Naji Mansour says that he denied the FBI's request to become an informant, and the organization began threatening him. In the May/June issue of Mother Jones, Mansour explains how the government interfered with his — and his family's — lives.
Mansour also gave Mother Jones what he claims are recordings of FBI agents speaking to him in private. In the recordings, the FBI allegedly tells Mansour that he "might get hit by a car" if he doesn't cooperate with their requests.
According to Nick Baumann, the author of the article, Mansour's experience is just one in a string of Muslim Americans detained for what he says are "often tangential" ties to terrorism. Mansour was detained while visiting Juba, which, according to Baumann, is how the FBI handles such cases: Suspects are detained in other countries so the government can, as Mansour says, "bypass their constitutional rights." ACLU lawyer Hina Shamsi says that Mansour was unlawfully detained and is currently working on the issue.
As the White House pointedly moves on from its failed health-care bill, it is looking ahead to fulfill another of President Trump's ambitious promises: tax reform. But top officials warn that such an enormous project isn't going to be a walk in the park either and "they don't see how they can change the House Republican math that killed health reform," Axios reports.
As one Republican put it, the GOP is at risk of "looking like a clown car." Another official described making the same miscalculation with tax reform efforts that was made with health care would be "the definition of insanity."
The first hurdle will be the April 28 deadline for the budget. If it is not passed — and one top Republican close to the White House told Axios it is "more likely than not" to fail — the government will shut down on April 29, President Trump's 100th day in office.
The Secret Service does not have "the time or money" to keep a record of who attends the president's Mar-a-Lago club, Politico reports being told by former officials. Additionally, when first lady Melania Trump and Trump's son, Barron, are staying at Mar-a-Lago, there are no weapons or background checks, allowing unscreened visitors to get within view of the presidential family for the price of a $300 ticket.
This is not the first time concerns about Mar-a-Lago's security have been raised; the president was also criticized for discussing a response to a North Korean missile test with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in full view of gawking guests. Now Democrats are taking aim at what they call a "national security concern" with the Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness Act, or "Mar-a-Lago Act," which would require the president to collect information for public release on who comes and goes from his private properties. (For the record: The page for the public White House visitor logs is also currently blank.)
A recent GOP gathering at Mar-a-Lago highlights some of the concerns:
[Attendees] didn't have to submit to the kinds of rigorous background checks required if they'd been entering the White House in Washington. And there were no weapon screenings or bomb-sniffing dogs checking vehicles of the sort that have long been routine at public restaurants or other places where the president or first lady is present.
Mar-a-Lago also doesn't keep tabs on the identity of guests who come and go on a routine basis, even while the president is in residence. Club members call the front desk to give the names of their guests, including for parties held in the ballroom. But they don’t have to submit details, like a middle initial or birthdate or Social Security number, that are standard for visitor logs or background checks — which neither the club nor the Secret Service do at the resort. [Politico]
Amnesty International warns U.S. coalition about Mosul civilian deaths, as U.S. investigates airstrikes
On Tuesday, human rights group Amnesty International said a recent sharp uptick in civilian deaths in Mosul, Iraq, suggests that the U.S.-led coalition isn't taking adequate care to avoid civilian casualties, a potential "flagrant violation of international humanitarian law." The U.S. military says it is investigating a March 17 airstrike in Mosul's Old City, called in by Iraqi forces trying to take the Western part of the city from the Islamic State; Iraqi officials say the death toll from that strike could hit 200 or more, making it one of the deadliest civilian attacks by the U.S. in Iraq.
The U.S. has confirmed the strike but not the casualties. "It is very possible that Daesh [ISIS] blew up that building to blame it on the collation," U.S. Army chief of staff Gen. Mark Milley told reporters in Baghdad on Monday. "And it is possible the collation airstrike did it." Amnesty International said another U.S.-led airstrike on Saturday killed "up to 150 people." British monitoring group Airwars says that for the first time, alleged U.S.-led strikes in Syria are affecting more civilians than Russian strikes, with the reported increase in U.S.-linked civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria starting under former President Barack Obama and picking up sharply when President Trump took office in January.
1) Given record Coalition civilian casualty claims - with 1,000 deaths already alleged in March - Airwars is making some major changes pic.twitter.com/nbTIbB8b5Q
— Airwars (@airwars) March 24, 2017
Defense Secretary James Mattis said on Monday that unlike America's adversaries, "we go out of our way to always do everything humanly possible to reduce the loss of life or injury among innocent people." That hasn't changed since Trump signed an order on Jan. 28 telling the military to explore relaxing Obama's restrictions aimed at protecting civilians, says Col. John Thomas, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command. "Our processes are good and we want to make sure we live by those processes."
On the ground in Mosul, New York Times reporters say the civilians whose homes and families were flattened clearly blame the U.S. airstrikes, noting that U.S. and Iraqi forces dropped leaflets on numerous occasions urging them to stay in the homes and not to flee. They say Iraqi forces called in strikes on entire residential units because of one ISIS sniper on a roof. Iraqi commanders told the Times they appreciate the new responsiveness from the Americans. "There used to be a delay, or no response sometimes, on the excuse of checking the location or looking for civilians," said Gen. Ali Jamil, an Iraqi intelligence officer. You can watch the BBC News dispatch from Mosul below. Peter Weber
"Washington is a mess right now, but that's going to end soon," Stephen Colbert joked on Monday's Late Show. "Because the White House just announced that Trump's son-in-law and leader of the preppie camp across the lake, Jared Kushner, will oversee a broad effort to overhaul the federal government. And the government desperately needs overhaul; I mean, somebody keeps putting totally unqualified people in charge of really important stuff." He didn't name any names, exactly. "Kushner will become the head of something called the Office of American Innovation," Colbert said. "Vague, but still better than the original title, the Bureau of Obvious Nepotism."
Kushner's new office will aim to remake the government drawing from business ideas. "And you know he's got great business ideas, like being born into a wealthy real estate family, or marrying into a wealthy real estate family — why hasn't the government tried that?" Colbert asked. He was especially put off by Kushner's "bold vision for the office," that the government should be run as a "great American business," with the citizenry its customers: "Hold it a second. We're not customers, we're citizens, which means we own the store. You work for us, buddy."
Kushner already had a pretty full docket of responsibilities, "like managing the dispute with Mexico over Trump's border wall and brokering Middle East peace," Colbert said, but "Jared will still have time for his hobbies, like testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee on the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. Well, not if he overhauls the government first — Business idea No. 1: No Senate." That brought Colbert to the other big story from last week: the FBI confirming that it's investigating the Trump campaign for possibly colluding with Russia during the election. "And you know it was a busy news week when I'm only getting to the treason at 11:58," he said.
Colbert played the footage of FBI Director James Comey publicly announcing that the Trump campaign is under active investigation, one that has been ongoing since at least last July, and he unloaded. "Wow, the FBI is investigating the president of the United States for colluding with a foreign power — that is historic," he said. "The only way it could possibly be more historic is if you told us before the f—ing election!" Watch below. Peter Weber
Stephen Colbert was somewhere drinking rum last week, despite his cleverly pretaped shows, he admitted on Monday's Late Show. "What a great time to have been away from the show — nothing happened while I was gone, right?" he deadpanned. He showed some cartoonishly disturbing "footage" of the GOP effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare, then got down to the business of political comedy. "So, on Friday, lacking the votes they needed, they folded the ObamaCare repeal and placed it in the cabinet of broken Republican dreams," Colbert said, "next to trickle-down economics and a Jesus-shaped fighter jet that drops gay people on ISIS."
This was an embarrassing failure for President Trump, so who did he blame? The Democrats — "not enough votes to get a majority," Colbert mused, "well, that didn't stop you from becoming president" — plus conservative Republicans, moderate Republicans... basically, everyone but one person: Donald Trump. "After all his campaign promises, nothing," Colbert said. "It's almost like you can't trust a fast-talking city slicker who rolls into town promising a magic solution for all our medical needs. I'm starting to doubt the effectiveness of Dr. Bannon's Anti-Muslim Toad Oil."
Oh, Trump also seemed to blame Paul Ryan, indirectly, farming out the dirty work to Jeanine Pirro on Fox News. Colbert noted Trump's tweeted-out alert to watch Pirro's show Saturday night, showed some highlights of the show, and seemed to suggest that perhaps Pirro had been tippling before her passionate defense of Trump and call for Ryan to step down. Then he made it specific. "Well, I've got to say, if he likes Judge Jeanine, Trump is going to love tonight's episode of The Late Show's pro-Trump news team, Real News Tonight," Colbert said. And this very special edition of the fake-news broadcast features a vaguely familiar anti-Ryan rant from "Judge Sally Blazerface." Watch below. Peter Weber
New York charged a white racist with terrorism for murdering a black man. Sean Spicer won't talk about it.
On Monday, a 28-year-old white man who has confessed to fatally stabbing a 66-year-old black man, Timothy Caughman, in New York City last week out of racial animus, was charged with murder as an act of terrorism, in addition to murder as a hate crime. "James Jackson prowled the streets of New York for three days in search of a black person to assassinate in order to launch a campaign of terrorism against our Manhattan community and the values we celebrate,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said Monday. Jackson, who grew up and lived in Baltimore, told police he "was angered by black men mixing with white women," New York police said.
Jackson elaborated in a disturbing interview from Rikers Island prison, telling the New York Daily News that killing Caughman was intended as "a practice run" in his drive to prevent mixed-race relationships. He imagined white women thinking, "Well, if that guy feels so strongly about it, maybe I shouldn't do it," he said, adding that he regretted Caughman was "elderly" instead of "a young thug" or "a successful older black man with blonds... people you see in Midtown. These younger guys that put white girls on the wrong path." Jackson's lawyer, Sam Talkin, said if the allegations are anywhere close to true, "we're going to address the obvious psychological issues that are present in this case."
Last week, the NAACP's Sherrilyn Ifill wrote Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking him to investigate Caughman's murder as a potential federal act of terrorism, and American Urban Radio Networks correspondent April Ryan followed up at a Monday press conference about "sanctuary cities," asking Sessions if the Caughman murder was a hate crime. Sessions ignored the question, so Ryan asked White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer about the uptick in hate crimes and specifically, "What does this White House say about this obvious apparent hate crime?"
Spicer said he was "not going to reference any specific case before the DOJ right now" — though the Caughman case is being handled in New York State court — assured Ryan that Trump believes "hate crimes and anti-Semitic crimes of any nature should be called out," then pivoted to arguing that "the left" should apologize for "immediately jumping" on "people on the right" in their "rush to judgment on some of the anti-Semitic cases" (apparently referencing a specific case). He suggested he wasn't familiar with the details of the Jackson case, even though Caughman was murdered by a sword in midtown Manhattan, where Trump's wife and youngest son live. Watch the exchange below. Peter Weber
Tropical Cyclone Debbie roared across northeast Australia on Tuesday, and was classified as a category four when it made landfall in Airlie Beach.
"It's very noisy," witness Jan Clifford in Airlie Beach told Reuters. "Screaming, howling wind, sounds like a freight train." In addition to strong winds and gusts that have reached more than 160 mph, the rain is coming down hard, and there are reports of damage to homes. Thousands of people are also without power. So far, no one has been reported injured. The cyclone is moving slowly, and forecasters say conditions could stay the same for 24 hours. Catherine Garcia