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President Donald Trump broke his silence Monday over the deaths of four U.S. Army Green Berets who died in an ambush in Niger two weeks ago, saying he would contact the families of the soldiers—while falsely claiming that President Barack Obama did not reach out after U.S. troops were killed in combat. Trump’s comments came only after he was questioned over his silence by reporters during a press conference at the White House with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.
President Donald Trump: “The traditional way, if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls. A lot of them didn’t make calls. I like to call when it’s appropriate, when I think I’m able to do it. They have made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Trump’s false claim drew outrage from former members of the Obama administration, including former deputy national security adviser Benjamin Rhodes, who called it an “outrageous and disrespectful lie even by Trump standards.” The four Green Berets were killed on a joint patrol with Nigerien troops on October 4, as President Trump gave wide latitude to his generals in AFRICOM to unilaterally pursue militants across much of Africa. The four are Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright and Sgt. La David Johnson. Johnson’s body was reportedly left behind for 48 hours before it was recovered. As his body was being returned to Dover Air Force Base, President Trump was golfing.
In Somalia, rescue operations are ongoing in Mogadishu after two massive truck bombs exploded in quick succession Saturday night, killing at least 300 people and wounding more than 300 others. The disaster is now being referred to as the “Mogadishu massacre,” and some are calling it “the 9/11 of the Somali people.” We’ll have more on the bombings after headlines.
Back in the U.S., in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl pleaded guilty in a military court Monday to charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Bergdahl spent five years in Taliban captivity until the Obama administration negotiated his release in 2014 in exchange for five prisoners held at Guantánamo. Bergdahl has said he walked off his post in an attempt to reach another U.S. base and report wrongdoing in his unit. Bergdahl and his lawyers have said a fair trial was impossible after Donald Trump repeatedly called Bergdahl a traitor who should be put to death. This is then-candidate Donald Trump at a Las Vegas campaign event in 2015.
Donald Trump: “We’re tired of Sergeant Bergdahl, who’s a traitor. He’s a traitor, a no-good traitor, who should have been executed.”
It’s not clear whether Bergdahl has negotiated a more lenient sentence in exchange for a guilty plea. The charge of “misbehavior before the enemy” carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona condemned what he called “half-baked, spurious nationalism” Monday, in a clear reference to President Trump’s foreign policy. McCain made the comment during a speech at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.
Sen. John McCain: “To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain the last best hope of Earth, for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism, cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.”
President Trump declined to say Monday whether he’d continue to back his nominee for drug czar, Republican Congressmember Tom Marino, after a Washington Post/”60 Minutes” investigation found Marino spearheaded a drug industry-backed effort to weaken federal government’s ability to crack down on the opioid epidemic. The legislation, backed by Rep. Marino and passed in 2016, made it nearly impossible for the Drug Enforcement Administration to intervene in cases where large, suspicious shipments of opioids are delivered to pharmacies bound for the black market. The Washington Post reports the drug industry lobbied heavily to win passage of the bill, contributing $1.5 million to its 23 congressional co-sponsors. Among them was Congressmember Marino, who accepted nearly $100,000 in campaign cash from the industry. Drug overdose deaths—primarily from opioid abuse—surged in the U.S. last year to nearly 60,000, becoming the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50.
In Syria, fighters with the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces say they’ve seized control of the city of Raqqa from ISIS. The claim came as the mostly Kurdish militia said hundreds of Raqqa’s ISIS fighters had surrendered under a deal that gives them safe passage to leave the city. The local journalistic group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently reports the U.S.-backed assault has killed 1,873 civilians and damaged or destroyed eight hospitals, 29 mosques and more than 40 schools. The fighting displaced some 450,000 Raqqa residents.
In Iraq, thousands of residents fled the northern city of Kirkuk as Kurdish fighters withdrew from government buildings and Iraqi troops backed by Shia militias took control of most of the city of 1 million people. The Iraqi advance came after a large majority of Kurds declared independence from Iraq in a referendum held in late September.
In Malta, investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated Monday when a powerful bomb planted in her car exploded near her home on the Mediterranean island nation. There’s been no claim of responsibility for the blast, although local media reported Galizia filed a police report in early October to report death threats. On Monday night, about 3,000 people gathered in a candlelight vigil to remember Daphne Galizia. This is Luke Frendo, a friend of her family.
Luke Frendo: “In my lifetime, it’s definitely the saddest day that I’ve lived. As a Maltese citizen, I think Daphne was not only a journalist and an absolutely fearless human being, but a fourth pillar of our democracy. And today’s heinous crime was not only against a human being, against a journalist, but against a pillar of everyone’s democracy.”
Daphne Galizia operated a popular blog where her reports cast some of Malta’s most powerful figures in a bad light—including bankers, casino operators, the country’s prime minister and its opposition leader. Galizia spent much of her time over the last two years reporting on revelations about Malta in the Panama Papers, a trove of more than 11 million leaked files that reveal how the rich and powerful in several countries use tax havens to hide their wealth.
In the Spanish region of Catalonia, police arrested two leaders of the Catalan independence movement Monday, charging them with illegally orchestrating a banned independence vote on October 1. The arrests sparked a new round of mass protests in Barcelona and other cities across Catalonia. They came as Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont failed to clarify Monday whether he was formally declaring independence from Spain, defying a deadline set by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Puigdemont instead repeated his earlier call for two months of dialogue aimed at overcoming the crisis.
In Ireland, at least three people are dead and hundreds of thousands of homes remain without electricity, after the remnants of Hurricane Ophelia swept across the island as a post-tropical storm. Ireland’s prime minister called it the most powerful storm in over half a century.
Meanwhile, in the Iberian Peninsula, at least 40 people are dead in Portugal and northern Spain, as wildfires raged through bone-dry forests and farmlands. Firefighters say dozens of the 145 fires raging in both countries remain dangerous and uncontrolled. In London, the combination of smoke from the Spanish fires and moisture from Ophelia turned the sun red and the sky a deep yellow, in what residents called one of the most ominous weather developments in years.
The extreme weather events came as Pope Francis warned of the dangers of climate change, taking a swipe at the Trump administration for withdrawing from the Paris climate accord. The pope was speaking at a United Nations event in Rome.
Pope Francis: “Thanks to scientific knowledge, we know how to confront these problems, and the international community has also worked out the legal methods, such as the Paris accord, which, sadly, some have abandoned. However, we are seeing negligence toward the delicate equilibriums of the ecosystems, the presumption of manipulating and controlling the limited resources of the planet for greed, for profit.”
In New York City, police detectives are probing two credible allegations of sexual assault against Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. The allegations are separate from a 2015 case brought against Weinstein after an NYPD sting operation caught him on tape confessing he groped Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez. At the time, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. declined to prosecute the case against Weinstein. One of Weinstein’s lawyers at the time donated $10,000 to Vance’s election campaign only days after Vance dropped the case. The New York City charges come as Scotland Yard is investigating five sexual assault charges by three women in Britain. More than 40 women, including some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, have come forward with allegations of rape, sexual assault or sexual harassment against Weinstein. Meanwhile, a flurry of messages have appeared since Sunday on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram under the hashtag #MeToo, after the actress Alyssa Milano shared a post in which she revealed she’d been sexually violated. We’ll have more on the “Me Too” campaign and sexual assault charges against Harvey Weinstein and President Trump later in the broadcast.
In privacy news, computer experts have identified a serious flaw in the vast majority of Wi-Fi internet devices that leaves networks in homes and businesses around the world prone to eavesdroppers and hackers. The flaw affects encryption over the wireless security protocol known as WPA2, leaving credit card numbers, passwords, emails, photos and other personal data exposed to hackers. The security breach also opens the door for third parties to inject ransomware and viruses onto users’ computers.
In Charlottesville, Virginia, police have arrested 23-year-old Corey Long, a black counterprotester who was photographed keeping white supremacist protesters at bay with an improvised flamethrower during a violent rally by far-right extremists last August. A photo of the incident shows Long firing three-foot flames from an aerosol can toward white supremacists wielding Confederate flagpoles. Long later said he was defending an elderly white man from attack. The incident occurred as white supremacist protester Richard Wilson Preston aimed a pistol at Long’s head and then fired a single shot into the ground, narrowly missing Long. Preston was later arrested, but only after ACLU investigators provided video to the FBI. Meanwhile, Corey Long faces charges of assault and battery and disorderly conduct. His arrest came just days after prosecutors issued a warrant for 20-year-old Deandre Harris, a black man who was brutally beaten by white supremacists in a parking garage during the protests.
And in Pennsylvania, 23 protesters were arrested in Lancaster County Monday on charges of defiant trespass, as they peacefully blocked construction on a section of the planned 180-mile-long Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline. The arrests came as construction crews were set to begin digging along a pipeline easement on a farm owned by an order of Catholic nuns who oppose the pipeline and are suing to halt it. Their lawsuit charges the pipeline violates their religious freedoms and their rights to property, clean air and water. Among those arrested Monday was Malinda Clatterbuck of the group Lancaster Against Pipelines. Clatterbuck spoke to Democracy Now! at the People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C., last April.
Malinda Clatterbuck “It’s a proposed pipeline that’s been approved by FERC, that takes fracked gas from Marcellus Shale region to export. And we’ve been fighting it because we think it’s a violation of our rights and it’s a destruction of the land. In our process, we’ve learned how much damage fracking does to the climate, and our community is just dead set against it. … And we have almost 900 people who have signed pledges to come out and do nonviolent mass action to stop it. So that’s what we’re looking forward to this summer.”