Headlines: September 19, 2019
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A member of the US intelligence community was so troubled by President Donald Trump’s promise to a foreign leader that they became a whistleblower and filed a complaint with their agency’s inspector general. Two former US officials spoke to the Washington Post about the matter. So far it is not known which foreign leader Trump allegedly made a promise to, and what the content of the pledge was. According to the Washington Post, “Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson determined that the complaint was credible and troubling enough to be considered a matter of ‘urgent concern,’ a legal threshold that requires notification of congressional oversight committees.” Meanwhile Mr. Atkinson, in a closed-door briefing to lawmakers on Thursday refused to give any details about the complaint according to anonymous sources speaking to the New York Times. Additionally, “The acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, has refused to give the complaint to Congress, as is generally required by law, the latest in a series of fights over information between the Democratic-led House and the White House.”
Meanwhile President Trump continued his multi-day trip to California with a visit to the southern border in Otay Mesa, San Diego where he engaged in what amounted to an election campaign style photo-op at the border barrier while the Coast Guard conducted a flyover. Meanwhile news emerged late Wednesday that the Interior Department was transferring 560 acres of federal land to the US Army in order to continue building Trump’s border wall. Trump also visited San Francisco during his California trip and issued a bizarre threat to city officials saying that the federal Environmental Protection Agency would be charging them with violations. Trump has been slamming liberal Democrat-run cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles for the crisis of homelessness while his administration cuts housing assistance. In other news, Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders released an ambitious 10-year plan to ensure “Housing for all.”
The Defense Department released a letter to the House Oversight committee this week detailing the military’s expenses at President Trump’s golf resort in Turnberry, Scotland. So far up to $184,000 worth of taxpayers money is estimated to have been spent directly on service members lodging at the President’s resort. The revelation offers new fodder for accusations that the President has violated the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause. A GOP group called Republicans for the Rule of Law has released an ad slamming Vice President Mike Pence for downplaying Trump’s financial conflicts of interest. Pence and his staff went out of their way to stay at Trump’s Ireland resort recently while meeting Irish officials. The ad features a clip of Pence accusing Hillary Clinton some years ago of engaging in the same thing Trump has been proven to do. And, an analysis by the Guardian and Sludge has found that 51 US Senators are invested in corporate stocks, many of which are from companies they are charged with overseeing.
Eugene Scalia, the son of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, is testifying this week to Senators for the job of Labor Department Secretary. Democrats grilled Scalia for being too close to corporate interests. Here is Senator Patty Murray. According to AP, “Scalia’s nomination is opposed by the AFL-CIO, which has described him as a union-busting lawyer who has eroded labor rights and consumer protections.” Lawmakers also questioned the Labor Secretary nominee Eugene Scalia about a 1985 article he had written questioning the rights of LGBTQ people to equal treatment.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has just announced a new proposal to lower prescription drug prices using the bargaining power of Medicare to negotiate down hundreds of drug costs to consumers. She addressed the proposal during her weekly press conference. Republicans predictably denounced the idea as “socialism.”
The Democratic staff of the US Congress Joint Economic Committee has just released a comprehensive new report on the human and economic cost of gun violence in America. The report’s findings are deeply sobering especially the statistic that, “In 2017, for the first time, the rate of firearm deaths exceeded the death rate by motor vehicle accidents. That year, nearly 40,000 people were killed in the United States by a gun, including approximately 2,500 school-age children.” The vast majority of gun-related deaths are suicides. A day earlier the group Sandy Hook Promise, run by the parents of children killed in the Sandy Hook elementary school, released a harrowing ad called Back To School. In other news the Los Angeles Times published an analysis of homicides in the city and found that while the murder rate overall has dropped over ten years, women were being killed at an astonishing rate – mostly by their intimate partners, and often using guns. The homicide rate for men dropped sharply.
And now for some good news – the state of New Mexico has announced an ambitious free college plan for all its residents attending state universities and colleges. Regardless of the family income, New Mexico residents will be able to attend any of the 2 or 4 year higher education institutions for free. The state legislature still has to approve the bill that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has announced and is expected to sign.
On US foreign policy, the Trump administration is meeting with national security officials to finalize a list of military targets in Iran if President Trump were to authorize a war over claims that Iran struck Saudi Arabia’s oil fields. Trump has sent mixed signals, showing hesitation to go to war, but readying all options. His Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier used more provocative language saying that Iran had committed, “an act of war.” Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif responded saying the US would spark, “an all-out war” if it struck Iran.
Israel’s election results show that the centrist Blue and White Party led by Benny Gantz has won two more seats in the Knesset than Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party. But Netanyahu, who has become Israel’s longest serving Prime Minister, wants the two parties to unite in a coalition – under his leadership, not Gantz’s.