The U.S. military has announced a probe of the circumstances surrounding Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl’s disappearance in Afghanistan that led to his five-year capture. Bergdahl was freed over the weekend in a prisoner swap with the Taliban. Despite winning the freedom of the lone known U.S. prisoner of war, the deal has come under Republican attack amidst reports Bergdahl voluntarily left his base after growing opposed to the war in Afghanistan. The White House has apologized to key lawmakers for failing to notifying them of the prisoner swap in advance. Senator Dianne Feinstein said she received a call Monday night.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein: “I did have a call last night from the White House, and they apologized — he apologized.”
Reporter: “Are they acknowledging that the law was broken in that apology?”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein: “No, I didn’t ask for that. I mean, it was — it’s obvious.”
The Taliban, meanwhile, has released a video reportedly showing Bergdahl’s handover to U.S. Special Operations Forces on Saturday.
Egypt’s former military leader, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has officially been declared the winner of the country’s presidential race, taking more than 96 percent of the vote. Voter turnout was at just 44 percent, compared to the 52 percent in the election of former President Mohamed Morsi in 2012. Sisi led the military coup that ousted Morsi last year. He will become the sixth military leader to run Egypt since the army overthrew the monarchy in 1952. He is expected to be sworn in on Sunday. Some international observers have claimed the Egyptian election failed to meet democratic standards, citing an environment of repression by the military-backed regime. In a statement today, the White House congratulated Sisi, but said: “We share concerns … about the restrictive political environment in which this election took place.” President Obama is expected to speak with Sisi in the coming days.
In a development many are linking to the Egyptian regime’s crackdown on dissent, Egypt’s most popular satirist has announced he is taking his program off the air. Bassem Youssef’s broadcast has been compared to Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” for its comedic take on politics in Egypt and the Middle East. Youssef says he is ending his program rather than face censorship and threats on his life. Yousef was vague on the pressure he has faced, but suggested the military regime has made it impossible for him to continue.
President Obama has met with Ukrainian President-elect Petro Poroshenko as part of a continued swing through Europe. Obama sat down with Poroshenko in Poland after calling on Congress to support a $1 billion plan to ramp up the U.S. military presence across the European continent. Obama said NATO is expanding its presence across Europe following Russian interference in Ukraine.
President Obama: “Given Russia’s actions in Ukraine, NATO has increased its presence across the region, from the Baltics to the Black Sea. I thank our allies for the contributions they’re making, and I’ll be discussing the initiative that I announced today to bolster the U.S. presence in Europe.”
The United States is renewing diplomatic ties with Somalia for the first time in 23 years. The State Department says improving security conditions will lead to the appointment of a U.S. ambassador and the reopening of the U.S. mission in Mogadishu. Announcing the move, State Department spokesperson Wendy Sherman said the United States will also continue to launch military strikes in Somalia as it sees fit.
Wendy Sherman: “As a reflection both of our deepening relationship with the country and of our faith that better times are ahead, the president will propose the first U.S. ambassador to Somalia in more than two decades. We indeed look forward to the day when both nations have full-fledged diplomatic missions in the capital of the other. … From time to time, the U.S. military has conducted such action in Somalia against a limited number of targets who, based on information about their current and historical activities, have been determined to be part of al-Qaeda. And in the future, we may take action against threats that pose a continuing imminent threat to U.S. persons.”
Although diplomatic ties have been frozen, the U.S. has maintained a military and intelligence contingent inside Somalia for years, running a CIA base and launching drone strikes.
The Nigerian government has reversed an order banning demonstrations for the return of more than 200 missing schoolgirls. The police commissioner in the capital Abuja had announced protests were no longer allowed over fears they could be hijacked by violent extremists. But protesters flooded Nigeria’s high court in defiance. Femi Falana, an attorney for the “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign threatened to challenge the ban in court.
Femi Falana: “We had the court of appeal restrain the police perpetually from preventing any group of Nigerians to demonstrate and protest peacefully. What Mbu (commissioner of police, Abuja) has done yesterday is not only illegal, it’s contemptuous. And contempt is a criminal offense, and I’m talking of contempt committed ex facie curiae. It’s a criminal offense. We are also lodging a complaint to the attorney general of the federation to have Mbu prosecuted.”
A report in the Nigerian media today says 10 military generals have been found guilty of aiding the Boko Haram, the militant group behind the girls’ kidnapping and scores of other attacks. The Nigerian government has denied the claim.
Thousands of people are gathering in Hong Kong today to mark the 25th anniversary of the crackdown in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, when Chinese forces crushed student protesters. On June 3 and 4, 1989, the Chinese military killed an untold numbers of unarmed civilians in Beijing and other cities after weeks of nonviolent protests. In China, the government has arrested activists and stepped up its censorship of commemorative websites in the weeks leading up to the anniversary. Dozens of riot police have also been deployed today around Tiananmen Square.
Parts of the central United States are being hit with severe storms, bringing flooding, tornadoes and baseball-sized hail. Major damage has been reported in an area north of Omaha, Nebraska. A local resident surveyed the damage to his home.
Resident: “Hell, it was about four o’clock when it hit. And, boy, it come through like a freight train, man. It sounded like the world was coming to an end almost. It was bad. Wife just — we all went to the basement, and then, whenever it calmed down a little bit, we went upstairs, and all the windows is gone in the house, and all the siding’s gone.”
The storms have also hit parts of Kansas, Iowa and Missouri as they now move further east. A National Climate Assessment from the White House last month listed stronger storms and extreme rainfall as one of the outcomes of human-driven climate change in the United States.
Votes were held in eight states on Tuesday as the midterm primary season continues. In Mississippi, Republican Sen. Thad Cochran, a six-term incumbent, appears headed for a runoff against tea party challenger Chris McDaniel. Four of McDaniel’s supporters were arrested last month for a plot to break into a retirement home and take pictures of Cochran’s bedridden wife. In what is expected to be a competitive race this fall, Iowa Republican Joni Ernst will square off against Democrat Bruce Braley to fill the Senate seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin.
The Obama administration is reviving a law enforcement group focusing on politically motivated domestic terrorism. The first such task force was established after the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995, but was then disbanded after the 9/11 attacks. The Justice Department says it is re-establishing the unit following a spate of attacks from home-grown extremists. In April, a white supremacist killed three people at two Jewish community sites in Kansas.
Six people have been wounded in a shooting at a Chicago laundromat. Two of the victims were teenagers, with one in critical condition. A witness described the scene.
Matthew Gillis: “It sounded like almost like fireworks. And I looked out my bedroom window, and I see some young guys running. I don’t know if they were victims or if they were the perpetrators. But, I mean, it’s kind of sad, because it’s like the little kids can’t really play outside anymore.”
Chicago has grappled with some of the worst gun violence in the country. A recent proposal from Mayor Rahm Emanuel calls for videotaping all gun sales and limiting them to one per month.
The new head of the National Security Agency has distanced himself from previous government suggestions that whistleblower Edward Snowden is a foreign spy. Officials including former NSA Director Keith Alexander have contended that Snowden may have worked with Russian or other foreign intelligence agencies. But at a public forum with Bloomberg News, new NSA chief Michael Rogers shot down that theory.
Reporter: “Do you really believe he — he fundamentally believes in what he did, or do you think he could have been working for someone else as a double agent?”
NSA Director Michael Rogers: “Could he have? Possibly. Do I believe that that’s the case? Probably not.”
New York City teachers have overwhelmingly approved a new contract, ending a long-running and bitter dispute. The nine-year, $4 billion deal will increase pay by 18 percent, but could lead to higher healthcare premiums. It is expected to serve as a model for other municipal unions locked in contract disputes.