Feb. 12, 2019: Border Deal, El Chapo, Green New Deal, National Debt, and more.

An uncertain border deal, El Chapo, the Green New Deal, a Senate investigation into the Trump campaign wraps-up, and much, much more.

Here’s what you need to know…


President Trump told reporters at the White House that he was ‘not happy’ with a border security deal revealed by congressional negotiators that would avert a potential government shutdown on Friday. The bipartisan agreement would allow nearly $1.4 billion to be spent on physical border barriers, an amount far less than the $5.7 billion the President and many Republicans demanded. However, this amount is not for a wall, but rather for 55 miles of new fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. Despite being displeased with the deal, Trump refused to say that he would reject the bill and stated that he did not believe the government would enter its second shutdown of the year.


Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín Guzmán, aka. El Chapo, was found guilty on all 10 counts of drug trafficking charges as a unanimous jury returned its verdict at a Brooklyn, New York, federal courthouse Tuesday, following an 11-week trial. El Chapo, aged 61, who led Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, is among the most notorious drug lords in the world and was at the helm of the cartel as it was the largest supplier of illicit drugs in the world, including in the United States. He will likely face life in prison without the possibility of parole at his June 25th sentencing hearing.


Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz reintroduced the EL CHAPO Act, a bill that would require El Chapo pay for the border wall through the criminal forfeiture of $14 billion in assets and proceeds.


The Senate Intelligence Committee found “no direct evidence” of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia to interfere with the 2016 election, according to Republican and Democrat committee members, per an NBC News report. As the two-year-long investigation comes to a close, Republican chairman Sen. Richard Burr said the committee has not seen “anything that would suggest there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia,” and Democratic committee sources acknowledged this. However, fellow Democrats, including the top Democrat on the committee, Sen. Mark Warner, pushed back against Burr’s characterizations of no evidence regarding collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Essentially, they are careful to emphasize that while no damning evidence has been exposed, there are patterns and numerous contacts between Trump associates and Russians that draw concern. Lawmakers have noted that there may be facts left to uncover as the Intel committee’s report is not yet fully complete.


“NO EVIDENCE OF COLLUSION,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning after the committee reported its findings. 


21 Savage was released from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center after ICE arrested the rapper last week. He was released from custody at a South Georgia detention facility after an immigration court granted him a $100,000 bond. The surprise arrest of 21 Savage came after ICE revealed that he was born in London and is a citizen of the United Kingdom. Officials stated that the rapper had entered the U.S. illegally in 2005 and had overstayed his nonimmigrant visa, which expired in July 2006. Prior to these revelations, it was believed that 21 Savage grew up in Atlanta and his public identity was nearly inseparable from the city.


Don’t panic…yet.


The total public debt has hit an all-time high as it surpassed the $22 trillion mark. The mounting debt has grown considerably in the last few decades and saw its largest increase in the wake of the financial crisis, during President Obama’s administration. As President Trump campaigned in 2016, he previously committed to eliminating the national debt and as recently as October, Trump vowed to start paying down large chunks of the debt. In Trump’s first two years in office, the debt has grown $2 trillion alone–the fastest increase since 2012.


Not-So-Fun Fact: The national debt has doubled in the last decade.


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is planning to force a vote on the “Green New Deal,” a broad resolution that outlines principles and aims to implement regulations to address climate change and economic inequality. McConnell is scheduling the vote in an effort to force lawmakers to publicly go on the record with their position toward the progressive resolution. The tactic could splinter Democrats between the more moderate and more progressive members of Congress, especially ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is furious and characterized the move as a political game, specifically calling it a “stunt.”


The Green New Deal was introduced by the high-profile (and sometimes controversial) Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey. The Green New Deal outlines a set of nonspecific progressive objectives toward tackling climate change and fighting inequity. The proposal is void of specific policies or methods to reduce carbon emissions and address problems facing disenfranchised groups; however, it serves as a blueprint of the future goals supporters of the proposal hope to achieve. The deal has garnered much criticism from both moderate Democrats and nearly all Republicans, the latter who have compared it to socialism.


Appearing on The Breakfast Club, California Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris admitted to having smoked marijuana during her years in college. She also used the discussion to share that she supports the legalization of marijuana–a position that she has evolved on since her opposition to its legalization in 2010.


Sen. Harris specifically admitted to smoking a joint.

7. POLLING 2020

A Morning Consult poll that surveyed 5,000 registered voters across the U.S. on the 2020 presidential election showed former Vice President Joe Biden as the early favorite. Biden took first place in the poll with 29% among Democratic primary voters and 33% among voters in early primary states. The former VP was followed in the poll by Bernie Sanders (22%), Kamala Harris (13%), Elizabeth Warren (8%), Beto O’Rourke (7%), and Cory Booker (5%).


The Senate passed a major public lands bill that will conserve 1.3 million acres of new wilderness, over 350 miles of river, and add 700,000 acres as recreation and conservation areas. The measure came in a rare, bipartisan 92 to 8 vote as it became the largest public lands bill to be approved by Congress in a decade. The bill would also create 2,600 miles of new trails, reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and would protect 370,000 acres in Montana and Washington from being mined for minerals. The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote upon a version of the bill sometime in the next few weeks.


Retired astronaut Mark Kelly of Arizona announced his campaign for U.S. Senate, where he will run as a Democrat and challenge Republican Martha McSally for the Senate seat in 2020. In his video announcement, Kelly discussed issues of climate change, affordable health care, gun laws, the economy, and restoring civility as key areas. Kelly is the husband of former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords (D-Arizona), who survived a 2011 shooting at a congressional event with significant injuries. Kelly is a former astronaut and Navy combat pilot who completed four missions into space and flew 39 combat missions, respectively.


The German airline Lufthansa is suing a passenger who purposely missed his layover flight on a round-trip ticket–a loophole used to save money. The incident occurred back in 2016 when the passenger booked a round-trip flight from Oslo to Seattle with a layover in Frankfurt. On the layover stop in Frankfurt, the passenger deboarded and hopped on another Lufthansa flight to Berlin instead of continuing to the original destination of Seattle. The so-called “hidden-city” loophole may save consumers money but airlines forbid the practice because airlines can’t sell the now-empty seat.


An example of the hidden-city trick: Let’s say you want to travel from Los Angeles (LAX) to Chicago (ORD). A direct flight may cost you $450, but you may find a Los Angeles to New York City (JFK) flight that includes a layover in Chicago for only $320. In this case, you would book the LAX to JFK flight with a layover in Chicago and get off at the layover destination instead of flying on to New York City.


Hint: The “hidden city” loophole means you can’t check your luggage (checked bags always fly to the flight’s final destination).

11. DE BLASIO 2020?

Speculation of a presidential run by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has surfaced as the Democratic two-term mayor of America’s largest city heads to New Hampshire–the state with the first primary in the 2020 presidential race. De Blasio told reporters that he’s not ruling out a run for the White House.

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