The Mueller report: news you haven’t missed
That the Mueller report—at least the redacted version—did not ultimately conclude that the Trump administration obstructed justice—but that it identified numerous occasions on which they tried to do so—is not news you will have missed. Similarly, that the Trump campaign welcomed the involvement of Russian interests but not in a way that is (as yet) indictable is clear, despite Trump’s loud efforts to spin the report otherwise. Reprising this territory is likely not useful to you. For the most important takeaways, see the New York Times piece that lists seven of them. Still, we’ll point out a few less visible points worth noting.
1. Mueller: Sanders used by Russians to defeat Clinton
Even before the Mueller report was released, researchers for the Washington Post identified a massive effort by Russians to use Bernie Sanders to target Clinton. They found 9,000 tweets coming from Russia which had been widely recirculated, tweets that referred to Sanders and urged people not to vote for Clinton; many thousands of others did not mention Sanders directly but were aimed at Sanders supporters, exhorting them to do anything but vote for Clinton. Fake news stories about Clinton—that she was in poor health, that she had sold weapons to ISIS—also undermined her candidacy. The fact that in 2016 Sanders was used in this way complicates his candidacy in 2020.
2. Mueller: News media did not disseminate fake news
The Mueller report does make it clear that it was not the mainstream media who produced “fake news,” despite many allegations by Trump and his followers. In fact, it was the Trump administration which produced fake news, the Washington Post explains. As has been widely reported, Sarah Sanders was a significant perpetrator of fake news but not the only one; Trump aides knew they were doing so and Trump himself regularly made claims to the media that he must have known were not true.
3. Mueller: Seth Rich did not leak emails
Seth Rich was not the source of leaked emails, the Mueller report confirms, despite WikiLeaks claims that he was. The actual source of the emails WikiLeaks released was Russian hackers, as of course WikiLeaks knew. Rich was a Democratic National Committee employee who was killed in Washington at the age of 27, probably in a burglary; WikiLeaks, Fox News and InfoWars had spun conspiracy theories about the killing and the leaks.
4. Need to know more? Here is a searchable copy
The version of the Mueller report that Attorney General Barr redacted and released was not searchable. Thanks to Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), a searchable PDF is now available.
5. Paramilitaries doing the work of the Border Patrol
The leader of a right-wing paramilitary group, the United Constitutional Patriots, was arrested on April 20, charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. The group had been stopping and detaining migrant families crossing the border into New Mexico, actions recorded in a recent video. The ACLU and others claim that the group is working in collaboration with the Border Patrol. The Attorney General for New Mexico released a statement, quoted in the New York Times, that the leader, Larry Mitchell Hopkins, “…is a dangerous felon who should not have weapons around children and families. Today’s arrest by the F.B.I. indicates clearly that the rule of law should be in the hands of trained law enforcement officials, not armed vigilantes.”
6. Catastrophe in Sri Lanka
In Sri Lanka, nearly 300 people have died and hundreds more have been wounded in a series of coordinated explosions at three hotels and three churches, which were filled for Easter Sunday services. Twenty-four suspects have been arrested but as of Sunday, it was not yet clear what the motive was for the bombings, according to the CBC. Social media sites were temporarily shut down and Easter services halted.
A friend recommends donating to SAMBAL, a children’s educational foundation, which she hopes will intervene in the conditions that produced the bombing.
7. The Troubles continue
Lyra McKee, a journalist covering protests in Derry, was apparently killed by two teenagers aiming for police, the Guardian reported. Her work focused on the costs of violence in Northern Ireland. Her first book, Angels with Blue Faces, is scheduled for publication this summer.
One of her first pieces was on the rise of suicides following the Good Friday peace agreement. Published in the Atlantic, “Suicide Among the Ceasefire Babies” is a stunning article, a mix of personal narrative and reporting in which McKee looks at the role of intergenerational trauma in suicide; the rate has nearly doubled, especially among young people.
Writing in The Independent, her friend Sarah Kay describes her as “a fervent LGBTQ+ activist, a committed writer, an inquisitive journalist and a human rights worker,” as well as the primary caregiver of her mother and as someone who advocated for those who still suffered from the trauma of the Troubles. At a rally in Derry, McKee’s partner Sara said, “This cannot stand. Her legacy will live on in the light that she’s left behind.”
8. Unprecedented order to decolonize
The Chagos Islands, once part of Mauritius, must be immediately “decolonized,” according to a judge at the International Court of Justice, saying that the UK violated an international law which prohibits colonies from being broken up before independence. In the late sixties, the UK leased Diego Garcia, the largest island, to the US, which relocated the local inhabitants to Mauritius and killed their dogs. The Chagossians have been asking to go home ever since; they live in poverty in Mauritius.
Diego Garcia is now a massive military base, central to US military operations in Syria and Iraq; it would be crucial if the US went to war against Iran. It was used as a transit point for “extraordinary renditions” in 2002-2003, when people captured during the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq were imprisoned and tortured, points out Conn Hallinan in Foreign Policy in Focus. The 6,000 surviving Chagossians are not asking for the base to be removed; they are willing to work there or to live on nearby islands. The UN General Assembly will take up the issue next.
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT
9. “Extinction Rebellion” is in action
On April 15, the UK climate group Extinction Rebellion launched its spring protests, blocking major landmarks and roads in central London. Many thousands of people participated, according to the Guardian, demanding that the UK lower carbon emissions to zero by 2025 and develop an emergency plan to address climate and environmental issues.
The group’s protests are timely. Though you wouldn’t know it in southern Canada, March was the second warmest on record. The melt in Greenland has begun a month early, and areas in the arctic were 20 degrees (f) above normal. A very vivid Washington Post piece explains what is going on and why
Opportunities to comment:
Martha points out that April 25 is the last day to comment on opening up US waters off the Continental Shelf to oil and gas drilling. In addition, see proposed changes to lawyer representation in immigration courts, and new proposed regulations from HUD targeting undocumented immigrants and their families. Also see a 4/15 notice allowing donors to contribute to federal employees’ legal expenses – think about that one and why now?
Sarah-Hope recommends that you look at the bill to preserve Social Security, challenge the ban on transgender service members, address the disenfranchisement of Native American voters, ask your legislators to address vulnerabilities in the election system, and more!