Outside the School #7: national emergency declared, Jussie Smollett charged and arrested, and more


Congress passes funding, and Trump declares national emergency

Last week, both houses of Congress passed the $333 billion funding bill, effectively avoiding another government shutdown.

And despite Trump’s previous threats of vetoing any bill without wall funding, the bill actually allocated less than a quarter of the money Trump was requesting to border security. Moreover, this money was outlined as only applicable to existing technologies, barring the $1.375 billion from use for the infamous wall. However, there were increased funds allocated to Homeland Security, and as a result, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).

Other notable parts of the bill include a 1.9% raise for all federal workers; though the 800,000 federal workers have been guaranteed back pay, no legislation was written to provide backpay for federal contractors who also went without income during the shutdown.

Moreover, the bill contained an unknown amount of funds for the Defense Department without direction or guide for the purpose of the funds, allowing the Defense Department to decide that for themselves. Congressional aides have said the unknown amount of money could be up to $21 billion.

The next day after this bill was passed, Trump declared the situation at the southern border a national emergency, and when a president enlists emergency powers, they are given access to the Defense Department’s funds.

Emergency powers allow for presidents to bypass congressional approval and funding; though Congress can technically overrule the declaration, both houses would have to vote in favor with a veto-proof majority, an unlikely feat for the current House and Senate.

Nevertheless, a number of organizations and groups have announced plans of suing Trump for various reasons and results of his decision. Now, House Democrats are working to halt Trump’s efforts, and Trump has made no sign of backing down. What’s to come of the never-ending back and forth is still yet to be seen.

Trump Administration announces campaign to decriminalize homosexuality

Over 70 countries around the globe have laws again homosexuality to some degree, eight of which punish homosexuality with the death penalty. Thus, U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell, the highest-ranked openly gay member of the Trump administration, has announced plans of campaign to decriminalize homosexuality internationally.

Grenell, as the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, held a dinner in Berlin with other European LGBT activists to discuss these efforts. And while the administration has publicly said this is a longstanding effort and policy, many believe this was instigated by an Iranian incident Grenell publicly disparaged in which a man was publicly hanged for homosexuality allegations.

As a result, some have suspicions that this movement will be another effort to further condemn Iran, as this has long been a part of the Trump administration’s foreign policy. Other discussion has spurred with concern for the U.S. damaging friendly relations with countries that have anti-gay laws, like the UAE. and Pakistan.

Other reactions to this announcement have included conflicting responses from various LGBT groups, with some finding this move to be too little too late considering all the Trump administration has done against the LGBT community.

Despite all the speculation on true intentions, follow-through of this movement is hopefully coming soon.

Jussie Smollett arrested and charged

Popular actor from the show Empire, Jussie Smollett, set the Internet ablaze when he publicly disclosed the attack he was subjected to at the end of January.

Smollett claimed he was attacked in Chicago by two men spewing racist and homophobic slurs who poured “an unknown chemical substance” on him before leaving him to fend for himself with a noose roped around his neck and “This is MAGA country” ringing in his ears. Furthermore, one week before this, a homophobic letter said to have contained a death threat and the “MAGA” slogan, was sent to the studio Smollett films at. The letter also contained a white powder, causing the set to shut down for safety concerns.

Security footage of these two men was later released by the Chicago PD as the police investigation began, and the world continued to seethe and lament.

Sparks of skepticism arose as the investigation developed; Smollett was said to have the rope around his neck when police arrived, and the phone he fought to turn into the police was said to have “heavily redacted” records.

Yet, Smollet continued to shed his tears and cling to his story.

The days went on; Chicago police brought in the “persons of interest” from the security footage, but they were released, charge-free, by the end of the day. The next day, brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo admitted to being paid to facilitate the attack. When their home was then searched, ropes, masks, and bleach were unearthed. When police responded with requesting another interview with Smollett, his attorney retaliated with a statement emphasizing Smollett’s anger and indignance at the suspicions that he knew his attackers. Yet reports that one of the men was his personal trainer continued to spread; moreover, Ola had previously been an extra on Empire.

In the following days, the Osundairos made a public statement defending themselves and their patriotism and spoke with prosecutors. Footage was released of the Osundairos purchasing hats and ski masks a day before the attack, and a state attorney filed a felony disorderly conduct charge against Smollett for his allegedly false police report— a charge punishable by one to three years in prison along with mandatory restitution for the money the police department wasted.

Furthermore, the homophobic letter was discovered to be sent by Smollett himself. The U.S. Postal Service and FBI are now investigating this, meaning Smollett could face even more charges.

As of now, Smollett has turned himself in, and the world is left to question its attitude and culture.