Track to nowhere?
California sued the Trump administration this week for canceling a $929 million grant for the state’s beleaguered high-speed rail project, calling the move retaliation for California’s opposition to a border wall. The Federal Railroad Administration announced last week that it would revoke the grant because California’s bullet train is way behind schedule and over budget; a line linking Los Angeles, San Francisco, and the Central Valley is now projected to cost $77 billion and to be finished by 2033. California, which has already spent $2.5 billion in federal funds on the project, outlined a sequence of events in February: After California joined 15 states suing to invalidate Trump’s emergency declaration at the border, Trump tweeted that California “has wasted billions of dollars on their out of control Fast Train.” Hours later, the Railroad Administration announced its intent to terminate the grant.
A border patrol agent called migrants “mindless murdering savages” and other slurs before allegedly hitting one with his truck, court records revealed this week. Matthew Bowen has been charged with using his government-issued Ford F-150 to knock down a Guatemalan man suspected of jumping the border fence in December 2017, and prosecutors offered dozens of text messages as evidence of Bowen’s violent attitude toward migrants. Two weeks before the incident, Bowen called migrants “disgusting subhuman s--- unworthy of being kindling for a fire.” When an agent asked if Bowen used “peanut oil while tasing” for a “frying effect,” Bowen replied, “Guats are best made crispy, with olive oil from their native pais,” the Spanish word for country. His attorney says the sentiments are “part of the agency’s culture.” Other texts described Bowen’s frustration with the “failed agency,” wishing President Trump would “PLEASE let us take the gloves off.”
A GOP dissenter
Grand Rapids, Mich.
Rep. Justin Amash last week became the first Republican in Congress to say President Trump’s conduct has reached “the threshold for impeachment,” drawing rebukes from GOP leadership. Amash said the Mueller report clearly identifies obstruction of justice, and “undoubtedly any person who is not the president of the United States would be indicted.” He said Attorney General William Barr “deliberately misrepresented” the report, and few in Congress bothered to read it; “their minds were made up based on partisan affiliation.” The five-term congressman was a founder of the House Freedom Caucus, which condemned him for his stance. Amash’s comments quickly earned him a challenger for next year’s Republican primary. The congressman, however, is rumored to be considering a Libertarian bid in 2020 against Trump, who called him a “loser” and “total lightweight.”
An ‘open secret’
An independent report published this week found that Ohio State University team doctor Richard Strauss sexually abused at least 177 men between 1979 and 1996. It concluded that more than 50 athletic department staffers, including two athletic directors, were aware of Strauss’ actions but did nothing to stop him. Strauss, who killed himself in 2005, was the team physician for several men’s sports; the greatest number of victims, 48, were on the wrestling team. He required students to undergo needless genital examinations, while routinely showering with players and loitering in their locker room. Former students said Strauss’ actions were an “open secret” on campus. Yet a 1994 investigation by Ohio State’s sports medicine director, John Lombardo, said the accusations amounted to “unfounded rumors.” Strauss was finally removed from his post in 1996 but remained a professor emeritus at the time of his death.
The Trump administration last week signaled that the president was considering pardons for several U.S. troops accused of war crimes. One is Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher of the Navy SEALs, who pleaded guilty to indiscriminately shooting civilians while deployed in Iraq, including a young woman in a flower-print hijab and an unarmed elderly man, along with stabbing a 15-year-old prisoner of war to death with a hunting knife in 2017. Others under consideration are Nicholas Slatten, a former Blackwater contractor found guilty in the 2007 shooting of dozens of unarmed Iraqis; Mathew Golsteyn, accused of killing an unarmed Afghan in 2010; and a group of Marine snipers charged with urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters. Last week Trump pardoned his longtime ally Conrad Black, who’d been convicted of defrauding his media company of $60 million.
Multiple overseas transactions in 2016 and 2017 involving companies controlled by President Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, set off alarms at Deutsche Bank, The New York Times reported this week. Florida-based money-laundering specialists prepared suspicious-activity reports for the Treasury Department, but executives at Deutsche—which has reportedly loaned Trump more than $2.5 billion—decided against filing a report. The nature of the transfers is not clear, but a series of them in summer 2016—after Trump had taken office—involved Kushner’s real estate company and Russian individuals. Tammy McFadden, since fired from the German bank, concluded that a report was merited, partly because regulators had already reprimanded Deutsche for laundering billions for Russians. Trump and his family sued the bank in April to block it from complying with congressional subpoenas. Congressional Democrats insisted Treasury officials act on the Times report. ■