Headlines: January 25, 2019
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The FBI on Friday arrested Roger Stone, an associate of President Donald Trump. The arrest is the result of an indictment by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for Stone’s role in seeking stolen emails from Wikileaks on behalf of the Trump Presidential campaign. According to the indictment, “After the July 22, 2016, release of stolen (Democratic National Committee) emails by Organization 1, a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact STONE about any additional releases and what other damaging information Organization 1 had regarding the Clinton Campaign. STONE thereafter told the Trump Campaign about potential future releases of damaging material by Organization 1.” “Organization 1” of course refers to Wikileaks.
Additionally according to the indictment, “During the summer of 2016, STONE spoke to senior Trump Campaign officials about Organization 1 and information it might have had that would be damaging to the Clinton Campaign. STONE was contacted by senior Trump Campaign officials to inquire about future releases by Organization 1.” A CNN reporter was on the scene when federal police knocked on Stone’s door in the early hours of Friday morning in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where he lives. According to the New York Times, “Mr. Stone was charged with seven counts, including obstruction of an official proceeding, making false statements and witness tampering.” He was released on a $250,000 bond just hours later. Facing a crowd of people gathered outside the court a defiant Stone said, “I will plead not guilty to these charges. I will defeat them in court.” He added, “There is no circumstance whatsoever under which I will bear false witness against the president nor will I make up lies to ease the pressure on myself. I look forward to being fully and completely vindicated.”
In other news, the federal government shutdown continues as the US Senate rejected two bills on Thursday to fund the government. Still, there was some movement toward dialogue when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell immediately called Minority leader Chuck Schumer to his office after the votes to examine how the Senate can proceed next to end the shutdown. Associated Press reports that, “President Donald Trump told reporters he’d support ‘a reasonable agreement.’ He suggested he’d also want a ‘prorated down payment’ for his long-sought border wall with Mexico but didn’t describe the term. He said he has ‘other alternatives’ for getting wall funding.”
Those “other alternatives” likely include using emergency powers. Indeed CNN reported on Thursday that that White House was drafting a declaration of emergency and that it had identified about $7 billion in funding for Trump’s border wall between the US and Mexico. The draft, a copy of which was obtained by CNN, was last revised a week ago.
As the government shutdown continues to devastate the 800,000 federal workers that have now missed two paychecks, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is under fire for expressing, “let-them-eat-cake,” sentiments in an interview. He said on CNBC that struggling workers should just get loans to tide themselves over until they receive back-pay. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, a former investor who was once worth more than $2 billion, has received swift condemnation from federal workers for his suggestion to take out loans.
Meanwhile Democrats cast a more sympathetic tone. On Thursday House Speaker Nancy Pelosi addressed her successful cancelation of the President’s State of the Union Address which was due to be given by Trump next Tuesday.
The Guardian newspaper on Thursday published an anonymous op-ed by a federal worker who wrote, “The shutdown is just the latest assault on our livelihoods. We need a reinvigorated labor movement at our backs.” The writer explained, “without a pushback from organized labor, more and more of the civil service continues to face ever deeper cuts. The question we should be asking is not whether federal workers will, can or should strike. There’s a different question, more immediately relevant to all of organized labor.”
In answer to that question the anonymous op-ed author wrote, “How can federal workers and the jobs that we do – from protecting health and the environment to collecting taxes to maintaining public infrastructure and security – become central commitments of our society again? How can the broader labor movement start to see the modest first steps of rank and file federal workers as the necessary next steps toward defending the public sector from the privatizers and the deregulators?”
In other news, progressive organizations are angry that the Democrats with their newfound power, are refraining from demanding Trump’s tax returns. Groups like Tax March, Stand Up America, and Indivisible, are pressuring Representative Richard Neal, the new chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, to make haste on the matter. In a letter the groups told Mr. Neal that demanding Trump’s tax returns is, “not a request that can be relegated to the back-burner—it is necessary to restore democratic norms of transparency and accountability.” Neal has said that he has had, “preliminary conversations” on the matter and wants to ensure he goes forward, “methodically and judiciously.”
Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren has just introduced a simple new tax plan designed to target the wealth of the ultra-rich. The Washington Post described it this way: “Wealth over $50 million would be taxed at 2 percent; wealth over $1 billion would face an extra 1 percent tax. ‘Wealth’ is defined as net worth — the value of assets minus any debts.” Warren’s plan is projected to raise $2.75 trillion in federal revenues over 10 years – compare that to the $2 trillion that is projected to be lost from the Treasury as a result of the GOP’s tax reform plan. Wealth is so concentrated at the top in the US, that Warren’s tax plan would literally impact only 75,000 Americans.
The Department of Homeland Security is sending back the first group of largely Central American asylum seekers to Mexico to await their hearings. The transfer of the non-Mexican refugees is based on an agreement between the US and Mexico. It is not clear how Mexico plans to keep the refugees housed and safe.
Meanwhile, Vice News has released a video featuring first-person interviews with a number of young boys who were housed at the government children’s detention camp in Tornillo, Texas. That tent encampment was only recently shut down and the thousands of undocumented minors being held there were released. Many describe the strict routines and harsh rules undermining human connections.