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Attorney General William Barr defended his handling of the Robert Mueller investigation to the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, as Democrats accused him of working as an agent of President Trump rather than the top U.S. law enforcement official. During hours of rancorous testimony, Barr repeatedly refused to answer senators’ questions about his conclusions that President Trump did not obstruct justice in his attempts to end the Mueller investigation. This week, The Washington Post and New York Times reported that Mueller wrote to Barr in March complaining that his initial 4-page summary of the special counsel’s findings “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of Mueller’s report. This is Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal questioning Barr about Mueller’s letter.
Attorney General William Barr: “You know, the letter is a bit snitty, and I think it was probably written by one of his staff people.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal: “Did you make a memorandum of your conversation?”
Attorney General William Barr: “Huh?”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal: “Did you make a memorandum?”
Attorney General William Barr: “No, I didn’t make a memorandum.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal: “Or did anyone else?”
Attorney General William Barr: “What?”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal: “Did anyone, either you or anyone on your staff, memorialize your conversation with Robert Mueller?”
Attorney General William Barr: “Yes.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal: “Who did that?”
Attorney General William Barr: “There were notes taken of the call.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal: “May we have those notes?”
Attorney General William Barr: “No.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal: “Why not?”
Attorney General William Barr: “Why should you have them?”
After the hearing, some lawmakers suggested Barr should be held in criminal contempt of Congress. Meanwhile, Barr said he would refuse to testify for a second day today before the House Judiciary Committee, refusing to be questioned by the committee’s lawyers.
In Venezuela, government security forces clashed with anti-government protesters in the streets of Caracas Wednesday, one day after Venezuelan opposition leaders launched a failed bid to overthrow the government of President Nicolás Maduro. Speaking to a massive crowd of supporters outside the presidential palace of Miraflores, Maduro said Wednesday that President Trump—and his national security adviser John Bolton—were directly involved in the attempted coup d’état.
President Nicolás Maduro: “The coup that was attempted yesterday, this coup skirmish, was personally directed from the White House, from John Bolton. I denounce it.”
In Washington, the National Security Council held a principals’ meeting on Wednesday to discuss Venezuela. The Washington Post reports the staff of national security adviser John Bolton clashed with a top general during the meeting for not presenting sufficient military options on Venezuela. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Fox Business channel the Trump administration is ready to go to war in Venezuela.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: “The president has been crystal clear and incredibly consistent. Military action is possible. If that’s what’s required, that’s what the United States will do.”
After headlines, we’ll go to Caracas, Venezuela, for the latest.
On Wednesday, hundreds of thousands of workers took to the streets of cities worldwide to mark May Day, or International Workers’ Day. In St. Petersburg, Russia, police arrested 69 people as May Day protesters chanted slogans critical of President Vladimir Putin. In Paris, France, yellow vest protesters joined unions and environmentalists in the streets as police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse tens of thousands of demonstrators; 380 people were arrested.
In Haiti, protesters filled streets of Port-au-Prince on May Day calling for an increase in the minimum wage in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. They also called on President Jovenel Moïse to step down over an embezzlement scandal that saw some $4.3 billion in PetroCaribe funds earmarked for social development go missing.
In Honduras, lawmakers say they’ll suspend ratification of a pair of bills that would restructure the ministries of education and health, after massive protests in the capital Tegucigalpa saw protesters clash with riot police. The bills have the support of the U.S.-backed president, Juan Orlando Hernández, but are deeply unpopular among doctors and teachers, who say they’re aimed at mass layoffs ahead of the wholesale privatization of Honduras’s education and healthcare systems.
In Puerto Rico, hundreds of activists marched to San Juan’s financial district on May Day to protest the federally appointed fiscal control board and the reappointment of its members by President Trump. The board has been implementing a series of austerity measures, including pension cuts, university tuition hikes and the closing of public schools. This is Vanessa Contreras of the group Feminist Collective Under Construction.
Vanessa Contreras: “You need to bet on public services, which are needed for the quality of life for all people. We need an increase in salaries, an increase in pensions. We need to give money to public schools, so that they can rise. We need to support the University of Puerto Rico. We demand workers’ rights, unionization, and the protection of lands. We want all people to have a safe roof. In moments of financial crisis, the last thing we should be doing is putting people out in the streets.”
In South Carolina, 10,000 teachers and their supporters flooded the grounds of the state Capitol in Columbia Wednesday in a protest calling for collective bargaining rights and for better pay and working conditions. Teachers marked May Day with South Carolina’s first-ever “sick out”—using sick days to shut down seven major school districts.
In New York City, hundreds of people marked May Day outside the Trump Building on Wall Street, protesting President Trump’s border wall and denouncing wage inequality. This is Christine Lewis, a domestic worker and labor organizer with Domestic Workers United.
Christine Lewis: “We are women, immigrant women, who work in the homes as nannies, caregivers, elder caregivers. We’re on Wall Street Half of these people in these buildings here have somebody who’s working care—who’s taking care of their home, their family and their dogs and their children. Who’s that person? … On this International Workers’ Day, my ask is that women who work in the homes be respected, the job is seen as real work, and a decent living wage.”
In Texas, U.S. officials say a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy died Tuesday while in the custody of U.S. immigration agencies—the third such migrant child death in recent months. Guatemala’s Foreign Ministry says the boy—whose name has not been released—died of a severe infection in the frontal lobe of his brain after he fell ill in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement two days after his arrest by Customs and Border Protection in El Paso, Texas. A statement from the group Families Belong Together read, “Too many children have lost their lives in the custody of our government. President Trump should be ashamed. Family separation and his cruel immigration agenda are literally killing children.”
On Capitol Hill, a House Judiciary subcommittee on Tuesday held the first congressional hearings on the Equal Rights Amendment in more than 35 years. The proposed constitutional amendment states simply, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” The ERA was approved by Congress in 1972 and was ratified by 35 states over the next decade—three states short of the required total needed by a 1982 deadline. A bill by Congressmember Jackie Speier would eliminate that deadline.
Alabama’s House of Representatives has advanced the most restrictive abortion ban in the United States, voting in favor of a bill that would make it a felony punishable by up to 99 years in prison to provide a woman with an abortion—even for survivors of rape and incest. If approved by Alabama’s Senate and signed by Republican Governor Kay Ivey, the abortion ban would be the latest state law challenging the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade decision.
In the Indian Ocean, Cyclone Fani has strengthened into the worst tropical storm to threaten India and Bangladesh in at least five years. The cyclone is packing winds of about 120 miles per hour, making it the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane. About 100 million people are in the path of the storm.
And in Britain, the House of Commons Wednesday became the first parliament in the world to declare a climate emergency. This is Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Jeremy Corbyn: “We have no time to waste. We are living in a climate crisis that will spiral dangerously out of control unless we take rapid and dramatic action now. This is no longer about a distant future. We’re talking about nothing less than the irreversible destruction of the environment within our lifetimes of members of this house.”
Wednesday’s resolution is largely symbolic. It comes on the heels of April’s Extinction Rebellion uprising in London that saw police arrest more than 1,000 protesters, many of whom superglued themselves to buildings, trains and sidewalks in a nonviolent direct action campaign.