In Texas, tens of thousands of residents began evacuating coastal communities Thursday, as forecasters predicted Hurricane Harvey could make landfall late Friday as a major Category 3 storm, delivering a life-threatening 35 inches of rain to some parts of the Gulf Coast. Texas Governor Greg Abbott called out 700 members of the National Guard as several coastal counties ordered mandatory evacuations. Hurricane trackers expect the storm’s eye to come ashore near the city of Corpus Christi, where Mayor Joe McComb called for a voluntary evacuation.
Mayor Joe McComb: “So we are recommending, in the strongest terms, that if you live in those low-lying areas, that you get out and you begin to get out now. Go to a resident—I mean, a family member, a friend, somewhere. Just get to higher ground. And so, we are requesting that you do that. Again, this is on a voluntary basis.”
Some computer models predict Harvey could stall over Texas, delivering catastrophic flooding before drifting back over the Gulf of Mexico toward Louisiana. In New Orleans, Mayor Mitch Landrieu admitted Thursday that turbines and pumps needed to drain low-lying parts of the city remain below capacity, after torrential downpours flooded parts of New Orleans earlier this month. Climate scientists say human-driven global warming is leading to more intense storms and increasing the maximum intensity of rainfall.
In Florida, prison officials on Thursday injected a 53-year-old condemned prisoner with a dose of an anesthetic never before used in a U.S. execution. At 6:10 p.m., Mark James Asay was strapped to a gurney and administered the drug etomidate. Witnesses say Asay twitched his legs briefly and appeared to breathe rapidly before his death was declared at 6:22 p.m. Etomidate was developed by Janssen, a division of Johnson & Johnson, and has been criticized as being unproven in executions. In response, the company said, “We do not condone the use of our medicines in lethal injections for capital punishment.” Mark James Asay was the first white man to be put to death in Florida for killing a black man since the state reinstituted the death penalty in 1979. We’ll have more on the death penalty and last night’s execution in Florida later in the broadcast.
At the White House, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday that President Trump would ask Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to try again to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act when Congress returns from its summer recess next month. The comments came as President Trump continued to attack McConnell on Twitter and amid reports that a phone call between Trump and McConnell earlier this month devolved into a profane shouting match.
During Thursday’s White House press briefing—the first in three weeks—Huckabee Sanders was also asked about Trump’s threat to shut down the federal government if Congress doesn’t pay for an expanded wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Cecilia Vega: “Sarah, on this threat of the government shutdown if Congress doesn’t secure funding for this wall, how is that not a concession from this White House that Mexico isn’t actually going to pay for this wall and American taxpayers will?”
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “Again, this is something the president is committed to. He’s committed to protecting American lives. And doing that through the border wall is something that’s important. It’s a priority, and we’re moving forward with it. Noah?”
Cecilia Vega: “But he’s not saying that Mexico is going to pay for it now.”
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “He hasn’t said they’re not, either.”
Meanwhile, immigrant rights advocates say President Trump could soon cancel DACA—Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—a policy granting legal protection to nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants to live and work in the United States. The acting heads of the Department of Homeland Security and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) met this week to discuss DACA’s future, as Republican governors from 10 states threatened to sue the Trump administration if it doesn’t cancel DACA by September 5. It’s not clear whether Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions would mount a defense of DACA in court, and the federal judge who would preside over a court challenge, Andrew Hanen, previously ruled against President Obama’s immigration policies. Meanwhile, McClatchy reported this week that top Trump advisers, including General John Kelly—Trump’s chief of staff—along with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, are pushing a deal that would preserve DACA in exchange for legislation that pays for a border wall and more detention facilities, curbs legal immigration and implements the E-Verify program to check immigration statuses. In response, Lorella Praeli of the American Civil Liberties Union said, “We have 800,000 examples of why DACA strengthens America and why this program should stay in place. DACA is successful, popular, and constitutional, and should stay on the books until Congress passes a clean legislative solution to address Dreamers’ status.”
A coalition of U.S. rabbis has canceled its annual conference call with the president ahead of the Jewish High Holy Days, protesting President Trump’s response to a march of white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month. In a joint statement, four rabbinical organizations took exception to Trump’s claim that “both sides” were to blame for deadly violence and that there were “very fine people” among far-right protesters. The rabbis wrote, “The President’s words have given succor to those who advocate anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia. Responsibility for the violence that occurred in Charlottesville, including the death of Heather Heyer, does not lie with many sides but with one side: the Nazis, alt-right and white supremacists who brought their hate to a peaceful community.”
In St. Louis, Missouri, police have arrested a man accused of driving his car into a group of protesters as they marched to honor an African-American transgender woman who was killed by a St. Louis police officer earlier this week. Police charged 59-year-old Mark Colao with a felony count of resisting arrest and two misdemeanor charges of leaving the scene of an accident and operating a vehicle in a careless manner. Surveillance video of the incident shows a car driving slowly through a crowd of demonstrators in an intersection, stopping for several seconds before accelerating at high speed through the intersection and turning left. At least three people were injured in the incident, which came just weeks after anti-racist protester Heather Heyer was struck by a car and killed by a neo-Nazi terrorist in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Republican operative and Trump associate Roger Stone said Thursday that lawmakers attempting to impeach President Trump would be met with armed insurrection. Stone was speaking with the celebrity news service TMZ.
Roger Stone: “Try to impeach him. Just try it. You will have a spasm of violence in this country, an insurrection like you’ve never seen.”
Reporter: “You think?”
Roger Stone: “No question.”
Reporter: “You think if he got impeached, like, the country would go to—”
Roger Stone: “Both sides are heavily armed, my friend. Yes, absolutely.”
Some Democratic congressmembers have introduced—or plan to introduce—articles of impeachment against Trump. The congressmembers include Rep. Brad Sherman of California, Rep. Al Green of Texas and Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Thursday recommended shrinking the size of several national monuments, while leaving open the prospect of allowing drilling, mining and other industries in the protected sites. The Trump administration has yet to release details of the plans, which could affect up to 27 national monuments, and Secretary Zinke said only he was recommending changes to a “handful” of sites. In a statement, the Center for Biological Diversity said, “Trump and Zinke are hiding the report so they don’t have to face public backlash for trying to sell out America’s public lands to fossil fuel development and logging. They’re asking for a court battle. And they’ll get one.”
Meanwhile, in Brazil, President Michel Temer has abolished a vast reserve of tropical rainforest, in what conservationists are calling the “biggest attack on the Amazon of the last 50 years.” The move ends protections for the Renca reserve, a swath of rainforest the size of Denmark, and paves the way for road building, mining and logging.
In Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner met Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in what the Trump administration billed as an attempt to restart U.S.-brokered peace talks. Kushner is a 36-year-old real estate magnate who’s assumed a major diplomatic role in the Trump administration despite having no previous diplomatic experience.
Kushner’s visit came as Israeli authorities demolished a school in the West Bank village of Jubbet ad-Dib, forcing about 80 Palestinian children to begin the school year in cramped tents or under the hot sun. Israeli authorities said the school’s six newly installed cabins, which were donated by the European Union, had been built without proper permits.
The United Nations called Thursday for a pause in fighting around the Syrian city of Raqqa, where U.S.-led coalition attacks have killed hundreds of civilians held hostage by ISIS fighters. The U.N.’s humanitarian adviser for Syria, Jan Egeland, said an estimated 20,000 civilians are trapped in dire circumstances.
Jan Egeland: “The casualties, civilian casualties, are large. And there seem to be no real escape for these civilians. … I cannot think of a worse place on Earth now than in these five neighborhoods and for these 20,000 people.”
In Bahrain, human rights groups are calling for the release of jailed political activist Ebtisam al-Saegh, saying she’s been beaten and sexually assaulted since her arrest on trumped-up terrorism charges last May. Amnesty International calls al-Saegh a prominent human rights advocate whose only crime is speaking out against abuses in Bahrain. The Gulf nation is a close U.S. ally, home to the Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
And in Peru, police fired tear gas and water cannons to break up a protest by hundreds of striking teachers near the national Congress in Lima Thursday. The teachers have been on strike for more than two months, demanding salary increases, better working conditions and the repeal of an education reform law that limits the rights of teachers. This is Sonia Arqueño, one of the strikers.
Sonia Arqueño: “We’re teachers who want to be truly recognized for what we are. Enough of being trampled on like this! Look at this teacher here, a hurt teacher. Enough! Enough, sir! Enough!”