Headlines: March 25, 2019
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The Special Counsel’s office headed by Robert Mueller submitted its final report to the Justice Department on Friday, formally ending a vast set of investigations into whether Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign colluded with Russian operatives to gain an electoral advantage. Mr. Mueller surprised many in concluding his probe without any new indictments or even a definitive conclusion over questions of the President’s obstruction of justice. Over the weekend Attorney General William Barr submitted his summary of the report to members of Congress, and concluded that there was no collusion and also that there was no attempt on the President’s part to obstruct the investigation. Trump has seized on the news tweeting triumphantly, “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION.”
Democratic Representative Jerrold Nadler, who oversees the House Judiciary Committee held an impromptu press conference on Sunday. Democrats have demanded that the entire Mueller report be made public, not just the Attorney General’s summary. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer released a joint letter saying, “The fact that Special Counsel Mueller’s report does not exonerate the president on a charge as serious as obstruction of justice demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public without any further delay.” The letter also said, “Given Mr. Barr’s public record of bias against the Special Counsel’s inquiry, he is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report.” When asked what he thought about releasing the full report, Trump said, “Up to the attorney general. Wouldn’t bother me at all.” However, Trump’s attorney Jay Sekulow said on Monday that he did not want the President’s answers to Mueller’s questions released to the public, saying they were, “confidential.”
In other news, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyaju has had to cut short his 4-day visit to the United States on Monday after a rocket strike hit Tel Aviv. Netanyahu’s was visiting just ahead of the Israeli elections and with a corruption scandal looming large over his leadership. In a video statement about the Tel Aviv attack he said, “This was a heinous attack on the State of Israel and we will respond strongly.” The Israeli military has accused Hamas of launching the long-range rocket attack which wounded 7 people. Israel has already begun launching air strikes on Gaza.According to Reuters, “The rocket attack coincided with tension ahead of the March 30 anniversary of Gaza protests that have included Palestinian attempts to breach the frontier and often lethal Israeli fire.”
Netanyahu’s visit also coincided with the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which is taking place in Washington DC. A number of Democratic Presidential hopefuls are skipping the conference, signaling a shift in the national debate over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But Democrat Steny Hoyer over the weekend slammed his own colleagues during his AIPAC speech saying, “I stand with Israel, proudly and unapologetically. So, when someone accuses American supporters of Israel of dual loyalty, I say: accuse me.” Mr. Hoyer’s remarks were directed at newly elected Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar who has called out the influence of the Israel lobby on lawmakers.
On Monday Vice President Mike Pence also addressed the AIPAC conference. Pence spent several minutes celebrating the end of the Special Counsel investigation and calling it, “a great day for our country,” and slammed those Democrats who refused to attend the conference. Mr. Pence also reiterated Trump’s decision last week to officially recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel.
Meanwhile Congresswoman Ilhan Omar over the weekend spoke at the annual banquet of the Council of American-Islamic Relations in Los Angeles. Omar delivered an impassioned speech, laying the blame for the massacre of Muslims in New Zealand at Trump’s feet and linking his rhetoric to global islamophobia. She also remained defiant in the face of a concerted campaign to silence her criticism of Israel. Outside the event more than a 1,000 protesters gathered to denounce her, many wearing MAGA hats.
In other news, the father of a victim killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary school has killed himself. Forty nine year old Jeremy Richman was found dead in a Newtown Connecticut on Monday morning. His daughter Avielle was one of nearly two dozen children killed by a white male mass shooter in 2012. The news of Richman’s death came after two survivors of the Parkland massacre in Florida committed suicide.
And finally, drivers working for the ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft have launched a strike in Los Angeles, protesting Uber’s decision to cut driver pay yet again. The strike will last 25 hours starting on Monday, to mark the approximately 25% pay cut. According to Forbes, a group called, “Rideshare Drivers United has called on riders to boycott Uber, Lyft, and other ride-hail apps between midnight Monday morning and 1:00 am Tuesday PDT in solidarity with drivers.” One driver named Luis Vasquez explained, “We’re doing everything we can to let Uber know that they can’t be doing this to us — we need fair wages.”