By Timothy Egan
She is the perfect person to build a case against the president.
Published: August 14, 2020 at 05:30AM
from NYT Opinion https://ift.tt/3iCrs3y
By Timothy Egan
She is the perfect person to build a case against the president.
Published: August 14, 2020 at 05:30AM
from NYT Opinion https://ift.tt/3iCrs3y
(SAVANNAH, Ga.) — A Georgia state trooper was fired and charged with murder Friday a week after he shot a 60-year-old man who allegedly tried to flee a rural traffic stop, authorities said.
The president of Georgia’s NAACP chapter called the slaying of Julian Edward Roosevelt Lewis another chilling example of a Black man being killed unlawfully by a white law enforcement officer. An attorney for Lewis’ family said the trooper initiated the traffic stop over a burned-out tail light and Lewis was shot almost immediately after the trooper forced his car into a ditch.
“Mr. Lewis never got out of the vehicle and the investigation will show that, mere seconds after the crash, he was shot to death, shot in the face and killed,” attorney Francys Johnson said.
Lewis was a carpenter who recently helped a local ministry finish a construction project, Johnson said. He said Lewis’ wife told him her husband didn’t own a gun.
Johnson said that information was given to the family by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which arrested 27-year-old Jacob Gordon Thompson on charges of felony murder and aggravated assault Friday. The agency did not include those details in its own statement on Thompson’s arrest.
The GBI said Lewis was fatally shot Aug. 7 after a chase in rural Screven County, about 60 miles (95 kilometers) northwest of Savannah.
Thompson had tried to pull over a car for a traffic violation when the driver tried to flee, the GBI said in a news release. The agency said the trooper chased the vehicle down several country roads before performing a maneuver that forced the car to come to a stop in a ditch.
At some point afterward, Thompson fired a single gunshot that hit Lewis, killing him, the GBI said. The trooper was not injured.
GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles confirmed that Lewis was Black and the trooper was white, but she declined to comment further on the case. Richard Mallard, district attorney for the judicial circuit that includes Screven County, did not immediately return a phone message.
The Georgia Department of Public Safety said it fired Thompson after he was charged Friday. He had been a trooper for the Georgia State Patrol since 2013.
Thompson’s attorney, Keith Barber, declined to comment on specifics of the case, but said he believes the former trooper “has an excellent character.”
“I think he’s a fine trooper,” Barber said. “I think at the end of the day he will be exonerated in this case.”
The trooper was charged amid a national outcry over racial injustice after George Floyd died beneath a Minneapolis police officer’s knee in May. In Georgia, authorities also recently charged three white men in the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery as he ran through their neighborhood as well as two white police officers in the shooting of Rayshard Brooks after he tried to flee a DUI arrest.
“No one should have to bury a loved one simply because of a busted tail light,” said the Rev. James Woodall, president of the Georgia NAACP. “This was a case of racial profiling. We are not necessarily happy right now. Yes, the man was arrested, but we’re done dying.”
Johnson said Lewis’ wife, Betty Lewis, learned of the trooper’s arrest as she left the funeral home after making final arrangements for her husband’s graveside service Saturday.
“She fell to her knees,’ Johnson said. “She said, `This is a step towards justice.’”
For the last three decades, the most reliable feature of Lebanon’s government has been its relentless decline.
Here was a country so brazenly corrupt the World Bank abandoned its usual diplomatic language in 2015, declaring the country “increasingly governed by bribery and nepotism practices, failing to deliver basic human services.” Among ordinary people, the lived reality of Lebanese politics produced a gall that rose like the stench of the garbage that has accumulated on the capital’s streets because officials cannot figure out where to put it. In October, the announcement of higher taxes triggered gigantic daily protests across the country. But they have not yet led to any substantial change.
The question now is whether the catastrophic explosion of Aug. 4, which wiped away more than 220 lives and the homes of 300,000 people in Beirut, will ultimately take down Lebanon’s unique political system. The country’s constitution — which guarantees government positions to 18 separate religious sects — was intended to balance the interests and needs of a diverse, cosmopolitan nation. In reality, it provides semi-permanent employment for self-dealing elites in political parties that look after themselves, rather than a greater good.
Which is how 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate languished in a port warehouse in the center of a city of 2.4 million people since 2013.
“We have been living next to an atomic bomb for six years. We stroll around, we walk by it, but we know nothing about it,” says resident Jad Estephan, of what produced one of the largest man-made (non-nuclear) explosions in global history. “How can the people in charge be this conscienceless?”
For a week after the blast, photographer Myriam Boulos moved through the wreckage of her native city, documenting an aftermath nearly as extraordinary as the explosion: Soldiers and police stood idle while ordinary people bent to the task of clearing debris. (“They carry guns,” says Boulos. “They don’t help with anything.”) As she photographed, she also asked questions. “It’s important that we tell our own stories,” she says. “It’s so important to listen to people, because at the end of the day the country is people.”
Citizens complain about their government in every country, but few have better cause than the Lebanese. In a country that made its national symbol a tree, “the Lebanese people had to put out fires that were devastating our forests because our government was unable to do its job,” Nour Saliba noted, recalling a series of forest fires last October. It was the month daily demonstrations erupted in the capital. Protesters demanded an end to corruption and a new constitution.
The pandemic was still months away, but misrule had already sent the country’s economy into free fall, and almost half the 6.8 million residents (including 1.5 million Syrian refugees) lived in poverty. After two weeks of protests in October, Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned. His replacement lasted mere months, stepping down on Aug. 10 after the protests, which had dwindled during the pandemic, resumed with a seething new anger. “The explosion, it cannot not define us, in a way,” says Boulos. “Of course it’s a turning point.”
Riad Hussein Al Hussein was buying vegetables in the city’s Mar Mikhael neighborhood when he was knocked to the ground by the blast wave. He noticed he was bleeding from his head. Someone came to help him. “He used a cotton compress and pressed on my wounds for what seemed like a long time. He said that I had to endure the pain. And I endured.” That lasted about 20 minutes. “I really thought I was dying. I held my savior’s hand while he was helping me and I asked him to say my goodbyes to my family.”
Nothing binds people to one another like a trauma endured together. The explosion devastated three neighborhoods — a poor district east of the port; an enclave of Armenian Christians; and a gentrifying zone of older residents and young, artsy people. But with a damage radius of six miles, the entire city came apart. And then, came together.
Cherif Kanaan told Boulos he was at home when he heard the explosion. “My mum, my brother and I ran towards each other very scared. A few seconds later the whole building started shaking like crazy and the massive blast hit us,” he says. “The look in their eyes will forever haunt me. We really thought we were gonna die.” He left the apartment and sprinted first to the home of his uncle, where everyone was okay. From there, he ran from hospital to hospital, looking for people to help.
He found them everywhere. He held a compress to a wounded nurse outside a destroyed hospital, then cut his own hand lifting a metal pole out of the road. He helped an old man struggling with a bandage, and took off his shirt for a woman carrying two babies from a destroyed hospital. Another passerby gave his shirt for a third baby. Back at the ruined hospital, he spotted a woman with a terrible wound on her face. Her name was Angelique. “I couldn’t quite get her family name at first because of her numb lips,” he says.
Kanaan took her phone, reassuring relatives who were calling constantly. In the mayhem, an ambulance appeared. He bundled Angelique into a scene that would stay with him: On a stretcher was a young girl named Alexandra, struggling to breathe, “her grandpa at the back, a lady doctor next to him, insufflating Alexandra, her dad with a broken left cheekbone, Angelique next to him, myself, a wounded old lady in front of me, a wounded old man next to her behind the driver and a rescuer, I believe,” Kanaan says. In the end, Alexandra passed away.
It was six days after the blast that Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned, saying he wanted to stand with the people “and fight the battle for change alongside them.” The next day, one week to the minute after the explosion, citizens gathered in the wreckage of their capital At 6:08 p.m., what moved through the air was not a blast wave but the Muslim call to prayer, and the peal of church bells.
“Let us hope that this catastrophe doesn’t destroy us even further but rather gives us a much needed strength,” says Estephan. “Because this is our last chance. We must change today, or never.”
—With reporting by Myriam Boulos/Beirut and Madeline Roache/London
(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump on Friday twice ignored a question about whether he supports QAnon, a convoluted, right-wing, pro-Trump conspiracy theory.
A reporter asked the president about the theory at a White House briefing Friday after Trump tweeted his congratulations to a QAnon-supporting candidate. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who won her House primary runoff in Georgia this week, has called the theory “something worth listening to and paying attention to” and called its source, known as Q, a “patriot.” Trump praised her as a “future Republican Star.”
“Well, she did very well in the election. She won by a lot. She was very popular and she comes from a great state and she had a tremendous victory. So absolutely, I did congratulate her,” Trump said, sidestepping the question and ignoring a follow-up before moving on to another reporter.
Trump has a long history of advancing false and sometimes racist conspiracies, including on Thursday, when he gave credence to a highly-criticized op-ed that questioned Democrat Kamala Harris’ eligibility to serve as vice president even though she was born in Oakland, California.
Asked about the matter, Trump told reporters he had “heard” rumors that Harris, a Black woman and U.S.-born citizen whose parents were immigrants, does not meet the requirement to serve in the White House. The president said he considered the rumors “very serious.” Constitutional lawyers have dismissed it as nonsense.
The episode echoed Trump’s rise in conservative politics as a leader of the so-called “birther movement” that questioned whether Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black president, was eligible to serve in the job. Only after mounting pressure during his 2016 campaign did Trump disavow the claims.
QAnon has ricocheted around the darker corners of the internet since late 2017, but has been creeping into mainstream politics more and more. The baseless theory centers on an alleged anonymous, high-ranking government official known as “Q” who shares information about an anti-Trump “deep state” often tied to satanism and child sex trafficking.
Trump has retweeted QAnon-promoting accounts, and shirts and hats with QAnon symbols and slogans are not uncommon at his rallies.
In addition to her embrace of QAnon, Greene has made a series of racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic comments, including alleging an “Islamic invasion” of government offices and accusing Jewish billionaire George Soros of collaborating with Nazis.
Those comments had led the No. 2 House Republican, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, and others to back Greene’s opponent in hopes of denying her the party’s nomination. Since her win, however, critics have largely gone silent. Greene still faces a Democrat in November, but the GOP primary was considered the real contest in a district Trump won handily in 2016.
Trump has never publicly addressed QAnon. Asked about the group in 2018, then-White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump “condemns and denounces any group that would incite violence against another individual.”
For Evangelical voters who took a chance on President Donald Trump, and conservative Jewish voters who put their hopes in him, the White House announcement this week that the United Arab Emirates would normalize relations with Israel was delivery on a promise — and reassurance that the rollercoaster ride of the Trump Twitter presidency has been worth it.
“It reinforces to social conservatives why they took the risk on Donald Trump and why that risk ultimately paid off,” a senior Trump campaign adviser and confidante tells TIME. It also reinforces to Jewish voters “that you have a strong supporter in the White House,” the adviser said. “Now they actually see the fruits of that.”
Thursday’s announcement, which comes less than three months before the Presidential election, was a well-timed Trumpian riposte to years of criticism of his heretofore-foundering Middle East policy. In moving toward full diplomatic relations with Israel, the UAE becomes only the third Arab nation after Egypt and Jordan to do so since the Jewish state was founded in 1948.
The Palestinians have refused to consider Jared Kushner’s Mideast peace plan, and the Trump Administration’s maximum pressure campaign on Iran, which has decimated Iran’s economy, has largely been seen as a failure. It failed to bring Iran back to the table to renegotiate the six-nation nuclear deal, as Trump pledged it would during his 2016 campaign, and it spurred Tehran to restart its nuclear enrichment program in protest over U.S. sanctions.
The UAE deal offers the Administration a chance to reframe its past positions as successes. Under the so-called Abraham Accord, the UAE has pledged to move toward recognizing Israel in exchange for Israel’s suspension of annexing West Bank territory. Administration officials now say the Trump tactic of maximum pressure enabled this historic diplomatic opening by winning back the trust of Gulf nations who want to contain Iran’s regional ambitions.
It also gave the Trump re-election campaign, which is facing sagging opinion polls over Trump’s domestic handling of the coronavirus pandemic, a much-needed foreign policy win, and a chance to remind conservative and evangelical voters of his other 2016 campaign pledges kept. In December 2018, the Trump Administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the U.S. Embassy there, despite Palestinian claims to the city’s eastern sector—a long held objective of both American evangelicals and the pro-Israel lobby. Three months later, the Administration recognized Israel’s contested 1981 annexation of the Golan Heights.
“President Trump is the most pro-Israel president in American history,” said Richard Grenell, former U.S. Ambassador to Germany and former acting Director of National Intelligence, in a statement from the Trump campaign. “As radical Democrats turn their backs on the world’s only Jewish state in an attempt to appease their anti-Israel base, only President Trump could have brought peace between the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim peoples of the Middle East.”
Former Vice President and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden also praised the move, calling the UAE’s offer to publicly recognize Israel “a welcome, brave, and badly needed act of statesmanship.” He added that it was made possible in part by his past Administration’s peace initiative, drawing scorn from Republican circles.
Two senior administration officials say they hope to see two to three more Arab nations follow the UAE’s lead, possibly before the election. “You can bet your life that Bahrain, Oman and Morocco are looking left and right and listening” for blowback to the UAE’s action, one of the officials said. “And if it’s okay, it might be next.” They both say Saudi Arabia may then follow, with the smaller nations serving as test cases of reaction on the Arab streets. If the response is as muted as it was when the Trump Administration moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, it will be easier for more to follow, they said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the years of sensitive negotiations.
There’s little chance popular unrest will stand in the way of more Gulf countries recognizing Israel because of the near-universal clampdown on political protest in the region, says Khaled Saffuri, president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Interest Foundation. “These countries can take action with impunity. Most of the opposition are in jail,” he says. “The daily political reality is the U.S. is important for all of these dictatorships. They need protection from Iran…and to get U.S. support, you have to be on Israel’s good side.”
The Administration is trying to convince the largely Sunni Arab states to form a security compact with the U.S. and Israel based on mutual distrust of Iran, the two senior administration officials say. The long-term goal is to keep U.S. troops at home, a political popular idea among many Americans after decades of war. “If this continues, we can use Israel as a force projector in the region, reducing the need for us to be there every second of every day,” one of the officials says.
Trump’s signature Mideast moves, including moving the embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, were deeply controversial and considered third rails by previous Administrations. But they were key to bringing about conversations between Israel and several Gulf states by making clear Trump follows through when he says he’s going to do something, the two officials say.
“The embassy move was a campaign promise and he was going to make good on that, but it wasn’t a gimmick,” one of the officials says. “Moving the embassy was a seismic event for the region…a clear wake-up call that there isn’t a gap. If you want to be in a partnership with the U.S., Israel is going to be part of this.” The low-key public reaction also signaled to Arab leaders that they had more room to maneuver with outreach to Israel, the officials say.
The Israel-UAE deal isn’t done, and there has been pushback in conservative circles in Israel over just how long Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to “suspend” the annexation of territory in return for normalization of relations with the Emirates. Still, it was a chance for a rare victory lap for the President’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner, who had been slammed by much of the Washington foreign policy world as out of his depth.
U.S. Iran envoy Brian Hook says it was the lack of preconceived policy recommendations that allowed Kushner to succeed where multiple previous U.S. Administrations failed. “Jared came into the role with a fresh set of eyes and an openness to new modes and orders,” he tells TIME. “The international community is full of armchair Arabists who think they know what’s best for the region and they love to talk. We listened.”
Hook says the Administration’s break with Iran was the first step. “The Iran nuclear deal alienated the Gulf and Israel and trust went out the door,” he says. “There’s zero chance of peace agreements in that environment. We immediately reversed America’s Iran policy and that was the necessary precondition to building peace between the Gulf and Israel.”
Hook says the 2019 Mideast Peace conference in Warsaw that Kushner arranged put Israel’s prime minister in the same room with multiple Gulf foreign ministers, and they united over their enmity toward Iran, a point pressed on Hook by a group of foreign ministers when they later invited him to meet after the conference wrapped up. “We were all smoking cigars in this hotel suite, and there was real excitement about the potential, and they said we have to find a way to keep this going. And that led to the Israel-UAE-US trilateral talks,” first in Washington, D.C., and later in Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi, he says.
Bahrain and Oman have already publicly welcomed the move, while Egypt and Jordan were positive but more guarded. It’s been condemned by Iran, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority. Now the Trump Administration is hoping for a domino effect of other Arab nations to follow, winning back some of his once staunch supporters, who have lost faith in Trump.
A Pew Research poll in July showed white Evangelical support for Trump has fallen, but that 8 in 10 say they’d still vote for the incumbent. Mark Tooley, editor of Providence, a journal that focuses on Christianity and foreign policy, says while polls show most Evangelicals still support Trump, he’s been hearing of some who were wavering. Maybe the success of this diplomatic breakthrough will convince “some who were tottering on the edge…that God’s support remains,” he says.
Cory Mills, a Newsmax columnist and Army veteran who supports Trump, says the move will “win back some of the doubters,” in the evangelical community who were thinking about voting Democrat. “Think about the symbolism of this. It’s called the Abraham Accord,” after the religious figure who appears in Christianity, Judaism and Islam. “This will somewhat demonstrate to all the Evangelicals that he’s really placing the Holy Land in high regard…. We’re definitely going to win back a bunch of the moderates or the naysayers.”
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, one of the largest evangelical advocacy organizations in the U.S., says there is one concern evangelicals are voicing about the accord: Netanyahu’s suspension of its planned annexation of West Bank territory, which they want to see become part of Israel. “The sovereignty of Israel is a big deal, so anything that looks like Israel is giving up the rights to…Judea and Samaria [a biblical name for that area] that has stirred some things up.”
But Perkins, who works with the Trump White House on their outreach to the Christian community, says they will support “policies that will let me live according to my faith….unharassed by government,” and that’s Trump.
The UAE deal certainly cements Trump’s hold on at least part of the Jewish vote. “It’s a real feather in his cap with the Jewish voters,” says a major Jewish donor, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he is a confidante to multiple candidates. He notes there are deep divisions between conservative and progressive Jewish voters over the issue of annexation, but having one less Arab country as Israel’s enemy has won fairly universal endorsement. He says it will be “another thing that the Jewish voter who votes based on Israel policy will think about when he or she goes to the voting booth. It’s not going to move any state from Democratic to Republican but it’s a plus.”
Democratic strategist and Jewish political activist Joel Rubin says the move will be welcomed by Jewish voters, but with a question mark. “We are happy that Israel is getting a win, but if it means less prospects for peace with Palestinians and more opportunities for confrontation with Iran, we’re not happy,” says Rubin, who was also the former Jewish outreach director on Sanders presidential campaign. “We want it to be the pedestal to more peace not the gateway to more conflict.”
Trump Administration officials see this as a signal to Iran that Gulf nations are coalescing against them. “Iran should be deeply concerned,” one of the senior administration officials said. “This is an integration of the people they hate.”
—With reporting by Tessa Berenson in Washington, D.C.