This week in Trump’s presidency brings up a stock of new issues with WikiLeaks’ release of thousands of documents detailing the C.I.A.’s hacking operations and techniques. According to The New York Times, “There is no evidence that the C.I.A. hacking tools have been used against Americans,” but WikiLeaks affirm that both Apple and Android smartphones have been compromised. According to WikiLeaks, their source’s agenda was to begin a public debate on “whether [or not] the C.I.A.’s hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers,” but an argument has been made that the source was instead an outside power that took the documents and gave them to WikiLeaks in order to either weaken national security or to release the code to foreign hackers. The F.B.I. and C.I.A. have opened up a criminal investigation into the leak’s origins, and some officials told CNN “that the documents published so far are largely genuine.”
In other news, President Trump has continued to accuse former President Barack Obama of wiretapping phones in Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign. After tweeting Saturday “How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” Trump asked for an investigation into his allegations as he continued to tweet inflammatory accusations about the Obama administration, about which Mr. Obama has remained quiet. A presidential historian, Douglas Brinkley, told The Wall Street Journal that the fact that “a sitting president would charge his predecessor with a felony…creates a feeling of instability in the United States.” Since then, the Department of Justice has not submitted any hard evidence to President Trump’s claim for the House Intelligence Committee to review. Rather, they have requested and received an extension for the deadline on a date before the hearing on Russian involvement in the U.S. election on March 20th. Sunday, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain told CNN that “The president has one of two choices, either retract or provide the information that the American people deserve…I have no reason to believe that the charge is true, but I also believe that the president of the United States could clear this up in a minute,” and that following Monday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer tried to clarify that President Trump was neither being literal or specific in his accusations.Read more
Today we are witnessing the return to the idea of revolution in art, the media and public discussion. But how does our contemporary understanding of Revolution differ from the past?Join Professor Almira Ousmanova, from European Humanities University (Vilnius, Lithuania), for a discussion on the convergence of theoretical discourses on revolution, the new forms of political activism and contemporary aesthetic praxis. The event will take place at Villa Sassetti, starting from 12:30pm.
Day 1: The Value of Compromise: A Visit to the Parlamentarium
Fresh-faced and eager—not exactly the best way to describe the EU working group students at 4:00 a.m. on the way to the airport, ready for our flight to Brussels. However, as the day progressed, that would soon change. After one transfer in Munich and, for those of us less comfortable flying, a somewhat hair-raising flight through heavy turbulence to Brussels, we arrived at our hotel at midday. We had a couple of hours to settle ourselves before a short walk to the EU Parlamentarium, where we participated in a role-playing game on the legislative process of the EU Parliament. Our group was divided into four parties across the political spectrum, ranging from environmentally conscious greens to more conservative traditionals, and tasked with coming up with legislation on distribution and access to water as well as on regulating microchip implants in people.
Day 55 (3/15/17)—President Trump faces a challenge that may come to define the early trajectory of his administration. His (in)ability to save the Republican healthcare bill will demonstrate his ability to wield influence in Washington. Multiple Republicans say that Trump’s attempt to guide the bill, which is facing opposition on many fronts, through Congress is becoming an important test of his command of political savvy. With tougher tasks ahead, a win for Trump on such a divisive issue like healthcare would represent a rallying cry for the GOP (Grand Old Party). Republicans are relying on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act in order to free up budget to deliver on the administration’s other promises, such as the border wall (to be paid for by Mexico through visa and port entry fees), a new system of tariffs to encourage companies to manufacture within the United States, and a crackdown on immigration. During the campaign, Trump promised to work with Congress to cut taxes and inject $1 trillion into national infrastructure projects to bolster bridges, roads, and highways across the nation. Thus arises the importance to the administration of successfully navigating Trump’s American Health Care Act (AHCA) through Congress.Read more
Last week, a “jus soli”—meaning “right of the soil,” commonly referring to birthright citizenship—bill emerged on the agenda of the Italian Senate. Such a bill, should it pass, would allow all children born to foreign, non-EU parents who have have a valid residence permit for at least five years in Italy and can pass an Italian language test to become citizens. The law already passed in the Chamber of Deputies (the lower chamber) and has been sitting in the Senate for over a year. There are Senators pushing for a vote on citizenship reform by the end of March in the upcoming plenary session. MPs in the Senate were unable to reach any compromise while the legislative proposal was in the Constitutional Affairs Committee, and therefore want to bring it to a vote. Those in favor of the reform are the MPs from the PD, the Movimento Progressisti Democratici, the centrists and the Italian left. They believe they have the numbers to pass the bill regardless of the number of undecided voters and 5-Star voters who may abstain from voting (which, in the Senate, equates to a “no” vote). Read more
The Trump administration continues to be mired in scandal. On Monday, President Trump signed his second sweeping immigration Executive Order, now barring entry to the United States to citizens from six predominantly Muslim countries. Meanwhile, Attorney General (AG) Jeff Sessions officially recused himself from the Russia inquiry and any further investigation into potential Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Trump has been busy trying to refute alleged ties to Russia by creating allegations against House Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). He resurfaced old pictures of the two meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Russian President Vladimir Putin respectively, and is calling for an investigation into the Democrats for their ties to Russia. He then accused former President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower in the months leading up to the election without offering any evidence.Read more
Day 39— President Trump took the first steps to radically shifting the allocation of the federal budget Monday, calling for a $54 billion increase in defense and security spending. Trump’s proposal will focus national security spending on boosts to the military, local law enforcement, and Border Patrol. To balance out these increases, he plans to cut spending on virtually every federal agency, as well as on foreign aid. His plan will not cut spending to Medicare or Social Security. The President announced that “this budget follows through on my promise of keeping America safe, keeping out terrorists, keeping out criminals and putting violent offenders behind bars or removing them from our country all together.” While the White House has yet to define the extent of cuts to various programs, it is expected to gut the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that currently has an $8.1 billion budget. Throughout Trump’s campaign, he promised to “get rid of it [meaning the EPA] in almost every form.” His proposed cuts to foreign spending are also justified by an Office of Budget and Management official, saying that “this budget expects the rest of the world to step up in some of the programs this country has been so generous in funding in the past.” One such program is NATO, and this sentiment follows up on Defense Secretary Mattis’ recent ultimatum to NATO. Trump has also pledged to increase infrastructure spending on roads, bridges and tunnels across the nation.
Last weekend finds Trump’s administration facing fierce criticism as its first full month in office draws to a close. Trump’s policies on immigration come under fire while he continues to deny allegations of Russian involvement in the election.
On Saturday, The Washington Post reported events that transpired on Wednesday at Houston International Airport when Henry Rousso, “an Egyptian-born French citizen” and a leading Holocaust scholar was detained and almost deported. It was thanks to the quick actions of Texas A&M University that the situation was diffused. Richard Golsan, director of the Glasscock Center for Humanities Research at Texas A&M, explained that “Rousso was ‘mistakenly detained’ by U.S. immigration authorities” in an article in The Washington Post.” Rousso tweeted “the officer who arrested me was ‘inexperienced.’” Issues with Rousso’s treatment are further compounded by the fact that France is “a beneficiary of the U.S. visa waiver program, which permits French citizens to enter the United States without a visa,” as well as the fact that Egypt was never included in the seven countries in the travel ban. Rousso’s lecture was on the Vichy Regime in unoccupied France in WWII and its collaboration with Nazi Germany, where tens of thousands of Jews were deported to concentration camps. The irony was not lost on fellow historians, as Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a professor of Italian history with New York University, called out the irony in her tweet, calling “his work on cost of forgetting past (Vichy) so relevant.” Ruth Ben-Ghiat also drew a parallel between Donald Trump and Mussolini’s authoritarian traits in this article from The New Yorker.Read more
Day 36 — Last Friday the President’s criticism of the media reached its peak. He took to Twitter to blast the New York Times and CNN, stating that “FAKE NEWS media knowingly doesn’t tell the truth. A great danger to our country.” He then escalated his assault on the media by banning reporters from the NYT, CNN, and other news organizations from attending Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s Friday press briefing. This decision demonstrates the administration’s use of presidential authority to undermine those who may check Trump’s decisions, while awarding sources it deems “friendly.” Dan Baquet, executive director of the NYT, expressed his dismay over the decision, saying “free media access to a transparent government is obviously of crucial national interest.” Ironically, it was Mr. Spicer who two months ago advocated for open access for the media, saying that it is “what makes a democracy a democracy versus a dictatorship” and who now seems to follow the President’s directives.