News & Analysis of Economic, Racial, Gender Justice and More

William Barr, the nominee for Attorney General, testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday and was questioned at length about various issues – in particular how he expected to treat the Special Counsel’s investigation. He asserted that he was friends with Robert Mueller and would respect his work. Barr also said he didn’t think the final report from the Special Counsel’s investigation should be released to the public and that he would not recuse himself from overseeing the investigation if asked by ethics advisors to do so.

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal later asked him about his views on what constitutes “obstruction of justice,” and here is how their exchange went.

In what was one of the most disturbing moments of the hearing, Senator Amy Klobuchar asked Barr about his views on prosecuting journalists.

In news of the on-going federal government shutdown, President Donald Trump invited some rank-and-file Democratic Congressmen to the White House on Tuesday for lunch to discuss the impasse over funding for the border wall. He was attempting to bypass House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s leadership, but it didn’t work and the Democrats turned him down. There are reports of a new refugee caravan from Central America heading toward the US-Mexico border. The caravan originates in Honduras where about 2,000 people are fleeing together to escape rampant violence under a US-backed government.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration announced on Tuesday that it had called 50,000 furloughed federal workers back to their jobs despite them not getting paid for their work. The workers fulfill essential functions such as processing tax refunds, overseeing air traffic safety, inspecting food and drug supplies, and more. Unions representing the workers asked a judge to force the government to pay them if they were required back on the job but the judge denied the request. Almost nothing has changed since the beginning of the battle over the federal spending bill and there appears to be no end in sight to the shutdown. On Wednesday morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked Trump to postpone his State of the Union address, or issue it in print instead.

The freshman New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has won a coveted position on the House Financial Services Committee. That committee is now headed by veteran Congresswoman and progressive stalwart Maxine Waters, and is one of four committees overseeing Wall Street. Ocasio-Cortez has been a rising star in the Democratic Party, taking on Republicans and conservatives with ease on social media, and now will apparently extend that fighting spirit in legislative chambers. It is highly unusual for a newly elected member of Congress to serve on top committees. Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “Personally, I’m looking forward to digging into the student loan crisis, examining for-profit prisons/ICE detention, and exploring the development of public & postal banking. To start.”

Ocasio-Cortez has proposed a 70% marginal tax rate on wealthy corporations in order to fund the Green New Deal. Earlier on Tuesday former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker attempted to school the internet on how tax rates work, tweeting, “Imagine if you did chores for your grandma and she gave you $10.  When you got home, your parents took $7 from you. The students said: ‘That’s not fair!’ Even 5th graders get it.” Ocasio-Cortez responded saying, “Explaining marginal taxes to a far-right former Governor: Imagine if you did chores for abuela & she gave you $10. When you got home, you got to keep it, because it’s only $10. Then we taxed the billionaire in town because he’s making tons of money underpaying the townspeople.” A new poll released Tuesday found a surprising amount of public support for a 70% tax rate of the kind she has proposed such a tax. The Hill-HarrisX survey found that nearly 60% of the public supports the idea, including majorities in Republican demographics.

In international news, a suicide attack in the Syrian city of Manjibhas reportedly killed several American servicemen. The Islamic State, which took credit for the attack said that it had killed 9 US soldiers. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a total of 19 were dead. American spokespeople have confirmed the attack but not divulged details of casualties.

The freshman New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has won a coveted position on the House Financial Services Committee. That committee is now headed by veteran Congresswoman and progressive stalwart Maxine Waters, and is one of four committees overseeing Wall Street. Ocasio-Cortez has been a rising star in the Democratic Party, taking on Republicans and conservatives with ease on social media, and now will apparently extend that fighting spirit in legislative chambers. It is highly unusual for a newly elected member of Congress to serve on top committees. Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “Personally, I’m looking forward to digging into the student loan crisis, examining for-profit prisons/ICE detention, and exploring the development of public & postal banking. To start.”

Ocasio-Cortez has proposed a 70% marginal tax rate on wealthy corporations in order to fund the Green New Deal. Earlier on Tuesday former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker attempted to school the internet on how tax rates work, tweeting, “Imagine if you did chores for your grandma and she gave you $10.  When you got home, your parents took $7 from you. The students said: ‘That’s not fair!’ Even 5th graders get it.” Ocasio-Cortez responded saying, “Explaining marginal taxes to a far-right former Governor: Imagine if you did chores for abuela & she gave you $10. When you got home, you got to keep it, because it’s only $10. Then we taxed the billionaire in town because he’s making tons of money underpaying the townspeople.” A new poll released Tuesday found a surprising amount of public support for a 70% tax rate of the kind she has proposed such a tax. The Hill-HarrisX survey found that nearly 60% of the public supports the idea, including majorities in Republican demographics.

In international news, a suicide attack in the Syrian city of Manjibhas reportedly killed several American servicemen. The Islamic State, which took credit for the attack said that it had killed 9 US soldiers. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a total of 19 were dead. American spokespeople have confirmed the attack but not divulged details of casualties.

More than a dozen people were killed in Nairobi, Kenya after gun-men opened fire on a high-end hotel and office park on Tuesday. The attack came more than 5 years after a similar deadly attack on a mall that killed more than 70 people. The Somali group Al Shabab announced that it was responsible for this action. According to the Washington Post, “The hotel — part of a Thai-owned chain — is popular for conferences and news briefings, and the complex also hosts scores of shops and offices, including those of many multinational companies such as Visa and Shell. It is also a popular shopping destination. Before Tuesday, it would have been considered one of Nairobi’s safest spaces.”

And finally, Britain is facing perhaps its greatest political crisis in the two years since the Brexit vote when a slim majority opted to divorce their nation from the European Union. British Prime Minister Theresa May failed to win support in Parliament for the latest Brexit agreement that she negotiated. Here are highlights from opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn in Britain, and before him Prime Minister Theresa May. On Wednesday May announced that Britain would be leaving the EU on March 29th.

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