The House Judiciary Committee launched a wide-ranging investigation Monday into President Trump, his businesses and his allies, as lawmakers probe possible obstruction of justice, corruption and other crimes and abuses of power. The committee requested documents from at least 81 people or groups, who now have a March 18 deadline to respond. The list includes his sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, WikiLeaks, AMI chief David Pecker, the Department of Justice, the FBI, Trump’s charities and the founder of private security firm Blackwater, Erik Prince—who is also the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
An explosive new piece by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker reveals new details about how Fox News has become what one scholar described as “the closest we’ve come to having state TV.” Mayer reveals that in 2017 Trump directed then-top economic adviser Gary Cohn to put pressure on the Justice Department to block AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner. The move was reportedly due to Trump’s animosity toward CNN, which is owned by Time Warner. Cohn, however, viewed Trump’s order as “highly improper” and directed then-Chief of Staff John Kelly not to follow through on it. In contrast, the Trump administration handily approved Disney’s acquisition of Fox for $71 billion.
The piece also says that former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes shared key questions from the 2015 Fox News-hosted Republican primary debate with candidate Trump beforehand, including a question by then-Fox host Megyn Kelly pressing him on past misogynistic comments.
Jane Mayer also confirms that Fox News reporter Diana Falzone had evidence of Trump’s illegal hush money payments to Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign, but that her story was killed and a Fox executive told her, “Good reporting, kiddo. But Rupert wants Donald Trump to win. So just let it go.” Rupert Murdoch owns Fox News and has long been an ally of Trump. After suing and settling with Fox, Falzone signed a nondisclosure agreement, ensuring the network never released the story.
In environmental news, a new report finds that coal waste from hundreds of coal-fired power plants around the country has contaminated groundwater in 39 states with unsafe amounts of toxic chemicals. In some cases, the dangerous toxic substances, including arsenic, lithium and mercury, have leached into local drinking water supplies. The lead author of the report by the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice said, “At a time when the Trump EPA—now being run by a former coal lobbyist—is trying to roll back federal regulations on coal ash, these new data provide convincing evidence that we should be moving in the opposite direction.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats will bring a resolution condemning anti-Semitism to a House vote Wednesday, in a direct rebuke of recent comments by Minnesota Congressmember Ilhan Omar questioning the U.S.’s relationship with Israel. The draft resolution does not explicitly name the freshman congressmember but comes after recent comments by Omar at an event last week, in which she called out the “political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country”—referring to Israel.
After several lawmakers publicly attacked Omar over the weekend, the congressmember defended her comments on Twitter Sunday, writing, “I am told everyday that I am anti-American if I am not pro-Israel. I find that to be problematic and I am not alone. I just happen to be willing to speak up on it and open myself to attacks.” While critical of Israeli state policy toward Palestinians, Omar has repeatedly condemned anti-Semitism.
Fellow Congressmember Rashida Tlaib—who, along with Omar, was the first female Muslim elected to Congress—has expressed support for Omar, as did New York Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Meanwhile, the hashtag #IStandWithIlhan has been gaining steam on social media as progressive Jewish groups and defenders of Palestinian rights voice their support for the congressmember.
Palestinians have condemned the shuttering of the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, which served as the main diplomatic liaison with the Palestinian territories. Its functions will now be merged into the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, and diplomatic relations will fall under the purview of U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who has supported illegal settlements and compared liberal American Jews to Nazi collaborators. Last May, the Trump administration drew international condemnation when it moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem—a city that Palestinians want as part of a future state. This is chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
Saeb Erekat: “This is a day of infamy for American diplomacy. After 175 years of having an American Consulate in Jerusalem, in Palestine, serving Palestinians, which was established in 1844, comes this decision to cancel the American Consulate and, they say, to merge it with the embassy to have more efficiency. It has nothing to do with efficiency. It has something to do with the attempt to dictate a solution on us as Palestinians.”
Saudi prosecutors have indicted a group of jailed women activists, who will now head to trial, 10 months after they were arrested last year as Saudi Arabia prepared to lift its ban on women drivers. More than a dozen women were detained for their activism and accused of undermining national security. Human rights groups have said the women faced sexual harassment, assault and torture while behind bars. Last month, a bipartisan resolution called on Saudi Arabia to “immediately and unconditionally” release the activists. This is Saudi women’s rights activist Omaima Al Najjar speaking at a U.N. panel Monday.
Omaima Al Najjar: “What we have seen—the imprisonment of women, back in May, until—they were tortured until August. They were put in solitary confinement up to three months. It’s just the tip of the iceberg of the human rights violations and the international treaties violation that has been committed by the Saudi government.”
A new documentary by Al Jazeera Arabic claims that murdered Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was likely burned in a large outdoor furnace at the Saudi consulate general’s home in Istanbul. The furnace was reportedly built to withstand high heat, which would allow for the body to be destroyed without leaving any evidence. Turkish authorities told Al Jazeera Arabic that barbeque meat was prepared in the oven after Khashoggi’s body was burned, to cover up any suspicious odors. Jamal Khashoggi was killed last October by Saudi agents after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. The CIA, U.S. senators and others have found that the crown prince was directly responsible for ordering the murder, but Saudi officials have denied his involvement.
In more news about Saudi Arabia, The New York Times is reporting that a dual U.S.-Saudi citizen was tortured by Saudi authorities. Walid Fitaihi, a Harvard-trained doctor, was reportedly electroshocked and whipped while detained at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh. Fitaihi was arrested alongside hundreds of other prominent Saudis in 2017 during a government crackdown ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He is still in detention, and it’s unknown whether he has been charged with any crime.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in called on the U.S. and North Korea to resume denuclearization talks after the much-anticipated second summit between the two leaders fell apart last week with no deal or substantial progress made. Moon called for three-way talks between the two Koreas and the U.S. This is Moon speaking in Seoul Monday.
President Moon Jae-in: “I ask you to find ways to improve the dialogue between North Korea and the United States through the development of inter-Korean relations within the framework of sanctions.”
On Sunday, President Trump appeared to shift blame for the failure of last week’s talks in Vietnam, suggesting he walked away from the summit because of former lawyer Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony. Last week, Trump said that he left the talks because North Korea insisted on complete sanctions relief before moving ahead with denuclearization—something North Korean officials refuted. On Sunday, Trump tweeted, “For the Democrats to interview in open hearings a convicted liar & fraudster, at the same time as the very important Nuclear Summit with North Korea, is perhaps a new low in American politics and may have contributed to the ’walk.’ Never done when a president is overseas. Shame!”
North Carolina election officials have announced a new primary election for the open 9th Congressional District seat will take place on May 14, with the general election to follow in September. The contested seat was never called following November’s midterm elections, after evidence of possible voter fraud started to emerge. Republican operative Leslie McCrae Dowless, who worked for the campaign of Republican candidate Mark Harris, was eventually charged last week with ordering workers to illegally fill out and mail in other people’s absentee ballots. He also faces felony charges of obstruction of justice. At a hearing over the voter fraud scandal last month, Mark Harris’ son—an assistant U.S. attorney in North Carolina—testified that he warned his father about McCrae Dowless. Mark Harris said last month he would not run again in a new race. Harris could still face criminal charges over the vote-rigging scandal. The democratic candidate, Dan McCready, confirmed he would run again.
Fifteen infants were released with their mothers from an immigration jail in Dilley, Texas, Monday, days after legal advocates filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security. One baby was as young as 5 months old. Usually children under the age of 1 are released at the border with their parents. All of the mothers with infants who were identified by the Dilley Pro Bono Project said their children were sick in some way. The jail is run by private prison company CoreCivic and has a history of allegations of medical neglect. At least two more infants are believed to still be held in what critics have long called a “baby jail.”
Twenty-one states are suing the Trump administration to block a new rule issued last month which bars abortion providers or groups that refer patients for abortions from federal funds known as Title X. Planned Parenthood would be one of the main groups affected by the new gag rule. Title X covers non-abortion services like STD prevention, cancer screenings and contraception, and provides over $280 million in funding for 4 million mostly low-income women every year. If implemented, the funds would be redirected toward faith-based clinics.
And in New York City, a judge has placed immigrant rights activist Patricia Okoumou under house arrest and has ordered her to wear an ankle monitor and surrender her passport, after a hearing Friday for allegedly violating the conditions of her release. Okoumou was arrested last July after scaling the base of the Statue of Liberty to protest President Trump’s family separation policy, and was charged with trespassing, interference with government agency functions and disorderly conduct. Two weeks ago, Okoumou was arrested in Texas after climbing atop a Southwest Key building to protest the jailing of migrant children—leading to her hearing last week for violating her bail. She is due to be sentenced for the New York charges later this month. Click here to see our recent interview with Okoumou, just hours before her Friday hearing.