President Donald Trump announced Thursday he will withdraw the United States from the landmark Paris climate accord that was signed by nearly 200 nations in 2015 and heralded as a rare moment of international collaboration to avert imminent climate disaster. Trump spoke in the White House Rose Garden, surrounded by supporters.
President Donald Trump: “In order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord—thank you—but begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris accord or an, really, entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers.”
Trump’s decision drew swift condemnation from climate activists and heads of state in every corner of the globe. A spokesperson for the United Nations secretary-general called it a “major disappointment.” France joined Germany and Italy in issuing a joint statement expressing “regret” and rejecting Trump’s claim he would renegotiate the Paris accord. India and China joined European leaders in pledging to uphold their end of the deal. Back in the United States, former Secretary of State John Kerry, who led the U.S. into the Paris deal, said President Trump could have simply reduced U.S. pledges to reduce carbon emissions, which are voluntary under the Paris Agreement.
John Kerry: “No country is required by this agreement to do anything except what that country decided to do for itself. So Donald Trump is not telling the truth to the American people when he says, 'We have this huge burden that's been imposed on us by other nations.’ No, we agreed to what we would do. We designed it. It’s voluntary. And the president of the Unites States could have simply changed that without walking away from the whole agreement.”
The former president of Ireland, Mary Robinson, said Trump’s decision had turned the United States into “a rogue state.” We’ll have more on President Trump’s move to withdraw from the Paris accord after headlines.
In Washington, D.C., the Trump administration says it has granted retroactive waivers to senior staff to allow them to skirt ethics rules aimed at preventing conflicts of interest. The disclosure came in undated memos by the counsel to the president that were made public Wednesday evening. One of those benefiting from the move is Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, who has reportedly maintained contact with the far-right website Breitbart Media in violation of a White House ethics pledge. Bannon formerly headed Breitbart, which frequently publishes racist, sexist and xenophobic news. The director of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, told The New York Times the move was invalid, saying, “There is no such thing as a retroactive waiver. If you need a retroactive waiver, you have violated a rule.”
In Russia, President Vladimir Putin denied allegations Thursday that the Russian government meddled in the 2016 U.S. election. But Putin suggested for the first time that independent Russian hackers may have played a role in undermining the campaign of Hillary Clinton.
President Vladimir Putin: “Hackers are free-spirited people. They are like artists. If they are in a good mood in the morning, they wake up and paint. It is the same for hackers. They wake up today, they read that something is happening in interstate relations, and if they are patriotically minded, they start to make their own contribution to what they believe is the good fight against those who speak badly about Russia.”
Putin’s comments came as two Democratic senators said they asked former FBI Director James Comey to investigate whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions perjured himself when he testified to Congress in January that he did not have any communications with the Russians ahead of the November election. Senators Al Franken of Minnesota and Pat Leahy of Vermont say they were expecting Comey to brief them on the matter on May 12, but say the briefing never happened because President Trump fired Comey on May 9, after Sessions and his deputy attorney general recommended Comey’s termination. Comey is scheduled to testify publicly to the Senate Intelligence Committee next Thursday.
President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner took advantage of a federal program aimed at helping low-income communities to build a gleaming, 50-story residential tower in a wealthy neighborhood in New Jersey. That’s according to The Washington Post, which reported that Kushner and his real estate partners drew up a map—similar to a gerrymandered congressional district—that falsely claimed the areas around the tower at 65 Bay Street in Jersey City are blighted. In fact, the map stretched miles into areas of south Jersey City, where poverty and unemployment are high, while avoiding affluent neighborhoods just blocks from the residential tower. The move gave Kushner’s company access to $50 million in low-cost financing under a program aimed at promoting investment in areas of high unemployment. Kushner and his partners are attempting to use a similar map to secure $150 million to build a pair of luxury towers in Jersey City’s Journal Square neighborhood.
In the Philippines, at least 36 people died after a gunman stormed a Manila casino resort and lit the building on fire. The gunman reportedly fired shots into a television screen and set gambling tables on fire with gasoline, setting off a stampede and suffocating guests. Police described the attacker as a white, English-speaking foreigner. They reported he died after he fled with more than $2 million in stolen casino chips, holed up in a nearby hotel room and committed suicide by setting himself on fire. Friday morning’s attack was falsely labeled terrorism by President Donald Trump; police say it was a failed attempt at a heist.
The attack came after Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in the Mindanao region, as his forces battle ISIS-allied militants in the city of Marawi. On Thursday, 11 Philippine soldiers were killed in a so-called friendly fire airstrike aimed at the fighters. Duterte has threatened to declare martial law nationwide if the insurgency continues.
In Iraq, the journalistic monitoring group Airwars reports more than 20 civilians were killed—most of them women and children—after airstrikes or artillery attacks struck their homes in western Mosul. Among those reportedly killed were resident Hussein Abbas and 11 members of a single family. Most sources blamed U.S.-backed Iraqi forces for the deaths.
In Venezuela, gunmen shot and killed a judge Wednesday night at a Caracas checkpoint set up by opposition protesters hoping to topple the government of President Nicolás Maduro. Local media reported Judge Nelson Moncada may have been targeted for assassination because he sentenced opposition leader Leopoldo López to nearly 14 years in prison for inciting violence during mass protests three years ago. This is Venezuela’s interior minister, Néstor Reverol.
Néstor Reverol: “We have not ruled out that this was done by an assassin, a hit man contracted by right-wing terrorists, aimed at creating more terror.”
With the killing, the death toll from two months of clashes between security forces and antigovernment protesters rose to 62. On Thursday, President Nicolás Maduro said he would hold a national referendum on his plan to create a new constituent assembly that would have the power to rewrite Venezuela’s constitution.
In Mexico City, journalists gathered outside the offices of the attorney general Thursday demanding an investigation into the abduction of Salvador Adame Pardo, a journalist who was kidnapped by gunmen in the state of Michoacán on May 18. The abduction came amid a wave of murders of Mexican journalists. This is Frida Urtiz, Salvador Adame’s wife.
Frida Urtiz: “All journalists in Mexico are scared. Journalists go through this constantly. Today, we should not be separated. We should be united. We have different opinions, but we should be united, so that no other Salvador goes missing.”
Mexico’s National Commission on Human Rights reports over 120 journalists have been killed since 2000.
Also in Mexico, the United Nations has launched an $18 million campaign to support Central American unaccompanied migrant children. The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights says the fund will help protect children escaping sexual violence, extortion and forced conscription into criminal gangs. This is “Ema,” a Honduran child who fled to Mexico.
Ema: “We can’t live in Honduras anymore. There are many people leaving the country for the same reason: crime. The gangs are bad. There are deaths of innocent people, children. We can’t live in Honduras anymore.”
The UNHCR says more than 180,000 children fled Central America in 2016—a tenfold increase over the last five years.
Back in the U.S., the Trump administration has further restricted rules on applicants for U.S. visas, rolling out a questionnaire this week that will require them to provide five years’ worth of social media handles and 15 years of biographical information. The administration calls the questions “voluntary,” but the new form says applicants who don’t provide the information might see their visas delayed or denied.
The restrictions came as the Trump administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstitute its ban on refugees and travelers from six majority-Muslim nations. Federal judges have enjoined the travel ban, ruling it likely violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which prohibits religious discrimination.
And Princeton University professor of African-American studies Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor has canceled all her upcoming public appearances amid a wave of death threats that followed a Fox News report critical of her comments about President Donald Trump, which she made at a May 20 commencement address at Hampshire College in Massachusetts.
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor: “The president of the United States, the most powerful politician in the world, is a racist, sexist megalomaniac. It is not a benign observation but has meant tragic consequences for many people in this country, from the terror-inducing raids in the communities of undocumented immigrants to his disparaging of refugees in search of freedom and respite.”
Taylor said she would not give speeches planned for Seattle and San Diego this week, out of fear for the safety of her family after she received a torrent of vile comments and threats to her life. In a statement, Taylor wrote, “We have to change this dynamic and begin to build a massive movement against racism, sexism and bigotry in this country. I remain undaunted in my commitment to that project.”