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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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A federal appeals court in San Francisco has unanimously upheld a suspension of President Trump’s executive order barring all refugees from entering the U.S. and restricting travel from seven Muslim-majority countries. Thursday’s decision is a stinging blow to the Trump administration and appears headed for an appeal to the Supreme Court. President Trump responded to the ruling on Twitter, tweeting in all caps, ”SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!” In Washington state, Bob Ferguson, the attorney general who successfully challenged Trump’s Muslim ban, hailed the ruling.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson: “This is a complete victory for the state of Washington. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a unanimous decision, effectively granted everything we sought. We are a nation of laws. And as I have said, as we have said, from day one, that those laws apply to everybody in our country, and that includes the president of the United States.”
In their unanimous decision, a three-judge panel on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled courts have the authority to review constitutional challenges to executive actions. The judges also said the government failed to show evidence that anyone from the seven nations cited by Trump’s travel ban had committed terrorism in the U.S. If the case ends up before the Supreme Court, a potential 4-4 tie would leave the appeals court’s ruling in place.
Meanwhile, at least one of the judges hearing Trump’s travel ban has faced threats, prompting local police officers and the U.S. Marshals Service to beef up security. That’s according to CNN, which cited unnamed law enforcement officials. After Federal District Judge James Robart issued a nationwide injunction last Friday halting Trump’s executive order, Trump called Judge Robart a “so-called judge” and tweeted, “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”
Jeff Sessions has been sworn in as U.S. attorney general. Vice President Mike Pence administered the oath of office to the longtime Alabama senator during a ceremony Thursday in the Oval Office. Afterward, Sessions addressed reporters, promising to get tough on immigration, and claiming that terrorism and crime are surging nationwide.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions: “We have a crime problem. I wish the blip—I wish the rise that we are seeing in crime in America today were some sort of aberration or a blip. My best judgment, having been involved in criminal law enforcement for many years, is that this is a dangerous, permanent trend that places the health and safety of the American people at risk.”
In fact, FBI statistics show the homicide rate has fallen consistently—and dramatically—since the early 1990s. And property crimes are at a low not seen since the 1960s. Sessions’s comments came after President Trump falsely claimed the U.S. murder rate is at its highest level in more than four decades. It’s actually at one of its lowest points in the last 50 years.
Immediately after swearing in Sessions as attorney general, President Trump signed three new executive orders addressing crime and immigration.
President Donald Trump: “Today’s ceremony should be seen as a clear message to the gang members and drug dealers terrorizing innocent people: Your day is over. A new era of justice begins, and it begins right now.”
One executive order seeks to increase penalties on those found guilty of assaulting police officers. A second order directs law enforcement agencies to increase intelligence sharing while going after drug cartels. A third order directs Attorney General Sessions to prioritize fighting “illegal immigration” alongside drug trafficking and violent crime.
In Los Angeles, scores of protesters marched through downtown and blocked a freeway entrance Thursday evening, following reports of immigration raids across Southern California. Officials with ICE, or Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told reporters the agency was only conducting “routine” enforcement. But state Senate President Kevin de León and the ACLU of Southern California say they’ve received reports of multiple raids of homes across Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, the mother of two U.S.-born children who is at the center of an immigration fight in Arizona has been deported to Mexico. Guadalupe García de Rayos was arrested and detained Wednesday during a routine check-in with immigration officials. She had been living in the United States for the past 21 years. García’s teenage daughter and son reacted Thursday to the deportation.
Jacqueline García de Rayos: “I’m going to keep on fighting. I’m going to keep on fighting for my mom and for the other families that are going through the same thing, because this is unfair, and it’s really sad.”
Angel García de Rayos: “We want her back, back in our arms. We want her back over here where she belongs. She belongs with us. And we’re going to keep on fighting. We’re not going to stop.”
García de Rayos’s rapid deportation after a routine check-in comes as thousands of immigrants around the country face similar check-ins. We’ll have more on the case of Guadalupe García and others after headlines. We’ll speak with her husband.
The White House is warning journalists and lawmakers against criticizing a botched raid by U.S. commandos on a Yemeni village last month that left 25 civilians and one U.S. soldier dead. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports the January 28 assault killed nine children under the age of 13, with five other children wounded. Among those critical of the raid was Arizona Republican Senator John McCain.
Sen. John McCain: “When you lose a $75 million airplane, and, more importantly, American lives are—a life is lost, and wounded, I don’t believe that you can call it a success.”
On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer lashed out at Senator McCain and journalists for criticizing President Trump’s decision to order the raid.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer: “It’s absolutely a success. And I think anyone who would suggest it’s not a success does disservice to the life of Chief Ryan Owens. He fought knowing what was at stake in that mission. And anybody who would suggest otherwise doesn’t fully appreciate how successful that mission was, what the information that they were able to retrieve was and how that will help prevent future terrorist attacks.”
Kristen Welker: “But even Senator John McCain—”
Press Secretary Sean Spicer: “I understand that. I think my statement is very clear on that, Kristen. I think anybody who undermines the success of that rage [sic] owes an apology and a disservice to the life of Chief Owens.”
Spicer’s comments came as the United Nations appealed for $2.1 billion in emergency aid to Yemen. The U.N. warns 12 million people face the threat of famine brought on by a U.S.-supported, Saudi-led war and naval blockade.
Back in Washington, the Senate confirmed Rep. Tom Price as President Trump’s health and human services secretary this morning, following a debate that stretched well past midnight. The vote was 52 to 47, with all Republicans in support of Price and all Democrats and independents opposed. Price will lead Trump’s campaign to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He also opposes abortion and has voted to cut all federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
The White House says President Trump committed the U.S. to the so-called One China policy, in which the U.S. formally recognizes Taiwan as part of mainland China. Trump reportedly made the commitment during a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday. The move marks a dramatic reversal for Trump, who previously angered Chinese officials when he broke from decades of diplomatic precedent by speaking directly with Taiwan’s president.
The Washington Post reports that President Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, privately spoke with Russia’s ambassador about U.S. sanctions against Russia in the month before President Trump took office. The call was on December 29—the same day President Obama imposed sanctions against Russia and expelled diplomats, in retaliation for the alleged Russian hacking of the U.S. election. The Post report directly contradicts repeated claims by the Trump administration that such discussions took place—and appears to run afoul of U.S. law. A spokesperson for Flynn backed away from past denials, saying that “while [Flynn] had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.”
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to meet with President Trump at the White House later today. Tomorrow, the pair are scheduled to tee off together at the Trump International Golf Club in Palm Beach, Florida. Abe will also stay at the Trump-owned Mar-a-Lago resort. Ethics groups say the move to host Japan’s leader at Trump properties is a clear conflict of interest.
Meanwhile, Reuters reported Thursday that President Trump denounced a treaty limiting U.S. and Russian deployment of nuclear warheads as a “bad deal for the United States” during a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Reuters cited three unnamed officials with knowledge of the January 28 discussion who said Putin asked Trump whether he favored extending the New START treaty, which was approved in 2010. Trump reportedly paused the discussion to ask his aides what the treaty was, before telling Putin it was one of several bad deals negotiated by the Obama administration and that it favored Russia.
Top lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee will order an ethics review of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, after she used a TV appearance to promote merchandise sold by President Trump’s daughter, Ivanka. Conway made the endorsement on Thursday morning’s edition of “Fox & Friends”.
Steve Doocy: “30 seconds.”
Kellyanne Conway: “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff, is what I would tell you. I’m going to—”
Steve Doocy: “Well, there is that—”
Kellyanne Conway: “I hate shopping. I’m going to go get some myself today. … It’s a wonderful line. I own some of it. I fully—I’m going to just give—I’m going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online.”
Conway’s comment followed a tweet from President Trump’s official government account Wednesday blasting the retailer Nordstrom for dropping Ivanka Trump’s clothing line from its stores. Trump’s tweet read, “My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person—always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!” Kellyanne Conway’s TV sales pitch is a clear violation a federal ethics law. The White House said it had “counseled” Conway over the endorsement, but declined to say if she would be sanctioned. House Oversight Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah, said Thursday he’ll ask the Office of Government Ethics to recommend Conway be disciplined. Chaffetz told reporters, “That is absolutely wrong, wrong, wrong. It is over the top.”
Meanwhile, Congressmember Chaffetz was met with boos, jeers and pointed questions Thursday, as more than 1,000 constituents packed a raucous town hall meeting in his Salt Lake City district. Crowd members booed as Chaffetz took the stage.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz: “Let me tell you something you’re really not going to like. You want to hear this. Hold on. You’re really not going to like this part: The president, under the law, is exempt from the conflict of interest laws.”
They chanted “Let them in!” as at least 1,000 more people were denied entrance to the packed high school auditorium. Protesters demanded that Chaffetz launch ethics investigations into President Trump and other administration officials over numerous conflicts of interest. Other protesters called out Chaffetz over his support for selling off public lands in Utah and across the Southwest.
In North Dakota, construction crews have resumed work on the final section of the Dakota Access pipeline, after the Trump administration granted an easement to allow Energy Transfer Partners to drill beneath the Missouri River. The construction resumed as opponents of the pipeline filed a last-ditch legal challenge in a federal court in Washington, D.C., Thursday. They’re seeking an order halting construction while a separate lawsuit filed by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe proceeds in court. U.S. District Judge James Boasberg says he’ll hear arguments on the motion—on Monday.
In Syria, Russian airstrikes killed three Turkish soldiers and left 11 others injured, in what Russia’s military described as an errant strike aimed at Islamic State fighters. The attack came as Russian, Turkish and Syrian government forces advanced on the city of al-Bab, which is controlled by ISIS.
In South Africa, lawmakers traded punches on the floor of Parliament Thursday, as opposition politicians denounced President Jacob Zuma over charges of corruption, nepotism and mismanagement of the economy. The scene played out on national television as Zuma’s opponents sought to interrupt his annual State of the Nation address.
And longtime Puerto Rican independence activist Oscar López Rivera was returned to Puerto Rico on Thursday to serve the remainder of his sentence, which was commuted by outgoing President Barack Obama. His official date of clemency is May 17. Congressmember Luis Gutiérrez confirmed Thursday that López Rivera has been moved from a prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. A spokesperson said in a statement that López Rivera had “led a small delegation on a flight that originated in Indianapolis, routed through Charlotte, and has landed in San Juan.”