Headlines: May 9, 2019
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Tthe Senate Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr. as part of its on-going investigation into the 2016 Trump election campaign. It is the first time that a Trump family member has been subpoenaed by a Congressional panel since the Special Counsel investigation began. The move is also surprising given that Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell had just a day earlier dismissed the entire investigation saying, “case closed.” According to people familiar with the committee’s thinking, Senators are interested in what Donald Jr. said and did at the infamous Trump Tower meeting in in 2016 where he met with Russian nationals hoping for dirt on the Clinton campaign. President Donald Trump’s former Attorney Michael Cohen during his public testimony claimed that the younger Trump was actively involved in the meeting. According to the New York Times, “The decision to subpoena the president’s son is an aggressive move, and appears to have come after discussions broke down about whether the younger Mr. Trump might appear voluntarily before the panel.”
Meanwhile White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney complained publicly about being blindsided by Senate Republicans. He said during an interview on CBS on Wednesday, “I have no difficulty with bipartisanship, but to subpoena the president of the United States’s son and not at least get a heads-up, I thought was — let’s say — bad form.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi addressing reporters said on Thursday that the nation was in a “constitutional crisis.” Her comments came a day after the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify at a committee hearing.
New York’s State Senate voted on Wednesday to turn over President Trump’s tax returns to Congressional committee chairs. The so-called TRUST Act passed the Democratic controlled body 39 to 21 and is expected to be signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo. It will enable the commissioner of the state Department of Taxation and Finance to hand over Trump’s state tax returns upon request. New York is Trump’s home state and so his state tax returns would include roughly the same type of information that federal returns have and may enable federal legislators to conduct their oversight duties in the face of White House stonewalling. Federal Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin who has pledged allegiance to Trump above all else, has refused to comply with a lawful Congressional request for the President’s tax returns. Meanwhile the New York State Senate also successfully voted to allow the state to prosecute any individuals that Trump pardons.
At a political rally in Florida on Wednesday night the President once more touted a lie about Puerto Rico’s disaster relief. The President had previously claimed, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, that the federal government had spent $91 billion to help Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria. In reality the island has only received about $11 billion. During his rally Trump pulled out a bar graph claiming to show the $91 billion figure and use it as a weapon to whip up resentment against both Puerto Ricans and Democrats. San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz responded to his lies saying, “Unhinged, insensitive and lying. His racism knows no boundaries.”
At the same Florida rally Trump continued to show his disdain for brown-skinned people by implicitly supporting the shooting of undocumented migrants. He first claimed that Border Patrol agents cannot shoot at asylum seekers someone in the audience shouted “shoot them,” to which the President responded positively while supporters cheered loudly and enthusiastically. On the same day news emerged of monthly arrests at the US-Mexico border reaching record levels of about 100,000 a month.
The White House this week imposed new rules on issuing credentials for journalists, adding to concern over the Trump administrations clamp down on press freedoms. The new rule reduces the number of so-called “hard passes,” given out to journalists that enable them to enter the White House grounds without requiring permission each time. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dismissed concerns that the move was intended to punish journalists who do critical coverage saying, “No one’s access is being limited.” Still, the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank says his hard pass was revoked.
In Los Angeles, California, law enforcement officials seized more than 1,000 firearms including rifles, and huge amounts of ammunition from the Bel Air home of an unnamed individual. The resident of the posh neighborhood was apparently engaged in illegal gun sales. And the Wall Street Journal reported that the US had developed and deployed a weapon that defense officials claim reduces civilian casualties. The CIA and Pentagon have apparently closely guarded the RX9 as a secret while using in wars. It is a variant of the Hellfire missile and, according to the Journal is, “designed to plunge more than 100 pounds of metal through the tops of cars and buildings to kill its target without harming individuals and property close by.” Additionally the RX9 includes, “a halo of six long blades that are stowed inside and then deploy through the skin of the missile seconds before impact, shredding anything in its tracks.”
The Justice Department said that the US has seized a North Korean ship carrying coal for export saying that it was in violation of American sanctions. It is the first time that the US has ever seized the ship of another nation for violating sanctions. The action came at the same time that North Korea tested two short-range ballistic missiles this week, following from another test 5 days earlier which North Korean leader Kim Jong Un apparently personally supervised. The US-North Korea relationship seems to have broken down after optimistic signs of a detente last year.
And finally American and Chinese trade representatives are meeting on Thursday to potentially stave off an escalating trade war. Ahead of the talks President Trump threatened to make good on his promise of raising tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports from 10% to 25% on Friday. The US has accused China of trying to renegotiate a trade deal after both nations had come close to agreement.