Defense & Cyberspace

Trump touts more than 100 miles of new border wall during State of Union
But all but one mile of it simply replaces old, existing barriers

A section of the border wall stretches through the Rio Grande Valley sector of the Texas border on Aug. 20, 2019. (Jinitzail Hernández/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump boasted during his State of the Union address that his administration has built more than 100 miles of barriers along the southwest border. The latest government data, however, shows that only one new mile of barrier has been constructed where none previously existed.

During his address Tuesday night to Congress, the president referred to ongoing construction of “a long, tall and very powerful wall” that echoed promises from his 2016 presidential campaign.

Soldier reunited with family during State of the Union
Army sergeant surprises his wife and two children

Sgt. 1st Class Townsend Williams kisses his wife, Amy Williams, after surprising his family during President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump used part of Tuesday night’s State of the Union address to surprise Amy Williams, a Fort Bragg-based wife of a deployed Army sergeant, and her two young children.

While the president highlighted her volunteer work, he invited Sgt. 1st Class Townsend Williams down to the gallery to be reunited with his family.

Shelby leaves door open for earmarks' return
House Democrats have floated the idea in recent weeks

Sen. Richard C. Shelby, an Alabama Republican, may be warming to the idea of earmarks. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby appeared to soften a little Tuesday on a potential return of earmarks in spending bills this year, after saying last week his Republican colleagues probably wouldn’t allow it.

The Alabama Republican said that despite the Senate GOP Conference vote last year in favor of a permanent ban on the practice, he thinks there’s an argument to be made for a reversal.

House earmarks decision likely next week, Lowey says
Resuming practice would mean members could push projects for their districts

Rep. Nita Lowey, a New York Democrat., said Thursday that the time for discussion on earmarks was fast coming to an end. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey indicated Thursday that the word would come down as soon as the week of Feb. 3 on whether lawmakers would be able to seek special projects for their districts in next year’s spending bills.

The New York Democrat’s comments follow weeks of behind-the-scenes conversations during which she has begun to formulate how the House might bring back the controversial earmarking process during an election year. She’s also sought to assuage fears from Democrats in swing districts who have concerns about how the practice could impact them in November.

House votes to curb Trump's power to attack Iran
11 Republicans join Democrats to limit presidential actions

Rep. Barbara Lee sponsored the amendment to repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House on Thursday passed, on bipartisan votes, two related measures designed to prevent President Donald Trump from launching military attacks on Iran.

The two votes were the latest sign of lawmakers’ growing willingness in recent years to exercise their war powers muscles after decades of disuse.

Ahead of House Iran war votes, Trump sends mixed messages
Despite veto threats, president urges lawmakers to vote their conscience on 2002 AUMF repeal

Anti-war demonstrators attend a rally outside the White House on Jan. 25. The action also took place in 153 cities in 20 countries for the Global Day of Protest. (Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images file photo)

As the House prepares to vote Thursday on two measures that would constrain President Donald Trump’s ability to launch attacks on Iran, the White House sent out mixed messages about how it wants lawmakers to vote.

The House will debate and vote on two measures that take different approaches to limiting the Trump administration’s military options when it comes to Tehran, which remains outraged at the United States for the early January U.S. drone strike in Iraq that killed Iran’s most powerful general, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

Trump's Mideast peace plan puts pro-Israel Democrats in a bind
Possible lasting break between the Israeli government and Democratic lawmakers

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House Tuesday announcing a new plan for Middle East peace (Getty Images)

The White House’s release of its long-awaited Middle East plan is notable less for its specifics, which have already been rejected by the Palestinians, than for the bind it puts on traditional pro-Israel stalwarts in the Democratic Party, particularly if Israel decides to formally annex Palestinian land as the administration plan would immediately allow.

The administration’s 180-page “Peace to Prosperity” proposal released Tuesday, also called “The Vision,” is the three-year brainchild of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner. “The Vision provides for a demilitarized Palestinian state living peacefully alongside Israel, with Israel retaining security responsibility west of the Jordan River,” states a White House outline of the proposal.

Can you point to Ukraine? It may be a while before you get your chance
State Department delays request for unlabeled map Mike Pompeo used to challenge NPR reporter

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the State Department earlier this month. He used an unlabeled map in an attempt to stump NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly on the location of Ukraine. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had a challenge for NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly after their interview Friday: Find Ukraine on a blank map.

Anyone who wants to see the map Pompeo used may face another challenge. Getting a copy could take months — or even years.

Shelby skeptical of nascent House discussions on earmarks
‘The Republican Caucus is on record against that,’ Senate Appropriations chairman says

Chairman Richard C. Shelby, center, and Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, attend the Senate Appropriations Committee markup of the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement implementation bill on Jan. 15. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby said it’s unlikely Republicans in his chamber will bring back spending bill earmarks, regardless of what the House decides.

“The Republican Caucus is on record against that, so that’s not going to go anywhere right now,” the Alabama Republican said Tuesday. Himself a prolific earmarker before the practice stopped in 2011, Shelby declined to discuss his personal views on the topic at this point. “I’m part of the [GOP] caucus and the caucus is not going to support that. So unless the caucus is involved it won’t happen,” he said.

Impeachment news roundup: Jan. 28
GOP senators met Tuesday to gather input on whether to call witnesses

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks with reporters before the start of the Senate impeachment trial proceedings Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

File updated 5:30 p.m.

The president’s defense team has completed its presentation.

How Maz Jobrani deals with hecklers
The ‘peaceful warrior’ is blissed out and rising above the f-bombs

Maz Jobrani will return to the Kennedy Center on Friday. (Don Emmert/AFP via Getty Images)

Maz Jobrani knows politics. He has a degree in political science. He’s spoken out on immigration. He’s toured the country with a comedy troupe named after a speech by George W. Bush.

Heck, he even had a bit part on “The West Wing.”

Pentagon using artificial intelligence to track wildfires, study chaos of combat
Head of military AI office promises more money for 2021 budget

National Guard helicopters drop water on a wildfire near Ojai, Calif., on Dec. 9, 2017. The Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center has been working with the National Guard to track natural disasters using AI tools. (David McNew/Getty Images file photo)

One year ago, Air Force Lt. Gen. John N.T. “Jack” Shanahan became the first director of a new Pentagon office created to act as a clearinghouse for all of the U.S. military’s work on artificial intelligence. Among a raft of near-term projects the office has taken up is one deploying computer vision technology to track and combat wildfires. 

Taking tools developed for Project Maven, an initiative to analyze and identify objects on the ground from videos shot by aerial drones during the fight against the Islamic State, the Pentagon’s office known as the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center has been working with National Guard units combating wildfires in California and hurricanes elsewhere.

John Bolton shows that in Washington, irony never dies
No role reversal, it turns out, is too extreme

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton (Getty Images)

The emergence of John Bolton as a potentially critical witness in Democrats’ case for ousting President Donald Trump from office is deeply ironic.

For years, Democrats almost to a person have depicted the former national security adviser and arch-conservative as practically unhinged. Now, by contrast, Democrats consider him a solid and stable foundation upon which to rest their case for the president’s conviction in his ongoing impeachment trial. 

Lowey to discuss earmarks with freshman, at-risk Democrats
Tuesday meeting marks first step in determining whether there's enough consensus to attempt to bring back the line items

Rep. Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., is set to meet Tuesday with a group of freshman House Democrats and others considered vulnerable in 2020 elections. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democratic leaders are moving ahead with their sales pitch for the return of earmarks — which an aide dubbed “community project funding.”

House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., is set to meet Tuesday with a group of freshman House Democrats and others considered vulnerable in the 2020 elections to talk about a possible return of local projects in the spending bills for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. 

House members considering ending ban on earmarks
Lawmakers have cautiously expressed growing interest in allowing special projects inserted into spending bills

House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., briefly considered allowing earmarks last year, until announcing in March that they would not be allowed in fiscal 2020 spending bills. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House appropriators are considering lifting a nearly 10-year ban on congressionally directed spending, known as earmarks.

While no decisions have been made, a House Democratic aide said lawmakers are in the “early stages” of considering allowing earmarks in spending bills for the coming fiscal year. “There is considerable interest in allowing members of Congress to direct funding for important projects in their communities,” the source said.