The Trump administration admitted Wednesday that a 10-year-old girl from El Salvador died in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services last September, making her at least the sixth child to die in recent months after crossing into the United States from Mexico. The Office of Refugee Resettlement described the girl—who was not named—as “medically fragile” and said she died of fever and respiratory distress in an Omaha, Nebraska, hospital. Wednesday’s disclosure drew protests from Democratic lawmakers, who accused the Trump administration of covering up the death for eight months. Five other children—all of them from Guatemala—have died in U.S. custody or shortly after being released recently. Before last year, no child died in immigration custody in over a decade.
On Wednesday, lawmakers on the House Homeland Security Committee grilled acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan about the deaths. This is Illinois freshman Democratic Congressmember Lauren Underwood.
Rep. Lauren Underwood: “At this point, with five kids that have died, 5,000 separated from their families, I feel like—and the evidence is really clear—that this is intentional. It’s intentional. It’s a policy choice being made on purpose by this administration, and it’s cruel and inhumane. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.”
Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan: “That’s an appalling accusation, and our men and women fight hard to protect people in our custody every single day.”
After that exchange, Republicans on the Homeland Security Committee led a vote to admonish Congressmember Underwood, had her statement stricken from the record and barred her from talking during the remainder of the session.
In New York City, a federal judge ruled Wednesday that Deutsche Bank and Capital One must turn over financial documents subpoenaed by Congress, as lawmakers investigate whether Trump’s business ties are influencing White House policy. Deutsche Bank loaned over $2 billion to Trump for real estate deals over nearly two decades, even when other banks refused to do so. The decision came two days after a D.C. district judge upheld a subpoena ordering Trump’s accounting firm to hand over 10 years of Trump’s financial records.
Meanwhile, New York lawmakers approved a bill Wednesday that would give Congress access to President Trump’s state tax returns. New York Assemblymember Barbara Lifton said her constituents are demanding the legislation.
Assemblymember Barbara Lifton: “They are deeply concerned, as am I, that our democracy is being undermined on a daily basis by the current administration, and the power of Congress to provide proper and constitutional oversight of the executive branch is being abrogated to an unprecedented degree.”
President Trump stormed out of a White House meeting Wednesday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, saying he won’t work with the Democratic leaders until they end what he called “phony” inquiries into his presidency. Trump’s outburst came just hours after Pelosi accused him of engaging in a “cover-up” by resisting congressional subpoenas.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “We believe that no one is above the law, including the president of the United States. And we believe that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up.”
Trump cited Pelosi’s comment as his reason for storming out of Wednesday’s meeting. He spoke to reporters in the White House Rose Garden just after the confrontation.
President Donald Trump: “I don’t do cover-ups. You people know that probably better than anybody.”
Trump’s outburst ended discussions with Pelosi and Schumer on a $2 trillion plan to reinvest in U.S. infrastructure. After the aborted meeting, Sen. Schumer said Trump had clearly planned the move in advance.
Sen. Chuck Schumer: “It’s clear that this was not a spontaneous move on the president’s part. It was planned. When we got in the room, the curtains were closed. The president, there was a place for him at the front so he could stand and attempt to tell us why he wouldn’t do infrastructure. And, of course, then he went to the Rose Garden with prepared signs that had been printed up long before our meeting.”
Meanwhile, House Speaker Pelosi’s staff held a caucus meeting Wednesday to tamp down demands by many Democrats to open impeachment proceedings against Trump.
Pentagon officials are preparing to deploy up to 10,000 more troops to the Middle East, as President Trump and his top foreign policy advisers continue to threaten war with Iran. The AP reports the Pentagon will brief the White House today on a plan that also requests more U.S. ships, missile batteries and increased efforts to spy on Iran.
In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is poised to enter a second five-year term, after election returns show him winning a six-week-long parliamentary election that was widely seen as a referendum on his leadership. Election results so far show Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP party leading in 300 of the 543 seats in Parliament. If the trend holds, Modi will have an even greater majority than in 2014, when his party claimed the first outright majority in decades. We’ll have more on Modi’s apparent election victory in India later in the broadcast.
In Missouri, severe storms tore through Jefferson City overnight, spawning tornadoes that flattened buildings and damaged the state Capitol building. Authorities reported at least three storm-related deaths across Missouri on Wednesday. Meanwhile, there are forecasts for record-breaking high temperatures in the Southeast—with highs of over 100 degrees possible in an area stretching from Virginia to Alabama. The extreme weather is consistent with models of climate change.
John Walker Lindh, an American captured in Afghanistan in 2001 and convicted of serving the Taliban, is set to be released from an Indiana prison today after spending 17 years behind bars. Known as the “American Taliban,” Lindh converted to Islam at the age of 16 and ended up in Afghanistan, where he fought with the Taliban-run Afghan army against the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan’s civil war. He was captured in late 2001 after being found emaciated and wounded as one of the few to survive a massacre by the Northern Alliance. He was then handed to U.S. forces, but they brutalized him, as well. Former Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld had ordered them to “take the gloves off.” When he returned to the United States in January 2002, Lindh was being held as a prisoner accused of conspiring to kill Americans. As part of a plea deal, Lindh pleaded guilty to serving in the Taliban army and carrying weapons, and was given a 20-year sentence.
And Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday that plans to replace Andrew Jackson’s portrait on the $20 bill with abolitionist leader Harriet Tubman are on hold until at least 2026. Tubman would be the first woman in over a century—and the first African American—to appear on a U.S. banknote. This is Massachusetts Democrat and freshman Congressmember Ayanna Pressley questioning Mnuchin on Wednesday.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley: “The American people understood the importance of representation on the banknotes of the world’s most powerful economy. … Do you support Harriet Tubman being on the $20 bill?”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin: “I’ve made no decision as it relates to that, and that decision won’t be made, in, as I said”—
Rep. Ayanna Pressley: “But there was a community process.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin: —”until most likely 2026.”
Rep. Ayanna Pressley: “There was a national—there was a community process.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin: “Again, it’s a decision of the secretary of the Treasury. Right now my decision is focused on security features.”
President Trump has cited Andrew Jackson as his favorite U.S. president. Jackson was a slaveholder who in 1830 signed the Indian Removal Act, which forced 16,000 Native Americans from their lands in what became known as the Trail of Tears.