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Robert Mueller Testifies Before Congress

Jul 24, 2019

Former special counsel Robert Mueller is testifying before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees today. His report was handed in 124 days ago, but only a redacted version was made available to the public. The Mueller report concluded the Trump campaign did not collude with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, but refrained from coming to any conclusions about Trump’s obstruction of justice. His deputy, Aaron Zebley, who oversaw the day-to-day activities of the investigation, is expected to also be present in an advisory capacity after a request from Mueller. Zebley will reportedly be sworn in to the House intelligence hearing. Ahead of today’s highly anticipated hearings, House Intelligence Chair Jerrold Nadler slammed the Justice Department’s directive that Mueller “remain within the boundaries” of the public version of the report. The department also said that Mueller could not “discuss the conduct of uncharged third parties,” which includes President Trump, his family and his close associates.

Trump Rails Against Squad, Mueller Report in Speech to Teenagers

Jul 24, 2019

On Tuesday, Trump railed against former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation during a speech at an event for conservative high school students in Washington.

President Donald Trump: “I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president. But I don’t even talk about that, because they did a report and there was no obstruction. After looking at it—our great attorney general read it, he’s a total professional—he said, ’There’s nothing here. There’s no obstruction.’”

Trump also renewed attacks on the four progressive congresswomen of color widely referred to as the “Squad.” He repeated his claim that “they hate our country,” and called Michigan Congressmember Rashida Tlaib “vicious” and a “crazed lunatic,” referring to a 2016 video showing Tlaib heckling Trump when he was running for president.

Disgraced Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló Expected to Step Down

Jul 24, 2019

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló is expected to resign today. El Nuevo Día first reported the news late last night. Rosselló has faced nearly two weeks of mass protests demanding he step down, following a massive leak revealing sexist, homophobic and violent text messages exchanged between Rosselló and government officials, in which he mocked victims of Hurricane Maria and joked about shooting San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz.

ORR Says Unaccompanied Migrant Children Could Be Detained for Years

Jul 24, 2019

In immigration news, CBS News is reporting thousands of migrant children could be locked up indefinitely at the southern border. Most of those at risk are unaccompanied. Officials from the Office of Refugee Resettlement say Trump’s hard-line immigration policies are having a chilling effect on potential sponsors, which may result in children languishing in ORR detention centers for years, only to be transferred to adult migrant prisons when they turn 18. There was a dramatic decrease in the percentage of children released from ORR custody in 2018 as compared to previous years.

Immigration Agents Detain Texas Teen for 3+ Weeks Despite Being a U.S. Citizen

Jul 24, 2019

In Texas, authorities have released an 18-year-old U.S. citizen who had been detained by immigration agents for over three weeks after he was taken in at a Border Patrol checkpoint. Francisco Erwin Galicia was detained with his younger brother as they traveled to a soccer event last month. He showed proof of his Texas ID, and Galicia’s lawyer says she supplied multiple documents proving the teenager’s citizenship, but border agents refused to release him for weeks, saying the documents were fake. Francisco Erwin’s 17-year-old brother Marlon, who was not born in the U.S., signed a voluntary deportation order and is now in Mexico.

New York Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez expressed outrage at Galicia’s treatment, tweeting, ”CBP is detaining American citizens. How would you feel trapped in a border camp, where guards wear face masks because the human odor is so strong? When we allow the rights of some to be violated, the rights of all are not far behind.”

Tennessee Community Blocks ICE from Taking Neighbor by Forming Human Chain

Jul 24, 2019

Meanwhile, a community in Hermitage, Tennessee, prevented ICE agents from taking a man into custody by forming a human chain around him and his son on Monday. ICE agents tried to intercept the man—who has been living in the community for 14 years—after he left his home with his son by blocking him into the driveway. But neighbors saw what was happening and quickly went to offer support, bringing water and supplies to the pair as they stayed in their van. After a standoff lasting several hours, community members formed a human chain so that the father and son could exit the van and re-enter their home. The ICE agents only had an administrative warrant—rather than a warrant signed by a judge—meaning they did not have permission to enter the man’s house without consent. Immigration officers eventually left the scene. Neighbors say they are prepared to jump into action again if ICE reappears.

Trump Threatens Guatemala with Tariffs and Other Penalties After Failure of Immigration Deal

Jul 24, 2019

President Trump threatened to retaliate against Guatemala for failing to sign a so-called safe-third-country deal with the U.S. In a tweet Tuesday, he threatened to impose tariffs, remittance fees and an unspecified “ban” on Guatemala. Earlier this month, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales canceled a trip to Washington after a court in Guatemala blocked the signing of such an agreement between the two countries following a massive outcry. The deal would have allowed the U.S. to send migrants—from any country of origin—to Guatemala instead of processing asylum requests at the U.S. border.

DOJ Pursues Antitrust Probe into Big Tech

Jul 24, 2019

The Justice Department has opened an antitrust investigation into big tech companies, which could include Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon. They are looking into whether companies’ search, social media and retail practices stifle market competition. The House Judiciary Committee is also investigating anti-competitive practices in big tech.

Reports: FTC to Accuse Facebook of Misleading Consumers on Personal Data Use

Jul 24, 2019

In more tech news, the Federal Trade Commission is reportedly planning to file a complaint that Facebook misled users about how their personal data was used. The complaint alleges some advertisers were able to access users’ cellphone numbers as part of an early version of the “two-factor authentication” process. The FTC also reportedly alleges Facebook did not sufficiently inform its users that they could disable a facial recognition feature which identifies and tags photos.

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Former Defense Lobbyist Mark Esper Confirmed as New Defense Secretary

Jul 24, 2019

The Senate confirmed Mark Esper as the new secretary of defense Tuesday. The Pentagon had been without a confirmed secretary for seven months, after James Mattis exited in December last year—the longest period ever without a permanent head. Esper is a former aerospace executive and was a top lobbyist for Raytheon. Five of the eight Democratic senators who voted against Esper are 2020 presidential candidates: Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar.

FBI Director Wray: Most Domestic Terror Committed by White Supremacists

Jul 24, 2019

FBI Director Christopher Wray told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that crime driven by racism and white supremacy was on the rise compared to the previous year and that his agency recorded around 100 arrests for domestic terrorism in the past nine months.

Christopher Wray: “A majority of the domestic terrorism cases that we have investigated are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence.”

During his testimony, Wray also said Russia is “intent” on interfering with U.S. elections and that China represents the greatest counterintelligence threat to the United States. Wray declined to answer most questions about former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Sen. Harris and Rep. Nadler Introduce Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

Jul 24, 2019

Senator and 2020 presidential candidate Kamala Harris and Congressmember Jerrold Nadler introduced a bill Tuesday that would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level and expunge low-level marijuana offenses. The legislation also invests in communities of color, which have been disproportionately targeted by harsh drug laws. The Drug Policy Alliance praised the bill, saying, “Marijuana convictions have disrupted people’s lives—from one’s ability to secure or maintain employment, housing, funds for education, a valid driver’s license to the ability to keep one’s kids or remain in this country for noncitizens. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act ends prohibition in a way that centers communities most impacted by criminalization.”

Joe Biden Unveils Criminal Justice Plan

Jul 24, 2019

Former vice president and 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden unveiled his criminal justice reform proposal that he says will reduce incarceration and the criminalization of poor communities and communities of color. The plan proposes ending cash bail, supports eliminating the death penalty and eliminating unfair sentencing discrepancies in drug offenses. He does not call for the legalization of marijuana at the federal level. Since announcing his 2020 run, Biden has come under attack for a checkered track record on race issues, including his role in the 1994 crime bill that helped fuel mass incarceration and directed billions of dollars toward building more prisons.

Senate Passes Bill to Fund 9/11 September 11th Victim Compensation Fund

Jul 24, 2019

The Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill Tuesday to permanently fund the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which provides healthcare for first responders to the 9/11 terror attack. First responders have been lobbying for its passage over recent months as the current legislation was set to expire next year. Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.

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Trump Sues House Committee and NY Officials to Halt Release of State Taxes

Jul 24, 2019

President Trump sued New York state officials and the House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday in an attempt to block his state tax returns from being turned over to lawmakers. New York passed a bill recently allowing Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal to obtain Trump’s returns, but he has so far been unsuccessful in obtaining the returns through subpoenas and other means.

Boris Johnson Becomes New U.K. Prime Minister

Jul 24, 2019

Boris Johnson is being sworn in as the new British prime minister. The election was the first time that a party’s membership directly chose the prime minister. The membership of the Conservative Party who voted for Johnson represents just 0.13% of the British population. Johnson replaces outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May. Johnson vowed to bring a “new spirit of can-do” to his party and to “deliver Brexit”. Opposition Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted following his win, “Boris Johnson has won the support of fewer than 100,000 unrepresentative Conservative Party members by promising tax cuts for the richest, presenting himself as the bankers’ friend, and pushing for a damaging No Deal Brexit.”

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Greta Thunberg Urges French Lawmakers to Act on Climate Crisis as Heat Wave Grips Europe

Jul 24, 2019

Sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist and founder of the “school strike for climate” Greta Thunberg addressed French lawmakers Tuesday, urging them to act to prevent a “climate breakdown.”

Greta Thunberg: “And I believe that the biggest danger is not our inaction. The real danger is when companies and politicians are making it look like real action is happening when in fact almost nothing is being done apart from clever accounting and creative PR.”

An intense heat wave is currently sweeping Europe. The French town of Bordeaux broke its high temperature record on Tuesday, reaching over 106 degrees, while Paris could also break its record this week. The unrelenting heat is causing drought conditions elsewhere in France and exacerbating massive wildfires in Portugal, with Spain also on high alert for more blazes. The United Nations warned that such extreme weather events in Europe will become more frequent and more intense as the climate crisis worsens. Scientists say July is on track to become the hottest month ever recorded. We’ll have more on the climate crisis after headlines with author and director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State, Michael Mann.

Climate Activists Call on Lawmakers to Pass “Climate Emergency” Resolution

Jul 24, 2019

And in Washington, D.C., climate activists from Extinction Rebellion staged a civil disobedience protest Tuesday, calling on lawmakers to take action on the climate crisis and to pass the “climate emergency” resolution introduced earlier this month by Senator Bernie Sanders and Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Activists superglued themselves to doorways in the underground passageways connecting congressional offices with the Capitol building.

Extinction Rebellion activist 1: “How did we mobilize our entire nation to fight the Nazis, and yet we can’t even mobilize one single resolution to save our entire species?”

Extinction Rebellion activist 2: “We have known about this trend for decades, and we still have done absolutely nothing.”

Extinction Rebellion activist 3: “Especially who has known about it is the fossil fuel companies. They’ve known. It’s in their records. But they wouldn’t say anything, because they wanted to keep making profits.”

Also on Tuesday, Extinction Rebellion activists in San Francisco staged a protest and “die-in” at Senator Dianne Feinstein’s offices, demanding immediate legislative action on climate change.

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