This week saw the number of Democrats running for president swell to 12 candidates, the Supreme Court take on the birthright citizenship question on the census and the midterms continue in North Carolina. However you cut it, this past week is no stranger to controversy and debate.
Bernie Sanders announced his second presidential campaign on Tuesday morning. Within the following 24 hours, he managed to fundraise an extraordinary $6 million from over 225,000 donors. That is roughly $4.5 million more than what the second highest fundraiser, Senator Kamala Harris’ campaign, raised within its first 24 four hours. Despite Sanders’ impressive financial start, it did not come as a surprise. During the 2016 elections Sanders managed to raise more than $200 million.
Empire actor Jussie Smollett was arrested on Thursday morning under suspicions of filing a false report to the police on January 29, where he claimed to be the victim of a hate crime. Smollett allegedly paid two men to stage an attack on himself to further his career. Smollett maintains his innocence, blaming both the legal system and media for his predicament. Empire producers confirmed that Smollett’s character will not appear in the current season’s final two episodes.
On Thursday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson placed a gag order on former Trump advisor Roger Stone. The order came after Stone posted a picture of Judge Jackson next to crosshairs on his Instagram account. Stone apologized in court and claimed that the picture was not intended as a threat. The image, which Stone has taken down, came from a website that lists 500 people, including Judge Jackson, who are “working for a secret rogue C.I.A.” According to the judge, another offense will send Stone to jail.
North Carolina Midterms
On Thursday, following an investigation into absentee ballots, the North Carolina Board of Elections unanimously voted to hold a new election in the 9th congressional district. The vote came after months of speculation that voter fraud had been committed in the House race. Republican candidate Mark Harris had asked for a new vote after it came to light that his campaign had funded an effort for illegal voter turnout. Harris’ son, John Harris, revealed evidence to the Board of Elections that his father had previously given a false testimony and was aware of the illegal activity. North Carolina’s 9th district will go unrepresented in Congress for the next few months.
R. Kelly Indicted
On Friday, singer R. Kelly has turned himself in after police issued a warrant for his arrest and was indicted on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. On Saturday, a judge set Kelly’s bond at $1 million and set his bail at $100,000. Kelly is alleged to have sexually abused four women from 1998 to 2010. At the time the abuse allegedly happened, three of the victims were minors. Among the evidence is Kelly’s DNA on a shirt worn by one of the victims during one of the alleged encounters. Days before the arrest, attorney Michael Avenatti provided police with a videotape showing Kelly having sex with a 14-year-old girl.
The father of Hoda Muthana has filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration for attempting to revoke Hoda Muthana’s citizenship. Muthana was born in New Jersey and grew up in Alabama before she withdrew from college at the age of 20 to move to Syria and join IS. Now 24, she has an 18-month-old son and is seeking to return to the U.S. Despite Muthana publicly apologizing for her actions, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that the former IS propagandist has no “right” or “legal basis” to a U.S. visa or passport. Muthana and her son are currently staying in a Kurdish camp in Syria.
Two Hundred Troops to Remain in Syria
In December, after posting a tweet announcing the defeat of IS in Syria, President Trump ordered a fast and full withdrawal of American troops from the area. On Thursday, the White House announced that a group of 200 American soldiers will temporarily remain in Syria following the evacuation. Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria has drawn criticism abroad and at home, most notably from Republican Senator Lindsey Graham who said “That’s the dumbest f---ing idea I’ve ever heard.”
It is believed that this coming week, Special Counsel Robert Mueller will complete and submit his two-year investigation to the Justice Department. The investigation will explain how Russia influenced the 2016 presidential election, if the Trump campaign was complicit and whether Trump obstructed justice.