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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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House Republican leaders have released a draft of an immigration bill that would vastly increase funding for a heavily militarized U.S.-Mexico border wall and sharply curtail the number of documented immigrants allowed into the U.S., while providing a path to citizenship for young undocumented DREAMers. The draft bill would also end the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents. It’s an apparent concession to growing outrage over the practice, which has seen immigration and border agents rip children and even babies out of the arms of their mothers and fathers.
This comes as more than 300 Catholic bishops blasted the Trump administration’s immigration policies, calling for an end to the separation of migrant children from their parents and condemning Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s policy of ending the right of domestic violence survivors to seek asylum in the United States.
Monsignor Brian Bransfield: “Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”
That’s Monsignor Brian Bransfield, reading a statement issued by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops during its spring meeting this week in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Monsignor Brian Bransfield: “This decision negates decades of precedents that have provided protection to women fleeing domestic violence. Unless overturned, the decision will erode the capacity of asylum to save lives, particularly in cases that involve asylum seekers who are persecuted by private actors.”
The bishops’ statement came after the Southern Baptist Convention voted unanimously Tuesday on a resolution that includes a call to keep families together. And Rev. Franklin Graham, a Trump supporter and son of the late evangelist Billy Graham, told the Christian Broadcasting Network it’s “disgraceful” and “terrible” to see families ripped apart.
Responding to the outcry by church leaders, Attorney General Sessions quoted scripture Thursday to justify his department’s immigration policies. Sessions was speaking to an invitation-only crowd in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions: “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes.”
Critics seized on Sessions’s reference to Romans 13, noting it was a favorite passage of defenders of the Confederacy used to justify slavery.
At the White House, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the administration’s immigration policies, telling reporters, “It is very biblical to enforce the law.” That prompted this exchange between Sanders and reporter Brian Karem of Sentinel Newspapers.
Brian Karem: “Come on, Sarah, you’re a parent. Don’t you have any empathy for what these people are going through? They have less than you do.”
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “Brian, God, settle down!”
Brian Karem: “Sarah, come on. Seriously. Seriously.”
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “I’m trying to be serious, but I’m not going to have you yell out of turn.”
Brian Karem: “But you’re sitting there telling us it’s a law, and they have—that these people have nothing. They come over here with nothing.”
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “Hey, Brian, I know you want to get some more TV time, but that’s not what this is about.”
Brian Karem: “It’s not that! It’s not about that. It’s about you answering a question, Sarah. Honestly, answer the question. It’s a serious question. These people have nothing. They come to the border with nothing. And you throw children in cages. You’re a parent! You’re a parent of young children. Don’t you have any empathy for what they go through?”
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “Jill, go ahead.”
Thursday’s tense White House press briefing came after CBS News reported that Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her deputy press secretary, Raj Shah, are preparing to leave their jobs. Sanders has denied the rumor.
This all comes as new photos have emerged showing the inside of a former Walmart in Texas that’s been converted into a detention center for 1,500 migrant boys. The walls of the jail are lined with murals depicting American history and leaders, including one of President Trump with the caption—in both English and Spanish—reading, “Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.” The quote is from Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal,” about his unsuccessful effort in the 1980s to drive tenants from rent-controlled apartments in order to tear down their buildings and replace them with a luxury high-rise.
New York’s attorney general filed suit against Donald Trump’s charitable foundation Thursday, accusing the president and three of his children of using the nonprofit for illegal campaign activity and as a virtual piggy bank for “repeated self-dealing.” Among other charges, the lawsuit alleges the Trump Foundation used charitable funds to illegally coordinate with Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, to settle lawsuits against Trump family businesses and even to purchase a $10,000 portrait of Donald Trump hung at one of Trump’s golf resorts. In another case, the charity paid $32,000 to cover costs related to property owned by Trump. The suit seeks to bar Donald Trump from serving on a nonprofit board for a decade and to prevent Ivanka, Eric or Donald Trump Jr. from similarly serving for one year. The lawsuit also opens the door for IRS action against the Trump family—including civil penalties and possible criminal charges.
The Justice Department’s top watchdog said, in a scathing report released Thursday, that former FBI Director James Comey was “insubordinate” during the 2016 presidential campaign, when he took unilateral actions that could have impacted the outcome of the vote. Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in the 500-page report that Comey mishandled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, making a “serious error in judgment” by telling Congress on the eve of the election that he was reopening an investigation into whether Clinton illegally circulated classified information on a private email server. Even so, the report did not conclude that Comey held a bias that influenced his decisions. The inspector general also found at least five FBI officials assigned to the Clinton investigation improperly made anti-Trump or pro-Clinton statements over text messages or by other means. This is FBI Director Christopher Wray, speaking Thursday after the report’s release.
Christopher Wray: “This report did not find any evidence of political bias or improper considerations actually impacting the investigation under review. The report does identify errors of judgment; violations of, or even disregard for, policy; and decisions that, at the very least, with the benefit of hindsight, were not the best choices. We’ve already started taking the necessary steps to address those issues.”
President Trump immediately seized on the report to justify his decision to fire Comey just six months after Election Day. Trump tweeted, “Comey will now officially go down as the worst leader, by far, in the history of the FBI. I did a great service to the people in firing him. Good Instincts.”
In Nicaragua, leaders of a protest movement demanding the ouster of President Daniel Ortega have called a 24-hour nationwide strike. The work stoppage came as Nicaragua’s migration office said it’s seen an influx of thousands of Nicaraguans desperate to leave the country, as Ortega’s forces and pro-government vigilantes are waging a campaign of violence that’s seen at least 137 people killed since wide-scale protests began in April.
The quadrennial World Cup kicked off in Moscow Thursday, with home team Russia defeating Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the opening match of the soccer tournament. Russian President Vladimir Putin watched the match in a VIP booth with the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, whose military is currently waging a U.S.-backed assault on Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah. As the World Cup got underway, police led veteran British LGBT rights campaigner Peter Tatchell away in handcuffs, after he held a sign outside the Kremlin reading, “Putin Fails to Act Against Chechnya Torture of Gay People.” Human rights groups say authorities in the Russian-controlled Republic of Chechnya rounded up more than 100 gay men in Grozny last year, detained them without charges and tortured them in what many have called a “gay pogrom.”
Argentina’s lower house of Congress has approved a bill that would decriminalize abortions during the first 14 weeks of a pregnancy. News of the bill’s passage sent a cheer through hundreds of pro-choice demonstrators who rallied outside the National Congress building in Buenos Aires during Thursday’s vote. President Mauricio Macri has promised to sign the legislation if it’s passed by the Argentine Senate.
Back in the United States, book publishers are reporting that Bill Clinton’s new novel, “The President Is Missing,” co-written with James Patterson, has sold more copies in its first week than any other fiction book in the past two years. This is despite the fact that on his highly publicized book tour Clinton has repeatedly diminished the #MeToo movement, saying that he does not owe Monica Lewinsky an apology. Here is Clinton speaking on PBS last week, responding to a question about Minnesota Senator Al Franken’s resignation after he was accused of sexual harassment.
Bill Clinton: “I think the norms have really changed in terms of what you can do to somebody against their will, how much you can crowd their space, make them miserable at work. You don’t have to physically assault somebody to make them, you know, uncomfortable at work or at home or in their other—just walking around.”
The American Medical Association has voted to take on two major public health issues: gun violence and climate change. During its annual meeting in Chicago this week, the AMA voted to support nearly a dozen gun control measures, including a ban on the sale and ownership of assault-style weapons. Former AMA President Dr. David O. Barbe said in a statement, “In emergency rooms across the country, the carnage of gun violence has become a too routine experience. … It doesn’t have to be this way, and we urge lawmakers to act.” The AMA also voted this week to divest from companies that get the majority of their income from fossil fuels. Climate activist Bill McKibben celebrated the news, tweeting, “The AMA is saying to the dirty fuels industry what it said to tobacco a generation ago: You are killing our patients and we will not allow it anymore.”
Iowa Republican Congressmember Steve King sparked outrage this week after retweeting a racist tweet by British neo-Nazi Mark Collett reading, “65% of Italians under the age of 35 now oppose mass immigration. Europe is waking up…” The tweet featured an article by Breitbart News. Mark Collett is a known white supremacist who has claimed the porn industry is a secret Jewish plot to destroy Christian families. Despite outcry, King has not deleted his retweet and, in fact, yesterday shared the same Breitbart article again on his Twitter page. This is not Congressmember King’s first white supremacist comment. Last year, he published a racist tweet in support of far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders. In 2016, he told MSNBC that white Christians have contributed more to Western civilization than any other “subgroup.”
The U.S. Army says it will repatriate the remains of four Native American children who died at the government-run Carlisle Indian Industrial School they were forced to attend in Pennsylvania a century ago. Native American children were sent to the Carlisle school and similar boarding schools across the country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to be “Americanized.” The boarding schools were designed to eliminate Native American culture, separating children from their parents and forcing them to speak English, cut their hair and give up traditional clothing. The U.S. Army began the exhumations Thursday and will return the children’s remains to their descendants in Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota by early July.
And legendary civil rights leader Dorothy Cotton has died, just one day after her 88th birthday. In the 1960s, Cotton became a close aide to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and served as director of the Citizenship Education Program at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. While she participated in many civil rights marches, including several that were menaced by Ku Klux Klansmen or racist police, Cotton often said that her most important contribution was registering new voters and educating people about their citizenship rights and black history. This is Dorothy Cotton, speaking at New York City’s Riverside Church in 2008.
Dorothy Cotton: “I was really getting very concerned about people remembering Dr. King only in the context of a march. People don’t even know we had a training program, the Citizenship Education Program. Andy Young, who actually was the administrator—and we got the money, and it was funneled through his congregational church and ought to—to keep this training program going, that was actually started at the Highlander Folk School. But that story needs to be out there, so folk don’t think we just had a march. Even on campuses, students used to say, 'When are you going to have another march? When are you going to have a march?' Well, of course, I tell them now, 'Well, do we need a march? Well, if we're going to march, you’ll have to do it. My legs hurt now. I just had a hip replacement.’”