Attorney General William Barr is releasing Robert Mueller’s long-anticipated report into Russian interference in the 2016 election, with large portions of the more than 300-page document redacted. Barr says he’s withholding parts of the report in order to protect the personal privacy of third parties, to avoid compromising intelligence sources and methods, and to protect grand jury material and ongoing investigations. Barr is set to hold a press conference at 9:30 a.m. ahead of the report’s release, which is expected some time after 11 a.m. House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler said Wednesday Barr was hoping to spin the report—to paper over damning evidence of misdeeds by President Trump and his associates.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler: “The fact that the attorney general is not releasing even the redacted report to Congress until after his press conference will again result in the report being presented through his own words rather than through the words of special counsel Mueller. The central concern here is that the Attorney General Barr is not allowing the facts of the Mueller report to speak for themselves, but is trying to bake in the narrative about the report to the benefit of the White House.”
The Mueller report’s release comes after Justice Department officials reportedly held numerous conversations with White House lawyers about the document in recent days. Barr has said the report shows no evidence President Trump or his associates colluded with Russia. The Justice Department said it was sending Congress a different version of the Mueller report with fewer redactions. Democratic lawmakers are demanding the release of the full Mueller report and have said they will subpoena the entire document as early as Friday.
The Trump administration said Wednesday it is further tightening sanctions on Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. President Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, announced the sanctions during a belligerent speech in Miami, mocking the presidents of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua as the “three stooges of socialism.” Bolton was addressing veterans of the Bay of Pigs invasion as they marked the 58th anniversary of the failed CIA plot to overthrow Fidel Castro.
John Bolton: “Under this administration, we don’t throw dictators lifelines; we will take them away. … Today, we proudly proclaim, for all to hear: The Monroe Doctrine is alive and well.”
The heaviest sanctions will fall on Cuba. They will severely limit the amount of money people in the U.S. can remit to relatives on the island. Meanwhile, U.S. citizens will be allowed to sue companies that do business in Cuba using property that was repatriated by the Cuban revolution. The sanctions drew immediate condemnation from countries around the world, with U.S. allies in Europe and Canada promising counterlawsuits and a challenge at the World Trade Organization. This is former Cuban diplomat Carlos Alzugaray, responding from Havana.
Carlos Alzugaray: “The United States thinks that those octogenarians who were defeated at the Bay of Pigs will win something, but they probably won’t get anything. What I would say to Cubans is: Who is going to take this away from us? We are here. The properties are here; they’re not on the moon or in the United States.”
North Korea says it tested a new type of short-range guided weapon on Wednesday, in its first public acknowledgment of a weapons test since President Trump walked away from a U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi in February without a deal. North Korea also said it no longer wants U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to play a role in negotiations on denuclearization. A statement by the Korean Central News Agency said negotiators wanted someone to take the lead in talks who is “more careful and mature in communicating.”
North Korea’s moves came as the Trump administration suddenly halted—without explanation—a long-standing practice of declassifying the current size of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal. Last year, the State Department declared the U.S. has stockpiled 3,822 nuclear warheads.
In Peru, former President Alan García died by suicide Wednesday as police arrived at his home in Lima to arrest him on charges of bribery and corruption. Police say García shot himself in the neck as he faced the prospect of prison for the first time. García served two five-year terms as president, beginning in 1985 and again in 2006—returning to Peru from exile in 2001 only after the statute of limitations on corruption charges stemming from his first term in office expired. He was the fifth former head of state in Peru to face an investigation for alleged corruption.
Back in the United States, police in Colorado say they discovered the body of a Florida teenager Wednesday after she allegedly threatened to mark the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings with a massacre of her own. Eighteen-year-old Sol Pais was found in the mountains west of Denver, dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police said Pais was “infatuated” with the Columbine massacre and traveled to Denver Monday, buying a gun and ammunition before making threats that the FBI called “credible” but nonspecific. The threats prompted authorities to cancel Wednesday classes for more than a half-million students across Colorado’s Front Range. This is John McDonald, director of the Jefferson County Department of School Safety.
John McDonald: “Looking at school shooters and the history of what we’ve seen for the last 20 years, there are some real indicators that we look at—the fact that she was committed; purchased a plane ticket; not only purchased a plane ticket but made that journey, that pilgrimage to Columbine; once she got into our area, purchased a gun.”
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said Wednesday his office would no longer oppose a bid by imprisoned former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal to reargue his case. The move paves the way for Abu-Jamal to get a new hearing to appeal his 1981 conviction for the murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. Mumia Abu-Jamal is an award-winning journalist who spent nearly three decades on death row; he remains in a Pennsylvania prison serving a sentence of life without parole.
The New York State Parole Board has granted parole to prisoner Judith Clark, who drove a getaway car during a 1981 robbery in Rockland County that left a security guard and two police officers dead. The robbery was aimed at expropriating money from a Brink’s armored car for the Republic of New Afrika. Clark was sentenced to 75 years for second-degree murder and robbery, although she did not fire any shots. Clark’s parole comes two years after Governor Andrew Cuomo commuted her sentence of 75 years to life, citing her “exceptional strides in self-development” as a model prisoner who worked tirelessly to bring education, prenatal care and AIDS counseling to fellow prisoners. She’s scheduled for release from prison by May 15.
President Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump confirmed Wednesday that her father offered her the role of World Bank president, but said she turned down the offer because she’s happy in her role as a senior White House adviser. Last week, President Trump told The Atlantic Monthly he offered his eldest daughter the role “because she’s very good with numbers.”
Bloomberg News is reporting that former Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry is planning to leave his post as secretary of the Department of Energy, where he worked to speed coal, oil, gas and nuclear production while slashing federal funds for research and development into renewable energy. In 2012, Perry infamously forgot the name of the Department of Energy as he proposed abolishing three federal agencies during a Republican presidential debate. He was later tapped by President Trump to lead one of the agencies he wanted to do away with.
At the Vatican, 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg was greeted by Pope Francis Wednesday, as she continues to lead a campaign to press European leaders to act urgently on climate change. Last August, Thunberg began a series of school strikes on the climate outside the Swedish parliament, which quickly grew from a quiet, one-person weekly vigil to an international protest movement involving hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren. On Tuesday, Thunberg addressed the European Parliament, where she urged lawmakers to respond as urgently to climate change as they did when much of Paris’s Notre-Dame cathedral burned on Monday.
Greta Thunberg: “Yesterday, the world watched with despair and enormous sorrow how the Notre-Dame burnt in Paris. Some buildings are more than just buildings. But the Notre-Dame will be rebuilt. I hope that its foundations are strong. I hope that our foundations are even stronger, but I fear they are not.”
In London, climate activists with the Extinction Rebellion group chained and superglued themselves to the home of U.K. Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn Wednesday, as part of a third day of direct action protests aimed at spurring urgent action on climate change. Many of the protesters said they supported Corbyn but wanted his party to declare a national climate emergency. Elsewhere in London, protesters continued to occupy the busy Oxford Circus shopping district and superglued themselves to a train, delaying service.
And in New York City, 62 activists with Extinction Rebellion were arrested after shutting down traffic and staging a die-in outside City Hall on Wednesday. The demonstrators partially blocked access to the Brooklyn Bridge, lying down in the street and scaling stoplights to demand radical action on climate change. Democracy Now!’s Tey Astudillo and Libby Rainey were at the protest.
Extinction Rebellion activists: [singing] “We are the Earth. We are the sea. We won’t stop rising ’til we are free.”
Rev. Chelsea MacMillan: “I’m Reverend Chelsea MacMillan, and this is Extinction Rebellion. We are joining rebels all over the world, standing up for climate change. We need to declare a climate emergency and take swift action to change the course of human history right now. … We’re about to get arrested. We’ve been blocking this road. And we’re here to show New York City that we’re serious, that we need to do something now and we need to do something fast about climate change.”
Extinction Rebellion activist 1: “How long are we going to let these profit-driven systems drive our extinction? We have less than 12 years!”
Extinction Rebellion activist 2: “There’s an emergency with the climate, and most people don’t know the gravity of the situation, really. Watch climate videos.”
New York City Police Department: “This is the New York City Police Department. You are unlawfully in the roadway and obstructing vehicular traffic. You are ordered to leave the roadway and utilize the available sidewalk.”
Eve Mosher: “My name is Eve Mosher, and I’m here with Extinction Rebellion. We’re here to get our New York City and New York state government to recognize that climate change is the most urgent issue of our time and that they need to act accordingly. The science shows that we have to make drastic reductions, and we have to make those reductions now. And so we’re out here asking them to act like—Mayor de Blasio has said it is an emergency, and we want him to act like it’s emergency. Extinction Rebellion has four demands. In the U.S., we have the demand that the government and the media tell the truth about the urgency of climate change. We are asking for them to act now to maintain the ecosystem and get us to net zero by 2025, which is very aggressive. We’re also asking for citizens’ assemblies. We don’t trust the government to do this on their own; we need oversight from citizens. And in the U.S., we’re asking for a just transition, that we pay attention to the fact that we’ve caused harm to entire communities with our environmental economy—extractive economy. And we want something done about that.”
Ben Shepard: “I’m Ben Shepard of Brooklyn, New York. We’re here to demand that the mayor declare a climate emergency. I’m the father of two girls. I want them to have a future in New York City. But it looks like the city is going to be flooded, underwater, unless the mayor declares emergency. I’m prepared to get arrested so my kids will have a future. The only way change ever happens in this country is if people put their bodies on the line.”
The New York City Council will vote today on legislation to drastically slash the emissions of big buildings, mandating a 40% emissions reduction by 2030 that would rise to 80% by 2050. Buildings generate two-thirds of New York City’s emissions. The city is one of the first in the U.S. to heed the Green New Deal’s call to upgrade all existing buildings to be more energy efficient.