Palestinians are protesting in cities across the West Bank and Gaza Strip after President Trump announced Wednesday that he would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and initiate a process of moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Despite his announcement, however, President Trump—like past U.S. presidents—signed a waiver that keeps the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. This waiver has been signed by U.S. presidents every six months since 1995.
Control of Jerusalem is one of the most contested issues between Israelis and Palestinians. The Israeli military seized control of East Jerusalem in 1967 and has occupied the territory ever since. Palestinians, however, have long seen East Jerusalem as the capital of their future country. Since 1967, the U.N. Security Council and U.N. General Assembly have passed dozens of resolutions calling for Israel to end its occupation of East Jerusalem.
Currently 86 nations have their embassies in Tel Aviv. No country has an embassy in Jerusalem.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Trump’s announcement meant the United States had abdicated its role as mediator in the Middle East peace process. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said, “President Trump just destroyed any policy of a two-state solution.” This is Erekat speaking Tuesday.
Saeb Erekat: “This step is prejudging, dictating, closing doors for negotiations. And I think President Trump tonight disqualified the United States of America to play any role in any peace process. I think tonight he is strengthening the forces of extremists in this region as no one has done before. This is an act, a statement, that’s totally uncalled for, totally unacceptable. Jerusalem, East Jerusalem, is occupied territories. No country on Earth have recognized Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, except for President Trump tonight.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—alone among world leaders—said Trump’s move was an “important step toward peace.”
Palestinian groups have declared three days of rage. Today, at a checkpoint near Ramallah, Israeli forces fired dozens of rounds of tear gas and stun grenades at hundreds of Palestinian protesters. Protests were also reported in cities across the Palestinian territories. We’ll go to Jerusalem after headlines.
On Capitol Hill, the House of Representatives voted Wednesday to further deregulate gun laws in the United States, despite a recent string of high-profile mass shootings, including at a church, an elementary school and a country music concert. The legislation, known as the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, would allow people with concealed-carry licenses in one state to carry the concealed handgun across state lines. The measure was heavily backed by the NRA, the National Rifle Association. Critics of the measure say it encroaches on states’ abilities to implement their own gun safety laws.
The legislation also calls for not a ban but a study of so-called bump stocks, which allow semi-automatic rifles to act like machine guns, capable of firing hundreds of rounds per minute. In October, suspected shooter Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old white man, killed 59 people, including himself, and injured nearly 500 people during a mass shooting in Las Vegas. Authorities say Paddock had at least 12 bump stocks.
The House voted not to impeach President Trump on Wednesday. The vote failed 364 to 58, with all Republicans voting against the measure. The Democratic leadership also came out against the impeachment vote. The measure was introduced by Democratic Congressmember Al Green of Texas, who said on the House Floor, “Donald John Trump, by causing such harm to the society of the United States, is unfit to be president and warrants impeachment, trial and removal from office.”
At least 35 Senate Democrats, led by Senate women, are now calling for Minnesota Democratic Senator Al Franken’s resignation, amid an increasing number of sexual harassment accusations. Senator Franken is slated to speak today. More than a half-dozen women have now accused Franken of touching them without their consent, including a former congressional aide who on Wednesday said Franken had tried to forcibly kiss her back in 2006, before Franken became a senator. This is New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, speaking Wednesday.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: “Enough is enough. I mean, this is a conversation we’ve been having for a very long time, and it’s a conversation that this country needs to have. And I think when we start having to talk about the differences between sexual assault and sexual harassment and unwanted groping, you are having the wrong conversation. We need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is OK, none of it is acceptable.”
Meanwhile, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi is also calling on Nevada Democratic congressmember Rubén Kihuen to resign, following a report that he repeatedly sexually harassed his former campaign finance director during his 2016 congressional campaign.
Only one day after Michigan Democratic Congressmember John Conyers resigned in the wake of sexual harassment accusations, his son, whom Conyers endorsed to take his seat, is now also facing questions about gender violence. John Conyers III was arrested on suspicions of domestic violence in February after an argument with his girlfriend in which she suffered knife cuts. He was not prosecuted, and he says it was his girlfriend who pulled the knife on him. She still has a restraining order out against him. And New York Public Radio has put hosts Leonard Lopate and Jonathan Schwartz on leave amid investigations into allegations of sexual harassment.
President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., testified to the House Intelligence Committee Wednesday, where he refused to answer lawmakers’ questions about his conversation with his father about released emails detailing Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer and other Trump associates in June 2016. Instead of answering, Trump Jr. invoked attorney-client privilege, even though neither he nor his father are lawyers. Meanwhile, a whistleblower has told congressional investigators that Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, texted a former business partner in the middle of Trump’s inauguration, saying that U.S. sanctions on Russia would soon be “ripped off,” allowing them to move forward with a private project to build dozens of nuclear reactors across the Middle East.
President Trump has called on Saudi Arabia to end its blockade of Yemen in order to allow much-needed food, water, medicine and humanitarian aid to reach the besieged country. Trump’s call comes despite the fact that the United States continues to provide massive military backing for the Saudi-led coalition bombing campaign in Yemen, including weapons and critical midair refueling for coalition warplanes. Earlier this year, President Trump brokered a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, in Yemen’s capital Sana’a, Houthi rebels reportedly opened fire on a group of protesting women who were demanding the return of the body of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The longtime leader was killed by Houthi rebels earlier this week, after he switched sides in the ongoing war and threw his support to the Saudi-led coalition. Activists say women were wounded in the crackdown, and at least 50 were arrested.
Uncontrollable wildfires are continuing to burn across Southern California. The flames have forced tens of thousands to evacuate, and tore through some of California’s wealthiest neighborhoods Wednesday, even burning part of media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s vineyard. Climate experts say these types of uncontrollable blazes are rare in December. Wildfire expert Char Miller said, “[T]he most striking thing about its vast size, bewildering speed, destructive power is that this fire blew up in December. Repeat: December. This is a sign … that the fire season is intensifying in response to climate change.”
Thousands rallied on Capitol Hill Wednesday, demanding Congress stop its rollback of temporary protected status for thousands of Haitians and Nicaraguans and pass the DREAM Act before the end of the year. This is Nicaraguan immigrant and TPS recipient Eugenia Sandoval.
Eugenia Sandoval: “This is a country we’re told is about opportunities. It’s a country, it’s said, that’s about diversity of cultures. And that’s what President Trump and Congress ought to respect—the diversity—because all together, we form a rainbow, which is what makes this country beautiful.”
We’ll have more on the DREAM Act later in the broadcast.
The NAACP is calling on President Trump to skip the opening of a new Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Mississippi. NAACP President Derrick Johnson said, “President Trump’s statements and policies regarding the protection and enforcement of civil rights have been abysmal, and his attendance is an affront to the veterans of the civil rights movement.”
The Pentagon says the U.S. military plans to accept openly transgender recruits on January 1—despite President Trump’s announcement earlier this year of a ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military. In October, a Washington, D.C., district judge blocked Trump’s order from taking effect. The Justice Department is now trying to delay the acceptance of transgender recruits.
And Australia has legalized marriage equality after years of organizing by LGBT activists. Lawmakers broke out into cheers after the final bill passed overwhelmingly.