The United States is expected to introduce new sanctions against Russian companies with links to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, following the coordinated U.S., British and French military strikes against two chemical weapons storage facilities and a research center in Syria on Friday night. Trump hailed the military strikes a success, in a tweet Saturday morning, writing, “A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!”
The military strikes came in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma over a week ago. The attack has not yet been independently investigated. The U.S. has blamed the Assad government for the alleged attack. On Sunday, United Nations chemical weapons investigators began examining the scene of the alleged attack, which came amid a brutal campaign by the Syrian government to retake the rebel-held district of Eastern Ghouta outside the capital Damascus. A pro-Assad official told The New York Times the bases had been evacuated well before the coordinated military strikes, thanks to an advance warning from Russia. Multiple experts say the strikes were carefully coordinated to avoid escalating the United States’ role in the ongoing conflict. This is U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, speaking on Saturday at the United Nations.
Nikki Haley: “Last night, we obliterated the major research facility that it used to assemble weapons of mass murder. I spoke to the president this morning, and he said, 'If the Syrian regime uses this poisonous gas again, the United States is “locked and loaded.”' When our president draws a red line, our president enforces the red line.”
Over the weekend, crowds gathered in cities across the U.S. and the world to protest against the U.S., British and French military strikes. Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron said he convinced President Trump not to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, reversing Trump’s pledge earlier this month that he would withdraw thousands of troops stationed there.
Following the U.S. military strikes against Syria, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley tried to defend President Trump’s efforts to ban Syrian refugees from entering the United States. This is Haley speaking on Fox News on Sunday.
Nikki Haley: “Not one of the many that I talked to ever said, 'We want to go to America.' They want to stay as close to Syria as they can.”
The United States has accepted only 11 Syrian refugees so far this year. The United Nations says about 5 million Syrians have been forcibly displaced outside Syria by the ongoing 7-year conflict. We’ll have more on Syria after headlines.
In a highly anticipated interview that broadcast Sunday night, former FBI Director James Comey told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos he thinks President Trump’s effort to pressure Comey to drop the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn may have constituted obstruction of justice.
George Stephanopoulos: “He says, 'I hope you can let it go.' What do you say?”
James Comey: “He had said, ’He’s a good guy. I hope you can let it go.’ I just said, 'I agree he's a good guy.’ And there was a brief pause, and then the meeting was over.”
George Stephanopoulos: “Should you have said, 'Mr. President, I can't discuss this with you. You’re doing something improper’?”
James Comey: “Maybe, although if he didn’t know he was doing something improper, why did he kick out the attorney general and the vice president of the United States and the leaders of the intelligence community? I mean, why am I alone, if he doesn’t know that nature of the request? But it’s possible that in the moment I should—you know, another person would have said, 'Sir, you can't ask me that. That’s a criminal investigation. That could be obstruction of justice.’”
George Stephanopoulos: “Was President Trump obstructing justice?”
James Comey: “Possibly. I mean, it’s certainly some evidence of obstruction of justice.”
During the interview, which comes ahead of the release of James Comey’s new book, the former FBI director also said President Trump was morally unfit to be president.
James Comey: “And I don’t think he’s medically unfit to be president. I think he’s morally unfit to be president. A person who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who talks about and treats women like they’re pieces of meat, who lies constantly about matters big and small and insists the American people believe it, that person’s not fit to be president of the United States, on moral grounds.”
The deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee, Elliott Broidy, has resigned over revelations he paid $1.6 million to a former Playboy model to keep quiet about their affair, which resulted in her having an abortion. Broidy is a venture capitalist who has been a longtime fundraiser for the Republican Party, which has pushed a slew of anti-choice laws nationwide.
The hush money deal was brokered by Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer. Cohen has separately admitted to paying $130,000 to adult film star Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, to keep her quiet about her affair with Donald Trump, before he became president.
Cohen’s home, office and hotel room were all raided by the FBI a week ago. He has now filed a restraining order to try to prevent prosecutors from reviewing the documents seized in the raids. New details have also surfaced showing Cohen was under digital surveillance for months.
Meanwhile, McClatchy is reporting special counsel Robert Mueller has evidence Cohen visited Prague during the summer of 2016, casting doubt on Cohen’s claims he did not visit Prague at this time. An intelligence dossier prepared by former British spy Christopher Steele first described Cohen’s trip to Prague and says he met with a prominent Russian during the visit.
In Afghanistan, a string of attacks over the weekend against government outposts killed at least 26 government security officers. The government blamed the Taliban for the attacks. Separately, at least two schools were set ablaze, including a girls’ high school in Logar province near the capital Kabul.
In India, thousands of people took to the streets of cities across the country to demand justice after an 8-year-old Muslim girl was gang-raped and murdered in the disputed northern state of Jammu and Kashmir. One of the three suspected rapists is a police officer. Authorities say the motivation for the kidnapping, rape and murder of the girl, named Asifa Bano, was to drive her Muslim family out of their village. Over the weekend, two lawmakers with the ruling BJP party were forced to resign, after they helped organize rallies in support of the accused rapists, sparking widespread outcry.
Palestinians gathered at the Israeli-Gaza border for a third Friday in a row as part of the ongoing “Great March of Return” protests. Paramedics say at least 30 Palestinians were injured by Israeli soldiers during Friday’s protest. Israeli soldiers have killed at least 34 Palestinians since the wave of protests against Israel’s occupation began on March 30.
Ecuador’s President Lenín Moreno said Friday that two journalists and their driver were kidnapped and murdered along the border with Colombia. Reporter Javier Ortega, photographer Paúl Rivas and their driver, Efraín Segarra, were working for the daily newspaper El Comercio at the time of their kidnapping on March 26. Ecuador is blaming a Colombian rebel group called Oliver Sinisterra Front for the murders.
In El Salvador, authorities say journalist Karla Lisseth Turcios has been murdered. She worked for the magazine El Economista. Authorities say her father received a note with a death threat against her shortly before she was kidnapped from her home. Her body was later found along the side of the highway.
In Barcelona, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators poured into the streets Sunday to demand freedom for Catalan political prisoners—among them, nine Catalan leaders who are facing trial on charges of “rebellion,” after they helped organize a referendum on Catalonia’s independence from Spain last October.
In Denver, hundreds of teachers are expected to rally at the state Capitol today, as the wave of teachers’ protests continues to spread nationwide. Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Education Association says it’s ended its 9-day strike over funding for education. And teachers in Kentucky also swarmed the state Capitol on Friday to protest cuts to education. Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin has been forced to apologize after he tried to attack the teachers’ protest by saying, “I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today, a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them.”
In South Carolina, authorities say at least seven prisoners have died and 17 more have been wounded after a riot at the Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville. It’s the latest of a series of riots in recent years at the maximum security prison in South Carolina.
In Alabama, an African-American teenager named Lakeith Smith has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for the murder of 16-year-old A’Donte Washington—even though it was a police officer who shot and killed the teenager in 2015. Lakeith Smith was tried and convicted under Alabama’s accomplice law, which allows authorities to prosecute people for murder if a death occurs in the midst a felony. He and A’Donte Washington were, along with other teens, allegedly carrying out a burglary when a police officer opened fire and killed A’Donte Washington. A grand jury has cleared the police officer who actually killed the teenager of any responsibility.
In New York City, a prominent gay rights lawyer named David Buckel died after setting himself on fire as a protest against climate change. In a handwritten suicide note found next to his body in Prospect Park, he explained he doused himself in fossil fuels before lighting himself ablaze as a metaphor for the destruction of the planet. He also emailed news outlets a statement that included: “Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early deaths as a result—my early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.”
And in South Africa, tens of thousands of people gathered in Soweto township on Saturday for the funeral for anti-apartheid hero Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Winnie Mandela was known widely by South Africans as the “mother of the nation.” Under apartheid, Winnie Mandela was jailed repeatedly by the white minority-led government and survived torture and nearly 500 days in solitary confinement. In 1958, she wedded Nelson Mandela, and the pair remained married for 38 years—even as it appeared Nelson Mandela would never be released from prison following his arrest in 1963. This is one of the mourners, Puleng Makhanya, speaking at the funeral.
Puleng Makhanya: “We are gathered here in unity as South Africans to pay our last respects to our mother. We owe her so much, because she fought for us as black people in South Africa. Today we are thankful that all political parties have gathered here to bid her farewell.”