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Federal officials say 711 immigrant children remain separated and in U.S. custody, after the Trump administration missed a court-imposed deadline to reunite all 2,500 families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border. Government lawyers claim the 711 children are “not eligible for reunification.” More than 430 of them have parents who have already been deported from the U.S. In response, ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt said in a statement, “We’re thrilled for the families who are finally reunited, but many more remain separated. The Trump administration is trying to sweep them under the rug by unilaterally picking and choosing who is eligible for reunification.”
This comes amid nationwide protests against Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policies. In Louisville, Kentucky, police arrested nine activists Thursday as they nonviolently locked themselves together to block elevators inside an immigration court building. In Washington, D.C., scores of activists, led by children, held a sit-in protest against family separations in the Hart Senate Office Building. The children wore T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase “I am a child”—evoking the “I am a man” protests led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 50 years ago.
Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, a majority of House Democrats joined Republicans Thursday to vote in favor of a massive, $717 billion military spending bill, the National Defense Authorization Act. The 359-54 vote favors a bill that would deliver record military spending, with $70 billion for ongoing U.S. wars and $22 billion for nuclear weapons programs, including a new submarine-launched “low yield” nuclear missile. The bill now moves to the Senate, which could vote on it as early as next week.
President Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen is prepared to tell special counsel Robert Mueller that Trump knew in advance about a meeting at Trump Tower in June of 2016 where Russians were offering “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. The revelation, first reported by CNN, suggests Trump may have lied publicly when he said he had no knowledge of the meeting, which was attended by Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and others, along with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer with ties to Russia’s prosecutor general.
Meanwhile, members of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus backed off Thursday from their efforts to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the top Justice Department official overseeing Robert Mueller’s investigation. Republican congressmember and Freedom Caucus chair Mark Meadows says he will instead seek to charge Rosenstein with contempt of Congress if he doesn’t turn over documents Meadows is seeking. Rosenstein has said the documents contain personal data, information about intelligence sources and other sensitive information. The impeachment effort came over the objections of Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, as well as Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who said Thursday he backed the Justice Department’s number-two official.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions: “My deputy, Rod Rosenstein, is highly capable. I have the highest confidence in him.”
In Pakistan, former-cricket-star-turned-politician Imran Khan has declared victory in Wednesday’s national election, ahead of a final tally that’s expected to confirm Khan’s PTI party won the largest share of open seats in Parliament. Khan’s victory came as his rivals alleged massive vote rigging, charging that Pakistan’s powerful military sided unfairly with Khan’s campaign. In a victory address from his Islamabad home, Khan said the election had been fair and historic.
Imran Khan: “I believe this was Pakistan’s most transparent election, and I believe Pakistanis have never participated in an election the way they did today. Whatever concerns the opposition has about rigging, we are willing to investigate it with them.”
Khan promised that, as prime minister, he will stamp out government corruption, while working to uplift poor Pakistanis, and he promised to improve relations with China and the United States. Khan’s PTI party fell short of an outright majority, meaning Khan will need the support of at least one rival party in order to form a coalition government.
In the Gaza Strip, Palestinians have called for renewed protests against Israel’s stifling blockade of the besieged territory. Friday’s planned protests follow the deaths of three Palestinians and one Israeli soldier during fighting Wednesday, and after Israeli snipers massacred 124 Palestinians while wounding some 14,000 others after the nonviolent Great March of Return protests began in Gaza on March 30.
Meanwhile, Israel is preparing to release 17-year-old Palestinian prisoner Ahed Tamimi to her family on Sunday as she completes an 8-month prison sentence. Tamimi became a hero to Palestinians after viral video showed her slapping a soldier near her family’s home in the occupied West Bank. The incident came just after Tamimi learned her cousin had been gravely wounded by an Israeli soldier who shot him in the head using a rubber-coated steel bullet. Ahed Tamimi’s case drew international attention. On Thursday, a visiting artist completed a massive mural paying tribute to Tamimi on the Palestinian side of the West Bank separation barrier in Bethlehem. This is Palestinian activist Ahmed Odeh.
Ahmed Odeh: “Today, as the Palestinians prepare both nationally and officially for the release of the heroic child Ahed Tamimi, we are surprised by those free people who came from all over the world to paint the photo of the icon of the Palestinian people and the icon of the national resistance on this apartheid wall. They are drawing a mural for Ahed Tamimi in order to tell the world and the occupation that we are partners in this case and that the Palestinian national resistance is the only way to face the arrogant occupation.”
In North Africa, about 800 migrants rushed a heavily fortified border separating Morocco from the tiny Spanish enclave of Ceuta Thursday, in a coordinated push to reach European soil, where they could apply for political asylum. At least 130 migrants suffered injuries in the incident, many of them from the concertina wire topping the metal fence separating the two territories. Several hundred who made it to Spanish soil celebrated as they successfully reached an immigration processing center; dozens more were returned to Morocco after they were captured by police.
In Laos, aid groups say the toll from Monday’s collapse of a billion-dollar hydroelectric dam is far higher than the official figure of 27 dead and 131 missing. Despite a government ban on foreign media covering the disaster, the BBC reports the death toll could be closer to 300. Another 3,000 people are still stranded in homes surrounded by floodwaters. Meanwhile, officials in northern Cambodia have ordered the evacuation of 25,000 people downriver of the collapsed dam, due to heavy flooding.
Back in the United States, at least one person has died after a massive wildfire spread into Redding, California, a city of 90,000 people. Dozens of homes have burned down. One local TV station had to evacuate in the middle of their broadcast last night shortly after warning viewers of the fire.
Facebook’s stock value plunged Thursday by $119 billion—the largest one-day drop in market value for any company in Wall Street’s history. The crash wiped nearly $16 billion from CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth, though the Facebook founder remains one of the planet’s richest people with an estimated $70 billion in assets.
A new report by the group Public Citizen finds the Trump administration has dramatically scaled back penalties and fines for corporations that break the law. The study, titled “Corporate Impunity,” looked at 12 federal agencies, finding that in most cases the number of enforcement actions taken has plummeted since President Obama’s last year in office, with penalties against corporate criminals dropping by an average of more than 50 percent. The Environmental Protection Agency saw the biggest decrease, with a 94 percent drop in fines against corporate polluters.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has proposed new rules that would cut an estimated $13 billion in federal student loan relief for people who were defrauded by for-profit colleges. DeVos’s changes would roll back the so-called borrower defense rule proposed by President Obama after the collapse of ITT Tech and Corinthian College, but halted by the Trump administration last year. In response, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey tweeted, “Betsy DeVos rewrote the #BorrowerDefense rule to let predatory schools cheat their students and enrich their executives. No surprise.” DeVos is a billionaire Republican activist, heir to the Amway fortune, and the sister of Blackwater founder Erik Prince. Last weekend, DeVos’s $40 million, 163-foot yacht was damaged after it was unmoored while in port on Lake Erie in Ohio. It’s not clear whether the ship—which is one of 10 owned by her family—was let loose intentionally.
And in Los Angeles, a man who was arrested for vandalizing Donald Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame has been bailed out of jail—by another man who took a similar act days before the 2016 election. Twenty-four-year-old Austin Clay turned himself in to police Wednesday after he used a pickaxe to destroy a plaque honoring Trump. He was booked on a felony vandalism charge, before his bail was paid by James Otis—who dressed as a construction worker in late October of 2016 as he used a sledgehammer to destroy Trump’s Hollywood star.