President Trump issued the second veto of his presidency Tuesday, blocking a congressional effort to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which has killed thousands of civilians and sparked the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The War Powers Resolution was passed by the House earlier this month, following its passage in the Senate last month, with seven Republicans joining minority Democrats. It was the first time Congress has invoked the War Powers Act of 1973 to end a U.S. president’s unilateral decision to wage war abroad.
Congressmember Ro Khanna, who brought the bill before the House, said in a statement, “The Yemen War Powers Resolution was a bipartisan, bicameral effort … and supported by some of the president’s most trusted Republican allies. This resolution nonetheless was a major win. It sends a clear signal to the Saudis that they need to lift their blockade and allow humanitarian assistance into Yemen if they care about their relationship with Congress. [It] will also caution this and future administrations from going to war without first seeking authorization from Congress.” Bernie Sanders, who led the effort to pass the resolution in the Senate, said via Twitter he was disappointed but not surprised by the veto, adding, “The people of Yemen desperately need humanitarian help, not more bombs.”
Attorney General William Barr issued an order Tuesday that could keep thousands of asylum seekers locked up indefinitely. The order, a reversal of existing policy, would affect asylum seekers who enter into the country in between legal ports of entry, by barring immigration judges from granting bonds for their release. Asylum seekers who enter the U.S. at official ports of entry are already unable to be released on bond. The order is set to go into effect in 90 days. Omar Jadwat of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project said in a statement, “This is the Trump administration’s latest assault on people fleeing persecution and seeking refuge in the United States. Our Constitution does not allow the government to lock up asylum seekers without basic due process. We’ll see the administration in court.”
In more immigration news, the Trump administration is resuming its so-called Remain in Mexico policy, after an appeals court stayed a lower court ruling that had blocked the controversial practice. The policy forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases make their way through U.S. courts, which legal experts and rights groups say is illegal. Over 1,100 migrants who entered the country via the southern border have been sent back to Mexico to wait out their court cases since the policy started.
Democrats are seeking information from acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, after reports emerged last week that President Trump told McAleenan he would pardon him if he was put in jail for directing border agents to block entry to asylum seekers, which is illegal. Trump reportedly had the exchange with McAleenan during a visit to the border in Calexico, California, when he was the Customs and Border Protection commissioner, just two days before Trump promoted him to fill the post left vacant by ousted DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
The House Judiciary Committee is also seeking documents related to a March 21 meeting between Trump and Nielsen about reinstating Trump’s “zero tolerance” family separation policy and shutting down the U.S.-Mexico border. The deadline to respond to the committee’s request is April 30.
In London, climate activists from the group Extinction Rebellion continued their campaign Tuesday, blocking major roads and bridges and bringing traffic to a standstill. Demonstrators are demanding the government commit to a zero-carbon economy by 2025. Police arrested over 200 people in London. We’ll have more with two of the activists who participated in the London protests after headlines: Extinction Rebellion co-founder Clare Farrell and international environmental lawyer Farhana Yamin, who was one of the people arrested.
Back in the United States, Extinction Rebellion activists took aim at the Republican Party, protesting in front of the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C. Capitol police arrested a reported eight members of the group as they occupied city streets. Demonstrators called on passersby to support their actions and take a stand against fossil fuel-funded politicians.
Extinction Rebellion activist: “The RNC has been called the biggest criminal enterprise in the history of our species. They are the center of climate denial. We’re out here today as part of the international Extinction Rebellion to let the RNC know that we know what they’re doing. We’re going to continue to call attention to their denial, to how they’re ruining our planet.”
More actions across the U.S., the U.K. and other parts of the world are expected in the coming days.
Parisians held a vigil Tuesday night as France continues to mourn the burning of the famed Notre-Dame cathedral. The fire destroyed the cathedral’s spire and its wooden roof, but rescue efforts succeeded in preserving some of the cathedral’s most treasured relics, including the crown of thorns and the tunic of Saint Louis. French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to rebuild Notre-Dame within five years, as donations for the reconstruction effort reached nearly $1 billion. Paris’s prosecutor said the investigation into the cause of the fire, believed to be an accident, will be long and complex. Authorities say they won’t know the full extent of damage to the cathedral until it is cleared as safe for inspectors
In Sudan, ousted President Omar al-Bashir has been moved to a maximum-security prison. Al-Bashir was overthrown last week following a months-long popular uprising calling for his resignation. The African Union warned Sudan’s transitional military council Tuesday that they have 15 days to install a civilian government or face possible removal from the bloc. Protesters have been staging a massive sit-in in the capital Khartoum, demanding civilian rule.
In Egypt, lawmakers approved new constitutional amendments Tuesday that would allow President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to remain in power until 2030. He is currently scheduled to leave the post in 2022, at the end of his second and current term. The amendments will now be put to a referendum. Critics warn that the changes will only increase Sisi and the military’s authoritarian reach. Sisi’s crackdown on dissent has led to the detention of tens of thousands of people since he came into power in 2014. Last year, Human Rights Watch reported that around 15,000 civilians, including hundreds of children, have been referred to military prosecutors.
In news from Indonesia, early results show President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has been re-elected, defeating former special forces military commander Prabowo Subianto by about 10 percentage points. Prabowo is the former son-in-law of Indonesia’s longtime dictator Suharto. Investigative journalist Allan Nairn recently revealed Prabowo had made plans to stage mass arrests of political opponents and his current allies if he won. Click here to see our recent interview with Allan Nairn on the Indonesian election.
In Libya, the humanitarian crisis is growing as fighting continues to escalate around the capital Tripoli. The U.N. says that more than 18,000 people have been displaced in the past two weeks. The U.N. is attempting to relocate jailed refugees and migrants, but they warn some 3,000 locked-up migrants are now trapped in or around the combat zone. On Tuesday, at least four people were killed during heavy shelling on the southern outskirts of Tripoli, according to local reports. Libya’s deputy prime minister said on Tuesday that renegade General Khalifa Haftar, who is leading the eastern-based Libyan National Army’s offensive on Tripoli, is attempting to stage a military coup.
In Israel, a court ruled Tuesday that an investigator for Human Rights Watch must leave the country by May 1. Omar Shakir is the Israel and Palestine director for HRW. The Israeli government revoked his work visa last year under a law that bars entry to foreigners who call for boycotts of Israel or Israeli settlements. In a statement, Human Rights Watch denied that Shakir or the organization have ever called for boycotts of Israel, adding, “The decision sends the chilling message that those who criticize the involvement of businesses in serious abuses in Israeli settlements risk being barred from Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.” Human Rights Watch says it will appeal the deportation order to the Israeli Supreme Court.
Digital freedom advocates are calling for the release of Swedish programmer and data privacy activist Ola Bini, who has been detained in Ecuador since last Thursday. His arrest came hours after WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was dragged by British police from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. Bini is accused of hacking government computers. Prosecutors in Ecuador said they plan to charge Bini with plotting to blackmail Ecuadorean President Lenín Moreno. Critics say Bini is being targeted because of his close relationship with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. This is his lawyer, Carlos Soria.
Carlos Soria: “What Ola Bini does is encrypt information so that, as a matter of fact, hackers, as you like to call them, do not have access to information and cannot steal it. He does exactly the opposite of what he is being accused of.”
In Colorado, schools across 20 districts in the Denver area are closed today as authorities hunt for a woman they say is “infatuated” with the Columbine massacre and traveled to Denver Monday. Eighteen-year-old Sol Pais reportedly bought a gun and ammunition after arriving in Denver and made threats that the FBI say are “credible” but nonspecific. Denver area schools, including Columbine High School, increased security Tuesday after the news broke. The 20th anniversary of the mass shooting at Columbine High—in which two students killed 12 fellow students and one teacher—is this Saturday, April 20.
A woman is suing controversial Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz for defamation in relation to an ongoing sexual abuse case involving his client, billionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Virginia Giuffre—who alleges Epstein sexually abused and trafficked her in the early 2000s starting when she was 16 years old—says that Dershowitz participated in the sex trafficking, and accuses him of later falsely claiming she fabricated the accusations and that he had never met her.
The lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York Tuesday, brings to light an affidavit by Maria Farmer, a former employee of Epstein’s who says she frequently witnessed school-age girls coming to Epstein’s New York City mansion, and that on a number of occasions Dershowitz would “go upstairs” with the underage girls. Dershowitz has denied the claims. Farmer also revealed she and her sister were also assaulted by Epstein, as well as his alleged madam, Ghislaine Maxwell. She was 26 at the time of the alleged assaults in 1996, and her sister just 15. Dershowitz, who is a close friend of Epstein’s, helped him secure a plea deal after he was arrested in 2006 for sexually abusing dozens of underage girls in Florida.
In New Jersey, Rutgers University faculty and union members are celebrating after reaching a tentative agreement with the school’s administration, avoiding what would have been the first strike in Rutgers’s 253-year history. Under the new contract, teaching assistants will see a pay raise. Gender pay gaps—as well as pay gaps between different campuses—will be closed. Non-tenure lecturers will also be granted contracts of up to seven years. The school’s administration also agreed to guarantee a workplace free of sexual and online harassment. The tentative contract will now be voted on by union members.
Residents of Papua are mourning the death of West Papuan peace advocate Neles Tebay, who died Sunday at the age of 55 after a battle with cancer. Tebay was the coordinator of the Papua Peace Network and a Catholic priest, who covered human rights stories and military conflict in the region for The Jakarta Post and other outlets. He was credited with helping establish a dialogue between the Indonesian government and West Papuans who have been seeking independence since the 1960s. Tens of thousands have been killed by Indonesian security forces since the 1990s. In 2017, Indonesian President Joko Widodo appointed Tebay as an adviser on Indonesia’s relationship with West Papua. Neles Tebay continued to tirelessly campaign for peace even as his cancer progressed in recent years.