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President Trump is visiting Israel today as part of his first trip abroad as president. During the two-day trip, he and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials. It’s Tillerson’s first trip ever to Israel. In a controversial move, Trump is also slated to become the first sitting U.S. president to visit the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.
Trump’s visit comes after widespread protests broke out Friday across the Israeli-occupied West Bank, after a Jewish settler killed a young Palestinian Thursday. More than 100 protesters were injured as Israeli security forces shot live bullets and tear gas at the thousands of demonstrators. The protests were also in support of the ongoing hunger strikes by Palestinians in Israeli jails. This morning, as Trump arrived in Israel, 200 more prisoners reportedly joined the strike.
Over the weekend, Trump visited Saudi Arabia, where he signed a series of arms deals totaling a record $110 billion. The arms deal includes tanks, artillery, ships, helicopters, a missile defense system and cybersecurity technology. The deal is expected to total more than $350 billion over the next 10 years.
The deal comes as the Pentagon continues to support a Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen, where years of fighting have decimated the country’s health, water, sewage and sanitation systems, contributing to a cholera outbreak that has killed at least 300 people and that is threatening to spiral out of control. Over 10,000 people have died since the Saudi bombing campaign began in 2015. On Saturday, thousands of Yemenis rallied in Sana’a to protest the U.S. arms deal with Saudi Arabia and Trump’s visit there. This is Yemeni journalist Nasser Al-Rabeey.
Nasser Al-Rabeey: “We are here today to say no for terrorism, no for American terrorism. And we are here to say to Trump: 'You kill Yemenis with Saudi hands. You support Qaeda/ISIS by supporting the Saudi Wahhabi regime.'”
A legal expert says the U.S. arms deal with Saudi Arabia may be illegal under U.S. law because of the Saudi bombing campaign’s killing of civilians. As Trump celebrated the $110 billion arms deal, the Saudis pledged a series of investments in U.S. companies, including a $20 billion investment in the private equity firm Blackstone Group and a $100 million donation—made along with the United Arab Emirates—to a World Bank fund for women that was proposed by President Trump’s daughter and White House adviser, Ivanka Trump. We’ll have more on Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia after headlines with Medea Benjamin.
On Capitol Hill, new details emerged Friday about the ongoing scandal over President Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey, including that President Trump called Comey a “real nut job” during his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak earlier this month. Trump also reportedly told the Russian officials, “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off,” referring to Comey’s firing.
Comey is slated to testify to the Senate Intelligence Committee after Memorial Day weekend, which coincides with Trump’s return from his foreign trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican.
Trump had said he’d name a new FBI director before departing this past Friday, but the appointment has been delayed, in part because possible candidates keep withdrawing their names from consideration. Among those who have withdrawn their names are former FBI official Richard McFeely, South Carolina Congressmember Trey Gowdy and former Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher. Democrats are objecting to the possible appointment of former Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman as FBI director. Lieberman currently works for a law firm that had frequently represented Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post is reporting that a current White House official is under investigation for possibly colluding with Russian officials to allegedly hack the 2016 election. The White House official has not been named. A number of former Trump campaign officials, including former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, are also under investigation.
In Indiana, more than 100 students marched out of the Notre Dame graduation ceremony to protest Vice President Mike Pence’s commencement speech. Pence was chosen as the commencement speaker after thousands of students and professors signed a letter demanding the university not invite President Trump. After leaving the official graduation ceremony, protesting students held their own “alternative” graduation in a nearby park, where they held hands and sang the Notre Dame hymn.
Students: “Notre Dame, our mother / tender, strong and true / proudly in the heavens / gleams the gold and blue.”
Among the students’ issues was discrimination against Muslims. Vice President Pence was also the former governor and congressmember from Indiana.
In Iraq, more than 50 people were killed in a string of suicide bomb attacks in the capital Baghdad and at checkpoints near the oilfields in the southern province of Basra on Friday. ISIS claimed responsibility for the Baghdad attacks, which killed at least 19 people. The attacks come as thousands of families continue to flee the fighting in Mosul, where the U.S. and U.S.-backed Iraqi militaries are battling to retake the city from ISIS. The United Nations says at least 435,000 people have been displaced from western Mosul so far. A new report by Human Rights Watch has accused troops allied with the U.S.-backed Iraqi military of detaining, interrogating and torturing up to 100 residents as they fled the fighting in Mosul last month.
The Syrian government says it’s taken full control of Homs, after thousands of anti-government rebels and residents were evacuated over the weekend. In 2011, Homs became known as the “capital of the revolution” when it was one of the first cities to rise up against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
In Iran, President Hassan Rouhani has been re-elected in a landslide. Rouhani beat out his challenger, hardline judge Ebrahim Raisi, in Friday’s election, which saw huge turnout across the country. Rouhani is credited with negotiating the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. He’s now vowing to work for the removal of non-nuclear sanctions levied against Iran. We’ll have more on the Iranian elections later in the broadcast.
The New York Times reports the Chinese government jailed or killed as many as 20 CIA sources in the country between 2010 and 2012. U.S. officials call it the worst intelligence breach in decades. One CIA source was shot in public outside a government building, in an apparent warning to others who might be working for the CIA. The Times reports it’s still unknown how the Chinese successfully identified so many CIA sources.
North Korea launched another medium-range ballistic missile test on Saturday, only one week after launching a new type of rocket North Korea says is capable of striking U.S. military bases in the region. The U.N. Security Council is slated to meet Tuesday to discuss the North Korean nuclear program.
In Brazil, protesters gathered in cities across the country Sunday to demand the resignation of President Michel Temer, following explosive testimony released by the Supreme Court Friday that accuses Temer of accepting millions of dollars in bribes since 2010. On Saturday, Temer vowed not to resign. But key political groups, including political parties, and the influential lawyers association have backed the impeachment calls. This is the president of Brazil’s Workers’ Party, Rui Falcão, at the protest Sunday.
Rui Falcão “All over the country, people are taking to the streets today in defense of direct elections now. Temer’s government has ended. He doesn’t have the moral and political legitimacy to end the country’s crisis. There are 14 million unemployed people already.”
In South Sudan, the United Nations says pro-government forces killed at least 114 civilians in the last six months of last year in and around the town of Yei. The U.N. also accused the pro-government soldiers of raping and torturing civilians. South Sudan has been wracked by civil war since 2013, and the U.N. says parts of the country have entered a famine, with 100,000 people at risk of starvation.
Back in the United States, Billy Bush has broken his silence about the 2005 NBC’s “Access Hollywood” videotape, in which Bush is egging on Donald Trump as he brags about committing sexual assault.
Donald Trump: “I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. I just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
Billy Bush: “Whatever you want.”
Donald Trump: “Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”
NBC fired Billy Bush after the tape resurfaced during the 2016 presidential campaign. In his first comments on the tape since its release, Bush told “Good Morning America” the tape brought his 16-year-old daughter to tears.
Billy Bush: “It was a powerful moment. My now-16-year-old daughter called me, and she was in tears. And she was really upset. And I said, 'Mary, it's—it’s going to be OK. You know, don’t worry.’ And she said, 'No. Why were you laughing at the things that he was saying on that bus? Why were you playing along with it, Dad? It wasn't funny.’ And I said, 'Mary, I am sorry. And there is no good answer for that.'”
In Washington state, authorities are investigating a possible nuclear waste leak, after radioactive material was found on a worker’s clothing. This comes less than two weeks after the Department of Energy declared a state of emergency at the Hanford nuclear site after a tunnel storing contaminated radioactive materials collapsed. Hanford is the nation’s most polluted nuclear weapons production site. Click here to see our full interview on Hanford when Democracy Now! was in Washington state.
In Maryland, the FBI is investigating the murder of an African-American student as a possible hate crime, after police discovered that his alleged killer was part of a white supremacist Facebook group called “Alt-Reich: Nation.” University of Maryland student Sean Urbanski, who is white, has been charged with first-degree murder for fatally stabbing 23-year-old Richard Collins II, an African-American student at Bowie State University who was visiting the University of Maryland during graduation weekend. Collins was set to graduate this spring.
In Ohio, a grand jury has refused to indict white police officer Bryan Mason for killing 13-year-old Tyre King in 2016. King was an eighth-grader who played football and was in the young scholars program at his school. He was playing with a toy BB gun near his home, when officer Mason chased him into an alley, allegedly confused the toy gun for a real gun, and then shot the boy repeatedly, killing him. King is at least the second person Officer Mason has killed over the last five years.
And in New Orleans, hundreds of people gathered to celebrate the removal of a massive bronze statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on Friday. It was the last of a series of Confederate statues the city has removed in recent weeks. Workers wore bulletproof vests and face coverings to conceal their identities as they used a crane to remove the statue from a 60-foot-high pedestal. White nationalists have staged a series of protests and issued threats in the lead-up to the memorials’ removals. A car belonging to one of the workers had also been set on fire.