Headlines: July 17, 2018
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President Donald Trump has returned from his high-level summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin to face harsh calls from both parties at home. At the summit in Helsinki, Finland, Trump publicly denied US intelligence agencies’ findings of Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election and claimed that he believed Mr. Putin instead who has denied any wrong doing. But during their joint press conference Putin admitted he wanted Trump to win.
Trump, standing right next to Mr. Putin then strongly asserted he took Mr. Putin at his word and described the Russian President’s denials as “extremely strong and powerful.”
That was President Trump at yesterday’s summit in Helsinki with Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Earlier at the same press conference a journalist who was credentialed by The Nation – well known in progressive circles in the US as Sam Husseini – was forcibly removed by security guards. Husseini was holding an 8 x 10 sheet of paper with the words “Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty” when he was dragged out of the crowded room of journalists. Here is an NBC journalist’s description of what was happening. Husseini had been earlier circulating a petition calling for “secure elections and true national security” that we had covered on this program last week in an interview with Norman Solomon. Both Solomon and Husseini work for the Institute for Public Accuracy. No one in the media or Congress have raised the issue of the US and Russia refusing to sign the nuclear weapons ban treaty that was passed last year.
Meanwhile GOP lawmakers were horrified and many used strong language to describe Trump’s performance alongside Putin. Senator John McCain said, “No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called it, “the most serious mistake of his presidency,” and former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said it was, “disgraceful and detrimental to our democratic principles.” Senator Jeff Flake who has been one of Trump’s strongest Republican critics said, “I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression. This is shameful.” And Alaska’s Senator Lisa Murkowski said, “Sadly President Trump did not defend America to the Russian president, and for the world to see. Instead, what I saw today was not ‘America First,’ it was simply a sad diminishment of our great nation.” On Twitter former CIA director John Brennan even went as far as calling Trump’s behavior “nothing short of treasonous.”
Meanwhile a Russian woman named Maria Butina has been arrested in Washington DC. According to the Justice Department she is being charged with failing to register as a foreign agent after it was discovered that she had attempted to set up “back-channel” relationships between Republican lawmakers and the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Later on today’s show we’ll delve into the indictment of 12 Russian military officers by Special Counsel Robert Mueller – the first such charges in the on-going inquiry. We’ll turn to Stephen Spaulding for what the indictment says and means. And then tomorrow our foreign policy and empire correspondent Rahul Mahajan will join us to discuss the fallout from the Helsinki summit and what was and wasn’t discussed.
Here in the US, a federal judge has ordered the government to temporarily stop deporting undocumented families for at least a week after parents are reunited with their children. The Trump Administration is scrambling to meet a July 26th deadline by which about 2,500 children ripped away from their parents are to be returned. Judge Dana Sabraw of San Diego who ordered the reunification has also chastised the government for dragging its feet and setting up lengthy screening processes for parents.
The Labor Department has just sent a proposal to the White House for review that would relax child labor regulations. The proposal would rewrite the Hazardous Occupations Orders or HOs that, according to Bloomberg, “prohibit 16- and 17-year-old apprentices and student learners from receiving extended, supervised training in certain dangerous jobs,” such as, “roofing work, as well as operating chainsaws, meat slicers, and various other power-driven machines that federal law recognizes as too dangerous for those younger than 18.” Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota responded to Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta asking why his department would rewrite a rule that, “could jeopardize the safety of America’s youth.”
Metro workers in DC have voted to strike. The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 represents about 8,000 of DC’s 12,500 Metro workers and on Sunday a majority voted for a strike as negotiations with the Metro administration hit a wall. Workers have been working without a contract for a year and any interruption in Metro service would impact the million or so users of public train service in the nation’s capital. It could also hinder the functioning of the federal government. It remains to be seen if the union acts on the vote to strike.
The ride-sharing giant Uber is being investigated by the government’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for gender discrimination violations according to the Wall Street Journal. The inquiry began last August and is seeking information on pay equity as well as hiring practices. A fraction of Uber’s workers are women, and the number is even smaller at higher levels of management.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has cast doubt on an impending merger between Sinclair Broadcasting and Tribune Media. On Monday FCC chairman Ajit Pai unexpectedly announced that he had “serious concerns” about the nearly $4 billion deal. Mr Pai, who has overseen a pro-corporate agenda at the FCC, may now hold a hearing on the deal. His move comes just days after activists with organizations like Free Press delivered 600,000 signatures on a petition opposing the Sinclair-Tribune merger. On tomorrow’s show, Craig Aaron with Free Press will join us to discuss more about the impending merger and why it would be bad for democracy.
Nearly 2-dozen current and former tenants of a New York property have filed a $10 million class action lawsuit against Kushner Company, the firm of President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. According to the Associated Press, “More than a dozen tenants described hammering and drilling so loud it drowned out normal conversation, rats crawling through holes, shaking walls, workers with passkeys barging in unannounced, and so much dust that it covered beds and clothes in closets. They say those conditions, along with rent hikes of $500 or more a month, made living there unbearable.” The Kushner family firm managed to empty out hundreds of rent-stabilized apartments in a building that is being converted to luxury condos for sale.
And finally comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s new program for Showtime is making waves. Cohen’s new show, Who is America is debuting with a shocking episode that features several current and former Republican members of Congress promoting a fictional program at Cohen’s urging called “Kinderguardians,” that would arm little children. Already those who were fooled by Cohen’s shenanigans are furious. Here is a clip from the show featuring Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. That’s a short clip from Sacha Baron Cohen’s new show Who is America.