Headlines: February 7, 2020
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Days after being acquitted by Senate Republicans over two articles of impeachment, President Donald Trump has reportedly shown no desire to pursue reconciliation. Instead the President has moved into high gear seeking revenge for those who wronged him. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council aide whose testimony at House impeachment hearings helped strengthen the case for impeachment is being transferred to another position in the Defense Department. According to the Washington Post, “Trump is eager to make a symbol of the Army officer soon after the Senate acquitted him.” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham in an interview on Fox News seemed to confirm the President’s post-impeachment strategy saying, “People should be held accountable for anything they do to hurt this country and this president.” Senate Republican allies of the President have also started their vengeful post-impeachment tactics. On Thursday Treasury Department officials turned over sensitive information on Joe Biden and his son Hunter to Senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson who lead committees.
Walter Shaub, the former head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics and a frequent Trump critic warned, “We’re in the heads-on-pikes phase of burgeoning authoritarianism.” In a two part-tweet Shaub explained, “Trump is going after witnesses for testifying to Congress, Trump and his allies are going after Romney, Senators, with help from Trump’s Treasury Dept., are going after Trump’s political rival and his son, Senators are preparing to go after the whistleblower, DHS is going after New York, Barr is investigating DOJ employees for investigating Trump, Barr issued a policy requiring DOJ investigations of Trump or his political rivals to go through Barr.” He added, “This is just the start.”
Trump enjoyed another lesser-known victory in the case over his violations of the Emoluments Clause. An Appeals Court on Friday dismissed a major lawsuit by about 200 Democratic lawmakers over the emoluments issue. The Constitution’s Emoluments clause has not been so severely tested by any other President before. Foreign diplomats and heads of state have been far more likely to spend their money at Trump’s many properties in an obvious means of currying favor with him. But even taxpayers appear to be funneling money into Trump’s pockets – through the Secret Service. The Washington Post published an investigation that found, “President Trump’s company charges the Secret Service for the rooms agents use while protecting him at his luxury properties — billing U.S. taxpayers at rates as high as $650 per night.” The paper explained, “Trump’s company says it charges only minimal fees. But Secret Service records do not show that…Trump has an unprecedented — and largely hidden — business relationship with his own government.”
In news from the 2020 election campaign trail, Republican Joe Walsh – one of only two GOP members brave enough to mount a primary challenge to Trump, has ended his bid after just one primary. Walsh, a former Illinois Congressman said, “I’m suspending my campaign, but our fight against the Cult of Trump is just getting started. I’m committed to doing everything I can to defeat Trump and his enablers this November.” Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld is now the only remaining Republican challenger.
Meanwhile the political fallout from the Iowa caucuses disaster continues. Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez faced accusations of seeking to thwart Senator Bernie Sanders’s gains after announcing there would be a recanvass. Perez told CNN, “That’s just not accurate… I’m not about how it affects one candidate or another.” Sanders decided he was done waiting and on Thursday afternoon declared victory in Iowa. South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg whose vote count is the closest to Sanders’ declared victory on Monday, hoping to gain an PR edge for his campaign. The move may have worked as new polls show Buttigieg’s poll numbers rising in New Hampshire where the next primary race takes place Tuesday. Buttigieg is now polling at 23% compared to Sanders at 24% in that state. Senator Elizabeth Warren continues to struggle at 13% and Biden at 11%. The next Democratic Primary debate takes place on Friday evening in Manchester, New Hampshire, where for the first time candidate Michael Bloomberg will join in. DNC officials have come under attack for changing the rules in order for Bloomberg to qualify.
The jobs report for January is out and shows that the US economy added a healthy 225,000 jobs. However the official unemployment rate increased slightly to 3.6%. Meanwhile in California where a sweeping new labor law took effect in January aimed at better wages and benefits for ride share drivers, the author of that bill, Lorena Gonzalez has said she will introduce legislation to relax the constraints of AB 5. Meanwhile companies like Uber, which the law was intended to target, is attempting to find loopholes in order to keep avoiding fair pay for its drivers. Uber has started testing new features on its app but drivers say it’s just a “smokescreen.”
The Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency is once more under fire for violence and abuse. In New York ICE agents shot a man in the face during an arrest of another undocumented man who was being served a deportation order. Witnesses say the ICE agents did not identify themselves or even submit an arrest warrant. They showed no hesitation in firing their weapons. The man who was shot and the one facing arrest are both in the hospital. And, disturbing video from an ICE detention center in California shows several men being pepper sprayed in the face, pushed against walls, and dragged on the floor after staging a non-violent sit-in. Meanwhile the Wall Street Journal on Friday published an exclusive investigation into the Trump immigration enforcement strategy showing that federal agents are using cell phone location data to identify and arrest undocumented immigrants. According to the Journal, “The Trump administration has bought access to a commercial database that maps the movements of millions of cellphones in America and is using it for immigration and border enforcement.”
The man accused of killing nearly 2 dozen people at an El Paso, Texas Walmart has just been charged by a federal grand jury on 90 counts including hate crimes charges. The man admitted he was driven by a desire to kill Mexicans.
On the Coronavirus front, the Chinese public is protesting the treatment of the whistleblower doctor who tried to alert authorities of the dangers of the disease but was silenced. Dr. Li Wenliang’s death this week as he succumbed to the same virus has been a flashpoint for rare protests online against the Chinese government. Two cruise ships in Japan and Hong Kong are now under quarantine and numbers of infections continue to rise.
Two Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and 16 Israelis hurt in on-going protests over President Trump’s version of a peace plan for the region. In both Palestinian fatalities Israeli troops were found to be responsible. The Trump administration has decided to blame Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for the violence.
And finally in Brazil, a judge has dismissed charges against The Intercept journalist Glenn Greenwald that accused him of engaging in cybercrimes as part of his reporting. Greenwald has published numerous articles highly critical of right wing President Jair Bolsonaro based on leaked information.