Headlines: June 12, 2019
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President Donald Trump invoked his executive privilege on Wednesday over documents requested by the House Oversight and Reform Committee regarding the 2020 Census. Committee chair Elijah Cummings had subpoenaed documents about the Trump administration’s decision making behind including a citizenship question on the next Census but Attorney General William Barr had refused to turn them over. Now, with Trump’s invocation of executive privilege, the DOJ has the legal cover it needs to defy the committee’s subpoena. Mr. Cummings asked, “What is being hidden?” and cited Trump’s move as, “another example of the administration’s blanket defiance of Congress’ constitutionally mandated responsibilities.”
The Oversight and Reform Committee was scheduled to vote to hold Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress on Wednesday morning, but postponed the vote to later in the day. On Tuesday the House voted to authorize committees to sue officials who defy subpoenas. The vote passed 229-191 along party lines. The House Judiciary Committee plans to sue officials over documents related to the Special Counsel’s report on 2016 election wrongdoing. Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler acknowledged, “This has not been done before. But neither have we ever seen blanket stonewalling by the administration of all information requests by the House…We must go to court to enforce the subpoenas.”
Two former FBI officials, Robert Anderson and Stephanie Douglas, testified to the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday about their opinions on Robert Mueller’s report. Committee Chair Adam Schiff said this during his opening remarks. According to AP the two ex-FBI leaders that testified said the Mueller report, “showed Russian efforts to vet and test Trump campaign associates, to establish back channels of communications and to spread their contacts around in hopes of maximizing their chances of getting what they wanted.” Mr. Anderson said, “It is an absolute classic tradecraft of Russia and Russian intelligence services. They’ll never have one point of failure.”
Meanwhile the President’s son, Donald Trump Jr. testified behind closed doors to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday – the second time his presence was requested. When asked if he was concerned that Democrats might accuse him of perjury during a previous testimony, Trump Jr. said he was “not at all” worried and that there was, “nothing to change” about his testimony.
The watchdog agency at the US Health and Human Services issued a scathing report on Wednesday drawing attention to thousands of cases of neglect or abuse of seniors on Medicare at nursing homes that went unreported. According to AP, “in 2016 about 6,600 cases reflected potential neglect or abuse that was not reported as required. Nearly 6,200 patients were affected.” The report found, “one in five high-risk hospital ER Medicare claims for treatment provided in calendar year 2016 were the result of potential abuse or neglect, including injury of unknown source.”
The Trump administration plans on holding migrant children at a facility in Oklahoma that once served as a Japanese internment camp during World War II. Fort Sill is an Army base near Oklahoma City, and according to the Department of Health and Human Services it would be used, “as a temporary emergency influx shelter” for about 1,400 migrant and refugee children. Meanwhile an enterprising Washington Post photographer on Tuesday captured Trump’s highly touted deal with Mexico to stem the flow of refugees northward. Here is Trump speaking to reporters on Tuesday, waving around a folded piece of paper that was photographed.
The House Ways and Means Committee is holding a hearing on Medicare for all on Wednesday. Ahead of the hearing, Representative Pramila Jayapal who introduced a Medicare-for-All bill posted a video together with Representative Deb Dingell about the importance of the bill and the hearing. But Committee chair Richard Neal had said that he did not want the words “Medicare for all” to be mentioned at the hearing, preferring instead, “universal healthcare” or “universal health coverage.” Mr. Neal has long opposed Medicare for All and is a recipient of donations from the health insurance industry.
A white man in North Carolina has pleaded guilty to the killing of three Muslim student sat the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 2015. Craig Hicks pleaded guilty to 3 counts of first degree murder for the killings of 23-year-old Deah Barakat; his 21-year old wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, and her 19-year-old sister Razan Abu-Salha. Mr. Hicks said, “I’ve wanted to plead guilty since day one.”
In international news, a militia group being linked to Iran is being held responsible for firing a missile at an airport in Saudi Arabia that injured 26 civilians. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The Saudi-led coalition said the projectile struck an arrivals hall at Abha airport in the southern part of the kingdom in what it said was a deliberate targeting of civilians that could amount to a war crime.” Meanwhile US lawmakers at the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday grilled US State Department officials over the Trump Administration’s decision to finalize arms sales to Saudi Arabia over Congressional disapprovals. And Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is making a historic trip to Tehran this week to meet with Iranian leaders in an effort to diffuse tensions between the US and Iran.
And finally protests have continued in Hong Kong by civil rights groups and students over a deeply unpopular extradition bill that would give greater Chinese control over the island. Thousands of people on Tuesday engaged in sit-ins and other acts of civil disobedience while Hong Kong authorities fired tear gas at them.