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President Trump has fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replaced him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Trump announced the news on Twitter this morning. He also said CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel will be tapped to succeed Pompeo at the CIA. The Intercept reports Gina Haspel was directly involved in the CIA’s torture program under the George W. Bush administration. She was responsible for running a secret CIA black site in Thailand where prisoners were waterboarded and tortured.
In Syria, war monitors say at least 42 people have been killed in recent days as the Syrian government continues its bombing campaign and ground offensive against Eastern Ghouta, outside the capital Damascus. On Monday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley warned the United States is “prepared to act” if chemical weapons are used in Eastern Ghouta.
Nikki Haley: “We also warn any nation that is determined to impose its will through chemical attacks and inhuman suffering, most especially the outlaw Syrian regime, the United States remains prepared to act, if we must. It is not the path we prefer, but it is a path we have demonstrated we will take. And we are prepared to take it again.”
Activists have accused Syria’s government of using chlorine gas and incendiary white phosphorus munitions. Syria’s government denies using chemical weapons.
In more news from Syria, thousands of civilians are fleeing the northwestern city of Afrin as the Turkish military begins a siege of the Syrian Kurdish city. The Turkish military offensive, launched on January 20, aims to oust the U.S.-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units, known as the YPG, from the city.
Defense Secretary James Mattis has arrived in Kabul for an unannounced trip to Afghanistan. His trip comes after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani offered to begin peace talks with the Taliban without precondition. The Taliban has also recently published an open letter expressing its desire for peace talks and calling on the American people to pressure President Trump to the negotiating table.
President Trump has continued to walk with the NRA and to walk back his promises to support gun control measures in the wake of the high school massacre in Parkland, Florida, which killed 14 students and three faculty. On Monday, Trump tweeted, “On 18 to 21 Age Limits, watching court cases and rulings before acting. States are making this decision. Things are moving rapidly on this, but not much political support (to put it mildly).” The court cases have all been brought by the NRA. A recent poll shows the vast majority of Americans, across all age groups, support raising the minimum age for purchasing firearms from 18 to 21. Trump himself said he supported raising the minimum age as recently as last week. But on Monday, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to claim Trump was not walking back his promises.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “Look, he hasn’t backed away from these things at all. As I just said, they’re still outlined in the plan, but he can’t make them happen with a broad stroke of the pen. You have to have some congressional component to do some of these things, and without that support, it’s not as possible.”
Meanwhile, the youth-led movement for gun control continues to gain political support, as high schoolers plan to walk out from their classrooms across the country on Wednesday. Among those who have endorsed the new movement is Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who compared the students to anti-Vietnam War protesters and pledged to join the March for Our Lives on March 24. He made these remarks during a high school town hall in Newark, California, on Monday. Kerr was 18 years old when his father, Malcolm Kerr, the president of the American University of Beirut, was shot dead in his office in Lebanon in 1984.
The Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has ended its investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election, saying the probe found no evidence of collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Russians, or even evidence that Russia was trying to help Trump win. But on Monday, Florida Republican Congressmember Tom Rooney, a member of the House panel, broke from the party line and said there did appear to be evidence that Russian propaganda benefited Trump. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee have also blasted the decision to end the probe. The top-ranking Democrat on the panel, California Congressmember Adam Schiff, said, “By ending its oversight role in the only authorized investigation in the House, the Majority has placed the interests of protecting the President over protecting the country, and history will judge its actions harshly.”
The Guardian is reporting President Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., has a previously undisclosed business relationship with Texas hedge fund manager Gentry Beach, who has enjoyed special access to top U.S. officials since Trump took office. Last year, Beach met with top officials from the National Security Council to push a plan to increase business opportunities in Venezuela. He’s also attended a private lunch with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Ethics experts question whether Beach has gained the access to top administration officials because of his business relationship with Trump’s son.
Trump’s personal lawyers are trying to stop “60 Minutes” from airing its interview with adult film star Stormy Daniels about her alleged affair with Donald Trump in 2006 and 2007. The interview is set to air on March 18. On Monday, Daniels offered to return a $130,000 “hush money” payment she received from Trump’s personal lawyer only days before the 2016 election. Multiple news outlets, including The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, say this payment could have violated federal election law. Daniels has sued to overturn the nondisclosure agreement, calling the deal invalid.
A bipartisan group of secretaries of state are condemning a proposal to allow armed Secret Service agents at election polling stations. The proposal has already been approved by the House as part of the Homeland Security Department reauthorization bill. On Friday, 19 secretaries of state wrote a letter to Senate leaders urging them to drop the proposal, calling it “unprecedented and shocking.” We’ll have more on this story after headlines.
In a rare move, President Trump has blocked the Singapore-based company Broadcom from purchasing the American company Qualcomm. Trump cited a threat to national security in blocking the $117 billion acquisition, which would have been the biggest deal in technology history.
President Trump is heading to California today to see prototypes of his promised border wall. It’ll be Trump’s first trip to California since he took office, and it comes only days after his administration sued California over its so-called sanctuary state laws limiting police cooperation with federal immigration agents. Major protests against Trump’s trip are planned in Los Angeles and in Tijuana, Mexico.
Trump’s trip to California comes as the San Francisco spokesperson for ICE has resigned, saying Trump administration officials have repeatedly and falsely exaggerated the number of people who evaded arrest after Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf warned the community about impending ICE raids across Northern California. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and others have claimed up to 800 people were able to avoid being detained by ICE because of the mayor’s warning. The former San Francisco spokesperson for ICE, James Schwab, says the real number is far lower, and that he quit “because I didn’t want to perpetuate misleading facts.”
Authorities in Austin, Texas, say the three package explosions that have killed two people over the last two weeks are connected and that race may be playing a factor in the bombings. Two more packages exploded on Monday in separate parts of Austin, killing a 17-year-old African-American teenager and seriously injuring a Hispanic woman. A third explosion on March 2 killed an African-American man. Both victims killed in the explosions are the relatives of prominent members of the African-American community in Austin, Texas.
In India, tens of thousands of farmers from the state of Maharashtra completed a six-day, 110-mile protest march to Mumbai at dawn on Monday. The farmers are demanding waivers for agricultural loans and the right to forest land. Upon their arrival in Mumbai, state officials said they would meet the farmers’ demands.
And the 2018 Izzy Award will be shared between four investigative reporters: The Intercept’s Lee Fang and Sharon Lerner, Truthout staff reporter Dahr Jamail and City Lights author Todd Miller. Sharon Lerner won for her reporting on corporate pollution, including from the chemical giant DuPont; Dahr Jamail for his work on climate change and the U.S. military; Todd Miller for his new book on climate refugees, “Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration, and Homeland Security”; and Lee Fang for his investigative reporting on money and politics in the Trump era. This is Lee Fang speaking recently on Democracy Now! about how gun manufacturers are targeting young people, even amid the rise of an unprecedented youth-led movement for gun control.
Lee Fang: “There’s new analysis from the gun industry showing that young people are not buying guns like older generations for hunting. They’re mostly kind of emulating video game culture. You know, they’re going to gun stores, buying targets of vampires and zombies, and going to the gun range and buying really sophisticated weapons, lots of ammunition. This is really, as one gun industry executive said, the Xbox generation that they’re trying to target. So, even as there’s a new youth-led student movement calling for gun control, this is coming at a time when the gun industry is hoping to grow their market share by selling more guns to young people.”
The Izzy Award is presented by the Park Center for Independent Media and named for legendary dissident journalist I.F. Stone.