with Mariana Alfaro

THE BIG IDEA: This week, we’ve understandably focused on the threat within. External threats to national security remain significant as well. In a sobering new report, the Pentagon’s independent watchdog concludes that the remnants of the Islamic State militant group have been capitalizing on President Trump’s drawdown in Syria.

“Despite losing its territorial 'caliphate,' the Islamic State … solidified its insurgent capabilities in Iraq and was resurging in Syria,” writes acting Defense Department inspector general Glenn Fine. “The reduction of U.S. forces has decreased the support available for Syrian partner forces at a time when their forces need more training and equipping to respond to the ISIS resurgence.”

Fine prepared the quarterly review of Operation Inherent Resolve, the umbrella under which the government has run anti-Islamic State efforts since 2014, in collaboration with the inspectors general from the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

These are eight of the most worrisome nuggets from their 116-page report, released with little fanfare on Tuesday:

  1. Field commanders worry that “the drawdown could cause U.S.-backed forces in Syria to look for ‘alternate partnerships and resources’ to replace the reduced U.S. support.”
  2. “ISIS carried out assassinations, suicide attacks, abductions, and arson of crops in both Iraq and Syria. … While Syrian forces carried out clearance operations in northeastern Syria to eliminate these cells, [military personnel] reported that U.S.-backed Syrian forces also have limited capacity to hold liberated areas.”
  3. “U.S. Central Command reported that ISIS is also active in Al-Hol, a sprawling [refugee] camp in northeastern Syria where thousands of ISIS family members now reside, and ISIS is likely working to enlist new members from the camp’s large population. … Minimal security at the [camp], where 45,000 ISIS supporters and family members reside, created conditions for ISIS’s ideology to spread uncontested.”
  4. The Syrian Democratic Forces, a U.S. partner, has detained 10,000 Islamic State fighters, including roughly 2,000 foreigners. They are being held in “pop-up prisons” in northeast Syria, but the SDF lacks the ability to indefinitely detain these fighters. Dealing with this problem is complicated by the unwillingness of many countries to repatriate their citizens who are being held in Syria as ISIS detainees.
  5. Despite the improving capabilities of the Iraqi Security Forces, the Islamic State continued to rebuild in remote territory, which is harder to secure. And the Iraqi army lacks enough troop strength to maintain security in areas that have been cleared of the Islamic State.
  6. Citing “imminent threats” from Iran and its surrogate Shiite militias, the State Department ordered the departure of all nonessential personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the consulate in Irbil. The absence of these staffers has “eroded” and “hindered” the ability of the department “to carry out stabilization activities in Iraq.”
  7. “Due to an increased need to monitor Iranian activity and other priorities, the Coalition reduced the number of [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] assets available for countering ISIS.”
  8. While estimates vary greatly because the group has gone underground, the local task force believes that the Islamic State probably retains between 14,000 to 18,000 “members.”

-- The delta between these ground truths and Trump’s mission-accomplished rhetoric is stark. At a Cabinet meeting on July 16, for example, the president patted himself on the back. “We did a great job,” he said. “We have 100 percent of the caliphate, and we’re rapidly pulling out of Syria. We’ll be out of there pretty soon. And let them handle their own problems. Syria can handle their own problems — along with Iran, along with Russia, along with Iraq, along with Turkey. We’re 7,000 miles away.”

-- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said yesterday that, while he hasn’t read this report yet, the administration is mindful of what has and has not been achieved. “I'm sure it's the case that there's pockets where they've become a little stronger,” he told reporters, per CNN. “I can assure you there are places where it's become weaker, as well.”

-- The United States never had more than about 2,500 troops deployed inside Syria, and most stayed far from the front lines. There were blessedly few American casualties. But the boots on the ground provided a bulwark against Syrian government forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and deterred Russian and Iranian incursions into eastern Syria.

Then Trump announced in December that he was ordering the full withdrawal of U.S. troops after a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. That decision was the final straw that led Jim Mattis to resign as secretary of defense. A permanent replacement was not installed until Mark Esper’s confirmation on July 23. Under pressure from military brass and Republican allies on Capitol Hill, Trump backed off his initial intention to precipitously withdraw all personnel.

-- The military presence has been cut to somewhere around 1,000 troops now. The Pentagon declines to reveal the exact number. 

-- Brett McGurk also resigned in protest as the U.S. envoy to the international coalition fighting the Islamic State. McGurk, who like Mattis has gone into exile at Stanford University, said this new I.G. report “should be taken seriously.”

“It concludes that Trump’s ordered withdrawal of forces came at the worst possible time and has decreased resources needed to complete the mission,” McGurk tweeted. “Sound strategy = alignment of objectives + resources. Trump increased U.S. objectives in Syria (to now include somehow ejecting Iran) while decreasing resources. That's a recipe for failure and increases risk for our people on the ground.”

-- Finally, some good news: U.S. negotiators appear to have successfully headed off, at least for now, what could have blown up into a full-scale crisis in the region: “A Turkish military offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters appeared to be averted as the United States and Turkey announced Wednesday that they had agreed to ‘address Turkish security concerns’ and work together on the establishment of a ‘safe zone’ in northern Syria,” Kareem Fahim and Karen DeYoung report. “But statements released by the two governments, using virtually identical language, contained little detail about what exactly had been agreed upon. Critically, the statements, released by the U.S. Embassy in Ankara and Turkey’s Defense Ministry, did not say whether the thorniest issue — the size and complexion of the safe zone — had been resolved.

“The Trump administration had worked furiously in recent weeks to head off a Turkish offensive against a U.S.-backed force in Syria that had led the ground offensive against [ISIS]. The force controls large swaths of territory along the Syrian-Turkish border and is dominated by Syrian Kurdish fighters, whom Turkey considers a threat to its security. The threat of Turkish military action came after months of haggling over the establishment of a safe zone that would push the Syrian Kurdish fighters back from the border. Over U.S. objections, Turkey had argued for a larger safe zone and for sole Turkish control over the area. U.S. officials feared a Turkish invasion could happen as soon as Thursday. … A U.S. official said that ‘considerable agreement’ had been reached but that there are ‘still issues to work out.’”

-- Read the full I.G. report for yourself — and a one-page overview. (Not posted online is the classified appendix that was provided in the version sent to Congress.)

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-- A landmark study from the United Nations concludes that addressing climate change will require making serious changes to the way we grow food, raise livestock and manage forests. Brady Dennis reports that the document “makes clear that while fossil fuel-burning power plants and automobile tailpipes are the largest drivers of climate change, activities such as agriculture and forestry account for an estimated 23 percent of total human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. … A significant amount of agricultural emissions come from livestock — primarily from the belches of cattle. Additionally, while all soils emit some nitrous oxide, soil on farms often emits higher levels due to nitrogen that is added in the form of manure, fertilizers or other material. Meanwhile, deforestation in places such as the Amazon, Indonesia and elsewhere have harmed the ability of forests to retain carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. … Sharply reducing the number of livestock could have significant impacts by cutting emissions by billions of tons, but that would require large-scale changes to what people eat.”

-- Trump said on Air Force One last night that he is seriously considering commuting the sentence of Rod Blagojevich, the former governor of Illinois. From Ashley Parker: “Blagojevich is seven years into a 14-year sentence for convictions in 2010 tied to trying to sell then-President Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat, as well as other campaign finance violations, and Trump said he believed Blagojevich ‘was treated unbelievably unfairly,’” Ashley Parker reports. The president knows Blagojevich from his time on ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ in 2010, which Trump hosted. Blagojevich was caught on FBI wiretaps talking about trying to sell Obama’s vacated Senate seat, saying it was a ‘valuable thing’ and “you don’t just give it away for nothing.” But Trump told reporters he believed Blagojevich had sufficiently served his time for an offense the president did not view as particularly pernicious.”

-- “Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser who has internally championed pardons and commutations, had suggested Mr. Blagojevich be pardoned, saying that it would appeal to Democrats,” the New York Times reports. “Other aides told Mr. Trump that such a move would be politically unwise given the nature of Mr. Blagojevich’s conviction; instead, commuting the sentence was what had been settled on.”

­-- Puerto Rico has a new governor — its third in less than a week. After the resignation of Ricardo Rosselló, Pedro Pierluisi took over. But he was removed when the territory’s Supreme Court declared that his ascension was unconstitutional and illegitimate. That ruling cleared the way for Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez Garced to take the job. “Vázquez Garced, who faces widespread mistrust from Puerto Ricans and previously said she did not want the job, was sworn in at 5 p.m. Wednesday,” Samantha Schmidt reports. “Vázquez Garced’s ascent to the governor’s office was expected to provoke more protests from Puerto Ricans, many of whom consider her to be an extension of Rosselló’s tainted administration.”

-- House Democrats asked a federal judge to force the testimony from ex-White House counsel Donald McGahn, whom many consider their most important witness in any potential impeachment proceeding against the president. Ellen Nakashima and Karoun Demirjian report: “The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, escalates the months-long feud between congressional Democrats and the president. It marks the first lawsuit Democrats have filed to force a witness to testify since they regained control of the House last fall and launched investigations into the president’s conduct and finances. … McGahn’s lawyer, William A. Burck, said in a statement that McGahn will abide by the president’s instructions absent a contrary decision from the court. McGahn, now a partner at Jones Day, ‘has an ethical obligation to protect client confidences,’ Burck said.”

-- “Major Wall Street banks have given congressional committees investigating President Trump thousands of pages of documents related to Russians who may have had dealings with Mr. Trump, his family or his business,” the Wall Street Journal reports this morning. “Some banks are also giving documents related to Mr. Trump’s business, the Trump Organization, to New York state investigators.”

In the wake of two mass shootings, President Trump denied on Aug. 7 that he uses divisive rhetoric, and said "our country is doing very well." (The Washington Post)


-- The mother of the El Paso shooting suspect called the police weeks before he allegedly opened fire at a Walmart because she was concerned that her son owned an “AK” type firearm. From CNN: “The mother contacted police because she was worried about her son owning the weapon given his age, maturity level and lack of experience handling such a firearm, attorneys Chris Ayres and R. Jack Ayres said. During the call, the mother was transferred to a public safety officer who told her that — based on her description of the situation — her son, 21, was legally allowed to purchase the weapon, the attorneys said. The mother did not provide her name or her son's name, and police did not seek any additional information from her before the call concluded.”

-- In the wake of the El Paso massacre, Texas is poised to loosen its already lax gun laws. Hannah Knowles reports: “Ten laws affirming Texans’ right to keep and carry guns are set to take effect Sept. 1. … One law going into effect Sept. 1 will prevent homeowners and landlords from forbidding residents to have firearms on their property. Others say gun owners have a right to keep their weapon in a locked vehicle in a school parking lot, or in a safe place in a foster home. Another says that people can carry arms at a place of worship, clarifying what the bill’s sponsors described as widespread confusion.”

-- Trump attacked local leaders in El Paso and Dayton while visiting their cities. Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker, Jenna Johnson and Felicia Sonmez report: “A traditional role for presidents has been to offer comfort and solace to all Americans at times of national tragedy, but the day provided a fresh testament to Trump’s limitations in striking notes of unity and empathy. … In his only public remarks during the trip, Trump lashed out at Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, both Democrats, over their characterization of his visit with hospital patients in Dayton. …

None of the eight patients still being treated at University Medical Center in El Paso agreed to meet with Trump when he visited the hospital, UMC spokesman Ryan Mielke said. Two victims who already had been discharged returned to the hospital with family members to meet with the president. Before Trump’s visit Wednesday, however, some of the hospitalized victims accepted visits from a number of city and county elected officials, as well as Reps. Veronica Escobar (D-Tex.) and Jesús 'Chuy' García (D-Ill.). Just before Trump arrived in El Paso, … several hundred people gathered in opposition to his trip . … At one point, the crowd chanted, ‘Send him back!’ — a nod to the incendiary ‘Send her back!’ chant about Somali-born Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) at one of Trump’s campaign rallies last month.”

-- “NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre spoke with Trump on Tuesday after the president expressed support for a background check bill and told him it would not be popular among Trump’s supporters,” Josh Dawsey and Seung Min Kim report. “The NRA, which opposes the legislation sponsored by Sens. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) and Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), declined to comment. Advisers to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he would not bring any gun-control legislation to the floor without widespread Republican support. Trump has waffled, current and past White House officials say, between wanting to do more and growing concerned that doing so could prompt a revolt from his political base.”

-- Several NRA board members defended LaPierre’s efforts to procure a $6 million Texas mansion for himself with the nonprofit’s money. The longtime leader of the gun industry's main lobbying group told associates he was worried about being targeted and needed a more secure place to live after 17 people were gunned down at a high school in Parkland, Fla. Beth Reinhard and Emily Davies report: “Several members said LaPierre’s support on the board has changed little since April, when he was reelected in what NRA officials said at the time was a unanimous vote. ‘Wayne LaPierre has done a great job for the NRA,’ said Wayne Ross, an attorney in Alaska who has served on the board for about two decades. ‘I hate to see him treated the same way President Trump is treated with all the false reporting.’”

-- The Trump White House repeatedly rebuffed efforts by the Department of Homeland Security to make combating domestic terrorism threats a greater priority, CNN's Jake Tapper reports: “'Homeland Security officials battled the White House for more than a year to get them to focus more on domestic terrorism,’ (said) one senior source close to the Trump administration. ‘The White House wanted to focus only on the jihadist threat which, while serious, ignored the reality that racial supremacist violence was rising fast here at home. They had major ideological blinders on. … Ultimately the White House just added one paragraph about domestic terrorism as a throw-away line.' The document mentions that domestic terrorism is on the rise, but the subject is only briefly addressed in the National Counterterrorism Strategy that was issued last fall … That paragraph mentions ‘other forms of violent extremism, such as racially motivated extremism, animal rights extremism, environmental extremism, sovereign citizen extremism, and militia extremism.’ It made no mention of white supremacists. (A separate paragraph in the report mentions investigating domestic terrorists with connections to overseas terrorists, but that does not seem to be a reference to white supremacists.)”

--The attorney for a 39-year-old man charged with assaulting a child who didn't take his hat off for the national anthem says his client, compromised by a traumatic brain injury, believes he was acting on an order from President Trump,” the Missoulian reports. “Superior resident Curt Brockway was charged Monday with felony assault on a minor. His defense attorney, Lance Jasper, told the Missoulian Wednesday the president's ‘rhetoric’ contributed to the U.S. Army veteran's disposition when he choke-slammed a 13-year-old, fracturing his skull, at the Mineral County fairgrounds on Aug. 3. ‘His commander in chief is telling people that if they kneel, they should be fired, or if they burn a flag, they should be punished,’ Jasper said. ‘He certainly didn't understand it was a crime.’ A request to the White House for comment was not returned.”

-- The White House said it has invited tech executives to a Friday discussion about combating violent online extremism. (Tony Romm and Drew Harwell

-- Thomas T. Cullen, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, is pursuing novel legal techniques to lock up white supremacists. He could provide a national model for other federal prosecutors to follow. Harry Jaffe profiles him for The Post's Sunday magazine: “Cullen, 15 months into his job, … is on a mission: to use the federal judiciary to strike a blow against mounting white nationalist violence. And nailing James Fields [the man who killed a woman after driving his car into a crowd of peaceful protesters in Charlottesville] was arguably the easy part. The bigger challenge was the organized groups of white supremacists who had planned the massive rally with the intent to threaten and physically assault counterprotesters: How could they be held responsible? Cullen and his prosecutors have set their sights on a white supremacist group called the Rise Above Movement, based in Southern California, charging four of its members with conspiracy to commit violence and crossing state lines to riot in Charlottesville. The prosecutors’ ironic weapon of choice against the extreme-right group: an anti-riot statute passed in the 1960s to rein in leftist Vietnam War protesters. The case is the first time federal authorities have tried to disrupt a violent white supremacist terrorist organization on charges other than drug- or gun-dealing or murder.”

At the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., the site of a 2015 mass shooting, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) spoke about violence and white supremacy on Aug. 7. (Reuters)

-- While Trump visited Dayton and El Paso, Joe Biden and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) delivered a pair of unusually impassioned — and contrasting — speeches condemning Trump and white supremacy. Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Matt Viser report: “Biden largely focused on Trump, suggesting that the president’s removal was the crucial step in restoring the country. Booker, in contrast, spent much of his time exploring the nation’s painful racial history in broad terms, depicting Trump as more symptom than cause and refraining from mentioning his name. ‘In both clear language and in code, this president has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation,’ the former vice president said. ‘His low-energy, vacant-eyed mouthing of the words written for him condemning white supremacists this week fooled no one. The energetic embrace of this president by the darkest hearts, the most hate-filled minds in this country, says it all.’ … [Booker] said that ‘bigotry was written into our founding documents’ and that ‘white supremacy has always been a problem in our American story,’ adding that better impulses are also part of that story. … While Biden focused largely on Trump — though he stopped short of directly calling him a white nationalist or racist, as some candidates have done — Booker told the crowd at Emanuel AME Zion church that racial divisions have existed since the nation’s infancy. … ‘Generations of politicians have used fear of the other for political gain, and that is certainly the case today,’” he said.

-- New York Mayor Bill de Blasio debated the city’s gun laws with Fox’s Sean Hannity. De Blasio said New York is the safest city in the country and claimed that crime has gone down under his watch, adding that “I believe right now what's wrong in this country is not that people have rights around guns, it's there are no gun safety measures like background checks.” (Fox News)

-- The NRCC accused Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.) of politicizing shootings. She dunked on them. Colby Itkowitz reports: After McBath “sent a fundraising appeal criticizing her GOP opponents for their stances against new gun laws, which she called ‘absolutely infuriating,’ the National Republican Campaign Committee said she had ‘reached a new low’ and accused her of just looking to make ‘a quick buck.’ McBath responded on Twitter, writing over several tweets that running for Congress was never her life plan but that she was dedicated to combating gun violence after her son was murdered. ‘I never could have imagined I would be serving in Congress. When I was a flight attendant, I always made sure to get home every night to see my son, Jordan. He was the joy of my life,’ she wrote. ‘Then in 2012, my 17-year-old son was senselessly murdered by a man with a gun at a gas station,’ she continued. ‘Our nation’s dangerous gun laws are the reason that I was never able to take senior prom pictures and graduation pictures or send Jordan off to college.’”

-- State lawmakers from around the country gathered in Nashville for an annual legislators conference in which they discussed multiple ways they could better prepare students for a mass shooting without ever mentioning the word “gun.” Emily Wax-Thibodeaux reports: “A visibly shaken Democratic lawmaker from Connecticut stood up. She said she was disgusted by news reports that said the gunman who had killed nine people in Dayton, Ohio, early Sunday had kept a ‘hit list’ in high school of people he held a grudge against. ‘So how did he get a gun permit?’ said Rep. Mary Mushinsky said to the room, eliciting both groans and cheers. ‘We have to ask these questions. We have to deal with this. Why are we only talking about hardening our facilities?’ …

“As state Rep. Fred Strahorn (D) of Ohio watched thousands of state lawmakers and lobbyists rush to conference workshops on Monday, he sat in a rocking chair, wondering whether the shootings would ‘finally put everything on the table’ when it comes to gun-control policy. … Strahorn, [a handgun owner] whose district encompasses much of Dayton … supports legislation enforcing stronger background checks. But he thinks significant change in gun laws will require more Americans to become one-issue voters, ‘because any change to gun ownership is viewed as a declaration of war.’”

After two mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said he's co-sponsoring a bipartisan act requiring background checks. (The Washington Post)

-- During a speech at the National Press Club, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) called for an end to the “hateful rhetoric” that inspires mass shooters. Jenna Portnoy reports: “'Those at the highest levels of government must stop invoking fear, using racist language and encouraging reprehensible behavior,’ he said. ‘As a country, we finally must say that enough is enough. That we are done with the hateful rhetoric. That we are done with the mass shootings. That we are done with the white supremacists, domestic terrorists who are terrorizing our country and fighting against everything America stands for.’ … Cummings veered from the political to the personal during his speech. ‘God has called me to this moment. I did not ask for it,’ he said. He said lawmakers who have gone home for August recess should return to Washington to address gun violence. ...

“The son of sharecroppers who has lived in what he describes as the ‘inner inner city’ of Baltimore, Cummings repeated his invitation for Trump to visit his district. … ‘When you beat up on people who have had difficulties and challenges in their lives, it doesn’t help them,’ he said. … He also asked the news media to compare his district to the South Carolina congressional district formerly represented by Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff. After Trump’s tweets about Baltimore, several people pointed out that in comparison Mulvaney’s congressional district is in a lower percentile for income and less educated.

-- Our new normal: Several companies have added a new risk factor to their corporate disclosures: active shooters. From the Wall Street Journal: “Companies such as Dave & Buster’s Entertainment Inc., Del Taco Restaurants Inc. and Stratus Properties Inc., a Texas-based real-estate firm, added references to active-shooter scenarios in the ‘risk factor’ section of their latest annual reports, according to an analysis of Securities and Exchange Commission filings. The Cheesecake Factory Inc. has included it in its past four annual reports. … ‘As [shootings] become more prevalent, the priority starts to increase,’ said Paul Lannon, an attorney at Holland & Knight LLP who counsels companies on workplace issues. … Companies, which regularly revise their risk factors, have long warned of the risks posed by catastrophic events such as hurricanes and terrorist attacks. Calling out the specific risk of an active shooter event reflects the internal conversations taking place at companies about how they should plan for the risk of an attack.”

-- Walmart employees are beginning to protest the company’s continued gun sales. Abha Bhattarai and Greg Bensinger report: “Roughly 40 white-collar Walmart employees here walked out Wednesday afternoon to protest the retailer’s gun policies after deadly shootings at two company stores. Workers at Walmart’s e-commerce offices in Portland, Ore., and Brooklyn were also taking action to urge the world’s largest retailer to stop selling guns and discontinue donations to politicians who receive funding from the National Rifle Association. Walmart sells guns in about half of its 4,750 U.S. stores, making it one of the nation’s largest retailers of firearms and ammunition. … Organizers also started a Change.org petition to call on company executives to stop selling firearms. As of Wednesday evening, it had more than 38,000 signatures. … Walmart’s store employees have long called on the company to improve pay, benefits and scheduling practices. But this week’s efforts are among the first by corporate employees meant to pressure the company to change its practices.”

-- Donald Trump Jr. compared Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-Tex.), the chairman of his brother Julián's presidential campaign, to the Dayton shooter. The congressman tweeted a list of Trump donors in his district who have maxed out to the president's reelection campaign. “That list sort of screams out like the Dayton, Ohio, shooter’s list,” Trump Jr. said on Fox News. “That was the same thing that the Dayton, Ohio, shooter did, and people should be fed up with this nonsense.”

“As the Fox News hosts took pains to note both shortly after Trump Jr. made this comment and later, as they were thanking him for appearing, what Castro shared on Twitter was a list of donors to Trump’s 2020 campaign from the San Antonio area who were already listed as donors in public records,” Philip Bump notes. “The Dayton shooter’s list was written in high school and identified fellow students he wanted to kill. That list doesn’t appear to have actually been related to the weekend’s attack.”

-- Twitter froze Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign account because it posted a video of a protester’s violent threats. Colby Itkowitz reports: “‘This morning, Twitter locked our account for posting the video of real-world, violent threats made against Mitch McConnell. This is a problem with the speech police in America today,’ Kevin Golden, McConnell’s campaign manager, said in a statement. The video shows a group of protesters gathered outside McConnell’s Louisville home on Monday. A woman, identified by the Courier-Journal as Black Lives Matter Louisville leader Chanelle Helm, is heard on the video mocking McConnell’s recent shoulder injury and saying he ‘should have broken his little, raggedy, wrinkled-ass neck.’ … ‘Twitter will allow the words of ‘Massacre Mitch’ to trend nationally on their platform, but locks our account for posting actual threats against us,’ Golden added. ‘We appealed and Twitter stood by their decision, saying our account will remain locked until we delete the video.’”

Elizabeth Iraheta, a Salvadoran immigrant who works at Koch Foods Inc., says she now has to take care of a 12-year-old whose mother was detained. (The Washington Post)


-- Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents raided agricultural processing plants in Mississippi, arresting 680 people in the largest single-state immigration enforcement action in American history. Abigail Hauslohner reports: “They did not say how many individuals they were targeting in the operations, nor what proportion of those taken into custody were what ICE calls ‘collateral’ arrests — those who were swept up along with those ICE was seeking. ICE acting director Matthew Albence said at a news conference in Jackson, Miss., that some of those arrested will be prosecuted for crimes, others will be swiftly deported, and some will be released pending immigration court hearings. Albence said the raids were part of normal ICE operations that seek to enforce U.S. immigration laws. … ‘The arrests today were the result of a year-long criminal investigation, and the arrests and warrants executed today were just another step in that investigation,’ Albence said Wednesday. …

“’Officials said the Mississippi operation, which they said involved the mobilization of nearly 650 federal agents from across the country, was the result of a long-standing investigation that had no ties to current events. Albence said the shooting in El Paso was ‘horrific,’ but he said the raid operation had been planned long beforehand, ‘and we intended to carry it out.’ A reporter at the news conference pointed out that the poultry farms seemed likely to have been employing illegal labor for years and asked: ‘Why now? . . . Do you feel like you’re being directed by President Trump to do this?’”

-- Those arrested during the raid were taken to a military hangar to be processed for immigration violations. From the AP: “About 70 family, friends and residents waved goodbye and shouted, ‘Let them go! Let them go!’ Later, two more buses arrived. A tearful 13-year-old boy whose parents are from Guatemala waved goodbye to his mother, a [Koch Foods processing plant] worker, as he stood beside his father. Some employees tried to flee on foot but were captured in the parking lot. Workers, including Domingo Candelaria, who could show they were in the country legally were allowed to leave the plant after agents searched the trunks of their vehicles. ‘It was a sad situation inside,’ Candelaria said. Mississippi is the nation’s fifth-largest chicken producing state and the plants’ tough processing jobs have mainly been filled by Latino immigrants eager to take whatever work they can get. Chicken plants dominate the economies of Morton and other small towns east of Jackson.”

-- Another form of family separation: The children of the detained factory workers were left “devastated.” Angela Fritz and Luis Velarde report: “Many children didn’t have a loved one or family friend to go home to. Some walked home from school but were locked out because their parents were detained in the raid. Volunteers set up a makeshift shelter for the children at a local gym, WJTV’s Alex Love reported. There was food, ‘but most children are still devastated and crying for their parents and can’t eat,’ Love said on Twitter. Bryan D. Cox, a spokesman for ICE, told The Post that all arrested individuals were asked ‘if they had any children who were at school or child care and needed to be picked up.’ He said cellphones were also made available to detainees so they could make arrangements for child care. Cox also said schools were contacted as the raids began so they were aware there could be child care issues and knew who to contact if parents didn’t pick up their kids.”

-- The raid at the Koch plants comes after the company settled a $3.75 million sexual harassment lawsuit. From Payday Report: “In 2018, following a nearly eight-year-long legal battle, Koch Foods Inc. settled a $3.75 million brought by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Koch Food Inc at the plant. The lawsuit alleged that Koch Foods Inc supervisors engaged in both racial and sexual harassment of Latina workers at its Morton, Mississippi plant. The lawsuit brought by the EEOC against Koch Food Inc’s alleged ‘that supervisors touched and/or made sexually suggestive comments to female Hispanic employees, hit Hispanic employees and charged many of them money for normal everyday work activities.’ As part of its settlement, Koch Foods Inc. agreed to a three-year federal consent decree to change its discriminatory practices. As part of the consent decree, Koch Foods Inc. was forced to create a 24-hour-a-day bilingual hotline for workers to use to file complaints. Many immigrants rights advocates have speculated that workers are targeted for raids after their facilities get investigated for worker abuse.”

-- The administration’s top diplomat for Latin America, Kimberly Breier, resigned amid disputes over immigration policy for the region. Karen DeYoung reports: “U.S. officials said [Pompeo] accepted her letter of resignation, which cited personal reasons. Her departure is expected to be announced Thursday. Earlier in her government career, Breier, who holds degrees in Spanish and Latin American studies, also handled regional issues as a CIA analyst and at the National Security Council under president George W. Bush. Immediately before becoming assistant secretary, she handled Latin American issues in the department’s policy planning office. … Officials said Breier, a Mexico expert, was not necessarily opposed to administration policies in the region but chafed at the level of control exerted by the White House over immigration and trade-dominated relations with Mexico and other matters.”

-- “As Venezuela’s crisis deepens, the most vulnerable are joining the exodus,” Anthony Faiola and Rachelle Krygier report from Maicao, Colombia: “Years into the mass exodus from crumbling Venezuela, a fresh swell of the country’s most vulnerable — impoverished women and children, the elderly, ill and disabled — are now pouring out, overwhelming the capacity of Colombia, by far the single largest host nation, to absorb them. Six months after the Venezuelan opposition began its U.S.-backed effort to drive President Nicolás Maduro from office, conditions for the people have perhaps never been worse. They’re struggling under ever-deepening shortages of medicine, food, gas and water, and widespread power blackouts in a disintegrating socialist state plagued by one of the world’s highest homicide rates. … If migration in previous years was characterized by large numbers of relatively better-off professionals and able-bodied men, the latest arrivals, aid workers and officials say, are increasingly poorer and more vulnerable Venezuelans for whom migration is more difficult but who see little alternative.”

-- Migrants in Europe who were denied asylum but not deported are now living in limbo. Chico Harlan reports from Mestre, Italy: “Across the European Union, according to official data, hundreds of thousands of migrants are being rejected in their bids for protection. But, for a range of knotty logistical and geopolitical reasons, the migrants handed orders to leave are overwhelmingly not being sent home. Most rejected migrants tend to fall into a legal no man’s land — one where they have no right to housing, no work permits and scant opportunity to go elsewhere. The only option for many is to remain where they are and scrape by furtively.”

-- A Detroit man who suffered from diabetes was deported to Iraq, where he had never lived before. He died from lack of insulin, his family said. Tim Elfrink reports: “Jimmy Aldaoud crouched on a sidewalk, miserable, hungry and short on insulin. The 41-year-old with diabetes and severe mental illness had spent nearly his whole life in Detroit until just over two months ago, when ICE deported him to Iraq. … This week, Aldaoud died in Baghdad, his family and the American Civil Liberties Union told Politico, which first reported on his case. They believe his inability to obtain insulin was the cause of death. Aldaoud’s supporters say he never should have been sent to a country short on health care and racked with civil unrest, especially as he’s a member of the Chaldean Catholic community, which has faced violent persecution since the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.”

-- “Fearing deportation, Iraqi refugees cut tethers,” from the Detroit News’s Sarah Rahal: “At least seven Iraqi nationals have removed their tethers in Michigan in the last month, according to a lawyer representing 23 refugees. One of them, Ali Al-Sadoon, ditched his tether in July in Detroit on the day he was supposed to be deported. The 33-year-old refugee from Redford Township now faces criminal charges for removing the ankle GPS tracker in addition to removal orders for breaking and entering, for which he was sentenced in 2013. But his case is expected to head to a trial he might not have otherwise received. ‘The only reason Ali cut his tether was because he was scared …’ said his wife, Belqis Florido. ‘They sentenced him to death.’”

Human trafficking victim and convicted murderer Cyntoia Brown was granted clemency Jan. 7 by outgoing Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. (Reuters)


-- Cyntoia Brown, an alleged sex trafficking victim who was convicted of murdering a man who had picked her up and taken her to his home, was released yesterday after serving 15 years in prison. Former Tennessee governor Bill Haslam (R) commuted her sentence in January. Deanna Paul and Samantha Schmidt report: “Brown, whose case drew national attention and support from celebrities including Rihanna and Kim Kardashian, was 16 when she committed the crime in what she described as an act of self-defense. She admitted shooting Johnny Allen, a 43-year-old Nashville real estate agent, in the back of the head while they were in his bed. She claimed she thought she saw him pulling out a gun. She told authorities that she was living at the time with an abusive boyfriend nicknamed ‘Cut Throat,’ who, she said, sexually assaulted her and forced her into prostitution. … The life sentence meant she would not have been eligible for parole until she was in her late 60s, which Haslam previously said was ‘too harsh, especially in light of the extraordinary steps Ms. Brown has taken to rebuild her life.’ ‘Transformation should be accompanied by hope,’ Haslam said.”

-- A girl testified that she was repeatedly groped and kissed by a D.C. Catholic priest. Paul Duggan reports: “A 12-year-old girl, speaking barely above a whisper in D.C. Superior Court, testified Wednesday that as a second-grader, she studied the life of a Catholic saint who had been a nun. ‘And I got inspired,’ she said. She was 8 at the time. She told a jury that back then, she decided she wanted to be a nun, too, someday. But she doesn’t feel that way now. ‘When did you change your mind?’ a prosecutor asked. ‘When everything started,’ she replied, meaning in 2016, when she was 9 and a parish priest, the Rev. Urbano Vazquez, then 44, allegedly kissed her on the mouth and 'touched me on my private parts.' She said he kissed and groped her repeatedly over a span of months. And she lost interest in a life of religious vocation.”

­-- Four-time world champion and Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles blasted U.S. Gymnastics for failing to protect her and other athletes. Liz Clarke reports: “'I don’t mean to cry,’ the 22-year-old Biles told a group of reporters after a morning training session at Sprint Center, which hosts the U.S. gymnastics championships this week. ‘It’s just hard coming here for an organization and having had them fail us so many times.’ Biles’s reference was clear: the sexual abuse that she and so many other gymnasts suffered at the hands of former team doctor Larry Nassar under the guise of medical treatment and the reports that USA Gymnastics officials were aware of accusations against Nassar and took no preventive action. ‘We had one job [winning Olympic gold],’ Biles said. ‘And we have done everything that they asked us for — even when we didn’t want to. And they couldn’t do one damn job! You had one job; you literally had one job, and you couldn’t protect us!’”

-- The U.S. Soccer Federation hired two high-priced D.C. lobbying firms to combat the women’s national team fight for equal pay. From Politico: “U.S. Soccer, which has disputed there’s a pay gap, responded by bringing on two lobbying firms, FBB Federal Relations and Van Ness Feldman, to help convince lawmakers the women’s claims are inaccurate. … Molly Levinson, a spokeswoman for the players, said in a statement they were ‘stunned and disappointed’ U.S. Soccer ‘would spend sponsor dollars and revenue to advocate against laws that ensure that women are paid equally to men.’”

-- Abortion is still considered a crime in New Zealand. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern could soon change that. Siobhán O’Grady reports: This week, Ardern unveiled a bill “that could upend a decades-old policy that abortion rights advocates say restricts women’s autonomy over their bodies. On Thursday, lawmakers will conduct a preliminary vote that could push the proposed legislation closer to becoming law in one of the most significant steps New Zealand’s leaders have taken toward revising the country’s abortion policies since the late 1970s. … The proposed legislation introduced this week would allow for pregnant women to seek abortions without a referral within the first 20 weeks of a pregnancy. After 20 weeks, women can seek to terminate a pregnancy with the approval of a doctor. It also includes a measure that would create safe spaces around some clinics providing abortion services to prevent antiabortion protesters from approaching those entering the building. ‘The purpose is to modernize our law and ensure that abortion is treated as a health issue,’ Justice Minister Andrew Little told reporters this week.”


Former Clinton White House intern Monica Lewinsky trolled Vice President Pence after he urged people to spend more time on their knees (he meant prayer):

Children separated from their parents by the recent ICE raid in Mississippi were inconsolable: 

From an immigration lawyer in the Bay Area: 

New York real estate developer Stephen Ross, the billionaire owner of SoulCycle, Equinox gyms and the Miami Dolphins, faced backlash after news broke that he and his wife are holding a fundraiser for Trump in their Hamptons estate where tickets come with a price tag as high as $250,000. People immediately began threatening to boycott the popular workout facilities:

“'Hey @Equinox — what’s your policy for canceling memberships once a member finds out your owner is enabling racism and mass murder?' comedian Billy Eichner tweeted Wednesday afternoon. He followed up later with a tweet saying he had canceled his membership.” (Michelle Ye Hee Lee

The president's social media guru had this to say about the reception that Trump got while visiting a hospital treating shooting victims:

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) had some words about the president's visit to Dayton: 

Texas's senior senator headed to El Paso: 

A Bloomberg News reporter noted the first lady's fashion choice for her return to the White House after visiting shooting victims:

Two 2020 candidates promised to pause their campaign events and join former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke in a moment of silence for the shooting's victims:

And the new defense secretary picked a name for his horse:


“He has given aid and comfort to white supremacists. … He’s done the wink and a nod. He has talked about white supremacists as fine people. He’s done everything he can to stir up racial conflict and hatred in this country,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said when asked if she thinks Trump is a white supremacist. (New York Times)



A woman who saved dozens of lives during the El Paso shooting had a message for Trump: 

A man at a Tucson City Council meeting went viral after being filmed shaking with laughter as a woman shouted for stricter immigration laws:

The man, an activist named Alex Kack, became known on Twitter as #greenshirtguy. He told The Post he found the situation so absurd, he couldn't stop laughing. (Reis Thebault)

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) shared her first Iowa campaign ad: 

The clip of #greenshirtguy made its way to Stephen Colbert, who quipped, “It is true what they say: 'Not all heroes wear capes.' Some wear lime green shirts”: 

Samantha Bee sought to remind the government that white supremacist violence is terrorism: 

And New York Mayor Bill de Blasio thinks fellow 2020 contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has some good b-ball skills: