President Donald Trump hardened his position on immigration Wednesday, a day after he appeared to support a wide-reaching deal that could grant millions of undocumented people a pathway to citizenship. During a meeting with congressional leaders on Tuesday, Trump repeatedly said he would “take the heat” for a sweeping immigration deal, which would likely be opposed by much of his far-right-wing anti-immigrant base. President Trump also said he wanted a bill to protect the 800,000 young undocumented people known as DREAMers, whose protections he attempted to rescind late last year when he canceled DACA—the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. But on Wednesday, Trump reversed course, telling reporters he would reject any immigration deal that doesn’t provide funding for a militarized border wall.
President Donald Trump: “I would imagine that the people in the room, both Democrat and Republican—I really believe they’re going to come up with a solution to the DACA problem, which has been going on for a long time, and, maybe beyond that, immigration as a whole. But any solution has to include the wall, because without the wall, it all doesn’t work. You could look at other instances. Look at what happened in Israel: They put up the wall, they solved a very major problem. We need the wall. We have to have the wall.”
Trump’s remarks came just hours after agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement—or ICE—raided nearly 100 7-Eleven stores around the U.S., delivering audit notices and arresting 21 people. Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan said the raids were meant to serve as a warning to employers that ICE would hold businesses accountable if they hire undocumented immigrants.
President Trump refused to say Wednesday whether he’d commit to being interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller over allegations that his campaign worked with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Trump was responding to a question about a New York Times report this week that Mueller informed Trump’s lawyers last month that he will probably seek to interview the president, although Mueller has not yet sent a formal request for the interview. Fielding questions alongside Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Trump said any interview “seems unlikely,” and repeated the phrase “no collusion” eight times in his roughly one-minute answer.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump told his Cabinet Wednesday that he’s looking to strengthen U.S. libel laws, after a book portraying the president as childlike and incompetent rocketed to the top of the best-seller list. Trump made the remarks as the White House continued to rail against the book, “Fire and Fury,” by author Michael Wolff.
President Donald Trump: “Our current libel laws are a sham and a disgrace and do not represent American values or American fairness. So we’re going to take a strong look at that. We want fairness. You can’t say things that are false, knowingly false, and be able to smile as money pours into your bank account.”
In Syria, Russian and Syrian warplanes are continuing a massive bombing campaign in Hama province. Video on social media said to be from the attacks shows massive explosions and an injured child being pulled from rubble, left bleeding from the neck. Elsewhere, human rights observers say the civilian death toll in Syria’s assault on the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta has risen to 160. Video posted by the White Helmets rescue group shows children among those being pulled from collapsed buildings.
In Tunisia, police say they arrested 237 people Wednesday, while dozens more were left injured, as authorities used clubs and tear gas to suppress anti-austerity protests that spread across the country for a third consecutive night. The demonstrations began after the government announced it was raising taxes and hiking prices for fuel and staple goods. The protests are some of the largest in Tunisia since the Arab Spring uprising in 2010 and 2011.
In Burma, authorities have formally charged a pair of Reuters journalists with violating the Official Secrets Act, despite international condemnation over their arrests. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo appeared in court near Yangon Wednesday. They face up to 14 years if convicted on the colonial-era law. Last month, the two were arrested as they investigated the site of a mass grave in Rakhine State, where the United Nations says Burma’s government has led a campaign of ethnic cleansing against minority Muslim Rohingya.
In Poland, lawmakers rejected a bill Wednesday that would have liberalized the country’s abortion laws. The legislation would have removed all restrictions on abortion within the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy, while funding sexual education and contraception programs. Lawmakers with the ruling conservative Law and Justice party say they’ll now enlist the help of Polish Catholic clergy as they advance a bill that would prohibit abortions for women carrying fetuses with severe deformities. This is Barbara Nowacka, a Polish lawmaker and member of the Save the Women civic committee.
Barbara Nowacka: “It shows the vastness of cruelty and ideologization of the Parliament. They do not want to talk about normality, about women’s rights, about sexual education that is neglected in Poland, or about contraception. They want to talk about torturing women. That is what they are interested in. They cynically try to gain support of the clergy, with whom they have made political interests for years. It is tragic news for Polish women.”
Poland already has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe. Pregnant women are only allowed to have abortions in cases of rape, incest or extreme danger to a woman’s health, or if prenatal tests show serious damage to a fetus.
In the East China Sea, authorities are warning a massive oil tanker that burst into flames on Saturday could continue to burn for up to one month, as rescue crews scramble to prevent it leaking vast amounts of toxic oil. The Panamanian-flagged vessel was carrying 136,000 tons of ultra-light, volatile crude oil known as condensate from Iran to South Korea when it collided with a freight ship, leaving 31 sailors missing and feared dead. It’s now listing heavily, with authorities warning it could soon sink under the waves.
New York City said Wednesday it will sue five fossil fuel giants over their contributions to global warming. The suit, targeting BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell, came as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to divest some $5 billion in fossil fuel investments from the city’s public employee pension fund.
In Southern California, the death toll from a series of mudslides has risen to 17, as rescue workers scrambled to save residents whose homes were buried under an avalanche of mud, boulders and downed trees. The deadly mudslides followed an unprecedented winter fire season, which saw the state’s worst wildfire on record rage for days north of Los Angeles. The fires stripped vast areas of vegetation and opened up hillsides to collapse when heavy rains returned to California this week. Climate scientists say greenhouse gas emissions contributed to the wildfires and extreme weather.
The Trump administration is clearing the way for teenage farmworkers to handle dangerous pesticides while on the job. EPA Chief Scott Pruitt is considering the change, which would reverse a 2015 rule that requires anyone working with agricultural pesticides to be at least 18 years old. Doctors warn many pesticides carry a risk of cancer and can impact the developing brains of children.
In Missouri, Republican Governor Eric Greitens acknowledged Wednesday that he’d had an extramarital affair, after a woman said the governor took a compromising photograph of her and used it to blackmail her into silence. The woman, whose name has not been revealed, has said part of her affair with Greitens was consensual, but that the governor took a photo of her against her will, after binding her to a piece of exercise equipment in his basement and blindfolding her, following up with a verbal threat to release the image if she spoke publicly about the affair. Gov. Greitens is a former Navy SEAL who’s been discussed as a future Republican presidential candidate. He has denied the blackmail allegation.
Employees at Fox News have confirmed that longtime correspondent James Rosen recently left the network due to inappropriate sexual behavior with a number of female colleagues. NPR reports that Rosen’s actions included groping a colleague in a cab; when she rejected his advances, Rosen reportedly sought to steal away her sources and stories in retaliation.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post said Wednesday it has suspended reporter Joel Achenbach for 90 days over what it called “inappropriate workplace conduct” with female colleagues. The Post did not elaborate, but Achenbach went on to apologize for his actions in a public statement.
On Capitol Hill, California Republican Congressmember Darrell Issa said Wednesday he will not seek re-election in November. Issa is the longtime chair of the powerful House Oversight Committee. He’s also Congress’s wealthiest member, with an estimated net worth of more than a quarter-billion dollars.
In Nashville, Tennessee, a medical resident famous for his political activism is challenging the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, after he was suspended for two weeks over what he says was a Twitter post critical of white supremacy. In November, Dr. Eugene Gu tweeted a photo of himself taking a knee and raising a fist, with the caption, “I’m an Asian-American doctor and today I #TakeTheKnee to fight white supremacy.” Dr. Gu says he was placed on paid administrative leave after the mother of one of his patients complained about the photo. Dr. Gu has over 100,000 Twitter followers and has long been outspoken on social issues. He was previously subpoenaed to testify to Congress over his research on fetal tissues. He’s also suing President Trump for blocking him on Twitter. Dr. Gu’s suspension was first reported by the Duke Chronicle.
And in Peru, the family members of victims of the former dictatorship are speaking out, after former President Alberto Fujimori was pardoned by President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and released from prison. Fujimori had been imprisoned for crimes including ordering massacres by death squads in the 1990s.
Gisela Ortiz Perea: “I’m a close relative of a victim. I saw with my own eyes these criminals. I experienced this story, this horrible death that occurred in my family, the suffering that is engraved in my memory, year after year. It is awful to constantly have in my mind the face of the criminals. And the most horrible thing is that there are people who continue to call us terrorists.”