As the entire world grapples with the most devastating pandemic of the modern era, the United States is pouring kerosene on the fire in Iran and Venezuela. The U.S. government has maintained punishing sanctions against the people of Iran and Venezuela to engineer regime change. But instead of ending the sanctions to help Iranians and Venezuelans fight the coronavirus, the Trump administration has expanded them and exacerbated the danger they pose.
“The world is facing the risk of an unprecedented humanitarian disaster,” the International Association of Democratic Lawyers wrote in a statement calling on the U.S. government to immediately lift all sanctions against Iran and Venezuela.
Sanctions (unilateral coercive measures), collective punishment and forcible regime change are illegal under U.S. and international law. Donald Trump’s intensification of sanctions against Venezuela and Iran during the pandemic constitutes a crime against humanity.
Throughout U.S. history, presidents have exploited national emergencies to exceed their constitutional powers. Abraham Lincoln illegally suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War. Franklin D. Roosevelt confined people of Japanese descent in internment camps during World War II. And George W. Bush used his post-9/11 “war on terror” to launch two illegal wars, mount a program of torture, conduct extensive unlawful surveillance and illegally detain people.
In light of the national emergency Donald Trump declared on Friday, March 13, his Department of Justice (DOJ) is asking Congress to allow the attorney general to indefinitely detain people without trial in violation of the constitutional right of habeas corpus. The DOJ also seeks to hold hearings without the defendant’s consent and exclude anyone with COVID-19 from eligibility for asylum.
In 1944, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) ensured that socialist Henry Wallace would not succeed Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) as president. Is history repeating itself in 2020?
Democratic socialist Bernie Sanders received the most votes in the first three primary elections. After centrist Joe Biden scored his first primary win, the DNC consolidated the Democratic Party establishment around him. Candidates Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar immediately dropped out of the race and endorsed Biden, as did former candidate Beto O’Rourke. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, who had already quit the primary race, followed suit and Michael Bloomberg did as well. The party bosses likely wanted to ensure that Sanders would not upend the corporate order.
Wallace, who held many of the same political positions as Sanders, was one of the architects of the New Deal. He served as FDR’s agriculture secretary, vice president and commerce secretary. But the ailing FDR’s 1944 bid to select Wallace as his vice president for what would be his final presidential term was derailed by the corporate party bosses who made sure that Harry Truman would follow FDR as president instead of Wallace.
After the prosecutor of the International Criminal
Court (ICC) found a reasonable basis to believe that U.S. military and CIA
leaders committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan,
Team Trump threatened to ban ICC judges and prosecutors from the U.S. and
warned it would impose economic sanctions on the Court if it launched an
Apparently succumbing to the U.S. threats, in April
2019, the ICC’s Pretrial Chamber refused to authorize the
investigation that prosecutor
Fatou Bensouda had requested.
But in an unprecedented decision, the
Appeals Chamber unanimously overruled the Pretrial
Chamber on March 5, 2020, and ordered a formal investigation
of U.S., Afghan and Taliban officials for war crimes, including
torture, committed in the “war on terror.”
It’s true that the Trump administration signed a “peace deal” with the Taliban — something that eluded both George W. Bush and Barack Obama — but a closer look at the agreement reveals it to be riddled with conditions that are fraught with obstacles.
The terms of the deal suggest that Trump is more interested in boasting that he’s fulfilling his campaign promise to bring the troops home than he is committed to achieving real peace in Afghanistan. This fact has also been noted by Trump’s former national security aides, some of whom have said that the president “is far less interested in an actual Afghan peace” than in claiming he is making good on his vow to withdraw the U.S. troops.
On February 28, federal prosecutors will announce whether they plan to retry four people who spent 37 days in the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, D.C., in the spring of 2019 to protect it from an illegal invasion by the U.S. government. The first trial of Adrienne Pine, Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese and David Paul, who were charged with “interfering with the protective functions” of the State Department, ended in a hung jury on February 14.
The Trump administration has been trying to engineer a coup d’état against the lawfully elected Venezuelan government of Nicolás Maduro and install the U.S. puppet Juan Guaidó. To that end, Washington continues to impose unlawful, punishing sanctions against Venezuela that have contributed to “the largest economic collapse in a country outside of war since at least the 1970s,” according to The New York Times. The sanctions have led to the deaths of at least 40,000 Venezuelans. On February 13, Venezuela filed a complaint against the United States in the International Criminal Court, claiming that the sanctions constitute crimes against humanity.
As billionaire Michael Bloomberg endeavors to buy his way to the presidency, some pundits continue to speculate that he has the best chance of defeating Donald Trump, even after his abysmal debate performance in Nevada. Bloomberg’s campaign says Bernie Sanders is the only candidate standing in the way of Bloomberg winning the nomination and beating Trump.
The Trump administration is seeking extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States for trial on charges carrying 175 years in prison. On February 24, a court in the U.K. will hold a hearing to determine whether to grant Trump’s request. The treaty between the U.S. and the U.K. prohibits extradition for a “political offense.” Assange was indicted for exposing U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. That is a classic political offense. Moreover, Assange’s extradition would violate the legal prohibition against sending a person to a country where he is in danger of being tortured.
Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard emeritus law professor who is serving as a hired gun for Team Trump, is arguing that even if John Bolton testifies that Trump admitted the quid pro quo with Ukraine to him, the Senate could not remove the president from office. Dershowitz has gone so far as to say that even if Trump told Bolton he was withholding the congressionally authorized military aid to Ukraine until it helped him with an investigation of the Bidens, that is still not impeachable conduct.
Contrary to the overwhelming weight of scholarly legal thought, Dershowitz has claimed that “high crimes and misdemeanors” is limited to offenses prohibited by statute. He told senators that abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, for which Trump was impeached, are not grounds for impeachment.
In a scene straight out of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the GOP-controlled Senate has refused to allow timely testimony from witnesses who had front row seats to Donald Trump’s abuse of power. The senators voted 53-47, strictly along party lines, to table any possible discussion of whether to allow witnesses and documentary evidence until six days of legal arguments and two days of senator questioning had occurred. That means the parties will argue the case and senators will ask questions before they ever get to see documents or hear from prospective witnesses.