Headlines: July 31, 2018
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In today’s news headlines the trial of Donald Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort begins – a big test of the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The trial will not focus on the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia – rather it will involve Manafort’s financial dealings as he is being charged with 18 counts of tax and banking violations. Still that did not stop the President from tweeting in the early hours of the morning, “Collusion is not a crime, but that doesn’t matter because there was No Collusion (except by Crooked Hillary and the Democrats)!” The tweet is significant in that the President went from claiming “no collusion,” to “collusion is not a crime.”
Meanwhile Mr. Manafort on Monday dropped his appeal in a case he had brought challenging Mueller’s authority.
On Wednesday Mr. Trump held a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte who was visiting the White House. Mr. Conte announced he would organize a conference focused on stabilizing Libya – the departure point for refugees heading to Europe. Trump surprised reporters by saying he would meet with Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani.
That was President Trump on Monday explaining that he would meet with Iran’s Hassan Rouhani without pre-conditions. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo followed that up on Tuesday morning with a series of pre-conditions for any meeting between Trump and Rouhani.
The New York Times reports that Trump is considering a “unilateral” tax cut for wealthy Americans. According to the Times, “Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, said in an interview on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit meeting in Argentina this month that his department was studying whether it could use its regulatory powers to allow Americans to account for inflation in determining capital gains tax liabilities.” Mnuchin reportedly added, “If it can’t get done through a legislation process, we will look at what tools at Treasury we have to do it on our own and we’ll consider that.” Already American billionaires are sitting on mountains of extra money thanks to the Republican tax reform law that passed last year. Later on our show today Chuck Collins of the Institute for Policy Studies will explain what wealthy elites are doing with all their extra cash and will debunk Trump’s wild claims of a historic economic rebound.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday held a Religious Liberty Summit where he announced the creation of a Religious Liberty Task Force. The announcement was the result of an executive order that Trump had signed in May. Here is Mr. Sessions. That’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday announcing the creation of a Religious Liberty Task Force. The Daily Beast published an opinion piece accusing Sessions of declaring a holy war on LGBTQ people. On tomorrow’s show we’ll be joined by a guest from Americans United for Separation of Church and State to discuss Sessions’ task force.
As of Tuesday morning the Carr fire continues to burn in Northern California. Although it is now 23% contained, it has been declared the 7th most destructive fire in the state’s history. An area of more than 100,000 acres has burned and the flames are so intense that witnesses and firefighters are reporting that the fire has created its own weather patterns. The Ferguson Fire also continues burning near Yosemite Park. Both major fires are visible in satellite photos of California. A warming planet has created more fire-friendly conditions.
Meanwhile the US Supreme Court on Monday gave the green light to a major lawsuit being brought by young Americans against the government over inaction on climate change. The Trump administration sought to dismiss the case but the Supreme Court has allowed it to proceed. The suit is being brought by nearly 2-dozen people aged 11 to 22 and was first launched against the Obama Administration 3 years ago. It has slowly wound its way through the legal system even as the impacts of human-created climate change are all around us.
In immigration news, the Senate Judiciary Committee has asked federal investigators to examine accusations of mistreatment in US detention centers. Since 2014 there have been numerous allegations of sexual and physical violence against undocumented immigrants being held in US custody. Senators Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein wrote, “These allegations of abuse are extremely disturbing and must be addressed. This is not a partisan issue as reporting suggests many have been occurring for years.” In June Associated Press reported that, “children held at an immigration detention facility in Virginia said they were beaten while handcuffed, locked in solitary confinement and left nude and cold in concrete cells.”
Meanwhile on Monday a federal judge ruled that the government cannot administer psychotropic drugs to immigrant children without the permission of their parents or guardians. Judge Dolly Gee ruled in a case that raised the issue of children being held at the Shiloh Treatment Center in Texas who were forced to take psychotropic medication.
In Minnesota prosecutors have announced they will not charge two police officers in the fatal Minneapolis shooting of a black man named Thurman Blevins. Two officers had been chasing Blevins and now claim he turned around and fired at them with a loaded gun when they fatally shot him. Members of Blevins’ family have joined protesters who are demanding that officers Justin Schmidt and Ryan Kelly be charged. According to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, “For our evaluation, the mere fact that he pointed a loaded handgun that he had fired earlier in the day … gives officers justification to fire his weapon.” Anecdotal evidence suggests that armed Black Americans are rarely if ever given the benefit of the doubt by police compared to armed White Americans. There will be a protest against the County Attorney’s decision to not prosecute the officers on Tuesday in front of the Hennepin County Government Office.
Meanwhile a number of states are suing the federal government over its decision to allow a Texas company to sell blueprints for untraceable 3-D printed guns. The blueprints were set to go on sale on Wednesday but the company had begun selling them earlier and already 1000 people have downloaded the instructions. On Tuesday morning President Trump inexplicably tweeted, “I am looking into 3-D Plastic Guns being sold to the public. Already spoke to NRA, doesn’t seem to make much sense!”
In Chicago, Illinois, an anti-violence march for this Thursday organized by the city’s black leadership is aimed at Mayor Rahm Emmanuel. Activists will be marching under the banner of “Resign Rahm.” Among the protest leaders’ demands are: “justice for ‘police murders’; economic investment on the South and West sides; resources for ‘black-led anti-violence initiatives’ and the ‘re-opening and re-purposing’ of all of the record 50 Chicago Public Schools closed by Emanuel.” Later this week we’ll speak with Rev. Gregory Seal Livingston, one of the march’s organizers.
Former Oakland mayor Ron Dellums has died. Mr. Dellums was battling cancer and passed away on Monday in Washington. He was 82 years old. Dellums had started his political career when he won a seat in Congress as an anti-Vietnam war candidate. He led the battle to sanction the Apartheid regime in South Africa and helped to found the Congressional Black Caucus. US Vice President Spiro Agnew labeled Dellums, “an out and out radical” – an epithet that he wore as a badge of honor. Dellums told reporters, “If it’s radical to oppose the insanity and cruelty of the Vietnam War, if it’s radical to oppose racism and sexism and all other forms of oppression, if it’s radical to want to alleviate poverty, hunger, disease, homelessness and other forms of human misery, then I’m proud to be called a radical.” Ten years after he retired from Congress Ron Dellums served as Oakland’s mayor in California.