President Donald Trump declared Tuesday he would stand by Saudi Arabia over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2 and was never seen again. In an extraordinary written statement riddled with exclamation points and subtitled “America First,” Trump wrote, “It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t! That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” Trump’s statement came even after The Washington Post reported last Friday that the CIA has “high confidence” that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. Trump was asked by reporters Tuesday why he was siding with Saudi Arabia over his own intelligence agencies.
President Donald Trump: “Saudi Arabia, if we broke with them, I think your oil prices would go through the roof. I’ve kept them down. They’ve helped me keep them down. Right now we have low oil prices, or relatively—I’d like to see it go down even lower, lower. But I think that it’s a very simple equation for me. I’m about 'make America great again,' and I’m about 'America first.'”
Trump went on to falsely claim that Saudi Arabia was investing over $400 billion in the U.S. economy while funding hundreds of thousands of jobs. But a new report from the Center for International Policy found investment from Riyadh is responsible for less than 20,000 U.S. jobs a year and just a fraction of the investment cited by Trump.
Trump’s defense of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi drew condemnation from members of Congress. Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine called the statement “yet another fawning prostration to a foreign authoritarian.” Some Republicans, including Senators Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul, have joined calls for new sanctions on the Saudi royal family.
Khashoggi worked as a columnist for The Washington Post. In a statement, the newspaper’s publisher and CEO Fred Ryan said, “President Trump is correct in saying the world is a very dangerous place. His surrender to this state-ordered murder will only make it more so. … [Trump] is placing personal relationships and commercial interests above American interests in his desire to continue to do business as usual with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.” On Tuesday, Trump denied he has any financial ties to Saudi Arabia.
President Donald Trump: “Well, I have nothing to do with Saudi—just so you understand, I don’t make deals with Saudi Arabia. I don’t have money from Saudi Arabia. I have nothing to do with Saudi Arabia. I couldn’t care less.”
That contrasts with Trump’s comment at a July 2015 rally in which Trump declared, “I like the Saudis. I make a lot of money with them. They buy all sorts of my stuff.” The Washington Post reports Trump’s business ties with Saudi Arabia go back to the 1990s, with Saudi lobbyists spending $270,000 last year alone to book rooms at Trump’s hotel in Washington, D.C.
In Saudi Arabia, human rights groups are warning that some of the kingdom’s most prominent feminists have been tortured and sexually harassed as they’ve been held for months without charge and without access to a lawyer. Saudi officials began arresting the women in mid-May—many of whom had spent years fighting a ban on women drivers in Saudi Arabia. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch say Saudi guards routinely use beatings, electric shocks, sleep deprivation and psychological torture against the detainees.
In Yemen, a new report by the charity Save the Children estimates 85,000 children under the age of 5 have died from acute malnutrition brought on by the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led war on Yemen. The finding came as residents of the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah said the last two days have seen the worst violence yet in a Saudi-led offensive aimed at seizing the city from Houthi rebels. Hodeidah resident Maged Ghaleb lost four daughters when a Saudi coalition airstrike hit their home over the weekend; a fifth daughter was on life support in a hospital whose medical staff has mostly fled for fear of their lives.
Maged Ghaleb: “You can look at my house. I don’t even have a quarter of a kilo of wheat left. So imagine how it is when these crimes happen. We’re already dying of hunger, then these airstrikes come and kill us and multiply our problems. We are calling on all the honorable people of the world, all people, from all religions, anyone who has a heart, to stop this bloodshed. We cannot take it. Yemenis and their children are being murdered in cold blood.”
Save the Children says food shipments through Hodeidah’s port have already been seriously curtailed by the fighting and that any further decline could lead directly to famine. The U.N. has called Yemen the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in a half-century, with some 14 million people now at risk of famine.
In Afghanistan, a suicide bomb blast tore through a gathering of religious leaders in the capital Kabul Tuesday, killing at least 50 people and wounding over 70 others. The bomber targeted a group of Muslim clerics in a wedding hall who had gathered to observe the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. There was no claim of responsibility for the attack, which was condemned by the Taliban. Recent similar bombings in Kabul have been claimed by ISIS.
In California, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Tuesday toured a stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border wall separating Imperial Beach from neighboring Tijuana, warning members of a migrant caravan gathered on the opposite side that the Trump administration would likely reject their claims of political asylum.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen: “Wanting a job is not a basis for asylum under U.S. law. Wanting to be reunited with your family is not a basis for asylum under U.S. law. Wanting to live in the United States, not a basis of asylum under U.S. law.”
Nielsen added, “The crisis is real, and it is just on the other side of this wall.”
Nielsen’s trip came as the Trump administration said it would begin withdrawing thousands of soldiers it mobilized to the border ahead of the midterm elections, and after a federal judge halted the Trump administration’s plans to bar migrants from seeking asylum unless they arrive at a legal U.S. port of entry. Following that ruling, 29 migrant families will be released from the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley. Many of them come from a region of Central America known as the Northern Triangle, encompassing El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The area is marked by widespread poverty and extreme gang violence. In a statement, Amnesty International welcomed the releases as a positive step but blasted the Trump administration over its policy toward migrants, writing, “It is unconscionable to criminalize mothers, fathers, and children who have lost everything. The administration must immediately abandon plans to build more detention centers and tent cities.”
In Mississippi, where voters will head to the polls next week for a runoff Senate election, newly surfaced photographs show incumbent Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith wearing a Confederate army cap and posing with a vintage rifle, sword and other Confederate artifacts. The photos were from a Facebook post Hyde-Smith published in 2014, which she captioned, “Mississippi history at its best!” This comes after a viral video recorded just days before the midterm elections shows Hyde-Smith praising a campaign supporter with the words, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.” Mississippi was once considered the lynching capital of the U.S., and Hyde-Smith’s Democratic opponent, Mike Espy, is African-American.
In other Mississippi news, a federal judge has blocked a harsh anti-abortion law from taking effect. The law, known as the Gestational Age Act, was signed by Mississippi Republican Governor Phil Bryant in March. It bans most abortions after 15 weeks, with no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. In his ruling declaring the law unconstitutional, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves wrote, “The fact that men, myself included, are determining how women may choose to manage their reproductive health is a sad irony not lost on the court.”
The New York Times reports President Trump wanted the Justice Department to criminally prosecute former FBI Director James Comey and Hillary Clinton. The Times cites two unnamed sources who say Trump’s White House counsel, Don McGahn, only dissuaded the president after he warned such a move could lead to Trump’s impeachment.
The Washington Post reports that acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker was paid more than $1.2 million to lead a charity funded by dark money that bills itself as a nonpartisan watchdog, even as it worked exclusively to advance conservative causes. The charity, known as FACT—or the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust—is a nonprofit that refuses to reveal its funding sources, but one of the funders is known to be conservative billionaire Charles Koch. Whitaker worked as the charity’s sole employee for three years, beginning in 2014, until he moved to Washington to work as chief of staff to former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Leaders of the U.S. fossil fuel industry knew as early as 1954 that carbon dioxide pollution accumulating in the atmosphere posed a growing threat to life on Earth, but failed to warn the public. That’s according to new research published by Stanford historian Benjamin Franta in the journal Nature Climate Change. Franta found that in the 1950s the American Petroleum Institute commissioned a study by a Caltech scientist which concluded global CO2 levels had risen by 5 percent in a century. It’s the earliest known industry-funded research into climate change, and the findings led in part to a 1965 report by President Lyndon Johnson’s Science Advisory Committee on the threat posed by global warming. Speaking to members of an oil industry conference that year, Frank Ikard, then-president of the American Petroleum Institute, warned, “This report unquestionably will fan emotions, raise fears, and bring demand for action. The substance of the report is that there is still time to save the world’s peoples from the catastrophic consequence of pollution, but time is running out.” The American Petroleum Institute would instead go on to fund decades of climate change denial while fighting efforts to switch to renewable energy sources.
The governments of the U.S. and Canada are warning that all romaine lettuce recently purchased or currently for sale is unsafe to eat in any form. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control warns the lettuce is at risk of containing a dangerous type of E. coli bacteria and should be thrown away. Last spring, an E. coli outbreak linked to romaine killed five people and sickened more than 200 others. That outbreak followed a decision by the Trump administration to shelve water-testing rules crafted under President Obama that could have prevented the outbreak.
The former president of Michigan State University has been charged with lying to police as they investigated crimes committed by Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics team doctor convicted of sexually abusing hundreds of girls and young women. Police say the former president, Lou Anna Simon, lied when she told investigators she didn’t know Nassar was the subject of a 2014 Title IX investigation into a campus sexual assault complaint. Nassar was later cleared by MSU of wrongdoing in that case. Simon resigned last March, on the same day that Larry Nassar was sentenced to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing over 150 people. Simon faces two felony counts and two misdemeanor charges that could bring up to four years in prison. She’s the third current or former MSU official charged with covering up for Dr. Nassar.
And here in New York, Mujahid Farid, a leading organizer in the push to release elderly people from prison, has passed away from cancer. He died Tuesday, at home, surrounded by friends and family. Farid founded the campaign Release Aging People in Prison, known as RAPP, when he was released from prison in 2011, after serving 33 years on a 15-to-life sentence. In a 2016 interview on Democracy Now!, he described RAPP’s message: “If the risk is low, let them go.”
Mujahid Farid: “One of the reasons that our campaign focused on the elderly is because they present the lowest risk of recidivism. And if parole boards were really concerned about public safety when a person comes up for release, these are the people who should be released. We are actually concerned about mass incarceration, in general, and the whole spectrum, but we thought that by focusing on this particular population, it would present us as the voice of reason and show how this punitive policy that is in place has really gone amok.”
That’s Mujahid Farid, who died Tuesday at the age of 69. Click here to see his full interview.