President Trump faces the biggest political crisis of his career, after the publication of bombshell complaint accusing the president of abusing his power for personal gain. In the nine-page document, an unnamed government whistleblower — who has been identified as a CIA official — writes, “[T]he President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.” The complaint corroborates a rough transcript of a July 25th phone call — released by the White House on Wednesday — showing that Trump repeatedly pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch a corruption probe into Trump’s campaign rival Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. The complaint also revealed details about how the White House attempted to “lock down” all records of Trump’s phone conversation soon after it happened, by moving a transcript of the call to a standalone computer system reserved for codeword-level intelligence information. On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the Trump administration of a cover-up.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “There is actions that are actions that are a cover-up, yeah. When you take — when you have a system of electronic storage for information that is specifically for national security purposes, and you have something that is self-serving to the president politically, and decide it might not be — you might not want people to know, and you hide it someplace else, that’s a cover-up.”
On Capitol Hill, members of the House Intelligence Committee grilled acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire Thursday over why he failed to quickly turn over the whistleblower’s complaint to Congress after the inspector general of the intelligence community found it to be “credible” and “urgent.” Maguire cited White House claims of executive privilege for the delay, calling the case “unique and unprecedented.”
Joseph Maguire: “I am not partisan, and I am not political. I believe in a life of service, and I am honored to be a public servant. … First, I want to stress that I believe that the whistleblower and the inspector general have acted in good faith throughout. I have every reason to believe that they have done everything by the book and followed the law.”
President Trump lashed out Thursday over the growing scandal, calling reporters “scum” and “animals” and comparing the whistleblower to a treasonous spy who deserved the death penalty. Trump made the remarks to a closed-door gathering of diplomats on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Audio of his remarks was leaked to the Los Angeles Times.
President Donald Trump: “Who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that’s close to a spy. You know what we used to do in the old days, when we were smart, right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”
After headlines, we’ll speak with national security correspondent James Risen of The Intercept about the growing scandal.
In climate news, hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren have walked out of classes in cities around the world for the second straight Friday, in the latest round of strikes demanding urgent action on the climate crisis. Today’s climate protests began with marches by tens of thousands of New Zealanders. The strikes were inspired by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who’s due to speak to climate strikers in Montreal, Canada, later today.
A new report finds global wheat harvests are increasingly under threat as the climate crisis accelerates. The report in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances finds that, without radical action to mitigate climate change, extreme droughts will threaten 60% of the world’s current wheat-producing regions by the end of the century.
Attorneys general from 17 states have joined a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s attempts to roll back the Endangered Species Act. Under the proposed rule changes, regulators would be allowed to factor in economic considerations when granting “endangered” status, species classified as “threatened” would see their protections weakened, and scientists would be limited in setting climate change-related protections. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra says collapsing ecosystems show the need to strengthen — not weaken — protections for endangered species.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra: “And these ecosystems are facing unprecedented threat in the form of our climate crisis, habitat loss and a myriad other threats. In fact, in a recent report issued by the United Nations, we learned that 1 million of the Earth’s species are under threat. And just last week, we learned that North America has lost 3 billion birds in the last 50 years. Now is the time to strengthen our planet’s biodiversity, not to destroy it.”
A Senate committee voted along party lines Wednesday to advance President Trump’s nominee to lead the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Aurelia Skipwith is a former executive at the chemical and agribusiness giant Monsanto. The Guardian reports she has ties to the Westlands Water District in California’s Central Valley, which has worked to roll back protections for endangered populations of Chinook salmon and other species.
The Trump administration claimed without evidence Thursday that California is failing to protect its residents from water pollution caused by homeless populations in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Environmental Protection Agency chief Andrew Wheeler said in a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom that California is failing to enforce the Clean Water Act. Wheeler’s letter came three days after he threatened to pull billions of dollars in federal highway funding to California, accusing it of having the worst air quality in the U.S. California and nearly two dozen other states filed a lawsuit earlier this month challenging the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back California’s more stringent tailpipe emissions standards. A spokesperson for Governor Newsom called Trump’s moves “political retribution against California, plain and simple.” And San Francisco Mayor London Breed said, “There are no needles washing out to the Bay or ocean from our sewer system, and there is no relationship between homelessness and water quality in San Francisco. It’s just not a real issue.”
In Egypt, thousands of protesters defied a police crackdown on dissent and took to the streets of Cairo and other cities today, demanding the resignation of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi over accusations of corruption. Nearly 2,000 people have been arrested at similar protests so far this week. They were triggered by social media posts by a former army contractor accusing Sisi and other officials of misusing public money. Earlier this week, President Trump praised Sisi as the two leaders met during the U.N. General Assembly here in New York. Later in the broadcast, we’ll speak with Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel-Kouddous about some of Egypt’s largest pro-democracy protests since the 2011 revolution.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas blasted the Trump administration Thursday over its one-sided support of Israel, saying the U.S. cannot be an honest broker for peace while it recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. During his address to the U.N. General Assembly, President Abbas also called out Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
President Mahmoud Abbas: “A week before the recent Israeli elections, Prime Minister Netanyahu came out to arrogantly announce that, should he prevail in the elections, he would annex and apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley, the northern Dead Sea and Israel’s colonial settlements — despite the fact that all these areas are occupied Palestinian territory. We reject entirely and completely this plan.”
This week, Israel’s president threw Netanyahu a lifeline, giving the long-serving prime minister a chance to form a new government after last week’s election provided no clear winner.
The U.S. State Department said Thursday that President Trump will slash the number of refugees admitted into the United States from an already-low 30,000 people to just 18,000 over the next year. The head of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, Omar Jadwat, responded in a statement, “This administration’s eagerness to unilaterally abandon our national commitment to protect people who are seeking safety from persecution, torture, and genocide is sickening. From the Muslim and refugee bans, to the asylum bans, to the severe mistreatment and separation of families seeking asylum, these attacks have been deliberate, disgraceful, and fundamentally inhumane.”
The Trump administration is poised to cut off food aid to 3 million people as it plans a massive rollback of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. This week, the Agriculture Department was flooded with over 75,000 comments from activists and political leaders, as a public comment period for the rule change came to a close. Among those who could be affected are as many as half a million schoolchildren who stand to lose access to free school meals.
The Senate voted along party lines Thursday to confirm Eugene Scalia to succeed Alex Acosta as U.S. labor secretary. Scalia is the son of the late far-right Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and a partner at the powerful law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Scalia has a long history of opposing labor unions on behalf of corporate clients, including Walmart. Much of Scalia’s legal work has been aimed at stopping the Dodd-Frank financial regulations enacted after the 2008 financial collapse.
In West Papua, at least 32 people — many of them student demonstrators — were killed earlier this week in a brutal crackdown on anti-racism protests. Indonesian security forces reportedly opened fire on a group of protesting students at a university in Jayapura, killing four; 28 more were killed in a separate uprising sparked by a teacher’s racial slurs. The teacher reportedly called a high school student a “monkey.” The violence follows last month’s escalating demonstrations calling for Papuan independence, which were also met by bloody repression from the Indonesian Army. This is Edison Waromi, one of the leaders of West Papua, speaking at the Democracy Now! studio here in New York on Thursday.
Edison Waromi: “Today is a time, life in a slow-motion genocide. We will die, continue every day, every moment.”
In Mexico City, thousands of protesters marched Thursday demanding justice for 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College who disappeared five years ago after they were abducted in Iguala.
Felipe de la Cruz: “The situation of the parents is painful, exhausting and distressing, but strengthened by all the support we receive from the population, from civil society and the new government, because we are sure we will learn the truth and the criminals will pay.”
Meanwhile, family members of the victims held a demonstration on the floor of Mexico’s Congress, holding up images of their missing loved ones. Mexican officials said Thursday that prosecutors were beginning new lines of investigation, and the government is offering a 1.5-million-peso reward for information. But so far, investigators say they haven’t turned up any new leads. A previous independent investigation found evidence the Mexican military was involved in the disappearances.