Headlines: May 30, 2019
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President Donald Trump on Thursday in a tweet admitted that Russian interference helped him get elected in 2016. In an angry post in the early hours of the morning, just a day after Special Counsel Robert Mueller gave his first public address, Trump wrote, “Russia, Russia, Russia! That’s all you heard at the beginning of this Witch Hunt Hoax…And now Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected.” Hours later, he backtracked on his own words in remarks to reporters outside the White House.
In other news, more Democratic leaders are pushing for Mr. Mueller to testify before Congress and others have joined in the chorus calling for impeachment. Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts who chairs the House Rules Committee became the highest ranking Democrat to back impeachment, saying in an interview, “We’re beyond talking about this in terms of political implications…We have to do what’s right.” Maine Representative Chellie Pingree said Congress should, “continue its own investigations in the face of unprecedented obstruction and move toward an impeachment inquiry.” And Mississippi Representative Bennie Thompson, who chairs the Homeland Security Committee said that Trump had, “egregiously obstructed justice.” Meanwhile, veteran actor Robert DeNiro, who plays Mueller on Saturday Night Live, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times on Thursday urging him to testify and saying, “the country needs to hear your voice.”
In one of the many investigations that have spun off from the Mueller probe, an aide to Trump confidante Roger Stone, is expected to testify before a Grand Jury on Friday. Andrew Miller has legally challenged a subpoena from the same grand jury used by Mueller, for nearly a year. According to the Washington Post Miller is expected to, “answer prosecutors’ questions about Stone’s activities since 2016 — including what work or services Stone asked him to perform since the election.” If Miller fails to appear he will be jailed for contempt of court.
News emerged on Thursday that during Trump’s trip to Japan earlier this week, Navy sailors aboard the USS John McCain were not invited to the President’s address at Yokosuka Naval Base and that the White House had apparently asked the Navy to hide the ship bearing the name of Trump’s late nemesis so it wouldn’t appear in photos alongside him. According to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the story the White House sent an email to US Navy and Air Force officials with a list of directives ahead of Trump’s trip, including the line, “USS John McCain needs to be out of sight.” Trump denies that he knew anything about it.
Trump on Thursday told reporters that he will be making a “very dramatic” statement about the US-Mexico border this week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday slammed Trump’s plan to reshape legal immigration rules to emphasize merit over family ties. She called out the fact that Trump’s own in-laws emigrated to the US using laws that Trump wants to shape. Pelosi said, “I don’t know if merit counted for when his wife’s family came into the country…I don’t know. Maybe it did. God bless them if it did. But he calls that ‘chain migration,’ which he wants to get rid of.”
New evidence has emerged that Trump and the GOP’s push to add a citizenship question to the US Census is based on racist and partisan logic. Incriminating documents have emerged in a court case around gerrymandered districts from a deceased Republican operative’s hard drive. Thomas B. Hofeller, who led the GOP’s efforts on partisan redistricting, apparently was also involved in the push to require citizenship status of Census respondents. Analyzing the state of Texas, Hofeller wrote that counting US citizens of voting age, “would be advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.” And, “Without a question on citizenship being included on the 2020 Decennial Census questionnaire…the use of citizen voting age population is functionally unworkable.” Hofeller died last summer. The US Supreme Court in just a few weeks is expected to take up the question of whether it is constitutional to include a citizenship inquiry on the Census.
The state of Louisiana has become the latest to ban abortions. State lawmakers passed a so-called Fetal Heartbeat abortion ban which disallows abortions at the stage of pregnancy when women usually first discover they are pregnant. What sets Louisiana apart from other largely Republican-controlled states that have passed similar bans is that the law was written by a Democratic state senator from Shreveport and that the Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards has pledged to sign it into law. Also in abortion-related news, Reuters reported that Disney CEO Bob Iger has said that it would be “very difficult” for his company to continue production work in the state of Georgia if it implements a recently passed abortion ban. Disney filmed parts of blockbuster hits like Black Panther and Avengers Endgame in Georgia.
In international news, China appears to be readying a new salvo against the US over Trump’s trade war and heavy tariffs on virtually all Chinese imports. According to reports, China could withhold the export of rare earth minerals, crucial in the manufacture of electronics such as smartphones. According to CNN, “About a third of the world’s rare earth deposits are found in China. Yet the country controls more than 90% of production, according to the US Geological Survey, in part due to its lower labor costs and less stringent environmental regulations.”
A suicide bomber on Thursday afternoon killed 6 people and wounded at least 16 outside a military academy in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. The deadly bombing came on the heels of 3 days of peace talks in Moscow, Russia, that did not yield significant results. And Russia has apparently been testing low-yield nuclear weapons in apparent violation of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
And finally Saudi Arabia is hosting a summit in Mecca with leaders of the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council, including its rival Qatar, in an attempt to convince regional allies to launch a war on Iran. The Saudis say their facilities have faced attacks by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and have urged the US to also wage war on Iran. And Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner is in Israel to promote a secret peace plan for Israel and Palestinians. But his trip comes at the same time as Israel is in political chaos with the disbanding of the Israeli parliament this week when newly reelected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a coalition government.