The U.S. at a glance ...
Hail to the former chiefs
Northam (left), Gillespie(Getty, Newscom, AP (2))
College Station, Texas
Presidential reunion: All five living former presidents appeared together last week for the first time since 2013, gathering onstage at a benefit concert to raise money for hurricane victims. Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter waved to the crowd and received a standing ovation at the One America Appeal event held at Texas A&M University. President Trump appeared in a prerecorded video to thank the former presidents for their “tremendous assistance,” despite recent speeches by both Obama and George W. Bush implicitly criticizing him. “Americans step up,” Obama said in brief remarks. “As heartbreaking as the tragedies that took place here in Texas, and in Florida, in Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have been, what we’ve also seen is the spirit of America at its best.” The One America Appeal has raised more than $33 million so far.
Rio Grande Valley, Texas
Migrant abortion: An undocumented teenager being held in an immigrant detention facility received an abortion this week after a federal appeals court ruled the government couldn’t stop her from terminating her pregnancy. The 17-year-old, from an unidentified Central American country, was apprehended trying to illegally cross the U.S. border in September and learned she was pregnant a short time later. But after the girl said she wanted an abortion, the Trump administration denied her request, citing a new policy of refusing to “facilitate” abortions for unaccompanied minors. Lawyers for the girl said officials forced her to undergo counseling at a religiously affiliated “crisis pregnancy center” that urged her not to terminate. As the case wound through the courts, the teen’s pregnancy advanced to 15 weeks; Texas bans most abortions after 20 weeks.
Uranium One investigation: House Republicans opened an investigation this week into the government’s handling of a controversial 2010 deal giving Russia control of 20 percent of the U.S. uranium supply—an agreement that was approved in part by Hillary Clinton’s state department. The move came after TheHill.com reported that the Obama administration cleared the partial sale of the company Uranium One to a Russian state-owned nuclear firm, even though the FBI was investigating kickbacks by Russian officials to American uranium-trucking companies. Investigators say they want to know whether $4 million in donations by Uranium One investors to the Clinton Foundation influenced the deal’s approval. The Clinton state department was one of nine government agencies that signed off on the transaction. In an interview with C-SPAN this week, Clinton called the probe “baloney.”
White nationalist violence: Three supporters of white nationalist leader Richard Spencer were charged with attempted murder last week after one of them shot at demonstrators who were protesting Spencer’s speech at the University of Florida. Tyler Tenbrink, 28; William Fears, 30; and Colton Fears, 28, allegedly approached a small group of protesters at a bus stop and began shouting “Hail Hitler” and giving Nazi salutes. In the ensuing argument, Tenbrink pulled out a gun, and the other two men urged him to “kill them.” Tenbrink fired a single shot, which struck a building. The three men, all from Texas, then fled, but were arrested 20 miles away. Prior to the shooting, one of the accused spoke to a local newspaper about his support for the white nationalist movement. “It’s always been socially acceptable to punch a Nazi,” William Fears said. “We’re starting to push back. We want to show our teeth a little bit.”
Dems funded Trump dossier: Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped fund research behind the now-infamous “Steele Dossier” containing salacious allegations about President Trump’s connections with Russia, The Washington Post reported this week. In April 2016, lawyer Marc Elias, who represented the Clinton campaign and the DNC, hired Fusion GPS to conduct opposition research on Trump. The Washington-based research firm had already been investigating Trump’s background on behalf of an unnamed Republican client, and hired dossier author Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer. Steele eventually produced a series of memos, parts of which he shared with the FBI, alleging an extensive Russian conspiracy to help Trump win the presidency. The dossier, including unsubstantiated accounts of Trump’s encounters with Russian prostitutes, became public in January after BuzzFeed.com published a leaked copy.
Governor’s race tightens: Democrats are fretting about potentially losing a bellwether election in the run-up to the 2018 midterms, as polls showed the Nov. 7 race for Virginia governor in a virtual dead heat. For months, Democrat Ralph Northam, the state’s lieutenant governor, has held a narrow lead over Republican Ed Gillespie, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee. But three new polls put the race within the margin of error. Virginia hasn’t elected a Republican to statewide office since 2010, but Gillespie appears to have narrowed the gap by relentlessly attacking Northam as soft on illegal immigration. Democrats, meanwhile, have accused Gillespie, formerly an immigration moderate, of cynically adopting President Trump’s hard-line rhetoric. Democratic officials fear losing the race will imperil their momentum as the party gears up for 2018. “All eyes are on us,” said Susan Swecker, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Virginia. ■