Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has resigned, amid an onslaught of financial and ethics scandals and widespread opposition to his campaign to roll back key environmental protections. At the time of his resignation, Pruitt was facing more than a dozen federal investigations into ethical misconduct, ranging from lavish spending to asking subordinates to help his wife find a job. Just earlier this week, CNN reported Pruitt kept a secret calendar and schedule in an attempt to hide his meetings with many industry executives; The New York Times reports Pruitt fired one aide when she objected to the practice.
EPA Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler will become the agency’s acting administrator. Wheeler is a former coal industry lobbyist and the former chief of staff for Oklahoma Republican Senator Jim Inhofe, who is known as the most notorious climate-denying lawmaker in Washington. After headlines, we’ll hold a roundtable discussion about Scott Pruitt, his legacy of environmental deregulation, and his replacement, Andrew Wheeler.
The Trump administration said Thursday it was holding “under 3,000” immigrant children separated from their parents by immigration officers after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The admission by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar increased the number of separated children known to be in U.S. custody by nearly 1,000. The admission came ahead of a federal judge’s deadline next Tuesday for the administration to reunite children under 5 years old with their parents. The administration now says there are about 100 such children. Just last week, Azar told lawmakers he could locate all of the separated children at the push of a few buttons.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar: “There is no reason why any parent would not know where their child is located. I could, at the stroke of—at keystrokes—I’ve sat on the ORR portal—with just basic keystrokes, within seconds, could find any child in our care for any parent.”
Azar’s statement that nearly 3,000 children remain in custody has increased fears that some separated children may never be reunited with their parents.
Meanwhile, at Boston’s Logan Airport, Guatemalan immigrant Angelica Gonzalez-Garcia was reunited with her 8-year-old daughter Thursday, nearly two months after the girl was taken from her mother at an Arizona detention center.
Angelica Gonzalez-Garcia: “I do not have words to express the happiness that my heart feels … because the whole of my life is here today with me, the most beautiful thing that I have received in my life.”
Gonzalez-Garcia says an immigration agent wished her a “Happy Mother’s Day” before her daughter was taken from her without explanation and housed in a Texas detention center. Gonzalez-Garcia is seeking asylum in the U.S. after fleeing severe domestic violence in Guatemala, but faces an uphill struggle, after the Trump administration said it would no longer consider asylum claims on the basis of domestic abuse.
Immigrants who were promised a path to citizenship after enlisting in the U.S. Army have been abruptly discharged. That’s according to the Associated Press, which reports at least 40 people—and possibly many more—were expelled from the Army after enlisting through the MAVNI recruitment program, set up by President George W. Bush after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The AP reports many of those discharged were not given a reason, while others were told they posed a security risk because they have relatives overseas. The Pentagon declined to answer questions about whether the move is part of a new Trump administration policy.
An immigrant from the Republic of Congo has spoken publicly for the first time since her arrest on Wednesday, as she climbed the Statue of Liberty in a protest over President Trump’s anti-immigrant policies. Her action prompted police to order an evacuation, with officials turning away some 3,000 people from Liberty Island on the Fourth of July holiday. At a Manhattan court Thursday, the 45-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen, Patricia Okoumou, pleaded not guilty to charges of trespassing, interference with government agency functions and disorderly conduct. In a statement after her arraignment, she said was compelled to protest because Trump’s policies have ripped the country apart.
Patricia Okoumou: “Our beloved first lady, that I care so much about, said, 'When they go low, we go high.' And I went as high as I could.”
President Trump has appointed former Fox News executive Bill Shine to a top communications role at the White House. In May of 2017, Shine was ousted from Fox after he was named in multiple lawsuits brought by Fox employees who said he covered up harassment and racial discrimination at the network, including sexual harassment by former top anchor Bill O’Reilly and former Chair Roger Ailes. The lawyer for former Fox presenter Gretchen Carlson, who sued the network and Roger Ailes for sexual harassment two years ago today, said, “Bill Shine is the perfect person for the job of protecting a sexual abuser and liar.” Bill Shine will become the fifth person to fill the role of White House communications director, after Hope Hicks, Anthony Scaramucci, Mike Dubke and Sean Spicer all resigned or were fired.
Shine’s appointment came as President Trump mocked Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, once again referring to her as “Pocahontas,” while deriding the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault. Trump’s comments came during a rambling speech at a campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana.
President Donald Trump: “I’m going to get one of those little kits, and in the middle of the debate, when she proclaims that she’s of Indian heritage, because her mother said she has high cheekbones—that’s her only evidence, that her mother said she had high cheekbones—we will take that little kit and say—but we have to do it gently, because we’re in the 'Me Too' generation, so we have to be very gentle.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren fired back Thursday night, tweeting, “While you obsess over my genes, your Administration is conducting DNA tests on little kids because you ripped them from their mamas, and you are too incompetent to reunite them in time to meet a court order. Maybe you should focus on fixing the lives you’re destroying.”
The Trump administration imposed $34 billion in tariffs on Chinese products just after midnight this morning, prompting China to retaliate with sanctions of its own in what Beijing is calling the “largest trade war in economic history.” Trump has said the U.S. may escalate with tariffs on another $16 billion in Chinese goods in the coming weeks.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in North Korea for talks with Kim Jong-un over the Trump administration’s agreement to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. The meeting came amid protests by South Koreans opposed to the U.S. anti-missile system known as THAAD. This is peace activist Kim Jong-hee, who’s been protesting against a THAAD missile battery deployed in a farming village south of Seoul.
Kim Jong-hee: “We can endure the physical exhaustion of coming to protests every day or occasionally clashing with the police. The harder thing is that we have to live with the fact that we can’t really stop them from using public power, and the construction, which we never agreed to.”
The United Nations is warning more than 120,000 people have fled fighting in the Yemeni city of Hodeidah, after U.S.-backed, Saudi-led forces began an assault on the strategic port city in early June. The warning came as the U.N. special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, said he’d made progress toward brokering a peace deal between the Saudi coalition and Houthi rebels. Griffiths made the comment after warring parties agreed to a 2-day pause in fighting around Hodeidah during his visit.
Martin Griffiths: “I look forward to working with all the parties, urgently, to find a solution both that will restore security and stability in Hodeidah, but also create positive conditions for a rapid and urgent restart of political negotiations in the coming days.”
The United Nations has called Yemen’s humanitarian crisis the worst in the world, with a cholera epidemic that’s affected more than 1 million people, and millions more on the brink of famine amid shortages of food, medicine and potable water.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Thursday it will extend temporary protected status for about 1,200 Yemeni immigrants living in the United States amid the ongoing war. Abed Ayoub of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said the move fell short because Yemen remains on President Trump’s travel ban list. Ayoub tweeted, ”DHS has opted to only extend TPS for Yemeni nationals in the U.S., not redesignate. This is important because all those who arrived after the last registration period will not be permitted to apply for TPS, and may be forced to go back to Yemen. Not a good decision.”
In Thailand, a retired naval diver died from asphyxiation overnight as he prepared to help rescue a group of young boys and their soccer coach who’ve spent nearly two weeks trapped deep underground in a flooded cave. The death came as rescue workers are giving the 12 soccer team members a crash course in swimming and the use of SCUBA gear, as they race to extract the boys ahead of monsoon rains that could flood their cavern completely.
Back in the United States, a former wrestler at Ohio State University said Thursday that Ohio Republican Congressmember Jim Jordan knew that a team doctor was sexually abusing young men in the 1990s, but failed to intervene to stop the abuses. The wrestler, Shawn Dailey, told NBC that former team doctor Richard Strauss groped him “half a dozen times” and that Jordan, who was then serving as an assistant coach on the wrestling team, “must have known” about the molestation. The accusation followed similar charges made by three other former Ohio State wrestlers. Congressmember Jordan, who’s been floated as a possible replacement for retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan, has denied any knowledge of the abuses. On Thursday, President Trump rushed to his defense, tweeting that Jordan is “one of the most outstanding people I know.”
Broadcaster Ed Schultz has died at the age of 64. Schultz was a former conservative radio host who remade himself as a liberal firebrand on MSNBC beginning in 2009, where, as host of “The Ed Show”, he championed progressive causes, like the 2011 uprising against Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker’s anti-labor policies. After he was fired by MSNBC in 2015, Schultz declared the network was “in the tank for Hillary Clinton,” and said he was let go because of his support for independent Sen. Bernie Sanders.
In British Columbia, Canada, a dozen Greenpeace activists have ended their blockade of an oil tanker, after police forced them to end their protest against the Canadian government’s plans to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline. The 35-hour blockade saw seven of the activists dangling on rappelling ropes below the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge in Vancouver, blocking the path of a tanker loaded with oil from the Alberta tar sands. If completed, the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will triple the amount of tar sands oil flowing to the coast of British Columbia. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision in May to nationalize the pipeline project sparked widespread condemnation from First Nations and environmental activists, who say the project will increase pollution in Alberta’s tar sands region, endanger indigenous communities and increase greenhouse gas emissions.
And London Mayor Sadiq Khan said Thursday that protesters will be allowed to float a giant balloon caricature of Donald Trump outside Parliament next week as the U.S. president makes a visit to the United Kingdom. The 20-foot-long “Trump blimp” depicts the president as an angry orange baby, wearing a diaper and clutching a cellphone, ready to tweet. Protesters, including Stop Trump activist Shaista Aziz, say hundreds of thousands of people are expected to march against Trump and his policies during next Friday’s visit.
Shaista Aziz: “And what we say to Donald Trump is, ’You’re very welcome. Please come. Come and see the carnival of resistance. See it for yourself, hear it for yourself, and feel it for yourself. And if you don’t show up this time, the next time you show up, we’re going to be here. We’re waiting for you.’”