Headlines: May 3, 2019
Listen to story:
Download: mp3 (Duration: 7:59 — 15.0MB)
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly in direct talks with House Judiciary Committee members about whether he will testify in front of Congress. The reports first emerged on NBC and ABC News based on sources in the Judiciary Committee, and come a day after Attorney General William Barr refused to testify to the same panel.
On Thursday the Washington Post reported that it had obtained a formal complaint letter from White House attorney Emmet Flood written to the Justice Department last month about the Special Counsel report. According to the Post in the letter, “Flood accused Mueller of exceeding his authority by spilling into public view a recitation of facts far more detailed than what is typically included in criminal indictments. He described the report as ‘prosecutorial curiosity — part ‘truth commission’ report and part law school exam paper.'” The letter asserts that Mueller should have exonerated President Donald Trump since it did not recommend prosecution. However, Mr. Mueller cited the Justice Department’s position that a sitting president cannot be indicted as the reason why he did not recommend prosecution.
Meanwhile Trump said in a Fox News interview on Thursday that he was not willing to let former White House Counselor Don McGahn testify to Congress about his documented actions in the Mueller report. He also said he approved of Barr’s refusal to testify to the House Judiciary committee. And on Friday morning Trump had his first publicly known phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Mueller report was apparently among the things the two discussed. According to the Wall Street Journal, “White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation came up briefly and that the leaders said, ‘It’s over and there was no collusion,’ and it was time to move on.” Trump and Putin also discussed the situations in Venezuela and North Korea.
The latest jobs report is out and as per the Labor Department the economy added 263,000 jobs in the month of April – a larger number than the 190,000 that economists expected. The unemployment rate has fallen to a new low of 3.6%. But according to the New York Times, “As good as the dip in the unemployment rate looks, the factors behind it aren’t as hopeful as the headline number itself. There was a big drop in the number of people who said they were looking for work. The labor-force participation rate, which measures the share of people 16 and older who are employed or seeking a job, fell to 62.8 percent, from 63 percent in March.”
The US Senate on Thursday failed to override President Trump’s veto of a bill to end US support for Saudi Arabia’s devastating war on Yemen. The bill, introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders had passed with all Democrats and several Republicans voting in favor and also passed the Democratic-controlled House. But after Trump vetoed it, a 2/3rds majority is required in the Senate to override the veto and that measure failed by 14 votes. Saudi bombs have killed tens of thousands of Yemenis with US-supplied weapons and direct military advice. Tens of millions are at risk of starvation.
In other news, a group of activists calling themselves the Embassy Protection Collective has been camped outside the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington DC to offer food and medical aid to those who appear to be trapped inside. The situation has developed as the US continues to offer direct encouragement to a coup to overthrow the Venezuelan government of Nicolás Maduro. On Thursday several activists were arrested including Ariel Gold of Code Pink who has been a guest on our show multiple times. Supporters of opposition leader Juan Guaidó have been counter-protesting outside the Embassy and have even reportedly assaulted the pro-Maduro activists.
In climate news, a massive cyclone is hitting the eastern coast of India prompting the evacuation of more than a million people. Cyclone Fani is considered one of the strongest storm systems to ever hit the Indian subcontinent with wind speeds of more than 120 mph being recorded. Meteorologists have deemed the storm equivalent to a Category 5 Hurricane. Hundreds have so far been reportedly injured and relief and rescue efforts are already underway. Meanwhile school-aged children around the world are expanding their Fridays for Future climate strikes which famed Swedish activist Greta Thunberg had called for several months ago. There are now reportedly more than 700 strikes of school children skipping school to protest climate change around the world including in Australia, Uganda, and Pakistan.
Here in the US the Trump administration on Thursday announced a dismantling of safety regulations that had been put into place for offshore drilling operations after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The 2010 accident had resulted in 11 deaths and 200 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. The Obama Administration put in place safety regulations to prevent future such spills which oil and gas drilling companies complained were too onerous. Now, the fossil-fuel embracing Trump regime has decided to undo those safety regulations. Interior Secretary David Berhardt said in a statement on Thursday, “Incorporating the best available science, best practices and technological innovations of the past decade, the rule eliminates unnecessary regulatory burdens while maintaining safety and environmental protection offshore.” Berhardt had until recently worked as a lobbyist for fossil fuel companies.
A migrant family has reportedly drowned in the Rio Grande this week while trying to cross over to the United States. At least three children are feared dead, among them a 10-month old baby whose body was just recovered. The family was crossed the river in a raft that capsized according to a statement by Border Patrol. Some members of the family survived as they were able to swim to safety. According to Reuters, “Drownings are common on the Rio Grande, which makes up part of the U.S.-Mexico border, as migrants try to cross on often overcrowded, makeshift rafts with no life jackets. But rescues have increased since October as record numbers of Central American families try to enter the United States.”
And finally the Trump administration on Thursday released a 440-page set of rules during a National Day of Prayer ceremony that would allow healthcare providers, including doctors, nurses, insurers and others, to refuse care based on their own personal religious or moral beliefs. The rules also encourage parents to refuse treatments for their children based on religion. Fundamentalist groups have been lobbying for such rules for years, calling them “conscience protections.” Critics point out that it is a green light for doctors and nurses to discriminate against minorities such as LGBTQ patients. The group Americans United for Separation of Church and State released a statement denouncing the rules as, “the Trump administration’s most dangerous attempt yet to weaponize religious freedom.”