Amnesty International says the U.S. airstrikes launched last year during the 2017 offensive to oust ISIS militants from the Syrian city of Raqqa were in violation of international law and potentially constitute war crimes. In Amnesty’s new report, titled “War of Annihilation,” the group writes, “On the ground in Raqqa we witnessed a level of destruction comparable to anything we’ve seen in decades of covering the impact of wars.” The report is based on interviews with more than 100 civilian survivors, including members of the Badran family, which lost 39 family members and 10 neighbors in four separate U.S.-led coalition airstrikes. This is Donatella Rovera from Amnesty International.
Donatella Rovera: “We are talking about airstrikes which should be fairly precise. So, if buildings after buildings were destroyed, with entire families inside, something must have gone wrong. And that something must be investigated, because the people of Raqqa deserve justice, and they deserve to know what went wrong. But until now, coalition officials have refused to engage in any meaningful way.”
The Wall Street Journal reports the Trump administration is considering providing direct U.S. military support toward the Saudi-led offensive to seize control of Yemen’s port city Hodeidah, in what aid groups are warning could worsen the already catastrophic humanitarian crisis in Yemen. The Journal reports the United Arab Emirates, which is part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen, has appealed to the Trump administration to provide the direct support, which would further expand the United States’ role in the ongoing war that has killed 15,000 civilians, sparked the world’s worst cholera epidemic and pushed the country to the brink of famine. Eighty percent of the humanitarian aid that is able to reach Yemen comes through the port city of Hodeidah, meaning if the Saudi coalition seizes the city, it could dramatically reduce food, water and medicine in the besieged country.
In Gaza, Israeli forces have shot and killed the cousin of the 21-year-old Palestinian medic Razan al-Najjar, who was shot and killed by an Israeli sniper on Friday. Israeli soldiers shot and killed Ramzi al-Najjar near the separation fence with Israel on Monday. The Israeli military is claiming he was armed with an ax. The Israeli military has killed at least 120 Palestinians and wounded over 13,000 more amid the Palestinians’ nonviolent Great March of Return protests in Gaza.
President Trump is continuing to attack special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. On Monday, Trump tweeted, “The appointment of the Special Counsel is totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!” He also tweeted, “As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself.” In fact, as The New York Times reports, there is only one official opinion on whether a president can pardon himself. In August 1974, the acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel wrote in a memorandum that “it would seem” then-President Richard Nixon could not pardon himself. A few days later, he resigned.
Federal prosecutors for special counsel Robert Mueller have accused President Trump’s former campaign chair, Paul Manafort, of attempting to tamper with the witnesses in the federal tax and money laundering case against him. Prosecutors say Manafort repeatedly tried to contact witnesses by phone and through encrypted messaging. Manafort is accused of breaking federal lobbying, tax and money laundering laws.
The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, citing his religious opposition. In a narrow 7-2 decision, the justices faulted the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s handling of the claims brought against baker Jack Phillips, saying the commission had shown a hostility to religion. Though the case pitted claims of religious freedom against the fight for gay rights, the ruling stopped short of setting a major precedent on whether businesses can deny people services because of their sexual orientation. We’ll have more on the Supreme Court ruling later in the broadcast.
In Afghanistan, at least 14 people were killed when a suicide bomber attacked a gathering of religious leaders in the capital Kabul on Monday. During the meeting, the clerics and religious scholars had declared suicide bombing a sin, and the ongoing war in Afghanistan illegal under Islamic law. Shortly after making these proclamations, the bomber attacked the assembly. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack.
In Jordan, anti-austerity protests continued into a fifth day despite Monday’s resignation of Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki, who had pushed for the income tax increases backed by the International Monetary Fund. Education Minister Omar al-Razzaz has reportedly been tapped to serve as the next prime minister. He has formerly worked for the World Bank. The ongoing protests are the biggest in Jordan in years.
In Guatemala, the death toll from the eruption of the Fuego volcano has risen to at least 69 people. The volcanic eruption 25 miles southwest of the capital Guatemala City has buried whole villages in lava. The death toll is expected to rise as search and rescue efforts continue.
Back in the United States, voters head to the polls today for primaries in Alabama, California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota. Among the races, in Montana, Democrats will decide who faces off against Republican Congressmember Greg Gianforte, who physically attacked a Guardian reporter in 2017. In California, Democratic state Senator Kevin de León is vying to unseat Democratic U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Dozens of people were arrested in civil disobedience protests in cities across the United States Monday during a national day of action for the new Poor People’s Campaign. Thousands of low-wage workers, clergy and community activists participated in sit-ins, marches and rallies, calling on lawmakers to guarantee healthcare and a healthy environment for all. In Washington, D.C., 28 people were arrested in the Capitol Rotunda Monday while protesting the disproportionate impact of disasters such as Hurricane Maria on the poor. In Topeka, Kansas, 16 people were arrested as they demanded Medicaid expansion at the state Capitol building. And in Kentucky, 400 activists were denied entry to the state Capitol Monday while protesting the nation’s first work requirements for Medicaid. Monday’s actions are the fourth week of nonviolent direct action from the new Poor People’s Campaign.
On Monday, President Trump abruptly disinvited the Super Bowl-winning Philadelphia Eagles from visiting the White House today, tweeting, “Staying in the Locker Room for the playing of our National Anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling. Sorry!” During last year’s NFL season, no Eagles players took a knee. NFL owners recently ruled teams would be fined if players kneel during the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality, though they can stay in the locker room.
Former President Bill Clinton is facing criticism after he told NBC’s Craig Melvin that he did not owe an apology to former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Craig Melvin: “I asked if you’d ever apologized, and you said you had.”
Bill Clinton: “I have.”
Craig Melvin: “You’ve apologized to her?”
Bill Clinton: “I apologized to everybody in the world.”
President Bill Clinton: “It is important to me that everybody who has been hurt know that the sorrow I feel is genuine—first and most important, my family, Monica Lewinsky and her family.”
Craig Melvin: “But you didn’t apologize to her.”
Bill Clinton: “I have not talked to her. I—I thought it—”
Craig Melvin: “Do you feel like you owe her an apology?”
Bill Clinton: “No, I do—I do not. I’ve never talked to her. But I did say, publicly, on more than one occasion, that I was sorry. That’s very different. The apology was public.”
After widespread outrage about these comments, Clinton said he had apologized publicly, speaking at the Schomburg Center in New York City Monday night. In the late 1990s, President Clinton had a sexual affair with Lewinsky, who was at the time a 21-year-old unpaid intern at the White House. In a Vanity Fair essay published earlier this year, Lewinsky wrote, “I now see how problematic it was that the two of us even got to a place where there was a question of consent. Instead, the road that led there was littered with inappropriate abuse of authority, station, and privilege.”
And in Parkland, Florida, four high school seniors who were killed in the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which killed 17 people in total, were honored at the high school’s graduation on Sunday night. Among them: Joaquin Oliver, whose mother accepted her son’s diploma and cap and tassel while wearing a bright yellow shirt reading “This should be my son.” On Monday, students who survived the shooting massacre announced plans for a nationwide 2-month bus tour this summer, aimed at registering young people to vote and to support gun control legislation. This is student Cameron Kasky.
Cameron Kasky: “I think that a lot of politicians out there do not want a lot of young people voting. There are a lot of politicians who want marginalized communities staying out of the polls, because they know they will be voted out. I think that a lot of people have slowly been less excited in voting because people are getting tired of the political system. But the thing is, we can fix the political system.”