The New York Times is reporting that on June 20, President Trump ordered military strikes against Iran to retaliate for its shootdown of a U.S. drone, but then pulled back and didn’t launch them. Officials told the Times that Trump had approved attacks on Iranian radar and missile batteries.
Trump tweeted, “We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.”
Nevertheless, shortly after midnight on June 21, Newsweek reported that regional U.S. military assets have been put on 72-hour standby.
On June 19, an Iranian surface-to-air missile shot down an unmanned U.S. surveillance drone. The White House claimed that its drone was at least 20 miles from Iran, in international airspace, while Iran maintains the drone was in Iranian airspace. Iran presented GPS coordinates showing the drone eight miles from Iran’s coast, which is inside the area of 12 nautical miles that is considered Iran’s territorial waters under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The Supreme Court is poised to decide two cases that could prove devastating to the right to vote — the very foundation of a democracy. One case will review the Trump administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. The other will consider whether partisan gerrymandering is constitutional. They are related because the citizenship question would “allow Republicans to draft even more extreme gerrymandered maps to stymie Democrats,” the New York Times reported.
“It’s hard to overstate the significance of the census and partisan gerrymandering cases,” according to Professor Leah Litman of UC Irvine School of Law, interviewed in the Los Angeles Times. “Upholding the addition of the citizenship question and foregoing any judicial oversight of partisan gerrymandering would allow Republican minorities to entrench their political power for decades.”
Moreover, Thomas Hofeller, a GOP strategist and architect of the citizenship question plan, was known as the “Michelangelo of gerrymandering.” Hofeller’s expertise in drawing partisan political maps “cemented the [Republican] party’s dominance across the country,” Michael Wines wrote in the New York Times.
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders delivered a full-throated defense of democratic socialism in his June 12 speech at George Washington University. Sanders quoted FDR’s 1944 State of the Union address: “We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.”
Sanders, like FDR, proposed an Economic Bill of Rights, including the rights to health care, affordable housing, education, a living wage and retirement.
“Economic rights are human rights,” Sanders declared. “That is what I mean by democratic socialism.”
Escalating his policy to economically strangle Cuba, Donald Trump has imposed new restrictions on travel to Cuba by U.S. persons. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) will no longer allow the popular “people-to-people” educational travel and they will deny licenses to cruise ships, the most common way people visit Cuba.
As President Donald Trump, National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rattle their sabers, there is no evidence that Iran poses a threat to the United States. It was Trump who threatened genocide, tweeting, “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran.” The Pentagon is now considering sending 10,000 additional troops to the Gulf region for “defensive” purposes and not in response to a new threat by Iran. Threats to use military force — like the use of force itself — violate U.S. and international law.
Last week, Pompeo said U.S. intelligence had determined that Iranian-sponsored attacks on U.S. forces “were imminent.” The Trump administration asserted, “without evidence,” according to The New York Times, that new intelligence revealed Iran was sponsoring proxy groups to attack U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria.
The Pentagon announced its intention to deploy a Patriot antimissile battery to the Middle East. Three days later, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the United States would send up to 120,000 troops to the region if Iran attacks U.S. forces or speeds up work on nuclear weapons.
But on May 14, Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika, a senior British military official and deputy commander of the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS, told reporters at the Pentagon that “there has been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq or Syria.”
On May 16, law enforcement agents broke into the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C., and arrested the four remaining members of the Embassy Protection Collective. “We denounce these arrests, as the people inside were there with our permission, and we consider it a violation of the Vienna Conventions,” Venezuelan Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Ron said.
For 36 days, the protectors had lived in the embassy to shield it from a raid by U.S. authorities working in concert with opponents of Venezuela’slawfully elected president, Nicolás Maduro. Since U.S. officers had refused to allow food into the embassy, only four of the some 50 members of the collective had stayed in order to conserve supplies.
The Trump administration has been trying to engineer an unlawful coupand regime change in Venezuela. After U.S. puppet Juan Guaidó declared himself “interim president” of Venezuela on January 23, high Trump officials quickly ratified his declaration. The U.S. government seeks to illegally install Guaidó and a new ambassador in the D.C. embassy as part of its coup attempt.
After the redacted Mueller report was made public, Donald Trumptweeted, “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION.” But when the House Judiciary Committee asked to see Mueller’s full report, Trump said no way.
The Constitution gives Congress the authority to check and balance the executive branch. That includes the power to issue and enforce subpoenas. In the 1927 Teapot Dome scandal case about government corruption, the Supreme Court held that Congress’s “power of inquiry — with process to enforce it — is an essential and appropriate auxiliary to the legislative function.” Justice Willis Van Devanter wrote for the unanimous Court that when the Constitution was adopted, “the power of inquiry, with enforcing process, was regarded and employed as a necessary and appropriate attribute of the power to legislate — indeed, was treated as inhering in it.”
Yet Trump has defied nearly all of the nine subpoenas and requests for testimony and/or documents that House committees have issued.
Under the guise of protecting human rights, the Trump administration is illegally meddling in three countries it has dubbed the “troika of tyranny” — Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua. National Security Adviser John Bolton claimed, “Miami is home to countless Americans, who fled the prisons and death squads of the Castro regime in Cuba, the murderous dictatorships of Chavez and Maduro in Venezuela, and the horrific violence of the 1980s and today under the brutal reign of the Ortegas in Nicaragua.”
But the U.S. government’s human rights record doesn’t compare favorably to Cuba’s. And the Trump administration, which ignores notorious human rights violators like Saudi Arabia, is acting out of more cynical motives in its commission of egregious human rights violations against Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.
The U.S. government has imposed unlawful, coercive sanctions on these nations, and attempted to mount a coup to illegally change Venezuela’s regime.
Trump and the real troika of tyranny — Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams — have failed in their coup attempt against the democratically elected Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Trump’s troika, egged on by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), are seeking to substitute U.S. puppet Juan Guaidó for Maduro as president of Venezuela.
After a nearly two-year investigation, culminating in a 448-page report, Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded that Russia attempted to influence the 2016 election but found insufficient evidence to prove the Trump campaign conspired with Russia. Mueller did not decide, however, if Trump obstructed justice.
The special counsel detailed 10 acts that could constitute obstruction of justice. But based on a memo from the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel that says a sitting president can’t be indicted, Mueller refrained from concluding whether the evidence was sufficient to charge Trump with obstruction.
If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.
After living under a grant of asylum in London’s Ecuadorian embassy for nearly seven years, WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange was forcibly ejected and arrested by British police on April 11. Ecuador’s president, Lenin Moreno, accused Assange of “repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols.” After an anonymous source revealed the “INA Papers,” a dossier that implicated Moreno in money laundering and contained personal photos of his family, WikiLeaks tweeted about it but denied any connection to the hacking.
Rafael Correa, who was president of Ecuador until 2017, had granted Assange asylum in 2012 to protect him from extradition to the United States to answer for WikiLeaks’s publication of evidence of U.S. war crimes. Ecuador’s foreign minister at the time, Ricardo Patino, said that without this protection, Assange could suffer “political persecution” or extradition to the U.S. where he might face the death penalty.
In 2010, WikiLeaks published classified documentation of U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, which Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning had provided. It included the “Collateral Murder Video” that showed U.S. soldiers in an Army helicopter gunship kill 12 unarmed civilians walking down a street in Baghdad.
Sweden investigated Assange in fall 2010 for allegations of sexual assault. Assange was living in Britain at the time. Sweden issued an extradition warrant so Assange could face questioning about the investigation in Sweden. Assange fought extradition but lost in Britain’s Supreme Court in June 2012. He sought and received refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.