The Observer newspaper of London has revealed President Trump’s aides hired an Israeli private intelligence agency to orchestrate a “dirty ops” campaign against members of the Obama administration who negotiated the Iran nuclear deal. The agency was asked to dig into the personal lives and political careers of several Obama officials—and their wives—as part of an effort to discredit the deal. According to The New Yorker, the secret effort was carried out by Black Cube—the same firm hired by disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein to stop publication of articles that exposed him as a sexual predator. Black Cube is made up of former officials from the Mossad and other Israeli agencies.
President Trump is expected to decide by May 12 on whether he will withdraw the United States from the landmark Iran nuclear deal. On Saturday, Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani spoke at a conference in Washington organized by a group that is allied with the exiled Iranian dissident movement MEK, which was once considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. Giuliani promised Trump would tear up the Iran deal.
Rudy Giuliani: “We’ve got a president who’s tough, a president who doesn’t listen to the people who are naysayers, and a president that is as committed to regime change as we are.”
On Sunday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned the U.S. would regret pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal.
President Hassan Rouhani: “If America leaves the nuclear accord, it will soon see that this will entail historic remorse for it.”
On Sunday, Israeli forces shot dead three Palestinians near the border between Gaza and Israel. Israel has now killed at least 43 Palestinians since protests began along the border in late March. More than 7,000 Palestinians have been wounded during that time. Meanwhile, Palestinians living in Israel staged a protest at the Erez crossing on Friday. Ahmad Tibi is head of the Arab Joint List parliamentary faction in the Israeli Knesset.
Ahmad Tibi: “We are here to demonstrate against the killing of civilians, demonstrators in Gaza, nonviolent Palestinians who are demonstrating against the siege, demanding and asking for return.”
The Trump administration has announced it is ending temporary protected status—so-called TPS—for nearly 90,000 Hondurans now living in the United States. TPS is an immigration status granted to foreign nationals who can’t safely return to their home countries, and allows them to legally live and work in the United States. Hondurans were first given TPS in 1999 after Hurricane Mitch devastated the country. The Trump administration has also ended protections for immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Nepal, Nicaragua and Sudan.
President Trump addressed the NRA convention on Friday and made no mention of the gun control proposals he publicly embraced after February’s mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Instead, Trump criticized Britain and France’s tight gun control laws. Trump claimed hospitals in Britain have been overwhelmed with stabbing victims.
President Donald Trump: “Yes, that’s right. They don’t have guns, they have knives. And instead, there’s blood all over the floors of this hospital. They say it’s as bad as a military war zone hospital. Knives, knives, knives.”
Then he turned his attention to France, suggesting the the 2015 Paris attacks could have been prevented if France had looser gun laws.
President Donald Trump: “They were brutally killed by a small group of terrorists that had guns. They took their time and gunned them down one by one. Boom! Come over here. Boom! Come over here. Boom!”
Trump’s remarks sparked outrage in France and Britain. In London, the director of the city’s major trauma system, Dr. Karim Brohi, said it is ridiculous to suggest guns are part of the solution to knife violence.
The Washington Post is reporting President Trump’s pick to head the CIA sought to withdraw her nomination on Friday, just days before her confirmation hearing. Gina Haspel is facing mounting criticism over her role in the U.S. torture program under George W. Bush. Haspel ran a CIA black site in Thailand at the time at least one prisoner was waterboarded. Haspel’s confirmation hearing—which is still scheduled for Wednesday—would mark the first time she has ever spoken publicly about her role in the torture program.
In West Virginia, polls show the formerly imprisoned coal baron Don Blankenship is surging in popularity ahead of Tuesday’s Republican Senate primary. Blankenship is the former CEO of Massey Energy. He served a year in prison after 29 miners died in the 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine disaster. Last week, Blankenship released an ad attacking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his “China family.” McConnell, who has opposed Blankenship’s Senate run, is married to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.
Don Blankenship: “Hi. I’m Don Blankenship, candidate for U.S. Senate, and I approve this message. Swamp Captain Mitch McConnell has created millions of jobs for China people. While doing so, Mitch has gotten rich. In fact, his China family has given him tens of millions of dollars. Mitch’s swamp people are now running false negative ads against me. They are also childishly calling me 'despicable' and 'mentally ill.' The war to drain the swamp and create jobs for West Virginia people has begun. I will beat Joe Manchin and ditch Cocaine Mitch, for the sake of the kids.”
While the ad was widely viewed as racist, Don Blankenship defended the messaging, saying, “We’re confused on our staff as to how it can be racist when there’s no mention of a race. There’s no race. Races are Negro, white Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian. There’s no mention of a race. I’ve never used a race word.”
The New Orleans news site The Lens has revealed the energy company Entergy paid actors to attend—and in some cases speak at—public hearings to support a proposed $210 million power plant in eastern New Orleans. Photographs from the hearings show dozens of people wearing the same orange shirt that read “Clean Energy. Good Jobs. Reliable Power.” One actor said, “They paid us to sit through the meeting and clap every time someone said something against wind and solar power.” The New Orleans City Council approved the new Entergy power plant in March. Environmental groups have sued to block the project, in part because they were turned away from public meetings because of lack of space.
In Virginia, a 61-year-old mother and her daughter have ended a 5-week tree sit to protest the construction of a natural gas pipeline. Theresa “Red” Terry and her daughter began the tree sit on April 2. They ended it on Saturday, after a federal judge threatened to begin fining the women $1,000 a day, even though they were conducting the sit-in on their own property. Red Terry briefly spoke to reporters after coming down from the tree.
Theresa “Red” Terry: “I spent most of the morning crying—I didn’t think that I would be able to talk to y’all—because I was told that they were coming to cut my trees. And I don’t think I want to talk about it anymore.”
In labor news, tens of thousands of workers across the University of California system are beginning a 3-day strike today to address pay inequalities. UC campuses and medical centers are expected to stay open during the strike. Meanwhile, at The New School here in New York, a student takeover of a cafeteria has entered its seventh day. The takeover began on May Day after the school announced plans to lay off 45 unionized food service workers.
In news from Capitol Hill, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate allegations of child sex abuse against Democratic Congressmember Tony Cárdenas. A lawsuit filed last week alleges Cárdenas drugged and sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl in 2007. At the time, he was serving on the Los Angeles City Council. Cárdenas has denied the accusations.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Junot Díaz withdrew from the Sydney Writers’ Festival this weekend after he was publicly accused of sexual misconduct. During the festival, Díaz was confronted by the writer Zinzi Clemmons, who said Díaz had forcibly kissed her when she was a graduate student. Other female writers later took to Twitter and accused Díaz of other forms of misconduct. Last month, Díaz wrote an essay for The New Yorker in which he revealed he was raped when he was 8 years old.