December 17, 2017
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Trump Associates Charged as Special Counsel Reveals First Indictments

President Donald Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort and his former business associate Rick Gates surrendered to the FBI Monday, as special counsel Robert Mueller announced the first indictments in his investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Both Manafort and Gates pleaded not guilty to all charges filed against them in a 12-count indictment, which included money laundering, acting as unregistered agents of Ukraine’s former pro-Russian government and conspiracy against the United States. The arrests came as authorities announced a third former Trump adviser, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty in early October to lying to the FBI. Papadopoulos is cooperating with investigators in exchange for a more lenient sentence. According to his plea deal, Papadopoulos was told that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, and through a series of communications with foreign agents, he tried to facilitate communication between the Trump campaign and Russian agents. At the White House, spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday the indictments have nothing to do with the president’s campaign or campaign activity. She also said Trump was not planning to fire Mueller, as many conservative news outlets have demanded.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders “The president said last week—I believe it was last week—and I’ve said several times before, there’s no intention or plan to make any changes in regards to special counsel. But look, today’s announcement has nothing to do with the president, has nothing to do with the president’s campaign or campaign activity.”

On Twitter, President Trump lashed out, writing, “Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus? ....Also, there is NO COLLUSION!” The president’s tweets came before news broke of George Papadopoulos’s indictment, and Trump has not tweeted since then. Meanwhile, Democratic leaders warned the White House against firing special counsel Mueller. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement, “Congress must respond swiftly and unequivocally in a bipartisan way to assure that the investigation will continue.”

Tillerson, Mattis Ask Lawmakers for Authorization to Attack Anytime, Anyplace

On Capitol Hill, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Pentagon chief James Mattis told senators they believe the Trump administration has the authority to wage war against accused terrorists across the globe, as lawmakers review the AUMF—or Authorization for Use of Military Force—which passed three days after the 9/11 attacks. This is Secretary Tillerson, speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: “And potential repeal of the 2001 AUMFwithout an immediate and appropriate replacement could raise questions about the domestic legal basis for the United States’ full range of military activities against the Taliban, al-Qaeda and associated forces, including against ISIS, as well as our detention operations at Guantánamo Bay.”

Tillerson told senators any new war authorization should have no time constraints or geographic restrictions—meaning the U.S. can attack wherever and whenever it wants. On September 14, 2001, the AUMF passed the Senate 98-0 and 420-1 in the House, with California Democrat Barbara Lee casting the sole dissenting vote. Since then, it’s been used by Presidents Bush, Obama and Trump to justify at least 37 military operations in 14 countries—many of which were entirely unrelated to 9/11.

Federal Court Halts Trump’s Ban on Transgender Military Service 

A federal court in Washington, D.C., has blocked President Trump’s directive banning transgender troops from serving in the U.S. armed forces, pending further review by the courts. In her ruling, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said plaintiffs suing to overturn the order are likely to succeed. The judge also blasted President Trump for announcing the ban via Twitter.

Syria: U.N. Convoy Delivers Aid to Starving Syrians in Damascus Suburb

In Syria, a United Nations convoy reached the besieged Damascus suburb of Ghouta Monday, carrying aid for tens of thousands of residents at risk of famine from a stifling government siege. This is Mark Lowcock, the U.N.’s humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator.

Mark Lowcock: “An alarming number of child malnutrition cases have been recorded there, and more than 400 people with health problems require medical evacuation. I join the call of the World Food Program and others for unimpeded humanitarian access.”

The U.N. said its shipment will provide relief to about 40,000 people—a small fraction of the estimated 350,000 Syrians in the area who’ve seen food, fuel and medicine cut off since government forces blocked access to smuggling tunnels earlier this year.

Israel Bombs Gaza Tunnel, Killing 8 Palestinians

In the Gaza Strip, at least eight Palestinians were killed Monday as Israeli forces blew up a tunnel connecting the besieged Palestinian territory to a kibbutz in southern Israel. The Palestinian Ministry of Health said most of the dead were members of the al-Quds Brigades militant group. The attack drew a threat of retaliation by the Islamic Jihad Movement and was condemned by Hamas, which called it a “new war” against the people of Gaza. The tunnel attack came just days before Hamas is due to relinquish power to the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority as part of an agreement aimed at ending a decade-old split between Hamas and its political rival Fatah. Meanwhile, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner has returned from a secret trip to the Middle East. Kushner met privately in Saudi Arabia with members of the royal family in what the White House says was a trip aimed at brokering a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

In Brussels, Catalan Leader Vows to Continue Independence Fight

Spain’s top prosecutor has called for the arrest of Carles Puigdemont and other Catalan leaders on charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement. Puigdemont appeared in Belgium after the charges were announced, vowing to continue his fight for a separate Catalan nation, after Catalonia’s regional Parliament voted Friday for independence by a margin of 70 votes to 10. Puigdemont has hired a Belgian lawyer and may be considering an asylum claim in Belgium, where courts have a high bar for extradition requests.

Kenyan President Kenyatta Claims Victory in Disputed Revote

In Kenya, incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta has claimed victory in an election rerun that saw his main opponent boycott over charges of electoral fraud. Kenyatta took 98 percent of last Thursday’s vote, with only 39 percent of eligible Kenyans casting ballots. Authorities called off the revote in 25 of Kenya’s 290 electoral districts amid street protests and blockades by supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga, who called the election a “sham” and called for a third vote within the next 90 days. On Monday, Amnesty International condemned instances of brutality and unlawful killing by authorities against opposition protesters, saying police fired indiscriminately into crowds and even broke into the homes of suspected protest organizers.

U.S. Navy Investigating Navy SEALs over Murder of Green Beret in Mali 

The U.S. Navy says it’s investigating whether two members of its elite SEAL Team Six were responsible for killing a Green Beret at the U.S. Embassy in Mali last June. Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar was found strangled to death in his room at the embassy in the capital, Bamako, where he was assigned to train Malian forces in counterinsurgency. The investigation of Melgar’s death comes as the Trump administration expands the role of AFRICOM across the African continent.

France: Protesters Disrupt Roman Polanski Event over Sex Crimes Charges

In Paris, activists disrupted the opening of an exhibition honoring Hollywood filmmaker Roman Polanski, who’s accused of a string of sexual assaults and is wanted in the U.S. on charges he raped a 13-year-old girl in 1977. This is protester Sadia Rao.

Sadia Rao: “I think it’s ridiculous that we’re still venerating someone like him. I think it’s ridiculous that he hasn’t left France, that he’s not in jail, that no one is taking the cases of these women seriously. So I’m here to give a voice and fight for that, so we take these women seriously for once.”

Thousands of French Women March Against Sexual Assault in #MeToo Protests

The protest came after thousands demonstrated in cities across France over the weekend inspired by the hashtag #MeToo, in which women share their stories of sexual assault and harassment. Meanwhile, France’s minister for gender equality pressed for legislation that would fine men who catcall, harass or follow women on the street.

Netflix Cancels “House of Cards” Amid Kevin Spacey Sexual Assault Allegations

Back in the U.S., Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey has apologized for an incident three decades ago in which he made a sexual advance on actor Anthony Rapp, who was just 14 years old at the time. In a statement, Spacey said he couldn’t remember the 1986 incident, but apologized for “deeply inappropriate drunken behavior.” Kevin Spacey used the statement to come out as a gay man, drawing fire from LGBTQactivists who blasted him for conflating homosexuality with child molestation. Netflix said Monday it has canceled its popular “House Of Cards” series, saying it was “deeply troubled” by Kevin Spacey’s actions.

Carbon Dioxide at Record Level Ahead of U.N. Climate Talks in Bonn 

The United Nations warned Monday that carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere soared to a record 403.3 parts per mission last year, jumping at the fastest annual rate ever recorded. It’s a level the planet hasn’t seen since the Pliocene epoch 3 million years ago, when sea levels were about 66 feet higher. The report by the World Meteorological Organization came as representatives from nearly 200 countries are set to meet in Bonn, Germany, next week for two weeks of talks aimed at curbing the worst effects of climate change. Democracy Now! will broadcast daily from the talks in Bonn throughout the week beginning November 13.

Amnesty International Joins Call to End Immigrant Family Detentions

Human rights campaigners rallied outside the White House Monday, calling on the Trump administration to release children and their parents from the Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania, where families are imprisoned as they seek asylum in the U.S. Protesters with Amnesty International set up cardboard silhouettes of children and teddy bears draped in signs reading, “Don’t let kids grow up in jail.”

ACLU Calls for Release of 10-Year-Old Girl Detained by ICE After Surgery

Amnesty’s protest came as the American Civil Liberties Union demanded the immediate release of a 10-year-old girl who was taken into custody by Border Patrol agents as she recovered from emergency surgery at a hospital in Texas. Video shows the agents escorting Rosa Maria Hernandez, who is undocumented, into custody, as she’s wheeled out of the hospital on a gurney. Hernandez has been living in the United States since she was three months old, when her parents moved to the U.S. in order to access better medical care to treat her cerebral palsy. We’ll have more on her case later in the broadcast.


Courtesy of Democracy Now

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