9/11 attacks’ survivors take Saudi Arabia to court!

Survivors and families of victims accuse the kingdom of helping the hijackers who launched the attacks in 2001.

Some survivors of the September 11 attacks and the families of victims have moved to a New York court against Saudi Arabia.

They accuse the Saudi government of helping the hijackers launch the concurrent attacks in 2001.

They came to the court to demand the Saudi government cough up more information – specific documents that survivors of the attacks believe will shed new light on the hijackers.

Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey reports.

Trump Admin accused of “State-Sponsored Child Abuse” as Separated Migrant Children Scandal Grows

FEBRUARY 08, 2019

Trump administration officials are acknowledging that there may be thousands more missing immigrant children who were separated from their parents than originally reported. This was the focus of a hearing on Thursday of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. We speak to Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLUImmigrants’ Rights Project. He is the lead lawyer on the ACLU’s national challenge to the Trump administration’s family separation practice. He testified at the hearing yesterday.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we end today’s show with the ongoing crisis of family separation at the border, after officials at a congressional hearing Thursday did not dispute that there may be thousands more missing kids who were separated from their parents than originally reported. The hearing by the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations was meant to investigate the role of the Department of Health and Human Services in carrying out Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, that led to the separation of thousands of children from their parents at the U.S. border. It revealed a chaotic system without adequate measures taken to track family units and that Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar may not have even known about the zero-tolerance policy before it went into effect.

This is Republican Congressmember Brett Guthrie of Kentucky questioning Commander Jonathan White, formerly of the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement, during Thursday’s hearing.

REPBRETT GUTHRIE: Would you have advised DOJ and—or DHS to implement the policy of zero tolerance, if they had asked?

CDRJONATHAN WHITE: Neither I nor any career person in ORR would ever have supported such a policy proposal.

AMY GOODMAN: Democratic Congressmember Jan Schakowsky of Illinois also questioned Commander Jonathan White, again, formerly of the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement.

REPJAN SCHAKOWSKY: Does anyone know how many are still separated from their parents? Nobody knows. And now we know that those in ORRcustody, that there is no way to know how to divide out those children that have been separated. Is that right, Commander?

CDRJONATHAN WHITE: Ma’am, no. I want to be very clear: Children in ORRcustody, children who have been in ORR custody, who were in ORR custody on the 26th of June, we have laboriously worked to identify those—

REPJAN SCHAKOWSKY: No, I understand. But you—

CDRJONATHAN WHITE: Challenge is those who exited ORR custody, because HHS—


CDRJONATHAN WHITE: —did not receive from DHS any list or any indication of the complete set of separated children.


CDRJONATHAN WHITE: In partnership with them, we worked hard to identify every one of those kids, from those who were in care.



REPJAN SCHAKOWSKY: I just feel like what’s been happening is more than irresponsible and sloppy. But I really think that what we’re talking about is state-sponsored child abuse. And I would go as far as to say kidnapping.

AMY GOODMAN: That is “state-sponsored child abuse” and “kidnapping” of children, said Democratic Congressmember Jan Schakowsky, questioning Commander Jonathan White.

Well, for more, we’re joined by Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, lead lawyer on the ACLU’s national challenge to the Trump administration’s family separation practice. He was there yesterday. He testified before Congress.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!

LEE GELERNT: Thanks, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Thanks for flying in early this morning.

LEE GELERNT: Of course.

AMY GOODMAN: What are we talking about here? At this point, the Trump administration is admitting that there are thousands more children—they don’t even know what happened to them, but were separated from their parents?

LEE GELERNT: So, yeah, these are remarkable developments, one year into the litigation, and we’re still getting bombshells. An internal report by HHS said there may have been thousands more. They can’t put a number on it, because no one has tracked the kids. HHS, at the hearing yesterday, did not dispute that there may be thousands, but says it would take too long to try and find the children, because they’d have to go through individual files, they had no tracking system.

So, they know the kids were given to sponsors. That could mean anything from foster care to a parent to a relative to a distant relative. We want to make sure that these kids are OK and that they can get back with their parent, if that’s what the family wants. HHS is saying, “That would take too long. We don’t want to do it, absent a court order.” So we are going back to court in San Diego on February 21st to seek that court order.

AMY GOODMAN: How can thousands of children have been taken that no one has records of?

LEE GELERNT: Yeah, I mean, I wish I had an answer for you. That’s the same stunning, you know, thing that—what happened earlier, where they admitted that—they said there were 2,700 kids. They couldn’t track them. The judge said, “The government tracks property better than they track these kids.” We thought it was over with these 2,700 kids. And now it may be that there’s thousands more.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, of course, these kinds of hearings didn’t take place before, because Democrats weren’t in power challenging the administration that was doing this—


AMY GOODMAN: —as Schakowsky said—


AMY GOODMAN: —kidnapping and abuse.


AMY GOODMAN: What did you testify yesterday?

LEE GELERNT: I said that there are a few things that are critical for Congress to try and do now. One is to create funds for these families. Because a lot of people think, “Well, if they’re reunified, that’s the end of the matter.” But the truth is, in some ways, it’s just starting. The trauma is so severe. There were medical professionals testifying with me who said that these kids may be traumatized for the rest of their life. We think Congress should allocate funds to provide medical care.

We also need standards, going forward. The other thing that HHS did not dispute yesterday at the hearing was that there are ongoing separations. And what they’re constantly doing now, they know there’s a court order so they can’t just do it willy-nilly, but what they’re saying is, “Well, this parent is dangerous; this parent is, too,” but they’re doing—they’re asserting that unilaterally, without any standards and without any ability for the parent to push back. We need Congress to set standards or the court to set standards. And, lastly, we need these thousands of kids to be found.

AMY GOODMAN: Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar may not have even known about the zero-tolerance policy when it was instituted?

LEE GELERNT: Right. I mean, that’s what they testified. And so, Commander White, who was testifying for HHS, said they were not—he was not given information about it in advance. He’s not sure what other information was given. And the secretary refused to show up. And the chair of the committee also made clear that—

AMY GOODMAN: Secretary Nielsen.

LEE GELERNT: No, Secretary Azar for HHS.

AMY GOODMAN: Secretary Azar.

LEE GELERNT: Right, right, right. And the other thing is, the committee chair asked for documents in advance of the hearing, to show who knew what. They didn’t provide all the documents. I think the House is going to continue to seek those documents.

But the other thing I would just say is, putting aside whether they got a memo from the attorney general, HHS knew this was happening, because there were hundreds and hundreds of young kids showing up that never would have shown up before. So, whether or not they say they were formerly told, they knew something was going on.

AMY GOODMAN: So, I mean, at this point we’re talking about thousands of children currently.

LEE GELERNT: Potentially, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Potentially.


AMY GOODMAN: How do you find out where they are?

LEE GELERNT: It’s going to be painstaking, but I think—lives of children are at stake—we have to do it. HHS is admitting now they have no tracking system, no integrated database, which is one of the things we’re seeking in court and will be seeking in Congress for it to be created. But they’re saying they could do it if they go through the individual files, but it’s too many hours. We say, “You have to do it.” I mean, these are children’s lives. How can you just say it’s not worth the effort?

AMY GOODMAN: So, Commander Jonathan White—


AMY GOODMAN: —said he would have never recommended family separation as a policy.


AMY GOODMAN: He talked about the trauma.


AMY GOODMAN: Another revelation was that there were no standards—there are no standards in the law for when separations should occur.


AMY GOODMAN: So, what is the legislation that has to pass now?

LEE GELERNT: You know, we have established in court now a standard that can be used. But Commander White was saying, as well, there’s no legislation setting out standards. I think it might be worthwhile for Congress to make clear, so it’s not just the court order, “These are the standards we want you to follow.” He was pointing out that Congress has never set standards. But it would be good if Congress set standards, but that’s no excuse for what happened, because child welfare law in every state has a standard. And the standard is, you leave a child with their parent unless the parent presents a danger to the child. That’s not what the Trump administration was doing. They were taking children away in a hope that it would deter asylum seekers from coming to this country. So, the fact that—

AMY GOODMAN: And you’re suggesting they’re still doing it.


AMY GOODMAN: So, do you—

LEE GELERNT: We know they’re still doing it.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you believe many children right now will never be reunited with their parents? And if someone is watching this, if a young person is watching this, what do they do to say—to let someone know they’re alone, or where do they go, or how do they find their parent?

LEE GELERNT: Well, throughout this whole litigation the last year, I have never said, “I don’t believe we will get the task done.” And I’m going to stick to that. I am hopeful that we will reunite every child and parent who wants to be reunited. I think if there are relatives out there, foster care, they ought to let people know. But, ultimately, it’s too big a task for just that kind of self-help. We need the government to give us whatever information they have. And then we will start doing what we’ve been doing all year, which is calling these parents and children.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you believe Kirsten Gillibrand [sic] lied to Congress?

LEE GELERNT: Kirstjen Nielsen.

AMY GOODMAN: Sorry, Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of homeland security.

LEE GELERNT: I’m not going to characterize it, but I do not feel we’ve gotten the whole truth from the administration throughout the family separation policy, and I think there’s bombshells still to come.

AMY GOODMAN: Lee Gelernt, I want to thank you for being with us, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, lead lawyer for the ACLU’s national challenge to the Trump administration’s family separation practice.

Democracy Now! has a job opening: full-time, 1-year paid news production fellowship. Check out democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us.

WSJ: After Venezuela, U.S. to Target Cuba in Effort to Reshape Latin America

FEB 01, 2019

H1 cuba

The Wall Street Journal is reporting the U.S.-backed effort to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is just the first step in the Trump administration’s plan to reshape Latin America—with Cuba next on its radar. According to the report, the U.S. is planning to announce new measures against Cuba in the coming weeks, including new sanctions and restoring Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. The moves could severely hamper foreign investment into the country. According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. then plans to target Nicaragua. In November, national security adviser John Bolton dubbed the three nations the “troika of tyranny.” Last week, Vice President Mike Pence said that President Trump is “not a fan” of U.S. interventions abroad, except for in “this hemisphere.”

US military sparks outrage by tweeting about dropping bombs

STRATCOM apologises for ‘bad taste’ joke after tweeting it’s ready to drop something ‘much bigger’ than NY crystal ball.The clip showed a B-2 bomber dropping bombs, followed by explosions on the ground [File: Ahn Young-joon/The Associated Press]
The clip showed a B-2 bomber dropping bombs, followed by explosions on the ground [File: Ahn Young-joon/The Associated Press]

The US military force that oversees the country’s nuclear arsenal has sparked outrage when it tweeted it was ready to drop something “much, much bigger” than the traditional New Year’s Eve crystal ball in New York and showing a video of an aircraft releasing bombs.

“#TimesSquare tradition rings in the #NewYear by dropping the big ball … if ever needed, we are #ready to drop something much, much bigger,” US Strategic Command (STRATCOM) said in a later-deleted message on Twitter, hours before the midnight descent of the illuminated ball in Times Square marking the arrival of the new year.

The post encouraged viewers to watch the video to the end, including footage of bombs and missiles being dropped from a B-2 bomber followed by explosions on the ground.

The tweet prompted criticism by many social media users.

View image on Twitter

Derek Johnson


Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you @US_Stratcom, the stoic guardians of several thousand nuclear missiles who definitely don’t think raining death and destruction from above is some kind of joke.


Unacceptable. war mongers threatening the rest of humanity.

Bryant Watson@bryantwatson

It clearly reflects your values.

War isn’t something to take lightly, in respect to the many vets and civilians murdered because those in command felt something was much bigger than their lives.

Amid the outcry that followed, STRATCOM – whose slogan is “peace is our profession” – then deleted the post and tweeted an apology.

US Strategic Command


Our previous NYE tweet was in poor taste & does not reflect our values. We apologize. We are dedicated to the security of America & allies.

“Our previous NYE tweet was in poor taste & does not reflect our values. We apologise. We are dedicated to the security of America & allies,” it said.

download (9)

[The United States remains the only country to ever use nuclear weapons against another nation.  Should other nations be afraid?]



US ‘bans Yemen mum from visiting dying toddler in California’

The boy and his fatherThe boy cannot survive for much longer, and must urgently see his mother, the family say

The Yemeni mother of a dying boy in California is being prevented from seeing him due to a US ban on visitors from her country, the family says.

Two-year-old Abdullah Hassan was born with a brain disease that doctors say he will not survive.

His relatives say his mother wants to see him one last time before they take him off life-support.

His father says the boy’s mother cannot come to the US due to the Trump administration’s travel ban.

Abdullah and his father are American, says the family.

“All she wishes is to hold his hand for the last time,” the boy’s father, Ali Hassan, 22, told the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday.

He said the boy would probably die if he is taken to Egypt, where his mother is currently living.

Mr Hassan’s wife, Shaima Swileh, is currently seeking a waiver from the US Department of State to travel to the US urgently.

Abdullah Hassan

What is the US travel ban?

Soon after he took office, US President Donald Trump imposed travel restrictions on mainly majority Muslim countries.

The executive order went through several versions before being upheld by the US Supreme Court this summer.

It bans nationals of Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen from entering the US.

Muslim students on Trump ban: ‘I don’t belong here’

‘Unfathomably cruel’

Saad Sweilem, from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is advocating for the family to be reunited, said barring Abdullah’s mother was “unfathomably cruel.”

Abdullah’s father was born in California, but has maintained close ties with his family’s native Yemen.

Mr Hassan met his wife in the Arab nation, and the couple had seven childrenthere.

Abdullah was diagnosed with hypomyelination, a brain disease that has affected his ability to breathe.

When he was eight months old, the family moved from Yemen to Cairo to escape that country’s civil war.

About three months ago, Mr Hassan brought his son to the US for treatment, with the expectation that his wife would later join them.

But after doctors in Oakland, California, informed him that the boy’s condition was terminal, the family applied for her to travel to the US.

They say they received a rejection letter from the state department, citing the US president’s travel ban.

A state department official who did not wish to be named refused to discuss the specific case due to confidentiality laws.

But the official told the BBC they make “every effort to facilitate legitimate travel by international visitors”.

“We are also fully committed to administering US immigration law and ensuring the integrity and security of our country’s borders.”

Comrade Trump: ‘I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law’

Cohen walked free from court – but will have to report to jail in March

US President Donald Trump has said he never directed his former private lawyer to break the law, a day after he was was sentenced to prison.

“He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law.” Mr Trump tweeted of Michael Cohen, adding that he pleaded guilty “to embarrass the president”.

His comments came a day after Cohen received a three-year jail sentence for campaign finance and fraud crimes.

Cohen had blamed Mr Trump’s influence and “dirty deeds” at his sentencing.

In a series of tweets on Thursday, Mr Trump also insisted that he “did nothing wrong” in regards to campaign finance laws.

He said Cohen “probably was not guilty” of those campaign violations but pleaded guilty to benefit himself.

“As a lawyer, Michael has great liability to me!”

Cohen, 52, was sentenced on Wednesday and must report to prison by 6 March.

He had admitted to lying to Congress, campaign finance violations and tax evasion. In addition to the jail term, he was also ordered to forfeit nearly $2m (£1.6m).

He is the first of Mr Trump’s inner circle to be jailed over Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

The attorney, who once said he would take a bullet for the president, told Judge William Pauley that Mr Trump had caused him to “follow a path of darkness rather than light”.

Cohen said it was his “blind loyalty” to the president that led him to ignore his own “moral compass” and “cover up [Mr Trump’s] dirty deeds”.

Mr Trump, who calls Mr Mueller’s inquiry a “witch hunt”, has repeatedly criticised his former ally since he began co-operating with investigators.

Donald Trump dismissed Michael Cohen as a “weak person” and a liar

He told reporters last month that Cohen was “weak” and “not a very smart person”.

What are Cohen’s crimes?

The sentencing was related to two separate cases brought by the Southern District of New York and Special Counsel Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Mr Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations for his role in making hush money payments to women who alleged affairs with Mr Trump.

One of those payments was made by American Media Inc (AMI), the parent company of the National Enquirer, to suppress a woman’s allegations of an affair with Mr Trump.

The Department of Justice announced on Wednesday it had reached a deal with AMI to forego prosecution as long as the company admitted it made the $150,000 payment “in concert with a candidate’s presidential campaign, and in order to ensure that the woman did not publicise damaging allegations about the candidate before the 2016 election”.

The tabloid publisher has agreed to continue co-operating with investigators.

The president has acknowledged the payments despite denying the affairs, and called them a private transaction unrelated to his campaign.

Cohen’s other convictions for tax evasion and bank fraud charges are unrelated to the president.

The special counsel had charged Cohen on one count of lying to Congress after a plea deal given his co-operation with the Russia inquiry.

The ex-Trump ally admitted to making false statements to Congress about a Trump property deal in Moscow during the 2016 election.

Michael Cohen arrived for his sentencing with members of his familyMichael Cohen arrived for his sentencing with members of his family

Who else has been implicated?

In other Russia investigation developments, former US National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who admitted to lying to the FBI about his talks with the Russian ambassador, has asked for leniency.

Flynn’s attorneys requested he serve no prison time as he has co-operated with the special counsel’s investigation from the start.

Last week, the special counsel’s team announced that they would not be pursuing jail time for Flynn as he provided “substantial” details regarding the Trump campaign team and Russian officials.

Cohen, Flynn and ex-Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort are among a number of the president’s aides being investigated by Mr Mueller’s team.

Mr Manafort – who has been convicted of fraud – had been co-operating with the special counsel’s inquiry.

But last Friday, Mr Mueller’s team released a memo alleging he had breached a plea agreement by lying to investigators.

Khashoggi murder: Bloody Gina Haspel and the CIA say the Saudi crown prince is guilty; Trump says that he isn’t.

US president refuses to condemn MBS despite CIA assessment that the crown prince ordered the killing of Khashoggi.

The US president has come under fierce criticism from fellow Republicans in the Senate over the issue [Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters]
The US president has come under fierce criticism from fellow Republicans in the Senate over the issue [Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters]

US President Donald Trump has reiterated his support for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, despite CIA assessment that the Saudi royal ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

Trump refused to comment on whether the crown prince was complicit in the murder, despite pleas from Senators to condemn the gruesome murder of the Washington Post columnist more than two months ago.

“He’s the leader of Saudi Arabia. They’ve been a very good ally,” Trump said in an interview in the Oval Office.

Asked by Reuters if standing by the kingdom meant standing by MBS, Trump responded: “Well, at this moment, it certainly does.”

Trump said that the “crown prince vehemently denies” involvement in a killing that has sparked outrage around the world.

The US president has come under fierce criticism from fellow Republicans in the Senate over the issue, particularly after CIA Director Gina Haspel briefed them. Last month, the CIA assessed that MBS ordered the killing, which Trump called “very premature”.

“You have to be willfully blind not to come to the conclusion that this was orchestrated and organised by people under the command of MBS,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, said last week.

A bipartisan group of Senators introduced a resolution last week saying MBS was complicit in the murder.

Trump also said he hoped US senators would not propose stopping arms sales to the Saudis, deals he has doggedly fought to save ever since the gruesome details of Khashoggi’s murder were leaked by Turkey.

“And I really hope that people aren’t going to suggest that we should not take hundreds of billions of dollars that they’re going to syphon off to Russia and to China,” Trump said.

Trump and his cabinet members have dismissed reports of a CIA assessment that Prince Mohammed ordered the killing.

“We have no smoking gun the crown prince was involved, not the intelligence community or anyone else. There is no smoking gun,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said last week.

The US president himself said last month that the truth may never come out regarding the Khashoggi murder.

“It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t,” Trump said in a much-criticised statement.

This week, the US Senate will consider a joint resolution condemning the crown prince for the killing, something that the president would have to sign or veto if passed by Congress. Trump has said he would meet senators.

The US president said he is more open to ending US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, something several US politicians have pushed for in recent weeks.

“Well, I’m much more open to Yemen because frankly, I hate to see what’s going on in Yemen,” Trump said.

“But it takes two to tango. I’d want to see Iran pull out of Yemen too. Because – and I think they will.”


[What about Saudi Arabia and 9/11?]