Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (R-Calif.) responds to a...

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (R-Calif.) responds to a question during a news conference at the Capitol on Thursday, where she outlined House Democratic priorities.  Credit: EPA-EFE / REX / Shutterstock / Shawn Thew

House of shrill rebuke

President Donald Trump's complaints of "harassment" against him are doing nothing to stop the new House Democratic majority's seizing the spotlight through public hearings and official actions.

On Wednesday came the chamber's first hearing on climate change in many years, held by the Natural Resources Committee. The Judiciary Committee did the same on gun violence. On Thursday a career Health and Human Services official told at a House hearing of how he warned higher-ups in 2017 against separating children from their border-crossing families. The new Veterans Affairs Committee chairman is ready to grill Trump administration officials on new veterans’ health-care rules.

Nancy and the fireworks factory

Meantime Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) signalled an effort to obtain and reveal the president's undisclosed  tax returns, saying the American public "overwhelmingly" supports it. And Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), with sights set on the Trump Organization, has hired at least one official with experience at the National Security Council.

Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez describes the pique of the president and Washington's new lines of conflict.

Approval and AGgravation

The Republican-controlled Senate is all but guaranteed next week to confirm William Barr for his second turn as attorney general since 1993.  The Judiciary Committee approved his nomination Thursday in a party-line vote. Democrats questioned how transparent the Trump nominee will be about upcoming results from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia-meddling investigation.

The interim Attorney General Matt Whitaker succeeded Jeff Sessions, who departed under pressure just after the November elections. Even with Barr due to take over, Whitaker isn't done with  controversy. He said he won't appear before the House Judiciary Committee as scheduled on Friday unless Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan)  drops its threat of a subpoena for his testimony. 

New tariff, shutdown dramas

Trump said Thursday he's unlikely to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in time for a March 1 deadline to reach a trade deal. He has said a deal would only follow such a meeting. He vowed to raise duties on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25 percent, from a current 10 percent if a deal was not reached in time. There was no sign of an extension.

Lawmakers and Trump are due to reach a deal by  Feb. 15 to avert another partial government shutdown. Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) told reporters after meeting with Trump he thinks the president will sign a congressionally-negotiated deal as long as it meets his conditions, which Shelby declined to detail.

What else is happening:

  • Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, a Trump ally, said he'd use "a bullet" on dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who vanished a year later in a Saudi consulate  in Istanbul, The New York Times reports.
  • In sharply partisan terms, Trump sounded off on the racial scandals buffeting Virginia's top state Democrats.
  • Banks made fat profits from the GOP tax cuts but cut their work forces and slowed lending, Bloomberg News reported.
  • Trump clearly misspoke at the National Prayer Breakfast when he accidentally hailed the "abolition of civil rights."
  • Judge William H. Pauley III confirmed that federal prosecutors are still probing "campaign finance crimes" tied to ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen's payoffs to women.
  • Vice President Mike Pence defended Trump's recent forcing of a record 35-day government shutdown, saying, "I never think it's a mistake to stand up for what you believe in."
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