In Yemen, Houthi rebels and local journalists say U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition airstrikes targeted a camp for civilians displaced by war Thursday, killing 31 people, including 22 children. The reported bombings struck the camp about 12 miles outside the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, which came under assault by the Saudi-led coalition over the summer. State media for the United Arab Emirates disputed news of the attack, claiming a missile fired by Houthi rebels killed one child and injured dozens more. The latest deaths came exactly two weeks after a bomb produced by the U.S. weapons maker Lockheed Martin and sold by the United States to Saudi Arabia killed 51 people—40 of them children. This week, the Senate rejected an amendment by Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy that would have restricted U.S. financial aid and other support for the Saudi-led bombing campaign.
Executives at the National Enquirer kept a safe holding documents detailing hush money payments and other damaging stories the tabloid killed as part of a cozy relationship with Donald Trump ahead of the 2016 presidential election. That’s according to the Associated Press, which reports the executives emptied the safe after Trump’s election victory. It’s not known whether the documents were preserved. The revelation came as it emerged that David Pecker, chairman and CEO of the Enquirer’s parent company, American Media, Inc., was granted immunity by federal prosecutors as they built a case against Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen. David Pecker has been a close friend of Donald Trump for decades; his cooperation with federal prosecutors raises the prospect of new information about Trump’s past behavior. Michael Cohen admitted in court Tuesday that President Trump directed him to illegally pay out money to two women to keep them from speaking during the 2016 campaign about their alleged affairs with Donald Trump. The payments involved the Enquirer, which acquired exclusive rights to the stories and refused to publish them in a process known as “catch-and-kill.”
Meanwhile, The New York Times reports the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office may bring criminal charges against the Trump Organization and two senior company officials over hush money payments. Any convictions on New York state charges would not be subject to a presidential pardon. This all comes as New York’s attorney general has opened a new criminal inquiry into whether Michael Cohen violated state tax laws.
President Trump has renewed his attacks on Jeff Sessions, blasting his attorney general by his first name in a tweetstorm this morning, after telling Fox News in an interview that aired Thursday he never would have hired Sessions if Trump had known Sessions would recuse himself from oversight of the Robert Mueller investigation.
President Donald Trump: “Jeff Sessions recused himself, which he shouldn’t have done, or he should have told me. Even my enemies say that 'Jeff Sessions should have told you that he was going to recuse himself, and then you wouldn't have put him in.’ He took the job, and then he said, ’I’m going to recuse myself.’ I said, 'What kind of man is this?'”
After those remarks aired on Fox News, a pair of senior Republican senators signaled they’re open to having President Trump fire Attorney General Sessions. South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham—who serves on the Judiciary Committee—told reporters it was “very likely” President Trump would nominate a new attorney general after the midterm elections.
Sen. Lindsey Graham: “And I think there will come a time, sooner rather than later, where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice. Clearly, Attorney General Sessions doesn’t have the confidence of the president. … And the president has a right to have an attorney general he feels comfortable with.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Grassley went a step further Thursday, telling Bloomberg News he’d be able to make time for hearings for a new attorney general this fall. Attorney General Sessions fired back Thursday, writing in a statement, “While I am Attorney General, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.”
In California, Republican Congressmember Duncan Hunter and his wife Margaret Hunter pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal charges they misused a quarter-million dollars of campaign funds for personal expenses, including expensive vacations and their children’s school tuition. Speaking on Fox News, Congressmember Hunter appeared to blame his wife for the expenditures.
Rep. Duncan Hunter: “She was also the campaign manager. So, whatever she did on that, that’ll be—that’ll be looked at, too, I’m sure. But—but I didn’t do it. I didn’t spend any money illegally.”
Hunter was the second member of Congress to endorse candidate Donald Trump in 2016; his indictment on campaign finance violations came just weeks after the first congressmember to endorse Trump, Chris Collins of New York, suspended his campaign for re-election after he was indicted on charges of insider trading.
Prisoners are striking around the country as part of a nationwide protest demanding improved living conditions, greater access to resources and the end of what prisoners are calling “modern day slavery.” In Tacoma, Washington, immigrant rights advocates say 60 immigrants detained at the Northwest Detention Center continued their hunger strike Thursday. California prisoner Heriberto Garcia is also hunger-striking at New Folsom State Prison. He recorded video of himself refusing food in his cell, that was then posted on Twitter. Meanwhile, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, protesting prisoners issued a statement in solidarity with the U.S. prison strike. The statement said the prisoners were “warehoused as inmates, not treated as human beings.” Organizers also report actions in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida as the national prison strike moves into its fourth day. This comes as 10 prisoners have died behind bars in Mississippi this month. Activists and family members are demanding answers for the spike in prisoner deaths. The IWW’s Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee tweeted about the deaths, “Why #prisonstrike? Because at this point it’s about survival.”
NSA whistleblower Reality Winner was sentenced Thursday to five years and three months in prison—the longest sentence ever imposed in federal court for leaking government information to the media. Twenty-six-year-old Reality Winner is the first person to be sentenced under the Espionage Act since President Trump took office. Reality Winner was arrested by FBI agents at her home in Augusta, Georgia, on June 3, 2017, two days before The Intercept published an exposé revealing Russian military intelligence conducted a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software company just days before the U.S. presidential election last November. After headlines, we’ll speak with Reality Winner’s mother, Billie Winner-Davis, along with James Risen, The Intercept’s senior national security correspondent.
In Hawaii, there are reports of landslides and heavy flooding as Hurricane Lane grazes the archipelago as a Category 3 storm. More than two feet of rain has fallen in some parts of the Big Island, as the storm tracks slowly toward smaller, more densely populated islands to the north.
South African officials have rejected a tweet by President Trump alleging the wide-scale killing of white farmers by the country’s black majority. Amid mounting scandals related to the Russia probe Wednesday night, Trump tweeted, “I have asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers.” Former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke and the far-right anti-immigrant website VDARE.com retweeted the president along with messages about “white genocide.” The South African government tweeted in response, “South Africa totally rejects this narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past.”
In Australia, conservative Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been ousted after a bruising leadership fight within the ruling Liberal Party. Treasurer Scott Morrison will replace Turnbull as the country’s newest prime minister. Morrison is a social conservative who, like Turnbull, is known for his support for Australia’s harsh anti-immigrant policies. He’s also a prominent opponent of efforts to curb catastrophic climate change. In 2017, Morrison brought a lump of coal to the floor of Parliament, mocking opposition lawmakers with the words “Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared, it won’t hurt you. It’s coal.” Scott Morrison becomes prime minister as human-induced global warming has brought soaring temperatures and wildfires to Australia, along with the continent’s worst drought in living memory.
Back in the United States, climate justice groups are blasting the fossil fuel industry over an effort to secure billions of taxpayer dollars to protect coastal infrastructure from climate change. The plan would create a massive “spine” of seawalls on the Gulf Coast to protect dozens of coastal refineries from encroaching seas and ever more powerful storms. Texas alone has requested $12 billion for the project. In response, Jamie Henn of 350.org tweeted, “Let me get this straight. Big Oil is asking taxpayers to pay for protecting their refineries from sea level rise that they caused by keeping us addicted to oil? Yeah…no.”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is considering a plan that would grant federal funds to states to purchase firearms for teachers and school employees. The New York Times reports the plan would use federal Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants to pay for firearms and to train educators in their use. The plan would reverse longstanding federal policy prohibiting federal funds for arming educators.
And Pope Francis heads to the Republic of Ireland this weekend, where a half-million Catholic faithful are expected to line the streets of Dublin to catch a glimpse of the first visit by a pontiff to Ireland in four decades. Francis is scheduled to meet victims of clerical sexual and physical abuse. His visit comes less than two weeks after a grand jury in Pennsylvania reported more than 300 Catholic priests sexually abused 1,000 children, and possibly thousands more, over seven decades and that church leadership covered up the abuse. This is Irish journalist and broadcaster Pat Coyle.
Pat Coyle: “That wound is deep in the psyche now of the Irish people, and it brings up that pain. People want the survivors to be able to meet the pope. They want the pope to be able to say something really meaningful, not just 'sorry.' I think people have heard 'sorry' an awful lot.”