With two days left before the February 15 deadline to avert another government shutdown, President Trump told reporters Tuesday he is “not happy” with the proposed deal that came out of congressional negotiations Monday night, but did not say he would reject it. The deal currently includes nearly $1.4 billion to build 55 miles of new border barriers out of steel, far less than the $5.7 billion requested by President Trump. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he hoped Trump would sign the deal.
Meanwhile, Politico is reporting the White House may redirect federal dollars from various government agencies to make up for the shortfall in Trump’s border wall funding demand, including tapping disaster relief funds intended for California and Puerto Rico. Trump would reportedly do so through executive order, circumventing Congress.
As the political crisis in Venezuela continues to mount, tens of thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets Tuesday in dueling pro-government and pro-opposition protests. Opposition leader Juan Guaidó addressed his supporters and announced a deadline for allowing aid shipments to enter the country.
Juan Guaidó: “Today we announce that February 23rd is the day for humanitarian aid to enter Venezuela. We stand by all sectors—delivery drivers, nurses, medics—to get ourselves organized.”
Military officers, who in large part have remained loyal to President Nicolás Maduro, have been blocking access to supplies at the Venezuela-Colombia border. Critics have blasted the U.S. for using aid as a political tool to undermine Maduro’s presidency while garnering support for Guaidó. The Red Cross and the U.N warned the U.S. to not send aid to Venezuela without the approval of the sitting president. The U.N. said, “Humanitarian action needs to be independent of political, military or other objectives.” On Monday, Guaidó tweeted a photo of himself surrounded by pill bottles, saying that some aid in the form of nutritional supplements made it into Venezuela, although it’s unclear where they came from.
In an interview with an Israeli newspaper Tuesday, Guaidó—who declared himself Venezuela’s interim president last month—said he is in the process of restoring ties with Israel. Venezuela severed its relationship with Israel a decade ago under the leadership of Hugo Chávez, who instead developed links with Palestinians. Guaidó also suggested he was considering opening the new Venezuelan Embassy in Jerusalem, following in the footsteps of the U.S., which last year drew international condemnation after it moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem—a city that Palestinians want as part of a future state.
Meanwhile, President Maduro continues to call out the U.S. for its role in attempting to oust him from power. In an interview with the BBC Tuesday, Maduro said that the U.S. is ruled by white supremacists.
President Nicolás Maduro: “It’s a political war of the American empire, of the interests of the extreme right that today governs, of the Ku Klux Klan that rules over the White House, to take over Venezuela.”
In the Philippines, authorities have arrested award-winning journalist Maria Ressa in connection with a cyber libel case. Ressa is the founder of the independent news site Rappler and a vocal critic of the country’s president. The charges stem from a story published by Rappler in 2012 in which the paper detailed the alleged criminal ties of a businessman based on intelligence reports. This is Ressa speaking during her arrest earlier today.
Maria Ressa: “What I know is I have not gotten an official copy of the DOJ indictment. We would have the chance to file a motion for reconsideration—we should. The fact that an arrest warrant has been issued, well, really interesting. And I will follow. I’m just shocked that the rule of law has been broken to the point that I can’t see it.”
Rappler and Maria Ressa have been repeatedly targeted by Duterte’s government. In November, authorities indicted Ressa and the site on tax evasion charges, which are widely believed to be politically motivated. Click here to see our November interview with Maria Ressa.
In Spain, a trial kicked off Tuesday for 12 leaders of the Catalan separatist movement over their role in Catalonia’s bid for independence. In 2017, the central government cracked down on separatists, arresting political leaders and charging them with “rebellion,” following an independence referendum in October 2017 and the Catalan Parliament’s declaration of independence. Lawyers for the defendants have condemned legal proceedings, saying it’s unlikely they will get a fair trial and that democracies should not have political prisoners. This is Catalan President Quim Torra, speaking about the trial.
President Quim Torra: “We are before an act of revenge against people who decided to decide, against people who defended ballot boxes against batons, people that put their bodies at risk to grant a better future. And it is precisely this that some have not tolerated and claimed for revenge. They wanted to punish them.”
The trial came two days after tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Madrid Sunday to denounce Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s plan to hold talks with Catalan politicians. The protest was called by conservative leaders in Spain, including the far-right Vox party, which opposes any moves to negotiate with the pro-independence movement. In Barcelona, thousands marched Tuesday in a pro-independence rally in a show of support for the separatist leaders.
Turkey has issued over 1,100 arrest warrants to people with suspected ties to exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom the government blames for a failed coup in 2016. Since 2016, at least 77,000 people have been arrested and around 130,000 fired from government and public sector jobs such as teaching, in a purge by the Turkish government.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan made a surprise visit to Iraq Tuesday—his first trip to the country. He said the U.S. is committed to Iraqi sovereignty, following backlash over Trump’s comments earlier this month that he would keep U.S. troops in Iraq to “watch Iran.” Following a meeting with Shanahan, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi reiterated that the U.S. mission in Iraq must be limited to helping combat terrorism.
The Senate has overwhelmingly passed a major new public lands bill, voting 92 to 8 to add over a million acres of protected wilderness, add four new national monuments and expand eight existing national parks. A provision also prevents mining in over 370,000 acres of land around two national parks, including Montana’s Yellowstone. The bill, which now heads to the House for approval, would also permanently reauthorize the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which lapsed last year.
In New York City, a federal jury rendered a guilty verdict on all 10 counts against notorious Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, after a 3-month trial. The counts include conspiracy to launder drug money, international distribution of drugs, the use of firearms and engaging in a criminal enterprise—which carries a mandatory life sentence. During the more than 200 hours of testimony at the Federal District Court in Brooklyn, 56 witnesses took to the stand with stories of murder, violence, spying, widespread corruption and even one tale of the drug lord escaping arrest in 2014 by climbing naked through a sewer alongside a former lover. This is U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Richard Donoghue.
Richard Donoghue: “This conviction is a victory for the American people, who have suffered so long and so much while Guzmán made billions pouring poison over our southern border. This conviction is a victory for the Mexican people, who have lost more than 100,000 lives in drug-related violence.”
A new, sweeping investigation by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News reveals 20 years of sexual abuse allegations within the Southern Baptist Church, with over 700 victims, including many children—some as young as 3 years old. Three hundred eighty Southern Baptist leaders and volunteers have been accused of rape, abuse and various forms of sexual misconduct. Around 220 of those have been convicted of sex crimes or were given plea deals. The report also found that members of the church pressured some women to get abortions after becoming pregnant as a result of assault, or threatened to shun them from the church. The church is the largest Protestant denomination in the country. The report has prompted calls for investigations into the church and their role in covering up and enabling the abuse.
Eight families are suing the Trump administration for the trauma and “inexplicable cruelty” of Trump’s “zero tolerance” family separation policy. Lawyers for the families say the policy has left the children with lasting emotional scars and altered behaviors, including not being able to sleep or eat. The suit is seeking $6 million in damages for each family. The U.S. government has admitted to separating 2,700 children from their families, but a recent Health and Human Services report suggests there could be thousands more. The nonprofit Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas, recently told The Guardian they still receive calls every week about new cases of family separations.
In health news, the Centers for Disease Control has confirmed over 100 cases of measles in the U.S. since the start of 2019. In Washington state, where at least 55 cases were identified so far this year, Governor Jay Inslee declared a public health emergency last month, and lawmakers are considering changes to vaccination laws. Measles is a highly contagious disease that kills over 100,000 children worldwide each year. Public health officials say the recent rise in measles cases in the Pacific Northwest is due to laws in Washington and Oregon that allow parents to easily opt out of vaccinating their children. One-quarter of kindergarten students in Clark County, which is at the heart of the recent outbreak, did not receive all their recommended vaccinations.
In the state of New York, reports estimate at least 200 cases of measles since September of last year, with the outbreak mostly confined to the Orthodox Jewish community, which has particularly low vaccination rates. Last month, the World Health Organization said that people who choose not to get themselves or their children vaccinated constitute a global health threat.
In Vallejo, California, the family of rapper Willie McCoy is demanding answers after six police officers shot and killed the 20-year-old after they found him sleeping in his car outside a Taco Bell. Officers say they were called to the scene by a Taco Bell employee. Although he was apparently asleep when police arrived, all six of them shot at McCoy when he made a sudden move, according to the official statement. McCoy, who was known by his stage name Willie Bo, belonged to rap group FBG.
And the black revolutionary activist Nehanda Abiodun has died at the age of 68 in Havana, Cuba. Abiodun was a founding member of the New Afrikan People’s Organization and an organizer with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. After she was charged with helping her friend Assata Shakur escape from prison in 1979, and for her role in the 1981 Brink’s armored truck robbery, in which two police officers and a Brink’s guard were killed, Abiodun escaped to Cuba, where she received political asylum. Abiodun was not charged with the murder but was indicted in 1982 for conspiracy and racketeering. She went on to become known as the “Godmother of Cuban Hip-Hop” and helped connect artists through the Havana chapter of the Black August Hip-Hop Project. A memorial service for Abiodun will be held Saturday in New York City.