This week in politics was an eventful one. Congress came together to pass a short-term funding bill, which will keep the government open for a couple of weeks. The Russia investigation list grew to include two more prominent names. Our United States, somberly, experienced another heartbreaking school shooting; this time it took place in southwestern Kentucky. Here’s what you need to know.

Congress Voted to Reopen the Government After Brief Impasse

Image courtesy of Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

The first government shutdown of the Trump administration ended Monday afternoon after Congress passed a new law to fund the federal government for the next two and a half weeks, through February 8. The new law also funds the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for the next six years.

The shutdown occurred over the weekend. As a result, its impact lessened as the majority of furloughed federal workers don’t work during the weekend. During a government stoppage, activities deemed “nonessential” cease. Employees tasked with those activities are told not to come to work. Furthermore, they won’t get paid until the stoppage is resolved. The last shutdown took place in 2013, where roughly 40% of federal nonmilitary employees were categorized in the “nonessential” group.

The new law buys Congress some time to negotiate a more permanent government spending bill as well as hammer out some bipartisan immigration deal. Immigration, above all, was at the center of the impasse.

Room for Compromise

Democrats are seeking an agreement that includes protections for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival) program recipients, commonly referred to as DREAMers. The program grants work permits and deportation protections to nearly 700,000 unauthorized immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors. In September, the Trump administration announced plans to end the program by March 5.

On Thursday, the Trump administration outlined a legislative framework for a bipartisan immigration law, which will include a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million DREAMers. That figure includes those currently protected under the DACA program, plus individuals who didn’t apply for the program, but still met its requirements. In exchange, the White House is seeking $25 billion in funds for its border wall. The proposal also includes an end to the diversity visa lottery and family reunification.

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Nonetheless, the White House recently shot down one proposal that would give DREAMers an opportunity at legal status, as well as a path to citizenship. The proposal would also eliminate the diversity visa lottery, restrict DREAMers from sponsoring their parents, and provide funding for some border projects.

Russia Investigation Narrows Its Focus on Obstruction

Russia Investigation
Image courtesy of Doug Mills/The New York Times

This week we learned that special counsel Robert Mueller and his team of investigators interviewed former FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The report signals that the Russia investigation is narrowing its focus on President Trump’s conduct in office and whether the president’s interference with the Russian probe constitutes obstruction of justice.

In recent weeks, Mueller has expressed interest in questioning President Trump over his dismissals of Comey and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Trump had asked Comey to end the federal investigation into Flynn’s Russian communications, according to a memo written by the former director.

Mueller’s stated interest in these dismissals almost coincides with a report from Axios that Sessions – at the behest of Trump – had pressured acting FBI Director Christopher Wray to clear the bureau of Comey loyalists, such as Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. Trump reportedly asked McCabe whom he voted for during the 2016 presidential election at an Oval Office meeting in May, shortly after Trump fired Comey.

Mueller began his inquiry in May. Not long after the Russia investigation began did Trump demand the firing of Mueller. Only when the president’s White House counsel threatened to quit did Trump back down from that impulse. Additionally, the New York Times reported Trump considered firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein – who oversees the special counsel investigation. The president planned on replacing Rosenstein with Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand.

Meanwhile, Trump’s justification for firing Mueller stemmed from conflicts of interest between himself and the once FBI director. One allegation includes a dispute over fees at Trump National Golf Club, which prompted Mueller to resign his membership.

Imminent Meeting Draws Nearer

Trump told reporters on Wednesday afternoon he was “looking forward to” testifying under oath to Mueller. Some of the president’s close advisors and friends are concerned that his “lack of precision in his speech and his penchant for hyperbole” could land him in legal jeopardy. Trump’s lawyers are still planning out the specifics for a meeting with Mueller over the Russia investigation, however. Ideas floated about the format of the president’s testimony include “answering some questions in a face-to-face interview and others in a written statement.”

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We’ll learn more about the strength of Mueller’s evidence in the coming weeks. Nevertheless, impeachment remains the clearest and most constitutionally forthright path for addressing crimes by a sitting president. This means it would take a profoundly political vote to remove Trump from office.

Kentucky High School Shooting Claims the Life of Two

Image courtesy of Stephen Lance Dennee/Associated Press

A shooter armed with a handgun opened fire inside Marshall County High School in Kentucky Tuesday morning. Two students were killed, and 18 others were injured by the suspect, a 15-year-old male student. The suspect is in custody and will be charged with murder and attempted murder according to Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin. Local, state, and federal police are investigating the incident. The shooter’s motive is unknown, and his identity is being withheld because he’s a juvenile. Police believe the teen acted alone.

According to the AP, the Kentucky shooting is the first deadly school shooting of the New Year. It is the 10th school shooting of 2018.

Bailey Nicole Holt, a 15-year-old girl, and Preston Ryan Cope, a 15-year-old boy, are the names of the two fatalities. Holt died at the scene while Cope passed away later at a local hospital. Of the injured, 14 received bullet wounds. Four others experienced injuries in other ways as they and hundreds of other students fled the scene.

Marshall County Attorney Jeff Edwards plans to move the case to adult court. Afterwards, a grand jury will hear the case. If the suspect is indicted, his charges will proceed to Circuit Court. In this scenario, the shooter’s identity, among other case details, becomes public. The suspect is currently staying at a regional juvenile jail in Paducah, Kentucky.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered his condolences to the families and Kentuckians affected by the tragedy a few hours after news of the fatal school shooting broke.

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