I guess, I would just like to know why THIS is the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as Trump’s impeachable shenanigans, which have been countless over the last 2 1/2 years. What is it about this particular issue that made it such a slam-dunk Impeachment-able offense, when the Mueller Report, firing James Comey after Comey refused firing Robert Mueller, the MULTIPLE Emoluments Clause violations, inciting political violence against his opponents almost daily, attacking media outlets for not fawning over him, etc. etc.
The evidence against the man accused of murdering 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts in Iowa is overwhelming — even if parts of his police confession are ruled inadmissible in court, a law enforcement source close to the case told Fox News on Tuesday.
Defense attorneys for Cristhian Bahena Rivera — who has been charged with first-degree murder in Tibbetts’ death — argued that his rights were violated during his initial interview with investigators. The state has since indicated that some of Rivera’s statements cannot be used at trial because his Miranda rights initially were not read to him in their entirety.
A judge is set to decide next month what evidence will be presented to jurors at the February trial of Rivera, 25, an illegal immigrant from Mexico accused of killing Tibbetts on July 18, 2018, after following the college student on her evening jog through the streets of her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa.
Whatever the outcome, the law enforcement source told Fox News there’s an abundance of other damning evidence incriminating Rivera in Tibbetts’ death. The statement echoed claims from the state in its most recent court filing. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation. The source did not elaborate on the evidence investigators had, but it has been reported that Tibbetts’ blood was found in the trunk of Rivera’s car.
According to court documents, Rivera, who speaks some English, was interviewed by police for a total of eight hours and 30 minutes on Aug. 20, 2018. At approximately 11:30 p.m., several hours into the interview, Rivera was given his first Miranda warning by the lead interviewer, Iowa City Police Officer Pamela Romero, whose native language is Spanish. That warning was “incomplete in that the officer giving it [Romero] inadvertently omitted informing the defendant [that] what he says can be used against him in court at a later time,” according to a document filed by the prosecution last week.
Mollie Tibbetts, seen in an undated photo provided by her family, was killed in 2018. (Rob Tibbetts)
When Rivera eventually led investigators to Tibbetts’ remains in a cornfield, Romero read the suspect his Miranda Rights in full inside a vehicle at approximately 5:50 a.m. on Aug. 21. After the second Mirana warning, “the defendant knowingly waived his Miranda rights and continued to speak with officers,” the document read.
“Following his second warning, the defendant made numerous statements that implicate him in Mollie Tibbetts’ murder,” it continued.
Tibbetts’ disappearance shook the small town of Brooklyn. For weeks, local and federal investigators, assisted by townspeople who volunteered to comb ditches and fields, scoured cornfields and ponds for any trace of her.
Tibbetts was dog-sitting for her longtime boyfriend, Dalton Jack, and his brother the night she disappeared. The Jack brothers were working about a hundred miles away at a construction site on the night of her disappearance.
From the onset of the investigation, detectives focused on forensic electronic evidence to find the University of Iowa student. Many were convinced her Snapchat or Instagram activities would help them find her – dead or alive. However, surveillance video and traditional police work eventually lead them to Rivera.
The suspect worked at a dairy farm less than three miles from where Tibbetts was staying on the night of her disappearance. In the aftermath of Rivera leading investigators to Tibbetts’ body, Yarrabee Farms was scrutinized for its employment practices.
Dane Lang, one of the owners of the farm, said the company followed federal employment laws and Rivera passed the government’s E-Verify system – although the veracity of that system has been scrutinized in the past.
Rivera told investigators he was following Tibbetts on her run and, according to an affidavit, panicked when she threatened to call police and “blocked” his memory. Then, he said he pulled into the entrance of a cornfield and found Tibbetts, with the side of her head bloodied, in the trunk of his Chevy Malibu.
Fox News’ Matt Finn in Iowa City, Iowa, contributed to this report.
SportsPulse: With their slogan being ‘take it back’ all season, the Astros aren’t shy discussing their past successes and failures and how it fuels them in putting together a potential dynasty. USA TODAY
The 115th World Series gets underway on Tuesday, with the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals fighting for baseball’s ultimate prize.
Houston is in the Fall Classic for the second time in third years, having won it all in 2017, while Washington is playing in the World Series for the first time in franchise history.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole (20-5, 2.50 ERA) gets the start for the Astros. The Cy Young favorite is 3-0 in this postseason, giving up just one earned run in 22 ⅔ innings for a 0.40 ERA. Cole hasn’t lost in his last 25 starts, dating back to the middle of May.
The Nationals counter with 35-year-old Max Scherzer (11-7, 2.92 ERA), pitching in the World Series for the second time in his career. Scherzer has been great in the postseason this year, posting a 1.80 ERA in 20 innings.
The anonymous White House official behind the explosive “resistance” op-ed in the New York Times last year is back, with the unknown author set to release a book billed as an “unprecedented behind-the-scenes portrait of the Trump presidency.”
The book, titled “A WARNING,” comes nearly a year after the senior official laid out his scathing attack. According to the publisher, the book will be released on Nov. 19 and pick up where the controversial op-ed left off.
“This explosive book offers a shocking, first-hand account of President Trump and his record,” the publisher said on Tuesday.
Javelin’s Matt Latimer and Keith Urbahn, both of whom represented former FBI Director James Comey on his book, are working with the author, whose identity is still unknown to the public.
The release is sure to spark yet another political firestorm in the nation, as the initial op-ed prompted intense media coverage and vehement denunciations from the White House.
Titled “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration,” the op-ed –which was published Sept. 5, 2018–revealed that the author and others in the administration wanted to undermine Trump’s agenda. While the author distances themselves from the popular “resistance” movement, they also asserted that thwarting Trump was vital to the health of the nation.
“We believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic,” the official said in the op-ed.
The op-ed took particular aim at the president’s behavior, claiming he was “erratic” and had a fundamental “amorality” that plagued his administration.
“Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making,” it read.
Then-White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders responded by blasting the author’s cowardice and calling on them to resign. It’s unclear whether the official is still in the administration, but the book’s release was the latest indication that Trump faced concerted opposition from within his own ranks.
“I think that there are nefarious actors all around us and people who work within the administration that hate the president. And those people should just decide to go somewhere else,” Reince Priebus, former White House chief of staff, told Fox News on Tuesday.
Priebus said he had a “few guesses” on who he thought the author was and predicted their identity wouldn’t remain a secret for much longer.
“If someone comes out with a book and puts themselves in scenarios and situations, I think it’s going to be rooted out pretty quickly who this person is,” he said.
Latimer claimed that the author felt their identity was “irrelevant.”
“The author feels their identity is almost irrelevant because there is scarcely a sentiment expressed in this book that is not shared by numerous others who have served and continue to serve this administration at its highest levels,” Latimer said, according to The Washington Post.
As Latimer mentioned, the author didn’t get an advance for the book. According to Twelve’s release, they also pledged to donate royalties to non-profits that “focus on government accountability and on supporting those who stand up for the truth in repressive countries around the world.”
Latimer also relayed that his client saw publishing the book as “an act of conscience and of duty.”
A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that the lawsuit against actor Jussie Smollett will not be dismissed.
The suit asks that Smollett reimburse the police department the $130,000 spent on investigating his alleged attack, which he asked to be dismissed because he couldn’t have known how much time and money was spent on the investigation.
In January, Smollett claimed that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack in Chicago, but the Chicago Police Department is adamant that there is a mountain of evidence that shows Smollett staged the attack with two brothers he knew.
After nearly 1,900 hours of investigation, Smollett was charged with filing a false report. Those charges were dropped in March, despite claims from Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson that Smollett “took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.”
British police are planning to travel to the U.S. to interview the wife of an American diplomat who is accused of leaving the U.K. after her involvement in a crash that killed a British teenager in August.
Northamptonshire Police Chief Nick Adderley said Tuesday that officers will travel as soon as their visas are arranged.
Charlotte Charles, mother of Harry Dunn, who died after his motorbike was involved in an August 2019 accident in Britain with Anne Sacoolas, wife of an American diplomat, speaks at a news conference in New York. (AP)
The officers will interview Anne Sacoolas about the crash that killed 19-year-old Harry Dunn in August. His motorcycle collided with a car allegedly driven by Sacoolas near RAF Croughton, a British military base near Oxford that’s home to a signals intelligence station operated by the U.S. Air Force.
Sacoolas left Britain shortly after the crash, though police released a statement saying she had previously told them she had no plans to leave.
“Lawyers have clearly stated that the suspect wants to be personally interviewed by officers from Northamptonshire Police in order for them to see her and the devastation this has caused her and her family,” Adderley told a press conference.
He did not use Sacoolas’ name, describing her only as the suspect. He said she had turned down the offer of simply offering a prepared statement because she preferred an in-person interview.
“We do understand from colleagues in the U.S. that the family is utterly devastated,” he said.
President Trump weighed in last week when he met with Dunn’s parents, Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn, and tried to arrange a White House meeting with Sacoolas.
WASHINGTON — William B. Taylor Jr., the United States’ top diplomat in Ukraine, told impeachment investigators privately on Tuesday that President Trump held up vital security aid for the country and refused a White House meeting with Ukraine’s leader until he agreed to make a public pronouncement pledging to investigate Mr. Trump’s political rivals.
In testimony that Democrats in attendance called the most damaging account yet for the president, Mr. Taylor provided an “excruciatingly detailed” opening statement that described in blunt and unsparing terms the quid-pro-quo pressure campaign that Mr. Trump and his allies have long denied.
When he objected to that effort, Mr. Taylor said in his opening statement obtained by The New York Times, Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union and a Trump campaign donor, sought to explain Mr. Trump’s actions by noting that he was a businessman. Mr. Taylor recounted Mr. Sondland saying that, “when a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, he said, the businessman asks that person to pay up before signing the check.”
Mr. Taylor’s testimony directly contradicted repeated assertions by Mr. Trump and his Republican allies that there was never a quid pro quo involving investigations into Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company that employed Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., and other Democrats.
That is not true, Mr. Taylor told the committee. He said the president had explicitly made it clear that Mr. Zelensky would not be invited to the White House or secure much-needed security aid unless the Ukrainian leader made a public announcement that his country would start the investigations that Mr. Trump so badly wanted.
Mr. Taylor testified that he was told of Mr. Trump’s demands for investigations during a telephone call with Mr. Sondland, who Mr. Taylor described as part of a “highly irregular” diplomatic effort aimed at pressuring Ukraine.
“Ambassador Sondland said that ‘everything’ was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance,” Mr. Taylor told lawmakers on Monday. “He said that President Trump wanted president Zelensky ‘in a public box’ by making a public statement about ordering such investigations.”
Mr. Taylor added that: “During that phone call, Ambassador Sondland told me that President Trump had told him that he wants President Zelensky to state publicly that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. election,” Mr. Taylor said.
One lawmaker described the testimony as drawing a “direct line” between American foreign policy and his own political goals.
Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democrat of Florida, who sat in on the deposition as a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said that Mr. Taylor relied in part on detailed “notes to the file” that he had made as he watched the pressure campaign unfold. His testimony shed new light on the circumstances around a previously revealed text message in which Mr. Taylor wrote to colleagues that he thought it was “crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”
He “drew a very direct line in the series of events he described between President Trump’s decision to withhold funds and refuse a meeting with Zelensky unless there was a public pronouncement by him of investigations of Burisma and the so-called 2016 election conspiracy theories,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz said.
In his statement, Mr. Taylor placed the reason for the hold on Ukrainian aid directly on Mr. Trump, relating a July 18 call with the Office of Management and Budget, where a staff member said the directive had come from the president to the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney.
“In an instant I realized one of the key pillars of our strong support for Ukraine was threatened,” Mr. Taylor said in his testimony.
The intelligence whistle-blower’s complaint that prompted the impeachment inquiry said that Mr. Trump’s effort to pressure Mr. Zelensky to open an investigation of Burisma was part of a concerted effort to use the power of his office to enlist foreign help in the 2020 election. Mr. Taylor was the latest in a string of career diplomats and current and former administration officials who have defied a White House blockade of the impeachment inquiry and submitted to closed-door depositions with investigators digging into whether Mr. Trump abused his power to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political adversaries.
As Mr. Taylor made his way to Capitol Hill to testify early Tuesday, the president sought to discredit the inquiry with attention-grabbing rhetoric, comparing the impeachment investigation against him to a “lynching.”
His comment on Twitter drew bipartisan outrage in public as the ambassador made his case behind closed doors.
Ms. Wasserman Schultz said that in addition to referencing his notes, Mr. Taylor “had very specific recall of things,” including what she said were “meetings, phone calls, what was said.”
Several Democrats who participated in Mr. Taylor’s questioning described his testimony as stunning. Representative Ted Lieu, a California Democrat, shook his head after exiting the deposition, saying “what he said was incredibly damning to the president of the United States.”
Ms. Wasserman Schultz called it “one of the most disturbing days” she has had in Congress, and added: “I have not seen a more credible witness than this.”
Republicans accused Democrats of exaggerating, but they declined to share details of the testimony.
“I don’t know that any of us, if we are being intellectually honest, are hearing revelations that we were not aware of,” said Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina. “The bottom line is no one has yet to make the case for why the aid was withheld or even if the Ukrainians knew about it.”
Still, by Democrats’ account, Mr. Taylor’s testimony provided the most extensive picture yet of the scope of the president’s effort to pressure Ukraine and the players who were involved in the effort on Mr. Trump’s behalf.
“It’s like if you had a big, 1,000-piece puzzle on a table,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz said. “This fills in a lot of pieces of the puzzle.”
Mr. Taylor became a star witness in the Democratic impeachment probe after a colleague, Kurt D. Volker, the special envoy to Ukraine, revealed texts they exchanged. In some of the text chains, as Mr. Taylor expressed his concerns about an apparent quid pro quo, Mr. Sondland sought to take the conversation offline, telling Mr. Taylor to “call me.”
In his lengthy opening statement and in questioning afterward, Mr. Taylor laid out a meticulous timeline of events during his time in the administration.
Mr. Taylor’s habit of keeping notes throughout his tenure has given the inquiry a boost, allowing him to recreate crucial conversations and moments even as the administration seeks to block Congress from reviewing documents related to its dealings with Ukraine.
Mr. Taylor has shared his notes with the State Department but has not produced copies of them for lawmakers conducting the impeachment inquiry, a person familiar with his testimony said.
The State Department objected to Mr. Taylor’s appearance before the committee, according to an official working on the impeachment inquiry. In response, the House Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena Tuesday morning to compel his testimony, and Mr. Taylor complied, according to the official.
This week marks the 70th anniversary of one of World War II’s bloodiest battles at Iwo Jima in the Pacific Ocean. AP photographer Joe Rosenthal’s iconic photo became one of the most enduring ever taken of war. This is the story behind it. (Feb. 23) AP
Photographer Joe Rosenthal captured the image of the men raising the flagpole with the wind whipping the Stars and Stripes at its peak after a five-week battle for the island between U.S. and Japanese forces for the island in the Pacific theater of World War II.
The photograph became one of the most famous of the war, a symbol of the U.S. armed forces’ against-all-odds mentality.
Last week, the world learned that one of the Marines in that iconic image was an Iowan: Cpl. Harold “Pie” Keller of Brooklyn, Iowa.
“I was shocked when they contacted me to tell me one of those Marines was my dad,” said Kay Maurer, one of Keller’s three children, who lives in Clarence. “I knew my dad was there, but he never said anything about being in that picture. He rarely talked about the war at all.”
For 74 years, Keller had been misidentified as Cpl. Rene Gagon in the photograph until the Marines announced the correction earlier this month.
Amateur historian Brent Westemeyer, a Johnston man who works for Wells Fargo, worked with Marine archivists and others to identify the error.
“The Marines really dug into their archives and looked at some images that have never been published,” Westemeyer said. “We matched the creases in the fabric on his helmet, how many grenades he was carrying, his bandiliers and his camouflage pattern. It took a lot of digging, but we got it right.”
Keller’s correction marks the third change in the official identifications of the six men who held that flag. Cpl. Harlon Block was misidentified as Sgt. Hank Hansen until 1947. Cpl. Harold Schultz was misidentified as Hospital Corpsman John “Doc” Bradley until 2016.
The other men in the photo are Pfc. Franklin Sousley, Sgt. Michael Strank and Cpl. Ira Hayes.
Block, Strank and Sousley were killed in action while fighting to hold the island.
Maurer and Westemeyer, like the Marines, are quick to note that the while the identities of the men raising the flag are historically significant, the true meaning of the photograph is shared among all the fighting forces who endured one of the bloodiest and most horrific battles of World War II.
Why they called him ‘Pie’ Keller
But Harold Keller is a man Iowans should know.
Keller was born in Brooklyn and, except for his war service, lived his entire life there. His father worked at a car dealership, and his mother worked at a grocery store.
Keller delivered the Register and the defunct afternoon paper, the Tribune, as a boy.
While a high school football player, Keller earned the nickname “Pie” because he ate too much pie before a game and threw up on the field in front of the crowd.
“The name stuck throughout his life,” Maurer said.
Keller worked as a telephone company linesman before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He enlisted Jan. 2, 1942, training at Camp Elliott in San Diego and in Honolulu.
Keller was assigned to Carlson’s Raiders, an elite amphibious Marine united named for Evans Carlson, who developed tactics that became the basis for modern U.S. special forces operations.
Growing up in combat
In less than eight months, Keller went from an 18-year-old from an Iowa town of about 1,400 to landing at Guadalcanal at the beginning of the Allied offensive in the Pacific.
The battle lasted more than six months. Some 1,600 U.S. forces were killed, 4,200 were wounded, and several thousand died from tropical diseases.
Keller fought in a ground campaign at Midway Island and another in Bougainville.
At Bougainville, Keller engaged in a sniper duel with a Japanese soldier. A Japanese slot burned through Keller’s right shoulder.
“He was up a tree and I was looking for him — but he saw me first,” Keller told the Des Moines Tribune in 1944. “I had fired eight rounds and was firing again when he hit me. I never did see him.”
Keller dropped to the ground and laid low until the fighting paused. He was out of action for some time.
He took a furlough in 1944 and came back to marry Ruby O’Halloran, a county sales supervisor for the Register and Tribune. He was 22. She was 26. The couple exchanged vows at the Kirkwood Hotel in Hartwick.
Keller declined to talk in-depth about his war experiences in an interview with a Tribune reporter, but he offered this glimpse into his war experiences:
“You don’t think about it when you’re in it,” Keller said. “If you did, you’d probably be put in a straitjacket before long. Some of your experiences are so fantastic that people wouldn’t believe them, anyway. Usually, it sounds like a lot of baloney, although true.”
Battle yielded 26 medals in 45 minutes
The worst of the war was yet to come for Keller. He landed on Iwo Jima at the base of Mount Suribachi. He was part of a 40-man platoon that earned 26 medals in 45 minutes — most of them Purple Hearts.
Iwo Jima was home to a pair of critical airfields. Capturing the island gave Allied forces key launching points for attacks on the main Japanese island.
But the campaign proved to be one of the fiercest and bloodiest in the Pacific Theater. Some 6,821 U.S. forces were killed and another 19,217 were wounded.
Estimates of Japanese casualties are as high as 18,400.
The battle proved especially difficult: U.S. forces gained ground during the day, but Japanese forces would escape through a network of tunnels and return to battle the same spot the following day.
Though Rosenthal’s Feb. 23, 1945, photo was emblematic of victory, it would not be until March 26 that the battle was declared won and the island safe for occupation.
The warrior comes home
Keller survived the war and returned home to his love, Ruby. The couple had three children — two boys and a girl.
Keller went back to work for the phone company for a while and then took a job at a local creamery. When the creamery closed, he worked at an electrical equipment firm.
Keller served as head of Brooklyn High School’s athletic boosters, chief of the city’s volunteer firefighters and was a beloved fellow about town. When the family built a new house, people from all over would stop by to help out, according to a 1950 Tribune story.
Keller died of a heart attack in 1979. He was 57.
He remained silent on his war experiences.
He rarely spoke with family about the war, and when he did, it was in general terms, talking about a buddy or a military term.
Daughter Kay tried to draw out his stories over the years, to no avail.
“The Vietnam War was on TV every night, and I would try to use that as a springboard, but he wouldn’t budge,” Kay Maurer said.
An author once sent Keller a tape recorder and asked him to record his memories. He would do it late at night when the kids were in bed. Young Kay would try to listen. After a while, her father would press stop on the recorder.
“He’d say, ‘Katie, I know you’re there. Go on to bed,'” Maurer said. “He didn’t want me to hear. … I think he just wanted to put it all behind him. I think he just wanted to be ‘Pie’ Keller from Brooklyn, Iowa.”
Kurdish residents showed their frustration with the U.S. withdrawal of troops from Syria by throwing food at military convoy as they were leaving. USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – Russia and Turkey agreed Tuesday to take joint control of a vital strip of territory along the Syria-Turkey border as the U.S. military continued to withdraw from Syria.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, struck the deal shortly before a U.S.-brokered cease-fire, which had temporarily halted a Turkish attack on Kurdish forces in Syria, expired Tuesday afternoon.
The Putin-Erdogan deal gives Russia a crucial foothold in the Middle East amid a power vacuum created by the U.S. withdrawal. Under the agreement, Russia and Turkey agreed to work together to remove Kurdish fighters from a 20-mile zone in northern Syria.
Kurdish forces had controlled that territory in northeastern Syria until two weeks ago, when Turkey invaded and began pushing them south. Under the U.S.-brokered cease-fire, the Kurdish fighters agreed to pull back deeper into Syria, and Turkey agreed to stop its assault.
As Putin and Erdogan negotiated the joint patrols, President Donald Trump’s top envoy for Syria, James Jeffrey, faced a barrage of pointed questions from lawmakers on Capitol Hill over the president’s decision to withdraw, which many have said is a betrayal of the Kurdish fighters who helped America defeat the Islamic State’s caliphate in the country.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, pressed Jeffrey on Trump’s Oct. 6 phone call with Erdogan, in which the Turkish president said he planned to invade Syria. Trump said then that he would remove American troops stationed on the Turkish-Syria border, which many said gave Erdogan the green light to attack the Kurds.
“Erdogan basically said, ‘I’m coming in, get out of the way’ and America blinked,” Romney said.
Jeffrey pushed back, saying Trump warned Erdogan not to invade and did not give him a green light to attack the Kurds. He said American forces in Syria were never given the mission to defend the Kurds against an attack from Turkey, which is a NATO ally.
He said Erdogan’s decision came despite “warning after warning” and “incentive after incentive” from the Trump administration to stave off such a move. He said the cease-fire has kept Turkey from gaining much from its military assault but conceded that hundreds of Kurdish fighters have died in the two-week-long incursion and that ISIS fighters have used the renewed chaos to try to mount a comeback.
About three hours before the cease-fire deadline, Gen. Mazloum Kobani Abdi, the top commander of the Syrian Kurdish forces, sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence saying he had withdrawn all his forces from a Turkish-controlled “safe zone” inside Syria, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity.
The official said the U.S. had not confirmed the Kurdish withdrawal and the Turks are “asking ‘Are they all out … where are they?’”
Once the cease-fire deadline passed at about 3 p.m. ET, the Turkish forces would either “let us know (the Kurds are gone) or they will shoot them when they find them,” the official said. But he quickly added, “We don’t think that’s going to happen. … We think Turkey in the end will agree that the withdrawal has taken place. This means the Turkish pause becomes Turkish halt in military operations.”
Earlier Tuesday, Erdogan said 1,300 Syrian Kurdish fighters had yet to vacate a stretch of the border, as required under the deal.
Erdogan warned Tuesday that if the Kurdish fighters did not withdraw, “our offensive will continue from where it left off, with a much greater determination.”
“There is no place for the (Kurdish fighters) in Syria’s future. We hope that with Russia’s cooperation, we will rid the region of separatist terror,” he said.
The developments unfolded as Trump faced mounting blowback on Capitol Hill over his decision earlier this month to withdraw U.S. troops from northeastern Syria. Critics say that move gave Erdogan a green light to invade Syria and attack the Kurds. Turkey views the Kurds in Syria as terrorists.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., introduced a resolution that urges Trump to stop the U.S. withdrawal and calls on the president to “rethink” his invitation to Erdogan to visit the White House.
“It recognizes the grave consequences of U.S. withdrawal, the rising influence of Russia, Iran and the Assad regime, and the escape of more than 100 ISIS-affiliated fighters detained in the region,” McConnell said in a Senate floor speech Tuesday. “We specifically urge the president to end the drawdown” in Syria.
Russia has stepped into the void left by America’s withdrawal, offering to patrol the border region and serve as a buffer between the Kurds and the Turks. The Kurds are hoping Russian and Syrian forces can keep Turkey’s military at bay and help them maintain some autonomy in the region they carved out for themselves during Syria’s civil war.
Putin is a staunch ally of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, who has used chemical weapons to attack his own people amid Syria’s horrific civil war.
While Erdogan and Putin met in Sochi to discuss the Syrian crisis, the Trump administration continued to send mixed signals about its policy and next steps. Trump has zigzagged between ordering a full withdrawal of U.S. forces to announcing he would leave a residual force there.
Trump said Monday that a “small” number of U.S. troops will remain in Syria, a shift that came amid blistering criticism from lawmakers in both parties who have denounced his previous decision to withdraw American forces.
“I’m trying to get out of wars. We may have to get in wars, too,” Trump said in a rambling, 70-minute Cabinet meeting on Monday.
On Tuesday, Trump’s top diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said “some progress has certainly been made” to stop the Turkey-Kurdish conflict but conceded that the outcome remained unclear.
“The success of the outcome there is not yet fully determined,” Pompeo said during a speech to the conservative Heritage Foundation. He did not say what the Trump administration would do to keep the cease-fire in place.
But the GOP Senate leader also expressed concerns about a more forceful response: bipartisan legislation that would impose stiff new sanctions on Turkey. Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., introduced a bill last week that would target Erdogan’s personal finances and sanction the Turkish armed forces, among other entities.
“We need to think extremely carefully before” imposing sanctions on a NATO ally, McConnell said. He said it’s not clear if such economic penalties would weaken Erdogan inside Turkey or “rally the country to cause.” He said the impact of such a bill could also hurt American companies and U.S. allies whose economies are closely intertwined with Turkey’s.
Simone Biles shared a touching message to her boyfriend, Stacey Ervin Jr., who celebrated his 26th birthday this week.
The Olympic gymnast called Ervin the “man of my dreams” in an Instagram post published on Monday.
“So many things I love about you,” Biles, 22, wrote in the post’s caption, accompanied by a photo of the two in a sunflower field.
“Your energy lights up an entire room,” she continued. “You’re a true gentleman and you always put others first! Your mindset, grit and your passion for greatness. 26 will be a great one! Never stop being you Stacey Ervin Jr. I love you.”
The gymnastics star won five gold medals, including her fifth world all-around gold, at this year’s competition in Stuttgart, Germany. She became the most-decorated gymnast in world championships history.
Ervin was clearly proud of his girlfriend’s history-making appearance at the world championships this month. He shared a video of himself on Instagram excitedly cheering on Biles as she competed in the all-around event.
“My woman is a 5x world champion in the all-around & I couldn’t be more proud,” he wrote in the post’s caption.
“I get hyped every time I watch her do her thing & today was no exception,” he added. “Congratulation, babe! The whole world is proud of you!”
When asked about Ervin’s enthusiastic support during an appearance on “Today” earlier this month, Biles said: “He’s awesome times two.”
Biles and Ervin both celebrated the two-year anniversary of their relationship in Instagram posts in August.