Political Roundup

In our Headlines…

Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters on Sunday that Congressional Democrats will never see President Donald Trump’s tax returns, belying previous statements that they could not be released because the tax returns were under audit. This development comes only several days after House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-M.A.) formally requested at least six years worth of Trump’s personal tax returns from the IRS. In a letter sent last Wednesday, he also requested the tax returns of eight of Trump’s businesses. Mulvaney stated that the request was a political stunt by liberals, to which the White House would not concede. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff told CNN’s Jake Tapper that there is a statute mandating that the IRS “shall provide these returns to the Congress upon request” (CNN, “Mulvaney says Democrats will ‘never’ obtain Trump’s tax returns,” 04.07.2019).

On April 7, 2019, Trump announced via Twitter that Kirstjen Nielsen had resigned from her position as Secretary of Homeland Security. In her letter of resignation, abrupt in timing because of the lack of a deputy to take over the department, she stated, “[I have] determined that it is the right time for me to step aside.” Nielsen became infamous for her role in, and subsequent denial of, the separation of families and the establishment of camps along the southern border; hundreds of families remain separated. Only several days earlier, Trump expressed anger at the increasing number of migrants at the southern border and withdrew the nomination of a possible head of ICE, to instead find a more aggressive candidate. Nielsen’s resignation sparked concern among critics of Homeland Security and ICE, because of the sentiment that she was not “tough enough” on immigration, in spite of the blatant human rights violations that occurred under her supervision, and worries that her successor might be even harsher (The New York Times, “Kirstjen Nielsen Resigns as Trump’s Homeland Security Secretary,” 04.07.2019).

Louisiana Police are treating four fires that destroyed three Black churches across the southern part of the state as suspicious. The cause of the first fire, which took place on March 26 at St. Landry Parish, remains undetermined, though arson was not ruled out. Likewise, no connection between the three incidents has yet been determined. The other affected churches are the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, the Greater Union Baptist Church and the St. Mary Baptist Church. A statement from the State Fire Marshal said, “There is clearly something happening in this community…That is why it is imperative that the citizens of this community be part of our effort to figure out what it is.” The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as well as the FBI, joined local police (NPR, “‘There Is Clearly Something Happening’: Fires Destroy 3 Black Churches In Louisiana,” 04.06.2019).

Around the World…

India’s general elections loom over Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his right-wing BJP party, which has often come under fire for spreading Hindu nationalism. On April 8, 2019, they vowed to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its special privileges. The majority-Muslim state was the center of heightened tensions between India and Pakistan as many Kashmiris ask for self-determination or for unification with Pakistan’s Azad-e-Kashmir. The BJP is expected to retain power ahead of Thursday’s elections, despite the revelation of the highest unemployment rates in decades under Modi earlier this year. The conflict with Pakistan–and the return of a shot-down pilot released by Pakistan Armed Forces–increased the popularity of Modi and his new economic plan, which promises to spend 100 million rupees on infrastructure over the next five years. There are many voices calling for the revocation of Kashmir’s autonomous status amidst ultra-nationalism (Reuters, “Ahead of Indian election, Modi’s party vows to strip Kashmir of special rights,” 04.08.2019).

An airstrike on Monday closed the only functioning airport in Tripoli, Libya, in a move condemned by the UN for violating humanitarian law. General Khalifa Hafter, a commander in the eastern part of the country and leader of the Libyan National Army (LNA), is attempting to seize the capital from the UN-backed government. The airport is the base for much of the country’s militia and is a point of focus in the fighting alongside the now-inactive Tripoli International airport. He stated via a spokesman that no civilian planes were targeted, and Reuters reported that no casualties occurred in the strike. Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj accused Hafter of orchestrating a coup d’etat. However, al-Sarraj is one of Libya’s leaders who struggles to maintain balance, particularly after the deposition of long-time dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi in 2011 left the country unstable. There is the risk of civilians becoming cut off from vital services, and 2,800 people have fled fighting around Tripoli thus far (BBC, “Libya crisis: Air strike at Tripoli airport as thousands flee clashes,” 04.09.2019).

Ahead of Israel’s general elections on Tuesday, April 9, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the ultimate campaign promise to annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. As of Tuesday, there is a tie between Netanyahu and newcomer Benny Gantz. Historically, the West Bank was associated with the ancient kingdom of Israel, but after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, it was annexed by the area of Transjordan. After the establishment of Israel in 1948, many Palestinian Arabs fled to it as a part of the “Nakba,” or their forced displacement. Thus, such a policy change would potentially damage Palestinian hopes for an independent state. Netanyahu’s current administration began by paying public attention to hopes of a two-state solution, a position that changed dramatically over the past decade. The Jewish settler movement in Palestinian territories increased with his return to office in 2009, after having been elected the youngest prime minister of Israel in 1996. In January, the settler movement successfully lobbied Netanyahu to expel a group whose job it was to keep Palestinians in the city safe after the 1994 Purim massacre. Netanyahu has long been accused of moving Israeli politics further to the right; earlier this year, he successfully convinced Trump to recognize Israeli authority over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights (NPR, “After A Decade Of Netanyahu, Hopes Fade For A Palestinian State,” 04.09.2019).

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