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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. This weekend, we're broadcasting live from D.C. as students and people of all ages converge on the capital to demand action on gun control. Our coverage is produced at a fraction of the cost of a commercial news operation, without ads, paywalls, government funds or corporate sponsors. How is this possible? Only with your support. If you and everyone visiting this website gave just $4, it would cover our operating costs for 2018. Pretty exciting, right? Please do your part. It takes just a few minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you and everybody else.
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President Trump has ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and said he will replace him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Trump also announced Tuesday via Twitter that CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel will be tapped to succeed Pompeo at the CIA. Both would need to be confirmed by the Senate. Gina Haspel is now facing major questions and criticism about her direct involvement in the George W. Bush administration’s CIA torture program. She was responsible for running a secret CIA black site in Thailand where prisoners were waterboarded and tortured. If confirmed, she will become the first woman to head the CIA. We’ll have more on Gina Haspel and Mike Pompeo after headlines.
Trump’s decision to fire Rex Tillerson as secretary of state is the latest shake-up to rock the administration, which has seen an unprecedented number of top officials ousted over the last year. On Tuesday, the White House also fired the fourth-highest-ranking official in the State Department, Steve Goldstein, who served as the agency’s undersecretary of public affairs. Before he was fired, Goldstein released a statement saying Tillerson had not spoken to Trump and that he—Tillerson—didn’t know why he was fired. Goldstein was the senior vice president of BP Global Solutions before serving in the State Department. His departure leaves the State Department with only one of the six undersecretary positions filled. Tillerson’s chief of staff and deputy chief of staff also submitted their resignations after their boss was fired. Meanwhile, President Trump’s personal assistant, John McEntee, was ousted on Monday, after his security clearances were revoked following an investigation into his alleged online gambling problems and his so-called mishandling of taxes. He was reportedly escorted out of the White House so fast, he couldn’t even get his coat. But on Tuesday, only one day later, Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign announced McEntee would serve as senior adviser for campaign operations.
There is now speculation that President Trump will soon oust Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and replace him with Energy Secretary Rick Perry. Shulkin has been facing criticism for various ethics violations, including using taxpayer money to pay for his wife’s airfare during a trip to Europe last summer. And there’s also speculation that Trump may soon oust National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. All this comes as Trump claimed at the White House Tuesday that he’s “very close to having the Cabinet [he wants].”
President Donald Trump: “I’ve gotten to know a lot of people very well over the last year, and I’m really at a point where we’re getting very close to having the Cabinet and other things that I want.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May announced that Britain plans to expel 23 Russian diplomats as retaliation against Russia for its alleged poisoning of Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury last week. On Tuesday, President Trump reluctantly spoke about the alleged poisoning.
President Donald Trump: “Well, it sounds to me—I’m speaking to Theresa May today. It sounds to me like it would be Russia, based on all of the evidence they have. … It sounds to me like they believe it was Russia. And I would certainly take that finding as fact.”
Reporter: “Mr. President, do you believe there should be a response from the United States? Do you believe there should be a response from the United States?”
President Donald Trump: “Yeah, as soon as we get the facts straight. And we’re going to be speaking with the British today. We’re speaking with Theresa May today. And as soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be.”
Both Trump and White House have been reluctant to blame Russia for the alleged poisoning. On Monday, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson broke from the White House and issued a statement condemning Russia for the attack. He was fired only hours later.
Students across the country are slated to walk out of their classrooms today to demand gun control and protest against school shootings. Nearly 3,000 student demonstrations are planned from coast to coast. The walkouts are slated to last 17 minutes in honor of the 17 people—14 students and three faculty—who were killed in a mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, one month ago today.
In Pennsylvania, Democrat Conor Lamb is holding a razor-thin lead over Republican Rick Saccone as officials continue to count absentee and provisional ballots in Tuesday’s special congressional election. On Tuesday night, Democrat Conor Lamb, a former prosecutor and Marine Corps captain, declared victory in the race for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, which Trump carried by 20 points during the 2016 election. The race has not been called officially. Lamb is currently 600 votes ahead. The special election is being closely watched ahead of the 2018 midterms. Republican groups poured nearly $11 million into the race to try to avoid losing a district that Trump won easily in 2016. President Trump himself also traveled to Moon Township, Pennsylvania, to campaign for Saccone on Saturday. The special election fills the seat left vacant by Republican Tim Murphy, who resigned last year after revelations that the vehemently anti-abortion lawmaker had pressured a woman he was having an affair with to have an abortion.
Demonstrators took to the streets of San Diego Tuesday to protest President Trump’s first visit to California after taking office.
Barbara Hernandez: “He is a racist and a xenophobic person. And I’m tired of his hatred, and that’s why I’m here, because I want to say he’s not welcome here and I’m tired of him using my life as a bargaining chip. Me, as a DACA recipient, I will not stand for a border wall enforcement that throws my community under the bus and further criminalizes them. And we live in this constant fear, especially our community here in San Diego. They’re so close to the border. And living in that fear is no way of living, and that’s why I’m here, to say no more to that hatred.”
That was DACA recipient Barbara Hernandez at a demonstration in San Diego. During President Trump’s visit Tuesday, he attacked California and its governor, Jerry Brown, over the state’s so-called sanctuary laws aimed at limiting cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration agents. President Trump also toured a series of prototypes of his promised border wall in San Diego and then held a news conference.
President Donald Trump: “Who would think? Who would think? But getting over the top is easy. These are like professional mountain climbers. They’re incredible climbers. They can’t climb some of these walls. Some of them, they can. Those are the walls we’re not using.”
His visit comes as the Trump administration faces a new lawsuit challenging President Trump’s decision to cancel TPS—that’s temporary protected status—for more than 200,000 people from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan—nations the president has reportedly called “s—hole countries.” The lawsuit is being brought on behalf of the American children of immigrants with temporary protected status.
Authorities have arrested three men in connection with the 2017 bombing of a Minnesota mosque and the attempted bombing of a women’s health clinic in Illinois. Among those arrested: Michael Hari, a former sheriff’s deputy from Illinois who runs a security company and submitted a bid to build President Trump’s border wall. This is a clip from a video promoting his bid.
Promotional video: “The wall will be culturally significant, a powerful architectural statement of the determination of the American people to defend their nation and its Anglo-Saxon heritage, Western culture and English language.”
Michael Hari and the two other men, Michael McWhorter and Joe Morris, are all facing federal arson charges. The bombing of the Dar-Al Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota, occurred on August 5 while worshipers were gathering for morning prayers. No one was injured in the bombing, but it caused extensive damage to the building. The mosque is about five miles away from the site of one of President Trump’s final campaign rallies ahead of the 2016 election—during which Trump attacked Minnesota’s Somali community and compared refugees to terrorists.
In New York City, dozens of farmworkers with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers are in the middle of a five-day fast outside the Manhattan office of Nelson Peltz, the board chair and largest shareholder of Wendy’s. They are demanding Wendy’s sign onto the Fair Food Program, which would require the fast-food giant to purchase tomatoes from growers that follow a worker-designed code of conduct that includes a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment and abuse in the fields. This is farmworker Nely Rodriguez.
Nely Rodriguez: “It does not discourage us. On the contrary, Wendy’s refusal thus far to join the Fair Food Program gives us the strength to be here as women, as mothers with families, as young people, the entire community of Immokalee who is here to fight for respect in the fields where Wendy’s buys its tomatoes, and to show through our fast that we have a powerful commitment to this struggle. We’ve left behind our homes to show Wendy’s what this means to us, to show them that we’re committed to creating change for all women.”
And groundbreaking physicist Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76. For decades, Hawking enchanted scientists and science lovers alike by making groundbreaking discoveries about the origins of the universe and then translating these ideas for millions of non-scientists worldwide. His 1988 book, “A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes,” has sold more than 10 million copies.
His career and life itself have been celebrated as a medical miracle. Born in Oxford, Britain, in 1942, he was diagnosed with a neuromuscular disorder known as Lou Gehrig’s disease at the age of 21. Doctors said he had only a few years to live. Instead, he went on to live for more than 50 years, traveling the world in his motorized wheelchair and communicating through a custom-made computerized voice synthesizer. His only complaint was that the synthesizer gave him an American accent. He also protested against U.S. wars, including the U.S. war in Vietnam and the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Scientists and non-scientists alike are mourning his death. Physics professor Michio Kaku of the City University of New York said, “Not since Albert Einstein has a scientist so captured the public imagination and endeared himself to tens of millions of people around the world.” This is Stephen Hawking, speaking at the White House in 1998.
Stephen Hawking: “Yet if, as I hope, basic science becomes part of general awareness, what now appear as the paradoxes of quantum theory will seem as just common sense to our children’s children. However, to a large extent, we shall have to rely on mathematical beauty and consistency to find the ultimate theory of everything.”
That’s physicist, professor and best-selling author Stephen Hawking speaking in 1998 at the White House. He died on Wednesday at his home in Cambridge, England, at the age of 76.