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President Trump has once again changed his story about why he fired FBI Director James Comey, now admitting on NBC that he made the decision in part due to Comey’s probe of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.
President Donald Trump: “But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself—I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.”
Trump’s comment directly contradicts numerous statements by White House aides in recent days, as well as Trump’s own claims that he had fired Comey over his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton and her use of private email servers. According to The New York Times, Comey was fired just days after requesting more resources for his probe into the Russia and Trump connection. During the same NBC interview, Trump also called Comey a “show boat” and claimed the FBI was in turmoil under his watch.
President Donald Trump: “Look, he’s a show boat. He’s a grandstander. The FBI has been in turmoil. You know that. I know that. Everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil, less than a year ago. It hasn’t recovered from that.”
The White House has also claimed people within the FBI had lost confidence and trust in Comey. But on Thursday, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe rejected these claims when questioned by New Mexico Democratic Senator Martin Heinrich at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.
Sen. Martin Heinrich: “We’ve heard in the news that—claims that Director Comey had—had lost the confidence of rank-and-file FBI employees. You’ve been there for 21 years. In your opinion, is it accurate that the rank and file no longer supported Director Comey.”
Andrew McCabe: “No, sir, that is not accurate. Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day.”
White House officials have abandoned a plan for Trump to visit the FBI headquarters within the coming days, after being told the president would not be welcomed or well received at the agency. New details also have emerged about how Trump summoned Comey for a private dinner in January and reportedly demanded Comey pledge his loyalty to Trump. The New York Times reports Comey promised Trump honesty instead. The White House has rejected this account.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday creating a so-called Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The White House says the commission will be tasked with investigating voter fraud, but critics say it will be wielded to enact policies that further suppress the vote. Trump appointed Vice President Mike Pence as the chair and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as the vice chair of the commission. Kobach—known as a leading proponent of anti-immigrant and voter suppression laws—was a key figure in drafting Arizona’s notorious anti-immigrant racial profiling law, SB 1070, known as the “show me your papers” law, parts of which have been found unconstitutional. He has pushed for the strictest voter identification laws in the country and advocated for a “proof-of-citizenship” requirement at the state and federal levels. We’ll have more on the voting commission after headlines with The Nation’s Ari Berman.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has released a memo telling Justice Department prosecutors to pursue “the most serious” charges for drug offenses. He also rescinded two Obama-era memos that encouraged prosecutors to avoid seeking inordinately harsh sentences for low-level drug offenses. Sessions has long backed lengthy prison sentences and mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes, including for marijuana use, which is now legal for either medical or recreational purposes in many states.
The Senate has approved Robert Lighthizer to be U.S. trade representative. He served as deputy trade representative during the Reagan administration. He’s a proponent of trade tariffs and has been a vocal critic of China.
Angry town halls are continuing around the country, including in Iowa, where Republican Congressmember Rod Blum faced four straight nights of hostile crowds this week, as hundreds of people showed up to events in Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls and Marshalltown to jeer, boo and interrogate Blum about his support for President Trump and the Republican healthcare plan. This is Iowa resident Dale Todd, speaking alongside his son, who has epilepsy, at a town hall in Cedar Rapids Tuesday.
Dale Todd: “And I would have thought somewhere along the line somebody would have said that when you impact kids with special needs—who we sort of have an obligation to take care of our own here in Iowa—that we would have thought that maybe we shouldn’t be doing that. And so, I’m just trying to fathom where that motivation comes from.”
In Iraq, the journalistic monitoring group Airwars says at least 35 civilians were reportedly killed and 100 more wounded in airstrikes carried out by either the U.S.-led coalition or the U.S.-backed Iraqi Air Force on Tuesday. Airwars also says more strikes likely carried out by the U.S.-backed Iraqi Air Force reportedly killed another 27 civilians in Anbar province, also on Tuesday.
In Argentina, tens of thousands of people poured into the streets Wednesday to protest a Supreme Court ruling in favor of a member of a dictatorship-era paramilitary group who was convicted of kidnapping and torturing people during Argentina’s so-called Dirty War. The ruling could have reduced the sentences for those convicted of crimes committed under the dictatorship, but—in response to public outcry—Congress passed a law to block the shortening of their sentences.
In Greece, pensioners and workers blockaded the entrance of the Finance Ministry Thursday to call for a general strike on May 17 to protest a new round of austerity measures imposed by international creditors and accepted by the Greek government. This is one of the protesters, a 65-year-old pensioner.
Ioakim Yatzisis: “The amount of harm that has been done to the Greek people by all these policies is unbelievable. A battle must be waged. What else can we do? We cannot do anything else.”
A new report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies says that Mexico endured the second most conflict deaths of any country last year, with a staggering 23,000 people killed amid the country’s so-called war on drugs. Mexico was second only to Syria, where 50,000 people were killed in 2016 by the ongoing war. The third, fourth and fifth most dangerous countries were Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen.
In New York state, residents are celebrating a major victory, after Texas-based company Crestwood Midstream announced it was nixing plans to expand a natural gas storage facility in abandoned salt caverns at Seneca Lake, a drinking water source for 100,000 people. The project has faced years of sustained resistance from local residents. More than 650 teachers, health workers, faith leaders, scientists, military veterans and others have been arrested blockading construction and protesting the project during the years-long campaign. Following this victory, residents say they’re still committed to fighting Crestwood’s separate plans for a propane storage facility in the area. To see our full coverage of the Seneca Lake struggle over the years, go to democracynow.org.
Meanwhile, in California, students at the University of California, Santa Barbara have scored a victory, after Chancellor Henry Yang backed the students’ calls for the university system to divest from fossil fuels. The backing came after hundreds of students participated in a sit-in at the chancellor’s office this week.
Meanwhile, the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline has already had its first leak—and the pipeline is not yet even in operation. The 84-gallon oil spill occurred in Tulare, South Dakota, about 200 miles south of site of the massive resistance camps, where thousands of indigenous people and their allies camped out in efforts to block the construction of the part of the pipeline that crosses the Missouri River.
Florida University will be awarding Trayvon Martin with a posthumous degree in aeronautical science in a ceremony with his parents Saturday. The degree aims to honor the African-American teenager’s dream of becoming a pilot, before he was murdered by white neighborhood watch vigilante George Zimmerman in 2012.
And in San Diego, social justice activist and priest Thomas Melville has died at the age of 86. He was one of a group of Catholic activists who became known as the Catonsville 9, after they broke into a draft board office in Catonsville, Maryland, in 1968, stole 378 draft cards and burned them in the parking lot as a protest against the Vietnam War. Others involved in the action were his wife, Marjorie Melville, and the late Berrigan brothers, Daniel and Phil Berrigan.