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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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In new revelations about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and alleged Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election, The New York Times is reporting that U.S. spies heard senior Russian political and intelligence officials discussing ways to use then-Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and Trump adviser Michael Flynn in order to exert influence over Donald Trump himself. In the alleged conversations last summer, the Russian officials reportedly bragged about their close ties to Michael Flynn, as well as to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who has worked closely with Manafort. It is not known whether Russian officials ever actually tried to influence Manafort or Flynn or, if so, whether they were successful.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post is reporting former FBI Director James Comey may have been influenced by a fake Russian intelligence document when he decided to publicly denounce Hillary Clinton’s handling of emails as “extremely careless” in July. Officials say the secret Russian intelligence document claimed then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch had assured the Clinton campaign the FBI would not probe too deeply into Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. The Post reports Comey relied heavily on that document when he took the extraordinary step of announcing—without Justice Department involvement—that, although the FBI investigation was over, he found Clinton’s conduct to be “extremely careless.” Officials now say the FBI itself had suspected the document was bad intelligence, or even fake.
CNN is reporting Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not reveal his two meetings last year with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak when he applied for his security clearances to serve as attorney general. These are the same two meetings Sessions failed to disclose during his confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The Congressional Budget Office says the new Republican healthcare plan would cause 23 million people to lose their healthcare by 2026. The plan narrowly passed the House early this month. It’s not clear whether the bill will pass the Senate. This is New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer.
Sen. Chuck Schumer: “The report makes clear: Trumpcare would be a cancer on the American healthcare system, causing costs to skyrocket, making coverage unaffordable for those with pre-existing conditions, and many seniors, and kicking millions off their health insurance. Unless you’re a healthy millionaire, Trumpcare is a nightmare.”
President Trump was greeted by 9,000 angry protesters when he arrived in Belgium Wednesday as part of his first foreign trip as president. Last year, Trump sparked outrage when he described Brussels as “a hellhole” because it had welcomed so many immigrants and refugees. This is protester Anne Tonglet.
Anne Tonglet: “Trump is a great example of appalling machismo. He wants to destroy the planet. He wants to destroy people. We are not insignificant. We are 99 percent of the planet, against 1 percent billionaires, the only ones that Trump represents.”
In Brussels, Trump will be attending his first NATO summit today.
In Brazil, President Michel Temer has authorized the deployment of the Army to the capital Brasília amid growing protests demanding the president’s ouster. On Wednesday, tens of thousands of protesters marched to Congress to demand Temer’s resignation. Some demonstrators also torched a ministry building. Multiple protesters were injured as police attacked them with tear gas, stun grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets. Temer is facing mounting calls to resign or be impeached, following explosive testimony released by the Supreme Court accusing him of accepting millions of dollars in bribes since 2010. We’ll have more on Brazil later in the broadcast with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald.
Shocking new details have come to light about how the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration tried to cover up its role in the killing of four civilians in Honduras in 2012. For years the DEA claimed they were assisting Honduran authorities in a raid that killed four drug smugglers near the village of Ahuas. This was the story the DEA told Congress, the Justice Department and the public. But a scathing new report by the inspectors general of the Justice and State Departments says the DEA repeatedly lied about key aspects of the raid. The victims were not drug smugglers but civilians—including two pregnant women—traveling on a water taxi. In addition, the report says the DEA falsely claimed that Honduran law enforcement had led the operation, when in fact it was led by the DEA. The agents were part of a now-shuttered task force known as the Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team, or FAST, which was trained in military-style anti-drug raids. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy said the report “unmasks egregious events and conduct, as well as the subsequent efforts to hide the truth about what happened.”
British officials are accusing the United States of leaking to the news media details about the investigation into Monday’s suicide bombing in Manchester, which killed 22 people. The officials say they’ll no longer share information with the U.S., after U.S. law enforcement agencies released information and pictures about the investigation before British agencies did so. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May says she’ll raise the issue when she meets with President Trump today during a NATO summit in Brussels. The leaks come as British authorities have arrested a total of eight men suspected of being connected to the attack, including suspected bomber Salman Abedi’s brother, Ismail. Abedi was a 22-year-old British man whose parents emigrated from Libya. Abedi’s brother Hashem and his father have also been arrested by special forces in Libya.
The Italian coast guard says at least 34 refugees—including many small toddlers—have died after their boat capsized off the coast of Libya Wednesday as the refugees were trying to reach Europe. Their deaths come as a new report says as many as 6.6 million people are waiting in countries around the Mediterranean, hoping to emigrate to Europe.
Back in the United States, in Montana, Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte has been charged with assault after he body-slammed a Guardian reporter to the floor Wednesday night, only hours before polls open for the special election today. Gianforte, a tech millionaire who is backed by Trump, attacked Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs as Jacobs was trying to ask about the Republican healthcare plan. This is audio Jacobs captured of the incident.
Greg Gianforte: “We’ll talk to you about that later.”
Ben Jacobs: “Yeah, but there’s not going to be time. I was just curious if you have the act right now.”
Greg Gianforte: “OK, speak with Shane, please. Just—I’m sick and tired of you guys! The last guy that came in here, you did the same thing! Get the hell out of here!”
Ben Jacobs: “Jesus!”
Greg Gianforte: “Get the hell out of here! The last guy did the same thing. You with The Guardian?”
Ben Jacobs: “Yes! And you just broke my glasses.”
Greg Gianforte: “You—the last guy did the same damn thing.”
Ben Jacobs: “You just body-slammed me and broke my glasses.”
Greg Gianforte: “Get the hell out of here!”
Ben Jacobs: “You’d like me to get out of here. I’d also like to call the police.”
That was reporter Ben Jacobs being attacked by Montana congressional candidate Greg Gianforte Wednesday night. Voters are now heading to the polls to decide between Gianforte and Democratic candidate Rob Quist to fill Montana’s at-large House seat, which was vacated by now-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. The $10 million closely watched race is seen as a referendum on the Trump administration. More than 70 percent of voters in Montana have already cast their ballots in the election.