Nothing Donald Trump has done since his inauguration 14 months ago is more dangerous – to the United States, and indeed, to the world – than his selection of John Bolton for National Security Adviser. It is not surprising the president would feel most comfortable receiving advice from a fellow bully.
Trump bullies people on a nearly daily basis, directing his ire at immigrants, Muslims, women, LBGTQ people, the poor and the environment. He hurls Twitter attacks at those who disagree with him.Read more
Over the past week, nearly a year after he tried to have Robert Mueller fired, Donald Trump went on a tweeting rampage against the special counsel. Trump’s escalating Twitter attacks may be a harbinger of Mueller’s impending dismissal — or the president could be trying to preemptively discredit and delegitimize Mueller’s eventual findings against him.
Mueller was appointed special counsel in May 2017. The following month, Trump ordered White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller. McGahn refused and threatened to resign. Trump backed down but has been champing at the bit to end Mueller’s investigation, apparently restrained by his lawyers’ promises that the probe is coming to an end. In addition, GOP heavyweights like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) warned that firing Mueller would spell “the beginning of the end of [Trump’s] presidency.”
But Mueller’s investigation shows no signs of abating. He continues to secure grand jury indictments, as well as plea bargains that make those pleading guilty into cooperating witnesses. And now he has subpoenaed financial records of the Trump Organization.Read more
On March 1, 2018, in his annual state of the nation speech to the Russian Federal Assembly, President Vladimir Putin declared that his country has developed an “invincible” intercontinental cruise missile resistant to US missile defense systems. Putin claimed the new weapon can operate at very high speeds and has unlimited range.
Although “some experts” have suggested Putin may be bluffing, Theodore A. Postol, professor emeritus of science, technology and national security policy at MIT, told Truthout, “I think he’s deadly serious.” Postol, who evaluated Moscow’s anti-ballistic missile defense while serving as adviser to the chief of naval operations in the early 1980s, said Putin’s speech “made very clear that every attempt to engage us in constructive discussion has been met with no response. He was responding to the US unwillingness to talk about missile defenses.”Read more
As members of Congress worked against the March 5 deadline Donald Trump had imposed to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), two federal district courts ruled that DACA would continue — for now. On March 6, a third district court judge found Trump’s termination of DACA to be lawful. The conflict among the courts of appeals increases the likelihood that the Supreme Court will review the case. It remains to be seen whether Congress or the courts will ultimately take action to protect the Dreamers.Read more
Pressure is mounting as the Trump administration continues to refuse to reveal its legal justification for bombing Syria in April 2017, despite increased scrutiny from Democratic senators and a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) wrote a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on February 8, 2018, requesting a copy of the State Department memo containing the Trump administration’s legal justification for the US attack against Syria on April 6, 2017, when it bombed the Shayrat military airbase with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles.
At the time of the bombing, Trump suggested that he ordered the launching of the missiles in retaliation for a sarin gas attack at Khan Sheikhoun, allegedly ordered by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The Syrian government, however, denied responsibility for the chemical attack. Meanwhile, Defense Secretary James Mattis admitted earlier this month he has “no evidence” Assad ordered the use of sarin gas against his own people.Read more
One of the most consequential actions Donald Trump took during the first year of his presidency was to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017. When the Palestinians predictably responded by pulling out of the US-led “peace process,” Trump retaliated by cutting US financial support to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) by more than 50 percent.
“A Death Sentence” for Gazan Refugees
The US cutback in aid to UNRWA critically threatens the access of Palestinian refugees to food, health care and education.
In Gaza, 1.3 million Palestinian refugees, who comprise 70 percent of Gaza’s population, depend on UNRWA for food assistance. The refugee crisis was aggravated by Israel’s 2014 massacre in Gaza.Read more
Amid the media frenzy surrounding the Nunes-Trump memo, the Pentagon officially released its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) last week. The NPR calls for the development of leaner, meaner nuclear weapons and lowers the threshold for the use of nukes. Donald Trump must be thrilled. During the presidential campaign, he questioned a senior foreign policy adviser about nuclear weapons three times during a briefing, asking, “If we had them why can’t we use them?”
The NPR calls for “low-yield” nuclear weapons on submarine-launched ballistic missiles — weapons that could cause as much damage as the bombs the United States dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
For the first time, the new NPR states that the United States could use nuclear weapons in response to non-nuclear attacks, including cyberattacks, in “extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States, its allies and partners.” This new strategy opens the door to first-use of nuclear weapons, which is prohibited under international law.Read more
Last June, Donald Trump ordered White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, according to the New York Times. McGahn threatened to resign rather than fire Mueller, so Trump backed down.
Trump had given McGahn an illegal order. The president was asking the White House Counsel to conspire with him to obstruct justice. McGahn knew he had a legal duty to refuse an illegal order, even if it was the president doing the ordering. McGahn was “concerned that firing the special counsel would incite more questions about whether the White House was trying to obstruct the Russia investigation,” according to the Times.Read more
“Today, the United States Congress struck a significant blow against the basic human right to read, write, learn, and associate free of government’s prying eyes,” Electronic Frontier Foundation Executive Director Cindy Cohn wrote. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Reauthorization Act of 2017, which Congress passed on January 19, poses a serious threat to the privacy of our internet communications.
Congress voted to extend Section 702 of FISA, with minimal changes, for six years. It permits the National Security Agency (NSA) to collect email and texts of foreigners abroad without a warrant, and also allows spying on Americans who communicate with people outside the United States. For example, the NSA can intercept the communications of a US citizen or permanent resident who attends an international conference on human rights or marches against climate change in another country.Read more
After Donald Trump called Haiti and African nations “shithole countries” and exclaimed, “We should have more people from Norway,” Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) noted that being a racist “must be in his DNA, in his makeup.” Trump’s offensive characterization of Haitians and the entire continent of Africa, the latest in his pattern and practice of racist epithets, imperils legal protection for the 800,000 “Dreamers” who have been able to remain in the United States under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
On September 5, 2017, Trump rescinded the DACA program, effective March 5, 2018. Attorney General Jeff Sessions incorrectly declared that Barack Obama had overstepped his legal authority when he established DACA, as I explained previously.
Indeed, US District Judge William Alsup disagreed with Sessions and ordered the Trump administration to shield existing DACA enrollees from deportation until the courts could rule on the legal challenges to the program. Alsup concluded that plaintiffs contesting the rescission of DACA would likely prevail on the merits of their constitutional and statutory claims.Read more