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Surrounded by coal miners, President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday to dismantle a slew of climate rules established by President Obama. If carried out, the executive order will virtually guarantee the United States will fail to meet its 2015 Paris Agreement pledge to reduce emissions in order to curb the effects of climate change. The executive order marks the first step to undo Obama’s Clean Power Plan to limit plant emissions and replace coal-fired power plants with new solar and wind farms. The Clean Power Plan is considered to be a critical element of the U.S.’s plan to meet the targets established in the Paris accord. Environmental and civil rights groups have vowed to fight the executive order.
On Tuesday afternoon, protesters gathered in the freezing rain outside Trump Tower in Manhattan to denounce the executive order. Other demonstrators gathered outside the EPA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., with a sign reading “Get this toxic dump out of the White House.” We’ll have more on Trump’s executive order later in the broadcast.
On Capitol Hill, calls are growing for House Republican Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes to step down from his committee’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, as the investigation itself stalls amid the controversy. On Tuesday, the House Intelligence Committee was scheduled to hear testimony from Sally Yates, who served as acting attorney general before Trump ousted her after she refused to defend his Muslim travel ban. But Nunes canceled the hearing last week, a day after Yates and former CIA head John Brennan, who was also slated to testify Tuesday, informed the government they would contradict some statements that White House officials had made. The Washington Post is reporting the White House sought to block Yates’s testimony. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called this report “100 percent false.”
The House Intelligence Committee has now canceled all meetings this week amid the ongoing turmoil. Lawmakers are calling on Nunes to step down as chair, after it emerged he had met with a source on the grounds of the White House and viewed secret U.S. intelligence reports before supposedly briefing President Trump about the reports. Nunes says the reports indicate Trump or his associates might have been “incidentally” swept up in surveillance carried out by American spy agencies as they conducted foreign surveillance. Nunes continues to reject the calls to step down and to this day has not shared the secret reports with fellow committee members. We’ll have more on the House Intelligence Committee investigation and the ongoing turmoil after headlines.
President Trump is trying to argue that, because he’s president, he is immune from a defamation lawsuit filed by a former “Apprentice” contestant who has accused him of sexual assault. Summer Zervos says Trump repeatedly sexually assaulted her during a meeting in 2007, kissing her on the lips, pressing his body against hers and groping her breasts, all without her consent. She was among a series of women who accused Trump of sexual assault during the 2016 campaign. She’s now suing him for defamation, after Trump called her and other women accusers “liars” during the 2016 campaign. Trump’s lawyers are now arguing that Trump is immune from all civil lawsuits filed in state court until he leaves office.
Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden is calling for U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to face a government ethics violation investigation, after Mnuchin told parents to “send all your kids to 'Lego Batman'”—a film that was financed by one of Mnuchin’s companies. In a letter to Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub, Sen. Wyden called the comments “troubling” and wrote, “I am concerned that Sec. Mnuchin’s comments may be seen to have a predictable effect on the financial interests of the entity. … I request that you review Sec. Mnuchin’s comments, and report any findings to me and the Treasury Department.”
In a historic moment in Britain’s history, Prime Minister Theresa May has officially begun the process of Britain leaving the European Union, known as Brexit. This morning, British diplomat Tim Barrow handed the letter to Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council. The letter, known as Article 50, will now trigger two years of negotiations about the terms of Britain’s departure from the European Union. The first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, is now seeking to hold a referendum on whether Scotland should declare independence from Britain in order to stay in the EU. British voters narrowly approved Brexit in a shocking referendum in late June, leading to the resignation of British Prime Minister David Cameron.
In Iraq, Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend has admitted the United States probably played a role in the deaths of as many as 200 civilians in an airstrike on Mosul on March 17. Speaking from Baghdad, Townsend said, “My initial assessment is that we probably had a role in these casualties.” Meanwhile, Amnesty International continues to criticize the U.S.-backed Iraqi Army for having told civilians to stay in Mosul amid the months-long ongoing offensive, rather than to flee. This is Wa’ad al-Tai speaking about his family members who were killed in November after they followed the Iraqi government’s instructions not to leave the city.
Wa’ad al-Tai: “My son Yousef, age nine; my daughter Shahad, age three; my brother Mahmoud Ahmed Mahmoud, his wife Manaya and their son, Aws Mahmoud; and my other niece, Hanan Saad Ahmad.”
In Vermont, two immigrant rights activists have returned home after being jailed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in what local organizers say was an act of political retaliation. Twenty-four-year-old Enrique Balcazar and 23-year-old Zully Palacios are both leaders of the group Migrant Justice. They were arrested by undercover ICE agents in Burlington, Vermont, earlier this month as they were leaving the Migrant Justice office. Balcazar, who is known as Kike, serves on Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan’s immigration task force, which was created to respond to the Trump administration’s immigration policies. This is Zully Palacios, speaking after being released Tuesday.
Zully Palacios: “It’s so sad to see the situation within the prisons and jails, where they intimidate us, try to make us feel like we’re all alone and like there’s no one to support us. Once I found out I was going to be released, I wanted to shout out loud and scream for joy, but I also felt so much sadness, because, as Kike said, there are so many innocent people still in there. There are so many who have their dreams cut short, so many who have families waiting for them at home. There are so many people we have in captivity, and it’s not fair.”
A third activist with Migrant Justice, 23-year-old Cesar Alex Carrillo, remains jailed. He was arrested by ICE outside a courthouse two days before Zully and Kike were arrested. This is Carillo’s wife, also speaking Tuesday.
Lymarie Deida: “First of all, it’s a victory today, because I have two of the three of my family members here back home. But they’re still missing one, the one that has the key to my heart. And he’s not home. But that doesn’t mean the fight is over. That doesn’t mean I’m going to sit and wait. It means I’m going to get up every day, each and every day, to fight for his freedom, because, like everyone else, he is human, and we are all equal.”
Meanwhile, in Seattle, Washington, lawyers for undocumented DREAMer Daniel Ramirez Medina say he’s been granted bond and will be released later today. He’s been jailed by ICE for six weeks, after being arrested when ICE agents came to his father’s home. He was jailed even though he has permission to live and work in the United States under President Obama’s DACA program. To see our full interview with Ramirez Medina’s lawyer, as well as our interview with Migrant Justice organizer Will Lambek, go to democracynow.org.
The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Texas death row prisoner Bobby James Moore, whose lawyers argued he should not be executed because he is intellectually disabled. In a 5-3 decision Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled Texas had ignored current medical standards and instead used outdated standards in order to determine that Moore was fit for execution. Moore was convicted of killing a grocery store clerk in 1980. In the majority opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote, “Texas cannot satisfactorily explain why it applies current medical standards for diagnosing intellectual disability in other contexts, yet clings to superseded standards when an individual’s life is at stake.”
California prosecutors have charged anti-choice activist David Daleiden with 15 felonies over his role in secretly filming and releasing heavily edited videos of Planned Parenthood officials in order to falsely accuse the women’s health organization of profiting off fetal tissue. Daleiden now faces 14 felony counts of unlawfully recording people without their permission and one count of conspiracy to invade privacy.
In sports news, athletes on the United States women’s national hockey team have won an agreement with USA Hockey after threatening to boycott the upcoming world championships over inequalities in pay and working conditions between them and their male counterparts. While most of the male players for USA Hockey are professional NHL players earning six- and seven-figure salaries, the women players rely on USA Hockey for their livelihood. On Tuesday, the women won monthly training stipends and travel and insurance provisions, after waging a public battle against the league. Their campaign was supported by fellow crusading women athletes, such as Billie Jean King, professional sports leagues including the NFL, NBA and the WNBA, and 20 U.S. senators.
In more sports news, Olympic women gymnasts testified before Congress on Tuesday about decades of sexual abuse by USA Gymnastics officials, including Dr. Larry Nassar, who is facing charges of criminal sexual conduct with children. He has been accused by dozens of women and children of penetrating their vaginas with his fingers and covering up the abuse by pretending it was part of a medical treatment. This is Olympic bronze medalist Jamie Dantzscher, speaking about Dr. Nassar.
Jamie Dantzscher: “Dr. Nassar abused me at the USA National Training Center in Texas. He abused me in California at meets and all over the world. Many times, the abuse took place in my own room, in my own bed. Worse, he abused me in my hotel room in Sydney at the Olympic Games.”
In French Guiana, nearly 10,000 people poured into the streets of the capital Tuesday in what local authorities are calling the largest march in the French territory’s history. French Guiana, which sits on the northeast tip of South America, has been rocked by protests for weeks, including an ongoing general strike that shut down most schools, businesses, roads and the main airport on Monday and Tuesday. The demonstrators are protesting unemployment, the high cost of living and the lack of public services in the French territory.
French Guiana was colonized by the French in the 17th century, serving first as a slave colony and then as a penal colony, and it’s now considered one of France’s five overseas departments. The French interior minister and the overseas minister have been dispatched from France to respond to the growing protests, and are slated to arrive in French Guiana later today.
And longtime civil rights activist Roger Wilkins has died at the age of 85. Born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1932, Wilkins went on to serve as an official in both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, including serving as an assistant United States attorney general. He was also a journalist, writing for both The New York Times and The Washington Post, and a professor of history at George Mason University for nearly 20 years. His uncle, Roy Wilkins, led the NAACP for more than two decades, from 1955 to 1977. This is Roger Wilkins speaking about the civil rights movement with fellow activist Julian Bond as part of the oral history project “Explorations in Black Leadership.”
Roger Wilkins: “Every fall, there was at least one violent, hideous outbreak in this evolving morality tale. And I remember, with Clinton, Tennessee, and a guy named Kasper blowing up stuff.”
Julian Bond: “Yes, yes, John Kasper.”
Roger Wilkins: “Right. There was, of course, Little Rock. There was Plaquemines Parish in—right outside New Orleans.”
Julian Bond: “A little town in Texas, a year before.”
Roger Wilkins: “Right. So, all of a sudden you’re energized, because there really was good and evil. And, of course, in there, in that period, you also had the Montgomery bus boycott and the emergence of Martin King. So, all of a sudden, instead of getting depressed, what you’re seeing is a morality tale in which black people are becoming energized.”
That was Roger Wilkins, speaking with fellow civil rights activist Julian Bond, who died in 2015. Wilkins died on Sunday in Kensington, Maryland, at the age of 85.