Headlines: August 1, 2018
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In today’s news headlines the social media platform Facebook announced that it has found evidence of a concerted effort to influence the 2018 midterm elections this November. In a statement the company said it had, “removed 32 Pages and accounts from Facebook and Instagram because they were involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior.” While it did not say Russian forces were definitively behind the accounts, according to Facebook, “It’s clear that whoever set up these accounts went to much greater lengths to obscure their true identities than the Russian-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) has in the past.”
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in a speech on Tuesday squarely blamed Russia for attempting to interfere in the 2016 elections, offering a contrast to President Trump’s flip flopping on the issue. This is what she said at a Cyber security summit.
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing this week into the impacts of family separation on immigrants. An official from the Trump administration admitted that he warned about the harm that would be done to children if they were separated from their parents. This is Public Health Service Commander Jonathan White speaking to Senator Richard Blumenthal. In an analysis of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on family separation that White spoke at, Slate.com concluded that, “the lack of any accountability for the disastrous policy became abundantly clear. Not a single member of the panel was willing to defend the policy, but only one was willing to state plainly what went wrong.”
Meanwhile the New York Times offered proof of such negative impacts in a detailed story on Tuesday featuring a 5-year old boy named Thiago who was separated from his mother for 50 days and after being reunited with her has been exhibiting classic signs of deep trauma and anxiety. According to his mother he is no longer the boy she remembers.
In other immigration news, the Defense Department is readying a military base in El Paso, Texas to house immigrants apprehended at the border. Fort Bliss has had all its environmental and legal requirements completed and is now waiting for the go-ahead from the Department of Health and Human Services. And Trump on Tuesday once more said that he would pursue a government shutdown over funding for his border wall. He tweeted, “I don’t care what the political ramifications are.”
A judge has blocked the sale of 3-D blueprints for guns. The Trump administration had given the Austin, Texas based company Defense Distributed the right to offer downloadable plans. The company began offering the plans even before it was supposed to and already the plans are in circulation. U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik has now put in place a restraining order saying, “There is a possibility of irreparable harm because of the way these guns can be made.” The 3-D plastic guns are untraceable and very easy to print and assemble with a 3-D printer. Here is Democratic Representative Ed Markey on Tuesday at a press conference. On Monday Trump had tweeted that the idea of 3-D printed guns, “doesn’t make sense.”
The Government Accountability Office has released a new report saying that 30 million more Americans will have likely underpaid on their taxes this year than usual. The new Republican tax reform law, which disproportionately funneled tax savings to the rich, means that, “Dual-income, large families, gig economy workers and folks who have been itemizing deductions,” are the kinds of Americans that may now owe more on their taxes.
Meanwhile in a campaign-rally in Tampa to support Rep. Ron DeSantis for Florida Governor, President Trump did not bring up the tax reform bill. Instead he pivoted to a new distraction: voter ID laws. Associated Press flatly stated, “It’s unclear when the president last purchased groceries or anything else himself.”
Trump also dismissed all polling data at the Tampa rally, then referenced a poll that doesn’t exist, and then compared himself to Abraham Lincoln. He said, “Polls are fake, just like everything else,” and then cited a fake poll, adding, “They just came out with a poll – the most popular person in the history of the Republican Party is Trump! Can you believe that? So I said, does that include Honest Abe Lincoln? He was pretty good, huh?”
Meanwhile Trump supporters heckled CNN’s White House Correspondent Jim Acosta at the Tampa rally chanting “CNN sucks,” as well as, “traitor,” and “You’re a liar.” The rally attendees were channeling their President who has repeatedly pushed violent rhetoric against media outlets like CNN. Trump re-tweeted his son Eric’s post of a video of the heckling.
Trump is considering applying a 25% tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. China retorted saying it wouldn’t respond to, “blackmail.” Tariffs have become the focus of a battle between Trump and the billionaire Koch brothers. Trump tweeted that the Kochs were a, “total joke in real Republican circles,” but also admitted that his policies were aimed at pleasing billionaires like the Kochs when he said, “They love my Tax & Regulation Cuts, Judicial picks & more.” Democrats are hoping the feud hurts Republican chances at the midterms this Fall.
Trump is heading to Columbus, Ohio this weekend to campaign for Republican Troy Balderson in a special election, taking place August 7th. The GOP is deeply worried they will lose the Congressional race and have bombarded the region with ads for Balderson who is running against Democrat Danny O’Connor. A win for O’Connor could indicate the party’s hold on Congress is in deep danger.
Associated Press has obtained the drafts of a government proposal to freeze Obama-era gas mileage efficiency requirements for cars at 2020 levels. The Trump administration appears to be relying on perverse logic to make the case that cars should not be any more gas efficient because more people would drive if cars had better gas mileage and that would expose more Americans to car accidents. Experts in the transportation industry ridiculed the idea.
And, the White House is bracing for a new tell-all book by the legendary Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward. Unlike previous administrations, Trump officials had no policy in place to make themselves available to reporters like Woodward. The publisher Simon and Schuster said that Woodward’s book – which will be out soon – reveals, “the harrowing life inside Donald Trump’s White House and how the president makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies.”