Iran has announced it has shot down a U.S. Navy drone, claiming it entered Iranian airspace. Unnamed U.S. officials have confirmed a drone was shot down, but claimed it was in international territory. The head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard, Major General Hossein Salami, said the incident should send a “clear message to America” not to cross Iran’s border.
The incident comes as tension continues to escalate between the two nations. On Tuesday, the United States announced it was sending 1,000 more troops to the region. Last week, the United States blamed Iran for attacking two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, despite a lack of any confirmed evidence. Iran has denied the attacks and has repeatedly said it is not seeking war with the U.S.
The U.S. Navy said Wednesday that fragments from a mine that allegedly struck a Japanese-owned tanker last week bear a “strong resemblance” to an Iranian mine; however, the president of the Japanese company has said the vessel was not attacked by mines but two flying objects. The U.N. and other international actors have called for restraint and a de-escalation of tensions.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other top Trump officials have reportedly been linking Iran to al-Qaeda and the Taliban during closed-door briefings with lawmakers, in what Democrats fear could be part of a plan to invoke the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force to attack Iran.
On Wednesday, the House Judiciary panel held a historic hearing on reparations for slavery—the first of its kind in over a decade. Lawmakers are considering a bill that would create a commission to study the effects of slavery and make recommendations to Congress, including a formal apology for slavery. This is actor and activist Danny Glover.
Danny Glover: “A national reparations policy is a moral, democratic and economic imperative. I sit here as the great-grandson of a former slave, Mary Brown, who was freed by the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st, 1863. … Despite much progress over the centuries, this hearing is yet another important step in the long and heroic struggle of African Americans to secure reparations for the damages inflicted by enslavement and post-emancipation and racial exclusionary policies.”
Acclaimed author Ta-Nehisi Coates, who also testified at yesterday’s hearing, will join us after headlines.
Former vice president and 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden is under fire for fondly reminiscing about his “civil” relationship with segregationist senators in the 1970s and 1980s. Speaking at a fundraiser in New York City Tuesday night, Biden expressed nostalgia for his relationship with the late Democratic pro-segregation Senators James O. Eastland of Mississippi and Herman Talmadge of Georgia. Biden reportedly said, “I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland. … He never called me 'boy'; he called me 'son.'” Biden went on to say, “A guy like Herman Talmadge, one of the meanest guys I ever knew, you go down the list of all these guys. Well, guess what. At least there was some civility. We got things done.”
New Jersey senator and 2020 Democratic candidate Cory Booker responded to the remarks in a statement saying, “Vice President Biden’s relationships with proud segregationists are not the model for how we make America a safer and more inclusive place for black people, and for everyone. … [H]e is wrong for using his relationships with Eastland and Talmadge as examples of how to bring our country together.” Booker has called for Biden to apologize. This is Biden responding.
Reporter: “Are you going to apologize, like Cory Booker has called for?”
Joe Biden: “Apologize for what?”
Reporter: “Cory Booker has called for it. He’s asking you to apologize.”
Joe Biden: “Cory should apologize. He knows better. There’s not a racist bone in my body. I’ve been involved in civil rights my whole career, period, period, period.”
Senator Booker was not the only presidential candidate to call out Joe Biden. California Senator Kamala Harris accused Biden of “coddling the reputations of segregationists.” Senators Warren and Sanders and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also condemned Biden’s remarks.
Former White House communications director Hope Hicks appeared before Congress Wednesday in a closed-door session where she refused to answer most questions about her time in the White House. White House counsel said Hicks was immune from answering questions about her time working as an adviser to President Trump—a claim dismissed by Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler, who said it was “ridiculous” and that Democrats would “destroy” it in court. Lawmakers subpoenaed Hicks as part of their investigation into Trump’s potential obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power. Hicks did respond to some questions about her involvement in Trump’s 2016 campaign and was reportedly asked what she knew about contacts between Trump associates and Russia. She also reportedly shared that she was unaware of any hush-money payments made in the run-up to the 2016 elections. Hope Hicks now serves as an executive and chief communications officer at Fox Corporation, the parent company of Fox News.
In environmental news, the Trump administration has replaced an Obama-era energy rule which was designed to close older coal plants and tighten emissions restrictions. The new rules announced by the Environmental Protection Agency Wednesday allow states to set regulations for emissions and decide whether coal-fired plants should make improvements. Obama’s Clean Power Plan sought to lower carbon emissions through federal regulations, but the plan never took effect due to multiple legal challenges from energy companies and some states.
Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club said,”Trump and [EPA Administrator] Wheeler are pushing a plan that will lead to thousands of deaths while ignoring the public’s demands for aggressive climate action, just so a handful of wealthy coal executives can make a little more money. This is an immoral and an illegal attack on clean air, clean energy, and the health of the public.” Legal challenges from at least six states and multiple environmental groups are expected.
On Tuesday, Trump touted his energy policies during his first 2020 campaign rally in Florida.
President Donald Trump: “We are creating a future of American energy independence, and yet our air and water are the cleanest they’ve ever been by far.”
Research by the American Lung Association refutes Trump’s lies. The group found that over 4 in 10 Americans live with unhealthy air due to high levels of pollution and dangerous, climate change-induced ozone levels. The poor air quality can cause “premature death and other serious health effects such as lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm,” according to the American Lung Association.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is in North Korea to meet with Kim Jong-un, marking his first presidential trip to the country and the first Chinese state visit to North Korea since 2005. The two leaders are expected to discuss the contentious denuclearization negotiations with the U.S., which stalled after President Trump walked away from talks at a summit in Vietnam in February. Kim and Xi will also discuss the current state of trade relations between the two nations, which have been severely impacted under current sanctions against North Korea. President Xi is expected to meet with Trump at the G20 summit in Japan at the end of the month amid a mounting trade war between China and the U.S.
A new U.N. report finds that nearly 71 million people were displaced last year by war, persecution and other forms of violence. That number is more than 2 million people higher than the preceding year and represents a jump of 65% from a decade ago. Nearly 26 million refugees were recorded in 2018, over half of them under the age of 18. Of those, less than 100,000 were resettled. Over 41 million people worldwide were internally displaced, and 3.5 million were registered as asylum seekers. Syria represents the highest number of refugees at 6.7 million, while Ethiopians represented the largest newly displaced population last year, the vast majority internally displaced due to intercommunal conflict. The annual report by the U.N. Refugee Agency was released to coincide with World Refugee Day, which is today.
International investigators said Wednesday that three Russians and one Ukrainian would be charged with murder for launching a missile that downed a Malaysia Airlines flight in 2014 over Eastern Ukraine. The investigators say the plane was shot down by a Russian missile, though Russia has denied involvement in the attack. MH17 was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, carrying people from 17 different countries. All 298 people on board were killed in the attack. Prosecutors say a trial in a Dutch court will be held next March. The suspects will likely be tried in absentia as Ukraine and Russia both have laws protecting citizens from extradition.
Back in the U.S., the House Budget Committee held a hearing on “poverty in America.” Reverend Dr. William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, called for a moral budget, framing the epidemic of poverty as a “moral crisis.”
Rev. William Barber: “It is tragic in a society where our first constitutional duty is to establish justice and promote the general welfare—the general welfare—that we will allow the injustice of poverty—43.5% of people are poverty and low-wealth, and people here who could teach this society—and we would walk away from our constitutional values and walk away from our spiritual values, that tell us that it is dangerous for a nation not to lift up the poor.”
Reverend Dr. Barber called the systemic inequalities in the United States a “direct result of policy decisions” that work to keep 140 million people in conditions of poverty.
In California, Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom apologized Tuesday for his state’s “systemic slaughter of California Indians.” Governor Newsom issued the apology, which accompanies an executive order, at the site of the future Indian Heritage Center in Sacramento, where he spoke before a group of tribal leaders. Newsom told them, “It’s called genocide. … No other way to describe it. And that’s the way it needs to be described in the history books.” Newsom also announced the creation of a Truth and Healing Council.
In 1850, California passed a law allowing for the separation of Native American families, their removal from tribal territories, and the creation of a system of indentured servitude. The Los Angeles Times reports California’s Native American population declined from about 150,000 to 30,000 between 1846 and 1879.
Daniel Salgado of the Cahuilla Band of Indians told the L.A. Times he appreciated Governor Newsom’s actions and that “In any kind of relationship, there’s recognition of a wrongdoing, an apology and a healing starts to take place.”
And poet, musician and writer Joy Harjo has become the first Native American poet laureate. Harjo, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, is the author of eight poetry books, including the celebrated “In Mad Love and War,” which won the American Book Award in 1990, as well as a memoir and stories for children and young adults. Harjo told The New York Times, “Just as when I started writing poetry, we’re at a very crucial time in American history and in planetary history. Poetry is a way to bridge, to make bridges from one country to another, one person to another, one time to another.”