“Racist,” “conman,” “cheat”: these are the words Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen is expected to use to describe the president during his public testimony before Congress today. According to his prepared remarks, released late Tuesday night, Cohen will say that Trump knew in advance about WikiLeaks’ plans to release leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee; Cohen says he personally witnessed a phone conversation between Trump and his longtime adviser Roger Stone. He is also expected to provide a check proving Trump paid him back for hush money payments made to Stormy Daniels over their alleged affair. Cohen’s written testimony also covers financial information related to Trump’s businesses and taxes, and recounts multiple instances of racist comments by Trump. Cohen’s remarks also reveal Donald Trump Jr. likely was involved in arranging the 2016 Trump Tower meeting to possibly obtain dirt on 2016 presidential rival Hillary Clinton, and that he informed his father that the meeting was “all set.”
Democrats have accused Florida congressmember and Trump ally Matt Gaetz of witness intimidation after he appeared to threaten Cohen Monday, saying in the now-deleted tweet, “Hey @MichaelCohen212–Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she’ll remain faithful when you’re in prison. She’s about to learn a lot…”
Cohen’s remarks also reveal Trump faked a medical condition to get out of the Vietnam War draft and that Trump told him, “You think I’m stupid, I wasn’t going to Vietnam.” Cohen’s leaked testimony dropped as Trump arrived in Vietnam late Tuesday ahead of his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Trump and Kim met briefly in front of reporters before heading to an official dinner.
President Donald Trump: “I thought the first summit was a great success, and I think this one, hopefully, will be equal or greater than the first. And we made a lot of progress. And I think the biggest progress was our relationship is really a good one. … I think that your country has tremendous economic potential, unbelievable, unlimited. And I think that you will have a tremendous future with your country, a great leader. And I look forward to watching it happen and helping it to happen.”
CNN is reporting that the White House initially tried to ban reporters from attending the official dinner, after a journalist shouted a question to Trump about Cohen’s testimony. After reporters collectively protested the move, the White House conceded that one print reporter could be present, alongside cameras documenting the event. The 2-day summit to further negotiations on a denuclearization agreement continues tomorrow.
Tension is continuing to escalate between the nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan, after India carried out airstrikes inside Pakistan Tuesday for the first time since 1971. India said it was targeting a camp of the militant separatist group Jaish-e-Mohammed, which claimed responsibility for a recent attack in the Indian-administered region of Kashmir that killed more than 40 Indian soldiers—although Pakistan has denied the claim. India said Tuesday’s air raid killed “a very large number” of militants, but Pakistan has said there were no casualties from the attack. Pakistan is now claiming it has shot down two Indian military jets and captured a pair of Indian jet pilots. Meanwhile, India claims it has foiled an attempt by Pakistan to bomb military installations inside India.
The United States, Russia, China and European Union have urged both of the nuclear rivals to show restraint. Indian and Pakistan are believed to have around 100 nuclear warheads, and have fought three wars since 1947. We’ll have more on this story after headlines.
On Tuesday, the House voted 245 to 182 to block President Trump’s national emergency declaration, which would divert billions of dollars of federal funds to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. This is Texas Congressmember Joaquin Castro speaking on the House floor Tuesday.
Rep. Joaquin Castro: “The precedent that may be set today, this week or next week, when the Senate votes, if Congress allows this president’s emergency declaration to stand, will not have ramifications only on this matter or the building of a border wall. But if the president is successful, he will likely come back for more.”
The measure now goes to the Senate. So far, three Republicans—Senators Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Thom Tillis—have said they will join with their Democratic colleagues to vote in favor of the bill. At least one more Republican senator would also need to support the bill for it to pass. Trump, however, has vowed to veto the bill, and Congress is far from the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto.
At a heated congressional hearing Tuesday, lawmakers grilled administration officials about their role in implementing Trump’s draconian family separation policy. Scott Lloyd, who led the Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement last year and oversaw the “zero tolerance” policy, admitted he did not heed or report warnings of the devastating effects of separating children from their parents. This is Washington Congressmember Pramila Jayapal questioning Lloyd.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal: “Mr. Lloyd, you were the head of this agency at the time of family separation, and you did not even allow your staff to continue to do a spreadsheet that tracked where people were. You did not put into place any policies that would pull this—this—I don’t even have words for it—horrendous policy back. Did you ever say to the administration, 'This is a bad idea. Here's what my child welfare experts have told us. We need to stop this policy’? Did you once say that to anybody above you?”
Scott Lloyd: “I did not say those words.”
Tuesday’s hearing came as the House Oversight Committee voted to subpoena the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services, as well as the Attorney General’s Office, for records on the children affected by Trump’s family separation policy.
Axios is reporting that U.S. government agencies have received thousands of allegations of sexual abuse against unaccompanied migrant minors in U.S. custody, including nearly 200 allegations involving abuse by adult staff. The nearly 6,000 allegations cover a time span from 2014 and 2018 and include reports of staff forcibly touching and engaging in relationships with minors in their care, among others.
In more immigration news, a Honduran woman gave birth to a stillborn baby boy while in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody last week. The news has renewed concerns over the treatment of pregnant women by immigration officials. Immigrant rights advocates have condemned the current ICE policy of jailing pregnant women despite previous directives that said it places undue mental and physical stress on the women.
Alabama Congressmember Terri Sewell introduced the Voting Rights Advancement Act Tuesday, in a bid to restore and expand on the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy introduced the Senate version of the bill. The legislation aims to revive a key tenet of the Voting Rights Act that was gutted by a Supreme Court ruling in 2013, which removed the requirement that state and local election officials get federal approval before making changes to the voting process.
The House has overwhelmingly voted to pass the Natural Resources Management Act. The sweeping public lands bill adds over a million acres of protected wilderness, creates four new national monuments and expands eight existing national parks. A provision in the bill prevents mining in over 370,000 acres of land around two national parks, including Montana’s Yellowstone. The legislation would also permanently reauthorize the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which lapsed last year. The bill, which was approved by the Senate earlier this month, now heads to the desk of President Trump.
In more environmental news, Lake Erie has earned some of the same legal rights as humans, thanks to voters in Toledo, Ohio. On Tuesday, Toledo residents enacted the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, which guarantees “the right to a healthy environment” and will allow citizens to sue on behalf of the lake when it is being harmed. Agricultural and industrial interests lobbied against the bill, but it still passed handily, with over 60 percent of votes. The law is the first of its kind in the United States and comes after years of organizing by local environmental activists.
Chicago residents voted for their new mayor Tuesday, where a record 14 candidates were listed on the ballot. No single candidate received enough votes to win outright, which means federal prosecutor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle will head to a runoff in April. It also means Chicago is guaranteed to have its first black woman mayor. If Lightfoot wins, she will also become the city’s first openly gay mayor. The new mayor will succeed Rahm Emanuel, who announced last year he would not seek a third term. Emanuel came under intense fire for, among other things, his handling of the police killing of African-American teenager Laquan McDonald. Both candidates have vowed to reform Chicago’s criminal justice system.
Over 1,700 workers of a Wabtec locomotive plant in Erie, Pennsylvania, launched a strike Tuesday—the first strike at the factory in 50 years. This is Scott Slawson, president of United Electrical Local 506.
Scott Slawson: “We asked for a 30-day interim agreement to basically give us a chance to negotiate a fair contract. They weren’t interested in that. We’re taking the course of action that we feel is necessary to protect families, sustaining jobs in our community, and we’re standing up for workers’ rights around the world.”
The strike came one day after an $11 billion merger between Wabtec and GE, which used to run the plant. Workers say Wabtec officials refused to extend their contract as it stood under GE management, and proposed cutting pay for new hires, mandatory overtime and arbitrary schedules.
Independent senator and 2020 hopeful Bernie Sanders expressed support for the workers, writing in a letter to Wabtec CEO Raymond Betler, “Through the first three quarters of last year, Wabtec made a $256 million profit and had enough money to give you $3.5 million compensation package. … The Wabtec/GE merger should not be used to take away the hard-fought gains UE has achieved over the past several decades.”
In more labor news, teachers in Oakland, California, enter the fifth day of their strike today. The Oakland Education Association says that 96 percent of teachers are taking part in the strike as negotiations with the school district continue. Teachers are demanding fair wages, smaller class sizes and more resources for their students.
The United Methodist Church voted Tuesday to reinforce its ban on same-sex marriage and gay clergy members. The 53-47 percent vote reflects the stark divide in the church over LGBT rights and could trigger a split over the issue. A number of clergy members have said they are considering starting a new, LGBT-friendly alliance of churches. United Methodist has 12 million members worldwide.
And a prominent disability rights activist and attorney died this past Sunday after being refused an essential medication by her insurance company. Carrie Ann Lucas, who had a rare form of muscular dystrophy, helped pass legislation in Colorado to protect parents with disabilities from child welfare discrimination. In 2017, Lucas was arrested with several others after protesting Medicaid budget cuts with a 58-hour sit-in at Senator Cory Gardner’s office. According to a message on Lucas’s Facebook page, United Healthcare denied her coverage for an antibiotic last year, triggering a host of medical complications which led to her death. Carrie Ann Lucas was 47 years old and is survived by her four adopted children, who are also all living with disabilities.