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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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In a move that could transform the Supreme Court for decades, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement Wednesday, giving President Trump a chance to pick a second conservative on the high court. Although Kennedy was a Reagan appointee, he was widely seen as the swing vote on the nine-justice court. His retirement gives President Trump the opportunity to cement a conservative majority for a generation. This is Trump speaking at a campaign rally Wednesday night in Fargo, North Dakota.
President Donald Trump: “We have to pick a great one. We have to pick one that’s going to be there for 40 years, 45 years. We need intellect. We need so many things to go. You know, there’s so many elements go into the making of a great justice of the Supreme Court. You’ve got to hit every one of them.”
Senate Democrats lack enough votes to block Trump’s nominee, but are pushing for the confirmation process to occur after the midterm elections—just over four months away. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has rejected that idea, even though in 2016 he refused to hold hearings in an election year for then-President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: “I have every confidence in Chairman Grassley’s conduct of the upcoming confirmation process in the Judiciary Committee. It’s imperative that the president’s nominee be considered fairly and not subjected to personal attacks.”
Kennedy’s announcement came as the Supreme Court struck a major blow to organized labor Wednesday. In a 5-4 ruling written by Justice Samuel Alito, the court sided with Mark Janus, a child support specialist who argued that a state law in Illinois allowing unions to charge a fee for collective bargaining violated his First Amendment rights. The ruling nullifies so-called fair-share provisions and will leave public-sector unions deprived of millions of dollars in union dues. Mark Janus was supported by a host of right-wing groups including the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity and ALEC—the American Legislative Exchange Council. In a statement, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees—AFSCME—wrote, “It is shameful that the billionaire CEOs and corporate special interests behind this case have succeeded in manipulating the highest court in the land to do their bidding. This case was nothing more than a blatant political attack to further rig our economy and democracy against everyday Americans in favor of the wealthy and powerful.” We’ll have more on Justice Kennedy’s retirement and the Janus decision after headlines.
On Capitol Hill, House lawmakers Wednesday rejected a Republican anti-immigrant bill that would have provided a path to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants in exchange for President Trump’s hard-line immigration policies, including $25 billion to further militarize the U.S.-Mexico border. The bill failed on a vote of 121 to 301 after more than 100 Republicans joined Democrats to reject the legislation.
Meanwhile, protests against Trump’s immigration policies continue to rage across the country. In Washington, D.C., police set up metal barricades around the headquarters of ICE—Immigration and Customs Enforcement—ahead of a protest Wednesday by scores of activists who chanted, “Quit your jobs!” Similar protests organized under the hashtag #OccupyICE continued to play out in San Diego; Philadelphia; Detroit; Portland, Oregon; and New York City. In Tornillo, Texas, hundreds of protesters marched Wednesday toward the new immigration detention tent city for children, before they were turned around by a rancher who brandished a pistol. This is Stephanie de la Cruz, a protester from Austin, Texas.
Stephanie de la Cruz: “I think it’s disgusting. I think it’s inhumane. I mean, now they’re saying that they’re going to be able to hold them indefinitely? A kid is going to grow up in a detention camp? That’s inhumane. I couldn’t say anything. I’m undocumented myself. And when I crossed the border with my family, I spent a day without my mother, and it felt like the longest time in my life. Now imagine those kids in there.”
There are massive protests of direct action that are planned for today all over the country, including right here in Brownsville, Texas. Later in the broadcast, we’ll be joined here in Brownsville, Texas, by immigration lawyer Rochelle Garza and longtime human rights activist Jennifer Harbury.
In the Mediterranean, a humanitarian aid ship carrying 230 migrants rescued at sea docked in Malta Wednesday, after Italy’s newly minted government turned the vessel around. The ship, run by the German charity Lifeline, was the second denied a berth in Italy this month, after newly confirmed anti-immigrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said rescue ships are no longer welcome in Italy. Malta’s government said it was allowing the vessel to dock as a one-time agreement on humanitarian grounds, and will launch an investigation into whether to criminally charge the ship’s crew.
In Nairobi, Kenya, a fire tore through an open-air market overnight, leaving at least 15 people dead and more than 70 others injured. Some of the victims died after inhaling poisonous fumes as they raced to recover their belongings. The cause of the blaze is under investigation, and Kenya’s government hasn’t ruled out a possible arson attack.
Back in the United States, prosecutors in Pennsylvania have charged East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld with criminal homicide for fatally shooting Antwon Rose, a 17-year-old unarmed African-American high school student. Video of the June 19 shooting shows Rosfeld shot Rose in the back while the teenager was trying to flee a traffic stop. Officer Rosfeld had been sworn in to the city’s police department just three hours before the shooting. The woman who filmed Antwon’s killing said it looked like officer Rosfeld “was taking target practice on this young man’s back.” This is Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala.
District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr.: “I find that Rosfeld’s actions were intentional, and they certainly brought about the result that he was looking to accomplish.”
Zappala said he’d ask a jury to consider first-degree murder charges against Rosfeld, though the charge of criminal homicide opens the door for a possible conviction on lesser charges—including involuntary manslaughter. Rosfeld surrendered to authorities Wednesday morning and was released after posting $250,000 bail.
And the Justice Department has approved Disney’s $71 billion proposed purchase of most of 21st Century Fox’s assets, clearing the way for one of the largest media mergers in history. This comes as Comcast is reportedly considering sweetening its bid to purchase Fox assets, after it recently offered $65 billion before Disney responded with a larger counteroffer.