The White House said Sunday it will end support for Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria and has ordered U.S. troops to step aside while Turkey begins a massive air and ground operation. The U.S. has about 1,000 troops in northeastern Syria; it’s not clear whether they’ll pull back to allow Turkey’s assault or leave Syria entirely. Since 2014, the U.S. has backed the Syrian Democratic Forces, led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, in their fight against ISIS. A spokesperson for the fighters called Trump’s decision a “shocking and unexpected” betrayal. On Sunday, the White House said President Trump made the decision after speaking by telephone with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Mass anti-government protests are continuing in Iraq. The death toll has now topped 109 as police and soldiers continue to open fire on thousands of demonstrators who are defying government-imposed curfews. Later in the broadcast, we’ll speak with Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent for The Independent.
A second whistleblower has stepped forward to accuse Donald Trump of abusing his presidential powers by soliciting help from Ukraine’s government in order to discredit the president’s campaign rival Joe Biden and his son. Lawyers for the first whistleblower confirmed a new whistleblower with firsthand knowledge of Trump’s interactions with Ukraine has corroborated the initial complaint, in an interview with the intelligence community’s inspector general. The growing scandal has spawned an impeachment inquiry by House Democrats.
This comes as top Trump administration officials continue efforts to stonewall the investigation. On Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo missed a deadline to comply with a House subpoena to produce documents related to the impeachment inquiry. During a public event in Athens, Greece, on Saturday, Secretary Pompeo admitted he was listening in on the now-infamous July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. But he called the impeachment inquiry a “silly gotcha game.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: “When the world doesn’t focus on the things that are right, the things that matter, the things that impact real people’s lives, and instead you get caught up in some silly 'gotcha' game, you see, that’s not healthy. That doesn’t help democracies flourish. It doesn’t help grow economies.”
At least three Republican senators have broken ranks to criticize President Trump: Nebraska’s Ben Sasse, Utah’s Mitt Romney and Maine’s Susan Collins. Senator Romney on Friday tweeted that Trump’s behavior was “wrong and appalling.” He added, “When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China’s investigation is his political opponent in the midst of the Democratic nomination process, it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated.” Trump fired back on Twitter, calling for Romney’s impeachment and calling him “pompous” and “a fool who is playing right into the hands of the Do Nothing Democrats!”
North Korean officials have called off talks with the U.S. on denuclearization, warning the Trump administration it has until the end of the year to change its bargaining approach if it wants negotiations to continue. On Saturday, North Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator denied the U.S. State Department’s rosy assessment of the talks in Stockholm, Sweden, saying U.S. negotiators brought nothing to the table.
Kim Myong-gil: “The U.S. raised expectations by offering suggestions like a flexible approach, new methods and creative solutions, but they have disappointed us greatly and dampened our enthusiasm for negotiations by bringing nothing to the table.”
U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad met with the Afghan Taliban in Pakistan on Friday for the first time since President Trump publicly called off talks last month aimed at ending the longest war in U.S. history. The informal talks in Islamabad came after the Taliban took credit for a series of deadly attacks that disrupted September’s presidential election, which saw less than a quarter of eligible voters cast ballots. The renewed peace talks don’t include members of the Kabul-based Afghan government.
In the Gaza Strip, a 28-year-old Palestinian man was killed and 40 people wounded Friday after Israeli troops opened fire on weekly protests near the besieged territory’s separation barrier with Israel. A spokesperson for Gaza’s health ministry said 22 people were shot with live bullets. The latest killing brings the number of Palestinian protesters killed in Gaza to 313 since protests began in March of 2018 under the banner of the Great March of Return.
In Washington, D.C., women’s rights activists rallied outside the Supreme Court Sunday to call for Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s removal from the bench, one year after Republican senators narrowly confirmed him to the Supreme Court despite multiple credible accusations of attempted rape and sexual assault. Congressmember Ayanna Pressley introduced a resolution last month to impeach Justice Kavanaugh. She told the crowd she believed Kavanaugh’s accusers — and Anita Hill, who told Congress in 1991 that Justice Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley: “I still believe Anita Hill. I still believe Dr. Christine Ford. And I believe Deborah Ramirez.”
The weekend rally at the Supreme Court came after justices announced Friday they will weigh the constitutionality of Louisiana’s anti-choice legislation, which requires any doctor performing an abortion to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Pro-choice groups call such statutes TRAP laws, or “targeted regulation of abortion providers”; they say the Louisiana law would leave the state with just a single doctor legally allowed to perform abortions. Meanwhile, the court is set to hear arguments Tuesday in three cases to determine whether LGBTQ people can be fired from their jobs due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. After headlines, we’ll have more on what’s been described as “the most important case directly addressing LGBTQ people ever to reach the United States Supreme Court.”
In Hong Kong, tens of thousands of protesters defied a ban on face masks Saturday and marched through a pouring rainstorm as the prohibition took effect. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam ordered the ban as part of a widening crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations that erupted last spring.
Protester: “Carrie Lam is trying to use the ban to keep us from coming out. I want to tell her that this is counterproductive. She’s just targeting the symptoms, but not the root causes. She is suppressing our right to express ourselves, and this will only push us further.”
Police declared the assembly unlawful, firing tear gas and charging with batons. Some demonstrators responded by throwing bricks and gasoline bombs.
In climate news, scores of people have been arrested in civil disobedience actions as the group Extinction Rebellion kicked off two weeks of protests in 60 cities around the globe demanding urgent action on the climate crisis. In Sydney, Australia, police arrested 30 people who blocked a major road. There were similar scenes in Melbourne, as well as in Wellington, New Zealand, where activists surrounded a government building that grants permits for oil and gas drilling. In the Netherlands, 50 people were arrested after they erected a tent to block a road in central Amsterdam. In London, police arrested at least 20 people Monday as protesters have vowed to close down Parliament and Trafalgar Square. This is Lizzy Mansfield, one of the protesters.
Lizzy Mansfield: “We’re here because the government is not doing enough on the climate emergency. And the keyword is 'emergency,' right? They declared an emergency after the rebellion in April, and then we’ve seen like surprisingly little action. So, we’re here to really like push home this is an emergency. You know, we only get one planet, and so we’re here to try and defend it.”
On Saturday, London police used a battering ram to break into a building used by Extinction Rebellion, seizing protest supplies and arresting 10 people on preemptive charges of suspicion of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance.
In the United States, the Trump administration moved Friday to open more than 720,000 acres of California land to oil and gas drilling. Environmentalists have vowed to sue to block what would be the first federal fossil fuel lease sales since 2013. Clare Lakewood, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said, “Turning over these spectacular wild places to dirty drilling and fracking will sicken Californians, harm endangered species, and fuel climate chaos.”
President Trump signed a proclamation Friday that will deny visas to immigrants who can’t afford to purchase health insurance within 30 days of their arrival to the United States. Under Trump’s plan, which is set to take place on November 3, immigrants will also be shut out from subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. In response, the immigrant advocacy group United We Dream tweeted, “Our healthcare system is shot and the Trump administration knows this. This is another economic and racist attack on a community who deserves healthcare in the first place.”
In Tucson, Arizona, a pretrial hearing is scheduled today for senior Border Patrol agent Gus Zamora, who’s accused of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a junior agent last May. Zamora has pleaded not guilty to charges he pressured a female subordinate to drink to excess before leading her back to his hotel room and assaulting her. Senior officials at Customs and Border Protection allowed Zamora to retire after his arrest and indictment.
One of the women who accused deceased serial sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein of attacking her told The Washington Post that she holds billionaire Leslie Wexner, the chairman and CEO of Victoria’s Secret’s parent company, responsible for what happened to her. Maria Farmer says she was staying at one of Wexner’s properties in Ohio in the summer of 1996 when Epstein and his associate Ghislaine Maxwell sexually assaulted her. Farmer was employed by Epstein at the time. She says when she tried to leave the house, Wexner’s security guards wouldn’t let her. Farmer first detailed her attack in an affidavit she submitted earlier this year as part of Epstein-related lawsuits, but her interviews with The Washington Post are the first time she’s publicly spoken about Leslie Wexner and his connection to Epstein.
In Dallas, Texas, a key witness in the murder trial of former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger was shot to death outside his apartment Friday. Joshua Brown lived across the hall from Botham Jean, a black 26-year-old accountant who was shot and killed in 2018 inside his own apartment by Guyger, a white woman who was off duty at the time. During the trial, Brown gave emotional testimony about hearing gunshots the night of Jean’s murder. Officials have not yet identified a suspect in Brown’s murder. Attorney Lee Merritt, who represented the Jean family in the trial, wrote in social media that Brown’s testimony played a key role in challenging Guyger’s account of the incident and claims that she had shouted commands at Botham before shooting him. A court last week sentenced Guyger to 10 years in prison for shooting and killing Jean. She faced up to 99 years.
Bernie Sanders’s campaign says the Vermont senator and 2020 presidential hopeful suffered a heart attack last Tuesday after experiencing chest pains during a campaign event in Las Vegas. Sanders had two stents inserted to clear a blocked artery. He left an area hospital after a two-and-a-half-day stay before returning home to Burlington, Vermont, with his wife Jane.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “Hello, everybody. We’re in Las Vegas. I just got out of the hospital a few hours ago, and I’m feeling so much better. I just want to thank all of you for the love and warm wishes that you sent to me. See you soon on the campaign trail.”
In New York City, four people were killed and a fifth badly injured early Saturday after a man with a metal bar attacked homeless people as they slept on the sidewalks of Lower Manhattan’s Chinatown. Police arrested 24-year-old Randy Santos and charged him with the murders. Santos is reportedly also homeless and has struggled with addiction. The Coalition for the Homeless warns that in recent years homelessness in New York City has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930s.