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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines, or for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. We produce our daily news hour at a fraction of the budget of a commercial news operation, all without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting? This is only possible with your support. Right now every donation to Democracy Now! will be doubled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $25 today, Democracy Now! will get $50 to support our daily news hour. Please do your part. It takes just a couple of minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you and everybody else in the coming year. Thanks so much. -Amy Goodman
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The White House is embroiled in even more controversy over former Staff Secretary Rob Porter, after FBI Director Christopher Wray testified to the Senate that the FBI had told the White House about the physical and verbal abuse allegations that were holding up Porter’s background check months earlier than the White House has admitted.
Christopher Wray: “The FBI submitted a partial report on the investigation in question in March and then a completed background investigation in late July, that, soon thereafter, we received requests for a follow-up inquiry, and we did the follow-up and provided that information in November, and that we administratively closed the file in January.”
Porter resigned after both of his ex-wives accused him of verbal and physical abuse, and photos were released showing Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, with a black eye, which she said she suffered after he punched her in the face. The FBI director’s testimony Tuesday further exposes how Trump administration officials allowed Porter to continue working in the White House despite the serious accusations of domestic violence. In fact, CNN reports White House officials were considering promoting Porter to deputy chief of staff before the photos were released. President Trump has repeatedly defended Porter, emphasizing that Porter claims he’s innocent. Trump himself has been accused of sexual harassment or assault by at least 16 women.
A second federal judge has temporarily blocked the Trump administration from canceling DACA, the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which gives some 800,000 young undocumented immigrants permission to live and work in the United States. On Tuesday, Judge Nicholas Garaufis in New York issued an injunction to keep the program temporarily in place, warning its cancellation would have “profound and irreversible” social costs, writing, “It is impossible to understand the full consequences of a decision of this magnitude.” This comes as lawmakers on Capitol Hill are continuing to debate the future of DACA. Republican lawmakers are pushing to include an amendment to punish so-called sanctuary cities as part of any immigration legislation to protect DREAMers.
In more news on immigration, activists and civil liberties advocates are issuing warnings over reports that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, known as ICE, is seeking to become an intelligence agency. Critics say the move would give ICE access to an array of raw intelligence data that could lead to further abuses as ICE carries out President Trump’s mass deportation efforts. This is Jake Laperruque, of the independent watchdog agency, the Project on Government Oversight.
Jake Laperruque: “Well, I think if we’ve seen in the last year ICE demonstrate a willingness to be more severe and more arbitrary in its arrests, deportations and actions, this would enable them to a much higher degree. It’s really like taking someone who you’re not comfortable giving like a kitchen knife to and handing them a grenade.”
Meanwhile, the chief counsel for ICE in Seattle has been charged with stealing the identities of seven immigrants in order to defraud credit card companies. Raphael Sanchez has resigned from the agency amid the charges and faces one count of aggravated identity theft and another of wire fraud.
President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen says he personally paid $130,000 to former porn star Stephanie Clifford, better known as Stormy Daniels, several weeks before Trump’s election to keep her from going public about her 2006 sexual encounter with Donald Trump. Cohen says he was never reimbursed for the payment to silence Daniels.
U.S. intelligence officials claimed Tuesday that Russia is likely planning to meddle in the U.S. 2018 midterm elections. This is U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.
Dan Coats: “We expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false flag personas, sympathetic spokesmen and other means to influence, to try to build on its wide range of operations and exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States. There should be no doubt that Russia perceive that its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.”
The intelligence community’s warnings during Tuesday’s Senate Intelligence Committee hearings contradict President Trump, who has repeatedly cast doubt on whether Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election. Trump is currently under investigation for allegedly colluding with Russia ahead of the presidential election.
The United States is refusing to commit any direct money for reconstruction in Iraq, after the U.S.-led coalition bombing campaign against ISIS militants destroyed homes, schools, hospitals and critical infrastructure across wide swaths of Iraq. The United Nations says 40,000 homes were destroyed in Mosul alone. At an international conference in Kuwait this week, the Iraqi government has asked for $88 billion to rebuild. But so far, other countries have pledged only a combined $4 billion. The United States has offered a $3 billion loan. This comes after the U.S. Senate reached a 2018 budget deal that includes $700 billion for the military.
In Israel, the justice minister has sparked outrage by saying that maintaining a Jewish majority in Israel justifies committing human rights violations. Speaking at a conference on Monday in Tel Aviv, Ayelet Shaked said, “There is place to maintain a Jewish majority even at the price of violation of rights.” During her speech, Shaked also defended the controversial so-called Jewish nation-state bill, which would legally define Israel as the “national home of the Jewish people.” Critics say, if passed, the bill could be used to justify the widespread discrimination against Israel’s non-Jewish citizens.
In more news on Israel, the police have recommended indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on criminal corruption charges. Netanyahu is under investigation in two separate criminal corruption cases. In one case, Netanyahu is accused of trying to push tax breaks to benefit an Israeli billionaire Hollywood producer after receiving gifts from him. In the second case, Netanyahu is accused of trying to strike a deal to secure more favorable coverage from a leading Israeli newspaper by offering to curtail the circulation of one of the newspaper’s rivals.
The group PEN America has announced it will honor two imprisoned Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, with this year’s Freedom to Write Award. The two have been jailed in Burma after investigating a massacre committed by the Burmese military against Rohingya Muslims in the village of Inn Din. They appeared in court earlier today, after having been charged with violating Burma’s Official Secrets Act. Later in the broadcast, we’ll go to Burma for more.
In Ethiopia, a senior Oromo opposition leader has been released from prison, after protesters staged widespread demonstrations on Monday to demand his freedom. Bekele Gerba is the secretary general of the Oromo Federalist Congress. He was arrested in 2015 amid an uprising in Oromia over efforts to displace them from their land. After being released, Bekele Gerba called for the release of other Oromo political prisoners.
Bekele Gerba: “There are still thousands and thousands of people languishing in jail, so our release alone should not be considered as the release of all the Oromo from prisons, and you should not stop your struggle. Our struggle should not stop as long as there’s a single Oromo remaining in the prison.”
In London, a British judge has again upheld an arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Assange’s lawyers have been trying to argue the British arrest warrant for jumping bail should be rescinded because it is contrary to the public interest and because it’s related to a Swedish sexual assault investigation against Assange which has since been dropped. Tuesday’s ruling comes after, one week ago, the same British judge, Emma Arbuthnot, ruled for the first time not to drop Assange’s arrest warrant.
Back in the United States, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, known as CAIR, is suing Southwest Airlines on behalf of a recent University of California at Berkeley graduate, who was removed from a Southwest plane in April 2016 and prohibited from reboarding after a fellow traveler complained about him speaking Arabic. Khairuldeen Makhzoomi was talking to his uncle on his cellphone as he was boarding the flight, when a fellow passenger claimed he was using words related to an attack. In fact, he was using the word “inshallah,” which means “God willing,” and is one of the most common words in the Arabic language.
And American Olympian Shaun White faced questioning about accusations of sexual harassment, after he won the Olympic gold medal for the men’s snowboard halfpipe at this year’s Olympic Games in South Korea. White has been sued for sexually harassing his former bandmate, Lena Zawaideh, and then firing her without paying her after she rebuked his behavior. At a news conference today, in which female journalists say the Olympic Committee officials only called on male journalists, Shaun White tried to claim the lawsuit and accusations were “gossip.”
Shaun White: “You know, honestly, I’m here to talk about the Olympics, not, you know, gossip. So—but I don’t think so. I am who I am, and I’m proud of who I am. And my friends, you know, love me and vouch for me, and I think that stands on its own. So, thank you.”
Nick Alexakos: “Absolutely.”
Reporter: “But so you’re saying that the allegations against you are gossip?”
Nick Alexakos: “I think we’re here to talk about the gold medal and the amazing day we had today. Thank you. So, if we don’t have another question, why don’t we go ahead and just pass the mic. Thank you so much.”
Reporter: “I’d like it to be addressed just a little bit, I mean.”
Nick Alexakos: “Like I said, I think we’re here to talk about the gold medal today and the amazing day we just had.
Shaun White: “I feel like I addressed it.”
Shaun White reached a private settlement with Lena Zawaideh months ago.