Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Saturday announced Madrid will remove Catalan President Carles Puigdemont from his position, suspend Catalonia's regional autonomy, and impose direct national rule to suppress the Catalan independence movement.
This is an unprecedented step under the current Spanish Constitution. Rajoy is invoking the document's Article 155, which says if a region "acts in a way that is seriously prejudicial to the general interest of Spain," the national government can, with majority Senate approval, "take all measures necessary" to stop it.
Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras labeled the move "totalitarianism," and Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau called it "an attack on everyone's rights and freedoms." Puigdemont led a large protest in Barcelona Saturday afternoon.
In a referendum earlier this month, 90 percent of Catalans who turned out to vote endorsed independence from Spain. The vote was held despite intense opposition from Madrid, including widespread reports of police brutality against would-be voters. Catalan leaders have sought international assistance to negotiate a peaceful resolution, but so far their calls have gone unanswered. Bonnie Kristian
Video of a 2015 speech by Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), published Friday by the South Florida Sun Sentinel, apparently proves that comments she made at the dedication of an FBI building did not match White House Chief of Staff John Kelly's portrayal of them when he criticized the congresswoman Thursday. In addition to skewering Wilson for sharing the details of a phone call between President Trump and the widow of a U.S. service member killed in Niger, Kelly claimed Wilson once "talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for" a Florida FBI building and that she told the audience in 2015 that she "just called up President [Barack] Obama, and on that phone call, he gave the money, the $20 million, to build the building, and she sat down."
Wilson disputed Kelly's characterization: "He shouldn't be able to just say that, that is terrible," she told the Miami Herald. "This has become totally personal."
Video published Friday by the South Florida Sun Sentinel apparently shows that Wilson did not in fact claim credit for getting the money for the building, but did take credit for naming the building. "Everyone said, 'That's impossible, it takes at least eight months to a year to complete the process through the House, the Senate, and the president's office,'" Wilson recalls in the video. "I said, 'I'm a school principal.' I said, excuse my French, 'Oh hell no, we're going to get this done.'"
Wilson did in fact sponsor legislation, signed three days before the 2015 ceremony, to name the building after Benjamin Grogan and Jerry Dove, two FBI agents killed in a shootout near Miami in 1986. The White House stood by Kelly's characterization following the new video: "If you're able to make a sacred act like honoring American heroes about yourself, you're an empty barrel," White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. Watch the video at the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Jeva Lange
On Thursday night, the Senate approved a 2018 budget resolution on a 51-49 vote, authorizing adding another $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit over a decade in order to cover President Trump's proposed tax cuts. The budget resolution contains a provision allowing Senate Republicans to pass a tax bill with no Democratic votes.
Trump's tax plan is still being developed, but Democrats are warning voters that all signs point to it benefiting the wealthiest Americans and corporations. An amendment was crafted by House and Senate Republicans so they don't have to spend weeks reconciling the Senate budget with the version the House has already passed. Both the House and Senate tax-writing committees are trying to release their draft legislation by early November. Catherine Garcia
President Trump promised the father of an army corporal slain in Afghanistan a $25,000 check and a fundraiser to support his family, but failed to deliver on either pledge, The Washington Post reports. Chris Baldridge said he spoke to Trump on the phone after his son, Army Cpl. Dillon Baldridge, 22, was killed in June. When Baldridge explained to Trump that he would see none of his son's $100,000 death gratuity, which was designated to go to his ex-wife, "[Trump] said, 'I'm going to write you a check out of my personal account for $25,000,' and I was just floored," Baldridge recalled.
Later, when Baldridge received a letter from the White House, he realized Trump hadn't followed through on the promise: "I opened it up and read it, and I was hoping to see a check in there, to be honest," he said. "I know it was kind of far-fetched thinking. But I was like, 'Damn, no check.' Just a letter saying 'I'm sorry.'"
Other Gold Star families contacted by the Post described mixed interactions with Trump. Euvince Brooks, whose son, Sgt. Roshain E. Brooks, 30, was killed in Iraq, said he was upset when he saw Trump claim that he had called all families of slain troops since taking office. "I said to my daughter, 'Can you teach me to tweet, so I can tweet at the president and tell him he's a liar?'" Brooks said. His family has not heard from the White House at all.
William Lee, whose brother Army 1st Lt. Weston Lee was killed in Iraq in April, said Trump did call his family and that the conversation was "very cordial and very nice." "It meant something, the leader of our nation calling us and showing the honor and respect to my brother that I feel my brother earned," Lee said.
The White House initially declined to comment to the Post for the story, but later issued a statement about Baldridge: "It is disgusting that the media is taking something that should be recognized as a generous and sincere gesture, made privately by the president, and using it to advance the media's biased agenda," a spokesperson said. The White House said Baldridge's check is now in the mail. Read the full report at The Washington Post. Jeva Lange
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Al Franken tussle over Sessions' shifting about his meetings with Russian agents
Attorney General Jeff Sessions refused to discuss his conversations with President Trump at his Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing Wednesday, citing executive privilege and frustrating Democrats. "I can neither assert executive privilege nor can I disclose today the content of my confidential conversations with the president," Sessions said. Democrats have maintained that because Trump did not invoke the privilege himself, the attorney general is not required to adhere to it, The New York Times reports.
Sessions faced intense pressure from senators including Vermont's Patrick Leahy (D), who forced him to admit he has not yet been interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia investigation, and Minnesota's Al Franken (D), who challenged Sessions for "moving the goal posts" regarding his conversations with Russian agents during the presidential campaign.
"Not being able to recall what you discussed with him is very different than saying, 'I have not had communications with the Russians,'" Franken challenged Sessions over the attorney general's inconsistent answers on what exactly happened. "The ambassador from Russia is Russian." Jeva Lange
A federal judge blocked most of the newest iteration of President Trump's travel ban Tuesday, declaring that the administration cannot restrict the travel of people from six of the eight blacklisted countries, Politico reports. The order was set to kick in at midnight Wednesday.
The third version of Trump's ban, announced in late September, placed indefinite restrictions on visitors from Chad, Libya, Syria, Yemen, North Korea, Venezuela, Iran, and Somalia. Judge Derrick K. Watson in Hawaii temporarily stopped the ban for all of the countries except North Korea and Venezuela. Trump's last two versions of the restrictions were also blocked from being imposed.
Groups including the State of Hawaii and the International Refugee Assistance Project asked judges to block the latest ban, arguing that "Trump had exceeded his legal authority to set immigration policy, and the latest measure — like the last two — fulfilled his unconstitutional campaign promise to implement a Muslim ban," The Washington Post reports.
Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) have reached a bipartisan deal to stabilize the Affordable Care Act, The New York Times reports. Alexander said Tuesday that the deal would "extend federal subsidies for two years and provide states with flexibility," Reuters writes.
The subsidies lower costs for low-income customers; President Trump decided last week to end the payments, although he signaled approval of the Alexander-Murray deal Tuesday. "This is a short-term solution," Trump said. "It will get us over this intermediate hump."
Conservatives are wary of "bailing out" insurers, though, and while Alexander has the support of some Senate Republicans, it is not clear if the plan would pass the House. Jeva Lange
U.S.-backed forces seized complete control of the Islamic State's de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria, on Tuesday, a commander told The Associated Press. Brig. Gen. Talal Sillo deemed the victory "the fall of the capital of terrorism."
— Rojava Defense Units (@DefenseUnits) October 17, 2017
Fighting with ISIS militants had been pushed back to a stadium in Raqqa, the terrorist group's last stronghold in the city, and on Tuesday the Syrian Democratic Forces at last raised their flag over the base, Reuters reports. The Kurdish YPG flag was planted in the stadium grounds.
ISIS has lost massive swaths of territory this year, including the city of Mosul, Iraq, and its forces have been pushed back into the Euphrates River Valley, where experts expect the militants to make their "final stand." Jeva Lange