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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines. Maybe you come for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. Today Democracy Now! is celebrating our 23rd birthday. For over two decades, we've produced our daily news hour without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting. How is this possible? Only with your support. Right now, in honor of Democracy Now!'s birthday, every donation we receive will be tripled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $30 today, Democracy Now! will get $90 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. Thank you! -Amy Goodman
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And in breaking news, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was shot in the hip this morning while he and other congressmembers were practicing for the upcoming Congressional Baseball Game. Multiple congressional aides were also reportedly shot. The New York Times reports the gunman fired about 50 shots.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has denied colluding with Russia ahead of the 2016 election, during a highly anticipated testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday. Sessions spent much of Tuesday’s hearing refusing to answer questions about President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey and whether Trump had expressed concern to Sessions about the attorney general’s decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. This is independent Senator Angus King of Maine grilling Sessions about his refusal to answer questions.
Sen. Angus King: “What is the legal basis for your refusal to answer these questions?”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions: “I am protecting the right of the president to exert it—assert it if he chooses. And there may be other privileges that could apply in this circumstance.”
Sen. Angus King: “Well, I don’t—I don’t understand how you can have it both ways. The president can’t not assert it. And you’ve testified that only the president can assert it, and yet I just don’t understand the legal basis for your—for your refusal to answer.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions: “Well, it would it be premature for me to deny the president a full and intelligent choice about executive privilege.”
That was Jeff Sessions testifying to the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday. During the testimony, California Senator Kamala Harris was interrupted by Sen. John McCain of Arizona as she questioned Sessions. Harris was also interrupted by McCain last week as she questioned Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, leading many to charge him with sexism. The Senate is slated to vote today on whether to impose a series of new sanctions against Russia over the alleged interference in the 2016 election. We’ll have more on Jeff Sessions’s testimony after headlines.
Nearly 200 Democratic congressmembers are suing President Trump, accusing him of violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution by accepting millions of dollars in payments from foreign governments to his companies while serving as U.S. president. The attorneys general of Maryland and D.C. have filed a similar lawsuit against the president.
On Capitol Hill, the Senate has voted 53 to 47 to approve the sale of $500 million in precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia. A surprising number of senators voted against the deal, amid increasing concerns about the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led war in Yemen, which has killed more than 10,000 people and included devastating attacks on civilians that human rights groups say may constitute war crimes.
This comes as the death toll from an escalating cholera outbreak in Yemen has now topped 900. More than a quarter of the victims were children. The U.S.-backed, Saudi-led bombing campaign and naval blockade has devastated Yemen’s sanitation, water and health infrastructure, with less than half of Yemen’s hospitals currently operational.
United Nations war crimes investigators say U.S.-led coalition airstrikes on the Syrian city of Raqqa are causing a “staggering loss of civilian life.” The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces launched the offensive to retake the city of Raqqa from ISIS a week ago. Since then, the U.S.-led coalition has been launching an average of more than a dozen airstrikes a day against the city. Among the recent reported victims of the airstrikes and attacks by U.S.-backed troops are a young girl named Tal Al Jasser, a father named Mahmoud Farouk al-Khalaf and his 4-month-old child, and a boy named Khaled al Khalaf al Sayel, who reportedly died alongside his sister and his father. Meanwhile, in more news on Syria, unnamed U.S. defense officials have told CNN that the Pentagon has moved its High Mobility Artillery Rocket System from Jordan into Syria for the first time, positioning it near the U.S. military base at al-Tanf.
In Iraq, more than 800 civilians at a refugee camp have been sickened by contaminated food provided by the British charity Help the Needy Charitable Trust. This is Mohammed Abd Al-Rahman.
Mohammed Abd Al-Rahman: “People were kicking the ground with their feet and screaming out of pain, a very strong pain in the stomach. We were told that we had been poisoned by food. We were taken to the clinic at night, and we were treated. We were put on an IV drip, and we got better. Some people remained in critical condition until the morning.”
President Trump has given the Pentagon new power to decide the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, meaning thousands more U.S. soldiers could be deployed. The authorization came the same day Defense Secretary Jim Mattis testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Defense Secretary James Mattis: “We are not winning in Afghanistan right now, and we will correct this as soon as possible. I believe the three things we are asking for stand on their own merit, however, as we look more broadly at the protection of the country.”
There are currently about 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The war in Afghanistan is the longest war in U.S. history.
In Egypt, the government has blocked access to at least 48 news sites amid an increasing crackdown against journalists and human rights activists. Among the sites are Al Jazeera, Huffington Post’s Arabic website, the self-publishing platform Medium and the local independent news site Mada Masr.
American college student Otto Warmbier has returned to the United States in a coma, after being detained in North Korea for more than 17 months. He was initially sentenced to 15 years of labor for trying to steal a propaganda sign at a North Korean hotel. He’s been in a coma for over a year. North Korea says the student contracted botulism and slipped into the coma after taking a sleeping pill, although the family says their son was “brutalized and terrorized” and that they are sceptical of the explanation. Meanwhile, former NBA player Dennis Rodman has arrived in North Korea. U.S. officials say Rodman is not acting as a representative for the U.S. government.
A new investigation by The Guardian has revealed workplace abuse, grueling production targets and deplorably low pay at an Indonesian factory that makes clothing for Ivanka Trump’s label. Many of the female workers at the factory in West Java say the pay is so low, they live in constant debt and can’t afford to live with their own children. This comes as three Chinese activists with the group China Labor Watch continue to be imprisoned after they were arrested while investigating labor conditions at a factory manufacturing Ivanka Trump brand shoes.
In London, at least six people have died and 20 more are in critical condition amid a raging fire at a 24-story apartment building in West London this morning. The cause of the fire is not known. Hundreds of firefighters battled the blaze, which the commissioner said was the worst he’s seen in 29 years on the job.
Back in the United States, President Trump and top Republican lawmakers continue their efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Multiple past Republican efforts to craft and pass their own healthcare law have failed. On Tuesday, Trump held a lunch with 13 Republican senators to discuss the latest effort. He also slammed the Affordable Care Act while speaking in Wisconsin Tuesday.
President Donald Trump: “These are sad but familiar stories in Wisconsin, where Obamacare premiums have doubled. Obamacare is one of the greatest catastrophes that our country has signed into law, and the victims are innocent, hard-working Americans.”
In Michigan, lawyers have filed an emergency injunction to block the deportation of a group of Iraqis. In recent days, more than 100 Iraqis have been arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in one of the biggest roundups in years. Advocates say the Iraqis, many of whom are Christian, could face torture and persecution in Iraq.
Meanwhile, in Westchester County, New York, classmates and residents are demanding the release of high school student Diego Puma Macancela, who was arrested by ICE agents on the same day as his senior prom. He and his mom are facing deportation to Ecuador.
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is taking an indefinite leave of absence amid a scandal over sexual harassment at the Wall Street-backed ride-hailing company. On Tuesday, billionaire David Bonderman also resigned from Uber’s board, after making disparaging comments about women at a board meeting intended to address sexual harassment, saying that if there were more women on the board, “it’s much more likely to be more talking.” This all comes after former Attorney General Eric Holder released his recommendations for addressing sexual harassment at Uber.
In Virginia, former Republican National Committee Chair Ed Gillespie won a narrow victory over his Trump-supporting challenger in the Republican primary for the Virginia governor’s race. His challenger, Corey Stewart, ran his campaign on his loyalty to President Trump. While Gillespie was expected to win by a wide margin, he ended up winning by only a few thousand votes. He’ll now face Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam in November.
A new analysis of 2016 data shows that five men now possess as much wealth as half of the world’s population combined. The five men—Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Spanish businessman Amancio Ortega, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, American investor Warren Buffett and Mexican telecommunications tycoon Carlos Slim—combined hold $400 billion. Slim is a major shareholder in The New York Times, while Bezos owns The Washington Post.