Headlines: January 8, 2019
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President Donald Trump plans to make his case for a border wall with Mexico to the American people via prime time television on Tuesday evening from the Oval Office, followed by a personal appearance at the border on Thursday. The President is claiming that there is a “national security crisis” at the border – which is why he is continuing to maintain a partial federal government shutdown until he gets his $5 billion in funding. On Tuesday morning Vice President Mike Pence said on ABC’s Good Morning America that, “The passion you hear from President Trump, his determination to take this case to the American people, as he will tonight in his national broadcast from the Oval Office, comes from this president’s deep desire to do his job to protect the American people.” Meanwhile Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi have announced they will make a televised response to Trump.
Mercedes Schlapp, the White House Strategic Communications Director on Monday spoke with reporters about the possibility of Trump using national emergency powers to force his demands for funding for the wall. She also got into an argument with a reporter over the Democrats’ approach to a spending bill.
Associated Press did an extensive fact check on the President’s wild claims about a national security crisis at the border, called Trump’s mythical terrorist tide from Mexico. In it AP cites the State Department’s own findings about the US border saying that there was “no credible evidence indicating that international terrorist groups have established bases in Mexico, worked with Mexican drug cartels or sent operatives via Mexico into the United States.” Additionally the outlet pointed out that, “State Department reports on terrorism have expressed more concern about Canada, which unlike Mexico has been home to ‘violent extremists inspired by terrorist groups such as ISIS and al-Qaida,'” and that, “When it comes to land crossings, Canada has more often been the source of terrorism suspects entering the U.S., though not in great numbers.”
Meanwhile, California Representative Nanette Barragán visited the US border along with some of her Democratic colleagues on Monday. She told CBS, “The numbers the administration has been putting out are misleading the public. I can tell you that I have not heard in briefings, as a member of the Homeland Security Committee, what we’re hearing publicly now.” She further said that there was no national security crisis at the border – only a humanitarian one created by Trump’s harsh anti-immigrant policies.
Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen on Monday invited a panel of federal workers impacted by the government shutdown to speak about their struggles over these last two and a half weeks. Most of the panelists were also union leaders for their various federal agencies and described being treated as pawns by the President. Some federal workers impacted by the on-going government shutdown spoke at an event organized by Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen.
In other news, California Senator Kamala Harris is exploring a presidential bid for 2020 and may add her name to an extraordinarily long list of Democrats vying for the White House. On Tuesday she released a memoir called, “The Truths We Hold,” that addresses her past career as a prosecutor and in it, according to AP, Harris, “describes herself as a ‘progressive prosecutor’ and says it’s a ‘false choice’ to decide between supporting the police and advocating for greater scrutiny of law enforcement. The argument is aimed at liberal critics of her record who argue she was sometimes too quick to side with the police and too slow to adopt sentencing reforms.” One criminal justice reform advocate, Kate Chatfield, of the group Re:store Justice, said that Harris did do ‘some good’ during her years as a prosecutor, but that it was, “incumbent on the public to hold her accountable for the ways in which she either didn’t do enough or actually did some harm.”
Also in California, the newly elected governor Gavin Newsom was inaugurated into office on Monday. During his inaugural speech he acknowledged his predecessor Jerry Brown with whom he has a good relationship. But his speech also signaled a new approach for the state as he did not emphasize Brown’s favorite issues of climate change or high-speed rail. Instead Newsom focused on education, healthcare, and housing. And of course, denounced President Trump. Soon after he made the speech, he announced a plan to offer state-funded healthcare for nearly 140,000 undocumented immigrants living in California. Newsom will deliver his first budget speech on Thursday.
The Guardian newspaper has reported that legendary activist, author, and academic Angela Davis was being stripped of an award given by the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BRCI) over her views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Davis is a native of Birmingham, Alabama, although she now resides in California, and is one of the most renowned living civil rights and black power activists in the nation. It was announced last October that the BRCI would confer its Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights award on Davis. But in December the organization explained that, “supporters and other concerned individuals and organizations, both inside and outside of our local community, began to make requests that we reconsider our decision.” According to the Guardian, “In a statement expressing ‘dismay,’ Birmingham mayor Randall Woodfin said the protests came from the ‘local Jewish community and some of its allies.’ He called it a reactive and divisive decision and offered to facilitate dialogue in response.” Davis has been a strong advocate of Palestinian rights.
And a 30-year old woman named Cyntoia Brown, serving a life sentence for killing her sex trafficker when she was 16, has been granted clemency. Tennessee governor Bill Haslam granted Brown’s request for release on parole. Brown has already served 15 years and will be released in August. Civil rights and women’s rights groups hailed the decision.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken the unusual step of writing an opinion editorial in the New York Times outlining his desire for the US to withdraw troops from Syria. The publication comes at the same time as Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton is visiting Israel and Turkey to make the case that US troop withdrawal would be conditional upon the defeat of the Islamic State. But Erdogan writes, “Militarily speaking, the so-called Islamic State has been defeated in Syria. Yet we are deeply concerned that some outside powers may use the organization’s remnants as an excuse to meddle in Syria’s internal affairs.” Referring to concerns that Turkey would attack Syrian Kurdish forces that have been fighting ISIS, Erdogan made assurances saying, “I would like to point out that we have no argument with the Syrian Kurds.”