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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines, or for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. We produce our daily news hour at a fraction of the budget of a commercial news operation, all without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting? This is only possible with your support. Right now every donation to Democracy Now! will be doubled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $25 today, Democracy Now! will get $50 to support our daily news hour. Please do your part. It takes just a couple of minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you and everybody else in the coming year. Thanks so much. -Amy Goodman
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In election news, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign appears to be in turmoil, with widening divisions both inside the Trump campaign, and between Trump and Republican Party leaders. On Tuesday, Trump’s running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, endorsed House Speaker Paul Ryan in his Wisconsin congressional race, after Trump refused to endorse Ryan earlier this week. Instead, Trump has praised Ryan’s opponent in the race, saying he was “running a very good campaign.” Ryan’s opponent, Paul Nehlen, has defended Trump’s attack on Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of a U.S. Army captain who died serving in Iraq in 2004. Ryan, however, publicly distanced himself from Trump over the comments.
Trump’s refusal to endorse Ryan comes amid reports Trump’s campaign staff are beginning to panic. On Monday, Trump’s campaign announced the firing of two senior advisers, including longtime GOP strategist Ed Brookover, who had been Trump’s liaison to the Republican National Committee. Then, on Wednesday, a Trump campaign staffer told CNBC Trump’s staff were “suicidal” and that campaign manager Paul Manafort was unable to control Trump and was “mailing it in.” This comes as a number of top Republicans have said in recent days they would support Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton. On Wednesday, Newt Gingrich—who until two weeks ago was considered a possible running mate for Trump—criticized Trump.
Newt Gingrich: “Trump is still behaving like as though it was the primaries and there were 17 candidates. He has not made the transition to being the potential president of the United States, which is a much tougher league. People are going to watch you every single day. They’re going to take everything they can out of context. And he is not yet performing at the level that you need to.”
Later, Newt Gingrich walked back his comments, saying he’s behind Trump 100 percent. At a campaign rally in Florida yesterday, Trump sought to assure voters his campaign is fine.
Donald Trump: “I would say right now it’s the best in terms of being united that it’s been since we began. We’re doing incredibly well. We’re leading in the state of Florida. You saw the poll. We’re leading in Ohio. We’re about tied in Pennsylvania, but I think we’re going to be leading the next time. So I think we—I think we’ve never been this united. And I just want to thank everybody for being here. This is incredible.”
And as Hillary Clinton campaigned on Wednesday, she used a visit to a Colorado tie factory to chastise Donald Trump for manufacturing ties in China. Clinton said, “If he wants to make America great again, he should start by making things in America—and there’s a lot he could learn by coming here.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s grasp of foreign policy has come up repeatedly as a potential issue if he were elected president. On MSNBC on Tuesday, host Joe Scarborough made this troubling claim about Trump.
Joe Scarborough: “Several months ago, a foreign policy expert, on the international level, went to advise Donald Trump, and three times he asked about the use of nuclear weapons. Three times, he asked, at one point, 'If we have them, why can't we use them?’”
The Green Party presidential convention begins today in Houston, Texas. The agenda includes workshops on abolishing constitutional rights for corporations and how to run for public office. Presumptive Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein will be there with her running mate, human rights activist Ajamu Baraka.
In more election news, progressive candidate Pramila Jayapal has won a congressional primary in Washington state with 38 percent of the vote. Jayapal was one of the first candidates to receive an endorsement from Bernie Sanders. Jayapal has championed initiatives that include expanding Social Security benefits, debt-free college and a $15 minimum wage. Her win follows other congressional primary victories for progressives, including Zephyr Teachout in New York and Jamie Raskin in Maryland. Meanwhile, in a congressional primary in Kansas on Tuesday, tea party Congressmember Tim Huelskamp lost in a landslide to John Marshall, a political novice. Congressmember Huelskamp was a part of the right-wing Freedom Caucus, which battled repeatedly with former House Speaker John Boehner. A widely circulated photo showed Boehner toasting Huelskamp’s defeat.
The Obama administration said on Wednesday that $400 million in cash paid to Iran the same day as the release of Americans detained there was not a ransom, as some Republicans have charged. The five prisoners, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, were released in January. The White House had announced before the prisoners’ release that it would send Iran $400 million in funds as part of the landmark nuclear deal. The money has been owed to Iran since the 1970s, when the U.S. refused to give them weapons Iran had already paid for, following the Iranian revolution. But the timing of the transfer was only first reported in The Wall Street Journal this week, fueling allegations it was linked to the release of the prisoners.
Civil rights groups, the Justice Department and the state of Texas have reached an agreement over the state’s voter ID laws. A federal court ruling last month ordered the law be changed, after finding it discriminated against African-American and Latino voters. Texas residents will now be allowed to cast ballots in November’s election even if they have none of the seven identifying documents that the law had required. This comes less than a week after courts nullified a similar voter ID law in North Carolina and ordered Wisconsin to expand its list of valid ID cards and do away with other voting restrictions.
The Supreme Court has blocked a court order requiring a Virginia school district to accommodate a transgender student’s request to use the male restroom. A Virginia appeals court ruled in favor of high school student Gavin Grimm in April, saying that the federal law Title IX protects the rights of students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. But on Wednesday, the Supreme Court blocked this ruling, saying it wanted to “preserve the status quo,” until the court decides whether to hear Grimm’s challenge to the school board. Wednesday’s announcement marks the first time the Supreme Court has become involved with the issue of transgender bathroom rights.
A federal judge has ordered a coroner’s office not to publicly release an autopsy report on the death of Alton Sterling, the African-American man shot and killed by police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Beau Clark said it is the first time in his three years as coroner that a court order has sealed one of his office’s reports. Sterling’s death sparked nationwide protests against police brutality.
Meanwhile, in Maryland, new details have emerged in the police shooting of an African-American woman after an armed standoff. Police say they shot and killed Korryn Gaines Monday after she pointed a rifle at them. Her five-year-old son was in the apartment with her and was injured by gunfire. Police initially said they entered Korryn Gaines’s apartment with a key obtained from her landlord. But court documents say police kicked down the door. Police were at Gaines’s apartment to execute an arrest warrant related to a traffic violation. Police have not said who fired the shot that injured Gaines’ son.
Turning to North Korea, the government launched a ballistic missile on Wednesday that crashed into the ocean near Japan. It is the latest in a series of test launches by North Korea and comes as a decision by the U.S. to place an anti-missile system in South Korea has raised tensions in the region.
In South Korea, daily protests against the deployment the U.S.’s THAAD missile system continued into their second week today. Residents of Seongju County, southeast of Seoul, have held daily demonstrations since their area was announced as the location for a missile base. The South Korean government says it needs the missiles to counter threats from North Korea, but not all South Koreans agree. This is South Korean National Assemblymember Kim Han Jung.
Kim Han Jung: “The motivation of the Seongju residents’ fight is not only about protecting their own interests, and they are not fighting alone. They fight for peace in the Korean Peninsula, for the good of their homeland.”
Filipino police, military and vigilantes have killed more than 400 people in a crackdown against drug crime since President Rodrigo Duterte took office a month ago. Human rights groups say many of those killed have been summarily shot or had nothing to do with the drug trade. More than 100,000 people have turned themselves in to police for drug offenses to avoid the prospect of a violent arrest. Prior to his election, Duterte admitted to his role in death squads, joked about the gang rape of an Australian missionary and pledged to kill tens of thousands of people.
President Obama commuted the sentences of 214 federal prisoners on Wednesday. The White House says it is the largest number of prisoners granted clemency on a single day in at least the last 100 years. Almost all of those released had been convicted of nonviolent drug crimes. To date, Obama has commuted the sentences of 562 federal prisoners, more than the previous nine presidents combined.
And Missouri’s lead public defender has ordered Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to represent a poor defendant in court later this month, in efforts to protest Nixon’s refusal to sufficiently fund the Public Defender’s Office. Public defender Michael Barrett says he is using a state law that allows him to delegate a client’s legal representation to any lawyer in Missouri. Governor Nixon is a lawyer. Barrett said Nixon has declined to give the public defender system the money it requests. Nixon is also withholding promised funding increases this year.