In Our Headlines…
President Donald Trump is currently fighting growing opposition to his administration’s announcement that a citizenship question will be added to the 2020 Census. He attacked Democrats via Twitter, stating that “[The] Report would be meaningless and a waste of the $Billions (ridiculous) that it costs to put together!” This upcoming decennial Census, planned for April 1, 2020, will be executed by sending letters or canvassers to every home in the United States. The Census is intended to alter the number of representative seats, political borders and funding allocated to areas at both local and federal levels based on population. Multiple states and civil rights groups have already filed against the addition since its announcement last March, on the basis that it would result in low response rates from those who fear their responses may be used to deport them. A federal judge in New York already argued that the question was discriminatory to noncitizens. The Trump administration’s move will be reviewed by the Supreme Court in April and decided upon by late June (Politico, “Trump calls Census ‘meaningless’ without citizenship question,” 04.01.2019).
Former White House Personnel Security Officer-turned-whistleblower Tricia Newbold testified to the House Oversight and Reform Committee in a memo released on Monday that security clearances were granted to at least 25 Trump administration officials, despite the fact that their applications had been denied last month. Although Newbold did not identify the individuals, The New York Times reported in February that Trump ordered former Chief of Staff John F. Kelly to grant security clearances to White House Innovations Director Jared Kushner and Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump. President Trump previously denied this allegation in a January interview. Newbold testified that various reasons, such as conflicts of interest, drug use and criminal conduct, contributed to the application denials, and that her attempts to raise concerns with the White House counsel were silenced. House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-M.A.) demanded that the White House make the relevant personnel available for interviews and that all related files should be handed over for review. Cummings asserted that subpoenas will be issued if necessary. House Republicans accuse Cummings of overreach and claim that the executive branch alone possesses the authority to grant security clearances (The New York Times, “Whistle-Blower Tells Congress of Irregularities in White House Security Clearances,” 04.01.2019).
Senate Democrats threaten to veto a disaster-relief bill for California, Florida and the Midwest, saying that aid should also be given to Puerto Rico, which is still recovering from various hurricanes that destroyed the island’s infrastructure and landscape in 2017. It is unlikely that the necessary 60 votes will be cast to advance the $13.5 billion bill, for as long as it doesn’t have an amendment for relief in Puerto Rico. Republicans, though the majority, are short the seven seats needed to advance the bill in the Senate. Republicans and Trump oppose granting more aid to Puerto Rico under the claim that they already provided the island recovery funds, which were not properly spent. Democrats ask for $450 million more in new aid for Puerto Rico, while Republicans have called to either vote on the House disaster-aid package passed in January or start negotiations on a new bill (The Wall Street Journal, “Puerto Rico Finding Dispute Threatens to Derail Disaster-Aid Bill,” 04.01.2019).
Around the World …
In Turkey, general elections are underway but bode badly for current Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AK). Unofficial data shows that the party lost the country’s three largest cities of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir in an immense setback for Erdogan, who has been in power for nearly sixteen years. The mayoral candidates of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) in these three cities won against the AK party; Ekrem Imamoglu won the race in Istanbul with a .3 percent margin against the AK party candidate; in Ankara, the nation’s capital, Mansur Yavas leads with over 50 percent of the vote; and in Izmir, Mustafa Tunc Soyer won nearly 60 percent of the vote. The AK party nevertheless contends that it won the Istanbul race, objecting to the results over “invalid votes.” Although the elections board recognized Imamoglu’s lead, it waited for objection period to end before declaring the official winner. Turkey faces its first recession in a decade under the ruling AK party, and the Turkish lira lost nearly 40 percent of its value against the American dollar by the end of last year. By February, inflation was just under 20 percent (Al Jazeera, “Erdogan’s AK Party ‘loses’ major Turkey cities in local elections,” 04.01.2019).
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika bowed to the mass protests demanding his resignation and relinquished his position on April 2, 2019. His term was set to end on April 28, 2019. The 82-year-old had been in power for more than 20 years, and he previously announced that he would not seek reelection for a fifth term. Many Algerians believe the president was being used as a puppet by businessmen, politicians and the army, collectively referred to as le pouvoir, the power elite who dominate the National Liberation Front. Thus, the protests demand not only the president’s resignation, but also that of his entire political era and a new form of government that will serve the next generation of Algerians (BBC News, “Algeria protests: President Bouteflika to quit before 28 April,” 04.01.2019).
The great turmoil in Great Britain continues over the inability of its Parliament and Prime Minister to reconcile an end for the long-awaited Brexit. Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 in 2017, setting the withdrawal date of the U.K. from the E.U. for March 29, 2019, but European officials extended the deadline to April 12 out of hopes that a deal would be reached. Members of Parliament failed to indicate on April 1 whether a soft Brexit or referendum would be a desirable alternative to the failed Theresa May deal they rejected once more on Monday night. They also chose not to support a bid by MP Joanna Cherry that would prevent a no-deal Brexit. It is likely that May will attempt to revive the deal and/or attempt to extend the deadline further, but there is a growing voice among the opposition Labor Party and fellow Conservatives that they will only support the deal if she resigns afterward (The Guardian, “Brexit deadlock continues as MPs fail to find compromise,” 04.01.2019).