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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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President Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort and his former business associate Rick Gates were told to surrender to authorities Monday morning, after a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., handed down the first indictments in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election. It’s not yet clear what charges the pair face, but Manafort is under investigation over his foreign lobbying efforts. Mueller is also investigating whether Trump associates engaged in money laundering or tax evasion and whether Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey last May constituted obstruction of justice. After news of the indictments broke, President Trump lashed out against Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party, tweeting, “All of this 'Russia' talk right when the Republicans are making their big push for historic Tax Cuts & Reform. Is this coincidental? NOT!”
Meanwhile, The New York Times reports Russia’s government provided a memo to a Russian lawyer ahead of her June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with Trump campaign officials. The meeting, which was attended by Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and others, came after the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton in an attempt to help Trump win the presidency. Veselnitskaya previously said she attended as a private lawyer and was not acting on behalf of the Kremlin. But the Times reports she met with Russia’s prosecutor general ahead of the meeting and that she carried a memo with whole paragraphs written verbatim by the Russian official’s office.
Defense Secretary James Mattis said Saturday the threat of a nuclear attack by North Korea is accelerating, warning the Trump administration is prepared to launch an all-out assault on the nation of 25 million people. Mattis was speaking alongside his South Korean counterpart during a visit to Seoul.
Defense Secretary James Mattis: “Make no mistake: Any attack on the United States or our allies will be defeated. Any use of nuclear weapons by the North will be met with a massive military response, effective and overwhelming.”
Mattis’s threat came as Vice President Mike Pence toured an intercontinental ballistic missile launch site at an Air Force base in Minot, North Dakota, telling airmen that the Trump administration was prepared to launch an attack on North Korea.
Vice President Mike Pence: “The threats we face today mean that, once again, America’s security and our very future depend on the airmen of Minot being ready and being prepared. … History attests the surest path to peace is through American strength. There’s no greater element of American strength, there’s no greater force for peace in the world, than the United States nuclear arsenal.”
Pence’s visit came as the Trump administration seeks to expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal. A draft of the Nuclear Posture Review reviewed by top administration officials last month calls for new “low yield” nuclear warheads, sea-launched nuclear-armed cruise missiles, preparations for possible nuclear weapons tests and an easing of conditions under which the U.S. might launch a nuclear attack.
In Somalia, al-Shabab fighters stormed a hotel in the capital Mogadishu on Saturday, killing at least 29 people and wounding more than 30 others. The attack began as militants set off a truck bomb to blast their way through the fortified entrance to the hotel. Minutes later, the fighters went room to room shooting guests. Witnesses say the men used identity cards from the country’s intelligence service and were dressed in the agency’s uniform. The assault came ahead of a planned meeting at the hotel between Somalia’s president and other top officials. The latest attack came two weeks after a massive bombing in Mogadishu killed at least 358 people and wounded 400 others.
Spain’s government has taken control of Catalonia, stripping the northeastern region of its autonomy in efforts to crush Catalonia’s independence movement. On Friday evening, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced his Cabinet had fired Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and dissolved Catalonia’s Parliament under Article 155 of the Constitution, which has never been used in Spain’s modern democratic history. Rajoy ordered regional elections to be held in December. The announcement came just after Catalonia’s regional Parliament voted for independence by a margin of 70 votes to 10. In Barcelona, Carles Puigdemont denounced Rajoy’s actions, saying the Spanish leader was removing a democratically elected administration. He called for continued peaceful defiance.
Carles Puigdemont: “The best way to defend the achievements reached to date is the democratic opposition to the application of Article 155. … We must do so by preserving ourselves from repression and threats, by doing so without ever abandoning, never, at any time, civic and peaceful conduct.”
On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of pro-unity demonstrators waved Spanish, Catalan and European Union flags on the streets of Barcelona. We’ll have more on the crisis in Catalonia after headlines.
In Puerto Rico, Governor Ricardo Roselló said Sunday he’s ordered the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to cancel its controversial $300 million contract with the tiny Montana-based company Whitefish Energy. The governor’s move came after enormous pressure and scrutiny over the contract to reconstruct Puerto Rico’s electrical power grid devastated by Hurricane Maria. The company Whitefish is based in the tiny hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and the head of the private equity company that backs Whitefish was a Trump campaign donor. Late last week, a leaked copy of the contract sparked even further outrage, after it surfaced that the terms barred penalties for work delays and prohibited the project from being audited. This is Ángel Figueroa Jaramillo, president of Puerto Rico’s public utility union, speaking to Democracy Now!
Ángel Figueroa Jaramillo: “We understand that this decision by the governor is in the face of the major questions that have been raised and the doubts that are circulating as to whether FEMA is going to be able to reimburse the money. And given the possibility that FEMA has distanced itself from reimbursing the money, and given the invoicing of $11 million, the governor is calling for the contract to be canceled. Nonetheless, in this process, he has not called for the resignation of engineer Ricardo Ramos, which is fundamental. He is the one who has defended this contract. He does not talk about continuing to investigate this whole process, and, above all else, does not talk about cooperating in any federal investigation that might be undertaken into the Whitefish contract.”
We conducted that interview on Sunday, after spending the weekend in Puerto Rico, and we’ll have an exclusive report later in the broadcast with an extended interview with the head of the electrical power union.
Two more women have stepped forward with allegations against disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, bringing the total number of women charging sexual harassment and assault to at least 60. Actor Annabella Sciorra told The New Yorker Weinstein forced his way into her apartment in 1992 and raped her. And actor Daryl Hannah says Weinstein repeatedly tried to force his way into her apartment, leading her on one occasion to barricade herself in her room using furniture. The latest revelations came as Rose McGowan told The New York Times she was offered a $1 million hush-money payment if she signed a nondisclosure agreement not to come forward with her charges that Weinstein raped her at the Sundance Film Festival in 1997. McGowan spoke Friday at a women’s conference in Detroit.
Rose McGowan: “I have been silenced for 20 years. I have been slut-shamed. I have been harassed. I’ve been maligned. And you know what? I’m just like you, because what happened to me behind the scenes happens to all of us in this society. And that cannot stand, and it will not stand.”
More women have come forward to accuse George H.W. Bush of sexual assault, bringing the number of his accusers to five. Among them is former Maine Senate candidate Amanda Staples, who said on Instagram that Bush groped her in 2005 as she posed for a photo with the former president.
Meanwhile, the White House confirmed Friday that its official position is that all 16 women who have accused President Trump of sexual misconduct are lying. This is White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, being questioned by CBS’s Jacqueline Alemany.
Jacqueline Alemany: “At least 16 women accused the president of sexually harassing them throughout the course of the campaign. Last week, during a press conference in the Rose Garden, the president called these accusations 'fake news.' Is the official White House position that all of these women are lying?”
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “Yeah, we’ve been clear on that from the beginning, and the president has spoken on it.”
A newly declassified document shows the CIA considered a plan in the early 1960s to plant bombs in Miami, slaughter Cuban refugees and assassinate Cuban exiles—all in a bid to turn world opinion against Cuban leader Fidel Castro. The document was one of nearly 3,000 files related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy made public last week. A memo to top military general Maxwell Taylor in April of 1962 describes planning for Operation Mongoose, a covert program aimed at subverting and overthrowing the Cuban revolution. One part of the document reads, “The terror campaign could be pointed at Cuban refugees seeking haven in the United States. We could sink a boatload of Cubans en route to Florida (real or simulated). We could foster attempts on lives of Cuban refugees in the United States … Exploding a few plastic bombs in carefully chosen spots.” Another portion of the memo describes plans to unleash biological and chemical agents on Cuban farms in a bid to cause crop failures.
In New York City, thousands of people marched over the Brooklyn Bridge Saturday, marking the fifth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy and calling for urgent action on climate change. On October 29, 2012, the hurricane blasted New York, New Jersey and parts of New England with a record storm surge as high as 13 feet, ultimately killing 159 people along the East Coast and damaging more than 650,000 homes. The storm caused $70 billion in damage across eight states. Saturday’s marchers called on state and city officials to invest in clean energy while divesting from fossil fuel companies and the banks that finance them.
In sports news, dozens of members of the Houston Texans NFL team took a knee or sat during the playing of the national anthem ahead of a game against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, following disparaging remarks by billionaire team owner Bob McNair. The demonstration came after ESPN reported McNair complained to other team owners about player protests against racial injustice and police brutality during a meeting last week, saying, “We can’t have the inmates running the prison.” McNair later apologized for the comment. Bob McNair is a major supporter of Donald Trump, who helped fund his campaign and gave $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee.
And Dennis Banks, the legendary Anishinaabe leader and Native American activist, has died at the age of 80. In 1968, Banks co-founded the American Indian Movement. A year later, he took part in the occupation of Alcatraz Island in California. In 1972, he assisted in AIM’s “Trail of Broken Treaties,” a caravan of numerous activist groups across the United States to Washington, D.C., to call attention to the plight of Native Americans. That same year, AIM took over the Bureau of Indian Affairs building in Washington, D.C. In early 1973, AIM members took over and occupied Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for 71 days, which some have come to call Wounded Knee II. Speaking with Democracy Now! in 2012, Dennis Banks recounted how he was taken from his family in the 1940s and forced into a boarding school along with thousands of other Native American children.
Dennis Banks: “I was taken to a boarding school when I was four years old, and taken away from my mother and my father, my grandparents, who I stayed with most of the time, and just abruptly taken away and then put into the boarding school, 300 miles away from our home. And, you know, the beatings began immediately, the—almost the de-Indianizing program. It was a terrible experience that the American government was experimenting with. And that was trying to destroy the culture and the person, destroy the Indian-ness in him and save the human being, save the—kill an Indian, save the man.”
Dennis Banks remained politically active throughout his life. Last winter, he joined protests against construction of the Dakota Access pipeline at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. Dennis Banks died Sunday night due to complications from heart surgery. He will be laid to rest in his home community of Leech Lake, Minnesota.