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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. This weekend, we're broadcasting live from D.C. as students and people of all ages converge on the capital to demand action on gun control. Our coverage is produced at a fraction of the cost of a commercial news operation, without ads, paywalls, government funds or corporate sponsors. How is this possible? Only with your support. If you and everyone visiting this website gave just $4, it would cover our operating costs for 2018. Pretty exciting, right? Please do your part. It takes just a few minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you and everybody else.
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In Georgia, Republicans have pulled off a victory in the most expensive congressional race in history. In a special election in Georgia’s 6th District, Republican Karen Handel won nearly 53 percent of the vote, defeating her challenger, Democrat Jon Ossoff, to fill the seat left vacant after Tom Price resigned to become secretary of health and human services.
The candidates and outside groups spent more than $55 million on the race—a record-shattering amount. While the seat has been held by a Republican for decades, Democrats were hoping to pull off an upset in the suburban Atlanta district where President Trump’s approval rating is just 35 percent. This marks the fourth congressional race Democrats have lost since the election of Trump. This is Karen Handel speaking Tuesday night.
Rep.-elect Karen Handel “And a special thanks to the president of the United States.”
Crowd: “Trump! Trump! Trump!”
Karen Handel is the former secretary of state of Georgia. She made national headlines in 2012 when she led an effort at the breast cancer charity Susan G. Komen to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood.
Meanwhile, in South Carolina, Republicans pulled off another victory in the special election to fill the seat left vacant by Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney. Republican Ralph Norman eked a narrow victory over Democratic challenger Archie Parnell. Norman won only 51 percent of the vote — a smaller margin than expected. We’ll have more on the Georgia and South Carolina races after headlines.
In news from Capitol Hill, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has become the latest member of Trump’s inner circle to hire a personal lawyer amid the ongoing investigations into the Trump administration’s ties to Russia. Vice President Mike Pence and Trump himself have also hired personal lawyers. On Tuesday, special counsel Robert Mueller met with members of the House Intelligence Committee to discuss a plan to ensure that their parallel investigations don’t conflict with one another. Also on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Trump will make an announcement this week about whether the president taped any of his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey. Last month in a Twitter rant, Trump threatened Comey over the possibility of taped conversations, tweeting, “James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Sean Spicer also said Tuesday that he hasn’t talked to Trump about whether the president believes that Russia interfered with the 2016 U.S. election, during the first on-camera White House press briefing in eight days. Meanwhile, in more news on Sean Spicer, unnamed officials say Spicer may be ousted as White House press secretary. The speculation comes only weeks after Trump’s communications director, Michael Dubke, resigned.
The New York Times is reporting senior officials from multiple federal agencies were worried that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was a blackmail risk as early as January—yet proceeded to allow him to participate in top-secret intelligence briefings alongside President Trump for nearly three weeks despite these concerns. The Times reports officials from the FBI, the CIA, the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence were all worried Flynn might be susceptible to blackmail by Russian officials after Flynn lied about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans will release a draft of the healthcare bill on Thursday morning, as Republicans face widespread outrage for negotiating the bill in secret, closed-door meetings. The Republicans’ House bill would strip 23 million people of their health insurance, while giving billions of dollars in tax breaks to wealthy Americans. They are pushing for a vote on the bill before the July 4 recess. We’ll have more on the Republican healthcare plan later in the broadcast.
In the latest escalation in Syria, the Pentagon says a U.S. fighter jet shot down an Iranian-made armed drone on Tuesday, only days after the U.S. shot down a Syrian warplane on Sunday. The Pentagon claims the drone was flying toward U.S.-backed Syrian fighters. Russian officials have threatened to target U.S. planes flying west of the Euphrates River. Tuesday’s downing of the drone is sparking increasing fears of the possibility of a direct confrontation between the U.S. and Russia in Syria. This is United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.
Secretary-General António Guterres: “I am concerned, even if there were some declarations more recently that gave us the idea that there should be, that there would be a de-escalation of this situation. And I strongly hope that there will be a de-escalation of the situation, because these kind of incidents can be very dangerous in a conflict situation in which there are so many actors and in which the situation is so complex on the ground. So, indeed, I am concerned, and I hope that this will not lead to any escalation of a conflict that is already as dramatic as it is.”
In Saudi Arabia, King Salman has deposed his nephew as crown prince and has replaced him with his son, Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, who is now first in line for the throne. Mohammed bin Salman currently serves as defense minister and has been presiding over the devastating U.S.-backed, Saudi-led war in Yemen. In response to the news, The Huffington Post’s foreign affairs reporter Akbar Shahid Ahmed tweeted, “This is HUGE. Man he is replacing was against Qatar crusade+Yemen war. Saudi is doubling down on its most controversial actions.”
Meanwhile, in Yemen, health officials say multiple U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition airstrikes killed at least 25 civilians at a market in northern Saada province Sunday. Graphic images that circulated on social media show corpses lying amid rubble and survivors surveying the damage to the market. More than 10,000 people have died amid the ongoing U.S.-backed, Saudi-led war in Yemen, which has also destroyed the country’s health, water and sanitation systems, sparking a deadly cholera outbreak.
The State Department expressed confusion Tuesday about Saudi Arabia’s move to cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, saying the Saudis and other Gulf countries have not revealed their grievances more than two weeks after they severed ties. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said Tuesday, “At this point, we are left with one simple question: Were the actions really about their concerns about Qatar’s alleged support for terrorism, or were they about the long-simmering grievances between and among the GCC countries?” referring to the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. President Trump initially celebrated and even tried to claim credit for Saudi Arabia’s decision to cut ties with Qatar, tweeting, “During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar–look!” But then a week later, the U.S. agreed to sell $12 billion worth of U.S.-manufactured F-15 fighter jets to Qatar.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is meeting with Chinese officials today. Tillerson was planning to use the meetings to press Chinese officials to continue to confront North Korea over its nuclear program. But on Tuesday afternoon, President Trump appeared to abandon this effort in a tweet, writing, “While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!” The New York Times reports that senior officials say they’re trying to understand the meaning of the tweet.
In Somalia, at least 15 people were killed in a suicide car bombing in the capital Mogadishu Tuesday. Police say most of the victims were civilians. The militant group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The International Organization for Migration says as many as 120 refugees are missing and feared drowned after a boat sank off the coast of Libya on Friday. The majority of the victims were Sudanese and Nigerian. At least 2,000 refugees have now died this year while attempting to cross the Mediterranean and reach Europe.
Meanwhile, in Hungary, the trial has begun of four men charged with killing 71 refugees who were found suffocated in the back of an abandoned, overcrowded truck in 2015. The victims were from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and included at least four children. The men are also charged with human trafficking.
In Honduras, journalist and congressional candidate Víctor Fúnez was murdered outside his home in the Caribbean coastal city of La Ceiba last Thursday. Víctor Fúnez directed the local nighttime television news show. Police say they’ve arrested a suspect in the case. Human rights groups say Fúnez is at least the 70th journalist murdered in Honduras since 2001.
Uber founder Travis Kalanick has resigned as CEO amid a widespread sexual harassment scandal at the Wall Street-backed ride-hailing company. His departure comes after a revolt by a number of investors who demanded Kalanick’s ouster. Last week, 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.” At least 20 Uber workers have also been fired over the reports of sexual harassment.
The dash camera video of the police killing of African-American motorist Philando Castile in Minnesota has been released, only days after police officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of manslaughter. The dash cam video shows Yanez pointing his gun at Castile through the driver’s side window. Castile then informs the officer that he has a gun in the car, which he was licensed to carry. In the video, you can also hear the voices of Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her 4-year-old young daughter, who were both inside the car.
A warning to our audience, this video is graphic.
Philando Castile: “Sir, I have to tell you, I do have a—”
Jeronimo Yanez: “OK.”
Philando Castile: “—firearm on me.”
Jeronimo Yanez: “OK. Don’t reach for it then.”
Philando Castile: “I’m not.”
Jeronimo Yanez: “Don’t pull it out.”
Philando Castile: “I’m not pulling it out.”
Jeronimo Yanez: “Don’t pull it out!”
Philando Castile: “I’m not—”
[multiple shots, screaming]
Diamond Reynolds: “You just killed my boyfriend! He wasn’t reaching for it!”
Philando Castile: “I wasn’t reaching!”
Diamond Reynolds: “He wasn’t reaching.”
Jeronimo Yanez: “Don’t pull it out!”
Diamond Reynolds: “He wasn’t!”
Jeronimo Yanez: “Don’t move!”
Diamond Reynolds: “Oh, man. Oh, my god.”
Jeronimo Yanez: “Don’t move! Don’t move!”
Diamond Reynolds: “Oh, my god. I’m shaking.”
Jeronimo Yanez: “Don’t move!”
Diamond Reynolds: “Don’t move, baby.”
Jeronimo Yanez: “Code 3! Get the baby girl out of here!”
“Get the baby girl out of here!”—the words of police officer Jeronimo Yanez, screaming as the 4-year-old girl escapes from the car, after watching Philando Castile being shot seven times by Officer Yanez.
And in Ferguson, Missouri, the parents of Michael Brown have settled their wrongful death lawsuit with the city of Ferguson over the murder of their son by white police officer Darren Wilson in 2014. Michael Brown was 18 years old and unarmed when officer Wilson shot him dead and then left his body to lie in the street for over four hours. The settlement is sealed, which means the terms will not be made public.