Former White House national security adviser John Bolton has said he would be willing to testify at President Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate, if he is subpoenaed. Bolton’s statement increases the pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans to agree to call witnesses in Trump’s Senate trial. McConnell has previously said he will not call witnesses, that he will coordinate the trial with the White House and that he is not an impartial juror. Protesters rallied in the Hart Senate Office Building as part of a “Swarm the Senate” protest demanding the Senate remove President Trump from office.
The Pentagon and the Trump administration have issued confusing and at times contradictory messages on the United States’ positions on Iraq and Iran amid an escalation of global tensions following the United States’ assassination of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani.
On Monday, the U.S. Command in Baghdad issued a memo to the Iraqi government that appeared to suggest the United States would withdraw U.S. forces from the country. The memo came after the Iraqi Parliament’s vote to expel all U.S. military forces from Iraq. But only hours after the memo was released, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the U.S. was not withdrawing troops from Iraq, prompting a wave of questions and confusion that ended only after Chair of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley admitted to reporters that the memo was a “poorly worded” draft and that it was released by mistake.
The Pentagon also contradicted President Trump Monday, saying the United States would not attack Iranian cultural sites, and acknowledged that attacking cultural sites without military justification is a war crime. Over the weekend, President Trump threatened to target 52 locations in Iran, including cultural sites, if Iran retaliates against the U.S. Trump said the number 52 was for Iran’s taking of 52 hostages 40 years ago.
The United States also denied a visa to Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who was slated to address the United Nations Security Council in New York later this week. Denying him a visa is a violation of a 1947 United States-United Nations agreement. European powers are continuing to call for a de-escalation of the tensions. This is French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
Jean-Yves Le Drian: “The situation is serious, very serious. There is a sequence of escalations which is becoming very worrying and which, if it continues, can lead to a situation of conflict. Yes, it’s true. And that’s why we need to mobilize all of our efforts in order to stop this very disturbing process, which can lead us to a disaster, which can then get out of control.”
Meanwhile, there are reports that dozens of people were killed in Iran during a stampede at the funeral procession for General Qassem Soleimani in his hometown in the southeastern city of Kerman. Over a million people in Iran and Iraq have poured into the streets to mourn his death.
The New York Times is reporting that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told officials in a meeting at Iran’s National Security Council that he wants the retaliation for Suleimani’s assassination to be a direct attack on U.S. interests, carried out by Iranian forces — not Iranian proxies.
And more details have emerged about how the Border Patrol detained and questioned as many as 200 Iranian Americans at the U.S.-Canada border over the weekend. The New York Times reports some of those detained were questioned for hours, including being interrogated about their opinions on the United States and the situation with Iran.
Two front-running 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, are sharply disagreeing about the U.S. assassination of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani. Sanders has condemned the assassination and has introduced legislation, along with California Congressmember Ro Khanna, that would block funding for any military action “in or against Iran” without congressional authorization. Biden, meanwhile, has tried to use the increasing tensions to argue that his past foreign policy experience would make him the best president in the event the United States goes to war with Iran.
In more election news, former Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro says he is endorsing Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren for president.
Júlian Castro: “There’s one candidate I see who’s unafraid to fight like hell to make sure America’s promise will be there for everyone, who will make sure that no matter where you live in America or where your family came from in the world, you have a path to opportunity, too. That’s why I’m proud to endorse Elizabeth Warren for president.”
That’s Julián Castro speaking in a video he posted on Twitter Monday, just days after he dropped out of the race. Warren responded by tweeting, “You’ve been a powerful voice for bold, progressive change and I’m honored to have your support. Together, we’ll fight to make sure every single family in America has a path to opportunity.” Castro and Warren are hosting a campaign rally tonight in Brooklyn.
In immigration news, Mexicans seeking asylum in the United States can now be sent to Guatemala to seek asylum there under a bilateral agreement between the Trump administration and Guatemala’s outgoing president. The U.S. government has already begun deporting Honduran and Salvadoran asylum seekers to Guatemala. A local reporter in Guatemala said 15 Salvadoran asylum seekers, including eight children, and 18 Honduran asylum seekers, including 10 children, were deported to Guatemala yesterday.
The Trump administration has also started sending other asylum seekers to the border town of Nogales, Sonora, as part of the controversial “Remain in Mexico” policy, which has forced tens of thousands of asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their immigration hearings. Those sent to Nogales, Sonora, will now have to make a dangerous 340-mile journey to their hearings in El Paso, Texas. Human rights groups say asylum seekers in Mexico have been assaulted, robbed and kidnapped while waiting for or traveling to their immigration hearings.
And Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection have begun a pilot program to harvest the DNA of asylum seekers detained in immigration jails. The immigration agencies said the Justice Department aided in the development of the program, which was rolled out yesterday.
In news on the climate crisis, the uncontrollable wildfires raging in Australia have blanketed the continent with thick smoke that has now traveled nearly 7,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean and reached Chile. It’s expected to be visible over Argentina in the coming days. This comes as new data shows India has suffered its hottest decade on record. Extreme weather killed 1,500 people in India last year alone. India’s national weather office said the impact of global warming is “unmistakable.”
Disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein has been charged with rape in Los Angeles County, facing up to 28 years in prison if convicted.
District Attorney Jackie Lacey: “For those crimes, defendant Weinstein is charged with one felony count each of forcible rape, forcible oral copulation and sexual penetration by use of force. He also faces one felony count of sexual battery by restraint of another woman. We allege this second assault took place the next evening in a hotel suite in Beverly Hills.”
That was Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey. The charges were unveiled the same day Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial in Manhattan began. He faces life in prison on those charges. Over 100 women have accused the disgraced film producer of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment and professional retaliation.
In Mexico, authorities say more than 60,000 people have been disappeared since the beginning of the U.S.-backed drug war in 2006. Human rights activists say both cartels and Mexican security forces are responsible for the disappearances. The number of those disappeared in Mexico has now surpassed the numbers of forced disappearances countries experienced during the U.S.-backed dirty wars and dictatorships in Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s.
In Bolivia, the interim government has set a date for new national elections, following the ouster of longtime President Evo Morales in what he and others describe as a military coup.
Salvador Romero: “The electoral tribunal will call the election on Sunday, May 3, 2020, so that Bolivians elect the president of the republic and the parliamentarians. May 3, 2020, is confirmed as the election date.”
That was Salvador Romero, president of Bolivia’s electoral tribunal. Evo Morales will not be a candidate in the elections, but he has been appointed to lead the campaign of his Movement Toward Socialism party, which will announce its candidate later this month.
In Venezuela, U.S.-backed opposition figure Juan Guaidó says he plans to return to the National Assembly today, as confusion reigns over who is the president of Venezuela’s National Assembly. On Sunday, Guaidó claimed he wasn’t allowed to enter the legislative palace in Caracas to participate in the disputed vote for the Assembly leader. Videos of him attempting to jump a fence guarded by security forces circulated in social media and news outlets. But his version of the events is being questioned by opposition members who did take part in the session and say Guaidó could have participated, too. Venezuelans are calling on Congress to clarify who is the current president of the National Assembly as the political crisis escalates.
Enrique Vizcaino: “The person who should be in charge of the National Assembly is the one who the congressional deputies swore in. If the lawmakers choose person X, then person X is the one who should be in charge, not a different person. I think it is wrong that Guaidó swore himself in on his own again. It is not right.”
A 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Puerto Rico, knocking out electricity across the island. This earthquake comes less than one day after a 5.8 magnitude quake struck on Monday, damaging the coastal town of Guánica. The stone arch and natural landmark of Punta Ventana also collapsed when the earthquake hit. Today’s power outage comes after Puerto Rico experienced the longest blackout in U.S. history — and the second-longest blackout in world history — following devastating Hurricane Maria in 2017.
Eight men are suing the Boy Scouts of America for allegations of sexual abuse at the hands of scoutmasters and other Boy Scout leaders decades ago. The lawsuit is being filed in Washington, D.C., to bypass statute of limitations laws. The lawsuit could pave the way for other survivors of sexual abuse in the Boy Scouts to file similar lawsuits in Washington, D.C., regardless of where or when the alleged abuse took place.
In Mississippi, violence has erupted at multiple prisons, leaving at least five prisoners dead. At least three of the deaths occurred at the state penitentiary at Parchman. Mississippi has one of the nation’s highest rates of incarceration, with chronic overcrowding in prisons across the state.
Here in New York City, up to 25,000 people marched from Lower Manhattan over the Brooklyn Bridge on Sunday to denounce anti-Semitism. The march follows a surge in anti-Semitic attacks in the greater New York area, including the stabbing of Jewish worshipers who had gathered at a rabbi’s house to celebrate Hanukkah in Monsey, New York, just over one week ago. This is Gail Senten, one of the protesters Sunday.
Gail Senten: “It was wonderful. It was just very inspiring. And I hope that people recognize that we are strong and that we will not allow all this anti-Semitism, that has been rampant in New York City and in the tri-state area and in America, to continue.”