Headlines: April 3, 2019
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The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning voted to subpoena the Special Counsel’s report on the 2016 election. The vote took place along party lines and means that Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler will issue a subpoena to the Justice Department. Ahead of the vote Republican committee member Jim Jordan insisted that Democrats only wanted to see the report because it didn’t adhere to their expectations. Chairman Nadler has said that he wants to allow Attorney General William Barr, “time to change his mind…But if we cannot reach an accommodation, then we will have no choice but to issue subpoenas for these materials.”
Another House committee, on Oversight and Reform, on Tuesday voted to subpoena a former White House personnel security division chief named Carl Kline. The subpoena was issued on the basis of testimony earlier this week by a whistleblower named Tricia Newbold who is a career security staffer at the White House. Newbold urged lawmakers to examine the reversals of 25 security clearance decisions that Trump’s team made. And, the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday also issued multiple subpoenas of Trump officials in the decision making to add a citizenship question to the US Census.
The city of Chicago, Illinois has a new mayor and she’s unlike anyone who has ever held that office. Lori Lightfoot won Tuesday’s run-off race to become Chicago’s first black female mayor, as well as the first openly gay person in that position. She defeated city council woman Toni Preckwinkle in every ward in the city. Here’s part of her victory speech, Mayor elect Lori Lightfoot won a historic run-off race to replace outgoing mayor Rahm Emanuel. Among the issues Lightfoot campaigned on was justice for the police killing of a young black teenager named Laquan McDonald.
In Los Angeles, police confirmed that they have taken into custody a suspect named Eric Holder in the shooting death of Grammy-nominated rapper and social justice activist Nipsey Hussle. Surveillance videos of the shooting are now making the rounds of news media. Hussle’s killing has sent shock waves throughout Southern California. He was integral in promoting black owned businesses and community projects in South Los Angeles where he grew up.
In other news, President Trump is backing off on his decision to try to overturn the entire Affordable Care Act after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell shot down the plan. McConnell said on Tuesday, “I made it clear to him that we were not going to be doing that in the Senate,” and, “He did say, as he later tweeted, that he accepted that and that he would be developing a plan that he would take to the American people during the 2020 campaign.”
McConnell is also overseeing the changing of Senate rules this week that could help Republicans speed up Trump’s judicial appointments. The so-called “nuclear option” may be invoked for only the third time in a decade allowing for a Republicans to use a simple majority to confirm lower-court appointments instead of the usual 2/3rd majority. The GOP has complained that Democrats are dragging their feet in confirming Trump’s appointees – a claim that Democrats find laughable as they cite McConnell’s blocking of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.
The Justice Department on Wednesday issued a report on conditions in Alabama prisons saying in a letter to Governor Kay Ivey that they are unconstitutional. According to the letter, which was issued by DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, investigators have, “reasonable cause to believe that Alabama routinely violates the constitutional rights of prisoners housed in the Alabama’s prisons by failing to protect them from prisoner-on-prisoner violence and prisoner-on-prisoner sexual abuse, and by failing to provide safe conditions.” According to Associated Press, “Investigators reviewed more than 600 reported inmate-on-inmate sexual assaults from late 2016 through April 2018.” As per the DOJ letter, “they did not identify a single incident in which a correctional officer or other staff member observed or intervened,” and that, “Rapes happen day and night and in all corners of the prisons, including dormitories, cells, showers and recreation areas.” Alabama now has 49 days to fix the problems or face federal prosecution.
Also in Alabama, Republicans, apparently disregarding the treatment of actual living human beings in their prisons, are so concerned about the rights of fetal tissue inside women’s bodies that they are now attempting to pass a ban on most abortions. If the so-called “fetal heartbeat” bill passes, Alabama will join the states of Georgia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma in passing bills where pregnant women will see their constitutional right to an abortion denied.
The New York Times on Wednesday published a lengthy and explosive piece about the man who owns Fox News and a conglomeration of related media outlets the world over. The article, entitled, “How Rupert Murdoch’s Empire of Influence Remade The World,” is an in-depth look at a very private man whose ideological reshaping of the media has helped spread right wing ideas the world over. The report is the culmination of 6 months of investigative research and 150 interviews from all over the world. According to a Times summary, the research examined, “how Mr. Murdoch and his feuding sons turned their media outlets into right-wing political influence machines that have destabilized democracy in North America, Europe and Australia.”
Republicans are warning Trump against closing the US-Mexico border. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell said, “Closing down the border would have potentially catastrophic economic impact on our country, and I would hope we would not be doing that.” And, another high-ranking Republican John Thune said, “It’s part of the way he negotiates, but I’m not sure that’s a particularly good idea and I’m not sure it gets the desired result…Tactically it doesn’t get a result and probably has a lot of unintended consequences.” And Senator Lindsey Graham added his voice to the chorus against a border closure saying, “You are taking a bad problem and, by closing the ports of entry, you are creating another problem.” There are now reports that Trump is backing off from his threat.
And finally in international news, Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has resigned after weeks of mass protests. The 82-year old 4-term President had been planning to run for a 5th term but a major uprising that began as a student-led revolt appears to have forced him to back down. On Wednesday the nation was filled with scenes of euphoria over the news of Bouteflika’s resignation. The Algerian Constitutional Council met on Wednesday after more than 20 years to declare the President’s seat vacant and usher in a process for new elections.