Headlines: September 7, 2018
Listen to story:
Download: mp3 (Duration: 9:14 — 8.5MB)
Friday is Day 4 of the confirmation hearings of Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Political fireworks were set off on Day 3 when Democratic Senator Corey Booker threatened to release documents on Kavanaugh that had been marked confidential and were available only to committee members. Booker then released the documents in two batches, the first of which Republicans said had been deemed public on Thursday morning. But the second batch was considered confidential. Senator Mazie Hirono also released confidential emails while Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer cheered them on via Twitter. A lawyer named William Burck for President George W. Bush has been vetting which documents can be released to committee members and which are withheld.
Another issue that came up during Day 3 of the Kavanaugh hearings was a line of questioning from Senator Patrick Leahy as to whether Kavanaugh had been aware of a secret Bush-era surveillance program after the September 11th attacks. In 2006 Kavanaugh had claimed under oath that he knew nothing about the program but later it emerged that he did know, leading some to suggest that he, “may have a perjury problem.”
More also emerged on Kavanaugh’s views on abortion on Thursday when Republican Senator Ted Cruz asked him about a decision in a 2015 case concerning a group called Priests for Life. According to Huffington Post, “Kavanaugh had sided with the religious organization, which didn’t want to provide employees with insurance coverage for contraceptives.” Not only was it troubling to hear Kavanaugh admitting to opposing contraception coverage but he referred to the drugs as “abortion-inducing drugs.” Here is part of the exchange between Cruz and Kavanaugh. PLAY VIDEO.
That’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Thursday referring to contraception as “abortion inducing drugs,” during his confirmation hearings. According to the Guttmacher Institute, “More than 99% of women aged 15–44 who have ever had sexual intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method,” including the vast majority of American women who identify as Catholic or Christian. Dawn Laguens (La-Gaanz), executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund responded to Kavanaugh’s position saying, “Let me break it down for you, Brett. Birth control is basic health care. Birth control allows women to plan their futures, participate in the economy, and ― for some women with health issues like endometriosis ― allows them to get through the day.”
Kavanaugh was also questioned by Democratic Senator Kamala Harris about his opinion on the landmark case that led to the legalization of same-sex marriage. PLAY VIDEO. That was Brett Kavanaugh on Thursday refusing to say whether he agreed with the Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage. The Human Rights Campaign issued a statement calling his response, “alarming and completely unacceptable.”
Meanwhile an activist working to stop Kavanaugh’s nomination named Ady Barkan, has collected more than $600,000 in political contributions to whoever challenges Maine Senator Susan Collins in 2020 if she votes to confirm Kavanaugh. Senator Collins says she is a moderate pro-choice Republican but voted to confirm the anti-choice Neil Gorsuch last year and has already met with Kavanaugh. The donations to Collins’ future challenger are apparently mostly from her home state of Maine. Later on today’s show we’ll bring you more on the Kavanaugh hearings with Rachel O’Leary Carmona of the Women’s March about the importance of protest at the hearings.
In the latest chapter on the Robert Mueller investigation, Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani has said that the Special Counsel is hardening its position on requiring an interview with the President. Mr. Mueller’s team has been negotiating with the White House over an in-person interview with Trump for a year now and Trump’s lawyers, worried that he will perjure himself, have negotiated written responses to Mueller’s questions. But Mueller apparently had not ruled out a follow-up interview.
The Trump Administration on Friday is announcing a new regulation to place into detention whole families that cross the US border without papers. The regulation would overturn the so-called Flores Settlement, a court agreement dating back to 1997. Despite the overwhelming public outcry over family separation earlier this year Trump’s White House wants to hold parents and their children in detention facilities that are essentially prisons. It was the Flores Settlement that the Trump Administration claimed led to the separation of parents from children because Trump had deemed parents must be imprisoned but children could not be as per Flores. So rather than not imprison anyone for the civil (not criminal) violations of immigration law, Trump now wants to put babies in prison – albeit with their parents. The new regulation also aims to hold families in prisons that have not been formally licensed to hold children. A formal 60-day public comment period begins on Friday while the original plaintiffs in the Flores case have 45 days to legally challenge the regulation.
The states of New York and New Jersey are both investigating systemic child abuse by Catholic priests. Attorneys General Barbara D. Underwood of New York and Gurbir Grewal of New Jersey are publicizing hotlines for members of the public to call in and report allegations of sexual abuse. The moves were prompted by the recent explosive report published by a grand jury in Pennsylvania tasked with investigating Catholic priests’ rampant pedophilia. Illinois has also followed suit in taking on a similar investigation.
Members of a House Subcommittee on the environment said on Thursday that they wanted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to work through its backlog of regulating potentially hazardous chemicals. The subcommittee held a hearing focused on chemical contamination of the nation’s drinking water supply from industrial chemicals known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. The EPA under Trump has come under strong criticism from public advocacy groups for close ties to the chemical industry and for undermining the EPA’s regulatory mandate.
A day after Congressional hearings took place on the role of social media, Twitter announced it was permanently banning Alex Jones after having suspended him for 7 days last month. Jones is a rabid peddler of conspiracy theories and an ardent Trump supporter. The Twitter ban covers Jones as well as his website Infowars. Twitter justified its actions saying, “We took this action based on new reports of Tweets and videos posted yesterday that violate our abusive behavior policy, in addition to the accounts’ past violations.”
In international news, a high level summit is taking place on Friday in the Iranian capital of Tehran between the Presidents of Iran, Turkey, and Russia. The goal of the summit is to discuss the war in Syria with Turkey pushing for a ceasefire in the Idlib province near the Turkish border and Russia advocating for the Syrian government’s right to control the entire nation.
And finally US Defense Secretary James Mattis made a surprise 6-hour visit to Kabul, Afghanistan on Friday to make a commitment to the Afghan government that US troops would remain there. The visit came just days after nearly 2-dozen people were killed and 90 wounded in a suicide bombing. According to AP, “There was no indication either from the Afghan government or the U.S. military command of a change in strategy that might bring about greater security or how the existing strategy might bring about results.”
And that does it for today’s headlines. [PAUSE]. …