Headlines: August 16, 2018
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In today’s news headlines hundreds of newspapers around the country have published coordinated op-eds against President Donald Trump’s repeated anti-journalism statements. The effort was led by the Boston Globe whose Thursday morning piece was headlined, “Journalists Are Not The Enemy.” In it the paper’s editors write, “A central pillar of President Trump’s politics is a sustained assault on the free press. Journalists are not classified as fellow Americans, but rather ‘The enemy of the people.’ This relentless assault on the free press has dangerous consequences. We asked editorial boards from around the country – liberal and conservative, large and small – to join us today to address this fundamental threat in their own words.” The New York Times also participated with an op-ed headlined, “A Free Press Needs You.” A total of 300 papers published similar op-eds.
President Trump made good on a recent threat and revoked the security clearance of one of his critics in the intelligence community on Wednesday: former CIA Director John Brennan. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders read a statement citing Brennan’s “erratic” behavior and “increasingly frenzied commentary,” and accused him of abusing his security clearance to, “make a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations.” Brennan shot back on Twitter, “This action is part of a broader effort by Mr. Trump to suppress freedom of speech & punish critics. It should gravely worry all Americans, including intelligence professionals, about the cost of speaking out. My principles are worth far more than clearances. I will not relent.” Brennan then shared his reaction with MSNBC.
According to Associated Press, “Trump says he is reviewing security clearances for nine other individuals: James Clapper, James Comey, Michael Hayden, Sally Yates, Susan Rice, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page and Bruce Ohr.” All those named are either critics of Trump or are involved in the Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called Trump’s actions a, “stunning abuse of power,” while Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland said, “Leaders behave like this in dictatorships, not democracies.”
Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani told the Washington Post that the President was willing to fight a potential subpoena from Special Counsel Mueller, all the way to the Supreme Court. Giuliani’s threat centers on the Mueller team’s need to interview the President and the strict conditions under which the President’s lawyers will allow such an interview. Giuliani told the Washington Post, “We would move to quash the subpoena… And we’re pretty much finished with our memorandum opposing a subpoena.” The legal threat is especially significant given that Republicans are moving swiftly to try to confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh by October. With Kavanaugh in place a conservative majority would support Trump in any case that reached the court.
Not surprisingly Trump now wants to cut the budgets of federal government watchdog groups. Senator Claire McCaskill released a report on Wednesday highlighting the budget cuts to Inspector Generals offices. “Inspectors General (IGs) are nonpartisan, independent watchdogs who play a vital role in uncovering and preventing waste, fraud, and abuse at federal agencies,” explained the report. McCaskill’s report also warns, “If enacted, the President’s FY19 budget will not provide sufficient funding for the critical oversight work of the IG community.”
The jury in Paul Manafort’s tax and banking fraud case will begin deliberations on Thursday to consider the 18 charges made against Trump’s former campaign chair. Federal prosecutors and Manafort’s defense team made their closing arguments on Wednesday. The federal case against Manafort asserts that he lied to banks to obtain loans and lied to the IRS to withhold taxes. It is the first case to go to trial from the Special Counsel’s investigation.
In the wake of a damning 800-page Grand Jury report on Catholic priests’ pervasive sexual abuse of children in Pennsylvania, victims and their families are seeking justice. But according to AP, “The Pennsylvania grand jury said that in almost every case there, the statute of limitations for bringing criminal charges has run out.” The Pennsylvania cases of abuse are only one part of a story that has unfolded over the years all across the US starting in Boston, Massachusetts in 2002, and “bishops have acknowledged that more than 17,000 people nationwide have reported being molested by priests and others in the church going back to 1950.”
A bi-partisan Senate investigation has found that Trump’s immigrant family separation policy made it harder for the federal government to protect children from trafficking and abuse. The report released on Wednesday by the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found that the Trump administration classified children traveling with parents as “unaccompanied alien children,” and put them in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services – an agency that was already under investigation for not properly tracking immigrant children that had been released to sponsors. The report also found that 28 children had run away while in government custody. The Senate Subcommittee plans to hold hearings on Thursday to question officials from the Department of Health and Human Services, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Justice Department.
US Senators are expected to debate and vote on a spending bill in the next few days. A so-called ‘minibus’ appropriations bill includes about $675 billion in military funding and a little over $180 billion for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and other agencies. Because President Trump had threatened to shut down the government if Congress didn’t include spending on his border wall with Mexico, lawmakers combined domestic and military spending into one bill, daring the president to veto his favorite type of government spending – on the military. The deadline to approve a spending bill in order to avoid a government shutdown is September 30th.
The Trump Administration has released a plan to make available hundreds of thousands of acres of land in Utah to mining and fossil fuel exploration operations. Trump reversed President Obama’s National Monument designations for the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments – an unprecedented act. He did so in order to gain the political support of Utah’s lawmakers who are beholden to coal, oil, and gas interests. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance denounced the Bureau of Land Management’s plan, with a spokesperson saying, “The lands Trump tried to cut out of the Staircase have an ‘open for business’ sign on them. Off-road vehicles, coal mining, drilling and other activities that without a doubt would destroy monument objects would be allowed.” A public comment period on the proposed change begins Friday.
Twitter has finally suspended Alex Jones – the pro-Trump shock-jock and conspiracy theorist – from its platform, becoming the last of the major social media outlets to do so. The suspension is only temporary however, and centers on Jones’ link to a video that urged people to keep their “battle rifles” ready and, “act on the enemy,” which in this case is apparently the media. YouTube, Facebook, Apple, Spotify, and Vimeo have permanently banned Jones. On the same day that Twitter took action, the FCC shut down a pirate radio station in Austin, Texas, that Jones was using as his primary outlet. The FCC also fined the station $15,000 but Jones is refusing to pay.
And the Colorado Baker who took his fight against gay couples all the way to the Supreme Court has now decided to discriminate against transgender people too. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission brought a case against Jack Phillips over his refusal to make a cake for a transgender woman, just as it did in in the earlier case. Phillips is now suing the commission and the state of Colorado as he seeks a permanent injunction against state enforcement of anti-discrimination laws against him.
And, the great Aretha Franklin, known to the world as the “Queen of Soul,” has died. The legendary singer struggled with advanced pancreatic cancer and died at age 76 in her home in Detroit.