Headlines: August 2, 2018
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In today’s news headlines President Trump’s tweets may land him in trouble as his repeated calls for the end of the Special Counsel investigation may be seen as attempted ‘obstruction of justice.’ On Wednesday, even after reports suggested Robert Mueller was considering the President’s tweets, Mr. Trump simply couldn’t help himself and posted on Twitter, “Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further. Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 Angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to USA!” According to AP, “In obstruction cases, prosecutors have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a particular act got in the way of an investigation and that the person who did it intended to obstruct.”
Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani dismissed the idea of “obstruction by tweet.” And when White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to respond during a press briefing she said it was simply the President expressing his opinion.
The New York Times reported on Wednesday that, “Mr. Trump has told advisers he is eager to meet with investigators to clear himself of wrongdoing… In effect, he believes he can convince the investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, of his belief that their own inquiry is a ‘witch hunt.'” Apparently Trump’s lawyers are worried he might also perjure himself. Now Mueller’s team appears to have agreed to narrow the scope of an interview and allow the President to submit some answers in writing.
The trial of Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort began this week. Manafort is the first person to be tried as part of Mueller’s investigation. His charges focus on financial wrongdoings. On day 2 of the trial prosecutors apparently made the case that Manafort hid money from the IRS and used the excess funds to live a “lavish” lifestyle, including the purchase of a $15,000 Ostrich coat which has been entered into evidence. On Thursday prosecutors are expected to bring up the accountants that helped Manafort file false tax returns for years.
A CNN reporter on Wednesday asked White House Press Secretary Sanders whether the Trump Administration condoned the treatment by Trump supporters of CNN’s Jim Acosta at a campaign rally in Tampa, Florida Tuesday night. Trump supporters chanted “CNN sucks” as Acosta attempted to a file a report from the rally. This is Ms. Sanders’ response.
In the wake of disturbing reports of another concerted effort by fake online users to try to influence the midterm elections, Republicans in the Senate have refused to direct extra funds toward election security. In a vote of 50 to 47 the Senate rejected appropriating an additional $250 million dollars as an amendment to an appropriations package to bolster the security of elections. Only one Republican – Senator Bob Corker – voted for the funds.
An appeals court on Wednesday has struck down the Trump Administration’s crackdown on so-called “sanctuary” cities. Sanctuary cities are local jurisdictions that allow police departments to not cooperate with federal immigration authorities. In line with his harsh anti-immigrant position Trump directed federal funds to be withheld from sanctuary cities. By a vote of 2-1 a Ninth circuit court rejected that reasoning. Trump’s Department of Justice responded angrily, with spokesperson Devin O’Malley saying the ruling would be celebrated by, “criminal aliens in California.” Trump has drastically changed federal definitions of immigration law violations as criminal rather than civil acts.
A protest against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh resulted in 74 arrests at the Capitol on Wednesday. Hundreds of activists filed into the Senate office building and attempted to block Senators from meeting with Kavanaugh as they prepare for a contentious nomination process. The activists stood silently in the hallway of the building, some holding up their fists. Defenders of abortion rights, LGBT rights, workers rights, and climate justice, have all urged Senators to reject Kavanaugh whose presence on the nation’s highest court would tilt it dramatically rightward for a generation.
The right-wing conspiracy theorist radio host and Trump supporter Alex Jones is facing a defamation trial by survivors of the Sandy Hook shooting. On the first day of the trial, which is taking place in Austin, Texas, lawyers for the family of a boy who was killed say that Jones repeatedly spread false stories on his program about the mass deadly shooting being some sort of elaborate hoax. Social media platforms like Facebook and Youtube have half-heartedly attempted to block some of Jones’ work online and the streaming music platform Spotify just announced it would ban some of his content. But critics say that is not nearly enough. The New York Times explains that, “many of Mr. Jones’s bogus theories have targeted President Trump’s perceived adversaries and reflect opinions held by his political base,” and that last week, “Mr. Jones broadcast a bizarre accusation that Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, was involved in a child sex ring.”
A real-life child sex ring existed within the Catholic Church for years and in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on Wednesday, Bishop Ronald Gainer identified 71 clergy who were involved in the systematic sexual abuse of children. The Bishop said their names would be scrubbed from all properties belonging to the church. The announcement was an attempt at pre-empting the release of a grand jury report on church abuses of children. There are currently six dioceses under investigation by a Grand Jury in Pennsylvania and a report that runs nearly 900 pages long was scheduled to be released but has been held up by challenges from some priests named in the report.
The Pope has changed the rules of Catholicism officially against all uses of the death penalty. Pope Francis has spoken before of his opposition to the death penalty and issued a statement on Wednesday calling capital punishment, “an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.”
Meanwhile a death row inmate in Arizona just had his conviction for the rape and murder of a 4-year old child thrown out. Barry Jones spent 23 years on death row for a crime he repeatedly said he did not commit. A US District judge issued the ruling this week saying that Jones’ 1995 trial was deeply problematic especially because of law enforcement’s “lack of due diligence and thorough professional investigation.” Judge Timothy Burgess has ordered for Jones to be immediately re-tried or released.