Headlines: May 7, 2019
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Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday morning demanded that Democrats drop the matter of the 2-year long Special Counsel investigation. In a speech on the Senate floor he called it a, “Groundhog Day spectacle.” Democrat Chuck Schumer took to the floor immediately afterward and issued a strong counterpoint.
Meanwhile, 450 former federal prosecutors signed on to a letter on Monday agreeing that President Donald Trump would have been charged with obstruction of justice based on Mueller’s findings, if he were not president. The prosecutors have served in both Democratic and Republican administrations and say that anyone doing what Trump did would have resulted in felony charges of obstruction. It offers a strong rebuttal to Attorney General William Barr and Trump’s narrative of the Mueller report. On Tuesday former White House Counselor Don McGahn, whose testimony about Trump forms a large part of Mueller’s report on obstruction, formally refused Congress’ subpoena to testify. The White House just earlier ordered McGahn to defy Congress.
On Tuesday FBI Director Christopher Wray testified at a Congressional hearing and contradicted Attorney General Barr’s assertion that his agency had engaged in spying on the Trump campaign before the 2016 election.
Federal Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin has officially refused Congress’ request for Trump’s tax returns, saying, “I have determined that the Committee’s request lacks a legitimate legislative purpose.” Mnuchin has already missed two deadlines to deliver the information, which Congress has requested on the basis of a tax code law.
In other news, President Trump is making good on his threat to raise tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods from 10% to 25%. Following his Sunday announcement of the tax hike his trade representative Robert Lighthizer on Monday declared that the tariffs would kick in this Friday, setting of full-blown fears among Americans businesses who worry they will be the ones hurt from his actions. The CEO of one company told CNN, “It’s very difficult to understand what the President is going to do by a business perspective. To spring it on us all at once like this is a very poor judgment on his part.” Additionally the US will begin imposing a 17.5% tariff on Mexican tomato imports starting Tuesday. The tariffs stem from a dispute over an anti-dumping investigation that has not been resolved. Mexico’s Deputy Economy Minister Luz Maria de la Mora said, “Mexican exporters will be affected, it’s going to affect their financial flows but that is going to be directly transferred to U.S. consumers.”
A video of a police shooting of a 14-year old black teenager in Oklahoma City this past March has just emerged, contradicting police claims. Lorenzo Clerkley Jr. was playing with some friends in an abandoned house when police were called in and Sgt. Kyle Holcomb shouted commands to the teens to drop the replica guns they were playing with. Video shows that the officer in question did not wait for them to comply with his orders before he began shooting. Clerkley Jr. was shot twice and seriously injured. Holcomb was cleared of all criminal wrongdoing by the DA but the video has prompted the boy’s family to sue. Additionally, new video has emerged in the case of Sandra Bland’s death in Texas four years ago. Bland’s whose death made national headlines, was pulled over by an officer for simply failing to use her turn signal. She died under mysterious circumstances in jail. The new video which she made on her phone shows her encounter with the officer who is shown to behave very aggressively.
Georgia’s Governor Brian Kemp has just signed a sweeping anti-abortion bill into law. The so-called “fetal heartbeat bill,” now means that starting next January women in Georgia will no longer be able to obtain abortions after 6 weeks into their pregnancy – which is around when many women first discover that they are pregnant at all. The draconian law is one of many similar bills being passed by anti-abortionists around the nation and is likely to face legal challenges given that it violates women’s constitutional rights.
In international news, two Reuters journalists who had been imprisoned in Myanmar for nearly 2 years were finally and unexpectedly freed on Tuesday. The two had been tried, convicted and sentenced for reporting on Myanmar’s genocidal persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority. Although they had exhausted all the appeals process they were released along with thousands of prisoners as part of an annual amnesty by the government.
South Africans are heading to the polls on Wednesday and although the African National Congress (ANC) is expected to win enough votes to retain its power and keep President Cyril Ramaphosa in power, there is an eroding of voter trust. The ANC which was the party started by Nelson Mandela during the fight against apartheid, has been wracked by corruption scandals and losing support especially among South Africa’s black middle class.
In Turkey, Istanbul’s mayoral race resulted in a win for an opposition candidate in late March but on Monday election officials ruled that vote annulled and ordered new elections on June 23rd. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose ruling party lost control of the seat, disputed the results and has claimed that only a do-over would satisfy the nation’s democratic tradition. Critics have said Erdogan is illegitimately trying to consolidate his power.
And finally the World Health Organization on Tuesday announced that a whopping 34,000 people contracted the measles virus in the first 2 months of 2019. The majority of the cases are concentrated in poor Eastern European nations like Ukraine and Romania. Here in the US, a new poll on Monday found that 77% of Americans agree that children should be given the measles vaccine even if their parents object.