Headlines: August 8, 2018
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In today’s news headlines Primary elections took place in Ohio, Missouri, Michigan, Kansas, and Washington on Tuesday night. The most high-profile race was a special election in Ohio to fill the seat of a retiring Republican Congressman. GOP candidate Troy Balderson – who had the full-throated support of President Donald Trump faced off against Democrat Danny O’Connor. In what should have been an easy GOP win, Balderson struggled to beat O’Connor and as of Wednesday morning led O’Connor by only 1,754 votes in a 50.2% to 49.3% count. There are still 8,500 provisional and absentee ballots left to count. The two candidates will face a re-match in November. Balderson’s struggle in a strongly Republican district spells trouble for the GOP nationwide in the midterms.
In Michigan, Abdul El-Sayed, a young Muslim American candidate backed by Senator Bernie Sanders failed to beat Gretchen Whitmer for the Democratic nomination in a Governor’s race. In Missouri, a candidate backed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cori Bush, also lost her primary challenge to incumbent William Lacy Clay. According to the New York Times, “The left still displayed real political force: Mr. El-Sayed and Ms. Bush both won more than 30 percent of the primary vote as underdog candidates.”
In a closely watched local race in Missouri, a prosecutor in Ferguson who gained notoriety for his role in the investigation of Mike Brown’s killing by police officer Darren Wilson, has been ousted. A City Council member and attorney named Wesley Bell beat the 7-term incumbent Bob McCulloch four years after mass protests raged in Ferguson turning it into an epicenter of the Black Lives Matter movement. Bell’s campaign was backed by high-profile activist and journalist Shaun King. He is expected to easily win the prosecutor’s race in November.
Also in Missouri, a major labor victory was had on Tuesday night when voters overwhelmingly beat back a Republican “Right-to-Work” law. A law making compulsory union dues illegal was passed by the Republican-led Missouri legislature last year. Unions managed to put the law to a popular referendum and voters have now repealed it. According to AP, “The Missouri referendum marked the first chance for voters to weigh in on union powers since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in late June that public sector employees cannot be compelled to pay fees to unions.”
Meanwhile the trial of Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort continues. Defense lawyers had their chance to cross-examine the government’s star witness Rick Gates on Tuesday. Mr. Gates, who was an aide in the Trump campaign and Manafort’s “right hand man,” had taken a plea deal to cooperate with federal prosecutors and admitted on the stand to embezzling money from Manafort as well as helping Manafort to hide vast sums of money from the IRS. Defense lawyer Kevin Downing confronted Gates saying, “After all the lies you’ve told and the fraud you’ve committed, you expect this jury to believe you?”
Meanwhile Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen is now also being investigated for potential tax fraud. According to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the story, “Federal authorities are assessing whether Mr. Cohen’s income from his taxi-medallion business was underreported in federal tax returns.”
In immigration news, 9 Guatemalan children aged 6 -14 were reunited with their parents on Tuesday when they were flown back to Guatemala City. The children were among those who remained in the US after their parents were deported by the Trump administration.
The ACLU has filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration over its denial of legitimate asylum claims. The group has asked courts to overturn Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ June memo in which the government outlined new restrictions on asylum applications. Those restrictions had immediate impact when refugees who would have ordinarily passed their “credible-fear” screenings began to be rejected. Many applicants ended up in detention centers, separated from their children, or were deported.
Another immigration-related lawsuit has been filed, this one on behalf of foreign students who are in the US on student visas. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had changed terms and conditions on its website without notice or explanation, making it illegal for students to work in certain fields while studying. Those students are now considered unauthorized and attorneys representing them are suing.
And the federal government is moving closer to curtailing legal immigration. According to NBC, “The Trump administration is expected to issue a proposal in coming weeks that would make it harder for legal immigrants to become citizens or get green cards if they have ever used a range of popular public welfare programs, including Obamacare.” The proposal is part of Trump advisor Stephen Miller’s broader anti-immigrant plan.
California’s record-breaking wildfire continues to grow. The Mendocino Complex Fire, which has made history with its size and speed, has postponed the start of schools as ash and smoke blankets nearby communities. The fire has doubled in size since Saturday and is still just about a third contained. Meanwhile state regulators have announced a new proposal to get around the federal government’s freezing of fuel efficiency standards for cars. The state plans to require any automakers wishing to sell cars after 2020 in California, to adhere to the state’s high standards for gas mileage.
A new poll conducted by Ipsos has found that, “43 percent of self-identified Republicans said that they believed “the president should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior.” According to the Daily Beast, which had exclusive access to the poll, “When asked if Trump should close down specific outlets, including CNN, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, nearly a quarter of Republicans (23 percent) agreed and 49 percent disagreed.” President Trump’s constant drumbeat against the media as the “enemy of the people” seems to be having an impact on his party’s base.
Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission has finally admitted that his agency’s public comment servers were not targeted by online attacks. According to Ars Technica, “Pai’s FCC had been insisting for more than a year that distributed denial-of-service attacks took down the FCC comment system on May 8, 2017, just as many net neutrality supporters were trying to submit comments opposing Pai’s plan to eliminate the rules.” The FCC’s Inspector General had investigated the claims of attacks and Mr. Pai’s admission that there were no attacks came just as the IG’s report was turned over. Instead of accepting responsibility for making the wild claims Mr. Pai blamed the Obama administration’s FCC staff. Pai rolled back the FCC’s net neutrality rules despite overwhelming public opposition.
Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh continues to face scrutiny for his past statements. The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that his comments on affirmative action cases could spell trouble for racial justice. Kavanaugh had once said, “in the eyes of government, we are just one race.” And CNN reported that Kavanaugh’s position on Presidential power was problematic because in 2013 he asserted the, “‘traditional exercise’ of presidential power to ignore laws the White House views as unconstitutional.” Democratic Senators want to see all the documents related to Kavanaugh’s work especially in his role during the George W. Bush presidency. But Republicans have refused saying it is irrelevant. Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the court would give hardline conservatives a solid majority for perhaps a generation.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is facing criticism for not banning conspiracy theorist Alex Jones from his platform after Jones was dropped by Facebook, Youtube, and iTunes. Dorsey defended his decision saying, “We know that’s hard for many but the reason is simple: he hasn’t violated our rules,” Dorsey tweeted. “We’ll enforce if he does. And we’ll continue to promote a healthy conversational environment by ensuring tweets aren’t artificially amplified.”