Happening Today: Trump Speech, Tax Refunds, Shutdown, R. Kelly, Kevin Spacey


What to Know

  • Trump will argue his case to the nation that a ‘crisis’ at the border requires the wall he’s demanding before ending the government shutdown

  • A Trump administration official said federal income tax refunds would indeed go out despite a large part of the government being shut down

  • The ‘Surviving R. Kelly’ docuseries led to a surge in calls to one of the nation’s leading sexual-assault hotlines

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Trump to Take His Case to Build Wall to Prime-Time Audience

With no breakthrough in sight, President Trump will argue his case to the nation that a “crisis” at the U.S.-Mexico border requires the long and invulnerable wall he’s demanding before ending the partial government shutdown. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers face missed paychecks as the shutdown drags through a third week. Trump’s Oval Office speech — his first as president — will be followed by his visit Thursday to the southern border to highlight his demand for a barrier. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted that he will use the visit to “meet with those on the front lines of the national security and humanitarian crisis.” The administration is also at least talking about the idea of declaring a national emergency to allow Trump to move forward on the wall without Congress approving the $5.6 billion he wants. Vice President Mike Pence said the White House counsel’s office is looking at the idea. Such a move would certainly draw legal challenges, and Trump — who told lawmakers he would be willing to keep the government closed for months or even years — has said he would like to continue negotiations for now. Trump’s prime-time address will be carried live by MSNBC and NBC.

Tax Refunds Will Go Out Despite Shutdown, White House Says

A Trump administration official said federal income tax refunds would indeed go out despite a large part of the government being shut down. Russell T. Vought, acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, told reporters about the development in a briefing. “Tax refunds will go out,” Vought said. There have been growing concerns that tax refunds might be delayed as 800,000 federal workers are either furloughed or working without pay as President Trump and Congress are mired in a standoff over funding for a southern border wall. Only about 12 percent of IRS staff is expected to continue working through a shutdown, according to the agency’s plan, which means certain functions such as answering taxpayer questions would be curtailed. The IRS is still working on contingencies if the shutdown continues.

Air Travelers Start to Feel Effects of Government Shutdown

The partial government shutdown is starting to affect air travel. Over the weekend, some airports had long lines at checkpoints, apparently caused by a rising number of security officers calling in sick while they are not getting paid. Safety inspectors aren’t even on the job. A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said inspectors are being called back to work on a case-by-case basis, with a priority put on inspecting airline fleets. So far, the impact of the shutdown — entering its 18th day — has been most visible for some government buildings and national parks being closed, and trash piling up on the National Mall in front of the Capitol. If the shutdown continues, food stamp recipients will go without aid. By increasingly affecting air travel, however, the pain is being felt more widely.

R. Kelly Docuseries Prompts Surge in Sex Assault Calls

The “Surviving R. Kelly” docuseries led to a surge in calls to one of the nation’s leading sexual-assault hotlines. As the six-part series, which chronicles decades of the singer’s alleged sexual misconduct, aired on the Lifetime network, the hotline received 20 percent more calls than the prior week, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, which operates the line. The network’s president, Scott Berkowitz, said the types of calls it gets often reflect news events. “We often see the types of callers we get will follow the news cycle,” Berkowitz said. “With the R. Kelly show, we were seeing more folks who are talking about childhood abuse.” “Surviving R. Kelly” features testimony from women who accuse Kelly of mental, physical and sexual abuse, as well as interviews with associates and relatives of the singer, including his brothers Carey and Bruce Kelly. Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement, and singer John Legend also provided commentary.

Kevin Spacey Pleads Not Guilty in Sexual Assault Case

Wading through a crowd of journalists to walk into the courthouse, Kevin Spacey faced a judge in a Nantucket courtroom after being accused of sexually assaulting the son of a former Boston news anchor. A not guilty plea was entered on behalf of the 59-year-old actor, who appeared at Nantucket District Court on a felony charge of indecent assault and battery. Spacey was released after his attorney and the lead prosecutor had a brief back-and-forth over preserving data from the phone of the alleged victim and someone else. The judge also set another hearing for March 4, for which Spacey is not required to appear. Neither Spacey nor his attorneys commented as they left the courthouse. The former “House of Cards” actor was ordered to stay away from the young man accusing him of groping him at the Club Car Restaurant in July of 2016. The allegations surfaced in November 2017 after former WCVB-TV anchor Heather Unruh accused Spacey of groping her then-18-year-old son at the Nantucket restaurant where he worked as a bus boy that summer.

Source : Nbcnewyork