Headlines: July 8, 2019
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The Department of Justice late Sunday replaced its lawyers working on the legal fight to place a question about citizenship on the 2020 US Census. The decision comes days after President Donald Trump surprised his own Administration saying he would pursue the citizenship issue despite passing the deadline to begin printing Census forms and a Supreme Court ruling against him. Legal experts speculated that the move to change lawyers indicates an internal fight. One law professor, Rick Hasen of UC Irvine tweeted, “This development is ominous. It almost certainly means the career attorneys working for the Department of Justice refused to go along with what Trump wants to do now with the citizenship question on the census.” On Sunday Trump answered reporters’ questions saying he may issue an executive order to get his way and claiming that Justice John Roberts’ ruling encouraged the government to continue its efforts.
Meanwhile newly released documents about the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency show that officials have requested access to drivers license photos from at least 3 states that issue licenses to undocumented immigrants. ICE is apparently using facial recognition technology to scour through the photos of millions of licenses without permission from drivers in the states of Utah and Vermont. The Washington Post, which broke the story on Sunday said that the documents it obtained, “reveal that federal investigators have turned state departments of motor vehicles databases into the bedrock of an unprecedented surveillance infrastructure.” Access to the data has not been authorized by either federal or state legislative bodies. Facial recognition technology has been found to be prone to errors.
Four migrants were found dead from heat exhaustion on the US-Mexico border in the latest grim death toll of migration. Three of the four were children. The sole adult that perished was mother to at least one of the children. Two other mothers survived. All had traveled from their native Guatemala. According to the Los Angeles Times, which reported the story, “Authorities suspect that the mothers got lost in the unforgiving terrain while looking to turn themselves in to the Border Patrol and that…[the victims] succumbed to dehydration and exposure in the searing South Texas heat. “
Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of President Trump and former President Clinton, was arrested on Sunday on charges of trafficking underage girls in the states of Florida and New York. CNN explained that, “According to the indictment, between 2002 and 2005, Epstein ran a trafficking enterprise in which he paid hundreds of dollars in cash to girls as young as 14 to have sex with him at his Upper East Side home and his estate in Palm Beach, worked with employees and associates to lure the girls to his residences and paid some of his victims to recruit other girls for him to abuse.” US Attorney Geoffrey Berman remarked on the charges against Epstein on Monday morning. Many have called for Labor Secretary Alex Acosta to resign for cutting a sweetheart deal years ago with Epstein when Acosta was a US Attorney in Florida.*
A new poll by the Washington Post and ABC News has found the President Trump’s approval ratings have risen to 44% – his highest since he began his term – likely because of stronger economic indicators. But, a new majority of 65% has also deemed Trump to be “un-presidential.” According to the Post’s analysis of the numbers, “His approval rating on most issues is net negative,” and yet, “The survey highlights the degree to which Trump has a narrow but real path to reelection.” The poll also measured Democratic Presidential candidates and found Joe Biden leading the pack, followed by Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren.
The rift between the two wings of the Democratic Party has widened with a public spat over the weekend highlighting generational, racial, and political differences. On Saturday the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd published an interview with Nancy Pelosi which quoted the House Speaker slamming opposition to the recent border funding bill from younger progressive women in the House. “Pelosi feels that the four made themselves irrelevant to the process by voting against ‘our bill,’ as she put it, which she felt was the strongest one she could get. ‘All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world,’ she said. ‘But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people and that’s how many votes they got.'” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who was one of the four slammed back onTwitter saying, “That public ‘whatever’ is called public sentiment. And wielding the power to shift it is how we actually achieve meaningful change in this country.” Congresswoman Ilhan Omar also responded saying, “You know they’re just salty about WHO is wielding the power to shift “public sentiment” these days…Sorry not sorry.” Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib responded in an interview on ABC responding to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s dismissal of votes against the border funding bill.
Southern California’s earthquakes on the 4th and 5th of July have opened up a fissure on the planet’s surface that is so large, it is visible from satellite images. Although there were no deaths from the earthquakes, several structures were damaged near the epicenter in Ridgecrest and China Lake. Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency and President Trump approved the use of federal funds to repair the damage.
In international news, Greece held elections on Sunday resulting in a new Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the leader of the center-right wing, New Democratic Party. He is the youngest son of former Prime Minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis. In forming his government, Mitsotakis has attempted to strike a balance between the nation’s hard right and liberal parties. However his cabinet of 49 members has only 5 women so far. Meanwhile, former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis returned to political life in Greece with his new party MeRA25, winning 3.4 percent of the vote.
And protesters in Hong Kong continued their actions demanding autonomy from China in a series of protests on Sunday aimed at Chinese tourists. Nearly a quarter of a million people marched in areas that are popular shopping destinations and gathered finally at the site of a newly opened high-speed rail station that links Hong Kong to mainland China. Their goal was to break through the news blackout in China on their protests.
ERRATUM: We erroneously cited Alex Acosta as Attorney General of Florida instead of a US Attorney in Florida.