Headlines: May 1, 2019
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Attorney General William Barr is testifying in front of Congressional committees on Wednesday and Thursday. His hearing comes just a day after the New York Times and Washington Post published a letter written by Special Counsel Robert Mueller to Barr a day after Barr released his 4-page summary of Mueller’s report. In the letter Mueller asked Barr to release more of his report to Congress and to the public. He also took issue with Barr’s characterization writing that it, “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this Office’s work and conclusions.” Mueller added, “There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.”
In his appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse questioned Barr about Mueller’s concerning letter. Earlier Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff called for Barr to resign in an interview on CBS.
A new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll has found that a majority of Democrats want their representatives to pursue impeachment of the President based on the redacted Mueller report which was made public. But the findings were split down partisan lines. About 70% of Democrats want impeachment to proceed while only 39% of the general public does.
So far among Senators only the two Presidential contenders Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris have come out in favor of impeachment. But Senate Democratic leaders like Chuck Schumer have squashed the idea. In an interview with ABC on Tuesday Presidential candidate Joe Biden insisted that, “If, in fact, they (that is, Trump and associates) blocked the investigation, [Congress members] have no alternative, but to go to the only other constitutional resort they have [which] is impeachment.” Meanwhile President Donald Trump engaged in a massive Twitter-storm on Wednesday, firing off about 60 posts about Biden’s candidacy and in particular the fact that the Firefighters Union endorsed him for President.
In other news a federal judge in Washington DC ruled on Tuesday that a lawsuit against Trump for violations of the Emoluments Clause can continue. In his decision Judge Emmet G. Sullivan rejected Trump’s request to dismiss the suit saying that the President’s interpretation of the Emoluments clause was, “unpersuasive and inconsistent.” The specific clause in the Constitution prohibits sitting Presidents from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments. Trump has been widely accused of doing just that through his various hotels and resorts. According to the Washington Post, the judge’s decision, “adopted a broad definition of the anti-corruption law and could set the stage for Democratic lawmakers to begin seeking information from the Trump Organization.”
A 22-year old man is in custody after a shooting at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte that resulted in 2 deaths and four injuries among students. The victims included 19-year old Ellis Parlier and 21-year old Riley Howell. The suspected shooter is also a student at UNC. So far there is no apparent motive.
In other news, the 19-year old suspect in the Poway Synagogue shooting near San Diego pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to hate crimes involving murder and attempted murder charges. He also pleaded not guilty to setting fire to a mosque in Escondido. San Diego County authorities explained that he fled the scene of the shooting with 50 unused bullets and surmised that he either did not know how to reload his weapon or that it malfunctioned, suggesting the outcome could have been far worse.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on Tuesday that Glyphosate, a toxic chemical used in Monsanto’s weed killer Round Up Ready is not a carcinogen. Bayer corporation, which bought Monsanto, faces thousands of lawsuits from people who used Round Up and contracted cancer. Several of the lawsuits have succeeded, resulting in awards of tens of thousands of dollars to plaintiffs. Bayer was pleased with the decision, saying in a statement that it, “firmly believes that the science supports the safety of glyphosate-based herbicides.” But critics were outraged saying that the EPA had failed in its duty to protect public safety.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been sentenced to 50 weeks in prison in England for skipping bail 7 years ago. Assange, who faces extradition to the US for charges of attempted hacking of a government computer, had obtained asylum from the Ecuadorian government and spent 7 years in a self-imposed house arrest inside Ecuador’s embassy in London until he was evicted some weeks ago. Assange’s attorney read his client’s hand-written letter during the sentencing hearing, saying, “I apologize unreservedly” for seeking refuge at the embassy. “I found myself struggling with terrifying circumstances…I did what I thought at the time was the best and perhaps the only thing that could be done.”
And finally in Venezuela, an attempt by opposition leader Juan Guaido to rally the military to help oust President Nicolas Maduro has failed. Earlier this week Guaido, who the US and its allies have recognized as Venezuela’s interim President, announced that military leaders had defected – a claim that appears to be mostly untrue. Only the head of Venezuela’s domestic intelligence agency seems to have joined Guaido. On Wednesday he and Maduro called for mass demonstrations by their supporters in the capital Caracas. The US Joint Chiefs of staff chairman Joseph Dunford said on Tuesday that American intelligence is trying to, “make sure we have good visibility on what is happening down in Venezuela and also be prepared to support the president should he require more from the U.S. military.” His use of the word “President” referred to the unelected Guaido. Meanwhile Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden unequivocally tweeted his support for Guaido as well.