The United States has charged WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with violating the U.S. Espionage Act. On Thursday, the Justice Department announced 17 new charges against Assange over his role in the 2010 Chelsea Manning leaks, in a case that many are warning poses a grave threat to the First Amendment. This is the first time a publisher has been charged under the World War I-era law. Assange faces up to 10 years for each count of violating the Espionage Act—up to 170 years in prison. As the news broke, Trevor Timm of the Freedom of the Press Foundation said, “Put simply, these unprecedented charges against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are the most significant and terrifying threat to the First Amendment in the 21st century.” After headlines, we’ll speak with Assange’s attorney and with legendary whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said today she will resign on June 7, ending a three-year term that saw her repeatedly try—and fail—to usher through Britain’s plan to leave the European Union. Her announcement came as British voters are set to deliver a stinging defeat to her party in European Parliament elections, with the newly formed Brexit Party expected to win when results are announced on Sunday. Prime Minister May’s departure will come days after she’s set to host an official state visit for President Donald Trump and his family on June 3. Prince Charles has invited Trump to tea at an official royal residence, where he’s expected to raise the issue of climate change. This weekend, Trump will travel to Japan for a state visit, where he’ll meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Japan’s new emperor, Naruhito.
Senate Democrats are warning the Trump administration is preparing to circumvent Congress to push through $7 billion worth of U.S. weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other administration officials are reportedly pressing Trump to declare a national emergency, which would bar Congress from halting the sale of precision-guided munitions and warplanes. The move follows public outcry over the massive civilian death toll from the Saudi-led war on Yemen, and last year’s murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Last month, Trump vetoed a congressional War Powers Resolution ordering the U.S. to halt most military support for the war in Yemen.
President Trump has given Attorney General William Barr broad new powers to review how the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia were investigated. The order will give Barr oversight to compel the CIA, the FBI and more than a dozen other intelligence agencies to declassify documents. Trump’s order came just hours after he claimed former FBI Director James Comey and former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe were guilty of “treason.” Last month, Barr told lawmakers he believes intelligence agencies spied on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign—echoing Trump’s repeated accusation, made without evidence, that President Obama wiretapped Trump’s phones ahead of the election.
President Trump and his political allies launched an attack on Nancy Pelosi Thursday, calling the Democratic House Speaker “crazy.” Trump spoke one day after he left a White House meeting with Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer in a staged walkout, demanding Congress end investigations into his presidency.
President Donald Trump: “So I walked into the Cabinet Room. You had the group—crying Chuck, crazy Nancy. I tell you what, I’ve been watching her, and I have—I have been watching her for a long period of time. She’s not the same person. She’s lost it.”
Trump’s attack on the House speaker came after Pelosi accused Trump of throwing a “temper tantrum” during Wednesday’s aborted meeting at the White House.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “Another temper tantrum. Again, I pray for the president of the United States. I wish that his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention, for the good of the country.”
This comes as a doctored video of Pelosi went viral in right-wing social media circles. The video, edited from an appearance by Pelosi this week at the Center for American Progress, was slowed down to 75% speed in order to make Pelosi sound as though she was slurring her words. By Thursday night, versions of the video had circulated to millions of social media users, many of whom commented that they believed Pelosi was drunk. The video was also shared by President Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani, who tweeted—and later deleted—the comment, “What is wrong with Nancy Pelosi? Her speech pattern is bizarre.” Meanwhile, President Trump retweeted a mashup video of Pelosi edited by the Fox Business channel with the caption, ”PELOSI STAMMERS THROUGH NEWS CONFERENCE.”
President Trump lashed out at former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Thursday after Tillerson spent seven hours in a closed-door session with the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The Washington Post reports topics of Tuesday’s discussion focused on Tillerson’s relationships with President Trump, his family and other White House advisers; Middle East and North Korea policy; and Trump’s interactions with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting in Germany last July. A congressional aide who was present for Tillerson’s testimony later told the Post, “We spent a lot of time in the conversation talking about how Putin seized every opportunity to push what he wanted. There was a discrepancy in preparation, and it created an unequal footing.” Responding to Tillerson’s testimony on Twitter, President Trump called his former secretary of state “dumb as a rock” and “totally ill prepared and ill equipped to be Secretary of State.”
An associate of Donald Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort was indicted Thursday on bribery charges. New York City prosecutors say Stephen Calk, the former chair and CEO of Federal Savings Bank in Chicago, approved $16 million in high-risk loans to Manafort in an effort to win a senior position in the Trump administration. Prosecutors say that after receiving the loans, Manafort made at least two calls to Trump’s transition team in late 2016 asking for Calk to be appointed secretary of the Army. Calk faces up to 30 years in prison; he pleaded not guilty at an arraignment in a Manhattan court on Thursday.
President Trump promised Thursday to spend $16 billion to relieve farmers and agribusiness companies who’ve lost revenue to the growing U.S. trade war with China. Speaking to a crowd of farmers and ranchers brought into the White House, Trump repeated his false claim that China would reimburse the U.S. for the losses. The move came as China’s retaliatory tariffs on U.S. vegetables and meat products have driven commodity prices to their lowest level in over a decade.
President Trump is preparing to name former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli as “immigration czar” to oversee the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration policies, in a new role that won’t require Senate confirmation. Cuccinelli is a climate change denier who ran unsuccessfully for Virginia governor in 2013. As a state lawmaker in Virginia, Cuccinelli authored legislation seeking to force employees to speak English in the workplace, and he unsuccessfully fought to eliminate the 14th Amendment’s birthright citizenship clause.
Meanwhile, the family of 16-year-old migrant Carlos Hernández Vásquez is demanding answers about how the teen died this week in U.S. Border Patrol custody after being diagnosed with the flu. This is the boy’s mother, Gilberta Vásquez, speaking from Guatemala.
Gilberta Vásquez: “There is no information about how he died. That is what I want to know. And, so, what I am fighting for is for them to send me the body as soon as possible, because why do they want to have him there? Why do they want him? Because they didn’t take care of him.”
At least six migrant children have died over the last eight months after they were arrested crossing into the U.S. from Mexico. Before last year, no child died in immigration custody in over a decade.
In Nicaragua, opponents of President Daniel Ortega held a one-day general strike Thursday to demand the release of hundreds of political prisoners. The nationwide strike came days after Ortega’s government said it would begin releasing another 100 prisoners swept up in mass arrests during protests that erupted a year ago, after Ortega tried to cut social security benefits. Opposition groups say they’re pressuring the government to meet terms of a peace deal requiring the release of almost 300 political prisoners by June 18.
Back in the United States, a new campaign is calling on 2020 presidential candidates to pledge to cut Pentagon spending by at least $200 billion annually to pay for Medicare for all, a Green New Deal and other programs. The campaign pledge, called “Put People Over the Pentagon,” also promotes alternatives to war and presses lawmakers to prevent the president from ordering military action without a declaration of war from Congress.
Meanwhile, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has unveiled a bill that would apply a small tax on Wall Street transactions in order to raise hundreds of billions of dollars for social programs. The legislation would tax stock, bond and derivatives trades in order to fund job creation, Medicare for all, free public college, environmental and climate change programs, housing assistance and HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention. The bill was co-sponsored in the House by Democrat Barbara Lee of California.
Rep. Barbara Lee: “With just a fraction—and this is a very modest proposal—a fraction of a tax on Wall Street, we can raise over $220 billion per year. That’s $2.2 trillion over 10 years. And just think of what we could do with those resources and with that money.”
The bill has the backing of another 2020 presidential contender, New York Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. On Wednesday, Gillibrand proposed a “Family Bill of Rights” that would see the U.S. invest more in maternal and child health, paid family leave, affordable child care and universal pre-K.
Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has reached a tentative $44 million deal to settle a number of lawsuits, including a class-action suit brought by alleged survivors of rape and sexual assault. The Wall Street Journal reports the deal will see $14 million used to pay legal fees of Mr. Weinstein’s associates, including his former board members; the remaining $30 million will go to settle claims by survivors who allege sexual crimes going back decades. The tentative settlement won’t affect a criminal case against Weinstein in New York City charging him with rape and other sex crimes. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty; his trial is scheduled for September.
And youth activists in cities around the world have launched another one-day global climate strike that could rival a March 15 action that saw an estimated 1.6 million participants. Organizers, inspired by 16-year-old Swedish high school student Greta Thunberg, say they’re planning more than 1,350 separate strikes in every continent on Earth today—including two strikes in Antarctica. This is 19-year-old activist Marta Macías from Madrid, Spain.
Marta Macías: “It’s estimated we have 11 years before climate change is irreversible. And if we don’t take the necessary measures over these 11 years, we will end up without a planet. I want to defend my life on this planet, as well as the survival of my species and all of the other species that live on it.”