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politics briefing newsletter

Good morning,

In Washington today, Democrats take control of the House of Representatives for the first time since the Tea Party explosion of 2010. And just as Republicans hoped to thwart the agenda of U.S. President Barack Obama in his first term, newly emboldened Democrats (led, still, by Nancy Pelosi) hope to pump the brakes on President Donald Trump’s administration. The first order of business will be for the President, the House and the Senate (under Republican control) to agree on a fiscal plan that will allow the government to pay its bills and stop a shutdown that is stretching on for two weeks. The biggest impasse appears to be Mr. Trump’s demand for a $5-billion physical barrier that stretches across the U.S.-Mexico border. Mr. Trump is insistent his wall get funded and built, but Democrats have said it’s a non-starter. The budget may be foreshadowing two more years of legislative gridlock, as everyone in the Capitol is already getting ready for the next election. This week Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren became the first person to throw her hat in the ring for the 2020 presidential contest.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay in Ottawa. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.


China’s top prosecutor says that, “without a doubt,” two Canadians detained in the country violated the law. Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were arrested separately in China last month, following Canada’s arrest of Chinese businesswoman Meng Wanzhou at the request of the United States. Neither country’s government has said the two arrests were linked to the arrest of Ms. Meng, though most former diplomats and experts on China policy say it is a clear case of reprisal.

China also reached a new milestone in its space program today by landing a probe on the dark side of the moon.

Brazil’s new President, Jair Bolsonaro, took office this week and some of his first executive orders target the lands of indigenous people and the human rights of LGBT Brazilians.

In Canada, People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier says he will run candidates in upcoming federal by-elections and will have a full slate to run in the election scheduled for the fall.

And new research says the claims that most public servants disliked working under Stephen Harper’s government are greatly exaggerated. “Much of the lack of satisfaction seems to be mostly political rhetoric,” researcher Jocelyn McGrandle said.

The Globe and Mail editorial board on the state of U.S. politics: “It’s heartening that people are willing to throw themselves into the relentless crossfire of personal attack and partisan cheap shot that American political ambition brings with it. Their willingness to do so is a reminder that Mr. Trump will not be the last president; someone will replace him, and the American political system will renew itself. But it is less encouraging to realize that the primary campaigns, and the election itself, will be utterly defined by Mr. Trump."

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on Donald Trump and authoritarianism: “Of all the ways Mr. Trump seeks to transform America, nothing matters more than his efforts to distance the United States from its traditional allies while embracing some of the world’s most unsavoury authoritarians, including [Brazilian President Jair] Bolsonaro, a far-right populist who has stocked his cabinet with former military officers. Praising dictators, real and wannabe, is central to Mr. Trump’s foreign policy.”

Mitt Romney, incoming Republican senator and former presidential candidate, in the Washington Post on Donald Trump: “The world needs American leadership, and it is in America’s interest to provide it. A world led by authoritarian regimes is a world — and an America — with less prosperity, less freedom, less peace.”

Republican writer Henry Olsen, also in the Washington Post, with a rebuttal to Romney: “Let’s start with the article’s premise that President Trump’s character is more important than his accomplishments or principles. Most Republicans simply don’t accept this argument. Many instead see Trump’s pugnacious and sometimes crude talk as an essential part of his virtue — he fights while other Republicans cower. Others would prefer he tweet less and do more, but still prefer Trump’s fallen angel to a Democratic devil.”

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