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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines, or for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. We produce our daily news hour at a fraction of the budget of a commercial news operation, all without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting? This is only possible with your support. Right now every donation to Democracy Now! will be doubled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $25 today, Democracy Now! will get $50 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 in the coming year. Thanks so much. -Amy Goodman
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“What follows are notes I typed in the vehicle immediately upon exiting Trump Tower…” So begins one of the newly released memos written by former FBI Director James Comey before he was fired by President Trump last year. On Thursday night, the Justice Department sent 15 redacted, declassified pages of Comey’s detailed memos to Congress.
These memos have been at the center of a public dispute between the president and former FBI Director Comey, which has escalated in recent days with the publication of Comey’s book “A Higher Loyalty.” In the book, Comey compares President Trump to Mafia bosses he once worked to send to prison, writing, “This president is unethical, and untethered to truth.”
In the released memos, Comey describes Trump as distracted by political rivalries and afraid about his presidency being undermined by members of his own government, including the FBI. Just after midnight, Trump attacked Comey on Twitter, writing, “James Comey Memos just out and show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION. Also, he leaked classified information. WOW! Will the Witch Hunt continue?”
This comes as former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is set to join President Trump’s legal team dealing with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election. Florida lawyers Jane Raskin and Martin Raskin are also joining the president’s team, which has been looking for new lawyers since Trump’s top attorney, John Dowd, quit last month, reportedly resigning after Trump repeatedly ignored his legal advice and attacked Robert Mueller by name on Twitter.
Hundreds of thousands of students, teachers, school staffers and their supporters are expected to walk out of their classes today to protest gun violence. Plans for today’s walkout began with an online petition started by 16-year-old Connecticut high school sophomore Lane Murdock, who spoke last month in New York City during another nationwide day of student walkouts.
Lane Murdock: “This is an uphill climb. We have a lot of powerful people against us. And they’re going to want infighting. They’re going to want division. They’re going to want us to look at our differences so they can take us down easier. And we’re not going to let that happen. This is about people—gay, straight, black, white, religious, nonreligious—coming together so their kids don’t have to be afraid to go to school.”
Today’s protest comes on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colorado, and less than a month after the historic March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., which saw hundreds of thousands flood the National Mall to demand an end to gun violence.
Meanwhile, Dick’s Sporting Goods has announced it plans to destroy the assault-style rifles and accessories that were left over after the company implemented a ban on the sale of assault-style rifles at its 35 Field & Stream stores nationwide. The destruction of the firearms comes as a number of companies and banks are facing widespread pressure from youth activists to cut their ties to the weapons industry and the NRA, the National Rifle Association.
The Trump administration moved Thursday to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas drilling. The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management issued a notice of intent to begin an environmental impact analysis about the effects of oil exploration and drilling in the refuge, which is rich in biodiversity and has been home to indigenous people for thousands of years. The Trump administration reportedly wants to begin issuing leases for oil drilling in the pristine Arctic area as early as next year.
The Trump administration also announced Thursday a new policy aimed at expanding the sale of armed drones, particularly the large armed drones such as the Predator and the Reaper. Trump’s trade adviser Peter Navarro said the policy change will allow U.S. weapons companies to increase their direct sales of armed drones to so-called authorized allies and partners. This comes as a new report from the Security Assistance Monitor revealed that Trump approved an unprecedented $82 billion in arms sales during his first year in office.
In voting rights news, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has been found in contempt of court by a U.S. district judge in Kansas in a lawsuit brought by the ACLU against a state law requiring voters show proof of citizenship before registering to vote. Kobach led the Trump administration’s so-called voter fraud commission and is a key architect of the GOP’s voter suppression efforts nationwide.
In Cuba, outgoing President Raúl Castro gave his final address at the National Assembly Thursday, after handing power over to his successor, Miguel Díaz-Canel. During his speech, Castro slammed the Trump administration.
President Raúl Castro: “Since the current U.S. president came to power, there has been a deliberate setback in relations between Cuba and the United States, and an aggressive and threatening tone prevails in the statements of said government. … American imperialism creates conflicts that generate waves of refugees. It pursues repressive, racist and discriminatory policies against migrants. It builds walls, militarizes borders. It makes unsustainable the pattern of production and consumption, and gets in the way of cooperation in confronting climate change.”
That was Raúl Castro, who served as Cuba’s president since 2008, when he succeeded his brother, Fidel Castro.
In Nicaragua, thousands of people took to the streets for a second straight day of protest on Thursday to denounce a new law that will decrease people’s pensions even as it requires workers and employers to contribute more money to the social security system. On Thursday, pensioners, employers and students united for the nationwide protests, which were met by riot police firing tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets. There are reports at least four people have been killed in this week’s protests.
In Chile, more than 100,000 students and professors poured into the streets of the capital Santiago and cities across the country Thursday for the first nationwide student mobilization since conservative billionaire President Sebastián Piñera took office. The students were protesting a recent ruling by Chile’s Constitutional Court, which overturned a law prohibiting for-profit companies from controlling universities. Piñera also served as president between 2010 and 2014, during which time Chile was rocked by massive student protests demanding an overhaul to the education system.
Back in the United States, in Detroit, city officials are set to begin shutting off the water supply to as many as 17,000 homes whose residents are 60 days or $150 behind on their water bills. The United Nations has condemned the water shutoffs as a violation of international human rights law.
This comes as Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said her city is planning to sue the state of Michigan, after Republican Governor Rick Snyder canceled a state-subsidized bottled water program earlier this month even though many Flint homes still have dangerously high levels of lead in their tap water.
This all comes as Michigan has allowed Nestlé to withdraw 400 gallons a minute from the state’s groundwater table despite receiving over 80,000 public comments against the project. Nestlé is not required to pay anything to extract the water, besides a small permitting fee to the state and the cost of leases to private landowners. To see our full coverage of Nestle, Flint, and Detroit water shutoffs, go to Democracy Now.org.
Wall Street giant Wells Fargo is expected to be hit with a $1 billion fine imposed by federal regulators accusing the bank of forcing people to buy auto insurance policies they didn’t need, for improperly charging mortgage holders and for other financial crimes. Despite being hit by a series of high-profile scandals and fines in recent years, Wells Fargo continues to reap billions of dollars a year in profits—reporting $5.9 billion in earnings in the first three months of this year alone.
In Israel, the organizers for the Genesis Prize, known as Israel’s Nobel Prize, have been forced to cancel the upcoming award ceremony, after the winner of this year’s prize, American-Israeli actress Natalie Portman, said she is refusing to travel to Israel to participate because of her distress over recent events. Portman has won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award, and has starred in the new “Star Wars” trilogy, as well as the movies “Black Swan,” “Closer” and “V for Vendetta.” The Genesis Prize comes with a $2 million award. Portman’s decision not to participate in the ceremony comes as the Israeli military is in the midst of a brutal and deadly crackdown against Palestinian protesters in Gaza. Israeli snipers have killed dozens of unarmed Palestinian protesters so far.
And in Arizona, immigrant rights and reproductive justice activist Alejandra Pablos has been freed from the for-profit Eloy Detention Center, where she was detained for more than 40 days after she reported to a routine ICE check-in on March 7. Advocates say she was detained in retaliation for her activism, particularly for protesting outside the Homeland Security Department office in Virginia earlier this year. This is Alejandra Pablos, speaking in a Facebook video after being released on Thursday.
Alejandra Pablos: “I come out with so much like more intel, more stories inside, more ideas, more dreams of like how we’re going to get our women back. If we can’t destroy these walls, we’ve got to steal them back. The fight just has begun. I don’t want to be followed around anymore. I don’t want look over my back. I want to be able to drive my car without thinking that any police can change my life that day. So, a todos espero que sigamos en la lucha. Stay with me. We’ve got to ask Governor Ducey to do the right thing and to pardon me, to let me stay here without fear. I’m tired of feeling scared. I’m tired of being persecuted for just defending my life and defending everybody else.”
Immigrant activist Alejandra Pablos, speaking after she was released from ICE detention on Thursday.