HUFFPOST HILL - New President, Who Dis?

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Today is Groundhog Day, or, as we see it, that day the media proves everyone right about that fake news stuff by heeding the meteorological expertise of a large rodent. We’re at the point in the Trump presidency where John McCain ― *John Freaking McCain* ―  is the guy on the side of people who don’t wish to invade everywhere. And Trump’s missteps recall John Jay’s famous remarks about being able to travel from Boston to Philadelphia solely by the light of dumpster fires. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Thursday, February 2nd. 2017:

HOW TRUMP COULD TAKE OVER YOUR BALLOT BOX - Pretty sure we saw a sign with a somewhat similar message at the women’s march. Howard Fineman: “At the time ― only about a month ago ― Obama administration officials thought the move was a swell idea; good for national security and a subtle way to twist the knife in the president-elect on the topic of Russian election hacking. But it may have been the riskiest decision of the Obama years, opening a legal door to Donald Trump forces looking to control future access to the ballot box in the name of national security, and to a new president who decries millions of (phantom) ‘fraudulent’ votes he claims were illegally cast against him…. [T]hen-Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson issued an official designation as part of the National Infrastructure Protection Plan, designed, at least in part, to show just how seriously the outgoing Obama national security team regarded such intrusions. In a four-page notice, Johnson said that, henceforth, ‘election infrastructure in this country’ would gain protection as part of the ‘Government Facilities critical infrastructure.’ It was now ‘critical infrastructure,’ just like dams, the electric grid, financial services and a host of other sectors.” [HuffPost]

PEARL-CLUTCHING DEMS IN A TIZZY OVER GORSUCH - Laura Barron-Lopez: “Senate Democrats have about a month to figure out what they want to do about Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s pick to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Right now, they’re being pulled in different directions: On one end is a base calling out for absolute obstruction, and on the other are moderates who fear that picking this fight could ruin their ability to stop Trump at a more critical juncture in his presidency.” [HuffPost]

YOU’RE WELCOME ON OUR LAWN ANYTIME, MCCAIN TELLS AUSSIE PM - McCain is taking in stride his demotion from being the crankiest elected official in our government.  Amanda Terkel: “Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called Australia’s ambassador to the United States Thursday morning to do damage control after President Donald Trump’s disastrous recent call with the country’s prime minister. McCain said he expressed his ‘unwavering support for the U.S.-Australia alliance’ in the call with Ambassador Joe Hockey…. The reason McCain felt it necessary to seemingly state the obvious ― that the United States and Australia are strong allies ― is that Trump reportedly berated Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during a call Saturday. Trump went after Turnbull for a refugee agreement, bragged about the size of his win in the 2016 election and hung up 25 minutes into what was supposed to be an hour-long call, according to The Washington Post. Trump also reportedly told Turnbull that their call was his ‘worst’ by far that day.” [HuffPost]

CONGRESSIONAL GOP UNSURE ABOUT TIRED, HUDDLED MASSES - Matt Fuller: “The Supreme Court has said religious denominational preferences violate the First Amendment, but even as House Republicans stand by President Donald Trump’s executive order on refugees, they’re not really sure if it provides preferential treatment for some religions. In fact, many are not really sure of a lot of things related to the executive order…. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), a former immigration lawyer, offered a similar rationale. ‘Refugee status is always about a religious test,’ he said. ‘That’s one of the criteria for refugee status.’ Labrador is correct that persecuted minorities are part of the consideration in determining refugees, but what’s different in Trump’s executive order is that religious persecution now seems to go to the top of the list, and only non-Muslims in the seven countries named in the measure seem to get the preferential treatment. “ [HuffPost]

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VOTER FRAUD, VOTER SCHMAUD - Remember when O.J. said he would find the real killer? This is like that. Jeff Zeleny and Elizabeth Landers: “A full week has passed since President Donald Trump said he would sign an executive order opening a Justice Department investigation into his unsubstantiated claim that millions of people voted illegally in November. The Oval Office signing was abruptly canceled last Thursday and never rescheduled. The White House hasn’t talked about it since. The President has moved on to other subjects. A senior administration official told CNN that the voter fraud investigation is no longer a top priority for the President, insisting it’s not off the table, but not expected anytime soon.” [CNN]

PALACE INTRIGUE IN HOUSE TRUMP - Josh Dawsey, Tara Palmeri, Eli Stokols and Shane Goldmacher: “A feeling of distrust has taken hold in the West Wing of Donald Trump’s White House and beyond, as his aides view each other and officials across the federal government and on Capitol Hill with suspicion. The result has been a stream of leaks flowing from the White House and federal agencies, and an attempt to lock down information and communication channels that could have serious consequences across the government and at the Capitol, where Trump tries to implement and advance his agenda…. The starkest manifestation of the paranoia has played out with Trump’s executive orders, as many key players were left in the dark as the White House forged ahead with sweeping, controversial policies. While reports have emerged in recent days about various officials blindsided by the orders, interviews with several people involved in the process reveal the extent of the secrecy and chaos.” [Politico]

JESUS, YEAH, HE’S A FRIEND - What would Jesus do? In the case of our president, the answer is, “Snipe at media competitors.” Abby Phillip: “President Trump opened his first appearance at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington with a prayer for the television ratings of the man who succeeded him as host of ‘The Apprentice.’ ‘They hired a big, big movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to take my place. And we know how that turned out. The ratings went down the tubes,’ Trump joked, prompting laughter from the audience. ‘I want to just pray for Arnold, if we can, for those ratings.’ The apparently ad-libbed monologue at the top of Trump’s remarks came minutes after he was introduced by television and movie producer Mark Burnett, who helped Trump create the show.” [WaPo]

HAS TRUMP EVER ATTENDED CHURCH OF HIS OWN VOLITION? Julie Zauzmer: “In his address at the National Prayer Breakfast this morning, President Trump made one clear policy declaration: ‘I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment.’ … What the Johnson Amendment is: It’s named for Lyndon B. Johnson, who introduced it in the Senate in 1954, nine years before he became president. It bans all tax-exempt nonprofits — which includes churches and other houses of worship, as well as charities — from ‘directly or indirectly’ participating in any political candidate’s campaign…. At Thursday’s prayer breakfast, Trump said that his reason for opposing the Johnson Amendment is that it impinges on the American ‘right to worship according to our own beliefs’ — apparently describing campaign participation as a form of worship.” [WaPo]

MEMBERS OF MAJORITY RELIGION NOW A PROTECTED CLASS - Finally, the federal government is carrying out Christ’s message of mean-spiritedness. Sarah Posner: “A leaked copy of a draft executive order titled ‘Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom,’ obtained by The Investigative Fund and The Nation, reveals sweeping plans by the Trump administration to legalize discrimination…. The draft order seeks to create wholesale exemptions for people and organizations who claim religious or moral objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and trans identity, and it seeks to curtail women’s access to contraception and abortion through the Affordable Care Act.’” [The Nation]

LUCKY FOR TRUMP HE HAS LOADS OF EXPERIENCE BEING SUED - Erik Larson, Bob Van Noris and Andrew M. Harris: “Less than two weeks into the administration, lawsuits have been filed across the U.S. challenging the president from every angle, including a case over alleged conflicts of interest that violate the Constitution’s ‘emoluments clause,’ multistate challenges to Trump’s immigration policies, and a complaint over the new president’s regulatory plans, including his attempt to quash a proposed regulation over disposal of metal dental fillings. Many more challenges are expected, and both sides are hunkering down for a protracted war, one that promises to inflame already frayed relations between Republicans and Democrats, both in Washington and across the nation.” [Bloomberg]

THE EARTH WAS NICE WHILE IT LASTED - Brady Dennis and Chris Mooney: “Senate Republicans on Thursday again used their majority to suspend committee rules and push through another Trump administration nominee, Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, bypassing Democrats who for the second day had refused to show up for a vote on his nomination…. Democrats’ specific objections to Pruitt turn not only on his anti-regulatory bent but on their concerns that he did not adequately answer the written questions they sent him following his confirmation hearing.” [WaPo]

THE MIDWEST IS RIFE WITH CORRUPTION, DONTCHA KNOW - Oh dear, Agnes is going to be all in a huff about this at the next First Lutheran potluck. Paul Blumenthal: “Amid protesters’ shouts of ‘Shame!’ and ‘Respect our votes!’ the South Dakota Senate voted Wednesday night to repeal an anti-corruption law that voters passed as an initiative on Nov. 8, 2016. Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) plans to sign the repeal bill as part of an emergency push by state Republicans to prevent the voter-approved ethics and campaign finance reform from going into effect. The Republican-led state Senate voted to repeal the law by a 27-8 margin. Only two Republicans, state Sens. Lance Russell and Stace Nelson, voted with the chamber’s six Democrats to keep the law in place. The state House of Representatives previously voted to repeal the law by a 54-13 margin.” [HuffPost]

HORRIBLE - Ayesha Rascoe: “The U.S. military said on Wednesday it was looking into whether more civilians were killed in a raid on al Qaeda in Yemen on the weekend, in the first operation authorized by President Donald Trump as commander in chief…. U.S. military officials told Reuters that Trump approved his first covert counterterrorism operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations. As a result, three officials said, the attacking SEAL team found itself dropping onto a reinforced al Qaeda base defended by landmines, snipers, and a larger than expected contingent of heavily armed Islamist extremists.” [Reuters]

Sean Spicer, however, describes this as a “successful operation by all standards.” There’s an eight-year-old girl who would dispute that if she weren’t dead.

TRUMP ANGRY A NAZI DENIED A SAFE SPACE - Matt Hamilton, Teresa Watanabe, Peter H. King and Brittny Mejia: “A speech by conservative firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos was canceled at UC Berkeley on Wednesday amid violent protests that prompted President Trump to suggest cutting federal funding to the university. ‘If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view - NO FEDERAL FUNDS?’ Trump wrote on Twitter…. Yiannopoulos, 32, writes for Breitbart News — a popular website among the far right — and he is an avowed supporter of President Trump. He’s also a flamboyant provocateur who has been denounced for propagating racism, misogyny and anti-Islam views, but he styles himself a champion of free speech.” [LA Times]

BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR - Here are some cats getting what they deserve.

RODENT ORACLE ISSUES OMINOUS PROPHECY - As if there were a chance winter would ever end. “Pennsylvania’s most famous groundhog and prognosticator, Punxsutawney Phil, saw his shadow, meaning we’ll have to endure six more weary weeks of winter…. A German legend has it that if a furry rodent sees his shadow on Feb. 2, winter will last another six weeks. If not, spring comes early.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]


- Radio stations hacked to play a song called “FDT (Fuck Donald Trump)” over and over.

- Will Las Vegas’ burgeoning feral rabbit population turn Nevada solidly blue?

- Beyonce’s pregnancy photo album is what your kids are talking about.


@MrGeorgeWAllace: I’m showin’ up to Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s house every damn mornin’ with a kale smoothie and a shitload of vitamins and whatnot.

@SimonXIX: So far the main difference between my 20s and my 30s is all the fascism. No-one tells you how much fascism there will be in your 30s.

@CK1Blogs: breaking news american national anthem has been changed to the fast music that plays when you’re running out of time in super mario bros

Got something to add? Send tips/quotes/stories/photos/events/fundraisers/job movement/juicy miscellanea to Eliot Nelson (eliot@huffingtonpost.com)