Headlines: July 23, 2019
Listen to story:
Download: mp3 (Duration: 8:25 — 7.7MB)
President Donald Trump reached a federal government spending deal with leaders from both major parties on Monday that would lift the debt ceiling and increase spending. The debt ceiling would be suspended for two years until after the 2020 Presidential race, and, the budget would span two years as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has demanded. Opposition to the deal emerged almost immediately from both sides of the aisle with Republicans worried about increasing the government deficit, and Democrats complaining about political concessions made to Trump. New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pointed out on Twitter, “Notice how whenever we pursue large spending increases + tax cuts for corporations, contractors & the connected, it’s treated as business as usual. But the moment we consider investing similar $ in working class people (ex tuition-free college) they cry out it’s ‘unrealistic.'” Meanwhile Politico referred to the President as “Deficit Don,” in an analysis that explained how, “The president endorsed a bipartisan budget deal without any of the spending restraints previously demanded by Republicans.”
In other news Trump is moving to tighten rules for food stamp recipients in a way that could cut millions of Americans off the safety net program. The new rules would mean that those enrolled in other benefits such as TANF would no longer be automatically enrolled in the food stamp program – also known as Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program or SNAP. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue explained the move saying that states have, “misused this flexibility.” He added, “We are changing the rules, preventing abuse of a critical safety net system, so those who need food assistance the most are the only ones who receive it.” In 2017 about 13% of the US population made use of food stamp benefits. Acting deputy undersecretary of the USDA, Brandon Lipps, made the bizarre claim that, “automatic eligibility has expanded to allow even millionaires and others who simply receive a TANF-funded brochure to become eligible for SNAP when they clearly don’t need it.”
The Justice Department has issued a warning letter to Special Counsel Robert Mueller ahead of his public testimony to two House Panels on Wednesday. A DOJ spokesperson said the letter was simply a response to Mueller’s request asking for direction on how to navigate congressional questioning. The DOJ said to Mueller in its letter it, “agrees with your stated position that your testimony should be unnecessary under the circumstances,” and warned, “Please note there should be no testimony concerning the redacted portions of the public version of your report.” Representative Jerrold Nadler, chair of the House Judiciary Committee which Mueller will testify to, denounced the letter saying, “I think it’s incredibly arrogant of the department to try to instruct him as to what to say. It’s a part of the ongoing cover-up by the administration to keep information away from the American people, but I think that it’s not going to have a real impact.”
Meanwhile FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday as part of a Republican effort to investigate the origins of the Special Counsel probe into Russian interference in 2016. Mr. Wray responded to Senate Judiciary Chair and close Trump ally Lindsey Graham at a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on Tuesday.
The Senate voted on Tuesday to confirm Army Secretary Mark Esper as Defense Secretary in a vote of 90 to 8. Trump picked Esper to head the Pentagon after revelations last week that imperiled acting secretary Patrick Shanahan’s chances for the job. Shanahan’s wife and son were both implicated in domestic violence incidents ten years ago that he apparently did not want to dredge up, leading him to withdraw his name. Shanahan had been in his temporary position for months and faced opposition from Senators even before the revelations. He had served as a Boeing executive for much of his career.
News emerged on Monday about why Vice President Mike Pence earlier this month canceled a trip to New Hampshire to address the opioid crisis. Apparently Jeff Hatch a former player for the New York Giants was to greet Pence at the airport but it was revealed that Hatch was under federal investigation for drug trafficking and specifically carrying the potent opioid Fentanyl over state lines.
Associated Press on Tuesday published a lengthy report on a series of violent racist incidents across the US that took place 100 years ago, in the summer of 1919 and resulted in the deaths of hundreds of African Americans. The little known series of attacks is collectively known as Red Summer and AP explained that, “It flowed in small towns like Elaine, Arkansas, in medium-size places such as Annapolis, Maryland, and Syracuse, New York, and in big cities like Washington and Chicago. Hundreds of African American men, women and children were burned alive, shot, hanged or beaten to death by white mobs. Thousands saw their homes and businesses burned to the ground and were driven out, many never to return.” It was, “some of the worst white-on-black violence in U.S. history.” Timuel Black, a historian who described to AP the racial tensions in the US at the time, reflecting on Red Summer, a little known period of mass racist violence across the US in the summer of 1919.
In immigration news, the Trump administration is moving to fast track deportations orders for undocumented people without allowing them access to due process in courts. According to the BBC, “Under the new rules, migrants who cannot prove they have been in the US continuously for more than two years can be immediately deported.” And the New York Times reported on the impacts of Trump’s announced ICE raids on Monday, finding that while 2,000 people were targeted nationwide, only about 35 were arrested. In a widely publicized incident in Tennessee neighbors formed a human chain to stop ICE from arresting an undocumented father who had lived in their community for 14 years.
And finally Britain’s controversial right wing leader and counterpart to Trump, Boris Johnson, has been chosen as the new conservative party leader and UK Prime Minister. AP described Johnson as, “Britain’s blustering Brexit campaigner,” and the New York Times editorial board warned that he was, “About to collide with reality.” Johnson has to negotiate a deal for Britain to exit the European Union by October 31st, a task that was his predecessor Theresa May’s political undoing. He will also have to contend with a dramatic military escalation with Iran that has brought the UK to the doorstep of a potential war. Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in a tweet congratulating Johnson said, “Iran does not seek confrontation,” but warned, “These are our waters & we will protect them.” Meanwhile Trump seemed thrilled at Johnson’s victory saying, “He will be great!”