Here are the main events that occurred in Politics this week:
1. Florida School Shooting Leave 17 Dead, 15 Wounded
On February 14, a mass shooting occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. 17 people were killed and 15 were wounded, making it one of the deadliest school massacres since Columbine some 19 years earlier. The shooting was carried out by Nikolas Jacob Cruz, a 19-year old high school senior with a known past of threatening his fellow students, posting hate content on his social media accounts, and bragging about killing animals. Additionally, Cruz holds extremist views and advocated the killing of African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Muslim-Americans, and the LGBT community. These abhorrent views made Cruz a target for FBI investigation as early as September of 2016.
Politicians on both sides of the political aisle have condemned the shooting and reached out to the victims. In a Twitter post, President Donald Trump offered his prayers and condolences to the victims and their families, stating that, “no child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.” Additionally, President Trump ordered the flags to be flown at half-staff for the entire US and paid a visit to the victims’ hospital. Florida Governor Rick Scott similarly expressed strong support for the victims and went as far as to claim that FBI Director Christopher Wray should resign in wake of the shooting, noting that the FBI had the ability to intervene to prevent the massacre from happening.
My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 14, 2018
The shooting has also renewed public debate over the issue of gun control. For example, student survivors organized the group Never Again MSD to demand legislative action to prevent similar shootings from occurring again and to call out US lawmakers (mostly Republicans, but a few Democrats as well) who have received campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association (NRA). Additionally, The Alliance for Securing Democracy noted that Russian “sock” (fake) accounts used Twitter over the past few days to inflame tensions by posting loaded comments that support or oppose gun control to divide the American people and by claiming that the shooting was a false flag operation which the US government will exploit to expand gun control efforts.
2. 13 Russian Citizens Indicted in Mueller Investigation On Charges Related To Meddling In The 2016 Presidential Elections
On February 16, the special counsel probing interference in the last presidential election charged 13 Russian nationals and three Russian groups with violating criminal laws with the intent of meddling “with U.S. elections and political processes.” The 37-page indictment, signed by Robert Mueller, depicts an elaborate scheme in which the Russians accused came to the US with the deliberate intention of undermining the American political and electoral process, including the 2016 presidential election. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said that the Russians charged called their work “information warfare against the United States” with the goal of spreading distrust of candidates and the political system in general. Additionally, many of the accused Russians “communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign” without revealing their association with Russia. The new indictment comes amid a wide-ranging probe by the special counsel into Russian meddling in the US election and is also the first set of charges by Mueller for 2016 presidential election interference.
President Donald Trump was quick to denounce the allegations, claiming that the Russians “started their anti-US campaign in 2014” nearly one full year before the Trump campaign launched and that the “results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!” in a Twitter rant post. Despite the President’s blanket denial and dismissal of the allegations, the recent indictments reveal that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 Election is far from a hoax and underscores the vulnerabilities facing the American political system. Moreover, the recent developments in the case have raised the chances of President Trump’s impeachment to perhaps its highest level yet.
3. Israeli Military Bombs 12 Iranian & Syrian Military Sites, Raising Possibility of War
On February 10, the Israeli Air Force carried out extensive airstrikes inside Syria, targeting air defense batteries, army bases, and several Iranian military positions.The Israeli military said it launched the large-scale attack after one of its F-16 fighter jets crashed under Syrian anti-aircraft fire. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli military officials described the initial incursion as an Iranian “attack” and said it was Israel’s right and duty to respond. The Israeli army said the Iranian drone did not cross into Israel by accident and was on a mission but declined to give further details or comment on whether the drone was armed.
The US government responded to the attack with their typical support for the Israeli position. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reaffirmed in a phone call with Netanyahu on Saturday that the US is backing Israel 100% of the time. Additionally, Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Steven Goldstein stated that “Israel has the right to defend itself” using whatever means possible. The Iranian government was quick to criticize the attack. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Bahran Qasemi condemned the attack forcefully and said that the Syrian government had the right to defend itself by shooting down the Israeli jet. The Syrian government described the airstrikes as “new Israeli aggression” and stated that any other incursions by Israel would be met with “serious and fierce” retaliation. The Russian government also condemned the strikes, stating that Israel’s actions threatened the Russian military advisors currently stationed in Syria and are, in effect, a violation of all recognized principles of international law. The actions on the part of the Israeli government, as with nearly all other actions that it has taken during the Syrian Civil War, threaten to spark a war in the Middle East that will engulf the major world powers and permanently destabilize the region.