Stories You May Have Missed As Comey Hearing Dominated US News
A much-anticipated Senate intelligence committee hearing featuring former FBI director James Comey dominated United States media over the past day and a half.
Not only did every other media outlet publish coverage of the hearing, but several even covered how the media covered the Comey hearing. For example, the Washington Post documented the chyrons on the cable news networks, which updated every time CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News put up a new one.
But what happened in the past 36 hours that most media outlets could barely be bothered to pay any attention because they had to push wall-to-wall hype of Comey’s testimony on President Donald Trump? What won’t outlets cover now because they are focused on Comey-related commentary?
Trump announced his nominee to replace Comey a day before the hearing. It is Christopher Wray, who worked in the Justice Department under President George W. Bush.
As highlighted by journalist Marcy Wheeler, Wray was involved in decision-making related to torture. He helped Chiquita executives avoid material support charges for backing Colombian terrorists when he was assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s criminal division. Wray also provided “inappropriate briefings” to Attorney General John Ashcroft during the investigation into the Valerie Plame leak.
A pro-Syrian government drone was shot down by U.S.-led coalition forces in Syria. As Reuters noted, this is a “major escalation of tensions between Washington and troops supporting Damascus.”
Minimal attention was paid to the U.S. House of Representatives before it voted mostly along partisan lines for legislation to repeal major parts of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
The repeal—known as the Financial CHOICE Act—would “restructure” or gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It would do away with the Volcker rule, which regulates speculative trading by financial institutions in order to prevent future economic crises like the one that occurred in 2008.
Of all the days, Republican Senate finance committee chair Orrin Hatch held a budget hearing with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. Democratic senators sought to pin Price down on whether the Trump administration would backup commitments under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and subsidize health insurance companies so they stop withdrawing from state health insurance exchanges. Price would not commit to subsidies.
Democratic Senator Bob Casey highlighted the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the Republican bill for repealing the ACA. He asked if Price stood by statements that Medicaid would not face any cuts, especially since the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report on the bill says there will be 14 million fewer Medicaid enrollees if the bill is enacted. Price acted as if the CBO’s assessment was inaccurate or unfair and misleadingly asserted there will be no cuts.
As far as politics go, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill protested the manner in which Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is hammering out details of the Senate version of the AHCA in some backroom. Democrats are not a part of negotiations, and apparently, McConnell is trying to develop a bill that gets 50 votes from senators and a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence. Republicans do not care if Democrats support the bill or have an opportunity to propose amendments.
Iran faced a terrorist attack the day before the Comey hearing. Senator Bernie Sanders attempted to convince senators to wait to advance debate on further sanctions, which could have a destabilizing effect on an Iran nuclear deal that was negotiated under President Barack Obama. However, senators refused to be sensitive to the tragedy in Iran and 91 senators, including 38 Democrats, voted to consider more sanctions.
“We grieve and pray for the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks in Iran, and for the Iranian people, who are going through such challenging times. We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote,” Trump offensively declared in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.
If this happened in any allied countries, it would be objectively seen as a vile statement. There is virtually no political outrage in the United States or from U.S. media pundits.
U.S. intelligence contractor Reality Winner pleaded not guilty on Thursday to a charge of leaking a classified report on Russian election interference to a media outlet. It is the Trump administration’s first leak prosecution under the Espionage Act.
One hundred and thirty-seven House Democrats voted with Republicans to pass legislation that could subject teenagers to federal mandatory minimum sentences of 15 years or more for simply attempting to sext with another minor.
The bill, the Protecting Against Child Exploitation Act of 2017, exempts internet service providers and other communications and computing providers from liability unless they “intentionally transmitted or caused to be transmitted a visual depiction with actual knowledge that such depiction is of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.”
Some of the Democrats who voted to incarcerate greater numbers of young people count themselves among “#TheResistance” to Trump, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Tulsi Gabbard, Ted Lieu, Jamie Raskin, Adam Schiff, and Nydia Velazquez.
An amendment proposed by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, which sought to “ensure minors are not punished as sex offenders” under the bill, was defeated as well.
A 2014 anonymous survey of undergrads by Drexel University found over half reported they sexted as teenagers. Around one third said they used photos and over 60 percent said they didn’t know their sexting violated child pornography laws.
Congress will vote on President Trump’s $510 million arms deal with Saudi Arabia, which includes precision-guided munitions, tomorrow.
Human rights groups roundly criticized the deal as Saudi Arabia is likely to use the weapons against the people of Yemen, who face a possible famine after two years at war. The Saudi-led invasion has displaced millions and left people without access to medical supplies and facilities.
Scott Paul, Oxfam senior humanitarian policy advisor, called on Congress to block the arms deal. “Yemen is already on the brink of famine with 7 million people facing severe hunger and 18.8 million in need of aid; the sale of precision-guided munitions will only further exacerbate the growing humanitarian crisis.”
“The administration may not directly drop bombs in Yemen, but by providing Saudi Arabia with additional arms, the U.S. government will fuel and legitimize a conflict that, for the sake of the millions in need, must urgently be resolved,” Paul added.