Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rosselló announced Wednesday he will resign from office, less than two weeks after the release of shocking text messages showed the governor and his aides mocking victims of Hurricane Maria, joking about shooting San Juan’s mayor, and using language laced with misogyny, homophobia, profanity and violence. Rosselló’s resignation sparked celebrations that lasted through the night, capping 12 days of massive protests calling for his ouster. Speaking in a recorded video that was streamed live on Facebook hours after he quietly left the governor’s mansion, Rosselló said he would formally step down on Friday, August 2. And he named his successor.
Gov. Ricardo Rosselló: “The person who will assume the weight of the office, who will have the privilege to occupy it, will need the support of the people and for each person to work tirelessly for democracy. At this time, in accordance with the legal framework, this person will be the current secretary of the Department of Justice, Wanda Vázquez.”
Wanda Vázquez is an appointee of Governor Rosselló. Calls for her immediate resignation are already flooding social media. After headlines, we’ll have more on Puerto Rico with journalist Ed Morales, author of the forthcoming book, “Fantasy Island: Colonialism, Exploitation, and the Betrayal of Puerto Rico.”
President Trump has vetoed three congressional resolutions halting the planned sales of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Wednesday’s vetoes came a week after the House of Representatives voted to block Trump’s move to sidestep Congress by allowing the sale of $8 billion worth of Raytheon precision-guided weapons systems. Similar weapons have been used to target civilians in the Saudi-led war on Yemen, which has sparked the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. Opponents of the sales also point to Saudi Arabia’s gross human rights abuses and the murder and dismemberment of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi Consulate in Turkey last year. Congress does not appear to have the two-thirds majority needed to override Trump’s vetoes.
Special counsel Robert Mueller testified on Capitol Hill Wednesday for the first time about his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections. Over seven hours of hearings, Mueller stressed to the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees that despite Donald Trump’s claims, he had not exonerated the president of obstruction of justice. This is House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler questioning Mueller.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler: “So, the report did not conclude that he did not commit obstruction of justice. Is that correct?”
Robert Mueller: “That is correct.”
Rep. Jerrold Nadler: “And what about total exoneration? Did you actually totally exonerate the president?”
Robert Mueller: “No.”
Rep. Jerrold Nadler: “Now, in fact, your report expressly states that it does not exonerate the president.”
Robert Mueller: “It does.”
We’ll have more on Robert Mueller’s congressional testimony later in the broadcast with Ryan Grim, D.C. bureau chief for The Intercept.
A federal court in California has blocked President Trump’s ban on most asylum seekers seeking refuge at the U.S.-Mexico border. The preliminary injunction came just hours after a federal judge in Washington, D.C., let the rule stand in a separate challenge. But following the ruling in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, the Trump administration will be required to continue accepting asylum claims, at least for now. Trump’s rule seeks to bar anyone who passes through a third country from exercising their right under international law to seek asylum in the U.S., including at the southern border with Mexico. Baher Azmy, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who helped challenge Trump’s asylum policy, said, “The court correctly decided that decades of U.S. asylum law prevent this administration from attempting to deny wholesale, asylum protections through this arbitrary and hasty regulation. This application of the law will also save lives of vulnerable refugees fleeing for their lives and safety.”
Federal regulators have ordered Facebook to pay a $5 billion fine for massive breaches in privacy that saw tens of millions of users’ data used without their consent. It was the largest fine for a privacy breach in U.S. history, but critics say the $5 billion penalty was far too lenient for a company valued at over $580 billion. After the settlement was announced, shares of Facebook rose on the NASDAQ stock exchange by more than a percentage point, and the company reported nearly $17 billion in revenue for the three months ending in June.
In the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson has been sworn in as prime minister, pledging to deliver a swift Brexit and spending his first full day in office packing his Cabinet with hard-line Brexiteers. Speaking outside 10 Downing Street in London, Johnson raised the prospect of a so-called hard Brexit, dismissing the concerns of many who predict a no-deal withdrawal from the European Union would be a disaster for the British economy.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: “And to all those who continue to prophesy disaster, I say, yes, there will be difficulties, though I believe that with energy and application, they will be far less serious than some have claimed.”
Johnson’s first day as prime minister was marked by massive street protests. Thousands marched through Central London despite a scorching heat wave, and activists from Greenpeace briefly blocked the new prime minister from reaching Buckingham Palace to meet with the queen, by forming a human chain in the path of his motorcade. The demonstration was quickly dispersed by police. Later in the broadcast, we’ll go to London to speak with Ash Sarkar, who was in the streets at yesterday’s protests.
North Korea fired two short-range missiles into the Sea of Japan early Thursday, the first such tests since May. South Korean military officials said one of the two missiles tested appeared to be a new design. The tests came as the Pentagon continued preparation for joint war games with South Korea’s military scheduled for next month, and weeks after President Trump held a surprise trip to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the Demilitarized Zone separating the north and south, where Trump pledged to restart denuclearization talks.
The House of Representatives has passed a bill opposing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions—or BDS—movement, a global solidarity campaign with the Palestinian people. The nonviolent movement seeks to use economic and cultural pressure to force Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian lands. Tuesday’s 398-17 vote saw just one Republican and 16 Democrats oppose the resolution. One of them was Michigan Congressmember Rashida Tlaib, who in November became the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib: “I stand before you, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, parents who experienced being stripped of their human rights, the right to freedom of travel, equal treatment. So I can’t stand by and watch this attack on our freedom of speech and the right to boycott the racist policies of the government and the state of Israel.”
The House resolution passed just days after hundreds of Israeli troops demolished Palestinian homes in a village at the West Bank-East Jerusalem border, clearing the way for Israel to build more illegal settlements. International observers have said the demolitions amounted to a war crime.
Chinese military leaders signaled Wednesday they are prepared to intervene against pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. This is Wu Qian, spokesperson for China’s Ministry of National Defense.
Wu Qian: “The behavior of some extreme protesters have challenged the authorities of the central government, tested the limits of the 'one country, two systems' principles, which are absolutely intolerable. We will not allow the pearl of the East to be stained.”
The threat came just days after Hong Kong police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters who once again took to the streets calling for pro-democracy reforms and for an investigation into police abuses during earlier protests.
Meanwhile, much of Europe is being hit by a massive heat wave, sending temperatures into record-setting and life-threatening terrain for parts of the continent. Temperatures were forecast to reach 104 degrees Fahrenheit in many German cities, with highs in Paris expected to top 107 degrees. It’s the second major heat wave this year in Europe, where many countries recorded their highest-ever temperatures just one month ago.
This comes as new research published in the journal Science finds the climate is changing faster—and over a wider area of the Earth—than at any other time in the last 2,000 years. The current rate of change far outpaces climate variations seen centuries ago during events like the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age.
In Pennsylvania, an appeals court has thrown out a guilty verdict against the popular rapper Meek Mill, who was convicted in a nonjury trial in 2008 on drugs and weapons charges based on the false testimony of his arresting officer. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, led by Larry Krasner, supported Mill’s bid to have the conviction overturned; Krasner’s office has not yet said whether prosecutors will proceed with a retrial. The conviction has dogged Mill ever since, keeping him on probation for over a decade. This is Meek Mill, speaking in a video released on Twitter this week.
Meek Mill: “I’ve been on probation, I think, like 10 out of 11 years. I can’t really count no more. Probation—like, who made these policies up? Try to keep people like me down. Like, damn, straight to prison, straight to handcuffs, straight to a 5-by-9 cell with a metal toilet seat.”
Meek Mill’s jailing sparked widespread calls for his freedom, including from Jay-Z, Colin Kaepernick and activists across Philadelphia.