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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines. Maybe you come for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. This week Democracy Now! is celebrating our 23rd birthday. For over two decades, we've produced our daily news hour without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting. How is this possible? Only with your support. Right now, in honor of Democracy Now!'s birthday, every donation we receive will be doubled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $30 today, Democracy Now! will get $60 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. Thank you! -Amy Goodman
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Special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed the Trump Organization to hand over documents—some of which are related to Russia—as he widens the scope of his investigation into alleged ties between top Trump officials and Russia. The revelation indicates that Mueller’s probe is likely to continue for at least several more months. Last summer, President Trump told The New York Times Mueller would be crossing a “red line” if he investigates Trump family finances. This comes as Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee said Thursday the Trump Organization was “actively negotiating” a deal with a sanctioned Russian bank during the 2016 presidential campaign. The charge stands in stark contrast to a conclusion reached by Republican leaders of the committee earlier this week, who declared they found no evidence of collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Russians.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration placed new sanctions against Russia Thursday, accusing Moscow of launching cyberattacks that compromised security at facilities critical to U.S. infrastructure—including water supplies, aviation, the electric grid and nuclear power plants. The administration says Russian hackers gained access that could have allowed them to sabotage or shut down facilities at will. The new sanctions come amid rising tensions between Russia and the U.S. and its allies. This week, Britain accused Russia of launching the first chemical weapons attack on European soil since World War II, over the alleged poisoning of Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury last week. Russia said today it’s prepared to retaliate against Western sanctions, saying it will expand a blacklist of Americans and will expel British diplomats from embassies and consulates across Russia.
In Miami, Florida, authorities say at least six people have died after a pedestrian bridge collapsed onto a busy street below, crushing vehicles and trapping victims under huge piles of concrete. At least nine others were injured in the collapse of the nearly 200-foot-long bridge, which was under construction near the campus of Florida International University. Police say they don’t know the cause of the collapse and are enlisting the help of engineers as they investigate the disaster as a possible homicide.
In Syria, over 10,000 civilians have fled the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta over the past 24 hours, as Syrian government forces continued a bloody offensive against the rebel-held territory. Syrian ground forces have split the territory in three, with many observers predicting a government victory over the rebels is imminent. The offensive has killed well over 1,000 civilians in less than a month. Among the latest victims were 12 civilians who reportedly died in a Russian airstrike today, as well as photojournalist Bashar al-Attar, who died from injuries he sustained in a March 12 airstrike. Meanwhile, human rights groups say residents have fled from over 10,000 homes in the northern Syrian city of Afrin in recent days, as the mostly Kurdish population flees an offensive by Turkey’s military.
In Brazil, tens of thousands of people filled the streets of Rio de Janeiro Thursday to protest the apparent assassination of 38-year-old city councilmember and human rights activist Marielle Franco. Franco died along with her driver Wednesday night, after a pair of gunmen riddled her car with bullets. Franco was a fierce critic of police killings in Brazil’s impoverished favela neighborhoods. The night before her death, Franco wrote on Twitter, “How many more must die for this war to end?” In January alone, government figures show police killed 154 people in Rio state. Franco’s murder came a month after President Michel Temer ordered Brazil’s military to assume control of police duties in Rio.
In Massachusetts, civil rights groups filed a petition Thursday in the state’s Supreme Judicial Court asking it to stop immigration agents from arresting people at courthouses, saying it violates the rights of defendants, victims and witnesses. The case is the first of its kind and comes as Legal Aid Society attorneys protested Thursday in New York City. This is lawyer Jared Trujillo.
Jared Trujillo: “I’m Jared Trujillo. I’m an attorney at the Legal Aid Society. ICE has been entering these courts with something called administrative warrants. Administrative warrants are not issued by a judge. They’re issued solely by ICE. ICE is effectively writing their own warrants to come into the courts. What we are asking is that they not be allowed to come into the courts without a judicial warrant, a judicial warrant signed by a judge.”
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte says he will pull his country out of the International Criminal Court. The announcement came just weeks after the ICC opened an investigation into accusations that Duterte has committed crimes against humanity by overseeing the killing of up to 8,000 people in his so-called war on drugs. Duterte has repeatedly boasted that he has personally murdered drug dealers. President Donald Trump has expressed admiration for Duterte, saying he’s done an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.” This comes as Politico reports that Trump is expected to formally call for capital punishment for drug dealers, when he unveils his plan for combating the opioid epidemic during a planned trip to New Hampshire next week.
President Trump boasted to wealthy Republican donors on Wednesday that he made up a claim about trade deficits during a recent private conversation he had with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In an audio recording obtained by The Washington Post, Trump is reportedly heard telling the donors that he insisted to Trudeau that the U.S. has a trade deficit with Canada—even though he was completely unsure about whether the statement was true. In fact, the U.S. has a trade surplus with Canada. On Thursday, Trump repeated the lie, tweeting, “We do have a Trade Deficit with Canada, as we do with almost all countries (some of them massive).”
The White House is denying media reports that President Trump is poised to fire National Security Adviser Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster ahead of a planned U.S.-North Korea summit in May. Trump is reportedly considering replacing McMaster with John Bolton, who was named by President George W. Bush in 2005 to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in a recess appointment, after Bush feared he would not be confirmed by the Senate. Bolton is a foreign policy hawk who has suggested the U.S. military should directly engage Iran and North Korea. He once said if the U.N. headquarters in New York lost 10 stories, “it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.” The position of national security adviser does not require Senate confirmation.
In an update to a story we covered on Tuesday about President Trump’s pick to head the CIA, Gina Haspel, ProPublica has retracted part of its reporting—which we cited—about Haspel’s role at a secret CIA black site in Thailand where prisoners were tortured. ProPublica is now reporting Haspel was not yet based at the site when Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times, and did not mock the prisoner while he was being tortured. But according to The New York Times, Haspel did oversee the waterboarding of another prisoner, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, at the secret prison. She also later advocated for destroying videotapes of Zubaydah’s waterboarding.
In New York, former Black Panther Herman Bell has been granted parole after 44 years in prison for the killing of two police officers. Bell pleaded not guilty at trial and has said witness coercion and prosecutorial misconduct led to his conviction. His expected release date is April 17. In their decision to release Bell, who is now 69 years old, parole board members cited a “noteworthy” letter from an unnamed person—likely the son of one of the victims, Officer Waverly Jones. He wrote of Bell’s release, “The simple answer is it would bring joy and peace as we have already forgiven Herman Bell publicly. … On the other hand, to deny him parole again would cause us pain as we are reminded of the painful episode each time he appears before the board.”
In New York City, hundreds of protesters marched through the streets of Manhattan Thursday in support of farmworkers with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, who are demanding that fast-food giant Wendy’s sign onto a worker-designed code of conduct that includes a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment and abuse in the fields where they pick tomatoes. The marchers passed outside the Manhattan office of billionaire Nelson Peltz, the board chair and largest shareholder at Wendy’s, before rallying near the United Nations building, where workers broke a 5-day fast. This is Immokalee worker and hunger striker Nely Rodriguez.
Nely Rodriguez: “What we’re asking is that Nelson Peltz promises that Wendy’s will join the Fair Food Program, which is a program recognized for ending sexual violence and slavery in the agricultural fields of Florida. … Another thing that we’d like to say to Nelson Peltz and Wendy’s is that we’re not doing this for the money. We as an association don’t receive a bonus. The money is paid from the corporation to the farmers, and the farmers are responsible for distributing the extra cent to the farmworkers. We’re not doing it for the cent. Wendy’s is lying, saying we’re doing this for the money. We’re here to prove they’re lying. They’re lying through their false code of conduct that does not include the voice of the workers.”
And in Mexico, thousands of women from across the world converged in Zapatista territory in the southern state of Chiapas over the weekend for the First International Political, Artistic, Sports and Cultural Gathering of Women That Struggle. This is a Zapatista woman delivering a collective message at the closing ceremony.
Unnamed Zapatista woman: “This little light is for you. Take it, sister and compañera. … Take it to the women who are disappeared. Take it to the murdered. Take it to the imprisoned. Take it to the raped. Take it to the beaten. Take it to the abused. Take it to the women who face violence in all forms. Take it to the migrants. Take it to the exploited. Take it to the dead. Take it and tell each and every one of them that she is not alone, that you’re going to fight for her, that you’re going to fight for the truth and for the justice that her pain deserves.”