The partial shutdown of the U.S. government has entered its 19th day. On Tuesday night, President Donald Trump addressed the nation in his first prime-time speech from the Oval Office. He urged Congress to approve $5.7 billion to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, but he opted not to declare a national emergency.
President Donald Trump: “Over the years, thousands of Americans have been brutally killed by those who illegally entered our country, and thousands more lives will be lost if we don’t act right now. This is a humanitarian crisis, a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul. Last month, 20,000 migrant children were illegally brought into the United States—a dramatic increase. These children are used as human pawns by vicious coyotes and ruthless gangs.”
Trump’s comments directly contradict numerous studies that show immigrants are less likely to commit violent crimes than U.S.-born citizens. Fact checkers also disputed other key aspects of President Trump’s claims about the drug trade and how his proposed border wall would be funded. Last week, Trump claimed that multiple former U.S. presidents told him they should have built a border wall while in office. All four living former U.S. presidents or their representatives have since denied the claim, saying they did not have this conversation with Trump.
After Trump spoke, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered the Democrats’ response, rebuking Trump’s claims and calling for an end to the government shutdown, which will soon become the longest shutdown in U.S. history. We’ll have more on Trump’s address after headlines with Oscar Chacón, executive director of Alianza Americas.
In the Senate, Democrats have blocked the first bill in the new session, which included the controversial Combating BDS Act. The legislation aims to prevent opposition to the Israeli government by allowing state and local governments to sanction any U.S. companies which are engaged in a boycott against Israel. The bill received a 56-44 vote, falling short of the 60 needed to advance. Democrats say they will block the bill until the government shutdown is over.
In environmental news, newly released data shows that carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. increased by 3.4 percent in 2018, the largest increase in eight years. The spike comes despite a large number of coal plants closing in the past year. Researchers say the increase can be attributed to a rise in emissions from transportation, buildings and factories. Last month, scientists said carbon dioxide emissions surged globally in 2018, describing the alarming trend as a “speeding freight train.”
In response to Tuesday’s report, May Boeve of 350.org said, “There are consequences to government inaction. … [W]ithout taking critical measures to cut fossil-fuel emissions much more drastically, we are locking ourselves into the devastating consequences of climate change, including rising sea levels, more severe hurricanes and storms, wildfires, and more. … With a new Congress in session, we demand they heed these warnings and step up to act at the scale of the crisis.”
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is expected to leave his position as soon as the new attorney general is confirmed, according to emerging reports. Last month, Trump nominated the former attorney general for George H.W. Bush, William Barr, for the position. Barr is known for his expansive view of executive power and had previously sent an “unsolicited memo” to Rod Rosenstein criticizing special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing Russia investigation. Rosenstein was seen by many as helping to protect Mueller from being fired and from other White House interference. If confirmed by the Senate, Barr will oversee Mueller’s probe. In November, Trump retweeted an image from a pro-Trump Twitter account featuring Rosenstein as well as Robert Mueller and a range of prominent Democrats, including the Clintons and Barack Obama, behind prison bars. Text overlaid on the image reads: “Now that Russian collusion is a proven lie, when do the trials for treason begin?”
A Russian lawyer who was present at the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting was charged by federal prosecutors with obstruction of justice in an unrelated case. The case, however, seemingly points to evidence of Natalia Veselnitskaya’s close relationship with the Kremlin, which she has previously denied. Court documents show Veselnitskaya was backed by the Kremlin in her denial of money laundering accusations, raising further questions about whether she was working for the Kremlin when she took the Trump Tower meeting. The meeting, attended by Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and others, came after she promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton in an attempt to help Trump win the presidency. In October, reports emerged that Russia’s government provided a memo to Veselnitskaya ahead of the June 2016 meeting.
In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned recent remarks by national security adviser John Bolton in which Bolton said Turkey should protect Syrian Kurdish fighters as a condition for U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria. Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish fighters to be part of a terrorist group. Erdogan, after apparently refusing to meet directly with Bolton during his Turkey trip, said he had agreed with President Trump that the U.S. would withdraw quickly, while Turkish forces would counter the remaining threat of ISIS on the ground. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Iraq today for a surprise visit to discuss the Syria withdrawal.
In Sudan, anti-government protests over the past month have resulted in at least 800 arrests, according to government officials. Among the arrested were professors from Khartoum University, who joined the popular uprising. Dozens were killed during violent clashes last month as people took to the streets protesting the economic situation of the country and the military regime of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, with many calling for the overthrow of the ruling National Congress Party. Al-Bashir is also accused of trying to censor news about the ongoing protests by arresting journalists, shutting down newspapers and websites and disrupting the internet.
Los Angeles police have found a man’s dead body inside the West Hollywood home of prominent Democratic donor Ed Buck. The deceased man’s identity has not been revealed, but police have said he is black, making him the second black man to be found dead inside Buck’s home. In July 2017, 26-year-old Gemmel Moore was found naked in Buck’s living room after he overdosed. Buck was not charged in Moore’s death, but authorities now say they will review their investigation. Ed Buck has been a vocal supporter of various Democratic politicians and causes for years and donated to the campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
In Houston, Texas, funeral services were held Tuesday for Jazmine Barnes, the 7-year-old girl who was shot while in a car with her mother and three of her sisters last week. A second man, 24-year-old Larry Woodruffe, was charged with capital murder Tuesday. Woodruffe is believed to be the shooter, while another man, Eric Black Jr., who was charged earlier this week, is said to have driven the car involved in the shooting. Police say the shooting was likely a “case of mistaken identity.”
Musician R. Kelly could be under new investigation in Georgia, days after an explosive docuseries aired on TV chronicling years of sexual abuse, domestic violence and misconduct allegations. An attorney for the family of Joycelyn Savage, who they allege has been brainwashed and sexually abused by R. Kelly, has reportedly been contacted by the Fulton County district attorney. The Savage family says they have been threatened by R. Kelly’s manager for supporting the documentary. The popular R&B singer and producer has been accused of sexual assault, predatory behavior and pedophilia for two decades but has never been criminally convicted. Click here to see our recent interview about the docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly” and the efforts to bring justice to R Kelly’s victims.
In New York City, two Seattle city councillors warned activists and local leaders about the potential unwanted consequences of the new Amazon headquarters, due to be built in Queens. At a Monday organizing event, they said that Seattle did not respond fast enough to Amazon’s expansion, which left the city with a housing crisis as real estate prices soared. The councillors urged New Yorkers to resist an unfettered corporate takeover and demand fair labor conditions. Since Amazon’s announcement of its “HQ2” plans in November, community organizations and some local leaders have been protesting the move. Last month, employees at a new Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island announced plans to unionize, citing safety, long hours and low pay as some of their concerns.
In Baltimore, ICE agents have detained Salvadoran immigrant rights activist Roxana Orellana Santos after a routine check-in and might be preparing to deport her. Santos had previously sued Frederick County for civil rights violations and racial profiling after she was arrested while eating lunch on a curb in 2008. A Maryland court later found that Santos’s right against unreasonable searches and seizures had been violated. Santos has been in the U.S. for over a decade after fleeing violence in El Salvador. She has four children living in the U.S.
Civil rights leader Angela Davis has responded to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute’s decision to revoke a human rights award in her honor over her activism for Palestinian rights and criticism of Israel. Davis says she was “stunned” by the move. In a statement, she responded, “The rescinding of this invitation and the cancellation of the event where I was scheduled to speak was not primarily an attack against me but rather against the very spirit of the indivisibility of justice.” Davis will instead appear at an alternative event in Birmingham in her honor.
In California, Governor Gavin Newsom introduced a healthcare proposal on his first day in office that would strengthen the Affordable Care Act and expand healthcare access for undocumented youth to the age of 26. California’s Medicaid program currently covers undocumented youth up to the age of 19. The plan would also restore the individual mandate in California, which was revoked in the 2017 Republican tax bill.
And in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday that the city will guarantee healthcare for all New Yorkers. The plan is primarily targeting low-income and undocumented New Yorkers. An estimated 600,000 people in the city are not currently covered by any healthcare plan. This is Mayor Bill de Blasio speaking at a news conference Tuesday.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: “The ultimate solution is single-payer health insurance for this whole country, or Medicare for all. That’s the ideal. That’s what we need. And I strongly support the single-payer bill that’s going to be considered in Albany this spring, because if Washington won’t act, then our state government should act.”