Political Roundup

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In our Headlines….

In light of a lawsuit filed by 16 states against President Trump’s national emergency, a U.S. district judge in Oakland, California, will hear from Democratic attorneys this week. Trump intends to divert military and infrastructural funds to build a wall along the southern border, a key campaign promise upon which Trump failed to deliver when he signed a bill to reopen the government. In the pending lawsuit, one lawyer calls the national emergency a “bogus declaration,” and another criticizes Trump for his flagrant disregard of the separation of powers and for circumventing Congress. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is at the forefront of the lawsuit, which will be heard in the Ninth Circuit of the Northern District of California Court. Trump, in his Rose Garden declaration, related that he expected legal pushback but believed that if the case made it to the Supreme Court—which it very well might—he will win (NPR, “16 States File Lawsuit Against Trump’s National Emergency Declaration,” 02.22.2019).

Special Counsel Robert Mueller will soon release his highly-anticipated report on the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with external forces, namely Russia, to influence the 2016 election. Newly-appointed Attorney General William Barr would not specify what portion of the report he would make public during his confirmation hearings, but House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff stated on Sunday, Feb. 24, that he will subpoena Robert Mueller to testify on Capitol Hill if Barr fails to make the report public. Schiff stated to George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” that, “We will obviously subpoena the report. We will bring Bob Mueller in to testify before Congress. We will take it to court if necessary … In the end, I think the Department [of Justice] understands they’re going to have to make this public. I think Barr will ultimately understand that.” Schiff joined Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Maxine Waters (D-CA), Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Richard Neal (D-MA), fellow House Democratic chairs, in a publicly-released letter urging the Department of Justice to fully and quickly release the report (Politico, “Schiff: ‘We will bring Bob Mueller in to testify’ if report not made public,” 02.24.2019).

Republicans, led by Trump, have long berated Democrats for false allegations of voter fraud. Recently, the party has gone quiet after a narrow Republican victory in a North Carolina congressional race was overturned, due to election fraud. The North Carolina Board of Elections refuses to certify Mark Harris, the Republican nominee, as the winner and opened an investigation into the matter. Harris denied wrongdoing, in spite of withholding damning records from the Board and misleading regulators. In a sharp turn, he then relinquished any claim to the seat. Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman stated that she could seek charges against Republican Operative L. McCrae Dowless, Jr. State and national Republican officials have remained relatively quiet on the matter, but the National Republican Congressional Committee is using the incident to demand that Democrats support a national ban on collecting absentee ballots (New York Times, “Republican Cries Against Voter Fraud Go Mostly Quiet After Scheme Tied to Party,” 02.22.2019).

Around the World …

Nicolas Máduro is finding himself increasingly isolated following an internationally denounced rigged election that allowed him to recoup political power as President of Venezuela. Juan Guaidó, leader of the opposition, declared himself Venezuela’s rightful interim President last month and began moving supplies into a nation where hunger, disease and inflation run rampant. A displaced 3 million people have fled into neighboring countries by foot. The influx of much-needed supplies represents Maduro’s weakening power after he denied any aid being brought into the country for months. Máduro cut diplomatic ties with Colombia and its President Ivan Duque (outspoken Máduro critic and main supporter for Guaidó’s attempts to bring aid) and demanded that Colombian diplomats leave Venezuela in the succeeding 24 hours. Brazilian envoys managed to smuggle a truck to the Venezuelan border from Northern Brazil with Guaidó’s help, but hours later it was forced back by tear gas. The Venezuelan National Guard has been using the tactic of firing tear gas at dissenters along border towns as a means of quelling the crowd, but Venezuelans remain united under a single phrase: “Queremos Paz,” which translates to “We want peace” (New York Times, “As Venezuela Aid Standoff Turns Deadly, Maduro Severs Ties With Colombia,” 02.23.2019).

The largest U.S. pro-Israel Lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), recently came into the spotlight following criticism by freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) over the PAC’s influence in Congress. AIPAC dominated Israeli headlines on Sunday, Feb. 24, after coming out against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s newly-announced alliance with the far-right and anti-Arab Jewish Power and Jewish Home groups. The merger was in response to a new poll showing that Netanyahu’s Likud party might be defeated by a merger of centrist parties. Netanyahu has long been criticized for moving Israeli politics to the far right. The American Jewish Congress similarly leveled criticisms against Netanyahu, who is running for a fifth term on April 9 (Reuters, “At home and abroad, Netanyahu faces backlash for far-right alliance,” 02.24.2019).

The British Parliament was set to vote on a deal for Brexit this week, but Prime Minister Theresa May delayed the vote in an attempt to buy more time for negotiations. May has come under fire from Members of Parliament not only because of her secrecy around forging the Brexit deal, but also because of opposing beliefs from the Labour party that it moves too far from the existing agreement between the U.K. and the EU, and from the Tory party that it is essentially a watered-down version of the existing agreement. The next vote is set for March 12, only 17 days before the U.K. leaves the EU—with or without a deal—on March 29. Facing overwhelming rejection on her previous deal, this is the third time May has asked for an extension. May is currently attempting to renegotiate the Irish border, a move she hopes will increase her deal’s appeal. EU officials are currently considering a long extension, which may allow those opposed to Brexit to reverse the situation (Bloomberg, “May Delays Brexit Vote to Buy Time as Ministers Threaten Revolt,” 02.24.2019).

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