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The Daily 202: Trump’s compulsion to take credit deepens his credibility gap amid questions about Iran intelligence

Speaking at a campaign rally in Toledo Jan. 9, President Trump wondered if he should get some of the credit for Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's win. (Video: The Washington Post)

with Mariana Alfaro

THE BIG IDEA: President Trump boasted on Thursday morning about the declining cancer death rate in the United States. “A lot of good news coming out of this Administration,” he tweeted. That night, during a rally in Ohio, Trump also took credit for the prime minister of Ethiopia receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

Trump had nothing at all to do with either development. In fact, he proposed cutting federal funding for cancer research. Perhaps because Trump is such a serial exaggerator – or maybe because everyone’s focused on Iran, impeachment and Iowa – these baseless claims passed with little notice. But they help illustrate why Trump’s credibility gap is so wide, which has hobbled him during the 10 days since he ordered the drone strike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani and prevented him from getting the bounce in the polls he reportedly hoped for.

-- The president claiming credit for good news that he had little or nothing to do with has become a running joke over the past three years. For example, the United States has gone several years now without a U.S. commercial airline fatality. When that streak continued during the first year of his presidency, Trump credited himself. “Since taking office I have been very strict on Commercial Aviation,” he tweeted. “Good news - it was just reported that there were Zero deaths in 2017, the best and safest year on record!”

Trump said over the holidays that people are proudly wishing each other “Merry Christmas” again because of his leadership.

In November, Trump took credit for Apple opening a Texas plant to assemble Mac Pros. In fact, the facility has been operational since 2013. He’s made similar declarations, from Pennsylvania to Louisiana.

That same month, Trump signed a bipartisan act to mint a commemorative coin for the centennial of women gaining the right to vote under the Constitution. “I’m curious: Why wasn’t it done a long time ago?” he said during a signing ceremony in the Oval Office. “I guess the answer to that is because now I’m president. We get things done.” Another plausible explanation: The centennial wasn’t until now.

President Trump routinely bemoans the lack of credit he receives for things, whether real or made up. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Trump has taken credit for the success of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea and for North America’s winning bid to host the 2026 World Cup. In May, the Boston Red Sox came to the White House to celebrate winning the World Series. After the team swept the Seattle Mariners in a subsequent three-game series, Trump hinted that their visit might have something to do with it:

But Boston tanked again after the tweet. They finished the season with an 84-78 record, 19 games behind and a distant third in the American League East.

The president has claimed that one of his proudest moments was getting a Veterans Choice program approved. In fact, the plan was sponsored by Bernie Sanders and John McCain, then signed into law by Barack Obama, in 2014. He’s taken credit for border barriers that existed before he took office. He’s claimed credit for getting countries to contribute to NATO what they had already planned to spend on their own militaries.

Trump has also taken credit for fixing things that aren’t fixed. For instance, he touted North Korea’s denuclearization when it was not happening. Another Trump M.O. is to take credit for addressing crises he created. He has said it was his idea to bail out farmers suffering from Chinese tariffs, not mentioning that he started the trade war. The president has also said he deserves credit for reuniting families who were torn apart because of his own immigration policies.

It’s often situational. Trump demands credit when stocks go up, but he said it was not his fault when markets corrected. He’s also taken credit for coming up with words and phrases such as “caravan,” “fake” and “prime the pump” that long predate him.

Days after President Trump said Iran was targeting four U.S. embassies, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper on Jan. 12 said he "didn't see" evidence of that. (Video: The Washington Post)

-- Trump’s fusillade of falsehoods on so many topics casts a shadow of doubt over his claims that he says are based on top secret intelligence. The Washington Post’s Fact Checker database has documented more than 15,413 false or misleading claims by Trump since he took office.

The Sunday shows starkly displayed the consequences of the president’s decision to squander his credibility by playing so fast and loose with the truth throughout his tenure. Trump’s own top aides declined to confirm his declaration on Friday that intelligence showed the Iranians were looking to “blow up” four U.S. embassies.

“I didn’t see one with regard to four embassies,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on CBS, referring to intelligence reports. “What I’m saying is I share the president’s view that probably — my expectation was – they were going to go after our embassies.”

National security adviser Robert O’Brien said on Fox that it’s difficult “to know exactly what the targets are,” but it’s not unreasonable to anticipate a future Iranian attack “would have hit embassies in at least four countries.” 

On CNN, Esper said “there was intelligence that … there was an intent to target the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.” He said the details been shared with the Gang of Eight. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the group, said that’s not true. 

O’Brien acknowledged on NBC that that the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad was not informed of an imminent threat against it, something that would be standard operating procedure. “As soon as it looked like there was going to be some sort of action against a U.S. Embassy,” he said, “the president was decisive and bold in his action.”

-- When Trump appeared to take credit for fewer people dying of cancer, the American Cancer Society said the trendlines from 2016 to 2017 “reflect prevention, early detection, and treatment advances that occurred in prior years.”

The cancer death rate fell in the United States in 2017 – the last year for which data is available – by 2.2 percent, and experts said it’s largely because of fewer lung cancer deaths. This is the result of people choosing to stop smoking over the past few decades, as well as more advanced treatments. The cancer death rate has fallen 29 percent overall since its 1991 peak, with declines every year from 1991 through 2017.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), a breast cancer survivor, noted that Trump’s budget for the current fiscal year proposed cutting more than $4.5 billion in funding from the National Institutes of Health, but a bipartisan coalition in Congress blocked his request and instead appropriated a $2.6 billion increase in support.

Chris Lu, a senior fellow at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center who worked in the Obama White House, said the president is trying to have it both ways. Lu said that, if Trump wants to take credit for the cancer rate falling, “he also needs to own” that income inequality is the highest ever recorded, that the United States has suffered the most mass killings since at least the 1970s, that hate crimes are at a 16-year high, that July 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded and that air pollution is getting worse.

-- Trump taking credit for Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed earning the Nobel Peace Prize apparently stemmed from confusion about African affairs. “I made a deal, I saved a country and I just heard that the head of that country is now getting the Nobel Peace Prize for saving the country,” Trump told his supporters in Toledo. “I said, ‘What, did I have something to do with it?’ Yeah! But, you know, that’s the way it is. As long as we know, that’s all that matters.”

Ahmed was recognized for his work securing a peace treaty with Eritrea after decades of hostilities. “Trump played no apparent role in the Eritrea peace deal, but Washington has played a convening role in another deal [Ahmed] is seeking with Egypt that will regulate how quickly Ethiopia can fill a new dam it has built in the upper reaches of the Nile River that has major implications for the flow of water Egypt relies on economically,” our Nairobi bureau chief Max Bearak explains. “The apparent conflation of the two led to widespread befuddlement on social media in Ethiopia and elsewhere, though by and large the comments were not taken seriously.”

“He was talking about Egypt and Ethiopia,” a senior Ethiopian government official told the Associated Press. “President Trump really believes he avoided a war as such … but that was not the case.”

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Iran’s first and only female Olympic medalist, Taekwondo athlete Kimia Alizadeh, announced Jan. 11 that she had permanently left her home country. (Video: Reuters)


-- The only woman to ever win an Olympic medal for Iran has defected to the West. Kim Bellware reports: “Kimia Alizadeh, who won a bronze medal in taekwondo at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, shared the news on her Instagram account Saturday. ‘I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran with whom they have been playing for years,’ the 21-year-old athlete wrote in Persian, accompanied by a black-and-white image of her from the 2016 medal ceremony in which she is draped in the Iranian flag and holding her face in her hands. … Alizadeh said the government took credit for her athletic achievement while humiliating her for her efforts, recalling one instance in which an official told her, ‘It is not virtuous for a woman to stretch her legs!’ She described how Iranian officials attributed her success to their management practices, including making her compete in an Islamic headscarf, which is obligatory for women under Iranian law.

Alizadeh is not the only notable Iranian athlete to defect in recent months: Olympian and judoka world champion Saeid Mollaei left Iran and ultimately became a Mongolian citizen after Iranian officials allegedly pressured him to throw a match to avoid competing against Israelis; Pourya Jalalipour, an Iranian para-archer who qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, left Iran in July to seek asylum in the Netherlands. … Alizadeh did not disclose to where she had defected, mentioning only that ‘no one invited to me to Europe.’ Radio Free Europe cited her past remarks, indicating she may have gone to the Netherlands. … Abdolkarim Hosseinzadeh, a member of parliament, accused ‘incompetent officials’ of allowing Iran’s ‘human capital to flee’ the country, Agence France-Press reports."

-- Thousands of Iranian protesters hit the streets again on Sunday night to condemn Iranian authorities. From CNN: “Iranian riot police used tear gas to disperse thousands of protesters in Tehran's Azadi Square Sunday, as public fury escalates over Iran's accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger plane, killing all 176 people on board. Protests that began as vigils to mourn those who died in the crash quickly turned into mass anti-government demonstrations, with calls for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down and for those responsible for downing the plane to be prosecuted. ‘Death to the dictator,’ some chanted in the capital ... Videos circulating on social media showed demonstrators in Tehran coughing and fleeing from tear gas as authorities apparently detained protesters while others shouted for police to release them.

"Protests have spread to other cities, including Shiraz, Esfahan, Hamedan and Orumiyeh, Reuters reported, exposing widespread discontent with the regime. … Widespread reverence for Soleimani, who commanded a cult-like status in the country, had seemingly united Iranians of all political stripes in anger at the US. But at protests over the weekend, posters of Soleimani had reportedly been torn down, according to Agence France-Presse. … During an open session of Iran's parliament in Tehran Sunday, the chief commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps, Hossein Salami, apologized for unintentionally shooting down the Ukrainian plane and asked for forgiveness. … The apologies did little to quell protests and, while the Iranian leadership faces public opposition at home, international pressure is piling on the regime to investigate the crash and hold those responsible to account. ...

"Fresh criticism was also leveled at Iran for the temporary arrest Saturday of British Ambassador Rob Macaire. [State television said] Macaire was arrested while in the middle of a crowd of protesters in front of Tehran’s Amir Kabir University. He was accused of instigating and directing radical and destructive demonstrations, and later released. Macaire said on Twitter that he wasn’t taking part in any demonstrations -- and was instead paying respect to victims of the downed Ukrainian plane."

-- Trump authorized Soleimani’s killing seven months ago if Iran’s increased aggression resulted in the death of an American. From NBC News: “The presidential directive in June came with the condition that Trump would have final sign-off on any specific operation to kill Soleimani, officials said. … But It was just one of a host of possible elements of Trump's ‘maximum pressure’ campaign against Iran and ‘was not something that was thought of as a first move,’ said a former senior administration official involved in the discussions.”

-- Ukraine knew Flight 752 had been shot down, but the country chose not to antagonize Iran. David L. Stern and Isabelle Khurshudyan report: “Within hours of Iran's stunning admission Saturday that its missile mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane, Ukraine made a big reveal of its own. The country put out photos, taken a day earlier, showing wreckage riddled with small holes, suggesting damage from shrapnel. … Ukraine wanted its investigators to gather hard evidence of their own."

-- Rockets hit a military base outside Baghdad, injuring at least four Iraqi soldiers. From Al Jazeera: “[Local officials said] the al-Balad airbase, located some 80km away from the capital, was hit by eight Katyusha rockets. Some projectiles fell on a restaurant inside the airbase, while others hit the runway and the gate, according to Iraqi officials. So far there has been no claim of responsibility for the attack, which caused no US casualties.”

-- A majority of Americans said they disapprove of Trump’s handling of the Iran situation and feel less safe, according to a new ABC News-Ipsos poll: “The poll showed a majority of Independents, 57%, and all U.S. adults, 56%, disapproving of Trump's handling of the situation with Iran, with 43% of both Independents and U.S. adults approving. … In the aftermath of the U.S. strike, only 28% of Independents, and 25% of Americans, said they felt more safe, while just over half, 51% of Independents and 52% of U.S. adults, said they felt less safe. When it comes to attitudes on the conflict with Iran, partisanship drives opinions. An overwhelming 87% of Republicans approved of Trump's handling of Iran, and 54% say they feel safer. Among Democrats, 90% disapproved and 82% felt less safe.”

-- Soleimani’s killing reflected a more aggressive national security team that doesn’t feel strongly inclined to curb Trump. Paul Sonne, Greg Jaffe and Josh Dawsey report: “Trump initially floated the possibility of killing Soleimani in the spring of 2017 ... But then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resisted any action. … Former White House officials who supported the killing of Soleimani this month viewed Mattis’s absence as one of the reasons the strike proceeded ... [Esper] is filling Mattis’s role; there’s a new chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and a new commander at U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East. The diminished threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has given Trump’s national security team license to shift its focus more toward Iran. … [Gen. Joseph Votel has been replaced by] Marine Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., [who] has made Iran the top focus for his command. … Trump’s confidence is further bolstered by three years of White House experience and a feeling that the expert predictions of dire consequences, especially in the Middle East, don’t always come true. Top officials warned Trump that moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would lead to increased attacks on U.S. troops throughout the Middle East, but the attacks never came.”

2020 WATCH:

-- After a Des Moines Register poll showed him leading in Iowa with three weeks until the caucuses, Bernie Sanders clashed on Sunday with Joe Biden on Iraq, tussled with Elizabeth Warren on electability and found himself being attacked by Trump on Twitter as "crazy." Annie Linskey and Sean Sullivan report: “Voters have been averse so far to most candidates who launched broadsides against their rivals, and Sanders as much as any candidate has tried to craft a positive image. For months, Sanders’s rivals declined to attack him, viewing little to be gained from taking on a candidate with a famously loyal following who was struggling in the polls. Even as Sanders was on the rise in December — raising vast sums of cash and climbing in the early states — they mostly focused their attacks on one another. …

“Sanders’s top aides have long encouraged him to be more aggressive with Biden, and for much of last year, he did not heed their advice. … That posture changed in recent weeks, and dramatically so over the weekend, when Nina Turner, a national co-chair of the Sanders campaign, wrote an op-ed published Sunday in a South Carolina newspaper claiming that Biden ‘has repeatedly betrayed black voters to side with Republican lawmakers and undermine our progress.’ … The increasingly intense fight between Sanders and Biden reflects their ideological disagreements and a sharp political reality: Sanders’s top staffers have argued for months that they compete for many of the same working-class voters and that Biden is the only candidate who performs better than Sanders among minorities.

“The new dispute with Warren operates on another plane, as the two have been allies on some of the more contested proposals of the campaign, including Medicare-for-all, until she tweaked her proposal after sustained criticism. Recently, Sanders has not shied away from contrasting their positions, portraying his Medicare-for-all proposal as superior to her approach. … A script first reported by Politico told Sanders’s volunteers to tell voters they called on Sanders’s behalf who had indicated support for her that Warren’s popularity was limited to the rich and educated — effectively denigrating her electability. … A Trump campaign aide said to expect the president to mount a full-throttle attack on Sanders in coming days.”

-- At Las Vegas events, Biden and Pete Buttigieg tried to woo Hispanic voters. Chelsea Janes and Cleve R. Wootson Jr. report: “Nevada, which will be the third state to hold its nominating contest with a caucus set for Feb. 22, has been overshadowed this year ... But with a growing likelihood that the crowded Democratic presidential field will remain a muddle after those states, some candidates are starting to redouble their efforts … At his meetings with Latino voters, Buttigieg pitched himself as a fresh face who could shake loose the decades-long stalemate on immigration reform. … Biden, meanwhile, tried to assure voters he would prioritize the Latino community.” 

-- Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) is behind in the Iowa polls and has not raised as much money as the top-tier candidates, but she could benefit from clashes between Sanders, Warren and Biden. From the Los Angeles Times: “She has headlined 161 events over 58 days, leading the major candidates ... She has visited all of Iowa’s 99 counties, and along the way she has sipped hot cocoa with voters on her campaign bus in Rockwell City, mourned a shuttered ethanol plant in Crawfordsville, drank beer at a bar in Humboldt and gazed at stars at a planetarium in Cherokee. Klobuchar’s message to voters here is that she is a pragmatic progressive with Midwestern, working-class roots and a record of accomplishment in her three terms as a senator, notably on issues important to Iowans.”

-- Sanders picked up the endorsement of one of New Hampshire’s largest and most influential unions. From Politico: “SEIU Local 1984 represents more than 10,000 people and is widely regarded as having the most sophisticated political operation ... In 2016, the local union (also) bucked national leadership to endorse Sanders early in the Democratic race."

-- Democratic strategist James Carville endorsed Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) for president this morning. Bennet is camping out in New Hampshire. “It’s a historical fact that people like him do well there," Carville says in a forthcoming release. "I have faith in his strategy of going from town hall to town hall, from living room to living room. He’s putting in the work. Michael Bennet will surprise people.”

-- House Democrats who have picked sides in the 2020 primary plan to announce jointly that they will back the eventual Democratic nominee, no matter who it is. Jacqueline Alemany and Sean Sullivan report: “Rep. Brendan Boyle (Pa.), a backer of [Biden], is leading the effort to unify House Democrats and has so far been in touch with two of his colleagues from California — Reps. Ro Khanna and Katie Porter. Khanna has again thrown his support behind [Sanders] ... and Porter is backing [Warren]." Boyle said "the goal of this is to absolutely avoid a repeat of 2016."

-- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) created a PAC to challenge the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s policy to “blacklist” vendors and firms that work with candidates mounting primary challenges against incumbents. Kayla Epstein reports: “Ocasio-Cortez has also not paid her dues to the DCCC during this campaign cycle and said she did not plan to pay. The funds are traditionally provided to the DCCC by House members to redistribute among other important races. … ‘DCCC made clear that they will blacklist any org that helps progressive candidates like me,’ Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. ‘I can choose not to fund that kind of exclusion.’ Instead, Ocasio-Cortez said that she would raise money for candidates herself and that she had raised over $300,000 for other candidates.”

-- The Women’s March organization is gasping for relevance three years after it drew millions to the largest single-day protest in U.S. history. Marissa J. Lang reports: “As Trump commences the final year of his first term, the Women’s March is planning to take to the streets once more. But many of the demonstrators who descended on the District that first year, catapulting the new organization from obscurity to a household name, will not be there to see it. After overhauling its mission, structure and leadership, the organization once considered the beating heart of the anti-Trump movement seems to be on life support. Experts who follow protest movements said the group’s own successes — putting more women on the front line of American politics, inspiring a new wave of progressive groups, encouraging an unprecedented number of women to run for office — have rendered the Women’s March increasingly irrelevant. Others blame the failures on an organization that has struggled to find its purpose amid national controversies, financial mismanagement, accusations of anti-Semitism and a reputation for being unwilling to play nice with others. Either way, the result is the same.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Jan. 12 said President Trump is “impeached for life." (Video: ABC News)


-- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s efforts to wire the Senate impeachment trial for Trump’s advantage is helping him politically back home in Kentucky, where he’s up for reelection this fall. Griff Witte reports from Florence, Ky.: “The 77-year-old is expected to face a vigorous challenge in November from a decorated Marine fighter pilot with a record of big-dollar fundraising. Yet McConnell has shown an unerring instinct for self-preservation across six Senate terms and a record stint as Republican leader. To Trump’s backers here in northern Kentucky — the small cities, affluent suburbs and rolling hill country that fans out just across the muddy Ohio River from Cincinnati — that is just how they like it. Many have long been wary of McConnell, deeming him overly willing to cut a deal and insufficiently committed to the president’s agenda. His management of the president’s trial, they say, will be a test.”

-- "Challenging McConnell to hold a serious trial that includes testimony from witnesses, [Nancy] Pelosi did not rule out the possibility that the House would subpoena former national security adviser John Bolton if the Senate chooses not to," Elise Viebeck and Juliet Eilperin report. "Pelosi said she will meet with House Democrats on Tuesday morning to discuss the timing of a vote on impeachment managers — the half-dozen lawmakers who will prosecute the case and transmit the charges to the Senate. A trial could start as early as Wednesday, if the House acts quickly, though lawmakers and aides have speculated that it will not begin in earnest until the following week. … In a Sunday afternoon tweet, Trump called for dismissal with no trial. … Senate Republicans have rallied behind the precedent set during President Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial, in which the case for removal was presented and rebutted before decisions were made about calling witnesses or seeking further evidence. Pelosi dismissed comparisons to 1999 for ‘at least six reasons . . . the biggest one is that the witnesses [who eventually testified] were all deposed’ before their public testimony. … Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has said that she is working with a small group of Republicans to ensure that the trial includes witnesses.”

-- Trump attacked a former Justice Department senior official who was appointed by a federal judge to review the FBI’s proposed wiretap application reforms. Ellen Nakashima reports: “‘You can’t make this up! David Kris, a highly controversial former DOJ official, was just appointed by the FISA Court to oversee reforms to the FBI’s surveillance procedures. Zero credibility. THE SWAMP!’ Trump tweeted. … Kris is a respected former assistant attorney general for national security who has served in both Republican and Democratic administrations. He is one of several ‘amici’ or experts named to advise the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on complex cases, and he co-authored what is considered the definitive treatise on national security surveillance law … The court’s presiding judge, James E. Boasberg, on Friday named Kris to help the court assess the steps the FBI has taken and plans to take to address the flaws exposed by Inspector General Michael Horowitz in his review last month of a wiretap application for former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.” 

-- Trump’s impeachment defense team is coming together. From the Times: “The two constants will be Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel, and Jay Sekulow, who has been Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer since 2017. … There will be other lawyers involved, primarily Mr. Cipollone’s two top deputies, Patrick F. Philbin and Michael M. Purpura … Others may have discreet roles with the team, including the famed lawyer Alan Dershowitz.”

-- Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (R-N.Y) might get the last laugh on the impeachment trial. From Politico: “Schumer will force a series of votes designed to squeeze vulnerable Republicans and harm them on the campaign trail if they side with Trump. … Support for obtaining new documents at the trial is ‘even stronger than we thought, with large numbers of Republicans supporting it,’ Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in an interview."

-- As remote telework rises at U.S. companies, Trump is calling federal employees back to their offices. Lisa Rein reports: “After a big push toward telework in the Obama administration, [Trump’s] government is scaling it back at multiple agencies on the theory that a fanny in the seat prevents the kind of slacking off that can happen when no one’s watching. The about-face began at the Agriculture Department in 2018, after Secretary Sonny Perdue was angry to discover that an employee he needed to meet with was working from home, according to three administration officials. In response, he slashed by half a robust program used by tens of thousands of employees. … The Education and Interior departments and the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as parts of Commerce and Health and Human Services departments, soon followed. The Department of Veterans Affairs, where telework is popular in the benefits division, is pushing for restrictions in contract talks. The Social Security Administration abruptly canceled a six-year-old pilot program for 12,000 operations employees in November, citing ‘increased wait times and unacceptable delays’ to customer service.”

-- Five years after an abortion, most women say they made the right decision. Ariana Eunjung Cha reports: “Researchers from the University of California at San Francisco delved into this question in an analysis of 667 women recruited from 30 sites across the country as part of the Turnaway Study — a landmark body of research about how abortion affects women physically, socially, emotionally and economically. Starting one week after their abortions and then twice yearly after that, the women were asked about their feelings. The authors said they wondered about stigma and how the women would reflect on their decisions as time passed. What they found was a surprise: Over time, all emotions, good and bad, faded.” 

-- American history textbooks for high school students differ significantly from Texas to California in ways that are shaded by partisan politics, the New York Times found: “The differences between state editions can be traced back to several sources: state social studies standards; state laws; and feedback from panels of appointees that huddle, in Sacramento and Austin hotel conference rooms, to review drafts. Requests from textbook review panels, submitted in painstaking detail to publishers, show the sometimes granular ways that ideology can influence the writing of history. … McGraw-Hill, the publisher whose annotated Bill of Rights appears differently in the two states, said it had created the additional wording on the Second Amendment and gun control for the California textbook. A national version of the pages is similar to the Texas edition, which does not call attention to gun rights ... Publishers are eager to please state policymakers of both parties, during a challenging time for the business.”

-- The Jussie Smollett case looms over the reelection campaign for Chicago’s chief prosecutor. Mark Guarino reports: “In the middle of a video announcing her reelection campaign, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx did something few Chicago politicians do: She admitted fault. Foxx had been criticized by [Trump,] the Fraternal Order of Police and many Chicagoans for her office’s decision in March to drop all 16 felony disorderly conduct charges against actor Jussie Smollett, who police say staged a racist and homophobic attack involving two men with a noose. … ‘Truth is, I didn’t handle it well. I own that,’ Foxx (D) said in her two-minute video. The criticism has not subsided as Foxx fights to keep her position ahead of the March 17 primary, in which she faces three challengers. … The Smollett controversy threatens to define her term as chief prosecutor. Amid accusations that the dropped charges were a political favor, a judge appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the decision and explore whether there are new grounds to prosecute the former ‘Empire’ actor. … Some fear losing her bid for a second term would impede the surge in prosecutors seeking to shift the nation away from incarceration-driven practices.”


A Republican-turned-independent congressman highlighted one of the more remarkable statements Trump made in his Fox News interview:

Bernie Sanders responded to a Trump taunt: 

On a balmy night, with temperatures in D.C. around 70 degrees on Sunday, the White House shared an image of snow falling from last Tuesday:

An Italian astronaut who is currently on the International Space Station shared an image of the fires in Australia from above: 

And the U.S. embassy in Seoul congratulated a NASA astronaut who might be one of the most accomplished men alive: 

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I think I want to be a politician. I really love government even tho I don't agree with [government]," tweeted rapper Cardi B, adding later: "I do feel like if I go back to school and focus up I can be  part of Congress ... I just need a couple of years of school and I can shake the table."


The Taal volcano in the Philippines erupted over the weekend, spewing lava and ash across the country and forcing thousands to evacuate:

Thousands sought safer ground as an erupting volcano spewed lava and ash across the Philippines on Jan. 13. (Video: The Washington Post)

In Australia, officials made it rain carrots and sweet potatoes for the wildlife affected by fire:

“The Daily Show” went to Arizona to talk about how climate change has hurt the state: