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On Capitol Hill, the Senate could vote as early as today on a Republican tax plan that would shower billions of dollars in tax cuts on the richest Americans and corporations—but their effort hit a snafu when the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation said the bill would add $1 trillion to federal budget deficits over the next decade. Its report directly contradicted claims made by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who’s repeatedly claimed the tax cuts would pay for themselves by stimulating the economy. Mnuchin had promised to release a Treasury Department analysis backing his claims, but he has yet to release any data, and Treasury officials at the Office of Tax Policy told The New York Times they haven’t been tasked with researching the bill’s impacts. On Thursday, the tax plan got a major boost when Arizona Republican Senator John McCain said he’d vote in favor of the bill. Critics say the tax cuts could trigger billions of dollars in cuts to Medicare, including cutting off access to chemotherapy and other cancer treatments. Senator McCain’s support for the bill came a day after his doctors said they’d discovered a second tumor in his brain. Meanwhile, a little-known provision within the Republican tax bill would open one of the world’s last pristine wildernesses—the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—to oil and fracked gas drilling. We’ll have more on that provision later in the broadcast.
The White House on Thursday denied reports that Chief of Staff John Kelly has developed a plan to push Secretary of State Rex Tillerson out of his role and replace him with CIA director Mike Pompeo. According to The New York Times, President Trump would then pick Cotton—that’s Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas—to replace Pompeo at the CIA. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied the reports but refused to say whether Trump has confidence in Tillerson. At the White House, Trump did little to quell speculation over Tillerson’s future after briefly answering reporters’ questions during a photo op with Bahrain’s crown prince.
Reporter: “Do you want Rex Tillerson on the job, Mr. President?”
President Donald Trump: “He’s here. Rex is here.”
Reporter: “He’s here. Do you want him to stay in his job?”
President Donald Trump: “Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.”
More than 100 senior Foreign Service officers have left the State Department since President Trump took office, in what appears to be a forced exodus carried out by Secretary of State Tillerson. We’ll have more on the chaos at the State Department after headlines with national security reporter Marcy Wheeler.
A top congressional Democrat said Thursday that Senator Al Franken should resign, after two more women accused Franken of unwanted sexual contact. In one of the new allegations, Army veteran Stephanie Kemplin says Franken cupped her breast at a USO event in 2003 as the pair posed for a photo, refusing to let go. The allegation came two weeks after radio broadcaster Leeann Tweeden posted a photo showing Franken appearing to place his hands on her breasts over her Kevlar vest while she was sleeping on a plane in 2006 as they were both coming back from a USO tour. On Thursday, Congressmember Joe Crowley of New York, the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, said Franken should leave the Senate.
Meanwhile, in Detroit, Michigan, Democratic Congressmember John Conyers has been hospitalized in what aides called a “stress-related” illness brought on by multiple accusations he sexually harassed or groped women—charges he denies. On Thursday, House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Conyers should resign.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi: “The brave women who came forward are owed justice. I pray for Congressman Conyers and his family and wish them well. However, Congressman Conyers should resign.”
On Thursday, the woman who settled a sexual misconduct case against Conyers spoke publicly for the first time about her ordeal. Marion Brown said Conyers invited her to a Chicago hotel room in 2005, where he appeared in his underwear and demanded she touch him sexually. She says she was fired when she refused. Speaking on the NBC’s “Today” show, Brown acknowledged she broke a confidentiality agreement to come forward.
Marion Brown: “I am taking a risk. And the reason why I’m taking a risk, it is important. I want to be a voice. You know, my ancestors, my grandmother, my mother, my daughters, my granddaughter—you know, I want her, when she enters the workforce, long [after] when I’m gone, I want her to not have to endure sexism and gender inequality. And I want to stand up, and I felt it was worth the risk to stand up, for all the women in the workforce that are voiceless, you know, that ordinary women like myself, with extraordinary challenges, working in the workforce that are dominated by men.”
Marion Brown was speaking with “Today” host Savannah Guthrie.
In the last 14 months, the “Today” show has fired two of its male anchors over sexual misconduct. In October 2016, NBC fired Billy Bush after he was heard in a 2005 tape laughing and egging on Donald Trump as Trump boasted about sexually assaulting women. And on Tuesday, NBC fired longtime “Today” host Matt Lauer over multiple accusations of sexual harassment and assault. On Thursday, Lauer offered a qualified apology, saying, “There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have caused others by words and actions. … Some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed.” The New York Times reports one former NBC employee was summoned by Lauer to his office in 2001, where Lauer allegedly locked the door and sexually assaulted her until she passed out.
Music mogul Russell Simmons stepped down from his companies Thursday after a second woman charged he had sexually assaulted her. Screenwriter Jenny Lumet says Simmons forced her into his apartment in 1991 and raped her.
Meanwhile, the Gloucester Stage Company has severed ties with playwright Israel Horovitz, after The New York Times reported at least nine women have accused him of sexual harassment, assault or rape. Israel Horovitz is the father of Beastie Boys co-founder Adam Horovitz, who told The New York Times, “I believe the allegations against my father are true, and I stand behind the women that made them.”
In Honduras, at least one protester was killed and scores injured as police fired tear gas and charged demonstrators outside the country’s electoral commission in the capital, Tegucigalpa. The protests came as the commission continued its delay in declaring a winner in Sunday’s election, after early returns showed progressive candidate Salvador Nasralla with a significant lead. On Thursday, the commission said U.S.-backed incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernández had edged ahead of Nasralla with over 90 percent of votes counted—prompting Nasralla and his supporters to accuse the electoral commission of vote-rigging.
The Pentagon said Thursday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria have killed at least 800 civilians since the launch of a war against ISIS in 2014. The military’s figure is vastly lower than estimates from human rights observers, including Amnesty International. The journalistic monitoring group Airwars says it has documented at least 5,961 civilians killed in Iraq and Syria by U.S.-led coalition attacks aimed at ISIS.
In Pakistan, at least nine people were killed today after gunmen disguised as women in burqas stormed an agricultural college in the northern city of Peshawar, opening fire on students and workers. The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack, which also left 36 people injured.
In Yemen, tens of thousands of people rallied in the capital Sana’a Thursday, calling for an end to the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led bombing campaign and blockade. The protest came as the aid group Save the Children said at least 130 children are dying each day from extreme hunger and disease brought on by the war.
Back in the United States, an undocumented immigrant at the center of a high-profile murder trial used by President Trump to attack “sanctuary cities” has been acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges. Jose Ines Garcia Zarate was charged in the July 2015 killing of Kate Steinle on a San Francisco pier. He was in the United States after he had been deported to Mexico five times since first entering the U.S. as a juvenile. His attorneys argued he found the gun and it accidentally discharged, with the bullet ricocheting off the ground before striking Steinle. President Trump reacted on Twitter, calling the verdict “disgraceful.”
In Arizona, a Border Patrol agent shot and killed an undocumented migrant in a remote mountainous region on the Tohono O’odham Nation on Wednesday. The shooting occurred about 20 miles away from the U.S.-Mexico border. The chief of the U.S. Border Patrol’s Tucson sector is claiming, without evidence, that the shooting occurred after the man grabbed the gun of one of the agents. Migrant justice groups are demanding the killing be investigated.
And in the Philippines capital Manila, police opened fire with water cannons on more than 1,000 activists Thursday as they marched to the presidential palace demanding the resignation of President Rodrigo Duterte. The activists blasted Duterte for welcoming President Trump to the Philippines last month, saying he’s presided over a bloody so-called war on drugs that’s seen police and vigilantes carry out more than 7,000 extrajudicial killings. This is protester Vencer Crisostomo.
Vencer Crisostomo: “We will not allow Duterte to install himself as a dictator. We have had dictators before, and they were ousted.”