Oct 20, 2019

Pentagon chief says U.S. troops to leave Syria for Iraq

A soldier stands guard during a joint patrol with Turkish troops in September in the Syrian village of al-Hashisha, near the border with Turkey. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters Saturday night that all of the nearly 1,000 U.S. troops leaving Syria will continue the fight against the Islamic State, or ISIS, from western Iraq, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: President Trump has faced scathing criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike for his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria, which paved the way for Turkey to lead a military offensive against Kurdish forces who allied with the U.S. in the fight against ISIS.

  • On Wednesday, the House voted 354-60 condemn Trump's Syria decision.

What he's saying: Esper told reporters traveling with him to the Middle East that U.S. troops would "help defend Iraq" and that the troop movement would be completed in "weeks not days," per Reuters. He didn't rule out U.S. counterterrorism operations being launched from Iraq into Syria, according to AP.

The big picture: Turkey agreed on Thursday to cease its military operation in northern Syria for five days so Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces could withdraw from the area. Kurdish fighters say Turkey has violated the ceasefire, but Esper said it's "generally holding," Reuters reports.

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a Washington Post op-ed on Friday Trump's Syria decision would set back years of fighting ISIS and other terrorists and allow Iran and Russia to expand their influence in the area.
  • Senior Democrats said they walked out of a meeting with Trump Wednesday after he attacked Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and suggested there was no plan to contain ISIS in Syria. Trump said Pelosi had a meltdown, not him — as Democrats had suggested.

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Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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Trump walks to historic St. John's Church outside White House as protests rage

President Trump walked to the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church, located just steps away from the White House across Lafayette Park, on Monday night as protests linked to the murder of George Floyd raged across the capital and cities around the country.

What we're seeing: Military police and park rangers used physical force and tear gas on peaceful protestors to clear the area so that Trump could "pay respects" to the church that was damaged by a fire on Sunday.

Trump threatens to deploy military amid national unrest

President Trump announced from the White House Rose Garden Monday evening that he is "mobilizing all available federal resources, civilian and military" to stop violent protests across the country, decrying "professional anarchists, looters, criminals, antifa and others" whose actions have "gripped" the nation.

The backdrop: Trump's announcement came as police clashed with protesters just outside of the White House, using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds chanting, "Hands up, don't shoot," and other slogans. Flash bangs used outside the White House could be heard from the Rose Garden.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Autopsies say George Floyd's death was homicide

Police watch as demonstrators block a roadway while protesting the death of George Floyd in Miami. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Preliminary results from an independent autopsy commissioned by George Floyd's family found that his death in the custody of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was "homicide caused by asphyxia due to neck and back compression that led to a lack of blood flow to the brain," according to a statement from the family's attorney.

The latest: An updated official autopsy released by the Hennepin County medical examiner also determined that the manner of Floyd's death was "homicide," ruling it was caused by "cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdued, restraint, and neck compression."