Headlines: March 7, 2019
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The US trade deficit has jumped to a 10-year record high according to new government figures from the Commerce Department. A nation’s trade deficit is the difference between the amount of goods and services it imports compared to what it exports. For years Donald Trump complained about the size of the US trade deficit and claimed he would fix it as President. But the figures released this week appear to show that his practice of slapping tariffs on goods from other countries has not had its desired effect. The US did increase its exports last year by nearly $150 billion. But the amount it imports jumped even higher – by nearly $218 billion. The current trade deficit is $891 billion. According to the New York Times, while some of the reasons for the record high were not in Trump’s control, “the widening gap was also exacerbated by Mr. Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut, which has been largely financed by government borrowing, and the trade war he escalated last year.” A trade deficit is not considered a measure of a nation’s economic strength but Trump’s focus on it has now come to bite him as he appears to be failing on his own measure.
Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen testified in a closed-door session to the House Intelligence committee on Wednesday. It was his second time testifying in front of that panel. CNN reported that, based on multiple sources, Cohen, “provided the House Intelligence Committee with new documents showing edits to the false written statement he delivered to Congress in 2017 about the Trump Organization’s pursuit of the Trump Tower Moscow project into the 2016 campaign season.” Those lawyers included Trump attorney Jay Sekulow. Congressman Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, who heads the House Intelligence Committee, spoke with press after Wednesday’s closed-door hearing.
In other news, a new poll released Wednesday revealed that public support for impeachment of the President has climbed. According to the Monmouth University Polling Institute, “42% of Americans feel that Trump should be impeached and compelled to leave the presidency while 54% disagree.” Last November, “36% favored impeachment and 59% did not.” Meanwhile Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan has said she will soon be introducing legislation to impeach Trump.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen gave her first public testimony in front of the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday. Members of Congress questioned her about the Trump Administration’s family separation policy among other things, to which she said, “It’s not a policy; it’s the law.” She also insisted that undocumented immigrants especially children are not held in cages.
In related news, a lawsuit over the Trump Administration’s family separation policy resulted in a government court filing, which revealed on Wednesday that 471 parents were deported from the US without their children last year. It was the first time the government had admitted to a number.
And, a second federal judge has blocked Trump’s plan to include a question about US citizenship status on the next Census. In a 126-page opinion published on Wednesday Judge Richard Seeborg of California wrote, “In short, the inclusion of the citizenship question on the 2020 Census threatens the very foundation of our democratic system — and does so based on a self-defeating rationale.” His ruling is likely to be appealed and go to the US Supreme Court, which could rule on it by April. And, NBC 7’s San Diego affiliate reported this week that the US government has been keeping tabs on people working at the border including immigrant rights advocates, journalists, and one immigration attorney. The data gathering operation was revealed in documented obtained by the outlet confirming suspicions that people were being targeted.
Freshman Republican Senator from Arizona Martha McSally on Wednesday revealed at a hearing on sexual assault in the military that she was raped during her service in the Air Force. The hearing was held by the Senate Armed Services subcommittee and McSally reportedly spent several days preparing her testimony. McSally became the first American woman to fly a combat mission after a gender-based ban was lifted. She rose to the ranks of Air Force colonel before retiring. During her testimony she did not reveal her rapist.
President Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order overturning a requirement for government reporting of drone strikes on nations like Pakistan, Yemen, and Libya. The rule, made during President Obama’s years, required US intelligence officials to report on air strikes including the number of casualties from those strikes every year. It had been in place for only three years. Under Trump the government simply refused to issue the report last year. According to Politico, “experts and former government officials bemoaned both the loss of a rare official glimpse of the CIA’s activities and what they saw as broader move away from transparency in counterterrorism operations.”