President Trump has rejected a new round of sanctions against Russia, only one day after U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley announced the U.S. would impose sanctions against Russian companies connected to Syria’s chemical weapons program. The reversal comes as a delegation of chemical weapons inspectors say the Syrian and Russian governments have blocked them from reaching Douma, Syria, to investigate the alleged chemical weapons attack 10 days ago in which dozens of people were killed.
The U.S., Britain and France launched airstrikes against Syria on Friday night in response to the alleged chemical attack. The military action has sparked sharp backlash against British Prime Minister Theresa May, who is being denounced for carrying out the airstrikes without parliamentary approval. It has also sparked a backlash in France, where lawmakers debated the strikes in France’s National Assembly and Senate on Monday. This is French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe.
Prime Minister Édouard Philippe: “Our enemy is not Syria. We did not go into war against Syria or against Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Our enemy is Daesh. We want to end the terrorist movement that has organized, in our territory, fatal attacks that had deeply struck several French families, and, beyond that, all souls.”
U.S. Democratic lawmakers have also slammed the Trump administration for carrying out the airstrikes without congressional approval.
The United States and Britain issued a first-of-its-kind joint warning Monday about the risks of Russian cyberattacks. The statement warned of attacks against both government institutions and private companies. Meanwhile, in Russia, an investigative journalist who had been reporting on secret Russian paramilitary groups fighting in Syria has died, after having fallen from the balcony of his fifth-floor apartment. Maxim Borodin was 32 years old. Authorities say there is nothing suspicious about his death. Yet critics say only one day before his fatal fall he called a friend to say there was a gunman on his balcony and other masked men lurking in the stairwell near his apartment.
In New York City, a federal judge has rejected President Trump’s efforts to have first access to the documents seized by the FBI from the home, office and hotel room of his longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who is being investigated for possible bank and wire fraud. During the hearing, Cohen’s lawyers also revealed that Fox News host and Trump supporter Sean Hannity had been a secret client of Cohen. Cohen has only had three clients in recent years: Trump, Hannity and longtime Republican donor Elliott Broidy, who recently resigned as deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee over revelations he paid $1.6 million to a former Playboy model to keep quiet about their affair, which resulted in her having an abortion. Adult film star Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, also showed up to Monday’s high-profile court hearing. She denounced Cohen, who paid her $130,000 in hush money only days before the 2016 election to try to keep her quiet about her alleged affair with Donald Trump.
Stephanie Clifford: “For years, Mr. Cohen has acted like he is above the law. He has considered himself and openly referred to himself as Mr. Trump’s fixer. He has played by a different set of rules, or, should we say, no rules at all. He has never thought that the little man, or especially women—and even more, women like me—mattered. That ends now. My attorney and I are committed to making sure that everyone finds out the truth and the facts of what happened, and I give my word that we will not rest until that happens.”
Meanwhile, former FBI Director James Comey’s highly anticipated book “A Higher Loyalty” officially goes on sale today. We’ll have more on Michael Cohen, James Comey and President Trump after headlines.
The Government Accountability Office has ruled the Environmental Protection Agency broke the law by spending $43,000 to install a soundproof phone booth for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. It’s the latest ethics scandal to hit Pruitt, who is also facing scrutiny over revelations the EPA has spent $3 million on his security detail. The EPA first claimed the spending was justified due to death threats against Pruitt, but then admitted, in response to a FOIA request, that there are no records of death threats against Pruitt.
In Philadelphia, protesters disrupted and shut down operations at a downtown Starbucks, after a viral video showed two African-American men being accused of trespassing and arrested by police for being inside the coffee shop. On Monday, the community group Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild organized a sit-in inside the Starbucks.
Protesters: “Starbucks coffee is anti-black, a whole lot of racism, a whole lot of crap. If we can’t get it, shut it down! If we can’t get it, shut it down!”
Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson has apologized, and the company says the manager is no longer working at that store, although it’s unclear whether she has been fired or just relocated to another store.
In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is continuing to back the construction of the massive $5.8 billion Trans Mountain pipeline, vowing to commit taxpayer money to the project despite widespread indigenous-led protests and a slew of lawsuits. If built, the Kinder Morgan pipeline would triple the amount of oil flowing from Alberta’s tar sands to the coast of British Columbia. Kinder Morgan says that if legal challenges are not resolved by May 31, it will abandon plans to build the proposed pipeline.
In art and entertainment news, music legends Nina Simone and Sister Rosetta Tharpe have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Meanwhile, superstar musician and performer Beyoncé made history at the California music festival Coachella.
Beyoncé: “Coachella, thank you for allowing me to be the first black woman to headline Coachella. Ain’t that ’bout a bitch?”
Her groundbreaking 2-hour performance celebrated black culture, paid tribute to historically black colleges and universities, and included sound bites of a speech by Malcolm X, quotes from feminist author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and songs by Nina Simone and Fela Kuti.
And the Pulitzer Prizes also made history this year.
Dana Canedy: “And last, but certainly not least, for music, the prize is awarded to 'DAMN.,' by Kendrick Lamar, a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.”
Kendrick Lamar is the first non-classical or jazz artist to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Music. He has topped the charts with music that tackles issues of race, politics, religion, mental health and violence, including in his song “Duckworth.”
Kendrick Lamar: “They didn’t kill him; in fact, it look like they’re the last to survive / Pay attention, that one decision changed both of they lives / One curse at a time / Reverse the manifest and good karma, and I’ll tell you why / You take two strangers and put ’em in random predicaments…”
Other Pulitzer Prize winners included journalists behind the The New York Times and New Yorker investigations into how Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein had sexually harassed, assaulted and raped more than 100 women—revelations that helped spark a wave of resistance to sexual assault and harassment in workplaces around the world. And James Forman Jr. has won the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction for his book “Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America.”