News & Analysis of Economic, Racial, Gender Justice and More

Attorney General William Barr is testifying for a second day on front of the House Appropriations Subcommittee and during his testimony claimed without evidence that the government, under President Obama, spied on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.  A day earlier Bloomberg broke the news that Barr has, “assembled a team to review controversial counterintelligence decisions made by Justice Department and FBI officials, including actions taken during the probe of the Trump campaign in the summer of 2016.” During his Tuesday testimony Barr told lawmakers, “I am reviewing the conduct of the [Special Counsel] investigation and trying to get my arms around all the aspects of the counterintelligence investigation that was conducted during the summer of 2016.” The move is in line with Republican claims for the past two years that the investigation into Trump was driven by partisan politics.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, a House committee hearing on White Nationalism went awry after Republicans invited an extremist right wing media personality named Candace Owens to testify. Owens was cited as the inspiration for the white supremacist mass shooter who targeted mosques and massacred 50 people in New Zealand some weeks ago. The 29-year old attention seeker made waves last December for controversial comments about Hitler. Here is Democratic Representative Ted Lieu slamming Republicans for inviting Owens and playing a tape of her comments.  The Washington Post explained that, “If Republicans were hoping to sabotage the Judiciary Committee’s hearing, they got what they wanted. Owens’s presence turned a serious inquiry — there were representatives from civil rights groups, social media and a Muslim man whose daughters were killed in a hate crime — into farce.”

Another House Committee hearing taking place on Wednesday features the testimonies of 7 CEOs of large banks. This is JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon’s opening statement to the House Financial Services Committee hearing.  On Tuesday Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testified and had a tense exchange with Committee chair Maxine Waters near the end.

In other news President Trump is signing two executive orders on Wednesday to “help American energy companies avoid unnecessary red tape” as they build oil and gas pipelines across the US. The move is intended to make it harder for government agencies to regulate the fossil fuel industry. It would also undermine existing laws such as the Clean Water Act. Meanwhile at a House Oversight Committee hearing on Tuesday tackling Climate and National Security former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and former State Secretary John Kerry spoke. Mr. Kerry said that Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had shown more leadership on the climate than Republicans. Ocasio-Cortez sits on the House Oversight Committee and schooled Republicans for dismissing her Green New Deal legislation.

The Justice Department this week indicted 24 people in a massive $1.2 billion healthcare fraud scheme targeting elderly and disabled people. The scheme involved doctors prescribing unnecessary medical braces and other equipment in exchange for bribes from owners whose companies sell such equipment. A DOJ Spokesperson explained in a statement that, “These defendants — who range from corporate executives to medical professionals — allegedly participated in an expansive and sophisticated fraud to exploit telemedicine technology meant for patients otherwise unable to access health care.”

Meanwhile Senator Bernie Sanders on Wednesday introduced a new version of his Medicare-for-All bill. Saying “health care is a human right, not a privilege,” the Democratic Presidential front-runner unveiled his plan – a centerpiece of his campaign. According to AP, “Americans would no longer pay premiums or face insurance deductibles. A government-run system would replace private health insurance offered through employers, which is the mainstay of coverage for more than 160 million people.”

In international news, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has won reelection. The highly anticipated election became a test for the incumbent’s virulently right wing vision for maintaining Israeli domination of Palestinians. If he finishes out his 5th term he will be Israel’s longest serving Prime Minister. Netanyahu, emboldened by Trump’s unconditional support promised to annex the West Bank days ahead of the election. He also faces a serious bribery charge that apparently did not deter his right wing base of support.

And finally Sudan’s long-time President Omar Al-Bashir is facing mass protests calling for his resignation. Earlier this week security forces killed more than a dozen protesters who were among those conducting a sit-in outside military headquarters. The 75-year old Al-Bashir seized power in a 1989 coup and has so far refused to step down. Meanwhile photos of a young Sudanese woman standing atop a car wearing a white dress giving a rousing speech to a massive crowd have gone viral. The unnamed woman was singing a song about revolution.

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