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In Maryland, an active-duty Coast Guard lieutenant will appear in court today, after being arrested last Friday after federal investigators uncovered a domestic terror plot to kill high-profile liberal figures including Democratic lawmakers, media personalities and judges. Forty-nine-year-old Christopher Paul Hasson, a self-described white nationalist, reportedly had a stockpile of 15 guns and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition. His “hit list” included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, civil rights pioneer Angela Davis, freshman Congressmembers Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, MSNBC host Chris Hayes and Democratic presidential hopefuls Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, among others.
Hasson was reportedly inspired by the far-right Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik, who in 2011 killed 77 people in a bomb attack and a mass shooting. In a draft email obtained by prosecutors, Hasson wrote, “I am dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on the earth.” Court documents also revealed he wanted to “establish a white homeland”.
The White House is organizing a new committee to examine whether climate change poses a threat to national security. Trump is considering naming Princeton University professor emeritus and White House science adviser William Happer to head the effort. Happer is a known climate change denier. He has falsely accused the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration of manipulating climate data and compared climate science to the Holocaust. This is Happer in a 2014 interview.
William Happer: “The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler. Carbon dioxide is actually a benefit to the world, and so were the Jews.”
We’ll have more on this story later in the broadcast.
In a major victory for civil liberties advocates, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled to limit the practice of civil asset forfeiture—a controversial practice where police seize property that belongs to people suspected of crimes, even if they are never convicted. On Wednesday, the court ruled the Eighth Amendment protects people from state and local authorities imposing onerous fines, fees and forfeitures to generate money.
The case centered on Indiana man Tyson Timbs, who had sold drugs and was sentenced to prison. Timbs didn’t contest his sentence but objected to police seizing his Land Rover, which was worth four times the maximum fine he could receive from his drug conviction. After the unanimous ruling in Timbs’s favor, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg delivered the court’s opinion, saying, “The historical and logical case for concluding that the 14th Amendment incorporates the Excessive Fines Clause is overwhelming.” We’ll have more on the significance of this historic ruling after headlines.
Authorities in Bangladesh say at least 80 people have died in a massive fire that burned down several buildings in a poor, centuries-old neighborhood in the capital Dhaka. The death toll is expected to rise as more bodies are uncovered. The fire started on the ground floor of a chemical warehouse before spreading to neighboring structures. Residents say they had raised safety concerns over the warehouse but were ignored by authorities.
In Mexico, two radio journalists have been murdered in the past week. On Wednesday, environmental activist and community radio producer Samir Flores Soberanes was killed in the state of Morelos shortly before a referendum on a thermoelectric plant and pipeline project that he had opposed. On Saturday, radio announcer Reynaldo López was fatally attacked by armed gunmen in Sonora. Another reporter, Carlos Cota, was with López but survived the attack. Four radio hosts have now been murdered in Mexico since the start of the year.
A U.N. panel is raising alarm over reports of ongoing mass atrocities in South Sudan. Experts say oil companies in the resource-rich region could be complicit in war crimes.
Andrew Clapham: “There are thousands of civilians who have been forcibly displaced following a scorched-earth policy, in which the parties to the conflict are attacking the villages, torching the homes, killing civilians and raping women and girls. … If you are involved in oil extraction in that area and you are asked to assist one side or the other, you could be accused of complicity in war crimes.”
Three foreign oil companies operate in the region: the Chinese National Petroleum Company, Petronas of Malaysia and the Indian Oil and Natural Gas Corporation. The companies own joint projects with state-owned Nile Petroleum Corporation, known as Nilepet.
In Egypt, sources have confirmed nine men were executed Wednesday over the 2015 car bomb killing of chief prosecutor Hisham Barakat. The men testified to being secretly detained, tortured and coerced into confessing. Six others were executed earlier this month over the 2013 killing of a police officer and the 2014 killing of a judge’s son. Egypt has sentenced hundreds of people to death since President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi came to power following the 2013 coup. Human rights groups have condemned the executions. In a statement, Amnesty International said, “Egyptian authorities must urgently halt this bloody execution spree which has seen them repeatedly putting people to death after grossly unfair trials in recent weeks.”
President Trump has personally rejected an Alabama woman’s request to return to the United States after she left the country in 2015 to join ISIS fighters in Syria. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday 24-year-old Hoda Muthana is not a U.S. citizen, but her attorneys insist she does hold U.S. citizenship and was born in Hackensack, New Jersey. She is now in a refugee camp in Syria with her 18-month-old son.
Meanwhile, in Oakland, California, teachers are set to launch their strike today, as they demand fair wages, smaller class sizes and more resources for their students. Teachers are drawing attention to the soaring cost of living in the Bay Area, while public school salaries have remained stagnant and schools suffer from budget cuts.
House Democrats are planning to introduce a resolution Friday to block President Trump’s national emergency declaration to construct a U.S.-Mexico border wall. In the Senate, Republican Susan Collins of Maine said on Wednesday she would support a resolution to halt the emergency declaration. At least four senators from the Republican caucus would have to join with all 47 Democratic caucus senators to achieve a majority in the Senate that could pass such a measure.
President Trump ally and former adviser Roger Stone is heading back to court today after he posted an Instagram photo on Monday depicting federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson with crosshairs next to her head. The text in the now-deleted post read: “Through legal trickery Deep State hitman Robert Mueller has guaranteed that my upcoming show trial is before Judge Amy Berman Jackson, an Obama appointed Judge who dismissed the Benghazi charges against Hillary Clinton and incarcerated Paul Manafort prior to his conviction for any crime. #FixIsIn. Help me fight for my life at @StoneDefenseFund.com.” Stone was indicted last month as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. He pleaded not guilty to lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction.
Former Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen has agreed to testify about his work for Donald Trump before Congress next Wednesday in an open hearing. The news came as Cohen’s upcoming prison term was pushed back by two months after he requested time to recover from a surgical procedure. Cohen was sentenced to three years for tax evasion, bank fraud, campaign finance violations and lying to Congress, after admitting he broke federal campaign finance laws by paying hush money to two women during the 2016 presidential campaign. He will begin his sentence in May.
CNN reported Wednesday special counsel Robert Mueller may be wrapping up his probe and could release his report to Attorney General William Barr as soon as next week. Trump told reporters he would leave it up to Barr to decide whether to make the special counsel’s report available to the public. Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly called for the open release of the report; last month a bipartisan bill was introduced in an effort to make Mueller’s findings open to all.
Former New York Congressmember Joe Crowley has joined the corporate lobbying firm Squire Patton Boggs. The 10-term congressmember was defeated in a stunning upset in last year’s midterm primary by then-28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The lobbying firm represents fossil fuel interests, the arms industry and a private prison company, among others. Some of its clients include Gulf Energy Alliance, which promotes oil and gas drilling, and the conservative Koch-backed Policy and Taxation Group. Former Republican Congressmember Bill Shuster is also joining the firm.
Independent Senator Bernie Sanders raised nearly $6 million in the first 24 hours after launching his 2020 presidential bid—crushing the fundraising efforts of his fellow 2020 hopefuls. California Senator Kamala Harris was the second-highest fundraiser, receiving $1.5 million in donations in the 24 hours after her announcement. His campaign said the average donation was $27—the same as during his 2016 run.
In Chicago, actor Jussie Smollett has been arrested and charged with felony disorderly conduct for filing a false police report. Smollett is said to have faked an attack that sparked widespread outrage last month. The actor, a star on Fox’s hit TV show “Empire,” told police he was violently attacked on the street in an apparent hate crime. Smollett, who is African-American and gay, said the attackers shouted homophobic and racist slurs, as well as “This is MAGA country,” and placed a rope around his neck.
Police believe Smollett paid two brothers, who were personal acquaintances, to carry out a staged attack. The Chicago Police Department cites records from a hardware store, where the brothers purchased the rope, and surveillance video of them picking up other supplies. Earlier this week, local media reported the attack was planned after a racist letter addressed to Smollett and sent to the “Empire” studio did not receive much attention. The letter contained a white powder which was later determined to be aspirin. The FBI is now reportedly investigating the letter. Jussie Smollett has rejected the recent reports and maintains he gave a truthful account of the event.
And in Austin, Texas, immigrant rights activist Therese Patricia Okoumou—who made national headlines last year after she scaled the Statue of Liberty to protest family separations—climbed atop a Southwest Key building Wednesday to protest the company, which operates detention centers for migrant children.
Earlier in the week, the group Tornillo: The Occupation led a series of actions protesting immigration policies and the treatment of migrant children in the Texas border town of El Paso. Activists from the group staged what they called an “intervention” at the Border Patrol Museum, and brought cards with messages of support to migrants locked up at the Southwest Key Detention Center in El Paso. This is organizer Juan Ortiz speaking at the Border Patrol Museum action.
Juan Ortiz: “United States foreign policy has effected change through structural violence, through economic violence. They’ve become economic refugees, humanitarian refugees, and that’s what it should be recognized. Don’t let them tell you that it’s a violent people that are coming. Don’t let them tell you that they’re enacting violence towards them. It is completely the other way around, when you have children dying under their custody.”