Headlines: May 8, 2019
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President Donald Trump has claimed executive privilege over the full Special Counsel’s report on the 2016 election. The decision came in the form of an announcement by Justice Department official, Stephen E. Boyd who wrote to the House Judiciary Committee that, “the president has asserted executive privilege over the entirety of the subpoenaed materials.” The language used means that Trump has asserted authority over the entire Mueller report and the evidentiary materials that Congress members have requested. The decision also comes on the same day that the Judiciary Committee held a vote to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt for refusing to testify at a hearing last week. Indeed it was Barr who requested the President to invoke executive privilege over the Mueller report. Referring to Judiciary Committee chair Jerrold Nadler, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released a statement saying, “Faced with Chairman Nadler’s blatant abuse of power, and at the Attorney General’s request, the President has no other option than to make a protective assertion of executive privilege.” Critics have pointed out that there is no basis to assert executive privilege at this stage after a redacted version of the Mueller report was made public. Congress is expected to file suit in a legal battle over the Mueller report.
Nadler made these comments at the House Judiciary committee vote on Barr on Wednesday morning during a vote to hold Barr in contempt of Congress.
In a live-streamed interview with the Washington Post on Wednesday morning House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared that Trump was becoming “self-impeachable,” a statement she made just as news emerged of Trump’s assertion of executive privilege over the Mueller report. A day earlier at another event Pelosi invoked a comparison with President Richard Nixon saying that he was impeached in part for ignoring Congressional subpoenas. She added, “Every day, he’s obstructing justice by saying, ‘This one shouldn’t testify, that one shouldn’t testify,’ and the rest. So he’s making a case. But he’s just trying to goad us into impeachment.”
The New York Times has just published a lengthy exposé of Trump’s taxes and what they say about his business abilities and dealings. The report was based on ten years of tax information – not actual tax returns – that the paper obtained from 1985 through 1994 showing that Trump racked up $1.17 billion in losses over that period. It also showed that Trump lost more money during several of the years on record than any other individual taxpayer and that in 8 of the 10 years he paid no federal income taxes. In 1989 Trump reported income from interest of $52.9 million but did not declare where that interest came from. Trump responded to the Times’ article on Twitter saying, “You always wanted to show losses for tax purposes….almost all real estate developers did – and often re-negotiate with banks, it was sport.” Just after validating the report he then contradicted himself in the same tweet saying, “the very old information put out is a highly inaccurate Fake News hit job!” House Democrats have been pushing for a release of Trump’s most recent tax returns but, like other information requests, have been stonewalled by the White House.
A shooting at a charter school in Colorado near Columbine claimed the life of one student and injured 8. Eighteen year-old Kendrick Castillo was killed when he apparently lunged at one of two shooters who entered his classroom at the STEM School Highlands Ranch. Castillo was only 3 days away from graduating. The suspected shooters are apparently not even old enough to have legally obtained the weapons in question. The local community had just marked the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting some weeks ago. Eighteen year-old Devon Erickson, a young white male, has been identified as one of the two shooters in custody. It is not clear if the shooters were inspired by the Columbine High shooting.
In other news a fire in Harlem, New York has claimed the lives of 6 people, four of whom were children aged 3 to 11. The fire swept through the fifth floor of a Housing Authority residential building in Harlem. Authorities believe it started on a stove in a 3-bedroom apartment. All victims were in that apartment and died after being trapped inside. The building is run by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and in 2017 it failed its safety inspection by one point.
On immigration news the White House invited a dozen Republican Senators to oversee a reform plan spearheaded by the President’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. According to Associated Press, Kushner’s plan includes “A border security bill that would focus, in part, on modernizing ports of entry to make sure all people, vehicles and packages are scanned.” And, “A second package of immigration proposals that would create a more “merit-based” system to give preference to those with job skills rather than relatives of immigrants already in the country.” First Lady Melania Trump had sponsored her parents to enter and reside in the US – an ironic fact that is often left out of White House talking points on overhauling immigration. Meanwhile an appeals court has ruled that the federal government can send asylum seekers to wait out their cases in Mexico, while a lawsuit over the issue proceeds through the courts. And, new records show that the US Refugee program has admitted fewer people into the country than ever before. Those most impacted are Syrians who are fleeing a seemingly never-ending war that the US has played an active role in. According to the Washington Post, “The number of Syrian refugees allowed into the United States in fiscal 2016 was 12,587. In fiscal 2018, the United States admitted 62.”
And finally, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a surprise visit to Baghdad, Iraq on Tuesday. There he met with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and reportedly discussed the US’s aggressive posture toward Iran. The Prime Minister released a statement saying, “Iraq is building its relationships with all on the basis of putting Iraq’s interests first,” and that the nation would continue to work with “friends and neighbors, including neighboring Iran.”