Headlines: May 2, 2019
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asserted on Thursday that Attorney General William Barr lied to Congress. During a news conference that took place shortly after Mr Barr was a no-show at a House Judiciary Committee hearing Pelosi said this to reporters. Meanwhile the House Judiciary Committee met on Thursday morning despite the fact that Mr. Barr was a no-show. Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler slammed the Attorney General in his opening remarks. Barr testified for 5 hours a day earlier in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee where he avoided taking responsibility for mischaracterizing Special Counsel Mueller’s report on the 2016 election. During that hearing Senator Mazie Hirono demanded that Mr. Barr resign.
In other news Reuters published an exclusive report on Thursday showing how the US State Department in 2017 allowed the governments of seven or more foreign nations to rent condos in President Donald Trump’s New York property, without obtaining approval from Congress. The countries include Iraq, Kuwait, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Thailand and the European Union. According to Reuters, “The 1982 Foreign Missions Act requires foreign governments to get State Department clearance for any purchase, lease, sale, or other use of a property in the United States.” Through documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, the outlet found that, “in the eight months following Trump’s January 20, 2017 inauguration, foreign governments sent 13 notes to the State Department seeking permission to rent or renew leases in Trump World Tower. That is more solicitations from foreign governments for new or renewed leases in that building than in the previous two years combined.” The report gives new urgency to Congressional investigations of Trump’s violations of the Emoluments Clause in the Constitution.
Trump’s pick for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board, Stephen Moore, has withdrawn his name from consideration. Moore, a controversial conservative commentator known for making misogynist remarks, and with no financial experience, removed himself from consideration on Thursday. Lawmakers were concerned that Moore, who would have had the power to vote on setting interest rates for years, would have been loyal to Trump instead of remaining independent. The Federal Reserve this week refused to acquiesce to Trump’s demand that it lower interest rates.
The Trump administration on Wednesday formally requested that the entire Affordable Care Act be struck down. US Attorneys made their arguments in a case saying that the entire law, “should not be allowed to remain in effect.” Trump has promised that the GOP would introduce a better healthcare bill with lower premiums which would be introduced and voted on only after he was reelected. So far no details of such a bill are forthcoming. Earlier this week the House held its first hearing on a Medicare-for-All bill, an idea which has been and remains popular nationwide.
In immigration news, a 16-year old Guatemalan boy has died while in US custody. He had arrived at a facility run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement just days earlier and was transferred to a hospital in Texas where he died. Buzzfeed, which first reported the story, pointed out that he is the third child to die in US custody since last December. Authorities say they are investigating the cause of death. And on Wednesday the Trump administration sent a letter to Congress requesting approval of a $4.5 billion emergency fund to deal with what the White House called, a “humanitarian and security crisis” at the border. According to the Washington Post, “The money would be in addition to the more than $8 billion that President Trump asked for in his 2020 budget request to build border barriers, as well as some $6 billion in funding he sought as he declared a national emergency at the border earlier this year.”
Lawmakers in Alabama on Wednesday night passed what is considered the most restrictive abortion bill in the nation. The bill, in direct violation of women’s constitutional right to choose to have abortions, would ban such procedures at any stage of pregnancy and in all cases except where the woman’s life is in danger. The bill requires doctors who perform abortions to be convicted of a felony and sentenced to 99 years to life in prison. Last year Alabama voters passed a state constitutional amendment recognizing the “rights of unborn children,” laying the groundwork for conservative lawmakers to pass the sweeping new bill this week.
An estimated 10,000 South Carolina teachers protested on May Day rallying in front of their state house in Columbia, fed up with their working conditions. The sea of teachers and supporters wore red, in line with teachers’ strikes that have taken place around the country. They are demanding a 10% pay raise, more mental health counselors, and an end to retaliatory policies. A similar scene played out on the same day in neighboring North Carolina, where thousands of teachers also marched on May Day in Raleigh wearing red and demanding an increase in public school funding and expansion of Medicaid.
In climate news, the House on Thursday passed a bill to force the US to remain in the UN Paris Accord by a vote of 231 to 190. President Trump announced a withdrawal from the treaty soon after he took office. Critics slammed House Democrats saying it was, “merely symbolic,” and “better than no action at all, but not much better.” In the UK MPs just declared a “climate emergency,” the first such action by any government in the world, and the direct result of weeks of civil disobedience and activism by the Extinction Rebellion movement.
And finally the Pentagon released a report on Thursday claiming that US military actions in 2018 resulted in only 120 civilian deaths worldwide – a far lower figure than independent watchdog groups have tallied. And, Congress member Betty McCollum has introduced a bill to amend the Foreign Assistance Act barring any country that receives US military assistance from using it to imprison children. The bill is aimed specifically at Israeli detention of Palestinian children.