Headlines: August 31, 2018
Listen to story:
Download: mp3 (Duration: 9:10 — 8.4MB)
In today’s news headlines, a 68-year old man named Robert Darrell Chain was arrested on Thursday by heavily armed FBI officers at his home in Encino, California for threatening violence against reporters at the Boston Globe. Mr. Chain had repeatedly called the offices of the Globe and made threats, echoing President Donald Trump’s exact words, that the media was “the enemy of the people.” He made the threats after the Boston Globe led newspapers around the country to publish a series of coordinated op-eds denouncing Trump’s violent rhetoric aimed at the media precisely because it endangers the lives of journalists in the way that Mr. Chain has done. In one phone call he was reported to have said, “As long as you keep attacking the president, the duly elected president of the United States, in the continuation of your treasonous and seditious acts, I will continue to threaten, harass, and annoy the Boston Globe.” If convicted of his charges he faces 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
President Trump’s evangelical advisory board is considered illegal according to an advocacy organization that is mounting a legal challenge. According to the group Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the advisory board of Evangelical Christians that Trump just met with on Monday is likely to violate the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The organization’s CEO Rachel Lasar said, “We are tired of watching him give unprecedented access and influence to one religious group. And we’re tired of the secrecy. We’re asking them to shut down.” According to the Washington Post, “The president’s evangelical advisory board was created during the campaign and has met several times since the election with the president and staff, including this week’s White House dinner. The group has advised White House staff on issues including taxes, health care and judicial appointments, Americans United claims.”
The popular California-based burger chain In-N-Out is under fire from Democrats after it was revealed to have made large contributions to the Republican Party. Eric Bauman, the chair of California’s Democratic Party posted a tweet on Thursday calling for a boycott of the chain saying, “let Trump and his cronies support these creeps.” A public filing shows In-N-Out donated $25,000 to the state Republican party this week. It has supported both Republicans and centrist Democrats in the past.
President Trump on Thursday attempted to explain the reason why White House Counsel Don McGahn was stepping down. In a tweet he said McGahn, “was NOT responsible for me not firing Bob Mueller or Jeff Sessions.” The Washington Post speculated, “did Trump just cop to trying to fire both men?” The paper raised the fact that the tweet is, “something that’s likely to be of interest to Mueller in the obstruction of justice investigation, which reportedly has examined Trump’s efforts to fire Mueller himself.”
Meanwhile a new Washington Post-ABC News poll has found Trump’s disapproval rating at an all-time high of 60%. The poll also found that, “clear majorities of Americans support the special counsel’s Russia investigation and say the president should not fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”
In an interview with Bloomberg News on Thursday Trump said that Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ job is safe at least until the midterm elections. He said, “I just would love to have him do a great job,” and “I’d love to have him look at the other side,” referring to Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. He added, “I do question what is Jeff doing.” Trump has publicly belittled Sessions on numerous occasions, apparently deeply upset that Sessions had recused himself from the Special Counsel’s investigation. Republicans worry that after the election Trump may not have enough votes to confirm a suitable replacement.
Also during his Bloomberg interview Trump railed against the World Trade Organization in a discussion on trade and tariffs. He said, “If they don’t shape up, I would withdraw from the WTO.” Trump’s own cabinet members contradicted him however with treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin saying the idea of a US withdrawal from the WTO was, “an exaggeration,” and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross saying such sentiments were, “a little premature.”
In other trade news, Friday is the deadline that Trump set for negotiators from the three NAFTA nations to come to an agreement about a revamped deal on the North American Free Trade Agreement. Canadian and US trade representatives worked furiously late into Thursday while Mexican representatives remained on stand-by. The US and Mexico arrived at a deal earlier this week. Early on Friday morning Reuters reported that, “The Canadian dollar weakened against its U.S. counterpart … as doubts emerged that a deal to revamp the NAFTA trade pact would be reached by the end of the day.”
Canadian indigenous groups celebrated a major victory on Thursday after a court stopped an oil pipeline project from expanding. According to the New York Times, “the government’s National Energy Board had not adequately consulted with Indigenous people along the pipeline’s route or assessed the project’s potential effects on the waters off British Columbia.” The original project was run by the US-based pipeline company Kinder Morgan but after the company pulled out, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stepped in to rescue the project in spite of loud protests from First Nations’ groups. Now the entire project is in question.
A federal judge in Montana has issued a 14-day restraining order to temporarily stop a trophy hunt of Grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Utah from moving forward. Indigenous and environmental groups had challenged the hunting licenses that were made possible after a decision last year by the Trump Administration. The US Fish and Wildlife Service had decided to remove protections for the Grizzly Bear. Native American groups consider the Grizzly to be sacred. The judge who ordered the restraining order said that indigenous and environmental organizations were, “likely to succeed on the merits” of their legal challenge to the hunting permits.
Trump has canceled pay raises for federal government workers. The cancelation of the 2.1% raises, which were due in January, ironically comes just before Labor Day weekend. Democrats slammed the move as anti-worker and contrasted Trump’s decision with his tax reform bill which passed last year and has been a massive financial boost to the already-wealthy. Trump cited what he called the “significant” costs of paying federal workers. According to the Associated Press, Under the law, the 2.1 percent raise takes effect automatically unless the president and Congress act to change it. Congress is currently debating a proposal for a slightly lower, 1.9 percent across-the-board raise to be included in a funding bill that would require Trump’s signature to keep most government functions operating past September.” Unions that represent the approximately 2 million federal workers are urging Congress to support the 1.9% pay raise.
Football player turned political activist Colin Kaepernick, who has become a focus of conservative venom, won a major victory in his legal battle against the NFL. The New York Times explained that, “Kaepernick, once one of the league’s best quarterbacks, has been out of work since March 2017, when he became a free agent before the San Francisco 49ers could release him. As a parade of lesser quarterbacks, at least statistically, found work, he filed a grievance asserting that the league’s owners had conspired to keep him out because of his protests.” Kaepernick had refused to stand during the national anthem played at the beginning of football games, citing it as his protest against racism and police brutality. That stance earned him the ire of President Trump and nationalistic conservatives. Now, after his lawsuit against the NFL survived months of depositions, an arbiter in the case has said the suit can move forward because Kaepernick’s lawyers had presented enough evidence.
Bank of America has been found to be freezing the bank accounts of people whose citizenship it has questioned. Even though proof of citizenship is not required for an account holder in the US, according to one report, “Bank of America has been accused of freezing or threatening to freeze customers’ accounts after asking about their legal status in the U.S.” More than 60,000 people have signed a petition that says, “Trump’s Department of the Treasury has not issued new guidance to banks regarding customers’ immigration status, which means that Bank of America is collecting citizenship information from customers on its own. It also means that with enough public pressure, it could choose to end this practice immediately.”
Meanwhile news emerged on Thursday of three children from El Salvador who were among the thousands of immigrant kids that Trump ordered separated from their parents, have been found to have been sexually abused while in US custody. El Salvador’s Deputy Foreign Relations Minister for Salvadorans overseas, Liduvina Magarin, made the announcement saying that the children aged 12-17 had been assaulted by workers at US detention centers. Magarin said, “They are sexual violations, sexual abuses, that is what this is about.” The families of the children are consulting with lawyers to determine how to proceed.
Finally mourners will have a chance to say goodbye to John McCain, the late controversial Arizona Republican Senator, whose body is lying in state on Friday at the capital rotunda for public visitation. And the Queen of Soul, the late Aretha Franklin will also bid goodbye to the world with her final ceremony at Detroit’s Greater Grace Temple, capping off a week of services. She will be lying in resplendent gold as the likes of Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Jennifer Hudson and others perform.