Headlines: July 26, 2018
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In today’s news headlines a string of deadly coordinated suicide attacks in the Syrian city of Sweida has left 216 people dead. The city has been left out of most of the violence of the Syrian war until now. The Islamic State has taken credit for the devastating attacks, which came in waves in the early hours of Thursday morning. One of the attacks hit a busy market. Armed men also entered the city and shot residents in the head as they slept in their homes. Sweida is home to the Druze minority in Syria. IS media outlets boasted of the attacks. Meanwhile the US and France on Wednesday announced sanctions aimed at the Syrian government’s chemical weapons program.
In Pakistan, former international cricket star-turned anti-corruption activist Imran Khan has declared victory in elections that were marred by heavy violence and allegations of cheating and fraud. Mr. Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf declared victory early Thursday morning after winning a clear plurality of seats in the National Assembly. According to AP, “Khan’s message of a ‘new’ Pakistan resonated with young voters in a country where 64 percent of its 200 million people are below the age of 30.” Khan’s leading rival, Shabaz Sharif, is disputing the results.
In domestic news, 11 Republican lawmakers have introduced articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The impeachment effort is aimed at the Special Counsel’s investigation into election wrongdoing because only Mr. Rosenstein can fire Robert Mueller (Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the investigation). Representatives Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Jim Jordan of Ohio introduced the resolution, but stopped short of forcing a vote. In an interview on Fox News on Wednesday night, Mr. Jordan said, “We’re tired of the Justice Department giving us the finger and not giving us the information we’re entitled to, to do our constitutional duty.” He added, “More importantly, the American people are sick of it. That’s why we filed the resolution.”
Meanwhile President Trump has decided to postpone an invitation to Russian President Vladimir Putin to 2019 after facing criticism from both major parties. Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton cited the Russia investigation for delaying the invitation even though Trump faces a bi-partisan consensus on accusations of cozying up to Russia too much. Last week Trump stunned lawmakers when he said he wanted to invite Mr. Putin to the White House this fall.
The fallout from Trump’s meeting with Putin in Helsinki, Finland continues as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo faced aggressive questioning on Wednesday by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Members of both parties asked Pompeo if he had been briefed on the specifics of the private conversation between Trump and Putin in Helsinki. Here is Pompeo’s touchy exchange with Senator Bob Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the committee.
The Pompeo hearing was actually meant to focus on a lack of progress in denuclearizing North Korea. According to the Associated Press, “Pompeo cited ongoing talks between the U.S. and North Korea when asked for ‘verifiable evidence’ that Pyongyang had begun to take steps to denuclearize,” and “A month and a half after the summit, the two sides appear to be at odds on what denuclearization means and how it might be verified.”
President Trump met with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday in a high-level meeting intended to resolve a trade war that Trump has launched against Europe. The two leaders ended up making a vague sounding agreement to hold off on imposing any new tariffs including holding off on Trump’s announced tariffs on European automakers. Reuters reports that, “Trump said Europe agreed to increase purchases of U.S. liquefied natural gas and lower trade barriers to American soybeans, aiding U.S. farmers and the energy sector.” Here is Trump followed by Juncker addressing reporters after their meeting on Wednesday.
A new NBC News/Maris poll shows that Trump’s popularity in three key Midwestern states – Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, has dropped. In all three states at least 60% of those polled say Trump does not deserve a second term in office.
A Republican state lawmaker in Georgia has resigned after a scandalous appearance in the new Showtime program hosted by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen. Jason Spencer announced his resignation, effective July 31st, on Wednesday after a clip of the episode was released showing him being duped by Cohen into taking off his pants, and repeatedly yelling the N-word. Mr. Spencer is known for his racist anti-Muslim sentiments and had already lost his primary bid to retain his seat. He is stepping down 5 months before his tenure ends.
Today is a court-imposed deadline for the Trump Administration to reunite thousands of immigrant families that it separated at the border earlier this year. According to AP, “Authorities have identified 2,551 children 5 and older who may be covered by the order to be reunited with their parents by Thursday’s court-imposed deadline. That effort was expected to fall short, partly because hundreds of parents may have already been deported without their children.” Trump officials appear to be attempting to claim they have met the deadline by saying that all “eligible” families have been reunited. It remains to be seen if the judge who ordered the reunification will be satisfied with the government’s rationale.
Meanwhile the ACLU submitted a set of affidavits in federal court on Wednesday detailing dozens of cases where parents were duped or forced into signing documents waiving their rights to be reunified with their children and allowing their own deportation while their children remained in the US.
Earlier this week, a report analyzing government data on border apprehensions found that, “this Administration chose to prosecute parents with children over prosecuting adults without children who were also apprehended in even larger numbers.” It added, “The Administration has not explained its rationale for prosecuting parents with children when that left so many other adults without children who were not being referred for prosecution.” In other words, the Trump government targeted families for prosecution over individuals, indicating that family separation was the goal all along.
A major lawsuit targeting the President was cleared to proceed on Wednesday. The lawsuit alleges violations of two clauses in the Constitution that are aimed at preventing a President from personally financially benefiting from his or her office. A federal judge has now allowed the suit to move forward and the New York Times reports that, “No federal judge before has ever interpreted what those bans mean for the president.” The state of Maryland and the District of Columbia are the two plaintiffs in the case over how the Trump personally benefits from his Washington DC hotel, leaving other hotels and convention halls at an unfair advantage.
New data has found that the federal deficit has increased dramatically, far faster than economists were predicting. The increase is clearly linked to the reduction in corporate taxes into the treasury as a result of the Trump and GOP-tax reform bill passed last year. Trump had asserted that the tax cut would pay for itself but the numbers from the Office of Management and Budget show that the tax cut will result in an additional trillion dollars in debt over the next decade.