Tuesday US briefing: GOP trying to curb power of incoming Democrats

Tim Walker
Michigan’s Democratic governor-elect, Gretchen Whitmer, reacts with her daughters after declaring victory. Photograph: Jeff Kowalsky/Reuters

Good morning, I’m Tim Walker with today’s headlines. If you’d like to receive this briefing by email, sign up here.


Top story: Republicans accused of undermining voters’ will

Lame-duck Republicans in several states stand accused of trying to undermine the results of last month’s midterm elections by stripping power from incoming Democrat lawmakers. In Wisconsin, where all six statewide positions were won by Democrats, the GOP-controlled legislature intends to vote on Tuesday on 40 proposed amendments that would starkly weaken the remit of those roles. A similar plan is afoot in neighbouring Michigan, where the Democrat Gretchen Whitmer was elected governor.

  • North Carolina. The Tar Heel state’s ninth congressional district is under scrutiny after the state’s elections board refused to certify a narrow victory for the GOP candidate, Mark Harris. The board is looking into irregularities over absentee ballots in two counties, amid claims of election fraud.

French government ‘to suspend fuel tax hike’ after riots

Police confront anti-government activists in Marseilles, where a woman was killed during protests on Saturday. Photograph: Clement Mahoudeau/AFP/Getty Images

The French prime minister is expected to announce the suspension of a planned fuel tax increase after three weeks of increasingly violent unrest in several French cities. Emmanuel Macron, the president, previously vowed not to surrender to street rule. But French media reports said the prime minister, Édouard Philippe, would meet his cabinet on Tuesday morning to agree a solution to the protests sparked by the tax rise on petrol and diesel, which was designed to encourage a move to cleaner fuels.

  • Protest death. An 80-year-old woman died during protests in Marseille on Saturday, after she was hit in the face by a teargas canister while trying to close the window shutters of her apartment.

Experts: Trump praise for Stone could be witness tampering

Trump confidant Roger Stone, who has vowed not to testify against the president. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP

As Robert Mueller’s has investigation ramped up in recent days, Donald Trump has responded with a characteristically belligerent run of tweets. Now experts believe at least one of those tweets could place the president in legal jeopardy. On Monday, Trump praised his longtime confidant and sometime adviser Roger Stone, who has pledged not to testify against him, writing: “Nice to know that some people still have ‘guts!’”. Lawyers said the tweet appeared to violate a section of the US code that makes it a federal crime to “corruptly persuade” a witness.

CIA director to brief US Senate leaders on Khashoggi death

CIA director Gina Haspel. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The CIA chief, Gina Haspel, will give a closed briefing to the leaders of several key US Senate committees on the death of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, after she was left out of a Senate briefing last week on the murder by the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and the defense secretary, Jim Mattis. Pompeo and Mattis stuck to the Trump administration’s line that there is no hard evidence of the involvement of the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. The CIA has reportedly concluded otherwise.

  • Bush-Saudi ties. The late George HW Bush has been praised for his handling of foreign policy. But, says Craig Unger, his secret links to the House of Saud set a template for Trump.

Crib sheet

  • Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines and architect of his country’s brutal war on drugs, has joked that he takes marijuana to stay awake during tedious international meetings.

  • The new Mexican president has called for a truth commission to re-examine the infamous unsolved murder of 43 students who disappeared in 2014 after being attacked by cartel gunmen and corrupt police officers.

  • Texas is due to execute an inmate who insists he did not fire a shot during the murder of a police officer by a gang of prison escapees; if Joseph Garcia is put to death on Tuesday, his will be the 12th execution in Texas in 2018.

  • The year’s three most-streamed artists on Spotify are all north American rappers: Drake, Post Malone and XXXTentacion. Drake led the field with 8.2bn plays in 2018.

Must-reads

Little monster: the axolotl or Mexican salamander. Photograph: Paul Starosta/Getty Images

The fight to save the ‘water monster’ of Mexico City

The Aztecs called it “water monster” and incorporated it into their mythology. Now the axolotl, a beloved symbol of Mexico City, is under grave threat from pollution. Alan Grabinsky reports on attempts to save this unique amphibian.

The missing princess who planned her escape for seven years

The 32-year-old daughter of Dubai’s ruler has not been seen or heard of since she was snatched from a yacht near the Indian coast in March, shortly after making her long-planned escape from the gilded cage of the Dubai court. A new documentary tells her story.

The troubling genius of the Apple Store’s ‘managed fiction’

The phrase “tech worker” tends to conjure the coders of Silicon Valley, not the underpaid, overhyped “geniuses” of our nearest Apple Store. But, writes Jonny Bunning, these smiling retail staff, who make up the majority of Apple’s workforce, are a closely managed component of the Apple brand.

Art Basel Miami aims to increase diversity

Florida’s annual art fair may be better known for its glitzy parties than for its art. But this year, Art Basel Miami will feature more work from the African diaspora, as well as African American and Native American artists, than ever before. By Nadja Sayej.

Opinion

CNN recently severed ties with commentator Marc Lamont Hill after he called for “a free Palestine from the river to the sea”, a phrase regarded by some as antisemitic. But Cornel West says a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can never be reached by silencing critics of the status quo.

Hill, like myself, is profoundly disturbed by the escalating deplorable anti-Jewish words and actions around the world. This must be vigorously opposed, but it must not render invisible the misery of Palestinians under the rule of the Jewish state.

Sport

The 23-year-old Norwegian soccer star Ada Hegerberg was awarded the inaugural women’s Ballon D’Or on Monday, though her win was somewhat overshadowed by the host, DJ Martin Solveig, asking her whether she “knew how to twerk”.

Manchester City could face a Champions League ban if a Uefa investigation determines the club used sponsorship deals to flout financial fair play rules. The allegations are based on leaked emails published in Der Spiegel, which City has described as an “organised and clear” attempt “to damage the club’s reputation”.

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