President Trump ordered tariffs Thursday on imported steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico and the European Union, prompting criticism from U.S. allies, who said they will introduce retaliatory sanctions. The European Union said it would challenge the U.S. tariffs at the World Trade Organization. The tariffs came as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement—NAFTA—broke down after Vice President Mike Pence insisted that any new deal include a 5-year “sunset” clause. Meanwhile, Mexico blasted the tariffs as the latest insult by a hostile Trump administration. This is Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray.
Luis Videgaray Caso: “Mexico’s position on trade—or on immigration or on security or on whatever area of cooperation with the United States—will not vary, not because of offensive rhetoric, nor unjustified unilateral measures like this type. We will continue to defend the interests of Mexico just as we have done until now.”
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Lithuania and Romania violated the rights of two accused terrorists by allowing the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to torture them in secret prisons. The court found the countries violated Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which requires the humane treatment of prisoners of war. Judges say Lithuania operated a secret CIA black site from 2005 to ’06, where accused al-Qaeda recruiter Abu Zubaydah was tortured; they also ruled the prisoner Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri was tortured at a CIA prison in Romania between 2004 and ’05. The New York Times reports al-Nashiri was tortured at a separate CIA black site in Thailand in 2002—a prison that was overseen by Gina Haspel, who was confirmed last month as CIA director.
In Spain, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy lost a no-confidence vote in Parliament Friday, as a major corruption scandal toppled his administration. Rajoy insists he was unaware of an alleged bribery ring that saw members of his conservative People’s Party receive cash payments in return for political favors. Pedro Sánchez, head of the opposition Socialist Party, will replace Rajoy as Spain’s prime minister. Sánchez has the support of the anti-austerity Podemos party, as well as regional parties from Basque Country and Catalonia, although Sánchez has said he won’t support Catalonia’s bid for independence.
Italian lawmakers have agreed to a coalition government led by euroskeptic populists, with Giuseppe Conte as Italy’s new prime minister. The coalition brings the right-wing, anti-immigrant League Party together with the Five Star Movement, which seeks to abandon the euro as Italy’s currency.
In Nicaragua, armed supporters of President Daniel Ortega opened fire on a crowd of tens of thousands of anti-government protesters Wednesday, killing at least 11 people and wounding almost 80 others. Elsewhere in Nicaragua, another four were killed and scores more injured at demonstrations around the country—bringing the death toll in recent anti-Ortega protests to nearly 100. Wednesday’s deaths came as some of the mothers of those killed led a protest dubbed “The Mother of All Marches.” The protests began in April as President Ortega moved to roll back workers’ pension benefits.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Thursday she will veto a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for the protection of Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories. The resolution, introduced by Kuwait, calls Israel’s massacre of Palestinians at recent nonviolent protests in the Gaza Strip “excessive” and “indiscriminate.” Israeli snipers have killed at least 116 Palestinians since late March, while injuring some 12,000 others. Ambassador Haley circulated a rival resolution on Thursday that primarily blamed Hamas for the deaths and injuries.
Back in the United States, President Trump pardoned right-wing media personality Dinesh D’Souza Thursday, vacating his 2014 conviction for breaking campaign finance laws. D’Souza is known for his racist and homophobic comments. He’s previously called President Obama a “boy” from the “ghetto”; mocked survivors of the Parkland, Florida, high school massacre; and assailed women activists as “feminist whiners.”
Trump also signaled he’s preparing to commute the sentence of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison on corruption charges that included trying to sell or trade President Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat. And Trump is preparing to pardon TV personality Martha Stewart, who was convicted in 2004 of lying to investigators in an insider trading case. Both Blagojevich and Stewart once starred on Trump’s reality TV show, “Celebrity Apprentice.” Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner warned the pardons could be a signal to those indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Warner tweeted, “The possibility that he may also be sending a message to witnesses in a criminal investigation into his campaign is extremely dangerous. In the United States of America, no one is above the law.”
California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein is set to introduce a bill that would end the Trump administration’s practice of separating immigrant children from their parents. The legislation comes less than a month after Attorney General Jeff Sessions made this threat to migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions: “If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you, and that child may be separated from you, as required by law.”
Since then, reports of babies torn from their mothers’ arms by ICE officers have drawn outrage and widespread calls for an end to the practice. Today, the ACLU, National Domestic Workers Alliance and other groups have called a nonviolent national day of action for children; they’re planning protests in at least three dozen cities across the United States.
President Trump called today for the firing of comedian Samantha Bee after she called Ivanka Trump the c-word on her TBS show “Full Frontal.” Trump tweeted, “Why aren’t they firing no talent Samantha Bee for the horrible language used on her low ratings show?” On her program Wednesday, Bee blasted the president’s daughter—who’s also a senior White House adviser—over child-parent separations at the U.S. border, showing an Obama-era photo of young people sleeping in cages and a photo of Ivanka Trump and her son posted to Instagram last weekend. This is a clip from Samantha Bee’s program.
Samantha Bee: “After decades of ignoring the issue, Americans are finally paying attention. Well, most of us. Ivanka Trump, who works at the White House, chose to post the second most oblivious tweet we’ve seen this week. You know, Ivanka, that’s a beautiful photo of you and your child, but let me just say, one mother to another, do something about your dad’s immigration practices, you [bleep]. He listens to you. Put on something tight and low-cut, and tell your father to [bleep] stop it.”
Bee apologized for her comments Thursday on Twitter, saying, “I crossed a line, and I deeply regret it.”
The watchdog group Common Cause is calling for a congressional probe into whether President Trump is abusing his office to enrich his family, raising the alarm about what it calls “cronyism, nepotism, abuses of power and conflicts of interest” in Trump’s recent negotiations with China. Trump announced that he would save Chinese electronics company ZTE from collapse, just two days after Beijing invested $500 million into a Trump development project in Indonesia. A week before that, Ivanka Trump’s fashion business won approval for trademarks in China. Ivanka Trump abruptly left a conference call with reporters on Tuesday when asked about her business in China.
In Washington, D.C., the nation’s largest union of federal employees has filed suit against an executive order that severely limits the amount of time government workers can spend on union activity. Trump signed the order last Friday, along with other measures that will make it easier to fire federal workers, while compelling federal agencies to negotiate less union-friendly contracts. The president of the American Federation of Government Employees, J. David Cox, said in a statement, “This is a democracy, not a dictatorship. No president should be able to undo a law he doesn’t like through administrative fiat.”
In Las Vegas, Nevada, tens of thousands of casino and restaurant workers are posed to walk out on strike today, after their union contracts expired at midnight. Early this morning, Culinary Union Local 226 reached a tentative 5-year deal with Caesars Entertainment covering some 12,000 workers that will avert a strike at nine casino resorts on the Las Vegas Strip. But talks remain ongoing at a further 25 properties, where more than 30,000 other workers say they’re ready to join picket lines later today.
In Washington, D.C., prosecutors have dropped felony charges against seven people who faced possible decades-long prison terms, after they were arrested at President Trump’s Inauguration Day “Disrupt J20” protests in January of 2017. The dismissals came after defense lawyers told the court that federal prosecutors hid dozens of videos from the protesters in a breach of court procedure known as a Brady violation. Although a jury found a first round of defendants not guilty last December, prosecutors have continued to press felony charges against scores of people that could see some of them imprisoned for as much as 60 years. Click here to see our full coverage of the J20 protest trials.
In Northern Ireland, pro-choice activists deployed robots on the streets of Belfast Thursday to distribute abortion medication, in defiance of a near-total ban on abortions. Police seized the two robots and the pills they were distributing, and said they were investigating whether to press criminal charges. The protest came just days after voters in the Republic of Ireland voted resoundingly to repeal a constitutional ban on most abortions. The move left Northern Ireland as one of the last parts of Europe—and the only part of the United Kingdom—where abortions are effectively outlawed. This is pro-choice campaigner Eleanor Malone.
Eleanor Crossey Malone: “We have a number of volunteers, activists who have volunteered to take safe but illegal abortion pills publicly, in defiance of the law. And we are doing this to say that we’re not willing to be the bastion of backwardness in the developed world. We have a situation where, after the victory of the 'yes' vote in the repeal referendum, Northern Ireland will be one of only two jurisdictions in Europe to effectively criminalize women for having abortions. And we’re just not willing to accept that.”
In Argentina, hundreds of women rallied outside the Congress in Buenos Aires Thursday, as lawmakers debated whether to legalize abortion in the predominantly Catholic country. Argentina currently allows abortion only with the permission of a judge in cases of rape or a risk to a pregnant woman’s life.
In Croatia, border police opened fire Thursday on a van carrying 29 migrants from Afghanistan and Iraq, injuring nine people. Police say they fired when the van tried to avoid a roadblock set up to interdict migrants entering the country from Bosnia. Among those hurt were two young children.
The Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency has ordered the evacuation of parts of a neighborhood on the state’s Big Island as fast-moving lava from Kilauea volcano threatened to destroy more homes. The evacuation zone is home to some 2,000 people. At least 77 houses have been destroyed since the volcano erupted last month. Officials also warned of the threat of toxic gases, choking ash plumes, and volcanic glass falling from the sky.
And a prison watchdog is calling for an end to the practice of charging co-payments to prisoners seeking medical care. Forty-two states and the federal prison system charge prisoners up to $8 to see a doctor. The Prison Policy Initiative says of the practice, “When you’re making pennies an hour, or nothing at all, a small co-pay can be the equivalent of hundreds of dollars.”