Donald Trump Jr.’s email communication and subsequent meeting with a lawyer connected to the Russian government constitute probable cause that he and his father’s presidential campaign violated the Federal Election Campaign Act (52 U.S.C. §§ 30101, 30121). It is not yet clear whether these events are sufficient to obtain a criminal conviction. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is amassing additional evidence, which could eventually lead to criminal prosecutions.
In a June 3, 2016, email chain Trump Jr. released on Twitter, British publicist and former tabloid reporter Rob Goldstone told Trump Jr. the Russian government had “some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary.” Goldstone added, “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Seventeen minutes later, Trump Jr. replied, “if it’s what you say I love it.”
Six days later, on June 9, Trump Jr., then campaign manager Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior advisor, met with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin, at Trump Tower. Trump Jr. arranged the meeting with the expectation of receiving negative information the Russian government supposedly had about Hillary Clinton.
These facts amount to probable cause that Trump Jr., the Trump campaign, and likely Manafort and Kushner committed federal election interference in violation of federal criminal law.Read more
In 2012, the bin Ali Jaber family gathered in Khashamir, Yemen, for a wedding celebration. Ahmed Salem bin Ali Jaber (Salem) was asked to deliver a guest sermon, which challenged al Qaeda to justify its attacks on civilians. In response to his sermon, three strange men arrived to see Salem.
Fearing trouble, Salem asked Waleed bin Ali Jaber (Waleed), a police officer, to accompany him to meet the three men. A US-operated drone deployed four Hellfire missiles, killing all five men. Salem and Waleed were not the intended targets of the drone strike. The three strangers were not “high-level, high-value targets to the United States.” This was a “signature strike” in which the government targets anonymous suspected militants solely based on their pattern of behavior.
The Yemeni government ordered that the victims’ families receive approximately $55,000 as “condolence” payments. When a member of Yemen’s National Security Bureau offered a family member $1,000,000, the official stated the money was from the US government, but he later recanted when Faisal bin Ali Jaber (Faisal) asked the official to produce his statement in writing.
Drone Victims’ Relative Sues in Federal Court
Faisal, who was Salem’s brother-in-law and Waleed’s uncle, sued the US government in federal district court. He requested an apology for the wrongful deaths of his relatives and a declaration that the drone strike violated domestic and international law.Read more
The House Appropriations Committee unexpectedly passed an amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations bill last week that would repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed by Congress in 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. If this effort to revoke the AUMF proves successful, the repeal would effectively limit Donald Trump’s ability to use military force against North Korea, Iran and elsewhere.
In the 2001 AUMF, Congress authorized the president to use military force against groups and countries that had supported the 9/11 attacks. Congress rejected the George W. Bush administration’s request for open-ended military authority “to deter and preempt any future acts of terrorism or aggression against the United States.” ISIS (also known as Daesh) did not exist in 2001.
Although Congress limited the scope of the AUMF, it has nevertheless been used as a blank check for military force more than 37 times in 14 different countries, according to the Congressional Research Service.Read more
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the first major test of the scope of executive power to protect national security since Neil Gorsuch joined the Court as associate justice.
Monday morning, the high court announced it will determine the legality of Donald Trump’s executive order establishing a Muslim travel ban when it reconvenes the first Monday in October.
In the meantime, the high court allowed parts of the ban to go into effect. Trump can now exclude foreign nationals who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity, such as a school, in the United States.
The high court’s majority ruling was signed “per curiam” (by the court), meaning that no justice took responsibility for writing it. Three justices — Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch — dissented from the majority ruling, saying they would have upheld the exclusion of everyone covered by Trump’s ban without limitation. Gorsuch’s dissent, while perhaps not unexpected coming from a person who obediently defended torture, warrantless surveillance and runaway executive power under the Bush administration, portends a far-right tilt for the court’s newest justice.Read more
HAVANA — Making good on his deal with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Florida), President Donald Trump announced Friday that he plans to roll back some of the steps Barack Obama took to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba.
In 2015, Obama weakened restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba and eliminated some of the economic prohibitions between the two countries. He removed Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism and loosened the export of US internet hardware and telecommunications. He also set up increased cooperation in intelligence-gathering, drug interdiction, scientific research and environmental protection.
Obama made it easier for Americans to travel to Cuba. Nearly everyone can now visit Cuba without applying for a specific license. US airlines can fly there directly with cheaper fares; only general licenses are required for most travel to Cuba.
In his presidential policy guidance on Cuba, Trump reinstituted some restrictions on US travel to Cuba and US business relations with the island. He did not touch Obama’s loosened limits on Cuban-American travel and remittances to Cuba, however, because that would anger a significant voter base in Florida.
Trump also left in place the US embassy in Havana and the Cuban embassy in Washington, DC, that Obama established. And Trump did not end direct flights to Cuba by US airlines.Read more
Without ever stating that President Donald Trump obstructed justice, former FBI director James Comey methodically laid out the case for charging Trump with the crime of obstruction of justice, an impeachable offense.
In written and oral testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Comey provided an explosive account of an attempted cover-up by the president.
Obstruction of justice requires the attempt to halt an investigation with a corrupt intent. Trump corruptly tried to block the pending criminal investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. The day after Flynn resigned, the president allegedly warned Comey, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” Comey testified, “I took it as a direction” that “this is what he wants me to do…. [I] replied only that ‘[Flynn] is a good guy.'”
According to Comey, Trump asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Jared Kushner and others to step out of the Oval Office before the president requested that Comey drop the “open FBI criminal investigation” of Flynn for “his statements in connection with the Russian contacts, and the contacts themselves.” Clearly, the president didn’t want anyone else to hear what he had to say to Comey. This is evidence for the case that Trump made the request to Comey for a corrupt purpose.Read more
When President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement, he acted in concert with 22 Republican senators, who collectively receive $10,694,284 in contributions from the coal and oil industries.
These 22 senators wrote to Trump, asking him to pull out of the accord. The president and the senators put their own political and economic interests above the safety, security and indeed survival of the American people and the entire planet.Read more
President Donald Trump has twice tried to institute a travel ban on all refugees from six or seven Muslim-majority countries. During the presidential campaign, Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” slated to last “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” His Muslim ban has been struck down by two courts of appeals and may be headed to the Supreme Court.
With his mean-spirited bans, Trump aimed to capitalize on fear of Muslims fueled by the 9/11 terrorist attacks and exacerbated since by the U.S. government and the corporate media.
Long-standing prejudice against Arabs
This anti-Muslim sentiment is a continuation of long-standing prejudice against Arabs that reached its zenith during the last third of the 20th century. In her provocative book, “The Rise of the Arab American Left: Activists, Allies, and Their Fight Against Imperialism and Racism, 1960s-1980s,” Pamela Pennock traces the trajectory of Arab American leftist activism in the United States over a series of key decades.Read more
Nearly five years ago, Ecuador granted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange political asylum at its London embassy. The original purpose of the asylum was to avoid extradition to the United States. Two years earlier, Swedish authorities had launched an investigation of Assange for sexual assault. Sweden has now dropped that investigation.
Assange called the Swedish decision to end the investigation an “important victory for me and for the U.N. human rights system.” But, he said, the “proper war was just commencing,” because the London Metropolitan Police warned if Assange leaves the Ecuadorian Embassy, they would arrest him on a 2012 warrant issued after he failed to appear at a magistrate’s court following his entry into the embassy.
The original reason for granting asylum to Assange remains intact. The U.S. government has been gunning for Assange since 2010, when WikiLeaks published documents leaked by whistleblower Chelsea Manning. Those documents, which included the Afghan and Iraq war logs and U.S. State Department cables, were ultimately published in the New York Times, the U.K. Guardian, and the German magazine Der Spiegel.Read more
As Donald Trump arrives in Israel, hundreds of Palestinian prisoners are participating in a hunger strike to protest their mistreatment. On April 17, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, approximately 1,500 prisoners began refusing food, ingesting only salt water. That amounts to about a quarter of all Palestinian prisoners being held by Israel.
Their demands include increased visitation rights with humane treatment of family visitors; installation of a public telephone to communicate with families; and an end to medical negligence, solitary confinement and administrative detention.
Many of the striking prisoners have been taken to the hospital after their health deteriorated, the Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs reported.
Marwan Barghouti, the imprisoned Palestinian activist who called for the hunger strike, wrote in a New York Times op-ed, “Hunger striking is the most peaceful form of resistance available. It inflicts pain solely on those who participate and on their loved ones, in the hopes that their empty stomachs and their sacrifice will help the message resonate beyond the confines of their dark cells.”Read more