White House Security Clearance Denials Overruled
The White House is again under scrutiny for its handling of access to classified information. Tricia Newbold, an 18-year veteran of the White House, told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that she and other staffers had denied security clearance for 25 individuals in the Trump administration, only to have those denials overridden and security clearance granted to these individuals. Security clearance can be denied based on a multitude of factors including foreign influence, past criminal behavior, drug use and susceptibility to blackmail. The list includes two current senior White House officials, one of which is suspected to be President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. It is believed that Carl Kline, Newbold’s boss, overruled the denial, one of the reasons he was recently subpoenaed by the committee. The White House does have the power to overrule denials, however, the number that have been overruled is unprecedented. Newbold, who is still a current employee of the White House despite the hearings, is being described as a whistleblower by some, and a disgruntled employee by others. She said she came forward because “right now this is my last hope to really bring the integrity back into our office.”
Southern Border Closure Threat
Monday - Friday
Continuing his fight on illegal immigration, President Trump threatened to close the southern border earlier this week, but backtracked on Thursday and focused on targeting the Mexican auto industry. Trump is using this declaration as leverage to press lawmakers to “immediately eliminate the loopholes at the Border,” as stated in a tweet on Wednesday. However, closing the southern border entirely could have serious economic effects on the U.S., not only on the auto industry, but in industries far from the southern border. In an interview from CBS MoneyWatch, Duncan Wood, director of the Wilson Center's Mexico Institute, said, "If you are thinking about a total shutdown of the border, then it's hundreds of millions of dollars a day -- maybe a billion. It's an economic impossibility. Literally, the two economies would grind to a halt. Both economies are set up to depend upon cross-border trade." President Trump visited the southern border on Friday and praised Mexico for stepping up immigration enforcement on their side of the border.
Landslide Chicago Mayoral Victory for Lightfoot
Tuesday presented a night of firsts. Lori Lightfoot, former President of the Chicago Police Board, was elected mayor of Chicago, making her the first African-American woman and first openly gay candidate elected to the office. According to the Chicago Tribune, this election now makes Chicago the largest city with an openly gay mayor. Lightfoot also won in a landslide, earning 73.7% of the vote and leading in all 50 City Council wards -- all without ever serving in an elected office. The mayoral race opened up to Lightfoot and the other 12 candidates, including opposing frontrunner Toni Preckwinkle, after incumbent Rahm Emanuel said in September he would not be seeking re-election. Contrarily, Preckwinkle is the 35th Cook County Board of Commissioners President, who succumbed to a series of scandals in recent months, including her ties to Alderman Ed Burke (who was recently charged with extortion) that damaged her credibility. As an outsider Democrat, Lightfoot’s platform primarily includes social and economic reform targeted at improving quality of life for minority groups in the city. In other election news, Steve Chirico was re-elected for a second term as mayor of Naperville on Tuesday.
Brunei Shariah Laws
On Wednesday, the southeast Asian country of Brunei announced an array of new laws that would make gay sex, adultery and rape, amongst many other acts, punishable by stoning the accused to death. It would also make lesbian sex punishable by whipping, theft with amputation and criminalizes teaching children religions other than Islam. Brunei, a small, Muslim-majority country, is the first country to nationally accept Shariah Law, which is an ancient religious law following Islamic tradition. When Brunei’s Shariah Law went into effect in 2013, it criminalized homosexuality with prison time as a part of a long term plan to roll out new, draconian laws throughout the small country. These laws went into effect despite immense international condemnation from both governmental bodies and human rights groups alike, such as the U.S. State Department and Amnesty International. Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden commented on the laws, writing in a Twitter post, “Every single person on earth is entitled to be treated with dignity and to live without fear. There is no excuse -- not culture, not tradition -- for this kind of hate and inhumanity."
Man Claiming to Be Missing Timmothy Pitzen Charged With Making False Statements
Wednesday - Friday
A 23-year old found on a Kentucky street claiming to be Timmothy Pitzen, who disappeared in May 2011 at the age of six in Aurora, IL, has been proven not to be the missing person. Pitzen went missing in May 2011 when his mother, Amy Fry-Pitzen, picked him up from school early on May 11, taking him to many locations over the next few days. Fry-Pitzen checked into a Rockford motel without Pitzen on May 13, and was found dead by suicide the next morning. She left a note saying that Pitzen was safe, but wouldn’t disclose any other information regarding his whereabouts. The case was brought up again when Brian Michael Rini asked passerby for help on a street in Newport, claiming he was Timmothy Pitzen and 14 years old. However, the F.B.I. stated on Thursday that the results from a subsequent DNA test showed Rini was not Pitzen. Officials said that he was a 23-year-old felon from Ohio. On Friday, Rini appeared in federal court and is being held without bond, and is slated on Tuesday to appear at a detention hearing. If found guilty, he could be in federal prison for eight years. Pitzen’s grandmother, Alana Anderson, said “It’s been awful. We’ve been on tenterhooks. We’ve been hopeful, alternatively hopeful and frightened. It’s, it’s just been exhausting.” Pitzen’s aunt, Kara Jacobs, said that “it’s like reliving that day all over again...and Timmothy’s father is devastated, once again.”