Headlines: February 19, 2019
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President Donald Trump traveled to Miami, Florida and gave a major speech on Venezuela on Monday. During his speech he exhorted the Venezuelan military to switch its support from the current President Nicolás Maduro, to opposition leader Juan Guido. He also gave an ominous sounding ultimatum saying, “We seek a peaceful transition of power, but all options are open.” Meanwhile Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida announced that US aid, which had been sent to the border of Colombia and Venezuela as a pretext for a presumed US invasion, would get through one way or another. He told CNN, “I think ultimately the question is whether it gets through in a way that he’s cooperative with or in a way that he’s not,” referring to Maduro.
In other news, investigators in North Carolina have uncovered a voter fraud scheme in a Congressional race that took place last fall. A consultant working for the campaign of Republican candidate Mark Harris engaged in what the North Carolina Board of Elections called, a “coordinated, unlawful and substantially resourced” strategy. According to the New York Times, “witnesses said that the operation involved forging signatures, completing ballots and mailing them from post offices near the voter’s home, and may have involved more than 1,000 absentee ballots or request forms.” The official vote count showed Mr. Harris leading his Democratic opponent Dan McCready by less than a 1,000 votes. The findings in North Carolina offer a stark contrast to the unsubstantiated claims by Republicans of widespread voter fraud by immigrants as an excuse to clamp down on Democratic voter rights.
An interview that CBS’s 60 Minutes did with former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe aired on Sunday and contained several bombshells about Trump. McCabe said a, “crime may have been committed,” when Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, and that he too was fired when he opened a probe into the President. McCabe said that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was involved in discussions that centered around invoking the 25th Amendment to remove the President from office. Top ranking Republican Senator Lindsey Graham announced after the interview that he would investigate the discussions of invoking the 25th amendment as a, “attempted bureaucratic coup.” Graham does not seem interested in investigating the potential crimes Trump may have committed. McCabe also said during the interview that Trump, “estimated that 80 percent of FBI employees must have voted for him, and he asked me if I thought that was true,” McCabe said. “I said, ‘I have no idea who people in the FBI voted for. It’s not something that we discuss at work.'”
A coalition of 16 states announced a lawsuit on Monday against the President’s invocation of a national emergency to obtain billions of dollars in funding for his border wall between the US and Mexico. The coalition includes the states of California and New York. The lawsuit contends that only Congress has the right to appropriate funding under the US Constitution, not the President. Meanwhile protests took place around the country on Monday in opposition to the border wall.
Heather Nauert, who was tapped by the Trump administration to replace outgoing UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, has withdrawn her nomination. Nauert was found to have been employing a nanny who was not authorized to work in the US under immigration law. She joins an increasing number of Republicans including Trump himself, who have been found to employ immigrants without the proper paperwork, even as they lash out at immigrants present in the US.
In news from the Special Counsel’s investigation, reports have emerged from court filings made late last week that Trump’s long-time friend and associate Roger Stone was in contact with Wikileaks during the 2016 presidential campaign over emails hacked from the DNC server. Stone retorted that the communication was, “innocuous Twitter direct messages” that, “prove absolutely nothing.” Stone says he disclosed those messages to the House Intelligence Committee but last month he was indicted for lying to Congress. Meanwhile there are news reports that Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has been cooperating with the Special Counsel and her interview may have opened up yet another branch of the investigation.
West Virginia’s teachers on Monday announced a statewide strike to protest a new education bill that the legislature has taken up without their input and which they claim is retaliation against them for walkouts last year. West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee said, “it appears that they are more interested in listening to the outside interests than they are the educators across West Virginia.” He added, “We will work as closely as we can to get a resolution, but at this point, there doesn’t seem to be a resolution.” Teachers in West Virginia join a growing wave of educator-led strikes around the country.
And finally Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has announced he is running for President. In an email sent to supporters on Tuesday he said, “Three years ago, during our 2016 campaign, when we brought forth our progressive agenda we were told that our ideas were ‘radical’ and ‘extreme.'” He added, “Well, three years have come and gone. And, as result of millions of Americans standing up and fighting back, all of these policies and more are now supported by a majority of Americans.” Sanders joins a large pool of Democratic contenders for 2020.