The chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg, surrendered to authorities early this morning. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is expected to file charges today against him and the Trump Organization after indictments by a grand jury. Weisselberg has worked for Donald Trump and his family for nearly 50 years. The Wall Street Journal reports the charges are related to the evading of taxes on fringe benefits such as cars, apartments and private school tuition. Many legal experts are speculating prosecutors targeted Weisselberg with the hope he will flip and help investigators in other ongoing probes into the former president’s company.
Bill Cosby was released from prison Wednesday after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his conviction for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a sports administrator at Temple University. She was one of 60 women who have accused Cosby of sexual assault dating back decades. In 2018, he was sentenced to three to 10 years in prison, becoming the first prominent man to be jailed after the start of the #MeToo movement. The court ruled prosecutors had violated Cosby’s rights by reneging on an unwritten “non-prosecution agreement” he had with a previous prosecutor. Attorney Gloria Allred, who represents 33 women who accused Cosby of assault, criticized the court’s ruling.
Gloria Allred: “And even though the court did overturn the conviction, it was on technical grounds. It did not vindicate Bill Cosby’s conduct, and it should not be interpreted as the statement or a finding that he did not engage in the acts of which he has been accused.”
Authorities in the Pacific Northwest fear hundreds of people have died from this week’s unprecedented heat wave. British Colombia has now reported about 300 more deaths than normal during the heat wave, which was fueled by the climate crisis. In Oregon, officials say at least 63 people have died from the heat. Dozens are also dead in Washington state. Meanwhile, residents of the Canadian village of Lytton in British Columbia have been forced to evacuate after a massive fire swept through the town, where the temperature recently soared to 121 degrees Fahrenheit. Lytton broke Canada’s all-time heat record on three consecutive days this week. The mayor of Lytton told the CBC, “The whole town is on fire.”
Indigenous leaders and climate justice activists blockaded access to the White House Wednesday, calling on President Biden to invest more in climate justice initiatives in his infrastructure plans and to stop fossil fuel projects, including Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline. This is Indigenous water protector Taysha Martineau, who is a member of the Fond du Lac Tribe.
Taysha Martineau: “When the PUC approved the Line 3 pipeline, they declared war on the Anishinaabe. And as Anishinaabe, I have been here for thousands of years. If we do not stop Line 3, none of us will be here long.”
Greenpeace has tricked a lobbyist at ExxonMobil into sharing secrets about the oil company’s efforts to fight climate initiatives in Washington. The lobbyist, Keith McCoy, spoke candidly about his work, thinking he was speaking to a corporate headhunter.
Keith McCoy: “Did we aggressively fight against some of the science? Yes. Did we hide our science? Absolutely not. Did we join some of these shadow groups to work against some of the early efforts? Yes, that’s true. But there’s nothing — there’s nothing illegal about that. We were looking out for our investments. We were looking out for our shareholders.”
Exxon lobbyist Keith McCoy went on to tell Greenpeace that Exxon’s support for a carbon tax is a public relations ploy, because such a tax will never be implemented. He also identified 11 U.S. senators seen as crucial to Exxon’s lobbying efforts, including Democrat Joe Manchin.
Keith McCoy: “Joe Manchin, I talk to his office every week, and he is the kingmaker on this, because he’s a Democrat from West Virginia, which is a very conservative state. And he’s not shy about sort of staking his claim early and completely changing the debate.”
The death toll from last week’s condominium collapse in Surfside, Florida, has reached 18, with another 145 people still missing. On Wednesday, rescuers found the bodies of 10-year-old Lucia Guara and her 4-year-old sister Emma. Their parents also died when the Champlain Towers South building collapsed. President Biden and first lady Jill Biden are visiting the site today.
COVID cases are surging in many parts of the world as the highly contagious Delta variant continues to spread. Russia has recorded over 650 new COVID deaths — its highest one-day tally. Bangladesh has deployed troops to enforce a new lockdown as deaths soar. Israel reported 300 new COVID cases on Wednesday — its highest daily number of new infections in over three months. Cases are also rising again in Europe after a 10-week decline.
In Brazil, protesters rallied in Brasília calling for the impeachment of Jair Bolsonaro over his mishandling of the pandemic. Brazilian lawmaker Perpétua Almeida took part in the protest.
Perpétua Almeida: “Five hundred thousand deaths. The solidarity, the mourning has made several political forces come together for a common goal: to stop the Bolsonaro government from killing. Lives could have been saved. Lives could have been spared. The parliamentary investigation has exactly shown that if the vaccine had been bought, more than 200,000 Brazilians could have been saved.”
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has died at the age of 88. Serving under George W. Bush, Rumsfeld oversaw the illegal U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. He also authorized the systematic torture of men held in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantánamo. Human rights attorneys repeatedly tried to hold him accountable by filing war crimes charges against him overseas. This is the late Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights speaking in 2006.
Michael Ratner: “One of our hopes is, really, we believe, and we have believed for 30 years, that torturers deserve no safe haven. They should not be free to travel around the world and go wherever they want, once they’ve been seriously accused of torture. And they can be tried in those countries. And one of our goals here is to really turn, I would hope, a Donald Rumsfeld into a Henry Kissinger, where he will be not free to travel from country to country.”
The House of Representatives has voted to establish a select committee to investigate the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Just two Republicans joined Democrats: Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. For months, other Republicans have downplayed the attack, which was timed to disrupt the counting of electoral votes. On Wednesday, federal authorities announced or unsealed charges against 13 more people connected to the insurrection, including individuals with ties to the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, the Boogaloo Bois and other far-right groups.
Republican South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has announced she is deploying 50 members of the South Dakota National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border at the request of Texas Governor Greg Abbott. But there is a twist: The deployment is being paid for by billionaire Republican megadonor Willis Johnson, who lives in Tennessee. Some critics have accused Noem of turning the National Guard into a private mercenary force targeting migrants.
In tech news, Amazon is seeking to force the new chair of the Federal Trade Commission, Lina Khan, to recuse herself from antitrust investigations into the company due to her past writings about Amazon. As a student at Yale Law School, Khan wrote a widely read paper detailing how antitrust laws had failed to prevent Amazon from growing into a monopoly.
Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke before 70,000 people in Tiananmen Square today to mark 100 years since the founding of the Chinese Communist Party. During his speech, Xi pledged to reunify Taiwan with China and warned against “bullying” by other countries.
President Xi Jinping: “The Chinese people have never bullied, oppressed or subjugated the people of other countries. We haven’t done that in the past, we are not doing it now, and we won’t do it in the future. … At the same time, the Chinese people will never allow any foreign force to bully, oppress or subjugate us. Anyone who dares try to do that will have their heads battered in front of the great wall of steel, forged with the flesh and blood of the over 1.4 billion Chinese people.”
The Financial Times reports the U.S. and Japan have been secretly conducting war games and joint military exercises in the South China Sea to prepare for a possible conflict with China over Taiwan. Some of the joint military exercises were disguised to look like disaster relief training.
In other international news, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has urged the Biden administration to lift sanctions on Iran and for both countries to return to the 2015 nuclear deal. Meanwhile, outgoing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has accused Biden of continuing Trump’s economic war against Iran. Rouhani described the U.S. policy as a form of “economic terrorism.”
In Canada, another 182 unmarked graves have been found at a former boarding school for First Nations children in British Columbia. It is the third major discovery in recent weeks of graves at residential schools where Indigenous children were forcibly sent to rid them of their Native cultures and languages. Meanwhile, Pope Francis has finally agreed to meet with Indigenous survivors of Catholic-run residential schools in Canada. The pope has faced widespread criticism for refusing to apologize for the church’s role in what Canada’s National Truth and Reconciliation Commission described as “cultural genocide.”
On the last day of Pride Month, the U.S. State Department announced it is working toward allowing gender nonconforming applicants to use the gender-neutral “X” marker on their passports. The State Department is also dropping a rule requiring trans applicants to provide medical certification in order to change the gender marker on their passports.
The New York City Board of Elections has released new preliminary results from the city’s Democratic mayoral primary, one day after accidentally releasing a tally that included 135,000 test ballots. The new numbers show front-runner Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams leading former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia by about 2 percentage points. Civil rights lawyer Maya Wiley placed third, just 347 votes behind Garcia. The city still has to count 124,000 absentee votes in the election, the city’s first using ranked-choice voting.
The board of trustees at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has voted to grant tenure to incoming journalism professor Nikole Hannah-Jones, ending a weeks-long dispute. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist is best known for her work at The New York Times, where she produced the 1619 Project, an interactive project that reexamines the legacy of slavery. The university initially denied her tenure after a prominent donor raised issues about her work on the 1619 Project.