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October 12, 2018

The Trump administration has reacted to reports that the Earth is going to heat up to life-threatening levels very quickly not by disagreeing with that conclusion, necessarily, but rather embracing fossil fuels because we're doomed anyway. And there is one fossil fuel that President Trump likes above all, the dirtiest one. "We are back," Trump told a crowd in West Virginia in late August, unveiling his new plan to shore up ailing coal-fired power plants. "The coal industry is back."

It doesn't seem to be, though, despite Trump's earnest efforts. On Thursday, the U.S. Energy Information Agency reported that estimated U.S. coal production dropped 2.7 percent from the previous week and 3.3 percent from a year earlier. Year-to-date, the EIA said, total U.S. coal production is 2.8 percent lower than during the same period in 2017. Trump essentially slowed coal's decline when he took office, but the long downward slide continues.

In 2010, the U.S. had 580 coal-powered plants that provided 45 percent of U.S. energy generation, and now there are fewer than 350 coal-power plants; the EIA forecast Thursday that coal will generate 28 percent of America's energy in 2018 and 27 percent in 2019. Thirty-six coal-fired plants have been shuttered since Trump was elected, and 30 more have announced their retirement. About 53,000 people work in the U.S. coal industry, an uptick of maybe 1,000 since Trump took office, but the industry employed as many as 883,000 workers at its peak, back in 1923. Today, more people work at Arby's or bowling alleys than in coal, and solar power employs more than 260,000 Americans.

"It would be difficult for any president to reverse the long decline in coal mining," CNBC says, explaining some of the economic and environmental factors behind coal's slow slide toward niche status. You can read more about the withering coal industry in this explainer from The Week. Peter Weber

10:57 a.m.

In the wake of his first choice, Heather Nauert, removing her name from consideration, President Trump announced on Friday that he has nominated Kelly Knight Craft to succeed Nikki Haley as U.N. ambassador.

Craft, a Republican donor from Kentucky, currently serves as the U.S. ambassador to Canada. She is credited with playing a key role in negotiating a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico.

Trump tweeted the announcement on Friday evening. "Kelly has done an outstanding job representing our nation and I have no doubt that, under her leadership, our country will be represented at the highest level," he wrote.

Having already been confirmed by the Senate for the Canada posting, she is not expected to face a challenge in getting confirmed for the role, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

10:42 a.m.

A group of nearly 100 Microsoft workers signed a petition Friday calling on their employer to cancel a $480 million contract with the U.S. Army and to stop developing "any and all weapons technologies."

Microsoft has agreed to sell the military its HoloLens headset, which allows users to see a virtually augmented version of reality. Contract bidding documents indicate the Army intends to use the gear as part of its Integrated Visual Augmentation System for both training and battlefield situations to improve soldiers' "lethality, mobility, and situational awareness."

"We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used," says the employee petition, arguing that when the HoloLens headset is "deployed on the battlefield," it will turn "warfare into a simulated 'video game,' further distancing soldiers from the grim stakes of war and the reality of bloodshed."

In a response statement Friday, Microsoft said it appreciated workers' input but will continue working with the military.

A similar intra-company conflict at Google last year over technology used for drone strikes resulted in the resignation of about a dozen employees and protest from some 4,600 more. Google ultimately did not renew the defense contract at issue, saying it clashed with company values. Bonnie Kristian

9:29 a.m.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un fully expects his children to join the family dictatorship business someday, and when that happens, he reportedly does not want them to be burdened with a nuclear arsenal.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo "asked Chairman Kim: Do you really intend to denuclearize?" former CIA official Andrew Kim said of a meeting between Kim and Pompeo last year. "You know, I'm a father, and I'm a husband, and I have children, and I don't want my children to carry the nuclear weapon in their bag to live through their entire life," Andrew Kim reported Kim Jong Un replied.

The question of the Kim regime's sincerity in its denuclearization pledges is much debated, especially given reports of secret missile test sites. Pyongyang has explicitly pointed to the fates of Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Libya's Moammar Gadhafi as cautionary tales of voluntary denuclearization leading to forcible, U.S.-orchestrated regime change. Bonnie Kristian

8:26 a.m.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) argued with a group of school of children over her unwillingness to support the Green New Deal on Friday.

The Sunrise Movement, an organization which encourages young people to combat climate change, posted a video of the encounter to Facebook. More than a dozen children and adults met with Feinstein to ask her to vote yes on the proposal. Feinstein, however, informed the crowd that the resolution will never pass the senate and "there's no way to pay" for the deal.

When one girl requested she vote yes anyway, Feinstein told her that she might end up doing that, but "it's not a good resolution."

Feinstein also clashed with crowd over age and experience. A young woman told Feinstein that she was "looking at the faces of the people who will be living these consequences" of climate change. "I've been doing this for 30 years," Feinstein replied. "So, you know, maybe people should listen a little bit."

Feinstein's camp released a statement about the meeting. "I have been and remain committed to doing everything I can to enact real, meaningful change," Feinstein said. She said the discussion was "spirited" and she heard the children's voices "loud and clear." Tim O'Donnell

8:12 a.m.

President Trump met with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in the White House Friday, afterwards expressing optimism that Washington and Beijing could reach a trade deal soon.

"I think we both feel there's a very good chance the deal will happen," Trump said, indicating he may extend a March 1 deadline for new U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports if he feels adequate progress is being made. Liu was similarly positive, calling a deal "very likely" and pledging China will "make [its] ultimate effort" for success.

Additional negotiations between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to take place at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort. "Ultimately, I think the biggest decisions and some even smaller decisions will be made by President Xi and myself. I think President Xi and I will work out the final points," Trump mused Friday. "Perhaps and perhaps not."

At Trump's direction, the United States has levied new tariffs ranging from 5 to 25 percent on hundreds of billions of dollars in Chinese goods over the last two years. Nevertheless, China's trade surplus with the U.S. in September reached a record monthly high. Bonnie Kristian

7:53 a.m.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller faced a midnight deadline Friday to file a memo with his recommendations for the sentencing of Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chair, who was convicted last year of eight counts of financial fraud. Contrary to expectations, the memo was not released to the public.

Friday's filing was sent to Judge Amy Berman Jackson, possibly under seal and with a request for redact some material before public release. If that is the case, Jackson would determine whether and how to publish the document.

A previous sentencing memo from Mueller's office recommended Manafort be sentenced to between 19 and 25 years in prison, a penalty that could see him spend the rest of his life behind bars. The sentencing is scheduled for March 13. Bonnie Kristian

February 22, 2019

The Trump investigations aren't stopping at Russia.

President Trump's ex-lawyer Michael Cohen has fully flipped, sharing his accounts of working with Trump with both federal and New York prosecutors. Part of that testimony includes "possible irregularities" within Trump Organization business dealings, specifically involving insurance claims and the Trump inaugural committee, The New York Times reports.

Trump's inaugural committee has reportedly been under investigation for how it spent its $107 million haul, and whether the committee's biggest donors sought special favors from the incoming Trump administration for their donations. Cohen, meanwhile, has reportedly given Manhattan prosecutors details about dealings between the Trump organization and inaugural committee donor Imaad Zuberi. Zuberi donated $900,000 "around the time ... he also tried to hire Cohen as a consultant and wrote him a substantial check," Cohen has told prosecutors, the Times says. It's unclear if prosecutors even think Cohen's word is credible, but it does suggest they're digging deeper into Trump's personal and business life.

Cohen reached a plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller last year, pledging cooperation with Mueller's probe into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russian election interference. He recently had his report date for a prison sentence pushed back to May, giving him time to testify before Congress on a still-unscheduled day. Read more about what he's reportedly already shared at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

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