A federal judge in Virginia sentenced Donald Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort Thursday to 47 months in prison for eight counts of bank fraud and tax evasion—far less than the 19-to-24-year prison term recommended by federal sentencing guidelines. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis—who was nominated to the bench by President Ronald Reagan—called the sentencing guidelines outlined by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team “excessive” and said Manafort had led an “otherwise blameless life.” In response, New York Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “Paul Manafort getting such little jail time for such serious crimes lays out for the world how it’s almost impossible for rich people to go to jail for the same amount of time as someone who is lower income. In our current broken system, 'justice' isn’t blind. It’s bought.” Paul Manafort faces a second sentencing hearing at a federal court in the District of Columbia next week on two additional counts of conspiracy.
The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution Thursday condemning anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim discrimination, white supremacy, homophobia, racism and other forms of hate. The vote was 407 to 23, with nearly two dozen Republicans voting against it. The vote capped a week of intense debate among congressional Democrats that began after some lawmakers accused Democratic Congressmember Ilhan Omar of invoking anti-Semitic tropes while questioning U.S. foreign policy on Israel. At an event last week, Omar said, “I want to talk about political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.” Democrat Eliot Engel, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, then accused Omar of making a “vile anti-Semitic slur.” The House leadership initially drafted a resolution condemning anti-Semitism in what was seen as a direct rebuke of Omar. But many progressive Democrats said Omar—who is one of the first two Muslim congresswoman in U.S. history—was unfairly being singled out. Later in the broadcast, we’ll go to Tel Aviv and Washington for a discussion on Congressmember Ilhan Omar.
In Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro is blaming the U.S. government for a prolonged power outage that plunged most of the country into darkness Thursday. Maduro says anti-government saboteurs backed by the U.S. took the nation’s main hydroelectric power station at the Guri Dam offline. The blackout compounded the misery of Venezuelans already enduring a severe economic crisis amid crippling U.S.-led sanctions. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Maduro’s government for the outage and threatened regime change in a flurry of tweets, one of which read, “No food. No medicine. Now, no power. Next, no Maduro.” Meanwhile, President Trump’s special envoy on Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, told a Senate panel Thursday that the Trump administration will sanction banks that trade with the Maduro government.
Elliott Abrams: “We have sanctioned a number of financial institutions already, and we’re going to expand the net. We have under consideration other institutions, which I won’t name because we don’t want them to get advance notice, but there will be more sanctions on financial institutions that are carrying out the orders of the Maduro regime to steal funds from Venezuela and hide it all around the world.”
On Thursday, 16 progressive House Democrats, including Ro Khanna, Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, sent a letter to Secretary of State Pompeo condemning U.S. threats of military intervention in Venezuela and U.S. sanctions. The letter read, in part, “[T]he president’s recent economic sanctions threaten to exacerbate the country’s grave economic crisis, causing immense suffering for the most vulnerable in society who bear no responsibility for the situation in the country.”
Israel’s election committee has banned an alliance of Israeli Arab parties from fielding candidates in April’s general election. The move will bar candidates from the Balad-United Arab List—which represents Palestinian citizens of Israel—from running for Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. The ban was celebrated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said in a statement, “Those who support terrorism will not be in the Israeli Knesset!” Palestinian candidate Heba Yazbak said the measure had nothing to do with terror, and was instead aimed at stifling Palestinian rights.
Heba Yazbak: “They are actually banning the Arab, to choose, by themselves, their representatives and their leaders. We, of course, will go to the high court, and we will continue until the end, and we will not accept this discrimination against us and against the Arab people in Israel.”
The ban on Israeli Arab candidates came as Israel’s election committee said it would allow members of the far-right Jewish Power party to run in April’s election. The party is tied to the Jewish Defense League, a far-right group that was classified in 2000 by the FBI as a “right-wing terrorist group.” This all comes as Israel’s attorney general says he’s prepared to indict Netanyahu on corruption charges.
In France, a court on Thursday sentenced Cardinal Philippe Barbarin—the Roman Catholic archbishop of Lyon—to a 6-month suspended prison sentence for failing to act on the sexual abuse of Boy Scouts in his diocese. The archbishop was found guilty of failing to report allegations of abuse in the 1980s and ’90s by a priest who is set to go on trial later this year.
In climate news, a new study finds rainstorms are becoming far more frequent across Greenland—even in winter—accelerating the melting of vast areas of ice and setting the stage for global sea level rise that could inundate coastal areas home to hundreds of millions of people. The study published in the journal The Cryosphere found warmer temperatures have led to increased rainfall in Greenland, which triggers widespread ice melt and runoff, contributing to the 270 billion tons of Greenland’s ice added each year to the Earth’s oceans.
A federal judge has sent U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning to jail, after she declined to answer questions before a grand jury. Manning was subpoenaed by federal prosecutors in Virginia’s Eastern District to appear for questioning Wednesday about her 2010 release to WikiLeaks of hundreds of thousands of State Department and Pentagon documents about the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After Manning refused to answer questions, U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton ordered her to be immediately jailed until she agrees to testify—or until the grand jury wraps up its work. Last year, prosecutors inadvertently revealed they’ve indicted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange under a sealed indictment, but the charges against Assange remain unknown.
In Sacramento, California, protests are continuing over the police killing of Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old, unarmed African American who was shot dead in his grandmother’s backyard last year. Demonstrations erupted over the weekend after county prosecutors said they would not press criminal charges against the officers, who unleashed 20 bullets at Clark within just seven seconds and waited for over five minutes before approaching him to administer medical attention. On Tuesday, angry residents protested the killing at Sacramento’s City Council meeting, briefly disrupting proceedings. And on Thursday, hundreds of students from Sacramento City College and C.K. McClatchy High School walked out of classes to protest the decision not to prosecute the officers who killed Stephon Clark.
In Florida, a jury in West Palm Beach found former police officer Nouman Raja guilty Thursday of manslaughter and attempted murder for shooting and killing 31-year-old Corey Jones in October of 2015. Jones, who was African-American, was having car trouble and waiting for a tow truck when officer Raja drove the wrong way up a one-way ramp and approached him in an unmarked van. At the time, Raja was wearing plain clothes and did not identify himself as a police officer. Jones apparently feared he was being robbed, and pulled out a legally purchased handgun. Raja then opened fire and shot Jones multiple times. Raja is the first on-duty Florida officer convicted in a shooting in 30 years.
Police in Boulder, Colorado, have launched an internal affairs probe after video surfaced showing a white police officer drawing a pistol on a black man who was picking up trash outside his own home last week. The video shows the officer approaching the man, who was using a trash picker and bucket to clean up his yard.
Boulder resident: “You’re on my property with a gun in your hand, threatening to shoot me because I’m picking up trash. I hope that camera is on.”
Roommate: “He’s picking up trash, and you have your hand on your gun? Go home!”
In a police report, the officer claimed the man was uncooperative and “unwilling to put down a blunt object”—even though the man and his roommate repeatedly identified the object as a trash picker. The officer who drew his weapon has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation.
In New York City, prosecutors have dropped rape charges against a pair of officers accused of assaulting a woman they’d arrested and handcuffed in their police van in 2017. Prosecutors initially said former NYPD detectives Eddie Martins and Richard Hall raped 18-year-old Anna Chambers after stopping her car and finding a small amount of marijuana and a few anti-anxiety pills in her purse. Testing shows the DNA of both officers was found on the teenager—who testified she was raped. The former police officers claimed the acts were consensual as their defense. At the time, it was not unlawful for New York police officers to have sex with someone in their custody, although the law has since been changed to define such an act as rape. Prosecutors now say they’ll seek to charge the men with official misconduct and bribery.
In Erie, Pennsylvania, union workers have agreed to end their 9-day-old strike at a locomotive plant—the largest work stoppage at a U.S. factory since Donald Trump became president. In late February, more than 1,700 members of the United Electrical Workers union decided to strike after the Wabtec company took control of their plant from GE and refused to honor the union’s prior contract. Thursday’s agreement will provide a 90-day window for the union and plant managers to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.
El Salvador’s Supreme Court has ordered the release of three women imprisoned under the country’s anti-abortion laws, which are among the harshest in the world. The women were among dozens who have been sentenced to up to 30 years for abortion-related crimes. This is Alba Rodríguez, who was freed Thursday after more than eight years in prison.
Alba Rodríguez: “We thank the citizens’ associations, the national and international organizations that supported us. And we hope that the state also recognizes that there are many women inside here that are also innocent and, God willing, one day, can gain their freedom, too.”
And women around the world are marking International Women’s Day with protests for pay equity, reproductive rights and an end to sexual violence. In Spain, thousands of women have gone on strike today to defend gender-violence legislation against efforts by far-right politicians to repeal the landmark law. And in Paris, women gathered outside the Saudi Arabian Embassy for a protest led by Amnesty International demanding the release of jailed women activists in Saudi Arabia.