Senate Republicans have passed a sweeping rewrite of the U.S. tax code that will dramatically impact not only household income, but also healthcare, domestic spending and even oil and gas drilling. The plan would slash taxes by nearly $1.5 trillion, with most of the cuts benefiting major corporations and the richest Americans, including President Trump’s own family. The bill passed the Senate in the early morning hours of Saturday on a vote of 51 to 49, with every Democrat voting against the bill and all Republicans voting for it except for Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. Democrats blasted Republican leaders for only making the final text of the nearly 500-page bill available a few hours before the vote. The final draft had handwritten notes scribbled in the margin. Among those condemning the bill was Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “The legislation passed last night gives incredibly large tax breaks to the very, very wealthy. It raises taxes on millions of middle-class families. It leaves 13 million more Americans without health insurance. It raises health insurance premiums by 10 percent a year. And it raises the deficit by $1.4 trillion.”
The bill would also roll back the estate tax on inherited wealth—which currently applies to about 5,000 of the wealthiest U.S. families. According to a report in Public Citizen, more than half of all registered lobbyists in Washington, D.C., worked on the tax bill. Republican leaders are preparing to form a conference committee to hash out differences between bills passed by the House and Senate. We’ll have more on Saturday’s historic tax bill after headlines, with Minnesota Democratic Congressmember Keith Ellison.
President Trump’s former national security adviser, General Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty Friday to a single felony count of lying to the FBI about conversations he had last December with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. Flynn’s plea came as part of a deal that will see him cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and could see Flynn testify against President Trump and members of his inner circle. The deal also raises the prospect that Flynn may have worn a wire for the FBI or otherwise secretly recorded conversations with administration officials. Documents handed to investigators as part of the plea deal show Flynn was ordered to speak with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak by a “very senior” member of the presidential transition team—cited by many news outlets as Jared Kushner, President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law. Kushner reportedly ordered Flynn to work with Russian officials to delay a U.N. Security Council vote on a resolution condemning illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. On Saturday, President Trump reacted to the news as he prepared to leave the White House for fundraisers in New York.
President Donald Trump: “What has been shown is no collusion. No collusion. There’s been absolutely—there’s been absolutely no collusion. So, we’re very happy. And frankly, last night was one of the big nights.”
Over the weekend, Trump lashed out against the Russia investigation in a series of tweets, writing that the FBI’s reputation is “in tatters,” and repeating his claim that former FBI Director James Comey lied when he testified that Trump asked him to call off the bureau’s investigation into Michael Flynn. In another tweet, Trump wrote, “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI.” Legal scholars say the tweet could be used to prove that President Trump committed obstruction of justice when he fired Comey as FBI director. On Saturday, Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, claimed he was the one who drafted the tweet, saying he had made a mistake.
In Honduras, thousands of protesters poured into the streets Sunday to denounce alleged election fraud and to support opposition presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla.
Maria Martinez: “Here we have the people defending our sovereignty, defending our vote, defending the rights of the people. If we do not defend our rights, then there will be no one here to defend us.”
At least three people were killed as Honduran security forces opened fire on the protests. Among the victims is 19-year-old Kimberly Fonseca, who was shot in the head as soldiers opened fire on a blockade erected in the capital, Tegucigalpa, on Friday night. The protesters charge the country’s electoral commission—which is controlled by U.S.-backed incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernández—with rigging the vote count and delaying its announcement of the outcome of the November 26th election. We’ll have more on the crisis in Honduras later in the broadcast.
In Yemen, there are conflicting accounts about the fate of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, with Iranian media reporting he was killed by Houthi rebels after an assault that blew up his residence in the capital Sana’a. Saleh’s office in Yemen is denying the reports, which came as Houthi rebels fought pitched battles with Saleh-aligned forces in the streets. The rebels had been in an uneasy alliance with Saleh’s fighters until Saleh threw his support to the Saudi-led coalition on Saturday, effectively switching sides. Meanwhile, an airstrike by the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition killed at least 12 people in the city of Saada on Sunday. This is Megahed Gassar, who was badly wounded in the bombing.
Megahed Gassar: “They targeted my house while there were 18 to 20 guests. The whole family was inside, as well as all our cattle. Everything is gone. There’s nothing left.”
On Saturday, top U.N. officials called on the Saudi-led coalition to lift its blockade of Yemen’s Red Sea ports, warning “the threat of widespread famine in a matter of months is very real.”
In Syria, warplanes struck residences in the rebel-held city of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus over the weekend, killing 27 civilians and injuring dozens more. Video posted by the White Helmets civil defense group appears to show the workers pulling bodies from buildings reduced to rubble, with children among the injured and dead.
In Israel, tens of thousands of people marched through Tel Aviv Saturday, calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to step down and for an end to government corruption. A bill expected to be approved by the Israeli Knesset next week would bar police from publishing findings in two investigations into Netanyahu, who’s facing possible criminal charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Netanyahu has been accused of trading political favors for luxury gifts, including cigars and champagne, and other crimes.
President Trump is expected to decide today whether the U.S. will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city—and whether the the U.S. will move its embassy there from Tel Aviv. Trump’s planned announcement comes after senior adviser Jared Kushner told the Saban Forum in Washington, D.C., that Trump had not yet made a decision. Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since 1967, and Palestinian leaders have condemned any plans by the U.S. to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
In Malta, police have arrested at least eight people in connection with the assassination of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who died in October when a powerful bomb planted in her car exploded near her home. Police will have 48 hours to question the suspects before either charging or releasing them. Galizia was known for her work exposing corruption, tax evasion and organized crime.
Back in the United States, more than 5,000 people rallied at Utah’s state Capitol in Salt Lake City Saturday, protesting President Trump’s plan to open up protected federal lands to mining, logging, drilling and other forms of extraction. Trump is scheduled to visit Utah today, where he’s expected to announce he’s shrinking the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. On Sunday, over 100 protesters dressed in white lay on the lawn of the Utah Capitol building and spelled out the words Go Home Trump with their bodies.
Former “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush has responded to reports that President Trump is denying the veracity of a 2005 videotape in which Trump boasts about sexually assaulting women. In a New York Times op-ed published Sunday, Bush writes, “President Trump is currently indulging in some revisionist history, reportedly telling allies, including at least one United States senator, that the voice on the tape is not his. This has hit a raw nerve in me.” Bush writes that he believes the stories of Natasha Stoynoff, Rachel Crooks, Jessica Leeds and Jill Harth, who say Trump kissed them without consent, as well as Kristin Anderson’s account that Trump groped her genitals at a New York nightclub in the 1990s.
In California, former Republican governor and Hollywood star Arnold Schwarzenegger canceled a planned appearance at an awards dinner for California Common Cause Friday, amid renewed protests over his history of sexual harassment allegations. In 2003, the L.A. Times reported that six women accused Schwarzenegger of groping, harassing or humiliating them on movie sets or in other settings over a more than 20-year period.
New York City’s Metropolitan Opera has suspended longtime conductor James Levine over multiple sexual abuse claims. At least three men have accused Levine of abusing them decades ago when they were teenagers.
Walmart has stopped selling a T-shirt that advocates for the lynching of journalists. The shirt, which was available in Walmart’s online store, read, “Rope. Tree. Journalist. SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED.” The T-shirt made headlines last year when a Reuters photographer captured images of a man wearing it at a Donald Trump campaign rally in Minnesota two days before the election.
Drugstore chain CVS said Sunday it will purchase health insurer Aetna, in a $69 billion mega-merger that could shake up the healthcare system. Analysts say the deal is likely to set off even more mergers in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries.
And Australia’s Parliament is putting the finishing touches on a marriage equality bill, after a sizable majority of Australians voted in favor of ending heterosexual-only marriage in a public referendum last month. As debate opened in Australia’s House of Representatives today, Member of Parliament Tim Wilson addressed his partner, Ryan Bolger, who was sitting in the chamber’s gallery.
MP Tim Wilson: “This debate has been the soundtrack to our relationship. We both know this issue isn’t the reason we got involved in politics. Give us tax reform any day. But in my first speech, I defined our bond by the ring that sits on both of our left hands, and that they are the answer to the questions we cannot ask. So there’s only one thing left to do: Ryan Patrick Bolger, will you marry me?”
Ryan Patrick Bolger: “Yes!”