President Trump is expected to declare a national emergency today to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border despite opposition from Congress. On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the president planned to sign the latest spending bill but to also declare a national emergency. The spending bill 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. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi condemned Trump’s plan to declare a national emergency.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “It’s not an emergency, what’s happening at the border. It’s a humanitarian challenge to us. The president has tried to sell a bill of goods to the American people. But putting that aside, just in terms of the president making an end run around Congress.”
Several Republicans, including Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, have also come out against Trump’s emergency declaration. Rubio wrote, “We have a crisis at our southern border, but no crisis justifies violating the Constitution.” Several groups, including Public Citizen, have announced plans to sue the Trump administration once the national emergency is declared.
Amazon has announced it is scrapping plans to build a major office facility in New York City, after local politicians and grassroots activists opposed the deal. Amazon had announced the project in November, after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio offered nearly $3 billion in tax subsidies to build the project, which could have created 25,000 jobs. As part of the deal, New York even offered to build a helipad for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who is the richest man in the world. One of the leading opponents of the deal was Democratic Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents parts of Queens, New York, the borough where Amazon was planning to build in.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “I think it’s incredible. I mean, it shows that everyday Americans still have the power to organize and fight for their communities, and they can have more say in this country than the richest man in the world. … If we’re willing to give away $3 billion for this deal, we could invest those $3 billion in our district ourselves, if we wanted to. We could hire out more teachers. We can fix our subways. We can put a lot of people to work for that money, if we wanted to.”
New York state Senator Mike Gianaris also helped lead the opposition to the project.
Sen. Michael Gianaris: “This is a very dangerous moment in our history, where big corporations think they have the power to tell governments what they should be doing. This is robber baron stuff. We turned away from it a century ago, and we shouldn’t go back to it now. It’s time for people, through their governments, to stand up and say the corporations are not the most powerful thing in this country; the governments are.”
New York Times reporter J. David Goodman tweeted on Thursday, “One factor that concerned Amazon executives was how activists in New York City broadened their attacks from the specifics of the deal to the company’s practices far beyond the five boroughs, on unions and working with ICE.”
A new study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy has found that Amazon will likely pay no federal taxes for a second year in a row, even though it reported over $11 billion in profit in 2018. Instead, the company will receive a $129 million federal income tax rebate.
Denver school teachers are declaring victory after securing a nearly 12 percent pay raise and annual cost-of-living increases following a 3-day strike. Teachers returned to class on Thursday after a tentative agreement was reached. Denver Classroom Teachers Association President Henry Román said, “This agreement is a win, plain and simple: for our students, for our educators and for our communities. No longer will our students see their education disrupted because their teachers cannot afford to stay in their classrooms.” This marked the ninth major U.S. teachers’ strike in the past 12 months.
New data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows more U.S. workers went on strike last year than in any year since 1986. Nearly 500,000 workers took part in a major work stoppage in 2018.
On Thursday, students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida, and schools across the United States observed a moment of silence to remember the 17 students, staff and teachers who were killed in Parkland on February 14, 2018, in one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. One of the students who survived the shooting, Emma González, spoke at an event in New York.
Emma González: “A lot of people either don’t know about or forget about the trauma of gun violence, and that it doesn’t only resurface on the anniversary of the event. Every day, I feel the same. Every day, my friends feel the same. Every day, it feels like the shooting is happening again or happened yesterday or will happen tomorrow. … For me and most of my friends, we fight our trauma by fighting against gun violence and the system that perpetrates it.”
Since the the Parkland shooting, nearly 1,200 children have been killed by guns in the United States. Meanwhile, a new survey from NPR and PBS has found that over a quarter of parents with school-age children say their child knows someone who has been the victim of gun violence.
William Barr has been sworn in as attorney general after the Senate confirmed him Thursday by a 54-45 vote. Barr previously served as George H.W. Bush’s attorney general. During that time, he was involved in the pardon of six Reagan officials—including Elliott Abrams—for the Iran-Contra scandal. He also oversaw the opening of the Guantánamo Bay military prison, which was initially used to indefinitely detain Haitian asylum seekers.
Former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe has spoken out for the first time about why he ordered a counterintelligence investigation involving President Trump and his ties to Russia after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in 2017. McCabe will appear on “60 Minutes” on Sunday, but an excerpt of the interview, conducted by Scott Pelley, has already been released.
Scott Pelley: “How long was it after that, that you decided to start the obstruction of justice and counterintelligence investigations involving the president?”
Andrew McCabe: “I think the next day I met with the team investigating the Russia cases, and I asked the team to go back and conduct an assessment to determine where are we with these efforts and what steps do we need to take going forward.”
In the interview, McCabe also confirms that Justice Department officials discussed recruiting Cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. He also confirmed that former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein offered to wear a wire in meetings with the president.
Vice President Mike Pence called on European allies to pull out of the historic Iran nuclear accord, while accusing Europe of trying to undermine U.S. sanctions against Tehran. Pence made the comment during a summit in Warsaw organized by the United States.
Vice President Mike Pence: “The time has come for our European partners to stand with us and the Iranian people, to stand with our allies and friends in the region. The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and join with us, as we bring the economic and diplomatic pressure necessary to give the Iranian people, the region and the world the peace, security and freedom they deserve.”
The EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, responded by saying that the European Union still believes that upholding the Iran nuclear deal is an essential way to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
The Venezuelan government is accusing Trump’s special envoy Elliott Abrams of threatening to deploy U.S. troops to Venezuela during secret talks between the two sides. Venezuelan officials told the Associated Press that Abrams made the threat during previously undisclosed meetings in New York with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza. During the talks, Arreaza invited Abrams to come to Venezuela to speak with President Nicolás Maduro.
Cuba has publicly accused the United States of moving special forces to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean islands as part of a covert plan to topple the Venezuelan government. U.S. special envoy Elliott Abrams accused Cuba of lying. Meanwhile, at the United Nations, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza announced a group of about 50 nations have joined a new coalition to oppose U.S.-backed efforts to topple the Venezuelan government.
Jorge Arreaza: “Thank you. Yes, indeed, those so-called sanctions are not sanctions, because the U.S. has no moral, no authority, in order to impose sanctions to anyone. So, it’s in breach of this charter. So we are going to compel and to convince humanity and the world that no government in the world can take such decisions. Only the group of measures, if they were adopted by the U.N. organisms, by the Security Council, can be legal. The rest are unilateral actions that must be rejected by all the peoples of this world.”
India is accusing Pakistan of having a direct hand in a bombing that killed as many as 46 Indian soldiers in Indian-administered Kashmir on Thursday. It was the deadliest attack on Indian forces in Kashmir since the late 1980s. The deaths occurred when a car packed with explosives drove into a bus carrying Indian soldiers. The group Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility. Pakistan rejected charges that it was responsible in any way for the bombing.
The Egyptian Parliament has cleared the way for President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to rule the country until 2034. Human rights groups in Egypt denounced the move, saying it will permit el-Sisi to “retain power for life and exercise unprecedented unilateral authority.” Since coming to office following the 2013 coup, el-Sisi has imprisoned thousands of his critics. Last year, the former military general won a widely criticized election where he received 97 percent of the vote after all of his main opponents were jailed or forced to drop out. Soon after last year’s vote, President Trump called el-Sisi to congratulate him on his re-election.
Department of Health and Human Services has launched a probe of the Indian Health Service over its mishandling of a doctor accused of pedophilia. The doctor, Stanley Patrick Weber, was the focus of a recent investigation by PBS “Frontline” and The Wall Street Journal. In 1995, Indian Health Service officials concluded Weber was molesting children, but the agency allowed him to keep working for another 21 years, continually transferring him from reservation to reservation. He was eventually convicted in 2018 and was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
In news from Washington, Ryan Zinke has joined the lobbying firm Turnberry Solutions, just weeks after stepping down as interior secretary. He becomes the first former Trump Cabinet official to join a lobbying firm. Shortly after taking office, President Trump signed an executive order that purported to ban White House officials from lobbying for five years. But according to ProPublica, at least 33 former Trump officials have managed to sidestep the ethics pledge. Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is also joining Turnberry Solutions.
The American Civil Liberties Union and a group of other civil rights organizations have sued the Trump administration over its new policy forcing asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while the United States processes their asylum claims. Melissa Crow of the the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is part of the suit, said, “This misguided policy deprives vulnerable individuals of humanitarian protections that have been on the books for decades and puts their lives in jeopardy.”
The Oregonian newspaper is reporting federal law enforcement officials have launched an investigation after a number of Saudi students living in the United States vanished while they were facing serious criminal charges, including manslaughter and rape. The paper found that in at least four cases the Saudi government paid the defendants’ bail and legal fees before they disappeared. In one case, police believe Saudi officials snuck a Saudi national out of the country on a private plane using a fake passport so he could avoid being tried for killing a 15-year-old Portland teenager in a hit-and-run.
The Democratic National Committee has announced the first debate of the 2020 presidential primary cycle will be held over two consecutive nights in June. As many as 20 candidates could take part. The DNC said candidates will need to garner at least 1 percent support in three separate polls to qualify, or obtain 65,000 unique donors and a minimum of 200 donors per state in at least 20 states.