President Trump has confirmed that CIA Director Mike Pompeo held a clandestine meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang over two weeks ago. The secret meeting came as President Trump and Kim Jong-un are preparing for a possible face-to-face meeting, which would be the first time a sitting U.S. president has met with a North Korean leader.
Mike Pompeo is President Trump’s nominee to replace Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. Critics are asking why the CIA director was chosen to carry out the clandestine talks and whether the leaking of the story is related to the increasing resistance to his confirmation from lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul, Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine and New Hampshire Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen have all said they will vote against recommending Pompeo to the full Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could still bring Pompeo’s confirmation vote to the Senate floor, although it would be the first time for a secretary of state nominee to fail to be recommended by the committee since 1925.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has launched a public rebuke of the White House, after national economics adviser Larry Kudlow tried to claim Haley had been confused when she announced the U.S. would impose new sanctions against Russian companies linked to Syria’s chemical weapons program. This is Haley speaking on CBS on Sunday.
Nikki Haley: “So you will see that Russian sanctions will be coming down. Secretary Mnuchin will be announcing those on Monday, if he hasn’t already. And they will go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons use.”
But then, on Monday, the White House said the U.S. would not impose the new sanctions, contradicting Haley’s comments one day earlier. On Tuesday, after national economics adviser Larry Kudlow tried to claim the reversal had been her error, Haley hit back, telling Fox News in a statement, “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.”
In a victory for the immigrant rights movement, the Supreme Court has struck down a law requiring the mandatory deportation of lawful permanent residents who are convicted of some crimes, saying the law was unconstitutionally vague. Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch sided with the liberal justices, writing, “Vague laws invite arbitrary power.” The case centered on a Filipino man named James Garcia Dimaya, who had been a lawful permanent resident of the United States since 1992. After being convicted of residential burglary, the Obama administration sought to deport him for having committed an “aggravated felony” under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Tuesday’s Supreme Court ruling will mean that lower-level offenses are less likely to trigger the automatic deportation of lawful permanent residents.
In Cuba, the National Assembly is meeting today to elect a successor for President Raúl Castro, who has announced he’s stepping down this week. The Assembly is widely expected to choose the current vice president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, to be Cuba’s next leader. Raúl Castro is the younger brother of Fidel Castro, who led Cuba for decades following the 1959 revolution. The transition will mark the first time in more than six decades that Cuba will be led by someone outside the Castro family.
Starbucks says it will close more than 8,000 stores nationwide for a one-day anti-racial bias training, in response to protests and boycott threats after two black men being arrested inside a Philadelphia Starbucks. Their lawyer says the two men were waiting for a third person to arrive for a business meeting, when a Starbucks employee called the police and claimed the men were trespassing. After a video of the arrests went viral, protesters took over the store in downtown Philadelphia during two straight days of protests.
In New York City, authorities have removed a statue from Central Park of 19th century gynecologist J. Marion Sims, known as the “father of gynecology,” who repeatedly performed painful nonconsensual scientific experiments on enslaved black women without anesthesia. The removal of the statue comes after repeated protests last year, amid a nationwide wave of demonstrations against Confederate monuments and other racist statues. This is author Harriet Washington, speaking on Democracy Now! about J. Marion Sims back in 2007, when she released her book “Medical Apartheid.”
Harriet Washington: “He bought, or otherwise acquired, a group of black women who he housed in a laboratory, and over the period of five years and approximately 40 surgeries on one slave alone, he sought to cure a devastating complication of childbirth called vesicovaginal fistula. This cure entailed repeatedly doing incisions on their genitalia, very painful and, you know, very emotionally difficult, as you can imagine. And in the end, he claims to have cured one of them.”
New York City says it will relocate the statue to a cemetery in Brooklyn where Sims is buried.
Meanwhile, activists and educators are organizing to raise money to erect a monument in Chicago to celebrate famed journalist, abolitionist and suffragist Ida B. Wells. People have already donated tens of thousands of dollars to the fundraising effort, which was launched by Ida B. Wells’s great-granddaughter, Michelle Duster.
Graduate students nationwide are ramping up demands for the right to form a union. At Northeastern University in Boston, about 100 graduate students and their supporters marched Tuesday to demand the university allow them to hold a union election. This is Ph.D. student Alice Verticelli.
Alice Verticelli: “We are strong because our struggle connects to a broader movement of people on this and many campuses across the country fighting for justice and rights, from dining hall workers to adjuncts to student workers. We are strong because we are many. We are here, and we won’t be gone, until we get our dignity and respect. Thank you!”
Students at Harvard University are scheduled to begin voting on unionization today. In New York, Columbia University’s graduate student union has announced plans to go on strike next week unless the university agrees to negotiate a contract, which it has refused to do for more than a year. The right of graduate students to unionize could be under threat after the U.S. Senate confirmed Trump nominee John Ring to the National Labor Relations Board last week, giving the board that enforces labor law a three-to-two Republican majority.
And former first lady Barbara Bush has died at the age of 92. She is one of only two women in U.S. history to be both the wife of a U.S. president and the mother of another. She has been a champion of literacy and a recent critic of President Trump, who attacked her son Jeb, who ran against Trump for the Republican Party presidential nomination. Barbara Bush died Tuesday evening at her home in Houston, Texas.