Jon Stewart lashes out at Congress about 9/11 victims fund
WASHINGTON — Comedian Jon Stewart scolded Congress Tuesday for failing to ensure that a victims’ compensation fund set up after the 9/11 attacks never runs out of money.
Stewart, a longtime advocate for 9/11 responders, angrily called out lawmakers for failing to attend a hearing on a bill to ensure the fund can pay benefits for the next 70 years. Pointing to rows of empty seats at a House Judiciary Committee hearing room, Stewart said “sick and dying” first responders and their families came to Washington for the hearing, only to face a nearly deserted dais.
The sparse attendance by lawmakers was “an embarrassment to the country and a stain on this institution,” Stewart said, adding that the “disrespect” shown to first responders now suffering from respiratory ailments and other illnesses “is utterly unacceptable.”
Lawmakers from both parties said they support the bill and were monitoring the hearing amid other congressional business.
Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., predicted the bill will pass with overwhelming support and said lawmakers meant no disrespect as they moved in and out of the subcommittee hearing, a common occurrence on Capitol Hill.
100s of protesters surround Hong Kong HQ before bill debate
HONG KONG — Hundreds of protesters surrounded government headquarters in Hong Kong on Wednesday as the administration prepared to open debate on a highly controversial extradition law that would allow accused people to be sent to China for trial.
The overwhelmingly young crowd of demonstrators overturned barriers and tussled with police as they sought to enter government headquarters and offices of the Legislative Council.
Under its “one country, two systems” framework, Hong Kong was guaranteed the right to retain its own social, legal and political systems for 50 years following its handover from British rule in 1997. However, China’s ruling Communist Party has been seen as increasingly reneging on that agreement by forcing through unpopular legal changes.
The government delayed plans to present the amendments to the legislature “to a later time to be determined.” A weekend protest against the legislation by hundreds of thousands of people was the territory’s largest political demonstration in more than a decade.
The legislation has become a lightning rod for concerns about Beijing’s increasing control over the semi-autonomous territory.
US submits extradition request for WikiLeaks founder Assange
WASHINGTON — The United States government has formally submitted an extradition request to the United Kingdom for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange , a Justice Department official said Tuesday.
Assange faces an 18-count indictment that accuses him of soliciting and publishing classified information and of conspiring with former Army private Chelsea Manning to crack a Defense Department computer password. That indictment, which includes Espionage Act charges, was issued by the Justice Department last month and is pending in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.
The extradition request had been expected ever since U.S. authorities first announced a criminal case against Assange. Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi said it was submitted to the United Kingdom.
The 47-year-old Assange was evicted on April 11 from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he had been holed up since 2012 after Ecuador granted him political asylum. He was arrested by British police and is currently serving a 50-week sentence for jumping bail. Sweden also seeks him for questioning about an alleged rape, which Assange has denied.
Assange was initially charged with a single computer crime violation on allegations that he worked with Manning to crack a government password. Some legal experts have said the additional Espionage Act charges might slow or complicate the extradition process to the extent the United Kingdom views them as political offenses and therefore exempt from extradition.
Pelosi says Dems ‘not even close’ to starting impeachment
WASHINGTON — Brushing back calls for impeachment, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday “it’s not even close” to having enough support in the House, while Democrats pushed forward on other fronts to investigate President Donald Trump.
The House voted 229-191 to approve a resolution that will allow Democrats to accelerate their legal battles with the Trump administration over access to information from the Russia investigation.
At the same time, they’re convening hearings this week on special counsel Robert Mueller’s report in an effort to boost public interest in the findings of the Trump-Russia probe while digging into a legal strategy aimed at forcing Attorney General William Barr, former White House counsel Don McGahn and others into compliance with congressional oversight.
“We need answers to the questions left unanswered by the Mueller report,” Pelosi said on the House floor ahead of voting.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy countered that the Democratic maneuvers are all “just a desperate attempt to relitigate the Mueller investigation.” He called it “an impeachment effort in everything but name.”