President Trump promised the father of an army corporal slain in Afghanistan a $25,000 check and a fundraiser to support his family, but failed to deliver on either pledge, The Washington Post reports. Chris Baldridge said he spoke to Trump on the phone after his son, Army Cpl. Dillon Baldridge, 22, was killed in June. When Baldridge explained to Trump that he would see none of his son's $100,000 death gratuity, which was designated to go to his ex-wife, "[Trump] said, 'I'm going to write you a check out of my personal account for $25,000,' and I was just floored," Baldridge recalled.
Later, when Baldridge received a letter from the White House, he realized Trump hadn't followed through on the promise: "I opened it up and read it, and I was hoping to see a check in there, to be honest," he said. "I know it was kind of far-fetched thinking. But I was like, 'Damn, no check.' Just a letter saying 'I'm sorry.'"
Other Gold Star families contacted by the Post described mixed interactions with Trump. Euvince Brooks, whose son, Sgt. Roshain E. Brooks, 30, was killed in Iraq, said he was upset when he saw Trump claim that he had called all families of slain troops since taking office. "I said to my daughter, 'Can you teach me to tweet, so I can tweet at the president and tell him he's a liar?'" Brooks said. His family has not heard from the White House at all.
William Lee, whose brother Army 1st Lt. Weston Lee was killed in Iraq in April, said Trump did call his family and that the conversation was "very cordial and very nice." "It meant something, the leader of our nation calling us and showing the honor and respect to my brother that I feel my brother earned," Lee said.
The White House initially declined to comment to the Post for the story, but later issued a statement about Baldridge: "It is disgusting that the media is taking something that should be recognized as a generous and sincere gesture, made privately by the president, and using it to advance the media's biased agenda," a spokesperson said. The White House said Baldridge's check is now in the mail. Read the full report at The Washington Post. Jeva Lange
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Al Franken tussle over Sessions' shifting about his meetings with Russian agents
Attorney General Jeff Sessions refused to discuss his conversations with President Trump at his Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing Wednesday, citing executive privilege and frustrating Democrats. "I can neither assert executive privilege nor can I disclose today the content of my confidential conversations with the president," Sessions said. Democrats have maintained that because Trump did not invoke the privilege himself, the attorney general is not required to adhere to it, The New York Times reports.
Sessions faced intense pressure from senators including Vermont's Patrick Leahy (D), who forced him to admit he has not yet been interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia investigation, and Minnesota's Al Franken (D), who challenged Sessions for "moving the goal posts" regarding his conversations with Russian agents during the presidential campaign.
"Not being able to recall what you discussed with him is very different than saying, 'I have not had communications with the Russians,'" Franken challenged Sessions over the attorney general's inconsistent answers on what exactly happened. "The ambassador from Russia is Russian." Jeva Lange
A federal judge blocked most of the newest iteration of President Trump's travel ban Tuesday, declaring that the administration cannot restrict the travel of people from six of the eight blacklisted countries, Politico reports. The order was set to kick in at midnight Wednesday.
The third version of Trump's ban, announced in late September, placed indefinite restrictions on visitors from Chad, Libya, Syria, Yemen, North Korea, Venezuela, Iran, and Somalia. Judge Derrick K. Watson in Hawaii temporarily stopped the ban for all of the countries except North Korea and Venezuela. Trump's last two versions of the restrictions were also blocked from being imposed.
Groups including the State of Hawaii and the International Refugee Assistance Project asked judges to block the latest ban, arguing that "Trump had exceeded his legal authority to set immigration policy, and the latest measure — like the last two — fulfilled his unconstitutional campaign promise to implement a Muslim ban," The Washington Post reports.
Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) have reached a bipartisan deal to stabilize the Affordable Care Act, The New York Times reports. Alexander said Tuesday that the deal would "extend federal subsidies for two years and provide states with flexibility," Reuters writes.
The subsidies lower costs for low-income customers; President Trump decided last week to end the payments, although he signaled approval of the Alexander-Murray deal Tuesday. "This is a short-term solution," Trump said. "It will get us over this intermediate hump."
Conservatives are wary of "bailing out" insurers, though, and while Alexander has the support of some Senate Republicans, it is not clear if the plan would pass the House. Jeva Lange
U.S.-backed forces seized complete control of the Islamic State's de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria, on Tuesday, a commander told The Associated Press. Brig. Gen. Talal Sillo deemed the victory "the fall of the capital of terrorism."
— Rojava Defense Units (@DefenseUnits) October 17, 2017
Fighting with ISIS militants had been pushed back to a stadium in Raqqa, the terrorist group's last stronghold in the city, and on Tuesday the Syrian Democratic Forces at last raised their flag over the base, Reuters reports. The Kurdish YPG flag was planted in the stadium grounds.
ISIS has lost massive swaths of territory this year, including the city of Mosul, Iraq, and its forces have been pushed back into the Euphrates River Valley, where experts expect the militants to make their "final stand." Jeva Lange
A prominent Maltese journalist known for cracking corruption scandals involving her country's highest officials was killed by a car bomb near her home in Bidnija, Malta, on Monday, The Guardian reports. Four months ago, Daphne Caruana Galizia, 53, linked Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to the Panama Papers scandal. Muscat and his wife "denied claims that they had used secret offshore bank accounts to hide payments from Azerbaijan's ruling family," the BBC writes.
Caruana Galizia's investigative work has been hailed abroad, with Politico calling her "a one-woman WikiLeaks" and listing her as one of the 28 people "making and shaking Europe." In her last post, published hours before her death, Caruana Galizia wrote: "There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate."
On Monday, Muscat condemned Caruana Galizia's murder: "I will not rest until I see justice done in this case," he said. "Our country deserves justice." Jeva Lange
Colin Kaepernick, the free-agent quarterback who protested police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem, has filed a grievance, alleging that the NFL and the league's owners have colluded to keep him off the field because of his kneeling.
Attorney Mark Geragos has sent a copy of his complaint to the NFL, all 32 teams, and the NFL Players Association, saying they "have colluded to deprive Mr. Kaepernick of employment rights in retaliation for Mr. Kaepernick's leadership and advocacy for equality and social justice and his bringing awareness to peculiar institutions still undermining racial equality in the United States." Kaepernick, whose filing demands an arbitration hearing, left the San Francisco 49ers in March. In a statement Sunday night, Geragos said the grievance was filed "only after pursuing every possible avenue with all NFL teams and their executives." Catherine Garcia
Four people were killed when a cargo plane crashed in the ocean off Côte d'Ivoire Saturday shortly after take-off from the city of Abidjan. The plane was carrying French military cargo and was staffed by a French and Moldovan crew. All four of the crew members killed were Moldovan, and another two Moldovans and four French crew members were injured.
The plane crashed in shallow water near the beach and broke in two. The crash was likely caused by stormy weather, including heavy winds, that made flying difficult. "There was winds yesterday, and I saw how planes seemed to have difficulties in getting up," said Ange Koutaye Ismael, a student who saw the aftermath of the crash. Bonnie Kristian