Joshua Tree Damages to Last Three Centuries

The government shutdown resulted in damages to the Joshua Tree National Park that the former superintendent says could take 300 years to resolve.

Visitors to the park actually cut down ancient Joshua trees — which take a full 60 years just to mature — so that they could make illegal roadways into the park.

Human waste from illegal camp sites also contributed to incalculable ecological damage to the park, which houses trees as old as 1,000 years.

Friends of Joshua Tree nonprofit director John Lauretig argues that the park should be completely closed if the government shuts down again to prevent any further damage.

“If the government doesn’t fund or staff the parks appropriately, then they should just close the parks to protect the parks and protect the people.”

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Stacey Abrams With the Clapback

Democrats have chosen former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams to deliver the rebuttal to the president’s State of the Union address next week.

The address, which was previously cancelled due to the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, will take place Tuesday, February 5.

Abrams headed a monumental campaign in Georgia last year, and many still suspect she only lost because of election mishandling on the part of the Georgia government. Abrams recently launched Fair Fight Action, which is an advocacy group suing Georgia election officials for mismanagement of the state’s 2018 midterm elections.

Government Temporarily Reopens

President Trump announced his endorsement of a spending bill to temporarily reopen the government this afternoon.

He made the announcement after the Senate failed to pass a spending bill to end the shutdown yesterday.

The agreement does not, however, resolve the issue of border wall funding, meaning it will only reopen the government for three weeks if a permanent solution can not be reached.

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Cohen’s Testimony Postponed

Legal counsel for former Trump attorney Michael Cohen have urged him to postpone his testimony in light of threats from the president.

Cohen was set to testify publicly before Congress on February 7, and it was recently made clear that the hearing could not cover any topics related to the ongoing investigation under Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The decision to postpone the testimony makes it quite possible that the public will never hear Cohen’s side of the story, as he is due to begin his three-year prison sentence on March 6.

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More Family Separation

The inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services reports that thousands more families were separated by the administration than previously thought.

In a report released Thursday, the HHS inspector general concluded that the Trump administration not only separated thousands more children than previously thought, but that there is no effective system in place for tracking those children.

The inspector general’s findings come months after a federal judge ordered the administration to reunite all immigrant children with their families or guardians and shows that the administration may have never known exactly how many families it separated.

Changing the Story

As the ongoing shutdown edges closer and closer to becoming the longest in U.S. history, the president has walked back his claim that Mexico would pay for the wall.

As he prepared to leave for a trip to the southern border, Trump told reporters that he “never meant they’re [Mexico] gonna write out a check,” and repeated his claim that new trade deals will “indirectly” force Mexico to foot the bill.

However, those trade deals have not been approved by Congress and show little indication of providing any substantial payment from Mexico — indirect or otherwise — for a border wall.

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Michael Cohen to Testify Publicly

Michael Cohen, former attorney and “fixer” for the president, has agreed to testify publicly before Congress about his dealings with Trump.

In what is considered a major win for newly sworn in House Democrats, Cohen has agreed to testify publicly before the House Oversight Committee on February 7.

It will be the first time congressional Democrats will be able to control the interrogation of a member of the president’s inner circle and campaign team, almost all of whom are involved in the special investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

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TPS Trial Begins

Yesterday, the trial challenging the administration’s reversal of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for more than 50,000 Haitians living in the U.S. began.

The administration originally announced the revocation of status for Haitians in November of 2017, prompting widespread protests.

Yesterday, a trial began to challenge that reversal, which also affects Sudanese, Salvadoran, and Nicaraguan immigrants.

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