The U.S. at a glance ...
Sanctuary city fight: President Trump suffered another blow to his immigration agenda this week when a San Francisco– based federal judge blocked the president’s executive order threatening to cut off federal funding for socalled sanctuary cities. In court, the Justice Department’s lawyers argued that the government had the right to hold back a small amount of grant money from cities that fail to cooperate with federal immigration officials. But U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick said only Congress has the right to withhold federal funds, and that Trump and his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, had repeatedly said that they intended to use funding as “a weapon’’ to punish sanctuary cities harshly. Trump blasted the decision on Twitter. “First the Ninth Circuit rules against the ban,” tweeted Trump, in reference to his controversial travel ban, “& now it hits again on sanctuary cities—both ridiculous rulings. See you in the Supreme Court!”
Trump’s lucrative condos: President Trump’s companies own hundreds of condo units and home lots worth at least $250 million— and millions of dollars in property has been sold to shell companies since Election Day, a USA Today investigation has revealed. Trump’s properties include at least 422 luxury condos and penthouses from Las Vegas to New York City. Profits from the sales of these properties would wind up in the trust Trump established in January. The trust is run by his sons, and he can withdraw funds at any time. Since November, his companies have sold at least 14 units for about $23 million—half of them to limited liability companies, with no names listed in the deeds. That creates the potential for a major conflict of interest. “Anyone seeking to influence the president could set up an anonymous company and purchase his property,” said Heather Lowe of the watchdog Global Financial Integrity.
Obama re-emerges: Former President Barack Obama made a low-key return to the public eye this week, taking part in an event at the University of Chicago—his first major appearance since leaving the White House. Steering clear of controversy, Obama didn’t mention President Trump once during his 90 minutes there, or comment on the Trump administration’s attempt to dismantle key parts of his own legacy, including Obamacare. Instead, he urged young people to get involved in their communities and take on the “special interests” that “dominate the debates in Washington.” It was the first of a series of planned events for Obama in the coming weeks, including a $400,000 paid speech at a Wall Street conference. The former president has spent the past few months vacationing in the British Virgin Islands and in French Polynesia with friends such as Bruce Springsteen, Tom Hanks, and Oprah Winfrey.
Rare double execution: Arkansas became the first state in 17 years to execute two people in one day this week, carrying out back-to-back lethal injections of two convicted murderers. Marcel Williams had requested to have his procedure delayed when the execution of fellow death row inmate Jack Jones—carried out three hours earlier—was beset with problems. Williams’ lawyers said that officials had tried unsuccessfully to insert a central line in Jones’ neck for 45 minutes—eventually placing it elsewhere on his body—and that Jones had gulped for air during the procedure—“evidence,” they said, that he was conscious during his execution. U.S. District Court Judge Kristine Baker rejected that claim, and Arkansas officials, who had hoped to execute eight death row inmates before the state’s lethal-injection drug supply expires on April 30, went ahead with the procedure. Another inmate was scheduled to be put to death this week.
Flynn in trouble? Former national security adviser Michael Flynn likely broke the law by failing to disclose payments from Russia and Turkey when he reapplied for a security clearance last year, the heads of the House Oversight Committee said this week. Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings of Maryland also said that Flynn, a retired lieutenant general, did not get permission from the Pentagon or the State Department before accepting $45,000 in speaking fees from the Kremlin-funded news network RT and more than $500,000 for lobbying work that may have benefited the Turkish government. When asked if Flynn had committed a crime, Chaffetz said, “I see no data to support the notion that Gen. Flynn complied with the law.” Flynn has offered to testify before the House and Senate intelligence committees probing links between Russia and President Trump’s campaign—but only in exchange for immunity.
Confederate monument comes down:Working under the cover of darkness and the protection of police snipers, workers in New Orleans this week began removing the first of four controversial monuments linked to the Confederacy. The Battle of Liberty Place monument was erected to honor members of the Crescent City White League, a whitesupremacist paramilitary group that fought against the city’s racially integrated police force following the Civil War. The city pledged to remove the memorial and three other statues—of Jefferson Davis and Gens. Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard—in 2015, prompting death threats from pro-monument groups, who say the statues are part of the city’s history. But Mayor Mitch Landrieu said he would “no longer allow the Confederacy to literally be put on a pedestal.” Masked workers began removing the Liberty Place monument in the early hours of April 24, the day that some Southern states celebrate Confederate Memorial Day.