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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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President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey Tuesday—only weeks after Comey confirmed the FBI was investigating whether Trump’s campaign collaborated with Russia to sway the 2016 election.
James Comey: “I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”
That was James Comey testifying to the House Intelligence Committee hearing in March. He was four years into a 10-year term when Trump fired him on Tuesday. Trump claims he made the decision based on the recommendation of newly appointed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who both faulted Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails in the lead-up to the elections. The New York Times reports Sessions had been charged with coming up with reasons to fire Comey.
In recent months Comey had come under widespread criticism from many Democrats for notifying lawmakers just before the election that the FBI was once again investigating whether Clinton had sent classified information from her private email server while she was secretary of state. Just last week, Clinton said Comey’s actions factored into her loss. Still, on Tuesday, dozens of Democrats spoke out against Comey’s firing, saying they didn’t believe it was over his handling of the investigation into Clinton’s emails. This is Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner.
Sen. Mark Warner: “It’s outrageous. I mean, I thought I could no longer be surprised by this administration. Cancel that. I am shocked by what the president did. I’m shocked, as well, by the idea that the deputy attorney general put his name to a letter that is—doesn’t pass any smell test, somehow blaming Comey for his actions during the Clinton investigation as the reason for firing. That doesn’t pass any smell test.”
Many Senate Democrats are now calling for a special prosecutor to investigate the Trump administration. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer defended Trump’s move to fire Comey.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer: “I also find it interesting that the same individuals who are out there making these statements on the other side of the aisle are the same people, including the minority leader, who said very clearly just a few months ago, 'I have lost confidence in the attorney—in the FBI director.' So, the same people, from Nancy Pelosi to Chuck Schumer and the—Adam Schiff, over and over again, questioned his ability to effectively lead the FBI. And it seems a bit ironic that they are now sort of questioning the president’s decision to side with something that they clearly articulated a few months back.”
This morning, Donald Trump tweeted, “Comey lost the confidence of almost everyone in Washington, Republican and Democrat alike. When things calm down, they will be thanking me!” Comey’s firing came on the same day CNN reported federal prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, as part of the ongoing probe of alleged Russian meddling in last year’s election. We’ll have more on Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey after headlines with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald.
President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the White House today. After the meetings, Tillerson and Lavrov will head to the Arctic for a summit.
Among the topics of conversation of today’s meetings will be the ongoing conflict in Syria. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer spoke about Trump’s arming of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, known as the YPG, which are part of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces fighting ISIS.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer: “Yesterday, the president authorized the Department of Defense to equip Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces as necessary to ensure a clear victory over ISIS in Raqqa, Syria. The SFD—the SDF, partnered with enabling support from U.S. and coalition forces, are the only force on the ground to successfully seize Raqqa in the near future.”
The U.S. also backed the YPG under President Obama.
The Department of Energy has declared a state of emergency at the Hanford nuclear site in Washington state, after a tunnel storing contaminated radioactive materials collapsed, forcing hundreds of workers to take cover to avoid potential exposure. Hanford is the nation’s most polluted nuclear weapons production site. The site has been leaking radioactive waste on and off for years. The Energy Department claims no radioactive contamination has been reported so far from Tuesday’s tunnel collapse. But Edwin Lyman from the Union of Concerned Scientists said, “Collapse of the earth covering the tunnels could lead to a considerable radiological release.”
In South Korea, voters elected human rights lawyer Moon Jae-in to be the next president. Moon Jae-in has pledged to challenge the THAAD missile defense system the U.S. recently installed in South Korea and to open talks with North Korea. His election comes after former President Park Geun-hye was ousted and jailed on charges of bribery, extortion and abuse of power after massive street demonstrations in March.
In Florida, at least three people were arrested when passengers staged a revolt at the Fort Lauderdale airport Monday after Spirit Airlines canceled nine flights, stranding hundreds of people. Spirit canceled the flights in part because the airline company is also facing resistance from its pilots over poor working conditions, low pay, lack of profit sharing and the company’s attempts to slow down contract negotiations.
In New York City, hundreds of people protested House Speaker Paul Ryan’s visit to a Harlem charter school Tuesday. The protesters were demonstrating against Congressmember Ryan’s healthcare plan, which would strip healthcare from millions of Americans, and his backing of charter school companies, such as Success Academy, which operates the Harlem school and 33 other schools across New York City. This is one of the protesters, community activist Dr. Wilhelmina Perry.
Wilhelmina Perry: “I’m Dr. Wilhelmina Perry, and I’m a community activist, and I represent LGBT faith leaders of African descent. I’m here because I object to the policies that are regressive of this administration. And I believe that Ryan and DeVos are not to be able to come to Harlem and find that we are accepting. We are protesting against their being here.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations says Islamophobic attacks surged by 57 percent in 2016. The attacks include mosques being set on fire, Muslim women being assaulted on the street and having their headscarves ripped off them, and Muslims being illegally targeted for interrogation by the FBI and other state agencies. CAIR says the rise in hate crimes against Muslims in the U.S. was fueled in part by President Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric and his appointment of Islamophobes to top Cabinet and White House positions.
A new report has called into question whether President Trump would have actually won Wisconsin during the 2016 presidential election without the state’s strict voter ID law. The study published by the progressive advocacy group Priorities USA says the law suppressed the votes of more than 200,000 residents—the majority of whom were African-American and Democratic-leaning. President Trump won only 22,748 more votes than Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin.
In economic news, a new report by the AFL-CIO says CEOs of the biggest U.S. companies are paying themselves, on average, 347 times more than the average U.S. worker earns in a year. The CEOs paid themselves an average of $13.1 million in 2016.
In Ohio, the Environmental Protection Agency has fined Energy Transfer Partners—the company behind the Dakota Access pipeline—$400,000 for spilling millions of gallons of drilling chemicals and fluids onto the land amid construction of another pipeline, the $4.2 billion gas Rover Pipeline, which is slated to stretch from Appalachia to Ontario, Canada. There have been at least 18 spills, including one of up to 5 million gallons of fluids that has contaminated a previously pristine wetland. Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler said this spill will “kill just about everything in that wetland.” Officials are currently trying to clean up the chemicals with a vacuum and by hand.
This comes as Bloomberg News reports oil is slated to begin flowing through the Dakota Access pipeline on May 14. The pipeline faced months of resistance from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, hundreds of other indigenous nations and their allies over concerns a pipeline spill could contaminate the Missouri River, a drinking source for millions. The North Dakota Department of Health says there have been more than 700 oil and gas-related spills in the last year alone in North Dakota—or a spill every 11 hours and 45 minutes, on average.
Meanwhile, in Seattle, 26 activists were arrested Monday as they temporarily shut down 14 different JPMorgan Chase branches across the city to demand the bank refuse to do business with TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline, which President Trump has promised to revive.
Imprisoned Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning will be freed next week. In 2013, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking more than 700,000 classified files and videos to WikiLeaks about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and U.S. foreign policy. In January, the White House said she would be released on May 17, after President Obama commuted her sentence. On Tuesday, Chelsea Manning released a statement saying, “For the first time, I can see a future for myself as Chelsea. I can imagine surviving and living as the person who I am and can finally be in the outside world. Freedom used to be something that I dreamed of but never allowed myself to fully imagine.” Her attorneys say she is already the longest-held whistleblower in U.S. history.
In New Jersey, undocumented activist and student Carimer Andujar walked out of an ICE check-in Tuesday and celebrated with more than 100 supporters who had gathered outside the immigration office to protest her possible deportation. Andujar is in her third year studying chemical engineering at Rutgers University, where she’s the president of UndocuRutgers. She was waiting for renewal of her DACA status, which gives her permission to live, work and study in the United States, when she received a letter from ICE ordering her to report for the check-in Tuesday. This is Carimer Andujar speaking to her supporters after she walked freely out of the immigration office in Newark.
Carimer Andujar: “Let me remind you of the power that you guys have. The 45th might be our president. But the people—the people’s power will always be stronger than the people in power.”
In West Virginia, journalist Dan Heyman of Public News Service was arrested after he repeatedly asked Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price whether domestic violence would be categorized as a pre-existing condition under the Republican’s new healthcare plan. The Republicans’ plan does not protect people with pre-existing conditions, instead allowing insurance companies to charge them dramatically higher rates for health insurance. Heyman was arrested, jailed on $5,000 bail and charged with “willful disruption of state government processes” after he repeatedly questioned Price in the hallway of the West Virginia State Capitol.
The American Civil Liberties Union has issued a “travel alert” warning potential travelers to Texas they might be illegally stopped by police and asked about their immigration status, now that Texas Governor Greg Abbott has signed into law SB 4, one of the harshest anti-immigrant laws in the country. The law bans sanctuary cities and allows police officers to check the immigration status of anyone they detain. Click here to see our full interview about SB 4 with Austin City Councilmember Gregorio Casar, who was recently arrested at a sit-in at Abbott’s office protesting SB 4.
The Homeland Security Department has admitted that it’s been compiling lists of alleged crimes committed by Haitians who received temporary protected status, or TPS, to legally reside and work in the U.S. after an earthquake devastated Haiti in 2010. Up to 55,000 Haitians could be forcefully repatriated to Haiti if the Trump administration refuses to extend the protected status on July 22. Click here to see our full interview with Marleine Bastien, executive director of Haitian Women of Miami.
And in Ferguson, Missouri, family members and activists are mourning the death of 27-year-old Edward Crawford, a father of four young children who took part in the 2014 Ferguson uprising sparked by the police killing of unarmed African American Michael Brown. Crawford was the subject of an iconic photo, in which he is throwing a police tear gas canister away from a group of protesters before it could explode. Missouri state Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal tweeted, “Edward Crawford is dead. Found in his car shot to death. He is #Ferguson’s hero. For those of us tear-gassed, he was our local champion. RIP.” Crawford died in his car from a gunshot wound on Thursday. His father has rejected the police’s initial claims that the death was a suicide. He is the third Ferguson protester to have been found shot dead inside their own cars since the uprising.