In another shakeup at the FBI, the agency’s second-highest official, Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, abruptly resigned from the agency on Monday. This comes just under nine months since President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Many consider McCabe’s departure, as well as Comey’s firing, as part of President Trump’s resistance to the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia. President Trump and some Republican lawmakers have for months attacked McCabe, saying his wife ran as a Democrat for a Virginia Senate seat in 2015 and received money from allies of the Clinton family. McCabe said he felt pressure to leave from FBI Director Christopher Wray, despite having wanted to stay until he would be eligible for a full pension.
Former drug company executive Alex Azar has been sworn in as the head of the Department of Health and Human Services. Azar is a former executive of the multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. He was confirmed by the Senate last week, despite a controversy over Eli Lilly’s decision to test its highly profitable erectile dysfunction drug Cialis on children in efforts to extend a patent that would soon expire. Azar was the president of Eli Lilly’s U.S. operations when the company decided to test the sex drug on children in order to increase their profits.
The House Intelligence Committee has voted to declassify a four-page document written by the committee’s chair, California Congressmember Devin Nunes, in which he claims that, under the Obama administration, the FBI surveilled the Trump campaign. Nunes had to recuse himself from the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, because of Nunes’s close ties to Trump. Nunes served on Trump’s transition team. Democratic lawmakers have accused Nunes of trying to derail and undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign by pushing to release the document, which could now be made public as early as this week. The House Intelligence Committee, however, will not release a competing memo by California Democratic Congressmember Adam Schiff, the highest-ranking Democrat on the committee.
The U.S. government’s top watchdog on Afghanistan says the Pentagon has restricted the release of critical information about the U.S. War in Afghanistan. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction has been publishing quarterly reports for years. But on Monday, for the first time, information about troop levels and the amount of territory controlled by the Taliban was withheld from the public report under demands from the Pentagon.
On Monday, President Trump doubled down on the ongoing U.S. War in Afghanistan and rejected the idea of peace talks with the Taliban, following a wave of violence in the capital, Kabul, in recent days. This is Trump, speaking Monday during a lunch with members of the United Nations Security Council.
President Donald Trump: “Many, many women and children that are totally innocent. It is—it is horrible. So, there’s no talking to the Taliban. We don’t want to talk to the Taliban. We’re going to finish what we have to finish.”
On Saturday, the Taliban detonated an ambulance packed with explosives in the heart of Kabul, killing at least 103 people and wounding as many as 235.
Casino billionaire Steve Wynn has resigned as the Republican National Committee’s finance chair, in the wake of a Wall Street Journal exposé that revealed Wynn had sexually harassed women who worked at his Las Vegas casinos for decades. The Republican Governors Association has announced it will return $100,000 in donations from Wynn’s company in the wake of the revelations. Wynn is a close friend of President Trump, who has also been accused by 16 women of sexual harassment or assault. Wynn filled in for Trump and spoke at the Mar-a-Lago inauguration anniversary fundraiser a week ago, after President Trump couldn’t leave Washington, D.C., because of the government shutdown.
The International Energy Agency says U.S. oil extraction is expected to surge this year, with the U.S. expected to surpass Saudi Arabia and rival Russia in terms of overall production. The surge in U.S. oil extraction comes as the Trump administration has moved to loosen drilling regulations and open up millions of acres of waters to offshore drilling.
A federal judge in New York City ordered the immediate release of immigrant rights leader Ravi Ragbir from detention on Monday, calling his detention “unnecessarily cruel.” Ragbir is the executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition. He’s one of a handful of high-profile immigrant rights activists who have been targeted by the Trump administration. We’ll hear from Ravi Ragbir after headlines, as well as from his wife, Amy Gottlieb, an immigrant rights lawyer who will be attending President Trump’s first State of the Union tonight, along with a handful of other invited immigrant rights leaders, including Houston DREAMer Cesar Espinosa and Washington state anti-detention activist Maru Mora Villalpando.
In more news on immigrant rights, an appeals court has ruled that children who migrate to the United States with their parents without permission do not have the right to a government-appointed lawyer in U.S. immigration courts. In response, the ACLU said, “If permitted to stand, [the ruling] will result in the deportation of thousands of vulnerable children to some of the most violent places on earth.” Meanwhile, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, known as ICE, has gained access to a nationwide license plate recognition database. The new contract between ICE and the company Vigilant Solutions will give ICE access to millions of license plate records.
The Department of Homeland Security has announced further restrictions on refugees seeking to enter the United States. The increased restrictions particularly apply to refugees from 11 countries: Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least 33 people have been killed by airstrikes in the rebel-held province of Idlib, Syria, since Sunday. A member of the humanitarian rescue group the White Helmets says the Syrian government bombed a vegetable market and a hospital on Monday. The Syrian government denies bombing civilian targets.
In Yemen, at least 15 people were killed in a suicide bomb attack at a checkpoint in southeast Yemen today. Meanwhile, the Red Cross says at least 36 people have been killed, and dozens more wounded, amid fighting in the port city of Aden.
In Gaza, about 13,000 workers with the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, went on strike Monday to protest President Trump’s decision to slash the United States’ funding to the agency. This is Reem Abu Hmeid, a teacher at an UNRWA school.
Reem Abu Hmeid: “We are protesting for the right of the refugees, the right of return. We will never give up this right with years and days, the right of return to our occupied lands. It is the duty of UNRWA and the United Nations to provide for us education and medical services.”
In Kashmir, residents are protesting the killing of two students by Indian soldiers at a protest on Saturday. The two civilians were killed, and nine others were wounded, after Indian soldiers opened fire on a group of people demonstrating against Indian rule in the disputed territory.
In Brazil, the Landless Workers’ Movement, known as MST, is denouncing the assassination of one of its leaders, Márcio Oliveira Matos. The group says he was murdered by armed gunmen, who shot him dead at his home in front of his 6-year-old son.
Back in the United States, after decades of organizing by Native Americans, the Cleveland baseball team has been forced to stop displaying its racist logo, “Chief Wahoo,” on the players’ uniforms. The change will take place in 2019. Native Americans are now calling on the Washington football team to follow suit and change its team name, which is based on a racial slur against Native Americans.
And historian Gar Alperovitz has revealed for the first time the key role he and a handful of other activists played in helping whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg leak the Pentagon Papers to journalists. This is Alperovitz, speaking in a video produced by The New Yorker.
Gar Alperovitz: “I helped arrange for the distribution of the papers. And they had to be delivered to reporters who would come to Boston or Cambridge. And the question was how to do that, knowing that the government was trying to find the papers and trying to find Dan Ellsberg, in particular. He was the main target. So, one of the graduate students who was helping us would take a bundle of papers, and one of the reporters was said to go to this hotel room and just wait, wait for a call. And so, a call was made. And I basically said to him, 'Open your door.' And the box was there, that had been left about two minutes earlier. … The strategy was simply to go from public telephone to public telephone, never using the same one and moving, you know, in the Boston area, the Cambridge area, many little cities, so that you wouldn’t be traced. And it seemed to work.”
That’s Gar Alperovitz. The details about this small group of antiwar activists who helped Ellsberg have been hidden for decades. The identities of Gar Alperovitz’s colleagues are still a mystery.