Headlines: October 4, 2018
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UPDATED: US Senators are viewing the controversial FBI probe into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Thursday morning. According to Senator Dick Durbin, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, “Only one copy is being made available to senators, and each party will take turns viewing it in one-hour increments.” Durbin called the conditions under which Senators could read the report, “Bizarre,” adding, “it doesn’t make any sense.” The report’s contents will clearly be kept sealed from the public.
But White House officials, according to the New York Times, “after reviewing summaries of interviews conducted by the F.B.I., are increasingly confident that the information collected will ease the path for senators to confirm Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.” And, “an official briefed on the F.B.I. review said the bureau contacted 10 people and interviewed nine of them…The White House concluded that the interviews did not corroborate sexual misconduct accusations against Judge Kavanaugh, and could help his case, said the person briefed on the findings, who requested anonymity to discuss them.” But Senate Democrats complained that the FBI did not interview nearly enough people to properly verify Kavanaugh’s innocence.
It is not up to the White House anymore, it is up to the entire US Senate now and Senators will take a procedural vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination on Friday in a high-stakes event that is expected to roll over into the weekend. AP described the tension around the nomination that could go through or end on a single vote saying, “With Republicans clinging to a razor-thin 51-49 majority and five senators — including three Republicans — still vacillating, the conservative jurist’s prospects of Senate confirmation remained murky and dependent, in part, on the file’s contents, which are supposed to be kept secret.”
On Thursday morning Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer gave a press conference about the FBI report. Senator Feinstein on Thursday morning explained why the FBI probe of Kavanaugh’s alleged misdeeds is not sufficient.
Meanwhile Senators reacted to President Trump’s shocking tirade against Kavanaugh accuser Dr. Christine Blasey Ford at a rally in Mississippi on Tuesday. Even Republican Lindsay Graham, who has been one of Kavanaugh’s most vociferous supporters, remarked about the President’s words, “I would tell him, knock it off. You’re not helping.” Senator Jeff Flake, who is one of the three Republicans wavering on Kavanaugh and who was the one to demand the FBI probe, said to reporters, “I thought it was obviously insensitive and appalling, frankly. There’s no time or place, but particularly, to discuss something so sensitive at a political rally is just wrong.” Still, in the wake of the hearing Flake seemed to waver toward Kavanaugh saying, “we’ve seen no additional corroborating information,” on the assault allegations.
And, in case you forgot about the initial reason for Democratic opposition to Kavanaugh, Senator Jeff Merkley on Wednesday made a last-ditch effort to obtain the trove of documents related to Kavanaugh’s judicial record under President Bush that Republicans have kept secret. Merkley, who is a Democrat, is asking a Federal court to order the release of the approximately 100,000 documents.
Students at Harvard University are filing complaints against Kavanaugh’s presence on campus as an instructor saying it violates the university’s policy on sexual harassment. According to Politico, “About 50 students have signed a petition saying they have filed Title IX complaints against Kavanaugh…Title IX is the federal law prohibiting sex-based discrimination that requires schools to address sexual harassment on campus.”
In other news, a US Navy veteran named William Clyde Allen III was arrested in Logan, Utah on Wednesday over allegedly mailing letters to prominent federal US officials that set off alarms after the poison Ricin was discovered. Mr. Allen is a white man, whose booking photo after his arrest shows him smiling. He served in the Navy from 1998 to 2002. He sent letters to Defense Secretary James Mattis and President Trump. According to Reuters, “U.S. officials said on Wednesday they had essentially ruled out terrorism in the case.” Of course if the alleged perpetrator had been a brown-skinned Muslim, it is likely that the Pentagon would be considering terrorism charges.
In immigration news, reports continue to emerge from an ICE detention facility in Adelanto, California, the US’s largest privately run immigrant prison. The Department of Homeland Security found, among other things, that guards at Adelanto, “have allowed immigrants detained there to regularly hang ‘nooses’ of braided bedsheets in their cells, despite multiple suicide attempts over the past year.” Apparently, “15 out of 20 cells inspected had these ‘nooses.’ Some detainees said they could be unfurled to create a sense of privacy in their cells or serve as a clothesline, but in an interview, one detainee told inspectors, ‘I’ve seen a few attempted suicides using the braided sheets by the vents, and then the guards laugh at them and call them ‘suicide failures’ once they are back from medical.'”
And, a federal judge in California has barred the government from ending the Temporary Protected Status of nationals from, “El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan,” that have been living in the US. The approximately 300,000 immigrants in question had been living in the US under TPS authority until President Trump systematically ended the protections. The judge’s injunction against the ban was precipitated by a lawsuit of TPS holders.
On Wednesday millions of Americans received texts from President Trump on their cell phones as part of the “Presidential Alert” emergency test. The message read, “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.” Apparently it is the same system that alerts cell phone users to extreme weather or sends out “Amber alerts.” But in our current political climate, critics of President Trump were disconcerted by the idea that the President could issue a blanket cell phone text.
In international news, the US on Wednesday withdrew from the United Nations International Court of Justice, also known simply as the World Court. The move was in response to complaints filed by Palestinian authorities and Iranian officials against the US through the court. Earlier in the week the court ruled in favor of Iran, requiring that the US ensure its new sanctions on Iran do not impact the humanitarian aid in the country, or its civil aviation system. US National Security Advisor John Bolton denounced the court as “politicized and ineffective,” as he justified the US pulling out.