U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: April 12, 2017

Joe Raedle/Getty Images


1. Republican wins unusually competitive Kansas congressional race
Republican Ron Estes, Kansas’ state treasurer, on Tuesday won the House seat left vacant when Mike Pompeo stepped down to become CIA director. Estes survived a surprisingly competitive race against Democrat James Thompson, a Wichita civil rights lawyer, in a vote that was seen as an early test of the GOP’s strength after President Trump’s first few months in office. Estes won 53 percent to 46 percent after a late rush of help from the national party, including an election eve rally by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and get-out-the-vote robocalls by Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, after late polls showed Estes’ lead down to single digits in a district Republicans have held firmly for two decades. In November, Trump won the district by 27 points, and Pompeo won re-election by 32 percentage points.

Source: The Kansas City Star, The New York Times

2. White House accuses Russia of covering up Syria’s responsibility for sarin attack
The White House on Tuesday accused Russia of trying to cover-up the Syrian government’s alleged responsibility for last week’s sarin gas attack on a rebel-held town in northern Syria. Russia has claimed that rebels unleashed the poisonous gas to frame the Syrian government. Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow had received intelligence reports that rebels were planning such “provocations” to stoke international opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government. Turkey’s health minister, Recep Akdag, said Tuesday that autopsies on people killed in the attack confirmed that sarin nerve gas was used. Russia said the Syrian government would let international inspectors look for evidence of chemical weapons at the military base the U.S. bombed because it was believed to have been used to launch the chemical attack.

Source: The New York Times, The Associated Press

3. Tillerson calls on Moscow to drop Assad
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Moscow on Tuesday to deliver the Russian government a message from the U.S. and its most powerful allies that the time has come for Russia to drop its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Tillerson headed to Russia after emergency discussions on Syria with foreign ministers from the Group of Seven advanced economies and Middle Eastern allies. The diplomats backed a joint call to drop Assad in the wake of last week’s sarin gas attack, which killed 87 people. The U.S. blames the attack on Assad’s forces, and responded with a missile attack on the Syrian base that reportedly launched the chemical weapons bombing. Russia denies Assad was to blame, but Tillerson said Assad’s reign was “coming to an end.” Russia’s top diplomat, Sergey Lavrov, on Wednesday accused the U.S. of conducting an “unlawful attack” against the Syrian air base.

Source: Reuters, The Associated Press

4. Spicer faces uproar after saying Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons like Assad
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Tuesday suggested that the Syrian military’s alleged use of chemical weapons made Syrian President Bashar al-Assad worse than Adolf Hitler. “You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” Spicer said. When asked to clarify, Spicer said Hitler “was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing.” The comments immediately set off an angry reaction. The Anne Frank Center called for Spicer to be fired, saying on Facebook: “On Passover no less, Sean Spicer has engaged in Holocaust denial, the most offensive form of fake news imaginable, by denying Hitler gassed millions of Jews to death.” Spicer later said he was “in no way” trying to “lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust.”

Source: The Hill

5. United shares plunge in fallout over passenger’s treatment
United Airlines shares dropped by just over 1 percent on Tuesday as the carrier faced harsh criticism over a video showing a passenger being dragged off an overbooked flight to make room for a member of a partner airline’s crew. The stock plunge reduced the company’s market capitalization by about $250 million. At one point in the day, the stock was down by 4 percent. United CEO Oscar Munoz, whose first attempts to defuse the crisis backfired when he said the passenger was “belligerent” and the crew acted properly, promised Tuesday that the airline would conduct an internal investigation and reconsider policies on calling police and “how we handle oversold” flights. “We are going to fix what’s broken so this never happens again,” Munoz wrote in a statement.

Source: CNN, The Washington Post

6. Sessions calls for prioritizing criminal immigration enforcement
Attorney General Jeff Sessions visited the U.S.-Mexico border on Tuesday and called for stepping up prosecutions against undocumented immigrants, telling border patrol agents in Nogales, Arizona, that the Justice Department had sent a memo to U.S. attorneys telling them to prioritize cases against criminals. The proposal is intended to “help prevent and deter illegal immigration,” Sessions said in a press release. In his prepared remarks, Sessions called the push the administration’s “first” stand “against this filth,” referring to undocumented immigrants who “rape and kill innocent citizens.” Sessions omitted the word “filth” during his spoken comments.

Source: Reuters, CNN

7. FBI obtained FISA warrant to monitor ex-Trump adviser Carter Page
The FBI and the Justice Department obtained a warrant from a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court last summer to monitor communications made by former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, The Washington Post reported Tuesday, citing law enforcement and other U.S. officials. The agencies got the warrant by arguing that there was probable cause that Page was acting as an agent for Russia. Page, who previously worked as an investment banker in Moscow, has not been charged with a crime, but the investigation into his contacts offered a clear sign of early suspicions that Trump associates were in contact with Russian agents at a time when U.S. officials believe Russia was trying to tip the election to Trump.

Source: The Washington Post

8. Ahmadinejad unexpectedly enters Iran’s presidential race
Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesdayunexpectedly filed to run in the country’s May election, potentially upending a race that many had predicted to be won by moderate President Hassan Rouhani. Although Rouhani, who negotiated the nuclear deal that got world leaders to lift painful sanctions, has not formally registered, he was widely considered the favorite as conservatives failed to unite behind a single candidate. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recommended in September that Ahmadinejad stay out of the race. Ahmadinejad’s fiery style could attract support from hardliners looking for someone to clash with President Trump, a critic of the Iran nuclear deal.

Source: The Associated Press

9. Guitarist John Geils dies at 71
Guitarist John Geils, a founder of the J. Geils Band, was found dead in his Groton, Massachusetts, home this week, local police confirmed Tuesday. He was 71. The J. Geils Band cranked out a string of hits in the 1980s, including “Love Stinks,” “Freeze Frame,” and “Centerfold.” The group started out in the 1960s as Snoopy and the Sopwith Camels when Geils was attending Worcester Polytechnic Institute. It became the J. Geils Blues Band in 1967 when the original members recruited frontman and lead singer Peter Wolf, later dropping “blues” from the name. “Centerfold” topped the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks.

Source: The Boston Globe

10. Daily Mail agrees to pay Melania Trump damages over article
Britain’s Daily Mail and the Mail Online website on Wednesdayapologized to first lady Melania Trump and agreed to pay her an undisclosed settlement over an article they published last year about her work as a professional model that suggested she had worked as an escort. The Daily Mail retracted the report, saying it accepts that the allegations are “not true.” Mrs. Trump had said in a $150 million lawsuit she filed in New York that the article had cost her millions of dollars in future business opportunities. A person familiar with the settlement told Reuters it involved payments of less than $3 million.

Source: Reuters, BBC News

U.S. Politics

Eric Trump: Donald Trump bombed Syria because Ivanka told him to

Eric Trump: Donald Trump bombed Syria because Ivanka told him to

(Credit: AP Photo/Evan Vucci)



The president’s daughter has “influence,” and can apparently get him to alter his foreign policy at her whim

Less than a month after it was announced that first daughter Ivanka Trump was getting an unpaid job in her father’s White House, her brother Eric is now speculating that she may have influenced President Donald Trump into abandoning his longheld opposition to attacking Syria and the Bashar Assad regime.

“Ivanka is a mother of three kids and she has influence. I’m sure she said ‘listen, this is horrible stuff.’ My father will act in times like that,” Eric Trump told The Telegraph.

He added, “And by the way, he was anti doing anything with Syria two years ago. Then a leader gasses their own people, women and children, at some point America is the global leader and the world’s superpower has to come forward and act and they did with a lot of support of our allies and I think that’s a great thing.”

Notably, however — and in keeping with Eric Trump’s recent habit of accidentally stating truths that embarrass the rest of his family — he also used the interview as an opportunity to insist that there was nothing to see about his father’s well documented connections to the regime of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

“If there was anything that Syria did, it was to validate the fact that there is no Russia tie,” Trump told The Telegraph. This argument ignores the fact that Trump warned Russia before conducting his airstrikes on Syria,

Trump also said that he wasn’t worried about Putin’s threats of military retaliation over America’s attacks on Syria, claiming that the president “is not a guy who gets intimidated. I can tell you he is tough and he won’t be pushed around. The cards will shake out the way they do but he’s tough.”

U.S. Politics

Media outlets smear victim of United Airlines brutality

CREDIT: Screengrabs


On Sunday, a paying United Airlines customer was brutalized by Chicago Aviation Security Officers while being forced off an overbooked plane. United’s CEO has since placed blame for the ugly incident squarely on the customer.

The 69-year-old man’s background is obviously irrelevant to how he was treated — it’s not as though United or the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) ran a background check before deciding to get physical with him. Nonetheless, on Thursday, the Louisville Courier-Journal sullied the passenger’s reputation in a victim-smearing piece entitled, “David Dao, passenger removed from United flight, a doctor with troubled past.”

Detailing the criminal records of victims of police brutality — especially in cases where the victims are minorities — is a tactic commonly used to explain away police misconduct.

The Courier-Journal piece, citing Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure documents, discusses how Dao was convicted of felonies after an undercover investigation revealed “he was involved in fraudulent prescriptions for controlled substances.”

“The Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure permitted Dao to resume practicing medicine in 2015 under certain conditions,” the Courier-Journal reports.

The piece doesn’t contain Dao’s side of the story, though the author, Morgan Watkins indicated on Twitter on Monday that she was trying to reach him.

While the piece sullies Dao, it doesn’t delve into the background of the CDA or Chicago Police Department (CPD). CDA officers were reportedly the only officers on the plane, but the CPD nonetheless saw fit to release a statementdescribing Dao as “irate” and “yelling.” The CPD’s statement attributes no blame to officers or the airline for the man’s injuries.

The Courier-Journal piece doesn’t mention that in the 10-year stretch between 2004 and 2014, the CPD paid out more than $500 million in brutality settlements and legal fees. Nor does it attempt to explain why the CDA placed one officer who was involved in the Dao incident on leave but not the other two who can be seen manhandling him in videos.

It also doesn’t attempt to explain the shocking degree of force used by CDA agents. An industry expert who spoke to the Chicago Sun-Times, Robert Mann Jr., said he’s “never seen a passenger forcibly removed unless it involved an unruly passenger of some sort.”

Also omitted is any discussion of United’s overbooking policy that created the problem in the first place.

The New York Post ran a piece similar to the Courier-Journal’s under the headline, “Doctor dragged off flight was convicted of trading drugs for sex.” The Post also doesn’t contain Dao’s side of the story or delve into the background of the CPD, CDA, or United.

A Washington, D.C.-based TV station is teasing a hit piece on Dao as well:

The original tweet has been deleted but here’s a screencap.

Aaron Rupar

See also:

After United’s stock tanks, CEO finally apologizes to brutalized passenger

All it took was three tries and a nearly billion-dollar hit.

U.S. Politics

New York Daily News Cover SAVAGES White House For Spicer’s Hitler Gaffe (IMAGE)

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 23:  White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer speaks during a daily briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House January 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. Spicer conducted his first official White House daily briefing to take questions from the members of the White House press corps.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Alex Wong/Getty Images


The New York Daily News is not known for subtlety when it comes to its covers. The snarky newspaper pulled no punches when it came to using its cover to go after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer for calling concentration camps “Holocaust Centers” and invoking Nazi butcher Adolf Hitler when talking about Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Wednesday morning’s cover reads:

“Nazis murdered 2.7 million Jews, gassing 6,000 a day in Auschwtiz alone…


Here is the image of that cover via New York Daily News Twitter:

Of course, The New York Daily News isn’t the first to go after Spicer for these remarks. The Anne Frank Center has called on Donald Trump to fire Spicer, as has House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Further, this is part of a disturbing pattern of anti-Semitism from Team Trump. During the campaign he regularly retweeted white supremacists, most infamously when he tweeted a picture of Hillary Clinton over a pile of money with a Star of David that said, “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever.” This tweet caused such an uproar that House Speaker Paul Ryan was forced to speak out about it. After he was elected, Trump’s White House deliberately left any mention of Jewish people out of their Holocaust Remembrance Day statement. And, of course, no one can forget that we have avowed white supremacists working in the West Wing.

To that end, if this administration doesn’t want to be called bigots, they need to stop acting like it. Get rid of the racists, homophobes, xenophobes, and other assorted overtly bigoted people.

Don’t hold your breath on that one, though. We’ll have four years of this kind of stuff. The only silver lining may be that in the end, the GOP can no longer say that they don’t traffic in bigotry, since it’s right there in the White House for all to see, while their party is in charge.


U.S. Politics

Town Hall Crowd Yells ‘You Lie’ at Joe Wilson


Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., received a series of boos and chants of “you lie” at a town hall. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo) 


Famously yelled the remark at Obama in 2009

South Carolina Republican Rep. Joe Wilson heard a series of boos and chants of “you lie” from attendees at a town hall back home in his district.

The crowd drowned the congressman out with boos and a 30-second-long chant of “You lie,” the phrase Wilson famously yelled at President Barack Obama in his joint address to Congress in 2009, the Post and Courier of Charleston reported.

One of the loudest outbursts came after Wilson, who voted against extending the Violence Against Women Act in 2013, said he supported “efforts to make sure that violence against women is fully enforced.”

Wilson was criticized for supporting efforts to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law by some in the crowd at Aiken Technical College. He praised President Donald Trump’s military action in Syria last week, but much of his response could not be heard over the boos, the newspaper reported.

Eric Garcia

U.S. Politics

Sen. Cory Booker: Trump ‘playing footsie with Russia’

MSNBC – All In With Chris Hayes 

Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey talks about the latest on the president’s relations with Russia and about the opioid crisis as the DOJ is planning to undo the Obama administration’s criminal justice policies.