Headlines: October 25, 2019
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Reports emerged that the US Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into the origins of the Special Counsel’s investigation into the 2016 election. What began as an administrative review overseen by Attorney General William Barr has now been switched to a criminal probe, suggesting that Mr. Barr may be trying to deliver a political victory to President Donald Trump. For months Trump railed against the investigation led by Robert Mueller claiming it was illegal. The New York Times explained that, “Mr. Trump has made clear that he sees the typically independent Justice Department as a tool to be wielded against his political enemies.” Some are speculating that the Democrats leading an impeachment inquiry against Trump through House committees is taking the place of the investigation that the Justice Department should have been conducting.
Meanwhile more details are emerging from the closed-door deposition by Pentagon official Laura Cooper earlier this week to House committees. The Trump administration apparently sent her lawyer a letter the day before she was scheduled to appear at the hearing claiming there was an “absence of authority for the Committees to conduct an impeachment inquiry,” and adding that Ms. Cooper, “cannot participate in [the impeachment] inquiry under these circumstances.” Cooper defied Trump’s order and shared the letter with the committees. In other news related to the impeachment, Steven Fruman, the brother of Igor Fruman an associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, has been subpoenaed. Igor Fruman and another man named Lev Parnas were arrested some weeks ago as they were attempting to leave the country. Now, federal prosecutors in New York are interested in documents from Fruman’s brother Steven. Prosecutors have been digging through evidence, even blowing doors off a safe as per CNN.
Republicans, some of whom blocked Cooper’s testimony to House committees on Wednesday for 5 hours, are claiming that the impeachment process is improper because the inquiry is being conducted in secret. On Thursday Fox News’ judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano reminded conservatives who created the rules that House Committees are now operating under.
Democratic House Representative Nydia Velasquez from New York this week introduced historic legislation called the Climate Displaced Person’s Act. In a statement the Congresswoman said, “If we are going to meaningfully discuss comprehensive climate equity and climate justice, we must inject security assistance and resettlement opportunities for climate-displaced persons into our conversations.” The bill would, “would create a humanitarian program separate from the U.S. refugee admissions program. The new program would admit a minimum of 50,000 [Climate Displaced Persons], beginning with Fiscal Year 2020, allowing CDPs to access resettlement opportunities.” Meanwhile Senator Chuck Schumer published an op-ed in the New York Times on Friday laying out an ambitious proposal for transitioning to zero-emission vehicles across the country by 2040. Schumer says his plan is backed by unions and would “create tens of thousands of new, good-paying jobs.”
In other climate related news, California fires continue to grow under the unusually hot, dry, and windy conditions this season. In addition to the massive Kincade fire in Sonoma County in northern California, the so-called “Tick fire” in Santa Clarita, Southern California, jumped a major freeway overnight and grew to thousands of acres. All LA Unified Schools in the San Fernando Valley were closed on Friday in response.
A new poll on oil drilling in the US by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation has found that a large majority of Americans oppose drilling for oil and gas on public lands. More than 80% of respondents want drilling to decrease or remain constant. According to the Washington Post, “Just over half, 51 percent, said energy exploration should be reduced on federal lands, and 53 percent said it should be reduced offshore. Another 32 percent said it should stay as is on both federal lands and waters.” The poll was released just two days after President Trump boasted about his “pro-energy” agenda at a fracking conference in Pittsburgh and how his administration has promoted and expanded drilling on public lands. And the ACLU is celebrating the decision by the state of South Dakota to back down from its efforts to silence oil pipeline protesters. The state passed several laws in response to mass indigenous-led protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline and after the ACLU sued, it agreed to not enforce the laws that curbed protests.
The ACLU also announced in an entirely different issue that the Trump administration had separated many more immigrant children from their parents than previously known. One thousand five hundred and fifty-six children, most of them under the age of 12 were taken from their parents between July 2017 and June 2018.
New footage has emerged in the police shooting of an unarmed teenager named Isiah Murrietta Golding in Fresno, California. The disturbing surveillance camera footage shows police firing at the 16-year old boy through a fence as he was running away. The Fresno Police Department and the police auditor had declared the shooting justified. Now, the release of the footage undermines their claim.
A federal judge has just fined Education Secretary Betsy DeVos $100,000 for in a contempt of court case after DeVos was found to continue collecting loan repayments from students at the now-defunct for-profit Corinthian colleges. The fine will be used to compensate about 16,000 people who were affected.
In news from Democratic primary hopefuls, frontrunner Joe Biden has decided to reverse his pledge to refuse big money from super-PACs. The New York Times explained that the move was, “an implicit acknowledgment of his weakened position in the contest. He entered October with only $9 million in the bank, a fraction of his leading rivals.” Another candidate, Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard has announced she will not seek reelection to Congress so she can focus on her Presidential bid. And, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders this week released a detailed plan for how he would legalize marijuana at the federal level if he became President. He posted details of his plan on Thursday at precisely 4:20 pm.
And, a woman performing at a New York comedy club this week confronted a prominent member of her audience: disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Buzzfeed reported the story of how comedian Kelly Bachman called him out. Bachman and two attendees were kicked out of the club.
Finally in international news, the Trump administration is considering a plan to add more troops to Syria to protect oil fields, just weeks after ordering the withdrawal of troops from Northern Syria under the guise of stopping the US’s endless wars. In a tweet, Trump said, “The Oil Fields discussed in my speech on Turkey/Kurds yesterday were held by ISIS until the United States took them over with the help of the Kurds.” He added separately, “Perhaps it is time for the Kurds to start heading to the Oil Region!” even though his actions severely betrayed Kurdish fighters who were allied with the US. Meanwhile Turkish President Erdogan, on whose behalf Trump appears to have withdrawn from Northern Syria, is demanding that the US turn over for extradition, Gen. Mazloum Abdi, the Kurdish leader of the Syrian Democratic Forces.