U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday directly blamed Iran for an apparent attack on a pair of oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz. Pompeo made the accusation just hours after the incident, which damaged Japanese- and Norwegian-owned ships without injuring either ship’s crew members.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: “This assessment is based on intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication.”
A grainy video handout provided by the Pentagon shows what the U.S. claims is surveillance footage of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded mine from the side of the Japanese oil tanker attacked. However, the president of the Japanese company that owns the ship said it was not attacked by mines but two flying objects. He also said he does not believe any objects were attached to the side of the ship. Iran denied any involvement and accused the Trump administration of trying to sabotage diplomacy. We’ll have more on the growing tensions between the U.S. and Iran after headlines with Vijay Prashad.
The head of the Federal Elections Commission warned Thursday that candidates for public office are prohibited by law from receiving help from a foreign government. The warning was a clear rebuke to Donald Trump after the president told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos this week that he might accept “dirt” on political rivals from foreign actors in the 2020 election.
George Stephanopoulos: “Your campaign this time around, if foreigners, if Russia, if China, if someone else offers you information on opponents, should they accept it, or should they call the FBI?”
President Donald Trump: “I think maybe you do both. I think you might want to listen. I don’t—there’s nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country—Norway—’We have information on your opponent.’ Oh. I think I’d want to hear it.”
George Stephanopoulos: “You want that kind of interference in our elections?”
President Donald Trump: “It’s not an interference. They have information. I think I’d take it.”
In a statement posted online one day after Trump’s remarks aired on ABC, FEC Chair Ellen Weintraub said, “Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office. It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election. This is not a novel concept.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday she will step down at the end of June after nearly two years on the job. As President Trump’s spokesperson, Sanders defended the administration’s most notorious policies, including the Muslim travel ban, family separations and the mistreatment of migrants in U.S. custody. Sanders repeatedly lied about basic facts, falsely claiming President Trump never promoted violence at his rallies, denying knowledge about hush-money payments Trump paid to former adult film star Stormy Daniels, and making false claims about African-American employment under Trump. Sanders hasn’t held a press conference in 95 days; a photo tweeted by CNN’s Maegan Vazquez a month ago showed dust gathering on the lectern in the White House briefing room.
A federal watchdog recommended Thursday that Kellyanne Conway be removed from her post as White House counselor for violating the Hatch Act, a law barring federal employees from engaging in political activity as part of their official duties. In a report submitted to President Trump, the Office of Special Counsel called Conway a “repeat offender,” saying she has repeatedly used TV appearances and social media to disparage Democratic presidential candidates.
Among Conway’s ethics violations, she twice violated the Hatch Act by endorsing Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore while speaking in her official capacity for the White House. In early 2017, Conway used an appearance on “Fox & Friends” to promote the Ivanka Trump clothing line sold by the president’s daughter.
Steve Doocy: “Thirty seconds.”
Kellyanne Conway: “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff, is what I would tell you. I’m going to”—
Steve Doocy: “Well, there is that”—
Kellyanne Conway: “I hate shopping. I’m going to go get some myself today. … It’s a wonderful line. I own some of it. I fully—I’m going to just give—I’m going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online.”
Legal experts say the Office of Special Counsel does not have the authority to discipline Conway, and President Trump can simply ignore the agency’s recommendation.
In Texas, authorities have recovered the bodies of seven migrants from waterways near the U.S.-Mexico border within the last week. All seven appear to have drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande, which is swollen from spring snowmelt and heavy rains. Elsewhere in Texas, attorneys visiting a migrant processing center in McAllen discovered the U.S. Border Patrol holding a 17-year-old Guatemalan mother and her prematurely born 1-month-old girl, who was described as tiny, lethargic, cold to the touch and not eating. The mother was in a wheelchair and still recovering from a cesarean section and had barely slept. Immigrant rights attorney Hope Frye said the baby belonged in a hospital neonatal unit, adding, “You look at this baby and there is no question that this baby should be in a tube with a heart monitor.” Both the infant and her 17-year-old mother are considered unaccompanied minors. Under federal law, they should have been released to the Office of Refugee Resettlement within 72 hours but had been held by the Border Patrol since June 4 until they were reportedly released on Thursday.
Indian officials are blaming an intense heat wave and drought for at least 36 deaths. In some regions south of Mumbai, whole villages have been evacuated, with an estimated 90% of residents fleeing their homes in recent weeks due to searing drought and crop failures. On Monday, India’s capital Delhi recorded an all-time high temperature of 48 degrees Celsius—nearly 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
This comes as a new study by Brown University finds the U.S. military emits more greenhouse gases each year than many countries, including Sweden and Portugal. The study found that if the Pentagon were a country, its emissions would make it the world’s 55th largest contributor. The study’s author, professor Neta Crawford, said, “Climate change is not a potential risk. It has begun, with real consequences to the United States. Failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will make the nightmare scenarios strategists warn against—perhaps even 'climate wars'—more likely.”
In New Zealand, the man accused of massacring Muslim worshipers in the city of Christchurch in March pleaded not guilty Thursday to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and engaging in a terrorist act. The 28-year-old Australian is an avowed white supremacist who emailed out a racist manifesto minutes before he opened fire with an assault rifle at two mosques, live-streaming his massacre on Facebook. His trial has been set for May of 2020.
In the Gaza Strip, Palestinian medic Mohammed Sobhi al-Judeili succumbed to his wounds and died in a hospital Monday, after he was shot in the head by Israeli snipers while serving with the Red Crescent at a protest near Israel’s separation barrier. He was the fourth medic killed by Israeli forces since weekly nonviolent protests began last year under the banner “Great March of Return.” In February, a panel of U.N. investigators found Israeli forces may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity by targeting the protesters with lethal force—including children, journalists and the disabled. This comes as Israel says it will indefinitely bar Palestinian fishing boats from the Mediterranean. Since 2006, Israel has increasingly restricted Gaza fishing vessels from sailing far beyond shore, severely limiting their catch in a territory where more than 10% of children are chronically malnourished. Later in the broadcast, we’ll speak with attorney Lea Tsemel, who has defended Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli courts for nearly half a century, as well as with the director of a new film about her titled “Advocate.”
In London, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appeared before a magistrates’ court today, saying his life was “effectively at stake” if the U.K. honors a U.S. request for his extradition. Assange appeared by videolink from the high-security Belmarsh Prison, where he’s serving a 50-week sentence for skipping bail in 2012 when he took refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. U.S. prosecutors have indicted Assange on 18 counts, including 17 violations of the Espionage Act, in the first-ever case of a journalist or publisher being indicted under the World War I-era law. Later in the broadcast, we’ll look at why one of Assange’s friends, the internet activist Ola Bini, has been jailed in Ecuador for over two months. They were arrested on the same day.
In Michigan, state prosecutors dropped all criminal charges Thursday against eight government officials blamed for poisoning the water supply of Flint with toxic lead, pledging to start over and expand their investigation into the Flint water crisis. The move drew alarm from Flint residents—but also hope that more people might ultimately be held accountable. The crisis began in 2014 when Flint’s unelected emergency manager, appointed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, switched the source of the city’s drinking water in order to save money. The move has been linked to at least 12 deaths from an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, as well as widespread lead poisoning in residents, including children. Earlier this month, the AP reported authorities used search warrants to seize the state-owned mobile devices of former Governor Snyder and 66 other current or former officials, raising the prospect of a far wider criminal probe under Michigan’s newly elected Attorney General Dana Nessel. Prosecutors said they won’t answer questions about the revamped probe until after a public meeting in Flint planned for June 28.
New York state lawmakers on Thursday approved a bill to end religious exemptions for immunizations, and Governor Andrew Cuomo immediately signed it into law. The sometimes deadly disease has spread in recent weeks in Brooklyn and in Rockland County, where vaccination rates in Orthodox Jewish communities run low. The Centers for Disease Control reports 2019 has seen the greatest number of measles cases reported in the U.S. since 1992.
Massachusetts senator and 2020 presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren is introducing a bill to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt for 42 million Americans. Senator Warren said in a statement, “The student debt crisis is real and it’s crushing millions of people—especially people of color. It’s time to decide: Are we going to be a country that only helps the rich and powerful get richer and more powerful, or are we going to be a country that invests in its future?”
Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee on Thursday named 20 candidates who have qualified to appear in the first primary debates on the 2020 campaign. The debates will be spread over two nights, with 10 candidates appearing at each event, to be held June 26 and 27. Those who did not make the DNC’s cut include Montana Governor Steve Bullock; former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel; Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam; and Congressmember Seth Moulton of Massachusetts.