Ukraine’s military says its special forces were behind a blast at a Russian air base in Crimea on Tuesday that destroyed nine Russian warplanes. If confirmed, it would be Ukraine’s most successful attack on Russian air power since the start of the war in February. Elsewhere, Ukraine’s military says at least 13 people were killed and 10 others wounded after Russian forces fired rockets from the site of a captured nuclear power plant. Ukraine says Russia is using the threat of a nuclear catastrophe at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant as a deterrent to prevent counterattacks by Ukrainian forces. With six reactors, Zaporizhzhia is the largest nuclear plant in Europe.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin traveled to Latvia Wednesday, where he pledged more U.S. military support to the former Soviet republic and NATO member. After meeting Austin, Latvia’s minister of defense said his country is a “litmus test” for Russia’s imperial ambitions beyond Ukraine. He said Latvia wants more military training from the United States — and more heavy weaponry.
Artis Pabriks: “Our priorities is very clear. It’s rocket artillery. We can see it used very well in defending Ukrainian sovereignty and freedom. It is air defense and, of course, coastal defense, because we have a quite a long coastal territory. So that these are our priorities, and we are looking forward for cooperation with the United States.”
China’s military said Wednesday it has wrapped up large-scale military war games around Taiwan, but warned it would organize regular patrols around the island, which Beijing considers part of China’s sovereign territory. This comes after China launched its largest-ever live-fire drills near Taiwan, following a visit by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the island last week. Meanwhile, a top Chinese diplomat is blaming the United States for the war in Ukraine, calling the U.S. the “initiator and main instigator of the Ukrainian crisis.” China’s ambassador to Russia made the remarks in an interview with the Russian TASS news agency published Wednesday, in which he said the main goal of the U.S. was to “exhaust and crush Russia with a protracted war and the cudgel of sanctions.”
Here in New York, former President Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination over 440 times on Wednesday as he refused to answer questions posed by New York Attorney General Letitia James and her legal team. Trump was being deposed as part of James’s civil investigation into whether the Trump Organization inflated the values of its properties to obtain loans and then reduced them to evade taxes. Trump previously said that only guilty people invoke the Fifth. This is Trump speaking at a 2016 campaign rally in Iowa.
Donald Trump: “Like you see on the mob, right? You see the mob takes the Fifth. If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”
In Washington state, Republican Congressmember Jaime Herrera Beutler has conceded her reelection bid after narrowly losing to Joe Kent in the August 2 primary. Kent is a retired Army Special Forces officer who won Donald Trump’s endorsement after he repeated false claims about the 2020 election. Herrera Beutler was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over the January 6 insurrection. She’s the third Republican in that group to lose to a pro-Trump primary challenger.
The Justice Department has charged an Iranian citizen with plotting to murder President Trump’s former national security advisor John Bolton. Federal prosecutors said Wednesday that Shahram Poursafi offered to pay a hitman $300,000 last November to assassinate Bolton in Washington, D.C., or Maryland. The man Poursafi allegedly tried to hire was in fact an FBI informant. Federal agents say Poursafi is a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard who sought revenge for the Trump administration’s assassination of a top Iranian commander in Baghdad in January 2020. This is Assistant Attorney General Matt Olsen.
Matthew Olsen: “This assassination plot was undertaken in apparent retaliation for the January 2020 killing of Qassem Soleimani. We face a rising threat from authoritarian regimes who seek to reach beyond their own borders to commit acts of repression, including inside the United States. This is an especially appalling example of the government of Iran perpetrating egregious acts of transnational violence in violation of U.S. laws and our national sovereignty.”
This comes amid signs of progress in diplomatic efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal, from which then-President Trump withdrew the U.S. in 2018. After headlines, we’ll speak with Trita Parsi, the executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, who has been following the negotiations closely.
In Sierra Leone, protests over the rising cost of living have turned violent, leading to the deaths of at least six police officers and an unknown number of protesters in the capital Freetown. Demonstrators called for the removal of President Julius Maada Bio, chanting “Bio must go!” Officials have announced a nationwide curfew, and Sierra Leone is now under a near-total internet shutdown.
In Kenya, citizens are still waiting for the results of a close presidential race two days after national elections. So far, tallies show a razor-thin contest between veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto. Media outlets have tallied up conflicting results, which some worry could inflame claims of vote rigging in Kenya, which has a history of elections leading to violence.
Civil rights attorney and U.S. citizen Asim Ghafoor, who has been imprisoned in the United Arab Emirates since mid-July, is expected to be released after his sentence was overturned by an Emirati court Wednesday, reversing a punishment that raised charges he was being targeted for political reasons. Ghafoor had previously worked as a lawyer for Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post columnist whose 2018 murder was ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He was detained at a Dubai airport in mid-July and sentenced to three years in prison on charges of money laundering and tax evasion. His arrest came two days before Biden met with UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan in Saudi Arabia.
The Labor Department reports that the U.S. inflation rate was largely flat in July, following price increases that hit a 40-year high earlier this year. This follows last Friday’s employment report, which showed the U.S. economy added 528,000 jobs in July — a far higher pace than most economists had predicted.
Here in New York City, the fast-food chain Chipotle has agreed to pay a potential $20 million as part of a settlement over violations of worker protection laws. The city contended that Chipotle violated scheduling and sick-leave laws for 13,000 employees over the course of four years. It’s the largest settlement of its kind in New York City’s history.
President Biden has signed a bill to expand healthcare and disability benefits to some 3.5 million former U.S. service members poisoned by toxic “burn pits” on U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. Biden welcomed the new law at a White House signing ceremony Wednesday.
President Joe Biden: “And toxic smoke, thick with poison, spreading through the air and into the lungs of our troops. When they came home, many of the fittest and best warriors that we sent to war were not the same — headaches, numbness, dizziness, cancer. My son Beau was one of them.”
Biden believes toxic burn pits may have contributed to the 2015 death of his son Beau Biden, who served in Iraq and was then diagnosed with brain cancer. The new law appropriates about $40 billion annually to alleviate veterans’ suffering — but only for U.S. victims. Click here to see our coverage of the PACT Act and how it will not benefit Iraqis and Afghans harmed by these burn pits.