By Robert A. Vella
Today we’ll cover the deadly crackdown against pro-democracy protesters in Sudan, a rare mass shooting in Australia, the ongoing abortion fight in Missouri, a federal judge who reversed his own court order to publicly disclose a conversation investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, a bipartisan group of Senators are getting irked by President Trump’s abuse of “national emergency” powers, and the FBI received a grilling over its disproportionate responses to white supremacist domestic terrorism compared to Muslim-inspired international terrorism.
The story from Sudan should give people in the West cause to reconsider their antipathy or animosity towards democracy. You see, people around the world who live under oppressive authoritarian regimes want democracy very badly.
Paramilitaries killed at least 60 people when they attacked pro-democracy protesters in Khartoum, civil society groups in Sudan have said.
Previous estimates put the number of casualties from the attack on a sit-in on Monday at 40. The death toll is expected to rise. The move comes as the US contacted Saudi Arabia – a key backer of Sudan’s military rulers – to emphasise the importance of a transition to a civilian-led government.
On the long, bloody list of US gun violence, it would barely be a blip, but the killing of four people in northern Australia has caused shock in the country most often held up worldwide as an example of effective gun control.
At least four people were killed in the city of Darwin and several injured when a gunman opened fire with a pump-action shotgun late Tuesday night in several different locations, police said. A suspect was apprehended soon afterward, and has been identified as 45-year-old local Ben Hoffmann, according to CNN affiliate 9 News. Hoffmann was on parole at the time of the killings.
It is the worst spree shooting in Australia since the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, which resulted in the country radically overhauling its gun laws, and the worst gun-related crime since a murder-suicide last year in Western Australia, in which a grandfather killed his entire family and himself.
ST. LOUIS — A circuit judge on Tuesday denied Missouri’s request to subpoena four physicians who have worked at the state’s sole abortion provider, a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis.
The ruling is the latest turn in the clinic’s legal fight to retain its state-issued license to continue to provide abortions. Planned Parenthood sued last week after the state health department said the license would expire last Friday unless seven physicians who have worked at its clinic submitted to interviews.
Just hours before Friday’s expiration, St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer issued a temporary restraining order, keeping the clinic’s doors open to patients.
A federal judge reversed course on Tuesday and absolved the Justice Department of a demand to make public transcripts of recorded phone calls between former national security adviser Michael Flynn and a Russian official.
In a one-paragraph order, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan said he accepted the argument recently made from federal prosecutors who defied his earlier request to release any recordings from December 2016 between Flynn and Sergey Kislyak, who at the time was the Russian ambassador to the U.S.
Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 for lying to the FBI about his conversations with Kislyak, and the general contours of what they discussed are described in the redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report released in May. That includes Flynn asking for Russia not to escalate tensions between the two countries after the outgoing Obama administration-imposed sanctions for Kremlin-orchestrated interference in the 2016 election.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s top Democrat and a close congressional ally of President Trump are teaming up to try to block 22 arms deals largely benefiting Saudi Arabia, a move that seeks to quash the administration’s attempt to use emergency powers to circumvent congressional objections.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said in an interview Tuesday that he would introduce “22 resolutions of disapproval” — one for each deal the Trump administration informed lawmakers last month it would push through, raising objections from Democrats and Republicans.
Joining him in the effort is Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who said Tuesday that he is “on board with Menendez.” Graham, one of Trump’s closest allies in Congress, also has been one of the most vocal critics of his embrace of Saudi leaders, particularly in the wake of last year’s brutal killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
House Democrats grilled officials from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security in a Tuesday hearing focused on how the Trump administration is addressing the growing threat of violent white supremacist extremists.
The House Oversight subcommittee on civil rights and civil liberties hearing, titled ‘Confronting White Supremacy: Adequacy of the Federal Response,’ was the latest effort by Democrats to spotlight ways they say the Trump administration has systematically cut back on resources used to address threats from domestic extremists even as the FBI has reported a 30-40% rise in domestic terrorism cases just since October.
Federal officials in attendance at Tuesday’s hearing included FBI Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Michael McGarrity, FBI Deputy Assistant Director for Criminal Investigations Calvin Shivers and DHS Assistant Secretary Elizabeth Neumann.
A federal statute defines domestic terrorism but carries no penalties. Some former and current law enforcement officials said in interviews that it was time for Congress to pass a new law aimed at people who commit political violence. But civil rights advocates and many in law enforcement worry that such laws would brush up against the First Amendment or invite government overreach.
The F.B.I. shifted course after the Sept. 11 attacks. Congress passed the Patriot Act, granting substantial powers to the government to fight international terrorism, including electronic surveillance and secret access to bank and library records. Federal investigators began frequently using a charge of material support for terrorism to prosecute Islamic terrorism suspects.
Prosecutors rarely used the charge to arrest far-right, anti-government terrorists, who are primarily white. Civil rights advocates and others have argued that current laws unfairly target racial or religious minorities.