Headlines: October 1, 2018
Listen to story:
Download: mp3 (Duration: 8:22 — 7.7MB)
The on-going controversy around Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh continues into this week with focus now on the details of an FBI probe demanded by GOP Senator Jeff Flake and subsequently authorized by the White House. The probe is ostensibly meant to investigate claims of sexual assault against Kavanaugh by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford who testified ahead of Kavanaugh himself last Thursday in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
On Saturday President Donald Trump spoke to reporters ahead of his rally in West Virginia about the FBI probe. Trump spoke to reporters about the FBI probe of Brett Kavanaugh on Saturday, expecting that it would turn out the way he wants it to. Trump said, “The FBI as you know is all over, talking to everybody … They have been all over it already. They have free rein to do whatever they have to do.”
Although Trump said the FBI had “free rein,” on Sunday news emerged that the White House has narrowed the scope of the inquiry, and that, “A source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN that the FBI would take its direction from the White House, not the Senate, and that the agency would interview a handful of people.” The New York Times says Senate Republicans are apparently able to influence the direction of the probe but Democrats have been left out entirely. Additionally, “Kavanaugh’s drinking history, the [CNN] source said, which has come up in the allegations, is not part of the probe.” The FBI will apparently interview Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge who Dr. Blasey Ford says was part of Kavanaugh’s assault. There is also news that one of the other women who said Kavanaugh assaulted her, Debbie Ramirez, is being interviewed, but not Julie Swetnick, a third woman who described witnessing criminal behavior from Kavanaugh and Judge.
The GOP is demanding that the probe be completed in less than a week so that the party can confirm Kavanaugh with its slim Senate majority ahead of the midterm elections.
In the wake of Kavanaugh’s testimony on Thursday several of his inconsistencies and falsehoods have been reported in the news. Among them are the definitions of slang words written in his 1982 calendar, his assertions of the legal drinking age in Maryland and his connections to Yale University. Given that he made many easily provable false assertions under oath, it is not yet clear if Republicans will give up on his nomination to the Supreme Court despite apparent multiple perjuries. Nor is it clear if the FBI will focus on them.
Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders has written a letter to Senator Chuck Grassley demanding that the FBI also investigate whether Kavanaugh perjured himself during his testimony. Sanders wrote, “In order for this FBI investigation regarding Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to be complete, it is imperative the bureau must not only look into the accusations made by Dr. Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick, it should also examine the veracity of his testimony before the Judiciary Committee.” Sanders added pointedly, “If you are concerned with a delay in this confirmation process, remember that Senate Republicans refused to allow the Senate to consider Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court for nearly a year.”
CNN reported that Senator Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee has asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray to investigate one incident of an alleged assault made against Kavanaugh by a man, that is already known to be false. According to CNN, “Grassley’s letter to the law enforcement officials says that a man, whose name was redacted, contacted [Senator Sheldon] Whitehouse on Monday with a claim that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted a female acquaintance of his on a boat in Newport Harbor, Rhode Island, in 1985.” The man has already recanted his story saying he’d made a “mistake.” Unless Grassley is deliberately attempting to pre-determine the outcome of the FBI probe as yielding a clean result for Kavanaugh, there appears to be no reason why he would ask the FBI to investigate one false claim over other credible ones.
Meanwhile White House advisor Kellyanne Conway said on CNN on Sunday that she was the victim of sexual assault. She added, “I feel very empathetic, frankly, for victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment and rape.” Still, Conway did not switch her allegiance away from a President who has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women, nor did she back calls for Kavanaugh to withdraw his nomination.
In other news, the Trump administration has quietly moved hundreds of undocumented immigrant children from shelters around the country into a tent facility in West Texas. In reporting the news the New York Times said, “Until now, most undocumented children being held by federal immigration authorities had been housed in private foster homes or shelters, sleeping two or three to a room. They received formal schooling and regular visits with legal representatives assigned to their immigration cases.” But now, “in the rows of sand-colored tents in Tornillo, Tex., children in groups of 20, separated by gender, sleep lined up in bunks. There is no school: The children are given workbooks that they have no obligation to complete. Access to legal services is limited.” There are currently about 13,000 immigrant children in US custody – the highest number ever recorded. Additionally, the children are being held in custody on average for nearly 2 months up from a month and are no longer being monitored by child welfare authorities.
At a rally in Wheeling, West Virginia on Saturday President Trump berated Democrats, calling them “a disgrace” and urging his base to vote them out. He also congratulated himself for his administration’s work on relations with North Korea and then shocked the nation with an admission that he “fell in love” with Kim Jong Un. President Trump at a rally in Wheeling, West Virginia on Saturday explained how he “fell in love” with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
In international news, a deadly earthquake and tsunami in the Pacific Ocean on Friday hit Indonesia killing scores of people. Over the weekend the death toll from the 18-foot wave that hit the nation climbed higher and higher. So far more than 840 people have officially been killed and emergency crews are continuing to pull survivors and bodies out of the rubble of destroyed structures. Thousands of buildings are estimated to have been destroyed. Survivors are angered about why there was no warning of the disaster. News reports pointed out that the dozens of buoys in the ocean around Indonesia had not been operational for years.
The North America Free Trade Agreement is back on track say trade representatives from Canada and Mexico. After weeks of wrangling over NAFTA and tensions between the US and Canada, news emerged late Sunday night that Canada was back as a third partner. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland released a joint statement saying the revamped agreement will, “strengthen the middle class, and create good, well-paying jobs and new opportunities for the nearly half billion people who call North America home.” According to the Associated Press, “The agreement reached Sunday gives U.S. farmers greater access to the Canadian dairy market. But it keeps a NAFTA dispute-resolution process that the U.S. wanted to jettison and offers Canada protection if Trump goes ahead with plans to impose tariffs on cars, trucks and auto parts imported into the United States.”