ISIS Capital Raqqa Falls to U.S.-Backed Forces
On Tuesday, it was announced that Raqqa, the ISIS capital, had fallen to US-backed coalition forces following a four month long assault. The extremist group had held the city for three years, imposing harsh sharia law, and it became the home to many jihadists answering the call of the so-called caliphate. The offensive was led by theSyrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is a nonpartisan group formed by Arab groups and the Kurdish Popular Protection Units (YPG). The stadium in Raqqa and the hospital were the last two ISIS strongholds in the city to fall. However, the battle came with a staggering cost to human life with over 3,000 people killed, including 1,130 civilians, and many more missing.
According to UN officials, the city of Raqqa is now a priority for humanitarian workers, as much of the infrastructure inside has been destroyed and there are thousands of displaced people in need of help. It is believed that the former residents of Raqqa will be displaced for years to come as the city begins to rebuild from the ruins.
Trump Flip-Flops on Bipartisan Obamacare Deal
Senators Lamar Alexander (R-T.N.) and Patty Murray (D-D.C.) reached a deal on Tuesday to help stabilize Obamacare. The bill would fund insurance company subsidies for two years, something that Trump tried to cut in an executive order earlier this week, in exchange for increased control by the states regarding Obamacare. The agreement came about after experts warned that Trump’s executive order would cause skyrocketing premiums.
Initially, Trump seemed to support the bill. At a news conference with the Greek Prime Minister, Trump stated that the bill is a “very good solution” to get the country through “this very dangerous little period.” However, Wednesday morning, Trump reversed course, tweeting that he can “never support bailing out [insurance companies].”
The uncertainty surrounding Trump’s position has worried many Senators and Representatives. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate minority leader, expressed his concern, saying, ”This president keeps zigging and zagging so it’s impossible to govern. Our only hope is that maybe tomorrow he’ll be for this again.”
It is not clear if Trump will veto the bill if it reaches his desk. Trump continues to instead focus on the long-promised repeal of the Affordable Care Act, saying “we either have the votes or we are very close to having the votes.” He promised a “great solution, ultimately, for health care.”
Senate Democrats Unsatisfied with Sessions Hearing
In a Wednesday hearing, Attorney General Jeff Sessions faced heated questioning from the Senate Judiciary Community. Over nearly 5 hours, Senate democrats grew increasingly frustrated with Sessions’ lack of detail in describing a range of conversations with President Donald Trump. Sessions had said that he had no contact with Russians in his January confirmation hearing, but it was later revealed that he met with then-Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak.
After Al Franken (D-MN) accused Sessions of “moving the goalposts,” Sessions emphasized that he “conducted no improper discussions with Russians at any time regarding a campaign or any other item facing this country.” But Sessions refused to reveal more than this, saying that he could not disclose the contents of “confidential conversations with the President” due to executive privilege.
In addition to questions related to Russian election meddling, committee members asked Sessions about President Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey and the Justice Department’s withholding of federal law enforcement grants to ‘sanctuary cities.’
Trump Faces Backlash After Response to Soldiers Killed in Niger
On October 4th, a U.S. Special Forces team was ambushed in Niger by ISIS fighters, leading to the deaths of four U.S. soldiers: Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, and Sgt. La David Johnson. In the past few days, Trump has garnered outcry for his response to this incident.
In a press conference with Mitch McConnell on Monday, Trump was asked if he would call the families of the fallen soldiers. He responded: “I’ve written them personal letters…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.”
Many former Obama aides took to Twitter to dispute this claim, including former Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications to President Obama, Ben Rhodes. He wrote “This is an outrageous and disrespectful lie even by Trump standards. Also: Obama never attacked a Gold Star family.” Rhodes was referencing the family of Humayun Khan, a soldier killed in Iraq in 2004. Trump publicly feuded with his family after their speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
Trump has also been criticized after Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida claimed that he made insensitive comments on a call with Sgt. La David Johnson’s widow. She reported that Trump did not use Sgt. Johnson’s name and said “he knew what he signed up for, but when it happens, it hurts anyway.” This has sparked outrage among citizens and politicians alike who believe the Commander in Chief should be more affected by the death of U.S. soldiers. Trump has disputed these claims, both in a Tweet and in a statement through the White House, but Sgt. Johnson’s mother, who was in the car at the time of the call, confirmed Rep. Wilson’s account.
In Other News…
Quebec passed a controversial law that bans individuals from wearing the traditional Muslim garb niqabs or burqas in public spaces.
Colin Kaepernick has filed a grievance against the NFL for alleged collusion in relation to his termination for kneeling during the National Anthem to protest police brutality.
Following the death of four U.S. soldiers in Niger by members of ISIS, the Pentagon has sent a team to Niger to “review the facts.”
The Taliban has launched attacks in Afghanistan that have killed up to 71 through bombings and gun battles.
Legislation was introduced in New York City that would provide paid leave to workers that suffer from sexual abuse or domestic violence.