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FBI Director James Comey is asking the Justice Department to publicly refute President Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that former President Obama ordered Trump’s phones be wiretapped during the 2016 presidential campaign. FBI Director Comey, President Obama and others have all rejected Trump’s allegations, which he first made during a tweet storm on Saturday. Trump began by tweeting, “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” He went on to tweet, “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” Trump has called for a congressional investigation, and the White House is standing by the allegations, even though it has not provided evidence to back them up. This is Trump spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaking to Martha Raddatz on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “Look, I think he is going off of information that he’s seen that has led him to believe that this is a very real potential. And if it is, this is the greatest overreach and the greatest abuse of power that I think we’ve ever seen and a huge attack on democracy itself. And the American people have a right to know if this took place.”
It appears the “information” Trump spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders is referring to is a Breitbart article that has been circulated within the White House. The article draws on a Thursday report by the far-right-wing radio host Mark Levin, who claimed without evidence that Obama submitted a request to the secret FISA court to tap Trump’s phones at Trump Tower. Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio, say they have seen “no evidence” supporting these claims. This is California Democratic Congressmember Nancy Pelosi.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi: “This is called a wrap-up smear. You make up something, then you have the press write about it, and then you say everybody’s writing about this charge. It’s a tool of an authoritarian, to just have you always be talking about what you want them to be talking about.”
The Intercept reports that as president of the United States, Trump has the power to declassify surveillance records—meaning if his wiretapping claims were true, he could prove it immediately.
Trump’s wiretapping claims come amid continued scrutiny over Trump associates’ communications with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign. On Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he will address lawmakers’ questions about his communications with Russia’s ambassador last year. All nine Democratic senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee have asked committee chair Chuck Grassley to bring Sessions back for another hearing, amid allegations he lied under oath in his first testimony. The Wall Street Journal is reporting Sessions used his own campaign funds for the trip to the Republican National Convention, where he spoke with the Russian ambassador. Sessions has recused himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. The Washington Post reports Trump was furious that Sessions recused himself. On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Rod Rosenstein for deputy attorney general, who, if confirmed, would take over the investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election and any links between Russian officials and Trump’s associates. We’ll have more on Trump, Russia and the wiretapping claims later in the broadcast.
The Trump administration is continuing further measures to crack down against immigration and immigrants currently living in the United States. Reuters is reporting the Department of Homeland Security is considering a new proposal to separate mothers from their children if they are caught trying to cross the border together. Currently, families are detained together and are supposed to be released from detention relatively quickly, after which they can continue living in the United States while their deportation or asylum cases are processed. But under the new proposal, families would be separated, mothers would be detained, and their children would be placed temporarily in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services. The consideration of the proposal comes as federal immigration agents continue to detain people nationwide, including in Los Angeles, where last week ICE agents tore a 13-year-old girl away from her father, who was detained by ICE agents as he was driving her to school. On Saturday, Mexico opened legal centers at all 50 consulates across the United States in efforts to defend Mexicans from Trump’s deportation crackdown.
A landmark class action lawsuit is accusing the for-profit prison company GEO Group of violating federal anti-slavery laws by forcing up to tens of thousands of detained immigrants to work for free, or for as little as $1 a day. The lawsuit was first filed in 2014 and won class action status last week. It accuses GEO Group of forcing people detained at the Denver Contract Detention Facility to work without pay to clean the facility—or face solitary confinement if they refuse. It also accuses GEO Group of breaking Colorado’s minimum wage laws by paying only $1 a day for other work carried out by prisoners inside the jail. GEO Group owns and operates the Denver detention center under a contract with ICE.
President Trump is expected to issue a new executive order temporarily banning all refugees, as well as people from six majority-Muslim countries, from entering the United States. The New York Times reports the new ban would apply to people from Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen, but not people from Iraq. Iraqis were included in Trump’s first Muslim travel ban, which was blocked by the courts in February amid massive nationwide protests. Unlike the first ban, the new executive order is also not expected to apply to people from these countries with green cards or who already have a visa.
In California, a federal court in Santa Ana is slated to hold a hearing today on the case of an Afghan couple and their children, who lawyers say were detained illegally at the Los Angeles International Airport Tuesday and have since been held without justification. Lawyers say Customs and Border Protection agents detained the couple and their young children, including their 8-month-old infant, even though they all had valid visas to enter the United States. The International Refugee Assistance Center says the family received Special Immigrant Visas because the father had worked for the U.S. government in Afghanistan. After reportedly being detained in isolation without access to lawyers, the family was then separated and sent to separate detention facilities, where they remain incarcerated.
In Kent, Washington, police are investigating the shooting of a 39-year-old Sikh man, who was cleaning his car in his driveway Friday when a man approached, began calling him names, told him, “Go home to your country,” and then pushed him to the ground and shot him in the arm. The man is a U.S. citizen originally from Punjab, India. He survived the attack, which police are investigating as a possible hate crime.
In Oklahoma, three Muslim students were asked to fill out an Islamophobic questionnaire while trying to meet with an Oklahoma lawmaker at the State Capitol last Thursday. The Council on American-Islamic Relations says questions reflected intentionally distorted ideas about Islam, including one that read “The Koran, the sunna of Mohammed and Sharia Law of all schools say that the husband can beat his wife. Do you beat your wife?” The students were seeking to meet with Oklahoma state Representative John Bennett, who in 2014 called Islam a “cancer in our nation that needs to be cut out.”
The New York Times reports that over the last six weeks the Trump administration has rolled back more than 90 regulations in order to benefit Wall Street banks, gun sellers, coal, oil and gas companies and other corporations. The Times calls the rollback “one of the most significant shifts in regulatory policy in recent decades.” In many cases, the regulatory rollbacks have come after the direct requests of lobbyists or trade industry groups. Trump’s administration is expected to continue eliminating more regulations in the coming days and weeks, including rolling back rules that limit car pollution.
Small crowds turned out for a nationwide day of pro-Trump demonstrations Saturday. At many of the estimated 28 protests, the pro-Trump demonstrators were met by counter protesters.
In Berkeley, California, clashes broke out between anti-fascist protesters and the pro-Trump protesters, some of whom showed up armed with knives and batons and wearing helmets and gas masks. In New York City, about 40 pro-Trump demonstrators rallied near Trump Tower.
Pro-Trump protester: “I’m not going to give you my last name. But there’s a lot of misinformation going around, everything I see. I watch all of Donald Trump’s speeches, all of his rallies, and everything I hear afterwards, it’s so washed up. It’s so—that’s why I like that he reaches to the people directly, whether it be through Twitter, whether it be through doing like three rallies a day when he was campaigning. There’s so much misinformation going on. They’re clearly rooting for one side. And if you actually follow what he is doing, if you actually follow his intentions, there is no racism, there’s no fascism. There’s just a guy that’s concerned for his country, and he’s doing something that he feels is the right way.”
The Pentagon is ramping up its military operations in Yemen. On Thursday and Friday, the U.S. carried out more than 30 airstrikes. That’s compared to 36 airstrikes the U.S. carried out in all of 2016 in Yemen. The Pentagon says the strikes were targeting al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. They come after a botched ground raid on a Yemeni village in January left 25 civilians and one U.S. Navy SEAL dead.
The United Nations special rapporteur on torture has accused the Mexican police forces of widespread use of torture, including sexual violence, electric shocks, beatings and asphyxiation. The new report says the torture is routinely used to gain confessions, and says the practice is part of the widespread impunity in Mexico.
The state of Arkansas is planning to execute eight men within a 10-day period in April, which would be an unprecedented rate of executions in modern U.S. history. Arkansas has suspended executions since 2005, amid challenges in acquiring lethal injection drugs and lawsuits over the drugs used. Arkansas says it is rushing the executions because the state’s supply of the sedative midazolam will soon expire. Midazolam has been linked to painful, botched executions in Alabama and other states. In January, an Ohio judge ruled Ohio’s lethal injection process was unconstitutional because of its use of midazolam.
And a new United Nations report has criticized the United States government over its handling of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline, which has faced massive resistance from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North Dakota as well as members of hundreds of other Native American nations. The report says the U.S. government had failed to communicate with and consult Native Americans, and showed a “lack of good faith involvement.” The report was delivered to State Department officials Friday. On Saturday, protesters rallied at Columbus Circle in New York City to oppose the pipeline, which is currently in the final stages of construction following the Trump administration’s approval. This is Isha Racho.
Isha Racho: “I think it’s especially meaningful to be at the statue of Christopher Columbus. I was born and raised in New York, and every time I pass it, it just reminds me how much we blatantly love to rub it in the faces of our indigenous people that this land is stolen. But I’m here at the protest because the fight’s not over. A lot of people think it has been finished for weeks or months, but it’s not over. We’re still out here. We’re still protesting in solidarity. And it is our duty to win, and it is our duty to keep fighting.”
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