The White House is scrambling to ferret out disloyal members of President Trump’s inner circle, after The New York Times published an anonymous op-ed Wednesday it says was written by a senior administration official claiming that a “quiet resistance” is underway seeking to constrain Trump’s worst impulses. In the extraordinary op-ed, the unnamed official writes, “Many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.” The author goes on to write, “Ours is not the popular 'resistance' of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous. But we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.” The op-ed’s author calls Trump impulsive, erratic, ill-informed and reckless, with “half-baked” ideas. The author claims members of Trump’s Cabinet discussed invoking the Constitution’s 25th Amendment but later decided against it. The amendment allows for the removal of a president who’s unable to discharge the powers and duties of the office.
The op-ed prompted fury from President Trump, who blasted what he called the “failing New York Times” and questioned whether the unnamed official existed. This is Trump, speaking after receiving an award from the National Sheriffs’ Association on Wednesday.
President Donald Trump: “So, if the failing New York Times has an anonymous editorial—can you believe it? Anonymous, meaning gutless—a gutless editorial, we’re doing a great job.”
Critics of the administration seized on the issue as the latest proof that Donald Trump is unfit for office, while others criticized The New York Times for taking the rare step of publishing an anonymous op-ed and said the unnamed official should step forward publicly. Journalist Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept tweeted, “The irony in the op-ed from the NYT’s anonymous WH coward is glaring and massive: s/he accuses Trump of being 'anti-democratic' while boasting of membership in an unelected cabal that covertly imposes their own ideology with zero democratic accountability, mandate or transparency.”
On Capitol Hill, Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing enters its third day today. On Wednesday, Kavanaugh was questioned for the first time by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He faced questions on gun control and acknowledged he has said some semiautomatic rifles cannot be banned. Kavanaugh declined to promise he would not vote to reverse Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion. He also faced questions over his expansive views on presidential powers—including the prospects of future criminal charges against President Trump. This is Vermont Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy questioning Judge Kavanaugh.
Judge Brett Kavanaugh: “The question of self-pardons is something I have never analyzed. It’s a question that I’ve not written about. It’s a question, therefore, that’s a hypothetical question that I can’t begin to answer in this context as a sitting judge and as a nominee to the Supreme Court.”
For the second consecutive day, Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing was repeatedly interrupted by protesters—66 of whom stood up one by one to denounce his judicial record before being arrested by Capitol Police. Seven others were arrested at protests elsewhere on Capitol Hill. Some of those arrested wore red robes and white hoods evoking Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” where women are forced into sexual slavery. This followed 70 similar arrests as the confirmation hearing got underway Tuesday. Speaking to The Daily Caller website, President Trump suggested such protests ought to be illegal. Trump said, “I think it’s embarrassing for the country to allow protesters. You don’t even know what side the protesters are on.” We’ll have more on day two of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings after headlines.
In Afghanistan, a pair of bomb blasts tore through a sports club in Kabul on Wednesday, killing 20 people and wounding 70 others. Among the dead were rescue workers, a journalist and a camera operator who rushed to the scene after the first explosion. There was no claim of responsibility for the attack, which appeared to target members of the Hazara ethnic group, who are predominantly Shia Muslims. The minority group has been targeted in the past by ISIS.
In Iraq, demonstrators torched the main government building in the southern city of Basra Wednesday, as protests over corruption, power outages and rampant unemployment continued for a third straight day. The protesters also say Basra’s water supply is heavily polluted, charging more than 20,000 people have been hospitalized from the contamination. At least one person was killed Wednesday after Iraqi forces fired live rounds into crowds; a day earlier, five people were shot and killed.
Spain has canceled plans to deliver 400 laser-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia, over concerns about the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led assault on Yemen, which has fueled the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. A Spanish Defense Ministry spokesperson confirmed reports that Spain will return some $10 million already paid by Saudi Arabia for the weapons. The U.N. says the Saudi-led assault has spawned a massive cholera epidemic that’s sickened over a million people while bringing millions more to the brink of famine. Last month, Republican leaders quashed an amendment offered by U.S. Senator Chris Murphy that would have cut off U.S. support to the Saudi-led coalition.
In Syria, humanitarian aid groups are warning as many as 800,000 people could be displaced if Russia and Syria proceed with a planned offensive in Idlib province—the last major rebel-held part of Syria. Three million people currently live in Idlib, half of whom are already internally displaced.
The warning came as President Trump on Wednesday denied a report—made by veteran journalist Bob Woodward in his forthcoming book “Fear: Trump in the White House”—that Trump ordered Pentagon chief James Mattis to assassinate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in April of 2017.
President Donald Trump: “No, the book is fiction. I heard somewhere where they said the assassination of President Assad by the United States. Never even discussed. The book is total fiction.”
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has reaffirmed his commitment to denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula by the end of Donald Trump’s first term in office, saying his faith in the U.S. president remains “unchanged.” That’s according to a senior South Korean diplomat who met with Kim ahead of a planned summit between leaders of the North and South later this month. In remarks to the South Korean envoy, Kim said he was frustrated about skepticism over what he’s called “very significant and meaningful” steps toward ending the prospect of war on the peninsula.
India’s Supreme Court has overturned a law criminalizing consensual gay sex, in a major victory for LGBTQI groups. The ruling voids a portion of the Indian Penal Code written by Britain’s colonial government in the 1860s, which, although rarely enforced, made gay sex a crime punishable by up to life in prison.
Back in the United States, Vice President Mike Pence administered the oath of office Wednesday to former U.S. Senator Jon Kyl, who fills the Senate seat left vacant after the death of Arizona’s John McCain last month. Kyl is a Republican who represented Arizona in the Senate for 18 years. After retiring from Congress in 2013, Kyl joined the prominent law firm Covington & Burling, where he worked as a lobbyist on behalf of clients from Wall Street, Big Pharma and the weapons industry. Kyl also worked to advance Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination through the Senate. Kyl has said he will serve as Arizona’s junior senator until a special election in 2020.
In Chicago, jury selection is underway in the murder trial of white police officer Jason Van Dyke, who’s charged in the killing of 17-year-old African American Laquan McDonald in October of 2014. The killing was captured on a police dash cam video released under court order, which clearly contradicted police claims about the shooting. The video shows the teenager posing no threat and walking away from the officers before Van Dyke opened fire 16 times. On Wednesday, about 100 protesters gathered near the Cook County criminal courthouse as the trial got underway. This is activist William Calloway.
William Calloway: “And if he’s acquitted, it’s not just going to be the South Side, it’s not just going to be the West Side, but it’s going to be every side of this city that’s going to rise up and that’s going to demand justice and shut this city down!”
And in Louisiana, police arrested four people Tuesday as they held a peaceful sit-in protest at a construction site for the 163-mile Bayou Bridge pipeline. The pipeline is being built by Energy Transfer Partners, the same company behind the controversial Dakota Access pipeline. All four of those arrested Tuesday face felony charges under a harsh new anti-protest law signed by Louisiana’s governor earlier this year. This is water protector Cherri Foytlin, speaking as she was tackled and arrested by police.
Water Protector: “Stop choking her!”
Cherri Foytlin: “We need you here now! We need you now! Help!”