On Capitol Hill, the Senate convened a rare open debate on immigration Monday, as hundreds of thousands of immigrants who were brought to the United States as children face a March deadline, when the Trump administration will begin canceling the DACA program—or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The Senate debate comes without a bill currently on the floor; it follows Congress’s passage of a spending bill last week that did not contain protections for DREAMers—a key demand of immigrant rights activists.
The White House refused to answer questions Monday about how it handled accusations of domestic violence against former Staff Secretary Rob Porter, who resigned last week after both of his ex-wives accused him of verbal and physical abuse. On Monday, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said top White House officials didn’t know the “extent” of the allegations against Porter until last Tuesday. That’s despite reports that Chief of Staff John Kelly knew of the allegations since at least November—while White House counsel Don McGahn knew of them a year ago.
In Syria, the United Nations warns civilians are being killed and wounded at a rapid pace, as fighting between government forces and rebels rages around the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta. This is Saif Abu Anas, an activist in the town of Saqba, east of Damascus.
Saif Abu Anas: “Today we are in the seventh day of the assault. There are almost 260 martyrs, hundreds of injured people, most of whom are women and children. Yesterday we saw the massacre that happened in Douma at night, and the massacre that happened in Jisreen three days ago, where 20 people were killed, and also the destruction and death we saw in Saqba, where whole neighbourhoods are being destroyed.”
The latest violence comes amid a series of clashes between external and internal powers in Syria, including Israel, Iran, Turkey and the Syrian government. We’ll have more on the crisis in Syria after headlines.
The White House is denying reports that the Trump administration has been openly discussing an Israeli plan to formally annex Palestinian lands in the occupied West Bank. A spokesperson for the right-wing Likud party quoted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as saying in a closed-door session, “On the subject of applying sovereignty, I can say that I have been talking to the Americans about it for some time.” Israel’s West Bank settlements are illegal under international law, and any move to annex Palestinian territory would be a further violation of the Geneva Conventions. White House spokesperson Josh Raffel on Monday called any reports that the U.S. discussed annexation with Israel “false”—opening a rare public rift between President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu.
In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the Kremlin Monday for talks that could reshape diplomatic efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Speaking to reporters, Abbas said he could no longer accept the United States as a mediator, after the Trump administration declared it would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and began moving the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv.
President Mahmoud Abbas: “In such an atmosphere, which was created by U.S. actions, we state that from now on we refuse to cooperate in any form with the U.S. in its status of a mediator, as we stand against its actions.”
In Israel, a military court is convening a trial today for Ahed Tamimi, a teenage girl who became a hero to Palestinians after viral video showed her slapping a soldier near her family’s home in the occupied West Bank. The incident came just after Ahed Tamimi learned her 15-year-old cousin, Mohammed Tamimi, had been shot in the head by an Israeli soldier with a rubber-coated steel bullet at close range. Ahed Tamimi faces 12 charges, including assaulting a soldier and incitement to violence. Her father, Bassem Tamimi, said Monday he doesn’t expect his daughter to receive a fair trial.
Bassem Tamimi: “We don’t expect justice from this court. They are trying to maximize the charge so they can maximize the sentence, because they are controlled by extreme right-wing Israeli public opinion. The Israeli leaders are pushing for the maximum sentence, because they want to break this example of resistance. They don’t want Ahed to become a leading example for Palestinians.”
In the South Pacific, the island nation of Tonga was left devastated Monday after a major cyclone made landfall, leveling homes, flooding neighborhoods and flattening the kingdom’s Parliament building. Tropical Cyclone Gita arrived Monday evening with winds of 145 miles per hour—far higher than forecasters had predicted. The storm made landfall as a new report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds sea level rise due to human-driven climate change is happening now, as ice from Antarctica and Greenland melts at an accelerated rate. The report found sea levels have risen by an average of nearly 3 inches over the past quarter-century. The storm in Tonga is the worst in more than 60 years.
In South Africa, the ruling African National Congress party has given President Jacob Zuma 48 hours to resign—or face the prospect of being recalled from office. Zuma has come under increasing pressure to resign in recent weeks amid mounting accusations of widespread corruption.
Back in the United States, the Trump administration has acknowledged it won’t investigate complaints filed by transgender students who are barred from using bathrooms matching their gender identity. In a statement to BuzzFeed News, an official with the the Department of Education argued that transgender students are not protected by Title IX—a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on sex. In a statement, Eliza Byard, the director of the LGBTQ student rights group GLSEN, said the Trump administration’s “cruel new policy flies in the face of the highest court rulings on this issue, which found unequivocally that denying transgender students appropriate bathroom access is a violation of Title IX.”
The Trump administration has been working secretly with a radical anti-abortion group on policies that make it easier for states to defund Planned Parenthood. Politico reports that last month the Department of Health and Human Services announced changes that will allow states to exclude Planned Parenthood from Medicaid programs—a policy shift that came shortly after HHS received a draft legal analysis from the organization Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. In a statement, Planned Parenthood Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens called the news “shocking and outrageous,” adding, “The Alliance Defending Freedom has spent decades trying to take away women’s access to health care and ability to control their own bodies and lives. The Trump-Pence administration has embraced this group’s philosophy and handed them the pen to make official U.S. government policy.”
The Trump administration’s nominee to head the 2020 census has withdrawn from consideration, after an outcry by civil rights groups and many Democrats. Thomas Brunell, a University of Texas at Dallas political science professor, is a staunch defender of Republican redistricting efforts, including congressional maps in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and other states that federal courts have recently ruled unconstitutionally favor Republicans. Brunell stepped down from consideration as critics say the Trump administration is hoping to use the 2020 census to lock in Republican majorities for a decade. This is journalist Ari Berman, speaking on Democracy Now! about his Rolling Stone article headlined “How the GOP Rigs Elections.”
Ari Berman: “So, if the census is manipulated for political purposes or the count is done wrong, there is no way to fix that, because the census is supposed to be the final word that determines how districts are drawn, how $600 billion in federal funding is spent. This is one of the most important things the federal government has done, every 10 years since 1790. And it’s facing unprecedented threats from the Trump administration.”
Fox News has removed a racist and homophobic op-ed from its website following international outcry. In a piece published Friday with the start of the 2018 Winter Olympics, Fox News executive editor John Moody wrote, “[T]he motto of the Olympics, since 1894, has been 'Faster, Higher, Stronger.' It appears the U.S. Olympic Committee would like to change that to 'Darker, Gayer, Different.' If your goal is to win medals, that won’t work.” Fox News later removed the op-ed from its website, saying Moody’s piece didn’t reflect the “views or values” of the network. In a statement, Sarah Kate Ellis, president of the LGBTQ rights group GLAAD, called on Moody and Fox News to apologize, adding, “These athletes are at the Olympics because they already won by qualifying to represent the United States on the world’s stage; and they did so despite facing discrimination from places like Fox News throughout their careers.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions drew outrage and condemnation Monday when he referred to the “Anglo-American heritage” of U.S. law enforcement. Sessions made the remark in a speech to the National Sheriffs’ Association’s winter conference in Washington, D.C.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions: “The office of sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement. We must never erode this historic office.”
A spokesperson for the Justice Department defended Sessions’s comment, saying that the phrase “Anglo-American law” is commonly used by lawyers and appears in opinions from the Supreme Court. In a statement, the NAACP called Attorney General Sessions’s remarks the “latest example of dog whistle politics,” adding, “His stances at DOJ regarding their reversal of support for cases against voter suppression, his attempt to withdraw from consent decrees to [rein] in police misconduct, and the decision to return to policies including mandatory minimums that played a key role in the expansion of mass incarceration, are powerful examples of why communities of color must pay attention to what he does and what he says.”
In Wisconsin, prosecutors have brought felony charges against three Milwaukee County Jail staffers over the death of 38-year-old Terrill Thomas, a prisoner who died of extreme dehydration after he spent a week without access to water in a solitary confinement jail cell. At the time of Thomas’s death, the jail was overseen by Sheriff David Clarke—a staunch supporter of Donald Trump who has compared the Black Lives Matter movement to the Ku Klux Klan.
In West Virginia, lawmakers are under fire for ordering the removal of a citizen from the state Capitol, after she called out the names of state politicians who’ve accepted campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry. Lissa Lucas was speaking Friday during a public comment session at the West Virginia House Judiciary Committee.
Lissa Lucas: “The people who are going to be speaking in favor of this bill are all going to be paid by the industry, and the people who are going to be voting on this bill are also often paid by the industry. For example—and I have to keep it short, simply because the public only gets a minute 45, while lobbyists can throw a gala at the Marriott, with whisky and wine, and talk for hours to the delegates. So, to keep it short, on the Judiciary Committee, Charlotte Lane, about $10,000 from gas and oil interests, including AEP, Marathon, FirstEnergy, Dominion, EQT—and I could go on.”
As Lucas listed the names of other lawmakers who’ve received campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, Republican committee chair John Shott had her microphone cut and ordered her to be physically removed.
And in France, computer giant Apple has asked a court in Paris to bar tax campaigners from holding protests at its stores. Since December, members of the group Attac have been staging demonstrations at Apple stores in Paris calling for an end to Apple’s complex efforts to avoid paying European Union taxes. This is tax activist Aurélie Trouvé.
Aurélie Trouvé: “The world’s biggest multinational company practices massive tax evasion, and we are calling this out through civil disobedience. Since we hit a nerve, because Apple cannot tolerate its image being harmed, and because we’re informing people that Apple practices tax evasion, they filed an urgent court order against us through what is a called a gag order, meaning that—at least this is what they are asking—we will have to pay 150,000 euros if we hold any future demonstrations against an Apple store.”