are radical socialists who want to model America’s economy after Venezuela,” Trump claimed in a USA Today op-ed ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. Many of the arguments used by President Trump to attack the legitimacy of the Venezuelan government are also hypocritical at their core, considering the horrific track record of American intervention in Latin America over the past two centuries.
5. Trump Administration Calls on European Leaders to take a Hardline Against Iran at Warsaw Conference on Middle East Peace and Security
US Vice President Mike Pence has called on Washington’s European allies to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and confront the Iranian government, saying that Iran is the “greatest threat to peace and security” in the Middle East. Vice President Pence told an international conference on the Middle East that is being held in Warsaw that “some” of Washington’s “leading European partners” have not been cooperative when it comes to confronting Iran. The US and the European Union are at odds over President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, which calls for Iran to curtail its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. France, Britain, Italy, and Germany two weeks ago launched a new mechanism to trade with Iran while bypassing US sanctions against Iran. “It is an ill-advised step that will only strengthen Iran, weaken the EU, and create still more distance between Europe and the United States,” Pence told the Warsaw gathering.
Speaking at the conference’s opening session, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States wants a “new era of cooperation” to confront the challenges faced by countries in the Middle East. “We want to bring together countries with interest in stability to share their different views and break out of traditional thinking,” Pompeo said. “None of the region’s challenges will solve themselves,” Pompeo also said. “We must work together for security.” Citing a list of regional challenges ranging from Iran, Syria, and Yemen to the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, Pompeo said, “No one country will dominate the discussion today nor will anyone issue dominate our talks.” Earlier in the day, Pompeo said the world “cannot achieve peace and security in the Middle East without confronting Iran.“
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who addressed the meeting, told reporters that the event’s opening dinner late on February 13 marked “a historical turning point.” “In a room of some 60 foreign ministers representative of dozens of governments, an Israeli prime minister, and the foreign ministers of the leading Arab countries stood together and spoke with unusual force, clarity, and unity against the common threat of the Iranian regime,” he said. However, many European countries, as well as Russia and China and the Palestinian Authority did not participate in the conference and condemned it as being against the spirit of international cooperation established in the UN Charter. Additionally, Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed concerns with “