Authorities are continuing to investigate suspicious packages containing homemade bomb devices targeting high-profile Democrats and liberals, as well as the CNN news network. Investigators say the devices may have originated in southern Florida and were sent through the U.S. Postal Service. The 10 packages being examined had a return address for Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Three packages were intercepted Thursday, two headed for former Vice President Joe Biden in Delaware and a third to actor Robert De Niro in Manhattan. Other targets of the packages are billionaire philanthropist George Soros, the Obamas, the Clintons, Congressmember Maxine Waters, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and former CIA Director John Brennan, whose package was delivered to the offices of CNN. This is FBI Assistant Director William Sweeney.
William Sweeney: “What I can say is that at various times over the last few days, 10 suspicious packages were located at multiple locations in New York, Maryland, Florida, Delaware and Los Angeles. Law enforcement responded, and each package was collected by experts, and examinations are now underway at the FBI lab in Quantico. As to the devices located in New York which contained a powder, the initial analysis indicates that the powder in those particular envelopes did not present a biological threat. Other analysis is ongoing.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is urging Saudi Arabia to disclose who ordered the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as well as the identity of a “local cooperator” involved in the murder plot. Erdogan also said Turkey has more information about the case than it has shared so far, suggesting he could release more details if the Saudis refuse to reveal vital information. This comes as Saudi Arabia admitted that Khashoggi’s killing was in fact “premeditated,” contradicting the Saudis’ earlier claims he died as the result of a fistfight gone awry. Saudi Arabia’s chief prosecutor is set to meet with Turkish prosecutors Sunday as part of the ongoing investigation.
Meanwhile, the United Nations is calling for an international investigation into the killing. This is the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Agnès Callamard, speaking at the U.N. Thursday.
Agnès Callamard: “It is not quite possible for the state to wash its hands from the behavior of those actors, whether or not somebody even higher up has requested those acts. You know, where do we stop the—where do we begin, where do we stop our construction of the state? They were representing the state when they acted as they acted. The state cannot wash its hands from its responsibilities.”
Meanwhile, back in the U.S., CIA Director Gina Haspel has briefed President Trump on her recent trip to Istanbul, where she reportedly listened to the audio tape of Khashoggi’s murder.
Salah bin Jamal Khashoggi, the son of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, has arrived in the U.S. with his family after being allowed to leave Saudi Arabia. Although he is a dual U.S.-Saudi citizen, Salah bin Jamal Khashoggi had previously been restricted from traveling by the Saudis. This comes as the Saudi investment conference known as “Davos in the Desert” wraps up, where deals reportedly worth at least $56 billion were made, despite many high-profile company heads and political figures supposedly boycotting the event. We’ll have more on Saudi Arabia’s financial ties with the U.S. later in the show.
In immigration news, President Trump is continuing to escalate his attacks against the Central American caravan heading toward the U.S.-Mexico border. President Trump is planning to deploy up to 1,000 additional troops to the border. He is also reportedly considering using executive action to shut down entry into the United States through the border altogether, a move that would be similar to his 2017 travel ban, widely known as the Muslim ban. This comes after Trump admitted he had no evidence to back up his claims that terrorists from the Middle East and gang members were among those traveling with the caravan of asylum seekers, many of whom are fleeing widespread violence and poverty in Honduras.
Olympic gold medalist and reality TV show star Caitlyn Jenner has revoked her support for President Trump after the Trump administration announced plans to narrow the legal definition of gender to an individual’s biological sex at birth. Jenner had previously supported President Trump. But in a new op-ed for The Washington Post, titled “I thought Trump would help trans people. I was wrong,” she wrote, “The reality is that the trans community is being relentlessly attacked by this president. … He has made trans people into political pawns as he whips up animus against us in an attempt to energize the most right-wing segment of his party, claiming his anti-transgender policies are meant to 'protect the country.'”
In environmental news, the Trump administration announced Wednesday its approval of a plan to drill for oil off the Alaskan coast. Hilcorp Energy’s proposal to drill in the Beaufort Sea would be the first oil and gas production facility in federal waters off Alaska. Meanwhile, France has approved a plan by oil company Total to start drilling off the coast of French Guyana, which is located in the north Atlantic coast of South America. Environmental groups condemned the plan, raising concerns over threats to the region’s biodiversity. We’ll have more on the proposed oil drilling off the Alaska coast after headlines with conservationist Subhankar Banerjee.
In South Carolina, two sheriff’s deputies were fired Wednesday for their role in the deaths of two women who drowned in a van overcome by floodwaters from Hurricane Florence while in law enforcement’s custody last month. The two officers, who were also in the van transporting the women to a mental health facility, survived. Forty-five-year-old Windy Newton and 43-year-old Nicolette Green had both gone to hospitals, where they were involuntarily committed and detained. An investigation into their deaths is ongoing. Click here to see our full coverage of this story.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley has asked the Justice Department to investigate lawyer Michael Avenatti and his client Julie Swetnick for possibly making false statements to Congress about Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and attempting to obstruct the Senate investigation into Kavanaugh. Swetnick wrote an official statement to the Judiciary Committee, accusing Brett Kavanaugh of attending parties in the 1980s where he would help get women drunk who were then gang-raped. Grassley said that contradictions in her story require further investigation. In response, Michael Avenatti tweeted, “let’s start the investigation tonight. I will make my client available for a sworn interview and you can make Judge Kavanaugh available for a sworn interview. We also have 9 other witnesses we want interviewed and specific documents we want requested. Let’s go.”
The Guardian reporter who was body-slammed by Montana Congressmember Greg Gianforte last year is threatening to withdraw from their settlement if the Republican congressmember continues to lie about the attack. Gianforte pleaded guilty to attacking reporter Ben Jacobs, and settled with him after agreeing to make a donation to the Committee to Protect Journalists and acknowledging that he assaulted Jacobs unprovoked. However, Gianforte recently made comments to a local paper defending his earlier story to the police that Jacobs initiated the attack. Gianforte is currently running for re-election. Last week, President Trump praised him at a Montana rally for the assault, saying, “Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of guy.”
In Europe, NATO forces have launched the biggest war games since the end of the Cold War, amid escalating tensions between NATO and Russia. About 50,000 soldiers from 31 countries are participating in the mock battle in Norway. This comes as Poland says the U.S. is welcome to station medium-range missiles in Poland and that it supports President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia. Experts warn Trump’s decision to withdraw from the landmark treaty could spark a new arms race.
President Trump imposed new sanctions against Hezbollah Thursday. The restrictions will ratchet up financial sanctions against Hezbollah, as well as sanctions on companies or individuals who support its fundraising. AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, had lobbied for the increased sanctions against Hezbollah, which the United States has branded a terrorist organization.
In Ethiopia, lawmakers appointed the country’s first female president Thursday. Sahle-Work Zewde is a high-level diplomat who served as head of the African Union prior to her presidential appointment and is currently the only woman president in Africa. Earlier this month, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed unveiled his new Cabinet, appointing women to a record 50 percent of positions.
In Spain, thousands marched in the capital Madrid Thursday to protest plans to bury the remains of former Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco in the city’s Almudena Cathedral. Franco’s family is seeking to move his remains to the Madrid landmark despite government and public objections.
Gorgonio Ferrero: “If it were up to me, I’d chuck him in a ditch, like hundreds of Spaniards. In a ditch, yes, but not here.”
Franco led Spain as a military dictatorship from 1939 to 1975 after his forces claimed victory in the brutal Spanish Civil War, which killed half a million people. During his rule, he suppressed political opposition through extrajudicial killings, abductions and forced labor.
In Britain, the country’s data watchdog hit Facebook with the maximum possible fine for failing to protect users’ personal data in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The fine is equal to around $650,000—a fraction of the possible $22 million it might have been if the breach had occurred after the EU’s new data protection laws went into effect in May of this year. The watchdog found that Facebook gave app developers access to personal information of some 87 million users without their knowledge or consent. The political consultancy group Cambridge Analytica then used the data to sway voters to support President Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign.
Back in the United States, in Hartford, Connecticut, community members gathered Wednesday in front of ICE offices to ask for a stay of deportation for Nelson Pinos, an Ecuadorean man who has been living in sanctuary at the First and Summerfield United Methodist Church in New Haven, Connecticut, for the past year. He has been in the United States for 26 years and lives with his wife and three children.
And in Pennsylvania, MOVE member Mike Africa Sr. has been granted parole and was released from prison after a decades-long campaign to win his freedom. On Tuesday morning, Mike Africa walked free after more than 40 years behind bars and reunited with his wife, Debbie Africa, and his son, Mike Africa Jr. Both Mike and Debbie were arrested during a massive police raid on the Philadelphia MOVE house in 1978, during which one police officer was killed. Debbie was released in June. This is Mike Africa Jr. speaking about his father during an exclusive Democracy Now! interview in August, alongside his mother Debbie.
Mike Africa Jr.: “My father was my first hero. My father is Mike Africa. Oh, man, to be his son is one of the biggest honors that I’ve ever had to experience. And just like thinking about him and the kind of person he is and the effort that he puts into being right and the love that he has for his family.”
The remaining seven members of the MOVE 9 who were arrested in 1978 remain behind bars.