Headlines: July 18, 2019
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President Donald Trump continued his racist attacks against Congresswomen of color on Wednesday when he said at a rally in Greenville, North Carolina, “They don’t love our country…I think, in some cases, they hate our country. You know what? If they don’t love it, tell them to leave it.” When he began specifically referring to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, the nation’s first Somali American Representative, Trump’s supporters began chanting “Send her back“ in unison. A few Republicans have begun speaking out against Trump including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy who said such chants, “have no place in our party and no place in this country.” But McCarthy continued to insist that Trump wasn’t being racist and that somehow, “this is about socialism vs. freedom.” Rep. Tom Emmer who heads the National Republican Congressional Committee said, “there’s no place” for such chants. And, Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois said the chants were “ugly” and “wrong” and that they “would send chills down the spines of our Founding Fathers.”
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is sticking with Trump saying, “it’s about time we lowered the temperature all across the board,” about calling Trump a racist. In an interview on Fox Business News McConnell seemed to approve of Trump’s attacks saying, “I think the president is on to something,” and that Trump, “is not a racist.” On Thursday morning Trump, speaking to reporters attempted to distance himself from the ugly chants saying, “I was not happy with it. I disagree with it.”
Just hours before Trump’s North Carolina rally, a House Resolution to begin Impeachment proceedings was voted on and failed. Still, 95 Democrats voted for the measure to be referred to the House Judiciary Committee and 137 Democrats voted against it, indicating a split within the Democratic Party. Meanwhile a new Reuters/Ipsos poll found that Republican voter support for Trump increased after the President launched his racist Twitter tirade against the “squad” of progressive Congresswomen of color. His ratings among Republicans rose by 5% points to a high of 72%. CBS News interviewed a number of Trump supporters and one woman explained, “I know some people don’t like his tweets and they think he’s crass. I — that’s why I voted for him.”
Meanwhile Congress woman Ilhan Omar took to Twitter to respond to Trump’s hateful rhetoric saying, “I am where I belong, at the people’s house and you’re just gonna have to deal!” She also quoted a Maya Angelou poem, “You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I’ll rise.” Omar’s supporters have rallied behind her with the #IStandWithIlhan trending on social media. Some senior Democrats have voiced concerns for Omar’s safety with Rep. Bobby Rush saying, “It’s crystal clear to me that her life is in imminent danger…He has threatened the safety of a member of Congress. That takes this to a whole different level.”
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan testified to the House Oversight Committee on Thursday about conditions at border detention facilities. Representative Jackie Speier confronted him during the hearing. A day before his testimony he provided an exclusive interview to CBS News inside the controversial detention center in McAllen, Texas. Interviewer Norah O’Donnell spoke with a Venezuelan woman and her young son through a chain link fence during her tour of the detention center. Women and children were seen lying on mats on a cold, concrete floor inside chain link cages. McAleenan explained why he let reporters in. In other immigration news the Pentagon has announced it will be sending 2,100 active duty National Guard troops to the US-Mexico border.
In other news the House voted on Wednesday to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt for refusing to respond to subpoenas over the process of trying to include a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. The measure passed along party lines 230 to 198 with independent Congressman and former Republican Justin Amash voting with Democrats. Also on Wednesday the House voted on 3 resolutions all aimed at ending US arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Four Republicans and Amash joined Democrats in passing those bills. The vote margins were not big enough to override what will almost certainly be a veto by the President. And on Thursday the House voted to raise the federal minimum wage from its current $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour, marking a significant victory for progressives and labor rights. If it passes both chambers of Congress it would mark the first federal minimum wage increase in over a decade and the largest jump ever. Even more importantly, the Raise the Wage bill ties future increases to the minimum wage to middle class pay levels.
Federal Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday announced that a deal had been reached with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on raising the debt ceiling and a federal budget bill spanning 2 years. There is still the matter of Trump’s mandated cuts to spending to the tune of $150 billion which has yet to be resolved.
Billionaire and accused sex offender Jeffrey Epstein has been denied bail and his proposal to remain under house arrest in his $77 million mansion in New York City. Judge Richard Berman in explaining his decision said, “I doubt that any bail package can overcome danger to the community.”
In international news Iran is reported to have seized an oil tanker belonging to the UAE in the Persian Gulf. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard says the tanker was carrying a million liters of contraband fuel. The news has further ratcheted tensions with the US amidst an unraveling of the 2015 nuclear agreement. The Defense Department on Wednesday announced it would be sending 500 more US troops to Saudi Arabia in a move that is apparently aimed at Iran. Iran is on opposite sides of the conflict in Yemen from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and the US.