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Vox Sentences: The first confirmation fight of the Trump administration is about to begin

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Previewing the first big confirmation fight of the Trump administration; Jared Kushner puts the "in-law" in "nepotinlawsm"; Cote d'Ivoire manages to quell a mutiny without giving every soldier a house.

Confirmationpalooza, Round 1

Jeff Sessions Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images
  • Confirmationpalooza — a three-day orgy of Senate confirmation hearings featuring no fewer than nine top Trump administration nominees — commences Tuesday. The hearing you'll want to watch: Trump Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions. [BuzzFeed News / Zoe Tillman]
  • Sessions is not, mind you, one of the four nominees who's failed to submit required disclosure documents to the Office of Government Ethics (a situation that's raised great concern at the OGE and with ethics lawyers in both parties). [Huffington Post / Christina Wilkie and Paul Blumenthal]
  • But he is one of the most influential minds in Trump's inner circle — and, as attorney general, would have a lot of power to expand federal enforcement of immigration and drug laws while curbing enforcement of civil and voting rights laws. [Vox / German Lopez]
  • The hearing is likely to feature a relitigation of the voter fraud cases Sessions prosecuted against voting rights activists in Alabama as an assistant US attorney (which helped sink his nomination to the federal bench in 1986, after hearings before the same committee to which he'll testify tomorrow). [New York Times Magazine / Emily Bazelon]
  • Republicans have already previewed their counterattack: calling attention to Sessions's prosecutions of Ku Klux Klan members in which Sessions's role is, ahem, easily exaggerated. [The Atlantic / Adam Serwer]
  • It's easy for criticism of Sessions's civil rights record to blur into allegations of personal animosity; accusations that he refused to appoint black judges to the federal bench, for example, seem a little overwrought. [Mother Jones / Pema Levy]
  • But there's also a lot of record to go on, and Sessions's Senate colleagues don't appear to be interested in showing him the customary deference (this is a very hot take from former chair of the committee Pat Leahy). [Boston Globe / Sen. Patrick Leahy]

The son-in-law also rises

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump Team GT/GC Images
  • Beyond the reach of Senate confirmation requirements, President-elect Trump has appointed his son-in-law Jared Kushner — who's represented family loyalties within his inner circle — to serve as a White House senior adviser. [Vox / Matt Yglesias]
  • The move is certainly a bold challenge to the text of federal nepotism laws, which explicitly bar appointing one's son-in-law to any "agency." The question is whether the White House counts as an "agency." [NPR / Ailsa Chang]
  • Kushner is reportedly "forgoing a salary" to take the White House job, which might sound altruistic... [NBC News / John Santucci, Shushannah Walshe, and Katherine Faulders]
  • ...until you realize that accepting a salary would subject him to financial disclosure requirements, while living off his investment income and working "for free" allows him to skirt them. [TPM / Matt Shuham]
  • Kushner is reportedly distancing himself from some of his business operations, but, like his father-in-law, appears to be handing off the day-to-day responsibility rather than actually taking his money out of businesses that might be affected by his actions as a government official. [Politico / Annie Karni]
  • Given that Kushner's reported portfolio as an adviser (including the Middle East and China) overlaps yugely with Kushner's business interests, this is not the most comforting. [Vox / Libby Nelson]
  • But given that even before Monday's announcement, the transition team was reportedly telling the Obama administration that if officials wanted Trump to know about something happening abroad, they should tell Kushner first, it's hard to imagine that it would somehow be better if Kushner's involvement (like his wife, Ivanka Trump's) remained wholly unofficial. [NYT / Susanne Craig, Jo Becker, and Jesse Drucker]

Mutiny on the Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast lawmakers Sia Kambou/AFP/Getty Images
  • A two-day army mutiny in the Ivory Coast ended over the weekend after the government accepted soldiers' demands for higher pay. [Deutsche Welle]
  • Negotiations over the weekend between mutineers and the defense minister appeared to go smoothly, until the mutineers briefly held the minister hostage. [BBC]
  • The country's president fired the unpopular head of the army, as well as of the national police, in an apparent response to the mutineers' demands. (He did not accede to the more extreme, and probably deliberately unreasonable, demands, like giving each soldier $8,000 and a house.) [Reuters / Ange Aboa]
  • The mutiny — the second in the past few years — is a reminder that while small countries can sometimes underinvest in their militaries without security consequences (the French military protects the Ivory Coast), it's not always the best domestic policy. [Stratfor]
  • But it's also a worrisome echo of the fault lines from the country's 2002-2011 civil war, from which its economy is only recently recovering. The rebels were folded into the army after the conflict; the epicenter of the mutiny — the city of Bouaké — was also the epicenter of the rebellion. [NYT / Sean Lyngaas and Dionne Searcey]


  • Doctors have been warning people not to remove earwax with Q-tips or other devices for literally a century. People still don't listen. [STAT / Eric Boodman]
  • Consett is a small town in northern England, but for a brief shining moment, more than 400 of its residents were directors on boards of dozens of online porn, gambling, dating, and other businesses. Many didn't even realize what their positions were. [Reuters / Alasdair Pal and Himanshu Ojha]
  • One way to prevent politicians from limiting access to polling places? Abolish polling places. [Washington Monthly / Phil Keisling]
  • A Canadian program is taking a new approach to treating alcoholism: letting patients drink, but only once an hour. [CBC News / Virginia Smart]
  • A local news station in San Diego aired a report about children ordering dollhouses via Amazon Echo — which wound up causing several of the station's viewers' Echos to order dollhouses in turn. [CW6 / Carlos Correa]


Watch this: Superblocks — how Barcelona is taking city streets back from cars

Modern cities are designed for cars. But the city of Barcelona is testing out an urban design trick that can give cities back to pedestrians. [YouTube / Christophe Haubursin and David Roberts]

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