Trump intends to undo DACA, the Obama initiative that protected people under 18 who were brought to the US by undocumented immigrants. Protecting them would require new legislation by Congress.
Contact Senators and tell them to co-sponsor the bipartisan “DREAM Act” (S. 1615)
Contact Reps and tell them to co-sponsor American Hope Act (H.R. 3591), give those with DACA and others who arrived in the United States as children a path to permanent legal status and eventual citizenship.
On Thursday, the United States used its second-largest non-nuclear weapon for the first time ever in combat, in a strike aimed at a tunnel complex used by forces aligned with the Islamic State in Afghanistan. The 21,000-pound, GPS-guided bomb, also known as the Massive Ordnance Air Blast, has been nicknamed the “mother of all bombs.” It was last tested on March 11, 2003, when it caused a mushroom cloud that could be seen from 20 miles away. Americans were unusually obsessed with the strike because of the nickname of the bomb, shortened to the acronym MOAB by most news outlets. (Politico)
Tensions are mounting over North Korea. North Korean monitoring service 38 North said Wednesday the country’s Punggye-ri nuclear site is “primed and ready” for a sixth nuclear test. “The activity during the past six weeks is suggestive of the final preparations for a test,” said 38 North analyst Joseph Bermudez… “North Korea believes the only way to deter the US from attacking them and maintaining the power of the Kim regime is by the possession of nuclear weapons,” Bermudez said. (CNN) North Korean state media warned on Tuesday of a nuclear attack on the United States at any sign of American aggression, as a U.S. Navy strike group steamed toward the western Pacific – a force U.S. President Donald Trump described as an “armada”. Trump, who has urged China to do more to rein in its impoverished ally and neighbor, said in a tweet that North Korea was “looking for trouble” and the United States would “solve the problem” with or without Beijing’s help… (Reuters)
China and South Korea agreed on Monday to impose tougher sanctions on North Korea if it carried out nuclear or long-range missile tests, a senior official in Seoul said… On Tuesday, a fleet of North Korean cargo ships headed home, mostly fully laden, after China ordered its trading companies to return coal, sources with direct knowledge of the trade said. China banned all imports of North Korean coal, the country’s most important export, on Feb. 26, but Washington has questioned how well the sanction was being implemented. (Reuters)
Russia’s Foreign Ministry, ahead of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, said it was concerned about many aspects of U.S. foreign policy, particularly North Korea. “We are really worried about what Washington has in mind for North Korea after it hinted at the possibility of a unilateral military scenario,” the ministry said in a statement. (Reuters) And though on Tuesday Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s reign in Syria was “coming to an end,” and that Russia was at risk of becoming irrelevant in the Middle East by continuing to support him, Russian President, Vladimir Putin, showed no signs of backing away from Mr. Assad. He likened the accusations against the Assad government — made by Britain, France and other allies, along with the Trump administration — to the flawed intelligence that President George W. Bush’s administration cited in 2003 to justify the invasion of Iraq. Mr. Putin insisted that the chemical attack had stemmed from anti-Assad rebel units. (NY Times)
In his first interview since an April 4 attack on the northern town of Khan Sheikhoun that killed over 80 people, sickened hundreds and outraged the world, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria not only repeated the government’s denials of responsibility but contended without evidence that the episode had been fabricated as a pretext for an American retaliatory missile strike. “We don’t know whether those dead children were killed in Khan Sheikhoun,” Mr. Assad told Agence France-Presse in the television interview from Damascus, which was recorded on Wednesday. “Were they dead at all?” (NY Times)
Sean Spicer brought up Hitler unprompted during Tuesday’s White House briefing while emphasizing how seriously the United States takes Assad’s use of chemical weapons. Spicer said:
We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II. You know, you had a, you know, someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons. So you have to if you’re Russia, ask yourself: Is this a country that you, and a regime, that you want to align yourself with? You have previously signed onto international agreements, rightfully acknowledging that the use of chemical weapons should be out of bounds by every country.
Later in the briefing, a reporter read Spicer’s comments back to him and gave him the opportunity to clarify. Spicer’s answer only added more confusion.
I think when you come to sarin gas, there was no — he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing. I mean, there was clearly, I understand your point, thank you. Thank you, I appreciate that. There was not in the, he brought them into the Holocaust center, I understand that. What I am saying in the way that Assad used them, where he went into towns, dropped them down to innocent, into the middle of towns, it was brought — so the use of it. And I appreciate the clarification there. That was not the intent. (The Washington Post)
Steve Bannon seems to have worked his way onto Trump’s sh#! list. Rumors have been swirling for weeks that their has been infighting among the president’s advisors, particularly between Steve Bannon and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. And last week, Bannon was removed from the National Security Council. On Tuesday, Trump was asked if he still had confidence in Bannon, who is his chief strategist, and he his answer was not exactly enthusiastic (or truthful), “I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late. I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve. I’m my own strategist, and it wasn’t like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary.” (CNN)
As Always In Trumpland
There was more news than I could possibly cover in one column. Other important and interesting tidbits from the week are:
Syria is a rather small country, yet it has been dominating headlines for years now and the news is never good. This week, the new coming out of Syria was particularly gruesome.
On Tuesday, someone dropped chemical bombs on to a northern rebel-held area in Syria. Many believe that the chemical bomb attack was the work of the Syrian government and that the chemical used in the attack was sarin. Sarin is a nerve agent, one of a class of chemical weapons that affect the brain’s ability to communicate with the body’s organs through the nervous system…. The United Nations Chemical Convention, which bans the use of sarin in war, went into effect in 1997. The Syrian government agreed in 2013 to destroy its chemical weapons stockpile, including sarin…. According to the United States military, sarin is 81 times as toxic as cyanide. (NY Times)
At least 86 people were killed in the assault including 28 children, according to a tally from the health department in rebel-held Idlib Province, but that may not include victims sent to Turkey who have died. Some officials including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey have said the attack killed more than 100 people. Unicef said in a statement on Thursday that 546 people were injured, “among them many children.” (NY Times)
The United States launched a military strike Thursday on a Syrian government target in response to the chemical weapon attack.
The Pentagon released details on the strike, saying it was conducted using tomahawk missiles launched from the destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. “A total of 59 [Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles] targeted aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said in an official statement. “As always, the U.S. took extraordinary measures to avoid civilian casualties and to comply with the Law of Armed Conflict.” (CNBC)
But Did He Have the Authority to Launch the Strike?
It is not clear what ― if any ― legal authority Trump is claiming to strike the Assad regime. The U.S. has claimed authority to bomb ISIS in Syria under the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force by claiming that ISIS is an offshoot of al Qaeda. But there is no war authorization from Congress that could be interpreted to allow military action against the Syrian government, nor can the U.S. claim it is defending itself.(Huffington Post)
Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Putin sees the strikes on Syria as “aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law, and under a false pretext”. Peskov claimed that Syria did not have any chemical weapons. “With this step Washington has struck a significant blow to Russian-American relations, which were already in a sorry state,” said Peskov. (Guardian)
After the strike, Rex Tillerson, the U.S. Secretary of State, said, “We have a very high level of confidence that the attacks were carried out by aircraft under the direction of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and we also have very high confidence that the attacks involved the use of sarin nerve gas.” He also noted the 2013 U.N. arrangement under which Syria agreed to surrender its chemical weapons under the supervision of Russia, and stated,”Clearly, Russia has failed in its responsibility to deliver on that commitment from 2013. So either Russia has been complicit or simply incompetent in its ability to deliver on that agreement.”
On the Domestic Front
Inside the United States, it was politics as usual, Trump style.
Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) started speaking on the Senate floor around 6:45 pm Tuesday night and proceeded to speak for over 15 hours. His speech was in protest of President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.
But Merkley couldn’t keep talking forever, even if he had unlimited endurance. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) preemptively filed a motion to end debate, known as a cloture motion, before Merkley started talking. That motion starts a clock for votes on cloture, which is one of the few things that Senate rules allow to interrupt a marathon speech like Merkley’s.
That means that while Merkley could use his speech to draw attention and as a symbolic protest, he couldn’t actually delay the vote on Gorsuch’s confirmation (and it also means that, technically, his speech wasn’t a filibuster). (ThinkProgress)
After Democrats held together Thursday morning and filibustered President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Republicans voted to lower the threshold for advancing Supreme Court nominations from 60 votes to a simple majority. (NY Times)
The continuing fallout from President Trump’s unsubstantiated wiretapping allegation cost him another ally on Thursday, as Devin Nunes, the embattled Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee announced he would step aside from his panel’s investigation into Russia’s efforts to disrupt last year’s election. The announcement from the committee’s chairman, Representative Devin Nunes of California, came shortly before the House Committee on Ethics said he was under investigation because of public reports that he “may have made unauthorized disclosures of classified information.” (NY Times)
White House Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, was removed from the National Security Council this week and speculation was running rampant about what that meant. Both the New York Times and Politico reported that Bannon was so annoyed about this move that he threatened to quit. Rumors have been swirling also that Bannon and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, have been feuding and that Trump is dissatisfied with Bannon. (Vox)
The only piece of legislation regarding voting in the state of Washington is HB 1513 which would allow 16 and 17 year olds to register to vote so they are ready to vote when they turn 18. You can also comment on this bill.
The State of Utah has been pushing back against maintaining the recently established Bears Ears Nat. Monument in Southern Utah as well as disputing the boundaries of the nearby Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This petition will urge Secretary Zinke to fight to maintain the current borders of these national monuments.
The pressure we’re putting out there is making a difference in a big way. There are cracks forming and #DonTheCon has had his first major failure to get a party-line vote. Now is a great time to turn up the volume and build on that momentum!