This week, Attorney General William Barr jilted Congress for wanting to ask questions. Trump called Putin to discuss the “Russian hoax.” Facebook banned several users over their extremist and conspiratorial views. Venezuela’s Guaidó considered asking the U.S. for military intervention.
This Wednesday, Barr answered questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee on special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, appearing on Capitol Hill. Barr expressed no concern that he mishandled the release of Mueller’s report and sought to downplay the significance of a letter Mueller sent him wherein he expressed concern over Barr’s four-page summary of the final report. Throughout the hearing, Democrats derided Barr’s explanations about his handling of the report and his decision to not prosecute for obstruction of justice. Barr was accused of lying to the public and Congress, and calls for his resignation rang from both sides of the Capitol.
This was supposed to be the first of two appearances by Barr, but the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee announced late Wednesday that Barr planned on skipping Thursday’s planned testimony. The reason for Barr’s absence was that he objected to the Democrats’ plan to have him questioned by a staff lawyer.
Last Sunday, Spain’s ruling socialist party, Pedro Sanchez’s Socialist Workers’ party (PSOE), won the most votes, but was unable to win a majority. This was the country’s third general election in under four years. With a 75.8% voter turnout, Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sanchez hailed the election results and turnout as proof of the country’s rejection of the reactionary policies of his right-wing opponents. Despite the PSOE’s relative success of securing 123 seats, it still needs to gain the support of other parties to reach the 176 seats to form a government in the 350-seat congress. This election was also a breakthrough moment for the far-right populist Vox party, which gained 24 seats.
Trump Phones Putin
President Trump tweeted on Friday that he discussed the ‘Russian hoax’ with Russian president Vladimir Putin. The hour-long phone call was the first time Trump and Putin have spoken since the Mueller report cleared Trump of colluding with Russia. The Kremlin confirmed that the two spoke in a statement, adding that the White House initiated contact. When a reporter asked Trump whether he had warned Putin that Moscow should refrain from interfering in the 2020 U.S. presidential elections, Trump told the reporter that she was “very rude.”
During their conversation on Friday, Trump also told Putin that the U.S. supports the people of Venezuela, and he stressed his desire to bring humanitarian relief to the fractured nation. While the Trump administration supports the opposition leader Juan Guaidó, Russia is allied with the incumbent president Nicolás Maduro. In a statement from this past March, the Moscow foreign minister accused Trump of “boorishness on a global scale” after he said that Russia should not involve itself with Venezuela.
On Thursday, Facebook announced that it was banning a number of controversial political personalities, including Alex Jones, Louis Farrakhan and Milo Yiannopoulos, from its services. Facebook banned such users, citing its policies against “dangerous individuals and organizations.” Following the announcement, Trump sided with the banned users by accusing social media of censorship. Over Friday and Saturday, Trump shared over a dozen tweets about the social media censoring conservatives and promised to look after people’s right to freedom of speech. Users of privately owned social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, do not have government-protected freedom of speech.
Over the last week, Venezuela’s self-declared interim leader Juan Guaidó launched a failed attempt to start a military rebellion to oust sitting president Nicolás Maduro. The Russia and China-backed Maduro has refused to give up power and delivered a recent address from a military base in Caracas. As of now, Guaidó is supported by over 50 countries including the U.S., UK and the majority of Latin American countries. In a recent BBC interview, Guaidó said he is considering asking the U.S. for military intervention.