Headlines: January 18, 2019
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BuzzFeed published a damning exposé on President Donald Trump saying that he instructed his former attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about his plans for a Trump Tower in Moscow. The report cites “two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter,” as sources. Additionally the report found that, “Trump also supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. ‘Make it happen,’ the sources said Trump told Cohen.” All of this was apparently happening while Trump was telling the public that he had no business deals in Russia. But Cohen, who was put in charge of the development of plans for a Moscow tower apparently gave Trump and his children Donald Jr. and Ivanka, regular updates about the real estate plan. After Cohen was in the cross hairs of the Special Investigation, “the president personally instructed him to lie — by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did — in order to obscure Trump’s involvement.” The Washington Post said, “BuzzFeed’s Michael Cohen story, if true, looks to be the most damning to date for Trump.” The Post also speculated that the report presents, “An event so cut-and-dried that even Republicans would be hard-pressed not to consider impeachment.”
The BuzzFeed report came on the same day that the Wall Street Journal reported that Cohen hired a technology firm during the Trump Presidential campaign to try to rig online polls in favor of Trump. A man named John Gauger told the Journal that he was promised $50,000 to falsely show two online polls in support of Trump for President. According to the report, “Mr. Gauger owns RedFinch Solutions LLC and is chief information officer at Liberty University in Virginia, where Jerry Falwell Jr., an evangelical leader and fervent Trump supporter, is president.” Cohen publicly acknowledged the veracity of the report tweeting, “what I did was at the direction of and for the sole benefit of @realDonaldTrump @POTUS. I truly regret my blind loyalty to a man who doesn’t deserve it.” Michael Cohen has been confirmed to testify in front of Congress on February 7th.
Meanwhile the President continued his game of brinksmanship in the on-going impasse over the border wall funding which has resulted in the longest government shutdown in US history – now at 27 days. On Thursday he wrote a letter dripping with sarcasm to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi canceling her Congressional delegation to Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan saying that the shutdown makes the trip inappropriate. The move was clearly in retaliation for Pelosi’s letter a day earlier asking him to deliver his State of the Union address from the Oval office or in writing, in light of the shutdown. Then on Friday morning Pelosi’s spokesperson Drew Hammill announced that, “In the middle of the night, the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service provided an updated threat assessment detailing that the President announcing this sensitive travel had significantly increased the danger to the delegation and to the troops, security, and other officials supporting the trip.” Hammill added, “This morning, we learned that the administration had leaked the commercial travel plans as well.”
The White House has also canceled plans for a US delegation to fly to Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum. His delegation was to include Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Trump gave a speech to the Pentagon on Thursday where he once more railed against immigrants and made his case for a border wall. A pro-military news outlet called Defense One bashed the President saying he, “Tried Partisan Applause Lines Inside the Pentagon. Nobody Applauded.”
Democrats have denounced Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell of being absent during the disastrous government shutdown, doing little-to-nothing to help end it, prompting a social media hashtag #WheresMitch?. But on Thursday McConnell finally appeared – not to vote on a House bill to fund the government and reopen it, but to pass a harsh anti-abortion bill. The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act ensures permanently that no organization providing abortions to low income women ever receive federal funds. Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted angrily, “@senatemajldr has scheduled a vote today. No, it’s not to reopen the government and begin paying 800,000 federal workers who’ve gone without pay for 27 days. It’s to restrict reproductive health care coverage. Unbelievable. Stop attacking women. Open the government.”
In other news, a report by government inspectors has revealed that the Trump administration separated many more thousands of undocumented children from their families than previously known. The number that the Department of Health and Human Services had made public last year was 2,737 children separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border because of Trump’s so-called “zero tolerance” policy. According to the New York Times, “that number does not represent the full scope of family separations. Thousands of children may have been separated during an influx that began in 2017, before the accounting required by the court.” Additionally, “the total number of children separated from a parent or guardian by immigration authorities is ‘unknown,’ because of the lack of a coordinated formal tracking system between the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the arm of Health and Human Services that takes in the children, and the Department of Homeland Security, which separated them from their parents.”
The historic Los Angeles teachers strike continues into its fifth day on Friday and CNN reports that the strike has so far cost the Los Angeles Unified School District $97 million. The district on Thursday resumed talks with representatives for the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA). Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has offered to mediate negotiations in a strike that has resulted in 32,000 teachers in the nation’s second largest district to walk off their jobs. The first four days of the strike coincided with four days of continuous rain in Southern California. Here are some of the sounds of teachers, students and their allies picketing in the rain, calling out LAUSD superintendent Austin Beutner, a former investment banker with no education experience.