Donald McGahn, Vermont, Wanda Sykes: Your Tuesday Evening Briefing


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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. Democrats are becoming increasingly divided over how to hold President Trump accountable.

A former White House lawyer, Donald McGahn, became the latest to defy Congress, skipping a scheduled hearing about Mr. Trump’s attempts to obstruct the Russia investigation. The head of the House Judiciary Committee chairman promised to hold Mr. McGahn in contempt of Congress, and warned Mr. Trump and other potential witnesses to expect new hardball tactics.

Hope Hicks, the former White House communications director; and Annie Donaldson, Mr. McGahn’s chief of staff, have also been subpoenaed.

But a sizable bloc of Democrats want a more aggressive approach. A growing number of lawmakers have declared their support to start an impeachment inquiry, with many concerned that Mr. Trump’s actions are eroding a constitutional check on presidential power.

2. President Trump plans to name an immigration hard-liner — Ken Cuccinelli, a former attorney general of Virginia — to a new immigration post.

The job’s duties and title are still being decided, but Mr. Cuccinelli, pictured above at the 2016 Republican National Convention, is expected to become a policy coordinator. He is aligned with Mr. Trump on issues related to border security and is a frequent presence on cable news.

Separately, couples who have babies abroad through assisted reproductive technology face a major complication: Their children may not be American. At issue is an old State Department policy that has come under new scrutiny in recent months, mainly by same-sex parents.

3. Can Huawei survive without American chips?

Now that the Trump administration has labeled Huawei a national security threat and essentially cut off its access to American technology, the company has to figure out how to make do without foreign semiconductors. The company’s founder told Chinese media that half of Huawei’s chips came from American companies.

For decades, the Chinese government has sought to decrease its reliance on foreign chipmakers and become a world leader in the field, pledging tens of billions of dollars to boost local players. But the U.S. wants Beijing to scale back state support for its firms as part of any final trade deal.

4. As states like Alabama pass strict anti-abortion laws, other states are pushing back.

Efforts to repeal restrictions or to limit the government’s say are happening in Democratic-held or -leaning states, including Michigan, Wisconsin and Nevada. Vermont lawmakers approved a law that prohibits the government from interfering in any way with the right to have the procedure.

Supporters of abortion rights gathered at rallies across the country today to protest the recent bans, like the one pictured above in St. Louis.

Separately, Google said that companies and organizations that wanted to run ads on its sites referring to abortion services in the United States, Britain and Ireland must now first get permission from the search giant.


5. A water crisis is underway in California’s Central Valley.

More than 300 of the state’s public water systems serve unsafe drinking water, according to public compliance data, creating a slow-motion crisis that leaves more than one million Californians exposed to unsafe water each year. Above, bottled water at a home in East Orosi, Calif.

Although water contamination is a problem up and down the state, the Central Valley is of particular concern: About half of the failing systems are in areas where farm workers live.


6. For Germany’s estimated 200,000 Jews, new forms of anti-Semitism are stoking fears.

The country’s culture of remembrance of the Holocaust has been held up as a model. But its ideals are not universally supported at home. Anti-Semitic crimes in Germany increased by nearly 20 percent last year to 1,799. Above, Solomon Michalski, a teenager who was bullied for being Jewish.

In this week’s Times Magazine, we explore the ways German society never truly reckoned with anti-Semitism after World War II.

7. #MeToo is taking on McDonald’s.

A legal-defense fund formed last year to extend the #MeToo movement beyond Hollywood is now taking aim at sexual harassment in the fast food chain, one of the world’s largest companies and most recognizable brands.

The fund filed 23 complaints against McDonald’s, accusing it of gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment in the workplace and retaliation for speaking up. Above, a protest in Kansas City last fall.

McDonald’s C.E.O. said the company had improved and clarified its policies on harassment, and had put most franchise owners through new training.


8. Wanda Sykes may be best known for her work in TV sitcoms, but her stand-up comedy skills make her an elite performer.

Our comedy critic reviews her latest special for Netflix, “Not Normal,” and takes a look at her obscure stand-up career. He writes that she has the funniest rebuttal you will ever hear to trickle-down economics, which boils down to: “Nothing good trickles.”

Ms. Sykes also sat down with the Times Magazine to talk about her career, relationships and race: “You could be a good person and a racist and not even know it,” she said.


9. “My work, my books, they’re a part of myself.”

We traveled with Diana Kennedy, the lauded 96-year-old cookbook author, as she took an 800-mile drive from her home in Mexico up to the University of Texas at San Antonio to donate her personal archives. Said the expert in regional Mexican cuisines, who is often described as prickly: “Would you ship your life off with a messenger service? No!”

We also went to a dinner hosted by Eric Adjepong, a Ghanaian-American chef and finalist on “Top Chef,” who recently cooked the meal he was unable to finish on the show’s recent season finale. The full menu, which tells the story of the slave trade through food, was cooked at “Top Chef” judge Tom Colicchio’s restaurant.


10. Finally, pissaladière for the win.

Young spellers are set to spar next week at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Ahead of the annual competition, the language learning company Babbel and Merriam-Webster analyzed 10 years of words that knocked contestants out of the final rounds.

The study shows spellers have trouble with words derived from French, like pissaladière (an open-faced pastry), and German. Above, last year’s finalists.

“Spellers are aware of the ancient languages, like Latin and Greek,” one spelling expert said. “It is the modern languages that trip them up.”

Have a buzzy night.


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