Headlines: September 17, 2019
Listen to story:
Download: mp3 (Duration: 8:23 — 7.7MB)
The House Judiciary Committee is holding its first hearing on an impeachment investigation aimed at President Donald Trump. The key witness at Tuesday’s hearing was Corey Lewandowski, former Trump campaign manager and outspoken supporter of the President. Lewandowski’s name appeared several times in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report into 2016 election wrongdoing and the President’s attempts to obstruct justice. The Associated Press summarized Lewandowski’s role saying, “Mueller’s investigators detailed two episodes in which Trump asked Lewandowski to direct then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to limit Mueller’s investigation. Trump said that if Sessions would not meet with Lewandowski, then Lewandowski should tell Sessions he was fired.” Meanwhile two other former Trump aides, Rob Porter and Rick Dearborn are defying Judiciary Committee subpoenas in deference to Trump who has claimed executive privilege. Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler slammed their refusal to testify saying, “The President would have us believe that he can willfully engage in criminal activity and prevent witnesses from testifying before Congress — even if they did not actually work for him or his administration.” Nadler added, “If he were to prevail in this cover-up while the Judiciary Committee is considering whether to recommend articles of impeachment, he would upend the separation of powers as envisioned by our founders.”
The Manhattan District Attorney has subpoenaed 8 years of Trump’s state and federal personal and corporate tax returns from the accounting firm Mazars USA. The DA’s office is investigating whether the Trump organization or Trump family members broke any New York state laws in making hush money payments to Stormy Daniels, the woman Trump allegedly had an affair with. The Justice Department, which under Trump appears to be highly partisan, decided not to pursue charges in the matter. Mazars USA has so far responded saying it, “will respect the legal process and fully comply with its legal obligations.”
President Trump made a major campaign rally speech in New Mexico where he attempted to woo Latino voters in a bizarre series of sentences. Trump heads to California from New Mexico where he plans to spend two days traveling to San Diego, Los Angeles, and the Bay area. Trump has rarely visited California, a state where he remains deeply unpopular and has frequently targeted. There are reports he is likely to face protests during his visit. In recent weeks, the White House has made claims to want to take on the crisis of homelessness in the state. The White House Council of Economic Advisers released a report on Monday called The State of Homelessness in America in which it mentioned a role for police and Trump’s strong support for law enforcement but did not elaborate on what police would do about homelessness.
In the latest on allegations of sex abuse against Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh, the New York Times, which broke the story of new allegations, said that Senator Chris Coons last year alerted the FBI about new accusations against Kavanaugh. However the FBI failed to follow up in its investigation ahead of the Senate confirmation hearing. Meanwhile the paper itself has come under fire for some errors and miscalculations in its reporting. In news of another sexual predator, a judge has just ruled against Jeffery Epstein’s victims in a case attempting to undo a Florida settlement from 2007 and pay restitution to Epstein’s victims. Meanwhile a massive new study on rape in the US has found that 1 in 16 women have experienced rape as their very first sexual encounter. The average age for forced sexual encounters was 15. The study also found that such experiences can have lasting mental and physical health repercussions.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that according to data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Walmart has engaged in discriminatory treatment of hundreds of its women workers. According to the paper the retail giant, “likely discriminated against 178 female workers by paying less or denying promotions because of their gender.” The women are spread out over 30 states. Walmart is the nation’s largest employer, with 1.5 million workers.
In news around the air strikes on Saudi Arabia’s oil fields, the US intelligence community has yet to offer clear evidence that Iran was behind the attacks. So far what is known is that unmanned drones as well as cruise missiles were part of the attack that took out nearly half of Saudi oil production but although US officials are claiming Iran was behind it, there has been no evidence made public beyond a set of satellite photos. If indeed Yemen’s Houthi rebels were behind the attacks – as they say they were – this would be beyond their past capabilities. Iran’s leadership has said it will not engage in direct talks with the US, unless the US wanted to resume nuclear talks. Meanwhile Trump said on Monday, “I’m not looking to get into new conflict, but sometimes you have to.” President Trump has also been slamming news media for reporting that earlier this year he said publicly that he would like to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani without pre-conditions. He had tweeted, “The Fake News is saying that I am willing to meet with Iran, “No Conditions.” That is an incorrect statement (as usual!).” But in June in an interview with NBC Trump said the opposite.
Meanwhile Congresswoman Ilhan Omar said in a CNN interview that Trump should not be trusted with intelligence on Iran. Meanwhile her colleague Alexandria Ocasio Cortez made waves this week for backing a Democratic challenger named Marie Newman against incumbent Daniel Lipinski of Illinois. Ocasio-Cortez was herself a challenger to an incumbent when she won her primary last year.
In immigration news, so-called “tent courts” have begun operating in Texas where immigration judges are beaming in via video stream in tents to hand down judgment on dozens of cases a day that will determine the status of migrants. The Los Angeles Times reported that, “Of 52 asylum seekers scheduled to appear in the Laredo tent court Monday, only half showed up, just four with attorneys, which are not provided in immigration court.”
In international news, a blast in Afghanistan at a campaign rally for President Ashraf Ghani killed 26 people. The Taliban has taken responsibility for the attack in the central province of Parwan. President Ghani is unhurt. In the capital Kabul a suicide bomber killed dozens more including women and children.
The United Nations has just issued a report on Myanmar saying that the 600,000 remaining Rohingya Muslims in the country face a, “serious risk of genocide.” The UN’s fact finding mission has also recommended charging some of Myanmar’s top generals for murder, gang rapes, and arson.
And finally pioneering journalist Cokie Roberts has died at the age of 75. The reporter broke barriers reporting on Washington DC politics for NPR for decades before leaving for ABC. She died of complications from breast cancer.