Headlines: April 18, 2019
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The Justice Department has released a redacted version of the Special Counsel report to the public, and journalists, analysts, citizen groups, lawyers, and lawmakers are poring over the hundreds of pages to determine if Attorney General William Barr has accurately portrayed its findings. According to CNN’s Jeremy Herb, “Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report lays out the case for why Congress is able to investigate and take action against President Trump on obstruction of justice.” Additionally, “In the report, Mueller provided a legal justification for why the special counsel was able to investigate obstruction of justice, even if they could not indict a sitting President.” An early analysis by AP also found that, “Trump tried to seize control of the Russia probe and force Mueller’s removal to stop him from investigating potential obstruction of justice by the president.”
Earlier on Thursday Attorney General Barr gave a press briefing during which he reiterated his interpretation of the Mueller report. Observers noted that he took pains to justify the President’s anger over the investigation and claimed that Trump fully cooperated with Mueller even though the President publicly refused an in-person interview with Mueller. During the very brief question-and-answer period that followed a reporter challenged Barr’s bias toward the President prefacing the release of a redacted version of the Mueller report. On Wednesday the New York Times reported that according to sources, “Justice Department officials have had numerous conversations with White House lawyers about the conclusions made by Mr. Mueller, the special counsel,” and that, “The talks have aided the president’s legal team as it prepares a rebuttal to the report and strategizes for the coming public war over its findings.”
There is widespread skepticism of Barr’s impartiality except at the White House where President Trump declared that he was “having a good day.” The Washington Post’s Editorial Board on Thursday published an op-ed entitled, “Barr’s redactions on the Mueller report don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt.” House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler announced on Twitter, “It is clear Congress and the American people must hear from Special Counsel Robert Mueller in person to better understand his findings. We are now requesting Mueller to appear before @HouseJudiciary as soon as possible.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also released a statement in response Barr’s briefing echoing Nadler’s demand that Mueller personally testify to Congress. Meanwhile federal prosecutors told a judge on Wednesday in a court filing in the on-going case against President Trump’s associate Roger Stone that key members of Congress will be given an unredacted version of the Mueller findings.
In other news, climate activists across the Atlantic are continuing their week of actions organized by the group Extinction Rebellion. Hundreds of people have been arrested in London, the birthplace of the movement, in the first three days of the week as thousands of people occupy four key locations in the city: Marble Arch, Parliament Square, Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge. On Wednesday activists were overjoyed when some police officers also joined in with their action at Oxford Circus. Additionally, the BBC described that on Wednesday, “a man glued himself to a Docklands Light Railway (DLR) train carriage in Canary Wharf while a man and woman were removed from the roof.” Here are the sounds of drummers entering Parliament Square on Wednesday demanding immediate action on climate change and are using militant non-violent civil disobedience to achieve their aims. Earlier in the week the 16-year old Swedish Climate activist Greta Thunberg chastised the European Parliament for its inaction on climate change turning emotional as she spoke.
The Trump Administration on Wednesday announced that it would begin allowing US citizens to sue Cuba over property that was seized by the Cuban government, lifting a long-standing ban on the practice. European nations had announced their vehement opposition to the move, lobbying against it in recent weeks. The announcement came just before White House National Security Adviser John Bolton gave a speech to a group of veterans marking the 58th anniversary of the US’s Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, during which he also announced new sanctions on Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. Bolton referred to the three nations as a “Troika of Tyranny,” invoking George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil,” and also dubbed the leaders of the three nations as the, “three stooges of socialism,” as part of the Trump Administration’s on-going attempt to revive red-baiting.
In other international news Russian officials announced that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has accepted President Vladimir Putin’s invitation to visit Russia later this month. Associated Press speculated that the meeting, “offers President Vladimir Putin an opportunity to emerge as a broker in the long-running nuclear standoff [with the US] and raise Russia’s profile in regional affairs.” North Korean media reported that Mr. Kim is unhappy with US State Secretary Mike Pompeo’s role in earlier meetings with US officials. Senior North Korean official Kwon Jong Gun accused Pompeo in a statement of, “talking nonsense,” saying he wants him replaced with a negotiator who, “is more careful and mature in communicating.” Mr. Kwon also said that whenever Pompeo “pokes his nose in, talks between the two countries go wrong without any results even from the point close to success.”
And finally Egyptians are readying to vote in a referendum to change the nation’s Constitution allowing military dictator, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to serve in his position until the year 2030 and expand his power. Earlier this week Egypt’s Parliament voted to pass the Constitutional amendments ahead of the referendum. Opposition parties are urging the public to vote against the changes calling them, “an assault on democracy,” and saying that, “the Egyptian regime is not learning the lessons of [the] 2011 revolution,” that ousted long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak.