President Trump called Wednesday on NATO member nations to increase their military spending to 4 percent of gross domestic product—doubling his previous demand that they meet targets of 2 percent by January. Trump’s comments, made during a tense NATO summit in Brussels, reportedly prompted the military alliance to call an emergency session to respond to the demands. The Washington Post reports Trump said the U.S. was prepared to “go it alone,” and threatened to “do his own thing” unless the target was met. On Wednesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg downplayed reports of tensions with Trump, even as he said NATO members were prepared to increase military spending.
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: “Of course, President Trump has a very direct language and message on defense spending, but fundamentally we all agree.”
Speaking to reporters as NATO talks wrapped up today, Trump touted the visit as a success and boasted about future weapons sales to NATO allies.
President Donald Trump: “The United States makes by far the best military equipment in the world—the best jets, the best missiles, the best guns, the best everything. We make, by far—I mean, that’s one thing—I guess I assumed it prior to taking office, but I really learned, since being president, our equipment is so much better than anybody else’s equipment, when you look at our companies—Lockheed and Boeing and Grumman. What the material—the equipment that we make is so far superior, everybody wants to buy our equipment. In fact, it’s a question: Can they make it? Because they are doing very well. Can they make it for so many people? So we are helping some of those countries get online and buy the best equipment.”
President Trump will now head to the United Kingdom, where mass protests are expected to greet him as he arrives for his first visit to the country as president this afternoon. Demonstrators say that hundreds of thousands of people are planning to take to the streets tonight and tomorrow, and are planning to float a giant balloon caricature of Trump outside Parliament. Trump’s U.K. visit comes ahead of a planned summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on July 16. We’ll have more on President Trump, NATO, Russia and the protests in the U.K. after headlines.
The Trump administration says it’s working to speed up the reunification of immigrant families it separated at the U.S.-Mexico border, after it missed Tuesday’s court-imposed deadline of returning 102 children under 5 years old to their parents. As of Wednesday, the administration has reunited just 34 of the children. Among those recently reunited were Javier Garrido Martinez and his 4-year-old son. Martinez spoke to reporters in New York Wednesday.
Javier Garrido Martinez: “I never imagined they would separate me. When I came in, they took my biometrics, and they told me the president changed a couple of laws and the kids were going to be separated. They told me that someone might have adopted my son and that I would never be able to see him again.”
This comes as The Daily Beast reports the Trump administration told immigrant mothers they would have to pay as much as $800 for DNA tests in order to be reunited with their children. And documents obtained by the news site Slate show the Trump administration is planning to draw down funding for HIV/AIDS care to pay for detaining immigrant children.
Nine immigrant women who were arrested by ICE agents during the summer of 2017 say in a new lawsuit they were shackled and held in a hot, windowless van for hours, leaving them fainting, vomiting, struggling to breathe and expecting to die. A lawsuit filed Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the women in Northern California says the women were also denied food and water for about 12 hours during the summer heat last July 17.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military and CIA contractor MVM has admitted it detained migrant children overnight inside a vacant Phoenix office building with dark windows, no kitchen and only a few toilets. An investigation by Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting uncovered what some are calling a “black site” for migrant children, after one local resident filmed children in sweatsuits being led into the building. The building was leased in March by MVM, a military contractor that Reveal reports has received nearly $250 million in contracts to transport immigrant children since 2014. A spokesperson for MVM, Inc. told Reveal that the company had indeed held children in the building overnight, calling the stays a “regrettable exception” to the company’s policy to find hotel rooms instead. Click here to see our full interview with Aura Bogado, who led the investigation.
A federal judge has questioned the Trump administration’s detention of Mexican journalist Emilio Gutiérrez Soto and his son, and has ordered an August 1 hearing into whether immigration officials violated his First Amendment rights. Gutiérrez first sought asylum in the United States in 2008 after receiving death threats for reporting on alleged corruption in the Mexican military. He’s since won the National Press Club’s Freedom of the Press Award. Speaking to Democracy Now! in a jailhouse interview last December, Emilio Gutiérrez Soto said deportation would be a death sentence.
Emilio Gutiérrez Soto: “Well, if we are deported, that obviously implies death. Why? Because ICE, under the Department of Homeland Security of the United States, by law, must give a report to the immigration authorities of Mexico and the consulate. And the immigration officials in Mexico have no credibility. It’s impossible to trust in them. To the contrary, many of those officials, many personnel at the consulate or immigration service, are caught up with organized crime.”
Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, with at least six media workers killed so far this year alone.
The Trump administration argued Wednesday it has the authority to indefinitely hold people in the Guantánamo Bay prison camp without charging them with a crime—even for 100 years. The claim by a Justice Department lawyer came in federal court in Washington, D.C., as a judge considers a habeas corpus petition brought by 11 Guantánamo prisoners who argue their perpetual detention is arbitrary and unlawful.
Saudi Arabia issued a royal pardon on Tuesday to all of its soldiers in Yemen, forgiving troops accused of committing abuses during the Saudi-led assault on Houthi rebels. The pardon came as Amnesty International accused the United Arab Emirates of torturing prisoners in a network of secret prisons in southern Yemen, calling for an international war crimes investigation. Amnesty investigators say they’ve uncovered evidence of widespread beatings, the use of electric shocks and sexual violence at the prisons. The UAE is a key ally of the United States and has partnered with Saudi Arabia in its military assault on Yemen, which has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with a cholera epidemic that’s sickened more than a million people, and millions more pushed to the brink of famine.
The White House touted federal Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s business-friendly record in a one-page memo handed out to corporate executives after Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday. The New York Times reports the memo boasted that Kavanaugh overruled federal agencies on 75 occasions. In one business-friendly ruling, Kavanaugh dissented in a 2-1 decision that slapped SeaWorld with a $70,000 OSHA fine over the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was killed at SeaWorld Orlando in 2010 after a captive killer whale bit her and dragged her underwater.
Papa John’s founder John Schnatter has stepped down as chairman of the board, after Forbes magazine reported he used a racial slur—the N-word—during a conference call in May. Schnatter had already stepped down as CEO of the pizza chain earlier this year, after he claimed that NFL player protests during the national anthem—which have been led by African-American players—were hurting his pizza sales. Schnatter is a longtime opponent of Obamacare and supporter of Donald Trump.
House Speaker Paul Ryan defended Congressmember Jim Jordan on Wednesday, after a fifth former wrestler at Ohio State University accused the Ohio Republican lawmaker of failing to intervene as a team doctor sexually abused young men in the 1990s. The men allege former team doctor Richard Strauss groped players on multiple occasions and that Jordan, who was then serving as an assistant coach on the wrestling team, must have known about the molestation. Jordan, who’s been floated as a possible replacement for outgoing Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, has denied any knowledge of sexual abuses. This is Speaker Ryan, at a Capitol Hill news conference Wednesday.
House Speaker Paul Ryan: “Jim Jordan is a friend of mine. We haven’t always agreed with each other over the years, but I’ve always known Jim Jordan to be a man of honesty and a man of integrity.”
President Trump’s former campaign chair, Paul Manafort, privately boasted of receiving ”VIP” treatment in jail—contradicting his public complaints about jail conditions and his claims that his access to lawyers was limited. In a court filing, lawyers with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation said Manafort made the comment in monitored prison phone calls. The lawyers say Manafort has had easy access to his lawyers as he’s been held in a “living unit” larger than cells given to other prisoners, with access to a private bathroom and shower. They say Manafort has not been required to wear a prison uniform, and has a private telephone, a separate workspace and access to two laptops. Manafort faces charges of tax fraud, bank fraud, money laundering, witness tampering and failing to register as a foreign agent.
Nevada canceled a planned execution Wednesday, just hours before Scott Dozier was scheduled to die by lethal injection. The execution was halted after a pharmaceutical company successfully sued to prevent the use of its drug, midazolam, to be used as part of a three-drug lethal cocktail. During a court hearing Wednesday, Alvogen Pharmaceutical attorney Todd Bice said the sedative is not approved for use in executions, and said the Nevada Department of Corrections illegally obtained the drug.
Todd Bice: “The reputational and goodwill harm that is being proposed here is very serious for a business, particularly a pharmaceutical company whose entire mission and business purpose is to create and market and sell products that are designed to enhance and prolong people’s lives. And the use of those products to do the exact opposite, and then to have media coverage and their name associated with this, particularly when this drug, there is a risk of even what’s being characterized as botched executions, is highly harmful to any business.”
The condemned prisoner, Scott Dozier, has said he’d prefer to die than to remain on death row. He has attempted suicide in the past, and authorities have placed him on suicide watch after calling off Wednesday’s execution.
Sri Lanka has announced it will reinstate the death penalty, with plans to put to death 19 prisoners convicted on drug charges. A government spokesperson said the move was inspired by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who’s overseen a wide-scale “war on drugs” that human rights groups say has seen some 8,000 people killed by government forces or vigilantes. In a statement, Amnesty International condemned the decision, saying, “When most of the world has turned its back on the death penalty, it risks heading in the wrong direction and joining a shrinking minority of states that persist with this horrific practice.”
In Bismarck, North Dakota, an indigenous water protector who was arrested during protests in 2016 against the Dakota Access pipeline has been sentenced to four years and nine months in federal prison. Prosecutors said Red Fawn Fallis fired three shots from a handgun as police in riot gear, wielding batons, surrounded her to make an arrest on October 27 amid mass protests against the pipeline. Fallis was one of 761 people arrested during indigenous-led resistance to the pipeline in 2016 and ’17.
And in Manitoba, Canada, First Nations activists have set up an indigenous prayer camp near the U.S. border in a bid to stop construction of the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline. The proposed line would carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to a terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. On Wednesday, activists opened the Spirit of the Buffalo camp near the city of Gretna, south of Winnipeg, within sight of a construction crew operating across the border in North Dakota. In a statement, members of the group invited protesters to join their efforts to stop the pipeline, calling it a direct violation of the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, and adding, “The camp also calls for an end to tar sands expansion and infrastructure that will lock humanity into future carbon emissions the planet cannot afford in the face of climate change.”