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This week, Democracy Now! is celebrating our 22nd birthday. Since our first show in February 1996, our daily news hour has brought you fearless journalism and hard-hitting news you can trust--all without ads or corporate underwriting. How is this possible? Only with your support. In fact, if everyone reading this gave just $4, it would cover our operating expenses for the whole year. Right now, a generous donor will TRIPLE every donation, meaning your gift today will go three times as far. Pretty amazing, right? Please do your part. Take a moment to give right now for our 22nd birthday.
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Confirmation hearings begin today for Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s pick to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. If confirmed by the Senate, Gorsuch would give conservatives a narrow 5-4 majority on the court. As a judge on the 10th Circuit, Gorsuch ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby in the case deciding whether the company could refuse to provide birth control coverage to employees as required by Obamacare. Judge Gorsuch also has a long history of ruling against employees in cases involving federal race, sex, age, disability and political discrimination and retaliation claims.
Neil Gorsuch is a member of the Federalist Society and has close ties to conservative Colorado billionaire Philip Anschutz, who owns The Weekly Standard and the Washington Examiner. And Gorsuch comes from a deeply conservative family. His mother, Anne Gorsuch Burford, briefly served as President Reagan’s EPA administrator, where she slashed staff and eviscerated anti-pollution regulations before resigning amidst scandal. We’ll have more on Gorsuch after headlines.
FBI Director James Comey is going before the House Intelligence Committee today, where he’ll face questioning about President Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that President Obama tapped his phones at Trump Tower during the 2016 election. President Trump has continued to stand by the unsubstantiated claims, including while meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Friday. Trump joked he and Merkel had something in common regarding wiretapping—a reference to reports the NSA was monitoring Merkel’s phones during Obama’s presidency.
President Donald Trump: “We have a tremendous group of people that listen, and I can get around the media when the media doesn’t tell the truth, so I like that. As far as wiretapping, I guess, by, you know, this past administration, at least we have something in common, perhaps.”
Both top U.S. lawmakers and British officials have rejected Trump’s wiretapping claims. The former British ambassador to Washington has accused Trump of “peddling falsehoods” by claiming the British intelligence agency helped carry out the alleged wiretap. During FBI Director James Comey’s testimony to the House Intelligence Committee today, he will also face questioning about Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential race. A new Reuters investigation reveals dozens of Russian elites have invested nearly $100 million in seven Trump-branded luxury buildings in Florida. Meanwhile, Germany’s defense minister has rejected Trump’s claim that Germany owes NATO money.
In Hawaii, a federal judge has rejected the Justice Department’s request to narrow the injunction which halted Trump’s executive order temporarily banning refugees and people from six majority-Muslim nations from entering the United States. U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson’s temporary restraining order blocked Trump’s ban only hours before it was set to take effect last Thursday.
The former police chief of Greenville, North Carolina, Hassan Aden, says he was detained for over an hour by Customs and Border Protection agents when he flew into New York City’s JFK International Airport after returning from visiting his mother in Paris. In a Facebook post, Hassan wrote that he was a U.S. citizen and had worked in law enforcement in the U.S. for nearly 30 years. He wrote that after his detention, “This country now feels cold, unwelcoming, and in the beginning stages of a country that is isolating itself from the rest of the world and its own people in an unprecedented fashion.”
President Trump has reportedly tapped Kellyanne Conway’s husband, George Conway, to head the civil division of the Justice Department. If confirmed, George Conway would head the department of government lawyers charged with defending key lawsuits, including those against Trump’s embattled travel ban and those alleging Trump’s business interests violate the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause. George Conway has worked as a corporate lawyer for nearly three decades, during which time he represented corporate clients such as cigarette company Philip Morris and the National Football League.
Kellyanne Conway told New York magazine that, despite her anti-abortion views, she’s sympathetic to women who get abortions, and has helped female friends by driving them to the procedures and helping them pay for them. Conway spoke at the anti-abortion March for Life in Washington, D.C., in January. Meanwhile, the 24-year-old popular conservative pundit Tomi Lahren has admitted she is pro-choice, saying, “I am for limited government, so stay out of my guns and you can stay out of my body.”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has hired for-profit college official Robert Eitel. He previously served as a chief compliance officer for Bridgepoint Education, Inc., an operator of for-profit colleges, which is facing multiple government investigations over deceptive lending. Meanwhile, Trump’s administration has revoked guidelines that prohibited student debt collectors from charging exorbitant fees on past-due loans.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wrapped up his first visit to Asia with a trip to Beijing Sunday, where he warned regional tensions with North Korea had reached “dangerous levels.” On Saturday, North Korea tested a high-thrust rocket engine—the latest in a series of rocket and missile tests North Korea has carried out in recent weeks. During his Asia trip, Tillerson also suggested the U.S. may make a preemptive strike against North Korea. On Friday, President Trump tweeted, “North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been 'playing' the United States for years. China has done little to help!”
Forty-two Somali refugees were killed when they were gunned down by a helicopter gunship near the Yemen coast late Friday. Somalia has accused Saudi Arabia of carrying out the strike. Eyewitness accounts suggest a U.S.-made Apache helicopter was used to carry out the deadly strike.
Meanwhile, the death toll from an airstrike on a mosque in Syria has risen to at least 49 people, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The U.S. has admitted to carrying out an airstrike on the Syrian village of al-Jina on Thursday, but the Pentagon denies having hit the mosque. The journalistic project Airwars is reporting the number of civilian casualties in U.S. airstrikes has been escalating since Donald Trump took office two months ago today. We’ll have more on the deadly U.S. airstrikes later in the broadcast.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas awarded former U.N. official Rima Khalaf Palestine’s Medal of the Highest Honor, after Khalaf resigned rather than bowed to pressure to withdraw a U.N. report accusing Israel of imposing an “apartheid regime” on the Palestinians. This is former executive secretary for the U.N.’s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, Rima Khalaf.
Rima Khalaf: “It was to be expected that Israel and its allies would put enormous pressure on the United Nations secretary-general to renounce the report, and he gave me his instructions to renounce it. I asked him to review his stance on this, but he insisted on it, so I submitted my resignation from the United Nations to him. The crimes that Israel continues to commit against the Palestinian people and in Lebanon amount to war crimes against humanity.”
Rima Khalaf’s resignation came the same day Israeli soldiers opened fire on a group of Palestinian teenagers in a refugee camp in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, killing 16-year-old Murad Yusif Abu Ghazi. On Saturday, Israeli soldiers fired rubber-coated steel bullets at a group of mourners, following the boy’s burial. Click here to see our full interview with Richard Falk, who co-authored the U.N. report accusing Israel of imposing an apartheid regime.
In France, thousands of people rallied in Paris Sunday to protest police brutality. The march demanded justice for a 22-year-old Black man who was allegedly raped with a police baton by an officer after being arrested in February. The man, who is known as”Theo,” was hospitalized for two weeks related to the injuries sustained in police custody. One police officer has been charged with rape, and three more have been accused of assault.
In Peru, more than 70 people have died amid the country’s worst flooding in more than 30 years. Hundreds of cities across Peru have declared states of emergency. The intense rainfall has been linked to abnormally higher ocean temperatures, which are in turn linked to climate change.
In Japan, activist Hiroji Yamashiro has been released on bail, after he spent five months imprisoned on charges he cut through a barbed wire fence surrounding a U.S. base. For decades, residents have called for the expulsion of U.S. troops from Okinawa, which houses about two-thirds of the 50,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in Japan.
In the Philippines, a lawmaker has filed an impeachment complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte over the thousands of extrajudicial police and vigilante killings carried out under Duterte’s so-called war on drugs. Duterte is also facing threats of a criminal case before the International Criminal Court over accusations he oversaw death squads when he was mayor of Davao.
In Miami-Dade, Florida, prosecutors have announced they will not bring criminal charges against four prison guards over the death of 50-year-old Darren Rainey, a schizophrenic prisoner who died after the guards locked him in a shower stall and exposed him to 180-degree scalding water. When his body was found two hours later, he had burns covering 90 percent of his body. Click here to see our full interview on Darren Rainey’s death.
Oil could start flowing through the highly contested $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline as early as today. On Saturday, an appeals court rejected the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Nations’ request for an emergency injunction to stop the pipeline from becoming operational. Meanwhile, the University of California’s chief investment officer has announced the university system is taking steps to divest from two companies behind the pipeline: Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics.
And legendary New York City journalist Jimmy Breslin has died at the age of 88. Breslin won a Pulitzer Prize in 1986 for his columns, which the committee said “consistently champion ordinary citizens.” In 2004, Democracy Now! spoke with Breslin about the media’s coverage in the lead-up to the Iraq War.
Jimmy Breslin: “They don’t care. They’ve got good jobs. These people are too well-off. You ever look at them? There’s no curiosity. Their curiosity is where they’re going out tonight or what party they go to. There’s no curiosity here. None whatsoever. And also, they can’t write too good. Forty-seven words in a lead sentence, and they expect the public to follow and read. When Norman Mailer would do 16 or John Steinbeck 14, they do 47, to show that they went to Tufts and they did 10 papers before this.”