Headlines: June 10, 2019
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President Donald Trump has declared victory on his deal with Mexico to curb the number of Central American migrants entering the US using tariffs as leverage. On Friday the Mexican government announced that it would be taking “strong measures” on curbing migration northward including deploying thousands of troops to its southern border and allowing asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their applications are being processed. But critics pointed out that both those measures were already in the works before Trump’s threatened 5% tariffs on Mexican goods. Other measures in the US-Mexico deal remain under wraps with Trump tweeting on Monday morning, “We have fully signed and documented another very important part of the Immigration and Security deal with Mexico, one that the U.S. has been asking about getting for many years. It will be revealed in the not too distant future and will need a vote by Mexico’s Legislative body!” He added, “We do not anticipate a problem with the vote but, if for any reason the approval is not forthcoming, Tariffs will be reinstated!”
Trump, angry about the criticism he has faced over his handling of Mexico and also separately, China, called in to CNBC on Monday responding to criticism about his use of tariffs as a political weapon.
In other immigration news, the New York Times on Monday reported the accounts of doctors who have described the dehumanizing conditions under which Border Patrol agents are keeping detained migrants – especially those needing medical care. Centering around the story of a pregnant woman who was receiving treatment at a hospital, the paper pointed out that, “agents remained in the obstetrics ward night and day as physicians worked to halt her labor. They were present during her medical examinations, listened in on conversations with doctors and watched her ultrasounds…They kept the television on loud, interfering with her sleep. When agents began pressing the medical staff to discharge the woman to an immigration detention facility, the doctors took action.” Doctors, who are unsure of what their rights are, or their patients rights are, are claiming that Border Patrol agents are endangering their patients’ care by treating them as dangerous felons.
Meanwhile California will become the first state in the nation to cover health benefits for some undocumented immigrants. In a vote on Sunday lawmakers voted to spend $213 billion in state and federal funding on allowing low-income undocumented Californians between the ages of 19 and 25 to access Medicaid. That group is estimated to be about 90,000 strong. Although lawmakers wanted undocumented seniors to also be able to access Medicaid, Gov. Gavin Newsom argued against it saying it would cost the state too much. And, in New York a new poll released Monday found that that state’s residents oppose allowing undocumented immigrants from being eligible for drivers’ licenses. New York lawmakers are expected to vote Tuesday for a measure similar to the one California passed some years ago.
House Judiciary Committee chair Jerrold Nadler has reached a deal with the Department of Justice over access to evidence collected by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team for the 2016 election investigation. According to Reuters, “Nadler said he will hold off on a threat to bring criminal contempt charges against Attorney General William Barr, as long as the Justice Department continues to provide materials sought by his committee.” Democrats in the House had planned to vote on moving forward a lawsuit accusing Attorney General Barr of criminal contempt over his refusal to turn over documents. It is not clear if that vote will go ahead now.
Meanwhile former Nixon-era White House Counsel John Dean is testifying to the House Judiciary Committee on Monday at a hearing titled, “Lessons from the Mueller Report: Presidential Obstruction and Other Crimes.” Mr. Dean testified in 1973 to Congress at a hearing that was instrumental ahead of President Richard Nixon’s resignation. In a series of tweets on Sunday night Trump attacked John Dean calling him a “sleazebag attorney.”
In news related to the Special Counsel probe, the New York Times on Monday reported that a lawyer for President Trump apparently tried to influence a major witness in the investigation. John M. Dowd was found to have left a voicemail message for Michael Flynn’s attorney. Flynn was Trump’s National Security Adviser and is now awaiting a sentencing hearing. According to the Times, “Mr. Dowd fished in his message for a heads-up if Mr. Flynn was telling investigators negative information about Mr. Trump — while also appearing to say that if Mr. Flynn was just cutting a deal without also flipping on the president, then he should know Mr. Trump still liked him.” Mueller’s team, citing attorney-client privilege declined to pursue the possibility of Trump engaging in witness tampering through Dowd.
The Guardian newspaper on Monday reported that Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner has reaped tens of millions of dollars from foreign sources since 2017 – the year Trump took office. Kushner is part-owner of a real estate company named Cadre which has received about $90 million in investment from foreign sources through Goldman Sachs in the Cayman Islands – a major tax shelter. The Guardian pointed out that, “Cadre’s foreign funding could create hidden conflicts of interest for Kushner as he performs his work for the US government.”
In another corruption-related story, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao was found to have been facilitating grant applications favored by her husband Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority leader who hails from Kentucky. Chao set up a special liaison to facilitate about $78 million of grants in Kentucky that benefitted McConnell just as he prepares for reelection. Chao did not set up a liaison for any other state besides her husband’s. Politico, which first reported the story focused on one particular grant for the city of Owensboro. Apparently, “days after launching his 2020 reelection campaign McConnell asked Owensboro’s mayor to set up a luncheon with business and political leaders at which the senator claimed credit for delivering the grant.”
Finally southern Baptist churches are under fire for being plagued by the same scandal that the Catholic church has been rocked by – rampant sexual abuse of minors. According to the New York Times, “Evangelical churches have long distanced themselves from the sexual abuse crisis that has consumed the Catholic Church. Many Southern Baptists have dismissed sexual abuse as a problem caused by ‘corrupt Hollywood’ or ‘liberal theology.’ But a reckoning has arrived. Nearly 400 Southern Baptist leaders, from youth pastors to top ministers, have pleaded guilty or were convicted of sex crimes against more than 700 victims since 1998.” At an annual gathering this week of thousands of pastors has pledged to take up the issue seriously after years of resisting it.