President Donald Trump said Thursday National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster is resigning, and will replace him with John Bolton—a foreign policy hawk who has openly backed war against Iran and North Korea. Bolton will take over the position on April 9 and will not need to be confirmed by the Senate. In 2005 and '06, Bolton served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, after President George W. Bush named him to the post as a recess appointment, amid fears he would not be confirmed by the Senate. Bolton is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and in recent years has made regular appearances on Fox News. Just three weeks ago, Bolton wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal headlined “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First.” We'll have more on John Bolton after headlines with investigative reporter Gareth Porter.
Donald Trump has ordered the U.S. to draw up a list of $60 billion worth of Chinese goods to be targeted for tariffs, in what the president says is a bid to reduce the U.S. trade deficit. In response, China immediately listed 128 U.S. products it’s targeted for reciprocal tariffs—including steel, wine, fresh fruit and pork. Trump’s announcement set off fears of a trade war and sent stock indices around the world plummeting, with the Dow Jones losing more than 720 points Thursday.
Congress approved a $1.3 trillion spending bill early this morning—averting what would have been the third government shutdown of the year, less than a day before it was set to take effect. The bill won bipartisan support in both houses, clearing the Senate on a 65-32 vote just after 1 a.m., after more than two-thirds of House lawmakers approved it earlier in the day. President Trump has signaled he will sign the bill, which will boost spending on weapons and war to an all-time high, while increasing funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall. It does not address the plight of immigrants brought to the U.S. as children—so called DREAMers—a key demand of immigrant rights groups and some Democrats. The bill also contains modest gun control measures, including tightening a background check measure known as “NICS”—but does not provide for universal background checks for prospective gun buyers.
Donald Trump’s top lawyer defending the president in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has resigned. John Dowd confirmed Thursday he’s leaving Trump’s legal team, writing in a statement, “I love the president and wish him well.” Dowd reportedly resigned after Trump repeatedly ignored his legal advice and attacked Robert Mueller by name on Twitter, after Mueller’s team subpoenaed financial documents from the Trump Organization.
In Syria, hundreds of rebels and their family members have begun boarding buses in the town of Harasta, after agreeing to surrender to government forces in exchange for safe passage to northern Syria. Their surrender in the Damascus suburb known as Eastern Ghouta comes as Syrian human rights groups say a government offensive launched last month has so far killed 1,500 civilians, injured 5,300 others, and forced more than 80,000 people to flee in recent days.
In Mexico, media workers are demanding a swift investigation into the murder of journalist Leobardo Vázquez, who was gunned down Wednesday night inside his home in the state of Veracruz. Vázquez was at least the third journalist to be murdered in Mexico this year; and last year Mexico was among the deadliest countries in the world for media workers. This is journalist Obber Chino Jiménez, speaking at a protest Thursday held in Vázquez’s home city of Gutiérrez Zamora.
Obber Chino Jiménez: “I think now is the time to demand that the Veracruz governor protect us, and not just with words. Every time this happens, security is guaranteed for the media, but it’s just words. These incidents happen daily.”
In France, tens of thousands of public employees walked off the job in cities around the country Thursday, in a strike against President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to roll back labor rights and shrink the public sector. Macron has proposed cutting 120,000 public employee jobs over five years, while raising taxes on pensions and introducing a merit-based system of pay.
In Somalia, at least 18 people were killed Thursday, after a massive car bomb ripped through a hotel near the Parliament building in the capital Mogadishu. The militant group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack, which comes on the heels of similar bombings, including a double bomb attack late last month that left 45 people dead.
In Texas, the Associated Press reports that Hurricane Harvey released far more toxins into the environment than initially reported, when it brought unprecedented flooding to the Texas Gulf Coast last summer. AP reporters catalogued more than 100 Harvey-related toxic releases, most of which were never made public, including spills of carcinogenic compounds like benzene and vinyl chloride, and the release of nearly half a billion gallons of industrial wastewater mixed with stormwater from one chemical plant in Baytown alone. The AP reports Texas investigators have looked into 89 incidents and have yet to announce any enforcement actions.
Conservationists are mourning the death of the world’s last remaining male northern white rhinoceros. The 45-year-old rhino died Monday at a nature reserve in Kenya, where he’d been under armed guard to protect against poachers. In a last-ditch effort to save the species, zoologists are now attempting to use in vitro fertilization to impregnate the last two remaining female northern white rhinoceroses, who are unable to produce offspring naturally.
Former model Karen McDougal went public Thursday with details about her alleged affair with Donald Trump in 2006, telling CNN’s Anderson Cooper that Trump offered her cash after the two had consensual sex for the first time.
Karen McDougal: “After we had been intimate, he tried to pay me, and I actually didn’t know how to take that.”
Anderson Cooper: “Did he actually try to hand you money?”
Karen McDougal: “He did.”
Karen McDougal said the incident made her cry, but said the two maintained a consensual affair for 10 months. Her interview came as CBS’s “60 Minutes” said it’s going ahead with plans to broadcast an interview on Sunday with adult film star Stephanie Clifford, better known as Stormy Daniels. Daniels says she was paid $130,000 in hush money by Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, only days before the 2016 election. Experts say this payment may have violated federal election law.
Banking giant Citigroup says it will no longer work with retailers who sell firearms to people who haven’t passed a background check or are younger than 21. The move makes Citi the first major bank to move to restrict gun sales in the wake of last month’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. This comes ahead of tomorrow’s March for Our Lives protest in Washington, D.C., which is expected to see hundreds of thousands of students, teachers and others rally for new gun controls. This is Alaya Eastman, a student survivor of last month’s massacre, speaking Thursday ahead of tomorrow’s march.
Alaya Eastman: “Unfortunately, I lost two people in my class, and six were hit. I was on the wrong side of the class, and no student should have to cover themselves with a deceased classmate to survive, but I was that student. We can’t only focus on school shootings, though. Urban communities and low-income communities have always been hit with gun violence, forever. I lost my uncle due to gun violence in Brooklyn 15 years ago, and nothing has changed. Columbine happened, nothing’s changed. Sandy Hook happened, nothing’s changed. Parkland happened, nothing’s changed.”
Democracy Now! will be in Washington, D.C., with a special 4-hour broadcast on Saturday, from noon Eastern Daylight Time to 4 p.m., covering the March for Our Lives. You can go to democracynow.org.
In Sacramento, California, hundreds of demonstrators chanting “Black Lives Matter” shut down an interstate highway and delayed an NBA basketball game Thursday as they protested the police killing of 22-year-old Stephon Clark, an African-American father of two who was unarmed and outside his own home Sunday when he was gunned down by a pair of police officers. The protests came as Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn said he doesn’t know why the officers who killed Clark turned off the audio on their body cam video recorders in the wake of the shooting. Thursday’s protests delayed the start of the Sacramento Kings game against the Atlanta Hawks, as only a fraction of ticket holders made it into the arena. Afterward, team owner Vivek Ranadivé spoke in solidarity with the protests.
Vivek Ranadivé: “We stand here before you—old, young, black, white, brown—and we are all united in our commitment. We recognize that it’s not just business as usual, and we are going to work really hard to bring everybody together to make the world a better place, starting with our own community.”