Headlines: November 30, 2018
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President Donald Trump has emerged in the Special Counsel investigation as a central subject around whom several pieces of a larger puzzle are falling into place. According to the Washington Post, “Investigators have now publicly cast Trump as a central figure of their probe into whether Trump’s campaign conspired with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign.” The President has even been found to have a legal code in the documents being filed by the Special Counsel: “Individual 1.” The investigators seem to have evidence showing that Mr. Trump was actively pursuing contacts with the Russian government and with Wikileaks.
On Thursday Trump spoke to press, repeatedly saying he didn’t end up making a deal on a project in Russia and that his former attorney Michael Cohen who pled guilty to lying about Trump’s contacts with Russia is, “a weak person.”
Very early on Friday morning Trump posted two defensive sounding tweets: “Oh, I get it! I am a very good developer, happily living my life, when I see our Country going in the wrong direction (to put it mildly). Against all odds, I decide to run for President & continue to run my business-very legal & very cool, talked about it on the campaign trail…” followed by, “….Lightly looked at doing a building somewhere in Russia. Put up zero money, zero guarantees and didn’t do the project. Witch Hunt!”
During his first year in office Mr. Trump said often that he had absolutely no deals with Russia. Buzzfeed reported a story on Thursday that, “Trump’s company planned to give a $50 million penthouse at Trump Tower Moscow to Russian President Vladimir Putin as the company negotiated the luxury real estate development during the 2016 campaign, according to four people, one of them the originator of the plan.” Apparently two of the sources are “US law enforcement officials,” who revealed that Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen spoke with Mr. Putin’s Press secretary about the idea.
And, FBI agents have apparently raided the offices of a man named Ed Burke, Alderman of Chicago, who used to be Trump’s property tax attorney. It is not yet clear if that raid has anything to do with the Special Counsel’s probe.
In other news, the US Senate’s sole Black Republican is opposing one of Trump’s judicial picks for a District judgeship in North Carolina. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina has made public his discomfort at the nomination of Thomas Farr over accusations of anti-black racism in voting rights. Scott’s opposition effectively kills Farr’s nomination.
Eric Bauman, the chair of the California Democratic Party has resigned from his position over accusations of sexual misconduct. According to the Sacramento Bee, “One of Bauman’s deputies, Daraka Larimore-Hall, initiated the process to remove him last week after hearing from individuals who said Bauman had sexually harassed and assaulted them at party events.” Mr. Bauman took a leave of absence earlier this week and also said he would seek treatment for health and alcoholism issues. Governor elect Gavin Newsom said Bauman should resign.
Senator Kamala Harris and Representative Pramila Jayapal, both of them progressive Democrats, have introduced a federal Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. There are already eight states and one city – Seattle – that have passed similar bills. According to The Nation, the federal bill, “would ensure that domestic workers are covered by some basic labor laws: the right to overtime pay when they put in more than 40 hours a week, to the protections of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, to form unions, and to recourse against harassment and discrimination. It also extends new ones, such as the right to meal and rest breaks, paid sick days, advanced notice of scheduling, written agreements, and privacy and other protections for live-in workers.”
The trial of rightwing extremist activist James Fields Jr. has begun. Fields faces charges in the death of Heather Heyer in Chartlottesville, Virginia last August. Heyer died when Fields rammed his car into people who were protesting a gathering of hate groups called Unite the Right. The trial is taking place at the Charlottesville Circuit Court and Fields faces a life sentence. He will also be facing several federal charges of hate crimes which could even lead to the death sentence. On Thursday his lawyers revealed that he would be claiming his motivations for ramming his car into a crowded street were that he feared for his life and was acting in self-defense.
CNN has fired one of its commentators Marc Lamont Hill. The story was first reported by Mediate, which said, “Hill urged countries to boycott Israel in a speech on Wednesday, calling for a ‘free Palestine from the river to the sea.’ His comments sparked an immediate backlash, with many noting ‘from the river to the sea’ is a phrase used by Hamas and other anti-Israel terror groups.” Critics slammed CNN for the decision. The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald said that Hill’s firing, “is a major defeat for the right to advocate for Palestinian rights, to freely critique the Israeli government, and for the ability of journalism and public discourse in the U.S. generally to accommodate dissent.” A petition calling for CNN to reverse its decision has already had more than 5,000 signatures.
The annual G-20 meeting has begun and heads of state have arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina. A Trump “baby blimp” has also headed to the city to greet the US President as part of mass protests. The “baby blimp,” which is a giant balloon shaped in the form of a baby Trump wearing diapers, had first made its appearance in London earlier this year when Trump visited there.
Meanwhile G-20 country delegates were struggling over coming up with a common summit statement over issues like climate change and the Paris Accord, as well as trade issues and more, but worried that they couldn’t get Trump on board. Also happening at the G-20 meeting is the signing of a new NAFTA deal between the US, Canada, and Mexico. NAFTA is the North American Free Trade Agreement. The Congress and Parliaments of the three nations will still need to ratify the deal for it to take effect. In the US, Mr. Trump faces opposition to the new NAFTA from the incoming Democrat-dominated House and his party is pushing him to squeeze through a vote before year’s end.