On Wednesday, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) admitted that he made "inappropriate" comments to his top political adviser, Rebekah Mason, but denied having a sexual relationship with her.
— seattlepi (@seattlepi) March 23, 2016
AL.com reports that in 2014, members of Bentley's family recorded him while trying to determine if he was having a relationship with Mason. On the tape, Bentley can be heard telling a woman he calls Rebekah that he loves her and enjoys touching her intimately. Bentley, who apologized to the people of Alabama during his press conference, said he has made amends with his family, Mason, and Mason's family, and will not step down from his position. He also said he loves all of his staff members, but "absolutely" loves "some more than others."
Bentley was accused of having an affair with Mason by former Alabama Law Enforcement Secretary Spencer Collier, who said the governor told him he was "madly in love" with Mason and would lease a state plane so Mason's name was not on the flight manifests (a claim Bentley denies). Collier was fired on Tuesday by Bentley, following an internal investigation that found possible wrongdoing under his watch, AL.com reports. Collier says once he came across evidence of the affair, he warned Bentley that if it was found he misused state resources during the relationship, criminal charges could be filed.
Last August, Bentley's wife filed for divorce, but did not say if the tapes were a factor in her decision. Mason is not a state employee, and works for the Alabama Council for Excellent Government, a 501(c)(4) established to promote Bentley's political agenda, AL.com reports. Mason said in a statement she is a victim of "gender bias," and "there are still some people who are set on hindering the ability of women to work in the political arena." Catherine Garcia
Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addressed the media Monday regarding the deadly ambush on Army soldiers in Niger. Four U.S. service members were killed in the Oct. 4 attack, when Dunford said American forces were ambushed by nearly 50 local militants who were likely affiliated with the Islamic State. Five Nigerian soldiers also died in the battle.
Critics noted information about America's presence in Niger had been scarce, prompting Dunford to acknowledge that "we owe you more information." He confirmed that there are roughly 800 U.S. soldiers stationed in Niger — the highest contingent in a single African country — who are working "as part of an international effort, led by 4,000 French troops, to defeat terrorists in West Africa." The U.S. military has maintained a presence in Niger "off and on" for nearly 20 years, Dunford added.
Among those killed was Army Sgt. La David Johnson, and President Trump's condolence call to Johnson's widow has been a source of controversy over the last week. Watch a portion of Dunford's press conference below. Kimberly Alters
— ABC News (@ABC) October 23, 2017
This writer thought he was going to die on an airplane this weekend. This is what went through his mind.
The Tennessean's sports columnist, Joe Rexrode, was one of 139 passengers aboard Delta flight 1474 when it lost one of its engines en route to Cleveland from Atlanta on Sunday. In a gripping account of the episode, Rexrode recalls being paralyzed by what to write to his wife and kids in the face of what he believed was certain death (the plane ultimately made an emergency landing in Knoxville, Tennessee).
"[T]he engine on the right side of the plane blew, creating a loud, awful screeching noise and a worse, burning smell in the cabin," Rexrode writes. "The plane wobbled and dipped, not like a typical instance of turbulence. The flight attendants looked as stunned as everyone else — my eyes went directly to them after the jolt — and quickly wheeled the drink cart back to the front of the plane and gathered near the cockpit. They started looking through an emergency manual. I'm no expert, but I'm thinking that's not a great sign."
Rexrode goes on:
It felt like the plane was going down, and below us were mountains. And then it got worse. Another loud, awful noise, followed by silence and the feeling that we had no more engine propulsion in the air. It's the most quiet I've ever heard a plane. At that moment, I thought the other engine was gone. The only sound among 139 people was a couple of them whimpering and a couple of young children babbling.
That's the first time in my life I've been certain I was going to die. [The Tennessean]
Drudge Report's Matt Drudge called for a public questioning of President Trump on Monday in a tweet:
Mueller’s upcoming questioning of Trump should be televised! Simply too much distrust in process. Grand Jury heavily stacked with Dem voters
— MATT DRUDGE (@DRUDGE) October 23, 2017
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is probing Russia's attempts to influence the 2016 election. As of Friday, Trump claimed "nobody [has] asked me" to be interviewed, although Politico has reported that the president's legal team may choose to offer an interview of Trump's own volition. "There has — there is no collusion I can tell you that," Trump recently told Fox Business Network's Maria Bartiromo. "Everybody's seen that. You know, you have Senate meetings, you have Senate hearings, and nobody has asked us to do interviews anywhere. They have found no collusion."
Mueller has interviewed a number of officials close to Trump, including former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and ex-Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Of particular interest to investigators is Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower last year, and Trump's alleged involvement in putting together a misleading statement about the substance of the discussion that took place, CNN reports. Read more about the intrigue of Drudge's Twitter feed at The Week. Jeva Lange
Jemele Hill returns to SportsCenter on Monday night, her first appearance on The Six, which she co-hosts with Michael Smith, since being suspended for two weeks over a second violation of ESPN's social media guidelines.
1 — Back tonight at 6 (we’re on ESPN2 tonight). Sitting on a few hot takes, to say the least.
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) October 23, 2017
Hill was suspended after responding to the news that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told players they would be benched if they kneeled during the national anthem. She tweeted on Oct. 8 and 9 that "change happens when advertisers are impacted" and urged a "boycott."
ESPN had previously deemed Hill's tweets "inappropriate" after she called President Trump a white supremacist in September. The Ringer writes: "Hill's [most recent] suspension brought up a larger question, which Bill Simmons wrote about here: Can ESPN carve out an apolitical space while Trump is president? 'The tension is not that they want to be apolitical,' said one ESPN employee. 'The tension is that they want to be fashionably political. They want to be Oscar-speech political.'"
On Monday, following a meeting with ESPN's president John Skipper, Hill tweeted: "Thank you all for standing with me and by me. Trust me, you did not do so in vain. My heart is full. See you tonight." Jeva Lange
Trump called for the deportation of a Chinese dissident because China asked him to in a letter hand-delivered by casino magnate Steve Wynn
President Trump called for the deportation of Guo Wengui, a fugitive Chinese businessman living in New York City, but was talked out of the plot by aides who, amongst other things, noted that Guo is a member of Trump's Mar-a-Lago club, The Wall Street Journal reports. "Some U.S. national security officials view Mr. Guo, who claims to have potentially valuable information on top Chinese officials and business magnates and on North Korea, as a useful bargaining chip to use with Beijing," The Wall Street Journal adds.
Guo has been a thorn in the side of Chinese authorities, publicly alleging the corruption of high-up officials. Because the U.S. and China do not have an extradition agreement, Beijing has gone so far as to send agents on fraudulent visas to put pressure on Guo at the Sherry-Netherland Hotel, where he lives.
The Chinese government has tried to reach Guo in other ways, too — by sending Las Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn to personally deliver a letter denouncing Guo to Trump:
"Where's the letter that Steve brought?' Mr. Trump called to his secretary [in an Oval Office meeting in June]. "We need to get this criminal out of the country," Mr. Trump said, according to the people. Aides assumed the letter, which was brought into the Oval Office, might reference a Chinese national in trouble with U.S. law enforcement, the people said.
The letter, in fact, was from the Chinese government, urging the U.S. to return Mr. Guo to China.
The document had been presented to Mr. Trump at a recent private dinner at the White House, the people said. It was hand-delivered to the president by Mr. Wynn, the Republican National Committee finance chairman, whose Macau casino empire cannot operate without a license from the Chinese territory. [The Wall Street Journal]
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a surprise trip to Afghanistan on Monday, where he signaled the U.S.'s desire for a peaceful resolution to the 16-year war in the country. Tillerson appealed to "moderate voices among the Taliban" during the unannounced trip, going so far as to hypothetically offer government posts to such individuals.
"There are, we believe, moderate voices among the Taliban, voices that do not want to continue to fight forever. ... So we are looking to engage with those voices and have them engage in a reconciliation process leading to a peace process and their full involvement and participation in the government," Tillerson said, per The Associated Press. "There's a place for them in the government if they are ready to come, renouncing terrorism, renouncing violence, and being committed to a stable prosperous Afghanistan."
Foreign Policy notes that Tillerson's covert trip is likely a reflection of the Trump administration's larger plans for the country:
Tillerson said the United States wanted to make it clear to the Taliban and other militants that the United States was in Afghanistan for the long haul and the militants would not prevail militarily. [...]
The diplomatic overture signals the Trump administration's eagerness to wrap up the longest war in U.S. history. In August, [President] Trump pledged open-ended support for Afghanistan following fierce internal debates and foot-dragging after having campaigned on ending the costly 16-year war. [Foreign Policy]
The infrastructure devastation and civilian casualties caused by the U.S.-led coalition siege to retake Raqqa, the Islamic State's de facto capital in Syria, is comparable to the World War II carpet bombing of Dresden, Germany, the Russian defense ministry charged in a statement Monday.
"Raqqa has inherited the fate of Dresden in 1945, wiped off the face of the Earth by Anglo-American bombardments," said Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, alleging that coalition humanitarian aid projects in the aftermath of the fight are motivated at least in part by an effort to conceal the extent of the damage. Moscow's embassy to the United Kingdom tweeted a photo comparison:
— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) October 23, 2017
Russia is not the first to draw attention to the high civilian casualty rate of the anti-ISIS campaign. In June, United Nations war crimes investigators reported that increased coalition airstrikes produced "staggering loss of civilian life" and led to "160,000 civilians fleeing their homes and becoming internally displaced." U.N. investigators have also accused Russia of committing war crimes in Syria by performing airstrikes that violate international law. Bonnie Kristian